Saturday, May 26, 2018

Makeup Problem

A couple of years ago, I started another blog (this is starting to look like a bed a habit), about makeup, skincare, and cosmetics in general.  Then, I sort of stopped writing and now Wordpress is about to charge me for another year, but there's no point in renewing it.

So, I'm moving all of the posts over here!  For your reading enjoyment, the following are from my former blog, "Makeup Problem."

Julep Maven Box

Originally Published 9/17/15

So a couple of weeks ago I posted that the Julep Maven Box was on special and you could get it for the cost of shipping.  I got mine last week.

Ehhhhhhhhhhhhhh.  I wish I was more impressed.  I've never used Julep nail products before.  I received:

Oxygen Bonding Base Coat- I guess it's ok.

Nail Color in Fifi (top) and Whitney (bottom).  Fifi is STREAKY.  After three coats it still didn't cover.  Whitney is a Greige (they describe it as a mushroom grey beige) color, and it's not bad.  I wore it for a couple of days before it started to chip, and that's pretty normal for me.  It reminds me of Below Deck by China Glaze.  It's a hard color for me to pull off personally, but I really liked it anyway.


Lip Gloss in Charming

This is a pink toned VERY SHEAR lip gloss.  It doesn't show up on me at all.  It also doesn't stay on my lips for very long.  I thought I must have something similar but I didn't find anything in my collection of similar colors that was a spot-on dupe.


As I was taking these pictures I realized there was no way to tell you which one is the Julep one, so I grabbed some black liner and circled it!


Overall, this box was a good deal for $5.  I wouldn't pay $25 for it.  The only thing I'll use is the Whitney polish.  I think part of the problem was the profile I filled out.  I said I wanted a classic/neutral look, and these three colors definitely apply.  But to be honest I was pretty bored.
I have holographic polishes on the way to me in the mail right now.  I'll play with those and share them if they're any good!


Originally published 9/14/15

Now I'm going from a glamorous perfume post to a really-not-glamorous but super useful beauty tools post.

Let's talk about tweezers.

My first "good" pair of tweezers were from Tweezerman in the 90s and I loved them and I lost them.

My next pair of tweezers were form Tweezerman and I loved them and I dropped them in the late 2000s.  Bye bye tweezers.

The next two sets of Tweezermans weren't that great.  Instead of pulling out hair they tended to cut it off.  The last pair I got at CVS and they are maybe the worst tweezers I've ever used.

I was going to get another pair until I realized that MAYBE I shouldn't buy from that brand anymore (I know, I'm a smart one).  They used to be the best and I was buying them out of habit, but not anymore.  I don't know what's happened in the past 5 years or so but the quality has fallen off and I figured there has to be something better.


I logged on to Amazon and did a search for tweezers.  This pair from Classic Necessity had 95% five-star reviews.  And they were a third of the cost of my comparable Tweezermans!


And guys, there are really REALLY good.  Try them.  The alignment is perfect, and they get the little bitty brow hairs, blond ones that I can't even see, and pull them out easily.  I don't have to clamp down on the handles to get them to pull anything out like I did with my old ones.  And they don't cut anything, they just pull.

I wouldn't normally rave about TWEEZERS, but seriously, these are great.  And cheap.


Rose Perfumes

Originally published 9/10/15

Lately, I have been wearing mostly rose-based perfumes, so I wanted to highlight my top three today.  As the weather cools down (ever so slightly), I have found that I can wear these more now than I could in, say, July.   I used to think I didn't like rose, but it turns out that I don't like the flowers typically paired with roses in a fragrance composition.  So let's look at some less traditional blends that won't leave you thinking of old Victorian ladies splashing powdery rose water all over the place.

Stella by Stella McCarney
I'm only talking about the original, and not the relaunch (which worries me, more on that in a second).  Stella has been my go-to perfume for YEARS.  It is easy to wear because it is relatively light and not overpowering.  While I'm sure it is possible to apply too much, I don't find that the intensity of this changes much as you spray on more through the day.  This stays close to the skin, it's not knocking anyone over.  But it does leave an impression.  A rose, amber, peony, citrus concoction that is not traditionally flowery to me.   I wear this any time of day, any season, and if I don't know what perfume to wear, I put this on.  It's like a favorite dress.  It just adjusts to whatever is going on, and I think that is thanks to the peony.  If they'd put in something heavy like jasmine this would be hard for me to wear.
I have a roller-ball of this one because I have more perfume than I could ever get through in my lifetime.  But seeing as I've gone through 2 full-sized bottles of Stella since 2003 (and that is, without a doubt, a record for me), I will probably get another big bottle once I use this up (and the two bottles listed below...) because I prefer a spray.  The fragrance was relaunched with new packaging in 2014, and my favorite perfume reviewers are swearing that the juice changed slightly as well as the bottle.  I'll have to give it a sniff and see if I can tell a difference.  If so, I'll be watching eBay to see if anyone has the original up for sale.

A couple of other fragrances I have that share some characteristics with Stella are Elizabeth & James Nirvana White (I guess they both have the peony and musky/floral thing going on) and Sarah Jessica Parker's Lovely , a much more complex musk and amber and floral scent but really beautiful on its own.

Aerin Lauder Evening Rose
As I was wandering around the Estee Lauder counter, as one does, smelling everything and going "Eeeewwwww" as one does (except in the case of Private Collection Tuberose and Gardenia, which as far as I'm concerned is one of the most beautiful things Estee Lauder has produced) I came across the tiny display of more Aerin Lauder fragrances.  It's like Estee Lauder can't decide whether or not they want to appeal to a younger crowd (okay, this is relative since Aerin Lauder is 45 years old, but I think their target market is around 70).  ANYWAY a few of these smell wonderful, and I really loved the Evening Rose fragrance, but no way was I going to buy a huge bottle of it (and the bottles have a stone on top of the cap which I find sort of tacky).

EBAY TO THE RESCUE!  I found a 0.3 oz sample bottle on ebay for somewhere around $20.
The notes in Evening Rose are rose, incense, Bulgarian rose, blackberry, and cognac.  This is a warm creamy rose and I love the incense in the background.  It's like wearing Stella in a cathedral.  Deep,  intense, and seductive, with a little bit of sweet dark boozy fruit to round it out.  The average person who is more worried these things would probably wear it on date night and not in the office...  but I want to smell it all day!

Jo Malone Velvet Rose & Oud
MY HOLY GRAIL OF ROSE PERFUMES.  When I  went to Nordstrom during their sale I paused at the Jo Malone counter, knowing full well I wasn't going to buy anything because holy SHIT that perfume is expensive.  Just the normal perfume is expensive at $125, but this is the Intense line and at $170 a bottle it's way out of my budget.  Anyway, I stopped.  The dude talked up their candles (don't even get me started on small batch, hand-poured luxury candle prices) (faints),  and stuck all sorts of lovely things under my nose to smell.  I got two samples:  Velvet Rose & Oud, and Tuberose Angelica, both of which are stunning.

I trolled ebay.  Someone put up a 40% full bottle and I sat on that listing when the auction was ending and snatched it up for less than $70.

Ohhhh look at my off-set artsy photography skills! Orrrrr that lid reflects EVERYTHING and it had to go...
This perfume features damask rose, agarwood (oud), praline and clove.   It is a smoky, heavy, spicy, full-bodied rose with a tiny bit of sweetness.  I think this could be worn by men as well as women, although teenagers who wear Pink Sugar or another fruity gourmand perfume will probably find it a little too mature because it lacks the more approachable notes that are so popular right now.  It lasts on me for hours and hours.  If I put it on before I go to bed (totally normal, right?), I can smell it when I wake up in the morning.  It stays on your clothes.  If you didn't like this perfume but went wild with a test spray you'd be in a world of trouble because you're not getting rid of it for a long time.  Even I don't wear this one to work- it is too much (well, maybe just one tiny 1/2 of a spray).  It is gorgeous.

So, there are my roses.  This is kind of like a wine tasting (wine and perfume have a lot in common), going from lightest to heaviest, simple to complex.  Do you have a favorite rose that I should try?

Maybelline Lash Sensational

Originally published 9/7/15

Today let's talk about my current favorite mascara.  It changes all the time, but this one has been in rotation pretty consistently for the past two weeks.  I bought it about six weeks ago, tried it out, didn't really LOVE love it, and stuck it in my drawer and forgot about it.  Then towards the end of August, I was feeling kinda MEH about my mascara choices and pulled that bad boy out and WOW.  Maybe it needed a month or so to dry out a little bit, I don't know.


This formula isn't too wet or dry, they call it a "liquid ink formula" but I don't find it to be wet or watery. It stays on without smudging or flaking, which is important since I wear contacts and mascara flaking into my eyes is horrible.

The best thing about this mascara is the brush.  I love curved brushes and will usually smash any bristle wand I have against the opening of its tube to curve it if it doesn't come that way already.  It makes for less messy application for me.  This brush has plastic bristles and the little bristles on the inside of the curve get all of the little tiny lashes.  The outside part of the curve has longer bristles, which apply a good coat of product to your lashes.

I usually use the tiny bristles first and then comb through with the longer ones.  The application is great with 2 coats- any more than that and I have to comb through my lashes with another brush.  You can see in the picture that the product isn't chunking up on the wand at all, so this isn't too much of an issue really.   But when I need to, I like to use Cover Girl's Clump Crusher wand for fixing problems when any mascara has given me clumps or spidery lashes.

I need makeup remover to remove this- my regular face wash doesn't cut it.  When I just wash my face this mascara balls up in little chucks, so you'll want to take it off before you do anything else or it will get all over your towels.

Lash Sensational is around $9.00 at Ulta.

Where Did I Gooooooo??? (Not "Goo", ew, "Go!")

Originally published 9/2/15


Okay so I barely started this dang blog and then I go all MIA for a minute.  I'm back really quickly though to tell you that I've signed up (briefly) for another subscription box!  This one is for Julep, which is known for nail care stuff, but also has makeup and skincare products.

Normally the box is $24.99 a month, but I got it for free and paid $2.99 for shipping because I used a code and you can too!  Click here. Yeah I think this gives me Julep points or something, I'm very new to this particular subscription.  But you get to save $25.


I'll be back with another Lorac palette review.  Yes, as it says above, I do have a problem.

August Ipsy Glam Bag First Impressions

Originally published 8/20/15

Hey Chickadees!

So this was my first time ever getting an Ipsy Glam Bag, and IT WAS AWESOME.

First, it arrived in this very snazzy pink bubble envelope:

Then there was the bag:
Super fun little lined houndstooth vinyl makeup bag.

Next: the products:

From what I can tell these are 3 full size and 2 sample size products.  Let's start!
Eco-Beauty Good Night. Night Cream (sample- full size is $40) comes in this really cool packaging that I'm all impressed by.  Less packaging, resealable, and easier to get everything out of it.  Awesome.
IMG_20150819_171238This all-natural nighttime facial moisturizer is cruelty free.  It has a very light botanical (cucumber?) scent and it doesn't have any parabens, sulfates, dyes, triclosan, artificial fragrances, or animal by-products. Trying it on the back of my hand it feels a little tacky but I don't mind that in a night lotion.

Hikari lip gloss in Merlot.  (Full size, $13 value.)

IMG_20150819_190752A very pretty full-size berry-mauve gloss.  Seems to have good staying power, and it is super pigmented!  You need a mirror to apply this gloss.  According to their website they do not test on animals.

Fancy in-shower moisturizer from Divine (Sample, 9 oz. is $16).  It seems like everything is in-shower lately.  This one is unscented, I'll let you know how it goes.  They don't do animal testing either.

IMG_20150819_185551Doucce Cosmetics Ultra Precision Eyeliner in shade 500.  (Full size, $22 value)  Made in Germany, waterproof, and looks like a really good dark black on the skin.  They also do not test on animals (are you seeing a trend here??).

IMG_20150819_171342Trust Fund Beauty Nail Polish in Elegantly Wasted.  It's LAVENDER.

IMG_20150819_171432I did a swatch on one nail last night and it will probably cover in 2 coats.  It is 5 Free, vegan, and cruelty-free.  (Full size, $15 value)

Overall I was SUPER IMPRESSED with the content of my first Ipsy bag.  Really high quality products and the full size products were worth $50, not bad when you only pay $10 for the whole thing.  I will definitely continue to get this one.

Do you subscribe to Ipsy?  Do they always make it a point to include cruelty-free products in their bags?  I stay on the lookout for products that don't to animal testing.  It would be great if I could find replacements for some of my go-to products that are produced by companies that are not cruelty free.
PS If you'd like to sign up for an Ipsy subscription through my referral link, please click here.  If you think that's sketchy as hell and you aren't even sure why you read this blog when all I do is try to get points for my greedy self, you can just click here.  There is usually a waitlist, but it shouldn't take long to get your invite via email.

For Jen: Bridesmaid/Wedding Makeup Advice

Originally published 8/17/15

Note:  My cousin Jen is going to be a bridesmaid in a couple of weeks and asked me for wedding makeup advice.  She lives in southern California and has three awesome kids who take up a lot of her time, so I knew that my ideas needed to be easy to follow and the products easy to find.  Besides specific shades and colors that I thought would suit her coloring, here were my ideas- in no particular order.

Wheeeeeee!  You get to be in a wedding!  Since weddings are all about pictures you want to make sure that your makeup looks just as good in pictures as it does in real life.  Apply it in stages- if you use a moisturizer (that just depends on your skin), put that on and wait a few minutes for it to sink in.  Then put on some primer (again, this depends on your skin type), and wait for that to dry before you put on foundation.  While you wait for your foundation to set, do your eye makeup, and then go back to face makeup.  Give yourself lots of time.  Blend everything really well!

#1 Tip: try not to use anything with a lot  of  SPF in it.  (This is my most important thing about wedding makeup.) Sunscreen tends to bounce the light off of your face in unpredictable ways, so it can look like your face is ghostly or shiny in pictures.  Not cute.

#2 Use a foundation primer.  It doesn't have to be expensive, in fact, a really well reviewed one (I have not personally tried it) is the Shine Control Primer from Neutrogena, which you can get at pretty much any drugstore. Get it, try it out and see if it keeps your foundation in place before the wedding, and if not, RETURN IT.  Walgreens or Ulta are really good for returning stuff that doesn't work for you.  This one could be worth checking out too.

#3 Set your foundation of choice with a powder that isn't shimmery or anything (this one is my favorite, Neutrogena makes a good one too but it is almost TOO matte for me- so use a light hand).  If powder tends to look cakey on you, use a light dusting over your T-zone and then touch up through the event with blotting papers.

#4 Once all of your makeup is applied, mist it with a few spritzes of a setting spray.  This is like hairspray for your face and will help everything stay in place for longer.

#5 If you want to cover up under-eye circles or darkness, the Maybelline Age Rewind Concealer is awesome.  They also have a brightener shade which is sort of pink and when used lightly brightens up your under-eye area making you look all fresh and awake and stuff.

#6 Pinky-peachy cheeks and lips are always a classic look, don't pull focus from anybody else, and are probably a safe choice in Southern California since things tend to be casual and a little beachy there. Try to get a blush that has just a little shimmer to it if you want to, but absolutely no GLITTER. I like this one a lot for a hint of shimmer- I think I have it in rose gold.  If you already have a blush you like, but feel like your cheekbones need some highlighting, you can lightly dust on a very light colored shimmery eyeshadow and blend it in really well.  The Iced Latte shade from the Infallible Eyeshadows would work well for this.  (No glitter for eye makeup either, but shimmer is ok.)

For lipstick I'm a big fan of the Rimmel Provocalips line- it's long wearing and at least on me it doesn't wear off in patches and look gross halfway through the day.

#7  I have really oily lids so I always use an eyeshadow primer.  If you don't already have one, the best one I have found so far is the Wet & Wild Fergie Take On the Day Eyeshadow Primer.  It is just as good as the high-end ones, and keeps my eyeshadow on all day.  It's at Walgreens and Target.

#8 Find out if the other girls are wearing false eyelashes.  If so, get some so your eyes stand out just as much as theirs do in pictures!  This is an excellent video about falsies.  They're not hard to apply I PROMISE, but they do take a little practice.  This could be way more glamorous than the wedding you're in warrants- it all kind of depends on the vibe.  Also, if false lashes totally skeeve you out, skip them and put on several coats of mascara, particularly on the lashes at the outer corner of your eyes.
#9  Take your powder, blush, lipstick/gloss, mascara, and eyeliner with you.  If you get there and all the other bridesmaids are way more "done" than you are, add more to your face.  Way easier to add more than to tone it down!

#10  Bring blotting papers so you don't have to keep applying powder and start looking all dry and cakey.

#11 Get the maid of honor a glass of wine after her speech.  :)

I hope you have fun!  Some excellent youtube videos (I do love a video tutorial) for wedding/bridal make are here and here.  Remember it is more about technique and how they put the makeup on than the brands or even colors they use.  Be sure to do a trial run of whatever you decide to wear at least a week before the wedding so you have time to see if it's all going to work the way you want it to.  It's just makeup- so experiment before the big event and you will be completely confident in your look so you won't have to worry that your lashes are coming off or if you have lipstick on your teeth!

Let me know if I missed anything or if you have more questions!  I started out with like 3 ideas and then it snowballed.  HA!

Birchbox July & August- a Hit & a Miss (Or Vice-Versa)

Originally published 8/13/15

Subscription boxes are so much fun and such a crapshoot.  When they arrive in the mail it feels like Christmas and you get to open everything and it's all a surprise.  And we know how surprises are- sometimes they can be a great thing, sometimes they are terrible.  I have found that my potential for disappointment is proportional to how excited I get about a particular product.  So I try not to think about subscription boxes until they arrive.

I renewed my Birchbox subscription in July so I got my July and August boxes within two weeks of each other.  July was first.

I'll just get it out there now- while the boxes are always fun, I was not impressed with July.

Let's run through the products real quick, shall we?

That bottle turned on its side is Key West Aloe Save a Tan lotion.  While it's very nice, I don't tan.  Ever.  And while the description on the birchbox website suggests that you achieve the glow you're aiming to preserve while wearing the proper SPF, as far as I'm concerned if you're tanning you're not wearing enough SPF.  And tanning is aging and increases your risk for cancer.  So the branding is ridiculous.  The lotion smells very nice, but I'm not spending $12.50 for 6 oz of nice smelling lotion.

The tiny tube is Supergoop! Daily Correct CC Cream SPF 35.  It's way too dark for me.  Fail.

I'm not sure that I have the correct hair type for amika Un.Done Texture Spray.  This did nothing for my hair.  I have texturizing powders that I use sometimes for volume, so I am familiar with the concept, but this did nothing for my hair.  Nothing.

Jouer Daily Clarifying Treatment Oil seems like a good face oil to me.  I'm not sure why it's $48 an ounce full size when the first few ingredients are grape, jojoba, rice bran, and sunflower seed oils, and a few of the other oils are potential irritants, but it felt nice going on and sinks in fast.  Meh.

The biggest disappointment for me was the stila look at me liquid lipstick in the shade Beso.  When you buy this it comes as a trio with 2 other colors.  This stuff feathered like crazy on me!  First lipstick I've ever had that did that, and I even tried it with lipliner.  I've tried it three times now, and even when I use a little and blend it out, it bleeds out around my lipline   What gives????  I think you can even see the feathering in this swatch on my hand toward the top.


The only thing I'll really get any use out of is this coupon for a mini of my favorite mascara if I buy something else from the brand on Birchbox.  We'll see....


Whew, so that was July.  And I was not that impressed.  (Just in case you weren't fully aware.)
Moving on!  August was MUCH better!  These are more like quick first impressions since this just came last week.


How stinkin' cute is that box???


This might be the cutest marketing campaign I've seen from Birchbox.

Ok, here are the goods!

First up was Shea Terra Organics Rose Hips Black Soap. This has shea butter and coconut oil towards the top of the list which aren't ideal for acne prone skin but it was worth a shot.  You use this as a face wash/mask/scrub.  This stuff has the texture of molasses, it's so sticky I couldn't get it out of the container very easily.  And when I started spreading it on my face ohhhh the smell.  This stuff REEKS.  It was like I was spreading charred chicken ashes all over my face.  Who comes up with this stuff?  I MIGHT try it again but ohhh that smell.  My skin did look nice the next morning.

Next was the St Tropez Gradual Tan In Shower Lotion.  I tried this once, but it's a gradual tanner so I didn't really see any difference.  See above regarding total inability to tan...  most self-tanners turn yellow on me but I'll see what happens here.  I liked using it in the shower so there's less mess.

There was a can of the Oribe Apres Beach Wave and Shine Spray.  I'm assuming this is some kind of salt spray which I like to use for texture in my hair.  I have yet to try it out but I won't be ignoring it because the rave reviews on Birchbox are from fine-haired girls like me.

Balance Me Congested Skin Serum seems like a good idea but there are a ton of ingredients in here that are skin irritants if they used the oils, ok if they used an extract of the flowers, but the ingredients list doesn't differentiate.  It's supposed to be a spot treatment.  I have low expectations for this one but we'll see.  I might try it sometime.

As far as I'm concerned the best thing in this box is the sample of theBalm cosmetics Balm Desert Bronzer/Blush.  This is a great color and not too shimmery as far as I can tell.  It will be kind of a pain getting a brush into that TEENY TINY SAMPLE PAN, but I think it will be a good one.  A long time ago I got a sample of theBalm's Bahama Mama blush and it was excellent quality.

So that's two months of Birchbox!  If you'd like to sign up it is only $10 a month which I think is worth it.  Usually the good products outweigh the not-as-awesome.  If you'd like to sign up with my link, click here.  (If you click there I get points to use on future purchases.)  If that sounds like a shady scam and you now feel like this entire post was an advertisement for Birchbox because I gave it such a glowing review, just go here.

Do any of you get Birchbox?  Do you think it's worth it?  Any particular hits or misses for you?

Na Nin Perfume Oils

Originally published 8/10/15

Ohhhh perfume.  I love you so.  I wear everything from Sarah Jessica Parker's Lovely to Kate Walsh's Boyfriend (discontinued, I might get over it one day), to Stella by Stella McCartney and Chanel's Mademoiselle.  Tom Ford's Black Orchid, Elizabeth & James Nirvana Black & White, Diptyque, Jo Malone...  I love a lot of perfume.  Most of what I buy now are samples or roller-balls (read: tiny) because I love to try new things.  I haven't delved much into the niche world of perfumes, and to be honest (I'm going to sound like a total snob) I'm not sure that this counts as "niche" in the way I think of it.  Maybe "independent" is a better way to categorize the brand, but that really isn't important.  The oils are blended to match the feeling the perfume creator gets when she listens to certain songs tied to her memories, which I thought was a super fun concept.

There are several people I watch pretty religiously on Youtube, and one of them is Chelsea of ChelseaWears.  She's funny, quirky, down to earth, and has a really unique sense of style that I find charming and entertaining.  In one of her favorites videos a few months ago she said she'd been wearing Na Nin perfume oils, and you could find them in her online shop Anomie.  Well, you better believe I stampeded on over there to investigate.

Soooo many choices and lovely sounding fragrances.  There was a 4 perfume oil sampler set on the website but it was sold out.  Not being sure if it would ever come to anything (would they restock?), I joined the email list to get notified if it ever came back in.  And on July 30th the email came- it was back!  I ordered it that day and impatiently waited because my curiosity was piqued.
A few days later I received a lovely little package.  These perfume oils are all natural, so they have dark glass bottles to keep the light out and little droppers for application, and you have to reapply often because they evaporate fairly quickly.  If you order from the Na Nin website, the bottles are hand-blended when you order them, which I guess ensures freshness but makes me wonder if there is any variation in the fragrance.


Anyway, as soon as I opened the box I was hit with this scent that I can only call "Guilford"- the liberal arts college where I spent a year before I honed in on a major.  Guilford is definitely a hippy school, or it was when I went there 16 years ago.  My roommate sewed her own patchwork dresses and her best friend grew pot in the window of the basement in our dorm.  Think patchouli, sandalwood, and vetiver, all of which are lovely in moderation but when they are combined in excess I get "dirty hippy perfume".  There was a lot of trepidation when I took the little bottles out of their ziplock bag and gingerly cracked them open to sniff.


These fragrances are fascinating.  When I put on Jolene, I was waiting to be hit over the head with musk but instead, this is subtle.  It is a combination I've smelled before- on my college roommate who bought some perfume oil at a head shop based on her astrological sign.  It smelled gorgeous on her.  Anyway, the notes listed are black pepper, angelica root, mandarin, amber, rose, and musk.  I'm a sucker for rose/musk/amber profiles, so that's why I tried it first.  It smells amazing and different, I guess from the angelica root which is the only thing I didn't have on my notes spreadsheet until now.
Yes, there is a spreadsheet of my perfume collection and the notes.  I am training my nose.  Shut up.


Next, I tried Cripple Creek.  Described as a smoky pine scent with tobacco, pine, amber, vetiver, and cypress, I expected something manly and too woodsy for me.  When I first apply it I get a lot of vetiver and cypress. But it is another beautifully blended fragrance that is light and subtle and won't hit anyone over the head.  I love how the tobacco softens the astringency of the pine and cypress, and then the amber rounds it all out.  Again, this is like nothing I have smelled before.  The characteristics in this one come out as soon as I apply it, if you sniff every 5 seconds some new note is coming out until (on me at least) it calms down into a soft tobacco and pine.


The third perfume I tried was Farewell.  Described as a country floral scent with notes of rose, geranium, basil, and lavender, all I got was a huge whollop of lavender, and then it was gone.  I was pretty sad about that because I thought anything floral with basil in it would be really interesting, but I got nothing.  I'll try it again in the fall and see if any other notes make an appearance.


The last was the Earth Momma of all Earth Mommas, Landslide.  Obviously inspired by Stevie Nicks, this one has patchouli, cedarwood, rosewood, and sandalwood.  THIS is where the hippy school notes were coming from, and when I wear it I'm pretty sure I need to be at a music festival wearing a lot of layers.  Smoking something illegal.  It is heavy on the patchouli, it is earthy, and it is STRONG.  I don't love it, but someone who is more drawn to woods would probably appreciate it.


Overall I'd say Cripple Creek and Jolene were my favorites of this sampler and I will use them up quickly.  I don't see myself purchasing full bottles since they wear off so quickly.  That might change in the winter- I'll have to try them all again in December to see if any of the notes change.

How the Heck Do I Buy Makeup?!

Originally published 8/6/15

I'm testing out my birchbox stuff that arrived yesterday, and new some perfume oils, so there's nothing to write up yet!  That means a lack of pretty pictures.  After this (these posts will be up next week!):


Okay, so I can talk about makeup application, and colors, and textures, and palettes, and brushes, and all of that good stuff until I'm blue in the face (or my fingers fall off) but a good question to tackle right at the beginning is HOW DO I BUY THE STUFF?

I'm going to break this down for you in a few different ways, and unfortunately, due to my limited international experience lately, it will only apply to American shoppers.  I know a lot of people aren't comfortable with makeup and find the entire purchasing process overwhelming, so they've been using the same mascara from 2 years ago, and I can't blame them (except seriously, throw that crap away, it's crawling with bacteria).  There are so many options, so many brands, and depending on where you go, a lot of bright lights, loud music, and pushy salespeople.  So here's the process I've developed over the years.

1. DO YOUR RESEARCHYou want a new mascara?  Go find the best-reviewed mascaras and see what sounds good to you.  You want a new moisturizer?  Get thee to a good online resource for recommendations.  I have two favorite websites for research.

Makeupalley (just sign up for a free account) is the place to go for millions of reviews by consumers about all kinds of skin, hair, nails, and cosmetics products.  These reviews tend to be brutally honest.  You can find the top reviewed products as well as the best value products by category.  You can sort results and reviews by the age of the reviewer and their skin type, hair color, and eye color.  I really like to sort by age because my needs aren't usually the same as those of a 19-year-old or those of a 60-year-old.  You can sort reviews by most recent and most helpful.  It is a massive database and I love it.  I've been using it since 2004.

Beautypedia is run by Paula Begoun's company (in the 1980s and 1990s she wrote several editions of the book "Don't Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me" which was a great product review resource before the internet came around).  Word is that now she's more into product development on her own skincare and makeup line (Paula's Choice) and a team of employees do reviews.  Their reviews tend to be based more on scientific information and ingredient research.  I personally find this to be great for things like moisturizers and treatments, but not so useful for eyeshadows or lipsticks.  I tend to cross-reference whatever Beautypedia says about science with whatever Makeupalley users actually think of a product before I buy it.

Once you've selected a product you think would be good, the Sephora and Ulta websites also have user-generated reviews.  Search for the products and start reading.  They tend to have reviews on newer products before Makeupalley and WAY before Beautypedia since they do so much research.

2.  PICK YOUR RETAILER.  The patient among us can just do an online order from Sephora or Ulta or or even brand websites, wait a few days for shipping, and then try out new products in the comfort of their own home.  Check around for special offers you can get when you buy online purchases and not in stores.  Sephora will let you pick from a bunch of samples, and they have codes for other free sample/trial/travel sizes as well.  Google is your friend.

I am not normally that patient.

High-End:  Sephora and Nordstrom (if there's one near you, any other fancy department store should be similar) have a higher-end selection of brands, give out generous samples if you're unsure of a product (and if you're nice), and are intimidating as hell to a newbie- particularly Sephora with their loud music and slightly disorienting displays and lots and lots of lights and mirrors.  Department stores also tend to have brand representatives in the store who will steer you towards their own product lines.  That's fine if you're exploring but sometimes you don't feel comfortable doing your research on your phone right there with them talking to you about their own miracle product.  These two places also have excellent return policies if you decide you hate something or have a reaction to it.

Mid Tier:  Ulta and Kohls have some mid- to higher- end brands, and Ulta also has the brands you'd find in a drugstore or mass market retailer.  Ulta is great for shopping both ends of the price spectrum at once and it is a quieter store with fewer employees to bug you.  The flip side to that is that if you NEED help it is sometimes hard to find someone.  Kohls has a lot of interesting brands you don't find anywhere else.

Drugstore:  Walgreens, CVS, and Target are all good for drugstore brands of makeup (and hopefully dupes of what you'd get at Sephora!).  You will always find Cover Girl, Maybelline, Revlon, L'Oreal, Almay, Physician's Formula and sometimes Rimmel, Wet & Wild, and Milani at these places.  Very few store personnel are really going to be much help at discount chain stores, but there's a decent selection, the stores are convenient, and they do a lot of sales and Buy One Get One specials on certain brands.  Make sure to check the aisles at the front of the store (or in Target's case, on the end caps in the cosmetics section) for displays of new products and sales.  Personally I almost always shop Walgreens because they have an excellent return policy.

Walmart or Target is where I buy the basics that I use repeatedly.  I wouldn't want to stand in line at Walmart to do a return, but their products can be found for less money than drugstores charge, by as much as a third.

3.  OMG I HATE IT!  Well, if you have really done your research, you should have something you like and you're all set.  But if you hate something- either the quality is terrible or the color is bad, see if you can take it back.  No cosmetics company wants you stuck with something you hate and giving it bad reviews.  I have returned foundation that was the wrong shade, nail polish that didn't cover well, and numerous products that have given me a rash.  Drugstore brands don't have testers so it's hard to know if what you got was correct, while high-end stores will give samples and have testers in their stores in hopes that you don't wind up returning a very expensive product that they can't do anything with but throw out.

So that's it.  My best ways of getting new products into my collection.  I start with Makeupalley, move to Beautypedia, and don't forget that blogs, much like the one you're reading, and YouTube videos are full of great products too (keep an eye on some sponsored posts though- some of them are real reviews while others are just glorified advertisements).  Google whatever you're looking for and someone has had SOMETHING to say about it, I promise.


Next week we're delving into perfume!  EEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!

MAC Face Makeup Mini-Haul & How to Use It

Originally published 8/3/15

Let's talk about my FACE!  I have very sensitive skin that used to be dry but has gotten oilier over time.  I'm also fair, so it's pretty obvious if I get red from products or the sun.  My skin has been really fussy since I switched birth control 2 years ago- HOLY BREAKOUTS, Batman!  I got cystic acne in my mid-30s and it was miserable.  It didn't only look bad, it hurt like hell.  Working with my dermatologist I have been on antibiotics on and off for a while, as well as tretinoin (retinol), but  I think we have finally hit on spironolactone as my solution to acne.  I'm 3 months in and things are a LOT better.  The side effects haven't been too bad- my main complaint was a couple of weeks of breast tenderness (this is a hormonal treatment to block some of the testosterone that brings on hormonal acne).

In the past I didn't wear foundation much as it is really hard for me to get a foundation that is light enough for my skin-tone, and I didn't want anything on my face that would irritate my acne even more.  But as time marches on, my skin has gotten blotchier and redder and I need something to sort of even everything out and cover the redness.  There are a few foundations from the drugstore that I like (I'll cover those in a future post), and I have one from Clinique that I like ok, but I wanted to revisit MAC.  The prices aren't bad and they have decent reviews.

So I wandered into the local MAC store on a Sunday evening and a very nice girl named Maritza helped me to find a foundation for my skin type and tone.  We determined that Studio Fix Fluid SPF15 was a good fit for my skin type, then the adventure into color started.  MAC's color system makes no sense to me so I would recommend just going to a store or counter and getting color matched.   My skin is fairly neutral (it's got golden and pink undertones, at least under the redness).  She tried C3.5, which was way too yellow, so we went with NW15 (my former shade from a good 12+ years ago), which was too dark, and landed on NW13.  I couldn't believe that I've gotten paler with age (hello consistent sunscreen use, you're actually doing something!), but this is definitely a good match, as you'll see in a minute.

So hold on to your hats boys & girls, here's my face without a stitch of makeup on.  Only sunscreen and some Olay Regenerist Serum that I use as a primer:

Pretty glorious, right?  Some redness, some acne, some scarring, oh my GOD put some makeup on woman.


So here I am with the new foundation on.  I used probably 1.25 pumps and dotted it all over my face, then blended it in with a Real Techniques Bold Metals Triangle Foundation Brush, which worked really well.   Not winning any beauty contracts or anything, but things are getting decent.  I don't do heavy foundation, it feels gross on my face.

IMG_20150720_070636 - Copy

Next, I added a little concealer.  Maybelline Age Rewind Instant Dark Circle Treatment Concealer in "Light" under my eyes, using a round brush to buff it in, and then Make Up For Ever Full Cover Concealer in Shade 4 on any blemishes or redness that the foundation didn't completely cover.  I know, I know, you're all like "What blemishes??"


I use a tiny brush to put concealer on any spots that need covering and then tap a fluffy brush right on top to blend it in.


Ok, then I topped it all off with powder.  I got MAC Mineralize Skinfinish Natural in Medium (the MAC link is absolutely not working, so Nordstrom wins the link battle today), which has some coverage as well, and also MAC's Prep & Prime Finishing Powder (transparent) for setting concealer and my T-zone, which does a great job at mattifying everything.  It has been in the mid-90s for weeks, with the heat index well into the 100s, so keeping everything in place is a challenge.


Oh, I should probably point out that powder alone didn't make my eyebrows darker, or my eye makeup all intense.  But that's not the point of this post, and I'm sure I'll cover it all later.  The point is...  NW13 seems to be a good match.  Here are the face products used:

And the brushes used to apply it all:
Top to bottom we have an Elf Complexion Brush (for powder), Real Techniques Bold Metals Triangle Foundation Brush, Laura Mercier Camouflage Brush (for the setting powder under my eyes), Sephora Collection Blending Brush (for blending out concealer), Real Techniques Base Shadow Brush (for blending under-eye concealer), and a Real Techniques Detailer Brush (for applying concealer).

And ALL of the stuff I used on my face this morning, minus my big Lorac Pro 2 eye palette:
I'm not going to list all of that, it'll get covered in specific posts later on.

I've had this foundation for a couple of weeks now and I've been really happy with its longevity and the fact that it hasn't broken me out.  It doesn't feel like a mask but it seems to cancel out redness.  Any questions? Ask Away!