Saturday, June 30, 2012

Fab Fourth Sales!

I know how much ya'll love a good deal, and so does Luna of Toxid Lotus! She's putting together a list of fab 4th of July sales, and I thought I'd share. Luna lists reliable, tried-and-true indie businesses, if you haven't tried them, now's a great time! If you know of any other sales, or have a business yourself that you'd like Luna to consider adding to her list, let us know!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Parabens Continued...A Reply & Response.

Recently I posted an editorial on parabens, and in the resulting discussion one of my readers, Lulubelle of Bon Vivant Beauty, brought up a good point that I want to address. Since my commentary was more on the marketing aspect of the paraben controversy, I glossed over some of the concerns about this common family of preservatives. I am not a chemist or dermatologist, and being that the science on parabens is still emerging, I have generally left the issue to those who have greater access to the current literature on the subject. Still, my commentary has opened up some discussion (which I love) and I definitely don't want to ignore such a vital topic.

Though I discussed paraben sensitivities in my article, one of the prevalent concerns about parabens is the possible link to estrogenic activities. In her comment, Lulubelle mentions having looked at several studies, and though there is a mountain of research on the issue, the majority of the scientific literature I've seen doesn't exactly point to a direct cause and effect situation. One thing I've learned in my years of cosmetic research is how important it is to look at the parameters of a study and whether they realistically apply to humans.

One of the studies I found used to implicate parabens was done in fish (yes, fish) using a dose of 100-300 mg/kg. In case you didn't know (I didn't, luckily FutureDerm's Nicki Zovolo did the math for us!) that's about 24 times higher than a reasonable estimate of human exposure. Oh, and the fish were injected with the parabens; not exactly the same as slathering night cream on their... scales. This and other such studies contain information that sounds alarming when taken out of context, but so far have failed to concern me. But you don't have to take my word for it- this study published in Critical Reviews in Toxicology states: "it is biologically implausible that parabens could increase the risk of any estrogen-mediated endpoint". Couldn't have said it better myself.

The most eye-catching headline of late concerning parabens has been the discovery of parabens in breast cancer tissue. While that certainly sounds like a cause for concern, it's important to note that the authors of the study don't conclude that parabens are harmful in any way, only that further research is warranted. To date, In fact, the current scientific consensus is that parabens are safe for use in cosmetics in concentrations up to 25%, though typically they're only used at levels of 0.01 to 0.3%.

Here is some more interesting information on parabens:
  • Despite internet rumors to the contrary, parabens are used legally in cosmetics in the EU, though some types of parabens (those that were not used in cosmetics) have been banned. Methylparaben and Ethylparaben can be used at a maximum concentration of 0.4% Butylparaben and Propylparaben are allowed at a use level of 0.19%.
  • Evidence has shown that parabens do not accumulate in the system beyond 36 hours, meaning there is no logical risk of "build up" for the life time user.
  • Parabens are 10,000 to 100,000 times weaker than natural estrogen in the body.
  • We eat 10 times the amount of parabens in our food than what we're exposed to in our cosmetics.
  • Parabens occur naturally in many plants, such as honeysuckle and cocoa. They are also found in fruits and veggies like carrots, coconuts, blueberries, olives, raspberries, and strawberries. According to cosmetic chemist Dene Godfrey, "If natural substances are extracted from plants that contain parabens, it follows that parabens may be present in the final cosmetic product". Using that logic, popular "paraben-free" brands like Burt's Bees, Dr. Hauschka, Korres, and Yes To (among many, many others) may not be telling the whole truth with their paraben-free claims.
Of course, I don't mean this (or really any of my posts) to be taken as a compendium of all available data; I simply wanted to present you with information on why I personally am not concerned about parabens in my cosmetics. Take this post as a bit more insight into what has informed the opinion I expressed in my previous post- that many companies are perpetuating a perhaps un-earned negative perception for profit. Of course, science is constantly evolving, and since parabens are a hot-button issue right now, I have no doubt that study in the area will be ongoing. As always, I'll keep an ear to the ground, and you know I'll let you know if I hear any rumbles!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Product Review: Anastasia Beverly Hills
See and Be Seen Kit

Anastasia Beverly Hills' Limited edition See and Be Seen kit is a one-stop-shop that includes everything you need to add a little sizzle to your summer makeup routine. Available exclusively though Anastasia and Sephora, this four-piece set includes:

2 Hydrafull Glosses (0.07 oz each) in Heiress and Plastic
Hydrafull Glosses in Heiress (left) and Plastic (right)

Both Heiress (a cool, vivid coral) and Plastic (bright, blue-based Barbie pink) shades are available exclusively in the See and Bee Seen kit. I'd call both shades "jelly" finishes- well pigmented but still somewhat sheer, with no noticeable shimmer or milkiness. These are my absolute favorite kind of colors for summer- they look juicy and fresh, like you just ate a Popsicle!

Hydrafull glosses are smooth and non-sticky, though the thicker formula provides tons of moisture and longer wear. I also found that these two shades left a stain behind as they faded, something I consider a plus. Also, If you're in the market for a lip-plumper, Hydrafull pulls double duty with the addition of a collagen-stimulating peptide. Most plumpers out there only temporarily inflate lips, and they do it by using a ton of irritating botanicals (peppermint, clove and hot pepper extract are common choices) to create temporary inflammation. Peptides work with your skin's natural processes to stimulate the production of collagen- reducing fine lines and potentially creating fuller lips over time.

These glosses retail at $18 each, which is a little steep if you compare them to, say, MAC Lipglass, but the more comfortable formula and added plumping benefits make Hydrafull a must-try!

Tinted Brow Gel in Caramel (0.32 oz)

Brows are an essential step to looking well-put together, especially if a beachy no-makeup makeup look is your goal. Don't let this tinted gel's shade fool you: the golden taupe is a great option for almost all hair colors. Platinum bombshells will get natural looking fullness and definition, whereas non-blondes will benefit from perfectly placed brows and a subtle highlighting effect from the gel's golden sheen.

Illumin8 Eyeshadow Duo in On Set (each shade is 0.04 oz)

This duo includes two summer standbys: a sandy, pale copper and a warm luminous bronze. Both shades are smooth and well-pigmented with a bright, metallic finish. Use them separately or side-by-side for a simple daytime look, but if you're feeling bold, pair them up with a vibrant teal liner for the perfect summertime color burst.

And now...swatches!

Top: Illumin8 Eyeshadow Duo in On Set
Middle: Hydrafull Gloss in Plastic
Bottom: Hydrafull Gloss in Heiress

Retailing at $44, there's no doubt See and Be Seen is a great value (with $80 worth of product, it's basically like getting two full-size products for free). It's a no-brainer way to revamp your makeup bag for summer. If you haven't checked out Anastasia Beverly Hills, you really can't lose- unless you wait: this kit will only be available for another few weeks, so hurry!

The products featured in this post were submitted for review 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 myself (it's called integrity, I like to have it). The opinions expressed in my product reviews are my own, based on my own research and experience; I am not paid in any way nor is the final outcome of the review influenced by the featured company.

Friday, June 15, 2012

June 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. These instant reviews are just that- my first impressions based on my initial testing, swatching and, of course (you know me) a peek at the ingredients. 

This month's theme is Jet Set, with selections to "indulge your inner jetsetter, from hardy formulas that can last throughout a long-haul flight to imported finds that we've picked up on our global adventures". Sounds promising, right? I don't know that I'll be doing many of those long-haul flights this summer, but imported beauty finds is music to my ears!

Sample Size: full box, 20 bandages
Retail Size: 20 bandages for $5.00
Sample Value: $5.00

Birchbox Says:
Klutzy fashionistas, we feel your pain and so does designer Cynthia Rowley. The fashion visionary teamed up with BAND-AID® Brand to create these haute band aids, which cover up life’s little boo boos and look good doing it.

I say:
These were the first thing I saw when I opened my box, and I was more excited than anyone has a right to be over Band-Aids! But, when's the last time you saw something this sexy in a package marked "sterile"? And, as accident-prone as I am, I will definitely get use out of these!

One quick mention, for anyone comparing notes: The Birchbox insert seems to have a typo where it lists the value of these at $15. The $5 retail value I used above is the price listed on Cynthia Rowley's official website. FYI, in my search to verify the price on these, I happened to notice Target has them available on-line for under $3 a box!

Sample Size: 0.04 oz/1.2ml
Retail Size: .3oz for $17.00
Sample Value: $2.27

Birchbox Says:
Why use two products when you can get the same effect with one? This two-in-one lip and cheek stain gives us a natural, understated flush...Use a single coat for a subtle look or layer it on for a more visible (yet still discreet) hue.

I say:
Right on! I love the idea of a multi-use stain, especially for summertime, and this gel-based formula is as easy to use as it gets. Beauty Queen, a slightly blue-based berry shade, went on my lips sheer and streak-free, and built up noticeably with just one additional coat. On cheeks, a little dab gave a nice flush, and blended evenly (and without settling into pores or grabbing on to any dry spots).

Eyeko Skinny Liquid Eyeliner
Sample Size: Full size, 0.07oz/.2g
Retail Size: .2g for $15
Sample Value: $15

Birchbox Says:
Twiggy fans, rejoice: this London-based brand’s liquid liners let you create mod looks in a flash. The precision pen tip allows you to control the thickness of the line you create and vary the intensity of your look. Plus, the fade-proof formula will hold up all day and night.

I say:
Woohoo! I have been hearing raves about this brand for ages, so I was thrilled to see this liner in my box. The sturdy felt-tip applies the inky black liquid effortlessly- no skips, tugs or bald-spots. The line I drew on my hand dried almost instantly, and then stood up to a pretty brisk rub. My next test was dishes, and while this liner doesn't purport to be waterproof, it certainly lives up to the "fade-proof" claims (as a matter of fact, the line I drew is still visible now, about 12 hours- and countless hand washings- later). Also, this little baby is half the price and almost twice the size of my current favorite, Lancome Artliner, so this could well be a new staple in my personal arsenal!

John Varvatos Star U.S.A
Sample Size: .04oz/1.2ml
Retail Size: 1.7oz for $55
Sample Value: $1.29

Birchbox Says:
The manly scent combines red ginger essence from Laos, juniper berries and cedrat from Sicily, blue spruce, green cardamom, osmanthus, vetyvert, belambre, and tonka bean from Venezuela.

I say:
My nose for women's fragrances is actually pretty sharp, but somehow, almost all men's scents smell the same to me, and this one isn't any different. I'd call it clean, almost sporty, even a little green. It comes across more citrusy than herbal or spicy/woody to me, which is surprising given the notes listed. Not a bad scent, but not something I'd search out.

This extra was a "sneak peak" at Birchbox's new men's service- it was a cute little addition to the box, though I do have to say that for the higher price point of Birchbox Man ($20/month) I'd need to see something more than a vial sample (let's be honest, you can walk into most department stores and get these for free) to get me to sign up.

Melvita Floral Water in Rose
Sample Size: .95oz/28ml
Retail Size: 6.76oz for $22
Sample Value: $3.09

Birchbox Says:
Powered by organic ingredients like rose petals...each spray soothes, firms, and heals delicate skin. Each of Melvita’s Floral Waters uses healing natural extracts to refresh and soothe skin...Rose is ideal for sensitive or prematurely aging complexions.

I say:
I'm not sure where I stand on the issue of floral waters. One one hand, floral compounds are chock-full of skin irritants (they're even listed in the ingredient list as "natural components") and that's not beneficial for anyone. Rose, however, has a very storied history: it's touted as a natural anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant, and is said to treat everything from sun-damage to depression. Now, it's easy for me to dismiss folk-remedies- I mean, women used to use lead to whiten their skin- but in the case of rose, science is pitching in to back up some of those claims.

This formula is pretty simple, it's basically just rose water, some citric acid (probably to adjust the pH and maybe as a preservative) and some lysine, which I was happy to see- it's an amino acid that helps to moisturize and repair the skin's protective barrier. The addition of this natural moisturizing factor tips the scales to the plus side for me: I'll be keeping this little bottle in the cooler this summer!

Yu-Be Moisturizing Skin Cream
Sample Size: .1oz (3g)
Retail Size: 1.25oz for $16
Sample Value: $1.28

Birchbox Says:
Invented by a pharmacist back in the 1950’s, Yu-Be has been Japan’s top-selling skin cream for over fifty years. Great for head-to-toe hydration, it helps with all forms of stubborn dryness, including flaky red skin, chapped lips, and callused feet. High concentrations of glycerin and sodium hyaluronate seal in moisture and protect skin from the elements. Finally, vitamins B, C, and E infuse skin with antioxidants and boost firmness. It’s so gentle that even infants and kids can safely use it.

I say:
Another wildly popular import whose reputation precedes it, I was excited to see this tiny tube in my box- if only to see what all of the hype was about. One peek at the ingredients, however, reminded me why I never tried this "wonder cream".

Remember, this cream was formulated over 50 years ago, so it comes as no surprise that the ingredients add up to what is really a pretty out-dated moisturizer. Yu-Be is, at it's core, a blend of basic emollients with a few antioxidants thrown in the mix. The form of vitamin C used, ascorbic acid, is one of the more unstable, and in such a low concentration (it's the second to last ingredient) who knows if it would even have an effect on the skin? Vitamin B2 is also listed, but is a know photosensitizer, something I'd definitely stay away from.

The final nail in the coffin? Camphor. In my opinion, camphor is one of the very worst ingredients used in skincare- it's extremely irritating, so though it can temporarily relieve pain or itching, it actually damages skin in the long-run. Camphor can actually be toxic and enters the blood stream easily, so it should never be applied to mucous membranes or broken skin- yet it's a common ingredient in lip balms! Infuriating! Most alarming is the statement that it's gentle enough to use on kids and infants: according to the International Programme on Chemical Safety, "Even in small doses, camphor consumption can cause fatal poisoning in children and infants." It's also not recommended for pregnant or nursing women. So explain to me again why I want this on my cracked heels or chapped lips? No thanks!


Camphor rant aside, I really thought this box hit it out of the park. In fact, I'd go so far as to say this is my favorite box yet! It's almost as if Birchbox read my wishlist and made it a box just for me. Aside from the Yu-be (which I'll be keeping far away from my lip-balm eating toddler) I will use every single thing in this box, and feel fancy while I'm doing it!

What did you get in your box? Was it as big of a success for you this month?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Product Review:
Anastasia Beverly Hills Lash Genius

Unless you're the kind of girl that doesn't wear makeup to pool parties ::coughliarcough:: and never cries at weddings, a waterproof mascara is simply a must have in the well-prepped woman's arsenal. The trick is finding the right one- the "runny raccoon" look isn't one many people (with the notable exception of Robert Smith) can get away with, and it seems like the waterproof version of my favorites never quite measure up. So, when I got this little baby in the mail, I couldn't wait to take it for a swim.

Anastasia Beverly Hills Lash Genius Waterproof Topcoat is exactly what it sounds like: a clear, waterproof gel that you can apply over ANY mascara to make it waterproof. And, it is genius. 

A picture is worth a thousand words (not an unrealistic estimate for the length of many of my posts!) so when I saw what Lash Genius did, I almost didn't write a post for it- I thought, why not just show this:

After a splash of water:
Left: Illamasqua Masquara topped with Anastasia Lash Genius
Right: Illamasqua Masquara alone.

See? Do I even need to write anything else? Now, I was skeptical (what's new?) when I first heard about this- I figured if the technology existed to do this, it would be everywhere. But it does indeed work, and kudos to Anastasia for getting to it first! There's not much more I need to say, but in the interest of thoroughness, here are a couple more details.

First, I tried this over several formulas of mascara, and it worked brilliantly over all of them- I noticed no clumping, flaking, etc...though I do feel like the topcoat slightly separated my lashes, adding to the appearance of length but taking away a bit of volume as I applied. The difference to me was negligible, especially given the benefits, but it's something to keep in mind. 

Also, though the topcoat is clear, I did have one instance while testing where it was somewhat visible on the tip of a few lashes (almost as if they were encased in ice).  I only noticed this effect one time when I was literally inches from the mirror (and frankly, if you're that close to my face in person, you'd better not be commenting on my makeup!) My guess is that I either put too much on or didn't work it into my lashes enough (wiggle that wand!) In any case, it was a one-time occurance, so no worries here!

So...would I recommend Lash Genius? In a hot second! The $21 price tag is well worth it for such a revolutionary product; this is definitely a new permanent installation in my kit!

The product featured in this post was submitted for review 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 myself (it's called integrity, I like to have it). The opinions expressed in my product reviews are my own, based on my own research and experience; I am not paid in any way nor is the final outcome of the review influenced by the featured company.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Philosophy 30% Off Friends & Family

It's that time of year again! Now through Saturday, June 16th (11:59 PM, EST) get 30% off all orders (Friends & Family is also good at Philosophy's flagship stores) with code philosophy12. Enjoy!

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