Friday, September 30, 2011

Nails of the '80s

The other day I got sucked into a vortex of 1980s commercials on YouTube. It all started with this:

I have had this commercial stuck in my head for 23 years. No joke.

Whatever happened to Lee Press-On Nails? I suppose they went the way of these:

I have no memory of Krazy Nails, although I don’t think, at age 7, that I was really the target demographic. The Miss Lee ad clearly worked, though, because I’ve been walking around for years with the line “Smaller sizes, what she means!” flitting across my memory from time to time...

Now let’s enjoy this grown-up Lee Press-On Nails commercial, in which we are treated to a “rainbow array” of plastic nails in pink, purple and red, and in which we watch the hand model type on what looks like the keyboard to an Apple IIE:

Finally, a product about which I had completely forgotten:

Those eye shadow sticks! The lighted compact mirror! For me, however, it was not to be. No way would my mother (despite being a theatrical makeup artist) ever have allowed Sweet 16 Makeup into our house. She struggled enough with how Barbie might warp my self-image. (It’s OK, Mom, I turned out fine. Except that I paint my nails every day and spend a lot of time on the Internet talking about foundation.)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wet N Wild Behind Closed Doors & Tangled In My Web

While I was busily snapping up Halloween kits at Fred Meyer, I also picked up a couple of Wet N Wild polishes from the On The Prowl collection: Tangled In My Web, a black “glitter” topcoat (more on that below) and Behind Closed Doors, a mix of fine and chunky red glitter in a sheer black base. (Vampy Varnish has a detailed post with great photos of the polishes. I’d love to find a bottle of Correction Tape, but I haven’t seen one on any of the displays around Anchorage.)

I was really excited when I saw Tangled In My Web. I even dug around in boxes stashed below the display shelves to find a bottle when there was none on the display.  It’s a clear topcoat peppered with medium-sized hexagonal black glitter. 

About that. “Glitter” might not actually be the correct word, since there’s not much sparkle to these speckles; it is more accurate to say something like “sprinkles.” At any rate, it’s not like anything I’ve ever seen before. But I’m not really sure how I feel about it. As with many glitter topcoats, the application is tricky (be prepared to do a lot of dabbing), but in this case, the end result isn’t necessarily all that exciting.

I tried Tangled In My Web on its own and over two coats of Finger Paints Outta Sight Orange:

Yeah. Basically tiny polka dots. I don’t dislike it; I’m just not that excited about it. I’m sure there’s some exciting possibility for it that I just haven’t yet thought of. Considering I got it for half off with a coupon (and since it’s Wet N Wild, it wasn’t pricy to begin with), I feel OK about having bought it. If I need a quick and dirty Halloween manicure, it’ll do just fine. And maybe I’ll rediscover it months from now and realize all its untapped possibilities.

Behind Closed Doors, on the other hand, I love. Love love love love love. With the red glitter in the black base, it’s the funky version of China Glaze Lubu Heels I’ve been waiting for. (I like Lubu Heels, but the red has never stood out enough for me. Behind Closed Doors, layered over a coat of black polish, is exactly what I wanted Lubu Heels to be.) One or two coats looks great over a red polish; I wore it for a couple of days over Essie Red Nouveau and got a million compliments. I put on another coat before photographing it, so these show three coats over Red Nouveau:

In the photos above, the base color definitely looks black, but in sunlight it has more of a dark red jelly look:

The red jelly is even more pronounced with only two coats.

Like so many of their glittery relatives, these polishes are a b***h to remove. Lots of people swear by the aluminum foil method, and that has always worked for me, but I hate to waste aluminum foil. So instead I waste toilet paper! I use one square for each nail, fold it up into a strip about as wide as the nail is long, and soak the center of the strip in nail polish remover. I place the soaked center over the nail and wrap the ends of the strip around my fingertip. The TP sticks to itself, so no aluminum foil is necessary. I let them sit for a few minutes, then pull the TP wraps off one at a time while applying pressure to my fingernail. This gets off much of the glitter, although I find it’s usually necessary to go back and clean up the stragglers. I like the Graham Professional Hands Down pads from Sally Beauty for this; they're super durable and they don’t leave fuzz all over your fingers. Plus they have a little tab on the back to hold on to so you can take polish off your toenails without melting your mani.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Wet N Wild Fantasy Makers Hauntingly Hip Halloween Eye Kits

Polarbelle posted last week about the impressive variety of drugstore offerings carried at Anchorage Fred Meyer stores, and I won’t repeat what she said except to reiterate how much fun it is to shop the makeup aisles at my friendly neighborhood Freddy’s. I mostly love drugstore brands for fun color cosmetics (although lately I’ve been loving a L’OrĂ©al foundation, and Maybelline The Falsies is my new favorite mascara), so I took advantage of a buy-one-get-one-half-off sale to snap up the Wet N Wild Fantasy Makers Hauntingly Hip kits for Halloween. With the coupon, I got all four kits (usually $5.99 each) for just under $18.

Each kit comes with a nine-color palette (a mix of glitters and metallics), a black eye pencil, and three stencils. There are some duplicates among the palettes, but not among the stencils. There’s an angel kit, a devil, a witch, and a butterfly, which was the one I broke into first (with no battery in my camera; hence the iffy cell phone photo):

The kit is easy enough to use: You stick the stencil to your face and smooth the makeup over the exposed areas. The butterfly only took me a couple of minutes to do, although once I peeled the stencil off I realized I should have started by putting down a base of cream shadow to fill in the wing. As it was, it looked fine, but kind of empty. (Note: The shape of the butterfly is all done using colors from the Madame Butterfly palette; the glitter is from a NYX glitter palette.)

Over the weekend, I did a few more quick tests with the other stencils. I tried the mask from Bewitching Beauty, using the blacks and purples from that palette:

Each of the kits comes with a mask stencil and two additional stencils. I tried putting the cauldron from Bewitching Beauty on my arm, but was really dissatisfied with the results; there was just too much cauldron to fill in once the stencil came off. 

For these wings from Gilded Angel, I did an outline using the black pencil and then filled in with white and gold, with some blue from the Madame Butterfly kit on the tips. The effect was really pretty:

One thing to note about the makeup in the Hauntingly Hip palettes is that they are not glitter all the way down. The colors are actually all metallic, but some of them have a layer of glitter on top. It’s a little bit deceptive, although the metallic is actually much better for stenciling than, say, the glitters from my NYX glitter palette (which, as you can see in the Madame Butterfly photo, are just glitter with no real pigmentation). If you’re looking for thick, glittery colors, you’re going to be disappointed. If you’re a fan of metallics, though, you’ll be in heaven. Another caveat: The consistency on these isn’t great for non-Halloween purposes; even with primer underneath, my eyelids creased like crazy, and I only had these looks on for a few minutes each. The sponge applicators are, perhaps unsurprisingly, not really great for applying these colors, even with the stencils. I had the best luck using either my fingers (which the package recommends) or a brush with short, stiff bristles. Some of the colors apply more evenly than others. The package also recommends leaving the stencil on until the makeup dries, but I don’t think that’s necessary. (I also don’t know how dry the makeup will actually get; some of the colors seemed awfully greasy.)

My most successful trial was the flame mask from Devilish Diva. For this look, I put down a base of NYX Jumbo Eye Pencil in Cherry and then did the stencil in Illamasqua Liquid Metal. I used the Wet N Wild palette for highlight colors and then patted a little bit of matte red eye shadow from the Coastal Scents Creative Me #1 palette around my eye:

These were all quick looks — I spent the longest on the Devilish Diva eye, but even that only took about five minutes. If you were willing to take some time and experiment, there’s a ton of possibility in these kits.

Some other thoughts:

  • The mask stencils were too wide for my face — and I have a great big melon head, so if they’re too big for me, they’re going to be too big for a lot of people. The Bewitching Beauty mask went about a centimeter past my hairline on each side, so I didn’t fill in the whole thing. I cut the Devilish Diva mask in half and only did one eye. 
  • Some of the stencils will require scissors for other reasons. The butterfly mask actually comes in one piece as a butterfly. You’ll have to cut it in half if you want to recreate the look on the package. And the Devilish Diva mask, weirdly, had a solid center that would have covered my entire eye (everything you see that’s red above) if I hadn’t snipped it out. I then had to figure out how to fudge the straight line above my eye.
  • The stencils are vinyl and theoretically reusable, but if you’ve ever stuck a sticker to your skin and then peeled it off, I don’t have to tell you that these stencils lose much of their adhesive capability after one use. They might be durable enough that you could rinse them off and use a little bit of eyelash glue or something to stick them on again.
  • The black eye pencil is awesome. Soft and dark and very smooth. I’m glad I’ve got four of them, because these might very well enter my daily routine.
Ultimately, I won’t turn to these palettes for reliable, durable colors, but the kits are great for experimenting with some fun fantasy makeup, and totally ideal for an easy Halloween look. These were just some quick trials I tossed together in a few minutes each, so if you’re willing to invest some time and creativity, a Hauntingly Hip kit could be the foundation of a pretty spectacular Halloween look. 

Wet N Wild Fantasy Makers Hauntingly Hip Eye Kits
Bottom Line: Lots of fun for playtime; not terribly practical for everyday.
Price: $
Tip: Use a good primer and combine with more substantial color cosmetics for a bit more staying power.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Target giveth, and Target taketh away

Never again
I almost never buy Q-Tip brand cotton swabs, since store brand tend to be more affordable (and it’s not like I need surgical-grade precision; I mostly use them to apply spot treatment and remove waterproof eye makeup), but on a trip to Target a few weeks ago I picked up a package of Q-Tips because (a) they were on sale and (b) they came with a bonus pack of cotton rounds, which I use every day to apply toner and remove makeup, and of which I was running out.

I actually really like the cotton swabs more than my usual Target brand, but that’s a post for another time. My real problem is this: These Q-Tips brand cotton rounds are honest to God the best cotton pads I have ever used in my entire life. No joke. I love them. I loooooove them. They feel great and they hold up under saturation and they don’t leave a single scrap of cotton fuzz on my face. They are absolutely the most effective cotton product I’ve ever used, of any shape or style.

And now here’s my problem: I’m about halfway through my bonus pack, and I can’t seem to find any more of these Q-Tips brand cotton rounds for sale anywhere. Target doesn’t have them on display with the rest of the cotton products. They don’t even have any more of the bonus packs attached to packages of Q-Tips. And yes, I love these cotton rounds enough to buy an extra 500 Q-Tips just to get my hands on some more. I haven’t seen them at any of the other places around town where one can find Q-Tips products. A search of the Target website yields nothing, and, surprisingly, so does a search of the Q-Tips website. (I did, however, learn that Q-Tips has an entire section of its website devoted to the many uses of cotton swabs in holiday crafts. No joke.) In fact, the entire Internet seems to be ignoring the existence of any such product as a Q-Tip brand cotton round.

Q-Tip’s clever plan to get me hooked on their name brand cotton rounds has worked. But there seems to be a second, key component of the plan missing: Namely, in order to keep feeding my addiction to these wonderful pads, somebody’s going to have to give me an opportunity to buy more of them. I’ve only got about a week’s supply left. I suppose maybe I could go back to using regular old cotton rounds and pretend it was all just a wonderful dream... but I’d much rather find a way to replenish my supply...

Friday, September 16, 2011

Alaska's first Sephora

I wasn’t that excited in the spring when word got out that Anchorage’s JC Penney would be getting a Sephora outpost. As much as I loved the idea of Sephora establishing a presence in the AK (the short-lived mystery vending machine doesn’t count), I’ve never been impressed by any of the JC Penney in-store Sephora locations I’ve encountered. So I didn’t go running downtown to check it out when it opened in August.

A week or so ago, though, my husband suggested we take a pass through Penney’s on the way to the new Apple store (also coming soon: Aeropostale and Teavana). And I was pleasantly surprised to find this:

OK, you probably can’t tell from my lame cell phone photo (taken from the Olsenboye section), but we didn’t get the dinky little Sephora counter I’ve seen at Outside JC Penney stores; we got, basically, a small Sephora store inside our JC Penney. We stayed long enough for me to get excited, and then we left (to go have an argument about why I can’t have an iPad). I went back after work tonight, though, and took a closer look. I liked what I saw.

Our mini-Sephora carries a lot of favorite brands, including Urban Decay, Stila, Korres, Murad, Tarte, Cargo and a decent selection of fragrances. And of course, my husband’s favorite:

Seriously, though, he does really love Philosophy. We have a half-dozen or more different three-in-ones in the shower at any given time. He likes the fruity scents.

There’s also a big selection of Sephora brand products, including the full line of OPI for Sephora (be still my nail-painting little heart), and a nice range of skincare and hair products. I wish they hadn’t wasted space on Body Shop products (there’s a Body Shop store right down the hall at the Fifth Avenue Mall), maybe filling those shelves instead with some high-end brands we can’t find elsewhere in town (like Guerlain, maybe? Illamasqua? I’d really like to see Koh Gen Do in person), but overall, I’m thrilled with the store. The staff is helpful, the selection is good, and now I don’t have to wait for days to replace my moisturizer when I run out.

Of course, the downside is that I’m much more likely to spend money I didn’t plan on spending when I’m shopping in person rather than shopping online. Which is how I ended up with this:

Yes, that’s original formula Nars Zulu on my fingernails. When you see something special on the cover of the Sephora holiday catalog, you don’t hesitate; you buy, buy, buy!
I didn’t intend to walk out with anything, and I certainly didn’t plan on spending $64 on a palette, but it was there, and I was there, and one thing led to another... But! The great thing about having a Sephora is that now, apparently, we will have Sephora special events. I didn’t realize until I was checking out that I’d stumbled into the middle of an Urban Decay promotion. I walked out with this:

...which was packed with my new palette, plus a free (really cute) UD T-shirt and a deluxe sample of Stardust in Retrograde. If you’re in Anchorage, the promotion continues Saturday and Sunday, so if you had any inclination toward buying the new Book of Shadows palette, go get it in person and score your own free UD swag.

Well played, then, Sephora. You made a JC Penney believer out of this doubting V.I.B. Welcome to the Last Frontier. I hope this is just the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship between Sephora and Alaska...

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Workplace beauty essentials

I’m making a career change this week, from professional communicator (journalist) to professional communicator (PR firm associate), and today is my first official day on my new job. New job equals new office, new desk, new clothes (the dress code in a newsroom is quite different from the dress code at an agency) — and in this case, since I’ve been doing contract work for a few months and haven’t been full-time in an office, it means reassembling my workplace beauty kit.

In a perfect world, makeup would last all day and plans would always be made in advance, and the phrase “touch up” wouldn’t be in any of our vocabularies. Since the world isn’t perfect, though, I like to keep some basics on hand so I can adjust/correct/troubleshoot as necessary. (I learned this the hard way at my last job, when it seemed as though the days someone would call and ask me to film an interview were always the days I’d overslept and shown up to work in a hoodie with my hair in a two-day-old ponytail.) I gathered up my office beauty basics for work over the weekend and thought I’d share them here.

I wasn’t going to buy a new makeup bag, but I did need some new brushes, and I ended up buying this EcoTools by Alicia Silverstone brush/bag set at Target:

The bag is the perfect size to hold my workplace essentials, and I like that the separate compartment keeps brushes tidy. I also really like EcoTools’ products and philosophy. The kit includes a blush brush, mini foundation brush, mini powder brush, detailed eye shading brush and spoolie. It was $18.99 at Target in Anchorage, which means it’s probably $1-$2 cheaper at Lower 48 Target stores. Check inside the large zippered compartment before you buy; mine had a $1 off coupon inside.

What I put inside:



1. Some essential tools: A mirror (rediscovered in my garage cleanup haul); hair ties; nail clippers. These have the little file that flips out so I don’t also have to keep a nail file in the bag.


2. Foundation. This is Korres Ginger & Vitamins Foundation, which I actually don’t like very much at all (it smells like old milk), but it was too expensive to justify throwing out, so it’ll do in a pinch.

3. Concealer. This Redpoint concealer palette came in a BeautyFix shipment a while back (before I got tired of BeautyFix’s technical glitches, ineffective customer service and mind-numbing repetition and switched to the vastly superior Birchbox). It’s not my top choice concealer and I won’t repurchase when it’s gone, but like the Korres foundation, it’ll do in a pinch, and it works well for this touch-up kit because it has several colors of concealer together in one compact.

4. Palladio Rice Paper Blotting Tissues. I use one of these in the afternoon to eliminate oil and shine.

5. Garnier Skin Renew Anti-Dark Circle Eye Roller. This is a new one for me; I picked one up a few weeks ago to see if I would like it in place of my more expensive old standby, Benefit Ooh La Lift. I have very pale skin and I always seem to have dark circles, even if I’m getting enough sleep. I haven’t been using this long enough to know if it actually makes a long-term difference, but I like the way it looks and feels, and I think it will be a good mid-afternoon pick-me-up.

6. Fragrance. Because you never know when you’re going to realize you smell. I included a coffret of Prada Infusion d’Iris and a couple of L’Occitane samples.

7. Clear nail polish — a must for triaging stocking runs and chipping nails. This is a teeny tiny bottle of OPI RapiDry Top Coat that came with a mini sampler set.

Touch-Up Color

8. Mascara. This is a sample-size Laura Mercier mascara that came in the Sephora V.I.B. sample hatbox. I always hold on to my samples to use for travel and touch-up kits.

9. Lip product. I like products that provide moisture and color so I don’t have to pack a lip balm and a lipstick. My current favorite is Maybelline Shine Sensational Pop Sticks (this is Raspberry Ice; I also have one in Fruit Punch) because they’re moisturizing, provide a nice wash of color, and smell great.

10. Benefit High Beam. Best highlighter in the whole world. I have a few of these tiny-sized ones that have come in various kits and samplers; perfect for a little bag like this one.

11. Eyeliner. This double-ended one from Ulta has black on one side and brown on the other. When I’m doing my makeup for real at home, I generally use gel or powder eyeliner, but for this bag I like the portability of a pencil.

12. Eye shadow. I bought this little baked palette at Sally Beauty a couple of Christmases ago, but I see it everywhere. (In fact, you can have it printed with your own brand and shipped from China!) This will come in handy if I end up going straight from work to an evening event and want to add some color to my look.

If I add anything else to this bag, it will probably be a Benetint Pocket Pal, a blush, and a powder compact. I use Benefit Dandelion, and the box is just too square to fit in this bag, so I’m on the lookout for a more compact compact (so to speak) to tuck in here. I might also pick up another set of Goody Spin Pins, which I love for putting my hair into an easy, polished-looking chignon. I’ll also bring a couple of moisturizers to keep in my desk to get me through the dry Alaska winter; my favorites are the Body Shop’s body butters (I have a couple of travel sized containers sitting around that will fit nicely in a desk drawer) and my beloved Bliss High Intensity Hand Cream.

Now all I need is a kit to keep me from spilling coffee on myself and I’ll be all set...