Beauty on a Budget

Of course, this is my mantra. But luckily others are following suit. Check out Beauty on a Budget - Advice From a Stylist from the NYT a few weeks ago for some great tips on how Duane Reade really can be your best friend. Here's a summary of some of the recommended drugstore beauty and skincare products:

  • CoverGirl AquaSmooth Compact Foundation
  • CoverGirl Cheekers Blush
  • L'Oreal Volumnious Mascara
  • L'Oreal Le Grande Kohl Eyeliner pencil in Black Sable (which I raved about ages ago here)
  • Revlon ColorStay 12 Hour Eye Shadow Quad
  • Neutrogena MoistureShine Lip Gloss
  • L'Oreal Infallible Never Fail Lip Liner
  • CoverGirl TRUBlend Microminerals Finishing Veil
  • Maybelline Instant Age Rewind Double Face Protector
  • Neutrogena Mineral Sheers Powder Foundation
  • Olay Foaming Face Wash
My 2 cents - Ann Orcutt, the stylist who made the above recommendations, might be wrong about needing to invest in high-end makeup brushes. I find the Eco-Tools and Apt. 5 lines to have pretty good brushes, and the Posh brand is comparable to the high-end ones. She also only liked Revlon eye shadows, which I completely disgaree with. In my opinion, she has definitely missed out on some of the even lower-priced drugstore finds, like Jane, Milani, Prestige and NYX (although NYX can definitely be harder to find), which have good shadow and liner selections. But of course, you only know these things when you're a drugstore junkie like me. Even the stylists have so much to learn...

Skin Story

Oh, the sad state of beauty when you are spending most of your time figuring out how to use a statistics program and understanding the electronic health record system in Britain. Huh? Don't ask. But that just about sums up my last few months.

Knowing that I looked increasingly tired and watching wrinkles form from studying and worrying, I considered what type of preventive skincare I might invest in being that I'm also 4-years-away-from-30. I felt a tad bit too young for strong anti-aging products, but I'm certainly not getting any younger. So I spent some time browsing for a day lotion and night cream appropriate for these post-college years.

This was hard. A third of all products are for the over 40 set, a third for teenagers, and a final and ambiguous third doesn't look like it can do much and makes the case for water, bar soap, and a jar of Albolene. When I sampled a few products from Sephora (Ren and Fresh), they didn't seem worth the hefty price-tag either. But after some searching, I found some really simple, straightforward products that are a bit above what I would normally use yet still gentle and mild enough for my age and purposes.

L'Oreal Dermo-Expertise Future*E Moisturizing Lotion, SPF 15 - What a surprise. This vitamin E-infused face moisturizer is the most unassuming product on drugstore shelves - even Pond's Cold Cream stands out more. In fact, I don't think I'd ever noticed it before, and chances are you haven't either. But it turned out to be perfect for daily use - it's light, non-greasy, and non-sticky, but still removes that post-shower dryness and is also a good base for makeup. It sinks in well without forming a waxy layer that contributes to greasiness during the day, and that you can feel when you wash your face later. I started using it a little over a month ago when the weather was still rather cold and dry in NY, and even with it warming up, I still like this moisturizer. I think it may be just the right moisturizer for all seasons. I appreciate that the one skincare "booster" that it has is just vitamin E (which my mother simply mixes into her Pond's - genius), and not harsh anti-aging chemicals or over-hyped and expensive antioxidants. A dose of vitamin E a day with SPF works just fine for me. ~$11.00 @ Drugstores

RoC Age Diminishing Night Cream - I wanted to go the mom way and stick to something painfully basic and classic like Pond's Cold Cream for a night cream, but unfortunately, my mom's genes have played out differently in this 26-year old self, and the stuff just won't cut it. Looking for a promising night cream proved to be an even dizzying affair. At Sephora, the night options were way out of my price range, and I don't have much experience with drugstore skincare either. When I spotted this, it looked and sounded relatively harmless - a night cream that is age "diminishing." Plus, from what I know, RoC looks slightly pharma and Frenchy, which is kind of fun and reassuring. Thankfully, I happen to enjoy using this cream and think it actually works quite well. It glides on grease-lessly, is non-irritating, and if I must sound like a commercial, I'll say my skin does feel rather smooth and nice afterwards.

There are only 2 things that sort of worried me about this cream - 1) I can feel it being washed off in the morning 2) If you look really, really, really closely, there are these microscopic particles that I think are meant to make your skin look "radiant." Not exactly necessary in a night cream, but so far, it hasn't been a problem. It supposedly has some soy-antioxident "complex" which isn't aggressively advertised on the package, something I'm grateful for and don't really care about since it seems to be doing it's job. I was scarring pretty easily over the last couple of years, and I really think using this has helped them fade. Best part - for a night cream, this is very, very reasonbly priced and completely worth it. Very satisfied, and will likely repurchase. ~$15.00 @ Drugstores

Just as a note, I like how these products don't have any fancy labeling/packaging or crazy marketing gimmicks. They seem to fall into my rather gray but surprisingly rigid beauty philosophy - what more can a girl ask for? Here's to nice complexions at any age.


Tea-Off: Blemish Control

Both myself and Sania have expressed much love for The Body Shop Tea Tree Oil Blemish Stick (read about Sania's love here and mine here). After my 2nd rebuy, though, I was a bit tired - there isn't a whole lot of product for $9 and I wanted to try a similar alternative. I thought it might be best to experiment with pure tea tree oil (which you get a lot of it in a very small bottle at about the same price).

You have to be careful with tea tree oil since it is so concentrated and can dry out the skin easily. This is what I experienced when I used it to zap a zit that was taking it's sweet time to mature and die. I squeezed about a drop or two of JASON Cosmetics Tea Tree Oil (The Body Shop sells its own version as well) onto a cotton swab and dabbed it lightly over the zit 1-2 times a day. The oil definitely did dry up the zit, but also the surrounding skin - additionally, the skin on top of the zit looked scaly and parched. The Body Shop Blemish Stick not only dries, it actually speeds up the overall healing time without major dry-out. The zit I have right now is superficially dried up but seems to still be festering beneath the skin, and has somehow begun to scar even though I barely did anything (I scar very easily lately).

I definitely recommend The Body Shop Blemish Stick over pure tea tree oil - the extra ingredients in it seem to contribute to the healing process in a way pure tea tree oil does not. The blemish stick is also a little easier to use, although definitely not as hygienic. Will keep you posted if I find any comparable zit-zappers!


LORAC Blush/Bronzer Duo - Hot & Spicy

I didn't realize how bored I had become with my makeup lately, until I discovered the *amazing* LORAC Blush/Bronzer Duo (Hot & Spicy). I'm not a blush or bronzer junkie, but was on the search for ones that I could feel comfortable wearing in any setting. I tried this on a whim and have used it almost everyday ever since. In fact, I was salivating over it within 48 hours of use, but held off writing about it for a while because of my fickle makeup ways. After a week, I think I'm finally ready to articulate an intelligent review.

Only I can't - because this blush/bronzer is awesome! It's so easy to use! It lasts! I love the colors! It's so versatile! I love the finish! I carry it in my bag and actually touch it up! It's pretty to look at! I think it makes me look prettier! It can look natural! It can look dramatic! It's everything you could possibly want in a blush/bronzer! Sound like I'm exaggerating? I'm really not! I really, truly, genuinely like this product and am not considering returning it. I swear. In fact, I want to buy another to keep at home.

Both the deep pink/peach blush and medium bronzer work well on my medium-tan complexion to warm it up. The blush gives a natural flush that is neither too pink/plum, nor too orange, and the bronzer is neither too matte nor too sparkly. Additionally, the bronzer shade is perfect for skin tones like mine - some bronzers tend to make it look "dirty" or simply way too dark. Not to mention how soft and blendable this is - makes it a breeze to use, but yes, heavy hands beware. If you happen to use too much, you can always blend some away. There is some shimmer factor which isn't cheap or too noticeable, and if you touch your face too much, there can be some sparklage and shimmer fallout - but really, nothing to be too concerned about, especially compared to other products which seem to have a jar of glitter in them.

This is far superior to the NARS Orgasm/Laguna duo in quality, and far more versatile for various complexions. And it comes with a cute brush - when was the last time that happened with a high-end product? I only wish that the compact were slimmer and sleeker. Best of all, it has pretty good staying power - lasts about 6-8 hours unless you're running the marathon (in which case, don't wear makeup!).
After a light touch up, it fades away nicely into that just-warmed-by-fading-make-up look. I actually like going a teeny bit overboard with this for a deeper flush.

2 minor downsides - the somewhat clunky (if also somewhat classic) compact - it's like MAC 's Studio Fix powders, round with a compartment beneath for the brush. A bit thick to carry around, but one can deal. Also, the powder is so fine that some of it ends up on the mirror - clearly no need to dig your brush into the pan.

$28.50 @ Sephora. Looking forward to my touch up!

A Prime Primer - Tarte Clean Slate Face Primer

Too bad this simple product is meant to be worn UNDER makeup to smooth out the skin and make makeup last longer. In my book, this alone would suffice (especially in warmer weather). I haven't ever felt the need to try a face primer although I did wonder what all the hype was about. So I was pleased to receive a sample of Tarte Clean Slate Face Primer with a Sephora purchase, and was even more pleased by the results.

The best way to describe Clean Slate (and I'm guessing other primers) is a dry gel. So, picture a clear gel like you might have used on your hair back in the day - I'm sure you'll recall the wet, slippery texture. Primer, on the other hand, feels a little heavier and actually looks matte. As soon as you start rubbing it into the skin it just dries away into a slightly matte finish onto the skin, completely dry to the touch. No wet residue, no greasiness, no shine - just a light absorpotion of some skin oil and otherwise, just you and your skin. I loved how this didn't feel like sticky goop and how it disappeared on contact. On my skin, it was good for some shine-control, evenness, and a smoother texture. And this is all with a drop or two! No other makeup had even made it to a brush or sponge yet.

Another plus for Clean Slate is that it falls into the "natural" category of cosmetics since it contains no parabens, phthalates, synethetic dyes/fragrances, sulfates, petro-chemicals. Another comparable primer might be Korres Face Primer (which is a silicone-free formula - not sure if Clean Slate has silicone or not) if you're interested in natural, chemical-free products.

However, there are a couple of reasons due to which paying almost $30 may not be worth it for me, even though I think it's a great a product. 1) I'm suspicious of any face makeup due to my generally irritable and sensitive skin; 2) I don't wear face makeup daily and when I do, I still don't wear enough to need primer and am also not concerned about long-wear; 3) I'm fairly young and my skin is in decent shape.

I would like to experiment with some less expensive primers (I've been eye'ing a Revlon Beyond Natural version), but then of course, I would probably be compromising on quality anyway. But during the summer weather (which doesn't seem to be arriving soon anyway), even face powder or a tinted moisturizer may not cut it, in which case, Tarte it will be.

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