Top Picks for #SkincareSunday

I’m a big fan of #SkincareSunday; the notion that beauty fiends the world over devote time each week to taking extra special care of their skin is one I adore. Plus I’ve always loved the idea of starting each week with a clean slate (and face!) – it’s the same reason I tend to fit in extra long workouts, copious amounts of housework and delicious home-cooked meals on Sundays.

I’ve personally practiced special Sunday skincare for years, and though I’m always trying new masks, peels, moisturizers and scrubs, there are a few products that have remained in the regular rotation. Here are my top picks for #SkincareSunday:
Top Picks for #SkincareSunday
1. Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Peel Original Formula: This at-home peel is gentle enough to use on sensitive skin and delivers noticeably softer, smoother, brighter skin. I’ve used the extra strength version and find it slightly too harsh for my skin, but this version is just perfect! Use this when your skin looks dull or feels a little scaly.

2. Queen Helene Mint Julep Masque: This is probably the most-recommended product on my blog. It shrinks pores, absorbs oil and helps clean out black heads. You just simply can’t get a better skincare product for such a ridiculously low price. Basically, anytime your skin just needs to be cleaned up a bit, use this.

3. Boscia Luminizing Black Mask: This peel off mask is basically a pore strip for your entire face, though it’s less painful. It will tug all the grit and grime out of your pores and kind of feels like a science experiment. Use this when your pores are clogged and you want to get them good and clean!

Bonus – Philosophy Miracle Worker Miraculous Anti-Aging Moisturizer: This is hands-down my favorite moisturizer. It makes my skin so soft and bright, and slathering it on after any of the above treatments makes them extra effective!

What are your #SkincareSunday picks?

Holiday Party Makeup

It’s holiday party season, which for makeup lovers everywhere means holiday party makeup season. For me, it’s all about pretty eyes and a bold lip this year. Read on for my favorite holiday beauty tips:

Don't forget to do a little pre-party grooming!

Don’t forget to do a little pre-party grooming!

1. Go the extra mile. Before you start getting dressed and ready for your party, take the time to do a little extra grooming. Do your eyebrows need to be touched up? Break out the Tweezerman. Trim any jagged nails or cuticles. You don’t want an errant hair or cracked cuticle to undermine all the work you put into looking your holiday best, do you? Finally, build time into your pre-party schedule to do a face mask. Unsurprisingly, I recommend Queen Helene Mint Julep Masque for this. It really helps build a smooth and glowy foundation for your makeup.

2. Double up. Speaking of foundation, my new favorite method for faking a flawless complexion is as follows.

Make Up For Ever HD High Definition Foundation

Make Up For Ever HD High Definition Foundation

First, I smooth a moisturizing BB cream all over clean skin. I then follow up with a thin layer of the world’s greatest foundation, also known as Make Up For Ever HD High Definition Foundation. The result is soft, smooth, impossibly perfect skin.

3. Triple threat. When it comes to putting on pretty eyes, I haven’t found a better trio than Benefit Creaseless Cream Shadow/Liner in r.s.v.p., a stay-put shimmery champagne; Noir Long-Wear Eyeliner in Forever Noir, my all-time favorite black liner; and Eyeko Black Magic Mascara.

Power trio: Benefit Creaseless Cream Shadow/Liner in r.s.v.p., Noir Long-Wear Eyeliner in Forever Noir, and Eyeko Black Magic Mascara

Power trio: Benefit Creaseless Cream Shadow/Liner in r.s.v.p., Noir Long-Wear Eyeliner in Forever Noir, and Eyeko Black Magic Mascara

Eyeko knows how to get eyes right, and this mascara is no exception. It darkens, lengthens and curls without clumping, has an easy-to-use curved applicator and doesn’t smudge, even when I absentmindedly rub my eye. Black Magic is perfect party mascara – get it now!

4. Get lippy. I’m really feeling a bold lip this year, and there are some excellent party options available. If you want to keep it classic and go for a red lip, you can go really red with Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick in Beso.

Why not go bold with Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics Lip Tar in Anime (top) or Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick in Beso?

Why not go bold with Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics Lip Tar in Anime (top) or Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick in Beso?

Want to do something a little edgier? I’m obsessed with Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics Lip Tar in Anime, a gorgeous neon pink. I find it surprisingly wearable. Both of these lip colors stay put once they set, so use caution when applying and start with less than you think you need. I also recommend a lip primer before application; try Chapstick Hydration Lock, which moisturizes and helps keep lip color in place. Looking for something a little more subtle? Fresh Sugar Rose Tinted Lip Treatment is a lovely red tinted balm, and Maybelline Baby Lips in Pink Punch is a wonderful, less-intense bright pink alternative.

What’s your go-to holiday look?

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.
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.

Great Hair Has a Price

Twelve dollars, actually. That is the cost of a travel size bottle of Phyto Phytodefrisant Botanical Hair Relaxing Balm.

A couple of weekends ago I was having what can only be described as a low self-esteem day. On that day, the mirror was my enemy. No clothes looked good on me. My hair was both frizzy and flat.  And the ceaseless summer heat was turning my face into a red, sweaty mess.

After throwing the mother of all “I’m too ugly to live” tantrums, I decided to do something about my many beauty woes. So I went about my day, scrubbing my face and applying a generous amount of Queen Helene. I gave myself a pedicure, a manicure, reshaped my eyebrows, and decided it was time to try something new – Phytodefrisant.

Now, long ago, back when I was too lazy to use a hair dryer on a daily basis, I had heard about Phytodefrisant. It’s supposed to be the greatest thing to happen to hair since conditioner. The balm is applied to damp hair and worked down the strands. When blowed dry, it turns your hair into soft, glossy strands that are frizz-resistant and, surprisingly, not flat or greasy. Magical stuff.

So I showered, shampooed, and replaced my usual hair cream with the Phytodefrisant. When I looked in the mirror, a smile crept across my face. Wow, I thought happily, that is some great hair.

I walked out to ask my boyfriend if he could see any difference, but before I could say a word he looked at me and said “Wow, you look gorgeous.”

Not bad for twelve bucks.

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.


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.

Hail to the Queen

I woke up Friday morning and was greeted by a most unwelcome visitor: there was a brand new pimple, sore and red, gleaming like a beacon on my chin.


I spent most of the day trying to figure out ways to look at and talk to people without them seeing it. Not possible. By Friday afternoon, my self esteem was at an all-time low. By Saturday morning, I needed the Queen. 

If you’ve ever read a fashion or beauty magazine that lists secret weapon beauty products or gives recommendations from pros in the beauty industry, you’ve probably heard of the Queen Helene Mint Julep Masque. Probably the best drugstore beauty find of all time, if you haven’t tried it, go buy one, and if you haven’t heard of it, listen up.

It comes in a pleasantly plain white and green package and costs around three dollars a tube. Even when used regularly, one tube will last you a long time; I’ve been using Queen Helene devotedly for five years and am only on my second one. The pea-green masque is to be applied to freshly washed skin, and is pretty simple to use: smear it all over your face, walk around looking like a swamp creature for about 15 minutes, and wash it off once it dries. Easy. And talk about getting your money’s worth.

Queen Helene clears up black heads, dries up heinous pimples (like my aforementioned atrocity), tightens pores and makes your skin ridiculously soft. (I always follow it up with a nice moisturizer. Right now I’m liking Bliss Best of Skintentions, a daily moisturizer with SPF 15 that smells like oranges.)It can also be used to spot treat really bad zits; a dab left on overnight is often just the thing to rid yourself of a stubborn blemish.

So I spent Saturday afternoon treating myself to a spa day. I tweezed my brows, trimmed my nails, and gave myself a lovely pedicure using my new favorite summer nail color, Essie’s Cute As A Button, a peachy pink shade. And I covered my face with a generous coat of Queen Helene.

By Sunday morning all that remained of the chin volcano was a teeny red dot.

I’ll take it.