Category Archives: beauty reviews

She Says: Favorite Things, Part Deux


First things first- don’t panic! If you happened to miss the first part of my Favorite Things, you can still check it out at ReDeemed, where I was a guest blogger recently! 

My ReDeemed blog covered must-haves regarding makeup and hair care. Although those are two very important pieces of the glamour puzzle, they can’t do much for you when you are rolling out of bed at 6am. Luckily there are products out there that can reduce the horrifying effects of looking in the mirror at the crack of dawn. For instance, a clear complexion, white teeth and a tanned body are aspects of beauty that do not disappear when the makeup comes off and the hair is brushed out. If you wake up late for work and do not have time to do the 2 hour beauty routine, at least you still have good skin and a great smile. For this reason, I am actually dubbing skin care as more important than makeup. Yes, I said it! Now, don’t get me wrong, buying a new eye cream is certainly not as exhilarating as picking out a new eye shadow, but it is certainly more beneficial.

At the ripe old age of 27, I cannot say that my expertise in this area is as great as it will be someday, but I am definitely starting to see the effects of all my tanning-bed years and I have tried enough products to know what works!

So, let’s get to it!

Skin Care:

  • Face washPhilosophy Purity
    I love a face wash that takes it all off!  Purity removes mascara without burning your eyes or harshly drying your skin.
  • Eye creamBliss The Youth As We Know It
    Let me start off by saying that I am not one to spend $75 on an eye cream, but I managed to get my hands on this one as a “deluxe sample” through Sephora (they throw one of those your way every once in a while as a “Thanks for spending ½ your paychecks in our store.”) and let me tell you, it’s fabulous! Everyone has their own eye issues, be it dark circles, lines or puffiness. Unfortunately I’ve been cursed with the Santa Claus bags. Not many products reduce my puffiness, but this one does the job better than anything else I’ve tried.
  • Night creamOlay Regenerist
    I have always had problems finding a night cream that was moisturizing enough to ward off wrinkles, but also wouldn’t break me out. I have relatively oily skin and most night creams tend to do more damage than good to my skin, but this one is a nice balance for me.
  • Day moisturizerClinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Gel
    The key word here is gel! I am not a fan of the original Clinique moisturizer, but the gel is perfect for my aforementioned oily skin! It gives just enough moisture to my slightly dry cheeks but doesn’t leave a greasy residue.
  • TonerClinique Clarifying Lotion
    Not really sure why exactly Clinique calls this product a lotion. It’s a toner in my book. Regardless, it really smoothes out skin and gets off any leftover makeup. My face is just not the same when I am out of this stuff (which is rarely)!
  • Exfoliant  – Dr. Brandt Microdermabrasion Exfoliating Cream
    This is another product that I came across via Sephora’s deluxe sample offers. Luckily I have been able to make it last a very long time and have not had to shell out the $75 myself…yet! It takes a very tiny amount to leave your skin feeling incredibly soft and renewed! Yes, it can be uncomfortable to grind all those tiny little particles into your skin, but no pain, no gain!
  • MaskBeautiControl Fango Seaweed Mask
    It’s green, it’s grainy, it’s silkening, and it’s fabulous. I alternate the seaweed mask and the microderm cream (above) every week and they last forever!


Random Products:

  • Teeth whitenerCrest White Strips Premium
    I have used Crest White Strips for about 8 years now and they amaze me every time! I much prefer the premium over the classic. At about $15 more, the premium work much faster and only have to be worn for one week instead of two. I have purchased the classic a couple of times and I always call it quits before I make it through the whole box. The strips make your teeth very sensitive and they just aren’t very fun, so I would much rather spend a little more and only endure the inconvenience for a week.  Use every 6 months for a blinding smile!
  • Self tannerSun Laboratories Self Tanning Lotion
    I honestly do not even remember how I came across this obscure brand of self tanner, all I know is that I have been loyal to it for 5 years! It is more expensive than popular drugstore brands, but I will pay extra to avoid looking like an oompa loompa. This is going to sound weird, but the lotion has a bit of a greenish tint which counteracts the typical orange glow and leaves skin a beautiful bronze. The lotion itself is extremely dark so you can see where it has been applied and helps you blend it in perfectly to avoid streaks. I personally like the Very Dark shade, but they also offer Dark and Medium.
  • Lash enhancerPeter Thomas Roth Lashes To Die For
    Let me start off by saying that I have not yet tried Latisse, the popular new prescription lash grower. I am going to assume that it is really the best, but at about $120 for a one month supply (not counting the charge for the dermatologist appointment to obtain the prescription), I don’t think I’ll be giving it a go anytime soon. But, I have tried a couple other lash enhancers and so far my favorite is definitely Lashes To Die For. It is $125 for a three month supply and it really works! I didn’t notice an incredible thickening, but it did make my lashes considerably longer!
  • Dry shampooOscar Blandi Pronto
    Have you ever overslept a little bit and ended up going to work with yucky hair? You needed Pronto. I cannot rave enough about this stuff!  It is incredible!  I wash my hair every other day, otherwise it dries out. Unfortunately it’s not looking all that great at the end of day two.  That’s when Pronto comes in. It certainly should not take the place of regular hair washing (gag!), but it is perfect for a quick fix! Just sprinkle a little on your scalp and rub in or brush through. Just don’t put too much or you’ll look like you dumped baby powder on your head. The right amount absorbs oil and gives your roots awesome volume! (And yes, this should have gone in my last blog about hair care favs. I am ashamed to say that it somehow slipped my mind!)
  • Nail polish top coatN.Y.C. Super Shiny
    Several years ago when I was in cosmetology school, the girls in my class somehow discovered that this $.99 cheapola top coat is amazing! I’ve compared it to OPI, China Glaze and others and nothing that I’ve tried keeps nail polish from chipping like N.Y.C.
  • Hair removal – uuuummmm…
    I am actually still on the hunt for the best hair removal product or procedure. Right now I stick to shaving with a regular razor and regular soap. Riveting info, I know. So since I don’t have any breaking news in hair removal, let me go ahead and clue you in on what doesn’t work.
    The NoNo – This is a device that Sephora sells for $99 ($250 when I bought it last year). I returned it after about three months of use with zero results.
    Nair – Smells horrible, burns and doesn’t even get skin near as smooth as shaving.
    Waxing – At home waxing is not a good idea if you are a Chewbacca like me. It just doesn’t work and it’s painful. Professional waxing definitely works, but it is expensive, painful and the grow-back time is very inconvenient. Who wants to wear hair pants for 3-4 weeks until you can go get waxed again? Personally, 1-2 weeks of hairlessness is not worth 3-4 weeks of nastiness.
    Professional Laser Hair Removal – A few years ago I managed a spa that offered this service, so I was fortunate enough to receive the treatments (worth thousands) for free. I had about 5 separate sessions on my lower legs, bikini line and underarms. At the time I thought it was a godsend.  It was a little painful, but the hair would “fry” and fall out within a couple days, not to return until the next cycle of hair grew in a couple weeks later, when I would get another treatment! Well, long story short, the results had completely dissipated about a year after the treatments stopped. I now shave every single day, once again. Oh, and it can be dangerous. I ended up in the ER with second degree burns after my last treatment, but that is another story for another day.

I hope my trial and error help you find which beauty products/services are right for you! In the mean time, fake it ‘til you make it! A confident smile is always a great beautifier!

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Hollywood Hair How-to

Do you ever have one of those hair days when you seriously consider ordering a Dolly Parton wig? (She honestly has her own line of big, blonde wigs. For a good time, Google the ads from the 80’s) Well, you might not literally want to look like a Steel Magnolia, but most women have two areas that they would like to be considered “voluptuous”, and Dolly is a good example because she just so happens to have both! Fortunately it is a tad easier to accomplish voluptuous hair than to attain the other.

The sexy hair of today belongs to the likes of Jessica Simpson, Carrie Underwood and Eva Longoria. Each of these ladies seems to favor the long, curled, voluminous Hollywood styles that average women envy. Of course these girls have professional hairstylists and expensive products at their disposal, but the most vital secret weapon in a starlet’s beauty arsenal is certainly extensions.

When you think extensions, don’t picture a braided-in weave. The hair extensions that are best for European hair (non-ethnic hair) consist of hundreds of separate, tiny little strands that are “bonded” (a nice word for hot-glued) into your hair near the scalp. This procedure works beautifully and is definitely the way to go if you have several hours and several hundred dollars to spare. As your hair grows out, so do the extensions, so not only do you have the large cost of the initial appointment, but of course this requires a lot of upkeep and touch ups. So basically, unless you have an abundance of time and money, this option may not work for you.

If you are desperate for thicker or longer hair, your next best bet just might be the Jessica Simpson line of at-home hair extensions called Hairdo. They are clip in extensions that are relatively easy to do on your own, come in a variety of different colors to match your own hair and can be found at stores like Ulta. Hairdo also makes a line of 100% natural human hair extensions that can be custom cut and colored by your hair stylist, although of course these do cost more and are not as easy to find. Now here comes the bubble burst. Not just anyone can slap on a long, wavy, glamorous extension piece and look like Jessica herself. For instance, if you have super thin, fine hair, the extension piece will more than likely be seen through your hair. If you have a short, stacked bob haircut, long extensions are a no go. Your natural hair will not blend with the extension and you’ll end up looking like you have a mushroom on your head. Color can also be an issue since these synthetic hairpieces cannot be dyed to match your own color. Keep those things in mind and only venture into extensions if they really look natural on you. The only thing worse than bad hair is a bad hairpiece!

Ok, so maybe you can do extensions, maybe you cannot. I personally prefer to forgo the possibility of my husband romantically caressing my hair, only to get his fingers all tangled up in my weave. That being said, I stick to big hair basics: teasing comb, curling iron and lots of hairspray.

Here’s how it works:

• Start by shampooing and conditioning your hair with volumizing products. A new cheapy favorite of mine is the TREsemme 24 Hour Body collection.

• Apply some volumizing mousse or root lift to your roots and comb through the ends. Blow dry your hair (letting your hair dry naturally is the worst thing you can do if you want volume) by using a brush to lift the roots or just flipping your head upside down. Make sure the hair is completely dry.

• Tease, tease, tease! Do not be afraid of backcombing! Section off the mid-top portion of your hair and just rat up that part. Take small sections, tease, then add another small section to it so it all becomes one big ol’ mat. Spray a little hairspray on the underside of the roots after you tease. When you reach the very top of your head where you part your hair, ease up a little on the teasing so you won’t see it there. It will look like a disaster at this point, but just wait for the end result before you get all worked up about Loretta Lynn staring back at you in the mirror.

• Use a 1 or 1 ½ inch curling iron to make your curls or waves. Section off your hair by pulling it all up on top of your head and securing with a clip. Starting at the nape of your neck, take down a horizontal section all the way around your head that is about 1-2 inches, depending on how thin or thick your hair is or how big or small you want your curls. Starting on one side and working around to the opposite side, take a small section of that hair and place your curling iron towards the top of the shaft (do not start at the ends). Clamp the iron closed on the upper shaft and start rotating the iron, slightly loosening the clamp as you go to allow the hair to move through. When you reach the ends, your entire strand should be wrapped around the curling iron with your ends secured under the clamp. Repeat this throughout your section until all pieces are curled. Take down another section and continue. It can be complicated at first, but the more you do it the easier and faster it becomes. Once you have the hang of it, thick hair should not take any more than 35 minutes.

• Toss your curls to loosen them up and spread them out with your fingers. I like to rub a dab of hair serum on my hands during this step as to not end up making fly-aways or frizzies. Once you have the curls and the top both the way you want it…

• Hairspray! Lift your curls and spray underneath as well as on top. Use your hands to scrunch your curls while spraying for even more volume. (The serum on the hands really helps in this step too so your hair doesn’t stick to your hands.)

Voila! Hollywood hair!


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Dewey Makeup 101

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Why is it that when fall and winter roll around, we find ourselves piling on the concealer, pancake makeup and layer upon layer of loose powder? Could it be Halloween that inspires us to conjure up the spirit of Mary Kay, circa 1994? All spring and summer we have been fresh faced, sun kissed, dewy, and natural, but as Labor Day approaches, women feel the need to break out the ivory foundation and matte lipstick. As we inch closer to Thanksgiving, the chalkier we become. We resemble department store mannequins until about Easter, when we finally scrape our faces clean once again. Well, ladies, the cakey look will not be making an appearance this season.  Fall 2009 is taking a luminous turn.

Since the dewy look is apparently here to stay (for now), it’s probably a good time to talk about how to achieve this look without appearing greasy or too barefaced.

The two most vital products needed in order to achieve that glow are a sheer foundation and either a cream blush or a cheek stain.

One of my favorite “cheapy” foundations is Cover Girl’s TruBlend. It gives enough coverage to even out skin tone, but does not settle on top of the skin and in pores and lines like most foundations do. If you don’t need much coverage at all, a tinted moisturizer is also a good option. Smashbox Shear Focus is an awesome tinted moisturizer that also offers SPF 15 protection. If you’re on a real budget, simply mix your own liquid foundation with your moisturizer for a similar result.

The best cheek stain that I have come across is Benefit Posietint. Apply it to the apples of your cheeks for a sheer pink glow. (Tip: Posietint can also be used as a lip stain, just apply a little bit of gloss on top to add some sheen.) If you aren’t in the market for a $28 cheek stain, try applying your own blush and then dabbing a tiny (I do mean tiny) amount of hair serum, clear lip gloss or Vaseline on the apples of your cheeks. This will allow you to control how much glow you want, although remember that the goal is to have a subtle glow, not to look like a fry cook at KFC.

Lastly, if you have oily skin and cannot part with your pressed powder compact, try using rice sheets or Clean & Clear Oil Absorbing Sheets instead. These sheets are very inexpensive and absorb oil without removing makeup or leaving you with a dull, powdered look.

Well, ladies, that concludes Dewy Makeup 101. Have fun experimenting with your fall makeup looks and remember less is more!

~ Courtney


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