Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Decision 2012

At the last minute last night, I decided it was time for some simple, impromptu Election Day nail art, so I slapped on a quick patriotic manicure.

Mostly to keep myself from biting my nails all day today.

No matter how or where you vote, remember to vote today!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Clarins on Gilt

Clarins is on Gilt Groupe today, with 13 sets on sale and some great deals on skincare.

The sale runs another two days while supplies last -- and since it's a flash sale site, things will sell out. Gilt is free to join, and in my experience, great about shipping to Alaska. (If you don't have a membership already, you can sign up using my referral link if you want.)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Happy November!

Thanksgiving 2011 manicure featuring China Glaze Classic Camel and Bundle Monster plate #BM04.
Nothing against Halloween, but I can't tell you how excited I was to walk into Walgreen's last night and see all the glow-in-the-dark hair extensions being replaced with holiday gift sets. Coming soon: November favorites, OPI Skyfall and e.l.f. holiday nail swatches, plus creative gift giving ideas!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Seasonal finds at Target

Halloween isn't for another few days, but already holiday items are starting to pop up online and in stores. I'm not big on rushing the holidays (and I have a strict no holiday music until after Thanksgiving policy), but I am never sorry to get an early shot at holiday gift sets! So I was excited to see the endcaps set up at my local Target with some early holiday offerings.

I am always tempted by e.l.f. giftsets because of the low price point, but I have been deeply disappointed by the quality when I've tried them. I did grab a $3 pack of blotting papers, since I burn through rice paper blotting sheets like it's my job, and I'd love to find a cheaper alternative. 

I was so busy trying to decide whether or not to take a chance on a $5 eyeshadow kit that I almost missed the $15 nail polish set. Ultimately I abandoned the eyeshadows in favor of the nail polishes, which will make great stocking stuffers. (Besides, cheap nail polish is almost always a better buy than cheap eye shadow.)

This endcap wasn't exactly holiday-specific...

(Those two-packs of Baby Lips are a pretty good deal, although they can't hold a candle to the eos blowout happening at Costco right now.)

...but what I didn't capture in the photo was the bottom half of the display, which had even more e.l.f gift sets, including another nail polish set (14 for $10), which I also grabbed. I have some ideas for cute ways to wrap them up for holiday gifts, and I'll share them next month.

I'd already seen some two-for-$9.99 Burt's Bees lip color gift sets at Walgreens, but Target's got a whole holiday range on display:

Also spotted: The Kardashian/Nicole by OPI holiday nail collection, which had nothing I couldn't live without... although if I see a great deal somewhere, I might be tempted to pick up Kardashing Through the Snow. I'm a sucker for a great holiday glitter.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Fall beauty bargains at Costco

Oh, Costco. How I love your giant walk-in refrigerators full of produce, your towering industrial shelves stocked with dog food and sun dried tomatoes, your incredible beauty bargains. Spotted recently at my local Costco:

EOS lip balms, a five-pack for $10.99. I'll do the math so you don't have to: That's a fraction of a cent under $2.10 each, which is more than a dollar below the retail price (at least, here in the northland). I couldn't justify buying these, since I already have three of these flavors (plus a giant stack of Lip Smackers, bought in a fit of nostalgia at Walgreens after a rough day), but if they're still there next time I'm back, I'll snap some up for stocking stuffers.

Kirkland "luxury" makeup brushes, an eight-piece set for $25.99. I haven't used these specific brushes, but I have bought two different Kirkland brush sets in previous years, and they're pretty decent, particularly considering the price (I've never found anything else that offers the same quality at a similar price point). A great option if you're working on building a brush collection.

There is one current Costco deal I couldn't pass up. A few weeks ago, on a pre-raw-cleanse stock-up trip to Costco, I didn't plan to stop my cart full of fruit in the beauty section on my way to check out. Then I saw this:

That's right -- three Body Shop body butters for $29.99. And not just regular body butters, either. JUMBO ones.

Top: Regular size pink grapefruit body butter, $19.
Bottom: Jumbo size olive body butter, three for $29.99.

The set contains 10.1 oz. body butters in mango, olive and cocoa butter (or as I like to call them: office, nightstand, gym bag). A standard 6.9 oz. Body Shop body butter costs $19. So what you have here is more than $83 worth of body butter. For $29.99.

Unsurprisingly, many of these body butters are now gone, and the big display has moved (at least at my Costco in south Anchorage), but there are still some left, shelved on the bath and body aisle. I recommend you act now before my mom finds out and beats you to them.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The gimmick mascara: It slices! It dices! It curls your eyelashes!

Is it just me, or does every mascara claim to be a specialist these days? They don't just make your lashes black; they lift or separate, curl or lengthen, thicken, strengthen, multiply, falsify... I'm surprised Ron Popeil hasn't jumped on this.

That said, some of these gimmicks really work. And some of them are just – well, just gimmicks. In this video I provide a quick look at four I've tried, with mixed results.

The good

I've blogged before about two of the specialized mascaras I really like. Urban Decay's Supercurl Curling Mascara made my "best of 2011 beauty" list, and Maybelline Volum' Express The Falsies has made the blog a few times, including a post of its very own back in 2010. In the video, I talk about how I use each one; they both have unique properties and require some special handling.

Also, no matter how many times I type it out, "Volum' Express" never stops seeming like a silly name. I mean, what's with the apostrophe? What is that conspicuously missing E really supposed to convey?

The bad

Two gimmicky mascaras that disappoint: Physician's Formula Shimmer Strips Custom Eye Enhancing Mascara Duo in Glam Brown Eyes has a brush that is just as oversized and unwieldy as its name, and the bonus bronze highlighting mascara doesn't do a thing for me. (Besides which, just because I have brown eyes doesn't mean bronze is a good color for me. Brown-eyed girls can have cool-toned skin, you know.) And L'Oréal Telescopic Explosion Carbon Black Mascara, with its strange, ball-shaped wand, just wasn't happening for me. 

More detail in the video, including a rambling story about how I used to wear blue mascara when I was in elementary school and a lot of strange hand gestures as I try to explain how I use various mascara wands. Enjoy! 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Born smelling this way

When people first started talking about Lady Gaga's fragrance, coming this September, I wasn't that excited. I'm kind of meh on celebrity scents (although I will admit I completely love Wonderstruck by Taylor Swift, even though I'm sure I'm at least a decade out of the target demographic). But then I read this:

Lady Gaga Fame is the first ever black eau de parfum that sprays clear and becomes invisible once airborne. The black-to-clear fragrance is a fantastic innovation of patent pending fluid technology, exclusively launched with Lady Gaga Fame ... The innovations in Lady Gaga Fame go beyond the black-to-clear fluid: The olfactory structure itself is also very rare for the fragrance industry. Traditionally, perfumes have a pyramidal structure — a hierarchy of sorts with top, middle and base notes. This fragrance, on the other hand, has a unique structure called the "push-pull" technology, where the ingredients interact together to highlight different olfactive aspects of each note at the same time, without any hierarchy. 

All that, plus it smells like orchids, apricot and jasmine. September can't come soon enough.

More on the Monster Mama's signature scent, plus my two summer favorites from Missoni and Demeter Fragrance Library, in the video.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Online bargain beauty shopping: Never pay full price again

"It costs a lot of money to look this cheap."
– Dolly Parton

I told my husband I'm blogging about how to save money when shopping for beauty products. His advice? "Don't buy beauty products." Tee hee. So droll.

Obviously "don't buy beauty products" is terrible advice. (Sorry, honey.) But at the same time, there's no reason to ever pay full price for high-end beauty products – at least, not when you're shopping online. In my younger, carefree days, I used to place full-price orders to Sephora on a regular basis without any regard for the cost, but now that I'm older and more mature and married and saving for things like a bigger house and retirement, I have to be more responsible. While there are some drugstore products I love (more all the time, in fact, as mass market cosmetics companies step up their respective games), I generally prefer higher-end products (I haven't walked out of the house without a dusting of Benefit Dandelion since 2005, and I don't intend to start now), so I've found some ways to save money while still buying the products I love.

Here, now, for your benefit, I present my tricks of the trade.

How to buy the designer makeup you want without breaking the bank


I'll be the first to admit I was wary about joining Ebates. Quite honestly, it sounds too good to be true, which to me meant it sounded shady. Basically, you shop and then Ebates gives you money.

No, really. That is how it works.

Turns out, it's actually legit. Basically, Ebates gets a commission when you make a purchase through their website. (You have to sign up for an account first, obviously, and you have to visit the online store you're shopping through the Ebates website.) Instead of keeping all the money, Ebates pays a portion of each commission to the shopper.

Ebates offers cash back from something like 1,500 stores, including:

Avon • bareMinerals • Barneys New York • Bath & Body Works • Bliss • The Body Shop • Carol's Daughter • Clinique • Elizabeth Arden • L'Occitane • Macy's  • Philosophy • Sally Beauty • Sephora • Ulta

In addition to the regular cash back, Ebates has a "daily double" every day, featuring double cash back from one merchant. For example, normally you get 4 percent cash back on a Sephora purchase, but when Sephora.com is featured as the daily double, you get 8 percent back. Pay attention to the different cash back percentages and shop wisely. If you're going to order, say, a Murad face wash, you might want to order it through Murad.com (11 percent cash back) instead of Ulta (4 percent cash back).

I've been an Ebates member for just about a year, and I've already gotten four checks totaling $110.38. Seriously. There's no reason to not use this service. Unless you hate getting free money back for buying things you were going to buy anyway, in which case, why are you even reading this post?

Retail Me Not

I never, ever, ever, ever, ever click "submit" on an online order form until I've checked RetailMeNot.com. Retail Me Not aggregates coupon codes from around the Web (including e-mail newsletters, member deals, etc.) and makes them available for public use. Each code is displayed with a graphic showing what percentage of shoppers have successfully used the code. (Some codes are expired or limited to certain amounts/products/etc.) I usually try to limit my online shopping to sales and special discounts, but when I absolutely have to have something, I always turn to Retail Me Not to see if I can save some money.

Flash sale sites

"Flash sale" sites like Hautelook and Gilt often feature bath, beauty and skincare products. These sites offer limited-time liquidation sales on certain brands (usually high-end). Each day you get an e-mail letting you know what's on sale and when the sale ends. When I sat down to write this post, Gilt Groupe was featuring Dr. Hauschka Skin Care, with Soap.com and Clarins sales set to start in the following days, while Hautelook had Kinerase, Sorme Cosmetics and Proliss on sale, with Crown Brush and Coola Suncare on deck. (Hautelook also features NYX Cosmetics from time to time.) Flash sale sites are free to join, with no membership fees or other charges – just the cost of any purchases you choose to make.


I'm of two minds about shopping for beauty products on eBay. On the one hand, I've never had a bad experience with an eBay beauty purchase. (I've stuck mostly to perfume. In fact, right now I'm wearing a Missoni perfume I bought on eBay four or five years ago.) On the other... well, there are a few caveats. One is that you don't really know where the product is coming from or where it's been – or how old it is. Maybe the eBay seller got an extra bottle of something for Christmas, or maybe that lot of lip glosses "fell off the back of a truck," or maybe they picked it up at a liquidation sale. When in doubt, message the seller and ask how old the product is and where it came from – and don't be afraid to ask for more photos or details. If you don't get the answers you want, don't bid.

There have been a lot of problems over the years with counterfeit cosmetics for sale on eBay, particularly MAC, so if that's your thing, check out some of the resources to help you ensure you're getting legit product. Ask questions, do your homework, and always, always, always check seller feedback. PayPal does provide some protection for fraudulent sales (I've had success getting money back from a flaky seller), but the best way to not get ripped off is to be an informed shopper.

eBay Guides: How to avoid fake MAC cosmetics products
BellaSugar: How to spot fake cosmetics on eBay
eBay Guides: Guide to fake vs. authentic MAC brushes
Buying cosmetics on eBay: How to spot fake products

Look for free shipping

Whenever possible, take advantage of free shipping promotions. This is a bit of a sticky wicket here in Alaska (and Hawaii), as some merchants tend to capriciously exclude us from free shipping deals – often, I'm pretty sure, because they just don't know very much about shipping to the non-contiguous states. (It's called Priority Mail Flat Rate. Look it up. I'm talking to you, Bath & Body Works, with your  ridiculous $20 minimum Alaska shipping charge.) Two notable exceptions are Sephora and Nordstrom, both of which include Alaska in their excellent shipping policies. I've also had good experiences with Macy's.

Retailer e-mail lists and loyalty programs

The best way to never miss the best price on a favorite product is to join your retailer's e-mail list. I'm on about a hundred mailing lists for various beauty products, brands and stores, and yes, that means I delete a lot of e-mails every day. But it also means I know when to buy the things I like and get the best deal, whether it's for triple points at Nordstrom, 15 percent off at Sephora or a blowout sale price at Philosophy. Putting up with all those extra e-mails saves me hundreds of dollars every year since they also mean I know when to jump on special offers and surprise sales.

When it comes to loyalty programs, not all insider cards are created equal. Ulta's Ultamate Rewards program has been a big bust for me because the rewards can only be redeemed in-store and only during a very limited timeframe – so since there's no Ulta in Alaska, even though I drop a fair amount of cash there a few times a year when I'm traveling out of state, there's essentially no incentive for me to try to accumulate Ulta rewards. The Sephora V.I.B. program, on the other hand, has been very kind to me, with discounts, special offers, perks and annual gift cards. And I always use my MOD debit card when I make a purchase at Nordstrom, especially during double- or triple-points promotions, because I have earned several $20 Nordstrom Notes certificates over the years. If you belong to a points program like Nordstrom's, try to save your shopping for times when you earn bonus points. For example, my locally owned beauty supply store (what's up, Marie's!) offers double loyalty points every Sunday. And if you live near a Sally Beauty Supply, there is no earthly reason not to pay to join their membership program. Your $5 annual fee gets you a lower price on every single product in the store (plus they give you a $5 off coupon right away, and you get a discount coupon every month as long as you spent $25 the month before).

Shop savvy

Bottom line: It's possible to save plenty of money on beauty products – if you're willing to strategize and invest some time and energy in doing it right. If nothing else, join Ebates and always remember to start your shopping trip there – and never finish a purchase without checking Retail Me Not. Your wallet will thank you.

This post contains referral links for Ebates, Hautelook and Gilt Groupe. Essentially, if you click on these links and complete purchases, I get credits added to my account. I'm not compensated for mentioning these sites. I legitimately like, use and recommend them. You may, if you prefer, bypass my referral links and go directly to Ebates.com, Hautelook.com, or Gilt.com. 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

When wedding rings attack

Last summer, as I have every year since graduating from college, I spent some time in August running around in the woods on the East Coast. On my flight home, I noticed the fourth finger of my left hand itching and took off my wedding band and engagement ring to find red bumps underneath. I figured my finger was swollen from the humidity and the traveling and all the salty camp food I'd been eating, so I more or less ignored it.

Thus started my long, annoying battle with what I've come to learn is commonly called "wedding ring rash." Want to see a picture? Here you go:

That's my rash on a relatively good day, as it was calming down. I didn't think to take photos when it was red and raw and erupting all over my hand. Want to see it again? This time, imagine a ring of tiny, fiery red blisters spreading out from that band of inflamed skin:

Unfortunately, photographs don't show itching. If they did, the photo would probably look something like this:

Thanks, AllTheRageFaces.com.

I realize complaining about getting a rash from a piece of jewelry that would probably feed a family of eight for a decade in some countries is the ultimate in First World Problems. It's also a really, really common First World Problem, as I learned when I took to the Internet to figure out what to do about it.

If your wedding ring gives you a rash...

It's probably caused by either (a) a metal allergy or (b) contact dermatitis. I was pretty sure I had the latter, since my engagement ring, which I'd been wearing problem-free for almost 18 months at that point, has exactly the same shape and content as my wedding band. Plus, my rings are platinum, and the odds of an allergic reaction to a platinum ring are incredibly slim. (Not nonexistent, but slim.) Gold jewelry (especially 14k and 18k) is more likely to contain nickel, which, as it turns out, is a pretty common allergy.

Some people resolve their wedding ring rash by simply painting the inside of their rings with clear nail polish; others end up at the dermatologist (or the jeweler, buying a replacement ring). Here's how I cured mine and prevent its return:

  • Liberal application of Cortizone 10 Cooling Relief Gel.
  • I had to take my rings off and leave them off until my finger healed completely.
  • Very careful handwashing practices. (More specifically, very careful hand drying practices.)
  • I take my rings off at night.
On that last one, if you're paranoid about losing them (like I am), what has worked for me is making a very strict policy about ring placement. My rings always go on a ring holder on my dressing table, and that's the only place they go other than my finger. When I travel, I have a small travel jewelry box (like this) with ring holders in it, and that takes the place of my dressing table ring holder.

Oh, and once a month, I boil my rings. Yeah.

Watch the video to find out more about what I learned while researching wedding ring rash, why you should not under any circumstances use Neosporin on your rash, and why the coffeemaker is an important part of my jewelry cleaning routine:

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Review: Little Black Bag

I'm basically horrified at how long it's been since I posted, especially since there are a ton of things I've wanted to talk about. I think I've been letting myself get overwhelmed by the idea of writing and photographing and proofreading, which I make more labor-intensive than it probably needs to be... and then I remembered: Hey! This is the Internet! I have a webcam! Talking is easy!

Et voila... one video review, in which I talk about why I refuse to pay full price for Betsey Johnson jewelry:

Little Black Bag is a subscription service with a twist: You only get to pick one of your items, but you can trade the other items you get with other members. The trading part, as it turns out, is what's really important, and I explain that in more detail in the video.

I heard about Little Black Bag through a Klout Perk that increased the value of my bag $1 for every point in my Klout score. (I paid the full price of about $55, and my Klout score is somewhere north of 50, so basically, I got an extra item.) I don't know if this perk is still available, but if it is, and you're a Klout user, and you're thinking of trying out Little Black Bag, check it out – because hey, free stuff.

(Speaking of free stuff, full disclosure: Little Black Bag also has a referral program, like Birchbox or Julep Maven, and if you join any of these services using my links in this paragraph, I get bonus credit. You can also cut me out of the process entirely and just join at LittleBlackBag.com.)

Here's what I ended up with in my first box:

1. Betsey Johnson Rose Petal Illusion necklace  2. Betsey Johnson Round Pink and Crystal Stud  earring  3. BCBGeneration sage studded clutch  4. Michael Marcus Red Your Mind nail polish

Like other subscription services, you can skip a month or cancel at any time, and I think I'll be skipping a lot of months since the price is so high.

And I think I'm sold on this whole vlogging idea. Mostly because there's no proofreading. The only downside is I can't do it in my pajamas and an aspirin mask.

Little Black Bag

Bottom line: Fun to shop but too spendy to do every month.
Price: $$$$
Tip: Make the most of the trading period, and look out for opportunities to trade up in value or trade for multiple items to increase your bartering power.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Got a Costco membership? Got dry lips? Get these

I always read e-mails from Costco. You never know what great deal is lurking at the bottom of that crowded e-blast. Like today, for example:

If you live in Regular America, shipping is free. If you live in a Freak State, there's a shipping charge, but because it's Costco, it's super minimal. I dropped these in my cart and signed in just to see what they would charge, and the answer turned out to be $1.79. So even with the shipping charge, these work out to be significantly under their usual retail price of about $3.50 each. 

These eos lip balms, if you haven't tried them, are pretty great. I have Summer Fruit and Sweet Mint (both included in the Costco deal), and the flavor is really nice. They're also phthalate-, paraben- and petrolatum-free and packed with nice natural moisturizing ingredients. Plus the cute little round shape is fun. They're almost egg-shaped, so you could hold on to them until Easter and dress them up for gifts. Or you could do what I would do and just hog them all for yourself.

It's a good thing I didn't go looking for these on Costco.com, because I never would have thought to check in "non-prescription remedies," which is where they're categorized (rather than under "cosmetics," which is where I would have gone). I did find something else interesting under "cosmetics," though: a Dior palette for $49.99.

Oh, Costco. You never fail to surprise me.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Reader Q&A: DIY home skincare

Dear Below Freezing Beauty,
My skin is *so* bad. I've been terrible about taking off my makeup before sleep lately. My diet has been not at all nutritious and stress abounds. I used my tried and true Yes to Tomatoes mud mask last night with none of the usual results. The market for beauty products is limited where I live. Is there something I can whip up the kitchen to repair this mess?
Sincerely, Desperately Researching A Breakthrough

Hey, DRAB, you just described my skincare routine for large chunks of last year. Despite the fact that one of my 2011 beauty resolutions was to get my skin under control, I was also stressed out and planning a wedding and... well, this isn't about me. (I also didn't yet master false lashes. That's a 2012 task.)

YES, there are ingredients in your kitchen right now that can help out your skin. The hard thing is figuring out which ones work for you. The Internet is packed with recipes and video tutorials for DIY facials and masks. Some of them seem like pure nonsense. And even the ones that are based on actual science will also be more or less effective depending on your skin type. But here are a few I've tried and can recommend.


Here's something you maybe didn't know (I know I didn't): Salicylic acid, which is used in many acne treatments, is the chemical basis for aspirin. I'm not a scientist, so this is by no means a precise description, but basically, aspirin is synthesized from salicylic acid. Anyway, regardless of what the science is exactly,  lots of people swear by aspirin masks for acne-prone skin. You can mix it with tea tree oil, honey or aloe, depending on your specific needs, or you can just use water, which is what I tried. There's a great long thread about aspirin treatments on Makeupalley. (You may have to register to read it. Go for it. It's free, it's a great resource, and they never bug you with spam.) Some people also use Excedrin because it contains caffeine (good for under the eyes) in addition to aspirin.

I picked up a bottle of uncoated generic aspirin at my local drugstore for a couple of bucks, and then finely ground a small handful of pills with the chopper attachment of my hand blender. You could also just whack them with a rolling pin or mortar and pestle, I suppose, but I'm lazy and happened to have the perfect appliance on hand, so I used it. (I also didn't want a lot of big chunks left over.) I mixed the powder with a little bit of water to make a paste, rubbed it all over my face, and let it sit for about 20 minutes. Then I rinsed it off with some warm water, rubbing gently as I went to exfoliate.

I wouldn't say I saw immediate results with my aspirin mask, but my face felt clean, and it didn't irritate my skin. Since it's cheap and easy, I'll definitely try it again, although I think I'll wait a few days, since I could see it being overly drying if used too often.

Baking soda

I've seen some videos on YouTube about using baking soda for skincare, but I've always held off because baking soda has just seemed too harsh to put on my face. It's cheap and readily available, though, so I figured I'd give it a go as a spot treatment. I mixed a few drops of water into about a half teaspoon of baking soda, dabbed it on a couple of zits and let it sit for about 30 minutes.

This? Actually worked really nicely for me. They didn't disappear or anything, but I could tell it definitely sucked some moisture out of them, and the next day the spots were smaller and less red. I still don't think I'll be rubbing baking soda all over my face, but I could see using it to stand in for my usual overnight spot treatment, Mario Badescu Drying Lotion. There's a great Makeupalley thread on baking soda as well.

Apple cider vinegar mask and toner

I've shared this video before, but this mask did really work nicely for me. Plus the girl in the video has such a cute Belfast accent. This tutorial also uses green tea, sugar and honey.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Review: Maybelline Color Tattoo 24hr Eyeshadow

I've been delaying getting some posts up lately because I haven't had the time to take good photos, but I finally decided having no photos is better than having no posts. I can always go back and add them later, right? Meanwhile the stack of products I want to post about just keeps growing, so I think I've made the right decision.

For this post, I do have some photos (as you'll see), and if you do a Google image search for today's product you'll turn up, oh, about 1.5 million results (seriously). So they're out there if you're dying for them.

Let me just begin by saying that when I first saw the Maybelline Color Tattoo 24hr eye shadows at Target, I didn't intend to try them. If there is any scenario in which I am going to be wearing eye shadow for 24 hours, it would almost certainly have to involve me drinking a magnum of champagne and passing out for a long, long time. But then I started seeing people on Twitter comparing them to MAC Paint Pots, so I figured for six bucks (as opposed to $18 for a Paint Pot), I should give them a try.

I'd only planned to get one, but Fred Meyer had a buy-one-get-one-free deal, so I took home two. Tough as Taupe is a creamy neutral with the very barest hint of shimmer (you really have to look for it).

Too Cool is a frosty white with noticeably more shimmer.

My first reaction: These are a lot like Paint Pots. They're smooth and creamy and very pigmented. So when I was back at Fred Meyer later that week, and since the sale was still going on, I picked up two more: Edgy Emerald and Painted Purple, both shimmery.

I've been wearing one or more of these shadows almost every day for the past two weeks, either on their own or as a base under powder eye shadow. I have to say, I actually like the consistency and the wear better than MAC Paint Pots. I wouldn't use a Paint Pot without a primer underneath, but I've been wearing the Color Tattoo shadows with nothing underneath, and I haven't had any problems with creasing. I do recommend applying them in thin layers and building up to the amount of color you want. I think they would crease if applied thickly.

There also seems to be an inverse relationship between the amount of shimmer and the ease of application of each shade. Tough as Taupe has the least shimmer (really, practically none), and it has the smoothest, most perfect consistency. I've been wearing it almost every day. Too Cool is the most shimmery, and it's the shade I've had the biggest challenge getting to apply evenly. (I've been using my fingers.) Again, thin layers work best.

If I had to pick only one of these to own, I'd absolutely pick Tough as Taupe. It's a really pretty neutral that I think is probably versatile enough to work with a lot of different complexions. 

I did sleep in Tough as Taupe (with L'Oréal's new Infallible long-wearing powder shadow over the top), just to be able to say I'd worn it for 24 hours. The result was not pretty. I don't imagine (or hope) I'll ever be able to effectively judge whether any 24-hour makeup lasts through 24 waking hours on my face.

Regardless, at around $6 (note to Anchorage readers: Color Tattoo shadows are regularly $6.99 at Fred Meyer but only $5.99 at Target), these creme shadows are a good deal and a great alternative to MAC Paint Pots and other high-end creme shadows. It would be nice to see the color selection expand, too; currently, there are 10 shades in the line, but I'd love to see more.

Maybelline Color Tattoo by Eye Studio 24hr Eyeshadow

Bottom line: 24 hours of wear? Probably not. But still a great deal for a good quality cream shadow.
Price: $
Tip: Build the color in thin layers, using your fingers and letting each layer set before you add more.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Matte glitter ombre

I liked my gold fleck ombre manicure so much, I had to try it the other way around (inspired by a couple of examples I saw on Pinterest). This is one coat of Orly Snowcone embellished with L.A. Girl Celebrate — again, very thin coats — and topped with Essie Matte About You. 

I haven't been a huge fan of matte finish nails before now, but I really like it with the glitter. It still shines, but you get a little less sparkle and a little more confetti effect.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Gold flake ombre

I mentioned in my flakies comparison post that I wanted to try an ombre nail with Essie As Gold as it Gets. At first I tried it over silver, but there wasn't enough contrast, so my nails just sort of looked yellow at the tips. So I started over with two base coats of China Glaze Shower Together. The results didn't disappoint.

This is beyond easy to do yourself. Imagine your nail is divided into four quarters from base to tip. Working with very thin coats of As Gold as it Gets, paint just the tip, then put a second (again, very thin) coat over the top half of the nail. For your final coat, paint the top three quarters of the nail, leaving about the last quarter unembellished.

I finished it off with a coat of Essie Matte About You topcoat.

I love the gold over the blue, and the flakes really stand out under the matte topcoat. 

Anyone else doing anything fun with some of the new "special effects" polishes?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Post-holiday LUSH sale haul

Look what came in the mail last week!

I didn't manage to score any wrapped gifts in the Lush post-holiday sale (although I was right; they did add a few more items later, including some Snow Fairy gift sets), but I did pick out some buy-one-get-one-free bubble bars, soaps and bath bombs.

I don't order from Lush very often, so I really savor the box opening process.

Here on the top layer you can see some Ruby Red Slippers bubble bars, Candy Mountain bubble bars, Superstars bubble bars and Candy Cane soap. I hadn't tried any of these before I ordered them, but Ruby Red Slippers has a cult following, and I love anything peppermint-scented, so with the added bonus of the BOGO promotion, I felt OK taking a risk.

Once I dug past that first layer, I got to the real mother lode: Golden Wonder bath bombs. Eight of them. If they bring this bath bomb back next year, I can't recommend it enough. It smells like citrus, it changes colors, and it spews tiny little golden stars that drift all over the bathtub and melt away on your skin. Love it.

The final tally: Three Ruby Red Slippers, three Candy Mountains, three Superstars, eight Golden Wonders, two bars of Candy Cane soap, and a Cinders bath bomb just for good measure. (And another sample of Aromaco deodorant, which I think I've received in every Lush order I've ever placed. Guys, it's just not going to take. I would have loved to smell like patchouli when I was 19, but it simply isn't my thing anymore.) Total, including shipping: $77.50. That works out to about $3.88 per product, when most of these retail for $6.95 each. Not too shabby.

Speaking of saving money, it's worth mentioning that Lush's shipping charges are phenomenally reasonable — almost Sephora good. This order cost $8 to ship. I just went back through my old e-mails, and the most I've ever paid for shipping on a Lush order is $12. I wish other major retailers could figure out how to ship things to Alaska without charging an arm and a leg. (I'm looking at you, Bath and Body Works, with your automatic non-negotiable $20 minimum shipping to Alaska.)

The only thing that's too bad about ordering Lush by mail is that everything comes wrapped in cellophane bags, and of course if you buy in the store you put them in paper bags, which is a bit more earth-friendly. On the other hand, the cellophane bags make storage a little easier; I keep cello-wrapped bath bombs and bubble bars in a wire basket that hangs under a shelf in the bathroom closet. Unwrapped bath bombs (from the store or from a gift set) take a little bit more work, since they tend to shed a little bit and you don't want bath bomb grit all over your bathroom (and you want to keep them dry until you're ready to use them). I wrap mine in scraps of Lush Times and line them up neatly inside this cardboard box, which sits in a plastic storage box that also holds some other bath products. That way they stay dry, tidy and protected.

And yes, I am kind of a Lush hoarder. But mostly because I stock up after Christmas and try to parcel them out over the year. I'm saving that Mrs. Whippy for a day when I really need it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

If not Naked, consider Nude

Maybe this is beauty blogger sacrilege, but I just can't bring myself to care about the Urban Decay Naked palette. I guess I don't feel the need to own that many high-end neutrals. At the height of Naked fever, when they were sold out all over the country, I twice found myself at Ulta locations (one in Oregon, one in New England) where they had the original Naked palette in stock, and both times I felt that limited-edition-need-to-own urge rise inside me, and both times I stepped back, took a long, hard look at reality, and realized I had no real interest in spending $48 on a palette that held almost no interest for me. Obviously the Naked palette has been massively popular, so I'm in the minority here, but I'm just not into it. And I'm really not into the Naked2 palette, which I realize has major differences to fans, but to me just looks like more of the same.

I think the price has a lot to do with it. I own other expensive palettes, including other Urban Decay palettes, but I'm trying to be a lot more responsible with my money in my 30s than I was in my 20s, and if I'm going to shell out 50 bucks for a palette, I really want to love it. Especially since now I have a husband who says things like "You spent what on eye shadow?"

If you're like me and you're not feeling the price tag on Naked and Naked2, here's an alternative: The Physicians Formula Nude Shimmer Strip.

Same concept as the Naked palettes (well, let's be honest — concept pretty much lifted directly from the Naked palettes) at less than a quarter of the price. I spotted this at my local Fred Meyer the other day and I have to say, I very nearly took it home with me despite the fact that I really don't feel the need to own any more neutral shadows. The packaging is super adorable, and the price is right: nine shades, 11 bucks.

I wouldn't necessarily call this an even exchange, of course. I have a few of the Physicians Formula Shimmer Strips, and while they're decent quality, they're not as velvety or pigmented as the Urban Decay shadows I own. I also find the Shimmer Strips a little bit difficult to use with larger brushes; since there's no divider between the colors, it can be a challenge to keep your all-over eye shadow brush from picking up a little bit of the wrong shade. If you're really passionate about high-quality neutrals, the Naked palettes are almost certainly a better bet.

Still, at about $11, if I wake up one morning and decide I can't live without a neutral palette, I'll go for the Nude over the Nakeds. With a gap of nearly $40, the difference between Nude and Naked is a pretty good bottle of wine.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Flake-off: Hidden Treasure vs. Shine of the Times vs. The Old Vic vs. As Gold as it Gets

It appears 2012 is going to be the year of the flakie polish. Finger Paints and Zoya have "special effects" collections out, packed with flakes, and it looks like there are more on the way, including in the China Glaze Hunger Games collection, "Colours From the Capitol," about which I'm trying really hard not to be too excited (trying and faaaailing).

Meanwhile, Essie's Luxeffects collection has been out since November, and I've been pretty much walking right by the display at Fred Meyer — all I saw were silver and pink glitters, and I'm all set for glitter. But over the weekend I happened to go to a different Fred Meyer (the one by my parents' house, where I also happened to stumble upon Anchorage's last bottle of Hidden Treasure in 2010, so... fate?), and they had a full display of shimmering, flake-filled bottles of Shine of the Times. I hadn't seen Shine of the Times in person, and I didn't realize it was a legit flakie. I grabbed a bottle (and As Gold as it Gets for good measure, now that I knew there were actual flakes involved in this collection) and ran to the nearest checkstand as fast as my extra-squeaky shopping cart would allow.

Actually, that's a lie. I finished my shopping. But I was really excited.

I got home and had to swatch Shine of the Times next to Hidden Treasure to see just how similar they really are, and I threw in As Gold as it Gets for good measure, along with a Nails Inc. flakie, The Old Vic, which I picked up at Sephora when we were in Vegas. (The Old Vic comes in a set with Black Taxi, a shiny black "patent" creme.)

One coat. Top to bottom: Essie As Gold as it Gets, Essie Shine of the Times, Sally Hansen Hidden Treasure, Nails Inc. The Old Vic

Of course, this is winter in Alaska and I didn't get home until 4 p.m., so the sun was already down. No beautiful natural light swatches for me.

One coat. Top to bottom: As Gold as it Gets, Shine of the Times, Hidden Treasure, The Old Vic

In these photos, I'm wearing one coat of each flakie layered over two coats of Orly Liquid Vinyl. As you can see, in terms of color, Shine of the Times is virtually identical to Hidden Treasure.

One coat. Top to bottom: As Gold as it Gets, Shine of the Times, Hidden Treasure, The Old Vic
I hadn't found The Old Vic terribly exciting on its own, but compared to the other topcoats, it is even less compelling. Nothing wrong with it; it does turn black polish into a subtly shimmery deep blue, which is nice. But not worth $20, even paired with Black Taxi. And it practically disappeared layered over white.

One coat. Top to bottom: As Gold as it Gets, Shine of the Times, Hidden Treasure, The Old Vic
These shots are one coat of each flakie layered over three coats of Sinful Colors Snow Me White (which, as you can tell from my polish job, is less than easy to work with. I'm open to recommendations for a great white creme).

One coat. Top to bottom: As Gold as it Gets, Shine of the Times, Hidden Treasure, The Old Vic
Unsurprisingly, monochromatic As Gold as it Gets stands out more over the white, but it was hard to capture the other topcoats on camera.

Two coats. Top to bottom: As Gold as it Gets, Shine of the Times, Hidden Treasure, The Old Vic
Two coats over black and you really start to get the full flakie impact. Shine of the Times is very much like Hidden Treasure except that the flakes are more densely packed, so you get more flake in each coat.

Two coats. Top to bottom: As Gold as it Gets, Shine of the Times, Hidden Treasure, The Old Vic

In terms of color, though, Shine of the Times and Hidden Treasure have the same multichromatic range, flashing reds, golds and green over black.

Two coats. Top to bottom: As Gold as it Gets, Shine of the Times, Hidden Treasure, The Old Vic

Over white, they look more iridescent.

Two coats. Top to bottom: As Gold as it Gets, Shine of the Times, Hidden Treasure, The Old Vic

I didn't expect to like As Gold as it Gets as much as I do. After I got done swatching, I redid my nails with two coats over Zoya Codie. I was most of the way done before I realized what a great combination that would be to try a gradient effect with the flakie, but I was too far in to want to go back and start all over again at that point. Next time.

Two coats. Left to right: The Old Vic, Hidden Treasure, Shine of the Times, As Gold as it Gets

Bottom line: If you missed out on Sally Hansen Hidden Treasure, pick up Shine of the Times and you'll be just as happy. It's essentially a Hidden Treasure dupe. As Gold as it Gets is way cooler in person than it looks dripping off a cherry in those print ads. And if you're looking for a subtle flakie shimmer without much going on in the way of color variety, The Old Vic is perfectly serviceable, although I don't find it all that exciting.

Two coats. Left to right: The Old Vic, Hidden Treasure, Shine of the Times, As Gold as it Gets
Also, beware the false Sally Hansen Hidden Treasure that's hit store shelves in recent weeks. It's a flake-free lavender frost that the company claims is a new shade that's "on-trend." As opposed to the original Hidden Treasure, which was such a huge flop you can now expect to pay $30 for it on eBay. For some reason, I guess that response sounded better to their social media department than "we screwed up." Maybe The New York Times runs Sally Hansen's Twitter account.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The best of 2011 beauty

It's taken me a week into the new year, but I'm finally ready to talk about my favorite products of the last year. 2011 was a big year for me in terms of branching out and trying new things. I joined Birchbox and Julep Maven and started taking more chances on drugstore makeup instead of sticking to high-end brands. I got over my fear of red lipstick (more on that another time) and rediscovered glitter. I tried a ton of new products, some with better results than others. This list includes most of my favorite new products from 2011. I should qualify the "new" — for the most part, I tried to limit the list to products that were actually new in 2011, but a few strays may have snuck on. It's possible some of these pre-date 2011 somewhat. But they were at least new to me in 2011. I'm looking forward to what 2012 will bring!

Bath & body

The Body Shop Candied Ginger scrub and body butter

I included Candied Ginger in my November favorites, but it wasn't until I packed the scrub and body butter on a trip to the North Slope oilfields that I really began to appreciate the awesomeness of this moisturizing duo. Holiday scents are 50% off at The Body Shop while supplies last, so if you're on the fence about this one, I encourage you to go for it. Unless you hate having soft, smooth, gingery-smelling skin, in which case you should definitely skip it.

LUSH Lust soap

We spent a weekend in Las Vegas in December, and when I made my customary pilgrimage to the LUSH in Mandalay Bay, they sent me off with a good-sized sample of this sparkling, jasmine-scented soap. One use and I was sorry I hadn't bought the entire brick. It smells spectacular, sweet and floral, and I really like the shimmer, although I know that could be a turnoff for some. I never thought I'd love another LUSH soap as much as I love Sexy Peel (which is a very different soap), but Lust might have taken the top spot.


Julep Facial for Hands Glycolic Hand Scrub

I started using Julep's hand scrub after it arrived in my very first Julep Maven shipment, and it didn't take me long to get hooked. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that after I'd been using this hand scrub for a week or so, people started commenting — unprovoked — about how soft and smooth my hands felt, and it was an easy pick for my October favorites. The price tag ($32) hurts, but the results are amazing.

OPI Mermaid's Tears

I liked the entire OPI Pirates of the Caribbean collection, but Mermaid's Tears was the only one that I really felt the need to own. I love blues and greens, and there's something about this particular shade — this might sound weird, but I find it calming. (On the other hand, maybe it doesn't sound so weird.) Mermaid's Tears has earned a place in my all-time favorite nail polish colors.

Wet N Wild Behind Closed Doors

I gushed about Behind Closed Doors, a limited-edition Halloween polish, back in September, and my love for this squishy red-on-black glitter hasn't decreased. This is one of those polishes that never fails to attract compliments.

Zoya Gemma

I just started getting into Zoya polishes in 2011; as far as I know, there's nowhere to buy them in Anchorage, so I get mine online. A couple have also come in Birchbox shipments. Gemma, from the Intimate collection, isn't usually the kind of color I'd go for; generally I stick to the extremes (plain creme or total glitterbomb), but Gemma has an unusual sort of violet duochrome shimmer over olive green. It's super unique and I love it.

If you like Zoya products (or if even if you haven't tried the brand but think you might like to), I recommend you set up an account on the Zoya/Art of Beauty website, and follow Zoya on Twitter and Facebook. They occasionally do member promotions, including some great buy-two-get-two-free events, and they don't gouge you on shipping (even to Alaska). Now through Jan. 9, you can try two bottles of Zoya free (you pay shipping) with the code ZOYA2012.


L'Oréal MagicSmooth Soufflé makeup

One of my beauty resolutions for 2011 was to find a foundation I actually like. This is That Foundation. MagicSmooth Soufflé has been my new best friend since September and we are still going strong. It's smooth and even and — better yet — affordable. While I'm sure I'll keep shopping around a bit on the side (I like to have a backup since I have a track record of falling in love with foundations just before they get discontinued), I know I'll keep coming back to this one for the foreseeable future.

Maybelline Master Drama by Eye Studio eyeliner

This is one of those products that lives up to its Internet buzz. I've used a lot of eyeliners and spent a lot of money along the way, with mixed results. This is absolutely the best value eyeliner pencil I've ever bought. The quality is just as good as a Stila SmudgeStick but at about half the price. The Eye Studio Master Drama cream pencil has quickly become a staple of my routine. I run this along my upper waterline every morning and it stays all day. Love it.

Urban Decay Supercurl Curling Mascara

I've been using (and consistently loving) Maybelline's Volum' Express The Falsies mascara since 2010 and had no plans to supplement my mascara routine with anything else, but then I bought the new Urban Decay Book of Shadows palette at Alaska's new Sephora, and it came with a small tube of Supercurl. I've never felt the need to curl my lashes (I had an eyelash curler once because it came with a brush set, and I ended up throwing it out), but I have to say this mascara is a winner, and it really does have an immediate, visible curling effect. (Tip: Apply the brush to the outside/top of your lashes, not the side closest to your eye, and twirl it like you would roll a round brush through your hair.) The formula is great, too — not at all clumpy or flaky. I had mixed feelings about the new Book of Shadows palette on the whole — the whole iPod speaker thing was kind of gimmicky, and the QR codes leading to the tutorial videos were too small for my old phone to read, although I haven't tried them again since I got the 4s, and the construction of the drawer holding the actual shadows was flawed, but the actual products were great.

Milani Lip Flash pencil in Photo Flash and Kat Von D Foiled Love lipstick in Adora

As I mentioned at the top, I really got into red lipstick this year, and while I stick to creme shades for everyday, when we go out I like to add a little something extra. These two lip products are reds that work with my coloring and add a little something extra. Milani Lip Flash looks more obviously glittery, although the effect is elegant and not at all teenybopper when it's actually on the lips. Kat Von D Foiled Love really does have a smooth, foiled look that's unique among the lip products I've used. I like both for evening with a dark neutral smokey eye.

Left: Milani Lip Flash in Photo Flash
Right: Kat Von D Foiled Love in Adora

Revlon ColorBurst Lip Butter

What can be said about Revlon's Lip Butters that hasn't been said by me and every other beauty blogger in America? They're awesome. And as I mentioned in my full review, they're a great gateway drug if you're interested in experimenting with red lipstick but don't know where to start. I'm sure these are on just about every 2011 favorites list, but I'm jumping on the bandwagon anyway. They've earned their buzz and their place at the top for 2011.