Complexion Perfection: Beauty Resolutions Part II

First and foremost, please allow me to apologize for the tardiness of this post. Due to unforeseen technical difficulties I was unable to complete it last weekend, and before I knew it the workweek had come and gone. I know a poor complexion is no laughing matter, and we all want to look our best when we face (pun intended) each day. In my opinion, having great skin – and by that I mean truly great, not just great-looking when made up – is a huge confidence booster and one of the biggest ways you can transform your appearance for the better (right up there with tweezing your eyebrows and getting a flattering haircut). So, in the spirit of not giving up on our resolutions this year, let’s get started.
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There are many different types of skin concerns that we tend to obsess over. In fact, ask any female over the age of 9 and she probably has some sort of grievance with her skin. Too oily. Too dry. A little too much of both. Acne. Wrinkles. Dark spots. Dark circles. Not enough glow. The good news is, there are products out there that address each of these problems. The bad news is that I have not tried them all. However, while I will provide a list of skincare products that I recommend for some of these issues, the majority of this post will be about techniques and best practices that can help us all improve our complexions, while also helping maximize the results from whatever products and treatments we do decide to use. No matter what our skin concerns are, we all have to start in the same place:

Have a Plan: A skincare plan, that is. Basically, the number one most important thing you must do in order to have nice, clear, glowing skin is stick to a regular skincare routine (I’ve written about this before, and if you want a more in-depth look at my plan you may want to refer to Fresh Faced). Those with oily skin do well with a twice-daily cleanse-tone-moisturize routine, such as the Clinique 3-Step program. In fact, step three, the Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion, is one of the all-around best moisturizers available for any skin type. If you have skin that’s on the dry side, like I do, you may find toner to be too drying for your skin – I usually skip it during the winter. I also only use a cleanser at nighttime – I simply splash my face with warm water in the morning – I find that over-cleansing my skin makes it look worse. If your current once-or-twice daily washing routine doesn’t seem to be working for you, try adding or subtracting a daily cleansing and see if your skin balances out. If you don’t currently have a regular routine, start one! And let’s face it, even with the best of intentions there will be a night or two when you just cannot bring yourself to walk into the bathroom and properly wash your face. Do your skin a favor and buy yourself some cleansing cloths to stash beside your bed. There are many good ones available now that are packed with good-skin extras and leave your skin soft instead of stripped. I love the pomegranate wipes by Korres and the drugstore line Simple.

Be a Quitter: This should go without saying but I know it often doesn’t. If you are looking for an easy way to drastically improve the health and appearance of your skin, and are currently a smoker, quit smoking. Even though we all know it’s bad for us, vanity can be the biggest motivator when it comes to stopping smoking. And it’s easy to convince yourself that smoking doesn’t make that much of a difference in something like your skin, but it really, really does. I have seen first hand how much better a person’s complexion looks after successfully quitting cigarettes. Did you know that smoking is one of the biggest contributing factors in whether or not you have dark circles under your eyes? Speaking of eyes, would you like the fine lines around yours to diminish? Or perhaps you’d like to look five to ten years younger in general. I promise you, quitting smoking will make your skin look so much better you will hate yourself for not quitting sooner.

Treat Yourself: As I mentioned above, there is a treatment for any and every skin concern you may have. Once you find one that works for you, it is incredibly important that you use it regularly. Just having a miracle potion in your medicine cabinet will not make your skin glow – you must actually put it on your face! It’s like going to the salon, buying the serum your stylist uses to make you look amazing, and then forgetting to ever use it yourself and wondering why your hair never looks as good when you style it at home. I know lots of ladies with potent products sitting on their bathroom shelves who never take the time to kick back and relax for the duration of a 15-minute purifying mask. I recommend picking a day and making your treatment a part of your regular routine. Maybe you’ll have more than one! For example, I often use an at-home peel on Friday nights and do a face mask on Sundays. Make your specific skin treatment part of your regular skincare plan so that you can see consistent results. The goal is to have great skin all the time, not just when on vacation or when we happen to remember. (Not sure what treatment to use? See my list of recommended products, below, for a few suggestions.)

Clari-fy: It’s time to bring out the big guns. Even if you’re already doing all the things listed above, there’s still room for improvement. You can clean your face cleaner. Your treatments can treat better. How? By investing in a Clarisonic.

Money well spent.

Money well spent.

These oscillating skin cleansing brushes are expensive, yes, but they really do live up to the hype. I’m not sure how it’s possible, but my skin feels softer every single time I use it. The brush uses sonic technology to gently clean skin and remove impurities that are trapped in pores. Not only does this lead to cleaner skin, which means fewer breakouts and blemishes, but it also allows any products that are applied after cleansing to be better absorbed by the skin, making our moisturizers and treatments more effective. The Clarisonic comes in a variety of colors and sizes; I personally own a Mia, which is a slightly less expensive travel-sized version. Again, these babies aren’t cheap, but they come with a warranty and are worth every penny.

Get Some Sleep: This tip is two-fold. First of all, like smoking, chronic lack of sleep is terrible for your health and wreaks havoc on your skin. It’s another leading cause of dark circles (obviously) and it also leads to that overall dull and lifeless look that none of us is going for. It really is amazing what a few consecutive eight-hour nights of sleep can do for a person. Especially when you practice part two of this tip: take advantage of this downtime to really ramp up your routine. Nighttime is the right time to slather on those thick creams and heavy treatments that go the extra mile. With a full eight hours to soak in, overnight treatments can do your skin a lot of good. My latest skincare obsession is Korres Wild Rose + Vitamin C Advanced Brightening Sleeping Facial. This jar of magic contains a super thick cream with a delightfully sweet and rosy scent. I smooth it all over my face and neck, and wake up with skin that is insanely soft and glowing. The kind of glow that renders makeup optional, if not downright unnecessary.

Korres Wild Rose + Vitamin C Advanced Brightening Sleeping Facial

Korres Wild Rose + Vitamin C Advanced Brightening Sleeping Facial

Not only that, this stuff leaves you looking well-rested and refreshed, even on days when you are feeling anything but rested. Pairing the sleeping facial with the Clarisonic is such a skincare double whammy that I kind of feel like I’m cheating at life when I do it. I highly recommend it.

Recommended Products: This is in no way an exhaustive list, but I figured I’d share a few of the things that have worked well for me. I’m always testing new things so if you have a question about a specific product or are looking for a certain treatment, feel free to leave a comment here or on the Questions? page.

Anti-Aging – In addition to clearing and brightening skin, minimizing pores, and decreasing excess oil, Dr Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Daily Face Peel smooths fine lines and wrinkles and instantly firms skin. I like to follow it up with Philosophy Miracle Worker, a firming, plumping and softening moisturizer that protects the skin against all signs of aging.

ExfoliatorsClinique 7 Day Scrub Cream is a great gentle scrub, even on sensitive skin. Murad Pomegranate Exfoliating Mask uses fruit enzymes to dissolve dull and dry skin and leaves you looking bright.

Eyes – I really like Clinique’s All About Eyes line. I use the de-puffing eye-massage roll-on to cool and brighten on rough mornings, and the rich eye cream at night to help prevent dark circles and crinkles around the eye area.

Pimples and Pores – No surprises here: Queen Helene Mint Julep Masque is still my top recommendation for shrinking pores and eliminating pimples and blackheads.

Wedding Belles

Three weeks ago my twin sister married the man she loves. They had a lovely ceremony and an even lovelier reception, all white linens and peach roses and flickering candles. The chilly April air outside was no match for the love and warmth inside that day. And the pretty decor was no match for the radiant bride; I have never seen my sister look more beautiful.

While I remember the way everything looked, and the way we all felt that day – I, for one, was an emotional wreck – the wedding itself flew by in a blur of activity: ceremony-photos-speeches-dinner-drinks-cake-dancing-what-do-you-mean-it’s-over? What I remember clearly, though, are the hours leading up to the big event. I will never forget the time spent “behind the scenes,” helping my sister (the bride) and all of our friends (the bridesmaids) get ready for the beautiful day that awaited us.

It’s obviously no secret that I’m a bit of a beauty fiend. The morning of the wedding I packed my entire beauty arsenal and brought it with me to the suite where we were to get ready. My sister had hired a hairdresser to come to the suite – a long lost childhood friend, with whom it seemed like no time had passed as she joked and chatted and whipped our hair into intricate updos and cascades of curls. We drank mimosas and steamed our dresses and listened to favorite songs as we decided how to go about making ourselves beautiful.

My favorite memories of the big day – memories that I will certainly cherish for the rest of my life – are of the frantic questions my friends were throwing at me as show time drew closer and closer: Can you fix my eye brows? How do I apply this eye shadow trio? Which color looks best on me? Can you trim my hair? It was a whirlwind of beauty activity, and I was honored that my friends trusted me at such an important moment. So I trimmed hair, gave a tutorial on eye shadow application, helped select makeup shades and dusted everyone’s face with finishing powder (Make Up For Ever HD High Definition Powder) to help keep shine at bay in photos.

My favorite memory – and biggest honor – involved the bride herself. Time was running out, and the hairdresser – who was meant to do my sister’s makeup in addition to everybody’s hair – had to make a call. “Can you do your sister’s makeup?” she asked me, a little flustered. “I trust you.”

So, as my sister sat still, getting her hair curled and pinned and hairsprayed for that oh-so-important walk down the aisle, I sat across from her and made up her face, determined to make her look just the way she’d want to – fresh, glowing, flawless, but not to “done” – she’s not really the makeup-wearing type, and I knew she wanted her soon-to-be husband to recognize her as she approached him at the alter.

Not to toot my own horn, but (toot, toot) I have to admit I did a damn good job with her makeup that day. She looked exceptional. And just like herself. Herself with impossibly perfect skin, soft lips, and eyes that were even more dazzling than normal.


So, in case she wants to replicate her gorgeous bridal look, or in case any of you, loyal readers, are looking for a perfect wedding look, here’s what I used and how I used it:

First, I used a warm washcloth to clean her face and dampen you skin – I find moisturizer goes on more smoothly when the skin is slightly damp. She didn’t want a lot of heavy makeup (she, like me, is blessed with pretty darn good skin), so instead of foundation I smoothed on Jouer Luminizing Moisture Tint in Pearl. It has a bit more coverage than a typical tinted moisturizer but still has a light feel, and it does give the complexion a luminous glow. I evened out dark circles and any random blemishes with Mineralogie Ultimate Cream Concealer in U2. This is hands down the best concealer I have ever used; it has long lasting coverage and it doesn’t settle into creases around the eyes.

We wanted her eyes to stand out but in a natural way, so we used brown shades instead of blacks. First I had her curl her lashes. Then I lined the outer corners of her eyes with Stila Smudge Stick Waterproof Eye Liner in Lionfish, a rich medium brown. Stila Smudge Sticks glide on ridiculously easily – I highly recommend them. I then lightly lined her lower lash line with the same liner, smudging out ever-so-slightly at the outer corners for just a hint of a cat eye.

After the liner I used a trio of Clinique shadows on her lids. I used Teddy Bear as a highlighting shade from lashes to brow bone. I used Buttered Bronze, a medium brown, as a wash of color from her lashes to her crease, and then finished with a thick swipe of Chocolate Chip, a dark brown, right along her lashes. I finished off her eyes with a generous swipe of L’Oreal Paris Voluminous Hydrofuge Mascara in Black Brown. Her eyes looked stunning.

To brighten her complexion and give her a soft flush, I used a fluffy brush to sweep Tarte Amazonian Clay Long-Wear Blush in Dollface on the apples of her cheeks and along her cheekbones.

The finishing touch, of course, had to be the perfect lip color – something plumping and moisturizing, natural-looking, and kissable – no sticky glosses or chalky lipsticks allowed. I used Tarte LipSurgence Natural Lip Tint in Peaceful, a nude peach. It was absolutely perfect. It’s long lasting, very moisturizing, and not sticky in the least – ideal for a bride.

And, of course, I gave her a dusting of finishing powder, just like everyone else. In the end, mission accomplished – she was flawless.

Here are some other products that proved popular (and effective) as we made ourselves up for the day:

L’Oreal Paris Infallible Lipgloss in Sangria. An ultra-flattering red that did not budge throughout the entire day. It also has a mini mirror on the cap – handy!

Sephora Nectar Shine Hydrating Care Lipgloss in Raspberry Shine. Several of the bridesmaids swiped this berry gloss on before the ceremony. The color is universally flattering and the shiny gloss lasts longer than most.

Too Faced Lock Down Ultimate Creaseless Cream Eye Shadow in Bedroom Eyes. A bronzey taupe, this shadow stayed put through tears and tissues.

Speaking of tear-proof, I picked up Maybelline The Classic Volume Express Waterproof Mascara in Very Black on my way to the wedding, knowing I’d be shedding a few tears throughout the day. Boy am I glad I did – even when I flat-out bawled during my Maid of Honor speech, my mascara didn’t smudge.

And honestly, at a wedding, what more can you ask for?

Eye Spy

It’s no secret that one of my greatest beauty woes is my endlessly tired-looking eyes. Dark purple smudges are a permanent fixture below them, and some unfriendly crinkles are showing themselves around their corners.

I decided it was time to do something about it.

Over the past month or so, I’ve been testing a variety of eye creams that promise to brighten, tighten, de-puff and generally perk-up my peepers. Here, the lowdown on which eye creams really work – and which ones don’t.

Benefit B.Right It’s Potent! Eye Cream: I applied this luxurious cream in the morning with my pinkie finger, dabbing on from the inner corners outward. The result? My eyes looked significantly brighter immediately, and stayed that way for hours. It didn’t irritate my sensitive eyes, nor did it make my makeup run. This one gets top marks from me.

Caudalie The Eye Cream: I applied this lotion with my ring finger (as instructed) from the inner corners out. While the cream felt smooth and did not bother my eyes, I saw absolutely no difference in their appearance.

Ole Henrikson Visual Truth Eye Serum: I applied this serum before bed using my ring finger, from the outer corners working in. While I did notice an increase in brightness, the serum started burning my eyes within three minutes. In my opinion, the pain was not worth the slight improvement in appearance.

Murad Eye Lift Illuminator: I patted this lotion around my eyes in the morning. It felt incredibly silky and softened the lines around my eyes, but I didn’t notice an increase in brightness. Additionally, the cream never absorbed into my skin, causing my makeup to cake up in little pills. Not a good look.

Clinique All About Eyes Rich: This cream is a must-have. I applied it morning and/or night, dabbing in either direction. It made my dark circles brighter, my eye crinkles softer, and had a great, non-irritating feeling. I’ve used the All About Eyes Serum in the past, and it works well to soothe puffy eyes, but this cream is hands down the best bet.

Baby Face

Having decided to take a few days off from my “real” job, I’ve spent the last day or two experimenting with different products and giving myself some much-needed R & R. As part of this I paid special attention to my face yesterday, and I wanted to share with you the combination of products that made my skin smooth as a baby’s… face?

I decided it was time for a face mask. My skin was becoming rather lacklustre, blotchy, and I noticed a few blackheads hiding by my nose and chin. Naturally, Queen Helene would be my mask of choice. But I decided to start off with a facial scrub, something I don’t normally do because my skin can be quite sensitive.

“Don’t be a baby,” I told my skin as I slathered on a dollop of Clinique 7-Day Scrub Cream. It has tiny exfoliators in it that scrub the face but not in a painful way. I let it sit for a minute, massaged my skin a little more, and then rinsed it off with warm water and a washcloth. I immediately followed up with Queen Helene Mint Julep Masque.

Once dry, I again rinsed my face with warm water and a washcloth, and ended with a generous layer of Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion.

About 10 minutes after completing this process I became aware of how great my skin felt. It felt very moisturized, but not greasy, and when I touched my cheek it was softer than I could ever remember it being. I got up and ran to the mirror, and my skin was positively glowing. Glowing not with the fire of rosacea, but with the dew of health.

Outstanding.

Another product I’ve been testing recently is Dior Hydra-Protect Eye Cream, which has an SPF of 20. I’ve decided recently that it’s time for me to find a good eye cream. (This decision may or may not have anything to do with the fact that last week a coworker told me that I had huge bags under my eyes – after a full 8-hour night of sleep.) So far, I have yet to see any markable difference in the appearance of my eye area, but I can say that it feels amazing when I put it on. Kind of like an instant hug for my eye area. I plan to continue using the cream; I’ll keep you posted on those huge bags.

Product Review: Clinique Even Better

A couple months back, in the midst of a massive brand crush on Clinique, I ordered a jar of the brand’s Even Better moisturizer, said to improve skin tone. And although I still love my Clinique lip glosses and mascara, I am left a little disappointed by the new cream.

It’s not that it’s a poor moisturizer; in fact, it’s a nice lightweight cream that goes on smoothly and doesn’t leave the face greasy. It has a sunscreeny smell that is a little weird but not altogether unpleasant. The problem is that it didn’t deliver on the promise to make my skin “even better.”

I didn’t notice any decrease in the length of time it takes for a blemish to fade on my face, and I haven’t noticed the increased brightness that I was so hoping this moisturizer would deliver. As a plain old moisturizer this one delivers, but as one that claims to noticeably improve the appearance of your skin, I just don’t believe it’s worth the money.

Brand Crush: Clinique

It started a few weeks ago, when I went to the Clinique counter to buy my breast cancer awareness lip glosses and was rewarded with a gift with purchase: an apple-printed cosmetics bag filled with free lipstick, mascara, eye shadows, blush, and skincare products. I’m a sucker for free gifts, and those glosses were perfectly pink, moisturizing, and glossy. They have replaced all others in my purse.

Then, when my face turned scaly when I was plagued by the flu, it was Clinique Dramatically Different Moisture Lotion that soothed and repaired the damage.

The deal was officially sealed this past week, however, when I tried the tiny tube of Lash Doubling Mascara that came in my gift with purchase.

I have a brand crush on Clinique.

The glosses and moisturizer are great, but the mascara is PERFECT. It doesn’t clump, it doesn’t flake off onto my face, and it doesn’t irritate my extra sensitive eyes at all. I’ve been using it for about a week, and I’m loving the natural-but-better effect it is giving me.

My crush is sure to be continued once I open my mail today – I’m expecting a package from Sephora, containing, among other things, a jar of Clinique’s Even Better moisturizer, which is supposed to help even out skin tone. Plus Sephora offered a gift with purchase as well, so I’ll also be getting a Clinique cream blush.

Stay tuned for product reviews.

I’m sure I’ll love ’em.

 

How to Survive Flu Season Without Looking Like a Reptile

I can safely say that it is officially cold and flu season, having spent the majority of the last week in bed with the worst cold/flu/allergy attack I can remember in recent history.

You might think that spending that much time in bed I’d be caught up on “beauty sleep” and would be positively glowing. Turns out, the only glow I’ve had is that of a fever, and I’ve been rockin’ the puffy-eyed, chapped lipped, dry skin look.

Not cute.

So, in light of my recent foolishness, here are some tips that I’ve found useful in escaping flu season without looking like a crocodile.

1. Stay hydrated. This will not only help speed along your recovery time, it will help keep you skin from becoming dry and cracked. I drank a lot of tea during my recent bout with dryness. Peppermint is my new favorite – it helps soothe a congested head!

2. Moisturize! Even if you can’t bear to drag yourself out of bed long enough to really spruce yourself up, do yourself a favor and always put on your moisturizer. My nose, cheeks and lips all became outrageously dry last week, to the point where the skin on my nose actually cracked and started bleeding. However, after just one application of Clinique’s Dramatically Different Moisture Lotion, I was healed. I’ve been using it daily ever since.

3. Hand in hand with moisturizing your face is moisturizing your lips, and for that I say Burt’s Bees! I’ve been layering on various balms and glosses, but only Burt’s Bees was able to soothe and cure my chapped lips. And it’s fortunately available just about everywhere. Drug stores, grocery stores, health food stores, you name it. Get some!

4. Buy Puffs Plus. Totally worth the extra few cents.

5. If at all possible, drag your sick, tired butt out of bed and take a shower. It’ll make you feel like a human.

Following these steps will help ensure you make it out without scales. And these suggestions are all also guy-friendly, so feel free to pass them along to your boyfriend/husband/brother/whiney sick male friend.

I’m actually feeling much better and am mostly back on track, skin-wise. Although I’m currently sporting a volcanic pimple on my cheek.

Time for Queen Helene!