Wednesday, August 31, 2011

August 2011 Favorites: My First Monthly Favorites Post!

Ooh, boy, it was hard to narrow down my favorites this month... because it's my first favorites post ever!  I had to really limit myself to stuff that got crazy love within the month of August, which was kind of difficult to separate from my favorites of the year.  At any rate, after much deliberation (and a consolation swatching of my faves that didn't make this list):

Boscia BB Cream: I'm sure I've said it before, but this has been my go-to foundation this summer.  I only need to blot once all day (not too shabby for a greasy girl), the SPF is pretty great for a U.S. color base product (SPF 27), the price isn't too high to stomach, and best of all I didn't have to buy it once because I kept using a code on to get a generous sample size!  If you're curious, the code is "bb cream" and I've used it three times (3x .35 oz = 1.05 oz.  Retail cost is $38 for 1.75 oz and each sample is a $7.60 value!).  It isn't moisturizing so I use Stila or Origins tinted moisturizers underneath (both work great).  It cooperates just perfectly for a flawless finish with my Beauty Blender and covers up most of my acne/post acne marks.  I'll probably wind up buying this if they stop running that code and my winter skin likes it.

Maybelline ColorSensational Lipstick in Born With It $8.49: It's worth at least $14.50 because it's my dupe of MAC Creme Cup that I actually prefer to Creme Cup! Comparison is here. I've been wearing this a lot with the Maybelline Color Explosion Palettes to the office, but to be honest it's most gorgeous with a matte smokey eye. Now that August is over I'll probably do that look more often (If I can grudgingly surrender my colorful Summer brights!).

Orly Oh Cabana Boy $8: Again, I already mentioned it but besides the Axxium Gel Lacquer by OPI, it's the only nail color I've used this month that I couldn't stop ooohing and ahhhing over.  It also lasted over 3 days each time, which is pretty great on me. I know it's probably going to be put away until next summer, but I look forward to busting it out again!

Maybelline Eye Studio Color Explosion Eye Quints $10.99 each:  I was really impressed by these. I don't like Maybelline's regular eye shadow line as it's not pigmented and chalky (bleh).  But these pack a color punch and you know I love color.  After I bought Forest Fury, I went back to the store during a sale and snapped up the rest (at least, what they had left!).  I was stopped twice by strangers the day I wore Forest Fury and asked if I was a makeup artist (yay!).  The price is not amazing but of course you can always find coupons and BOGO 1/2-off.  The shimmer topcoats really make these stand out and I'll continue to use them into Fall.  I love Too Faced's Matte Palette but I must admit I've been reaching for these more... even for office work days... now where is that promotion? Oops!

CVS Makeup Remover Wipes $5.49 for 25: This is my first month as a beauty blogger and I don't know what I would have done without these!  They do the best job at scraping off all those pigmented swatches and FOTDs!  Their price is not too far off from a pack of MAC Wipes at $28 for 100 ct., but I find those sting my skin a little. I also tried the much-raved Yes to Cucumbers makeup remover wipes (more expensive per wipe) but the fragrance was too strong and they didn't do as good a job at quickly removing makeup completely as the MAC or CVS wipes.  CVS wipes often go on sale, too. I just bought three two-pack boxes because they are on sale BOGO 1/2-off this week, in fact.  I also like that when I can't be bothered to really take care of my skin (kryptonite for the acne-prone, but I am a flawed human being!), if all I do is wipe off my makeup with one of these the damage is limited.  Best wipes I've tried!

Clinique Bottom Lash Mascara $10: Now an essential, as it really drives home the entire point of my pixie hair cut; Channeling Twiggy! Full review here.

Jewelmint Trinity Bracelets $29.99: I am NOT a bracelets person. I have delicate (try skinny and bony) wrists that I like to look at when I'm feeling bloated/fat.  Reminds me that I'm only fat in the brain!  On top of that, my desk job has me typing up documents all the time and wearing bracelets is usually annoying, if not painful.  These do emboss my skin a little but I hardly notice it. They make my wedding set (white gold) look just fine with any other metal colors I could be wearing on any given day.  In fact, my wedding set is the only other jewelry I wear without fail every day.  I always want to change my jewelry to complement an outfit and these complement everything! I've worn them fancy and casual and never feel the itch to take them off.  Above and beyond my favorite Jewelmint item thus far (I have eleven pieces currently). I can see myself wearing these less often when I'm wearing a coat or long sleeves on a daily basis, but I never give this much love to a piece of jewelry that isn't a gift from DH/Mom & Dad.  They're a part of my body now :-P

Wow, it was so hard to narrow these down!  This Summer has been full of beautiful makeup and I'm just starting to love what I've hoarded for Fall.  I hope I turned you onto a product or two you might have easily dismissed.  Let me know your favorites if you don't put them up in your blog!

Review: Stila Daydream & Dream in Full Color Palettes for Holiday 2011

Without further ado, let me break into the two Stila Holiday 2011 palettes reviews:
The rest of my pictures are in the preview post.

The boxes these come in are a decidedly non-holiday orchid shade of purple.  They seem pretty standard for mid-price range cosmetics.  The compacts are sturdy navy blue plastic with clear covers.
The lighting washed out the palette's colors in this picture, but the size is easier to understand next to the MAC lipstick tube.
Daydream has 22 eye shadows in the area of a DVD.  The omnipresent Kitten makes up the center, as it does for the Dream in Full Color Palette.  However, Kitten is the only shade the two palettes have in common. For $18, it's about 82 cents per color, though 7 of the colors that surround the center are in truly tiny pots.  I had to use an itty-bitty packing brush, but you could also use a pencil brush or a liner brush, q-tip, small sponge applicator (not included), or at worst your pinkie finger (I doubt any other digit will fit, and I have small hands!).  To be honest, I don't feel that you're getting all that much with the packaging.  There is no mirror or brushes/applicators.  It does allow for the clear cover to show the dream-catcher/flower design and it is quite pretty.  You have to blow or wipe off a little shadow dust periodically, which is a little annoying.  Even the larger Dream in Full Color Palette is light-weight, but not flimsy.  It doesn't feel like a high-end makeup item, but it doesn't feel cheap, either.
As for the quality of the eye shadows, Kitten for one is not at the level of Stila's single eyeshadow or a larger pan in other palettes (such as the Stila Artist Palette).  The shadows are harder but still fairly velvety.  You don't really get a luxury experience from the texture on your fingertips, but I think they are as smooth as Dior quints I've tried.
I've decided to break down the palette by shadow color so you know what I found to be hit and miss, and weigh for yourself if you think it's a good value for the money.
Top Row, Left to Right: 1-kitten, 2-day (matte), 3-bloom, 4-tranquil (matte), 5-aspire
Bottom Row: 12-fancy, 13-ambition, 14-admire, 15-stellar, 16-paradise, 17-illusion

Top Row: 5-aspire, 6-wish, 7-yearn, 8-lotus (matte), 9-desire, 10-crave, 11-hope (matte)
Bottom Row:17-illusion, 18-celestial, 19-night, 20-spark (matte), 21- whim, 22-trance
17 shades are a soft shimmer that doesn't settle into lines on the eyes.  5 shades (day, tranquil, lotus, hope, and spark) are matte.  The only shades in this palette with which I had trouble with pigmentation and smoothness are hope and spark.  Oh, and kitten! I managed to forget the center of our flower, Kitten, because it's not the Kitten Stila lovers know and... love.  I didn't even have to take notes on this palette because most of the shades were successful and true-to-pan (over primer, Too Faced Shadow Insurance), if not a bit dupable.  Chances are if you like Stila you have Kitten done better in another palette, anyway.  So if three of the shadows are not great it's about $1.06 per pigmented, blendable shadow.  To me it's not an amazing deal but the palette is pretty and versatile. I really like the inclusion of the matte shades and I think this palette is truly seasonless.  If you're an eye shadow junkie you'll already have these colors in these finishes (satin and matte are all you get here), but if all you have is a quad or a few singles this is great way to experiment with color. I was going to pick out favorite shades from this palette, but to be honest they're all solid renditions of each color type (turquoise, matte medium brown, silvery lilac, etc). 

The Dream in Full Color palette, $39, doesn't have a turquoise or much green, but it does have a larger variety of finishes so if you were only planning to get one or the other, I'd say the Dream in Full Color palette is the better value.  It comes with a full-size Smudge Stick in Stingray, which is $20 on its own and worth every penny.  It lasts on the waterline better than UD 24/7 pencils.  I had been planning to buy another one of these when I ordered this palette, anyway!  The remaining $19 divides into 53 cents per palette pan, AND seven of the pans are medium-pigmented, smooth blushes.  I had no trouble getting my regular-sized blush brush into the blush pans to swish side-to-side.  These don't pack the pigmentation of NARS or MAC, and I've never owned an individual Stila powder blush, but I found these comparable in pigmentation to the Stila Beach Girl Palettes of Summer 2011.  I do think they are smoother and apply more evenly, however.  They give a natural, sheer flush to cheeks that intense blush lovers or darker-skinned beauties will not be happy with.  I love my pigmented blushes like Illamasqua Lover, but sometimes it is nice to be able to just pop on a blush with no fear of overdoing it (clown cheeks).  If you're fair to medium and like a natural blush look, you'll really like these. Two of the blush shades (11-bud and 16-fairy) are very, very light but don't pack shimmer so can only work on the extremely fair as blush or daytime highlighter for others.

Left to Right: 6-tickle, 11-bud, 16-fairy, 21-sizzle, 26-coral, 31-cozy
Most likely to get used by me: tickle and coral, with sizzle to contour
Far Right: 36-raspberry
I think all these blushes are neutral and will look nice on cool- or warm-toned skin
I managed to get nice-looking swatches of most of the eyeshadows, but some of the shades were a disappointment.  Others were totally GORGEOUS and my pictures didn't do them justice!

1-kitten, sheer and not soft like the full-size, lacking full-size kitten's dimension (same issues as Daydream palette)
3-stargaze, chalky and applies patchily even when built up
4-sky blue, sheer
5-twilight, chalky
14-lottery, sheer and chalky, applies patchily even when built up
32-cassis, patchy
35-dreamcatcher, applies unevenly/patchily

Top Row: 1-kitten, 2-inspire, 3-stargaze, 4-sky blue, 5-twilight, 7-ebony, 8-espresso
Bottom Row: 17-mystical, 18-peace, 19-dream, 20-oasis, 22-surreal, 23-twig, 24-copper

Top Row: 5-twilight, 7-ebony, 8-espresso, 9-infinite, 10-fable, 12-delight, 13-muse, 14-lottery, 15-imagine
Bottom Row: 22-surreal, 23-twig, 24-copper, 25-mirage, 27-vision, 28-whimsy, 29-reverie, 30-rosie

In full sunlight - Top: 32-cassis and 33-supernatural
Bottom: 34-wisteria and 35-dreamcatcher

The same swatches in shade
Still here? Your prize is the STUNNING shades:
8-espresso (matte), 9-infinite (gorgeous taupe with gold shimmers), 10-fable (lighter version of infinite), 12-delight (amazing pigment-dense black with multi-color sparkles my camera couldn't pick up), 13-muse (pigmented antique gold-brown), 15-imagine (would make a great highlighter on browbone, inner eye corner, or cheekbones. It has sheen, not shimmer), 17-mystical (pigmented with beautiful tiny peach sparkles, 18-peace (lighter version of mystical), 19-dream (potentially a UD Naked Dupe, matte and velvety), 20-oasis (smooth peach/gold DUOCHROME), 23-twig (pigmented burgundy brown with so much depth and nuance), 24-copper (a perfect copper, aptly named), 25-mirage (a pink and gold duochrome, potential dupe of MAC expensive pink?), 27-vision (black with pink sparkles), 28-whimsy (light matte plum, so smooth), 29-reverie (pigmented peachy-pink), 30-rosie (weird name as it isn't rosy, it's a pigmented silvery taupe), 33-supernatural (warm purple with silver sparkles), 34-wisteria (light grape with silver sparkle)

Whew! I hope you're still with me :)  See how many of the colors are just gorgeous? (19 of them). My pictures are not doing them justice, I guarentee it.  The best photos I had to demonstrate this are of the purple quad; I think it's easy to see how cassis and dreamcatcher are patchy, but supernatural and wisteria are so rich and vibrant.  Even the shades I found lacking are not that hard to work with (if you MUST use everything in the palette equally).
There is also a pretty lookbook included.  I may try these looks, so stay tuned for EOTDs featuring these.  I'm not a novice with eye makeup, but sometimes it's nice to have a guide when faced with this many beautiful choices.

I think Stila was strategic in offering the smaller palette at a lower price but lesser value.  The Dream in Full Color palette is a total steal in my opinion, just considering how great the Smudge Stick is (I believe it's Xsparkage/Leesha's HG? Correct me if I'm wrong).  Then so many of these shadows just knocked my socks off with their nuances I failed to photograph.  Such a pleasant surprise after the just okayness of the Daydream Palette.
I'm still going to get some more of the Holiday Palette releases out there (Too Faced Sweet Dreams, you will be mine ASAP!) but I think I'll still get a lot of use out of this Stila Dream in Full Color Palette.
Do you have loads of MAC shadows, or is your eye shadow collection lacking?  Trust me, get the Dream in Full Color Palette before you consider something sub-par like a Sephora blockbuster!

Stila Holiday Collection Preview Swatches!

Hi guys! You can imagine how psyched I was when my Stila Holiday 2011 palettes arrived today! Here's some preview pics with a full review coming soon!

MAC Lipstick is there for scale

LOL... both palettes have Kitten!

Daydream Palette $18

I had to use the tiny eyeshadow brush for the smallest wells in both palettes, but the other wells were not too tiny :)

Dream in Full Color Palette $39

"Muse" Look!

Seven Cheek colors!
I'm so excited to give you a breakdown of each shadow's quality! Some of these are completely gorgeous!  My first reaction to these palettes? "They're dark blue? Thought they were black!" and "Those plastic dividers are gonna get messy" :-/ But I'm going to tell you right now that I'm impressed with these :D  Did I get you hyped up a little?

NEW Urban Decay Mariposa Palette and Travel 24/7 Liner Sets, PLUS Too Faced Holiday 2011 up on Sephora!

Just a quick heads up: at you can check out the following new products I haven't heard about on any other blogs yet!
Urban Decay LE Mariposa Palette
Urban Decay 24/7 Eye Liner Sets in Naked and Electric (Electric has three completely new shades!)
Urban Decay 24/7 Glide on Shadow Pencil Stash

Too Faced Holiday 2011: In Your Dreams Makeup Collection $39 (creamy products next to powder products... I don't know about this one); Sweet Dreams Makeup Collection $52 (the Too Faced holiday set I've been waiting for ALL YEAR (I'm mad about their holiday collections!) and I totally call dibs!);
Glamour to Go Dream Edition $22; Beautiful Dreamer Makeup Collection $46
In Your Dreams Makeup Collection

Sweet Dreams Makeup Collection

Beautiful Dreamer Makeup Collection
 Now can somebody please give me the $$$ so I can haul all these? So excited! Anything tickle your fancy?

All images are from If you work for Sephora and would like me to remove these images, please let me know and I will take them down immediately.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

3 Years of Laser Hair Removal: My Experience

I hope this post will be of great interest to ladies/men out there who are contemplating plunking down a buttload of cash to make themselves a smoother, sleeker animal. 

From June of 2008 through June of 2011, I underwent about 19 Laser Hair Removal Sessions, each 8 weeks apart, at a nationwide company (with which I am not affiliated; full disclosure: I worked in this national company's call center for one month January through February of 2008. Working in a call center would take up an entirely different post with an entirely different tone ;-) I did not work for the corporation long enough to recieve any discount for the treatments, and I paid in full with my own money because I had faith in the product I was peddling while I worked for them, even though the job was totally FML). 

Three YEARS, you ask?  Yes, indeed.  My original package was for only six treatments but the contract stipulation was that I could return to attempt to get off all the hair with free sessions following the initial 6 for up to two years.  If you do the math, you'll quickly figure out that I've never managed to get rid of ALL of the hair.

I'm afraid I can't advise you on price of such a contract/package for several reasons:
1) I paid at least $2,000 towards my package of my own money, but
2) My mom paid for the rest as a birthday gift, and
3) I added a microdermabrasion and anti-scar laser treatment package to my laser hair removal package (mostly paid for by my mom) and
4) 2008 prices are not going to be current and I'm sure prices vary depending on location as well.
5) The sales pitch works as follows: You enter a contest online to try to win a free laser hair removal package (or you enter at a Bridal Show or Gym, etc.) This is where my job came in: the call center staff calls all entrants that do not win (believe me, it's a LOT LOT LOT more fun to call the winners!) to offer a discount and try to set up a consultation appointment on the spot.  If you bite on the offer, you set up an appointment then and there.  When you go in, you get a huge sales pitch on the services they offer and it takes a while.  They'll tell you if you're a good candidate or not, then show you a pricing list at long last.  They'll work out the discount off that just about everyone gets, and offer more discounts should you combine packages.  I think there is room for haggling as well, but my mom and I felt comfortable with the final price at the time.  But, as you can see the price is very much up in the air so it is impossible for me to tell you whether or not this is a value for your money, or if it's a better deal than shaving, waxing, etc.

I still kick myself because while I worked for the call center I loved to tell contest entrants that they'd never have to shave again (it was in the script, too!).  Unfortunately for me, my results fell short of that promise so I feel like a jerk even now for making that claim.

However, I don't regret getting laser hair removal, even though I went back every 8 weeks for three years (now the free treatments are finished, but I can do touch-ups for a massive discount, like $25 a session... but honestly, I'm not sure I can get further results and it may be a waste of time).
I've also had both areas waxed in the past, which is more expensive in the long run but you don't have to pay up-front or finance it.  Waxing, I promise you, is the more painful option.

I was a hairy beast.  That is, in the bikini and underarm regions.  If you've got a forest in these places, light skin but dark hair, I can't recommend laser hair removal enough (provided you can afford their quoted cost)!  I'd get a five o'clock shadow under my arms which rendered wearing sleeveless tops to within hours of a shower, and I couldn't shave daily because overzealous shaving and hair that thick will irritate your sensitive underarm and bikini line skin.  The hairs that grow in now are far lighter in color though still coarse as hair that grows in those areas usually is.  They are sparse and I can forget to shave sometimes.  Still, if I let a week pass I get about as much hair as someone who never had much hair to begin with.  That is why I think sparse areas like legs or arms are NOT acceptable candidates for laser hair removal treatments.  You're going to go get yourself zapped with a hot poker over large areas to *maybe* get rid of *most* of your hair? Not worth it!

If, like me, you're just kind of a hairy girl and you can keep your underarms and bikini area out of the sun for a few years, by all means get it done!

Most of my results were seen within the contract 6 sessions (70% gone).  I do think that company's policy allowing you to come back for two years afterwards is excellent, but it is also an admission that a lot of people never get rid of all their hair. 

My sister got her underarms done with a different company (not a national chain) and she only went for 4 sessions and just about all her hair was gone (she can get the remaining with tweezers!), so please keep in mind that everyone's experience is going to be different.  She doesn't have acne, either, so it may be that her hormones are more stable.  We both agree that the first three sessions hurt like a %^&* so consider your pain tolerance (ours is apparently low).  It is going to hurt more closer to your period, and if you take an ibuprofen (if you are able) 20 minutes or so before the treatment I found that helps with the sting.  Only after my first few sessions did the areas treated feel a bit sore and raw, and thereafter I only felt the momentary sting of the laser (the laser is going to hurt more when it has more hair to zap).

You may have heard of the phenomena of actually seeing the hairs come out of your skin.  I only witnessed this after my first few sessions.  I believe once you get rid of the bulk of the hairs it's an incredibly tedious process but you must continue because otherwise (pay attention here)  the area will become unsightly due to patchy regrowth.  If you start and go to more than one session, you really must keep going until the hair becomes uniformly sparse or is totally gone, or you will feel like a monkey (I sure did!).

If you have any questions about my experience, please feel free to ask! I'm difficult to embarrass :)  I found this article to be really straight-shooting, so it may answer some of your questions as well.

Keep in mind that if you are physiologically like me (and not like my sister, whose hormones are more stable and hair is darker), you may never get rid of all of your hair.  Still, the relative ease of shaving these days totally makes up for the bit of disappointment and all that time getting treatments!

Review/Final Thoughts: OPI Axxium Gel Lacquer in Brisbane Bronze Update

Here we are on day 13 of my OPI Axxium Gel manicure (pictured above). At this point I am finally tempted to remove it via soaking. From far away, though, it's not looking too horrible.  What looks like raggedy cuticles is actually the polish really starting to peel itself up (after three swimming sessions, extra showers, doing dishes and laundry, and extreme climate changes).
Here's a quick rundown of its life:
7pm August 18th: Brisbane Bronze Axxium and topcoat applied.
August 19th, afternoon: Photo taken and blog rave posted.
August 20th: After a dry flight and a late (admittedly drunken) night, the hubs and I went to the pool and hot tub at our resort.  At this time I must have dinged the tip of my left middle finger. You can barely see that tip damage in the photo above.  This is the only tip wear I saw until Monday, August 29th.
August 27th: I've noticed the cuticle area looking ragged, but it's not my cuticles; it's the gel polish peeling up. You can see in the photo above it's gotten more extreme, to the point I am tempted to start picking it off (but I will try to refrain as this can damage the nail).
August 29th: First thing in the morning I notice a chip on my left pointer finger.  No other chips to report.  I miss my ring finger accent and paint over the peely polish with a CVS brand glitter polish (called Tasmanian Devil and it's fab!).
August 30th: Day of this update.  Aesthetically this is the point I consider my Gel manicure's day of death (though I'll probably try to wait for my manicurist to soak it off rather than attempt it myself, if I can resist. I really don't want to damage my nails!). No additonal chips, just kind of icky-looking peeling.

Final Verdict: The reason I got this Gel manicure in the first place is I didn't want to deal with tip wear, peeling, or chipping during my four-day getaway to Las Vegas. Except the oddball, hardly visible damage to my left middle fingertip, I am really pleased with the durability of this Gel Lacquer.  I tend to have peely nails so I'm not really surprised it didn't quite last 2 weeks (let alone 3, though I know it is possible on others).  If you'd like a cheaper option (at my nail salon it was a $25 manicure, plus $5 tip, so $30 total), I'd go with the Sally Hansen Polish Strips ($8.99 at my Target) as these tend to last a full 7 days on me with minimal signs of wear.  A little less durable, but for 1/3 the price or less if on sale.  I'm either going to get this Gel Lacquer again if time permits over Xmas break when we visit family for a couple of weeks, or do the Sally Hansen strips.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Cat Eye Never Fails

Liquid liner is hard for me to get right, yo! At least, when I'm trying to symmetrically draw on a cat eye.  A skinny little line without a flick isn't that hard. When you get the Cat Eye right, it's like a coy little smirk you have to take off with dual-phase remover. Mrow!
Lips: Revlon Super Lustrous Lipgloss in Peach Petal
Cheeks: Illamasqua Blush in Lover

 I need a haircut.  I don't actually have perma-shadows under my eyes, I just could not get a decent open-eyes picture without casting shadows... darned lighting!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Blue, Monday?

Lips: Maybelline Beige Bombshell
It seems the second I wipe off one look for this blog I'm itching to do another. I realized I hadn't tried to wear the crazy blues from Kat Von D's Metal Orchestra Palette (swatched here), and since my evening plans include whipping up hummus pasta for me and DH and watching True Blood, I figure if the results are truly disastrous no one will be any the wiser (except the husband and anybody who finds these blog pictures...).  I've been buying the Bath and Body Works' Halloween scents, so maybe I'm in the mood for over-the-top Halloween makeup a little early. I know I need something to look forward to on Sunday nights... because Monday comes next!  I hope this EOTD is fun for y'all to see... I don't even mind if you poke fun!
Kat Von D Metal Orchestra Palette, Stila Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner Pen, FORGOT mascara! But, remembered to dab Estee Lauder Modern Mercury Powder Gelee on my cheekbones for even more shimmer

First I dabbed the silver cream shadow (slayer) all over the lid and into the crease. I topped it with the off-white shimmer shade (first class) on my inner corner.  I put the brightest, least shimmery blue (techno) on the outer half of each lid, then layered the other two blues (thrasher and dagger) up into my crease. I was careful not to take the color too far out past the edge of my eye because I am always doing that!  I deepened the crease with a bit of the matte black shadow (lucifer).  Lastly, I packed the lighter gray (razor gray) over the shimmer cream on the inner half of my eye and lined the upper lash line thinly with my Stila Liquid Liner Pen.

Whoa, this is BLUE!

Clearly, mascara is sorely missed but I still think the effect is really Ziggy Stardust!

Ready to rock out with my black concert tee!