November 30, 2013

My Weekend Makeup Routine

I have a full-time job, consulting work, a four-year-old, a dog, two cats, run a small condo association, volunteer at school and with the local hospital, cook many of our meals from scratch, and somewhere in there, I sleep, eat, and relax. Sometimes, I look as tired as I feel. When I'm feeling really worn out, a touch of makeup can help me visualize myself more energized. If I look awake in the mirror, then I feel more awake.

My husband's a bit sick with a nasty cold, my daughter has been up at night with a cough, and I'm just tired. Last night, I got little sleep and at 9am, still had that "just woke up" look.

My remedy is what I call my "weekend makeup routine." For winter, I try to keep my weekend routine simple, while combatting the tired look.

Weekend Daytime Makeup Routine

1. About 30 minutes after moisturizing, I apply Revlon ColorStay Makeup (B) in Ivory around my eyes, the top part of my cheeks, and my nose. My sister introduced me to ColorStay foundation when she visited this summer and I still rely on it when I need full coverage.

2. Then I apply Aveda Inner Light Mineral Tinted Moisturizer (C) in Sweet Tea. I use this wherever I didn't apply ColorStay foundation and then blend them so I have lightness where needed around the eye area, but a more natural tone everywhere else.

I've said it before and I'm saying it again. I really enjoy putting on the Aveda tinted moisturizer. It feels soooo good on my skin! The broad-spectrum UV protection helps me feel more confident when I'm on the go.

3. I use a discontinued American Beauty rose powder blush (F) in Mocha Bloom that I got from the Look Good Feel Great program through the American Cancer Society. When I was going through chemo, it helped me look fresh and rosy even though I was really pale and sallow. It's still my favorite blush, though it's probably time to find a replacement before I can't find mine anymore.

When it's time to buy a new blush, I plan to buy American Beauty Blush Perfect Cheek Color in Decadent Pink. With 18 shades and a natural finish, there's bound to be one you love!

4. My weekend daytime look is relaxed, so I use eyeshadow to define my eyes rather than harsh eyeliner, and finish it with a coat of brown-black mascara.

Revlon CustomEyes Shadow & Liner (E) is serious stuff. You only need a little color to have a big, lasting impact. I use the Party Pops set, which doesn't appear to be a current palette. Revlon offers a similar set, Rich Temptations, which includes four eyeshadows and a liner. You can mix and match colors to create a subtle or more dramatic look. It's easy to go from day to night with CustomEyes!

For day, I prefer Boots No7 Exceptional Definition Mascara (G). The wand works brilliantly and my lashes look thick and defined.

5. To finish off the look, I use a light coat of E.L.F. Plumping Lip Glaze in Oasis #2901 and brush a little Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Goldpearl Plum 610 for a more rich appearance.

November 28, 2013

John Frieda Home Color

I had every intention of touching up my color with what I used last time, Clairol Natural Instincts. My hair had faded a bit and there was some root growth so I went to the store and darn it if I wasn't sucked into John Frieda's fancy hair color box.

I figured it wouldn't hurt to try John Frieda. It's pricey, but the John Frieda brand is reputable and I've had good experiences with a few of their products.

There were two similar dark browns on the shelf. One was dark chocolate and the other dark espresso. I'd have assumed espresso would be darker than chocolate based on name and the front of the box, but looking at the before and after images, the espresso appeared lighter. So I picked the dark chocolate brown (4BG), which seemed to be the warmer of the two.

John Frieda Precision Foam Hair Colour comes in a choice of 20 shades. The store only had a few, so I wasn't aware of the dark natural brown and deep brown-black shades. I may have chosen the natural brown if it was there.

Once home, I opened the box and checked out the contents. The bottle was different from others I'd used, so I took time to read the instructions.


First, I poured the developer into the applicator bottle. I noticed the smell wasn't so bad for a permanent color. No headaches!

I'm glad I read the instructions because John Frieda foam color is not meant to be shaken. Instead, I gently turned the bottle up and down five times. That's it. Easy!

I first attempted to pump the foam out of the bottle. When the pump wouldn't move, I tried twisting (it doesn't twist) and gave up and went back to the instructions. I had missed the really clear instruction to squeeze the bottle to dispense color foam. Totally not intuitive. Even knowing this, I forgot and tried pumping it a few times by instinct during the coloring process.

I had no idea if one bottle would be enough. Following instructions, I rubbed foam on the top part of the hair more than the ends, but I wondered if I'd have dry patches. Would it be enough product for my super thick hair?

It was enough! I didn't get full saturation until near the end of the bottle, but I did cover everything well. I mixed it in well, per instructions, and waited about 25 minutes before rinsing it out.

Rinsing was super easy. My hair didn't feel nasty. It didn't feel like it needed a deep conditioner actually. It was kind of amazing how normal my hair felt while rinsing. I used the supplied conditioner and let my hair dry. It was not too frizzy, not damaged, and I didn't have a lot of shedding while rinsing. Kind of nice for a permanent color. I'm pleased.

The color is very warm, with reddish highlights you can see in the sun. I was lamenting it wasn't a teeny bit darker, but my husband said if it was any darker, it'd look black. He likes it the way it is. It's definitely as the box says, dark chocolate brown. It's like a melted Hershey bar.

Here's a closeup of the after:

I do wish John Frieda hair color wasn't quite so expensive, but I do feel like I got more for my money in quality. My hair doesn't feel damaged and doesn't smell like chemicals. I'm going to see how long it lasts before fading before I decide to make the switch though.

It's been a month and my hair still looks awesome. It isn't nearly as red, but the brown hasn't faded at all. I actually quite like it and because it's so close to my natural color, I can't see any root growth! It's as if I have naturally perfect hair with no roots. Loving it!

Related Posts:

November 25, 2013

You Wanted to Know: Garnier Olia Shades

Perhaps you arrived when looking for information on Garnier Olia hair color shades. If so, I've made a handle list of all 24 shades below!

I've grouped them into blonde, brown, black, and red categories, but if you visit Garnier's website to see the swatches, you'll find the browns and blacks groups differently - light brown, and brown & black. I'm not sure why they separated the light browns and combined the remaining browns with the set of black shades. Perhaps their medium browns are very dark, or the light brown shades are only for naturally lighter hair? I just don't have an answer for that.

  • 9.5.1 - Lightest Cool Blonde
  • 9.3 - Light Golden Blonde
  • 9.0 - Light Blonde
  • 8.31 - Medium Golden Blonde
  • 8.13 - Champagne Blonde
  • 8.0 - Medium Blonde
  • 7.0 - Dark Blonde
  • 6.35 - Light Chestnut Brown
  • 6.3 - Light Golden Brown
  • 6.1 - Light Ash Brown
  • 6.0 - Light Brown
  • 5.3 - Medium Golden Brown
  • 5.0 - Medium Brown
  • 4.3 - Dark Golden Brown
  • 4.15 - Dark Soft Mahogany
  • 4.0 - Dark Brown
  • 3.0 - Darkest Brown
  • 2.0 - Soft Black
  • 1.0 - Black
  • 6.60 - Light Intense Auburn
  • 6.43 - Light Natural Auburn
  • 5.5 - Medium Mahogany
  • 4.60 - Dark Intense Auburn
  • 3.16 - Darkest Violet
Be sure to visit the Olia color shades page for more details.

November 24, 2013

Samantha's Favorite Home-Baked Bread

I bake bread a lot. This isn't a cooking blog, so you won't see many posts about baking. However, a friend asked for my recipe for a buttermilk white bread and it seemed like a good idea to just put it up here so she can see the pictures and not have to write down the recipe elsewhere.

So for Claire and for everyone who is interested, this is the recipe I'll be tweaking and tweaking until it's time to have my entry ready for the Olmsted County Fair. I'm not sure if it's our humidity, elevation, temperature, or the calibration of my oven, but this bread will come out different for everyone. Just adjust the flour amount and ratios, and total bake time, until you get a result you love.


  • 2 tablespoons of yeast (not the bread machine kind of yeast. I prefer buying a jar of yeast that I keep in the fridge, but you can just use three packets if you don't bake often.
  • 1/2 cup warm water - temp it to be between 87-108 degrees if you can. Do this enough and you'll just know it's right by feeling it with your hand.
  • 1-1/2 cups buttermilk (or make some with regular milk and lemon juice)
  • 1 cup whole or 2% milk
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 5 cups bread flour
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tablespoon salt

You CAN use 8 cups all-purpose instead of choice to use three flours. This is just what has worked best in my kitchen. Cake flour is lighter and more delicate (lower in gluten) and bread flour is going to be more chewy because of the higher protein level. The mixture I use has given me just the right amount of rise, texture, and chew. Strong enough for a sandwich, but tender for a light snack.

The Process
1. Pour the water into your mixer bowl and put the yeast in. Lightly stir for just a moment and let it sit for 3-5 minutes.

2. Add all remaining ingredients with the flour and salt last.

3. Put on your dough hook and run on lowest setting for a minute to help it mix up. You can use the beater hook for this step, but I prefer to clean just one hook after baking.

4. Step up the speed a notch and let the dough mix and knead for 10-15 minutes. Check occasionally to make sure the pin in your mixer doesn't pop out and to be sure your mixer can handle this much heavy dough. A KitchenAid mixer can handle at least this and probably more, but other models may not have the motor strength.

5. Spray cooking spray in a big plastic or ceramic bowl (I sometimes use a paper towel and wipe olive oil around the bowl). Make a ball from the dough and put it in the bowl. Either roll the ball around the oil to coat, or brush oil lightly on the ball itself. Cover lightly and let sit in a warm place for an hour.

6. Punch down the dough (really work out all the gasses) and make two balls. Cover and let rest for 10-20 minutes.

7. Take one ball and roll it into a nice long log. I don't spend a lot of effort here. Just roll as best you can with your hands and stretch it out. If you've ever made bagels, you can use a similar technique of thwaping the dough log around your hand to lengthen it.

8. Make a pan loaf. I make a signature swirl by curling each end of the log around itself like a very tight curly "s" shape. You can also do a stacked loaf with 3/4 of the ball shaped into a traditional pan loaf. Slice down the middle, brush with water and then add the remaining 1/4 of the dough either braided or rolled. This dough is easy to work with, so have fun. Just be sure to tuck loose ends and seal your seams.

I don't usually grease my pans, but you can if you want. I use heavier metal pans. Loaves tend to stick to glass more, but if you like a lighter crust, glass is a good choice.

9. Poke holes or make a small slice, brush with water, lightly cover and let rise again for 30-60 minutes.

10. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Put a roasting pan on the bottom shelf and the other shelf stays in the middle of the oven. Set aside 10-14 ice cubes when it's time to bake.

11. Put your loaves in the oven on a baking sheet. Dump the ice in the roasting pan below them and close the oven door.

12. Bake. I bake for 40 minutes and check color. If needed, go another 10-15 minutes. More time means a thicker crust. Too little time means a doughy bread. Err on the side of overbaked.

13. Wait. Just really really wait. Put your finished loaves on a cooling rack (out of the pans) and wait at least an hour before slicing. Trust me.

That's it!

November 23, 2013

You Wanted to Know: Sinful Colors Holiday 2013 Collection

Once a month, I review my analytics to see what people are looking for when they come to my blog. Lately, the data has been fairly consistent, but I noticed a surge in people looking for info on the Sinful Colors Holiday 2013 Collection.

I posted about the latest Sinful Colors collection recently, but there are other great writeups as well. Some reviewers have done an excellent job showing how the colors look with different basecoats. If you want to get the scoop on the Sinful Colors Holiday 2013 collection, be sure to check out these posts:

Samantha Reviews' Sinful Colors Holiday 2013 Collection

Horrendous Color's Dupe Alert! Sinful Colors and OPI

Nouveau Cheap's Spotted: Sinful Colors Holiday 2013

Be Happy and Buy Polish's Sinful Colors Holiday Glitters

Cool Polish's Sinful Colors Holiday 2013 Collection Tinsel N'ice

Lacq Lustre's Sinful Colors Glitz & Glittered Collection

Also check out Nouveau Cheap's HOT deal alert: New shipment of Sinful Colors coming to Big Lots next week. Big Lots may have some excellent deals ($1 each!!) on a variety of Sinful Colors.

Happy polishing!

November 22, 2013

I Won a Bottle of Beautiful AM Moisturizer!

Recently, Two Moms, a Little Time, and a Keyboard hosted a giveaway for Trusted Health Products' Beautiful AM moisturizer and I was lucky enough to win a bottle!

It didn't take long for my little bottle to arrive, very cute with my name printed on the label.

I was definitely surprised at the tiny bottle at first, but then thought maybe it's just a sample size for the giveaway. After reading the instructions and trying it the first time, I realized it's exactly the right size. It's so concentrated, that you use a very tiny amount (a few drops). This little bottle lasts a very long time.

I'm really picky about skincare ingredients, so I looked at the label and found it's made of all botanical oils, including orange, lemon, olive, avocado, and almond. I'm familiar with almond and olive oil for skincare, but I had to do some research on the rest of the oils.

Avocado and olive oils have antioxident properties and are great for dry skin. Olive oil has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties as well. Almond oil is an emollient (good).

If you have sensitive skin, the orange and lemon oils in Beautiful AM might cause irritation. Orange oil is primarily a fragrance and lemon oil, while smelling great, can be problematic for sensitive skin. You might also want to be careful of sun exposure after using lemon oil on your skin. I don't know how much of each is in the bottle, so it's possible the citrus oil concentration is very low compared to the nourishing anti-oxident oils.

The good thing with this combination is the olive and almond oils kind of act as a "carrier oil" so that essentially balances out the others, which may not be good for skin when used in high concentration on their own. You may want to stay away from lemon oil containing skincare products while pregnant or nursing.

I have been using Beautiful AM for about a week, just a little bit on my cheeks mostly. So far, no breakouts or irritation and I'm taking a break from other daytime moisturizers while I try this one out. So far, so good!

My hands are my real problem in the winter, though. Not my face. I have severe dry skin that cracks and bleeds if left untreated. I'm testing out Beautiful AM on my right hand and using my usual moisturizer on my left hand to see if I notice a benefit from the oils in Beautiful AM.

It's hard to see in photos, but my knuckles and the space between my fingers is very red and flaking a bit.

If you want to try Beautiful AM yourself, you can try it for free (just pay $6.95 shipping & handling)! It's definitely worth a shot, especially since you're saving nearly $25 by getting your bottle for free.

November 19, 2013

Martha Stewart No-Iron Clothing Labels are a Dream Come True

More than a year ago, I came across Martha Stewart Home Office with Avery No-Iron Clothing Labels while shopping for office supplies at Staples. They were a bit pricey for one pack of labels, but I bought them anyway because I have a terrible time writing in my daughter's clothes and don't have any interest in hand sewing labels on everything.

The labels I primarily use are fairly small, which means I can fit them on a clothing tag or inside the hem of a shirt, under the tongue of shoes, or inside mittens quite easily. They're smooth, white plastic-feeling, but flexible rounded rectangles. My ink of choice is a black Sharpie, but you could get away with a ball-point pen.

To attach the label, you just smooth it on the fabric (or along the side of the sole of a shoe) and you're done. That's it. No ironing and no sewing!

Though I've never tried, the product instructions indicate they won't work on denim, so be sure to stick them to the tag inside jeans, not the denim itself.

I never paid attention to how long they'd last until looking more information up online for this post. Turns out, they are supposed to last about 20 washes, but so far I haven't had one fail and it's been a long time. Granted, my daughter grows into a new size every 9-12 months, but you can be sure I wash her clothes all the time. She's a preschooler and everything gets dirty.

Well worn but still legible!

The other day, I was grabbing more labels for winter gear and found a larger size that I plastered on my daughter's favorite penguin hat, hoping she'd be more likely to come home with it.

Unfortunately, while the labels work, it doesn't guarantee the clothes will actually come home with the right kid, lol. I've since picked up a new hat, but we'll keep it for family use only, not for school.

Even though my daughter's name is clearly inside her lunch box and embroidered on the front, I know that since the lunches are often stored sideways in the fridge, it makes sense to have her name and other information on the side of the lunch box. To make life easier for her teachers, I added one of the larger Martha Stewart labels on the side and now they can clearly see whose box is whose.

November 18, 2013

Mary Kay Skincare and the New Skinvigorate Cleansing Brush

Independent Mary Kay consultant, Kate Thiel, is today’s guest contributor, sharing product recommendations and a special promotion!

Like many consultants, Kate not only sells Mary Kay products, but also is a devoted MK user as well. Her personal skincare regimen, and one she feels is one of the best available, is a series of TimeWise products.

Kate Thiel's Mary Kay Skincare Regimen

  1. 3-in-1 Cleanser: Cleanse, exfoliate, and freshen in one step.
  2. Age-Fighting Moisturizer: Hydrates up to 10 hours, and accelerates the skin's natural renewal process.
  3. Day Solution Sunscreen with Broad Spectrum SPF 35: Help the collagen in your skin, giving it more support, like “control-top panty hose” for your face and essential sunscreen to fight the aging process.
  4. Night Solution: Vitamins and peptides for skin renewal.
  5. Volu-Firm Eye Renewal Cream or Firming Eye Cream: Fight fine lines and wrinkles, while improving skin firmness and brightening the eye area.
  6. Luminous-Wear Foundation: An important final step of your skincare routine each morning, foundation acts as a barrier against dirt, germs, and other nasty stuff while evening out skin tone.

Since your natural skin exfoliation process slows down in your 30s, you might find your skin appears dull and lifeless. Moisture is lost, leaving you with dry skin and a decrease in your skin’s natural protection barrier. In your 40s, skin damage becomes more visible. You’ll see more freckles and age spots, uneven skin, and increased trouble with dryness.

Kate Thiel’s Five Essential Skincare Steps
There are five essential daily skincare steps: cleansing, moisturizing, toning, exfoliating, and protecting. Mary Kay makes this easy by offering a selection of TimeWise and Repair products, all which have been tested together across product lines. This means you can mix and match based on your skin needs and preferences. By staying within one brand family, you can be more confident that your favorite products will work well together.

The Mary Kay TimeWise Miracle Set helps prevent skin from drooping and inhibits the formation of wrinkles.

Mary Kay TimeWise Miracle Set
The TimeWise Repair set will help improve your skin and reduce the appearance of wrinkles, while tightening skin.

Mary Kay TimeWise Repair Set
The Repair set is intended for women over 50, but many women prefer to use Repair products well before turning 50. Kate chooses to use the Repair Volu-Firm Eye Renewal Cream with the Miracle set because it feels smooth and refreshing.

Special Promotion for Blog Readers
Kate is so enthusiastic about Mary Kay’s new ultrasonic Skinvigorate Cleansing Brush, which you can use with a cleanser to help remove makeup and leave skin fresh and clean. Even women with sensitive skin will find the Skinvigorate Cleansing Brush a valuable part of their skincare routine. Kate notes that similar products retail for around $100, while the Mary Kay 2-speed brush will retail for $50.

For blog readers, Kate has offered anyone interested in her pre-sale price of just $40 if you order by November 24. This brush is great as a “me” splurge or order one as a holiday gift!

When buying from Mary Kay, you can trust that if you aren’t satisfied with their products, they offer a fantastic return policy - return or exchange anytime.

If you’d like to know more, or want to pre-order the new Skinvigorate brush for only $40, you can reach Kate directly by email, or by phone at 585-354-7774. You can also check out Kate's Mary Kay website for information about any of the products listed above.

Be sure to check out Kate's Facebook page for previews, deals, and Mary Kay cosmetic tips!

November 14, 2013

Pottery Barn Kids Lunch Bags: Cute, but Annoying

When my daughter transitioned to "big kid school" this fall, I bought her a personalized lunch bag from Pottery Barn Kids. This was our first time having to send lunch to school, so I wanted her to enjoy carrying the bag and also have it be practical. She's just turning 4, so it was important that she be able to open the bag herself and carry it from the car to the lunch cart without assistance.

Pottery Barn Kids offers a slew of fabric patterns and four bag styles. Penny picked the MacKenzie Chocolate Zebra classic lunch bag, which is a fairly standard size and shape lunch box. We paid $7 to have her name embroidered on the bag, which I figured was worth the price to ensure her box isn't mixed up with another kid's lunch. I let Penny pick the font and thread color and ordered online.

pottery barn kids classic lunch bag
Pottery Barn Kids Classic Lunch Bag
Our classic lunch bag has now been used every weekday for nearly three months, but it looks more like a year old. It's still functional in that Penny can carry it in to school, open and close it herself, and feels confident and happy that she picked the style and design of her personalized bag. However there are some aspects to the bag I wish I'd have known before ordering.

If your child spills something, it's a pain to clean up, especially by the time the bag gets home from school and the food and guck has been sitting there, staining and mucking up the "prettiness"of the bag. Below, you can see near the bottom of the bag and on the side where something spilled, perhaps soup, and I haven't been able to get the stain out.

There are a lot of nooks and crannies for food to hide. If your kid is a bit messy or very young, you'll be cleaning out all sorts of little spaces, finding crumbs, liquids, and stuck on stuff that again, by the end of a school day, is practically glued in there. This is much more cleanable than the fabric outer shell since it's a plastic-like material, but it still has to be done regularly or you'll have a stinky lunch bag. 

You can see below how fabric interior trim is now stained. I can't get that out either.

A better look at that stained trim area:

I do like how the shiny grey area is fast to clean up. I can wipe that with a sponge, no problem. But this bag is not really suitable for little ones who are still learning to serve themselves and make lots of messes. Honestly, I don't mind the messes themselves, because really kids should be messy sometimes, but I don't like that I can't easily clean those messes and that the lunch bag looks WAY older than it actually is.

If you do choose this lunch bag, you'll be happy to know that the size and shape is standard enough that you don't have to order Pottery Barn Kids lunch inserts. I picked up some LunchBlox Kids Flat Lunch Box Food Containers from Toys R Us and they work super well (at least until my daughter forgets to close the lids after she's done eating). I run them through the dishwasher every night and they've held their shape and the lids still fit perfectly.

If you send lunch to school with your preschool or pre-k child, consider buying a really inexpensive bag (or two) that can be washed easily. Don't worry about pretty or fancy custom styles. It's not worth the cleanup hassle.

I do suggest this lunch bag for older children and teens. They're cute and fun and for kids who aren't spilling Spaghettios everywhere, they are a great personalizable choice.

2015 UPDATE: I've since caved and tossed this bag in the wash a couple times. So far, it's held up and does look a lot better after a good cleaning. Food continues to get stuck in the crevices, but we're going on more than a year and it still works.

November 13, 2013

BzzAgent Campaign: Claritin-D for the Cold Season

I'm kicking off a new BzzAgent campaign, trying Claritin-D for the cold season! Earlier in the year, my daughter tried Children's Claritin to help with seasonal allergies, but I've only intermittently tried Claritin as an adult. A quick search through our stash of household meds led to the discovery of an old box of Claritin RediTabs, but I couldn't tell you the last time I tried them.

The timing for this campaign is perfect since I came down with a terrible cold this morning. My nose hurts and is runny, I've got horrible post-nasal drip, which means my throat is something awful, I'm sneezing, and I feel like I'm underwater. I spent 3am-5am coughing and trying to sleep sitting up so I wouldn't choke on my nose goo. That's a pretty picture.

Part of my BzzAgent kit included a coupon for me to try Claritin-D, which I can get behind the pharmacy counter at my local Target or Walmart. Based on how I'm feeling, I'll be at the store first thing tomorrow. I've got a ton of work to do this week, so I need to feel better fast.

I've got a small stack of $3 off coupons to share with family and friends, so if you want one and I still have some, I'm happy to pop one in the mail so you can try Claritin-D too. My only request is that if you take a coupon, you let me know when you've tried it and how well it worked.

If you haven't tried Claritin-D before, here's some info:

You can buy 12- or 24-hour tablets and the boxes come in several sizes. So if you only need a few, that's okay, because there's a 5-count box available. If you're dealing with chronic allergies, the 30-count box may be a better choice.

You'll want to ask for Claritin-D at the pharmacy. It's not a prescription, but it's not available on the shelves. The rules are different in Mississippi and Oregon for some reason. I don't know if it's that you can't get Claritin-D, or perhaps that it's not behind the pharmacy counter.

Claritin-D is specifically for ages 12 and older. There's another product that's best for kids, but you should always ask your child's pediatrician before trying a new medication.

You don't need to have allergies to try Claritin. Claritin-D works for cold symptoms too!

If you want to know more, check out Claritin's Facebook page, which has helpful tips and info on their products. You can also visit the Claritin website to see all their products and get coupons.

It's the next day and I was so blah that my husband went out and got the Claritin for me. I took it around 2pm and within 30 minutes, thought I'd just fall asleep at my desk. I'm not sure if it's me being sick or the product being not quite as "non-drowsy" as I'd like, but I felt groggy for three hours. However, I feel a LOT better now. Still sick but not sleepy and not congested. Just a bit clogged in my ears, but not nose or eyes. I can live with that.

I can't take it again until 2am, so I may just wait until tomorrow night in case it's another groggy inducing experience.

It's three days later and umm.... WOW! This stuff really works. I learned it's not what makes me sleepy, instead it's really like having too much coffee. That means no taking it at night (I learned the hard way), but when I take Claritin-D, most of my cold symptoms go away and I feel amazing. I forgot to take it early this morning and felt like the usual cold-crud, but an hour after taking a dose, I was back to almost normal. There's no cure for the cold, but this is a real solution for the symptoms!

November 12, 2013

Making a Homemade Facial Scrub

I love exfoliating my skin. Since my skin is so dry, at the end of the week, I can really see the dullness of this layer of dead skin that makes me feel very blah. A good scrub leaves my skin renewed and fresh, giving me energy and more confidence. My favorite scrubs have always been when I'm at the salon having a professional facial. Since I only splurge on a facial once or twice a year, I've had to make do at home.

Usually I go with commercial scrubs and exfoliants, particularly from Olay and St. Ives, but every once and a while, I remember how easy it is to make a scrub at home from ingredients in my kitchen. Why I don't do this all the time, I do not know!

It's important to remember that everyone's skin is unique. What works for me or someone else may not work for your skin. I have very dry skin that really doesn't slough off without a good weekly scrub, and occasional hormonal acne, so my homemade scrub is designed to help with bacteria, scrub well, and rehydrate.

Samantha's Super Dry Skin Scrub
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1-2 tablespoons buttermilk
  • olive oil

First, mix the dry ingredients in a small bowl.

Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of buttermilk until you have a texture like school paste (below).

Finish by adding enough olive oil to get a thick, scrub-like consistency (below). You can try other oils, like safflower, which is very calming.

Gently rub the scrub around the skin on your face. The sea salt can be quite rough, so be cafeful not to rub too hard. If your skin is very sensitive, you may want to skip the salt and run the sugar through a food processor before mixing the ingredients.

Be sure to rinse very well because while sea salt is great for scrubbing off that layer of dead skin, it can really be irritating. 

If you'd like to try other homemade scrubs, check out Icebee's 3 Best Facial Scrub Recipes for oily skin. Andrea from Homemade for Elle has a fabulous list of 10 Simple Exfoliating Face Scrubs, many that would be beneficial for those with very dry skin.

If you're not ready to make your own scrub, don't worry. There are two great, inexpensive scrubs I'd suggest:

Boots Expert Sensitive Gentle Smoothing Scrub would be great for any type of skin, but especially for those with oily skin. If you have dry skin like me, I'd recommend Neutrogena Naturals Purifying Scrub. Both of these products are less than $10, available either at your local store or online.

November 9, 2013

COVERGIRL LashBlast Volume Mascara Review

I was digging around my makeup basket this week and found a mascara I bought and probably never used. I swear there are elves borrowing things in my house because I haven't seen this mascara since shortly after I brought it home from the store. COVERGIRL LashBlast Volume mascara was not on my "top mascaras to try" list, but since I clearly already bought it, it would have been a waste not to use it.

LashBlast Volume mascara claims to offer a patented volume-boosting formula and patent-pending brush that's supposed to make my lashes look super big. When the marketing hype is related to patent status, I'm really unconvinced. I'm assuming no major cosmetic company would put a product on the shelves without having applied for a patent. Without the patent, their intellectual property could be at risk. In other words, holding a patent or applying for a patent doesn't make a mascara special.

This review is going to be quick. LashBlast Volume does an okay job with the "volumizing," but no better than other mascaras I routinely use. I absolutely dislike the fat brush, which makes getting the corners and close to the eyelid difficult without touching my skin. It's definitely problematic if you prefer to apply mascara to your bottom lashes.

mascara on the left, none on the right
Close up:

You can see in the images above, on the left are my lashes without makeup and on the right, with LashBlast Volume mascara. I don't have any eyeliner or shadow on in either picture. The mascara isn't brand new, so the clumping may not be typical. Using this regularly, I'd need to use an eyelash comb.

I'm also not a fan of the girthy container (whatever that's called), which is as if it were designed for men (my husband's explanation).

Once applied, it's not bad. My lashes are fuller, but not in a "wow" way. I'll keep this on hand, maybe in the downstairs bathroom for touchups, but it won't become my everyday mascara. For now, I'm sticking with my No7 mascara. For more information, you can see see my review of No7 mascara, or check out the Boots product page.

My next shopping trip will be to pick up makeup artist, Kerrin Birchenough's suggestion of L'Oreal Voluminous mascara, which retails for $8.95.

COVERGIRL fans may want to check out Anna Mae's current pick, COVERGIRL Professional mascara, available for $4.99 at Ulta.

November 6, 2013

Switching from Olay Regenerist to L'Oreal RevitaLift

I've been using Olay Regenerist DNA Superstructure UV Cream for years now. I love the SPF 25 (it's now 30) the thick moisturizing quality, and how fresh my skin feels once it's absorbed. It's really thick, so it tends to need more time before I put on foundation, and it does leave my skin a touch lighter than it is in real life. The sunscreen ingredients mean this moisturizer smells just like traditional sun protection, and even a bit like my daughter's diaper cream (ick), but I know it's doing it's job and I've been really happy with it.

I intended to buy some more during a trip to Walmart today, but L'Oreal RevitaLift Triple Power Day Lotion had a $2 off coupon attached, and the base price was less than the Olay product, so I took a chance and bought  the RevitaLift instead.

L'Oreal's bottle is prettier with a similar pump mechanism. Like Olay, the product is in an opaque container, which helps keep the contents from being affected by light and oxygen. The bottle's a bit taller but product amount is the same.

There are two aspects of RevitaLift that are important to share:
1. It's much thinner than the Olay day cream, so I feel like I need to use more of it to get the true UV protection.
2. It has a really strong scent. If you're sensitive to fragrance, the RevitaLift product is not for you.

I actually don't like the scent of RevitaLift and noticed when I first put it on, there was a slight tingling sensation. A quick check on Paula's Choice website helped me learn that there could be some irritants in the product. If you have sensitive skin, you may want to look for a different day cream.

What's great is the SPF 30 sun protection and that my face doesn't look lighter after applying the cream. Will it really lift and firm? I don't know, but I'm guessing it's about the same as the Olay cream's chances of improving my skin.

Overall, I like the increased SPF and the packaging over the Olay cream, but I prefer the thick formula and lack of perfumey smell of the Olay. I'd take the sunscreen scent over the perfume scent any day, but that's just my preference.

I'll keep using the RevitaLift I bought until I'm done with it, but I'll probably go back to Regenerist at that point. That is unless someone else suggests a good day cream to try!


December 2, 2013
It's been about a month since I bought RevitaLift and in the interest of total honesty, wanted to share an update. I really tried to like RevitaLift. I wanted to like it. The truth is the scent is way too overpowering. I feel like I'm drowning in scent, which means I can't really wear it on days I'm working or I'd bug anyone with a fragrance sensitivity and I simply don't want to have my moisturizer determine how I smell each day.

I also noticed my skin kind of gets red and irritated when I use RevitaLift. My assumption is that strong fragrance is an irritant.

The biggest problem with RevitaLift compared to other moisturizers I've used is that it's super greasy. I feel like it never quite gets dry enough to put makeup on, so my foundation blends into the moisturizer (that's not a totally bad thing when I want light coverage) and I just feel icky. My skin looks shiny and that's not what I want.

I've been using Beautiful AM for now, with excellent moisturizing results and no obnoxious scent. Because it has lemon oil in it, I'm hoping to find a new daytime moisturizer and use the Beautiful AM product at night only (ironic, eh?).

I'm truly wondering why L'Oreal put a face moisturizer on the market with so much scent. Truly baffling.

November 4, 2013

Retinol in Anti-Aging Products

Ever wanted to know about retinol and what it does for your skin?

There are so many anti-aging products on the market and all have similar claims. I wanted to know which products really benefit aging skin and which ingredients in those products are important.

Since I’ve heard a lot about retinol, that’s the ingredient I explored first. In high school, I remember a friend who was prescribed Retin-A to treat acne and all the terrible side effects. Over-the-counter products with retinol are way more tame than Retin-A.

Retin-A was approved by the FDA in the early 70s for acne treatment and vitamin A is used in many forms for skincare with retinol being one of those.

Essentially, researchers saw skin improving, anti-aging qualities among women using Retin-A, and now we have a zillion products to pick from that promise to fix wrinkles and lines and dark spots and dry patches. Products that contain retinol can help diminish fine lines by helping the body increase the production of collagen, which helps increase thickness of the epidermis (hence, reducing the appearance of those lines).

Scientifically speaking (I read a bunch of journal articles, so this isn’t me being an expert), retinol can help increase collagen fibrils and reduce collagen breakdown. It does this by inhibiting the metalloproteinases. That’s a big word that I’ll be Googling.

Topically, retinol can improve the skin’s appearance really fast. The cool thing is you don’t need a large concentration to have an impact. Most over-the-counter products have less than 1% concentration of retinol. In my reading, it appears that topical retinol should be between .3 and 1% concentration to be effective, but most over-the-counter products may be below .08%.

I tried reaching out to a few companies about their concentrations and got either no response or the “that’s our secret patent” response. A representative from Jan Marini was kind enough to share that the Age Intervention Retinol Plus is .5%, but for women who would like something stronger, a prescription for the 1% concentration, Age Intervention Retinol Plus MD, can be obtained from a licensed physician who carries their products. I’m really tempted to check out the .5% product for myself and plan to get my mom to talk to her dermatologist about the MD concentration.

Retinaldehyde is clinically effective at .05% and retinyl palmitate really needs to be about 2% to have an effect but has a low potential for irritation. You also may see retinyl propionate, which also has a lower irritation potential, so you could potentially see higher concentration levels. However, that version seems to be mainly focused on acne treatment.

So that means, retinol isn’t just retinol. There are other forms of vitamin A that may be in your anti-aging products. Don’t just look for “retinol,” though that seems to be the most prevalent.

Other factors to consider when buying an anti-aging product with retinol are the anti-irritants or anti-inflammatories in the formula, fragrances, and bottling and packaging.

Some of this sounds obvious, right? But the packaging is really important. Retinol is so sensitive to UV and oxygen that you want to be sure the product is packaged in a high quality way in an opaque container that offers as little oxygen exposure before application as possible. That means no open jars.

You also probably should just use a retinol product at night when you won’t be outside and exposing your skin to sunlight. It’s just less risky that way and you still get all the benefits of the anti-aging components.

The thing is, no product is a miracle cure. Your wrinkles aren’t going to permanently disappear. If you already have great, youthful skin, always wear a sunscreen moisturizer during the day and a great anti-aging cream at night. Prevent lines and wrinkles before they start.

If you want to turn back the clock, have realistic expectations unless you’re planning a trip to the dermatologist’s office or cosmetic surgeon. Over-the-counter products can’t make you 20 years younger though you can look temporarily a lot fresher and healthier.

If you’re curious to try Jan Marini Age Intervention Retinol Plus, it lists for about $65, but you can get it on Amazon for just $35.82 right now. Another option would be Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair set, which includes a retinol-infused SPF 30 day cream. I’d still suggest only using it at night though.

I know this was a super long post, but I hope it helps provide some clarity around retinols. They’re good. They’re real. They can probably help your aging skin. Just beware of product claims and read lots of reviews before picking a product.

Chen, L., Hu, J. Y., & Wang, S. Q. (2012). The role of antioxidants in photoprotection: a critical review. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 67(5), 1013-1024.

Bissett, D. L. (2009). Common cosmeceuticals. Clinics in dermatology, 27(5), 435-445.

Manela-Azulay, M., & Bagatin, E. (2009). Cosmeceuticals vitamins. Clinics in dermatology, 27(5), 469-474.

November 2, 2013

Sinful Colors Holiday 2013 Collection

I can't believe it's been almost a week since I last posted. It was a busy Halloween for us, with a practice run (Penny's only 3) at a local church "truck and treat," followed by Halloween dinner out and a long night of trick or treating and candy eating.

Penny had Friday off from school, so I took her out shopping during my lunch break and let her pick a few things from Walgreens. She absolutely loves nail polish, especially rich, dark purples, so when she saw the Sinful Colors Decorate Decadently Holiday 2013 display, she went right for Daddy's Girl (841).

This beautiful plum color isn't new to the Sinful Colors collection, but goes really well with the other polish Penny selected, Girl's Best Friend (1372). I couldn't find it on the Sinful Colors website, but you can find it on eBay.

Daddy's Girl goes on very light and translucent, but after 2-3 coats, it's a lovely dark purple with a bit of shimmer. I prefer it by itself, but Penny likes it topped with Girl's Best Friend, which is a glittery topcoat.

I'm less a fan of the topcoat because my nails feel so rough. I just don't like feeling anything but smooth nails and am one to pick at any nail embellishments when I've had nail art done at the salon. So for, me, I'll stick with the basics.