Confessions of a Beauty Junkie

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Like Buttah

Okay, I feel bad taking so much time between posts, but it really has been more hectic than I'd like lately (who am I kidding? It's always more hectic than I'd like!). The hubs and I went to Keystone, Colorado this weekend for a conference of his (I, of course, was merely decoration), and can I just say? The air up there is as thin as I plan to one day be, provided I eventually get comfortable with taking up meth. Seriously, it's a take-no-prisoners 9,200 feet up from sea level, and take a guess as to what that does to your skin.

It ain't fittin', it just ain't fittin'. (Go watch "Gone With The Wind" immediately if you don't get that.)

So you can guess that I, being totally unproductive professionally but wildly OCD when it comes to product searches personally, managed to figure this out before we left and went on a very focused mission to find a ridiculously thick body lotion that would hopefully prevent my molting like a snake. (Ew.) I hit the Blue River Canyon Day Spa parking lot on two wheels the Friday before we left, and managed to discover Aromafloria's Body Butter with Shea and Aloe (get you some at www.aromafloria.com). I normally shy away from any body product with a great amount of fragrance as I am now completely shellshocked from Bath & Body Works' quest for world domination. Honestly, ladies, even at our worst, we don't smell THAT BAD. Why in the hell do we apparently need shower gel, body lotion, body cream, body spray (loaded with moisture-zapping alcohol, by the way), shimmer lotion, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, hand cream, room spray, and a candle in the same obnoxious scent? (Sun-Ripened Raspberry, I'm looking at you. How long have you been around now-- ten, fifteen years? Seriously.) Why is BBW so hell-bent on convincing us that our natural aroma is so stank that it takes nine layers of cheap shit to cover it up? Or that we really need to layer on that much product to smell nice? (Have you ever encountered one of those Layer Gals? Not too subtle, are they?) I mean, I like a pretty-smelling shower gel (or cream or whatever) just like anyone else, but why spend your hard-earned jack on mass-produced, overpowering crap and feel pressured to buy more crap in the store just so you can smell like everyone else? Enough already!!

Oh, excuse me.

So anyway, I tried the Aromafloria body butter on my hand in the spa and it felt good, maybe a little greasy for Nashville in August, but I went with it. They have several fragrances, each of which manages to actually be subtle and pretty (take note, BBW-- it's a novel concept), but the Kiwi Coconut was my favorite. Its consistency is thick enough to almost be solid, and it comes with this convenient little spatula to scrape some off the top without having to jab your finger into it. It really did keep my skin hydrated and soft for the entire five days that we were up in the clouds (my face didn't fare so well, despite my best moisturizing efforts). I did have to put it on twice a day, but still-- I'm pleased. At $30, it's not exactly bargain-basement, but it's worth it for those of you who find your skin easily parched, and winter with all its cruel conditions will be here before we know it. Oh, and it contains no mineral oil and is completely vegan, for those of you who look for that sort of thing. So take note, snow bunnies. Pick up some of this stuff in prep for colder weather, and be sure to flip the bird to BBW as you drive past. I'm off to scrub the ashy bits from my face-- pretty!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Prime-time

I'm taking a temporary hiatus from the Mascara Classic to address a request from the fabulous lady-about-town Amy Wickliffe:

"Foundation Primer...use it? Does it really do something to make your foundation go on like a dream? I'm torn between purchasing either Smashbox's version of Philosphy's version but I've never even tried it before. Let me know if you have. Hugs- Amy"

Let's check off on primers first: a primer is designed to do the comparable job to your face that a primer coat of paint does to a car or a wall. It "sets the stage" for the coming attraction by minimizing imperfections-- pores, fine lines, and the like-- and basically smoothing things over in preparation for your foundation. Many of them have ingredients similar to silicone (along with polymers and parabens) that offer smoothing, perfecting properties. Additionally, several claim to soothe, thereby minimizing the irriation from your foundation (which, I have to say, means you need to switch foundations pronto, but I guess that's another conversation). They can have a subtle powdery finish, thereby keeping greasiness at bay if you have oily skin.

I don't have extensive experience with primers, only because I was worried that they would exacerbate my overly dry skin. Additionally, I typically use a mineral foundation in the fall and winter, and pairing the two can be a little tricky (you're putting a powder on top of a gel, cakey bits wait to roll up under your fingers at every turn)-- most of the ones out there are originally designed for pairing with a liquid foundation. That said, I have experimented with a couple on special occasions that left me relatively impressed. I happened upon a deluxe sample of Tarte's Clean Slate Primer after purchasing a Tarte gift set, and I'm pleased. It does a nice job of masking little lines, pores, and other misgivings (not that I-- or you-- have any). It's completely clear, and the finish is just slightly matte. I've tried it under both my Kiehl's tinted moisturizer and my mineral foundation (one of the few left standing from the Arbonne experiment), and it works very well. I don't really take the time to use it during the week, but it does a good job of creating a photo-finish for a big night.

I've also used Laura Geller's Spackle (thanks, Sephora sample bag!) and found it decent. It's a different consistency from Clean Slate: thicker, more opaque, and whitish in color. The finish was more dewy than that of the Clean Slate, which for me is not a bad thing (I am completely paranoid of looking like an extra from Robert Palmer's "Simply Irresistible" video-- if you don't know what that is, I can't really be your friend). If your skin is more oily than dry, Clean Slate may be the better choice of the two. I wasn't as impressed with the overall effect of Spackle as I was with Clean Slate. Take that with a grain of salt, however, due to my limited points of reference. Now, Laura Mercier has yet to put out a product that I've thought was sub-par, but I've never tried the Foundation Primer. Same goes for Smashbox, though I know it's very popular. Honestly, I find primers to be a relatively unneccessary step for everyday use, unless you have excessively oily skin or work in an environment that demands a perfectly crafted face (in which case, I'm kinda jealous). Big party where you may run into your ex-boyfriend? Prime that face up. Average Tuesday when you really need to hit the snooze at least once to maintain your sanity? Let it go.

Sorry for the gap in my recent posts-- I'm still trying to figure out a way to do this for a living whilst avoiding the whole living-in-a-box-by-the-river thing. It's not really my scene...

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The First Annual Beauty Junkie Mascara Classic (aka the Lash-Off)

If you're like me (and have no children and therefore a reasonable amount of spare time in which to indulge your makeup addiction), you are forever in search of The Mascara-- one that could practically bring about world peace with its ability to volumize, lengthen, separate, curl, and otherwise inspire rabid jealousy in all who are fortunate enough to behold your glorious lashes. Once in a great while, you're fortunate enough to encounter one that manages to accomplish two or three of the required criteria, but finding one that really does it all is my Holy Grail of Beauty Junkie-land.

There is obviously a plethora of mascaras out there, each of them setting out to bring about a certain result. Establishments such as Sephora do a pretty good job of categorizing them as such, detailing the qualities that each mascara sets out to accomplish. Here's a breakdown: lengthening, volumizing, thickening, separating, waterproof, long-wearing, contact-lens-safe, and curling, to name a few. Now, you of course need to take a good look at your lashes to figure out what you've got versus what you need. Thick but stubby? Look for a lengthening formula. Constantly tearing up from smearing black shit on your lashes (sounds kinda barbaric, when I put it like that...)? Look for one that is safe for sensitive eyes. You get the picture.

Let's go over the qualities in a mascara that I personally look for. Volumizing is my number-one priority, as my lashes, while on the longer side, are a little thin (of course, I can't get the same qualities in my torso-- heredity, you are a cruel mistress). The same goes for separating, as nothing will spark what my family likes to call a "twit" in my house quicker than a mascara that turns my lashes into four prongs poking into my eyelids. ("Julie, why are two spiders attempting to dry-hump your eyebrows?") And girl, don't get me started on flaking. Who needs that? Your mascara flakes, then you have to use your finger to sweep away the flakies from under your eyes, which pulls on the delicate under-eye skin, which over time leads to saggy, baggy lower lids! It's enough to make you a little psycho. I don't really like curling and/or waterproof mascaras, because I find them too difficult to remove and can't spare one single eyelash. If I need curled lashes, I have the Shu Uemura lash curler, which does wonders to open up your peepers. (And anyway, when I use my beloved Cils Boost XL under any mascara, I don't feel the need to curl, unless it's a special occasion.)

So we've established my personal mascara priorities. Let's search, shall we? As you can probably guess, I could fill my garage with all the various mascaras I've tried over the years. Many of them were fine, a few were even pretty good, and there were plenty of disappointments. I thought I'd start out with a simple head-to-head match-up for this particular post, then farm it out from there to an all-out free-for-all. I want to start with my current favorite and match it against a relative newcomer (at least a newcomer to my makeup bag). Here we go:

The Champion: Cover Girl Lash Blast in non-waterproof Black

The Challenger: Imju Fiberwig in Black

The Support System: Lancome Cils Boost XL (I'm sorry, but I can't put on mascara without it)

I stumbled across Fiberwig (could they possibly come up with a weirder name?) at Sephora the other day. It's one of those high-tech mascaras that's loaded with individual fibers that cling to lashes and build on their existing length and volume. It's not necessarily cheap at $22, and I've been wildly disappointed by newfangled mascaras in the past (Shu Uemura, as good as your curler is, your Fiber Xtension mascara is an absolute insult), but I had a gift card and decided to throw caution to the wind. My first go-round with it was on top of the Cils Boost, and heeeeeyyyy. My lashes damn near touched my eyebrows! The ones at my eyes' outer corners practically scraped my bathroom walls! My lashes entered the room five minutes before I did! It really didn't clump after two coats, and just seemed to build on itself. It takes a little more time to build it up than a more volumizing formula, but I was pretty impressed. I now vacillate between the two, depending on how much time I have and what effect I'm looking to accomplish. The envelope, please...

Winner, volumizing and separating: Lash Blast

Winner, lengthening and separating: Fiberwig

Winner, overall: A TIE!

Stay tuned for the next round of the Mascara Classic. I'm really looking forward to matching these two up against some of the sorry excuses for mascara I've tried. No go bat those lashes!

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Arbonne Dilemma

Okay, so I feel I should issue a disclaimer for this blog entry: if you are an Arbonne lady (or gent), please don't message me extolling the virtues of the Arbonne product line. I get it. This is just my opinion and nothing else. Cool? Cool.

I don't know how much exposure you've had to Arbonne and its product offering, but here's the short version: they like to call themselves a "lifestyle company" and sell everything from tea to lip gloss. (I know, weird.) There are scads of Arbonne consultants all around the country that are more than happy to discuss the company and its products with you in excruciating detail. After attending an Arbonne party last year, I ended up trying their anti-aging skincare line called NutriMin-C RE. And honey, I damn near tried it all-- the cleanser, the toner, the serum, the day cream, the night cream, the eye cream, the body serum, the body lotion, etc., etc., etc. Why did I go completely whole-hog on their asses? Well, I had a few reasons: first, the entire line is free of mineral oil, parabens, and artificial fragrance. Good. Second, the Arbonne lady showed these ridiculous before-and-after pics of people who'd used the products (before: wrinkly and frowning, after: noticeably smoother and smiling!). Also good. Third, I am a sucker and ended up paying the $39 fee to become an Arbonne consultant my-own-self and get said products online at 35% off the retail price. Good, good, and good. I've used up everything but the night cream at this point and...

...do I love it?

I don't love it.

What puts me off is that I want to love it so much! It's got all the right things going for it, I just didn't notice a marked difference in my skin. None of the products broke me out, which was awesome, and they kept me hydrated through the winter (including a Wisconsin Christmas). But I still find myself conflicted. The eye cream was the product on which I pinned all my hopes and dreams, and it disappointed me the most (ain't that always the case?). But herein lies the dilemma: do I snap up another round of all of it-- at 35% off, no less-- or do I cut bait and continue my search for perfect skin? If I do, I'll secretly pine for new shit, but feel guilty about buying new shit until I've finished up my old shit. If I don't, I'm spitting right in the face of a 35% discount and my $39 "consultant" fee. I'd been fully immersed in Yonka and all its loveliness when I decided to give Arbonne a whirl, and I immediately went back to my Gel Nettoyant as soon as I'd used up the Nutrimin cleanser. It was reflexive, like I didn't even think about it.

I even got some of the Arbonne makeup: mineral foundation, lipsticks, lip liners, mascara, blush, AND gloss (did I mention I'm a sucker?). At the afore-mentioned party, the consultant was showing a new "look" formulated by a national makeup artist who decided to whore for Arbonne. Can I just tell you? The process was intense, to say the least. For this artist's "casual everyday" look she actually recommended a FIVE-STEP LIP APPLICATION. Really? Who the hell has time for five freakin' steps on a casual day? I wish I was making it up-- two lip liners, two different lip colors, and gloss, all layered on with surgical precision. Being a good sport, I tried to replicate this on several weekdays. I never got past the first application of the day. (I also had to cut back on the number of times I hit the snooze to fit in the Lip Ritual, which I consider a total deal-breaker.) I mean, the makeup is fine, but who do these people think they are? I want to look presentable just as much as the next broad, but I draw the line-- no pun intended-- at using pencil, liquid, AND powder to line my eyes ON A WEEKDAY. By the time our graduate-school-level makeup seminar was finished, I looked okay-- nice, even-- but I felt like a drag queen. I forced myself to go out with my hair stylist that night only because I felt it would be a pity to waste that kind of artistry on drinking wine on my couch.

So obviously the makeup and its recommended application makes me mad. The skincare leaves me feeling like you do after you eat something totally righteous but totally shitty for you (two packages of Ramen noodles, anyone?): initially satisfied, then pissed at yourself that you actually thought it was a good idea. It really is a shame, because Arbonne could have been The One. Then there was the constant follow-up from the Arbonne lady wanting me to talk with her about "my business." It all sounded fine at first, but I'm sorry, it wore thin awfully fast. I mean, not to brag, but I could sell makeup like nobody's business, but I'm not down with pestering my friends and family into signing up and starting "their business." It's just not me. So I'll go back to Yonka and get acquainted with Remergent (a new line that promises to reverse sun damage at the DNA level-- blog post forthcoming) and, for the time being, screen my calls until the sweet Arbonne lady gives up on me.