Sunday, December 20, 2009

Natural Perfume

I LOVE perfume. I'm sure it comes from my mom, who always has at least 10 different perfumes on her dresser, and always smells amazing. Unfortunately, it turns out that perfumes contain some very hazardous chemicals, which are not regulated by any health agency. In fact, fragrances are even exempt from disclosing ingredients, as they are considered a "trade secret". To make matters worse, because perfume is usually applied directly to the skin (the largest organ), the skin ends up absorbing many of these harmful chemicals, which accumulate in the system.

To avoid the toxicity of synthetic fragrances, many people are now turning to natural fragrances. Thankfully, natural fragrances have come a long way from the hippy, patchouli-esque scents that many of us associate them with. Here are some of my favorite natural perfumes that also pay attention to being earth-friendly in their operations and packaging:

LaVanila - if you like soft, sweet, fruity perfumes, this is for you! This fragrance line is based on natural Madagascar vanilla, which they blend with other natural essential oils and topical antioxidants. They offer a full line of aromatheraphy candles, and body care, including deodorant - this happens to be my absolute favorite natural deodorant (and I've tried LOTS of brands!).

Leila Lou -if you like feminine, floral scents, you will love this natural perfume by Rosie Jane (who also makes adorable cosmetics!). This perfume is a very flirty floral, and wears beautifully throughout the day. Everything in the line is minimally packaged in 100% recyclable materials, and has a great give back program that gets
you free product!

Auric Blends - if you like more earthy, musky fragrances, you'll find just what you're looking for here! Using all natural essential oils, Auric Blends creates a wide array of roll-on fragrances, solid perfumes, and incense for both men and women. A little bit goes a long way with these products, and the price point is amazing! They also provide samples, so you can try the whole line and find your favorite.

If none of these sound like what you're looking for, you can always create your own fragrance using individual essential oils. You can find these at your local health food store, and they're usually pretty affordable, so you can experiment and create your own signature scent!

Have you found your favorite natural perfume?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Anti-aging treatment? There's an App for that

As we've all heard from the iphone commercials, there's an app for just about anything. And soon, you'll even be able to get an anti-aging treatment from your phone!

United Holdings Group will be launching a set of ten anti-aging applications for the iphone in January 2010. The apps promise to treat wrinkles, acne, skin elasticity, hair growth, and even joint pain for a mere $2.99. According to the company, the apps work by using wavelengths of light and sound to stimulate a healing response in the cells, causing them to produce collagen and elastin.

It sounds like the idea is based on LED photorejuvenation therapy, offered by dermatologists and companies like Tanda and Osmotics Cosmeceuticals. While LED therapy is proven to stimulate collagen and elastin (with red and amber light therapy) and kill acne-causing bacteria (blue light therapy), I'm not sure how well an iphone app will be able to replicate those results, but for $2.99, I'll find out for myself!

Will you be trying the anti-aging app?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Kat Von D Halloween Makeup

Happy (belated) Halloween!

This year, I had big plans to be Madonna, circa Confessions. This costume was dependent on finding a fuschia three-quarter sleeved leotard... which is apparently impossible to find. Seriously. I looked EVERYWHERE! So, this idea was put back on the shelf at the last minute. By the way, if anyone knows where to find above-mentioned leotard, please let me know; I'm still very attached to the idea.

My fall back plan came to me on Friday night when I found a shoddy Miami Ink costume at Target, and, voila! Kat Von D!

The makeup was based on her usual look of dramatic dark brown eyes with flicked out liner, and her signature red-orange lip.

Here's a picture of me, obviously in character ;) To get the look, I used a matte brown shadow all over the lid, concentrating in the crease. I then took a dark brown shadow and, using an angled eyeliner brush, deepened the shadow in the crease and along the outer edge (both upper and lower). I then took a light beige shadow and highlighted und
er the brow and in the inner third of lid. A thick swipe of black liner, flicked out at the end and a coat of Diorshow mascara completed the eyes.

For the lips, I used Kat's own lipstick in Stiletto (sold at Sephora stores nationwide). I LOVE this lipcolor - it's a very warm orange-based red that is super bright. To ensure the color lasted all night, I first lined all over the lips with a red liner and then applied two coats of Stiletto, blotting in between applications.
I used a warm blush to contour the cheek bones, and finished by drawing on her tattoos: blue stars around the left temple and a little lightning bolt under the right eye. And, done! Ready to party!

I hope everyone had a wonderful Halloween!

(Photo courtesy of

Monday, October 5, 2009

Oil and Oily Skin

Having oily skin can sometimes seem like a never-ending battle against shine, grime, and that "dirty" feeling. The quest for that "squeaky clean" feel will lead to a barrage of anti-shine, oil absorbing, mattifying cleansers, toners, and treatments. But what's the best way to really control oil so that you don't end up with that slick forehead by lunch? To start, it's important to understand what and where that oil is coming from:

Oil is sebum, secreted by the sebaceous glands found in the dermis (or second layer) of the skin. From here, oil makes its way to the surface of the skin through follicular pores, where it helps condition and soften hair, and keep skin supple. For som
e, oil is overproduced, leading to that shiny and greasy look and feel. Overproduction of oil can be due to heredity, diet, hormones/stress, and can be in response to topical treatments as well.

For many people with oily skin, the tendency is to cleanse with harsh detergent soaps and hot water, followed by "oil controlling" "antibacterial" astringents, promising to banish dirt and oil from the skin. Then, most forgo moisturizer and sunscreen, and many women go straight for mattifying makeup and heavy powders to keep the skin shine free all day long... or at least for a couple of hours until the shine shows back up and the cycle starts all over again.

This is actually the worst thing you can do for your skin! This all ends up over-drying and irritating the skin, which results in more oil production as the skin tries to balance itself back out. Instead of going the above route, try some of these tried and true methods for controlling oil:

- Cleanse with a gentle, pH balanced cleanser. You don't want that "squeaky-clean feeling" - that just means that the skin has been stripped of its natural fatty barrier, which does more harm than good. I think it's always good to have 2 cleansers on hand to go between. Try the oil-based cleansers mentioned in a previous post (like dissolves like), and try a cleanser with salicylic or glycolic acids. These serve to gently exfoliate the skin and unclog pores without being too harsh (try to find one with no fragrance and no alcohol). DO NOT wash with hot water, as that just strips and irritates the skin. Instead, use cool to lukewarm water; it feels much more refreshing and is gentler on the skin.

- Tone with an alcohol-free toner. Find one with witch hazel or salicylic acid to keep the pores clean without stripping the skin.

- Moisturize with an oil-free lotion with an SPF of at least 15. It is very important to use a moisturizer to help balance and protect the skin from UV damage. This will also help control oil, since your skin will not feel the need to produce more oil to moisturize itself.

One of the best things I ever did for my oily skin was to actually put oil on it. I know that sounds crazy, but it was amazing! After just a few nights of using oil as a night moisturizer, my skin stopped getting that slick look, my pores looked smaller, and overall my skin looked a lot healthier. Some people use plain old olive oil, but I like to use oils blended specifically for the face. There are a lot out there now, including Josie Maran's Argan Oil, and Bobbi Brown's Extra Face Oil.

Last, but not least, if you do feel a little shiny during the day, don't pack on the powder. Instead, use oil blotting sheets: they absorb excess oil without disturbing makeup, and leave your skin looking clean and matte.
(photo from

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Eyeliner Woes

Question: do u know of any eyeliner/mascara that is waterproof but that wont stain your contact lenses? i've been having this problem because at the end of the day my vision gets blurry, because my eyeliner has found its way onto my contacts....

Answer: Is this for daily wear? And if so, is waterproof necessary? Often, waterproof formulations can be more irritating to the eyes and contacts than non-waterproof formulas. I'm sure living in a more humid environment makes you want to stick with waterproof, but there are many options that stay on just as well without the harsh additives.

My favorite eyeliner is MAC Fluidline in Blacktrack; it's a gel/cream liner that you apply with an angled brush and it stays on really well (even through a sweaty yoga class!).
If you have trouble with liquid liners, there are many out now that have a marker-type applicator which make application much easier, and they stay well (i've tried MAC's and Revlon's, both good). It can also help to put an eyelid primer on before applying your makeup, and topping your liner with a similar colored eyeshadow to set it.

As for mascara, my all-time favorite is Diorshow. It comes in both waterproof and regular formulations. It's a bit pricey ($28) but well worth it; your lashes will look amazing!

Try keeping your hands away from your eyes (no rubbing!) and avoid putting product in the waterline, as that will obviously make it easier for product to get on your contacts. Stay away from "kohl" or "kajal" liners; these are oil based and tend to travel/smudge/smear a little easier, making them more likely to end up in places you don't want them.

I hope this helps!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Oil-Based Cleansers

I know what you're thinking: "There is no way I'm going to smear oil all over my face!"

Even though it sounds like the opposite of what we've been told to do all our lives, there's actually a good reason these cleansers are now all over the market. That reason starts with an important chemistry rule: "like dissolves like".

This means that the oil in the cleanser attracts and dissolves the oil and dirt on your face without stripping your skin or using harsh detergents (like most cleansers do). This makes oil-based cleansers perfect for all skin types, especially sensitive and oily types. I know that those with oily skin will have the hardest time with this idea, but trust me - adding oil and moisture to your skin is the best thing you can do to control oil (more to come on this in a later post).

These cleansers are also ideal for removing makeup, since most makeup is oil based. To use, just massage the cleanser on dry skin and rinse. Most are safe to use around the eyes also and are great at removing heavy eye makeup and mascara in one easy step... meaning no more eye makeup remover required. (this sold it for me!)

Almost every makeup and skin care line now offers oil-based cleansers.
Shu Uemura's are by far the most popular with an almost cult-like following, but at $62 or more per bottle, I'll leave it.

My favorite is Clean Energy from Origins (pictured above). At $36 per bottle, it's still not cheap but is the best I've tried; it doesn't feel too greasy or silicon-y, and it rinses perfectly clean, taking every last trace of makeup with it.

Give these cleansers a try! Most lines will give you a sample to try before you buy, and if they don't, move on! With all the formulations out there, I'm sure you'll find one that's right for you. You'll love how it easily removes your makeup and leaves your skin soft and supple.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Summer-Into-Fall Makeup

It’s the middle of August (already!) and, as much as it pains me to say this, fall is around the corner. While that thought depresses me to no end, I breathe a secret sigh of relief at the thought of being able to step outside without worrying about my eyeliner ending up halfway down my cheek. I do like the easy-breezy summer look, with its delicate shimmers and sun-kissed glow (from bronzer, of course), but I absolutely love the darker hues and dramatic pops of color that fall brings.

The colder temperatures make it much easier to wear those rich browns and steely blues that have been hiding at the bottom of your makeup bag, just begging to come out and play!

Two of my all time favorite dramatic looks are:

The smoky eye and nude lip

- Update this look by experimenting with color. Who says the smoky eye has to be black or grey? Try emeralds, copper browns, and navy blues. Finish with a light swirl of blush and a nude lipstick or gloss.

The perfect red pout

- Update this look by keeping the lips bright and glossy (maybe even sparkly!). Leave the eyes neutral and matte and the brows soft and natural, to draw all the attention to your lips. Use an illuminating foundation or highlighter to give your skin a soft, dewy glow and finish with a light swirl of blush on the apples of the cheeks.

Don't worry about following all those "rules" about what kind of reds work for what kind of skin; experiment! Whether it's a coral-red or a blue-based berry red, wear what makes you feel beautiful!