Saturday, July 27, 2013

Tips for Trying and Buying New Products

Buying cosmetics has become quite a high-involvement process and getting your favorite looks can really pricey :(.  Let's just say that I've bought way too many cosmetics throughout the years.  I've learned a few tricks of the trade along the way that I want to share with you to make the process as simple and rewarding as possible. 

A great starting place when looking for a new foundation, toner, eyeliner, etc. is the Sephora website's advanced search engine.  You simply search the product category that you're looking for (i.e. blush) and then you can filter the results by a bunch of different criteria including ingredients preferences, skin type, price range, and age.  This will give you an idea as to some of the products that will work for you.

Once you've narrowed down the selection, the best place to learn more about products that you are curious about trying is brand videos.  Look on YouTube for QVC presentations and brand videos.  You will both hear and see product results.  These videos often explain how to use the product as well as its discuss key features and much more detail than a website or a product package.  Next, read consumer reviews on retailer websites and blogs (company website reviews may be controlled by the company) to see if the product is everything that the brand makes it out to be. 

Tips to keep in mind when trying new products: 

1.  Sephora accepts opened and gently used returns with a receipt because they end up using them for testers.  So try it!  If you don't like a product, you can always return it.

2.  Ask for samples.  Most non-drugstore brands offer samples.  Stores like Sephora and Blue Mercury as well as department stores offer samples of their skincare products upon request...just ask a sales associate!  You can also get them from many of the actual company websites.  Some of them will send you samples for free and others ask you to pay a small fee (usually a few dollars) for samples.  Ultimately, products have different levels of effectiveness for different people.  Before you invest in expensive serums and creams, make sure that they work on you.  Samples are a great way to do so.

3.  For those of you, who like to try new products for a friendly price, opt for beauty box subscriptions.  Beauty boxes are the latest beauty craze.  How do they work?  You pay a monthly subscription fee and fill out a profile on the website.  Based on your skin type and beauty needs and interests, the company will send you a customized delivery of deluxe samples from various brands ranging from nail polish to hair dye to lipgloss to eye cream.  Birchbox (only $10/month) is the biggest name in the business right now, but check out this page to see other beauty box options:  You can also try Yuzen Box, which specializes in samples of natural products.  The benefits?  No more wasting money on full size products you may only use a few times, and you will discover cool products you wouldn't ordinarily have found yourself.

For the products you know, love, and buy habitually:

1.  Buy online.  If you know what you're shopping for, it can be a lot cheaper to buy your products online.  Retailers like Dermstore and Skinstore often offer 15% off coupons for spending a certain amount, and they ship for free!  They also carry a variety of brands including smaller indy lines found in boutiques, department store brands, and brands from Sephora.  In fact, is the best if you want to order both mass and prestige items.  This means that you can get everything that you need from one place and don't have to visit multiple stores to get your collection of the best products. Remember to look for blowout's a great opportunity to stock up on the essentials.  Many cosmetics lines do annual sales on discount sites like HauteLook, where they have one-day sales of up to 75% off on their products.  It's a great way to get your hands on expensive products without the hefty price. 

2.  Have you walked into Walgreens to buy your favorite eyeshadow only to find that it's been discontinued?  Drugstore makeup brands have a fixed amount of space on store walls.  Each year, they launch new products, meaning that they need to delete existing products to make space for the new at the walls.  Walls get updated around February of every year.  If you see your products on a permanent mark-down in the fall and winter, it's probably a goner and won't be returning to the wall.  So, stock up while you can!

3.  Get rewarded for your purchases.  Sephora, Ulta, and Blue Mercury have rewards programs, where you receive points for spending money.  If you join, you can receive birthday gifts and coupons.  At Sephora, you can even trade in your points for goodies (I just earned an Origins travel set with a mini eye cream, face wash, anti-aging serum, and SPF moisturizer...perfect for my beach vacation this summer).  Who doesn't love freebies?

Hope that helps!  Any other tips on trying and buying products? 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Finding Your Perfect Foundation

There are so many different foundation products on store shelves.  How do you choose the perfect one?

First, it's important to understand the terms.   

Consistency:  Foundation comes in 3 main forms - cream/stick, powder, and liquid.  Creams tend to be a little bit thicker and generally come in a stick or compact, allowing for more buildable coverage.  If you are only using foundation on certain areas of your face, creams are good, though some formulas may be too heavy for oily skin.  Powder foundations can come in a loose or pressed form.  Although they are often associated with subtle coverage and mattefying properties, there are definitely some powder foundations that are great for dry skin and offer heavier coverage.  Liquid foundations are lotion-like and come in a large variety of different looks and types.

Coverage:  When you're shopping for foundation, check the packaging or ask a sales associate about the level of coverage that a foundation will offer you.  Full coverage products are heavier foundations that conceal the most, while sheer coverage adds only a little bit of color, and medium coverage is somewhere in between.  For those of you, who need foundation to conceal a lot of redness, blemishes, or sunspots, look for a full or medium coverage level.  If you are using foundation to simply even out your complexion, try a product with sheer coverage.

Skin Type:  Some foundations contain oil, while others are oil-free.  If you have oily, combination, or blemish-prone skin, you should
definitely opt for an oil-free foundation.  Non oil-free foundations are ideal for mature or drier skin types.  The majority of people have combination skin, so brands usually like to advertise the fact that a foundation is free of oil.  Thus, unless a foundation says oil-free or water-based, you can assume that it does contain some type of oil.  

Finish:  Foundations have 1 of 3 finishes.  A matte finish will leave you will a powdered, shine-free, porcelain look like Kate Middleton

or Taylor Swift.  Alternatively, a dewy finish will give you a luminous and shimmer-like glow.  For example, celebrities like Jennifer Lopez or Hayden Panettierre often wear foundation with a dewy finish.  If you want to achieve a dewy finish, a liquid foundation will be your best bet.  Lastly, a satin finish is somewhere in between and perhaps the most natural-looking, offering a slight and subtle glow.  Jennifer Aniston rocks this look a lot.  Check out Mila Kunis with her satin finish on the red carpet.    

...keeping this in mind - I've created a little diagram with some product suggestions for different combinations of these factors to help you find a great product for your individual needs.  Websites like Temptalia also make some great tools for finding foundation.  The only difference with this one is that all of the products that I have listed are paraben and phthalate-free Yay!  I haven't tried all of them, so I can't attest to their level of effectiveness (how long-lasting it is, if it's easy to apply, etc.).  But I have tried many great foundations, which I tried to include in this post.

For those of you, who like sheer coverage, you can always try an airbrush foundationMaybelline Dream Nude Airfoam ($9.99) is a great drugstore buy, or try Sephora Perfection Mist Airbrush Foundation ($26).  These products have air incorporated into them so that they feel super light-weight. 

Since everyone's skin is different, the efficacy level of each foundation will vary with each person.  Hopefully, now you a starting place when it comes to finding a great foundation and a better idea of what to look out for!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Make Your Makeup Last All Day Long

What do heat, cold, humidity, the wind, physical activity, and oil production have in common?  They can all wear and tear on our makeup, leading to creasing, caking, and fading.  Yuck!  Luckily, there are a few steps you can take to preserve your morning face throughout the day.  Check it out:

Seal:  Sometimes, when I opt for a softer look or a liner that I can blend with my eyeshadow, I use a pencil liner or dark eyeshadow as a liner.  These techniques help me achieve a nice look, but by the end of the day, there's barely any liner left on my eyes.  The best way to give it the staying power of a liquid liner is by sealing any pencil or powder liner with a shadow-to-liner potion.  Companies like Makeup Forever and Bare Escentuals make this product, which comes in a squeeze bottle and instantly turns your powder eyeshadow into a liquid liner.  How does it work?  You simply squeeze a drop of the solution into your eyeshadow, rub the area with your eyeliner brush, and then apply it to your eyes.  Personally, I've found that using these products in this way isn't very effective.  The solution ends up diluting the color and making the liner watery and difficult to apply.  Furthermore, these products damage your eyeshadow so that you can't ever use it as an eyeshadow again.  Instead, I like to apply my eyeshadow or pencil liner and then apply the solution over it as a seal, which is why I love the Too Faced Liquif-Eye Eyeliner ($16.20 on  Rather than a squeeze bottle, it comes in a tube with a wand so that you can use it brush the solution over your liner.  You can also use the Too Faced seal over smudge-prone pencil liners.

Primers:  Before you apply your eyeshadow, smooth some eyeshadow primer over your lid.  Primer acts as a sticky surface for your makeup to hold onto.  You'll find that you won't have to touch up your eye makeup as often and less eyeshadow particles will fall onto your face or into your eyes during applications.  Some formulas can be a little watery, so I use the Smashbox Photo Finish Lid Primer ($20 at Sephora).  It has a great, creamy formula and comes with a wand for easy application.  And the formula is paraben and phthalate-free!  The same goes for the rest of your face.  Before you apply your foundation, add some face primer.  Similar to eyeshadow primer, face primer will help your foundation or powder cling to your skin and hold it on for longer.  Face primers leave your skin with a velvety finish, which makes it easier to smooth makeup over your face  (less pulling on your skin = fewer signs of aging).  Even if you don't wear complexion correcting makeup, you can wear a primer over your moisturizer.  Many primers create a skin protecting barrier and help even out your skin tone.  My favorite primer is the silky, oil-free Alison Raffaele Face Forward Primer with SPF 15 ($44 on It works well by prepping my skin for makeup and keeping it looking fresh all day long.  Another plus is that it offers some great skin benefits with mineral SPF, the poweful frutta di vita antioxidant protection complex, and anti-aging peptides.  Like all Alison Raffaele products, the primer formula is natural and toxin-free.
Setting Powder:  "Setting your face" is like sealing your face.  Foundations and concealers are sticky so that they stick to your face (obviously).  It makes sense...but that means that it can also stick to your face and clothes throughout the day.  Setting powders are usually
loose, colorless powders that give your foundation and concealer something to hold it onto so that it does not decide to grab onto your hands or clothes throughout the day.  Another function of setting powder is to absorb oil, which can cause makeup to crease or cake.  Since setting powders are clear, you can apply it over blush, highlighter, and bronzer and reapply it over your makeup during the day to get rid of excess oil that has developed.  Remember to apply some around your eye area to keep your under-eye concealer and eyeshadow from traveling.  You can use colored powders to set your skin, but they are often not as effective.  Any powders with pigment will have larger particles and a creamier feel.  This means that they will help hold your makeup throughout the day, but they are also more likely to cake and less able to absorb oil than an actual setting powder.  Look for talc-free formulas like the Alison Raffaele Transparent Finish Powder ($28 on 

Setting Spray:  Complete your look with a setting spray.  The two main ones on the market are made by Urban Decay and Makeup Forever.  Be careful!  The Make Up For Ever one contains parabens, so I prefer the Urban Decay All-Nighter Long-Lasting Makeup Setting Spray ($29 at Sephora), which also comes in different varieties for various skin concerns.  It also sprays nicer than the Makeup Forever one does.  Different sprays work to protect your makeup differently.  The Urban Decay one lowers the temperature of your makeup to shield it from environmental stressors like heat or cold to prevent your makeup from caking or fading. 

In addition to these products, make sure that you hydrate hydrate hydrate!  Your skin will lose moisture during the day.  Makeup relies on moisture from your skin to stay on.  Many foundations actually work by pulling moisture from your skin and begin to cake can when your skin starts running low on water.  Start off each morning by moisturizing your face - a moisturized face will also help your makeup stick when you apply it.  To replenish your moisture reserve during the day, spritz your face with some Evian Mineral Water Spray ($12 at Sephora) every few hours.  It's especially refreshing in the summer, and you can even spray it over makeup.