Friday, December 30, 2011

The Sweaty Side of Beauty

In honor of this blog's name, everyday beauty, I continually try to find ways to enhance the beauty that surrounds me, both inside and out. And while a good, sweaty workout doesn't make me look particularly pretty, it has such far-reaching benefits I can no longer deny its importance. It sounds like I am stating the obvious, but it took me a long time to get back to this belief.

I am a natural mesomorph with endomorph tendencies. I was extremely active and athletic as a youth. I spent all my free time outdoors, would be called inside for dinner, and then went back out until dark--year round. Bike riding, sailing, skate boarding, roller skating, tennis, mountain climbing, canoeing, ice skating, soccer, ballet, volleyball, long walks on the beach (no, this is not a personal ad), swimming, and just walking everywhere. As an undergrad I waited tables, and what great exercise that was! All that running around and lifting heavy trays ... and then after work, we'd all go out dancing.

After school and my first desk job, my life became more sedentary. I had never been a gym goer, and almost all of my previous exercise had been incidental, done out of fun or necessity (e.g., get from point A to B). I was no longer doing much of that, and I gained a few pounds, and here is where I made my first mistake. I was not willowy. I was curvy and muscular, with a J-Lo bubble butt, which was not the same figure I saw splashed across glossy magazine ads in the 80s and 90s, where models first appeared with their skinny-fat girl-boy figures, with no muscle tone or boobs, and which later morphed into that hideous "heroin chic" look. How I ever believed scrawny and dirty was an attractive look is completely beyond me now, but when I started looking into taking off a few pounds, these images in Vogue or Elle, and the laughably skinny models in Shape magazine were what I saw. None of those women was shaped like me, even at my ideal weight.

Interwoven through all that model weirdness came the new Food Pyramid, the second worst thing that ever happened to me (and to the world, in my opinion, but I'll save that rant for a future article). I followed the 90s diet religiously, eating tons of carbs and 10-20% fat, but I was hungry all the time. I felt like I had no willpower, a moral defect in character. I'd starve myself only to give in to the hunger such that I would overeat, getting ready for the next famine. As you can imagine, my body dysmorphia was already full steam ahead by then.

When I look back at photographs of myself from those two decades, I am amazed that I ever thought I was fat. What I would give to avoid all the trauma and self loathing I had put myself through. But like so many of us, I took what I read and saw to heart. I messed with nature in my attempt to have thighs like a racehorse and slender arms and put myself through long cycles of abstinence followed by bingeing, which caused unwanted weight gain.

In hindsight, I can safely say that the worst thing I ever did was go on my first diet because that set in motion a pattern of weight gain. Yes, I dieted myself fat. I'd lose 10 pounds quickly and then slowly gain back 15. Lose 10 again, and gain back 15, never quite losing the whole amount I had gained back each time. Rinse, repeat. Thus, a slow but steady weight gain became my life, almost unnoticeable at first, when it occurred in those 5-pound increments. Denial is a powerful thing, and I managed to convince myself that my pants had shrunk in the dryer. If you've been there, you know exactly what I'm talking about. That this apparel "shrinkage" occurred during a time when all pants started including lyrca in them, even jeans, those small gains weren't as noticeable because everything stretched and the thicker material held back the flub. I also encountered, for the first time, vanity sizing. Since the size of apparel I pulled off the rack wasn't increasing at an alarming rate, I was good, right?

The media wasn't all bad in the 90s. One of the best things to come out of that decade was a new magazine called Mode. It positioned itself as a plus-sized magazine (and featured models up to size 22), but most of the models were between size 12-16, which had become the average size for women in the US. And the clothes were glorious! No poorly-made Lane Bryant or Fashion Bug for we fatties. No, inside those glossy pages I found designers such as Roberto Cavalli, Marina Rinandi, Tomatsu, Ellen Tracy, Donna Karan, Kenzo, Versace, Ralph Lauren, Eli Tahari, Eileen Fisher, and more! In some ways, Mode was like the plus-sized version of Voguebecause it showed current trends from the runway, interpreted for larger models. It was beautiful, and Kate Dillon was one of its most gorgeous models.

I was so depressed when the magazine was canceled. I guess even fat women didn't want to see fat women in their fashion magazines, and there has never been another plus-sized magazine to take its place.

Now that I am older and wiser, I mourn for my sad, younger self who tried so desperately to reshape my body with diet into something nature had never intended. Getting older does give one perspective--it's really a shame no one was available to set me straight back then. I could have avoided a lot of mistakes.

But the single best thing I can do for my looks and mental state is to work up a sweat. I look around at women who are older than I and observe that the most beautiful ones are all physically active. They might not be doing anything as structured as going to the gym (though my mother goes to Curves 5 days a week), but they are all quite active, whether it's a morning walk with the dog, vigorous gardening, yard work, or whatever they enjoy doing. Mrs. Perkins who lives down the street must be at least 85, and she and her husband still do all their own raking in the fall. I am guessing their level of activity has kept them in good health into their advanced years and will keep them fit and vigorous even longer still.

I was so happy and full of joy in my active years, but I had gotten quite lazy and depressed in the 90s. Combining a desk job with a frequent case of The Awfukits from having gained weight, I felt like I had so far to go, and so it all seemed so pointless. But there I go with that black-and-white thinking again. Getting started is hard, but when I set small and reasonable goals, the task ahead did not seem quite so insurmountable. Having once been an athlete, I was happy to discover that my body had excellent muscle memory.

Incidental exercise is more challenging now. I live in the suburbs where nothing is close enough to walk to. My office building has no stairs. My weekends are so full with chores, I have almost no time for anything fun. So I actually had to ponder doing intentional exercise. I thought CrossFit looked like fun, but my one and only experience with that had me barfing in the bushes, so I needed to do something more appropriate for my current level of fitness. And that is where I discovered kettlebells. After doing various workouts, I discovered the SKOGG system (not affiliated), and I actually find myself looking forward do it. The whole point is to maximize my pleasure over time, and this fits the bill.

All I need is one kettlebell and not much floor space. And after several weeks, I have discovered that a half hour is an easy commitment. And it has started to make my life look and feel more beautiful.
  • Prevents loss of lean body mass (that 5-pound muscle loss that experts say we experience every year)
  • Increased blood flow provides a beautiful lit-from-within glow that blush can only hope to mimic
  • Flushes out water retention, so no more puffbelly or cankles
  • Higher body awareness translates to deeper self respect
  • Higher activity means better sleep, and we all know why they call it "beauty sleep" because nothing ruins a pretty appearance faster than dark circles and sallow skin
  • More energy to do other things
I don't make New Year's resolutions, but my primary goal this year is to slowly and consistently increase my fitness because when I feel good in my own skin, I make better choices for myself overall.

Do you get the level of activity you think your body needs?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Beauty Spotlight 12.23.2011

After all the running around, shopping, cooking, and headaches the holidays are actually here. The Beauty Spotlight Team wishes you a happy and very healthy Christmas, Chanukah and New Year. May 2012 be a beautiful year in all ways.

Joeybunny took part in the O Tannenbaum! perfume blogging project - see what woody perfumes stole her heart over at Beauty, Bacon, Bunnies!

If you've looking for the perfect balance between moisture and colour for the cold winter months then check out the tinted balms that Lisamarie from Beauty Crazed has been loving lately!

Beauty Info Zone has a brand new look. We're putting on the Glitz with Tarte for the holidays. Come see what Tarte and Beauty Info Zone have to show you.

At Everyday Beauty, Zuzu did the unthinkable and chose her favorites from a year's worth of purchases. Many of these items were not necessarily released as new this year, but they were new to her. Come read about what made Zuzu's best-of list.

Over at Lipstick Musings, Shannon has found a not-quite-red (for a change) that will rock your world in Guerlain Rouge Automatique Lipstick #168, L'Heure Bleue!

London Makeup Girl asks if you are washing your hair properly? She was mortified to find that she wasn't! Read the post and watch her video here.

Modesty Brown has a Butter LONDON Knees Up and shares some perfect twinkly red nail colours for the festive season.

Paula, from Older Girl Beauty, talks with MAC MUA Romero Jennings about Daphne Guinness and her upcoming makeup collection with MAC.

Looking for some last minute gifts? Pammy Blogs Beauty continues her Holiday Palette reviews with Too Faced "In Your Dreams" Palette.

Perilously Pale shares a Face of the Day post that will have you hopping running to place an order for some Rouge Bunny Rouge. Come see why this is one of her favourite brands!

Over at Pretty in Dayton, Styrch falls in love with Cult Nails Power Thief.

Prime Beauty reviews Benefit's new Hervana blush; it’s spellbinding and will hypnotize you—she hopes!

Visionary Beauty shares her collection of the delightful Rouge Bunny Rouge loose glitter pigments, including the two new tantalising shades; Caress of Mink and Embrace of Cashmere.

I Got Draped! (Seasonal Color System)

I got up at 2:30 AM this past Monday and rode shotgun while my husband drove us 5.5 hours (one way) so I could get my colors done. As a special man-treat, he got his colors done, too.

With the highest recommendations possible, I had booked a PCA (personal color analysis) with Maytee Garza of Reveal Style Consultancy. Maytee, along with Amelia Butler—who designs the 12 Tone seasonal fans at her True Color studio in Australia (a palette you receive at the end of a color consultation)—are two of the four people that the late Kathryn Kalisz personally selected to teach others to become analysts in her system. It would not be a stretch to say that Maytee is one of the most experienced and knowledgeable people in the Northern Hemisphere using KK’s system; in fact, Maytee wrote the training manual.

The theory

After offering us coffee, Mr. Zuzu and I sat on comfortable sofas while Maytee gave us an overview of color theory and the system she uses, showing us charts and diagrams. Her system, 12-Tone SciART, pioneered by Kathryn Kalisz, is based on Munsell's scientific approach to color, where hues in each of the twelve tones (seasons) can be scientifically verified based on their respective position in their three-dimensional color space.

SciART 12-Tone is a true color system that can be explained by science. Though ultimately it is still subjective (the analyst evaluates what looks best), it can be measured, and decisions aren't made in a vacuum. You—the customer—are present, too. You see what she sees, and a good analyst will explain why something works or doesn't. If you don't see it, you should ask the analyst to point out the subtleties of how color affects your appearance.

A SciART color analysis is performed in a controlled environment where walls are painted a specific neutral grey. I sat in a chair facing a giant mirror under full-spectrum lighting (5500 kelvin, which approximates the color temperature of sun + sky). A neutral grey cape went over my clothing and a grey cap covered my hair to hide non-natural (e.g., dyed) color. Men also wear caps, probably to keep as much color away from the face as possible. Maytee also wore a grey smock to prevent her clothing from muddying the analysis.

The practice

After being seated in the spotlight, the process of elimination began. Maytee took a series of drapes that are about the size of a bath towel, which are grouped in trios. She draped them across my chest, and then pulled one away, revealing the one underneath. Sometimes she did this process in reverse. All the while, she watched my my face and under my chin. She never looked directly at the color of the drape. In other words, she looked at how my skin reacted to the color, rather than how the color looked on me. There's a difference.

A color was discarded if it:
  • Caused ruddiness
  • Deepened shadows, especially along the nasolabial fold
  • Brought out sallowness
  • Created unattractive highlights, like causing shiny yellow areas above the brow to appear
A color was put aside for further evaluation if it:
  • Enhanced/intensified the eyes
  • Cleared the skin

If my skin reacted negatively to any combination of the first four elements, Maytee moved on to different drapes until she found colors that cleared the skin—meaning my complexion smoothed out, looked calm and rested, and even younger.  Some of the drapes made me look as though I were wearing makeup, even though I'd been instructed to arrive with nothing on my face, not even sunscreen.

Colors that "intensified" my eyes (made them appear more vibrantly green or blue or grey) earned bonus points, but sometimes the wrong color can enhance the eyes while doing unflattering things to skin. We discovered this with Soft Summer's slightly warmer and more muted teals, which made my eyes look like exploding planets but turned my skin a pasty yellow-grey. Going by eye reaction alone (not to mention that my natural ash hair color contains warmth), an analyst in another system might start down the Soft Summer path—or even Autumn—but Maytee knew exactly what to look for. She was like a forensics detective, digging deeper until she found the perfect clue. The point here is that many colors can look good on all of us, but a 12-Tone SciART analyst's primary goal is to find her customer's best.  

Why look good when you can look great?

A personal color analysis can take anywhere from 1 to 3 hours, and Maytee was extremely extremely thorough. If she has any doubt, she draped again and again and then did it again in reverse until she there was no doubt in her mind. It was just as important that I saw what she saw. She lives for that ah-ha moment when a customer's own unique coloring achieves harmony with the hue, chroma, and value in the test drapes.
  • Hue is a color's most obvious characteristic and is generally what we mean when we describe something's color, such as a red tulip. Hue in 12-Tone Sci/ART relates to the coolness or warmth of a color (as well as in our skin, which contains melanin, hemoglobin, and carotenes). Between each of the major hues lies an infinite number of possible hues. For example, you will find many different shades (hues) between red and blue. Just think of all those purples: lilac, orchid, magenta, mulberry, plum, violet, and so on.
    Munsell's five major hues (Red, Yellow, Green, Blue, and Purples),
    along with the 5 intermediate hues in between
  • Chroma represents color purity and is the quality that distinguishes the difference between a pure hue and a grey shade. High-chroma colors are saturated and rich, whereas low-chroma colors appear muted and soft (grey), like a summer garden enveloped in morning fog. Chroma is often referred to as a color's saturation.

    The above chart shows red, magenta and blue hues in a range of chromas, all with medium value.
  • Value (lightness) represents the quality by which we distinguish a light color form a dark color, from white to black through various shades of grey. The neutral greys lie along the vertical axis between black and white.

    The above chart shows low-chroma red, magenta and blue in a range of values.

    Munsell's value scale, from Cleland (1921)
All colors can be described in terms of their hue, chroma, and value. For example, a dark brown color has a hue in the yellow-red region of the color wheel. It has a low value because it is dark, and its chroma is also low. A light brown color would differ from dark brown only in its value (lightness) because browns are soft and muted.

A couple decades ago, when Carole Jackson wrote Color Me Beautiful, there were only four seasons. For many, it was a revolutionary system, and it certainly opened my eyes to the potential of simplifying my life. For example, there was an entire range of colors I no longer looked at when shopping, and to this day my eyes automatically skip over the forest greens, mustards, and bricks. On the other hand, some readers of that book were still left wondering why we didn't fit neatly into one of those seasons where the concept of neutral (or seasons with a flow) had not yet been described. In later years, the four seasons were expanded, and many now have 12, some even 16.

In SciART's system, each primary season (Spring, Summer, Winter, Fall) has two neutral counterparts that flow into or are informed by its neighboring season, though none shares the same colors. The SciART system contains the following seasons:
  • Bright, True, and Light Spring
  • Light, True, and Soft Summer
  • Soft, True, and Dark Autumn
  • Dark, True, and Bright Winter
As example of 12 Tone SciART color theory, a Light Summer falls between Summer’s cool, soft blues and Spring’s warm, sunny clarity. Although Light Summer is still predominantly a cool season, Spring's sunlight flows into it, adding a tiny drop of yellow to some colors, tinting some cool pinks with a touch of coral or lending other colors a sun-bleached appearance. Light Summer is the lightest and brightest (most clear) of the Summer seasons. Soft Summer, at the other end, takes on the darker, rich, earthy, velvety, muted tones of Autumn. In the middle of the Summer trio stands True Summer, purely cool, slightly muted, and medium in value.

My result was TRUE SUMMER. Even though a couple friends had predicted exactly that outcome, I was very surprised. I had zero doubt I was cool-toned, and I had always strongly suspected Summer, but I  thought I might lean neutral because my dark ash blonde hair takes on red and gold highlights the minute I step into the sun, I get caramel-colored freckles, and my eyes are not the typical blue-eyed-blonde shade. They are navy with grey-blue rims and a yellow starburst around the pupils. But it's not about how a person appears to the rest of the world; it's about how the skin reacts to the color draped across you. Mr. Petals, who had his own draping, turned out to be the Light Summer I was so certain I was going to be.

At the end of the appointment, Maytee went through all my makeup, which she has asked me to bring. As a beauty blogger, I assume some of you know what this meant! She divided the lot into No, Maybe, and Yes piles by comparing each item to my palette. Items did not have to be a 100% match, as long as the color blended tonally and harmoniously with the palette overall. As human beings, we aren't just a dot of color, we're a blend of many.

To finish up my appointment, Maytee selected items from the Yes pile and applied that makeup to me for the photos in my "reveal" session, which is where she draped me in all of my best colors using the SciART luxury drapes. She then revealed them to me one after the other, while Mr. Petals took pictures. A splendid eye opener. 

What's next?

Now that my analysis is over, how do I live the rest of my colorful life? As a True Summer out shopping, I must look for items with a cool hue (zero warmth for me in clothing, makeup, and jewelry). The value (lightness/darkness) must be light to medium, and the chroma (saturation) also medium. My color palette's predominant dimension is that of hue with an overt coolness whose chroma is softened by blue-pink (mauve) undertones. Cool and soft is my new mantra, not clear and bright or rich and deep or golden and warm.

"Mid-toned" is another new mantra, with my best colors flowing right up the middle, such as blues slightly softened by grey, as though enveloped in twilight: true and sky blue, Wedgwood, Chinese blue, periwinkle, greyed, mid-toned navy, and rich royal blue. My skin also lights up when I wear muted shades of lavender, mauve, thistle, and purple, but I must maintain a critical eye for the reddened purples (lilac, orchid, wisteria, grape, plum) because the red gives those colors warmth. My browns must be rosy, my greys blued or mauved, and my greens rich and blue based. Pastels look outstanding on me, which surprised me because I have not been drawn to them since I was a little girl. I can also wear many blue-based roses, pinks, and reds such as strawberry, briar rose, soft fuchsia, watermelon, and blue-red. I have always loved most blues, but I discovered that the right green is an outstanding color for me.

A True Summer's most flattering neutrals are pale yellow, mushroom, pebble, quartz, dove grey, soft (winter) white, all of which look stunning when worn in contrast with soft teal, jade, sage, turquoise, and cocoa. When I wear raspberry, rosewood, aubergine, burgundy, purple, navy, or charcoal, the softer edges of those darker shades, will look best when worn in contrast with their pastel counterparts. For example, mint with clover, dusty rose with cocoa, pearl white with morning grey, Wedgewood with navy. Contrasts must be soft and low-medium, as opposed to the high contrast of black worn with white. No more black for me, but I have always preferred navy, anyway.

My new True Summer palette contains no dark, bold, bright, or warm colors. That's great news to me because for what seems like eleventy billion years, every makeup artist I've encountered has insisted that my eyes require blue's complementary color: an orange-based or golden-brown. Pretty as those colors are in the pan I never liked how they looked on me, but I blamed myself for not being discerning enough at the makeup counter. I assumed I had not yet found the right brown, so I continued searching. No need. There are no golden browns, warm beiges, golden yellows, yellow-greens, oranges, rusts, orange-reds, warm pinks or corals in my True Summer palette.

My palette:

I could not be more happy and relieved. The PCA confirmed long-held suspicions, and it was fun that both my husband and I ended up as Summer seasons. Given our summer-ness, Mr. Petals won't have a leg to stand on when I begin redecorating the house in our colors. Because you just KNOW there are paint chips that go with every one of my palette's swatches, right? Check out Luminosity! Maybe I'll start by painting the front door Wedgwood blue.

Unlike many who are color analyzed and surprised by the result, I am not facing a major wardrobe overhaul. I have been instinctively drawn to soft cool colors since I was a child, though I will need to weed out items that are too dark or bright. As for makeup, I can finally abandon the search for the perfect taupe eyeshadow. It simply doesn't exist for me. Greys and greyed-purples are my taupe.

If you live in the greater NY metro area (or you don't mind a road trip or a flight) and you are interested in having a seasonal color analysis, I cannot recommend Maytee highly enough.You can also check out her Facebook page, My Color Tone.
UPDATE: Maytee has moved and is currently not practicing draping. 

See also Dain's posts on Color Theory at ARS Aromatica.

Photo credits and references:Great Reality, Wikipedia, and Encyclopedia Britannica

Friday, December 16, 2011

Everyday Beauty's 2011 Favorites

It has been many months since I wrote a "favorites" article, so I figured I'd wrap up the year early, rather than wait for January to weigh in with this epic post. Maybe something on my list will help you with your Christmas shopping, heh. Or maybe not, since I am not listing this year's hottest new products here, just stuff that was new and interesting to me.

I decided to put some structure around what I pulled out of my makeup pit; otherwise the table holding it all would splinter and collapse like Titanic hitting the iceberg. In order to qualify for my 2011 Best, an item had to either be new to me this year (not necessarily new in 2011 itself) or it had to be something I repurchased this year after completely using up the original. And in this time of year for miracles, my using anything up is a small miracle unto itself. Apologies to Jesus, Mary, et al.

The 2011 winners--big group hug
So here's the entirety of this year's favorites. I forgot to include a couple (they were out of sight, waiting to be washed, or suddenly turned up missing), but I give them a mention anyway. I've provided links for the products I have reviewed in case you want to read further (I mean this post is clearly not long enough) or see more pictures.

Ahhhhhhh! Doesn't that make you feel all squishy inside?

Cleansing, treatment, and moisturizing
Let's start with the body and haircare products:

Front row
  • Luster Now toothpaste. Boy does this stuff whiten teeth! The bland taste took some getting used to, but I will continue buying this as long as they make it.
  • Clinique All About Eyes. This lightweight eye gel sinks in so quickly I can apply powder eyeshadow almost immediately after. Yes, I use it under eyeshadow.
  • Laura Geller Sugar Lip Scrub. Great lip exfoliant that tastes good.
    Middle row
    • Clarisonic. People seem to love or hate this device. I was skeptical about it--especially given the price, even though I've been happily using the Sonicare toothbrush for over 8 years--but the Clairsonic really works for me. It clean my skin so thoroughly I can use the most gentle cleanser, and the soft friction from the (delicate) brush head removes every last trace of makeup. I even use it to whirr off tubing mascara.
    • Basis soap. This year my body developed a sensitivity to almost everything, even Dove Sensitive, so I switched to Basis, which rinses cleaner than Dove and does not irritate my face in my morning shower when my face is already clean and just needs to be refreshed. (I bring out a tougher crowd for evening face cleansing.) Now my naughty bits don't get itchy from harsher soaps, and that's good because you just know the second you reach down for a discrete scratch someone will see you.
    • Caudalie Vinoperfect Radiance Serum. I bought this after watching one of Lisa Eldridge's Best Of videos, and it's wonderful. I have mild rosacea that I keep at bay with diet (no drugs needed), but sometimes a flush is inevitable. This serum is so cooling and soothing, it's what I reach for when my face turns beet red.
    • Peter Thomas Roth AHA/BHA serum. A very thin layer of this gel a couple times a week keeps my congested pores clear and happy.
    • John Masters Organics Deep Scalp Follicle Treatment and Volumizer. This spray doesn't volumize my hair as well as some others, like Phyto or Bumble and Bumble, but it causes the frizz from new hair growth to lie smooth, so my hair looks more shiny. It doesn't weigh my hair down, and it contains few ingredients. I recently finished it, and the bottle is such good, solid glass, I rinsed it well, filled it with filtered water, and now use it to spritz my brushes. I will definitely reorder this product.
    Back row
    • Baltic Collagen Face & Neck Gel. My miracle product of the year. Truly. I have been using this serum daily since May,  and I will continue using it as long as it's being manufactured. 
    • Caudalie Foaming Face Wash. Just a good, basic, gentle cleanser that rinses clean and smells good. I am on my third bottle with at least one backup in storage, so that should indicate how much I like this cleanser. I use it in the morning I don't use Basis to cleanse my makeup-free face. If I use it at night, I pre-cleanse my skin with Boscia cleansing oil.
    • Clinique Clarifying Lotion II. This "lotion" was, perhaps, the biggest surprise this year in that it did not irritate my pink-prone skin. My skin will look a little red immediately after using it, but it calms down quickly and my skin has never felt smoother.I used  Clinique's 3-step program many years ago but drifted away to other brands. I don't know what made me try this again, but my skin has never felt better. I feel like it immediately clears away dead skin sells co my serums and treatments can penetrate better.
    • Nivea Essentially Enriched Body Lotion. I'd been using various other body lotions, but one day I noticed a bottle of this on the sink area in the ladies room at work. The soaps used in offices are so harsh, so I pumped some of this on my hands and was instantly hooked. I now have a bottle of this everywhere (bathroom, kitchen, bedroom, office, side table in living room), and the scent doesn't interfere with whatever fragrance I want to wear. Even my husband uses it.
    • WEN Cleansing Conditioner. Another big surprise. I was introduced to this by Jeanie of Makeup Merriment who sent me several huge samples to try out when I was complaining about my fine hair, which every cleanser I used seemed to turn to straw or make it limp. I could not believe this stuff didn't weigh it down, especially over time, but I have been using it since June, and I still love it. I even shave my legs with it.
    • Bioderma Crealine H20 Micellar Solution. Fantastic eye makeup remover and excellent pre-wash makeup remover in general. It is so gentle, if I need to remove and reapply makeup on the fly, I can do so multiple times and my skin does not turn red.

      Among my favorite tools this year, I neglected to include my BeautyBlender sponge because it has been missing for several days. I fear it's under a piece of furniture somewhere in the house (or it bounced down into the basement), now completely unrecognizable, as it is without doubt, encrusted in dust bunnies (suspected cat toy). Time to ask Santa for a new one.

      • Shu Uemura eyelash curler. Not a new discovery this year, but I re-purchased the whole curler because my gaskets were spent, and they do not sell refills. It is still my favorite after more than 10 years. I love how it curls, not bends my lashes.
      • Alima Flocked Sponge. Sometimes I like applying my facial powder with a sponge instead of a brush. It allows for more targeted application since I generally apply to the center of my face where I am most pink and blend out, not wanting to cover all of my skin. I don't want to look completely poreless, so I like leaving some flaws visible. When I press-roll the powder into my skin, my pores instantly smooth out. I also use the sponge to apply Jane Iredale Pommist finishing spray (included in a best of category below). I spray the sponge, dab on my face, and my mascara stays untouched, because I never seem to remember the spray step until my makeup is finished, and there was always that mascara dilemma. The sponge is velvety soft and washes/dries beautifully. I already had a Jane Iredale flocked sponge, but I purchased Alima's this year because it comes in a little envelope, which I find to be more sanitary (even though I wrap my JI sponge in a microfiber cloth).
      • Conair bamboo rollers. I have had these for a couple years, but I wanted more of the big rollers, so I purchased another box this year. I LOVE them. I roll my hair dry (or mostly dry), leave in for 15 minutes, remove, and I get instant, bouncy body that lasts all day. No gunky thickening goo or damaging heat implements required.
      • Mason Pearson brush. I repurchased when I lost my original. I cannot blame my cats for the loss, but a few years ago, Ferret Bueller stole my original Mason brush and stowed it in a little hole he ripped in the mattress lining under my bed as his hiding place (I also found a TV remote with the buttons all nibbled off, a Timex watch, and an empty carton of Ben & Jerry's Chubby Hubby). Nothing makes my short bob look shinier than the boar bristles of this brush.
      • Becca Professional Brush Soap. I sheepishly stand corrected on my initial opinion, and now this brush cleanser is a favorite. My original review was lukewarm, which garnered comments from people who loved the soap. So I stopped thinking of it as "any old soap in a tin" and more about a cleaner targeted specifically for my brushes, and I do admit it cleans beautifully--even my white goat hair brushes return to their natural color. My brushes seem to dry more quickly, but I suspect there's something in this soap that expedites the process. Hopefully not alcohol.
      • Sephora nail file. I was intrigued by a file made of glass, and I found this to be a very effective file at smoothing over rough edges after a real file. Just don't drop it!
      • Laura Mercier Velour Puff. After almost 15 years of using the now-discontinued Shiseido puff of the same style, which had been washed so many times it looked like a cat's hairball or that bit of fluff that erupts out of an overfilled vacuum cleaner bag, I needed a replacement. The Laura Mercier puff does what I want--lets me roll and press finishing powder into my skin and then flick off the excess with a soft, fluffy brush. The little strap on the back makes it easy to control, and it washes very easily inside a lingerie bag. I toss it in the dryer on the air setting (no heat) for a few minutes to make it fluffy again and then air dry it the rest of the way.
      Face brushes
      These are just my favorite brushes in 2011. Trying to choose favorites from among all of my brushes would have been a much longer article, and I would have had to break it down by task. If you want to read excellent brush reviews, be sure to check out Gaia's articles at The Non-blonde. See also Dain's brush reviews at ARS Aromatica.

      Left to right:
      • Make Up For Ever Kabuki. Synthetic and so incredibly soft. Perfect for applying HD powder (which it's made for) or for flicking off powder excess. Its soft carrying case is one of the best out there, as hard cases take up more room.
      • Becca Cream Blush. Has nice short bristles to keep the cream color from flopping all over my face and a relatively short handle for precise control.
      • Bobbi Brown Blush. I don't know how I got so lucky with this one because Bobbi Brown brush quality can be inconsistent, but this is the softest blush brush I have ever owned. I treat it very gently, use only one color with it, and wash it infrequently so I can keep this in excellent shape for many years to come. I have returned countless Bobbi Brown Powder and Face Blender brushes for being prickly (in fact I won't leave the counter without testing it now), but this one is divine.
      • Laura Mercier Fan. Ideal for super-pigmented blushes or when you want to add only a dusting of highlighter to cheekbones. Diffuses color like a dream.
      • Hakuhodo S114 Highlight. I use this every single day. It lays down the most subtle layer of highlighting powder (I use Chantecaille Shine Eye Shade in Perle on my cheekbones). It was my biggest Hakuhodo splurge, and although I do not own any Suqqu brushes, I am willing to bet the Hakuhodo rivals Suqqu in softness. It feels like my cheeks are being kissed by a million newborn kittens' eyelashes.
      • Jane Iredale Handi. Outstanding brush in every way. Lately I have wondered if her brushes are made by Hakuhodo because they are incredibly and silky and so well made. I have been using the brush you see above since 2000--almost every day. It has been washed countless times and it still looks as good as I did the day I bought it, though the end of the handle is fading a bit. The bristles have only become softer over time. It is my favorite brush to apply Jane Iredale PurePressed foundation. I don't use it for anything else.

      Eye brushes

      I did not buy that many brushes this year, so I was very fortunate to love the ones I purchased. Here are my favorites for applying eyeshadow:

      • Hakuhodo S133. This brush is like a mini version of the S114 Highlight. The bristles are just as exquisitely soft, and they are long enough that I can use it as a lid-into-crease brush. It also works very well as a highlight brush for tighter spots.
      • Laura Mercier Smudge. Perfect brush for smudging out eyeliner on the top lashes or for applying eyeshadow (as liner) underneath the lashes and blending out. I use it most often to apply Bobbi Brown Heather cream eyeshadow under my lashes.
      • Laura Mercier Finishing. This makes a great blender brush because it gently diffuses color without dusting it all away. What I use this brush for most often is to apply cream eyeshadow to my lids and blend into the crease. The synthetic tips are perfect for this. I also use it to apply and diffuse concealer, where it leaves an airbrushed finish. This brush is an excellent multitasker.
      • Bobbi Brown Eye Blender. Another lucky find, as this brush is so incredibly soft and great for blending gradations of eyeshadow color or for applying very sheer washes of color to the upper crease.
      • Edward Bess Luxury. I am cheating a little here because I bought the Luxury Eye Brush at the end of 2010, but I didn't actually start using it in earnest until January. I love this brush. The handle is metal, so it is heavier than most brushes, and it feels substantial in the hand. I love to apply color quite densely in the crease and then diffuse it down toward the lashes from the outer corner inward. I've seen slightly different shapes when this brush is reviewed online. My bristles come to a bit of  point, so I can direct it into the crease. Adore.
      • Hakuhodo G5533BkSl. Sort, firm bristles make this brush idea for applying color all over the lid. It's especially useful for patting down non-matte shadows so they don't look sparkly, like Alima Pure Pearluster, Chantecaille Shine, and Laura Mercier Lustre formulas.
      • Becca Extra Fine #6. I'd been searching for a very long time for a brush with this fine a point. Bobbi Brown's "extra fine" is laughable, and MAC's were not much better. Too thick. The Becca bristles are as thin, maybe thinner, than the brushes that come in most liquid eyeliner bottles. I loved it so much I panicked that it would be discontinued and bought two backups--and I don't even wear eyeliner that often.
      • Paula Dorf Transformer. I first heard of this brush on The Non-blonde's blog. I had no idea there was a flat-topped eyeliner brush that was curved to follow the line of the eyelid. Brilliant! I immediately purchased one, and I agree that this is the perfect brush for tightlining either over or under the lash line.

      Left to right: Bobbi Brown Blender, Laura Mercier Finishing, Edward Bess Luxury, Hakuhodo G5533, Hakuhodo S133, Laura Mercier Smudge, Paula Dorf Transformer, Becca #6.
      Face stuff
      Believe it or not, I am not as fickle with my fave stuff as I am with eyeshadow or lipstick. When I find something I like, I stick with it, though I am not immune to temptation. Thus, there were a few notable additions this year.

      My new and favorite products for face (foundation, primer, concealer, highlighter) this year are:
      • Rouge Bunny Rouge Love Lights Highlighting Powder. Sweet to Touch (a pale peached pink) is a very pretty, subtle highlighting powder that can actually be worn all over the face, and not just on the high points. I love the base color but truly wish it were a hint more cool without any gold shimmers in it. 
      • Cindy Joseph BOOMSTICK. Of the CJ trio I purchased, Glimmer was my favorite. It's a pearly champagne-pink highlighter that leaves a subtle metallic sheen, not obvious shimmer.
      • Rouge Bunny Rouge Metamorphoses Mattifying Primer. This primer gives a suede finish instead of being completely matte, so a bit of natural-looking skin still emerges. I wear it on face and lids.
      • Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector and Luminous Skin Colour. Essential for lightweight coverage and pearly glow. The tinted moisturizer (Porcelain) is dewy on its own, so I don't actually wear these two products together, but they are just gorgeous items to have on hand for days when your skin already looks good.
      • Jane Iredale POMMIST Hydration spray. This spray instantly transforms mineral power from matte to a more satin finish, so there's no need to wait a couple hours for the natural oils in my face to emerge. And, as mentioned above in the Alima flocked sponge bullet point, I spray the sponge and dab the moisture onto my face, rather than spray my face directly ... unless it's a hot summer day or night and I want an instant cooling boost that smells of delicious botanicals. Sometimes I spray my feet, too.
      • MAC Fashionflower Beauty Powder. Another beautifully subtle highlighting powder, Light Sunshine is a very pale pastel pink with gold and pink microshimmer. If a genie touched his magic wand to the pan and zapped away the gold shimmer, this product would probably have a dip in it already.
      • Paula Dorf Eye Primer. I've been wearing this primer in Light for about ten years, but I continue to repurchase, and since I bought one this year, it deserves an honorable mention. Perfect for my fair  skin, this stuff conceals all eyelid discoloration and makes eyeshadow colors look more true (instead of being muted by whatever colors are in my lids). The somewhat thick cream prevents creasing and keeps eyeshadow on all day. This primer is the best I have ever used and far surpasses Urban Decay, Two Faced, MAC Paint Pots, and whatever else I tried and then promptly forgot about.
      • Jane Iredale PurePressed Foundation. Again, a product I have been wearing for 10 years, which I repurchase yearly. Currently I am wearing Ivory, though I also have Light Beige, Bisque, Warm Silk, Natural, and have worn Honey Bronze as blush/contour. Unlike the other mineral powders I have tried (Bare Minerals, Urban Decay, Laura Mercier, Alima, and so on), Jane Iredale gives me the most natural, believable finish, which I can apply from sheer to medium to full coverage. I can also use a concealer brush to spot "treat" red areas and get away with wearing very little on my face. I love that I can buy it in pressed form, as I am not crazy about handling loose powders.
      • YSL Touche Eclat. I can't believe I have not yet reviewed this item. I realize it is meant to be a highlighter, but I like using #1 Luminous Radiance under my eyes to lift the shadows. I occasionally apply it to other areas where I have shadows (alongside my nose, at the inner corners of my eyes, under my lower lip) and it works nicely as an overall highlighter on the brow, cheekbones, and down the bridge of my nose. The peachy color is perfect at minimizing blue shadows and pink undertones.
      • Cle de Peau Beaute Brilliant Enhancer. This is similar to Touche Eclat but lighter and slightly more shimmery. It seems the Brilliant Enhancer now comes only in a flesh-toned color, but mine is pearly white, like Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector in Pearl. I guess I won't be buying this specific color again, since it appears to have been discontinued, but I carry it with me and love applying it midday to perk up my face.
      • Clinique Pore Refining Solutions Instant Perfector. Clinique makes outstanding pore minimizing products. They have done so since the ancient Pore Minimizing Foundation that I wore many many years ago in New Ivory. I can smooth a tiny bit of this in my T-zone, where my pores have enlarged over time due to oily skin, and call it a day. No foundation needed, and even though this mattifies the frankenpores, the Invisible Bright "color" also adds back a hint of luminosity. Great stuff, I am on my second tube already this year. I like that I can reapply over my makeup. It's like smoothing on liquid powder.
      • Cle de Peau Concealer. This dense, creamy formula stays put all day. I have Beige, which is really too dark for me, but it's the right pinkish-beige hue, as Ivory is too yellow for my skin. This stuff is super duper pigmented, and because I apply it so sparingly, it doesn't crease on me. It will also last a hundred billion years.

      I barely wore blush for more than a decade. My skin is naturally rosy, so it's a bit of a redundancy, but there are so many beautiful colors I just can't help myself, especially if one adds a hint of glow along the cheekbones. Here are my favorites this year:
      • Edward Bess Blush Imperiale. A friend gave me this blush in Soft Orchid, and I could not have picked a better color myself. It appears almost lilac in the pan, but it turns into a soft rose warmed by the barest whisper of peachy coral. The texture is divine, but I do not care at all for the cheap packaging considering the cost. Chanel, Armani, Guerlain, YSL, and Dior give you so much more in terms of luxe.
      • CARGO blu_ray. This is Cargo's original blu_ray blush in Pink (unlabeled), not the Peach one that came out later. I love the giant pan and how easy it is to swirl my brush in it, as opposed to so many blush packaging that forces the color into a thin strip (Prescriptives, Shu Uemura, Clinique, Edward Bess ...). It's ever so slightly too warm for me, but I give it high marks for the lovely glow it leaves behind without outright shimmer.
      • Shiseido Luminizing Satin Face Color. I have Dain of ARS Aromatica to thank for recommending Shiseido's blush formula when she learned that I was looking for a gleaming blush in order to skip highlighter. Based on her tip, I purchased Carnation, and although it is a very new addition to 2011, it has quickly become one of my favorite blushes of the year because it really is luminous. And the clear petal pink is a beautiful color.
      • Rouge Bunny Rouge Original Skin Blush. After reading several online reviews, I chose Gracilis, sight unseen, and I was not disappointed. Gracilis is a stunning rose that glides on like silk. 
      • Bobbi Brown Blush. Both Nectar and Pale Pink are extremely pigmented blushes, but with the lightest of hand and a specific, non-blush brush (I use the Laura Mercier Fan brush or MAC 188), I get just the right amount of brightness on the apples. My own natural blush is quite bright, so the pretty  muted roses that are so popular do not look as natural on me because they make my skin look muddy.
      • MAC Blushcreme Blush Ladyblush. Maybe I am crazy, but I could swear this is NOT what MAC is currently selling in their new Cremeblend formula. Why they kept the same names but changed the colors is beyond me, but this is a cool-neutral rose, whereas the new Ladyblush is listed as being a warm coral. I bought it before they changed formulas, and I am glad I did. This is my favorite cream blush, beating out Becca, Rouge Bunny Rouge, and Laura Mercier only in color. MAC's texture is a bit stiff, but I haven't found a cream blush that is cool enough for me to date.
      • MAC Mineralize Blush. Love Thing surpassed Chanel's limited edition Rouge in my affections. Just as intensely pigmented, Love Thing contains undertones of plum in the red, and not quite as much gold as the Chanel blush, so it's more flattering on me. The texture is very soft and silky, but it's a bit powdery, so I have to be really careful when I apply this or it could end up on the ceiling.
      Out of all, I'd have to say that Cargo, Shiseido, and BB Nectar are my favorite of the favorites, though Pale Pink has been in my top 3 for a few years and got an honorable mention this year because I repurchased it.

      I picked up one final blush late in the year, when I was searching for the perfect glowy finish, and I am happily surprised that Clinique Iced Lotus rivals Shiseido and Cargo. The Clinique is more powdery with lots of flyaway, and the mirrored outside of the compact is a pain (instant fingerprints), but the microshimmers in it are silvery white (not gold!), which is a HUGE plus for me and my cool skin. I ran out of time and good weather to take new blush group photos, so I'll slip in a stock photo of Iced Lotus. The color is very similar to Edward Bess Soft Orchid, but Clinique's blush gleams on the skin without being glittery or even shimmery. To be double sure I don't sparkle, I press my palms into my skin after I apply it or add a touch of translucent powder.

      Lip lube

      I am a total lip balm junkie, and if lipstick had not improved so much in the last 10 years (much less drying than it used to be), lip balm would be my desert island item, preferably tinted. In fact, dedicated a post to my favorite balms, and while I still love those mentioned in the article, I found some new ones this year.
      • Julie Hewett Camellia Lip Balm. It looks like apricot-colored lip goo, but it applies clear. And although this balm is not new to me this year, I repurchased it three times this year alone and used them all up. I just bought my final backup for 2011. This stuff is pricey at $16, but it feels so great on my lips, as well as rubbed into my cuticles or applied to the delicate skin under my nose if it gets irritated and dry from nose honking. You can probably tell how much I like it from the photo. Highly recommended.
      • Prescriptives Lip Specialist. Despite being a near 100%-loyal Prescriptives fan for almost a decade, I never noticed their lip balm. So when Phoenix rose from the dying ashes earlier this year and it became clear that Px would not go the way of the Dodo bird, I started ordering some of my favorites again. One order included a full-sized Lip Specialist as a GWP and I was very pleasantly surprised by how soft and silky it felt on my lips. The only thing that keeps it from rising to the top of my lip treatment favorites is that it comes in a pot. I prefer to not dip my finger into lip products and using a brush to apply balm is just silly. But I used Kiehl's for years (and Carmex before that) so I'll deal or bail.
      • Rouge Bunny Rouge Kiss Elixir Lip Balm. This balm is excellent. It applies clear and very glossy, so I can also wear it as lip gloss. It is not tacky/sticky, and it makes my lips feel like butter without slipping and sliding all over the place. I often wear it to bed, and the only time it gets nasty is when an over-excited cat slams his flank into my face and I end up with fur-coated lips. Yes, your hair would stick to this in a stiff wind, but that has more to do with the moisture than the goop.
      • Peter Thomas Roth Un-wrinkle Lip Balm. I have my friend, Ten Bells, to thank for telling me about this little gem, which is a plumping, smoothing lip treatment with sunscreen (SPF 15) with the gentlest icy pink shimmer. It makes my lips look juicy, and I love wearing it as gloss. (Yes, me, the confirmed gloss hater.) For a while it looked like the Un-wrinkle balm had been/was going to be discontinued, but it is back in stock at

      Ah, my favorite makeup. Ever. The above lineup represents my top 10 new lipsticks this year. Don't go scrolling down for a "best of lipgloss" category.  There isn't one. I am a die-hard lipstick person, have always felt that way. So without further ado:
      • Guerlain Rouge Automatique 164 Chamade. A mid-toned cool pink-red with subtle warm-coral undertones. It is bright but sheer and very face brightening. Chamade appears almost candy pink, but it works well with my coloring.
      • Edward Bess Ultra Luminous Lipstick Night Romance. A creamy-smooth blued raspberry with a hint of brown. The formula has plenty of slip and yet maintains good amount of traction for the amount of moisture it delivers. Bess lipstick formula is really wonderful; if you have not yet tried it, do!
      • Rouge Bunny Rouge Hues of Enchantment Colorburst Lipstick Word of Mouth. When you finally tack on the color name, it should be called Word of Mouthful! This color is a silky mid-toned rose with a hint of something that pulls it in the coral direction but only very slightly. The formula is smooth, and it smells like Christmas.
      • Bobbi Brown Creamy Lip Color Rose Petal is as light as I can go. Despite doing my best to wear Laura Mercier's Sparkling Pink and NARS Dolce Vita and Shu Uemura Rouge Unlimited BR 710, those soft pinks really wash me out and make my face look grey. Rose Petal has enough brightness to be a MLLB shade. The very fine blue microshimmers in it are flattering, but this formula is quite goopy--so be forewarned. Though I love the color, the texture is not my favorite, but I have repurchased it once already. Out of curiosity I once tried this as a blusher, and it left a very glowing finish, but it stayed sticky on my cheeks. Use for blush in an emergency only.
      • Chanel Rouge Allure 28 Romanatic. Another cool, mid-toned rose that is similar to Edward Bess Night Romance but more clear and not quite as dark. I was previously not a fan of Chanel lipsticks. Either the formula was too drying or the smell-taste made me gag, but Chanel lip products have come a long way since they phased out the Hydrbase formula. Rouge Allure has a wonderfully silky texture that moisturizes my lips and has no scent that I notice.
      • MAC Cremesheen On Hold. I have not reviewed this lipstick yet, but should--even though the lipstick will be worn down to a nub by then. I have a hard time describing this color. MAC calls it yellowed raspberry, but on my mauve lips, it's watermelon kissed by coral that does amazing things for my complexion. I can wear just this lipstick and no other makeup--it's that good. I don't buy many MAC lipsticks, because I find them drying, but I love this, and it takes a lot to get me excited. On Hold is pigmented and bright and it leaves behind a serious stain. As in, don't plan to wear a light lipstick at night if you wore this one all day. Since I don't wear light lipsticks, I am OK with the stain, which I find pretty, and waking up looking a little slutty is fun.
      • Prescriptives (via Three Custom Colors) Rosmarine. Discontinued for many years, Rosemarine was the only lipstick I wore for almost a decade! It's just the most beautiful shade of blue rose with a whisper of brown undertones, which takes on an entirely new dimension when worn over Prescriptives Aubergine lip pencil (also discontinued). No other lipstick in my entire life generated as many compliments as this one. I will always have Rosemarine on hand and am so grateful for companies like 3CC who can do a perfect reproduction in every way. Sometimes it's good to let discontinued colors go so you can find a new one you love, and then there are certain colors are worth holding onto for as long as you can.
      • Chantecaille Lip Chic Tea Rose. Lip Chics were a new discovery for me last year, and Tea Rose is a color I actually repuchased so I could have one at home and one at work. Both are now worn down do little rosy nubs. Smooth gel-like texture with the prettiest, sheer wash of rose muted slightly with brown.
      • Laura Mercier Gel Lip Color Sweet Cherry. I raved about this in my review, and this is still THE best red lipstick I have ever worn. Apologies to Ellis Faas, but this sheer, creamy red cannot be beat for my coloring and advancing years.
      • L'Oreal Infallible Lipstick Eternal Rose. This is the first drugstore lipstick I have ever liked. The texture is excellent and the mid-toned rosy color (do we see a pattern here?) is really pretty, even if it doesn't last long on me. I heard of this color from my friend Poppyfields, and she was right to rave about it. It's that pretty, and the texture is surprisingly smooth and moisturizing. I had terrible luck with L'Oreal lipsticks drying my lips to cracks in the past (they used to be smelly, too).

        A closer view of the first five:

        And a closer view of the second five. I noticed after the fact that Eternal  Rose was missing from the second shot of ten, but it's included below.

        Things in stick format

        I grouped my pens and pencils in one shot, even though some are lips and some are eyes.
        • Ellis Faas Glazed Lips L303. For a lipgloss hater, the formula of Glazed Lips is wonderful and L303, a cool berry, is an outstanding color. I don't mind the brush, which seems ideally suited for lip color delivery. I consider it less a lip gloss than a liquid lipstick with lots of shine.
        • Prescriptives Lip Pencil Dusty Rose. This color is not quite a perfect match for my lips, which are a bit deeper (and Dusty Rose goes on slightly grey), but it is, so far, the only pencil I have found that is a cross between my skin and lips and contains no beige. It's cool, not warm, and although I would never fill in my lips with Dusty Rose and wear it under clear gloss, it's a great color for holding any color in place because it doesn't compete.
        • MAC Lip Pencil Soar. This is a MLLB shade, a mid-toned mauvish rose.
        • Paula Dorf Eye Enhancer Baby Eyes. Not new, but a repurchase, this pinkish flesh-toned pencil is excellent for rimming the lower waterline.
        • Chanel Style Yeux Eyeliner 84 Taupe. It reminds me of a crayon version of Laura Mercier Topaz. It's not really taupe as much as a cool bronze with pinkish-mauve undertones.
        • Rouge Bunny Rouge Feline Gaze Long-lasting Eye Pencil Calypso. This color is a super-saturated jet black base aqua-blue and silver reflections. So pretty and practically bulletproof!
        • Shu Uemura Hard Formula Brow Pencil Seal Brown 02. After reading about this pencil for years, I finally bought one and understand what the fuss was about. Whereas most brow pencils that claim to be taupe are too red or yellow or orange for me, Seal Brown is a perfect cool brown that goes on so lightly and can be built up to the desired amount. 
        • Lancome Defincils Mascara. I've noticed this mascara since the 80s, but it took me two decades to finally try it, I received one as a GWP and I was hooked. Smooth, not too wet, slightly volumizing without looking spiky. A perfect everyday mascara.


        Five years ago I owned around six eyeshadows and wore four of them regularly. Those were the days when I not only hit pan but used them up--at least well into the edges before giving up and repurchasing. But then ... two years ago I felt like trying something new. Something natural. Something taupe. (You can see where this is going.) I discovered Makeup Alley, forums, blogs, and let's just say my eyeshadow "collection" exploded.

        These were the standouts for 2011, with most of them new and a couple repeaters:
        • Bobbi Brown Long-wear Cream Eyeshadow Heather. My don't-make-me-think muted purple shade (which, as it turns out, is far more flattering than taupe on my coloring). Great, simple color that lasts all day and then some.
        • Chantecaille Shine Eye Shade Perle. The biggest workhorse of all my eyeshadows. A gleaming ivory with pink/purple duochrome reflects that manages to look radiant instead of sparkly. You probably can't tell from the photo, but I am about to hit pan. This is my absolute favorite highlighter shade of the year, and I use it nearly every single day on all parts of my face, as well as collarbones.
        • Chantecaille Shine Eye Shade Quartz. The perfect lid color, a shiny fleshy pink that leans cool.
        • Chantecaille Shine Eye Shade Granite. A gorgeous, glimmery taupe that isn't too warm.
        • Chantecaille Shine Eye Shade Meteorite. A stunning dirty grey that is so face brightening. It wins the prize as being one of my most flattering eyeshadows ever, and that's no small feat considering how sludgy it looks in the pan. It's ugly-sexy like Tim Roth, Alan Rickman, and Benicio del Toro.
        • Bobbi Brown Matte Eyeshadow Heather. The matte sister to the cream version. Slightly cooler.
        • Bobbi Brown Long-wear Cream Shadow Sand Dollar. The first shimmer-based cream shadow I have been able to wear. Most are too warm (champagne, peach, etc), and this one is a pale silvery taupe. So pretty.
        • Stila Eyeshadow in Ecru. I have repurchased this eyeshadow 3-4 times already, and bought several backups this year when I learned Stila had discontinued this lovely satin color, which is cream with a trace of pink undertones. I overbought, but I panicked.
        • Becca Demi-matte Eyeshadow Chantilly. This demi-matte is a new shade for me, a dusty lavender that looks gorgeous from lashes to brow with a deeper shade in the crease, like Chantecaille Meterorite.
        • Becca Shimmer Eyeshadow Lamé. A complex grey with licorice undertones.
        • Laura Mercier Sateen Eye Color Sable. The Sateen formula is, by far, my favorite, and Laura Mercier eyeshadows are so underrated, especially for a mere $22. I so rarely see them reviewed. Long lasting, silky, easy to blend, Sable is a gently gleaming cool-greyed brown.
        • Rouge Bunny Rouge When Birds are Singing Long-last Eyeshadow Solstice Halcyon. This color might be about as universal a color as you can get. This color is described as semi-matte mauve beige. I don't see beige. I see a muted, dusty plum with brown undertones. The light taupe is there, but there's definitely something purple going on, as well. 
        • Alima Pure Semi-matte Eyeshadow in Bramble and Dawn. The perfect nude duo if you can stand the bother of a loose powder. I go through periods where I push these to the back of my drawer because of the powder thing, but then I pull them out again because they provide such a gorgeous, cool-neutral, no-makeup look. 

        Nail Polish

        I'm not a nail polish snob, and I don't have huge criteria other than it needs to flatter the skin on my feet. I don't even like to review it because I find it hard to take good pictures, so I leave that to the rest of you. My favorites this year:
        • Rescue Beauty Lounge Teal. A really beautiful deep sea green-blue. 
        • Dior Bond Street 797. This is the perfect greyed blue, and I am so grateful I picked it up before it was gone forever. I paid through the nose (off retail) but it was worth it.
        • Dior Gris Montaigne 707. Since my skin is cool-toned, this grey worked really well. It's almost a neutral, in that it isn't an obviously GREY nail polish.I like to wear it on my times in winter when no one knows but me.
        • Dior Lemon Balm 703. I was not smart enough to pick this up before it sold out, but I did find one later. The color defies description. Suffice it to say it is complex, and like its namesake, it calms me when I wear it. It would be nice if it smelled of mint.
        • Sephora by OPI Mermaid to Order. Mermaid is a great name for this color, a metallic green blue that looks completely different in different lights, even if you turn your hand back and forth in the same light. Like the ocean from which the mermaid comes, this color is changeable. When I wear this on my toes in the summer, I feel happy.
        • butter LONDON All Hail the Queen. I must have purchased this under its limited edition name because my label says All Hail McQueen. This is such a pretty cool-neutral pink-bronzed taupe with gold shimmers that goes with everything; in other words, I can wear whatever footwear/sandals and my toes don't stand out—they  just look neat.
        And now for my favorite roses. You knew that was coming because I am obsessed with roses.
        • butter LONDON Dahling. A gorgeous, creamy rose. New to me this year and I just bought a backup, even though I will probably never use it. Never say never, I guess. I have gone through several bottles of my favorite Revlon polish over the years, and I'd be very sad if I got to the end of my bottle of Dahling to discover it had been discontinued.
        • Chanel Le Vernis 491 Rose Confidentiel. The perfect ladylike rose beige appropriate for any setting. Period.
        • Chanel Le Vernis 185  Rose Paradise. I think Rose Paradise was reintroduced this year after being briefly retired. Correct me if I am wrong. Anyway, it is a beautiful gently-shimmering rose that leans slightly warm without being too gold.
        • Chanel Le Vernis 457 Tulipe Noir. This is such a complex rose-red-bronze. I believe it is discontinued, but I am glad I managed to pick one up this year.
        • Chanel Le Vernis 455 Lotus Rouge. This is the perfect red shade for me, a neutral-cool strawberry red, rich and , creamy.
        • essie Angora Cardigan. Yes, I realize this shade is about two years old, but I saw it a couple months ago at Target. It's a deep red-violet, perfect for fall and winter.
        • Revlon Teak Rose. I have repurchased this humble nail polish so many times—more than any beauty product I own. Seriously. I often get compliments when I wear it. I love it so much, I composed a goofy sonnet for it. : )


        I neglected to add this item to the body goo group, but it was worth an honorable mention at the end. Among a few other fragrances, I wear both Chanel No.5 and No.19, but I have never been a fan of their body lotions. They are too thin and the scent fades quickly--they also smell a little synthetic. But the creams! I adore rich, stinky body creams, and this one, Chanel No.5, did not disappoint. It's a shame Chanel offers it so infrequently, and if any of you ever noticed a No.19 cream for sale, please let me know!

        Bottom line: So there you have it. I hope you enjoyed my favorites. I can't believe I only started blogging nine months ago, and this year has been a fun one with many happy discoveries and many new friendships. Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and peace.

        All photos mine except for Clinqique's Iced Lotus.

        Saturday, December 10, 2011

        Beauty Spotlight 12.10.2011

        The holiday season is upon us. Is your shopping done yet? Take a break, sit by the fire, grab a cup of coffee or cocoa, and gather some great gift ideas from your favorite beauty bloggers!

        Joey is hypnotized by Aroma M's latest potion, Geisha Amber Rouge . Find out why this perfume is as potent as a drug at Beauty, Bacon, Bunnies !

        Lisamarie from Beauty Crazed has skipped right over winter and has moved right on to Spring nail shades - Check out Chanel Vernis in May and June and see if you don't agree that this was a good call!

        Nothing could be finer than a gift from Le Metier. Beauty Info Zone shares two beautiful nail polish sets that would fit into any beauty lovers stocking perfectly.

        London Makeup Girl bought a couple of the new MAC Metal X cream eyeshadows. Are these less crease-prone than the 2007 version? See what she thinks here: MAC Metal X Gold Carbon and Palladium.

        Modesty Brown takes us through a new purchase, a couple of old favourites, and an item that was good enough for a fussy beauty blogger to re-purchase. She invites you to share your old, new and re-purchased items too.

        Can Quick BlowDry Shampoo by it FACTOR really reduce your blow dry time??? Pammy Blogs Beauty tests it out.

        Think a product called Loose Glitter Pigment sounds like something you could never pull off? Don't let the the name scare you. Perilously Pale shows you why the new neutral offerings from Rouge Bunny Rouge are stunning and MUST HAVES!

        Over at Pretty in Dayton Styrch discovers what is quite possibly the best scent to wear for the holidays at a visit to Preen Apothecary.

        How's your gift list coming along? Take a look at the first installment of Prime Beauty's Holiday Gift Guide for 2011!

        With Christmas looming and the search for the perfect present upon us, Visionary Beauty has a look at the Trish McEvoy Portable Beauty collection in Romance.

        Don't forget about the auction to benefit Doctors Without Borders. Participants have donated a treasure trove of the best lotions, potions, products, and gadgets. Donated items range from the hottest items from this year’s holiday collections to hard-to-find exclusives and limited edition cult favorites. When the auction ends, winning bidders make their donations directly to Doctors Without Borders, through the site’s secure giving page.

        Hurry, the auction ends Monday, December 12th.

        Photo credit

        Saturday, December 3, 2011

        Rouge Bunny Rouge: Beyond the Looking Glass

        The Beyond the Looking Glass release, which is part of the Portrait of Grace series, includes two new FIRE DROPS Loose Glitter Pigment colors that look like they were made for each other because they combine so beautifully in the video (shown at the end of this article).

        Caress of Mink is a medium taupe brown with pewter-plum highlights. I don't know about you, but this one seems too beautiful to resist:

        Embrace of Cashmere is a light gold champagne:

        Here are some application tips for FIRE DROPS, directly from Rouge Bunny Rouge:
        • For a richly-gleaming look apply the Loose Glitter Pigments with its sponge applicator and blend it with the RBR Large Shader Brush 003. Dust on the pigment with the RBR Large Shader Brush 003 for a more transparent glimmer.
        • To achieve a mirror-like sparkle buff FIRE DROPS with your fingertips over your eyelid.
          Dust over the WHEN BIRDS ARE SINGING Long-lasting Eye Shadows with the RBR Crease Brush 011 for a 3D look and to create your own rainbow of colors.
        Here's the excellent video of the look being applied:

        I have to admit when I saw the video I could not turn my eyes away.  The model's makeup seems to capture the most beautiful light, which would really be a spectacular and festive look for the holiday season. Her face looks like candlelight.

        To create this look, the Rouge Bunny Rouge makeup artists selected from among products with the lightest textures (primer and concealer), which they combined with the two new Loose Glitter Pigment shades to create the most subtle smoky eye looking out from a glowing, dewy face.

        Products used in this look:
        • METAMORPHOSES Mattifying Primer for a suede glow. 
        • NAKED DISGUISE Glide Concealer to lay a flawless veil over the skin
        • FINE-SPUN LIGHT Luminous Skin Wand to brighten and balances skin tone. It can also give brows a slightly bleached appearance, as seen on runway shows. 
        • AS IF IT WERE SUMMER STILL Bronzing Glow Powder to add an illuminating flush of warmth.
        • SILK AETHER Long-lasting Cream Eye Shadow in Brocade Skipper to act as primer and coat the eyelids with a hint of champagne cream
        • FIRE DROPS Loose Glitter Pigments in the two new shades to brighten the eyes with a golden dust in the inner corners and give the smoky look in the crease. 
        • SEAS OF ILLUMINATION Highlighting Liquid in Sea of Showers applied to the inner corners of the eye, mixed with the two new Loose Glitter Pigments. 
        • FELINE GAZE Eye Long-Lasting Eye Pencil and Eye Kohl in Lola to add light copper reflections to upper and lower lashes. 
        • WITCHERY Modelling Mascara applied in multiple light layers.
        • SUCCULENCE OF DEW Sheer Lipstick in Dark Juices.
         Here's a group shot of all the products used in the Beyond the Looking Glass look:

        Buying this look won't make me look 19 again, but I wouldn't mind adding a bit of  candlelit glow to my skin.

        All products are available on Zuneta (, and to make it even more tempting, Zuneta is having a worldwide sale of 20% off your entire order until Monday. Use code ROUGEXMAS. I noticed a free shipping code, as well, but I doubt you can use more than one code. If you order enough you get free shipping anyway (cackle).

        Photo credits: Rouge Bunny Rouge