Monday, May 26, 2014

Your scrub might be frozen in Arctic sea ice

One of my co-workers wrote an article this week about a Dartmouth study looking at the alarming presence of "microplastics," or very tiny pieces of plastic garbage, frozen into Arctic sea ice. As the ice melts, those tiny pieces of plastic could be ingested by birds, mammals and sea life.

What's that got to do with beauty products? Well, as it turns out, "some of the pieces may be polymer beads, or remnants of those beads, that are contained in some cosmetic products."

That's right: Microbeads are making their way out of your shower and into the Arctic ice pack. And they could be making their way back into your home, according to this Australian newspaper:

Tiny and buoyant, and not filtered by sewerage systems, they are swiftly ingestible by marine life, making them more immediately dangerous than a discarded drink bottle. They are likely to have entered the food chain -- so while you wouldn't eat your facial scrub from the jar, you might be consuming it if you eat fish.

Mmmm. Tasty.

So, what's the answer? Avoid microbeads, clearly -- although they're sneaking around in places you might not suspect (like your toothpaste, possibly), so it may require some deep label reading and research. According to The Guardian, Johnson & Johnson, Unilver and Proctor & Gamble have all pledged to phase out microbeads, but they say it's going to take several years. Lush says it does not use microplastics in any of its products. Beat the Microbead posts updates about companies that have responded to their requests to stop using microplastics and a mobile app you can use to scan products to check for known microplastics.

And there are, of course, natural alternatives if you need a scrubbing product; I've written about some here and here.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Watercolor nails: Sally Hansen Palm Beach Tropical Jellies

A long time ago (seriously, like 15 years, maybe?) sheer nail tints had A Moment. I don't remember the brand, but I remember stopping by one particular endcap in Fred Meyer every time I was in the store and thinking long and hard about a collection of sheer polishes from one of the drugstore brands (for real, it was so long ago I don't even remember which one, but my gut is saying maybe L'Oréal?). But I was either a broke college student or a broke high school student (one or the other; I'm really kind of fuzzy on the exact year), so I never actually made the purchase. The display had suggestions for all these ways to layer the different colors, and I never had enough cash (back then we used cash) to get more than one or two colors, and I didn't feel like it would be worth it.

Not buying those sheer tints is a regret that has haunted me to this day. When, finally, tints are having another moment.

I was going to try to track down the OPI Sheer Tints collection even though I sort of choke on the price point with OPI, especially when there's a collection I want in its entirety. But then the Sally Hansen Triple Shine Palm Beach Tropical Jellies came out, and when I saw them in my local Fred Meyer ($4.99 each), I snapped them up and ran straight home to try them out.

First reaction: This collection has just one flaw, and that's the lack of a yellow tint. I'm not convinced it was necessary to do a red and a pink but no yellow.

That aside: I can finally let go of my sheer tints regret.

I just started playing around with these last night, so my first layered sheer manicure is a little all over the place — I was just messing around to see how the polishes worked together. Next time I'll probably start with a nude base coat to eliminate visible nail line or maybe try a white base coat to make the colors pop (like All Lacquered Up did). But I like the watercolor-esque effects from my first effort. (I added a layer of a holo topcoat to a few just to see if they played well together.)

These polishes are very sheer — each of those color washes on my nails took several passes. Still, I'm happy with the sort of Easter egg-y look. They use the wide, flat brush, and I found some success turning the brush on its side to get a narrower edge. And I'm looking forward to trying them with some different base coats and effects (some good ideas in the video below).

Looking at the OPI video really makes me feel the lack of a yellow in the Sally Hansen collection, so odds are good I'll try to pick up the OPI yellow. Other than that, though, I'm pleased with the Tropical Jellies, looking forward to doing some more experimenting with them — and finally letting go of my jelly regret.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Spin Pins hairstyle ideas galore

Oh, BuzzFeed. When you deliver, you really deliver. And today you have delivered beautifully, with a roundup of "21 ridiculously easy hairstyles you can do with Spin Pins." I'll be coming back to this well again and again.

Also, if you have long hair and you don't have a set (or four) of Spin Pins, get yourself to the drugstore, stat. These are life-changing, especially for those of us who have very thick hair. They're not kidding when they say they do the work of 20 bobby pins.

Goody's Simple Styles Spin Pin

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Review: Chrome and satin polishes from Gwen Stefani for OPI

I wasn't all that excited when the Gwen Stefani for OPI collection rolled out, frankly; I didn't really see anything that exciting. But after reading a few reviews, my curiosity about a couple of the special finishes was piqued, so when I passed the display at my local Fred Meyer last week, I grabbed a couple after all.

In the Morning (satin)

I am generally not a fan of textured polishes. I didn't love the Milani Texture collection, I don't really like the Nails Inc. Leather polishes, Sally Hansen Sugar Coat does nothing for me, and I just don't get the appeal of Zoya Pixie Dust. But I do like a flocked or matte nail, and from what I'd read, the OPI satin finish was somewhere in between.

And it is. And I love it.

In the Morning is a black satin polish that has a hint of shimmer when wet but dries to a finish that's matte and sort of — well, it's hard to describe, but I guess I would call it "soft." It's a little bit velvety without going all the way to a flocked nail; it's matte without being too flat; it's just barely a hint of texture. I now wish I had also bought Love. Angel. Music. Baby., which is a gold polish in the satin finish. And by "wish I had also bought," I guess I effectively mean "probably will also buy."

Push and Shove (chrome)

Instead of Love. Angel. Music. Baby., though, I bought Push and Shove, a silver chrome that comes with a tiny little bottle of a base coat called Lay Down That Base.

Based on the reviews I'd read, I didn't expect Push and Shove to have much staying power, and it doesn't — I put it on my nails yesterday morning and it's already wearing away. But I'd also read some reviews about how it is the perfect chrome polish we've all been waiting for. And in that respect, I have to disagree. Yes, Push and Shove is a great silver chrome, and until it starts to wear away, it looks fabulous.


In my opinion, there is nothing about Push and Shove that makes it superior to the Essie Mirror Metallics collection. In fact, when I put Push and Shove on my nails yesterday morning, I only put it on nine nails, and on the tenth I instead used No Place Like Chrome, the silver chrome from Mirror Metallics, just for comparison. And visually, there is literally absolutely no difference between the two, except that I noticed this morning that the Essie polish appeared to be wearing just a little bit better. In fact, as far as I can tell, the only differences between Push and Shove and the Mirror Metallics collection are:
  • Push and Shove claims to require a special basecoat, which comes in a teeny weeny little bottle (and which, as far as I can tell, isn't sold on its own);
  • Where I shop, Push and Shove costs about a dollar more (although you can find better deals online); and
  • Push and Shove only comes in one color, whereas I've got three or four different shades from the Mirror Metallics collection and they've all got that same lovely chrome finish.

Gwen Stefani for OPI chrome and satin polishes

Bottom Line: Satin is unique and worth checking out; chrome has dupes on the market.
Price: $
Tip: Pass on Push and Shove and check out the Essie Mirror Metallics instead.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Confirmed: LUSH coming to Anchorage

It's really happening, Alaska: LUSH is coming to the Anchorage Fifth Avenue Mall.

After hearing some rumors flying around, I reached out to LUSH public relations. I heard back from PR rep Erin Brady this afternoon; she says "dates will likely change but right now it should be late July." Oh, and they're hiring.

Finally, no more trying to remember to take my empty LUSH pots with me on vacation (and then figuring out how to get a fresh face mask home)! And maybe even the chance to shop one of those secret-not-so-secret post-Christmas sales in person...

I'll keep you posted with any updates.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Visibly Organized: Depotting to Z Palettes

Last summer, my husband and I bought a new house. I now have more room to spread out than I've ever had before — and with the arrival of a new baby shortly after we took up residence, the spreading happened quickly and haphazardly. Now I'm slowly trying to take advantage of the extra room by getting things organized in smarter ways, with an emphasis on being able to see as much as possible as easily as possible. Look for more posts in the coming months about how I'm getting Visibly Organized.

Much as I love prestige cosmetics, I have to admit it: I'm a sucker for an affordable drugstore eye shadow. And Wet 'N' Wild — despite the corny/pornish name and the fact that it was definitely my favorite stop on a Fred Meyer trip when I was oh, say, 10 years old — keeps sucking me back in. It's hard to say no to a well-laid-out palette for just five bucks, especially when, as it turns out, the quality is pretty decent. So I've managed to accumulate a fair number of these little impulse buys over the past couple of years.

Here's the problem, though: I put them all away neatly in one place, and then I forget I have them, and they never get used. A few weeks ago I was organizing the closet in my bathroom and found this little drawer unit just jammed full of products I'd forgotten I had:

Clearly, the drawer system, while good at keeping things contained, was not working in terms of maximizing use.

I immediately thought of the rash of YouTube videos that came out promoting Z Palettes a few years back. At the time, I didn't think I had any use for the magnetic palettes, but looking at my stash of drugstore eye shadows, I decided the time had come. I took a break from my closet project to do some quick online comparison shopping, settled on (5% rebate through Mr. Rebates or 4% rebate through Ebates), and placed my order for two large Z Palettes.

Z Palettes have a magnetized base so shadow (blush/bronzer/powder/etc.) pans stick to the palette and can be removed and/or moved around. Since not all cosmetics come in pans that will stick to the magnetized surface, the palettes also come with a set of adhesive-backed magnets to stick to your pans. Which is a good thing, since it turns out none of my Wet 'N' Wild pans would stick on their own.

The tricky part is depotting your shadows from their plastic cases. They don't just pop out; you have to apply some heat. The palettes come with instructions for a couple of methods, and I know other bloggers have used candles to heat the backs of their palettes. Because I have an old flatiron that I don't use anymore, I decided to go with that method. (I wouldn't recommend the straightening iron method if you want to keep using your iron on your hair. Mine has residue all over it now.)

Working with one palette at a time, I'd pop the lid off, then let the palette rest on one surface of the iron. When the plastic and glue started to soften, I used an eyeliner pencil to gently poke the pan out of the case.

I definitely recommend doing this in a ventilated area. I worked with the bathroom window open. In winter. It was still stinky.

I found I had to be really careful when popping the shadows out, especially with the matte shades, so I didn't crack them. I did crack a couple, and then I had to go back and fix them with rubbing alcohol. Not the end of the world, but not ideal, either.

In retrospect, I kind of wish I'd ordered the pro size rather than the large size, but I'm not sure the $5 price difference would have been worth the extra space. doesn't do a very good job of explaining the size difference.

I'm actually really thrilled with how these turned out, though. As you can see from the background, I've got a couple more to do, but now I've got most of them into two Z Palettes, and already I find I've been using them more just because I can see them.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Video: Model becomes Marge Simpson

Ready for a quick professional makeup video that tiptoes down the line between fascinating and creepy? Meet real-life Marge Simpson.

Makeup: Veronica Ershova
Hair/flowers: Mikhail Kravchenko
Model: Kate Moukhina
Video by Alexander Khokhlov

Saturday, February 22, 2014

New favorite: CJ's BUTTer Creamy Lotion

Thing #573 of the 1,000 Things I Didn't Know Until I Had A Baby is that you can't use regular diaper rash cream with cloth diapers. A lot of parents who cloth diaper just use coconut oil instead, but as it turns out, the other go-to holy grail product is a line called CJ's BUTTer (get it? Because butts), which we've been using on Below Freezing Baby for six months now (six months exactly, actually; happy half-birthday, kid!), and which I love.

I promise this is not a post about diaper creams.

As it turns out, CJ's also makes a range of other products, some of which I've tried, and one of which is my new favorite lotion in the whole world.

CJ's Creamy Lotion ($13.50 for an 8 oz. pot) is super moisturizing, paraben-free, and doesn't leave any of the greasy residue you sometimes get with all-natural products. (The BUTTer itself is actually made with food-grade ingredients, so technically it's edible, although I don't know if you'd want to mow down on that much shea butter and coconut oil.) For my scent-sensitive friends, it comes in an unscented version, although I'm partial to the CJ's fragrances myself, particularly Oatmeal, Milk and Honey; Sweet Orange; and Pink Sugar, which smells just like the Aquolina perfume of the same name.

If you order from CJ's and you do have a baby (or honestly, even if you don't), I recommend adding one of their $10 grab bags to your order. I've ordered grab bags twice now, and both times I've received considerably more than $10 worth of product as well as discovered some new items I might not have tried otherwise.

CJ's BUTTer Creamy Lotion

Bottom Line: Basically just the best lotion ever; also baby-safe.
Price: $$
Tip: Go for the grab bag.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Maternity leave makeup basics

When I was packing my hospital bag ahead of the birth of my daughter last summer, I fully intended to be one of those women who gives birth in a full face of makeup and perfect hair so I'd look great in baby's first photos. Joke was on me. Instead, 36 hours before my (very late) baby was scheduled to be induced, my water broke just after I'd taken off my makeup for the night. I had back labor and then took Stadol that left me more or less out of it for much of my labor (NO REGRETS, FYI — I have never known such pain before or since), and when it finally came time to push nearly 24 hours later, one of the nurses offered to put my hair up in a messy bun for me, and that is how I wore my hair for the next. two. days. because after Below Freezing Baby was born, I had severe postpartum complications and barely had the strength to lift my arms.

All I can say is thank goodness for photo editing software, because my disastrous postpartum appearance can be easily filtered into this lovely, soft vignette:

At least my nails were done. China Glaze Dress Me Up will always be my maternity manicure.

Don't be fooled. IT WAS NOT PRETTY IN REAL LIFE. It took two nurses to get me into that tank top. And thank goodness for the labor and delivery nurse's hair-putting-up skills, because that messy bun did, in fact, have to hold up for several days.

And then we finally got to go home, which was utterly terrifying because we were suddenly responsible for keeping this tiny helpless person alive. All by ourselves.

The nice thing about maternity leave is that no one expects you to be remotely put together. But if you're anything like me, you'll want to be. I was exhausted like I've never been before, and my body felt weird and foreign, and I was catching sleep when I could and trying to be a good hostess to the friends and family members who stopped by to see the baby (and bring food, bless them). I didn't have the time or the energy to put a lot of work into a makeup routine, but I also needed to be able to look into the mirror and feel confident in the face I saw looking back at me. I wound up settling into a routine that was quick and easy to apply, looked natural, and would last through naps when I could catch them and tears when I needed to shed them.

And so, based on my personal experience, here's the Below Freezing Beauty rundown of maternity leave makeup basics. I've provided a high-end and more affordable option for each (with one semi-exception) because it turns out having a baby is expensive -- although if you can justify the expense, I strongly, strongly recommend going with the prestige options. Childbirth takes it out of you. If there is one time in your life at which you truly deserve the good stuff, this is it.


Usually I'm a full-coverage foundation kind of girl, but pregnancy was incredibly kind to my skin. My go-to foundation in the early days post-baby was Josie Maran Argan Matchmaker Serum Foundation ($42), which I've written about before. Warm it up in your hands and blend it in with your fingers. It evens out your skin tone, looks really natural and feels like basically nothing on.

For something with more coverage, I'm a fan of Laura Mercier Silk Creme Foundation ($43). Awesome coverage, great finish, lasts all day.

For something more affordable, the L'Oréal Magic Skin Beautifier BB Cream ($10-$13) is a decent alternative to the Josie Maran foundation. Sadly, I haven't found anything at a lower price point that comes remotely close to Silk Creme.


You think you've had dark circles? You've never had dark circles like you're about to. Buckle up, sister, and watch your eyes sink deep, deep, deep into your skull as sleep deprivation becomes the new normal. For a high-quality, all-purpose concealer, I love Benefit Boi-ing ($20). Under the eyes, around the nose, corners of the mouth. Boom. You're set.

For a good product at a lower price point, try NYX Full Coverage Concealer in a Jar ($5-$6).

Lip color 

Precision is one of exhaustion's first victims, so I found myself relying on lip products that were fairly forgiving (and, since my body was actively attempting to replenish a whole lot of lost blood, moisturizing). Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment ($22) was perfect — lots of moisture, just enough color, and it feels and smells really nice.

For a more affordable alternative, I like Revlon Color Stay Just Bitten Kissable Balm Stain ($9-$12). Long, stupid name for an awesome product. I'm not a huge fan of the unnecessary-feeling packaging that comes with lip crayons, but I do like this product a lot. It's not quite as nice-feeling as the Fresh lip treatment, but the color is natural and long-lasting.


Josie Maran Coconut Watercolor Cheek Gelée ($22) — I've written about these before, and I really don't have enough good things to say about them. They feel great going on, they look incredibly natural, and they're fun to use. No joke, in those bleary first days, I felt refreshed every time I applied one.

I haven't found anything remotely like the Watercolor Cheek Gelée at a drugstore price point, but if you must compromise on blush, Maybelline Dream Bouncy ($8-$10) isn't bad. The bouncy texture is fun (and the bar for fun is pretty low when you're as sleep-deprived as you will be), they blend nicely, and there's a good range of color options.


Before I get into eyeliner, repeat after me: Top lashline only. Top lashline only. Your eyes are going to look small and pinchy — because they're going to be small and pinchy. Again, sleep deprivation. Lining the inner part of your upper lashline makes your eyes look bigger, and you'll want something that goes on easily and lasts a long time. Stila Smudge Stick ($20) is perfect. I like black, but it comes in a zillion colors, so go crazy if you like.

This is a rare case in which I do think there's an honest-to-goodness drugstore dupe for the high-end product. Maybelline Eye Studio Master Drama Cream Pencil ($8-$10) made my 2011 favorites because it's every inch as good as the Smudge Stick — seriously.


Have I mentioned that you're almost certainly going to fall asleep in this makeup? I know it's taboo. But a lot of the niceties of adult life go out the window for a little while after you give birth. Sad but true. You'll probably also eat ice cream for dinner more than once during these halcyon days. So pick a mascara that won't flake off on your cheeks. Urban Decay Supercurl Curling Mascara ($20) is another 2011 favorite.

For a good lash at a lower price, you can't go wrong with Maybelline Volum' Express The Falsies Mascara ($7-$9), another case of stupid name, great product.


OK, here's the thing: As far as I'm concerned, there is no lower-priced option for setting powder. This is one of those products that you either need or you don't, and if you need it, you don't want to cheap out on it. You're going to fall asleep in this makeup and probably end up rubbing it all over your precious little tiny squirming angel, so invest in the good stuff. And the good stuff is Tarte Smooth Operator Amazonian Clay Finishing Powder ($29). I've never used a powder this great. Since I started using it, I no longer have to touch up my foundation or concealer late in the day. S--t does not move. Blotting papers? No need for 'em. Listen, if you have oily or combination skin and you're reading this list, you can feel good about any of the drugstore products here. But believe me when I tell you: This is the setting powder of your dreams. It is worth every penny. You will not be sorry.

So there you have it — your maternity leave makeup essentials. With the exception of the setting powder, nothing on this list has to be applied with a brush. It's all finger-friendly, it requires zero precision, and you'll be able to get yourself from haggard to glowing in under three minutes. Which is about as long as you'll be able to stand up without fainting from exhaustion. Do yourself a favor and get stocked up about a month before you're due, just in case. Turns out babies come in their own sweet time.

One more thing — start getting weekly pedicures in your ninth month. You'll be surprised how nice it feels to be complimented on your toenail polish while you're in the middle of trying to push out a baby. Sometimes it's the little things.

Disclosure: Josie Maran products were provided for review by Sephora.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Fixing chapped lips

A few months ago I had a baby, and sometime in the eleventh or twelfth month of my seemingly-endless pregnancy, I suddenly (seriously, like overnight) developed the worst chapped lips I've ever experienced. We're talking scaling, flaking skin that could be tamed by no balm. If I tried to wear lipstick, I looked like an Impressionist painting.

After I had the baby in August, all the other miseries of pregnancy disappeared almost instantaneously. Food aversions, nerve pain, nausea, heartburn... I don't even remember everything. But they all ended with the delivery of my (exquisite, brilliant) daughter.

Except the lips. Weeks, months after I'd been discharged from the mother-baby unit, my mouth still ranged from looking like some sort of crusty European baked good to sporting a permanent Kool-Aid mustache.

Over the course of a few months, I tried just about everything I could think of to moisturize and de-flake my lips. And I'm happy to report that I've enjoyed some success with the three products below. I'm not back to 100 percent (I need to work on my consistency. Also, I need to drink more water, because as we all know, good hydration is the foundation for good skin), but I see success on the horizon.


It's been a while since I wrote about my favorite beauty hack, sugar as exfoliant, but I've certainly blogged about it at length in the past, so I'll just say this: Superfine baker's sugar. I do a quick sugar scrub anytime my lips start to flake up again, and it keeps things smooth and under control.

Blistex Deep Renewal 

This is actually an anti-aging product, but considering my dry, cracked hag's lips made me look older by the minute, I figured it was worth a try. I've been using this during the day to stay moisturized, and I'm a fan. It has decent staying power, so I'm not constantly reapplying, and it feels nice — not greasy at all. I've been using this as a moisturizing layer under my lip color.

Neosporin Lip Health Overnight Renewal Therapy

Ordinarily I'm not a big fan of petrolatum-based lip products (the Blistex balm is petrolatum-based as well), but this has been kind of a special case, and I'm glad I made an exception. I can't say enough good things about this lip treatment. I just finished my first jar and repurchased, and it's rare for me to work my way through an entire lip product in such a short time. It smells good, it feels good, and most importantly, it works. I feel the difference in my lips when I use this, both right away and when I wake up in the morning. Once I get my lips back to a consistently healthy state, this is something I'll hold onto for times when I need some extra moisturization.