October 27, 2013

Cosmetics for Combination Skin: Anna Mae's College Routine

The second part of this series on college student, Anna Mae's, skin care and cosmetics routine is all about what is in her makeup bag. Anna Mae is super busy but still takes time for herself each day, by keeping her skin clean and hydrated, followed by cosmetics that work for her lifestyle, budget, and skin type.

Anna Mae has extremely fair skin. She has that complexion most women dream of, but that means selecting the right shade of foundation isn't always easy. She's had the unpleasant experience of having her neck look a shade lighter than her face. "Icky," she says.

Rimmel's Match Perfection does an excellent job matching Anna Mae's skin tone without caking around the fine lines on her face. She's able to get great coverage with just a little product, applied right after moisturizing.

Mixing a small amount of foundation with your daytime moisturizer is a good way to get light coverage without looking too done up. Just be sure that either the foundation or moisturizer (or better, both) have good sun protection unless you use a separate sunscreen. Sun protection should be a year-round priority, not just to help prevent skin cancer, but also to make sure those dark spots, wrinkles, and lines come much, much later in life.

If you're interested in trying Rimmel Match Perfection, which is designed to mimic skin's texture and blend easily, CVS is selling it for just $5.99.
Airspun Loose Face Powder has been around since 1935. As far as I can tell, it's currently sold by Coty, which interestingly also owns Rimmel, N.Y.C., Sally Hansen, and OPI, among others. Anna Mae's mother and grandmother have been using Airspun Loose Face Powder for years and since it has worked so well for them, Anna Mae now swears by it. She likes how well it sets her makeup, providing lasting coverage without shine.

Anna Mae honestly has never used another powder, but she loves this one so much, she never plans to try anything else. Her hope is to someday pass along Airspun Loose Powder to her children.

Before Anna Mae shared her list of favorite cosmetics, I'd never heard of this powder. I Googled and read reviews, checked out where it's sold (amazing that I've never noticed it in the makeup aisle), and now really MUST try it. It's now on my Amazon wish list!

If you're curious to know more, you can certainly Google yourself, but here's one person's detailed review on Yahoo Voices.

Anna Mae didn't set out to buy this mascara. It was more than she needed a simple replacement until she found a new one she really liked. However, she's found that COVERGIRL Professional works well with her already thick lashes, helping them look longer, but without spending a ton of money on a high-end product.

There are so many mascaras out there. Each brand has several and each claim to do different things. You want more lashes? Maybe thicker? Longer? Fuller? Everything? Shiny, less clumpy, shimmery, different colors, it's overwhelming! My absolute favorite is out of my price range, except when I'm treating myself during the holidays or for my birthday. If you have the money and want to splurge a bit, you can also try Lancome L'Extreme Instant Extensions Lengthening Mascara, which typical runs about $27.

Since you really should replace your mascara several times a year, especially after being sick, buying $27 mascara isn't the most cost effective for college students. If you've tried COVERGIRL but it wasn't for you (everyone has different taste when it comes to mascara) try New York Color Sky Rise Lengthening Mascara. Given it's super cheap price, it's rather outstanding.
When Anna Mae told me what she uses for eyeliner, I double checked my makeup basket. Sure enough, there was the eyeliner I just picked up for my Ruby Gloom Halloween look! I prefer black since my lashes and hair are so dark, but Anna Mae uses Coffee, which is just right for her paler skin and bold red hair (which, I believe, is totally natural).

Anna Mae picked up this uber cheap liner but was suprised to find it worked better than the $17.99 stuff at Sephora. She likes the sturdy brush and how quickly the liner dries. She says it's great for making wing tips. Direct from the source, "I cannot get over how affordable and fabulous this product is!"

I have to agree. While for day, I prefer to use a pencil liner, at night, I like a bolder look and this liner does it for me. I don't get much smudging when it gets wet, but it comes off easier with makeup remover than my pencil liners do.

Anna Mae loves one of M.A.C.'s most popular colors, which is a little hard to get. However, she believes it's totally worth the price and the wait. Twig is a dusty red with a smooth application and moisturizing, rich color that doesn't cake or bleed. She primes her lips with Chapstick to help the color go on more smoothly and last a bit longer, while looking really natural.

When I looked for the Naked Basics Palette, I was totally shocked at the price. I'm someone who wears eyeshadow so rarely that I usually stick to whatever is on sale at Target. Normally, college students won't be running out to splurge on this, but if you ask nicely, perhaps you can get it as a birthday gift from mom. Hint, hint.

Anna Mae got her set for Christmas last year and she still considers it her favorite palette of all time. The color is extremely concentrated, so she only uses a very small amount. This works nicely with her very natural look. She's also tried these colors on her friends, who have varying skin tones, and they all looked fabulous!

I use brushes for most everything. I used to use a brush for applying foundation but I did stop that since I think most of the product was in the brush instead of my face. Brushes are great for eye makeup, blush, and definitely for lips (best way to get smooth, lasting coverage).

Anna Mae suggests E.L.F.'s professional defining eye brush. It's thin and angled, which is great for detail work. She also uses it as a general color brush. It's super affordable and available at many major retailers.

If you have any questions for Anna Mae, or are curious about the products you've read about, definitely give me a buzz!

October 25, 2013

Caring for Combination Skin: Anna Mae's College Routine

The other day, I was brainstorming blog post ideas while skimming through photos on Facebook, when I came upon a source of great inspiration - my nephew's long-time girlfriend, Anna Mae. Anna Mae is studying English education and theater in Wisconsin, while working part-time in the insurance industry, keeping a strong relationship with her family, boyfriend, and close circle of friends, getting outstanding grades, and somehow always walking around with a smile. To top it off, she ALWAYS looks completely put together.
Anna Mae and my nephew, William
Since I'd totally love to have her super rosy, pale complexion, I asked Anna Mae to share her skincare and makeup routine for my blog readers. She very sweetly sent me a wonderful list of her favorite products, including some I recognize and others I'm looking forward to trying out someday.

The "Anna Mae's College Routine" writeup will be a two-part series. First, I want to share a few of the skincare products she uses to maintain a youthful glow.

Clearasil Ultra Rapid Action Face Scrub
Though marketed to teenagers, Anna Mae finds her skin to be super soft after cleansing, without the burning sensation she has gotten from other facial scrubs.

You can order this product on Amazon for as low as $7.45 right now. The reviews are very positive, so if you have sensitive skin but still want to try a face scrub, definitely check it out.

Scrubs are great for that super fresh feeling, but if your skin is a bit more sensitive than Anna Mae's, check out Boots Expert Sensitive Gentle Cleansing Wash, available for less than $5. It's a very light cleanser at a great price.

LUSH Cosmetics Breath of Fresh Air Toner
Sometimes Anna Mae's skin can be uncooperative at times, so this toner helps provide some balance and smoothness, feeling wonderful after scrubbing the skin clean. A plus is the soft, calming scent!

If you're looking for a new toner to try, check out the LUSH website, where you can order the smaller 3.3oz spray for just $9.95. If you love it, they offer their larger 8.4oz size for $21.95.

While Anna Mae has combination skin, which can be tricky, women with very dry skin may also find it difficult to find a toner that doesn't cause irritation. Merle Norman Daily Moisture Toner for dry skin offers antioxidants and just a small amount of fragrance to help dry skin feel great without the irritation.

Neutrogena Oil-Free Moisturizer for Combination Skin
Anna Mae spent years trying to find the right moisturizer for her skin because her forehead and chin were very dry but her nose and t-zone were very oily. Neutrogena's moisturizer helps balance everything out, so she always rubs a little on in the morning and at night.

When she wants a little coverage without wearing foundation, Anna Mae likes to mix a little of the Neutrogena moisturizer with her favorite liquid foundation, which blend together wonderfully. She also puts a little on her eyelids before applying eye makeup, which helps provide extra moisture for the sensitive skin around her eyes, and notes that her eyeshadow lasts a lot longer!

Drugstore.com has a 4oz bottle for $9.79 today and with their low shipping prices, it's one of the better deals online.

Neutrogena has been making excellent moisturizers for a very long time, but if you use this one, remember to add a sunscreen during the day since it doesn't contain any sunscreen protection. If your foundation has sun protection, you may not need the extra sunscreen in your moisturizer, but if you're going barefaced, consider these alternatives:

Neutrogena Ageless Intensives Tone Correcting Daily Moisturizer SPF 30
The SPF 30 and the anti-aging qualities make this an excellent choice for daytime moisturizing. The hefty pricetag may make it unrealistic for college students (their target audience is really older women anyhow), but it's an excellent product nonetheless.

Neutrogena Visibly Even Daily Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 30
At a better price point for students, this is a great moisturizer with sun protection. The only downside is it may be too much for the oily areas, so go lighter there and layer it more heavily on dry skin.

October 23, 2013

Fabulous Find: Neutrogena Makeup Remover Cleansing Towelettes

My husband and I were shopping at Costco this evening and I sent him off to find a few things while I got a flu shot. He came back with all I asked for and then handed me this:

"You needed makeup remover, right?"

Best husband ever. I hadn't even thought of getting makeup remover. Nail polish remover was on my mind, but not these towelettes. I normally don't buy Neutrogena makeup remover towelettes because they can be quite pricey at the usual stores. I've seen them as much as 28 cents per towelette!

Costco had this bulk pack of 114 wipes for $14.99, which is like 13 cents each. That's less than half of what I would pay elsewhere!

Thanks to my husband's awesome find, I can gently remove my makeup, even the waterproof mascara I cake on every morning.

Neutrogena's towelettes are gentle enough for sensitive skin and allergy tested. They're alcohol-free, which is better for your skin. Neutrogena suggests you should use them for morning and night cleaning, but I think they're just too expensive to use two wipes a day. Use them for your before bed routine to quickly take off all the gunk. When you are too tired to pull out the cleansers and washcloths, just grab one of these towelettes instead. No more going to bed with your makeup on!

You Might Also Enjoy:
Kerrin Birchenough: Makeup Tips for New Moms
Samantha's Dry Skin Routine

October 22, 2013

Kerrin Birchenough: Makeup Tips for New Moms

I've been reviewing a lot of skincare and cosmetic products lately, and while I know a bit about the stuff, and have been experimenting and asking questions since I was a kid, I'm by no means an expert. I decided to ask my talented friend, Kerrin Birchenough, who is a cosmetics expert and the mom of an awesome little girl, to contribute a post for new moms.

Here's what Kerrin has to say:

"My dear friend, Samantha, has asked me to contribute to her blog. And it would be my pleasure to! I have been a makeup artist ever since my mom let me start using the stuff (14 years old?) and I then started helping friends with their makeup as I got older. 

From there, I have worked for various makeup lines, at spas, fashion shows, photo shoots, weddings, and special events. 

I have been working in and around makeup, skincare, and fashion for many, many years. 

New moms, you're tired. 

Scratch that.
You are extremely, insanely exhausted and consume multiple cups of coffee daily. You hope to even get in a daily shower, forget about putting on makeup. Well, I'm asked to give makeup tips and advice for moms.
Here's my advice... if you want to look a little more awake and have five extra minutes.

1. Moisturizer! BB creams are great because they offer a little coverage as well as have an SPF.

2. Apply mascara! It will make your eyes look wider and more awake. Looking for a great mascara on a budget? Check out the L'Oreal Paris Voluminous mascara collection.

3. If you really want to go all out, try a touch of pink or peach lip gloss and a cream brush to the apples of your cheeks. Less is more!

Also, many women use harsh cleansers on their face which dry out your skin and can ultimately lead to more oil production and acne. Stop! Use a cream cleanser. My favorite bang for your buck is Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value Daily Cleanser. It's a Cetaphil knock-off but with less chemicals available for all skin types at just $5.99."
Kerrin Birchenough has worked for MAC, NARS, Dior, and Zac Posen, and as a makeup artist for runway shows, fashion photography, weddings, and special events.

Kerrin is happy to answer your questions and can be reached best by email.

October 15, 2013

My Favorite Dark Brown Hair Color Brand: Clairol Natural Instincts

I know it's only been a short time since my last color application but I was really hating the mousey light red-brown with now lighter roots and darker ends. eSalon's color rinse seemed to have dried out my hair and left me with some increased unevenness in overall color. I was feeling desperate for a change and decided to put more color in my hair, bringing it down a notch to try and get back that healthy look and feel. I had no idea what brand I would pick, but on a whim, picked a non-permanent color at the grocery store (total impulse buy).

Clairol Natural Instincts Dark Brown #28 caught my attention. When I was younger, I used this brand instead of permanent color to appease my dad, who hated the idea of me coloring my hair and I recall my mom trying it once or twice. Since it's not permanent, I felt comfortable going darker. With permanent color, I'm always afraid that dark brown will come out black. With Natural Instincts ammonia-free color, I took the risk without fear.
Before Natural Instincts Dark Brown 
Instructions for Natural Instincts were fairly typical. With this product, you're supposed to color on damp hair, so I just spritzed mine before coloring. To achieve a natural look on my currently uneven hair color, I did the following:
  1. Applied color from root to about 1/3 the way down the hair shaft, beginning at the front and working toward the back.
  2. After waiting 5 minutes, I added color halfway down.
  3. After another 5 minutes, I brushed in some of the color through the bottom 1/3 of my hair, but leaving it mostly as it was.
  4. Rinsed after a total of 15 minutes, applying the conditioning treatment that came in the box.

Since I bought "dark brown" rather than specifically a cool or warm brown, I wasn't sure what I'd get. Once applied, my hair looked like it was coated in a dark reddish brown dye.

Applying the color was easy enough. It's a liquid color, so I had a little dripping, but nothing difficult to clean up. The bottle was easy to hold compared to Olia's applicator and the smell wasn't as potent as Nice n' Easy's.

After rinsing, my hair felt a little rough. I didn't have a lot of shedding, which is awesome, but I was worried about dryness. Thankfully, after using the Natural Instincts Color Treat conditioner (comes with the coloring kit), my hair felt amazing - super soft and smooth!

For me, the real test of a home color kit, is the resulting color and condition of my hair. I was really floored by how natural my color came out. It's incredibly close to my natural shade and I love how well everything matched up with the sections I left untouched. It's like there are several rich brown tones throughout and it shimmers in the sunlight. My hair looks and feels way more healthy than before I colored. As soon as it dried, I ran to my husband and said, "you have to touch my hair!" I also texted my sister this picture right away since she loves to color and needs to try this asap.

My Natural Instincts Dark Brown After Shot
The real test will be whether this color actually lasts 28 shampoos, which for me would be a long time. I'll be pleased if I can go 6 weeks between coloring and since I really want to keep this color, I'm crossing my fingers. I've already ordered a 3-pack on Amazon. So it's not just that I like this color, I love it!

In two weeks, I'm supposed to use a color refresher that deposits color pigments in my hair. This little packet came in the box and my guess is that's how I'll get the full 28 shampoos. Fine by me!

What you should know is that when I visited the Natural Instincts website, I couldn't find Dark Brown 28 among the color options. They offer 27 liquid shades and 8 creme shades, plus 3 that specifically help with brassiness, but none looked like the one I bought. Thankfully I can buy it online, but I'm worried it's been discontinued.

While I love this color, I found I'd need two boxes if I was coloring my whole head. I barely had enough for the 2/3 or so of my hair I did color. If you have long or thick hair, plan for two boxes. It's so affordable that I really don't mind buying two.

Just to be clear about how awesome my hair looks, check out the before and after side-by-side:

My hair is shinier and healthier, and the color is more rich and luminous. When I visit my sister at college this weekend, I'm taking her to buy some Natural Instincts hair color. 

Curious about my other hair color experiences? Check out more of my hair color posts!

October 8, 2013

Samantha's Dry Skin Routine

Ever since I moved to Minnesota, which is just over 7 years now, my skin has been super dry. I'm exposed to temperature extremes like hot summers and super cold winters, insanely windy days almost year-round, and surrounded by farmland, which means exposure to a lot of allergens. Basically, there's nothing much that has worked 100% over the years, so often I skip the makeup routine to avoid the flakes and just use lots and lots of moisturizer.

A few years ago, my facialist suggested regularly exfoliating to sluff off the dead skin before moisturizing, and using a good toner twice a day. Admittedly, I haven't been consistent, but I do exfoliate once a week and occasionally splurge on a spray toner.

Recently, I came across Paula Begoun's website, Cosmetics Cop, which has highly detailed reviews, ingredients, and brand information for every skincare product I could think of. The experience of browsing through what I keep in my bathroom vanity was incredibly enlightening, so I decided to order a few samples from the Paula's Choice product line (which is what the company is hoping for, I'm sure). After trying a few of the Paula's Choice products and weeding out some poorly rated stuff in my vanity, I hit up Target to fill in the gaps.

I still have one or two average or poor products that will get replaced when they are closer to expiration since I do hate waste, but here's what I'm now using on a regular basis:

The Honest Company Juniper Sage Bar Soap
I use this soap in the shower mostly. The Juniper Sage scent is light and neutral enough for both me and my husband, but sometimes I prefer the Lavender scent in the evening. My skin feels clean but not stripped and unlike other soaps, I don't feel a film on my skin after using it. I've begun to switch my husband's usual, more manly, soap with this one because he's been complaining of a filmy residue.

Target's up&up Renewal Cleanser Daily Treatment
This store brand version of Olay Regenerist Daily Regenerating Cleaner is a mild exfoliating cream cleanser. I get the exfoliating effects of a scrub like the more risky St. Ives Apricot Scrub (see the Cosmetics Cop review) with the gentle cleansing of an Olay-like product. Though this review says it's "good" and not "best," I'm content that my skin doesn't feel raw and yet feels clean.

Boots Botanics Organic Rosewater Toning Spritz
Cosmetics Cop isn't so pleased with this toner but when I got to the store, I blanked on what to get. I love Boots so I went with this toner. I can't tell what toner is supposed to do but I'll use it for now and then try something else when it runs out.

Boots No7 Photo Fix Wrinkle Filler and Primer
This really doesn't seem to fill wrinkles, even the itty bitty lines I have around my mouth and on my forehead. However, I do like how well it acts as a primer and that's why I use it a couple times a week before applying makeup. I like it better than RevitaLift Miracle Blur since it doesn't get cakey or flake, but if you're really looking for filling a few lines, the RevitaLift product does a better job at masquerading if you apply it just right.

Olay Regenerist DNA Superstructure UV Cream
This SPF 25 daytime moisturizer has a good amount of sunscreen, goes on well and plays nicely with my foundation. I sometimes apply the foundation while the UV Cream is wet for a more natural, translucent finish, and for evening, I wait until it's dry and apply a thicker foundation. I've been using this for years with no complaints. My skin feels good when I remember to put it on (most days) and I feel more confident knowing there's some sun protection in my moisturizer.

Paula's Choice Skin Recovery Hydrating Treatment Mask
I ordered 6 of these samples and have used two so far. I don't know what it's supposed to do since I wanted to test it sort of blindly, but when I put it on, my skin feels cooler and fresh. I can leave it on overnight if I want and I don't look like a green monster like when I use other types of masks. I honestly can say my face has felt more refreshed and way less dry since trying this mask, so when I'm out of samples in a couple weeks, I'm definitely ordering the full-size product from Paula's Choice so I can keep this up as a weekly treatment.

Equate Intense Therapy Dry Skin Lotion
This is the Walmart brand version of Eucerin Intensive Repair Very Dry Skin Lotion. I use it mostly on my hands at night since I get Eczema redness and cracking seasonally, but when parts of my face are so dry that I'm flaking, I use this at night. It's usually just once a month but it does the trick so I can feel more girlie and less blah in the morning.

October 7, 2013

Pottery Barn Kids Creepy Marketing

I'm well aware my search habits lead to targeted ads. The number of Wayfair and Aveda ads I come across makes it clear I have a "two-track" mind, skincare products and cruiser bikes. The other day, I was looking to see if there are competitors to the American Girl doll brand and came across a Gotz doll in a Google search. Since I wasn't familiar with that name, I Googled again, clicked a link, and found the doll is produced by Pottery Barn Kids. That was it. I left the site and went about my day.

A couple days later, I got a marketing email from Pottery Barn Kids with the subject, "Thanks for Your Interest In: Gotz Doll Collection."


My only experience with Pottery Barn Kids is the school lunchbox I ordered for my daughter a few months ago and the quick click to see what that doll brand was about and I get an email about my visit to their website? That's taking cookies to a whole new level. Creepy.

The thing is I'm sure I have a PBK account from when I ordered the lunchbox, but I wasn't logged in when visiting and I am not a frequent customer. If I'd added something to my cart and then left the site, then ok, remind me. But this was just plain weird.

I responded to the marketing email saying it was creepy, not expecting anyone would be monitoring replies. However, very quickly, I got a message back from Pottery Barn Kids.

Hello Ms. LeVan,

Thank you for contacting Pottery Barn Kids. We apologize for any inconvenience. That does sound pretty creepy. Do you want us to remove you from our email list?

Happy Halloween.

If we may be of any further assistance, please contact us via email. Alternately, you may contact our Customer Service Department directly at 1(800) 290-8181 from 6:00am to 11:00pm (CST), seven days a week.

Kind regards,

Philip Adona
Pottery Barn Kids
Customer Service

I got a real response from a real person and he actually said, "that does sound pretty creepy." I laughed out loud and realized that sometimes customer service can truly salvage a bad experience. After responding with a thank you and yes, he once again replied:

Hello Ms. LeVan,

Thank you for contacting Pottery Barn Kids. We apologize you received a creepy email.

We have removed your email address from our promotional list. Please know it can take up to 10 days to process. We do appreciate you patience.

You should not receive any paranormal emails anymore. :)

Kind regards,

Philip Adona
Pottery Barn Kids
Customer Service
800 290 8181

I absolutely love that last line. So thank you to Philip with PBK. Because of him, I'll probably actually buy something on the website next time I visit.

October 4, 2013

You Wanted to Know: "MidNite sleep aid FDA"

One of the search terms that brought people to this blog is "MidNite sleep aid FDA." Since I was curious about the exact nature of the relationship between the FDA and MidNite, I did some digging.

FDA Side Effects of Sleep Drugs website states that they have approved sleep aids for use up to two weeks for occasional sleeplessness but they also include some tips on getting a better night's sleep without the use of medication. Check out all the information on the FDA website.

Checking out MidNite's FAQ site, I found the following:

"MidNite, MidNite PM and MidNite for Menopause are dietary supplements using herbal and natural ingredients. Like all other dietary supplements, they are regulated under the Federal Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act which requires a substantial safety profile. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) at all times has authority to investigate and monitor such products for safety."

Honestly, this seems kind of vague. They aren't explicitly saying the FDA has approved MidNite but they do suggest that the FDA could investigate the product at any time, or perhaps already has? I don't really have a straight answer. They do have the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.

If you want to know more about my experience trying MidNite, check out my review of the product.