I think I begin to understand how these fashion magazine things work. You read the same advice seven or eight times and you become struck with doubt. For example, the skin care advice always includes a serum, a facial and a mask – on top of the moisturizer and SPF that are universal. Now, I use and have talked about the moisturizer and spf, but the other stuff? No clue.

So I went to Stop and Shop (grocery store) beauty aisle. Nary a mask to be found. I went online and bought two sets: a green tea mask and a ten pack of weirdo Chinese masks. I went to Sephora while I was in the mall to check out their mask offerings… which START at $50, and walked away with a sample because I’m not about to recommend a $50 face mask to all y’all unless using it suddenly makes me look like Cate Blanchett.

How I would expect a $50 facial mask to make my skin look

All of these were supposed to “brighten” my face and provide a “luminosity”. I’m wondering how these things are measured. I bet the cosmetic scientists have control skin baseline lumens (or something), and using these creams provides a .78% increase in lumens over a 2 day period for every $100 spent.

The Sephora sample was a leave-on-overnight one, which I used while my husband was out of town. It made my face sticky all night long. Ugh. The green tea one had food colorings in it to make it look green: yellow number something and blue number something else. It made my face feel taut when I put it on – a rather satisfying “I’m doing something here!” sensation. I immediately broke out. (I’m not a very good scientist, I was changing too many variables to identify which one was the culprit – or if both were, or maybe the BB cream after all.)

So far I’ve been too chicken to try the Chinese essences ones.

A combination of chemicals and creepy sounding substances. Snail? Royal Jelly?

I carefully examined my skin after the masks. My personal brand of self-photography (aka attempting to take cell phone pictures in the bathroom mirror) is not detailed enough to capture the quite noticeable difference between makeup and no makeup, so had no hope for offering you insight into the variable luminosity of my skin. But I noticed pretty much nothing – other than the aforementioned breaking out bits.

Not worth it. In beauty, I’m noticing that it’s pretty easy and inexpensive to go from 0 to 1, or 2. But the cost, effort and challenge of going from 2 to 3 is orders of magnitude higher, and you can hardly notice the differences unless you’re obsessed. I couldn’t tell a positive difference in “brightness” (maybe I could if I paid a ton of attention, but eh.) I did break out around that time. I see all downside and no upside.

Use if:
– You get really bored
– You are having a sleepover with your girlfriends and are 17 years old
– You already have one you like and think makes a difference

Don’t use if:
– You already have decent skin
– You like getting value for your money and effort.


Beauty Balm – BB Cream

In my recent reading of InStyle magazine, it seemed like every third ad was dedicated to BB Cream. It took me at least two magazine’s worth of poring over it all to discover this is an acronym for Beauty Balm. After having been brain-washed by sufficient repetition, I began to find the BB concept compelling. I mean, check this out:

BB Cream in shiny package

BB Cream in shiny package

Experience 5 complexion-perfecting benefits in a single step. Youth Code BB Cream Illuminator instantly evens, illuminates, perfects, moisturizes and protects skin.

Illuminates! They’ve come so far with LEDs!

I decided it was clearly part of my job to figure out what this BB Cream was, and whether we are interested in it. Standing in the sultry and alluring lighting of my local Stop-N-Shop I reviewed the five or so BB Creams on offer, and picked the one with the shiny label (Youth Code BB Illuminator ~$15).

I’ve been using it for about two weeks. You put this stuff on a lot like you would a moisturizer/sunscreen. And it does, in fact, claim to do those two things. However, unlike my moisturizer and sunscreen combo, it is tinted. They didn’t have a “practically albino” setting, so I picked up the light version, which still looks unexpectedly dark in my hand.

I took probably 30 pictures this morning in the bathroom mirror (I even cleaned the mirror first!) so you could see the “before/after”. So even though they look identical due to lousy photography, I feel obliged to include them. Here’s the before:

BBB - Before BB

BBB – Before Beauty Balm

This is my morning face. I’m sorry. I’ve seen it look worse, too. Anyway, here’s how I go greet the world on weekends, work from home days, or any time before I started wearing makeup to work. (I actually don’t usually wear makeup to church. It’s funny – I dress up in order to be respectful and honor God, but I don’t wear makeup in order to be less vain and to be honest with God and myself. I get the feeling these two things somehow are not sympatico, but I can’t figure out which one to drop.)

Sometimes when I put on the beauty balm, I put on Regenerist eye cream first. I’m not really sure why, other than that it seems like the thing to do. It takes me a touch longer to put on the BB Cream than it would my good ol’ SPF/moisturizer, but not much. I’m not sure if the shine would wear off by the time I am done with my coffee, but I usually end up putting my powder on over that. When I have this cream on and the powder, I feel like my face has been wiped clean and is now a blank slate. This is the feeling that tempts one to wear a lot more makeup. Still, I only add mascara and eyebrows, and sometimes lip gloss. The end state is this:

After BB and makeup application

After BB and makeup application

I like this cream. I think it actually does a lot of what it claims to do. While I feel slightly cakey and make up in the morning, by the time I get to work I feel like my skin looks better. I think the biggest difference is in the evening, when my skin does seem to have a more youthful radiance than it does when left to its own devices. I naturally have pretty decent skin, so this doesn’t make a huge difference to me, but if you have any blemishes/patches/things you don’t like about your skin, this might be really helpful to you. After two weeks of regular use, I have not broken out or noticed my skin seems damaged in any way, so it’s not just plastering over issues.

Use if:
– You have skin you aren’t happy with
– You are already using sunscreen, moisturizer and foundation in different steps
– You have a big public presentation, and there may be photography/unflattering lighting
– You are going to be very good about removing your makeup every night
– You want a solid base for more fun/exciting makeup

Do not use if:
– You don’t like feeling or looking “made up”
– You already have a great skin
– You are not going to use other makeup

Delightful Digits – more 2012 trends

Rainbow of nail colors

Rainbow of nail colors

The other day I went to a yoga class. I’m still sore. But while I was in the class, I had ample leisurely time to study all the other women’s pedicures. And you know what? Every. Single. One. had a recent pedicure. And ALL of the pedicures were in really bright colors: lime green, hot pink, yellow, silver…. I had on a barely-there pink iridescent pedicure. I was definitely Out Of Touch in my toes.

So another clear trend for Summer/Fall 2012 is the bright/fun manicure and pedicure. It used to be that when you went to a nail salon, there were 50 shades of red. While red is still a pretty dominant color in real salons, the pages of Glamour only showed red/pink nail polish where required to fill out the rainbow of shades. In the cover picture, Victoria Beckham is wearing polish so dark purple as to be almost black. There are blues and greens and gold sparkles.

There’s also a lot of decorative nail art. There are nail stencils, that allow you to do fun designs with no skill required. There are crackle finishes. Possibly one of my favorites, which I’ve so far managed not to buy, is magnetic nail polish. You put it on and then you use a magnet and filings in the polish make patterns. That’s almost as cool as my photosensitive nail polish!

Now I love colors. I have about 90 pens on my desk, all in various interesting colors. I actually keep a few boring one son my desk in case someone needs to borrow one that is more serious. So obviously, this whole nail phenomenon is great! I love colors! And they’re “stylish”, so I have every excuse to wear them… right?

This is a situation where I feel like I need to be careful. I think it’s a bit risky to wholeheartedly embrace this trend, even though it’s extremely tempting to. Remember that just because something is fashionable does not necessarily mean that it is professional. (You would probably get kicked out of most work places if you showed up in clothing straight from a fashion runway. Either that or they would call an ambulance…)

So here’s how I’m splitting the difference: I can wear fun nail colors as long as they match with my outfit. For instance, I went to Atlanta the other day. While there, I wore a beige suit and a “statement” red necklace. I got a manicure with polish to match the necklace. If I had a meeting and I was going to wear purple, then I’d do a nail color that matched the purple. This helps take the trend and tie it more firmly to your style. You can have fun, but not edge to far from professional.

And hey, I found this really fun manicure blog, The Daily Nail. I can barely get polish onto my fingers, but this person does some truly amazing art on her hands.

So… do you have a manicure/pedicure? Is it always the same color, or is it a variety? Do you love the fun colors and wild effects, or do you feel like they’re too conspicuous. Do you think nail art is professional? What’s your take?