Monday, December 26, 2011

LUSH sale: Good news, bad news

The good news is that LUSH’s annual post-Christmas buy-one-get-one-free sale started at midnight Pacific time today. The bad news?  As it stands at the time of this post, it’s not really that exciting.

Last year I cleaned up on BOGO holiday gift sets, even before you factor in the two free Christmas Stars they sent me because they were out of non-French packaging. This morning, 10 hours into the sale, there are no gift sets listed on the sale page — just a handful of bubble bars, a couple of bath bombs, two lip tints, two soaps and a few (empty) wraps. Eleven products in all. The holiday gift sets are either missing from the site or listed as sold out. I even checked the Canadian site — same selection.

There may have been some gift sets on sale to begin with, but I didn’t hop on the computer at exactly 11 p.m. my time to check it out. Last year things didn’t sell out right away, so I didn’t think it would be necessary. I may have been proven wrong. (Even in the 15 minutes since I placed my order and started this blog post, the Cinders bath bomb has sold out, which I totally don’t get. Golden Wonder is so much better.)

Of course, that doesn’t mean I didn’t pick anything up. At checkout, for every sale item you’ve selected, you get to pick out another item free. (The item selection is the same as the sale item list except that the lip tints aren’t included.) Let’s just say there are a whole lot of Golden Wonder bath bombs and Ruby Red Slippers bubble bars headed for the AK.

Lesson: If you want to shop the LUSH post-Christmas sale, don’t dilly-dally. I don’t know if they’ll be adding more items (I feel like they did last year, but I could just be imagining that out of disappointment), but if you’re in the market for a Snow Fairy lip tint or a bar of Snowcake, now’s the time to grab them and get a little something extra at the same time.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Reader Q&A: Exfoliation

Dear Below Freezing Beauty,
When going gets tough, I get exfoliating. I would exfoliate every day if I was sure it was good for me. I've read differing opinions on the topic. Most concerning are exfoliating face cleansers; I've read that they do more damage than good. Is this true? Is it because too much exfoliation can be a bad thing? Or are exfoliating beads the culprit?
Sincerely, Smooth As Silky Silk

(Seriously, I’m not making these up. That’s how she signed it.)

I loooooove to exfoliate. Let me say it again: I loooooooove to exfoliate. Is there anything in the world that feels better than freshly scrubbed skin? I’ll answer that for you: No. No, there is not. Exfoliating removes dead skin from the surface of your epidermis, which stimulates blood flow and cell turnover, leaves your skin brighter, softer and smoother, and makes it better able to absorb product. It’s one of the most satisfying parts of my beauty routine.

That being said, SASS, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Pretty much everything I’ve read recommends exfoliating no more than twice a week (once if you have sensitive skin). You don’t want to strip your skin and dry it out. And the general understanding right now is that you don’t want to scrub your face with anything too coarse. One of the more polarizing products out there is St. Ives Apricot Scrub. (Check out the reviews on MakeUpAlley.) Some people swear by it, but there’s a lot of concern that the ground nut hulls in the product are too sharp and rough to use on facial skin. If you’re exfoliating with something that’s too rough, it can tear or damage the skin on your face, which sort of defeats the whole purpose of exfoliating in the first place. I’m not a big fan of microbeads personally, but there’s something to be said for using a product in which the physical exfoliant doesn’t have any hard edges.

There’s always the DIY/natural route, although you still run into that same rough-edges issue. I used to make this scrub/mask with sugar, apple cider vinegar and green tea:

I loved the way it made my face feel, but I stopped using it after a while because I was concerned that rubbing sugar crystals all over my face was going to end up doing more harm than good. If you’re going to use a sugar scrub on your face, I recommend using superfine baker’s sugar. (I am a big fan of sugar scrubs for the body, particularly the Australian Igloo from this year’s LUSH holiday collection. And I swear by this DIY sugar scrub for lips.)

Personally, I’ve turned to technology for my exfoliating help. I wash my face twice a day with the Clarisonic, which I love. It isn’t an exfoliating device per se, but it does have a sort of exfoliating effect because it cleans so deeply and effectively. It was absolutely worth the investment. My face has never been cleaner.

I’ve mentioned before that I have adult acne (despite having basically perfect skin when I was a teenager. LIFE IS NOT FAIR). I’ve found that effective facial exfoliation helps keep my skin under control. I’m hoping for the Personal Microderm system for Christmas (hint, hint, Santa). In the meantime, for the past few months I’ve been using the i-Skin Intelligent Microdermabrasion System, which I picked up at my local Sally Beauty. It’s usually about $36, but I got mine on sale for something like $25 with the Beauty Club discount. I was nervous about trying it out because I was concerned it would be too harsh for my face, but that turned out to not be a problem. (I do recommend starting out slowly at first, though.) The i-Skin is a handheld device with a replaceable sponge head. The device vibrates as you use it to gently rub a corundum crystal cream on your face. It’s an imperfect system (it doesn’t exfoliate quite as intensely as I think I’d like, and I can’t seem to get through a session without corundum grit somehow getting into my mouth), but it has been effective.

I used the i-Skin about once a week for several months, followed each time by Philosophy Hope in a Jar moisturizer, and it made a huge difference in my skin. My husband actually commented on it. My breakouts decreased, my skin tone evened out, and my whole face was just sort of... well, glowy.

The downside to using technology, of course, is that it only works when you use it. Used morning and night, the Clarisonic adds about six minutes total to my face-washing routines, and lately I’ve been running late almost every morning and going to bed too late almost every night, so I’ve been skipping it in favor of “daily facial” wipes, which are convenient in a pinch but just don’t actually get my face clean. And I need replacement heads for my i-Skin, and Sally Beauty is way out in East Anchorage. So my skin’s not looking or feeling as good as it could right now. In fact, I’m about to jump up and go do something to rectify this situation right now, so thanks for the reminder, SASS. I’ll leave you with a few suggestions for further reading:

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Holiday gifts for him 2.0

I got my holiday shopping done early(ish) this year, but usually this is about the time I’m casting about frantically for last-minute presents... particularly for the men I know, some of whom can be difficult to shop for.

Last year, I posted about the holiday “beauty” gifts I bought for my husband (then my fiancĂ©). I felt completely safe posting spoilers because ha ha, back then he didn’t know I had a beauty blog. This year he knows about the blog, though, and he checks in from time to time (I’m pretty sure it’s just to see how much money I’m spending on nail polish), so I can’t spill the beans on what he’ll find under our Christmas tree (or Hanukkah bush. We’re a multicultural family). I can share some favorites, suggestions and possibilities for manly holiday beauty gifts, though. So without getting too specific... if I were to be thinking about possibly picking up some personal care products for the men in my life, I might consider these selections.

Sephora Favorites Deluxe Fragrance Sampler For Him

Last summer (on our way home from our honeymoon, as a matter of fact), I dragged took my husband on his first trip to Ulta, where we picked up one or two things for me... and ended up spending a long time in the men’s fragrance section picking out something we both liked for him. (We settled on Pure Nautica Discovery, in case you were wondering.) If you’d like to get a fragrance for your man without wearing out your noses testing scent after scent in the store, Sephora has a men’s version of their fragrance sampler. For $50, you get 14 samples of men’s fragrances from lines like Prada, Gucci and Versace, along with a coupon good for a full-size version of his favorite, plus a couple of 1 oz. Jack Black products. (Jack Black Beard Lube is a favorite at our house.) The downside: The voucher can only be redeemed at a Sephora store — not online and not at Sephora inside JC Penney. So if you don’t live near a real live stand-alone Sephora (like, say, you live in Alaska...), he’ll have to hold on to the coupon until he can visit the store in person. (Why they can’t make the coupons redeemable online is beyond me. If Lush can manage to get unique discount codes into every single cost-inflated holiday gift set, why can’t Sephora manage to get unique fragrance vouchers into every fragrance sampler?)

The Body Shop Brazil Nut Body Butter

Dry winter air is hard on everyone’s skin — men too. And my husband wasn’t thrilled the other night when he asked me if I had any lotion and I handed him a tub of Pink Grapefruit Body Butter. Apparently he’s not into smelling sweet and fruity. I ran the Brazil Nut version past him the next day, though, and he conceded that it smelled sufficiently manly for his comfort. $18 at The Body Shop. (Bonus: If it's as effective as the Candied Ginger body butter, it will also protect against dry skin under actual Arctic conditions.)

Three- or four-way nail buffer

Yes, one of these nail buffers. (You may have to teach him how to use it.) In observing the men in my life over the years, I’ve noticed that they may turn up their noses at proper nail care at first, but once they’re exposed to a life with nice nails, they can become converts. No one can accuse my brother of being anything but masculine, but he was one of the first guys I knew to embrace the three-way buffer. Manicures can be manly, too; consider a gift certificate if you think he needs a professional to convince him. When my parents came to visit me while I was living in New York in my 20s, even my macho firefighter dad came out with us to the nail salon and had his nails trimmed and buffed.

For more last-minute manly gift ideas, check out last year’s Holiday gifts for him post. And if you’re worried about time, you can breathe easy, at least for another day or two — Sephora is offering a free upgrade to 2-day shipping with the code UPS2DAY.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Arctic-tested: The Body Shop Candied Ginger scrub and body butter

I used to have a job for which I traveled to Moscow (Russia, not Idaho) for a few days every February. I thought those were the coldest, most wintry business trips I'd ever take. Until last weekend, when work required me to spend two days on Alaska's North Slope.

If you're unfamiliar with the Prudhoe Bay area, here's a quick primer: It's home to the largest oilfield in North America. It sits in the middle of a vast expanse of tundra. And it sits 250 miles above the Arctic Circle.

The average high temperature for Prudhoe Bay this time of year is 3 degrees below zero.

That's right, I said the average high.

My skin is pretty sensitive to cold, dry weather. I don't have too much trouble with that here in Anchorage, which sits right on the coast and is relatively temperate by northern standards. We get the occasional bitter cold spell, but for the most part it's not dry enough to bother me too much. I knew that the weather on the Slope, though, was likely to dry out my skin, particularly on my legs, which get painfully dry in extreme cold. (Then they chafe against my clothes, and that's even more awful and painful. You know the feeling, I think.) So I packed a couple of holiday products I've been using and liking here at home: The Body Shop body butter and body scrub in Candied Ginger. I mentioned Candied Ginger in my November favorites. The smell is spectacular, and I was confident they'd stand up to the Arctic weather.

This is what it looked like in Prudhoe while I was there:

That's snow whipping across the road in 30 mph winds. I took this photo around noon on Sunday. That's as light as it gets there this time of year. They get a couple of hours of what you might call twilight, and the rest of the time it's completely dark. They won't see the sun peek above the horizon until late January.

I used the body scrub in the shower both days I was there, following up afterward with a generous application of the body butter. I also used the body butter before bed.

Let me tell you: The Body Shop did not disappoint. If I didn't stay well moisturized, I'd still be feeling the effects of the cold weather today. But I didn't have a moment's discomfort (aside from the wind whipping in my face, and I don't think there's a bath and body product that can fix that). My skin stayed comfortable and moisturized all weekend. Not to mention that I smelled amazing underneath my many layers of Arctic gear. I wished I'd packed a similarly effective lip product; my lip balm kept wearing away too quickly, and I think I spent half the weekend digging for the tube in my parka pockets so I could reapply.

Bottom line: If this product can keep my sensitive skin soft and comfortable on the cold, dry tundra weather of the North Slope, it can stand up to just about any weather anywhere. I'm stocking up before my next work-related trip — if I keep following the precedent I've set, I'd imagine my next round of business travel will route me through Antarctica.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Holiday Mani-Fest: China Glaze Twinkle Lights

I'm not sure how China Glaze Twinkle Lights, from the Let It Snow collection, got left out when I posted my other holiday swatches and reviews, since this is one of my new favorites.

Twinkle Lights has a similar color scheme to my favorite China Glaze glitter from 2010, Party Hearty, which is my favorite Christmas polish of all time (so far). Unlike Party Hearty, Twinkle Lights' glitter is all the same size (small), and although the colors are similar (red, green and gold), the effect is very different — more of your standard festive sparkle.

Is it as interesting as Party Hearty? Absolutely not. Is it a fun holiday polish? Definitely.

I've worn it layered over Glittering Garland, but haven't tried it over anything else. I think it would look great over a gold, though (maybe Champagne Bubbles?).

If glitter polishes make you nervous because they're so difficult to remove, be sure to read my Q&A for the world's easiest glitter polish removal tutorial.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Q&A: Reader nail polish questions answered

A friend e-mailed me the other day to ask how to remove glitter nail polish. Then she suggested I add a Q&A feature to Below Freezing Beauty. So we rounded up a few questions I've received recently from friends (seriously! I swear I didn't make these up myself) and I took a whack at answering them. If you've got a beauty question, e-mail it to me and I'll answer it if I can — and if I can't, I'll scour the Internet to find you someone who can. Now, on to the questions...

Removing glitter nail polish

Dear Below Freezing Beauty,

How the hell do I get glittery nail polish off? My standard acetone remover isn't doing the job.

Sincerely, Glittering in Glory

There are a ton of great glitters out right now, and I've actually been asked about this by a few people. I used to struggle with removing glitter polish, too, and then I learned this trick from some clever blogger somewhere (I don't remember where, unfortunately... maybe from a commenter on All Lacquered Up?), and I have never feared a glitter polish again. And now neither will you.

I started with (left to right) two coats each of China Glaze Lorelai's Tiara (from the Eye Candy collection) and Nicole by OPI Step 2 the Beat of My Heart (yes, yes, from the Justin Bieber line. Don't hate), and three coats of OPI Rainbow Connection from the Muppets collection. These three polishes run the gamut from superfine to super chunky, and you'll see that this process works with all of them. I let them dry and then wore them overnight so they'd be good and cured.

To get your glitter polish off you'll need three things: Nail polish remover, small squares of aluminum foil, and cotton rounds cut into fourths.

Soak a cotton pad quarter in nail polish remover and put it on a fingernail/toenail.

Wrap a little square of aluminum foil around the tip of the finger/toe so it holds the cotton against the nail. Make it nice and tight like a little hat. (Maybe pretend your finger is afraid of radiation or alien mind probes.) Repeat for each glittered nail.

Wait about five minutes. Then press down against the surface of the nail and pull the aluminum foil and cotton pad off, wiping as you remove. (If I were a yoga instructor I'd say something about "one fluid motion.")

Et voila! One swipe should get most of it, although you will probably have to go back and clean up a little. In the case of the Bieber polish, I had to flick off a couple of the hearts (which came off easily), and there's a little bit of Lorelai's Tiara left along the edge of my nail, but otherwise the bare nails above are the product of one clean swipe each.

You can achieve more or less the same effect with a couple of squares of toilet paper, soaked in remover and then wrapped around your fingertip so they stick to themselves. It's slightly less effective than the cotton pad/aluminum foil method, but it feels less wasteful. 

Preventing (or fixing) stained cuticles

Dear BFB,

Certain nail polishes stain my cuticles when I try to remove them. How do I avoid this? It so damn annoying. Sub-question: Are all nail polish removers created equal?

Sincerely, Cranky About Stains on my Hands

I don't have a foolproof method for this one, but I'm imagining (based on my own skin-staining experience) that they're darker polishes that are just leaving behind more pigment. After you've removed all your nail polish, try going back over your cuticles with a clean cotton pad and nail polish remover, followed by a hand scrub or a good soap and nail brush and then hand cream. It might help to apply some hand cream or cuticle oil before you remove your nail polish, too, to keep the pigment from sticking.

And no, all removers are definitely not created equal. I use acetone when necessary for expedience/intensity, but usually I prefer the Sally Hansen moisturizing nail polish remover (pictured above). It's not acetone-free, but it's gentler than other acetone removers I've used (and even gentler than some non-acetone formulas). It requires a little more elbow grease, but it smells better and isn't as hard on your hands.

Delivery mechanism matters, too. I don't buy just any cotton pad. They have to be ones that are sealed around the edges (see photo below). The cheap ones leave cotton fuzz sticking to your nails. (Read more about my opinions on cotton rounds.)

Reusing and replacing nail polish brushes

Dear BFB,

I love the brush that comes with the Sally Hansen Complete Salon Manicure polishes. Seriously, love. Can brushes from one bottle be reused in a different bottle of polish? (I can imagine what the obvious answer to this question is but interesting all the same)

Sincerely, Brushed Off

First: The Sally Hansen Complete Salon Manicure brush is the absolute best brush in any nail polish anywhere, ever, and I wish all the other nail polish manufacturers would catch on. I know some people who have smaller nails say they don't like it, but I've never had a problem painting my toenails with the Sally Hansen brush, and some of them are pretty small.

And the answer is: Yes, no, and if yes, it might be more trouble than it's worth. Yes, you can use the brush with another nail polish if (a) it fits through the mouth of the bottle (a real concern with that wide SH brush) and (b) you are prepared to do a lot of cleaning. You're going to have to clean all the original color out of/off your brush before you use it in the other polish, and then you're going to have to clean it really well before you put it back in its own bottle (not to mention you've left an open bottle of nail polish sitting around while you use its brush, and I can guarantee you that I personally would find a way to knock that extra open bottle of nail polish over). I'd also recommend maybe pouring the nail polish you're working with into another container (a little square of aluminum foil would work) so you don't accidentally contaminate it in case you didn't quite get all the original color off your brush. And I don't know how great repeated cleansings with nail polish remover will be for the life of your brush (although it is designed to sit inside wet chemicals all the time, so who knows?).

Here's an alternative: Go to the craft store. I stopped by my local Michaels yesterday and found these two Taklon-bristle brushes for $3.99 each.

Each bore a strong resemblance to that lovely flat, round-cornered Sally Hansen brush. These are just two examples from a selection of hundreds of different kinds of brushes starting at just a dollar or two. If you can't find a flat brush with rounded corners, buy one with square corners and trim to your desired shape.

After you've used the brush, clean it thoroughly with nail polish remover to remove the polish, and then with soap or shampoo to remove the nail polish remover, and you should be able to reuse it until it falls apart. (The craft store is also a good source for inexpensive lip brushes.)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Holiday Mani-Fest: China Glaze Glittering Garland

I have talked before about my love of green nail polishes. Green polishes are well represented in my collection. And now they have a new friend: China Glaze Glittering Garland.

I don’t always like shimmer, but for the holidays it’s absolutely appropriate. And the gold glass fleck in Glittering Garland is so subtle and so pretty.

This is a cooler green, which is nice for my frigidly pale Irish/Alaskan skin. But the glass fleck gives it some additional dimension. I think it would look nice with warmer skin tones, too.

And just for fun, here it is layered under (left to right) China Glaze Twinkle Lights, Color Club Covered in Diamonds, and that random snowman drugstore glitter.

 Festive much?

I promise I didn’t actually leave the house wearing three different glitters on my fingernails. Although if I were 16 years younger, I’d probably go for it.

I was at my new favorite local China Glaze supplier (Marie’s Beauty Salon & Supply, if you’re an Anchorage local) the other day, lingering over the Let It Snow collection, and I was sorely tempted by the creme green and reds. I hadn’t bought them before because I feel like I’ve already got plenty of green and red cremes... but maybe it isn’t too much to hope there will be some left over and marked down after Christmas? I’m pretty sure I could justify them if they were on sale... of course, if Santa is reading this...

Monday, December 5, 2011

Holiday Mani-Fest: Color Club Covered in Diamonds

Color Club Covered in Diamonds is not, strictly speaking, a holiday polish. OK, so it’s not from any holiday collection at all, and it’s not particularly new. But look how festive!

Covered in Diamonds is from last year’s Untamed Luxury collection. You can find it online at TransDesign, or if you’re an Anchorage resident, you can pick it up for eight bucks at L.A. Style. (But again, don’t buy the new China Glaze or OPI polishes there. There’s no reason to pay $13 for a nail polish. There is still lots of OPI Muppets and China Glaze Let It Snow and Metro in stock at Marie’s.)

I love flakies. And I don’t see many of them here in Anchorage. I almost died of shock when I found the last (and possibly only) bottle of Sally Hansen Hidden Treasure at Fred Meyer last year. The flakes in Covered in Diamonds are much bigger than the flakes in Hidden Treasure, and they require some careful placement with the brush. But they look amazing on.

Ooo, pretty:

Of course, this polish packs much more punch when layered over a dark base coat. I like it with Essie Bobbing For Baubles.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Holiday Mani-Fest: Cheeky little snowman polishes

Sometimes you’re just minding your business, strolling down the beauty aisles at your local Fred Meyer, and something springs out at you that’s so affordable and adorable and seasonal you just can’t say no.

Meet my snowman polishes.

At $2.99 each, I couldn’t say no to these little chunky glitters. Plus, look at their adowable wittle faces. They were just begging to come home with me.

Of course, I need another red glitter like I need a hole in the head. So I deserved what I got.

This is four coats. FOUR COATS. And it’s still patchy and uneven.

The camera is even being kind here to the red snowman. The funky, wonky, cheap little brush just wouldn’t get that mixed small and medium red glitter spread evenly over my nail. And the formula was no dream to work with, either. Sometimes you get what you pay for.

The green-and-red glitter was another story. And it saved its little friend.

That’s two coats of red and green medium glitter (clear base) over the four disastrous coats of red.

As always, chunky glitter means you need to apply deliberately. You’re going to have to spread it around your nail.

So festive! And look at that sweet little face. Too bad about his deceptive little round-headed friend.

Bottom line: If you see these at your local drugstore and you’re into Christmas polishes, definitely snag the red and green and know you’ll want to wear it over a base coat of something else. But if you’re in the market for a bargain red glitter, skip the snowman and pick up one of those China Glaze Ruby Pumps minis I spotted the other day at Sally Beauty. Now that’s a red glitter that won’t let you down.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Holiday Mani-Fest: China Glaze Champagne Bubbles

You want to talk about a nail polish that’s hard to photograph? Ladies and gentlemen, let me present: China Glaze Champagne Bubbles.

Another selection from the Let It Snow collection, Champagne Bubbles is a gold frost with small silver glitter. The application is a little brush stroke-y, but the color is vibrant and the glitter adds a little something special.

I wish the photos did Champagne Bubbles justice, but no matter how I photographed it, the light seemed to pick up on every surface imperfection, so you lose the lovely satiny gold effect. So I guess you’ll just have to take my word for it when I tell you: This polish is terrific in person.

This polish makes me wish I lived someplace where I could wear open-toed shoes during the holidays, because it really is lovely and festive, but I think I’d like this color better on my toes (say, peeping out from beneath some dark jeans) than I like it on my fingers. Although I like it plenty on my fingers.

As of Wednesday, there was one bottle of Champagne Bubbles left at my local Sally Beauty, part of a gift set. If you’re fortunate enough to live near an Ulta, you should be able to find it there (and tell them to open a location in Alaska!); China Glaze is also available online at TransDesign and Anchorageites, check out Marie’s Beauty Salon and Supply, which had a great selection of China Glaze holiday polishes last time I was in.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Holiday Mani-Fest: China Glaze Snow Globe

Lately I’ve been loving chunky glitter polish, which is kind of out of character for me. It must be a phase. 

If it’s a phase, though, it’s a phase with perfect timing, because the market is positively glutted with chunky glitter polishes right now, including Snow Globe, part of China Glaze’s Let It Snow holiday collection.

Snow Globe is a mixture of small and large iridescent glitter in a clear base. The formula isn’t too thick, but as with all chunky glitters, you’re going to have to do some manual glitter distribution with the tip of your brush.

I super love this polish. Super love. I’m wearing three coats in these photos. (And my nails are a little uneven. I didn’t trim very carefully.) You’ll definitely have visible nail line unless you use an opaque base coat.

I also love this over a dark blue polish. It looks like... well, like a snow globe.

Huh. Go figure.

My local Sally Beauty was sold out of most of the China Glaze holiday polishes, but if you can’t find it in person, the entire Let It Snow collection is in stock at Anchorage residents, check locally-owned Marie’s Beauty Salon and Supply; that’s where I picked up my bottle. DO NOT buy it at L.A. Style & Retail Center in the Fifth Avenue Mall. They’re charging $13 a bottle, and that’s a criminal amount to pay for China Glaze.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

November favorites

It’s December, which in my family is Birthday Month. We celebrate four different family birthdays in December, including mine. But before I move on to holidays and birthdays, here’s what I loved last month:

Revlon ColorBurst Lip Butter

I waxed enthusiastic about these in detail yesterday, so I’ll just say one more time that these are awesome and you should buy them and leave it at that.

The pointed foundation brush from the new Kirkland Signature Cosmetic Brush Set

I bought the Kirkland brush set that came out a couple of years ago and while a couple of those brushes have been duds, a few of them were really great and still get regular use. So when I spotted the new brush set at Costco, I snapped it up. For just over $30, I figured I could take a chance on Kirkland again. I haven’t been disappointed. The selection in this set is somewhat different from the last Kirkland brush set, and the bag is much better than the old one.

My favorite brush in the set, hands down, is the pointed foundation brush. It’s a round, dense, fingertip-shaped brush that’s perfect for concealer. I’ve been using it with Benefit Boi-ing in 01, which has been my go-to concealer for a couple of years. The Kirkland brush is a lot more effective than my finger. I also like the finishing brush for applying my setting powder, and I’ve been using that one pretty much every day as well, but if I had to pick a favorite (like if, say, I were writing a post about my monthly favorites), I’d have to say the pointed foundation brush. Of course, if you want one you have to buy the set, so I suppose I might as well have just named the entire set a favorite, but I really think the pointed foundation brush deserves special mention.

Maybelline Eye Studio MasterDrama Cream Pencil

Perhaps you’ve read that these Maybelline pencils are just as good as Stila Smudge Sticks at half the price. I can’t tell you that these pencils are just as good as Smudge Sticks across the board. I can, however, tell you unequivocally that the Maybelline MasterDrama pencil in Midnight Master is every bit as good as the Stila Smudge Stick in Stingray. I’ve been using the Maybelline pencil to line my upper waterline every day for a few weeks. It’s creamy and pigmented, and it stays put all day. I’m a convert. I won’t pay $20 for a cream pencil again.

Candied Ginger by The Body Shop

During The Body Shop’s Buy the Bag promotion, I picked up a few holiday products, including body scrub and body butter in Candied Ginger, a new holiday scent for 2011.

Oh. my. goodness. Let me tell you something: I SMELL AMAZING. I’ve been using the scrub in the shower and then following up afterward with the body butter, and I’ve honestly found myself distracted throughout the day by how spectacular I smell. I love that they picked ginger instead of gingerbread; I avoid holiday gingerbread scents because they tend to be so overpoweringly cinnamon/vanilla sweet. But these smell fresh and clean and warm and gingery, and I’m crazy about it. I want the whole line. Plus my skin is nice and moisturized.

Tonight the hubs and I are off to Las Vegas for the weekend, and I’m looking forward to a 40-minute milk and sugar scrub at the Bellagio spa on Saturday. If you’ve never experienced a Vichy shower, make it a priority. You won’t be sorry. Don’t stay away just because I’ll be gone, though; thanks to the magic of scheduled posts, I’ve got those promised holiday nail swatches coming up while I’m out of town. And you can follow me on Twitter for beauty updates from Sin City.