Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Argan Oil: Worth Climbing a Tree For?

You know how you start seeing products that feature ingredients you have never heard of that claim amazing benefits?  Argan oil was one such for me.  It is a featured ingredient in Josie Maran's skincare and makeup line, which is where I first noticed it a few years back.  Then, I would see people commenting online about how they used argan oil for their hair or cuticles.  Now it's showing up in drugstore hair care and other products, so argan oil has achieved mainstream status.  It was only after I saw a documentary on Morocco that showed women harvesting argan oil that I started believing the hype, however.

Argan oil is havested from the fruit of the endangered argan tree, which is found only in a small portion of Morocco.  In the early 1990's, a Moroccan chemistry professor who was intrigued by the local traditional health and nutritional claims about argan oil decided to conduct some research.  What she found is that argan oil's high linoleic acid (precursor of vitamin E) and unsaturated fatty acid content make it a rich source of antioxidants and can indeed help lower cholesterol, reduce wrinkles, acne and scarring, and speed the healing of abrasions.

Goats climbing tree to get argan fruit.
Fast forward a few years and a local cooperative is founded that employs women to crack open the argan fruit and extract the 1-3 nuts inside, which then go through a mechanized process to extract the oil.  A vast improvement over the traditional method, which involved picking undigested pits out of the excrement of goats that like to climb the trees to eat the fruit.  But no way around it, harvesting argan oil is difficult.  Producing 2 pints of the oil require at  least eight argan trees, which explains why the trees have been under the protection of UNESCO since 1999, helping to ensure reforestation for sustained growth.

I use Josie Maran argan oil as a supplement with my regular moisturizer.  A few added drops gives me enough of a boost to counteract that tight, dry feeling my skin gets during the winter.  I also use Moroccan Oil shampoo and conditioner and Marrakesh Oil hair elixir, which all contain argan oil.  To be honest, what sold me on the Marrakesh Oil was the smell, but it does a great job of detangling and smoothing hair, so I'm happy.  Have you used any products containing argan oil?  What did you think?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Urban Decay Rollergirl Palette

I seen a girl on a one way corridor stealing down a wrong way street, for all the world like an urban toreador
she had wheels on on her feet.  Well the cars do the usual dances, same old cruise and the kerbside crawl, but the rollergirl she's taking chances, they just love to see her take them all.  -Skateaway, Dire Straits

Rarely do I buy what I consider to be discretionary items at full price.  I don't know if it's practicality or the thrill of getting something on sale, but it just means more to me if I can get it at a discount.  I also like makeup palettes, which usually include multiple items at a much cheaper price than if you were to purchase them separately.  So, when Urban Decay's Rollergirl palette went on sale for $16, that was the tipping point for me.  I knew that the three neutral brown shadows included were a safe bet and you really can't go wrong with the 24/7 eye pencils, but I wasn't sure about the pink shadow at all.
But you know what, it all works.  As vibrant as both the shadow Woodstock and lip gloss Crush look, they are really nice shades of pink that provide a pop to the neutral shades, yet are not too over the top.  The lightest shade, Verve, has become one of my favorite brow and inner eye highlighters.  The gloss has a pleasant mint taste and is glossy yet not overly heavy or tacky.  The size and magnetic closure make this a good portable palette so Rollergirl will probably be a go to travel choice from now on.   

All of these shadows can be found in other Urban Decay palettes.  Darkhorse is in the original Naked, Suspect in the Book of Shadows, Verve in Naked 2, and Woodstock in the Fun palette.  Rollergirl originally retailed at $32 but is currently half off at Urban Decay and can be purchased for $16.  

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Nail of the Day: Whirled Peas

Flaky or flecked nail polishes are hot right now and Finger Paints just released the Special Effects limited edition collection of five different flaky polishes.  Available only at Sally's Beauty Supply, I went to several different stores as they were already a bit picked over, and ended up getting three of the five - Twisted (pictured), Asylum, and Motley.  If you want to see how all the polishes look, the PolishAholic has some great swatches.  Coveted by many nail polish lovers, flakies make great top coats, especially over darker polishes.  Flakies also have the extra appeal of not being as hard to remove as most glitter polishes.

Maybe because it's been rainy this week, I was drawn to the army green murkiness of OPI's Uh Oh Roll Down the Window from the Fall 2011 collection.  Nice formula and two coats achieved opaqueness.

While I wasn't sure how Twisted would look over Uh Oh as I didn't try any test swatches, I only used one coat and the flecks do show up nicely!  I'm not sure how long the Finger Paints Special Effects will be available, so if they appeal to you, best look for them now.  I paid $5.99 each for mine.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

"The odds are never in the favor of homely nails." -Effie Trinket

Capital Couture, a style blog inspired by the best selling book and forthcoming movie "The Hunger Games",  launched this week at Tumblr.  Feature articles in this first issue include a profile of Effie Trinket, played by Elizabeth Banks in the film, the pink coiffed style maven who is escort for District 12's heroine and tribute Katniss Everdeen.  Check out the nail tips from a Capital stylist.

China Glaze's  collection "Colours from the Capital", to be released on March 1st, also receives a nod.   Polish names now refer to each of the twelve districts, although the original polish names leaked on the web were based on various characters in "The Hunger Games".  The name changes happened after Lionsgate was slapped with a $10 million lawsuit by the parent company of China Glaze after they said Lionsgate tried to improperly terminate their contract.  Uh oh.

Polish Names:
Luxe and Lush – District 1 (Luxury)
Stone Cold – District 2 (Masonry)
Riveting – District 3 (Technology)
Hook and Line – District 4 (Fishing)
Electrify – District 5 (Power)
Fast Track – District 6 (Transportation)
Mahogany Magic – District 7 (Lumber)
Dress Me Up – District 8 (Textiles)
Harvest Moon – District 9 (Grain)
Foie Gras – District 10 (Livestock)
Agro – District 11 (Agriculture)
Smoke and Ashes – District 12 (Mining)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Bare Escentuals Strike it Rich Primer Shadow Collection

Before shadow primers hit the market, I was in a world of hurt when it came to shadow creasing.  I've got seriously oily lids and it was only a matter of a few hours before my shadow had melted from my lid into my crease.  Not an attractive look.  The very first shadow primer I ever found was about 20 years ago and was made by Revlon.  I don't even remember the name and was only able to find a few tubes as I think they were on the market for like a nanosecond and had already been discontinued.  I had to wait a long time before a plethora of companies released eye shadow primers on the market and all was good in shadowland. 

 Now we also have shadows with primer built right in, multitaskers, if you will.  Prime Time Primer Shadows by Bare Escentuals are one such product and their description of being "perfect for those with oily lids, uneven skin-texture, or anyone who experience creasing and fading" makes it sound like they had me in mind from the get go. These can be used alone or as a base shadow with powder shadows on top.  I've done both with good results either way.  These cream shadows have a shimmer finish and are highly pigmented so a small amount goes a long way.  The only color that did not photograph true to color is Gunmetal, which appears more blue here than it really is.  It does have a blueish tint in the gray, but not quite as vibrant as what you see here. 

Formulated without preservatives, oil, or fragrance, these have been dermatologist and ophthalmologist tested and are safe for sensitive eyes and contact lens wearers. Waterproof and smudge proof, I ran water over them after swatching and then rubbed with a paper towel and they were none the worse for the wear.  Good for you ingredients include jojoba seed oil and honeysuckle extract to condition eyelids and vitamins A, C, and E for antioxidant protection.

Here is Gold Nugget with Sandalwood on the brow bone and Bronzed Twig along the lash lines.

Below is Gunmetal with a Korres powder shadow in a medium silver blending into the crease.
Prime Time Primer Shadows regularly retail for $18 for a 0.1 oz tube and can purchased online at Bare Escentuals or Sephora. I see six shades listed and it looks like two of the ones I have (Sandalwood and Gold Nugget) were limited edition colors specific to the Strike It Rich set of 0.05 oz tubes pictured above, currently on sale for $18 at Bare Escentuals.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

LaLicious Coffee Bean Sugar Soufflé Scrub

It's been overcast or raining here all week, so between that and my cranky sinuses, I'd rather crawl back in bed and sleep.  Since that's not a realistic option, I shall have to rely on coffee to get me through.  I'm not talking about only drinking it, although I do and am.

Applying coffee topically has some surprising benefits as well!  Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor, meaning it constricts blood vessels, which can reduce redness.  This constricting effect also serves to tighten and firm the surface of the skin, and the caffeine in coffee works to dehydrate fatty cells so that water will disappear from the surface of your skin. Thus the inclusion of coffee in some cellulite treatment products, as it helps your skin to look smoother overall and reduces the appearance of cellulite.

It gets even better!  Caffeine also acts as a sunscreen, and one study suggests that caffeine applied to the skin could have an inhibitory effect on sunlight-induced skin cancer.  Caffeine is also full of anti-oxidants and acts as a self-tanner, so all of the above explains why you will see it in both sunscreens and self tanning lotions.  Who knew?  There are plenty of recipes on the web for facial, hair, and body treatments using coffee grounds, so perhaps I should be saving my used Keurig K-cups.

So, given my general weather induced sleepiness and coffee's wonderful qualities, let's review LaLicious Coffee Bean Sugar Soufflé.  LaLicious carries a line of body products that are billed as being all natural and paraben free.  The sugar scrubs feature a special whipped technique that helps to lock in moisture without leaving a greasy after feel, and the Pure Cane Sugar serves to exfoliate without irritation.

Bottom line, I find this to be good light exfoliating scrub that leaves your skin soft and moisturized without a greasy sheen.  I don't worry about this transferring oil onto my clothes, nor do I smell like a cup of coffee for the rest of the day, although it does have a pleasant coffee scent.  You will have coffee grinds in your tub, however.  Also, although this is billed as all natural, it is not made with organic ingredients.  So, if that is important to you, it's worth noting.  However, the ingredient list leaves little to complain about - notice the lack of any chemical sounding names!  If you are curious as to why it is so hard to find truly USDA organic beauty products in stores, this makes for some interesting reading.

The sugar scrub retails at $34 for 16 oz., is available in 10 different scents, and can be purchased online at LaLicious. Other scent favorites of mine are Peppermint, Sugar Kiss (smells just like Pink Sugar perfume to me), and Brown Sugar & Vanilla, which smells like freshly baked cookies.  First time orders receive 15% off. 

Ingredients:  Cane Sugar, Coconut Oil, 100% Arabica Coffee Grounds, Sweet Almond Oil, Vitamin E Oil, Soybean Oil, Honey

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Revlon Colorburst Lip Butters in Tutti Frutti, Peach Parfait, Strawberry Shortcake

I'm a lip gloss as opposed to a lipstick girl.  Lipstick tends to make my lips feel dry, and nothing drives me to distraction more than the feeling of dry, chafed lips.  A good gloss, on the other hand, tends to sooth and hydrate, although sometimes at the cost of lasting color payoff.  Could there be a good hybrid of the two?  Bueller?  Bueller?  Bueller?
Well, Revon's Colorburst Lip Butters are a step in the right direction.  They contain mango, shea, and coconut butters, which help with the moisturizing aspect.  They are glossy with a fair amount of color payoff.  They come in 20 different shades and are economical at about $6.99 a pop.  They are also causing quite a stir, with some who feel compelled to acquire every single shade, leaving displays sadly picked over.  Revlon even got It girl of the moment, Emma Stone, as their spokesperson.  Here is Emma wearing Peach Parfait.  (Photo source:  Revlon)

You know what, these lip butters are pretty darn good!  So far I've tried Strawberry Shortcake, Peach Parfait, and Tutti Frutti.  Both Strawberry Shortcake and Tutti Frutti are creams, whereas Peach Parfait has a slight shimmer.  They have a nice gloss and do no make my lips feel dry, which helps me concentrate on important stuff during the day.  Because if my lips feel dry, I have a hard time concentrating.  Not kidding.


Here I am wearing Peach Parfait.  Revlon's Colorburst Lip Butters are part of their permanent collection so you should be able to find them once the frenzy stops. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

L'Oreal Infallible 24HR Eye Shadows in Midnight Blue, Amber Rush, Golden Sage

L'Oreal Infallible 24HR eye shadow is another new product that has been getting rave reviews on the web.  Billed as intense color with a powder-to-cream texture that is waterproof, crease and fade-resistant, if it's true I can see why.  Not to mention that these are being compared to Eyes to Kill Intense eye shadow by Giorgio Armani, which retail for a hefty $32.  Yes, for one!  Infallible eye shadows are available in 12 shades and I will be reviewing Midnight Blue, Amber Rush, and Golden Sage, purchased for about $6 after a buy one get one 50% off offer at Rite Aid.   Regular retail was $7.95, and I've also seen these at Ulta and CVS for comparable prices.

The plastic side showing the shadow is actually the bottom of the containers with the label side being the top.  These do not come with an applicator and swatches below were with my finger.  However, I've used eyeshadow brushes to apply and that worked fine as well.  While these may look like a cream, they are actually densely packed powder pigment, hence the little plastic top with the handle you see here.  I'm guessing these help keep the powder packed down and fresh.  They must serve some purpose, as "do no discard" is stamped on them (click on photos for enlargement).

L'Oreal marketing materials claim these shadows were four years in the making and feature a patented color structure with 4X more binders (oils) than traditional powder shadows.  These binders coat the pigment to enhance and heighten each hue, making the colors "pop".  Not only that, a special adhesive polymer network helps achieve 24HR wear, including rubbing and the 11,000 times per day we apparently blink.

These do apply with a lovely creamy consistency and do not take much product to build color, as they are highly pigmented.  Look at how the green shadow matches the green in the wet wood - really lovely.  I can attest to the waterproof and rubbing part, as after I applied these to my arm I ran it under water and then rubbed it with a paper towel.  The swatches appeared none the worse for the wear - no smears or pigment on the paper towel. 

Finally, the photo on the left shows the swatches after sleeping in them, so about 14 hours after application.  There is some definite fading, but considering they were run under water, rubbed on and slept in, overall I'm impressed!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Bubble and Bee Organic Body Butter

 In my quest to find an effective natural deodorant, I learned about Bubble & Bee Organic, a company based in Bountiful, Utah.  The founder, Stephanie Greenwood, with a chemistry background and concerned about the "hidden ingredients" found in many products, decided to make her own products using simple, organic ingredients.  Stephanie is also the author of the blog Chemical of the Day, a very useful site for learning about the ingredients used in beauty products.  I've now purchased several Bubble & Bee products and the first I'll be reviewing is the Sugar & Spice body butter. 

This is possibly the richest body butter I've ever used.  The consistency reminds me of butter cream frosting and the smell of spice cake.  Or possibly any of the other wonderful things baked around Thanksgiving and Christmas...pumpkin pie, gingerbread cookies....but I digress.  I think the fact that brown sugar and spices are included in the body butter make this inevitable.  When first applied, you can actually feel a slight grittiness which must be the sugar and spices - but don't worry, they blend in quickly.  Those with sensitive skin may want to make note of this, however, in case of irritation.  Other scents are available in Coconut & Lime, Vanilla & Raspberry, and Jasmine.  I love that they also include an unscented version, which is perfect for those scent averse or for those in environments with a no scent policy (healthcare, for example).  I have smelled the Coconut & Lime and it would make a great summer scent.  Sugar & Spice became my go to holiday scent - it really is scrumptious. 

A possible down side for some may be that it is too rich.  This is a heavy body butter and if you don't like lotions that you can tell are on your skin, you may not like this.  You can see how emollient it is in the pictures here and how it leaves a sheen on the skin, which I guess could be great for bare summer legs and arms.  It could also possibly leave oil marks on delicate fabrics.  Personally, I find it perfect for cold winter days when I'm wearing my long johns and corduroy pants or bundled up in my fleece pj's. 

Bubble & Bee Organic Body Butters can be purchased in 4 oz. jars for $16.95 or 8 oz. jars for $24.95.  Or, if you want to sample before committing to a larger size, trial sizes are available for $3.99.  Since these are 100% organic and don't contain the preservatives found in many products, shelf life is listed as 10 months. 

Ingredients:  Organic shea butter, organic coconut oil with retained coconut meat, organic macadamia nut oil, organic almond oil, organic jojoba oil, organic olive and organic coconut oil infused with brown sugar and spices.  

Nail of the Day: Flesh Wound After Dark

I think after my last pastel manicure I was in the mood for something a bit more dramatic.  So, I chose a base coat of OPI's iconic Lincoln Park After Dark, which I recently got as one of 10 mini-bottles in the "Best of the Best" collection.  The first coat had me seriously doubting, as it was streaky as all get out.  By the second coat, however, I was a convert.  Holy vamp city, batman!  I see why it's a favorite now - we've got a seriously glossy blackened eggplant going on here.  Sadly, I have no photos of that as I was too impatient to try out It's Just a Flesh Wound from Nerdlacquer on top of it.  
 As described at Nerdlacquer: "It's Just a Flesh Wound is a fierce black base with small and medium black, red, and copper hexagonal glitter, plus black and charcoal microglitter and big silver hex glitter. This color always triumphs, and will still look fearsome even if a passing king lops one of your arms off. Looks amazing as a top coat over black or red. Also might challenge the other polishes in your collection to a duel; best to store it separately."  This makes me smile.

Hence my name for this manicure - Flesh Wound After Dark - a combo of two coats each of Lincoln Park After Dark and It's Just a Flesh Wound with one coat of OPI's Rapid Dry top coat.  You probably didn't need me to spell that out, but I felt bit compelled.  Amanda from Nerdlacquer also included the cute pom-pom ring in my order - nice touch.  All photos can be clicked on to enlarge for more detail.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Nail polish lovers are living in great times.  There are plenty of quality big name commercial brands to chose from, but there are also several wonderfully creative independent label polishes being offered for purchase on the web.  I stumbled across Nerdlacquer after seeing some swatches online and immediately added them to my list of things to try.  I haven't been disappointed. 

Nerdlacquer, by Amanda Collier of Fairhope, Alabama, is available through Etsy, the "world's handmade marketplace".  I had never purchased anything through Etsy but it turned out the be a painless process.  Full size bottles retail for $8, but I took advantage of a holiday special of multiple mini-bottles, allowing me to sample several shades.  Variety does it for me, you know. 

Look at these beauties (click photo to see enlarged)!  Glitter is the currency here, and the names and color descriptions highlight Amanda's love of all things nerd.  For example, "inspired by everyone’s favorite Flying Circus, CRUNCHY FROG is a revoltingly gorgeous milk chocolate shimmer base with emerald glitter, small and medium grass green hexagonal glitter, olive microglitter, and you might also notice some large chunks of silvery white. The bones, obviously. If we took the bones out it wouldn’t be crunchy, would it? The easily-nauseated should feel free to think of this color as “chocolate mint.” Love it.

Nerdlacquer's current catalog consists of 34 shades and apparently they are feelin' the love from the masses as a note on the site indicates shipping delays could happen due to the current demand.  However, anyone who experiences a shipping delay over 7 days will receive a special limited-edition "Sorry For The Slow" color.  Amanda is nice like that, demonstrated by a free mini-bottle she included in my shipment when she experienced problems with her bottle supplier that caused a minor shipping delay.  No complaints here. 

My nail of the day will feature It's Just a Flesh Wound, coming shortly!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

DHC Deep Cleansing Oil

Why is my DHC  Deep Cleansing Oil hanging outside?  As I was walking my dogs this morning I was surprised to see several flowering trees in full bloom.  It's January 21st and a balmy 70 degrees outside and apparently where I live thinks it's spring.  I'm not complaining, but it is a little weird. 

I discovered DHC about 6 years ago when out of the blue I started receiving their catalogs.  In each catalog they include several samples, which gave me the opportunity to try this unknown to me line. DHC is a Japanese skincare and makeup company that direct sales through their catalog and web site here in the United States.  Apparently in Japan they are huge, with 180 retail stores and a presence in over 32,000 convenience stores.  Yes, you can buy quality skincare products at the equivalent of a 7-Eleven in Japan.  I'm jealous.  Deep cleansing oil is DHC's top selling product worldwide and the first of their products that I purchased.

Cleansing oils are big in Asia, but relatively scarce in Western markets.  While it may seem counter intuitive to use an oil to remove your makeup - especially for those of us with oily skin where the idea of adding more oil provokes fear and loathing - it works.  I mean REALLY works.  The process is simple, just squirt some in your hand, rub all over your face for about 30 seconds, and then rinse.  Makeup and dirt, including waterproof mascara, are gone.  There is zero oily residue due to its water-soluble formula and skin is left soft and clean thanks to olive oil and vitamin E.  Seriously, if I had to restrict myself to one facial cleanser for the rest of my life, this would be it.  It's gentle, effective, and relatively inexpensive at $26 for a 6.7 oz. bottle.  Two bottles will get me through a year of nightly makeup removal.

In the ingredient list, the only two I  recognize are olive and rosemary leaf oil, so I looked up the others at a couple of cool sites that list cosmetic ingredients - Chemical of the Day and Cosmetics Ingredient Dictionary.  Caprylic/capric triglyceride is fractionated coconut oil (which keeps it from becoming solid), and is considered an unadulterated natural ingredient because there are no solvents used.  Sorbeth-30 tetraoleate is an emulsifier and pentylene glycol is a solvent or slip agent, and neither had high risk ratings.  Phenoxyethanol is a common cosmetic preservative that is considered one of the less irritating ones to use in formulations, but one site did list it with an Environmental Working Group (EWG) risk score of 4 due to animal studies that show it to be a reproductive toxin.  However, the EWG's Skin Deep Database is no longer online, so I'm not sure what's up with that.  Tocopherol is the naturally occurring (vs. synthetic) form of vitamin E.  Stearyl glycyrrhetinate is the fatty acid form of the anti-irritant glycyrrhetinic acid, which is derived from licorice.  Looking up ingredients can be an eye opener, but I feel good about both the effectiveness and safety of this product.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Look of the Day

Today's makeup was inspired by my hiking boots. Yep. I don't think I've mastered the "smoky eye", but that's always what I envision when I think of gray eye shadow. I'm not even sure my eye shape would work for the smoky eye look, so it's probably just as well.

Today's products include a primer shadow called "gunmetal" from the bareMinerals Prime Time collection, a gray brown powder shadow from Korres, 24/7 eye pencils in Zero and Dime, Tarte cheek stain in "True Love", Everyday Naturals mineral blush in "Memphis Rose", Urban Decay Eyelash Primer Potion, and Urban Decay Supercurl Curling Mascara.

I'm liking the bareMinerals primer shadows - another cream shadow that has staying power and is plenty pigmented. They can be used as an eye shadow base or all on their own. I've also gotten to where using a mascara primer is an essential, as they really do flesh out skimpy lashes without the gloppy aspect I find multiple layers of mascara tends towards.

I thought the eye look turned out pretty well: