Klorane Huile de Mangue

Well, I've just been hit with beauty blogger karma after writing that I'm low maintenance with my hair. I should have known it was coming. In the past few months I've fallen in love with several new products and gadgets for hair, and maybe they're just a wee bit spendier than the $3 per gallon Tresemme conditioner I used for the last decade. Plus, I recently had my hair dyed (barely) for the first time in my life, which means that I've had to change a few things in my routine to protect the color.

Klorane is a brand I've been drawn to for a while - I do tend to favor "botanical" haircare, and the line's appealing packaging and reasonable price point were the icing on the cake. During my semester abroad I picked up a couple of things to try, and I've been impressed with both of them.

Although it's not advertised as such, the Huile de Mangue is really more of a dry oil or a thin serum. It's very lightweight; perfect for taming frizz and adding shine without weighing down your tresses. The expected mango scent is perfectly natural and fruity but not overpowering. I also appreciate the spray nozzle, which means that you don't have to use your hands for application if you can't spare the time to wash them (seriously, the number of things that I've dropped right after using hair serums is ridiculous). One or two spritzes is perfect for my long hair, so I imagine my giant bottle of the stuff will last for ages.

Klorane Mango Oil (4.22 oz/125 ml) is $14.00 at drugstore.com (U.S.) or 11.35e at LeGuideSante (Europe).

Alba Botanica Hawaiian Kukui Nut Body Butter

The amount of satisfaction that my quest to reduce my beauty stash is giving me is, quite frankly, a little embarrassing. Although I'm a beauty nerd, I do believe in moderation, and working my way through things that were sitting unused makes me feel a little less like a "Hoarders" castmember. I'm having fun discovering things that I'd forgotten about and watching finished containers pile up. Plus there's the unabashed fun of planning what to replace the emptied stuff with (I'm actually on my last hand cream! Any recs?).

I did start using it a bit too late in the season - it's more of a summer moisturizer for my dry skin - but Alba Botanica's Kukui Nut Body Butter has been one of the gems I pulled from the pile. I love a good foodie scent, but only ones that smell like actual food, as opposed to dimethylsodiumpolysterateglycolwhatever-3 mimicking the smell of something edible. The Body Butter has a warm, nutty, mildly sweet fragrance that's right up my alley. It's not as moisturizing as I need right now, but few things are in the wintertime.  Anyone with less Saharan skin would be perfectly pleased by its adequate emollient abilities. Kukui nut oil is fairly light, so I didn't expect a heavy duty cream when I bought this anyways. Aloe, arnica, and cucumber extract are great for soothing sensitive skin - yet another reason I think this is great for the sunnier months.

There is one thing that sets Alba Botanica's product apart from every other body butter I've tried: how quickly it sinks in. Literally by the time I'm done applying it to the second arm, it's completely absorbed into the skin on the first. It's a godsend for those times when you're running late and have to step out of the shower right into a pair of skinny jeans. I'm planning on trying Alba Botanica's Very Emollient body lotion once I've finished the others in my stash, but might repurchase this body butter for next summer.

I bought mine at iHerb for $8.74 ($5 off your first purchase with my referral code, BEH289), but I've also seen it in-store at Target/CVS and Whole Foods for around $14 or $15. 

Essie Jazz

essie jazz swatchYou guys, I was played. Totally suckered by cute packaging and those darn ovaries telling me that everything tiny and cute must be adored. Utterly bamboozled by a clearance sticker. I fell prey to the enemy of beauty lovers and moderation everywhere: the dreaded impulse buy.Ok, maybe obviously I've just had too much coffee and am being overdramatic. Still, these Essie minis, adorable as they are, were sorely disappointing  They come in twin sets and the other one, some lilac shade, was unusable because it didn't have a brush. I mean, I assume there was a brush swirling around the bottle somewhere, but it had broken off and I couldn't ever find it in there. I will give Essie credit for making the brush full-sized, so application isn't any harder than it is with a regular bottle.The formula on Jazz was much thicker and stringier than other Essies, which usually have average wear but are often prone to chipping. Essie used to be my favorite polish when I was first getting into nail polish, but I've now discovered other brands with brushes and forumlas that suit me better.I do think that mini polishes are great ways to try out new colors and make darling gifts, but only if the quality is the same as that of the full-sized product. Unfortunately, that wasn't my experience, so I'm hesitant to purchase any more at the moment.Speaking of trying out new colors, though, I'm surprised by how much I love this weird beigey taupe color on my nails - so much that I've decided that Butter London's Yummy Mummy will be my next polish purchase. Essie Jazz is $6.00 shipped on Amazon and around $8.00 in store (both are full-sized bottles. I got mine on clearance last year at Bed Bath & Beyond).

Sinful Colors Cross My Heart

sinful colors nail polish cross my heart swatch
sinful colors nail polish cross my heart swatch
I'm obsessed with this little drugstore gem! I can't decide whether I love the fiery orange-based red shade or the fun jelly finish more. Combining the two has resulted in a gorgeous, distinctive polish that's deliciously retro. The formula isn't superb, but it's good for the price (two bucks!) and I got four or five days without any major chips. 

Here's Cross My Heart compared to some other bright reds and corals in my collection. I apologize for the bad lighting - it's actually raining in L.A. today and I'm no photographer! Even though the background of the picture is dull, the polish colors are all true to life. The closest match I found was Zoya Maura, which is almost an exact dupe when it comes to color, but lacks the jelly finish of Cross My Heart. 

Sinful Colors nail polish is usually $1.99 at Walgreens, but is often on sale for $0.99.

Weleda Wild Rose Facial Smoothing Lotion

Continuing with what seems to be my traditional experience with Weleda products, I found the Wild Rose Smoothing Facial Lotion to be a really good product, but, for a few reasons, not the perfect product for me.

The moisturizing: Although your skin feels soothed while the lotion is on it, there's no deeper moisturization happening, because the feeling goes away as soon as you wash your face. It's a very, very light cream. But that's totally my fault, because the packaging says that this is for "normal to combination" skin, and I have combination to dry skin.

The scent: I do love all things rose; however, this is more of an herbal rose scent as opposed to the garden tea rose one that I prefer. It's a quintessential Weleda smell and isn't objectionable, but be warned that it does stick around.

The smoothing: The Smoothing Facial Lotion makes a great base for makeup, but if you're not applying anything on top of it, it feels a bit tacky - almost as if it hasn't dried completely throughout the day. And although my sensitive skin didn't experience any irritation, there was also no improvement in its condition from using the lotion (and as you can see, I've used the whole tube).

Overall, I think this is a solid and well-formulated facial cream if you've got oily skin, or perhaps for combination skin in the summertime. My friend with less dry skin than me uses it and likes it a lot. I haven't had any problems using up the tube, but I won't repurchase for myself.

Weleda Wild Rose Facial Smoothing Lotion retails for $28.00 in-store but is $18.69 at Lucky Vitamin (unless otherwise noted, I only link to online retailers that I've used successfully in the past). I found mine on sale at Target for around $7 in the beginning of the year, but it was during a clearance sale of Weleda products and I've never seen it priced so low elsewhere.

Chanel Le Vernis - Dragon #475

I've written about Chanel polishes before, so I won't go into too much detail here. The formula on Dragon really is pretty bad - I don't think I've ever gotten more than four days without noticeable chipping. I haven't been impressed with Chanel's formula in general and Dragon's is the worst. But I've never found such a perfect red in a brand with better wear so I deal.

This photo was taken after two days of wear. This was a one-coat rushed manicure but you can still see the tipwear and scratches that I just don't get while wearing other brands with the same topcoat and basecoat combination.

I love this particular polish because of the unique shade and the good memories associated with it...but I do think it's disgraceful that Chanel charges so much for a functionally inferior product. With all the beauty innovation and resources at their disposal I'd expect much better. If anyone has any suggestions for the same color made by another brand, please do let me know!

Chanel Dragon is $26.00 at Chanel.com

August Empties

My current stash of beauty products has gotten a little ridiculous, even by my standards, so for the past two months I've trying to use up what I have instead of buying new things. I wouldn't call it a "no-buy", because I still replace staples like my Avene Akerat, and I also stocked up when my favorite BHA toners were on sale for 40% off. It's more of a "low-buy", if such a thing exists for skincare and makeup products.

And part of the fun of using up your stash is writing empties posts to make you feel accomplished, right? (let's pretend that doesn't sound as lame as it does...)

1. Kiehl's Creme de Corps Soy Milk & Honey Whipped Body Butter

2. L'Oreal EverCreme Intense Nourishing Shampoo. I alternate this with a deeper-cleaning shampoo depending on how my hair's feeling. I like it a lot and have another bottle in my shower (they were BOGO at Target a while ago). I'm not picky with shampoo and usually just get whatever's on sale, but I will probably keep using this. Oh, and it's way better than the regular EverCreme Nourishing Shampoo, which is actually thicker for some reason.

3. Etat Pur Micellar Water

4. Mario Badescu Glycolic Foaming Cleanser. I used to use a lot of Mario Badescu products in my daily routine, and although I've moved away from many of them, I still think it's a great brand. This is a very powerful chemical exfoliator that should only be used a few times a week. It's got simple, effective ingredients and I'd recommend it highly. As my rosacea's gotten worse, I stopped using this on my face, but it's also amazing at preventing irritation from razors if you use it on your legs with a Salux cloth before you shave. You only need the tiniest amount - this bottle took me two years to use up!

5. Kiehl's Hand Cream. Perfectly fine light hand cream, except for the unbearable rotting eucalyptus scent. I'm so glad I'm done with this one (it was a sample from last year).

6. Nivea Soft. Very lightweight body cream. It wasn't moisturizing enough for my dry skin, but I have friends who love it and you can't beat the price.

7. Avene Akerat Localized Cream. A true wonder product - I'm planning a full post on it in the next few weeks.

8. Pond's Facial Wipes. I don't use facial wipes on a daily basis but for traveling and camping they're handy. I wasn't a fan of the scent of these, but they were quite soft and didn't dry out once the package was opened and resealed.

9. Sally Hansen Insta-Dri topcoat. This used to be my favorite topcoat until I got sick of having to waste so much product and money. No matter how much I thinned it, half the product would have to be thrown away because it turned thick, stringy and unusable.

10. Amlactin. I've bought several bottles of this over the years and will probably buy another one this winter. It's not my favorite AHA lotion and the price and inelegant texture are off-putting. This is usually what dermatologists will recommend for keratosis pilaris, but it doesn't help mine. However, it's unbeatable for dry knees and feet when used overnight.

11. Ocean Potion Ever Glow

Italy snapshots

My goodness, I've gotten lazy! I had a busy few weeks but even now that things have settled down, I've been neglecting my blog - it's scary sometimes how easy habits can be to break, especially the good ones. Anyways, a sweet email from Becca reminded me of how great the blogging community can be, and I'm excited to start posting again!

I don't really have any exceptional photos from my Italy trip - primarily because I'm not a photographer by any stretch of the imagination! I also didn't feel like hauling my DSLR around, so I mostly took snapshots with a secondhand point and shoot camera. But I do always love when other bloggers write a little about their travel experiences, so I'd like to share a few pictures of things that made me smile.

The view of Il Duomo from our hotel room in Florence:

Old men sunbathing and chatting along the Arno, taken from the window of the Uffizi Gallery:
An incredible balcony:
The driver of our hotel's shuttle to Murano was perhaps a bit overconfident...
I like the reject glass better than the expensive stuff in the galleries.

It always amused me that the government exiled the glassblowers to Murano because they were afraid that they'd burn down the whole (wooden!) city of Venice.

Look closely at the hats hanging on the wall - that's my favorite part!
Now I've got to go do something about those 1000+ unread posts in my Google Reader...

a brief interlude

I'm leaving soon for a short trip to Florence and Venice, and will be traveling until next Monday. I've been to Venice several years ago, but never to Florence. I won't be blogging, but will almost certainly have internet access and would love to hear any of your recommendations for things to do, see, or eat in the area!

Bioderma Crèaline H2O vs. Etat Pur Micellar Cleansing Water

Everyone who's remotely interested in the beauty industry has heard of Bioderma's Crèaline (also known as Sensibio) micellar water. Models and makeup artists alike rave about its ability to thoroughly remove makeup without irritating sensitized skin. I like it, although it's not quite an HG, and haven't decided whether to buy a large bottle before I go home (if I have room in my suitcase!). When the new skincare range Etat Pur came out with their own micellar solution, the fact that it's owned by the same parent company as Bioderma meant that comparisons between the two were inevitable. I purchased a small bottle of Crèaline for travel a few months ago, and got a sample of the Micellar Cleansing Water in my Etat Pur order, so I decided to conduct a test!It's not really fair to compare the containers, because the Bioderma was a product for sale and Etat Pur's was just a sample. I'll just say that I very much like the Crèaline bottle - it's a cute shape, sturdily built, and also has a little dip in the cap that makes it perfect for putting some on a cotton swab without pouring it all over your hand. I will probably decant another makeup remover into this bottle when I've finished it, just to use for travel.The Crèaline I have is unscented (there is also a fragranced version), and while the Etat Pur does have a scent, it is extremely light and barely noticeable. Neither caused any reaction on my sensitive facial skin or eyes.
I first applied a variety of products to my arm, making sure to use the most tenacious makeup I own, and let everything set for ten minutes.

1. Maybelline The Falsies waterproof mascara.
2. L'Oreal Visible Lift foundation.
3. Bobbi Brown gel eyeliner in Espresso Ink.
4. Navy blue eyeshadow from Sleek's Bad Girl palette, applied over Urban Decay Primer Potion.
5. Revlon Colorstay eyeliner in Brown.
6. L'Oreal liquid eyeliner in Carbon Black.
7. L'Oreal Infallible cream eyeshadow in Permanent Khaki, applied over E.L.F. Eyelid Primer.
8. Lancome Effacernes waterproof concealer.

I then soaked one cotton pad with Crèaline and the other with Etat Pur's cleansing water, and ran them down my arm. The top swipe is the Etat Pur and the bottom is Bioderma. The above photo is of the first pass. You can see that the Crèaline was slightly better at removing the liquid liner and the Infallible cream eyeshadow. Although it's not really visible in this picture, Etat Pur's micellar also left much more residue from the foundation than Bioderma's.

After the second swipe (in the same direction and location as the first), the winner was clear. Unlike the Etat Pur, Bioderma Crèaline had almost completely removed the mascara, foundation, powder eyeshadow, liquid eyeliner, cream eyeshadow, and concealer. It had also removed more of the gel and pencil eyeliners than Etat Pur's micellar water.

Oh, and serious props to the Revlon Colorstay eyeliner. This was my arm after a vigorous scrubbing with bar soap and water. I am impressed!



Etat Pur's Micellar Cleansing Water is £6.40/€6.80 (around $8.30 USD) for 190 ml. The company currently only ships to Europe. Bioderma Crèaline varies in price depending on your location and the size you buy, but at it's cheapest it's around $18 for two 500ml bottles (although currently out of stock) at LeGuideSante or €18 at  EasyParapharmacie. I paid around €4 for this mini bottle at a pharmacie in France. A simple Google search will bring up retailers that ship to your area.

p.s. I had some problems when formatting this post in Blogger - if it looks "off" to anyone, please let me know!

Bourjois Healthy Mix Foundation

It's surprisingly hard to find warm-toned foundations that also come in very light shades. L'Oreal is the only drugstore line that I've found to offer shades that suit me, and their formulations often aren't the most sophisticated. Chanel also makes pale yellow foundations, but at $50 per bottle it's not something I can really afford to use every day! While searching for something to fill the gaping hole between those two extremes, I came across French company Bourjois's star foundation, Healthy Mix. (by the way, the rumor that Chanel and Bourjois cosmetics are the same thing is different packaging is untrue; they are merely owned by the same parent corporation run by the Wertheimer brothers. There's a fascinating New York Times article about the Wertheimers, Chanel, and Bourjois here).

Although I had to make an educated guess and order online, the lightest shade #51 (Light Vanilla) was a great match. I've applied it with both a buffing brush and my fingers and gotten very natural, even results either way. It's a solidly medium-coverage foundation, but can be sheered out or mixed with moisturizer for a minimal look. Building up more than two coats doesn't increase the coverage any further, though, and you will definitely need concealer for large blemishes. Because it's warm-toned, I found Healthy Mix to be especially good at neutralizing redness around my cheeks and nose. I haven't ever worn it for 16 hours, but have never had problems with fading on my combo-dry skin. And the light, creamy liquid texture would easily work for anyone with moderately dry to moderately oily skin. In fact, I think one of the main reasons this foundation is so popular is because it's appropriate for a wide range of skin types and tones.

There are a few downsides, though, of varying importance. The least offensive is the apricot scent; it's not bad per say, but it's very strong and it does linger. I'm not too bothered by it, but if you're sensitive to smells or to added fragrance in cosmetics, be careful with this one. The packaging is cheap plastic, gets smudgy very easily, and still looks slightly dirty no matter how much I clean it. I've also had some issues with the pump, although I'm not sure if I just happened to get a faulty one. Sometimes it won't dispense any product and I'll think I've run out (since you can't really see how much is left), but then the next day it will be working again. Also, be warned that if you're very cool-toned, this is a neutral foundation that leans very heavily yellow, so it might not be the best match for you. 

There's another negative aspect to Healthy Mix, although like the other downsides it's not a fatal flaw, just something to be worked around. This is not a foundation you can apply and then forget about. It takes ten or fifteen minutes to set or oxidize or whatever you want to call it once you've put it on. At first it looks extremely pale, yellow, and cakey, but then it becomes practically invisible on the skin after a quarter of an hour. It's bizarre - I've tried quite a few foundations over the years but never experienced this before.  

I tried to show this in the picture below of a pump of foundation followed by three swatches. I waited about five minutes after dispensing the liquid to take the photo. As you can see, the dot and the thicker swatch look much lighter and warmer than my skin. The thinner middle swatch matches better, but still isn't perfect. Whereas the third swatch, which was the most sheered out of all, is barely visible after being warmed by the skin.

Bourjois Healthy Mix Foundation (30ml) is $11.45 at eChemist and is usually available at ASOS, although it's out of stock at the moment. Technically it's available in 8 shades, but the darker shades are harder to find anywhere except eBay if you're not in England, France, or another country where Bourjois is sold in-store.

Jason Natural Pure Beauty Oil

It's terrible, but I find myself procrastinating on writing about the products I love most, purely because of the amount of time and consideration a comprehensive review will take. I did it with Avène Hydrance Optimale UV and I've done it again with Jason Natural's 5000 IU Vitamin E oil. I'm a skin-and-body-oil fanatic already, but this stuff is my first and most abiding love.

Like I did with the Avene, I'm merely going to write a bare-bones list of the main reasons I worship Jason's Beauty Oil. Just remember that these are the facts and the superlatives and squealing "I LOVE YOU!"s are a given.

1. It's an antioxidant-rich blend of sunflower, safflower, rice bran, apricot, avocado, and wheat germ oils, with a healthy dose of vitamin E to boot. I've tried both avocado and almond oil straight before and had good luck, so their presence in the mix is a big plus!

2. The marzipan-cherry smell is delicious but not overly enduring if you want to wear any other scents.

3. You never feel greasy wearing it. It's not quite a dry oil, but still absorbs more quickly than, for example, coconut or mineral oil. Jason also makes higher IU (or International Unit, a measure of the potency of vitamins) oils, which I own, but they're too thick to be used as anything but localized treatments and are unscented.

4. Unlike many body oils, this is just as fabulous used on my face as on the rest of me. I've had only good results and no breakouts or irritation. However, vitamin E oils can be very clogging for some, so I would strongly encourage anyone to patch test it for a few days just to be safe.

5. Talk about a multi-tasking product! Here's the full run-down of everything I've used this particular oil for, and all with great success: moisturizing my body and face, makeup removal, oil precleansing, healing fresh scars, fading old scars, rescuing chapped lips, reducing irritation from a heat rash, as a cuticle oil, as an overnight treatment for rough hands and feet, and on the ends of my hair. 

6. I want to speak to the effect on scars especially, because this oil has made a much-needed difference in my skin. Add 12 years of not-very-talented soccer playing to a bad case of keratosis pilaris and the resultant picking, and you get a lot of scars. As silly as it is, I've been self-conscious of my upper arms and knees for years because they are literally a different color than the rest of my skin from the scarring. Using vitamin E oil - I've only ever tried Jason, so can't say if another brand would produce the same results - in conjunction with exfoliants and sun protection on the affected areas has visibly lightened and faded the marks. My knees only look strange when I'm cold now, and even then it's not noticeable to anyone but myself. My arms were worse to start with, but they too are smoother and have less hyperpigmentation. I really will buy this stuff forever. 

7. High quality, but still affordable and easy to find. I order from iHerb because it's cheapest there, at $6.08 for 4 oz/118 ml,  and I usually buy two or three bottles at a time ($5 off your first purchase with my referral code, BEH289). It's widely available elsewhere online, at $7.86 from Amazon and $8.45 from drugstore.com. I've seen it in-store at health food stores, Whole Foods and any Bed Bath & Beyond with a health and beauty section.

Giovanni L.A. Hold Hair Spritz

I originally bought this Giovanni hairspray because my mom recommended it, and she is infinitely better at doing hair than I will ever be. Actually, I think she bought it for me. And I guess technically it's a "hair spritz", since Giovanni is an eco-conscious brand and doesn't make aerosol products. The chic packaging (especially for the drugstore!) is recyclable, well-made, and won't look tacky on your bathroom counter. I also appreciate that it's easy to see how much you have left. I am pretty low-maintenance in this department, so I won't embarrass myself by pretending to know anything more than the basics of hair products. I use a little hairspray on a clean E.L.F. mascara wand every day to tame flyways and baby hairs around my hairline, and for that purpose, this stuff is great. I've also used it occasionally to hold a curl, and would describe it as a "soft hold" spray. The fine mist maintains the hair's shape without crunchiness, and you can easily brush it out the next day. The "maximum hold" claim Giovanni makes is relative - the hair spritz lacks the tenacity of heavy-duty aerosol sprays, but as far as "natural" options go, this is about as good as it gets. After all, this probably is going to be the maximum amount of hold you're going to get from such an earth-friendly product. Giovanni L.A. Hold Hair Spritz is $6.11 at iHerb ($5 off your first purchase with my referral code: BEH289), $7.95 on Giovanni's website, $8.49 at drugstore.com, and usually between $8 and $9 in-store at CVS and Whole Foods.

Cattier Paris Pink Clay Mask for Sensitive Skin

I want to preface this post by saying two things:

1. It is very, very unlike me to privately - let alone publicly - form an opinion on a product that I haven't thoroughly and repeatedly used. However, the instant results from this mask are making me break that rule today.

2. This review includes a pretty gross close-up picture of the mask in action. Please navigate away from this page now if you are squeamish, or if you are currently eating strawberry yogurt. 

Clay masks have been off my radar for a few years, ever since some futile experiments with drugstore variations and a brutal encounter with the famous Queen Helene Mint Julep Mask (my skin couldn't handle the menthol). I do have some sebaceous filaments on my nose, but my skin is normally combo-dry so they're not too visible. When I remember, I use BHA and Mario Badescu Silver Powder to minimize them, but most of the time I just don't bother. Obsessing over skin is no healthier than neglecting it, and frankly a few small dark specks on my nose were the least of my skincare problems!

I threw this Cattier Argile Rose Masque in my EasyParapharmacie basket last week because it was rated #1 on beaute-test.com (the top French product review site), is made for sensitive skin, and because the humidity in Germany right now is turning my formerly parched face into an oily, sweaty mess. I wasn't expecting anything special, just hoping for a little purifying action. I thought the ingredients - kaolin clay, aloe vera, shea butter, some stabilizers, and a bit of lactic acid - looked good, plus it was under 4 euros, so what the heck. Peppermint oil is also included, but happily I can neither smell nor feel it.

Starting with the basics, the Masque Argile's texture is very well-formulated. It's thin, easy to spread, and dries and works quickly. I also appreciated how easy it was to rinse off. So many masks are so hard to remove that they inflame the skin they just treated! It smells like clay, but hey, that makes sense. The "rose" in the name refers to the color, not the scent. The important thing is that neither my rosacea nor the other sensitive bits of my face suffered any irritation during or after use.

Five minutes after I slathered the pink goo all over my face, I happened to glance in the bathroom mirror and did a double-take. When I first applied the mask, it was a smooth, even layer on my skin. But in the mirror, I saw this:

As disgusting as it is, all of those spots were from the oil and gunk being pulled out of my pores - gunk that I didn't even know was in there! I certainly hadn't seen it with my naked eye. And this was just after 5 minutes! More and more dots kept appearing as the full fifteen minutes went by. A stubborn clog on my upper lip was also flattened out. When I rinsed the mask off, I thought some pink clay was still trapped in my pores because they were all flesh-colored, but when I swiped a damp cotton pad over my nose it came away clean.  Six hours later, I can definitely confirm those were just clear pores!

I'm just thrilled to have found this cheap little gem that's gentle but so effective at the same time. I've used several products that have reduced the appearance of visible pores, but - until now - never found one that eradicated them  completely (at least for now). Of course, I've still got to use the mask a few more times before I give it HG status, but for now I'm content to bask in the heady glow of my infatuation.

The only downside is that it's tricky to get ahold of if you're not in Europe. Cattier is a common drugstore brand in France, and the rest of Europe can order their whole line of products online from EasyParapharmacie without paying an unfair amount for shipping. LeGuideSante also lists it on their site, but they're out of stock currently. Their shipping isn't bad either within Europe, but although they do ship to the rest of the world, the rates are exorbitant. I've ordered from both companies and been satisfied with my purchases. 
Update: the amazing MUA member becky129 has found the pink clay mask on Amazon for $14.00 for 100ml!

Deborah Lippmann Wicked Game

deborah lippmann wicked game nail polish swatchMy apologies for the obscene number of pictures in this post....I had a seriously hard time trying to capture Wicked Game on camera! And to be fair, one or two photos just aren't enough to show the huge range of colors that this iridescent duochrome contains. It's not at all the type of color that usually attracts me, but for some reason wearing this makes me ok with the fact that my fingertips look like little space beetles.
deborah lippmann wicked game nail polish
deborah lippmann wicked game nail polish swatch
deborah lippmann wicked game nail polish swatchThis is my first Lippmann polish and I'm really impressed by the quality. Frosty, metallic polishes like this often show every imperfection on the nail surface, but Wicked Game's excellent formula minimizes that. I do use a basecoat, but I do that with all my polishes no matter what. Wicked Game is very thin but also quite opaque, so I only have to use two coats. The thin layers means that it's seriously chip-proof. I get less tipwear with this polish than I do with any other brand, and no big chips. It's spendy at $16, and I'd never buy a trendy collection at that price point (I bought this two years ago with a gift card). But I must admit that if Lippmann comes out with one of my all-time favorite colors in this same great formula, I'm going to be tempted to splurge.
deborah lippmann wicked game nail polish swatch
deborah lippmann wicked game nail polish swatch
deborah lippmann wicked game nail polish swatch
Deborah Lippmann Wicked Game is $13.04 on Amazon, and $16 online on her website as well as in-store at Nordstrom, Bloomingdale's, Barney's New York, and Neiman Marcus. 

Mario Badescu Silver Powder

This is a fantastic little treatment for anyone battling oiliness and clogged pores, but especially for those of us who have those problems on top of already sensitive skin! Unlike BHA, the usual fix for skin congestion, it's a simple powder mask with only 3 ingredients. No irritation, and it works much more gently than chemical exfoliants.I don't have oily skin, but I do have sebaceous filaments on my nose and large pores on my cheeks. As we all know, there's no way to permanently shrink pores, but keeping them clean makes them appear smaller. Mario Badescu's Silver Powder absorbs oil and sebum that's gotten stuck in the pores, leaving a clean canvas behind. It's rather strange-looking at first, but quite easy to use. I tip a small amount into the cap, to avoid wetting the rest of the product, and then dip a warm (the warmth is important, I find it helps to loosen oil on the skin and really makes a difference in the effectiveness of the treatment), damp cotton round into the cap. The powder turns into a thick paste on the pad, which I then swipe over my t-zone, focusing on the nose and chin. After fifteen or twenty minutes, I splash water on my face to remove most of the mask, and then use a toner to get rid of the rest.I find that using the Silver Powder once a week really makes my nose and chin area less congested, not only on the day of but for several days after too. Now, tough clogs are still going to need some sort of acid to really come out, but a weekly treatment like this one is a great help. And if you're frustrated by blackheads or sebaceous filaments this is a great preventative measure. One other notable thing about this product is the tremendous value. The cost-per-use is absolutely minuscule. It's not expensive to start with, but you get so much for your money too! I've used my pot at least 25 times in the past year since I bought it and you can see how I've barely made a dent. Yet another reason to appreciate Mario Badescu (have I mentioned that you can fill out a personalized questionnaire online and they'll send you a whole bag of free samples personalized for your skin type?).Mario Badescu Silver Powder is $12 for 1 oz. at their website and Amazon.com, as well as in-store at Ulta, or Nordstrom.

Yes To Blueberries Eye Firming Treatment

I'm mildly embarrassed at how long it took me to figure out that Yes to Blueberries was actually another manifestation of the more well-known Yes to Carrots brand, just with a different star ingredient. I didn't actually know that when I grabbed this from the clearance bin at Bed Bath and Beyond in L.A. (Side note - if your BB&B is one of the lucky few with a health and beauty section, go IMMEDIATELY! They stock absolutely everything and discount all of it. It's like a massive professional beauty supply store up in there.) I've tried and liked a few basic moisturizers from Yes to Carrots, and this eye cream fits into the general impression I had of the brand: very simple, relatively effective products with great packaging.
For the purpose that I bought it - gently refreshing the eye area - the Eye Firming Treatment is perfectly nice. Right out of the pump it looks like a rich cream, but it emulsifies a bit when it hits your skin, making the texture comfortably light and easy to spread without tugging on the delicate eye area. Still, it packs a nice moisturizing punch without being rich enough to cause milia. I love when creams come in well-made pumps or tubes rather than jars - way more hygienic! Yes to Blueberries has certainly succeeded in making a product that's a level above other drugstore eye treatments in overall quality.So, as a straightforward eye cream I'd give it a thumbs up. But let's face it, the anti-aging claims that Yes to Blueberries make here are absolutely ridiculous. There's no "age refreshing" going on, and not one bit of firming. I've got fine wrinkles under my eyes from wearing contacts, and they're unchanged after several months of use. The botanical ingredients are impressively high up on the ingredient list, and the first component is blueberry water, a supposed antioxidant, but they're all just for moisturizing. None of the "actives" that really fight aging are present here. If you have dry skin and don't use a similar product already, just moisturizing your undereye area will make it appear brighter and smoother. And indeed, if you're only looking for a simple, mild eye cream, this is definitely a nice option. But if you're expecting the radical anti-aging effects that Yes to Blueberries is advertising, I think you're going to be disappointed.Yes To Blueberries Age Refresh Eye Firming Treatment is usually $19.99 in-store at drugstores/BB&B/Target, but is available for $15.26 on Amazon. For international buyers, it's also on ASOS but is marked up more than 50%.

Sneak Peak at my Etat Pur Goodies!

etat pur skincare samples micellar apigenin
My mini Etat Pur haul came in the mail yesterday and I'm excited to start trying stuff out! It's very unlike me to buy skincare that I haven't researched and read lots about - and Etat Pur is a new line so there's relatively little objective information out there. I justified my purchase with the knowledge that I'll be back in the U.S. in six weeks and Etat Pur only ships to a few countries in Europe. This way, if I fall in love with anything I'll have ample time to order a backup before I go back home.

Has anyone else heard the buzz around Etat Pur (made by the same company that's responsible for Bioderma and Institut Esthederm)?

Kiehl's Creme de Corps Soy Milk & Honey Whipped Body Butter

You know that saying about the definition of idiocy - how it's epitomized by doing the same thing multiple times and expecting different results?. Well, I can now officially announce that in the next edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, the definition of "idiot" is going to be accompanied by a picture of the Kiehl's logo superimposed on my stupid mug. The number of times I've given them my money for a product that doesn't work is absolutely ridiculous. Finally I am saying NO MORE!

It all started out so innocently (cue video montage of me running through a field of wildflowers in the morning dew). I was drawn to the packaging and the quaint "apothecary approach" to skincare. Plus, every interview in every magazine and blog raved about their products, and, well, the collective beauty consciousness was right about Embryolisse, so why not about Kiehl's?

Well, I still can't understand why people rave about them. The only explanation I can think of is that maybe some things were reformulated after L'Oreal bought them in 2000, and the "indie magic" is now gone from the brand. Their most famous product, the Creme De Corps, felt just like my $3 Palmer's. The Panthenol Protein Moisturizing Face Cream sat on my face and never soaked in, leaving my skin just as dry as before once I'd washed it off. My hair was coarse and strawlike - everything but silky - no matter how many different ways I tried applying Heat-Protective Silk Straightening Cream. The overpowering rotten eucalyptus smell of the Ultimate Strength Hand Salve made me die a little inside. And as for this body butter, it too has a fatal flaw.

At first glance, it looked really promising. The whipped texture isn't something we see too often, and promised to bring heavy-duty moisturization without the heaviness of some traditional body butters. The design is to die for and it even smelled expensive: warm and sophisticated, like coconut milk. And indeed, when I use this on my hands and feet, it leaves them feeling luxuriously velvety. The problem comes whenever I try to apply it anywhere else, like you would expect to do with a, yanno, BODY butter. No matter the condition, level of moisture, or temperature of my skin (yeah, I tested!), it starts balling up the second it hits my body. Seriously, it's disgusting to see and feel little yellow linty things rolling around on your skin. And frankly, it's unacceptable for any product but for especially one this expensive.

Yet another "meh" product from Kiehl's. Seriously, I'm SO done this time. Seriously. I promise. I really mean it. Seriously. Well, maybe after I try those samples I still have of the Midnight Recovery Concentrate and Rosa Arctica face cream . . . oh dear.

Weleda Sea Buckthorn Creamy Body Wash

I learned the hard way that Germans have a big thing for shower gel. My first time doing a foreign exchange here in high school, my host family gave me a tube of scented body wash for Easter and I was SO CONFUSED. I couldn't stop wondering if they thought I was stinky and the gift was some kind of hint for me to shower more often (and I shower every day already!). Fast forward several years and my former host sister sent me Weleda's Sea Buckthorn Body Wash for Christmas. Turns out it's just another cultural quirk - shower products are a popular gift here and there are shelves and shelves of them at every drugstore and cosmetics retailer. That stereotype of Germans being really, really, really clean? Yeah, it's pretty much the whole truth.

I brought this with me to Germany this semester, figuring that hey, Weleda's a German company and I might as well really get in the spirit of living here! Plus it's labeled as creamy and moisturizing and I knew my dry skin was going to need all the help it could get battling the cold weather.

Anecdotal evidence also suggests that sea buckthorn oil can help with keratosis pilaris and eczema, but there's really not enough pure ingredient in this product to make a difference. The main oil is sesame oil, and sea buckthorn is way at the bottom of the list of ingredients. Weleda's Sea Buckthorn Body Oil, which I've tried before and loved, is a much better choice for those looking to heal seriously dry or scaly skin.

This is a likable, well-made product, but not anything too special. Lathers well, leaves skin soft but clean, and has a refreshing herbal citrus scent. I didn't notice any decrease in general skin dryness, though, and I don't think it's outstanding enough to be worth the relatively higher price than your standard drugstore gel. The tube itself is great quality and I like the bright, cheery label (although the 12-year-old boy in me giggled at that "stimulating!" claim), so props to Weleda for not skimping on the packaging.

 If using products that label themselves "natural" is important to you, or you're in love with this particular scent, then the Sea Buckthorn Body Wash is a good bet. As for me, I'm going to have fun finishing my tube, but I don't feel any need to repurchase.

Weleda Sea Buckthorn Creamy Body Wash is $10.41 on Amazon or $9.22 at iHerb ($5 off your first purchase with my referral code: BEH289). 

Avène Hydrance Optimale UV (Legere/Light)

Generally, I'm the opposite of a brand snob. I love trying anything and everything and the more variety the better. The sole exception to that mentality is Avène, because everything I've tried from this French skincare brand has been outstanding. Simple, effective products with a touch of luxury, designed for sensitive skin . . . yes, this would definitely be my desert-island skincare range.

My introduction to the brand was the Hydrance Optimale UV, a daytime moisturizer with added sun protection. I was truly blown away by how good it was. It's discouraging, but in a way I don't ever expect products to do what they claim - I'm always reading reviews and researching beauty purchases online before I buy. But I've come to truly trust Avène, and that's not something I say lightly.

In fact, I've put off writing this review for a while because I knew it would take a long time and I wanted to do the product justice. There are just so many good things to say about it! Finally I just decided to pound out a list.

1. Even using the full recommended amount (1/4 tsp for the face alone), it dries to a satin finish. No stickiness and no shininess. You won't even need to set with powder unless you're very oily, but it's not so matte that applying makeup on top becomes a problem. For those with extremely dry skin, it also comes in Riche.
2. With an SPF of 20 and PPD of around 8, this is good enough for everyday incidental sun exposure.
3. So many "sunscreen/moisturizer-type" products lean too far to one side. Hydrance Optimale is a perfect balance between protection and hydration.
4. I've slept in this while camping (don't judge me, running water was 15 minutes away!) and had no breakouts or irritation the following day.
5. Avène sunscreens are some of the only ones that don't sting when I apply them around the eye area, or even when they get in the eyes accidentally.
6. The smell is pleasant but light, and causes no problems for my sensitive skin. Possibly due to the soothing effects of the famous Avène thermal water, my face actually feels calmer after application.
7. I quite like the packaging, and a tube usually lasts at least three to four months with liberal daily use.

The only downside is that it is a bit pricy. In the U.S. it's around $25 here but in Germany it works out to around $20. The expense is worth it though, and I'm going to repurchase before I go back home. Considering that the drugstore Neutrogena sunscreens that practically burn my face off are $12, I'd rather shell out the extra eight bucks and get a seriously superior cream. The best sunscreen, after all, is the one you like enough to use every day.

A note to anyone interested in purchasing: I bought mine in Europe, where the full product name is Hydrance Optimale UV. In the US, it's called Hydrance Optimale SPF 25. It's important to note the "UV" or "SPF" in the name when you're buying, because Avene also makes sunscreen-free versions both the Legere and Riche, and it's easy to order the wrong product by mistake!

Chanel Le Vernis - Rouge Fatal #487

I have a love-hate relationship with Chanel polishes, especially the reds. It's faintly ridiculous to pay $26.00 for a branded product with an average brush and a hit-or-miss formula. But on the other hand, when Chanel gets the colors right, they are absolutely incomparable. Unbelievably pigmented, unique yet classic shades that draw compliments wherever you go. 

Today I'm wearing Rouge Fatal (#487), a limited edition release from fall 2010. Rouge Fatal is one of my "special occasion polishes" that I always throw in my suitcase when going on vacation - you can see how scratched and well-traveled the cap is!  The intense pigmentation makes it almost like a dye rather than a laquer. That fully-opaque mani in the picture above? That's a one-coater. I usually do two coats just because I like it a little darker, but one is definitely enough if you're short on time.

I have two Chanel reds and I love them dearly. Both were gifts and the memories they bring whenever I look at my hands always make me smile. I'm definitely not going to start a dedicated Chanel collection anytime soon, but some of the colors are simply so special that it's worth putting up with the downsides just to have them on your fingernails.

Boots Amazon Forest Brazil Nut & Vanilla Body Butter

Target’s really stepped it up in the beauty department over the last few years. It’s not only that most beauty and skincare items are significantly discounted, they’ve also got a tidy selection of exclusive brands. One of the largest ranges of products they carry is the house line from Boots, the UK drugstore staple. Why is it that foreign products seem so much more exotic and interesting than our own boring old Olay and Eucerin standbys? I mean, logically I know that it’s just a standard drugstore brand in Britain, but somehow it just seems different.

The scent is the reason I originally bought this; it’s deliciously foody - nutty and vanilla-y with a hint of cookie dough. I also appreciate that it doesn’t have that plastic smell that so many drugstore lotions are cursed with. In terms of moisturizing capabilities, it’s a bit richer than your average lotion, but definitely not a heavy-duty cream.  Although it’s thick, the cream sinks in easily and the smell is not overpowering. The texture is a bit odd and not like any body butter I’ve used before - almost like creamy Jello, as bizarre as that sounds.

I’m not sure I’d repurchase this just because I’m always trying new lotions and creams, but it’s a solid, widely-available body butter for a decent price. And the scent really is practically edible (there’s even a warning on the back that “THIS IS NOT A FOOD”, in case we’re tempted to taste)!

Boots Body Butter is $9.99 for 6.6 oz (200 ml) at Target in-store and on sale online here for $5.99 at Boots USA

Labello Soft Rose Tinted Lip Balm

Writing about disappointing products is just never as much fun as raving about a new favorite. But as we product junkies know, the nature of the addiction is that some things just fail to satisfy that craving. And Labello's attempt at a rose-tinted lip balm is a big fat failure.

First, it's completely insufficient in its basic role as a lip care product. The balm itself is waxy, hard, and left my lips looking and feeling dryer than before I put it on. I'm 20 years old, for goodness sake, my lips shouldn't have THAT many wrinkles.

Additionally, the touted "tint" is nowhere to be seen. I messed around with the lighting while taking these with my DSLR and still couldn't get the giant swatch in the middle of my arm (at least, I think that's where it felt like it was....it's not like I could see it after I applied it) to show up:

This will be easier for some of you to skip, since Labello is only sold in Europe (although the Nivea Lip Care sticks in the U.S. have near-identical formulas and are produced by the same parent company). And even if it's staring you right in the face in the drugstore, skipping it is still the right choice.
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