About Me

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Sometimes it just doesn't work out...

And it's no one's fault. It's true in life and it's true when it comes to beauty products. I've been really struggling with which night cream to purchase (an old fave? a possible new fave from a trusted brand? something completely different?) and luckily the return policies at my favorite stores Sephora and Ulta make it easy for me to test out different ones before settling on the best.  

While killing time on a lunch break in Ulta last week, I used up every available space on my hands and arms testing different moisturizers. When I left the store, only one spot (other than the abhorrent reaction I am about to describe below) was irritated -- from a Dr. Perricone cream, and I don't remember which it was. Luckily Dr. Perricone is a pretty expensive line, and I'm OK with crossing it off my list based on just that one experience. Of course, crossing something off my beauty list doesn't exclude it for life.

Case in point: Clinique. Some time ago,  I had a bad allergic reaction to one of their face sunscreens, and we called it quits. Last week in Ulta, I decided to give it a go again. I dabbed on Moisture Surge, Moisture Surge Intense, and Super Rescue Antioxidant Night Moisturizer. Almost immediately, and I mean literally within about 10 seconds, the skin where I had applied the Intense version of Moisture Surge was itchy. 20 seconds later it was red. 30 seconds later it was itchy, red, and blotchy. A minute later small hives were visible. A minute and 30 seconds later the small hives were white mountains in a red sea and I couldn't resist scratching it. Even after washing my hands, the reaction area was itchy and visible for a few hours, and 8 hours later (after showering, mind you) there was still little dots and blotches that provided evidence for what had occurred earlier.

Clinique is 100% fragrance free and "allergy tested," and yet this product somehow caused the worst allergic reaction I have had in a long time, and at the same time the other two Clinique products showed zero signs of irritation. I actually went ahead and purchased the regular Moisture Surge and used it for two nights, only to return it. Although I wouldn't go so far as to say that I'm "allergic" to it, it made my cheeks slightly red and blotchy, and I'm just not comfortable dealing with that at $40 a pop. In comparing the ingredients lists of the regular Moisture Surge and the Intense, there are so many different chemical ingredients that I wouldn't know where to begin in guessing which one caused the reaction. The Super Rescue is my next try, and seems to have the best online reviews for effectiveness and gentleness, so we'll see if that means anything for me. 

I also tried Ole Henrikson's sensitive skin moisturizer, Nourish Me, only to return it after a few uses. For one, it smells like a cross between fruit loops and a creamsicle, and it's a very strong fragrance. It didn't do much in terms of adding moisture and it made my skin just a little itchy. 

All of these products have high-quality ingredients, minimal preservatives and harmful chemicals, and thousands of reviews from loyal users online. But they just weren't for me. Time to move on. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

New Weleda Favorites

A few months ago I dedicated an entire post to Weleda, and --don't hate me-- I'm about to do the same thing.

I recently added two new Weleda products to my repertoire, Skin Food and Iris Hydrating Day Cream. I bought Skin Food as a hand cream after I ran out of my Neutrogena and L'Occitaine favorites, and have not been disappointed. It's thick, creamy, and a little bit goes a long way. It has a strong scent which I wasn't expecting, and it's not bad, but I don't love it either. It kind of has that generic "I bought this at a natural foods store" smell, if you know what I mean, and I tend to dab some perfume on my wrists quickly after I apply it. I've also used it on my dry knees and dry spots on my face. All-in-all it's a solid multi-purpose heavy moisturizer that would be great in a carry-on to be used as a hand cream, body cream, and night cream. I'm only being nitpicky about the scent so I have something to say about a Weleda product other than "OMG I love this!"

Even though today was in the '80s here in Santa Barbara, it's been slowly starting to get a little more fall-like with cooler nights and mornings, and my skin is feeling it. Some flakes and tight dry spots have already appeared, and the Almond Soothing Lotion I've been using just wasn't cutting it. I've switched to using Iris Hydrating Day Cream on cooler mornings, and it's much more moisturizing than the Almond. Unfortunately I have to say again that it has a strong scent, clove-like, that I don't particularly enjoy, but it wears off quickly once it's absorbed. I wouldn't say that it's the most moisturizing cream I've used, but it does the job.

I admit that I'm getting a little bored with all of these Weleda products, regardless of how fabulous they are. They're simple, affordable, natural, and non-irritating, but the world of skincare is vast and tempting. My tube of Iris Hydrating Night Cream is getting towards the end and I will likely replace it with something from a different brand ... stay tuned to find out what I choose!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

No-Shower Shower

Since we moved and I started a new job back in January, I have finally followed through on my promise to myself to bike to work more often. Before January, we lived downtown and my old office was a 5 minute bike ride from our condo, but now that distance has multiplied to a whopping 7 miles or 35-minute+ bike ride each way, with hills. I think it is understandably intimidating, especially when my job often involves coordinating events and I need to look presentable. We had a pretty hot summer, so when it got down into the low '70s last week, I decided to seize the opportunity to get some bike commutes in before I lose daylight savings.

I'm a sweaty mess when I work out. Whether it's yoga, running, hiking or biking, I am always drenched by the time I'm done, usually regardless of the temperature. So I knew that when I started biking to work I would have to refine my routine so that my coworkers wouldn't politely stay far away from me on days I biked to work. Here's my No-Shower Shower routine that's been working well for me so far:

Part 1: Before you Bike

Prepping for your ride correctly can make the post-bike ride clean up go a lot more smoothly. For one, I don't bother putting any makeup on before I leave. I wash my face with my normal cleanser, and then apply my favorite facial sunscreen, Coppertone Oil Free Faces SPF 30, and put a swipe of untinted Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment SPF 15 on my lips. Then I put sunscreen on my shoulders, chest, back, and arms, depending on what's exposed that day.

I wear my hair in a low bun so that my helmet can sit comfortably and my hair is kept off my back. Then I use bobby pins to pin the sides of my hair back off my face. This minimizes the amount of sweat that gets in my hair.

Part 2: Post-Bike Ride

About 7 miles later I'm in my office and sweating bullets. I find that most of my sweating happens after I stop moving, and so it's key to work quickly to stop that nasty sweat in its tracks! I'm lucky in that I have my own large, private office, so I can walk in, lock the door, pull down the shades (sometimes...I have a second floor office and the windows are pretty hard to see into from outside, but knowing me I already have a stalker) and get to work.

Step 1: Hair

The first thing I do is take off my helmet and let down my hair, flip my head over, and liberally pour dry shampoo all over the underside of my hair. I use Lush No Draught Dry Shampoo but I've heard that plain old corn starch works well too. I like the citrus scent of Lush's. I massage it in as well as I can, then I flip my hair back over and put more dry shampoo on the top of my hair and massage it.

*Note: Your floor will likely look like you are trying to hide a coke habit after all of this. I keep Lysol wipes in my office, and usually push one around with my foot to clean the white powder off the floor.

Step 2: Body Clean Up

The next step is probably the most important for feeling fresh: cleansing wipes. I spent a good amount of time in Ulta looking at the ingredients lists of different cleansing wipes before settling on Yes to Cucumbers Facial Towelettes. They have a clean scent and are non-irritating. I use one wipe on my face and another one or two on whatever parts of my body are feeling grimy (you can use your imagination here). After I'm cleaned up, I swipe on some deodorant and spritz myself with my favorite body spray, Philosophy's Inner Grace Perfumed Body Spritz, and put on my change of clothes.

Step 3: Face

I like to simplify my usual morning routine when I have to do it at the office. To do this I use a tinted moisturizer. I own Philosophy Hope in a Tinted Moisturizer, which is one of those products I'm trying to use up, and after googling it it looks like it's been discontinued. It's not very moisturizing at all, so I mix it with some of my usual morning moisturizer, Weleda Almond Facial Cream, to make it more substantial. (On a side note, I've heard good things about Josie Maran Argan Tinted Moisturizer and am excited to try it once the Philosophy runs out.) Then I apply some mascara, a few dusts of foundation from a compact (I'm currently liking Neutrogena Mineral Sheers Compact Powder Foundation) and some lip gloss or balm.

Step 4: Finishing Touches

My last step is brushing out my hair. Dry shampoo works better the longer you leave it in, which is why I like to leave it in while I'm doing everything else. I make sure all of the powder is gone, and either leave my hair down or put it in a pony. Usually it looks fine down.

Eh voila! Not only do I get a workout, some endorphins, and a chance to really appreciate and enjoy being outdoors in beautiful Santa Barbara, but I can go about my work day feeling fresh and focused.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

On female body image

This post is inspired by the beautiful Miss Conduct, who wrote such an honest and inspiring post on a topic that is somewhat taboo and a challenge to write openly about as a young woman.

When I was 14 I signed with a New Jersey modeling agency. The back of my comp card (a modeling business card) had 4 pictures of me in different poses and settings, all arms and legs, and underneath in small writing: Height: 5'10", Weight: 105 lbs. It also included waist, hips, and bust measurements, which I'm sure you can guess. I was friends with a girl slightly older, about 17, and I remember reading the back of her comp card and seeing "Height: 5'11", Weight: 125 lbs," and thinking wow, she's fat. 

My best friend at the time was also a model and also quite thin, like me. She lamented about her wide hips and how she couldn't model bikinis because of them. Nonetheless, while the other girls brought carrots and celery or nothing at all for lunch, we would go to a local diner and get chicken fingers and fries.

I was never chubby. Not even as a baby. My long legs, arms and everything else started when I was born and the doctors called other doctors in to marvel at the length of my fingers and toes. Through mid-college, I never weighed more than 125 and never wore larger than an extra small or size 2. I ate what I wanted, drank what I wanted and never, ever worked out or did any form of exercise other than walking two blocks from my apartment to get groceries and back. Walking up the stairs always left me winded, but I didn't think much about it. I was skinny. I was always thinner than my friends. I couldn't comprehend why people spent so much time and money at the gym or running on the Commons. Were they crazy, or did they just really like pain? It had to be one or the other.

One of my closest friends in college was overweight, and had diabetes. We never talked about weight; in fact, it's safe to say I was terrified to bring up the subject with her. The only time it came close to coming up was when we went shopping for a dress for me for my 21st birthday, and we went to what seemed like a hundred stores and she patiently watched me try on different dresses in each of them before I settled for a hot pink, strapless, Betsey Johnson number. I was hit with an immense feeling of guilt on the subway ride back to our apartment for not once asking her if she wanted to shop for a dress too, or even just asking her where she went shopping, since we all know plus-size women have very limited options just about everywhere. But I didn't say anything. Our friendship was built on a love of weird movies, celebrity gossip, and a shared love of cooking and baking. And it worked. If I dwelled on it any longer, things would start to get uncomfortable.

Fast forward 5 and a half years: I'm no longer a size 2. The scale hovers between 140 and 150 and I'm usually a size 6, but sometimes a 4 or an 8. I run at least a mile a few times a week and also do yoga or pilates. I also eat until I'm full and indulge slightly more than I probably should with sweets and alcohol.

So when did it all change? At my first job out of college one of my coworkers warned me "Once you hit 25, it all goes downhill." Meaning that you can no longer eat a pint of ice cream at 9 at night and expect it to not leave a mark on your body. And she was right. I got older, wiser. I started reflecting on weight, health and exercise, and my years of dabbling in modeling and the damage they had done.

For one, the average age of a model is around 17. This means that the ideal female body image is based on a 17-year-old girl. Yes, there are older women in the spotlight and out of it that have the bodies of 17-year-old girls, but there are reasons. Basic science tells us that if we eat more calories than we burn, we gain weight. The foolproof way to make sure this doesn't happen: eat less. Super skinny women don't eat what normal-looking women eat. It's that simple. I'm sure there are a handful of women over the age of 21 out there who truly just have a high metabolism and can eat a lot and still be thin, but this is a rare exception. The "age when it all goes downhill" might not be 25 for every woman, but no matter when it is, we're still expected to look like that 17-year-old model.

Although acceptance of larger women as the beauty ideal is slowly starting to happen, I doubt we will ever truly accept them. Too many of us, myself included, are "uncomfortable" with accepting that body type when it's so different from what's ingrained in our minds from birth, and changing that way of thinking is a challenge. I read an interesting article about a plus-size model who said that she didn't realize there was anything wrong with her body as a child. That sentiment is something we should carry throughout our lives, it shouldn't be shut down the moment we open a magazine or turn on the TV. For me, by the time I was 14 I already knew that "fat" was not something I wanted to be and started applying that label to others. How can we work to push the age that that happens back a few years until eventually it's nonexistant?

I'm slowly starting to accept that I'll never be a size 2 again, and that I don't have to be because forcing my body to that ideal through extreme diet and exercise is not something that's on the top of my list at this time in my life. I'm glad I'm still the girl who eats chicken fingers and fries.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Would you light my candle?

Not only is this blog post a reference to one of my favorite musicals of all time, RENT, it's also a true question I would ask if they're aren't any Zippos around. I have a somewhat irrational fear of using matches and I never have even tried. The sound of a match being lit makes me cringe. I'm terrified I'll burn my fingers. But, I love candles. So if that situation ever arises, let's just hope there's someone around to light my candle.

I walked around our apartment this morning and counted how many candles we currently have out: 7, plus tealights and an extra scented pillar candle waiting in the wings, and 3 "holiday" candles. This is actually a surprisingly low number for me. My love of candles undoubtedly started with my mother (like a lot of things) who always has a candle in every room of the house and goes around and lights them after she's done with her Saturday top-to-bottom, no-surface-left-unscrubbed cleaning. To this day I always light them when I'm cleaning or done cleaning. It makes everything somehow seem cleaner and more serene, and I love that.

The difference between my love of candles and my mother's is that my mother had no choice but to love candles. As an elementary school secretary for almost 20 years, she has gotten hundreds of candles as gifts from students. Like me, she hates waste, so she uses them. Open the cabinets in the bathroom and laundry and what will you find -- more candles. What usually gets regifted -- candles. I have taken a couple of hers over the years, but, as you would expect, the candles she gets are a mixed bag. 90% of Yankee Candle's scents make me gag. If the packaging is ugly and it can't be removed, I'll say no thanks, even if it has a redeeming scent.

I spend my hard-earned money on fancy candles. Granted, I have learned to say no at times when a $42 organic soy candle at a boutique in wine country just isn't in the budget, but it's hard. I go back and forth regretting the decision. I write blog posts like this one to help me cope.

Voluspa is one of my favorite brands (gorgeous packaging and scents), but if you're looking to NOT spend the majority of your paycheck on candles, Target actually has an impressive selection to choose from. A friend and I recently spent a good 20 minutes in the candle aisle, sniffing and selecting, and I bought just two and was very proud of myself. Be forewarned that they have some duds in there, but if you allow yourself enough time to really sniff through them and choose wisely, you'll be a satisfied candle shopper.

Scent-wise I tend to lean towards light, clean, floral scents, but I also like a bit of a musk every now and then. I light my patchouli pillar candle from Pier 1 when I do yoga. Voluspa has a scent called Moso Bamboo that's dark and earthy but it makes my heart sing when I'm in the right mood. Nothing signals the start of the holiday season for me like breaking out the heavy evergreen and pine candles.

I realize that a lot of people might think that candles are a frivolous thing to spend your money on. But when you consider the atmosphere they create, that elevated feeling of "clean" and "home," plus the number of burning hours, with a scent you enjoy and something pretty to look at, I don't think you can go wrong.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Routine

It's been over a month since my last post, and, believe it or not, over a month since I bought my last beauty product. I have realized that I have enough stock at home to last me through a zombie apocalypse and am determined to use what I can rather than buying more to replace something that I feel "eh" about. I've also been feeling like my wallet's a little tight lately, so that probably has something to do with it, but I also just hate waste of any kind, whether it's products, food, clothing, or just leaving the lights on when you leave a room.

I thought this would be a good time to share my current beauty routine with you. One thing that has noticably improved in the past month is my skin. I can't remember the last time I had a pimple that stood out on my face or dry flakiness, and I think a few new products that I have added to my routine have something to do with it.

-Wash face with Boscia Clear Complexion Cleanser (this is an example of a product I've had for a while and am trying to use up; the bottle seems bottomless. It works well as a cleanser and makeup remover, but I don't think it does much on its own for acne and it's slightly drying)
-Moisturize with Weleda Almond Lotion
-SPF it up with Dermalogica Ultra Calming Super Sensitive Shield SPF 30 (good for sun protection and doesn't make my skin break out or have an allergic reaction, but does zilch for moisturizing) 
-L'Occitane Shea Butter Lip Balm

Morning makeup:
-Make Up Forever Full Cover Concealer under my eyes
-Make Up Forever HD Invisible Cover Foundation, spot applied on any blemishes with my fingertip or a brush
-bareMinerals Original Foundation, followed by Mineral Veil
-Eyelashes curled and Benefit They're Real! Mascara applied
-Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment applied in a color, topped with Smith's Rosebud Salve or a Buxom gloss if desired (or a different gloss I'm trying to use up)

That's it! I only put eyeshadow, eyeliner, blush, etc. on if I'm going out.

-Wash face with Peaches Skin Care Blueberry Coffee Bean Exfoliating Cleanser (another cleanup item from a facial over a year ago, smells yummy but other than that it's "eh")
-Exfoliate with Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant (only every other day, LOVE this stuff)
-Weleda Iris Hydrating Night Cream
-Weleda Wild Rose Smoothing Eye Cream
-Badger Sleep Balm on lips

-Shampoo twice with L'Occitane Aromachologie Soothing Shampoo (another never-empty bottle)
-Aveda Be Curly Conditioner
-Philosophy Field of Flowers Shampoo, Shower Gel & Bubble Bath in Peony Blossom. I only use it as a shower gel, but have used other scents of this product in the past and it is OK for shampoo in a pinch, doesn't create nearly enough bubbles as bubble bath. I loved the Peony Blossom scent at first, it's an extremely strong floral that conjured up some nostalgia for me, but I'm getting a little sick of it and I have a giant 16 oz bottle to use up :(
-Lush Ro's Argan Body Conditioner

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Acne Post

I've been battling acne since I was 15. And while it comes and goes in hormonal waves and is not half as bad as it was in high school, it's still the bane of my existence. I have tried literally hundreds of acne products. In high school I mainly used Clean & Clear and then Proactiv, followed by a more aggressive approach recommended by a dermatologist that involved some kind of oral medication I can't remember  combined with 2 creams I can't remember. More than one dermatologist has prescribed Ziana gel for me. I've switched birth control pills more than once. And then I've tried the natural approach with tea tree oil and also dabbing on a spot of toothpaste. And nothing, NOTHING has been effective over the long run. 

It's a minor health problem, but it has majorly effected my self esteem over the years. In high school it was mainly why I didn't talk to boys. Post-high school I can think of several occasions on which I've rearranged my schedule because I was having a bad skin day. I even had a pimple on my wedding day, and acne is something I never thought I would have to be dealing with at this time of my life, at 26. The bottom line is that it sucks. There is no "cure." And for many people, it doesn't stop when you leave your teens. 

There are products that can help, and the point of this post is to tell you about two of them: Boscia Willow Bark Breakout Treatment and Kate Somerville EradiKate Acne Treatment. I've been using the Boscia treatment for about a year now and it's gentle, unscented, and goes on clear (pretty much the opposite of the Kate Somerville product). It's effectiveness varies, but with smaller pimples it has made a noticeable difference overnight. For bigger pimples I reach for the EradiKate. This stuff is potent. It's Pepto Bismol pink, with a sticker on the top telling you "DO NOT SHAKE," and it smells very strongly of sulfur, its primary blemish-fighting ingredient. Be forewarned that this stuff is a man-repellant, so be choosy with which nights you apply it. The pink sediment will separate from the clear oil in the bottle, and you're supposed to stick a cotton swab directly into it all the way to the sediment at the bottom. I usually do this but add in a swirl with the q-tip, to make sure you get the sediment and not just the clear stuff, which does nada. You want to make sure the pimple is completely covered in pink after you apply it. It usually stings a tiny bit when you first put it on, but that quickly fades.

I would estimate that my success rate with EradiKate is 90%. It almost always reduces pimple size. It's more effective on the over-the-skin pimples like whiteheads than the more frustrating under-the-skin pimples. But, I'll take it. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Sunday Night Hair Woes

I'm very curious how long it takes most women (or well-coiffed men with long hair) to use up an entire bottle of conditioner. I have only used up a bottle of conditioner to the very last drop once in my life, and it took almost two years. It never made sense to me why they sell conditioner in the same size bottles as shampoo, since you use less than half the amount of conditioner than shampoo every time you wash your hair (at least I do?). The only plausible reason I can fathom is, as likely is the case, the greed of cosmetics companies. Because of convincing marketing campaigns, most women think that shampoo and conditioner have to go together, and you can't use one without the other (I say most women because my husband says he has never used conditioner and stubbornly refuses to try mine).  Shampoo companies tout, "Use together for best results" in the marketing copy on the back of shampoo & conditioner bottles (I read every single word on any beauty product I buy, in case that was ever unclear). Why spend $22.99 on some Bumble & Bumble shampoo when you can drop another $20 for the "best" experience? After all, if you just buy one, your hair will undoubtedly be inferior. 

Which brings me to my latest hair conditioner purchase: Aveda Be Curly. A new hair stylist suggested this to me after a recent hair trim, saying something about it being a "protein" moisturizing conditioner, and since my hair seemed a little dry she thought it would help. (She wasn't at all pushing products and actually only suggested this after I asked, which as a side note is a very refreshing experience at a spa or salon and I wrote her a glowing online review later.) I've been using the conditioner for about two weeks every time I shampoo (which is usually every other day) and it does seem to make my hair softer and less "dry" feeling. I had been using Lush's American Cream, which was the weakest excuse for a conditioner I've ever tried, but on the plus side it smelled nice. Be Curly also smells nice, in a clean, mild grass-like kind of way.

I also don't have just one, but TWO bottles of shampoo in my shower currently. And that's not all -- I have two more bottles waiting patiently in line in my bathroom closet just waiting for their chance in the spotlight. (Do you see now why I started this blog?) In my shower is Lush's Cynthia Sylvia Stout Shampoo and L'Occitane's Aromachologie Soothing Shampoo. I am underwhelmed by both, but determined to not be wasteful and use them up. The Lush shampoo I think might be partially responsible for my dryness (but it is cool that it's made with beer), and the L'Occitane one doesn't lather AT ALL, which is frustrating, since I feel like I always miss spots. A couple of times after drying my hair, I've noticed that the underside of my hair, closest to my scalp towards the back, is greasy, like it was never shampooed. Has anyone else had this problem? The only method I've found to ensure it doesn't happen is to flip my head over and put some shampoo directly on the back of my scalp, lather it and then rinse it thoroughly. I suppose this would only be a problem for people with long hair, but it drives me crazy. Sigh. First world problems. 

I've clearly been ranting about shampoo for long enough. If you've made it this far and could let me know if I'm not the only person who has a beef with conditioner and misses spots when they shampoo their hair, my sanity will thank you.

Saturday, May 4, 2013


It's been an insanely busy week. A huge part of my job over the past 3 months has been planning for a big conference that just took place on May 1 & 2.  I also had two smaller events on the days before and after. Everything went smoothly over all but working 12 hour days really took its toll on me. I didn't eat right, didn't get enough sleep, and didn't work out. I did yoga for the first time since last weekend this morning and I was shocked at how stiff my limbs left. Poses that were usually easy were surprisingly challenging. It reminded me of the importance of having a daily yoga practice, even if it's just 10 minutes, something to get your muscles working. I'm going to try harder to do that, even on days when it seems like there's no time for anything other than vegging on the couch and eating some takeout.

But on to one of my favorite natural brands: Weleda. Like another one of my favorite natural brands, Dr. Hauschka, Weleda is a German brand, and their products are made with ingredients that are sustainably farmed. While still on the pricey side, they're more affordable than Dr. Hauschka, and with very similar ingredients. I'm currently using their Almond Facial Cream, Iris Hydrating Night Cream, and Wild Rose Smoothing Eye Cream, and I love them all. I have a bad track record with having allergic reactions to almost all of the eye creams I've tried, and this one is lovely. The night cream is super hydrating on my parched skin, and I alternate between Almond Facial Cream and Almond Facial Lotion during the day, using the cream when my skin is feeling drier, and then top it off with an SPF not from Weleda (they don't make any sun protection products). 

Weleda is also well known for Skin Food, an all-purpose rich moisturizer, which I have not yet tried. They also have an extensive line of natural baby products, which I have also not yet tried but I'm sure I will at some point in the future! As I was cruising around their website earlier I also noticed they have a "Medicines" section with both OTC and prescription medicines. I'm certainly intrigued. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant

I've been having mixed feelings about this post. Dermalogica isn't a "natural" brand, nor does it claim to be. It's developed by the The International Dermal Institute and while the ingredient lists are long with mostly names you can't pronounce, the difference to me is that 99% of those ingredients are high quality (or so my trusty esthetician and the Internet tells me). I've tested several of their products for an allergic reaction, and their Age Smart line is the only one that doesn't like me (which is OK with me for now, since my battle is mainly with acne and sensitivity and wrinkle prevention is merely a dot on the horizon). 

Dermalogica's Daily Microfoliant is one of the products I purchased after my most recent facial. The $52 price tag was a little hard to swallow, but my esthetician assured me that if I was going to splurge on a product, this should be it. So far, I'm not disappointed. This is one of those products that wows after one use. It's a powder that you dispense into your palm, rub around with a wet hand to make into a thick paste, and slather all over your skin. I like to use it in the shower and leave it on my face while I'm doing something else to give it some extra time to sink in. After you rinse it off, your skin will be super soft and smooth. And the more I've used it, the softer and smoother it seems to be getting. Although "daily" is in its name, I use it every other day since I'm a bit cautious about over-exfoliating, and so far I'm seeing great results. My skin is overall looking clearer and more even.

My one complaint is that the small holes in the top to dispense the powder make it challenging to put some of it back in if you pour out too much, which I almost always do. At least it's a small complaint. I wouldn't be complaining at all if it was less that $52, which truly makes every ounce count. 

Something else that's cool about Dermalogica: they have fun how-to videos on their website for most of their products, so if you're not sure you're using something correctly, you can just watch the video! I actually watched the video for their Special Cleansing Gel and realized that I had been lathering up incorrectly, putting the product directly on my face rather than lathering a small amount up on my fingertips first. The More You Know. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The "Describe Your Skin" Question

I'm always perplexed by how much to go into detail on that question on those forms they make you fill out when you're a new client at a spa. Often, I find myself fibbing ever so slightly, mainly for the sake of brevity. After all, they only give you two lines, if that. I most recently put "sensitive, combination to dry, acne-prone." 

Let's start with the first one: sensitive. My skin is not sensitive in the traditional sense. I have not always had sensitive skin. As far as I can remember, up through the end of high school when I went on the pill, I could put just about anything on my skin and be fine. This had led me to ask more than one doctor if going on the pill could have something to do with it, and they usually respond, "well, it's unlikely, but maybe, the pill can really change your body." No shit. 

Another doctor randomly scratched my arm with his pen cap during the middle of an examination. Because it wasn't still red a few minutes later, he ruled out hypersensitive skin, then proceeded to talk about some extremely rare type of cancer that I might have simply because I was turning red because I was nervous and didn't like the way the examination was going. Needless to say I never saw him again.

Products labeled "sensitive skin" 99% of the time do not work for me. It could just be that "sensitive skin" products generally contain harsh chemicals despite their misleading labeling. 

Moving on to "combination to dry."  My skin is dry and flaky, pretty much everywhere. But, I still get shiny fairly easily (lucky me). Two estheticians within the past few years have told me that my skin is "dehydrated." One offered no explanation, but the more recent one blamed my cleanser, a lack of proper exfoliation and dead skin building up, which can also cause acne. I guess that's plausible. I bought the exfoliant she suggested and we'll see if there's any changes in my skin over the next few weeks.

And finally, the dreaded acne, which I am still getting at the ripe old age of 26. I've been told that what I have is hormonal acne, since it's mainly around my mouth and chin, and that switching to a different pill or going off it completely would probably make a big difference. Well, I kind of love being on the pill. What's a girl to do? Try every skincare product out there for acne -- check.

All that said, I feel like my esthetician never really gets an accurate picture of my skin because there's only so much I can fit on that card and I don't want to scare them away. But then again, maybe that's all they need. It's not like I'm expecting them to "cure" my skin. I'd rather save my miracles for the bigger fish to fry, anyway.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Hand Cream Addict

The word "addict" is not used extraneously in this post title -- I actually have withdrawal symptoms when I don't apply hand cream immediately after washing my hands or even just after getting them wet. My hands immediately feel dry and tight. It becomes distracting. Sometimes I try to tell myself, well, since you're going to be doing something within the next hour that will likely get your hands dirty, might as well just wait to apply lotion, but it NEVER works. I apply. And reapply. Probably an average of 10 times a day. And unless I work up the courage to try and wean myself off this addictive product sometime in the future, I should probably carve out some funds for hand cream indefinitely.

I guess I lied about Argan Oil being my one repurchase. When I wrote that post I was thinking about facial products, but I've actually repurchased these two hand creams several times: Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Hand Cream and L'Occitane Lavender Hand Cream. The Neutrogena is an old favorite, dating back as far as high school, and even my hubby loves it for his dry knuckles. It's a rich, concentrated, unscented cream, and just a pea sized amount does the job. I finish up my morning beauty routine with this stuff. If I skip it, I'm wondering why my hands feel so dry 10 minutes later as I'm gripping the steering wheel. It's a no-frills, drugstore-available cream. I used to get really dry skin patches on the palms of my hands, and this cleared that up completely. No brainer.

A few years ago I was given a small tube of the L'Occitane cream by a friend. I would call it more of a lotion than a cream. It has a light, slik-like feel that's surprisingly moisturizing. My favorite part about it is actually the scent. I love lavender, and this smells strong. I feel fresher when I put it on because of the scent. A coworker once told me the smell of lavender made me think of me, and I'm OK with lavender being my signature scent. Lavender, fresh jasmine, and Fresh's Sake perfume are probably my three favorite pretty scents. I'm also a fan of gritty scents, like gasoline and airports, but that's probably enough of my weirdness unveiling for this post. :) 

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Spa Mecca

I live in Santa Barbara, which could easily be referred to as The Spa Mecca. There are so many spas and salons here, ranging from the super-high-end spas at The Biltmore and Bacara to tons of small, one-person operations. I have been to five different spas since I moved here, the most recent being just yesterday, and there's still so many I want to try. 

I read a lot of online reviews before deciding on a spa. After all, you're going to be getting naked there, getting touched all over, and they're putting stuff on your skin, so it's a big investment. I've been going to spas on and off for years, starting when I was 14 and my modeling agent told me that I had to get a facial before a photo shoot (please note that this was primarily bullshit). Anyway, I'd say I have some amount of cred when it comes to choosing a spa. Aside from generally good reviews, I also look for a relaxing atmosphere, product lines I like, reasonable prices (hopefully), and extras. I'm a sucker for extras. 

For example, the spa I went to yesterday offered a complimentary foot soak and tea before the treatment. I got there early, and had about 10 minutes to sit in a cushy chair, sip some green tea, and soak my feet in a warm minty soak that smelled heavenly. The room was decorated with a zen, eastern Asian feel, and that typical "spa" music played softly in the background.

The rest of the facial was pretty relaxing, aside from the extractions, of course. I envy those acne-free women (and men) who can get a facial without that 20 minutes of agony. For those of you who have not yet experienced this, I don't want to ruin your visions of facial bliss, but you should be aware that if you have any kind of acne, no matter how mild, your esthetician will shine the brightest light you've ever seen over your face and poke and scrape until all of those little buggers are brought up to the surface and thrown away.  If you're fair- and sensitive-skinned like me, be forewarned that your face will look like a pizza afterwards, so make sure you get a facial on a day when you can relax at home and only have to face the judgmental and slightly scared looks from your dogs and husband.  I will say that a day or two later you'll notice smoother skin and less or no zits popping up for a good week or so. The point is to get all of the impurities out of your skin, and it works. 

I also like a good scalp, shoulder, and arm massage with just the right amount of pressure, which this spa delivered. You need that to counteract the pain of the extractions, trust me. For products, this spa used two lines, one I'd never heard of before called Image, and the other is Dermalogica. While they are both pharmaceutical brands, they use high-quality ingredients and Dermalogica in particular is very highly regarded by dermatologists and estheticians alike. I picked up their Special Cleansing Gel & Daily Microexfoliant, and Image's SPF 30 Matte Moisturizer. I will let you know the verdict on those in a few weeks. :)

I'm sure this won't be the last time I post about spa experiences. I generally get some kind of treatment every 6 months and I definitely recommend trying a basic facial or Swedish massage if you're new to spas. It's addictive, and definitely fits the bill for "me" time. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013


For a long time I had never really thought about going to Lush for anything other than bath bombs, hand scrub demonstrations, and to be bombarded by pushy salespeople. Then, back in September when I was in New Jersey for my wedding, one of my good friends (and also a bridesmaid, Meg) was staying with me and I tried her Cynthia Sylvia Stout shampoo and Veganese conditioner from Lush. My hair was super, super soft, maybe softer than it had ever been from just a shampoo & condition, and I was sold. Shortly after I got back to California from my honeymoon I went to Lush and bought the shampoo, a different conditioner called American Cream that was recommended by the salesperson, a shower gel/oil called The Olive Branch, and samples of Ro's Argan Body Conditioner, Angels on Bare Skin face cleanser, and Celestial face moisturizer. 

Let's start with the hair products. While phenomenal at first, both Meg and I agreed that after a month or two of use, they start to loose their steam. The shampoo starts to get drying, and the conditioners don't seem half as moisturizing as they did during the first week of use. I was talked into buying a big bottle of the shampoo for the value (boy are those salespeople convincing) and since I now have a little less than half left, I am determined to use it up. I alternate it with L'occitane's scalp soothing shampoo, and my hair is decent looking. Luckily I bought a small bottle of conditioner, but since conditioners can take FOREVER to use up, I don't think it will run out for at least a year. It smells really yummy, but it does nada for frizz and smoothing.

I like The Olive Branch. You shake it up before using and it comes out like a thin oil, but actually lathers. The smell is nice and different and leaves skin lightly scented. I like it. I might consider buying it again in the future or trying one of their other shower gel scents. I LOVE their Grass shower gel for men and have been trying to get my hubby to use it for a few years now, but he's pretty attached to his Dove for Men bars.

The Angels on Bare Skin "cleanser" is more of a scrub in my opinion since it has a gritty paste-like consistency. I've used the sample a handful of times and it's nice. It leaves my skin very soft. I'm not sure whether I'd consider buying the full-size of this or not. I think it might be a little abrasive for everyday use, although at Lush they claim that's what it's for. I'm more likely to consider purchasing it to replace my current scrub when it runs out. Let's put this one on the long "maybe" repurchase list. 

The Celestial face cream is Lush's sensitive skin moisturizer. I was definitely underwhelmed by it. It's very light and my skin tends to be dry, so it wouldn't be good for everyday use. I also detected some mild irritation. I used it twice and threw out the sample. Oh, same with the Eau Roma toner water that I almost forgot to mention. That stuff was definitely drying. 

And this brings me to the grand finale....Ro's Argan Body Conditioner. My FAVORITE Lush product by far. I used up the sample, and went back to Lush to buy a giant tub that I see myself taking years to use up, but oh well. It's pretty amazing. I like to slather it on my arms and legs after shaving, and pretty much everywhere else, right before I'm getting out of the shower, so it gets only very slightly washed off. This way the delightful rose smell lingers, and my skin feels SO soft and moisturized  and best of all, my legs usually don't feel irritated after shaving when I use this product. I'm feeling less picky about my shower gel now because I have this. 

The only downside: it's pricey. $32.95 for a 7.9oz tub which is the only size it comes in. I would definitely purchase a smaller size if they sold it since you only need to use a minimal amount with each shower. Is anyone else sensing a trend here where Argan Oil is pretty much amazing? :) 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Relapse Wednesday

Do you ever have those days where all of your beauty/health/wellness resolves break down and in your mind you file it away as a loss and resolve that tomorrow you just have to do better?

Today was one of those days. Here's why:

1- Didn't take a lunch break. I know that I should force myself to take a lunch break every day (and no, sitting at my computer while eating and catching up on personal emails and the news doesn't count) no matter how busy I am or lazy I'm feeling. Just taking even a short walk outside makes me come back to the office feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the afternoon.

2- Picked my skin. I am a closet compulsive skin picker. I know I know, it's gross and weird but I can't help it, and I've been doing it for years, starting with peeling sunburnt skin when I was a kid. I know it's   probably the major cause behind my acne scarring, and yet I still do it. Some days I'm better than others, and of course it doesn't help that my super sensitive skin is also often itchy, so that's usually how it starts. My skin gets itchier in the spring here with everything growing and getting stirred up, and today has been super windy, so it was a bad skin day.

3- Binged on trail mix in the afternoon. I bought this super expensive trail mix yesterday from this hippie grocery store, and while amazingly delicious and probably the best trail mix I've ever had (it has walnuts, almonds, dates, sunflower seeds, cashews, peanuts, yogurt chips...can you get any more yum?) it is seriously addictive and every time I open it I find myself eating way more than I should and even getting to that point where I start to wonder "why am I still eating this when I feel slightly sick from eating so much already?" and eventually put it away. I still feel slightly sick 3 hours later.

After I got home from work, things got slightly better. I weighed myself and realized I didn't gain 400 pounds from eating a boatload of trail mix. I forced myself to do pilates and some stretching. I painted my nails. Coated my skin with argan oil to calm it down.

Maybe it wasn't such a loss after all.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Weekend Pants

As I sat here thinking about what beauty product to write about this lazy Saturday morning, my mind starting wandering to my plans for the rest of the day or lack thereof, and that led to thoughts of what I'm going to wear when I eventually change out of my pajamas. The usual answer on a weekend day when I don't have any real plans other than grocery shopping, cleaning, dog walking, yoga, etc. are my favorite weekend pants (or maybe lack thereof): Lululemon's wunder under crops. 

I know what your first reaction might be (that was also mine): $72 for yoga pants? Let me assure you, these are no ordinary yoga pants. I actually got them as a gift, and I'm so glad I did, because I was contemplating buying them before that but I'm not sure if I would've actually made the plunge. They're super stretchy and comfortable, and are basically like a thick tight, but thick enough that you can confidently wear them with nothing over them. I've paired mine with a hot pink running zip-up (right now) for a more sporty look, or a cotton v-neck ruched tee for a more casual, everyday look.

What I really love about these pants is that you don't have to constantly pull them up. Once you get them on and have everything where it should be, these pants are staying there until you take them off, which will be many hours or even days later (I admit, I've worn them all day and then been too lazy to change into something else for bed, but really, why not?). There's also NO camel toe, and they make your butt look pretty fantastic. There's also a little pocket in the wide waistband where I sometimes hide doggie poop bags when I'm walking the dogs. The wide waistband also means that you don't have to worry about your thong sticking out the back (unless that's the look you're going for...I don't judge) or your stomach overflowing over the top.

I think it's safe to say that I am highly unlikely to ever buy any other yoga pants. I'm also a fan of their groove pants, but I definitely prefer the wunder unders. Another plus is that for tall ladies like me, their tall size inseam is a generous 35.5," which is perfect for me, and they also offer complimentary hemming at Lululemon stores.

Bottom line: yes, their high-end yoga wear is quite expensive, but everything I've bought (I also have a stretchy tank top) has been well worth it, and their pants also hold up well in the washing machine.

Also, how cool-looking is this bra? WANT.

Sunday, March 10, 2013


Every time I go into Sephora, I can't resist trying at least two products out on my skin -- one on each forearm. If I'm lucky, I'll only walk out of the store resisting to itch just one arm, and this time, I was lucky. I put Korres Brightening Sleeping Facial on one arm and I loved the scent, no reaction, skin looked great an hour later. On the other arm I tried Kate Somerville Nourish moisturizer, since I received a sample of her Oil-Free Moisturizer when I bought EradiKate (post to come) and, although it tingled a bit too much when it went on, didn't have an allergic reaction. Lo and behold, the Nourish moisturizer made me break out in red, blotchy, nasty hives within minutes of application. Guess I learned my lesson for trying one of the more chemical brands out there.

But back to a more natural brand that I enjoy: LAVANILLA (no I'm not screaming it at you, their brand name is all caps). Their description on the Sephora website reads:  "Today, their growing line of healthy products continues to brim with everything that's good for you and absolutely nothing that's not. LAVANILA delivers a new generation of 100% healthy products formulated with the highest quality of natural and organic ingredients. They're packed with vitamins and minerals, and completely free of harsh chemicals. Indulge with confidence."

While I would say that "completely free of harsh chemicals" is a bit of an overstatement, I've tried several products from Lavanilla and am generally happy with their Healthy Deodorant, fragrances, Body Butter, and Body Wash 2-in-1 Shower & Shave. My armpits get irritated easily from most deodorants, with Dove being the least irritating, so I've tried several natural deodorants without aluminum such as Tom's and Alba Botanica. Unfortunately, I've found that they do absolutely nothing if you actually sweat. Lavanilla's smells nice and is decent, but if you start to sweat, you have to reapply frequently during the day in order for it to be effective, which for me was very disappointing. It also is a little powdery, and pretty much everytime I used it a little of the product would flake and fall off, so it can be messy.

Their fragrances all smell nice as long as you're into vanilla, with the vanilla lavender and the pure vanilla being my favorites and vanilla blackberry being my least favorite. I actually used a whole tube of the vanilla passionfruit body butter -- which as you should already know, is a big plus for this product. It smells delicious, is fast absorbing, and non irritating. I would probably repurchase if there weren't so many other body lotions waiting to be tried. :)

I recently purchased Lavanilla body wash after my Lush The Olive Branch shower gel ran out. It's just OK. It doesn't irritate my skin, but the fragrance is very very mild, almost nonexistant. I also don't really understand the "shower & shave" tagline, since any shower gel or cream or oil can be used for shaving, and this one certainly doesn't get thick like shaving cream. 

Overall verdict: LAVANILLA is a nice, natural-ish brand. While I'm not convinced as to the "naturalness" of the line, I like what they're trying to do, and since I haven't reacted negatively to any of their products, that pretty much has me sold. I may even consider a repurchase of their body butter. Yum.  

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Lip Balm Nostalgia

I can clearly remember many of the different lip balms I've used over the years, since my preteens. I believe cherry Chapstick was the first beauty product I ever owned, followed shortly by Clearasil. I remember writing a letter to my longtime penpal and friend since preschool, Jen, when we were about 12, asking "What type of facial cleanser do you use?" and she wrote back "I use soap to wash my face." She must've thought I was a weird kid (which I undoubtedly was) to ask that question. It was around that time my infatuation with beauty products started.

Anyway, back to lip balms. There's something about them. Each one that I've used evokes a vivid memory. I remember having really chapped lips when I was young from the cold New Jersey winters, and they would burn so badly that I would just apply layer upon layer of Chapstick thinking that the more I used the more effective it would be, but it just left me with clown lips and a bad taste when I proceeded to eat or drink something.

I don't remember how exactly, but someone must've introduced me to Burt's Bees. It's the first beauty brand I can remember having a real obsession with. I dragged my mom to boutiques to find their products (this was long before they were stocked in pharmacies) and used my dialup internet connection to explore every section of their website. The two products I remember the most vividly are the orange face wash and peppermint lip balm, which at that time only came in a tin. I used that peppermint lip balm for years, through high school and maybe even some of college. It was decent, but it often left a white chalky residue and felt kind of waxy.  The orange cleanser smells delicious, like an orange grove. In fact, I think I may pick a tube up the next time I see it. The ingredient list is short and natural, and mainly because now I can't stop thinking about that heavenly smell!

12 years and countless lip balms later, I finally have a new favorite that I think might make it to a Repurchase when it runs out: L'Occitaine Shea Butter Lip Balm Stick. I bought it completely on a whim when I was purchasing some other L'Occitaine products, and it was by far the standout. It's super moisturizing, natural, nongreasy, leaves no residue, and is taste and odorless. I apply it every morning when I put on my moisturizer, and I usually only have to reapply once during the day. I'm also a fan of Sugar's line of lip treatments, especially the tinted ones, but as far as a basic, reliable, moisturizing lip balm--I think I may have finally found the one. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

I Believed in Boscia

I had really high hopes when I first noticed the Boscia display tucked away in the farthest corner of my local Sephora's skincare section. The green leaf logo with simple black text and all-white packaging boded well for low-key, natural products. I was in the store in early July, when it finally starts to feel slightly hotter than the pleasant year-round temperature of 72 degrees in sunny Santa Barbara, and on the hunt for a lightweight summer moisturizer. 

A sales rep directed me to the Boscia Oil Free Moisturizer with SPF 15, and it did seem to fit all my criteria: lightweight, non-greasy, natural, with SPF. I decided to try it out, and, since I have no self-control when it comes to food and beauty products, also picked up Boscia's Willow Bark Breakout Treatment, Recharging Night Moisturizer, Clear Complexion Cleanser, and Luminizing Black Mask.

The Oil Free Moisturizer is pretty basic and true to its label, but at $36 for 1.4 oz, there are cheaper alternatives for the same quality.  I'm still using the Recharging Night Moisturizer almost every night (after my Argan Oil application of course) and the blemish treatment, even though its effectiveness has dwindled. When I first squeezed out some of the clear gel and applied it to a medium-sized pimple, I was shocked at how it had shrunk to small-sized by the morning. Unfortunately, my experience with most acne products has been high effectiveness for a few days to as long as a few weeks, followed by absolutely nothing as my skin develops an immunity. I'm cruelly tricked into thinking I've found the perfect product to cure me of the acne I've been plagued with since I was 15 until BAM! That medium-sized pimple might have just turned plus-size overnight.

Boscia claims to be "natural," and while they are preservative free, most of their products have long ingredient lists, which is something I'm really trying to move away from. I had an allergic reaction to their Clear Complexion Treatment, not an extreme one, but some pretty persistent itchiness about 15 minutes after application, and that one bad egg kind of turned me off the line. 

The truth is, I don't dislike Boscia. It's a huge plus for me that it's carried at Sephora, which has an awesome return policy so I can easily return products I've tried and am allergic to. It's also probably the most natural brand carried by the store, and I like their no-frills packaging. But, like I mentioned, I was really hoping for much more than a "meh" reaction. It had potential. Oh well, on to the next!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Repurchase

Yesterday, while I was browsing Sephora.com for things to buy with my Sephora gift card I got for Christmas from my mother, a curious thing happened. I chose Josie Maran from the drop-down list of brands, clicked on Argan Oil, and before I knew it there was a 1.7 oz bottle of Josie Maran Argan Oil for $48 in my shopping cart.

To the best of my memory, I have only repurchased one beauty product in my lifetime: Philosophy's Hope in a Jar moisturizer. I even ventured so far as to purchase the version with SPF in it right when it was released, which was a huge disappointment since the oil separated easily and overall it had a greasy consistency that was nothing like the original version. I was probably a little less than halfway through my repurchased jar of the original when I decided to look at the long list of highly chemical ingredients on the back and had a thought that maybe since I had used it for so long (almost two years) I was allergic to it and didn't even know it. At the time I was occasionally getting a small hive or two on my face during the day at random times, but had no allergic reaction when I put on the moisturizer in the morning. I admitted to myself that it was an unlikely hunch, but decided to give away the remainder of the jar to my mother anyway.

My underlying motive that I was trying to keep repressed was the opportunity to purchase a new moisturizer. To me, a facial moisturizer is the ultimate skincare purchase. You wear it every day, it can greatly impact the appearance and health of your skin, and there are SO many choices. I eagerly started exploring the beauty section at Whole Foods and visiting natural product websites, which introduced me to a plethora of beauty products I had never before explored.

Skip forward two years: I'm on line at Sephora, waiting in that maze of miniature-sized beauty candies designed specifically for impulse beauty buyers like myself. I paw a small bottle of Josie Maran Argan Oil, remember reading somewhere about this new "it" beauty product and it's miraculous benefits, and for $14, can't resist adding it to the day's beauty loot. 

I read that it was a multitasker, so I brought it with my on my wedding/honeymoon trip and used it as a body oil and hair frizz tamer. It worked well, and I showed no signs of allergy (which is always a plus), although I found the medicine dropper a little annoying to use. After I got back from my trip, I unpacked it in a drawer forgot about it.

These past few months have been some of the worst ever for my skin -- I'm talking flaky dryness, itchiness, and pimples that can't even be fully concealed with my team of Make Up Forever products. I'm not really sure what's going on -- or if it's connected to my 8-pound weight gain and sprouting gray hairs along my part. Needless to say, I've been searching for a miracle product. I remember the high praise I read about argan oil and slather some on before going to bed one night. The next morning my pimples are smaller and flakiness is reduced. I put it on again the next night and see the same results, but there's one thing that bothers me: the mini-sized bottle is now only 1/4 full.

And so it begins.