Saturday, December 31, 2011

Buff Bride Post: The Importance of Strength Training

The countdown until our wedding is now under 4 months, and preparations are kicking into high gear!  I've been working with a personal trainer at the gym in the hopes of not just getting into great shape for my walk down the aisle, but also to start my journey towards a leaner, healthier, sexier Kelly.

One thing that I've heard and read over and over and over again is the importance of strength training.  My nutritionist swears by it.  My trainer swears by it.  My doctors swear by it.  If you want to do something and have lasting change, then you simply must strength train!

Here's the deal - cardio burns calories... plenty of calories, if you're working hard enough!  However, when the cardio stops, so does the calorie burning.  If you're like me, with a metabolism so low it crawls, then you need more than cardio.  You need muscle.  How do you get muscle?  Not on the treadmill!  You get it by gaining strength - large muscle groups, circuit training, conditioning, etc.

While calorie burning stops when a cardio routine stops, it keeps going hours after a strength training routine.  According to my trainer, I continue to burn calories for approximately 10 hours after working out.  This doesn't give me an excuse to eat whatever I want (do you know how long it's been since I had McDonalds?!?!), but it does give me a justification to enjoy what I'm eating, guilt-free.

I've been working hard for about 3 months now.  I've lost only a few pounds, but taken an inch and a half off my waist alone.  My legs are leaner, my arms are getting stronger, and my back is straighter.  Results are slow (painfully slow, actually), but they have been coming.  My jeans fit better and my posture is stronger.

Boosting your metabolism is a really slow process, but it's amazing how easy it is to kill it.  Eat poorly, don't exercise, keep erratic sleeping patterns, don't stay hydrated, crash diet.  I've never been a big crash dieter, but I have gone through stages where I wasn't eating much (stress, sickness, whatever) and it's my personal theory that those moments had a bad effect.  Now I'm determined to undo them.

Friday, December 30, 2011

December 2011 Eco-Emi Box

I received my first Eco-Emi box and wanted to review the products inside.  Eco-Emi is a monthly subscription service (like Birchbox) where, for $15 a month, you get at least 5 deluxe samples of products that are organic and earth-friendly.  Some of them are beauty related, others are more lifestyle. They tend to arrive toward the end of the month - and yes, they ship internationally!  Get more information here:

First of all, the packaging is SPECTACULAR.  Everything was beautifully wrapped and I'm very, very impressed.  The box was jam-packed with goodies.

There was a pair of Maggie's organic socks.  These are really thick and cushiony, very well made.  I love the color and how they're winter-themed.  I've worn them several times, and they wash very well with no bleeding of color or stretching out around the top band.  I can see possibly ordering more and giving as gifts.  They're wonderful!

Next up is a raw cacao spread from Artisana.  It's vegan (I am a meat-eater, but never against vegan recipes/foods), but looks pretty cool.  I have not tried this yet, but supposedly it is very good on lightly toasted bread.  Might be a nice treat someday soon.

Then we have Vitamin C chews from Genesis Today.  The bag has 10 individually wrapped chews.  They're about the size of a Starburst candy, but rectangular shaped.  They taste like lime/citrus, and are soft and chewy, a consistency very similar to Starburst, but not quite as smooth.  My fiance and I liked them.

Then they included a trial size of Green Shield Free & Clear Laundry Detergent.  We've recently switched to detergent that is free of dyes and perfumes in order to reduce skin irritation and allergens.  My fiance has body acne and I have Keratosis Pilaris and it's my theory that some of it is exacerbated by perfumes in our detergent, so we switched.  This may be a product worth exploring further, but we are really happy with our current brand.

Just in time for Christmas, they included a soy candle from Wyk in Whispering Pine... which, you guessed it, smells like a Christmas tree!  It's a nice little tea light.  Because Christmas is over, I won't burn it, but I will keep it closed and use it next year if the scent is still there.

Next was the Zambeezi organic beeswax lip balm in Tangerine.  I have tried this a few times and actually have found that my lips get worse.  I'm not sure if it was all the traveling and/or the weather, but this was a big disappointment.  The flavor was good, but the moisture-power was low, if even existent at all.

Lastly (in addition to some face/body wash samples and coupons for all the products featured), is the Botanicals Lip Gloss from Laura Brooke Cosmetiques.  The color is actually pretty good in terms of pigmentation, and it's not actually very glossy.  It's almost like a thinner lipstick.  The color is a peachy-pink color, but it's surprisingly flattering on me.  (My skintone is fair with pink undertones.)  I like it because it's visible, but not overly dramatic... perfect for the office.  I also like it because it doesn't dry out my lips or bleed.  It's easy to apply and lasting power is pretty average.  A good find!

Gizmo the Cat Beauty Expert thanks you for your time!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Banned until Pan #5: Clean & Clear Daily Scrub

Now the products are really getting used up!  Up next in the Banned until Pan Project is the Clean and Clear Deep Action Exfoliating Scrub.  I purchased this product because I wanted something to help exfoliate and smooth out my skin.  My face does tend to get dry, so I wanted something that would cleanse and smooth, that I could follow up with a good quality moisturizer.

I like this product for the exfoliating properties and the cool, clean feel my skin gets, but I do not think it does a good job removing makeup or actually washing my face.  I haven't purchased it again - in fact, I replaced it with Neutrogena redness reducing scrub.  I also keep a bottle of Olay face wash in the shower as well.  I think if you're looking for something to help remove dead skin cells and fight blemishes, this is probably a good product for you.  However, it's probably a good idea to follow up with a great moisturizer that suits your skin type.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

VoxBox Review: Montagne Jeunesse Peel Off Mask

After a particularly grueling workout tonight at the gym, I decided to treat myself to some Gossip Girl, snuggle time with the cat, and pampering.  I put on my fuzzy socks and comfy sweatshirt, washed my makeup off from the day, then settled down with a nice face mask.

Tonight I used the Passion Peel Off mask from Montagne Jeunesse.  I've used peeling masks before, so I prepared myself for somewhat of a mess, but wanted to try the product anyway.  (I got this in my 2011 Holiday VoxBox from  So, I tore open the package and gave it a shot!

First off, the amount of product in the package is perfect.  Not too much, not too little.  It's a violet-red clear gel, and the smell is simply divine - fruity but not too sweet or overpowering.  It was cool and smooth to apply with my fingertips, and then after washing my hands, I sat back to let it work its magic.

The peel takes about 15-20 minutes to dry, but you can definitely feel when it's ready.  If you apply it with your mouth closed (avoid your mouth and eyes), and you open your mouth after it dries, it will tug a little.  Removal is a LOT easier than other peel-off masks.  It peels easily off the skin in large pieces.  I didn't find that it was painful, difficult, or tedious.  Afterwards, my skin felt clean and soft, and a little bit tight, and much smoother (which makes sense, since it claims to remove dead skin cells).  I do plan to use a moisturizer before bed.

My skin is not acne-prone, and tends to err on the dry side.  It has some redness, likely due to rosacea, but I did not experience any irritation.  I would definitely use this mask again!  For more information, visit

This product was provided complimentary via the VoxBox from Influenster.  I do not accept payment or compensation for reviewing products.  All opinions are honest and my own.

Banned until Pan #4: Real Techniques Stippling Brush

The death of this product wasn't expected, and wasn't exactly a happy event in my household.  The Real Techniques Stippling Brush was my absolute favorite brush to apply my foundation.  I took loving care of it, washing gently and as needed... so imagine my surprise when the brush fell completely out of the handle during a routine shampoo.

I tried to revive the brush by putting the bristles back into the handle, but it was to no avail - it proceeded to shed all over my face.  So, I've decided to let this one go.  I've replaced it with the Sigma F80 synthetic flat-top brush and I'm completely in love already (review coming very soon!).  The other Real Techniques brushes in my collection are doing pretty well, but they do not get as much use as this one, so I hope that they are not doomed for the same fate!

If you're reading this and you've had trouble with these (or any) brushes, let me know in the comments below!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

VoxBox Review: NYC New York Color Liquid Lipshine in Nude York City

In my 2011 Holiday VoxBox was this lip gloss: NYC Liquid Lipshine in Nude York City.  At first, I'll admit - I wasn't thrilled about trying out another lip gloss.  I tend to have trouble with drug-store brands that are glossy because they tend to be thick, sticky, and leave a waxy feeling that eventually dries on my lips.  Boy was I surprised when I tried this out!

Application: This gloss comes with a standard doe-foot sponge applicator.  Because the product is not too thick, a nice amount comes out on the applicator without making a mess all over the bottle.  It glides on smoothly without needing to dip back into the bottle.

Color: The color is definitely a nude shade.  It's sheer, but is visible on my lips.  It can be worn alone, or over another color for a little more depth.  I like to wear this over my Revlon Lip Butter in Creme Brulee.  The color is a perfect understated nude that works well with a slightly more dramatic eye look.

Lasting power is relatively normal to possibly above average.  It doesn't dry out my lips or leave a build up.  It's smooth and lightweight, with a light, pleasant fragrance.

The NYC Liquid Lipshine retails for less than 5 dollars at drugstores such as CVS.  More information can be found at New York Color's website:

Disclaimer:  I received this product at no cost in my Holiday VoxBox through  All opinions and images are mine and I do not accept compensation for my reviews.


VoxBox Review: Mentos Gum

My first product review from the 2011 Holiday VoxBox is the Mentos Pure Fresh chewing gum.  I had to laugh when I saw this in the box because I had been eyeing it at the grocery store earlier in the week, but because I already had a pack of gum in my purse, I decided not to buy until I was out.  So, I was excited to get to try this out.

The pieces of gum are a great size.  With a lot of brands, I find that I need to chew two pieces in order to feel like I have something substantial, but that isn't the case with Mentos chewing gum.  One piece is perfect.

The taste is fresh and long-lasting.  There is an initial crunch when you bite into the gum, just the perfect amount.  Each piece is a mere 5 calories.

Using my Fooducate app on my iPhone, I looked up some additional nutrition information about this gum.

I do think this app is a bit alarmist on certain things, such as artificial sweeteners used in gum, but it's interesting to note that there are artificial sweeteners and colors.  However, a lot of experts agree that chewing gum is a great part of oral health routine because your mouth does not metabolize the sugar alcohols, which means gum does not leave you with cavities.  Some people may experience bloating from consuming sugar alcohols, but the levels in this gum are very small and are negligible.

Overall, this gum is very nice.  If you're a fan of gum with a harder shell, as opposed to soft sticks, you will probably enjoy this gum very much.

Disclaimer:  I received this product at no cost in my Holiday VoxBox through  All opinions and images are mine and I do not accept compensation for my reviews.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Banned until Pan #3: Revlon ColorStay Liquid Liner

The time has finally come to lay my liquid liner to rest!  The third product in my Banned until Pan project is my Revlon ColorStay Liquid Liner.  I went into pretty good detail about this product in my Top 4 Recommendations Tag post below, so I won't spend too much time here.  Will I purchase this again?  I already have a back-up ready to go.  It's my all-time favorite liner, and I highly, highly recommend it to anyone looking for something a little cleaner and sharper than your standard soft pencil liner.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Holiday 2011 VoxBox

About a week ago, I received my 2011 Holiday VoxBox from

The one I got a couple months ago was full of great things to try out (I found my new favorite razor that way) and this box is no exception!

Contents include:

  • SoftSoap Coconut Scrub bar soap
  • ImPress press-on manicure
  • Larabar peanut butter chocolate chip bar (0.78 oz)
  • Mentos gum
  • NYC lipgloss in Nude York City
  • Passion Peel face mask
These were sent to me to try out, and I plan to review them in pretty good detail.  They're all products I have seen before and considered purchasing, so it's neat to get to try them and see if they're keepers.

So far, things are looking really good... especially the lipgloss!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Nail of the Day: Holiday Red

Sure enough, I changed my nail color!  The purple look was fun, but with Christmas coming this weekend, and my nails starting to get long and annoying, I decided to cut them back a bit and go for pretty, sparkly red.

This color is Orly Star Spangled.  In just two coats, it's completely opaque, yet sparkly.  I like this shade of red because it's blue-based and flatters my skin tone, as opposed to a yellow or orange-based red, which looks sort of sickly on my fingers.

Happy holidays!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sally Hansen Navy Baby

I've mentioned before that I'm a sucker for purple nail polish, so it comes as no surprise that I'm a sucker for blue polish too.  I don't wear too many blues, lighter ones stand out a little too much and look a little too young on me, but I have a few darker shades that I really enjoy.  Recently, I went on the hunt for a nice, creamy navy color, and found Sally Hansen's Complete Salon Manicure in the color Navy Baby.

My little brother is currently in the US Navy, so it's always fun to find a color that almost feels like a little "homage" to him and his service.  This color is beautiful.  I unfortunately do not have a picture of it on my nails right now, but I am currently wearing it on my toes.  (Please excuse me for not taking a picture of my feet... I don't want to attract that kind of audience!)  It takes 2 coats, applied carefully, and with a good quality top coat, the color looks great - shiny and smooth.  Sally Hansen colors appear to be more chip-prone with regular hand use, and this shade is no exception.  I find that a similar color, Essie's Mesmerize, lasts much better, but this shade is just too pretty to pass up!  So, I deal with the chips and enjoy the shine!

Would you wear a navy blue?


Monday, December 19, 2011

Everybody's Naked! A Naked2 Palette Review

Alllllllright, I admit it.  I broke the Banned Until Pan promise and ordered the Naked 2 Palette when it finally released on Urban Decay's website.  I've been experimenting with it for a couple of weeks now, and I'm pretty much in love.

Let me say this first.  The original Naked palette changed my life.  Well, not my entire life, but definitely my stance on makeup and my beauty routine.  In searching for hair tutorials for a Valentine's social event, I stumbled upon the beauty community on YouTube and was immediately absorbed into the world of Urban Decay, MAC, Smashbox, NYX, and so on.  The Naked Palette was still relatively new and highly in demand, so when it became available from Sephora, I jumped and ordered it just in time for our trip to Hawaii... where my boyfriend proposed.

The Naked palette has great packaging, with wonderful colors and great formula.  I never ever ever thought I could wear "brown colors" (I didn't think of them as "neutrals") and I had a lot of options with this palette.
Outer packaging, velvet finish with gold lettering.  Magnetized closure. 

The colors are warm, neutral, and very versatile.  This palette came with an eyeshadow brush. 

I was going to hold out (why replace something that works so well?) when the next generation came out, but once I saw that this palette is more on the cooler side (as opposed to warmer tones), I was immediately interested.

The packaging has been updated (as you can see in the pictures) and the colors, although similar - and Half Baked appears in both palettes - are much more on the taupe side of neutral.  For a girl whose favorite look involves MAC Shroom and MAC Satin Taupe, this palette is a great addition to her collection!

The packaging on the Naked 2 is different: a metal case with a snap closure.  It certainly feels more durable than the original! 

The inside looks strikingly similar, but with cooler tones and a full size mirror.  The included brush is dual-ended. 

Foxy, Half Baked, Bootycall, and Chopper. 

Tease, Snakebite, Suspect, and Pistol. 

Verve, YDK, Wasted, and Blackout.
I'm actually adoring this palette right now, and finding more and more versatile looks than I had discovered with the original.  Some colors in the original were difficult for me to wear because they tended to be too warm, so they made me look almost a little ill.  These colors are much more flattering and I find myself even able to wear the more dramatic and different colors with flair.  It's the first time I've worn darker colors with more drama and been really pleased with the result!

So, although a lot of YouTube beauty gurus claim this palette is useless if you already have the first one, I argue differently.  They're similar colors, but completely different tones... and the difference shows.  Also, this palette has more medium shades and fewer really dark shades, which helps with wearability.  I adore it!


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Nail of the Day: Purple

I thought about fun nail colors for the holidays - most girls wear metallics like silver and gold (OPI Muppets Designer... De Better and Orly's Rage are both very popular right now) or dark reds, festive glitters, etc.  Because my nails were a neutral pink before, I thought it might be fun to do a bright purple look today.
That's not my cuticle that's messed up - I have 2 papercuts on my middle finger.  Ouch!!

On my nails today is Seche Base coat, followed by two coats of OPI's Purple with a Purpose, and Divine Swine from OPI's 2011 Muppets Collection on the accent nail.  I followed up with a clear Seche Vite top coat for added protection and shine.

I like them because they're bright but not the usual holiday color.  I'm sure by next week, I'll have changed polish again - especially because this look is a little bit messy, but for now, this is fun.  I'm a sucker for purple nail colors.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Quest for the perfect conditioner: It's a 10 Product Review

My second bottle of this stuff.

I'm on a seemingly never-ending quest for the perfect conditioner.  I'm marrying the love of my life this coming spring, so I'm growing my hair out.  It's super fine, thin, and naturally platinum... with a mind of its own.  To keep my sanity, and to keep me from chopping it all off, I've been making sure to style it more often, incorporate different looks and styles, and take the best care of it that I can.  To keep me from pulling it all out, I have to condition... and condition, and condition!

I tried the regular detangler (you know, the kids' one in the fishy bottle?) and although it did detangle my hair initially, I felt like it dried it out in the end.  I needed something more like a leave-in conditioner.  I heard good things about It's a 10, so I decided to give it a shot.

It's a 10 Miracle Leave-In Product is probably the best leave-in conditioner I've ever used.  It claims to do 10 things:

1.  Repairs dry, damaged hair
2.  Adds shine
3.  Smoothes and controls frizz
4.  Seals and protects hair
5.  Detangles
6.  Prevents split ends
7.  Stops hair breakage
8.  Creates silkiness
9.  Enhances natural body
10.  Flat iron spray and thermal protector

I don't think this product gives my hair any body or volume, and the extent to which it prevents split ends is questionable, but the other claims seem to be pretty valid.  In my [anecdotal] experience, it does soften my hair and I find that I don't need additional product to hold style (aside from hairspray).  I am also seeing a lot less frizz, which is a big plus.  It has a very light, clean fragrance, which I don't find lingers in my hair.

One thing I've also noticed is that this product sometimes sprays all over the place, making the bathroom floor sort of slippery.  I've had my iPhone on the vanity/counter when spraying this product, and it leaves a film that takes quite some effort to get off.  I think that's probably a good indicator of how this product coats your hair.  It protects and softens, yes, but volumizing?  Not on fine hair that's easily weighted down!  And I would never ever apply this product to dry hair.  That would just lead to a greasy mess.

Still, I have to say... 9 out of 10 ain't bad.  It's enough to justify the 20+ dollar price.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

December 2011 Birchbox Review

My December Birchbox arrived!  This month's box has a couple hits and misses:

Hit: Benefit's Porefessional
This primer has a slight tint, is lightweight, and helps your foundation go on smoother and last longer.  I already had one from my Beauty and the Bride box from Sephora, so I was happy to get another one to keep in my collection.  It travels well and I like the formula, which is really similar to Too Faced Primed and Poreless.  It also doesn't break out my skin, which is another plus.  Some primers have a silicone feel, which some people might really like, but I just can't get used to it.  I don't like slicking on something that feels that artificial.  This feels much more natural, and it leaves my skin feeling soft too.

Miss: Olie Biologique moisturizing oil
This has five essential oils designed to moisturize your face, body, and hair.  However, it stinks.  At first, I thought I could be okay with the odor - it's sort of a "natural, herb-like" smell.  However, after it "cooked" on my skin, it just smelled... old.  I know a lot of people are big proponents of using oil to cleanse and moisturize their skin, but this just doesn't work for me.  I wouldn't be able to touch anything without making it greasy, so moisturizing my skin isn't an option.  I have fine blonde hair that shows any dirt or oil, so I can't use it on my hair... and I have a good thing going with my face regimen, so I'm not putting it there.  So, this is a miss for me.

Hit: Jouer Moisturizing Lip Color in Birchbox Pink
When I received the Jouer Lip Enhancer in a previous Birchbox, I was actually really disappointed.  It was such a small sample that I couldn't really get any product out to try.  I've heard good things about that product, but the little bit I could try wasn't impressive.  That isn't the case this time!  The gloss is a fun and bright color that is sheer and completely wearable, it's a doe-foot applicator that applies well, it's small enough to fit in any purse, and best of all - it's not sticky!  In the video, I compared it to Nars Easy Lover, but the one complaint I have about Nars lipgloss is that it's suuuuuper sticky.  The Jouer gloss isn't sticky or waxy.  I really like it and am looking forward to wearing it more.  It actually may end up being my first full-size purchase from the Birchbox site!

Neutral: Yogini by Harvey Prince
This perfume smells nice, but it doesn't call to me.  I'm going to wear it a few more days and see how it works with my chemistry over time.  I don't love it (just fell instantly in love with Vera Wang's Princess... YUM!), but I don't hate it.  And the fact that I don't hate it is a good sign!  :-)

I'll pass: EBoost Orange Natural Energy Booster
This is one of those dietary supplements that claims to boost your immune system and energy levels by simply mixing with water.  The claim is that 46,000% of your daily recommended dosage of B12 is somehow something your body can handle is simply ludicrous.  The only thing "boosted" from supplements like this is the number of vitamins in your urine.  A bad aftertaste and "expensive pee"?  No thank you.

The only other thing was some double-sided fashion tape to keep your top/dress/whatever in place.  I haven't tried it out or read up on the product, but might come in handy someday, so I'll keep it around.

If you get Birchbox, let me know what came in yours and how you like it!

Tag: Top 4 Product Recommendations

I saw this on Carah Amelie's YouTube channel, and thought it might be fun to try out myself.  The idea is to list your top 4 beauty product recommendations - they must be single products, not a set of them.  Pretty simple, right?  So, let's get started.  In no particular order...

 1.  Revlon ColorStay Liquid Liner in brown-black
This is my holy grail eyeliner.  I never, ever, EVER thought I'd be into liquid liner, but I've grown to positively adore it.  You must apply using short strokes, but this formula is smooth, pigmented, and long-lasting.  I even wrote an Epinions review of it here so you can read more if you like.

2.  MAC Viva Glam V lipstick
This is honestly the first lipstick I've ever regularly worn that A) shows up on my lips, and B) has any sort of lasting power.  It's a versatile, a little sheer, mauve color that works with a very wide range of skin tones.  The fragrance is pleasant, and it applies smoothly.  I especially like that my lips don't feel waxy when I'm wearing this lipstick.  It lasts about as long as any other high quality lipstick (it is not a stain), so carrying it in my purse is necessary on days where I may want to touch-up.

 3.  Bare Escentuals double-ended precision brush
A lot of people rave and rave about Sigma, Crown, and MAC brushes, but Bare Escentuals brushes are really great.  This brush is made from horse and goat hair (so it is a natural-hair brush, as opposed to synthetic), but it works very well!  The contoured shadow end is large enough to help apply product in an efficient and quick manner, while the other end is great for blending.  Mine is a few years old now, but I still use it regularly - almost daily.  I think newer brushes have a bit more precision on the pointed end.  All in all, it's a great brush that really holds up well, doesn't shed, and is reasonably priced for essentially two brushes in one.

4.  Origins VitaZing Daily moisturizer
Moisturizing your skin is key, especially as the weather is getting colder and colder.  My skin is dry, and it easily gets dried out and flakey.  I have found that moisturizing every day, especially right after I get out of the shower when my skin is soft and the pores are open, helps combat this.  I like the VitaZing moisturizer because it has SPF, is lightweight, and it doesn't break my skin out or cause it to be oily.  But the best thing is its formula is designed to make your skin glow - almost like a tan, but not orangey like fake tan lotion.  It helps me look awake, refreshed, and radiant.  And in the winter months, I need all the help I can get!

Well, those are four pretty diverse products that I highly, highly recommend: things I swear by and even tell my best friend to try out.  This was fun... I hope to do more tags in the future.


Friday, December 9, 2011

Banned until Pan #2: Make Up For Ever HD Foundation Primer

It's time for an homage to another retired beauty product!  The next item to get used up is Make Up For Ever's HD Foundation Primer #1.  This primer not only helps smooth out your skin and hold foundation longer, but its green color helps negate redness in your complexion.

I like this foundation because it's smooth with a moisturizer-feel to it, rather than being thick and silicone-like.  It doesn't sit heavily on your skin and it blends nicely.  I've heard some concerns that the green color shows through your foundation, but those people are either wearing way too much primer or their skin isn't really red enough, so they're over-correcting.  My cheeks are quite red from rosacea, so the green in this primer works nicely for me.  It isn't a "holy grail" product for me, but it does a nice job of maintaining my foundation and makeup throughout the day.

The picture is of the original bottle, and I have not purchased a replacement.  This is not because I don't like the product!  It is merely because I have several other types of primers, and because of this Beauty Ban project, I want to get through some of them before re-stocking.  So, the Make Up For Ever HD Primer will work its way back into my vanity eventually, but only after the other products are done.


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Eyeshadow Primers: A Primer

Left to right: Urban Decay Primer Potion in Eden, UD Original Primer Potion, NYX HD Eyeshadow Primer, Bare Escentuals Prime Time, MAC Paint Pot in Bare Study

While I was in graduate school, I discovered higher end makeup (story to come at a later time), and thus began my love of eyeshadow.  Buuuuut... the eyeshadow didn't love me back.  Over a relatively short period of time, I went from one or two Maybelline quads that never get worn to a large collection of loose eyeshadows in a wide variety of hues and textures.  Not only did was I clueless on how to wear and blend the colors, but I didn't know how to apply them or how to pick colors that flatter.  Needless to say, I was a complete and total mess from the cheeks up.

I eventually got to where I could pick pretty colors, wearing several shades at one time, but I struggled so severely with fall-out, fading, and "melting" all over my face that it wasn't worth the hassle.  Not until I started watching beauty videos did I realize the key component I was missing: eyeshadow primer!

The purpose of primer is to make the surface of your eyelids hold shadow a little better.  It creates an almost sticky surface (tacky) for the color to stick.  Once I discovered Urban Decay and the Naked Palette, I started using primer to keep the shadow lasting longer.

Holy cow, what a difference!  I haven't found a primer that completely doesn't work, but I have to say that Urban Decay's original Primer Potion is probably my least favorite and the least impressive.  Eden (another UD primer) is actually quite good, and although I stray from it to try other brands, I'm always impressed when I come back to it and it still works so great.  MAC's paint pot in Bare Study is nice and adds some shimmer to your lids (a nice addition to your eyeshadow colors), as does Bare Escentuals eye brightening Prime Time (the tube in the front in the picture), which is nice for many looks.  NYX HD eyeshadow primer is a nice economical option, and it works well - better than UD original, but not as good as Eden.  The one that impressed me the most in formula and the least in packaging was definitely Bare Escentuals Prime Time (the pen-looking one in the middle).  

Bare Escentuals Eye Brightening Prime Time comes in a squeeze tube

Original Bare Escentuals Prime Time now comes in a pen that clicks out product

My biggest complaint about this product is that you don't ever actually have to click the pen to get product to come out - removing the cap created a vacuum that "draws" the primer out.  I'm not sure if this was intentional or not, but it's frustrating and can potentially lead to messes.  I assume the sponge-tip-like applicator is so that you do not need to use your fingers so much to apply, but you end up using your fingers to blend the product and get full coverage on your lid anyway.  And the sponge absorbs product you can't get back!  And it's not even spongy!  It's hard and is uncomfortable to apply!  I'd actually re-purchase this primer if it weren't for the packaging.  That's just a deal-breaker for me.

Whether your lids are really oily and slick, or even if they're dry all the time, a good primer that suits your skin is essential for lasting power in wearing eyeshadow, and even liner.  I recommend trying a couple out to see what you like best, and working it into your regular makeup routine.  Expensive is not necessarily better, and even some drugstore brands (and affordable brands like NYX) make really fantastic quality primers that can make a world of difference.  After all, you spend your money on all these great eyeshadows and palettes, shouldn't they stay on your eyes long enough for you to enjoy them?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Banned Until Pan #1: Make Up For Ever Mat Velvet+

It's time to post about my first product to "kick the bucket" since I started my ban (several others have since passed on - I'm backlogged)... Make Up For Ever Mat Velvet +.

Picture is actually of replacement bottle.  Yes, I purchased again!

I wear shade #25, which is an ivory color with pink/peach undertones.  I wear NW20 in MAC, and Buff in Neutrogena Healthy Skin Makeup with SPF 20.  So, I'm sort of fair, but never the lightest shade in the spectrum.

One of the things I really love about this foundation is its coverage.  I've always stayed away from fuller coverage foundation (and at one time, foundation altogether) because of the fear of looking like a clown or causing major breakouts.  The Mat Velvet + is different because the color not only matches my skin really well, but it doesn't tend to be cakey or thick on my skin.  I apply it with a small stippling brush from Real Techniques, and blending is very easy.  It gives my skin a nice, polished appearance without the look of pancake makeup.  Because I have such red skin, I like this foundation for covering the red without taking away all color (Bare Minerals, I'm looking at you).

It also does a wonderful job of thwarting an oily appearance that oftentimes happens with other foundations.  This product is mattifying, so you'll find that your face tends to keep the shine at bay, without looking gross or dry.

Another thing I really like about Mat Velvet + is the lasting power.  Foundation is frustrating when it only lasts 4-5 hours, and it gets annoying carrying your whole makeup bag around with you, running off to the bathroom to reapply in the middle of the day.  With this foundation, I found that it held its own throughout the day, despite me touching my chin a lot, and even gives valiant effort during my intense gym sessions.  At the end of the day, I'm always surprised to see how much comes off on my cleansing cloths.  And it doesn't even look like I'm wearing that much!

I will, and have, purchased this again.  I currently go back and forth between this foundation and another that has lighter coverage.  I always set my liquid foundation with a powder for an even more polished appearance, and I remove all makeup nightly with a cleansing cloth.

I hope this was helpful to anyone looking for experiences with this foundation.  I highly recommend it to all my friends, and the only downfall of the product is the relative lack of shades, so you may not find exactly your right shade if your color is more unique. I also have had trouble finding this in Sephora located in JC Penney, and usually just purchase online, but regular Sephora stores do sell it, and I recommend checking it out the next time you're in the market for a fuller coverage foundation.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Breaking up with Ulta

So after months of dealing with our troublesome relationship, I've decided to end things with Ulta.  We've been quite close over the past year.  So close that my last rewards certificate was a level 8.  However, poor customer service, virtually never-stocked shelves, and too many restrictions on their "deals" have tried my patience for the last time... and I'm here to declare that we're over for good.  You're all my witnesses!

The employees at my local store are cordial and polite, for the most part, but have been largely unhelpful.  I often have to wait (with no line and 4 empty registers) to be rung up, asking employees where products are located is fruitless, and I've encountered plenty of rude cashiers that make me uncomfortable going there.  I've tried to use the coupons they send me, but there are so many restrictions that it's virtually impossible to buy anything using them, and I've been barked at by employees that they're not applicable.

All of this pales in comparison to the biggest complaint I have had consistently over the past year: shelves that are never stocked.  I cannot tell you how many times I went to Ulta looking for specific items, only to find that they're completely out of stock.  I used to go back over and over, still looking for those items, only to find that they're never stocked.  Just empty, empty shelves.  I have to constantly resort to ordering online, where I then have to pay for shipping, without an opportunity to test products and make sure I know what I'm buying.  I once asked a manager if they had any brush cleaning spray besides the 36 dollar jug they had sitting on a lone dirty shelf.  He proceeded to march all over the store, despite my telling him I'd already looked there, announcing that he didn't believe me.  When I ask when  items will be in stock again, employees reply with, "I don't know.  We don't know what we're getting."

Recently, I stopped receiving mail from Ulta.  Not only did mail circulars stop, but so did email promotions.  And I'm not the only one.  After multiple phone calls and a post on their Facebook page, I finally got a letter explaining that they received my circulars returned undeliverable (an error entirely their own, as many people are complaining about this issue on their Facebook page), and it will take 2 months to remedy the situation and get my mailings again.  There was no explanation why the emails stopped, and conveniently I did not get my rewards certificate this quarter.  They did finally send me that (level 6), so I'm planning one last trip to redeem my reward, then we are done.

Update: Nearly a month after the debacle started and I tried to get my coupons back, I've still yet to receive an email from Ulta.  I've signed up over and over again, but to no avail.  Unfortunately, I got an Ulta gift certificate for Christmas so I went to spend it quickly.  I wanted to get some Benefit blush, but all they had in stock was one box of "10" and two "Coralista".  That's it... the rest were empty and the testers were disgusting.  Two employees were chatting near the area, neither offered help.  I grabbed the very last bottle of the shampoo I was looking for and some "They're Real" mascara, and booked it out of there.  I do not plan to return.

Have any of you had problems with Ulta's poor customer service?  Let me know in the comments, please, so I know I'm not the only one!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Time management and extra projects

I definitely need some help with time management these days!  The last major project I had, I completed successfully but only met my fiance at the near end of all the work.  Now it's almost 2 years later, and I'm planning a wedding, taking care of a house, accepting more responsibility at work, and trying to manage it all, plus write this blog!  Not that anyone is awaiting with bated breath to read my thoughts on eyeshadows and conditioning treatments.  I promise to do a better job planning for this blog - and more videos coming soon!

What a time for a beauty diet!  I didn't partake in the Black Friday deals, Cyber Monday steals, and general craze over Revlon Lip Butters.  (I have three that I got when they first released, but am refraining from purchasing more...)  Now the latest sensation is the Naked2 Palette from Urban Decay.  Yikes!  I don't want to rush myself into finishing up 10 items because that's probably wasteful, but the newest things out for the holidays are certainly providing enough incentive to use up products that have otherwise been neglected.

So, look for more posts coming in the future.  I just took some pictures of the first products in my Banned until Pan project, so those posts are on the way.  I may also write a post gushing my love for the Lip Butters.  I've waited so long to find lip products like these, and can't help myself but rave and rave about them.

I'm off on a weekend of wedding planning this weekend, so I may film what I pack in my beauty bag for a trip like that, so look for it soon.  It'll be the second in my What's in my [travel] bag? series.

Adios and au revoir!