About Me

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.