Monday, April 30, 2012

This Week's Sales: Elizabeth Arden, Smashbox, Seche Vite and more!

Use code CINCODEMAYO at checkout to receive $5 off your purchase. Expires 11:59pm PST 5/7.

Elizabeth Arden
Now through Tuesday, May 8th, get 25% off everything site wide with code MOM25.

Free full-sized pink flat iron with orders over $100 plus free shipping; enter HOTPINK at checkout.

Prescriptives Friends & Family
Today until 3am PST on May 2nd, get 25% off your entire order, no code necessary. They'll even throw in free shipping. Offer valid online only, and doesn't apply to custom blend foundations or powder.

Choose any 3 top sellers and get 20% off when you use the code MOM2012 at checkout.

Free shipping and a free full-size Golden Gloss in Golden Red with any Yves Saint Laurent beauty purchase; enter FOREVERYSL.

Beyond the Rack
Now through Tuesday, May 1st: Michael Todd True Organic
Now through Wednesday: Le Angelique Hair Styling Tools
Begins Monday: Golden Caviar skincare
Wednesday: Men's Fragrances
Thrusday: Avani Dead Sea Products
Sunday: Seche Vite, Ardell Lashes

Brand Alley
Monday: Top to Toe Beauty Solutions
Ends Sunday: Designer Cosmetics feat. Lancome, Dior, Estee Lauder and more. 

If you're not a member yet, click here for an invite and we can both earn a £10 voucher!

Daily Candy
Now through Thursday: Kaia House, Blinc

Gilt Groupe
Friday: Tanda Skincare and Teeth Whitening Devices, Dennis Gross Dermatology (NYC only)

Monday: Napoleon Perdis
Tuesday: BeFine
Wednesday: Alterna
Thursday: Pangea Organics, KOR Professional
Friday: VioLight, Best Teeth Bleaching
Saturday: Decleor
Sunday:Vivant Skincare

Lucky Chic
Beyond the Beauty Hair Design Tools

My Habit
Now through Tuesday: Panier des Sens
Now through Wednesday: Summer Glow- Facial Skincare
Monday: The Curator- Chantecaille
Thursday: Spa & Relaxation Essentials, RepĂȘchage
Friday: The Lab Room Skincare
Saturday: BioNova Nano Skin Tech
Sunday: Bath & Body Skincare

If you're not a member yet and would like an invitation, click here.
Monday: What We're Giving Mom- Rue Staffers' Picks, Ahava Skincare

Quick Tip: How to Clean False Lashes

If you've ever found yourself wondering what I sound like, today's your lucky day- I made a video! You can thank my sister for this: she texted asking how to clean her false lashes, and it just proved to be much easier to shoot a quick video than try to put it all in writing. So, not rocket science, but...enjoy!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Eye of the Day:
Weeping Cherry Blossom

This is one of my very favorite looks for spring nights out; the vibrancy of the pink is a nice change after all of those deep, dark winter hues, but at the same time, the matte finish, bold liner and semi-cut crease really step up the drama. Not into pink? Use any other light-bright shade to customize it!

First, use a skin-toned primer on your lid from lash to brow- today I used Urban Decay Potion Primer. Next, using a short, dense paddle brush (MAC 239) brush a mid-tone bright matte pink shadow (Kryolan Flamingo) along the entire lash line, blending up and out to just above your natural crease.

Next, line your eye with your favorite liquid liner (I used Lanome Artliner in Noir). Lining before you contour your crease is essential- the wing has to end at the natural crease of the eye- trust me, it makes it look! To determine the correct angle, imagine making a line from the outer corner of your eye to where it would meet the end of your eye brow.

After lining, load a small smudger brush (my beloved, Lancome #10, has been discontinued) with a deep, matte eggplant shade (MUFE 160). Starting at the outside corner of your eye, where you ended your liner "wing", use light sketching strokes and follow the underside of your brow bone in, stopping at about the center of your lid (above the pupil). A lot of tutorials show this step with a pencil brush like MAC's 219, but unless your lid space is huge, I think a small smudger is lots easier to work with here.

After you've got your crease "cut" you can lightly begin blending your eggplant line up in the outer 1/3rd of your eye, working toward the brow. I stick with the smudger brush for most of this process, wiping excess shadow off before I start to blend.

When I'm relatively comfortable with the fade of the plum shade, I do turn to my pencil brush; using it clean at first. Use a windshield wiper motion to blend the deep crease color into the skin below the brow bone. Next, add just a tiny amount of your matte pink (the same shade you used on the lid) and blend over the top edge of where your plum has faded out. Make sure you're working on top of the eggplant shadow- if you put the pink on bare skin you won't get the subtle gradient we're looking for. Since I don't have a lot of space between my lid and brow bone, I like to leave some space to make the area look larger, so I stop shy of taking the pink up to the brow.

Next, go back to your small smudge brush & pick up a little bit of matte black shadow (I used the one from my Sleek Acid Palette). With a light hand, work the black in the corner V to give some depth to the look. At this point, I lined my water line (all the way) and lash line (just the outer half, tapering off at the pupil) with Makeup For Ever Aqua Eyes pencil in matte black, and smudged over that with the black shadow left over on my brush.

Of course, you could stop here and you'd have a very eye-catching cut-crease look, but I wanted something just a touch softer. Grab your pencil brush once more and place it, without applying additional color, in the crease just inside where your liquid liner meets the crease color. Keeping it in place, move the brush in small circular motions. You're basically using the motion of the brush to bring a little of the black and eggplant into the outer corner of the eye. If you need to, you can add the tiniest amount of eggplant to your pencil brush, but keep it super light- you don't want to blend away the defined crease.

To finish, add a bit of white shimmer to the inside tear-ducts and under the eye brows, blending into the pink slightly. Top it off with mascara and you're done!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

What's Good for Mama (Earth) is Good for You!

Since today is my fiance's birthday, Earth Day kind of takes a backseat in my world, but this offer from Sephora is making it hard to forget what today is all about to everyone else. 

Today only, bring an empty cosmetic product container from any brand into Sephora and leave with a full-size (1.7oz) Origins moisturizer for FREE. That's right. Just bring an empty. You don't even have to buy anything- just grab a cosmetic container you were about to recycle yourself (you were, right?) and hightail it to the mall. You even get your choice of formulas: choose from Origins Starting Over Age-Erasing Moisturizer with Mimosa or Origins A Perfect World SPF 25 Age-Defense Moisturizer with White Tea. 

If you're trying to save gas today, you can still take advantage of the offer with any online purchase of $30 or more, just enter code EARTH12 at checkout.

FYI, this offer isn't valid at Sephora inside JCPenney or for Canadian online orders, and it's only available April 22, 2012 while supplies last. And they're gonna go fast, so get going!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Product Review:
Likewise Skincare Facial Moisturizer with SPF 50

Sun protection is a vital part of my daytime routine. I am extremely fair, use topical retinol, and take more than one oral medication that causes photosensitivity. That means that just a short time in the sun unprotected can be a bad situation for me.

Since my dry skin makes moisturizer a "can't live without it" product for me also, I find the easiest way to go about giving my skin the protection I need is to kill two birds with one stone. To me a daytime moisturizer that doesn't contain sunscreen doesn't qualify as a daytime moisturizer.

Having said that, sunscreen isn't the only thing I look for in my moisturizer. I'm not sure if it's some type of time/space anomaly, or perhaps the result of a curse related to some piece of vintage jewelry I picked up somewhere (have I ticked off any priestesses lately?) but my age seems to be rapidly advancing, and I'm not fond of the idea. That means that I need a product that will treat and protect my skin from the onslaught of whatever forces cause me to age a whole year in just a few hundred days.

Lucky for me, I was introduced to Likewise Skincare. Developed by board certified dermatologist Dr. Julie Pena, Likewise is only available online and in Dr. Pena's office only. Unless you happen to frequent Dr. Pena's Nashville practice, there's a good chance Likewise has flown under your radar until now, which is a darn shame. Now, a doctor's name on the bottle does not necessarily a good product make, but in this case, Dr. Pena has really shown her expertise in choosing targeted ingredients to create an all-in-one moisturizer.

Likewise Facial Moisturizer is a powerhouse product if ever there was one. One pea sized drop delivers:

  • High-level (SPF 50) broad-spectrum sun protection, which shields burning UVB rays and aging UVA rays. 
  • Antioxidant vitamins C and E to protect against the damaging effects of the environment. Vitamins C and E are network antioxidants; they work together to regenerate and reinforce the action of one another. Both vitamins have also been shown to help neutralize UV damage, boosting the effectiveness of sunscreen.
  • Soy (in the form of genistein), which has proven antioxidant and anti-irritant abilities. Studies have shown that soy stimulates collagen and hyaluronic acid production in the skin, which can lead to an increase in firmness and elasticity. As if that weren't enough, Soy may also provide further UVB protection, and has even shown some promise in lightening dark spots on the skin and reducing hair growth.
  • Niacinamide. If you're not familiar with this wonder ingredient yet, then you're not paying enough attention! Though it sounds too good to be true, there's strong evidence that Niacinamide does everything from improving wrinkles to reducing acne (and tons in between). 
Of course, ingredient lists alone don't sell me on a product- it's all about how they perform. I'm delighted to report that Likewise is a winner. I began using this in January, and was very pleased at how well this moisturized my skin, even when it was at its peeling, cracking driest. 

Despite the high level of protective zinc oxide in the formula, Likewise smooths on easily without leaving behind a white/blue cast or chalky feeling like some sunscreens can. It also soaked in quickly without any filmy feel or greasy finish. For those with oily skin, the company does offer formulas for oily and normal to oily skin (these contain all of the benefits above with the addition of acne-controlling azelaic acid). 

While I wouldn't call Likewise inexpensive (it's $44 for 1.69oz), I would say it's a good value for your money. It's so well formulated it beats down department store options that cost twice as much, not to mention virtually eliminating the need for separate antioxidant or anti-aging serums. It's also concentrated enough that one tube should last upwards of 6 months. In case you can't tell, I'm totally geeked out- if you're looking for a great daily moisturizer, consider Likewise highly recommended!

The product featured in this review was submitted for promotional consideration by a representative of the company. What does this mean? I didn't pay for it. My commitment is to you- my readers- and to myself (it's called integrity, I like to have it). The opinions expressed on are my own, based on my own research and experience; I am not paid in any way nor is the final outcome of the post influenced by any outside party.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

April Birchbox: Instant Reviews

Birchbox is a tiny bundle of monthly love made with beauty junkies in mind. For $10 a month you receive a package filled with 4-5 samples, many of which are deluxe size, with the occasional full-size product thrown in. Deluxe size samples are plenty big enough get a good feel for the instant effects, but maybe not quite enough to judge long-term results. Instant reviews are just that- my instant impressions on the products. These installments will be based on my initial testing, swatching and, of course (you know me) a peek at the ingredients.

Befine Gentle Cleanser
Sample Size: Two .34oz "Single Serve" packets
Retail Size: 3.4oz for $24
Sample Value: $4.80

Birchbox Says:
This smooth, foaming cleanser works on all skin types. Sugar cane banishes impurities and binds moisture to skin. Oat bran extracts contain skin-soothing colloids and heal irritation, while vitamin-rich rice bran proteins boost elasticity. Finally, a refreshing dose of peppermint oil stimulates circulation and revives skin tone.

I say:
First, gotta ask: Who uses a third of an ounce of product in one use? I'm not exactly complaining- it's a generous amount for something labeled "single serve", but an odd description nonetheless. I also found the cleanser itself odd. It was thin and watery, and while it seemed to cleanse well enough, I did feel like half of the liquid ran through my fingers before it ever reached my face. Though the Befine packet makes no mention of it, Birchbox does suggest applying the cleanser to a washcloth first to combat this.

As usual with "natural" skin care lines, I think Befine over-reaches on their claims. Particularly sad is that most of the ingredients in this cleanser are beneficial- they're just not the big superstars Befine makes them out to be. Sugar is a known humectant, but the claim that it can also "banish impurities" is just marketing nonsense in my opinion. And the assertion that peppermint oil "revives the skin tone"? What exactly is a "revived" skin tone?  In fact, peppermint oil is a known skin irritant; irritation isn't generally known to improve the appearance of the skin. Finally, it bears mentioning that nowhere in the description of this product does it suggest keeping it away from the eyes. Trust me: peppermint + eyeballs= bad. me.

Befine Daily Moisturizer with SPF 15
Sample Size: Three .34oz "Single Serve" packets
Retail Size: 1.7oz for $24
Sample Value: $14.40

Birchbox Says:
The rosemary and pomegranate extracts in this day cream are full of antioxidants that defend against pollutants, free radicals, and other skin enemies. Rice extracts boost moisture levels and improve skin’s elasticity. Finally, two skin-safe sunscreens—octinoxate and avobenzone—keep skin protected against the sun.

I say:
Again, odd "single serve" designation, especially considering the three packets I received contain 60% of the product in a full-sized bottle. Annoyingly, neither the packet, the Birchbox website nor the Befine website lists a full ingredient list, so I have nothing to talk about here but the "key ingredients" (and without a list, I have no idea how much of each additive is even in the lotion). So with a grain of salt...

Befine Daily Moisturizer is a very light-weight lotion; I was actually surprised that something so light could satisfy my super-parched skin. I love the addition of rosemary and pomegranate extracts for antioxidant protection- both have higher antioxidant values than favorites like Vitamins C and E, and have anti-inflammatory properties as well. But yet again, I find the company stretching with certain ingredient claims: I couldn't find a single study that supported the claim that rice extract in any form improves elasticity. Rice extract is classified as a skin conditioning agent, so I have no doubt that it boosts moisture levels, why not just leave well enough alone?

Even with the, erm, romanticized view of certain ingredients, it wasn't until I looked at the sunscreen agents in this formula that I had any real concerns. My first surprise was that Befine uses "chemical" sunscreens, which absorb UV rays before they can damage skin, rather than physical blocks like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide (these work by reflecting rays away from the skin). Now, this means nothing in and of itself- I'm totally fine with chemical blocks as long as they're formulated correctly. The shocking thing is that this one doesn't seem to be.

All three sunscreens listed in Befine's active ingredient list are considered unstable, meaning they degrade in the presence of UV rays (seems like a deal breaker for a sunscreen, eh?) Two included in the formula, Avobenzone and Octinoxate, behave particularly badly when they get together. Studies show that when that particular combination is exposed to UV rays, both sunscreens break down, reducing UV protection and forming skin-damaging free radicals. Certain agents can be added to counteract this, but the formula's other sunscreen agent (Octisalate) doesn't seem to be a preferred photostabilizer.

Of course, even the best sun protection will break down over time, which is why one final little surprise landed my Befine moisturizer packets in the trash bin. While examining my packet, I happened to notice a little embossed code that reads "EXP2009/07". In case anyone needs translation, or you're just in disbelief, that means Birchbox sent out samples that expired 3 years ago! Now, I used this lotion, and didn't notice any signs of spoilage (rancid smell, off-color, separation of the lotion) but when it comes to my sun protection, I'm simply not willing to risk it.

MicrodermaMitt Face Mitt
Sample Size: 1 mitt
Retail Size: 1 mitt for $28.50
Sample Value: $28.50

Birchbox Says:
MicrodermaMitt’s exfoliating face mitt gives you results that are comparable to clinical microdermabrasion, minus the redness and sensitivity that can result. Made of all-natural floss silk...soft yet powerful face mitt sloughs away all forms of debris, from makeup and sunscreen residue to excess oil and dead skin cells. With regular use, your skin will look visibly smoother, and your lines, scars, and sun spots will be less noticeable.

I say:
Let's knock that first claim out right away: "results that are comparable to clinical microdermabrasion". I see no studies supporting this on MicrodermaMitt's website (as a matter of fact, I don't even see this claim on the company's site, only on the Birchbox page). There are also no studies on the product on file with the US National Library of Medicine, so I'm gonna go ahead and call BS on this one.

Moving on, I agree with almost everything else Birchbox has to say about the product. I don't know exactly what floss silk is, but it's not the luxuriously soft fabric you're probably thinking of. This mitt definitely feels a bit abrasive (not uncomfortably so) and I felt it did a nice job of lifting off dead skin. My skin tears easily. In fact, because of this, most scrubs leave me flakier after I use them than I was when I started. After using the mitt, my skin was noticeably softer, less flaky and showed no signs of irritation. Since regular exfoliation exposes newer skin, the look of scars, fine lines and spots can in fact be diminished (to some extent). Definite win!

WEI White Lotus Hydrating Face Treatment Pads
Sample Size: 1 pad
Retail Size: 6 pads for $68.50
Sample Value: $11.33

Birchbox Says:
Sheet masks are all in the rage in the Asian skincare world...Not only are they super-hygienic and easy to use, they let you achieve comparable results to pricey spa facials for a fraction of the cost. White Lotus pads soften the look of lines and wrinkles...contain a smart dose of hyaluronic acid to plump up skin.

I say:
I certainly have seen plenty of sheet masks on my favorite Asian beauty blogs, so I'm excited to try this one. Again, there's no ingredient list available, and the only ingredients mentioned are white lotus and hyaluronic acid. Of course, I have no idea what form of the lotus is used, but lotus seeds and stamens are known to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, so there's some potential here. Hyaluronic acid (one of my very favorite ingredients, if you didn't know) is a Natural Moisturizing Factor that's able to hold up to 1000 times its weight in moisture. It can help maintain a healthy skin barrier, and can indeed temporarily plump the skin, relieving the appearance of fine lines.

While I haven't used the mask, I can tell from squishing the packet that the mask is well saturated with the solution. While I'm intrigued about this mask, I'm not sure I can see myself spending $68 for something that only lasts 6 uses. On the other hand, $11 is much cheaper than a spa facial, so if this mask really stands up, I could be convinced to reconsider!

Sample Size: .04 fl oz
Retail Size: $59.50 for 3.4 fl oz
Sample Value: $.70

Birchbox Says:
The fragrance is a gourmand floral; a charming and sparkling surprise of vibrant fruits, kissed by a bouquet of soft petals and a touch of sweet indulgence.

I say:
This fragrance may hint at being a gourmand floral, but if you're not paying attention, that hint will fly right overhead. It has none of the complexity of other famous gourmands (Mugler's Angel and Lolita Lempicka are long-time favorites of mine). The musky sandalwood base totally overpowers the delicate fruity floral notes- you really have to whiff quickly and deeply to catch them. Even the vanilla note (normally a scent that stands out to me) only lasted 10 minutes or so before fading into obscurity. It is a supercute bottle though, so there's that.

Zoya Nail Polish in Bevin
Sample Size: .25oz
Retail Size: $8 for .5oz
Sample Value: $4

Birchbox Says:
Each Zoya shade goes on opaque with just one coat and lasts 50 percent longer than traditional polishes...the vegan-friendly formulas don’t contain formaldehyde, toluene, camphor, and other toxic chemicals. Bevin (is) a sage green with faint teal undertones.

I say:
I always love getting Zoya minis in my box! This particular shade is a bit unusual; I'd call it a dusty teal (it actually reminds me of the color my fiance's mother used for his Bar Mitzvah). Definitely more blue than green to me (my 4-year-old agrees) and despite my early 90's association, the shade comes across as modern and chic to me. The cream finish applies smoothly and streak free, though it did take me 2 coats to get truly opaque coverage.


Great value in this box, and some interesting products to boot- my favorite is the MicrodermaMitt. I am very disappointed with Birchbox for sending out expired product (if you deduct the value of those packets from the box, the total would go down to $49.33) and have contacted them about the issue.

::EDIT:: Birchbox has announced via email that it will be compensating those who received expired Befine packets in their box with 100 Birchbox points.  You must complete this survey by April 27 to request the points award; your account will be updated by May 1.

I don't know how I feel about this solution. 100 Birchbox points equals $10 in their shop, which is a good dollar amount, however, I usually balk at customer service resolutions that require an additional purchase from the company. What do you guys think- fair or foul?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Toner Takeover:
Reviva Labs Glycolic Acid Toner

I'm not generally a huge fan of toner. Of course, I'm happy to tell you all about it, but in short I don't really think it brings much to the party. The one exception for me has been glycolic acid toner; Mario Badescu's has been a long time favorite of mine for its gentle exfoliating action. While I did mention Reviva Labs' Glycolic Acid Toner briefly in a previous post, it definitely deserves a revisit to explain why it has become my standby. 

The main reason I use glycolic acid in a toner is that my sensitive skin won't tolerate the typically higher percentages (up to 10%) in other treatments. Reviva Labs Glycolic Acid Toner uses a slightly higher percentage of glycolic acid than my former favorite from Badescu (3% versus 2%) yet my skin actually tolerates it better.

Because glycolic acid only functions as an exfoliant when it's formulated at a fairly acidic pH, both toners could potentially be irritating. Badescu's toner often left the skin around my nose red, peeling, sometimes even a little sore. Despite the higher concentration of acid, I never noticed this with Reviva's formula. Both formulas contain high concentrations of the anti-irritant Aloe Vera; whereas Badescu's formula eschews additional soothing ingredients, Reviva's toner includes moisture-loving hyaluronic acid, soothing allantion, skin-identical polysaccharides and the antioxidant beta-carotene.

Both toners are moderately priced- Mario Badescu's rings in at $1.75-$2.25 (depending on size) while Reviva Labs Glycolic Acid Toner runs a bit higher, with a 4oz bottle retailing for $12. I have seen it going for almost half that price around the web, so it's worth doing a bit of research if you decide to give it a go.

Monday, April 2, 2012

This Week's Sales: Chanel, OPI, Jurlique and more!

Beyond the Rack
Monday, April 2nd: Beauty Queen boutique featuring Chanel, Smashbox, Urban Decay, Lancome, Estee Lauder & more.
Tuesday: OPI

Brand Alley
Ends Tuesday, April 3rd: OPI, Summer Skin Care feat. Lancome & more
Starts Tuesday: Bahoma Bath & Body
Ends Wednesday: Summer Scents- Calvin Klein, Hugo Boss, D&G and more, Parks London.

If you're not a member yet, click here for an invite and we can both earn a £10 voucher!

The Walk In sale ends today, I spotted some Creed fragrances up for grabs among the long list of designer goodies featured!

If you miss today's sale, check out the Outlet sale opening Wednesday, if memory serves, you're likely to see some of the same goodies there.

Gilt Groupe
Wednesday: Stephanie Johnson Cosmetic Cases, Vincent Longo

Monday: Too Faced, PRAI BEAUTY, Tweezex, Zana Cosmetics, Organic O2CH
Tuesday: derma e, Proliss
Wednesday: E.V.A, bodyography
Thursday: Sibu Beauty

Lucky Chic
Monday: Jurlique

If you're not a member yet and would like an invitation, click here.

The Mini Social

My Habit
Monday: Hair essentials from GHD, Strivectin, Michael Todd Cosmetics, 29 Cosmetics

If you're not a member yet and would like an invitation, click here.

Rue La La
Tuesday: Kasai Hair (8AM EST) 
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