Monday, September 30, 2013

Are you a part of the BB bandwagon or CC crew?

Beauty for Life wouldn't be a beauty blog without at least 1 post about BB and CC cremes.  So here it is:

If you haven't heard, BB's have been the latest buzz in beauty within the past few years. Although they've been around in Asia for a while, they made it over to the Western world around 2 years ago.  Companies ranging from Palmer's to Chanel have branched out to make these facial products.  Overall, they offer a few more benefits than tinted moisturizers do.  Like tinted moisturizers, BB's and CC's are hydrating and may provide SPF protection. How are they different?  First, BB's and CC's provide a slightly heavier coverage than a tinted moisturizer, which offers a sheerer coverage.  They also combine multiple skincare products - moisturizer (hydrates), primer (protects and smoothes), serum (repairs and protects, foundation (blurs imperfections and evens skin tone) - into one, easy step.  

The amount of coverage as well as the finish (dewy, matte, natural, satin, etc.) will vary based on a brand and/or product.  In addition, both the number and types of skin benefits such as anti-oxidant protection or radiance boosting, which you would get from a serum, will vary by brand and/or product. For example, the REN Satin Perfection BB Cream Sunscreen ($38 at Sephora) has photo-rejuvenation technology to diminish the look of fine lines, while the Dr. Brandt CC Glow Broad Spectrum SPF 30 ($39 at Sephora) has brightening ruby crystal complex and vitamin C. 

Then, how are BB's different than CC's?  Essentially, BB or beauty/blemish balm, and CC or complexion correcting creams are very similar.  The only differences are, compared to BB's, the focus of CC's are on color correction for issues like redness or dark spots, meaning that they often have slightly heavier coverage, a lighter feel, and contain more vitamin C than BB's.  On the other hand, BB's have a little bit of a lighter coverage and generally have the advantage when it comes to antioxidants and age-slowing ingredients.

Here are some of my recommendations broken out by skin type.  Just FYI all of these products are toxin-free and are formulated with physical sunblocks.

Unfortunately, there aren't a ton of healthy BB's and CC's on drugstore shelves currently.  The ones that I do really like are the Physicians Formula Super BB All-In-1 Beauty Balm Cream SPF 30 ($15 at Ulta) and the oil-free Maybelline Dream Fresh BB 8-In-1 Beauty Balm Skin Perfector SPF 30 ($9 at Ulta).  For a CC cream, try the Yes to Grapefruit Correct & Repair CC Cream SPF 18 ($16 at Ulta).  

Recently, some new types of CC products have launched on the market:
In addition, BB/CC's have been branching out to other products besides just creams.  Tarte makes a BB Tinted Treatment 12-Hour Primer Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Sunscreen ($34 at Sephora), and Physicians Formula makes a Super BB All-In-1 Beauty Balm Concealer ($14 at Ulta). One thing to watch out for is the use of the terms, "BB" or "CC."  Usually, when we throw these terms around, they refer to a tinted facial moisturizer product.  However, sometimes these terms are slapped on products to describe their complexion correcting benefits even though they may not actually be providing coverage.  For example, the Ole Henriksen Perfect Truth CC Eye Cream is a sheer cream that simply eliminates dark circles under the eye area.  So make sure the label says pigmented!

I think that BB/CC creams are a must-have for every girl.  Why?  Well, moisturizers with SPF are a must in the mornings.  For those of you, who use foundation on top, a CC will combine the moisture and coverage steps into one.  For those of you, who don't wear facial makeup, replace your regular moisturizer with a BB.  Just make sure that like with all sun protective creams, you apply an adequate amount.  BB/CC's are often healthier for your skin (allow it to breathe and offer protective benefits) and easier to apply (no brush or sponge necessary).  Plus, a hint of color never hurts!  

Personally, I opt for a BB for daily wear and foundation for special occasions because even though BB's offer good coverage, I find that they still don't cover as well as a traditional foundation.  And hey!  I don't forget about tinted moisturizers.  They're great for layering under foundation or as a light-weight moisturizers with sheer coverage on a hot day.

In the end, by merging the worlds of skincare and makeup together, BB/CC's are a part of the recent growing trend of makeup that's good for your skin.  And watch out!  DD's, which stands for dynamic do-all, are coming next with even more benefits in 1 tube.  By combining the anti-oxidant power of BB's and the color correction of CC's and adding even more powerful anti-aging technologies, they bring you the best of both worlds.  Brands like Dermadoctor ($38 at Sephora) and Pur Minerals ($35 at Ulta) already produce a DD cremes.

Are you a BB, CC, or DD kind of gal? 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Swapping Baby Oil for Olive Oil: Healthy Substitutions for Popular Unhealthy Beauty Products - Part 2

In May, I did a post on how to substitute some popular, unhealthy beauty products with healthier alternatives.  I was inspired by the articles that I've seen in health magazines like Shape and Weight Watchers, where nutritionists tell you how to replace fattening snacks with healthier options.  Anyways, many of my followers requested another "swapping" post.

So, by popular demand, here's round two :)

1.  If you love Johnson's Original Baby Oil ($6 at drugstores)...then try Bertolli Classico
100% Pure Olive Oil ($10 at grocery stores).
Many of us like to use baby oil to remove makeup or hydrate our skin.  Baby oil is essentially mineral oil or petrolatum, which can promote skin damage rather than skin repair.  Olive oil has the same makeup-removing and hydrating properties but without the petrolatum.  In addition, the olive will help protect against free radicals and irritants.  It will even condition your eyelashes if you use it as a makeup remover.

2.  If you love bareMinerals Original Foundation Broad Spectrum SPF 15 ($27 at Sephora)...then try Bellapierre Mineral Foundation ($65
Although I love bareEscentual products, I am actually not a fan of their mineral foundation.  I know it's odd because mineral foundation is the brand's core competency, and they basically invented the concept.  In my opinion, they may have been the first to do mineral makeup, but they aren't the best.  I've found that the formula can be difficult to smooth over skin and cakes after a few hours.  But more importantly, the bareMinerals foundations contain bismuth oxychloride.  Other brands like Jane Iredale and Pur Minerals that also produce mineral makeup don't contain this toxin, and Bellapierre produces a foundation in a loose powder form that is similar to the bareMinerals one.

3.  If you love Make Up For Ever Mist & Fix ($29 at Sephora)...then try Urban Decay All-Nighter Long-Lasting Makeup Setting Spray ($29 at Sephora).
Currently on the market, the two most popular facial sprays for setting your makeup are made by Make Up For Ever and Urban Decay.  Although both work really well, only the Urban Decay one is paraben-free.  While the Make Up For Ever one protects your makeup by covering it with a thin, invisible film, the Urban Decay one preserves your makeup by lowering its temperature.

4.  If you love Benefit Cosmetics Benetint ($30 at Sephora)...then try Josie Maran Coconut Watercolor Cheek Gelee ($22 at Sephora).
Cheek tints are a great way to add a healthy glow to your complexion.  Compared with
traditional blush, they are a little bit more natural looking and can be easier to apply.  The Josie Maran cheek tint is a very nice product that launched only a few months ago.  Unlike the Benefit one, it is paraben-free and contains coconut, which is excellent for your skin (hydrates and provides antioxidant protection).  Both the Benefit and Josie Maran products come in a variety of glamorous colors.

5.  If you love Philosophy The Present Invisible Skin Perfector & Oil-Free Makeup Primer ($29 at Sephora)...then try Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer Light ($36 at Sephora).
When it comes to prime time, swap Philosophy for Smashbox.  Made with a water-based formula, the Smashbox light primer is great for oily skin like the Philosophy one is, but without the parabens.

6.  If you love Freeman Feeling Beautiful Cucumber Facial Peel-Off Mask ($4 at drugstores)...then try Yes to Cucumbers Soothing Calming Facial Mask ($15 at drugstores).
Cucumber can be a really nice soothing treat for your skin, but the Freeman cucumber mask contains two types of parabens.  Next time you buy a cucumber mask, reach for the Yes to Cucumbers one.  All of the Yes to products are free of harmful ingredients and can be conveniently found at drugstores, where you would buy the Freeman masks.

7.  If you love Colgate Total Toothpaste ($6 at drugstores)...then try Mario Badescu Drying Lotion ($17 at Nordstrom).
One of the oldest, quick-fix beauty tricks is dabbing a little toothpaste on a zit before you go to bed so that by morning, the alcohol will have dried it out.  The problem is that although toothpaste dries out your zit, it also dries out your skin, leaving it hard and red.  Specifically, Colgate Total contains dangerous triclosan.  The Drying Lotion is also an overnight-spot treatment that dries out your pimple in a more gentle way.  When you wake up in the morning, your zit will be gone, and your skin won't be all red and crusty.

8.  If you love Dial Antibacterial Deodorant Soap ($3 at drugstores for a pack of 3)...then try Tom's of Maine Daily Moisture Natural Beauty Bar Soap ($5 at drugstores for a pack of 2).
One of the most popular soap brands is Dial.  Unfortunately, its products contain harmful triclocarbon.  Instead, try the Tom's of Maine natural soaps.  The Natural Beauty Bar soap features sage, which naturally gives it the same deodorizing qualities that the Dial one has.  And it leaves your skin feeling just as soft!

9.  If you love Neutrogena Visibly Bright Daily Facial Cleanser ($6 at drugstores)... then try 100% Pure Jasmine Skin Brightening Facial Cleanser ($19 at Look Boutiques).
Neutrogena is a leader in face cleanser production.  But next time you reach for one, watch out because most of them use harsh sulfates.  With the 100% Pure product, licorice and fruit acids will give you the same radiance booster as the Neutrogena one but without the skin-damaging agents.

10.  If you love Aveeno Protect + Hydrate Lotion Sunscreen SPF 50 ($11 at Ulta)...then try Aveeno Natural Protection Lotion Sunscreen SPF 50 ($11 at Ulta).
I really like Aveeno sunscreens for multiple reasons.  Brands like Banana Boat smell really sunscreen-like, and Neutrogena products make me be break out.  The Aveeno ones are light, moisturizing, and calming.  However, Aveeno's non-natural sunscreen contains oxybenzone, which is a potential toxin.  So, next time, try the Natural Protection lotion.  It's not only toxin-free, but also uses zinc oxide and titanium dioxide as natural UV fighters that are more effective than the chemical sunscreens found in the Protect + Hydrate lotion.  Plus these products are the same price, found on same store shelves, have the same SPF...healthy swapping couldn't get any easier! 

Hope this helps you make more some healthy substitutions!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Treating Acne Naturally - Is it possible?

If you have oily, blemish-prone skin like mine, preventing pimples is a big part of your skincare process.  One myth that I hear a lot is that you can't treat acne with natural products.  What's my take on the subject?  I think that you can't treat severe acne (the type that requires prescription ointments or pills) holistically.  But mild to moderate acne, which you would typically battle with your classic over-the-counter Oxy, Stridex, Clearasil, etc., can definitely be treated with natural products.  In fact, if typical drugstore products aren't working for you, you should try using natural products before you see a dermatologist about prescription options.  

Why?  The problem with many over-the-counter mass acne products is that they can be very aggressive.  In fact, many of them use sulfates or alcohol as agents to dry oil and clean pores, but they are often so harsh that they can strip your skin of even good, natural oils.  As a result, your skin can become irritated and inflamed, stimulating the formation of pimples.  Overdrying your skin by using these products can also lead your skin to overproduce oil.  All of these factors may prevent typical drugstore products from clearing up blemishes and may actually cause acne to get even worse.

Natural products are often more gentle on the skin that is prone to acne.  Many of them utilize natural forms of the synthetically derived acne-fighting ingredients found in Stridex or Oxy products minus the harsh cleaning and drying agents and minus the fragrance and other irritants.   

Understanding some of the main natural-acne fighting ingredients can help you choose the right products for yourself.  

Let's start with the basics:
Breakouts = Oil + Bacteria + Inflammation + Clogged Pores treat breakouts, target each of these "risk factors" for acne.

Fight cleaning
There are many natural ingredients including aloe, turmeric, tea tree oil, juniper oil, and honey, which have natural antiseptic properties.  In other words, they help naturally prevent bacteria-causing acne from mingling on the skin.  A popular, natural, over-the-counter product is the Burt's Bees Herbal Blemish Stick ($7.99 in drugstores), which contains both tea tree and juniper oil.  These powerful plant-derived oils will help clean up what your cleanser may have missed.  Then, treat your skin to the cooling Jason Pure Natural Moisturizing Creme with 84% aloe vera ($6.42 in drugstores) to keep your face extra clean.

Fight purifying
Some of us, usually younger women, have oily skin.  It's nothing to fret about because oil is a naturally produced substance in the skin that keeps it supple and elastic (in fact oilier skin types tend to age better).  However, in order to keep those pores clean and free of impurities and excess oil, look for detoxifying ingredients like ginger, apple, and baking soda.  One of my favorite purifying moisturizers is the JUARA Skincare Sweet Black Tea & Ginger Mattefying Moisturizer ($49 on  I also happen to love the Suki Bio-Active Purifying Face Serum ($82.95 at Whole Body).  The apple is great for clarifying pores, and I especially love the slight fruity smell and the weight-less, soft feel.

Prevent clogged exfoliating
In addition to impurities, dead skin cells can clog your pores.  Exfoliating is essentially ridding your skin of dead skin cells and other debris. Hydroxy acids, primarily salicylic acid and retinol help your skin turnover cells more efficiently and shed the dead ones. Plants such as willowbark are natural sources of salicylic acid.  So, try the Neutrogena Naturals Purifying Face Cleanser ($7.99 at drugstores) with willowbark.  You can also try following it up with the MyChelle Clear Skin Serum ($33 at Whole Body), which features retinol as a debri-removing ingredient.

Prevent calming
In order to prevent pores from becoming inflamed, opt for products that will minimize irritation with natural calming/anti-inflammatory qualities, despite dirt and oil build-ups on the skin.  For example, ingredients like rose, teas, and rice bran will soothe your skin and reduce any signs of skin conditions.  The Melvita Damask Rose Floral Water ($25 at Whole Body) can be used as a hydrating toner to tighten pores and refresh your skin. Or try the JUARA Skincare Tamarind Tea Hydrating Toner ($29 on  With rice bran, anti-oxidant packed teas, AND hylauronic acid, (which naturally helps skin retain moisture), this toner will help improve almost any skin condition and most definitely keep your skin clear and soft.

Ideally, a multi-pronged attack to fight acne in multiple ways would be your best bet against
pimples.  In other words, having a skincare routine that incorporates ingredients that specifically target each causal factor (oil, bacteria, clogged pores, inflammation) is often an effective strategy.  My favorite natural acne-fighter has to be the JUARA Skincare Rose & Willowbark Blemish-Free Mask ($35 on  I use it not only as a mask to prevent breakouts, but also as a spot treatment (just dab a little on your skin before bedtime and your zit will be zapped by the morning).  This product combines a key calming ingredient with an exfoliating ingredient, which has made it a really effective acne fighter for me, personally.  And, I often find that acne-fighting products can be strong and drying.  However, the JUARA mask is really gentle and non-drying. 

So don't be fooled!  There are a lot of really great natural products that are efficacious in battling acne.  What are your favorites?

Monday, September 9, 2013

Glitter French Mani - Yay or Nay?

I simply LOVE French manicures because they're clean, elegant, and most importantly, they match with anything.  

French tends to be my default nail style.  But today, I decided to add some sparkles to my mani to spice up the look while still keeping it professional.

Get the look...

  • 1 coat of Sally Hansen Salon Manicure Smooth and Strong Base Coat ($7.99 at Ulta):  ALWAYS use a base coat to protect against polish seeping into your nails (causing them to turn yellow)  I find that the Sally Hansen one is pretty fortifying and protective. 
  • 1 coat of NYC Long Wearing Nail Enamel in French White Tip ($0.99 in drugstores):  I know a lot of people, who struggle with
    painting the tips, like to use white nail art pens.  Those pens may give you a smoother application, but an actual brush will give you more control when you are painting, and polish formulas generally stay on better.  I like the NYC white polish for French manis because the brush is relatively thin, and the formula has a higher viscosity...perfect for nail tips!  Considering how cheap this stuff is, it lasts a pretty long time, which is always a bonus.
  • 1 coat of Essie Nail Enamel in Mademoiselle ($8 at Ulta) Really you can use any
    sheer pink (or other color) that you'd like.  I like the Essie polishes in general because I find that they're more long-lasting than other brands. Mademoiselle is a nice balance between sheer and color.  However, it may be too pink for those of you, who prefer a more nude French mani.
  • 1 coat of Confetti Long Wearing Nail Color in Dreamdate ($1.99 at
    :  This is actually my first time using a Confetti polish.  So far, I'm liking it.  The brush is really nice, and the color is just what I was looking for (An ultra sheer pink with tiny glitter particles).  We'll see how it holds up!  But if you want a more matte, sparkle-free look, trade this coat for another coat of Essie Mademoiselle.
  • 1 coat of Sally Hansen Mega Shine Extended Wear Top Coat ($6.99 at Ulta): 
    When it comes to finish, I'm all about the shine.  The shiniest top coat that I've used is Mega Shine...I absolutely obsessed with it.  Don't forgo the top coat!  It sets the whole look and keeps your polish from chipping as quickly. 

What do you think about a French mani with a little bit of sparkle?

Monday, September 2, 2013

Everything You Need to Know About Exfoliating

Exfoliating is definitely my favorite part of my skincare regiment.  Why?  The gentle abrasion feels really nice, and my skin is so radiant and soft afterwards...I can't stop feeling it!

Essentially, exfoliating means removing the dead cells from your skin.  Thus...
  • Dark spots, hyper pigmentation, and scarring will fade faster.
  • There will be fewer dead skin cells to clog your pores and cause breakouts.
  • You will have a smoother canvas on which to apply your makeup.  It will go on more easily and stay on for longer.
  • Your skincare products will work better.  Moisturizers and serums won't have dead skins cells standing in their way of penetrating your skin.
  • Mature and dull skin will look brighter.
Although people traditionally associate exfoliating with scrubs, there are two main ways that you can exfoliate:

First, you can do it mechanically.  Mechanical exfoliation can mean traditional scrubs. Simply wash your face with them, as you would with a face cleanser.  Scrubs come in multiple strengths...super gentle ones like the Avene Gentle Purifying Scrub ($18 on that you can use daily or moderate ones like the JUARA Skincare Rice Facial Scrub ($29 on, which you should use 1-3 times per week.  Avene and JUARA are two of my favorite toxin-free brands.  Both of these scrubs are great for even the most sensitive skin and leave your face feeling nice and soft!

Keep in mind that unless a product says that it's a "cleansing scrub," it will not necessarily clean your face (remove makeup and impurities) like a regular face cleanser would (The JUARA scrub cleanses too!).  If you are wearing makeup or have blemish-prone skin, wash with cleanser before using a scrub. In addition, stay away from apricot or nut-based scrubs. The grains are often so sharp that they can tear skin and spread acne...make breakouts even worse!  In fact, they are too harsh to be used daily.  Additionally, be careful of salt scrubs because they can be quite aggressive on your face (they're perfectly fine for the rest of your body).  Instead, look for fine, round beads like those made from rice or bamboo, which won't scratch the skin.

If you have dull or puffy skin, try a coffee scrub.  The caffeine will help stimulate circulation and wake up your complexion.  If you have dry or sensitive skin, try an oatmeal scrub with its soothing, calming, and moisturizing effects.  Or for a quick and cheap fix, mix a scoop a teaspoon of rice flour with your cleanser and lather away.  Rice flour also has natural soothing, calming, and moisturizing properties.  For normal, combination, or oily skin, use baking soda instead, which will naturally draw impurities out from your pores.  

Another form of mechanical exfoliation comes from some of the tools that you're using during your routine.  Wash cloths, cleansing pads (Oxy/Stridex/Clearasil pads), which provide more mild exfoliation.  Facial  stationary and  motorized brushes also help your skin shed dead skin cells.  For example, Clarisonic ($150-$200 depending on the model at Ulta) brushes have become really popular over the past few years.  It's basically an electric tooth brush for your face.  It definitely polishes your face nicely and deep cleans.  I would highly recommend getting one.  Just be careful because it is a tad strong to be using daily.  Use it once or twice per week instead.  The Clarisonic can be quite pricey, so for a cheaper alternative try the Olay Pro X Advanced Cleansing System ($30 at Ulta).

The most intensive form of mechanical exfoliation is microdermabrasion.  These
procedures may be done at home with products like the Neutrogena MicroDermabrasian System ($45 in drugstores), but are most often conducted in salons.  There are two parts to the procedure.  First, exfoliating crystals are applied to the loosen the dead skin cells.  Second, you follow up with a little vacuum-like tool that lifts the outer layer of dead skin off of your face.  You may see some scrubs and creams that are labeled as "microdermabrasion" products because they are strong exfoliants that mimic the results of the procedure.  After an intense exfoliation treatment like this, your skin will be sensitive, so stay out of the sun and avoid applying potentially irritating/drying products.  Microdermabrasion is slightly invasive, and salon procedures should be limited to every few months, while some store-bought products may be used once per month.    

Second, you can exfoliate chemically with hydroxy acidsSalicylic acid is a hydroxy acid often found in acne-fighting products like the natural Boscia Clear Complexion Cleanser ($26 at Sephora) that helps your skin chemically rid itself of dead skin cells and promote the cell turnover process.  Most products that contain salicylic acid are very mild chemical exfoliants.  Other hydroxy acids include lactic and citric acids.  

Chemical peels feature hydroxy acids in helping a layer of old skin cells to peel off of your face so that your skin will regenerate fresh, new skin.  Some peels are more mild and reach only the very outer layer of the skin, while others are stronger and reach deeper skin tissue.  Most store-bought chemical peel products are gentle similar in strength to a face scrub.  For example, the natural Origins Brighter by Nature High-Potency Brightening Peel with Fruit Acids ($40 at Sephora) is a mild and refreshing product that can be used twice per week.  On the other hand, chemical peel salon treatments are much more powerful and should be done no more than every few months.

The nice thing about exfoliation is that it takes no extra effort.  Simply substitute your face wash for a purifying scrub twice per week, or use a brush rather than your fingers to massage cleanser into your skin.  Overall you should be doing a moderate level of exfoliation on a weekly basis.  Different methods of exfoliation have different levels of intensity.  I've assigned each method an approximate point value to give you a better idea of the proper amount of exfoliation.  Shoot for around 8-12 exfoliation points per week. Older women as well as those with oily skin should have closer to 12 points, while younger women or those with normal or dry skin should aim closer to 8.  When you're done, it's best to soothe skin by following up exfoliation with moisturizer.

Cleanser/Toner/Moisturizer/Serum Containing a Hydroxy Acid:  1 point
Mild Chemical Peel:  4 points
Wash Cloth/Cleansing Pad:  1 point 
Gentle Scrub:  2 points
Cleansing Pad:  2 points
Moderate Scrub:  3 points
Stationary/Motorized Brush:  4

However, over exfoliating can be even more harmful to your skin by stripping it of its natural properties and causing irritation.  If you are using a retinol, your skin will be especially sensitive, so make sure you are extra gentle with your exfoliation methods and stick to mild scrubs.  Don't use strong mechanical and chemical exfoliating techniques together unless you are directed otherwise.  Lastly, NEVER exfoliate in the morning, night-time only.  Your skin is extra delicate and freshly repaired after sleeping, so don't aggravate it with an exfoliant.  

Also, don't forget about the rest of your body.  Switch your shower gel for a soothing body
scrub twice a week to leave your skin healthy and glowing.  One of my toxin-free faves is the Alba Hawaiian Sugar-Cane Body Polish ($11 on

What's your favorite way to exfoliate?