Beauty Buzz: A Monthly Visit that Doesn’t Suck

By |August 11th, 2011|Beauty Buzz|

A couple of weeks ago, Stephie reminded us how truly fantastic beauty samples are.  So great, that some can even change up your entire beauty routine.  Well, it seems that she’s not the only one who realized just how valuable samples are.  Three very clever young ladies, Hayley, Katia, and Mollie, also picked up on the awesomeness that are samples.  They took beauty samples to a whole new level by creating a little something called Birch Box.

What is Birch Box you ask?  Well, other than being the best ten dollars you’ll ever spend, it’s a beauty sample delivery service that brings new and exciting products (tailored to your individual preferences/beauty needs) to your cute little “welcome” mat each and every month.  I know.  Kind of unbelievable, right?  I received my first Birch Box this week and it was like Christmas (or Hanukkah).  And to think… it’s gonna happen every month!  Kinda balances out that whole “visit from Mother Nature” thing, huh?

I have yet to try all of the samples which included:

I did try the June Jacobs masque and loved it.  My skin was fresh and glowing – as it should be.  So, if you are a beauty junkie like me and perhaps need a little monthly perk, I suggest you hightail over to BirchBox and get your very own little pink box.  It’s almost as good as being a beauty editor at Allure… and for now it’ll have to do.  (P.S. I will keep you updated as to the rest of the samples).

—Sorry, I just realized how ridiculous it is that I have not “tested out” the Twistband hair tie.  Please hold…  Works just great (no sharp metal to cause split ends) and it looks a heck of a lot cuter on your wrist than normal rubberbands. Gonna need to stock up.



Guest Post: Why Don’t You Try It?

By |July 21st, 2011|Beauty Buzz, Guest Blogger|

They say good things come in small packages, but in a society where we’re always stressing bigger, better, more, more, more, sometimes it seems hard to believe.  Luckily, Stephie is here to remind us just how great the “little things” really can be.

I die for beauty product samples and recently Sephora has been on a tear!  A number of very exciting minis have overhauled my usual summer skincare and makeup routine. A Beauty Insider VIP-sized sample of DDF Ultra-Lite Oil-Free Moisturizing Dew is my new defacto nighttime summer moisturizer. During the winter, I opt for a thicker formula, but this one is truly hydrating without leaving my face an oil slick. It’s heavy duty moisture without the weight. For seriously sticky days, I turn to Elemis Daily Shine Control, a treatment moisturizer for oily to combination skin that fights shine while it moisturizes.  Two birds, one sample.

Of course, all of this goes under Laura Mercier Oil Free Tinted Moisturizer SPF 20, or what many beauty buffs would call the best all-around light coverage product on the market.  Speaking of SPF, a facialist recently told me not to use SPF 15, but  rather 50 on my face, neck, décolleté and hands every day to prevent aging. I took SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50 for a test drive.  Not only does it not stink, but it also goes on (YES, girls) in a strangely accurate human skin color not that creepy pasty white.  SkinCeuticals avers it a “universal tint.”  Somehow I believe it.

Sephora hit a sour note with a Father’s Day promotion giving samples of men’s products. Who gifts dad three tiny tubes of random skincare? Awkward.  Rather than waste these samples, I selected a few men’s cleansers I could test myself and compared them with a Kiehl’s specimen stolen from my husband’s drawer (he only gets one). The test confirmed that although men’s cleansers can be truly awesomely gritty (Clinique Skin Supplies for Men Face Scrub) and wonderfully experientially tabacco-y (Kiehl’s Energizing Facial Fuel Skin Buffer for Men) or energizing and brightening (Anthony Logistics for Men Facial Scrub), there are simply no men’s cleansers that can remove eye makeup- ya hear that Adam Lambert?

Forget a chihuahua in your handbag: Fresh Soy Face Cleanser is an eyeliner-wearing lady’s best friend. It is also somehow gentle enough that if you left a smidge on, it would be good for your complexion. It has a lovely scent and a famous gelatinous texture (if you tapped a bowlful, it would jiggle). It’s better than anything the boys have got, trust me.

Summer means light and fresh for color on the face too.  Guerlain Terracotta Skin Healthy Glow Foundation is the only bronzer that doesn’t look dirty on my very fair pink-undertoned skin and a Sephora sample is what introduced me to it, (kinda makes up for the father’s day weirdness). Fear not: this gel formula did not make me look like I walked into a dusty clay factory, like some powder bronzers – it actually made me look tan (what a concept)! Smashbox O-GLOSS
Intuitive Lip Gloss provides a pretty pink counterpoint. The O-GLOW (cheek version) will not work if you pile on hydrators, sunscreens and tinted moisturizers like I recommend above, because it needs to come in contact with both bare skin and air to work. But, O-GLOSS provides that magical same out-of-thin air magical fuschia branded just for you – it works with your lip chemistry to create a shiny, entirely non-sticky “custom shade of pink” (usually in the hello-kitty cuteness category).

Now get your summer sampling on and don’t forget to wear your sunnies!




Guest Post: Why Did You Forget About Me? Your Favorite Drugstore Beauty Buys

By |May 19th, 2011|Beauty Buzz, Guest Blogger|

We beauty folks tend to get caught up in our $350 Chanel Sublimage, our Claudio Riaz makeup brushes, and our Clé de Peau Beauté this-n-that often forgetting the simple products that made us tumble head-over-heels into the world of beauty in the first place.  I’m talking about the cheap thrill of drugstore beauty basics that actually do what they say do. Don’t you think it is a great option? Remember being 12 and in awe over what rouge did to your face? Was it $160 Serge Lutens Blusher, you big fusspot? No, it was Almay!

We love our fancy, weighty, grown-up Barneys beauty department -and that’s OK- but we musn’t forget that “inexpensive” doesn’t mean bad if it works. Beauty is about the glitz and the packaging and frills, but more importantly about function.

If you read my last Whydid guest blog entry, you know I heart my mascara workhorse. Herein, I share a few of my other favorite bargain beauty basics. (Yes, you can look fantastic and still have a retirement fund).

Breaking up with your favorite shampoo is hard to do, but the “other gal,” Neutrogena’s, romantic promise is so lovely in her simplicity: dump your regular shampoo once in a blue moon for a lathery date with Neutrogena’s Anti-Residue Formula Shampoo, and your regular shampoo will work harder for you when you get back together. The Anti-Residue Formula works by removing the build-up that gunks up your fro, allowing your regular shampoo to do it’s job better. Give your scalp a scruberoo… and the best part is you’ll only be out $6.

I know someone close to Essie Nailpolish founder Essie Weingarten, and hear she’s a totally badass babe who personally bestows the names upon every single nailpolish color from Blanc (one of her first formulas) to After Sex (changed to After Six in conservative markets). She had a cow upon hearing that Kate wore Essie’s Allure nailcolor shade whilst becoming the Dutchess.

As any cosmopolitan chameleon knows, a quick change of polish color can alter your personality, and sometimes your life.  You don’t need to pony up for Uslu Airlines or Scotch Naturals. Get the effect for $8 – less than the cost of a single manicure! The number of home manicures you can get from an $8 shade is virtually endless – have you EVER finished a nail polish bottle? Nobody has. Google couldn’t even tell me how many uses are in a bottle.

Essie makes shades sold at J. Crew, and its childrens’ outpost, Crewcuts. From left: Splash of Grenadine, and Forget Me Nots. Can you say sizz-ummer? Or, head to Essie.com for my other two favorites, Merino Cool, seen her on Lady Gaga, and for you Ballet Slippers-obsessed, try Fed Up for a smidge-more-beigey, ever-so-slightly less sophomoric version.

You’re gloss-obsessed, I know.  We all are.  Lately there’s something so fresh and posh and European about the surprising and rare burst of actual opaque lipcolor. Lipcolor with eyeliner and everything else downplayed is just so French (mais oui!). American beauty tells us to tan, color our hair, get a mani/pedi, shape our brows, get a Latisse prescription, use the whole makeup drawer, then follow it up with injectables and hairspray. French beauty is about lips and eyeliner and looking like yourself (novel idea). Enter Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Fire and Ice, for when you’re feeling a little bit Carla Bruni Sarkozy – on a budget.

Apparently Carla hates makeup, but when she wears it, goes the simple route with lip and liner, as you see in the above. Revlon Super Lustrous is a drugstore basic – that actually feels retro in it’s lipsticky-ness. It’s creamy and moisturizing and leaves a gorgeous kiss-mark on your coffee mug. Fire and Ice is in the true red family with a slight warmness to it.  It just screams “confident woman.” The voluptuous new throwback packaging makes it look just as fantastic on your lips as it does on your vanity.

***Sidebar – is every Revlon lip product named after fire, ice or stone fruits? See: Cherries In The Snow, Hot Coral, Smoked Peach, Iced Coffee, Raspberry Freeze, Cherry Ice, Snowsilver Rose, Smoky Rose, Icy Nude, and Flame, amongst many others. ) Have them all for $7.99 a piece.

Remember the geezer who loved Windex in My Big Fat Greek Wedding? Windex is to him what Aquaphor is to me. I use it on my lips, my knees, my eye wrinkles, burns, blemishes, and scars and my baby’s butt. Fast forward to my mom being shot for Real Simple Magazine.  Editors shot her in a great DVF dress (she bought it later) holding a rich maroon bag, standing before a cerulean doorway.

The shot is great – mostly because she is gorgeous (brush the dirt off my shoulder), and partly because they SLATHERED her exposed skin with Aquaphor. My mom looks like a darn spring chicken with that smooth skin. An enormous Aquaphor tub can be yours for $14. (So long, Sublimage!)

I leave you with the humble bobby pin. To experiment with updos, pick a picture in any magazine and just play with bobby pins till you get it right. Or smooth your quotidian ponytail, create a hot little faux-hawk, or just do something different. With the bobby pin, it’s all possible. At $3.50 for 50, you could give half your bobby pins away, and still have some sweet moolah left over for your beloved Serge Lutens.

Until next time… Don’t forget me!





Guest Post: Why Didn’t You Take Your Mascara Off For Bed?

By |March 3rd, 2011|Beauty Buzz, Guest Blogger|

Last time she taught us about appropriate airport attire and this week she will let us in on her true passion: makeup – explicitly mascara.  A born beauty addict, Stephie has made it her mission to find the latest and greatest beauty products out on the market.  So sit back, relax, and prepare to have your “eyes opened” by the beauty savvy, Stephie Rojas.

A while ago my nanny commented that I have “a lot of lip product” when she saw my vanity beset with a cup of 17 Chanel Glossimers.

She had yet to discover that my bathroom is like a Sephora. “Have you seen the lip drawer?” I asked.

So look, I’ll admit it. I’m certifiable. Or am I just a true collector, no crazier than someone who wants to own every Spielberg film or every Madonna CD?

Regardless, the beauty bug bit me a bit late in my tween years, and as with any obsession you discover abruptly instead of growing into, I fell hard.  My mom has always been one to throw things away. The obsession started a when I realized she tossed half-used beauty products that she didn’t totally love; to me these were treasures and discoveries and amazements. As an 11 year old with no need for Estée Lauder toner whatsoever, I remember rescuing it from the receptacle and unconditionally adoring the sight of it on my bath counter, to the extent that when it was empty I filled it with water. The next little miracle I unearthed was Benefit Benetint. To me it was both mature and scientific; so totally grown up. (Do you remember the Benefit brand pre-ostentatious packaging revival?)

At age 12 in 1992, I couldn’t be without what would now be considered a horrifying lipstick in a shimmery salmon. Yes, lipcolor. Applause to women in general for collectively discovering gloss – good group effort.

As an adult, I’ve always said I missed my true calling to be a beauty writer. While I may not have the syntax or the skill, I hang on Jean Godfrey-June’s every word, relish gussying up, and buy tons of color, skincare and bodycare for the purpose of play.

Now, despite my volume of lip, the truth is my heart is in the lash. My obsession has landed unwaveringly on mascara, and for nearly a decade now, it’s been my equivalent of the icing.

As a fair-skinned blonde, a thick, sumptuous, busty, long, dark lash provides the contrast and definition needed to make my head not look like a popsicle stick. It’s a necessity. Take the dog-walking test for example: what do you never leave the house without, even to just get the mutt to the corner for a quickie? For some it’s good shoes or sweet sunnies; for me it’s mascara.

There was long period in my 20s when I wore mascara to bed. I wore waterproof L’Oréal Voluminous, washed my face around it, and slept in it. I’m not alone – I met a bona fide well-known beauty editor who did the same. A good mascara is the equivalent of a boob job and tummy lipo – it somehow makes one more voluptuous. There is just nothing else like it to make a girl instantly prettier.

Speaking of L’Oréal, let’s take the fashion analogy made famous on The City (don’t pretend you didn’t watch). In fashion, you have workhorses and show ponies. You have these in beauty as well. My beloved L’Oréal Voluminous is my workhorse and has been for years. I moved on from waterproof and now wash my face more thoroughly thank you very much, but I can’t get off the Voluminous. The package used to say “3x Fuller Lashes!” and then one day at Duane Reade I saw it evolved to “4x Fuller Lashes!” and just about died. The show ponies are the mascaras that vibrate, shimmer or do tricks. Givenchy Phenomen’Eyes Mascara is the only beauty product I have ever returned in my entire life.

I have 27 different kinds of mascara, and many others are excellent. The Lancôme version of Voluminous (called Définicils) is just as good but pricier. Définicils has a patented brush type that has teeny, warpy curls at the end of each miniscule brush-hair that holds tight onto tons of black magic. Benefit Bad Gal and Diorshow are both superlative. I continue to try other mascaras, and many are also just great, but my workhorse gets the job done for a few bucks and is my predictable little stallion. I know how it will react in the rain, through tears of laughter, through a sneeze 15 seconds after application, or 30 or 60 seconds for that matter. I just know it well and love it. But is it unequivocally supreme?

I’m going to test the hypothesis and share the results with you. Let me set expectations: this blog post is about mascara that is black. Brown is for very specific skin colors, gray is for amateurs, plum is for kids, blue is for punks and glitter is for Bieber fans.

To give each mascara the same starting line, I started each test with a good brow job, a swipe or two of neutral shadow, and a thick line of liquid L’Oréal Lineur Intense. This is what it looks like pre-mascara. (For a pencil look, try Chanel Le Crayon Khôl).

My workhorse L’Oréal Voluminous looks like this. It takes seconds to get as much volume as you want – and for me, I lay it on thick as heck. You can see a little bit of clumping as a result of over application, but I actually like that. Some carefully facilitated clumping gives the look of luscious Latissey-ness. There’s length, depth, and curl. When you look at my eye with this mascara, you see richness and luxury and something kind of sensual, not really because of me, but because the eye says, I wanna be noticed.

Next, I tried Lancôme Hypnôse Drama, and almost had a heart attack from reading the package. I have tried all kinds of “carbon blacks” and “blackest blacks” in various mascaras; the promise is neat, and they are blacker, yes, but they smudge since they are made of a different material than mascaras with the “normal” amount of black. The silver lining is that these blacker mascaras are really exciting before they smudge. They are sexy as stilettos and draw you in with otherworldly blackness. This package of Hypnôse Drama said “Excessive Black” and my heart skipped a beat.

And the look – it was thick, lush, and full of sex appeal – and I loved the clumping. Girls, clumping isn’t necessarily bad. Use it to amp up the lusciousness and fake the look of falsies.  Just due the diligence of toning down the lip and cheek to make the composition balanced without sacrificing the drama. This product gets you thickness quickly, in only a few coats. The disappointment was that it didn’t curl the lashes much, as you can see, and of course, within minutes of living my life as usual, it smudged below my eye. But, if I had the energy and gumption to clean it up all day I’d look smokin’.

The next day, I tested Benefit BADGal. It made my lashes long and it did stay on well all day, but I wanted more substance.  More bulk and fatness in the lash would have improved the formula and the effect. It took a very long time to coat and re-coat to get the thickness I wanted. The effect wasn’t bad actually, but it took like 8 minutes of application.

My next adventure was Nars. Their newly opened boutique on Bleecker in SoHo is kind of heaven – and the mascara called my name.

The reason I have more lip (practically infinity) than mascara (27) is that mascara has fewer permutations. Mascara is made up of

  • Formula (color, functionality)
  • Brush
  • Nozzle (it probably has a more technical name, but the thingy that removes the goop from the brush on the way out of the tube)

This particular mascara’s nozzle removes much of the glop – and the brush separates lashes nicely. So, while this look wasn’t the va-va-voom breadth and bulk that my mascara dreams are about, it did make my lashes lengthy and distinct. But at the new Nars store, who cares about mascara when you can die and go to the celestial kingdom of color heaven?

Christian Dior Diorshow made me feel like there are alternatives to Voluminous. Diorshow is an all-around excellent product – the brush is fuzzy and holds plenty, and the formula just works. It applies with a substantial feel, the color is deep without smudging, and the length is something to write to ma about. It covers best at the root as opposed to the Hypnôse, which thickened the length of the lash. Nonetheless it was a little miracle; it kind of actually makes you feel like you are living the metaphor – your lashes look like they belong backstage amongst the buzz of a Dior fashion show about to start. Can’t you just see it out of your fabulous sexpot eyes?

Next I tried something that surprised me. To me, if you can’t tell, mascara is about the sex. There are two ways to instantaneously look more feminine, womanly and sensual. Number one, let your hair down, especially if it’s long. Number two, bat your mascara-glopped lashes. The more the better. A little sweet pink on the cheeks, a little gloss on the lip, and as much mascara as you can get on those darn lashes – that’s how to pump up the sex appeal and give yourself a little dose of lady-magnificence. It was one of the original kinds of makeup; it used to be sold in a flat cake pan that you had to wet with a toothbrush-like applicator and swoop on. Women have been using this magic forever to look sexier to men.

But when I applied Laura Mercier Long Lash Mascara, it made me think about mascara in a new way. It didn’t look sexy, but I liked it. It looked… lovely. It looked nice and grown up. It was kind of perfect and prissy in its lack of any kind of edge whatsoever. It looked matoor. And I felt like a lady.

It brought me back to the day I discovered Benefit Benetint, the first beauty product that to me, was truly grown up. It made me think there was more to mascara, and only made more eager to test drive and review more beauty products… the question is: which one will be next?



Guest Post: Why Did You Wear That to the Airport?

By |December 30th, 2010|Guest Blogger|

This is travel season, and while I probably should have asked our guest blogger to write this sooner… better late than never.  This week we are being blessed with the wise words and comedic social commentary of Stephie Rojas the National Director of Digital Publishing for wheretraveler.com and all around fashionista.  To say she knows a thing or two about traveling in style would be an understatement.  Please read on to avoid being “that girl” at the airport.

I’ve seen and not cared about various sundry accidentally left behind in the bins at the end of the airport security line – a Saudi Arabian passport, Kardashian-style bedazzled earbuds, colorful guidebooks to fascinating places. But when I saw a bracelet abandoned in the bin, I did a big ole airport line no-no: I stopped.

It was nothing special; it was a scratched sterling silver cuff in a patently uncool shape. It had some Native American etching and I wondered whether it was someone’s souvenir from a meaningful trip to a real Reservation, a thrift store find, or a fugly gift (pretend smile, “thanks Nana”, etc.). I considered tapping the TSA grouch on the shoulder, puzzled by what kind of woman owned this heavy metal, let alone brought it to the airport. Did she actually want the forgotten beast on her trip enough to intend putting it through the scanner rigmarole or did she put it on today in a cloud of brain fart?

It’s the only time I’ve ever taken pause in the horrible line; I usually try to get the heck out of dodge as fast as humanly possible. This time, however, if I hadn’t had a no-nonsense husband in tow urging me along, I might have held it for a few minutes to wait for her to jet on back. I thought, this must be special to her – and these TSA jerks are kleptos.

It got me thinking about what sort of turkey wears silver through the scanner? And what smarter choices are for airport attire.

What not to wear to the airport:

  1. Any low-rise pant: You will be bending over to get your shoes back on, fetch your luggage off the conveyor belt, or grab your carry-on from the seat in front of you. (Said no-nonsense husband is fond of saying “ping” and pretending to put a quarter in my crack when he sees such rare cleavage).
  2. Difficult shoes. Don’t be the dork unlacing your hightops, or, like my mom, the lady asking the guy behind her to help remove the darn cowboy boot she’s breaking in. (Apparently, when it came off, the guy predictably and hilariously flew back onto his butt and was then obliged to help her with the other).
  3. Your four- or five-inchers. You might have to break a sweat and actually run to your gate. If you really love your daily height (I can’t blame a girl), three inches are plenty of fabulousness for the airport. See: any 3-inch heeled Louboutin.
  4. Any bottom than needs a belt. Don’t make the security officer unnecessarily witness to your very cute, but very private navel.
  5. A buttoned suit jacket with a spicy little cami peeking out. The TSA grump will ask you to take your jacket off. This happened to me once on a work trip, and all I had underneath my Theory blazer was a lacy little Leigh Bantivoglio slip that shed too much airport fluorescence upon my brassiere.
  6. Metal accessories. Put that junk on when you get there.
  7. Sweats of any kind on Earth. Grody.
  8. A Gulpie. You knew you had to toss it right?

What will make your trip easier:

  1. Something breezy and elegant with no metal hardware. For you schlubs out there, remember the airport is a public effing place. Think good jeans with an easy, wrappy cashmere cardigan, or a tee by The Row with a good scarf. Look for good basics from Vince or Autumn Cashmere.
  2. If you must, zhuzh it up with one light, durable key accessory without a giant clasp to betray you in the metal detector, like a wooden beaded necklace from Lee Angel. Do you want the TSA’s new extra special nudie body scan? Don’t volunteer yourself with too much Alex & Ani on your wrists.
  3. Flats. London Sole offers bi-tonal colored-toe numbers that look totally Chanel.
  4. Extra clean pits. I know your 5:55AM flight is early. You will be in a crowded space. Make WhyDid proud and smell like soap.
  5. A convenient wallet. Don’t pick that fantastic but complicated bag with a million hidden compartments, or hold up the line because you had to put all your other stuff on the floor for a two-handed license-finding solution. This makes you look like a dope, and more specifically, invites “ping” situations. Class it up and have your ID handy.
  6. A looky-loo at Wheretraveler.com, this guest blogger’s home base, with local listings written by pros, not random complainers who heart nasty reviews. Plus in 2011 Wheretraveler.com is giving away trips for 4 to Orlando, Miami, San Francisco, Las Vegas, New York, and Oahu!
  7. Pants that fit. You will be sitting for hours and nothing says, “Hello, Fat Day Right Over Here In My Pants!” more than unbuttoning that top jean button.

So now you’re all set to travel like a pro. Please don’t be “that girl” in front of me in airport security.