Sally Hansen Insta-Dry Fast Dry Nail Color

This line is such a keeper, and I'm not even picky when it comes to nail polishes. I usually buy whatever is on sale for under $3 and cannot fathom expending more than $5. Coming in at $4.95, this nail polish was almost a no-buy for me but I went for it because I had a coupon, and I'm very glad I did.

As promised, this really did dry within 1 minute and didn't even need a 2nd coat. A few minutes after drying, I though I had a potential smudge on my hands while opening a drawer, but it never happened. The best part is the brush, which I detested when I first opened the bottle, but it is actually a major improvement on nail polish brushes - no goops or blobs slowly trickling down the length of the brush, bristles, and then onto your nail to be spread out evenly. This brush allows for just 1 or two broad, even strokes (perfect for my freakishly broad nails). I didn't even bother with the usual top coat. I originally got this in Lively Lilac (the perfect light purple/lavender for darker skin if you can't pull off the pastel versions) and then purchased Quick Sand (shimmery beige), Mauve It (silvery, baby pink), Petal Pusher (blush pink), and Clearly Quick (clear) after the great results I had with it.

I get manicures/pedicures twice a year at the most - the rest of the time, it's just me pampering and grooming myself, so drying time matters. In addition to the formula, Sally Hansen has also done a great job with the color selection - they range from basics, to trendy blackened shades for fall and neons for summer. I plan to purchase a few more (a red and another mauve - one can never have too many pinks, after all) to round out my collection and actually use them all year-round. All I ask for is more shades (perhaps a gray that won't look like mud against my tan skin)! Worth a try, and worth the money. $4.95 @ drugstores


A Foxy Brown - NARS Coup de Coeur

This is a quick alert about NARS Lip Gloss in Coup De Couer, from the brand's Summer 2010 collection. I'm not sure why I haven't heard more about this in the beauty blogosphere, but it is the perfect brown shade for warm/tan complexions, any time of the year!

I sort of miss the age of brown lipstick. I think it's funny that I could wear Revlon's Toast of New York as a 13-year old but not at 27. During Summer 2001, I discovered Club Monoco's Nectar and Caramel lip glosses. I wore those beautiful brown glazes faithfully throughout my sister's wedding. It has since been discontinued and I've never been able to find a replacement.

Coup de Coeur has been described as a sheer, apple-brandy gloss. My only correction would be browned-apple, not a fresh apple. That's because Coup de Coeur is a lot less red than other similar shades in the red-brown category (think Clinique Color Surge Butter Shine Lipstick in, you guessed it, Apple Brandy). This shade looks Fall-perfect but isn't too dark that it can't be pulled off any other time of year - in fact, it is such a luscious shade that I'm willing to forgive NARS for the rather weak pigmentation (as is the case with most of its glosses). If the more formula were more of a liquid lipstick, it might have been a true coup de coeur for me.

$24 @ Sephora.com

Liner, Briefly

Since I've had an ongoing love-hate relationship with eyeliners for years (mostly pencil), my reviews of the products I've tried tend to be nothing less than novels. Last week, I stumbled a new formulation from Smashbox that promises to fulfill it's duties as a liner perfectly and keep such reviews brief.

Smashbox Limitless Eye Liner is supposed to be a waterproof, long-wearing liner. The 5 shades - Onyx (black), Java (dark brown), Indigo Ink (deep navy), Peacock (teal), and Black Violet (deep purple) - include all the basic and more fun shades the less-liner-saavy of us could ever want. While killing some time at Sephora one evening before meeting friends for dinner, I decided to give Java a try (because I'm basically obsessed with dark brown liners). I was prepared for another liner biting the dust, but there was not a smudge either on my lids or undereye after 5 hours or so. Pretty impressive for the near-tropical weather in NYC, my oily lids, and of course, the slippery lower rim/waterline.

In my brief experience, this formula went on very soft and smooth like many of the newest liner pencils out there these days, but wasn't too creamy. Basically, it felt like what many "kohl-waterproof" and other long-wearing formulas promise to do without sacrificing softness and pigment.

At $19 and a built-in sharpener, I'd say that this eyeliner is a better deal compared to similar high-end products. I love Lancome Le Crayon Kohl-Black Coffee, but at a whopping $24.50, it's hard to sustain such a smudgy habit (thanks to Ebay for getting my hands on that one). Make Up Forever Aqua Eyes are $17 - I'd pay the extra $2 for a sharpener and a great dark brown like Java (MUFE doesn't have a good one). The list is endless with Urban Decay and some good drugstore alternatives, but Smashbox looks to be an even more solid investment.

This is my new and only makeup craving and I'm hoping to somehow snatch up as many as I can.


The French-girl Crushing Continues

Even the makeup world seems besotted by the French. Check out this recent post on Makeup.com about how effortlessly fabulous the French are. Well, judging from the number of products used in this supposedly "Natural Beauty" video by Michelle Phan for Lancome, there seems to be a lot of effort involved. Laughably, this video features 12 products (excluding brushes and tools). I say 'laughably' because while I love makeup, this just isn't my idea of looking nice and having fun, too. I'd rather pat on some powder, brush on some mascara, swipe on a great lipstick, and be done with it. Perhaps I'm not a genuine enough makeup junkie so for that, I must apologize since after all, that is what this blog is devoted to. Ah, well. At least I don't have a crush on the French.


Aging Gracefully, Your Way, My Way, Everyone's Way

Since convulsing over the NYT article "Aging the French Way, Gracefully" I've been trying to compose a calm and thoughtful response. Mostly, only one word kept running through my mind:


Maybe 3 words - total, utter BS.

As honest as this response is, I suppose I'm capable of expressing something more intelligently, so here is a contained ramble on what is wrong with this journalist's point of view. I could tear this article apart line-by-line, but I've highlighted the most ridiculous ones. If my critique isn't gratifying enough, or if you just want to read more, check out the Jezebel response - "Our Weird National Girl-Crush on French Women Continues."

"Looking attractive, at any age, is just what Frenchwomen do, especially the urban ones." Oh, is that what Frenchwomen do? Excuse me for not receiving this global memo. I'm not quite sure why the French have ever had a monopoly over being stylish and beautiful, let alone why anyone should emulate them. Is there some French Beauty Ideal I should know about? I thought we made fun of the French for not showering or shaving their armpits? Sure, they may have a certain knack for interesting style, but you could say the same for women in many a cosmopolitan city across the globe. As commentators in the Jezebel piece pointed out, the Parisian emphasis on being thin, fashionable, and fabulous is no different from a similar emphasis in New York City. Perhaps women around the globe have style that is a little more bold and colorful than Americans', but one can hard generalize such things.

"We look at actresses like Juliette Binoche, 46, or politicians like Ségolène Royal, 56, or superstars like Catherine Deneuve, 66, and figure that they must have special insights into the “maturation” process." Do we? I don't. When it comes to aging specifically, I don't think I see any more examples of aging well among the French compared to other countries/cultures and am confused as to why women elsewhere should strive to be like them. I'm also confused as to why French celebrities serve as good examples, since celebrities everywhere can afford to do a number of things that the average woman cannot. According to this article, Frenchwomen apparently prefer more natural, subtle results from cosmetic surgery and other enhancements than American women, but I'm not sure how much that matters when they are using the same tools.

"A survey by the market research company Mintel found that 33 percent of French girls between 15 and 19 are already using anti-aging or anti-wrinkle creams. " Frenchwomen really have something on everyone else because teenagers start early by using anti-aging skincare? Sounds like clever marketing to me - I don't see any culturally-specific traditions or conventions about good skincare and aging well here.

"The No. 1 response to my informal survey of Frenchwomen about the years of magical aging is not gaining weight. Ever." Isn't that lovely? If a culture truly accepts aging and women are encouraged to do so "gracefully," than I would think a little inevitable weight gain should be alright. It has always bothered me that maintaining some arbitrary weight from say, your 20s or 30s is what defines the right way to age. What about these things called genes and childbirth?

In any case, the issue isn't what the results of this informal survey were. The author's statements are so general and silly that no one can take them seriously, and the notion that the French have a uniquely healthy approach to aging is pretty far-fetched. Certainly, there are other cultures with similar attitudes (cultures that arguably age far better than the French and most of the Western cultures combined, but that is a whole other topic for discussion). Unfortunately, I don't think any culture has been able to establish a truly healthy approach to aging. Everywhere, there is a premium on looking young that is defined by the very phrase "aging gracefully," and the value placed on it. What else does this mean but to prolong youth and age at a snail's pace? This focus on the French also reflects a strong bias for Western ideals of beauty, and I'm surprised that she didn't even attempt a more multi-cultural perspective. Perhaps we could learn from some non-Western cultures where older women age not only gracefully, but maybe even fabulously and without medicine cabinets as chock full of products as the French.

To be fair, the author makes a feeble attempt at challenging the notion that Frenchwomen age more gracefully than American women. But it is based on rising obesity rates in France, 2 famous Frenchwomen who have not aged well, and 1 Frenchwoman's praise for Meryl Streep. And while the article does point out that the French (or at least, Parisian) don't seem to exercise, it also suggests that they simply don't have to because the streets of Paris are oh-so conducive to walking. So let me defend the American woman for a moment (and the non-walking cities of America), since everyone bashes our apparently unhealthy, ignorant, and unfashionable ways. Here's to high school sports, Jane Fonda videos, gym memberships, and strip-tease workout sessions. There is always an extreme and the American obsession with being fit and fab is not without fault, but at least we value the beauty benefits of a good jog just as much as being thin - score!

With a focus on beauty in such narrow, culturally-specific terms, broad generalizations, and a lack of nuance, this article comes off as extremely irrelevant and dated, a la a 1950s issue of Vogue or Redbook. Then it abruptly ends with a warm-fuzzy statement about mind over matter and completely ignores the last few paragraphs about haircuts, diet pills, skincare, and exercise. A poorer article from the NYT I could not have imagined.

Le Mystere Sale at RueLaLa.com

Who would have thought? I wrote about the importance of getting correctly fitted for a bra and investing in high-quality ones in Bras. They Do a Body Good. just the other day, and also about their sometimes high price. So I was pleased to see my daily email from RueLaLa.com, which featured a sale on the famed Le Mystere Dream Tisha Bra (Oprah's favorite) and others. Thought I would share the joy since it's rare to find plus-size lingerie at such a sale.

Skin Theories

While I'm no skin guru, I realized that there are some personal and rather unscientific skin theories related to The Neverending Skin Story II that I'd like to share. It is possible that some of these only work for me at this particular moment in my life (given low-stress levels for the first time ever, the warm weather, etc.) but I thought they were worth mentioning:

1) Cleansing is overrated. Seriously. Unless you wear makeup everyday (or heavier products like foundation that should be washed off at night), cleaning your skin like it is a rug isn't going to help matters. A little natural oils never hurt anybody, and I wouldn't stress too much about making sure your skin is uber-clean. I simply don't think it's meant to be completely dirt and impurity-free - nothing could be more unnatural if you think about it. I've found that rinsing my face just with water at the end of the day (I remove any eye makeup separately and my face powder has usually disappeared by the end of the day) seems to work. Obviously, I'm not advocating abandoning basic hygiene - but that usually doesn't require a cleansing routine that lasts more than oh, about 2 minutes, and certainly not everyday. I also think that it works to do a couple of simple things minimally during the week - like exfoliating once or twice, or just running a mild toner over the face and neck a couple of times, using the "Oil Cleansing Method" once or twice, or applying a face mask. In the long run, those steps seem to pay off more for me than rigorous, daily cleansing.

2) Sweating is good. I know we're all desperately trying to minimize the sweat with powders, oil-free products, and blotting mechanisms during the warm weather. But let me tell you, my skin practically shines during the summer after all the sweating naturally rids it of impurities. I have noticed this every summer since I was oh, about 10 years old. Winter skin isn't just dull because it gets dry. In my case, it seems to be because my pores don't have the chance to do a little self-cleaning through sweat (and I have very tiny pores, so they get clogged easily - cleansers don't really help with this). Sounds gross, I'm sure, but I swear by sweat. Sometimes I exercise just to work up a sweat and improve my skin - same idea as a sauna or a steam.

3) Heavier moisturizers are better than lighter, oil-free ones. Again, unless your skin is freakishly oily, I think it's better to stick with heavier moisturizers than lighter ones, particularly as we age and also because most people have combination skin that changes through the seasons. I'm only 27, but I have definitely noticed a change in my skin - mostly, it is a lot drier than at any other point in time. I used to think that oil-free moisturizers were the way to go, but well, they never really moisturized. It felt like I was slathering light goo all over my face - felt nice, but that's about all. I have convinced myself that a little grease and oil (sorry, no better words for those two) are better for anti-aging in the long-run. Although my mom is blessed with superhuman beauty genes, she has also maintained a skincare routine that includes a cold cream for extra-dry skin. The heaviest I've used so far is Nivea Soft (winter and summer!), but it's a great alternative to the traditional cold creams.

4) A spot treatment for blemishes is better than cleansers/toners/moisturizers/etc. that contain blemish-fighting ingredients. This is because those ingredients tend to strip the rest of your skin - a targeted effort is much better. Again, if you have more problem-skin over a larger area of the face (as I definitely have had in the past), this may not apply as well to you. Even then, I'm not sure anyone needs a targeted treatment, a targeted moisturizer, and a targeted whatever else. I know many acne systems are based on this seemingly holistic approach, but I suspect that these regimens are difficult to maintain in the long-run and harsh on the skin. I have found one great spot treatment that works for me (The Body Shop Tea Tree Oil Blemish Stick) and have one prescription cream (which doesn't work nearly as well as the Body Shop stick and leaves my skin feeling gross - basically, I never use it).

This might seem to negate our love for and use of product, product, product! But I don't think they necessarily keep anyone from experimenting and indulging their beauty and skincare cravings. Just a reminder that moderation is important and that realistic expectations might be the key to satisfaction - not unlike most things in life.


Berry Lips for Summer - Rimmel Moisture Renew Lipstick in Berry Rose

We all know every season requires a new lipstick shade - even if you already have several favorites for each season. And despite everyone's love for the neutral shades that are fabulous and safe, we all need a stronger punch of color every now and then. Because I've had a great experience with Rimmel Lasting Finish Intense Wear lipstick, I decided that the bright shades of the new Moisture Renew line deserved a shot as well.

I knew I would buy Moisture Renew again because I loved it so much, I had to buy two (with coupons, of course)! This lipstick is my current favorite for the summer, and my love for it will probably endure past the season. It is the perfect semi-deep, fuchsia-like pink that is not too plum or red, and not too 80s either - almost like a sheer, soft raspberry/watermelon with much more dimension. Great for my medium-tan Indian skin. For a swatch that doesn't do the color justice, checkout this Raging Rouge review. Berry Rose is fun and flirty but still sophisticated and kind of packs a punch on your lips.

The finish is what I'd call a sheer, satin shine, with maybe just the slightest touch of frost - just a touch! The pigmentation, though not exactly sheer, has a lightness which keeps it fresh and modern. The SPF 18 and balm-like, moisturizing formula does not slip and leaves a nice, even stain that doesn't leaving lips looking dry. I got mine with a $2 coupon that they have on displays right now but even if I hadn't, it would have been worth every penny. I've also used it as a blush (works for me, maybe not others). A great, youthful statement pink that is not nude, red, or brown and is easy on the wallet.


Bras. They Do A Body Good.

This novel is long overdue. Compared to my thoughts on lipstick and the like, the topic at hand is of a much more personal and important nature. Lipstick shades have certainly changed over time, but none have evolved as much as my bra choices. And no other aspect of personal care and grooming has contributed as much to my "evolution" as the bras I have chosen to wear.

It's doubtful that I've ever alluded to this in any of my beauty-related posts, but in short, I'm rather busty. That's an understatement because I'm writing this blog and trying to keep you entertained. Actually, I'm Very Busty. I'm usually the bustiest person in the room, and if there is another Very Busty female there, there is a good chance I'm related to her (although not one of my sisters or cousins is as busty as I am).

I don't say this with much pride, unfortunately. At an otherwise petite 5 feet 1 inch, I shop for and wear bras that are considered "plus-size," "full," or "full-figured." This whole blogger body often feels wacky and disproportionate, and there are significant physical side effects. But hey, that's my genes, that's my life. I have been forever considering have a breast reduction surgery but for now, the right bras will have to suffice.

My entry into the world of bras is due entirely to the Oprah effect (chronicled in this NYT article on bra sizing). In case you missed Oprah's groundbreaking 2005 episode on the United States of Poor Bra-Wearing in America, please visit her website on the Bra Revolution (a simple search for "bra" on the site also gives you this whole list of information and resources). While I'm no Oprah-phile or celebrity junkie, all the credit goes to her for shedding light on this largely ignored (and somewhat inaccessible) but very basic aspect of that one thing we all do everyday - wear clothes. Had it not been for that episode and the consequent focus on the importance of being in a good bra, I might still be suffering from the burden of bustiness.

In short, what this episode revealed to America is that:
1) Most women are wearing the wrong bra size and don't even know it
2) Every woman should be properly fitted for the correct size and should receive a true fitting from select bra specialists; if not, they should know what elements make a good fit
3) There is a whole range of cup sizes beyond the standard DD that you see in major department stores and the largely useless Victoria's Secret, sizes that are not just meant for "plus-size" women and nursing mothers

I took one look at my chest and thought - who am I kidding? I define one of those women! My breasts are screaming for a fitting! Why have I been trying to squeeze them into unfortunate disasters all these years! Why has no one ever suggested an alternative? Lucky for me, one of the boutiques featured on that episode (and subsequently, many others) happened to be right here in NYC. I visited it as soon as I could, and never looked back.

When I was first fitted for the correct size, I was astonished and somewhat embarrassed by the large cup size. At the same time, the amazing fit significantly changed my approach to general clothes-wearing and radically improved my self-image. Not to suggest that one's self-image should rest on appearance and clothing. Regardless of size, shape, and appearance of our bodies, I think we can all agree that ill-fitting underwear and clothes make you feel uncomfortable and self-conscious. Even more importantly, they put a strain on certain body parts (mostly the back and shoulders in the case of bras) and can lead to poor posture. If all it takes is a good bra, then by all means, I will have it.

The function of a bra is so basic and yet so elusive. But if you go for a fitting, you will notice the difference, especially if you have large breasts. The work of a good bra is immediately visible - the breasts lift a little, there is some separation and definition to them so that you don't feel like there is an extra butt on your chest, and they are held firmly but comfortably in place. Since there are so many good-bra-imposters out there and since there are so many more sizes than women realize, it's easy to forget that any bra should be doing all 3 of these things well. It's also mind-boggling than given the variety of breast shapes and sizes, so many different women try to fit into the same bras.

It is no exaggeration that if you wear the right bra, you may not need to go up a size in a dress or top. If you wear the right bra, you'll appear a bit slimmer and all the best parts of your body will be better accentuated. If you wear the right bra, you'll barely feel it (I'm sure women of all sizes look forward to taking it off at the end of the day). If you wear the right bra, carrying yourself well throughout the day will be easier and healthier for you.

It may sound like I'm buying into some ideal of what a woman's body should look like, but it's not about ideals or perky, cone-shaped breasts (although there was definitely something to the more "constructed" underwear of the past). The simple fact is that clothes don't always fit our bodies the way they need to in order for us to look our best. This goes for men and women of all shapes and sizes. But small changes due to the right underwear (and good tailoring) have had a huge impact on what clothes I purchase and wear, and how well I can maintain them.

For me, wearing a decent bra is no different from getting my pants hemmed (which, at my height, I have to do for nearly every pair). If the right bra and some lifting, separating, and holding make it easier for me to button a shirt or wear a wrap top, I'm in. If my breasts have better support and aren't running free and wildly away from me as I walk around this city all day, I'm in. I have enough going on in my head to be self-conscious about them. While I agree that improving your appearance needn't be an unhealthy obsession, it's important to feel comfortable and confident in your own skin. For most of my life, my breasts ruled much of what I saw in the mirror and most of the wardrobe choices I made. I longed to wear a button-down shirt and other clothes in sizes that were still proportionate to the rest of the body, and now I know how. Call it maturity - I prefer to call it my bra.

You might be wondering what aspects of a high-quality bra lead to a good fit and improved performance over average bras. Usually, the band (fabric that stretches across the back) is where most of the support in a good bra should come from, and band-size is more important than cup-size. In high-quality bras, the band is usually better constructed and sturdier than average (and not necessarily wider or thicker). In the case of any good bra fit, regardless of the brand, the middle part of the bra should lie flat against your chest and breasts shouldn't spill out of cups. I like my plus-size bras for the fit and also the breathable, comfortable fabrics that seem more like underwear and less like Halloween costumes.

There is also something incredibly indulgent and yet so practical about going to a specialty lingerie shop and getting properly fitted. I'm not sure if women were ever meant to find something as intimate and functional as a bra in cardboard bins and flimsy fabrics, and without expert assistance. Specialty and high-quality bras are definitely an experience, but this leads me to the only sticky and somewhat unfortunate aspect of joining the Bra Revolution.

Cost. Particularly if you fall into the fuller bra category. The average price of a bra I try on in-store is $80, and most of them are European brands. While there are discounts and sales available through online retailers, they are never as frequent as one would like. The best way to go about this whole process is to get fitted in-store, make note of your size and the brands you tried on, and then search for them online. My first caveat is that manufacturers have differences in sizing and design, so the same size among various brands may not always be the right fit - try as many as the store has in your determined "size" and search only for the ones you have tried and like in those sizes/brands.

If you can't find a better value online, my advice is to go ahead and make the investment in-store. It is the closest thing to your body and the most influential in how certain clothes fit. Beyond that, it can be a major source of physical distress if you are particularly large-breasted. And think about it - you probably spend just as much or more on clothes, accessories, makeup, and skincare. Save and plan for one, and start with that. I promise that you will reach for it more than the other unfortunate pieces you have called bras. Then, slowly work a couple more into the bra rotation (convention is to give a bra a day's rest before wearing it again) until you have about as many as you personally need for a week.

My second caveat is that high-quality bras should be taken care of and need their "rest," so avoid wearing them out too quickly. While they defy gravity and all, they are still rather delicate and should be handled and cleaned with care (gently hand-wash and hang-dry only!). Trust me, I know. When I first got fitted, I could only afford one bra and was luckily able to purchase a second using a gift card. I wore those two bras to death, and didn't take good care of them. They can still do a decent job, but they have definitely seen their day. So while you may start out with 1 or 2, it is worth building the bra wardrobe.

If, of course, your new size-adjustment still allows you to buy bras at the standard major retailers, be my guest. But having one or two specialty brands might help for special clothes or occasions.

Note: Like women, pretty bras come in all sizes. Don't shy away from the right bra for fear that it will look like grandma underwear or maternity wear. I would put form and function above design, but we all do need a little color and sizzle. I assure you that you can find it even in the plus-size range. It just takes a little searching and perhaps a little more saving to splurge on something special. If it is difficult to find your plus-size bra and you find yourself searching through surgical/specialty/maternity/nursing retailers, onward ho! Plenty of women do it. But the issue has motivated me to take on a personal mission and see how these sizes can become more widely available.

For those of you interested in getting fitted in New York City, I recommend the My Intimacy boutique (which was featured on Oprah and has stores in several other cities), but there are a few others, including Bra Smyth. I've compiled a list of some of the best available brands that carry cup sizes A-H, and some of the best online retailers for them (my favorites are starred):

Specialty Brands:
*1) Anita (their Rosa Faia line has beautiful and comfortable designs - the Daytona Underwire is my favorite)
2) Aviana
*3) Chantelle Paris (Best for Small, Medium, and Full sizes according to My Intimacy)
4) Conturelle (Best for Full sizes according to My Intimacy)
5) Edith Lances
6) Elixir (
Best for Full sizes according to My Intimacy)
7) Empriente (Best for Full sizes according to My Intimacy)
*8) Fantasie of England (Best for Full sizes according to My Intimacy)
9) Fauve (Best for Full sizes according to My Intimacy)
10) Freya (Best for Full sizes according to My Intimacy)
11) Glamorise
12) Le Mystere (their Dream Tisha T-Shirt bra is apparently Oprah's favorite and a best-seller, but I have yet to try it)
13) Natori
14) Panache (Best for Full sizes according to My Intimacy)
*15) Prima Donna (Best for Full sizes according to My Intimacy; my favorite is the Satin Underwire Bra)
16) Wacoal (I didn't have a good experience with these for some reason, although it is another Oprah-favorite line)

Available at:
1) Athleta (mostly sports bras)
*2) Bare Necessities
*3) Bigger Bras
4) Fig Leaves
5) Fresh Pair
6) Her Room
*7) My Intimacy (in-store only)
8) Nordstrom's (in-store and online)
9) The Bra Factory
10) The Lingerie Store USA
11) The Pink Bra
*12) Bra Smyth (in-store and online)
13) Bits of Lace
14) Essential Apparel
15) Bra Boutique
16) Treasure Lingerie
17) Linda's Bra Salon (in-store and online)
18) Ruth Lingerie
19) Loretta's Intimates
20) Lingerie Lingerie
21) Underwear24
22) La Petite Coquette (in-store and online)
23) Lauren Silva
24) Lady Grace Intimate Apparel
25) La Mode Lingerie
26) Claire De Lune
27) Bust Stop
28) Bra Experience
29) Corset Corner
30) A La Mode Lingerie
31) Bra Shop
32) Bedroom I's Boutique
33) Wizard of Bras
34) A Brief Affair

The Vicco Glow

If you are of Indian descent and as a child, watched either Indian programming on American television stations or in India, then tell me you're not smiling fondly at the memory of a fair-skinned, wavy-haired Indian women frolicking in a motorboat with her boyfriend, biting into a crunchy piece of fruit, and grinning enthusiastically (watch it here). If you're not, you probably never saw this hilarious and ubiquitous 80s commercial for Vicco Turmeric Toothpaste. It might be my most favorite work of Indian television art. Check out Youtube for other similarly awesome Vicco commercials.

I've always perceived the Vicco brand to be a questionable line of ayurvedic personal hygiene and skincare products based on the benefits of turmeric (although my uncle swears that the toothpaste cured all his dental woes). So imagine my surprise when I encountered positive reviews for Vicco Turmeric facial cream on MakeupAlley.com. I'm not kidding when I say I nearly jumped out of my chair. Beyond the instant brand recognition and flash of nostalgia, I was surprised that the brand had persisted through this generation, and that its products were still sold in the U.S. But I thought - why not? Who cares if some con artist of a yogi is perhaps manufacturing it in a makeshift factory in remote India? It is quite possible that I have used worse without knowing it. Since I use a lot of natural ingredients for face masks and such (turmeric, yogurt, honey, etc.), I wasn't opposed to trying Vicco. Clearly, someone out there (even if it is a gullible follower of the con artist-yogi) has kept this brand alive for a reason, right...?

The Vicco Turmeric facial cream is a multi-purpose treatment and not just a moisturizer. There are 2 versions of this cream - with and without sandalwood oil. I have the one with sandalwood oil, and in my opinion, it works just fine since this cream is on the dry side. Apparently, you can use it for healing purposes (one MUA review said it worked for mild burns), to fade scars/dark marks, and to generally brighten the complexion. At the time I became obsessed with finding it, I was doubtful that this is sold in the U.S. (turns out it is) and so asked a friend visiting India (who swears by its mosquito-bite healing properties) to pick up a tube for me.

A pale-yellow cream with a kind of pearly sheen, Vicco is a sort of "dry" cream - completely non-greasy, although it will appear to have the consistency of cold cream. Once you rub it into the skin, it has the light consistency and smoothing effect of a primer. I love how completely it disappears into my skin - it doesn't add a layer of cream/moisture/grease/oil which needs time to sink in.

Within 24 hours of using this, my skin was substantially clearer than usual. While I don't have raging acne, I usually have lots of tiny bumps and am prone to whiteheads. My forehead gets especially dotted with bumps and whiteheads year-round. I'm never really impressed with blemish-clearing or fighting skincare and treatments, but this is the only cream that dried up those blemishes without drying out the rest of my skin.

Due to cold weather in the Northeast at the time I first tried this, I used it sparingly (once a day or every other day), and mostly on oilier and problem-prone areas. Although the cream won't leave your skin peeling and dry, I just think too much of any good thing is a bad thing. It can leave a bit of a dry, tight feeling depending on your skin type and probably shouldn't be used with too many other drying products unless your skin is an oil rig. I would still highly recommend it for problem skin that isn't nearly bad enough for medication or stronger topical treatments but is blemish-prone and could use some improvement. I would also recommend this to people who prefer natural ingredients. The only thing to keep in mind is that the moisturizing factor of this cream depends on your skin's condition and weather at the time of use, and that you may not want to use it as your primary moisturizer.

Personally, I enjoy this cream more for its smoothing effect and because it really seems to even out my complexion. I want to attribute this to the magical powers of turmeric so I will, but who really knows. It definitely gives my skin more of a "glow" after repeated use, and I have yet to find a product that does anything similar without using harsh chemicals that are marketed as "lightening" or "brightening" or even the dreaded "whitening" commonly seen in Asia (to be fair, I never looked at the ingredients in this product, but I'm leaning towards a don't ask, don't tell policy on that right now).

Sensitive noses, beware - this cream has a strong smell to it (which my friend San couldn't stand). To me, it is no different from that very strong Noxema fragrance, or perhaps I've just gotten used to it.

In the current summer weather, this cream is perfect because it dries up oil without stripping your skin and is just moisturizing enough. It is definitely more of a summer staple, and works brilliantly with my Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen, SPF 55. In fact, the Vicco is kind of its own ultra sheer, dry-touch moisturizer.

Like every product out there though, Vicco may not work for everyone. So if it doesn't work for you, don't blame it on the con artist yogi. In case you don't have massive numbers of friends and family traveling between India and the U.S., Vicco turmeric facial cream can also be found online and at stores like Butala Emporium in New York City. If anyone out there has experienced the Vicco Glow (or not), do share.


The Neverending Skin Story II

I thought I had it all figured out when I talked about products for the late-20-something in Skin Story last year, but alas, all is never well in the beauty/skincare world. Since then, I have changed up my skincare routine considerably. I've never been one to use too many products but for the last 6 to 8 months, I've found a couple of products/techniques that have kept my face remarkably clearer than usual. The essentials of what has been working for me thus far:

1) My Non-Cleansing Cleansing - My hands-off approach to cleansing still involves a few products, but I don't use them regularly and because I don't wear much makeup on a daily basis, I can get away with it. In the cleanser rotation, I have 4 very gentle products:

- Pure jojoba oil (Desert Essences brand) - To gently cleanse (Oil Cleansing Method) every couple of weeks. Also use to remove eyeliner or mascara.
- St. Ive's Apricot Scrub - To exfoliate once a week (no more).
- Burt's Bees Soap Bark and Chamomile Cleansing Cream - To use once in a while or about once a week because it feels refreshing and soothing, especially during summer. This made it onto my list of Things I Bought That I Continue To Love.
- Avene Soap-Free Emollient Cleansing Bar - Use about 1-2 times a week just for gentle cleansing.

With minimal use, these 4 work for me namely because they cleanse and exfoliate gently. If I had to pare this down, it would be the Avene cleansing bar and the St. Ive's scrub.

2) My Special Pomegranate Green Tea Non-Toner Toner - I think used an astringent when I was like 14, and last year, I discovered Dickenson's witch hazel. I don't even bother with that anymore, because I still find it drying. Instead, I brewed 2 parts Bigelow Green Tea (Pomegranate flavor, and widely available), mixed it 1 part rose water (Dabur, an Indian brand but also widely available), and put it in an empty squirt bottle from the drugstore. Voila, instant "toner." I don't use this every time I wash my face, but it removes any makeup if I've been wearing more than usual and it is a refreshing and quick pick-me-up for your face. Plus, it is completely natural and cost me practically nothing.

3) Moisturizer - Day or night, it is no-frills Nivea Soft moisturizer for me. This tub is sort of the younger woman's Pond's Cold Cream, and a much lighter version of both that and the original, blue-tin Nivea cream. Nivea Soft is non-greasy but completely moisturizing, and I use it day and night. I have no problems with it. The soft, whipped texture might be comparable to Pond's Extra Dry Skin Cold Cream (although far less greasy) and the First Aid Beauty creams (from what I've read online).


4) Sunscreen - I've tried a couple of SPF-moisturizers (Biore and L'Oreal) that I liked and one that didn't work for me (Eucerin), but now prefer the combination of a regular, simple moisturizer like Nivea Soft and Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunblock-SPF 55. This is largely because the Neutrogena is a great value - higher SPF, great formula, and better performance than the standard SPF-moisturizer.

I had searched high and low for a good SPF-moisturizer that is also a good value, but at nearly $16 for a small amount (1.5 oz), the Biore didn't seem worth it, and the L'Oreal is only SPF 15 (not a major fault, but I thought I could do better). The Neutrogena is about $11 for a huge tube (3.0 oz) of SPF 55, and works just fine with a regular moisturizer or even alone. The truly non-greasy and "dry-touch" formula actually seems to make my skin smoother with an almost primer-like effect. For once, I agree with everything the tube states - "lightweight clean feel," "fast-absorbing," "leaves skin soft and smooth," "waterproof." It should also include "Leaves no embarrassing white cast." Most importantly, it really seems to work in terms of its SPF properties - if this means anything, I've been walking to and from work everyday in the relentless NYC heat, and have just a touch of warmth to my skin and not a crazy tan (sorry, I admit that I don't like getting tanned, and since it's not great for your skin anyway, I'll continue to avoid it). Love it.

No Soap, No Cry - Aid from Avene II

"The day I stopped using soap, my life changed." When I read this quote in "Aging Gracefully, the French Way" from today's NYT, I felt rather validated (take issue with much of the article, but more on that later). This is because for the last couple of months, my face has barely met a cleanser. True, and not afraid to admit it. I have never used regular body soap on my face in the shower. Mostly, I use unexciting and inexpensive cleansers from the drugstore. My biggest splurge has been a $17 Avene cleanser, which worked and felt good, but was not very different from Cetaphil.

A few months ago, I took to avoiding anything with harsh chemicals on my face, which is rather sensitive and prone to whiteheads. More than avoiding certain types of cleansers, I've made sure that I substantially cut down on my use of them. This has not been a problem since I'm lazy and don't really think my face is a rug that needs scrubbing.

My skin has been going through a lot of changes during these late 20-something years and so I preferred the most basic products possible - Avene's Cold Cream Emollient Soap-Free Cleansing Bar seemed to fit the bill. If you think that sounds like a mouthful and a little shady - get over it. It's just a bar of skincare goodness without harsh/drying soapy chemicals and some good old cold cleansing cream in a bar form (Pond's, you should really get it on this). If you ask why I bought a $9 soap (which is pretty inexpensive as far as most cleansers go, even some drugstore brands), the answer is simply that I convinced myself that a non-soap cold-cream cleansing bar is what my skin needs. I fancied an era where women tissued cold-cream off of their beautiful faces. Rather than slather cold cream all over my face, I decided I needed an updated, modern version - which is exactly what this little cleansing bar from Avene is.

It delivers precisely because it does so little - my skin basically feels the same after using it, except it is obviously cleaner. At the same time, there is a lot it doesn't do - strip, dry, irritate, etc. For someone who has always had slightly oily skin, this has been far kinder than "oil-free" cleansers which I'm convinced aggravate acne and sensitive skin. More importantly, because my skin has gotten drier over time (office heating/cooling systems make this worse), and it's too soon for me to use anti-aging products, I prefer to use skincare that is soothing and a little bit more moisturizing. It is so gentle, you could use it everyday.

I use it maybe twice a week, partly because it is expensive and a little smaller than I expected, so I'm conserving (and staying true to a more hands-off approach to skincare). Because the bar is rather rich, I initially found that the creaminess makes it "melt" away a little too fast, and I didn't want to use it all up too soon. However, it's been on my bathroom counter for almost 4 months now and it seems to be hanging in there just fine. If I can't find an inexpensive alternative (and I'm not sure I even want to bother searching and experimenting), this may be a repurchase (gasp!).

Granted, the warm weather always improves my skin, and a much lighter schedule has been easy on the hormones and stress. This makes it difficult to tell what difference this Avene bar has made, but I can say with great certainty that it hasn't irritated my skin in any way and that my face has been rather clear. My skin seems to be at its natural best after a long time (not perfect, but so much better).

Sometimes, less really is more. $9 @ Duane Reade drugstores or online.

Blush Up In the Club

Since I'm constantly in some sort of feminist denial of how much I love colored powders and creams, I'll begin this post with a meaningless declaration - I have never been much of a blush girl (much in the same way I've declared not to have been a mascara girl, or a liner girl, or any sort of genuine makeup girl generally). I don't know why I beat myself up like this because the truth is that on any given day (particularly a blues-y one), I'll go wherever the magical makeup lurer at Duane Reade or Sephora guides me. Recently, it was past the L'Oreal shelves, whose clean and neat-looking line of True Match products are strangely alluring.

This might have to do with the fact that I had a rather good experience with a True Match foundation in college, and that I finally got hold of Subtle Sable blush and would recommend it. Since it is a sweltering July here in New York, my makeup inclination has been to ditch some of the traditional blush shades for my medium/warm skintone and try some summery nude blushes instead. This meant avoiding pink and berry blushes for a while and going for something more neutral and understated along the lines of NARS Lovejoy (which I'm not in love with). If you want to know the truth, I was somewhat inspired by random images of Beyonce whose warm skintone had a very pretty, apricot-brown glow. It made me want to put my hands up in the club and do my own little thing with that same glow.

L'Oreal has a somewhat complicated letter/number system for matching shades to skintones, and so I largely ignore it - I just went with the highest numbers in the neutral and/or neutral-warm family, which led me to True Match blush in Soft Sun (W7-8), a slightly browned peach. It started chanting "Now put your hands up, up in the club..." I caved. I had a $5 coupon so the cheapster couldn't even object.

Best $5 I've ever spent in a drugstore (for now). This blush is deceiving - at first glance, you might think it's too light for medium/warm skintones, and you might be tempted to go with Sweet Ginger (N7-8) or Subtle Sable (W5-6) both warm, brick-pinks. But Soft Sun has its own charm and appeal. This golden apricot shade warms up my face, but never competes with some of the redness I have around my nose and cheeks from summer allergies. It almost has the effect I always thought bronzer should have, minus the muddiness and with some more color. With it's matte finish, it gives just a little bit of definition to my youthful (read: round) face with zero chalkiness. Compared to some of the brighter and darker blushes I own, it is much easier and more comfortable to wear. It reminds me of Milani's Sunset Beach blush, which is more orange and less neutral, and so doesn't have the same effect as Soft Sun.

The reason I prefer this to NARS Lovejoy as a natural/nude but still warm and forgiving blush is the texture. True to its name, the L'Oreal blush is very fine-milled, soft, blendable, and matte. Even though Soft Sun is the lightest blush I own, the pigmentation still makes an impact. Lovejoy, on the other hand, barely registers on my face. Instead of giving a natural, warm finish, it looks much like I took a few of swipes of a cakey nude blush to my cheeks. If you like Lovejoy but find Soft Sun too peachy-nude and want a little more pink, Sweet Ginger might be the next best drugstore alternative.

Now I just have to get more gloss on my lips and a man on my hips.


Facial TLC, Part Deux

Two years of a full-time job and part-time degree program kept me from indulging in a lot of the kitchen beauty maintenance I grew up with. And I started to wonder if the annoying Indian auntie where I get my eyebrows threaded was right when she pointed out all the dark spots and clogged pores on my face. So after completing my degree 2 weeks ago and a lovely Sunday afternoon yesterday, I decided it was finally time for a little post-graduation skin TLC.

I take great pleasure in doing these little things for myself at home instead of paying for a service at a salon/spa, and I consider having the time, space, and freedom to do my nails or use facial masks a great luxury. More importantly, I really value my solitude - as in, the ability to walk around in my PJ's, watch my never-ending DVR queue of crime shows, fiddle around with my iTunes playlist, sip tea, and nibble on a snack. This makes me feel incredibly liberated, calm, refreshed, relaxed, and also relieved that I can do something to take care of my skin (and my self) without spending a fortune. My very lovely home-made facial on Sunday consisted of a quick oil massage, a sweet-smelling steam, and a scrub/mask. Just what my skin and spirit needed, and maybe yours does, too (I've refined this a bit since my last home-facial back in January 2009 - yes, believe it).

A few of the things you will need:
- A large mixing bowl
- 2 bath towels (1 large, 1 medium will do)
- Whatever contraptions that keep your hair back best
- Any natural oil that is safe for facial skin, such as sweet almond oil, olive oil, or jojoba oil (I use jojoba) - you can use a fragrant one (I used rose oil) for the steam
- Cotton balls
- Any facial scrub or exfoliating mask that you like (I used St. Ive's Apricot Scrub)
- A mild toner (optional)
- A light moisturizer or another natural face oil (optional)

*Quick note on oils - they are really not at all "out there" and are easier to find than you would think. Most natural-foods and organic stores keep them (Trader Joe's and Whole Foods), as do many drugstores and vitamin stores (Vitamin Shoppe). I keep a small bottle of jojoba oil (~$7.00 at Ricky's NYC) and sweet almond oil (~$7.00 at K-Mart, of all places!) for cleansing purposes and also to give my skin a break from chemical-laden moisturizers and zit fighters (none of which I overuse, but still, better to play it safe).

I would list out the steps for this low-key beauty routine, but I'm afraid that would make it seem much more cumbersome then it really is. So I'll keep it simple.

First, heat up about as much water as your bowl will hold (not to the brim; leave about 2 inches) in a kettle. While the water boils, pull your hair back and secure. I have wavy, frizz/curl-prone hair, so I'm extra careful about this to make sure that it doesn't curl up while my head is under the steam. After putting my hair in a bun, I secure with bobby pins, cover my hair with a thin, medium-sized towel, and secure it in the back with an elastic or big claw clip. Then I put on a headband. I look a little bit like a gypsy or a babuskha lady, but hey, you do what you gotta do.

Then, gently massage whatever facial oil you're using all over your face and neck for about 2 minutes. This helps to loosen dirt/grime, open up pores, and moisturize. Leave it on!

Once the water is boiling, turn off the stove and let the water cool for a few minutes. Very hot steam can actually be very damaging, so make sure to do this step. Pour into your mixing bowl, and give it another few minutes to cool. When you sit down for the steam, it should still be rising from the bowl - there just shouldn't be big, billowing clouds of it. Pour in a few drops of a fragrant oil like peppermint or rose oil.

Place the bowl on any table or counter, cover your head and the bowl with the other towel, and just let your face hang over this strange little tent. Keep the ends of the towel a bit free and your face several inches above the rim of the bowl in case the steam is too hot/forceful. This might get uncomfortable for some ofyou - keeping the eyes closed and allowing a little air to come in helps, but otherwise, this is one of the least painful ways to cleanse the skin. I usually get over the initial discomfort pretty fast. Once you start sweating all those impurities pour out, you'll feel why it's worth it.

After 10-15 minutes, uncover the little tent you've made around your face and the bowl and voila - you will be sweating like a pig and look like you've been in a sauna. Lightly wipe a cotton ball over your face and neck.

Don't you dare wash any remaining oil off your face. It's good for you and while it's there, massage the scrub over your face and neck for about 1-2 minutes and leave on for another 2. Wash off with lukewarm water - the scrub will take care of any remaining oil and of course, exfoliate. Pat your face and neck dry. Finish with your toner and a light moisturizer/facial oil. I skip both of these steps because I like leaving my skin alone after all that action and want to let it breathe. I do however, dot a little sweet almond oil under my eyes.

Last step - look in the mirror. Instant glow! Instant freshness! Soft and polished instead of dry and irritated! I'm serious - I wish my skin looked like that everyday.

I think this little routine is ideal once a week or every two weeks, and combined, I think they are more effective than using harsh scrubs and cleansers everyday. For more low-key kitchen beauty, check out my now ancient post on face masks here.


Clinique Butter Shine Lipstick - Pink Toffee

This lipstick has had a nearly permanent spot in my purse for the last few months – this is a major rarity for me. And more importantly, I never wish I had something else instead - I never doubt the shade or formula, and have already worn it down to a nub.

Clinique Butter Shine Lipstick in Pink Toffee is such a no-brainer that every girl under the sun could own it and it would serve a purpose. When they talk about "universal," this might be what they are referring to, and whatever brilliant marketing executive branded NARS Orgasm Blush as a universal shade obviously had not encountered Pink Toffee. Clinique shares some of the blame. They are forever pushing the over-hyped Black Honey - it really is much ado about nothing (I get the same effect with Cover Girl TruShine Lipstick in Berry Shine, and Lipstick Queen's Saint - Berry). Pink Toffee is one of those shades that suffers from a million, been-there, done-that descriptions - pinky-brown, neutral pink, My-Lips-But-Better, pink-nude, nude berry, mauvey-pink (but not mauve - or pink), dark rose with burnt-toffee undertones, reddish burgundy - the list seriously goes on.

I'm not saying that this is God's gift to lipstick-mankind or that it will complement every look (although it probably will). All I'm saying is that whether you are 20 or 50, you can keep this lipstick in your purse for weeks without replacement. Other shades that I've tried and loved do come very close to Pink Toffee, but the exact tone of this pink and the Butter Shine formula keep it fresh, versatile, and on the list of repurchases. This actually beats out my beloved Maybelline Moisture Extreme in Plum Sable (Revlon's Rum Raisin runs a close second), which could use some oomph with gloss or balm. The Butter Shine formula, a creamy gloss with the feel of a lip balm, takes care of that. It is the lipstick for non-lipstick wearers and the gloss for non-gloss wearers, which makes it particularly suitable for warm-weather wear. Quite a feat for this underrated, $14 tube of goodness. (Note to darker-skinned girls - if you choose Rum Kiss in favor of this, return it. Rum Kiss is certainly a neutral, but a rather drab one at that. Pink Toffee is the way to go).


NYC Smooth Skin Pressed Face Powder

The day is nearly over and the only way I'll make it is if I tell you about NYC Smooth Skin Pressed Face Powder in Translucent.

I honestly cannot remember why I decided to try this. Maybe it was reviews on MakeupAlley.com. Maybe it was the need to quench a makeup thirst without spending a lot of money. Maybe I was worried about color-matching issues once I tan up a bit. Who knows. But it works and I intend to keep it. Thought I'd share why.

A) At $1.99, It is dirt cheap. Really, do you want to spend $ on a translucent powder? A product with zero coverage and major uselessness potential? I didn't think so. And if you're worried about putting something that costs $1.99 on your face, well, don't. You're probably already slathering a whole lot of other junk all over it anyway. What's one more? Seriously speaking though, this is a fairly uncomplicated product - have no fear.

B) This works for a little shine control in your T-zone, setting other makeup, and somehow creating a more even complexion without a bit of actual coverage. It essentially does what a shaded pressed powder would do, except it makes you feel like you're wearing even less makeup than that and is even more fool-proof to use and touch-up. I've been alternating between this and my Sephora Mattifying Powder Foundation. It doesn't leave any noticeable white cast on me, although it might if I used a lot more. Depending on your skin tone, it's possible, so I reccomend using a big kabuki brush instead of a sponge. If you don't want the double coverage of a foundation and pressed powder, then dusting this over foundation will do just fine to "set" it.

C) It is dirt cheap.

D) Really simple (and obviously, cheap) packaging. I once tried the loose version from Jane Cosmetics and did not find it easy to use. I really do not appreciate any type of loose powder, and don't understand why drugstores still sell those big orange and green boxes of Coty loose powder (although they are a teeny bit charming). Just a personal preference - a slim, no-frills, old-school, plastic compact is so easy.


Queen of Lipsticks

You know how you tell yourself not to buy something that you will surely be able to find somewhere else, maybe even on sale? Even when it's not actually something you'll likely find elsewhere, and definitely not on sale? Well, I somehow triumphed over that feeling a couple of months ago when I found Lipstick Queen lipsticks on Gilt.com - who knew it was possible? I once tried on an LQ lipstick in Wine (Sinner formula) and it was so pretty, I don't know how I tore myself away from the $18 tube. I told myself it could be a splurge somewhere further down the line. Luckily, the three LQ lipsticks I received from Gilt weren't even a splurge. With $25 credit and a discounted price of $11, these lipsticks were a steal.

I have three lipsticks from the sheer version of LQ lipsticks, Saint, only because they didn't have any Sinners (ha). For those of you who don't know, all of the LQ lipstick shades came in both the Sinner (semi-matte and very pigmented) and Saint (sheer) versions. Think of them as the perfect solution for fall/winter and spring/summer lipstick changes. If there is a color you love, you can get it in Sinner for the colder season and Saint for summer makeup.

Saint Coral, Berry, and Rust are such easy and pretty lipsticks for this season, and they would suit almost any complexion. The great thing about all of the shades is that they are exactly what they sound like - Coral is coral, Berry is berry - you get the idea. A grown-up alternative to glosses (and longer lasting) and perfect for both office-wear and going out. There is a whole lipstick "stain" trend out there right now, but LQ Saints have been way ahead of the game (as have been Vincent Longo's lipstick stains).

If you want to know the truth, what I love most about these lipsticks is the unique packaging. I usually don't care about packaging - it doesn't make or break using the product in any way for me. But these brushed-gold metal tubes are so fun. If you ever get one, you'll know what I mean - the tubes don't have the slippery feel of metal or plastic. They are kind of velvety and soft - very cool, and I'd like to know why other high-end brands charge so much for very basic packaging. Why don't they have soft, velvety, brushed-gold materials at $20 or more a pop? The tubes also close shut with this velvety, soft click instead of that traditional metallic "click." I know this sounds really crazy - only those who have them will know what I mean. Trust me, it is sort of a nice bonus.

Much Ado About Brushes

So I saw this article on Sephora's new line of makeup brushes in the Times today and felt a little tug at my heart. They just looked so much prettier and glamorous all lined up in their color-coded fabulousness than they did in the Sephora mailer I received last week.

Courtesy of The New York Times

Of course, I have no need for more than a few makeup brushes and I certainly don't need anything color-coded. This is because I have some brilliant and wonderfully cheap makeup brushes from the e.l.f studio line. These are another one of my Fantastic-Finds-of-the-Year-That-I-Failed-To-Blog-About-Sooner.

My makeup brush collection is nothing to write home about. Spending money on brushes, although a decent investment for some I'm sure, just doesn't seem right to me and is completely unnecessary for my purposes. Also, I just don't get the same thrill out of buying an expensive brush. A retractable kabuki brush from Posh is about all I ever need. Prior to the e.l.f. brushes, my meager collection included a Posh travel-set of eye makeup brushes (which I never use) and a set of Ecotools (from which I occasionally use the powder brush and lash comb before it broke).

So why did I decide to try the e.l.f studio line of brushes? Well, they are about $3.00 each and there was a massive sale at the time - that was good enough reason for me. In truth, I wanted to know what the fuss about fan brushes was all about. I've read good things about e.lf. and decided it was worth spending $15 on 5 face makeup brushes to see what happened. These are the ones I have:

Powder Brush

Complexion Brush

Kabuki Brush

Blush Brush

Fan Brush

I have to say, some of these brushes made me a bit of a convert - at least for the quality and performance of e.l.f. studio brushes. The bristles are surprisingly soft and they definitely do a great job of blending. I also like how dense the bristles are and how well they are "packed" into the handle of the brush (I don't find this with my Ecotools brush, and find it harder to control).

The fan brush probably isn't the same quality as high-end brushes in terms of use, but I do see the difference in using this versus a regular powder or blush brush, especially for certain blushes. The look of NARS Taos blush (a very bright and pigmented blush) is definitely more natural with a fan brush versus any other kind of brush. In fact, the only brush I'm not terribly impressed with in this bunch is the blush brush, so I'm glad that I have this as well. The blush brush is rather small and narrow, and I think it works better for more natural and/or contouring blushes/bronzers/powders. I like using either this or the powder brush with more neutral blushes like NARS Lovejoy since they give more definition and can pack on more color.

I use the Kabuki brush all the time (more than my Posh kabuki) for both face powder and even blush. Since it's the biggest brush, I prefer it to the powder brush. I actually use the powder brush or complexion brush more for blending (i.e., when I'm wearing more makeup, which is rare). The complexion brush is rather neat for for this since it has a flat top - kind of cool. Makes you feel like you have some specially-designed, expensive brush that you can find creative uses for when otherwise, you would never think to use such a thing.

Overall, I'm happy enough with these brushes to get rid of the others, but I keep the Eco-Tools because it's still good quality, and the Posh retractable kabuki is good for the handbag. If you'd like to have some good brushes on hand, don't want to spend a lot of money, and don't wear too much makeup anyway, the e.l.f studio line is definitely the way to go.


Sephora Mattifying Powder Foundation

Recall how just yesterday I wrote that I have not blogged much this year due to reduced makeup experimentation? Apparently I'm a pathological liar, because that wasn't true either. Writing about Korres Abyssinia Voluminizing Mascara opened the floodgates that have been blocking my makeup stories all year. I would say that the biggest difference between two years ago and now is that my makeup trials are a little more focused and my collection rather well-edited. Oh, the dangers of satisfaction! It induces a non-blogging state of mind when there is actually lots to share.

Face powder is one of them. In case you haven't been able to tell, I'm rather inconsistent with my makeup use, and face makeup is no exception. I've looked for the right powders, foundations, concealers, and tinted moisturizers only to realize how infrequently I use them. That said, I still try to nail down some basics for myself. This past winter, I found a few products that suited me so well that I haven't had to throw them out and have not replaced them with anything else. The Sephora Collection Mattifying Powder Foundation is such a product.

Reason #1 - The color match. In my opinion, Sephora does a great job with shades for tan skin, ranging from olive/yellow complexions to more red/brown undertones. Even more high-end brands haven't achieved this. I have D32 (warm golden beige) for winter when my skin is paler, and it is perfect for my medium-tan (and rather yellow) Indian complexion. The Mineral Double Compact Foundation has a similar but slightly smaller range (for instance, it has D35-warm tan, but no D32). I tested it in the store but I find any sort of mineral makeup to be messy (even pressed powders) and it doesn't have my regular D32 shade (D35 is best only for summer).

Reason #2 - It meets my pretty basic expectations of a good pressed powder/foundation - mostly medium/sheer coverage, some oil control, and a polished look that isn't cakey or obvious. On bare skin, it's oil-controlling and non-drying, not even in winter (which is when I first started using this). I'm not sure how "mattifying" this would be for oilier skin since my skin has become drier over time but I imagine that someone with very oily skin is using some other oil-control product as well, so this would probably help things a long enough. I've worn this powder over foundation and/or concealer and it sets both well. Depending on my mood, I use either a big, fluffy powder/kabuki brush, or a round sponge (bought separately, not the one that comes with the compact).

Reason #3 - Blends easily and I can barely feel it. Very smooth, fine-milled formula that doesn't highlight any blemishes or imperfections by caking over them. Supposedly, this works dry or wet, but I prefer dry for now. Very simple application and worth the minimal effort.

In terms of price, a great compromise between over-priced high-end products, and also over-priced drugstore products (think of the similar new product from Neutrogena which retails for about $15; the Sephora one is $20). I would stock up since earlier this fall, they were sold out of D35 (warm tan - my summer shade) for MONTHS (not just at stores, but from the manufacturer itself).

I do have one complaint about the compact, but it applies to many products of a similar design that are out there these days (my LORAC Blush/Bronzer duo is one of them). This flip-top compact has a compartment under the powder tray for a sponge and mirror. I know companies started doing this because it was supposedly more hygienic. Eh, hygiene-shmygiene (says the Master's of Public Health candidate). The design is inconvenient and bulky, and I would have preferred it if Sephora didn't bother to keep up with luxury brands in that respect. Plus, the price would have been a little cheaper, although the $20 is probably about the cheapest you will find with this quality.

I wore this today and happy to report that my face feels, well, nice. It's Friday and my skin doesn't look pathetic - I'd say that's a pretty good start to the weekend and a pretty good reason to continue using this perfect powder.

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