Posts Tagged ‘Beauty’

Request: Hair Help

January 7, 2009

Readers, I need help.  I have neglected my hair for some time and it’s gotten far too long and unmanagable.  It just…..flops.  It’s almost down to my boobs.  As you can see below.

See where my hands are?  That’s where my hair ends.

I always see long, beautiful hair in….say, Victoria Secret catalogs.  I think, “how pretty, I wish I had long hair like Gisele.”  Then it grows and I realize 1) long hair is a bitch to blow dry, 2) long hair is heavy and just kind of hangs unless there is velcro-rolling and styling involved, and 3) I’m not Gisele.

The good news is, my head of hair is basically a blank canvas.  It’s long and a bit layered, and I do have bangs that have grown out to my chin.  I’ve been thinking about two styles, either long with blunt bangs, which I have done before and really like (you can see that in the blog header).  Or, for a more ballsy move, chop it all off.  I am tempted to just move forward with the bangs because I can do that myself at home.

What are your thoughts?  I can tell you two things, I have thin hair but a lot of it.  It’s nice because it can pretty much do anything.  Also, I have a round face with chipmunk cheeks.  I am open to anything appropriate for my hair and face shape, so feel free to give me some guidance.

I’ve shared some long and short styles that I like below….


Budgets & Beauty, When To Save & When To Splurge On Makeup

December 26, 2008

Image: Corbis

When it comes to makeup, I am admittedly horrible at bargain hunting.  Everything I own is a department store brand.  That said, I don’t wear a ton of makeup, so I don’t need to replace anything often.  But, as The Budget requires, I have looked into cheaper, drugstore products that I consider to be the best value.

It’s tough recommending makeup, because everyone is so different about their likes and dislikes, their products they simply must buy and what part of their face they like to highlight (if any).

In general, my philosophy is this; like clothing, buy anything trendy at the drugstore.  Or, test it at a cosmetic counter.  If you must budget, buy anything with pigment at the drugstore – eye shadow, blush, lipstick and lip gloss.  It’s a better use of your money to splurge on face coverage, if you need it.  Otherwise, I say splurge on the items you use the most.  If you have great lips and absolutely love Shiseido lipstick, knock yourself out, by all means.


These are the products that I would prefer to not live without.  I could give up every other product in my makeup bag and be happy as a clam with my favorites.  These are not budget-friendly.  But, I promise, I will dive into value makeup later in the post.  In fact, you’d better read my recommendations, because I threw down $35 and a good hour hanging around my local Long’s in the name of “research.”

Clarins Beauty Flash Balm & YSL Touche Éclat

Back in 2002, I was living in London.  One dreary day, I was milling around the vast cosmetic/perfume floor in Harrods when a sales clerk at the YSL counter approached me.  We started to chat and he soon offered his recommendation for the “dark circles” under my eyes.  If you have this problem, you know it’s a bitch and a half to remedy.  Virtually impossible, in fact.  “There are just two products you need,” he informed me.  “YSL Touche Éclat and Clarins Beauty Flash Balm.”  I’ve been using them ever since.  In fact, I just replaced the Beauty Flash Balm this year; my first bottle lasted for nearly 6 years.  I will never give them up, they are MAGIC.

YSL Touche Éclat – $40, Clarins Beauty Flash Balm – $43

Laura Mercier Face Coverage

When it comes to skin coverage, no brand touches Laura Mercier, in my humble opinion.  I’ve tried Clinique (good, but not great), Chanel (too much perfume) and countless other brands.  I first heard about the Secret Camouflage and gave it a try.  I soon added the Foundation Powder and Tinted Moisturizer to my makeup bag.

Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage – $28, Foundation Powder – $40 & Tinted Moisturizer – $42

Shu Uemura Eyelash Curler

You can tear my Shu Uemura eyelash curler from my cold, dead hands.  I know, I know….you want to resist because it’s so popular and it can’t be that great, right?  It is.  Just don’t get me talking about how they were once $13 and they are now $19.

Benefit Benetint

Do you know the origins of Benefit’s Benetint?  It was developed in San Francisco back in the 70’s for an exotic dancer.  I heard it was for her nipples.  Upon more thorough research on the Interwebs, I’ve discovered that it was used for her lips and cheeks.  Believe what you will.  Personally, I prefer the nipple story.

You will never, ever, create a more natural flush with anything else.  Of course, there are now countless products that compete with Benetint, but it still stands head and shoulders above other brands.  Plus, it’s made with rosewater so it smells delicious.

Benefit Benetint – $28

Rosebud Salve, Kiehl’s Lip Balm #1 & Vaseline Lip Therapy

For basic lip balm, I use the original Rosebud Salve.  It’s my favorite and I feel that it’s reasonably priced.  The only downside I have found is that when summer rolls around (and it’s gets HOT here in California), it tends to melt and become goopy.  At that point, I swap to Kiehl’s Lip Balm #1 or Vaseline Lip Therapy.

Rosebud Salve – $6, Kiehl’s Lip Balm #1 – $6.50, Vaseline Lip Therapy – $1.99

Penny’s Favorite Products


As I said above, there are plenty of excellent deals to be found in drugstore makeup aisles.  You just need to choose carefully.


Your grandmother may very well have used these two products, and both are excellent.  Coty Airspun Loose Powder is ideal because it’s translucent and provides a matte finish.  It’s also ideal for women who don’t like to wear a lot of makeup but want either a tiny bit of coverage or something to combat shine.  Maybelline Twin Eye & Brow Pencils are AWESOME.  I highly recommend this product for your eyebrows and eyeliner.  You also get two to a package.

Coty Airspun Loose Powder – $7

Maybelline Twin Eye & Brow Pencil – $5


I am, admittedly, entirely confused by eyeshadow.  Put me in front of the eyeshadow display at the MAC counter, and I just about have a panic attack.  There are so many damn eyeshadow shades, it blows my mind.  I can see how some people become addicted to collecting them.  I own maybe 6 or 7, and I rarely use more than 2.

Unless you are totally obsessed with eyeshadow and have a brand you love, buy these from the drugstore.

Ditto with mascara.  Although, I might be the only woman on Earth who does not care for Maybelline Great Lash Mascara.  It’s too heavy and wet and makes my eyelashes…..sag.  But, I am adding it to this list because I know it’s the top value for most women.

Revlon 12 Hour Shadow – $6.50

Probably the most popular eyeshadow of the drugstore set.  And a steal at $6.50 for 4 colors.

L’Oreal Hip Shocking Shadow Pigments – $12

From what I can see, L’Oreal is attempting to compete directly with MAC with their Hip line of cosmetics.  And, it seems to be working.  These are very popular, most certainly among those who love eyeshadow.

Rimmel Color Rush Eye Shadow Duo – $4.50

A good basic eyeshadow duo with a bit more shimmer.

Maybelline Expert Wear Eye Shadow (Singles) – $6.50 & Revlon Matte Eye Shadow – $5 (No Image Available)

I like to use these two brands as a base.  The Maybelline for more shimmer and Revlon for matte.

Maybelline Great Lash Mascara – $4.50

Not much to say about this product.  It’s popularity speaks for itself.  I don’t like it, but you should definitely give it a try if you haven’t already.

L’Oreal Full Definition Voluminous Mascara – $7

By far my favorite drugstore mascara.  It goes on light and has a nice, large brush.  It is easy to layer and does not weigh down my lashes or make them look goopy.

Rimmel Soft Kohl Eye Pencil – $3

In my opinion, kohl pencils are the only eyeliners that should be used.  They are soft and great for creating a smoky eye.  Rimmel’s pencil is excellent, and a steal at 3 bucks.


Physician’s Formula Bronzer – $12

Usually cheaper bronzers give you a nice, orange flush.  But this bronzer is subtle and lovely.  It’s not exactly cheap, but it’s the best drugstore brand I’ve used.

Maybelline Dream Mousse Blush – $7.50

This blush is a DREAM.  It is whipped as light as air, goes on smooth and quickly turns into a matte powder when applied to the skin.  I am accustomed to using Benetint (as mentioned above), Stila Convertible Color and NARS blushes.  This product stands alongside my others as a truly excellent blush option.

Cover Girl Outlast Liquid Makeup – $10

I’ve said before that I don’t much care for drugstore brand skin coverage products.  However, this item was called out my Allure as a great deal and seems to be popular.  It is sheer, however, so if you are looking for a good deal of coverage, it’s not for you.


Bonne Bell Lip Smackers – $2

If you are between 12 and 40, you’ve probably used these at least once.  They’re great!  I prefer the flavors that don’t color my lips, bubble gum is my favorite.

Maybelline Shine Seduction Lip Gloss – $4.50

I love lip gloss, but I am damn picky about it.  In the past, I’ve used Lancome Juicy Tubes or Stila Lip Glaze (quite possibly the most horribly overpriced makeup product in existence).  But, I have converted.  There are countless drugstore lip glosses that are plenty fabulous and loads cheaper.  My favorite is Maybelline Shine Seduction.  I love the applicator and it’s not too goopy OR shimmery.

Neutrogena Lip Soothers – $7.30

If you’re looking for a product more comparable to Lancome’s Juicy Tubes, give Neutrogena Lip Soothers a try.  They are a similar consistency but are not too shimmery.

L’Oreal Hip Jelly Balm – $9

Those of you looking for a lip gloss with more pigment, try L’Oreal’s Hip line of gloss.  I don’t wear darker shades, but I was immediately drawn to them at the store.  Upon further research online, I’ve read that they are comparable to MAC’s Tendertones.

Makeup Bag Add-Ons


I hate to say this, but investing in decent makeup brushes is ideal if you can.  You don’t need many, just a blush and slanted eyeshadow brush will suffice.  If you can’t afford high-end brushes, check out an art store for natural hair painting brushes.  They are cheaper and often work just as well.

If you must purchase brushes from the drugstore, look for Eco Brushes.

Other Applicators

Don’t bother spending lots of cash on these.  Pick up sponges, tissue and Q-tips at the drugstore.


Buy eyeliner sharpeners and makeup storage at the art store.  An Art Bin is ideal if you have a ton of makeup.


When To Splurge

  • Concealer
  • An Eyelash Curler
  • Makeup Brushes

When To Save

  • Eyebrow Pencil/Powder
  • Facial Powder
  • Mascara

The Must Haves (In My Opinion)

  • Concealer (if you need it)
  • Blush
  • Eyebrow Pencil/Powder
  • Eyelash Curler (if you need it)
  • Lipstick (if that’s your thing)
  • Lip Balm

Budgets & Beauty, When To Save & When To Splurge On Skincare

December 24, 2008

First of all, I hate the term “beauty supplies.” Maybe I’ve read The Beauty Myth one too many times. I haven’t come up with an alternative term, however. Toiletries? Maintenance Supplies? The shit that helps us look younger/older/prettier/less hungover/less tired/brighter? A better version of ourselves? Things that make us feel good? I don’t know, I’m very conflicted about this, not least of all because I love products.

On the spectrum of maintenance, I fall somewhere in the middle, probably leaning a tiny bit toward the high end. I like makeup and bubble baths and blow outs. But, I’m also incredibly lazy, and these rituals often fall by the wayside.

The difficulty of budgeting really hits home when you realize you’ve run out of moisturizer, or your roots begin to show, or your hair dryer poops out. “Beauty” products can be ridiculously expensive. So, when is it worth it? When do you throw down $35 for facial powder? Do you ever?

Some women have very unchanging, reasonably priced routines. Some women wear no makeup at all. Others spend far too much on crap that they don’t really need and, more importantly, are overpriced.

If you find yourself on a budget (like me) and your supplies are beginning to dwindle (like mine), then this guide is for you. These are, of course, my opinions and recommendations. I am not proclaiming to be any kind of expert, but I have learned a thing or two since slapping on my first mascara at 13. The guide will be published in separate posts focusing on skin care, makeup, hair and body.

First up is skin care.

Image: Corbis

Problem Skin

If you have problem skin, this is the one area where it’s perfectly reasonable to splurge a bit. By all means, give Cetaphil and Dove soap a try. But if basic drugstore options don’t do the trick or make things worse, you’ll need to move up and onward. Problem skin can be a huge source of insecurity, and everyone, men and women, should do what they can to fix the issue. And, for women, better skin means far less makeup is necessary.

Ignore magazines.  It’s their job to shill products. One month Brand X is the best option, the next month it’s Brand Y that does the trick. If you are having issues such as acne or extremely dry skin, see a dermatologist. If you have serious acne, see if your insurance will cover a medical esthetician.

You can search for dermatologists online at the American Academy of Dermatology’s website.

I don’t have issues with my skin now, at 29, but I did when I was younger. Pretty run-of-the-mill stuff, but I was desperate to fix the problem and tried a lot of things. On the Rx side, the one medication I remember liking was Differin. I have fairly sensitive skin and medications like Retin A were far too strong. Visit for more information on Rx acne treatments.

Skin Care – Moderate to Expensive

Test out products if you can. More expensive skincare lines, like Dermalogica, offer mini sizes for their basic products. You can likely get samples of skincare products at cosmetic counters, but I have stayed away from these lines. They tend to have more perfume than other brands and and can be quite hard on even moderately sensitive skin.  The only exception I have found is Clinique.

I recommend visiting the Mario Badescu site and filling out their short questionnaire about your skin. The company will send you a packet of sample-sized products they feel suit your skincare needs. I love their products, they are in the mid-price range and lovely on the skin. My favorite item is their Drying Cream. Whenever I get a zit, I slap a bit on in the evening and it will have shrunken down by morning, with no dryness. This shit is incredible. My boyfriend even uses it. Best of all, it’s only $12 and I’ve had mine for about 4 years.

Also, celebrities have a big boner for MB.  And that has to mean something, right???  Even Judy Judy likes them!

Image: Mario Badescu

I use Dermalogica, and I love it.  It’s not cheap but when I can afford it (and I usually try and find a way) it’s worth it.  If you’re interested in learning more about this brand, check out their website.  You can purchase Dermalogica from eBay, just make sure to check feedback and selling history before bidding.

Skin Care – Budget

As for drugstore brands, I think Cetaphil, Aveeno, Neutrogena and Oil of Olay are the best bets. Cetaphil cleanser is great for dry, sensitive skin. And, their moisturizer works well on a variety of skin types. I am currently using Oil of Olay moisturizer, as I ran out of my Dermalogica. It’s been great.

Please stay away from those awful toners and skin pads packed with alcohol.  It’s awful for your skin, and doesn’t help with acne.

For anti-aging, something I am just beginning to think about, look for products with alpha hydroxyl or glycolic acid. But, please, tread lightly or consult a doctor. And, above all, wear sunscreen. That should be a no-brainer.


When to splurge:

  • If you have problem skin.
  • If your doctor recommends a product.
  • If you have tested a product and found that it works very well for you.
  • Splurge on a decent sunscreen option for your face.

When to save:

  • If you have no serious skin problems.
  • Save on a basic cleanser with alpha hydroxyl acid.
  • Mario Badescu Drying Cream, it will last forever.
  • Skip toners, especially ones with alcohol.

Never skimp on:

  • Moisturizer
  • Sunscreen
  • Sleep
  • Water