Lucky No. 7

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Spring is only four days away, but the temperature outside today was in the low twenties. Add to that a very gusty wind, and my face is feeling weather-beaten. In my constant search for a cleanser that won’t strip my skin, I’ve switched from foaming cleansers to lotions, milks, and creams. As mild as they are, however, most of them still require water to remove them. I was even using cold cream with a warm washcloth in an attempt to keep my skin soft. While it worked, I have started to wonder if I should stop using water on my face altogether.

Contrary to popular belief, water can dry out your skin. It’s surprising, since water has a pH of 7 and is thus neither an acid nor a base, but is neutral. So how can something that’s neutral be potentially harmful? After splashing your face with water, the water evaporates. As it evaporates, it strips your skin of its natural oils. I have heard of people with skin so sensitive that they can’t wash their face with water at all, but those people are extreme cases. For most of us, it’s okay to wash your face with water, between one and three times a day, depending on how your skin reacts. If you wash with water more frequently than that, however, you run the risk of drying out your skin. This winter my skin has been looking dull, and I’ve developed redness in my cheeks that aren’t due to rosacea. I suspect it’s a combination of the cold weather and the drying effects of washing my face.

I recently purchased No. 7 Beautiful Skin Cleansing Balm – Dry/Very Dry Skin ($8.49) by Boots, the renowned British drugstore chain. In the past I’ve tried their Radiance Boosting Hot Cloth Cleanser, but that, too, requires removing it with water. Plus, it was very thick and highly fragranced. When I think of the words “cleansing balm,” I think of a thick, translucent waxy or petroleum-jelly-type substance, but the No. 7 Beautiful Skin Cleansing Balm is like a cold cream in a tube. It is meant to be wiped off rather than rinsed off. That’s why it appealed to me. It’s not as thick as cold cream, but it’s thick enough to spread all over your face and work it in. I find I only need to use a small dollop, and as I work it into my skin it melts and spreads evenly to cover my entire face. Then I wipe it off with a tissue. Unlike cold creams and heavier cream cleansers that need to be removed with a tissue, the No. 7 Beautiful Skin Cleansing Balm doesn’t make the tissue disintegrate while I’m using it. I only need one tissue to completely remove the cleansing balm. Sure, tissues are the cheapest commodity in a skin care regimen, but it’s nice not to have one fall apart into a shredded, goopy mess as I’m using it. The No. 7 Beautiful Skin Cleansing Balm removes most makeup, but I did have to remove my mascara first with a cleansing water as it doesn’t completely remove eye makeup.

Unlike most cold creams, which contain mineral oil, water, and beeswax, the No. 7 Beautiful Skin Cleansing Balm contains glycerin, which in high amounts serves as a humectant to attracts water to the skin. Glycerin is the third ingredient in the list of ingredients for the No. 7 Beautiful Skin Cleansing Balm. The No. 7 Beautiful Skin Cleansing Balm also contains cocoa butter – a natural moisturizer – and ceramides, which protect skin against moisture loss.

After I cleanse my face with the No. 7 Beautiful Skin Cleansing Balm my skin looks fresh and glowing. The cleansing balm has a fragrance, but it’s light and pleasant and doesn’t linger. I really enjoy using it to cleanse my face twice a day. The added bonus of using it is that it only takes about a minute for me to cleanse my face, which has drastically cut down the time I spend on my beauty regimen in the morning. Which gives me more time to enjoy my coffee before I leave for work. Soft, glowing skin and less time spent in the bathroom each morning? Win/win!

Boots No. 7 products can be found at Target and Ulta, or online at www.boots.com.

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Mini Mani

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O.P.I. is a leader in the high-end drugstore nail polish industry. Now Jaaks Pacific, makers of the popular Winx Club dolls, have introduced a series of playset for girls called Miworld. Each playset represents a brand-name retailer. In addition to O.P.I. you can buy a miniature Dairy Queen, Sprinkles Cupcake Cafe, Claire’s Boutique, and Sweet Factory. The playsets all link together to create a mini-mall of your very own.

The O.P.I. playset is adorable. It’s more in the scale of dollhouse furniture, so Barbie would definitely be too large for it. But action figures, mini Blythe dolls, or other small-scale toys would fit well. It comes with a manicure table, tools, a heat lamp, a pedicure station, and an adorable display of miniature nail polish bottles. You can also buy a pack of real O.P.I. mini nail polishes, so your child (or you!) can do your own nails too.

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I’m a sucker for miniatures, and I almost bought this when I saw it at my local WalMart. I also really like the Claire’s Boutique. The Miworld playsets can be purchased online or at major retailers such as Target, WalMart, and Toys R Us.


Soy Joy

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One summer day when I was in junior high, I went to Six Flags Great Adventure with a group of my friends. It was a friend’s birthday party, and six of us girls piled into her mother’s car for the two-hour trip from Long Island to New Jersey. I had never been on a roller coaster before, but something possessed me to go on Rolling Thunder, which at the time boasted that it was the tallest roller coaster in the world. What was I thinking? Inevitably, I got physically ill later in the day. I chalked it up to Rolling Thunder, but I was wrong. It turns out that this was the day I came down with chicken pox.

Aveeno is a beauty brand that has been around for over 60 years. The company was initially renowned for their oatmeal products, including the powdered oatmeal bath that my mother gave me to use to help alleviate the itching from the chicken pox. Aveeno has made a name for itself for effective, reasonably priced products based on the concept of Active Naturals – natural ingredients that deliver real skin care benefits. In 2004 they branched out into skin care with their soy-based Positively Radiant line of facial care products, followed by the Clear Complexion line for Acne and the Ultra-Calming line for sensitive skin. I’ve been using Aveeno’s oatmeal-based Moisturizing Bar on and off for years, and recently switched back to it because I wanted to wash my face with something gentle and non-drying that lathered, but not too much. I decided to try an Aveeno moisturizer to go with it.

The Aveeno Positively Radiant Intensive Night Cream ($16.99) is a silky cream with a unique consistency. It’s lighter than a typical face cream, but it’s not whipped and it’s not a mousse. I guess the best comparison I could make is that it’s sort of like a custard. It contains Aveeno’s Total Soy complex and vitamin B3. Soy is used as an ingredient in many skin care products because of its multiple benefits for the skin. According to soylife.com, soy helps reduce discoloration by evening out the appearance of pigments within the skin’s surface. It’s also high in vitamin E to promote healing and regeneration, and it’s high in fatty acids to help moisturize collagen below the skin. It also contains lecithin to maintain the elasticity of the skin and help prevent fine lines and premature aging. So basically, soy is good stuff.

In the interest of full disclosure I must admit that the main reason I decided to try Aveeno products again was their Positively Radiant ad campaign with Jennifer Aniston. They knew what they were doing when they chose her to be the new face of their skin care line. She exudes a sense of natural beauty and down-to-earth modesty that is perhaps lacking among many celebrities these days. After seeing a commercial with Jennifer for the Positively Radiant day lotion, I felt compelled to run to my nearest CVS and purchase a Positively Radiant moisturizer. I chose the night cream because it doesn’t have added sunscreen, so I could use it both day and night (I get my sun protection from a BB cream with sunscreen in it). So if I use Positively Radiant products, will I have skin like Jennifer Aniston?

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The Positively Radiant Intensive Night Cream promises you’ll see results in the appearance of your skin in as little as four weeks. I don’t have a problem with hyperpigmentation, although I do have those pesky freckles that have plagued me since childhood. But I feel as I get older that my skin has been looking a little dull lately. I’ve only been using the Positively Radiant Intensive Night Cream for one week, but already I can see results, maybe not so much how my skin looks but how it feels. This night cream makes my face feel softer than any other face cream I’ve tried. Despite its odd consistency, it absorbs quickly into my skin. It moisturizes well, although I do use it after applying a facial oil to my skin because my skin is very dry. But the combination of a facial oil with the Positively Radiant Intensive Night Cream works like a charm to soften and moisturize my face. My face looks healthy and glowing. I’m impressed! Positively Radiant Intensive Night Cream has a light fragrance that I find pleasant but not overpowering. There have been beauty products that I liked but couldn’t use because they were too heavily fragranced, but for me the fragrance of the Positively Radiant Intensive Night Cream is refreshing and reminds me of spring, which I really need during this long, cold winter.

Aveeno’s Positively Radiant Intensive Night Cream is available in drugstores nationwide, or at www.aveeno.com.

Soy also


The Three Graces

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Living Grace ($15.00-$44.00) is the newest addition to Philosophy’s line of “Grace” perfumes. For years I’ve been wearing Amazing Grace and Pure Grace, though I’m not as fond of Baby Grace or their penultimate “Grace” fragrance, Summer Grace. According to Philosophy,

    living grace spray fragrance was formulated to help center a woman’s mood, is deeply sensuous, multi-sensory and truly a heavenly inspiration. living grace is an ethereal, clean fragrance of fresh neroli to create uplifting feelings of vibrancy, soft, clean lily of the valley brings a sense of gratitude and sensuous, warm musk embraces you to the beauty of living in the present moment each day.

Despite Philosophy’s description of the notes in Living Grace, I don’t get either neroli or lily of the valley when I spray it on (and lily of the valley is very distinctive – think Diorissimo by Dior). To me, Living Grace isn’t very floral at all. It smells very similar to Amazing Grace and Pure Grace, but with more of a “water” element, almost like Davidoff’s Cool Water. Whereas Pure Grace is advertised as being a “soap and water fragrance,” Living Grace is more water than soap. But when it dries down, I can get a hint of the warm musk that the description mentions. Living Grace has that same comforting allure that both Amazing Grace and Pure Grace have for me. To be honest, if I had to choose between Amazing Grace and Living Grace. I would have to choose Amazing Grace because Living Grace is very similar to it. But I do like it and I can happily add it to both Amazing Grace and Pure Grace to form my triumverate of fresh, comforting fragrances from Philosophy.


Boston Red Lips

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photo courtesy of BostonMints

I love a good lip gloss. I’m not really comfortable in lipstick unless it’s for a special occasion. But if I don’t have time to put on anything else in the morning, I always find a few seconds to swipe on lip gloss before I run out the door. Failing that, I can throw on some gloss on the bus from the several tubes I keep in a small cosmetics bag in my purse.

Recently I was given samples of a new lip gloss to try. The fact that it’s homegrown in Boston made it that much more intriguing. BostonMints is not candy, despite the name. It is in fact a new line of creamy, minty-flavored lip glosses. They were created as a custom lip cosmetic for use under the punishing lights of photo shoots. Boston-area make-up artist Joanne Ilacqua shared the lip gloss with models she had worked with, and word spread. Joanne sold her BostonMints lip gloss in-person, then in stores and at her spa. Now they are available online.

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BostonMints come in 12 shades – some sheers, some shimmers – and each one named after a New England destination, such as “Swan Boat” or “Newberry Street.” They contain vitamins C and E, aloe vera, and essential oils like Spearmint. Each gloss comes in a full size as well as a handy purse size. Joanne, the founder, kindly sent me two shades: a full-sized tube of “Scarlet Letter,” which is a warm shimmer/shine in a zesty orange shade, and a purse-sized tube of “Go Sox,” a warm sheer in a true red shade.

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Scarlet Letter (top), Go Sox (bottom)

Scarlet Letter (top), Go Sox (bottom)

To be honest, both colors frightened me at first. The reason why I don’t wear lipstick is because the color is too concentrated for my comfort level. When I saw the vivid hues of these glosses, I was afraid they would be too bright. But upon application, the colors are actually very creamy but sheer. In a word, wearable. In particular, I thought “Go Sox” would be too red to be flattering on me. But it goes on a sheer, pretty pinkish red that would be flattering for all skin tones.

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“Scarlet Letter” is a true orange, so if you’re not into orange, then it might not be for you. But orange is big this spring (MAC just came out with an all-orange makeup line in collaboration with the orange-haired Hayley Williams, lead singer of Paramore, so there you go). “Scarlet Letter” is the perfect coral to perk up my complexion this spring.

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Both shades are rich and creamy and have staying power. They live up to their name in that they taste minty, but they are also moisturizing. My lips feel soft when I wear them. I am already thinking about which of the remaining 10 colors I want to try next!

BostonMints lip glosses are available online at www.bostonmints.com.

And in light of the recent tragic events in Boston, I am posting a link to the official foundation that has been established to help the victims and their families. If you wish to donate, please visit The One Fund Boston. Thank you.


In Search of the Perfect BB Cream – Part Two

Yesterday I reviewed the first three of six BB creams that I’ve tried in my search for the perfect one. I bet you didn’t get any sleep last night wondering which one is my favorite. Did you? And no, I didn’t dream about BB creams last night!

After having little luck with Western BB creams, I decided to give the Korean BB creams a try. So I turned to eBay. My first one was Etude House Precious Mineral Bright Fit BB Cream ($13.15 for 60 g. from sing-sing-girl).

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I was a little apprehensive about ordering a product from overseas, but my BB cream came from South Korea to the United States in 10 days. The Etude House BB Cream has an SPF of 30 and comes in four shades: No. 2 Light Beige, W13 Natural Beige, W15 Sand Beige, and W24 Honey Beige. I chose No. 2 Light Beige. The shade looks a little gray at first, as I’ve heard many Korean BB creams do, but it dries down to become a good match for my complexion, and I love the coverage. It looks natural but gives my skin some much-needed ummph.

When I purchased the Etude House BB cream I also purchased the Holika Holika Petit BB Cream #01 Essential ($5.99 for 30 ml. from rubyruby76). It arrived from South Korea in 12 days.

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The Holika Holika BB cream was by far the least expensive of the BB creams I’ve tried, but it comes in a much smaller tube. It looks more grey than the Etude House when coming out of the tube, and while, like the Etude House, it settles down to match my skin tone more, it retains a cast that makes me look a little ashen and washed out. It looked better when I applied my MAC Blotting Powder over it. But the Holika Holika BB cream has a fragrance to it, which is a little too strong for something I’m putting on my face. While I like the coverage very much, it’s too ashen and greyish for my skin tone.

While I was waiting for my two BB creams to arrive from South Korea, I stumbled upon Hard Candy CC Correction Creme ($8 at Walmart). Being the obsessive beauty product junkie that I am, I purchased it even though I had just ordered two BB creams from overseas!

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The Hard Candy CC Creme comes in four shades: Fair, Light, Medium and Dark. Early reviews of the Hard Candy CC Creme online complained about how the shades were too dark for the names they were given. In response, Hard Candy created a lighter shade, which they now call “Fair,” and renamed the older “Fair” shade “Light.” The photo above shows the old lineup, with “Fair” being darker than “Light.” I purchased the lightest shade, “Fair,” and while it looks a little dark when I first squeeze it out of the tube, it blends in to my skin to come very close to matching it. When I look in the mirror I think it might be just a tad too dark, but it’s probably not noticeable to other people, so I can live with it. It provides excellent coverage and makes my complexion look great. The only downside is that is only has an SPF of 15 – the lowest of all the creams I’ve tried. But for $8, this cream is a little powerhouse.

So after trying six creams over the past several months, I’ve narrowed it down to two finalists: Etude House and Hard Candy. Etude House won by a hair. The color blends just a little better into my skin, and it has twice the SPF of the Hard Candy CC cream. I wear the Etude House every day, but I haven’t discarded the Hard Candy. It’s easier to obtain so it could fill in when I run out of Etude House. If you’re reluctant to buy BB cream from overseas sellers on eBay, I’ve since found a company based in Portland, OR, that imports and sells Korean beauty products. It’s called Pretty and Cute. Their prices are a little higher than what I paid on eBay, but they ship from the United States, and you’ll be in Kawaii heaven as you browse their extensive selection of Asian makeup and skin care products.

Have you tried BB and CC creams? What’s your favorite?


In Search of the Perfect BB Cream – Part One

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After a less-than-positive experience last year with Garnier’s BB Cream, I put it aside and didn’t give BB creams another thought. Temporarily, that is. The continued popularity of BB creams, their new cousins, CC creams, and the countless commercials for them that bombard me every time I watch t.v., ensured that I didn’t ignore these newest skin-care innovations for long.

Beauty Balms (or Blemish Balms) were originally created in Germany by a dermatologist named Dr. Jart. They were intended for patients who had undergone chemical peels or other harsh facial treatments, to make their skin look and feel better during the healing process. Beauty Balms then became extremely popular in South Korea before cosmetic companies in the West caught on to them last year. Many Western BB creams have been called glorified tinted moisturizers when compared to the Korean creams, which adhere more to the original concept of the BB cream. I certainly found this was true of the Garnier cream I tried. So within the past 6 months or so I’ve been trying out an assortment of BB creams to see if I can find one that gives the coverage I need but that also matches my skin tone. I’ve purchased five BB creams, and one CC cream, to see which one I like best. And I’m happy to say we have a winner. But I purchased six creams, people! Since this review would be rather lengthy if I went into all of them at once, I’m dividing this review into two parts. Tune in tomorrow to see which one wins.

After trying and not liking the Garner BB cream (the “Light-to-Medium” shade was too dark, and it had a fragrance), I thought that maybe a high-end BB cream would be better. I chose the Bobbi Brown BB Cream ($42.00 for 1.35 oz., above) because it came in a greater variety of shades – 5 to be exact – from Extra Light to Medium-to-Dark. I chose the Extra Light.

$42 is a lot to spend on a BB cream, in my opinion, but I felt it would be justified if I really liked it. Did I? To be honest, yes and no. I loved the coverage – slightly matte, and it improved the look of my skin. It also has an SPF of 35, which I need, being a fair-complected redhead. The downside is that Extra Light, which looked fine in the department store when I tried it on, looked too yellow on my pink-toned complexion when I got a look at myself in the bathroom mirror at work. And the Light shade, which I also tried on in the store, was a little dark. My skin is pale and often runs between the lightest and second-lightest shades. If I buy the lightest, it’s too light, but if I get the next-lightest shade, it’s too dark. But Bobbi Brown’s foundations are known for having yellow undertones to neutralize the skin. In my case, it just didn’t work. But if you find a shade that works for you, the coverage and the quality can’t be beat and it’s well worth the $42.

My next foray was the Dr. Jart Premium Beauty Balm ($39 for 1.4 oz.). Dr. Jart is the originator of the BB cream and his company makes three different BB Creams. I thought the Premium would be better suited to my dry and, ahem!, aging skin.

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It only comes in one shade, which adjusts to one’s skin tone. And it did to mine. While I liked how Dr. Jart’s cream matched my skin tone better than Bobbi Brown’s, I wasn’t completely satisfied with the coverage. It gave me a sheer, “eggshell” finish which I find doesn’t even out my complexion or hide flaws as much as I would like. Despite the high SPF of 45, which is a huge “plus” for me, my search for the perfect BB cream continued.

After trying both high-end and drugstore BB creams, I went for something in-between with The Body Shop’s All-in-One BB Cream ($20 for .84 oz.). It comes in three shades: 01 for lighter skin tones, 02 for medium skin tones, and 03 for darker skin tones. I chose 01.

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The Body Shop’s All-in-One BB cream comes out white in the tube and adjusts to your skin shade. It’s much like Josie Maran’s Matchmaker Serum Foundation. $20 seems like a lot of money for less than 1 ounce of product, although I see on their website it’s currently on sale for $12. Still, this is the tiniest tube of all the BB creams I’ve tried. While the color does adjust to my skin tone, it oxidizes over time and turns a little orange on me. I feel it’s overpriced for the size of the tube, and I wasn’t completely satisfied with it. I ended up putting this away in a makeup bag along with other products I no longer use.

Okay, I’ve rambled on so much about BB creams today that I’m probably going to have a dream about them tonight! Check back tomorrow for Part Two of my review. To paraphrase RuPaul on RuPaul’s Untucked: “Three down and three more to go until Boston Red Lox declares a winnah!”