March 2014 Empties

Okay, so, nearly three months into my self-imposed shopping ban and I have successfully stuck to my guns! The only beauty product I have purchased has been deodorant (after using up all my samples) and I did get a free birthday gift from Sephora last month, but no purchase was necessary for that. Well done me! However, I will say that I feel like I’ve been coasting through these first several weeks, as I was well-stocked with many of my everyday favorites. As April approaches I find that I’m using up a lot of my go-tos, and so this little experiment should start to get pretty interesting in the weeks ahead.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s the rundown on my latest batch of empties; it will be very hard to say goodbye to some of these products, but I have to admit, it’s really nice to see a little extra space on my bathroom counter!???????????????????????????????

Aussie Aussome Volume 2 in 1 Shampoo: I’m not sure how many times I’ve written about this product, but I really can’t say enough good things about it. It’s a great timesaver as it truly is moisturizing enough on its own to skip conditioner, and pretty much every good hair day I’ve had since discovering it can be attributed to this shampoo. It smells great, and I miss it already.

Avon Naturals Body Sugar Plum & Vanilla Shower Gel: I’m going to call this gem of a body wash the first “win” of my shopping ban experiment – I threw it in the shower after using up my previous one and have been in love with it ever since. The smell is a little exotic and totally lovely, it gets nice and sudsy, leaves skin clean and fresh, isn’t overly drying, and doesn’t leave you smelling overly perfumed, which can be a hazard of scented shower gels. This is my favorite new body wash, and the next time an Avon lady comes my way I’m going to purchase a dozen of them. After the ban is over, obviously.

La Fresh Travel Lite Antiperspirant Wipe for Women: I really wanted these deodorant wipes to work better than the last ones I tried, but they did not. Once again, by mid-morning I was wondering who had the B.O. until I realized it was me.

Philosophy Miracle Worker Miraculous Anti-Aging Moisturizer: Thankfully I have another full jar of this waiting in the wings because this is my favorite nighttime moisturizer of all time. It softens, brightens, and feels delightful. Plus, it’s great to slather on post-chemical peel.

Dior Lip Glow Color Reviver Balm: Another old favorite that has made the blog several times, this is my favorite lip product ever. It feels great, plumps lips, and magically turns the perfect shade of pink for each wearer. Everyone at my wedding wore this, including me.

Pacifica Tuscan Blood Orange Body Butter: This tube of delightfully citrus-scented cream lasted me an incredibly long time. I used it as a hand cream and it was perfect – not greasy, not too perfumed, and very moisturizing. I’m a huge Pacifica fan and think you get so much for your money. If you’re looking for a nice hand cream, try this one.

Game Changer: Aquis Hair Towel

As a lifelong product junkie, I’m the kind of girl who is more likely to swoon over a new hair serum than a hair towel. It’s rare that a tool or gadget wows me enough to write about it, but for me and the Aquis Microfiber Hair Towel, it was love at first try. Or dry, as the case may be.

This microfiber hair towel is a morning routine game-changer.

This microfiber hair towel is a morning routine game-changer.

Now, I’m currently on a shopping diet, so when my sister told me she had bought me a hair towel as a surprise gift, I was thrilled, but skeptical. I’ve never really thought a special towel could make much difference in my routine, but I was excited to give it a try.

The towel is small, thin and very lightweight – if, like me, you routinely wrap your towel turban-style around your head after your shower, you will feel like the weight of the world (or at least a drenched towel) has been lifted from your shoulders after switching to Aquis.

Other than the change in towel size, shape and weight, I have not changed a thing about my hair routine. But the results of this towel switch have been fantastic! First, it really does cut down on dry time. It now takes me about 3 minutes to blow dry my long, ultra-thick hair. Second, my hair looks better! It now has more volume and a light, bouncy quality that I previously only achieved on my way out the salon door.

More convenience and prettier hair? I’ll take it!

Beauty Resolution 2014: The Shopping Ban

I know it seems a bit odd to write a resolutions post in February, but I honestly wanted to see if I could actually do it before I made a pledge to all of you. This year I have decided to try a shopping ban.

The Rules:

1. I cannot purchase any beauty or personal hygiene product, unless I have completely run out of that product. For example, I can’t buy a new bottle of shampoo until I have used up all other bottles, trial sizes and samples of shampoo currently in my home.

2. No beauty subscriptions.

3. Gifts or free items are allowed.

4. This ban is in place until December 31, 2014, or until I use up my entire beauty stash, whichever comes first.

I decided on a shopping ban after frantically searching my bathroom one morning for my favorite lipstick. I sorted through boxes, bags and baskets full of products and samples and could not find it. I did, however, discover several new products I didn’t even know I had! I realized I had backlogged Birchboxes and Ipsy bags that I’d never even opened. I was on beauty product overload.

So, a shopping ban it is. Not only will it help me use up my enormous stash and save a good deal of money, it will also help me discover new products that might otherwise sit in a drawer or basket indefinitely. At first I was afraid my willpower would crack, but a little over a month into it, I haven’t cheated and I’ve really enjoyed using up what I have. Below, a quick run down of what I’ve used up so far:
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Bath & Body Works Aruba Coconut Body Wash: A trusted standby, I find B&BW body washes to lather well without being overly perfumed, unlike some of their lotions. I’m a sucker for anything coconut scented, too.

Malin & Goetz Gentle Neroli Shampoo: I used up a couple sample packets of this delightful shampoo, and instantly added it to my post-ban must-buy list. It has a slightly spicy scent, and did a fantastic job of cleansing my hair. Plus, it left my scalp clean and moisturized, and my hair extra shiny.

Whish Deodorant Swipe: Deodorant wipes seem to be all the rage these days, but so far, I’m unimpressed. This one failed to keep my clean and dry after about four hours.
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CoverGirl CG Smoothers BB Cream: This is my go-to daytime moisturizer in the winter. It’s light enough for my fair skin and keeps my complexion nice and even. Thankfully my sister gave me another tube of it to replace the one I used up!

Dove Deodorant in Powder: A pretty basic deodorant, it had a very mild scent and did a decent job, most of the time. I wasn’t in love with it, and don’t think I’ll buy it again.

L’Occitane Hand Cream: I had a mini tube of this on my desk and used it up in a little over a week. Super moisturizing with a light, clean scent, this one is a classic for a reason.

Have you ever tried a shopping ban? Would you?

A Year of Good Hair Days: Beauty Resolutions Part I

The results are in. The people have spoken. Love of Gloss fans are concerned with two major beauty issues this year:

Bad skin and bad hair.

Fear not, fellow beauty enthusiasts! I am here to help. I’ve been spritzing, slathering, scrubbing and sampling all sorts of things to ensure we all stick to our beauty resolutions and make 2013 better (looking) than all years that have come before it. While the majority of you said you wanted to improve your complexions this year, many readers also voted for a year of good hair days, and since taking better care of my hair is my 2013 beauty resolution, my first post will be about hair. (If your skin is in serious need of some TLC, don’t panic – Beauty Resolutions Part II will be posted later this weekend!)

So, down to business: I want to take better care of my hair. And not just by getting regular trims (which we all should) or taking a break from heat styling once in a while (again, not a bad idea). Like many women, it’s not that I have bad hair. On the contrary, my hair has the capacity to look quite lovely, to be my crowning glory, so to speak. Just the other day I received several compliments on its beauty: “So shiny!” “So soft!” “Your hair looks so pretty like that!” Yes, I’m perfectly capable of having soft, shiny, pretty hair. I know just how to style it. But more often than not I simply cannot be bothered to put in the necessary effort to achieve the coveted “what beautiful hair you have” effect. Which brings me to the first step in my year of good hair days plan:

Banish the Bun: I’m looking at you, top-knot/ballerina bun. For too long this has been my go-to solution for bad hair days, lazy hair days, running-late-so-no-time-to-straighten days… basically, unless I happen to roll out of bed with perfectly straight yet voluminous hair, or jump up an hour early with a burning desire to style my long, thick mane, my hair is pulled back in a simple, smooth, not-too-tight bun. Or at least that’s how I used to handle things. This year, things are different. But why, you ask? I know lots of girls (and beauty bloggers!) who swear by the high bun. It’s so simple! It can be so sophisticated! It also causes your hair to thin; consistently pulling your hair taut puts stress on the hair follicles and causes breakage. I didn’t worry too much about this – after all, I have an obnoxious amount of hair – until I noticed recently that the hair around my face and the front of my part actually looked thin. So, for the health of my hair and the sake of my vanity, I have sworn off the bun. This step in and of itself has forced me to put a little more effort into my hair. I’m taking the time to style and wear it down more often, and on days when I’m looking for a quick fix, I’ve swapped the bun for a sleek side-swept low ponytail. It takes the strain off my roots and is a far more flattering look for me. I should have made this change years ago!

Get a Little Dirty: Or at least, don’t get too clean. We’ve all heard it before; washing your hair too often strips your scalp – and your strands – of natural oils that help keep your hair soft, shiny and healthy. But most of us get a case of the icks when we think about skipping the shampoo. Nobody wants to have stringy, greasy locks. Here’s the good news: after you get into the habit of not washing it every day, your hair will actually adapt and stop getting so slick. In fact, over-washing your hair is a contributing factor in why your hair produces all that oil – it’s trying to replace some of the good oil you’ve been washing away. I’ve read that hair models barely ever wash their hair between jobs, which is why their hair looks so phenomenal in ads. Happily, I’ve found that even just switching from daily cleansing to shampooing every other day is enough to make a difference in moisture and shine.

Use dry shampoo to freshen locks between washings.

Use dry shampoo to freshen locks between washings.

Even better news? If you feel like you need to freshen up a bit between shampoos, dry shampoo can take care of excess oil, boost volume and leave behind a clean, fresh scent. Not Your Mother’s Clean Freak Refreshing Dry Shampoo is hands down the best I’ve ever used; it’s inexpensive, smells good, works on all hair types and works in a matter of seconds. It’s a life saver. Try it.

Switch it Up: Don’t you hate when you suddenly find, after weeks, months, maybe even years of using your trusted favorite shampoo and conditioner, that your hair no longer looks like it used to? Some believe that your hair gets used to the products and stops responding to them. While personal experience tells me their might be some truth to that, I think the more likely cause is the fact that our bodies are constantly changing. As we age, we have different beauty concerns, and thus need different things from our products. It makes sense, then, that from time to time we need to throw out our old faithfuls and find our new secret weapons. My advice? Start using up the myriad shampoo samples you’ve got lying around. If your bathroom looks anything like mine (and if you’re reading this blog, there’s a good chance it does), you have baskets filled with enough foil packets and travel-sized bottles of hair products to shampoo and style yourself for months, if not the full year. Start trying them until you find one that catches your attention. Then go buy it, even if it’s pricier than your previous go-to. I mean, you probably just saved yourself a couple of months worth of shampoo costs. Plus, if you find a product that noticeably improves the way your hair looks and/or feels, it’s worth the extra money.

Believe in Miracles: I’ll keep this one short and sweet. Aussie 3-Minute Miracle really does miraculous things to your hair. If you have dry, course hair, you might want to use it daily. If you have fine hair, try it once a week. If you have normal hair, twice a week, especially in the winter, helps keep hair silky and snarl-free, keeps fly-a-ways at bay, and prevents split ends.

This wonder duo has taken my hair from dull and lifeless to lush and shiny in a matter of days.

This wonder duo has taken my hair from dull and lifeless to lush and shiny in a matter of days.

Combined with my new favorite hair cream, this drug-store savior has made an enormous difference in the look and feel of my hair. Which brings me to the final step in my plan:

Pick Your Potion: Personally, Bumble and Bumble Straight Blow Dry is the product for me. As I mentioned above, conditioning with 3-Minute Miracle and following up with this styling cream has produced amazing results. My hair smells great, feels unbelievably soft, and has such incredible shine. It has gone from disappointingly dull to soft and lush in a matter of days. I strongly believe in the importance of using hair serums/oils/creams. Everybody can improve their locks by using the proper product. For me, Blow Dry is the way to go. My sister swears by Argan Oil. Some people won’t leave home without Frizz-Ease. Whatever your hair concern, there’s a product out there for you. Remember that basket of samples I mentioned earlier? I’m sure there are a few hair potions in there as well.

Thanks to my wonder duo of hair products and a commitment to wearing my hair down more often, my hair has become much more silky and shiny in 2013.

Thanks to my wonder duo of hair products and a commitment to wearing my hair down more often, my hair has become much more silky and shiny in 2013.

Once you find the one for you, you’ll know it. Your hair will bounce. It’ll shine. It will blow gloriously in your wake as you walk down the street. You, too, will have a year of good hair days.

Happy 2013!

Jasmine Princess

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I’ve stumbled upon a couple of products over the past month that work so well, look so lovely and make me feel – and smell – so good that I’m turning into a full-on pampered princess. Turns out, they share a secret ingredient: Jasmine. Naturally, I thought I’d share them here so that you, too, can be a Jasmine Princess. Just try not to let all that prettiness go to your head.

Oscar Blandi Balsamo di Jasmine Smoothing Conditioner: This ultra-nourishing conditioner has completely changed my hair, in the best way possible. While it is formulated to control frizz – and it really does – I have found that since using it, my hair has become noticeably stronger. As in, I’m no longer losing handfuls of hair every time I wash it. Also, it leaves strands perfectly detangled, so that my comb glides through my hair after showering, even without the assistance of a styling cream. Best of all, it packs an exotic, intoxicating Jasmine scent that lingers for days. Plus, its regal white and gold packaging looks ultra chic on my shower shelf. The only downside? My hair is so ridiculously soft after using this stuff, I can’t stop playing with it! It’s kind of a problem.

Korres Lip Butter in Jasmine: I’ve long been a fan of Korres products. All of their packaging is so lovely, simple, and impossibly chic, I feel like I’m vacationing in a luxurious spa whenever I use one of their products. I’ve used Korres lip butter before, and it has a rich, silky texture that moisturizes lips so well, it makes them look youthful and plump. It’s long lasting and gives a nice, subtle shine. Jasmine does all of these things, all while delivering the softest, most flattering pale nude pink shade you’ll ever wear on your lips. Unlike most other pale nude shades, it doesn’t wash me out. It just makes me look extra polished and pretty. Truly, this is a balm a princess can rely on.

Beauty Quickie: Fresh Hair

Who: John Frieda
What: Root Awakening Lift + Refresh Root Spray
When: I don’t have the time (or inclination) to heat style my hair
Where: My bathroom; on vacation; wherever I left my comb
Why: Sometimes, it’s just too hot, or I’m just too busy, or, let’s be honest here, I simply don’t feel like taking the time to blow dry and style my hair. In the peak of summer it’s often advised that we product junkies throw in the metaphorical towel on trying to beat our hair into submission and instead embrace a more natural and laid-back approach to beauty. We’ve all read the articles, each insisting that it is perfectly acceptable to run out of the house with little more than a smear of sunblock and a swipe of lip balm. I’ve never quite been able to achieve that level of minimalism, but I do like to tone it down a bit when the ever-rising temperatures render even the slightest attempt to look “put together” completely futile. And now, thanks to this delightfully refreshing root spray, I may be able to tone it down and look put together, even in 90% humidity. I simply aim a few spritzes of the cooling mist right at my roots, scrunch them up a bit, and then comb what’s left through the rest of my hair. The result? Air-dried hair that has lasting lift and fewer fly-aways.

Oil Change

When it comes to beauty, “oily” is a four letter word. An oily skin type is less than desirable. An oily scalp is synonymous with a dirty one. We use blotting papers, dry shampoos, mattifying gels, anything to stop the slick and look, well, dry.

But what’s so great about being dry? Sadly, our efforts to get rid of the oil often result in the loss of our natural glow. Glowy is good! Dewy skin and shiny hair and nails are something we all long for, yet many of us seem to be okay with killing the glow in order to avoid looking oily. How silly we are!

The truth is, oil is not the enemy. We don’t want to look, feel or be greasy, and that is what we are fighting against. But our efforts to strip the oils from our skin and hair frequently make the problem worse. When we over-clean our skin and hair without properly replacing moisture, our bodies try to compensate by producing more oil. We need a little oil to keep things in balance. But that’s not all! Not only do we need some of our natural oils, but you may be surprised to discover that adding oils to your beauty routine – instead of trying to remove them all the time – can take your look to the next level, while helping to keep any greasiness in check.

I’ve been using several different oils as part of my regular beauty routine, and the results have been wonderful. My skin has never – EVER – been softer. My hair is silky and frizz-free (even in ridiculous humidity). And best of all, I’m no longer battling any greasiness.

Ready to stop treating oil like the enemy and start using it in a beautiful way? You can start by giving these three favorites a try:

Olive Oil: Plain ol’ run-of-the-mill olive oil has long been my secret to a great at-home manicure. Fill your sink with warm water, add a few drops of olive oil, and soak hands for five to ten minutes. For added softness, massage a drop into each cuticle before you soak. After you’re done, gently push your cuticles back, rinse your hands, and pat dry. Swipe a nail polish remover-soaked cotton ball over each nail to remove excess oil before painting them. Your cuticles will look great and your hands will be extra soft!

Johnson’s Baby Oil: This favorite of babies everywhere claims to lock in up to ten times more moisture than regular lotion, and my ridiculously soft skin leads me to believe that this claim is true. Immediately after showering I slather baby oil from the neck down while my skin is still damp. It quickly absorbs into my skin, and the result is absolutely amazing softness. For extra smooth skin, exfoliate with a good body scrub first.

Orofluido Hair Oil: This beauty elixir is truly liquid gold. Work a couple of drops of this sweet smelling oil through your hair before blow drying – it smooths frizz, gives hair a silky texture, and honestly is the best smelling hair product I have ever used. The best part? The results last for days without weighing hair down or causing strands to look dull – or greasy.

Good Ones

As always, I’ve been buying and trying a variety of new products in my never-ending quest to find the one: the one makeup that will perfectly match my skin tone while hydrating, keeping shine at bay and hiding every blemish; the one hair product that will turn my locks to frizzless, voluminous, shiny silk; the one lip gloss that will flatter my face, plump my pout and protect against the elements while remaining totally kissable. While I’m still searching for all of these wonder-products, I have discovered a few fabulous finds lately that I thought I’d share. Best yet, each of these costs less than $10 and can be picked up at your local drugstore. Treat yourself – you may just find your one.

Aussie 3 Minute Miracle: This miracle worker has been around for ages but somehow I hadn’t tried it until a few weeks ago. One use and I’m hooked – this deep conditioning treatment really conditions hair, leaving strands detangled and super soft and my scalp flake-free. My hair was shiny and bouncy, never oily, and my hair retained its smooth, frizz-free appearance for days. Use this at least once a week to give your hair some TLC, especially while we are still dealing with cold outside temperatures and drying indoor heat.

Rimmel London Lash Accelerator Mascara: This is a quality mascara, plain and simple. It is supposed to create fuller lashes with regular use, and while the change isn’t drastic I do think I’m sporting a thicker fringe these days. This mascara stays put all day and doesn’t irritate my ultra-sensitive eyes. If you are looking for a good, inexpensive mascara, this one’s for you.

Simple Cleansing Facial Wipes: You’ve probably seen the commercials touting Simple as Britain’s top skin care brand – I’ve seen them tons of times. Intrigued, I decided to give these cleansing wipes a try. They have quickly become a regular part of my skin care routine. I am frequently too lazy to properly wash my face at night, and these wipes remove all traces of makeup and grime without over-drying my skin. They are formulated for sensitive skin and are fragrance-free. I recommend stashing a pack of these in your gym bag and your bedside table, or any other place you’re likely to want to freshen up.

Multi-taskers

It’s been far too long since I last posted. In my defense, a lot has happened in the past six weeks or so. Not only did I wrap up the holiday season with plenty of parties, but my boyfriend surprised me with a New Year’s Eve proposal. In January the thrill of being newly engaged was temporarily overshadowed by the onset of a mysterious lung infection. Said ailment caused me to miss a week of work, so the rest of the month was spent working long hours to catch up on important beginning-of-the-year projects, and my growing office task list was made longer by the loss of a co-worker (and good friend) who bravely decided to start a new adventure in a new city in the new year. Add to all of this the fact that I’ve been helping with wedding plans for my sister’s April nuptials while also trying to track down the perfect venue for my own wedding, and I clearly haven’t had a moment to spare. Which is why I’ve completely revamped my beauty routine and am now sticking to a pared-down collection of beauty multi-taskers that get me in the shower and out of the house in 30 minutes flat. If you, too, are finding yourself swamped and searching for a few more precious moments in your day, try one (or all) of these beauty MVPs:

Aussie Aussome Volume 2 in 1 Shampoo: I’ve blogged about this drugstore wonder before. In the past, I praised it for its ability to make my hair look cool-girl perfect the day after I washed with it. Now it has returned to my shower because, as far as 2 in 1 shampoos go, it’s the best at cleaning, conditioning and adding some oomph, all in one quick lather and rinse. It also has a fun essence-of-bubblegum scent that my fiance loves – he says it reminds him of when we first started dating (Aussome Volume has long been a staple on my shower shelf).

Nivea Touch of Cashmere Cream Oil Body Wash: I’ve searched high and low for a body wash that is truly moisturizing enough to nix the need for a post-shower layer of lotion; so far, this one comes the closest. The bottle boasts an orchid blossom scent, but I find the scent to be so mild it’s barely noticeable. The body wash does have a magnificent lather. It creates an abundance of silky smooth bubbles that softly caress the skin, leaving it smooth while keeping dry, itchy winter skin at bay. While I recommend using a body lotion on days when you have time, this body wash moisturizes enough so that you can skip it on days when you don’t.

Votre Vu Bebe Duette: This fun, fancy French hand cream is a beauty double whammy and is great in the morning, at work, or anytime you need a boost, day or night. The tube of rich cream smells fantastic and comes with a smooth raspberry lip balm in the cap. The cap also holds a mini mirror for on-the-go touch ups. You’ll want to keep one at home, in your purse and at work, so you can gloss your lips and smooth your cuticles while you’re running out the door, to a meeting, or before you collapse into bed. Just because we’re too busy to take a breath doesn’t mean we can’t look polished!

Summer Loves

Summer is officially upon us, and with the gorgeous weather comes oily skin, frizzy hair, and often a less than fresh feeling. Happily, I’ve found a few wonder-products that help beat the heat and keep me feeling fresh and clean. Here, my top summer beauty picks:

Burt’s Bees Facial Cleansing Towelettes – These 99.1% natural pre-moistened towelettes slick away oil, smudged makeup, and everyday grime without leaving skin feeling too dry or too greasy. They have a pleasant and super-refreshing scent, and can be used all over the body for a quick all-over cleanse. I use them at night when I’m feeling too lazy to properly wash my face, and during the day when I’m feeling particularly icky.

Make Up For Ever HD High Definition Powder – This translucent finishing powder is AMAZING. A light dusting keeps skin matte for several hours, and somehow manages to hide imperfections and perfect skin tone without any tint. I purchased the mini-size at Sephora.com to give it a try, and it contains plenty of product to get me through the summer. I’ll definitely be buying this one again.

Organix Renewing Moroccan Argan Oil Penetrating Oil – This little bottle of drugstore hair oil contains Moroccan argan oil – the hair oil of the moment – and is a perfect summer hair helper. It features a summery tropical scent, makes hair shiny, fights frizz and keeps grease at bay for several days. Plus, it helps condition hair. It’s an ideal product for beauties who don’t wash their hair every day.

Atelier Cologne Orange Sanguine Cologne Absolue – This is my new favorite scent. It has a long-lasting, authentic orange scent, and makes me feel happy and clean when I wear it. What’s more perfect for summer than that?