Cheapie but Goodie: Essence Gel Eye Pencil Waterproof

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Meet the mother of all Cheapie but Goodie products: an outstanding eyeliner that's just $3.

There's just one problem: it's really only outstanding if you use it one particular way. Gel pencils like Essence's latest offering seem to be all the rage right now (looking at you, Benefit!). I've been using them for a few years (my love affair started with Shu Uemura's option, reviewed here) and no matter what gel pencil variation I try, it's never a good pick for lining my lids. They're always hard, too waxy, tug on my eyelids, don't go on evenly or smoothly, and generally aren't worth the effort.

But their redemption, and the reason why I have so many gel pencil liners in my collection, is that they are terrific for tight-lining, which is a cornerstone of my daily makeup. (If you don't know what tight-lining, or "invisible eyeliner" is, The Beauty Department shows and explains it here). It's as though everything that makes the formula nightmarish on the lids makes it terrific in the waterline--the waxiness really allows the pigment to cling and last, and the pencil magically glides on where it would have been practically yanking on my eyelids. 

I have a few favorites for tight-lining, and this Essence number beats them all. Normally, my go-tos are Avon Super Shock (another Cheapie but Goodie product), and the Shu Uemura Gel Pencil, and it seems Essence manufacturers heard my complaints about both. Super Shock is incredibly richly pigmented and smooth, but also drifts and transfers something tragic, and Shu occasionally turns my lower waterline gray. Essence's option isn't quite as dark and intense as Super Shock or the Shu (it's more of a dark charcoal than a full black), though it's definitely got enough punch to define my eyes. But its star quality is that barring the tiniest bit of gray in one particular section of my lower waterline, I don't see any transferring or smudging throughout the day--this is a big deal if you also have oily skin and your makeup loves to move around. I'm actually weirdly sentimental about this eyeliner (in case you couldn't tell), because my issues with smudging and transferring put me off tight-lining for a while before this pencil reaffirmed my love for it. 

Of course, I've still got my quibbles. The first being that at first use, the pencil seems poorly pigmented and too hard. Don't give up, spend another few seconds playing with it and it'll warm up and deliver--it's a first-time use issue only. Part of me also does wish for it to have stronger pigmentation more along the lines of Super Shock, but I suppose that's a compromise made for an actually budge-proof eyeliner. But the strangest and arguably most frustrating issue I have is actually that the cap of the pencil doesn't fit onto the back of it. It seems a poor design miscalculation, and leaves me in constant fear of losing the cap. 

I won't lie, I intentionally have three of these pencils (all in black, though I'm eyeing up the navy one) stashed in various bags and pouches so that no matter what the situation, I don't have to be without it. Give it a try, and I think you'll be a) amazed at the difference tight-lining makes, and b) as happy with this pencil as I am. 

If you do try it out, please bear in mind that the pencil is retractable. You wouldn't want to try and sharpen the thing, would you?

That would just be embarrassing. 

Most Valuable Products: July 2014

Thursday, July 31, 2014

This month's round-up of favorite products is all over the place. I was in San Francisco for over half this month, where I was living out of a minuscule toiletry/makeup bag and experiencing unusually dry skin. Then I came home, dove into my embarrassing stash of products, played "pile it on" with my makeup everyday (I had to show my babies I missed them, obviously!) and the humid weather returned my skin to its oily state.

So we're a bit of a hot mess today. What else is new? Let's start with my favorites from a few weeks in SF!

1. Laneige BB Cushion Compact: I know, I know, people have been raving about this stuff. But it's so worth the hype, as it's been my go-to base for the past two months (I'm on the last dregs of the stuff!). Great coverage, sets to a comfortable smooth finish, SPF 50, and is so ultra-easy and travel-friendly. As someone with a serious phobia when it comes to touching my face, I love the sponge applicator, but am a bit worried about how hygienic that is. I probably only have another week's worth of uses left, and am debating between repurchasing or picking up Dr. Jart's new BB Bounce compact. Either way, I'll pick one up soon since I refuse to be without this stuff. 

2. Fresh Lotus Youth Preserve Radiance Lotion: A potentially stupid purchase that I originally didn't think would fit into my skincare routine, this was a godsend in windy, dry SF. A layer underneath whatever sample of moisturizer I was using guaranteed no dry patches, and was a terrific base for the Laneige compact. The BB cushion wasn't quite enough moisture for me (and occasionally still isn't) if I put it straight onto cleansed skin, but a few squirts of this lotion first help the product glide right on. The finished makeup look comes out nearly seamless, and the lotion works as a lightweight alternative on summer nights if my skin's feeling something lighter. 

3. Pacifica Coconut Water Cleansing Wipes: I have a hard time washing my face in the morning under the best of circumstances, so if I'm away and sharing a bathroom, you know it's not going to happen. I refuse to use wipes to remove my makeup no matter what, but these were perfect for my "morning cleanse." A little bit tingly to let me know they're doing something and with a gorgeous coconut scent, these were an invaluable part of my toiletry kit. 

4. Alterna Bamboo Beach Dry Shampoo: I warned you in my Beauty Cravings post that I was going to buy this--obviously I did, and used it almost religiously this month. I don't think it's as good as Batiste (my favorite), but as a non-aerosol, it's far better value for money. The "shake on oily roots" method is incredibly messy, but still gets the job done. More to the point, this whole bottle's lasted well over a whole month, which a can of aerosol never would have been able to do. 

5. Jurlique Rose Hand Cream: Hate it, obviously(!). No, this stuff is the hand cream of the gods as far as I'm concerned--and that means something as a total hand cream junkie. Ultra-rich, dense, but not at all sticky or overwhelming, this is by far the best hand cream I've ever tried. None of that weird powdery finish L'Occitane has, not greasy like Weleda Skin Food and a helluva lot more moisturizing than Soap and Glory Skin Food--this baby deserves its own blog post. Stay tuned!

6. Tree Hut Shea Sugar Scrub: I love a deep exfoliation after a trip, and that was the first thing I did when I got back to New York. I don't see the point in buying expensive body scrubs, especially as this $8 number is as good as they come. Super gritty, but still moisturizing, this is the scrub that got full-body exfoliation back into my shower routine. The scent (Pomegranate Acai) is what my dad would call "vulgar", and it's definitely reminiscent of a Victoria's Secret body spray, but the fragrance doesn't linger for long. 

7. Tarte Amazonian Clay Airbrush Foundation: I didn't bring this with me because the powder doesn't have a plastic blocker/stopper and I was worried about spillage, but this is the perfect topping to the Laneige BB Cushion. It provides the extra coverage I typically need, sets the BB cream, and mattifies a touch but without eliminating the pretty glow from the cushion compact. I wear it on its own sometimes as well, but I definitely prefer it as a final dusting to the Laneige BB. 

8. Sonia Kashuk Fluffy Powder Brush: Sonia's killing it again with her new Target brush sets, and this ridiculously fluffy ball-brush (my own nickname) is my favorite of the "Make a Face" kit (though the flat-top buffing brush is stellar as well). This is the only brush I use to apply the Tarte powder foundation since the dense bristles make it so easy to blend and work the product in. That's absolutely clutch as Tarte's packaging makes it extremely easy to pick up too much powder. Even on days when I don't reach for a powder foundation, I'll still grab this brush to go over my finished makeup and make sure everything's blended. 

9. CoverGirl Outlast Shadow Pencil in 350: Ah, my favorite drugstore eyeshadow pencil, in the shade that creeps out of my drawer every summer. I first raved about it in last May's Favorites post here, and the glowy, pearlescent pinky shade still looks as goddess-y as ever. It's my favorite eye look for summer and couldn't be easier--draw the shadow on, blend with your fingers, and top with some eyeliner and illegal amounts of mascara. Did I mention the slightly metallic sheen works double to keep you from looking tired? Easily one of my favorite drugstore buys. 

10. Sperry Top-Siders for J. Crew ANCHOR SPERRYS, GUYS!: A fashion favorite--I'm branching out! These Sperrys were on sale for all of $25, and I've worn them non-stop since I purchased. Ultra comfortable, they make my canoe-feet look incredibly slim, and (bonus!) hide un-pedicured feet. I might be taking the nautical theme too far (I also have an anchor-patterned sweater and lifesaver-patterned shorts), but these adorable shoes always get noticed on the sidewalk. Potentially because people can't believe how basic I am, but let's just say they're staring in shoe envy.

Hope you've all had a terrific July!

A Cheapie but Goodie post on a kickass $3 eyeliner will be up next!

Budget Skincare Review: Boots Botanics (Organic and Not)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Ever since I first started seeing Boots Botanics kiosks in my Duane Reade, I've been itching to do this review. A UK import, organic ingredients, and inexpensive price points meant I was all over the line. This post has been a couple of months in the making, partially due to how thoroughly I test skincare items, and partially due to how extensive this whole range is. There are lines devoted to brightening, oily skin, sensitive skin, dry skin, redness, and so on. I tried to pick something from each different line and category of skincare product, so hopefully I'll be able to give you a good idea of how this whole range functions. Some are from the Boots Botanics Organics collection for those into that type of thing, and some are just Boots Botanics. As per usual, I bought these items myself, and if you want to check out my other Budget Skincare Review posts, here are earlier ones on Alba Botanica (here and here), and Hada Labo Tokyo (here). I'm listing the prices that I paid here, but they'll vary based on location. Be on the lookout for sale deals as well--a lot of what I bought here was on for buy 1, get 1 50% off!

Let's go in order of a skincare routine!

The Cleansers/Makeup Removers

1. Boots Organic Hot Cloth Cleansing Balm ($9): This one's for you, dry skin types! Thick, rich and way too greasy for oily skin like mine, this must be what dry skin gals dream of. You need a hilariously small amount to break down all your face makeup, and it even works as a great base for a little facial massage. It comes with two muslin cloths, but you need the scrubbiness of a washcloth to remove this stuff. I can use this now and not need to moisturize after, and am particularly pleased that it doesn't contain mineral oil (rare for a product with this kind of price!). 

2. Boots Ultra Calm Gentle Cleansing Cream ($8): This is a case of "it's not you, it's me." Makeup removing creams like these are slathered onto dry skin, massaged in and then wiped off (you really can't rinse something like this away). This one works as well as the rest of them and smells nice and fresh, but I've just never particularly liked this kind of makeup removing agent. It does a thorough job on all face paint, and even though it quickly breaks down waterproof eyeliner and mascara, it stings and isn't meant for eye makeup (basically don't be an idiot like I am). 

3. Boots Shine Away Mattifying Cleansing Mousse ($8): Despite Caroline Hirons's best efforts, I still use foaming cleansers and am quite happy with this one. I actually don't have any other cleansers that are for oily skin but don't treat acne, so this has its own place in my sink/shower. This stuff is less of a mousse and more of a lightweight foam, and despite being pretty sudsy, it never strips my skin. I use it day and night these days and it's been getting a lot of love in this disgustingly humid weather. 

The Toner/Spritz of Fancy Water

4. Boots Botanics Organic Rosewater Toning Spritz ($9): I'm happy to see facial sprays (more of a niche product) in drugstores, and really like how refreshing this is. But alcohol is the second ingredient listed, which makes this a big no for me. If you're looking for a similar product, Mario Badescu's Facial Spray with Aloe, Herbs and Rosewater is $7, ultra soothing and refreshing, and doesn't contain alcohol at all. 

The Serum

5. Boots Botanics Ultra Calm Skin Relief Serum ($16): Absolutely the best drugstore serum I've ever tried. I don't have particularly irritated/sensitive skin so I can't speak to that, but this is a dream to apply. Light, silky, and soothing, I've been very happy to reach for this stuff even though my skin doesn't really need it. It's an all-around great product that would be good for anyone, but especially skincare newbies looking to incorporate a serum. It sets smooth and soft to the touch, it sits well beneath any moisturizer I've tried on top, and the smell is fresh and spa-like. I'm already eyeing up their other serums!

The Eye Cream

6. Boots Botanics Organic Hydrating Eye Cream ($16): This is the product that took me the longest to test because it's so strange. Sure, it gets the job done, but the consistency is weirdly thin and liquidish and the texture is stickier than I would like. It doesn't set nicely, and tends to remain tacky-feeling--not a comfortable skincare product overall. I can use it in a pinch, but typically prefer not to deal with the funky texture. 

The Moisturizers (in less-than-ideal tub packaging):

(we're going top to bottom!)

7. Boots Shine Away Mattifying Day Cream SPF 15 ($14): I gave this a shout-out in my May Favorites post, so you already know I love it. It's a bit more hydrating than you might expect, and doesn't have an ultra powdery finish, but that's actually what I like about it. Most day creams for oily skin are so mattifying that I feel like I need a moisturizer on underneath, and this is a terrific compromise. I usually top it with a smidge of shine control primer (Neutrogena is my favorite) these days, but I could go without it for the rest of the year. Definitely one to try if you have normal/oily skin! 

8. Boots Organics Hydrating Day Cream ($13): I'm docking points for a day cream not having SPF, but this is too heavy for me for daytime, so I wound up using it mostly at night anyway. It's another good, middle of the road, fuss-free moisturizer that anyone with normal to normal/dry skin could use (provided you top it with SPF). I actually like it as a night cream, as it's deeply hydrating, but it still feels slightly sticky on skin as oily as mine. 

9. Boots All Bright Night Cream ($14): This tub is an excellent pick for normal skin types as it sits pretty much between the two creams above where hydration is concerned. Thoroughly moisturizing like the hydrating cream, but sets to a comfortable finish like the mattifying option, this cream has my preferred consistency down pat. As for the brightening claims, I feel like I do see a bit of that effect, but it goes away when I wash my face, so this definitely isn't a long-term solution. 

The Lip Balm

10. Boots Botanics Organic Lip Balm ($6): You already know I'm fussy about everything lip balm, and sadly this is another one that makes your lips feel drier. It's incredibly thin, absorbs too quickly and leaves your lips feeling waxy and shriveled within half an hour of applying. Give this a miss and pick up the stellar Jack Black Lip Therapy lip balm for just $1.50 more.

Bottom line: Boots Botanics offers a lot more specialty and niche skincare items than what we usually see on drugstore shelves, and I really appreciate the efforts of their organic range. Most of their offerings are good, middle-of-the-road skincare products, with a few terrific exceptions (the serum, the mattifying day moisturizer) and a few duds (the lip balm, and alcohol rosewater spritz). Still, this line is a step in the right direction for drugstore skincare, and the collection is definitely worth checking out!

Hope you're well!

Most Valuable Products: July 2014 will be up Thursday!

NOTW: Sally Hansen Miracle Gel + Topcoat Review

Saturday, July 26, 2014

I'm a skeptic by nature, so when companies launch products promising the best of a fussy beauty treatment, but without any hassle, I'm doubtful right away. Want false lashes but don't want to mess with applying them? Use this clumpy and extensive system to mimic an effect that looks nothing like what false lashes do. Look how much easier we've just made your life (not)!

I had the same concerns when I saw the Sally Hansen Miracle Gel display, and was determined to put it to the test. I noticed the topcoat on my first Walgreens trip, and waved it off as marketing nonsense designed to get me to buy more product. I went home with Malibu Peach and the week-long experiment began.  

*These pictures were taken while I was in San Francisco, which is why they're lousy quality and a weird mixture of gray/sunny.

Here we are, Miracle Gel day one without topcoat!

Application felt more like Sally Hansen Bitchily Thick and Streaky, but this is one of those formulas that kind of evens itself out where obvious lines are concerned. You'd have to be very skilled to get an ultra-smooth manicure with this polish, and even my cousin needed three coats to get full color. But what you'll definitely notice is how the thicker formula causes a more obvious edge around the cuticle where the polish has piled up--unavoidable with this consistency. I didn't use any topcoat at all, so that rubbery and semi-flat finish you see is purely from the polish. 

Day three...

Day five...

And finally, day seven!

I wasn't too impressed with my week one trial without the topcoat. It didn't seem to be any different from any other nail polish, except for being thicker and harder to apply. Chipping was more of an issue towards the end of the week, but shrinkage was a severe problem throughout. Between all those factors and the way the finish turns even more rubbery, I thought I was done with Miracle Gel.

Luckily, my cousin convinced me to buy the coordinating topcoat and give it another try.

Here we go, day one of Miracle Gel + topcoat!

The topcoat definitely gave the polish and extra boost of shine, and though it is another thickish layer piled onto thick coats of varnish, it didn't make my paint job look heavier. 

Day three...

Day five...

And day seven!

Overall, this Miracle Gel and topcoat system isn't a miracle worker, but it's still pretty impressive. I only had one or two minor chips by the end of the week, and some wearing at the tips. The most noticeable problem for me is reminiscent of a real gel manicure in that your nails start to grow out. Still, if you looked at my nails from a distance, you wouldn't think there was anything wrong with my manicure.

I didn't touch up my topcoat after the initial application, and if you look closely at the picture above, you can see a harsh line where the topcoat shrank to. The polish doesn't shrink nearly as much with the topcoat on top, so if you're really trying to go for longevity, I say touch up the topcoat (especially those crucial tips!) every few days. 

This actually could be a good system for gel manicure addicts trying to wean themselves off the damaging treatment. It's not perfect of course, and even if you religiously slicked on the topcoat, it still wouldn't be as durable as an actual gel manicure. But, if you took care, there's no reason why this wouldn't last a full week.

I'm so glad I tried this set with the topcoat and am curious about it individually--off to see how it compares to the Dior Gel Coat! 

Have a terrific weekend!

Let's Discuss: The Online Beauty Community, Ethics, and Other Grievances

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Settle in with a snack and a drink--this is a long one. As per usual, all comments and participation are highly encouraged, especially as today's subject is controversial. I'm fully aware that I make some generalizations here, and that there are exceptions, but in the grand scheme of things, I think the generalizations hold true. Whether you agree with me or not, I'd love to hear from you!

I've had this blog and been a small and amateurish part of the online beauty community for almost three years now, but have been watching YouTube beauty girls, and reading blogs for a lot longer than that. I started engaging online probably around 2006/2007, and didn't really have any complaints back then. But as the business of beauty vlogging and blogging has completely taken off in the past few years (literally going from a hobby to a business), I've had more and more issues with the community.

In those early days, no one really did sponsored posts/videos, no one even knew what an affiliate link was, and certainly no vlogger or blogger had an agent. The only things from that time that are still relevant are the use of advertising and companies sending free product for consideration.

From the good days--Laura of lollipop26! Loving her blog, but still missing her videos!  

The problem

For the record, I don't think there's anything at all wrong with making money off of your hobby. Being able to turn your YouTube videos or blog into your own business is one of the best things about the Internet. (And I confess, it's an idea I've been entertaining with my own blog as well). But no one can deny that money complicates things, and over the last eight-ten years or so, the general atmosphere of the online beauty community has changed so dramatically that sometimes I find myself reading old blogs and watching old videos for a taste of the good days. Money has changed the field from a fun side-hobby to a lucrative business, and the impact is clear and worrisome.

I keep referencing my problems with the "online community", when really my objections are mostly with the YouTube beauty community. I don't read as many beauty blogs as I used to (more of a lack of time issue than anything else), but while I have seen the same transformation from hobby to business there, I'm generally much happier with the way bloggers have made that change. I know that blogs aren't as profitable as videos just by the nature of the difference in media, so I'm more forgiving of bloggers who do the odd sponsored post or partnership than of vloggers who do the same thing. My feelings on people who do sponsored posts or videos vary based on the individual, but I still feel like I can trust bloggers much more.

There are a few reasons for this.

1. There is something stronger about textual content, and I feel the truth is much more accessible in the written word. That is also true in terms of what bloggers and vloggers must report to the FTC. We all know that in videos, they have to list what items were sent or gifted, and whether or not the video is sponsored. Bloggers have to do the same, but whereas you have to click the description box and do a bit of looking for that information on a video, it tends to be much more out there and open on a blog post.

2. The breakdown of entertaining beauty and informative beauty. Whereas a vlogger can post an inevitably extremely popular Get Ready with Me video (which, for the record, I love watching) that shows beauty products but conveys little information on them, a blogger can't do that to the same extent. Sure, you can post a picture of your makeup/hair products for that day, but it will look strange without text, and in any case, it'll never get as many views as a Get Ready with Me video. Bloggers, just by the form of their media, are almost bound to provide real information.

(The very worst manifestation of views > content, by the way, is the shower video. I do not need to/want to know how you take a shower).

There was a time when YouTubers were more about informative beauty than beauty as entertainment, and now it's almost been totally reversed. Or, even worse, videos that try to be informative are so cluttered with products placement or full-on ads, that only one thing crosses my mind...

I don't believe you.

Call me cynical, but when the same beauty product gets rave reviews from a whole bunch of YouTubers (some of whom are also regularly sent makeup from that company), I don't trust the glowing review they give. It's gotten to the point now that when I see the third or fourth video on my feed praising, the "first gel liner pen" (which is not at all true, and actually happens to be a lousy eyeliner) that has tons of bad reviews elsewhere, my gut reaction is to unsubscribe. Or, sometimes an attempt at good PR goes totally wrong, and after seeing the same product featured in six different people's favorites videos (so help me God if I see another NuMe curling iron...), it makes me not want to try anything from that company.

Been a fan of Emily Eddington of Beauty Broadcast from the start!

As someone just entering the workforce and seeing the challenges of it, I completely understand that these ladies are trying to build their own real, profitable businesses, and that will require some sacrifices. I just wish (most of them) went about it in better ways without insulting or alienating their viewers. There are people I've been watching for years, whose growth I've seen and helped, and I'm happy and incredibly proud of how well they've done (looking at you, EmilyNoel83!). But the transition from YouTuber to "brand" (ugh, I hate that word) has been a messy and uncomfortable move for so many.

Sometimes on videos of YouTubers who have been around for years and have become successful, you'll see comments like, "I miss the old [name of YouTube person here]" or, "I miss your old videos". Those commenters are referring to the way that person has expanded their brand, and the YouTube beauty community I know has more examples of bad brand-building than good.

What can we do?

I have no experience in "brand-building" (aren't you glad you're reading a post from a veritable professional?), so I can only say what I, as a long-time viewer, like and don't.

Good, convincing brand-building is coming out with your own makeup, brush, lip gloss and nail polish line--but only if what you're putting out there is quality product. Otherwise, by putting out crappy product that blatantly tries to exploit your position, you ultimately end up diminishing your authority as a beauty person. Smart brand-building is expanding your videos and viewers by collaborating with other YouTubers, or even more popular channels. Or, creating content that broadens what you usually cover without losing direction.  

Absolutely adore the Pixiwoo gals and their Real Techniques brushes

I don't want to give examples of bad brand-building, because bashing anyone in particular is not what this post is about. But the bad, alienating kind of brand-building focuses more on turning the individual into a celebrity than on expanding the content that person produces. 

Where good brand-building is logical and coherent, bad brand-building is random: commercials or product launches that have nothing to do with that person's content, or my very favorite example from the whole of YouTube, "writing" a book. (There are a few people that last example could apply to, don't jump all over me). The "book thing" in particular just kills me as I don't know what's more depressing about the situation: blatantly claiming you wrote a book when you didn't, or most of your viewers not knowing what a ghost writer is.

These women are certainly entitled to run their channels and businesses as they see fit. But, I do think there are a few ways for us, the viewer, to have a better idea if we're being blatantly misled.

The description box disclaimer is a start. Our beauty girls need to report if any product mentioned was sent for consideration by a company, or if the video is sponsored. But we need more. Fairly frequently, I see YouTubers mention partnerships or ambassadorships in description boxes, but what does that even mean? Obviously, there's some money headed toward the YouTuber, but what are the terms of the contract? Is this video an ad, is it sponsored, is it showing products that person typically wouldn't use, or all of the above? I'm not asking for a full tax return, but the disclaimers these people are held to just don't feel like enough. If they make their income off of our attention, then don't we have a right to understand a bit more about their business transactions, especially if we feel we're being misled?

Could this success and growth be beneficial?

I know I'm not the only person out there feeling dissatisfied with the beauty community, but am I crazy to think there are ways for these girls to become successful entrepreneurs without making some uncomfortable sacrifices? Business means profit, and if your channel/blog hugely profits by signing up with a larger company, wouldn't you do it? I understand that these deals are the practical decisions to make in business, so why does the jab of disloyalty feel so personal? Am I even allowed to feel snubbed by the decisions someone makes to expand their work?

Does business justify everything, Michael?

Doesn't the entire community benefit by these vloggers and bloggers becoming successful?

You could argue that people becoming successful in this medium and field benefits the community as a whole, even the audiences. Zoe (Zoella on YT) was just featured in Lunch with the FT and as someone who's been reading the column since I was fifteen, I squealed when I saw it. I'm not someone who follows her closely, but the feature is still a huge deal--not just for Zoe, but for the whole YouTube community. 

This recognition of the value of new generation bloggers and vloggers opens doors for content creators in general, and helps strengthen and validate the online creative world as a whole. But at what cost to the general culture and philosophies of the community?

Where do we land?

I'm obviously in quite a few minds where this complicated topic is concerned, and have more questions than answers. That's okay, as I'm hoping some of you in the comments will pick up this discussion thread and roll with it. But here's my bottom line:

There are definite benefits and drawbacks to the online beauty community becoming business-oriented. I can't say either way if the positives or negatives come out on top, but what I am sure of is that there needs to be more disclosure where money is exchanged. Or, at the very least, better education for the masses in terms of exactly what the existing rules mean and how they affect both the blogger/vlogger and the viewers. 

I love this online beauty club that's been established, not in the least because it allowed me to create the very blog you're reading. Before I even started my blog, this incredible collective of bloggers and vloggers provided me with an outlet to something I loved but none of my friends/family really understood. It's because I'm so fond of these girls from years of watching them that I still follow and support a good chunk of them. 

The issue here is how they have handled their businesses, which to me smacks of compromise.

Please sound off in the comments below--I'd love to hear from you! Do you think I'm overreacting? In your experience, is the online beauty community evolving for the better or for the worse? Should we agree to forgive potentially shady transactions of money if it means a stronger, larger collective?

Hope you're well! Post/pictures of a week with the Sally Hansen Miracle Gel will be up Friday!

*Photo credit:,, and respectively.

Beauty Cravings: 7/14

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

It's been too long since I last shared all the beauty goodies I'm currently drooling over! I'm still in San Francisco and have actually decided to extend my stay another week, so I'm a bit limited where reviewing product is concerned (thus today's post). But, given the changes my skin has recently gone through, and the fact that I'm sort of straddling summer and fall (it's chilly here in SF!), I'm eyeing up a whole slew of new products that I obviously don't need

1. Vita Liberata Phenomenal 2-3 Week Tan Mousse: I've decided that this will be the summer that I master the beast known as self-tanner. I'm probably over-complicating it in my mind, but since the allegedly fool-proof Jergens Natural Glow looks streakily orange on me, I need all the help I can get. From what I've read online, this is the easiest and longest-lasting which will hopefully make it a winner!

2. Bumble and Bumble Hairdresser's Invisible Oil Primer: I adore the original oil, so I won't lie, I'm eyeing up the entire Invisible Oil hair line, but this primer looks the most interesting. Unlike most of its kind, you can use it on both damp and dry hair, it protects against UV damage and works as a heat protectant…hello, overachiever! 

3. Alterna Bamboo Beach Mango Coconut Dry Shampoo: I've actually already tried this, and fell so in love with it that I'm going to purchase as soon as I'm home. Normally, I'm strictly an aerosol girl when it comes to dry shampoo, but this one (while being slightly messy) was so easy to apply. It's a very clean powder, so no weird stickiness or uncomfortable tangly feeling, and best of all, it smells gorgeously tropical and summery. Just don't ask me how it compares to my beloved Batiste…I'm not ready to answer that question!

4. By Terry Cover Expert Foundation: Sheer Expert probably gets more love, but my kind of acne/acne-scarring needs something with a bit more oomph to it. Lately, my skin's actually been dry instead of extremely oily, and I still haven't quite worked out what to do with that. The hunt for the perfect medium coverage, but hydrating and natural-looking foundation has led me to this, and hopefully a test in Space NK will confirm that it's the one for me.

5. Clinique Take the Day Off Cleansing Oil: I've been more into the oils in general lately, just because of the dry skin that's been plaguing my face. I do love a good cleansing oil and typically stick to the Shu Uemura one, but after the rave reviews the Take the Day Off Balm receives, I think it's time I give the oil a try. 

6. Caudalie Polyphenol C15 Overnight Detox Oil: More oils! I've always liked the idea of them, but never thought they were the best pick for moisture where my oily skin was concerned. (As in, I'd apply before bed and wake up with an greasy hairline). I won't lie, this is where having a whole new skin type secretly excites me, as I can now use all sorts of things I couldn't before (hello, cream makeup products!). I've been looking at a few face oils, and as a sucker for anything detoxing, this one caught my eye almost immediately. 

7. Kevyn Aucoin Candlelight and Sculpting Creamy Glow Duo: Speaking of cream products, this one looks absolutely beautiful. It looks like a reasonably good dupe for the outrageously priced Tom Ford Shade and Illuminate, and as far as I can tell, the highlighter is the cream version of the famous candlelight powder. It's actually fairly affordable, but I just hope it's a bit bigger than it looks!

8. Charlotte Tilbury Beach Stick is Es Vedra: I don't believe Charlotte Tilbury is available in the U.S. yet (I heard something about Saks in September?), but I've been eyeing up her stunning products online. Honestly, I want to try them all from the powder blushes to the brushes to the eyeshadow palettes, but this cream blush stick looks the most user-friendly from a slightly intimidating (is that just me?) line. All the shades this product comes in are gorgeous, but Es Vedra is a bold, bright orange poppy shade that I don't have in my stash and would be terrific for summer. If only if it wasn't for that price tag…

9. Smashbox Cherry Smoke Photo Op Eyeshadow Palette: I really don't need another eyeshadow palette, but I saw this on pop up on Sephora, and I swooned. These are my kinds of colors--the shimmery taupe, the pearlescent highlighter shade, the navy, and the warmer, coppery shades to stop the look from getting too dark and intense. It's nothing groundbreaking, but I've never tried Smashbox's eyeshadows before, so clearly this is meant to be. 

10. NARS Yachiyo Kabuki Brush: This is more wishful thinking territory, as it's unlikely that I'll ever drop $55 for a brush, especially when I have a $10 Real Techniques one that I love. But ughhhh, this brush is absolutely beautiful. It makes me want to be better at applying makeup, and have the most beautiful old-fashioned vanity to do it at while wearing a white silk bathrobe. This brush makes me want to be a better person, so much so that it's definitely out of my league, but it doesn't hurt to dream, right? (I also desperately want the Ita brush, but apparently you can't find one of those for love or for money). 

I happen to be close to a large Sephora (their headquarters are based here as well), so the next time I blog, it's possible that I might have acquired a few of these goodies. You know, just making the most of my trip! =)

Tell me what products you're lusting after! The new GlamGlow mask, anyone?

Cult Favorite Beauty Products That ARE Worth the Hype

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Between an excited beauty community that tends to overhype products in general, and a beauty industry that churns out new product at an unbelievable rate, the phrase "cult favorite" gets thrown around a little too easily. The new pattern seems to be that a lot of things are Holy Grail or Cult Fave, almost as often as beauty bloggers and vloggers do monthly favorites. I have a much stricter interpretation of what a cult favorite product should be--it's not just a super duper favorite or something you really love. For me, cult favorite has to mean something that you've road-tested (and not just something you've been playing with for a few weeks), and that you feel is truly irreplaceable. One of the ways to tell if a product belongs in that category is the number of times you've repurchased, and holy hell, have I gone through quite a few of each of these. Unsurprisingly, my list of cult faves boils down to a handful, and will look familiar if you've been reading my blog for a while. If you missed my post on Cult Favorite Products that AREN'T Worth the Hype, click here

1. Shu Uemura Eyelash Curler:

Yes, I had to use arguably the most profoundly heartbreaking moment in my entire life all seven books of the Harry Potter series to describe my feelings for this eyelash curler. I first bought it in Sephora on a routine visit back in 7th grade. It was when the curler was first getting popular, and I called my mom to make sure she was okay with me spending $20 on it. Ever since that day almost ten years ago (!) this tool has been the most integral part of my makeup look. Absolutely nothing makes me look more awake and alive--especially because I have downturned eyes--than curling my eyelashes, and no curler performs better than this. Yes, I know that depends on your eye shape, but if you have no idea what shape curler matches your eyes, you're safest with this option. It really grabs every last lash, especially the crucial outside corner ones that really make you look wide-awake. Shu hasn't been available in North America since July 2009, but order this along with an Ultimate Natural mascara off the website, and you get free shipping! If you're hard-core like I am, get two of the gold ones--one for home, one for desk. We've been through so much together, this is pretty much my longest-lasting and most successful relationship...revisit some of our earlier happy days here.

2. Batiste Dry Shampoo: Are you surprised at all? I'm probably a bit more sentimental about the Shu curler, but if I could only have two products for the rest of my life(!), it would be these two. In case I haven't bitched about it enough (unlikely) I have a tremendously oily scalp--the kind of scalp that gets oily by Monday night if I wash it on Monday morning. This baby has been my go-to for at least five years now, and I sometimes like to think part of its cult status comes from me (I'm probably doing a fair bit towards supporting Batiste's business, considering the number of cans I buy a year). I did mention in this post recently that I like the Rene Furterer Naturia Dry Shampoo slightly better, but Batiste remains my go-to. I don't really see the need for buying high-end dry shampoo anyways, since my favorite Batiste is so fantastic and so much more affordable. Plus, if your scalp is as oily as mine, you really can't afford to shell out on a dry shampoo. Whereas the Shu has more of an emotional place in my heart, Batiste has an equally loved, but more utilitarian section--God knows these cans have saved me more times than I can count. (I don't even think Western mathematics has a number that high).

3. Macadamia Natural Oil and Deep Repair Masque: Ugh these are so hyped up and constantly talked about that I almost don't want to add more noise to them, but they really are worth all the praise. One of my most superficial goals is to have hair so soft it'll make people weep just to touch it (no, I don't know what's wrong with me either), and these two are both crucial parts of this very stupid dream. Not even my beloved Shu Uemura Essence Absolue makes my hair as soft and smooth as the oil (the Shu is more reparative), and the mask is up there with Aussie 3 Minute for most-softening--only it feels like it does more for my hair's health. I love hair product probably more than any other category in beauty, and no matter how many times I switch up my hair oil and mask, I always come back to these two. Did I mention the smell is make-people-weep-to-smell-it good?

4. Philips Sonicare Toothbrush: I don't understand why the beauty community doesn't seem to talk about electric toothbrushes, since I'm convinced that this particular model changed my life. Of course, you can go fancy with newer, updated versions that I still secretly want, but this is the most basic and affordable toothbrush. I received it for Christmas in 2012, and basically categorize my life into B.P (Before Phil, as I call my toothbrush) and A.P. (After Phil). I can't even describe how much of a difference a sonicare toothbrush makes--your mouth is cleaner, your teeth look and feel better, and your dentist will complain a lot less. It's bulky and annoying to bring with me, and even for just one night away, I will lug Phil any and everywhere because he really is worth both the effort and the money.

5. Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray: Okay, there are a few caveats to its cult status--I'm not one of those raving lunatics where this overpriced bottle is concerned. For one thing, I knocked it when I first tried it here because they were still marketing it as a dry shampoo at that point (like the Touch Eclat was marketed as a concealer before people figured out what it actually is). This is not a dry shampoo. It does not absorb oil in a way that you can get away without shampooing. If, however, you are looking for great volume at the roots (or anywhere else), this will give it to you because volumizing products contain starches and things (technical term) to create dryness and tension to give you that height. In that sense, it removes some moisture from your hair but this is not a replacement for dry shampoo. Also, if you have hair of a certain texture and length, this might not work for you. If my hair is past boob-length, this stuff does nothing for me, and I didn't see its full benefits until I recently chopped my mane. You really need to try it before buying since it's so expensive, and given your hair type, it may or may not work for you. My cousin has incredibly fine, straight and super-long Asian hair, and I tried this on her Saturday night. She ordered the full-sized bottle on Amazon while we were in the cab on our way to dinner. Like H&M, this cult fave is very hit or miss, but even though it's painfully expensive, I still think it's worth it because when it's a hit, it is a grand. slam.

6. The Wet Brush: My favorite brush for wet or dry hair, this has made an entire drawerful of hair brushes totally redundant. (I do use a TangleTeezer Aqua in the shower, but obviously that lives in my shower, not my drawer... =). Nothing glides through my hair as easily (read my comparison post to the TangleTeezer here), nothing does a more efficient job at detangling my hair, and nothing is as convenient as having one brush for vulnerable wet, and sturdier dry hair. I freely admit to having multiples of these babies--one at work, and two at home (one for brushing out dry shampoo, and one for just plain brushing) and am now eyeing up the paddle brush version.

7. NARS Blushes: I talked a bit about this in my June Favorites post, but NARS blushes fell out of rotation a while back, and re-trying them immediately had me falling back in love. The formula is smooth, pigmented, blends easily and is just a dream to apply. I have more blush than I do of any other type of cosmetic, and despite most of them being stellar formulations, I keep reaching for the NARS ones. I just think there's something about the way they're milled and how much pigment they have to them that keeps me coming back. Between how ultra-easy they are to apply and the brand's shade variety, their blushes are definitely worth of cult status. (Though I will say that Orgasm is still too glittery on me, so maybe it's time for a new cult favorite shade?). 

8. Bioderma Crealine H2O Solution Micellaire: I bought this now tragically empty bottle in Paris three years ago and almost didn't appreciate the full value of the product until I ran out of it a few months ago. (This bottle obviously didn't last me three years as I bought two of these massive ones and rotate in tons of other things). I have God knows how many different eye makeup removers and toners and the very next day after I emptied this bottle, I missed my Bioderma. That may not sound like much of an endorsement, but given the ridiculousness of my stash, it's a big deal. I miss how multi-functional it is, how I can use some to "wash" my face with it in the morning (too lazy to really cleanse in the morning), and how I can use it to remove my eye makeup and then use the excess to get rid of my foundation without worrying about what it's doing to my skin. Yes, that's true of most miscellar waters, but I have yet to find one that removes makeup so thoroughly, but leaves my skin feeling so clean and refreshed as the Bioderma. 

That's my list of worthy cult favorites for the moment, but I'm really tempted to pick up a Cle de Peau concealer and see if it's everything people say it is. 

Someone talk me back into the realm of reason, please?