Most Valuable Products: May 2014

Friday, May 30, 2014

Two weeks since I've last posted--I know, I know, shame on me. But in my defense, I've got some pretty good reasons for the blog silence. Between my very last college papers and exams, turning 22, graduating from college, and transitioning into my full-time job, I have been one busy and stressed out beaver. It's all been terribly exciting, but I'm still adjusting to going to work everyday and having to go to bed at a normal time, so I'm working on that up late writing a blog post! I didn't think I'd have that many products this month given how busy I was, but apparently I'm never too busy to mess around with all different kinds of beauty products (like I didn't know that).

1. Urban Decay Ink for Eyes Liquid Liner: This is absolutely the best liquid liner I have ever used. I hauled it last month, and it's been the only liner I've worn throughout May. It glides on just beautifully, is ultra-black and shiny, dries quickly, I lose next to nothing on my eyelash curler, and it stays put. I do see some smudging around the 14 hour mark on particularly humid days, but that still beats the longevity of all my other liners, gel and pencil included. Did I mention it's incredibly fine and super easy to apply, so even if you have shaky hands, no way to rest your elbow and uneven eyelids, (ahem, not saying that I am/have been in the situation), you'll get at least decently lined eyes?

2. Shiseido White Lucent Anti-Dark Circles Eye Cream: I've wanted this eye cream for an embarrassingly long time, and finally treated myself to it as an early birthday present (in April, six weeks before my actual birthday). I liked it the first few weeks, but have been really into it this month as I feel like I'm kind of starting to see the effects. I don't think anything anti-dark circle really treats those nasty shadows, but in the chaos of finishing school, I did feel like this helped keep extra darkness at bay after a few all-nighters. I almost think of this as a preventative treatment--slather on before going to bed for a few hours (or not going to bed at all), and wake up to your normal circles, but without the extra shadows you would normally have after such a night. I'm not quite sure how that works--maybe something to do with how I put on more than needed?

3. Garnier Fructis Volume Extend Dry Shampoo: What's this, a dry shampoo that's not Batiste being featured on my blog?! I ran out of my seemingly never-ending stock of Batiste this month, and when I dashed to my Duane Reade to re-purchase, they.were.out. I grabbed this Garnier one, even though I didn't like it that much when I reviewed it in the updated version of my massive drugstore dry shampoo post, and wow, have I had a change of heart. Maybe it was the bottle I tried last year, but this dry shampoo gives me the most volume out of any that I've ever tried (because Oribe Dry Texturizing is not a dry shampoo!). It's all very gentle, fluffy, not at all stiff volume that I love, but I do think my original complaint about this product stands: it doesn't get my hair looking very clean. Whereas Batiste totally tricks people into thinking I've just washed my hair, you can still see a bit of the greasiness buried underneath the Garnier. For that reason, it's probably not the best for second-day hair if your scalp is as oily as mine, but if you just want some soft volume, this is the can to reach for.

4. Alterna Caviar Omega + Nourishing Hair Oil: Whoever designed this packaging either failed out of engineering school or has no common sense (or both). The pipette is kind of a cool idea, but it's really just messy and cumbersome to deal with, and there is absolutely no way of getting it back into the tube without getting oil all over the bottle. That being said, this oil delivers the softest hair imaginable. Sure, it makes my hair smoother and shinier too, but as I may have mentioned a time or ten, I am obsessed with having soft hair and this stuff gets me there. It's a nice and lightweight consistency, so if something like Bumble and Bumble Hairdresser's Oil is too heavy for you (which would surprise me), give this a try. I love them both, but I think Alterna does come out on top where soft hair is concerned--just fix your packaging, please!

5. Julep Ta Da Quick Dry Drops: Where has this been my whole life? Polish-drying products are nothing new, but I've never been into the idea of a spray, as the majority of them are. This oil came along, and has totally changed my manicure game. I probably use way too many drops per nail (thus the almost empty bottle), but it totally helps all the layers of polish dry and not just the top one you can feel. I have a problem with painting my nails too close to bedtime, and normally wake up with the imprint of bedsheets in my polish, but with a few drops of this bad boy, those days are long behind me. It even smells a bit herby, so it totally cancels out that nail polish-y scent.

6. Random Sonia Kashuk Brush: Last month, I was all about the Laura Mercier Mineral Powder. I've been all about it this month too, but recently found the best brush to apply it with--only it has no name or number so I can't really help you find it. I think it was part of a Sonia Kashuk travel collection, if that helps, but in any case, it's a small, dense brush that works perfectly for sweeping on the powder and then buffing it in. The denseness of the bristles are clutch for patting the powder onto my more problematic areas and then really getting in there to buff it out, since sometimes loose powder can be a tricky beast.

7. Marc Jacobs The Conceal Brush: Aha, a brush you can easily find and buy if you want to! People have been raving about this brush, and when I bought it last month, I wasn't sure I would be keeping it (as a strictly budget makeup brush girl). But almost through my first use, I threw away the receipt (which I should really stop doing for tax reasons). I can't even explain how it works so well, but something about the shape and density of the bristles really allows me to get the smoothest, and thinnest amount of concealer on. I thought my Real Techniques Deluxe Crease brush was best for concealer (and it still is a good one for that), but this Marc Jacobs one is the newer, better-designed option. It's a big deal for me to add a brush into my routine where I would normally use fingers, as I hate washing brushes, but I'll still make the effort to shampoo this regularly just so I can use it every morning.

8. Creaseless Hair Ties: I finally got on the bandwagon with these when my hair was ultra-long and tangly and I didn't want to risk further damage with my usual black hair ties. I've been wearing these for so long that technically they should have been in last month's MVP post, but of course, I totally forgot even though there were like 4 looped around my wrist as I was typing it. Now that I've chopped some length off my hair, I still love how gentle these little guys are, but are firm enough to hold my hair all day (unless I'm exercising, which is almost guaranteed to not happen). I don't like how flimsy the Conair ones, so I prefer the Sephora and overpriced Anthropologie ones--though they also have the best prints.

9. Bare Minerals Flawless Definition Waterproof Mascara: Hello, lower lashes! I love Clinique Bottom Lash as much as the next girl, but I find that it builds a bit too quickly on me. I have really long lower lashes (and upper as well--they're a matching set!), and with Bottom Lash, I go from feathery to drag queen a little too quickly. I don't like Flawless Definition for my upper lashes, but love how ultra-soft and feathery it makes my lower set, and with only very mild smudging through the day. Of course, I don't love having to buy two separate full-sized mascaras for my set of eyelashes, but given how high-maintenance I am, I really shouldn't be surprised.

10. Boots Botanics Mattifying Day Cream with SPF 15: Yes, I know, I owe you a Budget Skincare Review on the Boots Botanics line, and while it's coming very soon, I'm throwing you a sneak peek right now. This is my favorite product out of everything I've tried, and has been my daily moisturizer for just about the entire month. I don't love the tub packaging, and the consistency is thicker than you might expect a mattifying cream to be, but that's actually what I like about it. It's not as powdery-to-the-touch as more standard mattifying moisturizers, but still feels like it's giving your skin enough hydration. It's more than I'll need in August, but for the incredibly erratic weather we had this month, this was perfect. More on this when I do my review post!

I've got a Cult Favorites Products that ARE Worth the Hype Post coming your way, along with another round of Products I've Used Up and almost a ka-jillion Nail of the Week posts to catch you up on.

Watch this space!

Cheapie but Goodie: *NEW* Revlon ColorStay Moisture Stain

Friday, May 16, 2014

I don't get excited for anything the way I do about new drugstore lip products--this is Revlon Lip Butter madness all over again, though I actually like these newcomers more than the butters. (Yeah, you better get excited). 

This kind of hybrid lip gloss and stain technology isn't anything new with the likes of YSL, L'Oreal and Tarte running around, but these new Revlon additions are by far the most comfortable out of all the comparable products I've tried. I don't typically wear lip product day to day (despite my makeup obsession) just because I'm constantly snacking, drinking and talking, and find that for my purposes au naturel is the way to go. 

I've been wearing this stain all week and it's totally changed my daily lip product philosophy. Nothing will ever be as comfortable to me as bare lips, but these bad boys have my favorite things about different types of lippies working for them: the healthy shine of a lip gloss and the longevity of a stain but without any of the stickiness or dryness associated with either. 

I can slick this on in the morning, and rub my lips together (*we'll come back to that) and what looks like a lip gloss starts anchoring itself to my lips. If I can leave it alone and avoid snacking and drinking for the first 20ish minutes (this is harder for me than it really should be), then I'm set. After that, the color's solidly on my lips, and the only thing that might transfer is the gloss. The shine is the only part of the product that wears off, as unless you really wipe/scrub at your lips with a tissue, the color isn't going anywhere. As for dryness, you may want a bit of lip balm once the stain's been on for a good few hours, but I've never felt like I needed it. 

You've probably heard all of that before about any number of lip gloss/stain products, but what really sets these apart is how comfortable they are to wear. Because I don't typically wear lip product (except for maybe a swipe of something I'll have on for all of an hour), I'm hyper aware of any product on my pucker. With these stains I actually forget there's something on my mouth. This is a big deal for someone who wipes their lips constantly and lives in fear of lipstick-on-teeth accidents (is there a specific syndrome for people who are always paranoid they have something on/in their teeth?). 

I can feel its presence most when I first apply (when the product feels the heaviest), but once the stain has set and the glossy effect dries down a bit, it feels like I don't even have anything on my lips. Feel free to snack, drink, and talk anyway! Once the glossiness starts to go away you're not even stuck with a cracked, dry matte look--there's still a bit of juicy shine that keeps the lips looking plump and fresh. Hours later, all of that sheen might be gone, but even then, no crepey matte look, and no urgent desire to slather on lip balm. Even when this stain dries down to its most matte form, it still looks a little bit soft somehow, like matte-but-not-dead. (Can you maybe tell that I have an unacceptably large mirror on my work desk to check my teeth lip product in?)

I adore this stuff at every stage of the day, but before you click off to go buy some of these stains for yourself, there are a couple things you should know:

  • Remember when I mentioned rubbing your lips together? That is clutch to getting a smooth, even application. The actual product itself is surprisingly thick and gloopy, so you need a quick rub to smooth everything out. If you're shocked as to why a finicky texture b*tch like myself didn't mention that first, it's because I barely notice it--I, finicky texture b*tch! The goopy consistency is only an issue as you initially swipe the product on, but once you've rubbed your lips together, you would never guess the consistency is as thick as it is. 

  • Less is more. Again, the texture of these in the tube is surprisingly heavy, so don't pump the applicator back into the tube to get more onto your pucker. Whatever's on the applicator when you pull it out is always enough. If you go for two coats, you'll get gloppy patches of product that need to be blotted away with a tissue, and in any case, these are pigmented enough that one coat is all you need. 

  • They smell plasticky in the tube. I'm sensitive to fragrance (meaning I have a dog's nose, not that fragrant products bother me), but I only notice the scent if I sniff the tube directly. I don't notice the smell when I apply it, and I definitely don't notice it as I wear the stain throughout the day. (None of that weird, wet alcohol L'Oreal stain smell here...)

Honestly, I'm so happy with these stains that those little shortcomings don't even really feel like shortcomings--more like pointers to getting the right application. This stain is perfect for if you're like me and like to slick on a lippie in the morning and have it working for you all day, with no comfort sacrificed. 

I haven't been this pleased with a lip product in a while, so give them a try! They seem tricky to find at the moment, so check your larger, better stocked drugstores. 

Oh, and while we're on the topic of new drugstore makeup, I gave the new Maybelline Pumped Up Colossal Volume mascara I try, and it's not for me. I'll play with it some more, but it tends to make my curled lashes droop and a bit clumpy. 

I've missed blogging this week, but once I hand in my last few papers, fingers crossed I'll be back to a regular updating schedule!

Hope you're well!

My Favorite Acne Cleansers: Mild, Moderate and Severe Acne

Thursday, May 8, 2014

I'm so excited to bring you this post that I'm just going to blow past my usual apologies for the blog silence and explanations about how I'm drowning in final exams and papers. I'm a long term acne-sufferer (team hormonal cystic over here!), so I'm thrilled anytime I can provide some information as to how to help fight those pesky devils. It may seem unusual that I'm recommending acne cleansers and not treatments, but I think anti-acne face washes can be fantastic ways to clear up your skin. It feels like a better long-term solution than just slathering your face in acne treatment like I used to do, which also means you can't fit a serum into your routine. (Don't get me wrong, the treatments work, and you can definitely use them in tandem with two of these cleansers). Today's post is special because not only are the next three acne cleansers effective, but they're all under $30 and vary in terms of acne-fighting strength. Starting from the cheapest and going towards the most expensive (which still isn't expensive), these cleansers range for mild to moderate to extreme acne--I'm fairly confident there's a face wash here for any acne-sufferer. 

*Let's all just agree to ignore the hilariously trashy paper towel backdrop, hm?

1. Alba Botanica Good n' Clean Gentle Acne Wash ($9): I first reviewed this in my Budget Skincare Review of the Good n' Clean range, and it's still my favorite product from the line and the only one I've repurchased. Like the name suggests, it's gentle enough for everyday (or even twice a day if you like), but the satisfying tingly sensation lets you know that it's working. Unlike a ton of acne cleansers on the market, my face never feels stripped or tight afterwards, though it's not as comfortable and balanced as a non-acne cleanser might make it feel. This is great as a preventative-to-mild acne cleanser to rotate in when you feel zits coming on, are approaching that time of the month, or just if you've got a few spots going on. It doesn't have the power to tackle anything major, but if you've got some whiteheads, small bumps from clogged pores, and/or mild acne, you need this by your sink. If you're prone to bumpy skin texture, this is an especially good cleanser to use with a Clarisonic, as it gets sudsy but not too lathery. 

2. Murad Daily Clarifying Cleanser ($26): The classic of the group, this cleanser's got its own fan following, and I've been a happy member of that group for a few years now. Similar to the Alba in terms of how normal my face feels afterwards, and how happily tingly my skin gets, this is solidly top five on my list of all-time favorite cleansers. It's a few notches up from the Alba, and works really well on moderate acne (or what I would call a good skin day!), though it obviously controls the more mild stuff as well. It's hard to explain, but there's just something about this cleanser that keeps me coming back to it. Yes, it treats my acne, but my face always feels sparklingly, extra clean (but not squeaky!) after a wash with this stuff, which might be one of my favorite things about it. There's something bright and refreshing about this cleanser, which might be why I end up repurchasing it almost every summer. Between the pleasant cooling tingle and how much more frequently I break out with sunscreen, this is my old reliable I know I can always reach for to help get my skin under control.

3. DERMAdoctor Ain't Misbehavin' AHA/BHA Cleanser ($27): If you have anything less than severe, horrendous, need-foundation-and-concealer-just-to-feel-comfortable-going-outside acne, click off right now since you have no need for this cleanser in your life. But if I just described your skin situation, you may want to pay attention. Don't be fooled by the sassy name, this bad boy is tough on acne and you're going to feel it. I've never been bitted by a red ant, but if I imagine what that feels like, it's probably the same sensation as rubbing this creamy stuff onto dry skin and feeling it burn, bite and sting. This is not for the faint of heart or mild of acne, but if you're something of a sadist like I am, you might enjoy gritting your teeth and seeing how long you can wash your face for. It's by far the most intense cleanser I've ever tried, but it's also the most effective. I've gone through some seriously rough patches with my skin, but with bad, normal (comes to a head) acne, this seriously saved me. Some days I would follow with whatever anti-acne treatment I was using, but I think this product is enough of a powerhouse on its own--save the treatment to use with a more mild cleanser. If you're plagued with hormonal cystic acne like I am, I honestly think you need a dermatologist to help you out, but this cleanser did the most for those damned spots than anything else over-the-counter I've ever tried. Again, because this is so harsh, it's definitely a cleanser to do a patch test with, and be sure to wear a good sunscreen when you're using it. I have used this everyday and was fine, but I have very hardy skin, so work up to using it regularly, and please sensitive skin types, stay away. It may seem weird to be rubbing this onto dry skin, but I think it has something to do with water diluting the formula, and no, this isn't one to be used with a Clarisonic. I hope I haven't made this sound too intimidating, but if your skin fits the bill, this is definitely worth a try.

Acne (especially severe or cystic hormonal acne) really is such a bitch to deal with--believe me, I would know--so I hope this has helped some of you!

Either a Products I've Used Up or It Just Didn't Work Out Between Us post will be up next!

Hope you're well!