To begin, a disclaimer:
I do not portend to be particularly beautiful, nor am I professionally knowledgeable in esthetics. The product reviews and techniques described in this blog entry are merely my personal opinion and should be taken as such.
When I first started this blog, I had an idea to start another blog specifically for cosmetic product reviews and tips where a variety of authors can submit and rate their experiences. Popular books of a similar purpose like "Don't go to the Cosmetic Counter Without Me" by Paula Begoun disappoint because they are too perscriptive. I do not believe it is appropriate to say certain complexions should "never" wear this, or that blue eyeshadow is a universal no-no (as Paula argues). Beauty products are as expensive as they are numerous, and due to their intimate nature, buyers do not always have the oppertunity to properly try them before purchase. My favorite products are ones that were recommended to me by friends and often, by my mother. In addition to wanting to emulate my mother's beauty (which continues into her sixties, I might add. I'm appreciative of the genes!) I can also learn a lot from my mother because of our resemblance. As such, my mother remains a large influence on my beauty habits and rituals, so she gets a nod.
#5 - Spectro Jel cleanser (drug store)
Recommended by my doctor for my early onset adolescent acne. Recommended by my piercers and tattoo artists for aftercare. Need I say more? I have been using this stuff forever and I have not looked back. Cleansers that foam and froth on my face make me gag, as do cleansers that smell like... well, just about anything. Specto is slimy and odorless, and will remove eyemakeup without irritating your eyes.
#4 - Cover Girl Fresh Complexion undereye concealer (drug store)
If I were to be abandoned on a desert island with Johnny Depp and could only bring one beauty product, this is it. I am plagued by undereye circles, no matter my diet or restedness factor. I blame my genes; you know how the mobster guys on the Simpsons have that shadowy-ness around their eyes? I think it's an Italian thing. Anyway, I've tried many varieties of concealer ranging in price, brand and texture and Fresh Complexion gets it. It goes on beautifully light, which is important when one considers the fragility of the skin under/around the eye (see below for a tip on gentle undereye concealer application). I find the pigmentation just right; not too sheer as to render it ineffective, but not too opaque so as to produce the dreaded pancake-face effect of too-bright skin. This is one product where I truly prefer a drug-store brand over the more expensive stuff.
#3 - Queen Helene Mint Julep Masque (drug store)
This stuff came to my attention from my first roommate in residence at U of O. Sharing a bathroom, I would often see her emerge after brushing her teeth with her face covered in pale green goo. It made her look like a zombie extra from Dawn of the Dead (not entirely unappealing to me). This stuff is amazing. It is equally effective used as a 10-minute all-over masque, or as spot treatment overnight for a nasty zit. After application it seems to generate heat as it dries, providing suction (sorry, this is gross, but it really does shrink pores and get rid of blackheads) without dehydrating your skin. I love it. The tube lasts forever. No other acne products are necessary.
#2 - Benefit Bad Gal Lash (Sephora)
The funny thing about mascara is that I feel many women have simply given up. They believe that mascara must flake/smudge/smear/run/etc. and that this is just the nature of the beast and the price we must all pay to emphasize our lashes. As such, they buy the cheap stuff and have come to accept their irritation with its performace. That is how I operated until I discovered Benefit Bad Gal Lash. While the price tag is somewhat daunting, I firmly believe this product is worth every penny. Why? I can sum it up in one sentence; your lashes stay SOFT. In all my experience wearing mascara I didn't even think "soft" lashes were possible! This stuff goes on very controlled, thanks to the great applicator brush, and dries to a finish that feels so velvety and natural that you will forget you are wearing mascara. As a bonus: if you wanted to try this mascara without shelling out for a whole tube, Sephora sells little mini-tubes for; just for a taste.
#1 - Cake Satin Sugar hair & body refreshing powder (Sephora/the Bay)
I bought this stuff on a rare impulsive whim from Sephora online (before there was a Sephora store in Ottawa). I had heard the old beauty tip of using talcum/baby powder on the roots of your hair to relieve excessive greasiness in a pinch. This tip appealed to me because it takes me a while to smooth out my naturally coarse, curly hair, so I like to stretch out the time between washings as much as I can. The problem with the talcum/baby powder is twofold; first, it itches. You can feel the powder in your scalp and it actually feels worse than the initial greasiness it was meant to relieve. Second, it shows. Unless your hair is blond, you had to take pains to conceal whitish smears along your partline. Then I discovered this stuff. Its purpose is identical, but the powder is so fine that you cannot feel it on your scalp. Also, it comes in two formulas for lighter and darker hues, so the white smears are a thing of the past. Finally, this stuff smells like cinnamon-chai lattes. I don't use if for my body (I have another powder I like for that) but this stuff is a must-have for those days you didn't have time to blow-dry.
Now, I'd like to share my top 5 little pearls of beauty wisdom that have been imparted to me over the years and that I actually still use day-to-day.
#5 - use third finger to apply undereye concealers and creams -
It's your weakest finger, so you ensure the lightest touch to your most delicate skin. I picked this one up from some teen magazine in the 80s. YM, maybe, with a brow-heavy Brooke Shields on the cover.
#4 - use liquid liner along your lower/inner lash line -
A tip I picked up from cosmetic guru Xenia at Lime Crime Makeup. Not everyone lines their inner lower lid, but those of us who do know that it looks really cool and doesn't stay. This makes sense, of course, when we consider that these are our tear ducts we're coloring and tears can occur for a variety of reasons ranging from dust to The Notebook to a run in our pantyhose. Lining the outermost edge of the inner lid with liquid liner helps a lot.
#3 - use white pencil crayon to whiten long nail tips -
This old nugget from my mom has always struck me as a bit sketchy... pencil crayons are lead-based, right? Maybe shoving them under your fingernail isn't the best idea, but I must admit that I do it because the results look so darn good. It's best to use it after you shower or bathe because your nails will be soft and take the color better. Using the tip of the pencil crayon along the inside of your nails simultaneously cleans them and whitens them, giving them a natural french-manicure look without the french-manicure bright white phoniness. I am not liable if you get some kind of weird cancer from this tip. Nor do I even want to know about it for my own sake.
#2 - tone down and lock in too-bright lipstick with black eyeshadow -
I think I made this one up. I've always loved the classic look of blood-red lips, but I have a hard time pulling it off. Red lipsticks are often just a touch too pinky, too purply, too browny and in the end, too clowny. I discovered that using my finger to pat on black eyeshadow over my lipstick simultaneously darkens and seals in the color to a matte finish. Until I find the perfect red (and I'm still looking)...
#1 - cold rinse hair after washing -
At the end of your shower, after washing-rinsing-repeating, rinse your hair in lukewarm/cold water. I read somewhere that the cold seals your hair follicles, which gives you increased shine after drying. I find this to be true. To accomplish this without ruining the warm comfort of a winter shower, I hit the switch to send the water into the tub faucet instead of the showerhead and squat under the faucet, trying to keep my long hair from getting stuck in the drain. Would I put myself through this if I didn't consistently notice a tangible result? Try it yourself.
I believe that's all I have to say; for now, at least. My little top 5s aren't enough to fill an entire blog and I am sure I have lost what readership I once had when I stopped posting for months at a time. In the end I've said my peace; I have shared random wisdom and given my favorite products a little shout-out. I'm all ears for more, ghost readers. Do share!