Monday, March 31, 2014

How to Fake a Gel Mani

When it comes to my mani, I'm all about the shine...and I've found the shiniest of shiny top coats, Sally Hansen Big Shiny Top Coat ($6 at Ulta).  I put it over my nail polish one day and was delighted to see that it made my polish look as shiny as a gel formula.  The thicker formula makes it look glossier than any other top coat that I've tried and helps protect your polish from chipping.  This is a great gel-alternative for me.  Even though I really like the mirror shine of gel manicures, I don't generally get them because I find that they can be a little too harsh on my nails.  Luckily, I can fake one with Big Shiny.  For the optimal gel effect, use Big Shiny over a thicker polish formula.  I used Sally Hansen Insta Dri ($5 at Ulta), but you can also try Revlon ColorStay Longwear Nail Enamel ($8 at Ulta).

One of these pictures is a gel mani and one is a Big Shiny mani.  Can you tell which one is which?

Monday, March 24, 2014

Special Effects Makeup

With all of the new product innovation that has spurred such competition amongst beauty brands, a few cosmetics stand out as being particularly unique.  Special effects have given us products that allow us to look flawless while doing the following:

1.  Glowing in the dark
Wow everyone at a party or club with fluorescent makeup!  These products provide a pop of color both day and night.  During the daytime, they provide ordinary pigmented color and react with UV light to glow in the dark.  For your lips, try the Stila After Glow Lip Color ($18 at Sephora), which is a long-wearing moisturizing lip crayon that comes in two bright colors: fuscia and tangerine.  Then, dust the rest of your face and/or body with the Make Up For Ever Fluo Night ($31 on  This finely milled loose powder comes in a variety of colors (including a translucent white) and can be mixed with other cosmetics to enhance colors and turn them into fluorescent formulas.  Both of these products are limited edition products (the Fluo Night is an older product and a little harder to find), so scoop them up while you can!  And you can't forget about the nails.  The Glow in the Dark Nail Polish ($6 at American Apparel) is a convenient, affordable option.  

2.  Sleeping
The biggest beauty crime is not washing off your makeup before bed.  However, the bareMinerals Pure Transformation Night Treatment ($60 at Sephora) changes what we think about sleeping in makeup.  It's a pigmented powder that works its magic as you sleep.  Formulated with minerals, this powder hydrates, smooths, minimizes pores, and brightens so that you wake up with a more even skintone and a luminous glow.  The feature that really differentiates it from other night treatments is that it provides coverage.  You fall asleep with a flawless complexion and wake up with a more naturally flawless one as well ;)

3.  Swimming
Want to look fabulous from the beginning to the end of your next pool party?  Well, with Make Up For Ever's Aqua products you can.  It features a collection of waterproof eye cosmetics (shadows, liners, mascara, and eyebrow corrector) and lip cosmetics (pencil and color).  The line even contains an Aqua Seal ($21 at Sephora) that allows you to convert any powder eye cosmetic into a waterproof liquid one.  However, the Aqua collection is missing waterproof face cosmetics.  But don't worry because the Make Up For Ever brand does make a Face & Body Liquid Makeup ($40 at Sephora) to provide waterproof coverage for
the face and body.  Since oil and water don't mix, many waterproof formulas tend to be super oily or waxy.  However, the Face & Body Liquid Makeup is nice, since it's water-based, so no breakouts!  And fix those more specific imperfections with the Tarte Smooth Operator Amazonian Clay Waterproof Concealer ($22 at Sephora).  Feel free to dive, splash, and frolic in the water without worrying about smudging or running!

In general, you should reserve these products for occasional rather than regular use, with the exception of the Pure Transformation Night Treatment (since it's a gentle skincare + cosmetics product).  The ingredients that make a product glow in the dark or waterproof can be harsh, but vary based on each product.  I usually advocate healthy products only, but some of these products do contain parabens as well as other toxins.  But honestly if you're using them once in a while, it's not a huge a deal.  Also, there are only 1 or 2 of each of these product types currently on the market, and there aren't any healthy alternatives available.  The take away?  These products are super fun, and you should definitely use them for the occasions for which they are meant :)

Monday, March 17, 2014

When Should You Be Changing Up Your Beauty Routine?

Have you had the same beauty regiment for the past 10 years?  Or do you change it up every day?  You can actually get away with using a lot of the same products for a long time.  At the same time, there are some "optimal" times when you should change it up.  Why?

The facts:
The truth is that your skin won't get used to the ingredients that you're using for the most part.  For example, if you've been using a vitamin C moisturizer in the evenings for the past few years, your skin won't get "immuned" to the vitamin C to the point that the effectiveness of it diminishes.  It's similar to ingesting vitamins and minerals - eating an apple every day won't necessarily make an apple less healthy for you after a while.  Your skin simply uses the nutrients from your skincare products to assist in cellular processes. 

While your skin doesn't get used to ingredients, it does respond to environmental stimuli and can therefore adapt to some of the products that you're using.  Mostly, your skin adapts in terms of moisture and sebum (oil production).  If you deprive your skin (and your lips) of moisture, your skin will eventually respond in the long-term by producing more oil to keep
skin elastic.  Similarly, if you overmoisturize, your skin will respond by producing less oil, since you're doing the job of keep skin moisturized.  The overproduction of oil can lead to breakouts, while the underproduction of oil can lead to the development of a dry skin type.  Thus, make sure that you are moisturizing your face just the right the morning and at night only.  To prevent overmoisturizing, start with a light moisturizer like the Kiehl's Ultra Facial Oil-Free Gel Cream ($27 in department stores).  If that does the trick and seems to keep your skin soft for the rest of the day then great!  If not, try a more heavy duty product like the Philosophy Hope in Jar Night ($50 at Sephora).  For the daytime, try the Juice Beauty SPF 30 Oil-Free Moisturizer ($29 at Ulta), or the thicker Juice Beauty Green Apple SPF 15 Moisturizer ($38 at Ulta).  Of course, you may have to adjust
this routine depending on how dry/moist it is outside, but for the most part, this should be enough moisture for your face.  The skin on your body isn't as delicate as your face, you should be fine using a light body moisturizer a few times per week.  Additionally, the same rules apply to cleansing.  If you wash your face too many times per day, you will strip your skin of good oils, causing you to overproduce oil.  Limit face washing to night time, and mornings (unless you have super dry or sensitive skin).

What does that mean?  Well, you don't need to be changing up your products frequently to keep them effective.  However, you should be changing up your beauty routine during the following times:
  • Seasonally:  When the weather is hotter and/or more humid, your skin needs less moisturizer, since there is more moisture in the air.  And don't forget that it tends to be
    sunnier when it's hotter, so boost your level of sun protection.  Wearing a moisturizer with mineral SPF of at least 30 like the Algenist Ultra Lightweight UV Defense Fluid SPF 50 ($38 at Sephora) on a daily basis is your best defense against sun-induced aging and melanoma.
  • As you age:  Your skin changes with time.  You develop sun spots and wrinkles, collagen production slows, cells don't regenerate as efficiently, and your skin gets drier.  On the bright side, your skin gets less shiny and acne-prone.  So gradually, you will be transitioning from oil-free products that mattify shine, minimize pores, and medicate pimples to products that provide more intense hydration, brighten, firm, and increase elasticity.  You can wait to see what your more specific aging needs are (dark spots? wrinkles?) as the signs come, or simply switch it up from your 20's to your 30's to your 40's...
  • To treat any skin conditions:  This is pretty much common sense.  But sometimes during dry weather, using new products, or randomly, your skin can develop allergies, become irritated, or develop conditions like eczema.  In these cases, you probably have to switch to gentler, hypoallergenic products geared toward sensitive skin.
What changes to your routine have you made recently, and why?

Monday, March 10, 2014

5 Simple Changes That Will Improve Your Beauty Routine

Many of us have our beauty routines set so that we have a system that allows us to efficiently get ready in the morning and get ready for bed at night.  However, there are a few non-obvious measures we can take to tweak our beauty routines in minor ways that produce huge results:

1.  Moisturize right within a minute of washing.
Apply a healthy moisturizer like the Hempz Age Defying Herbal Body Moisturizer ($25 at Ulta) IMMEDIATELY (within the first 2 minutes after cleansing is ideal) after washing your face or your body to most effectively hydrate your skin.  Moisturizers work by trapping moisture from the air into your skin.  Plus, the water will allow for a smoother moisturizer will be easier to rub into your skin, it will feel less greasy, and you will end up needing to use less lotion.  Keep your lotion in your shower/next to the shower so that it's handy as soon as you're done washing. 

2.  Wash your hair at night instead of in the morning. 
This revision in your beauty routine can actually improve the appearance of your skin.  Going to sleep with greasy, dirty hair that contains products like hair spray, mousse, etc. can allow that stuff to get all over your skin (or get all over your pillowcase and then your skin) while your snooze.  All of that gunk can clog your pores during the crucial time of repair and recovery that occurs when you are asleep, which can lead to break outs.  Since your hair is also likely to be filled with aging pollutants that tag along as you go through the day, it is also important to keep them from migrating onto your skin.  Wash them off to help ward off premature signs of aging.  And don't forget to follow up each hair wash with a face wash.  Many shampoos and conditioners contain harsh detergents that can strip your skin of good natural oils as well as lipids (that give products that thick consistency) that can clog your pores.  Make sure you clean all of traces of those products off of your face to prevent dryness and/or breakouts.

3.  Use a moist egg-shaped sponge to apply your foundation.
I've only recently started using an egg-shaped sponge to apply my foundation (where have I been all this time?).  It honestly makes my foundation look great!  In general, I prefer sponges over brushes (which sometimes leave streak marks) and your fingers because it's easier to blend everything together in way that doesn't appear too thick on your skin.  Plus the egg shape of egg shaped sponges really allow you to get all the hard to reach areas of the face like around the nose and under the eyes.  I bought the Ulta Super Blender Sponge ($5 at Ulta).  I must say that it certainly makes my foundation look so light and natural on my face.  Wet it and then squeeze out the excess water before dipping it into your favorite foundation, BB/CC/DD cream, tinted moisturizer, powder, etc.  This will keep the foundation on your skin rather than in your sponge as well as give you that even, airbrushed finish.  

4.  Exfoliate regularly.
Two to three times per week swap your night face cleanser for a cleansing facial scrub (make sure that it will cleanse your skin as well as exfoliate) like the JUARA Rice Facial Scrub ($29 on, and trade your body wash for a body scrub like the 100% Pure Pink Grapefruit Body Scrub ($25 at Ulta).  Or simply, wash your face with a facial brush using your regular cleanser 2-3 times per week.  Overall, this simple step will give your skin a radiant glow.  In addition, exfoliating will improve the efficacy of both your makeup and your skincare:   
  • 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.
Be careful not to overexfoliate because that can irritate your skin, damage your skin cells, and overstrip your skin of good, natural oils.

5.  Do your face makeup after your eye makeup.
It's common to apply foundation, concealer, and powder before applying your eye makeup.  However, when we apply our eye makeup, we often find ourselves smudging, leaving specks of shadow under our eyes and on our cheeks, etc.  Rather than having to clean it up and then touch up your face makeup, put your eye makeup on first.  It saves you a clean up and looks way neater...putting undereye concealer on after eyeshadow really masks any traces of eye makeup that may have fallen onto your face during the application process and makes your eyes look brighter.  We also tend to rest our hands against our cheeks when applying eyeliner or eyeshadow, which can botch up your foundation.  

What's great about these suggested modifications to your routine?  They don't require you to spend more time or money on looking and feeling fabulous.  It's simply a matter of rethinking beauty rituals that most likely already exist in your day. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Healthy Versions of the Hottest Beauty Products

...continuing from last week's post, there are also many beauty trends that have emerged over the past decade.  There's always one product that acts as a catalyst for these trends.  However, many brands have later presented new and improved as well as healthier versions of these original products.  Check it out: 

1.  Gel Eyeliner generally comes in a pot or pan.  It has a creamy formula that glides on when you apply it with an eyeliner brush.  The liner dries on your eyes and doesn't budge as easily as pencils often do.  Plus, they have a more natural finish than many liquid liners do.  Overall, gel liners produce a rich color and allow for a neat application.

Out with the old...Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Gel Eyeliner ($23 at Sephora)
Today, many color cosmetic brands make a gel eyeliner, but Bobbi Brown was the founder of this magnificent concept.  I must say that I'm a huge fan of gel liners, and Bobbi Brown definitely has the best color selection with plums, blues, light browns, shimmers, etc.  However, it contains parabens as well as BHT.  Also, compared with other brands, Bobbi Brown's liners are smaller and dry out quickly given the price.  

And in with the new...Buxom Lashliner ($16 at Sephora)
In general, it's tough to find a paraben-free gel liner, but Buxom makes one.  The only downside with the Buxom liner is that it only comes in 2 shades, brown and black, though it is equally as creamy and long lasting as the Bobbi Brown one.  I prefer to stick to the Buxom for everyday work/school wear because of the healthier formula.  But I break out my pretty Bobbi Chocolate Shimmer or Graphite gel liner for special occasions and nights out :)

2.  Mineral Makeup is makeup that is derived from compressed minerals.  Some of the benefits are that minerals tend to be more natural, more nourishing, and have large particles that don't get absorbed into pores.  Thus, they may be less irritating than other makeup products for sensitive skin and those with acne.

Out with the old...bareMinerals Original Foundation Broad Spectrum SPF 15 ($27 at Sephora) 
I know many of us swear by our bareMinerals makeup.  The company is definitely a started the mineral makeup craze, making their foundations a beauty best-seller.  Now, minerals are in blushes, eye shadows, powders, foundations, etc.  The problem with bareMinerals foundation is that it contains bismuth oxychlorideBismuth Oxychloride is derived from a processed form of lead and is generally used in mineral makeup to improve the product’s texture and long-lasting effect.  Many consumers find this ingredient extremely irritating and like talc, some research shows that inhaling bismuth oxychloride may be associated with respiratory disorders.  From my experience, the coverage of this foundation is really nice, but it gives my oily skin an unnatural and excessive shine.  It also was a little bit drying and looked cakey by the end of the day.

And in with the new...Jane Iredale Amazing Base Loose Mineral Powder SPF 20 ($42 on
Jane Iredale also developed a mineral foundation that is in the same loose powder form as the bareMinerals one.  Since this product isn't sold at Sephora, you may not have stumbled across it yet.  But if you love bareMinerals, you'll love this loose mineral powder.  Like bareMinerals, it also offers mineral-based protection and medium coverage, but I've found that the Jane Iredale formula was a little bit silkier and more hydrating.  More importantly, it is free of bismuth oxychloride.

3.  Cheek Stain is a more natural-looking, light-weight form of blush.  In the old days,
people piled on the "rouge" to make a statement.  Now, people tend to use blush to give a slight boost of color that gives the appearance of a natural, healthy glow.  Cheek stains usually come in a gel or stick form and offer a sheerer level of coverage.

Out with the old...Benefit Cosmetics Benetint ($30 at Sephora)
Benefit came out with the first major cheek and lip stain a few years ago.  Although I must say that's pretty natural looking and easy to apply, it also contains a large amount of methylparaben as well as BHT.

And in with the new...Perfekt Cheek Perfection Gel ($28 at Sephora) 
Perfekt is a relatively new brand that makes some very nice healthy products.  The Perfekt Cheek Gel is not only toxin-free, but also contains vitamins and antioxidants.  It is much more light-weight and natural-looking than the Tarte product, so your glow looks like it comes from within.  And the gel allows you to more easily build your own level of coverage.

4.  CC Creams or complexion correcting creams are a hybrid skincare makeup product that has multiple benefits.  They combine multiple skincare products - moisturizer (hydrates), primer (protects and smooths), serum (repairs and protects), foundation (blurs imperfections and evens skin tone) - into one, easy step.  Although they are are very similar to BB creams, the focus of CC's is 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. 

Out with the old...Smashbox Camera Ready CC Cream Broad Spectrum SPF 30 ($42 at Sephora)
Although tons of CC creams have hit the market by now, Smashbox made one of the first ones.  The coverage, hydration, light-weight feel, and long-lasting effect make it a good CC cream.  However, this product uses oxybenzone as a sunscreen ingredient, which is controversial because there is some research that it is related to hormone disruption.  Another downside for me personally is that it's not oil-free, so it's not as ideal for my blemish-prone skin.  

And in with the new...Stila Color Correcting Cream Broad Spectrum SPF 20 ($44 at Sephora)
Stila does not use oxybenzone or other toxins in its CC cream, but the formula offers all of the same CC benefits (looks and feels just as nice) as the Smashbox product.  Instead, it uses physical sunblocks, which provide a strong defense against sun damage.  And it's oil-free! 

5.  Retinol is probably the ingredient you hear about most with anti-aging products.  Retinol is a form of vitamin A that is naturally occurring the body.  It boosts collagen production and promotes cell turnover, keeping your skin firm and fresh.  So, retinol creams are a part of many women's skincare routines. 

Out with the old...RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream ($18 in drugstores) 
Many of us may have seen TV ads for RoC.  RoC is the mother of retinol products with their retinol eye cremes, face cremes, serums, etc.  Although RoC retinol cream can be conveniently found at most drugstores, it contains parabens and BHT.

And in with the new...Kate Somerville RetAsphere 2-in-1 Retinol Night Cream ($85 at Sephora)
Parabens in the RoC formula shouldn't stop you from using a retinol cream.  Other brands like Kate Somerville make a comparable, healthier product.  This retinol cream also contains ingredients like seaweed extract and hyaluronic acid to lock in hydration as well as a RetAsphere Smart Release Carrier system to prevent irritation and dryness associated with retinol use.

So, if you love these products, make sure you're using the healthiest, more effective versions of them.  Hope this helps you do so!