Archive for the 'Beauty' Category

Quick Oscar Review

Monday, February 26th, 2007

Tivo is perfect for watching the Oscars. We started late, forwarded through all the commercials and boring awards and speeches, and only got to real time at the end.

Fashion, good: Kate Winslet’s dress’s old-time glamour, though the shade was a bit too pale. Cate Blanchett’s dress flattered and dazzled. Helen Mirren seems to own the definition of “age-appropriate”. The color of Jessical Biel’s dress looked good in general and on her.

Fashion, not so good: Nicole K’s red dress looked like she had a giant red mushroom on her shoulder, and only served to accentuate how ghostly pale and weirdly non-human she looks. She’s done too much to her face; it doesn’t seem to move. Her hair color is too pale, and too straight. The skirt of Reese Witherspoon’s boring-black dress was distracting, though the shape was flattering. And she’s gotten too thin for her chin; it’s going to take over the world. J. Lo’s jeweled bodice was also distracting, and the dress wasn’t flattering to boot. Plus where’s the color, people? Bleige is not flattering or interesting. Kirsten Dunst’s dress had a collar at the top, and feathers at the bottom. And what was that shove she gave Toby when they presented? Play nice, kids. Clive Owen’s weird collar and blue suit did not enchant.

Ellen did a good job as host, though her her last pair of pants were not flattering. The extra ceremony stuff was pretty good, though I found Michael Mann’s America montage a little bizarre. And oh, yeah, the movies that won awards were pretty good. I didn’t feel there were any egregious mistakes. For the record, though, I think Children of Men deserved better attention.

For more gossip, visit Perez Hilton and Go Fug Yourself.

Why I Bother

Wednesday, January 24th, 2007

I know parents who have given up on all sorts of things once they had a child. Movies, books, writing, restaurants, even clothing and makeup. All these things matter to me, though, so I make time for them by not doing other things. Clothing and makeup might seem trivial or superficial compared to the others, but I haven’t given up on those, either. Much of my time as a mother is spent on the physical needs of my toddler and baby. Time for my physical needs helps at least a little. I sometimes wonder, when I’m running late, if it’s worth it that I have makeup or accessories on, or that my outfit fits and matches. My preparation is an oasis of autonomy among the negotiations and acrobatics required to get the kids out the door.

Smelly Soap

Wednesday, November 8th, 2006

This morning, I wondered where that strange chemical smell was coming from. The neighbor’s new roof? Oh, no. It’s me. Curse you, Dr. Bronner’s.

I tried the eucalyptus soap, figuring it would be good for sore, post-yoga muscles. I didn’t find it any better than the peppermint, which I quite like. But the lingering scent was a weird, pungent one that I found unpleasant. I found myself in the odd position of needing to take another shower to wash off the smell of the soap from the previous one. Rather than playing it safe with my old reliable, Dove for Sensitive Skin, I decided to throw caution to the wind and try Neutrogena’s Energizing Sugar Body Scrub. It smells of citrus, and left my winter skin feeling well hydrated. I followed it with the Neutrogena body oil, and I think I’ll be able not only to endure, but to enjoy, the scents tomorrow.

Added later: The Neutrogena Sugar Scrub leaves a huge mess in the shower, and should only be used sparingly, with care taken to dissolve the crystals completely.

Apparently, I Never Learn

Friday, July 14th, 2006

I am Wile E. Coyote. And my metaphorical Roadrunner is the self-tanner. Two years ago, I tried Clarins and Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs. The former smelled, while the latter made a huge mess of my tub; both turned my skin orange. Last summer I resisted the siren call because I felt so nauseated in my first trimester carrying Guppy. This year, though, I succumbed. I tried Dove Energy Glow Daily Moisturizer with Self-Tanners, seduced by its Campaign for Real Beauty ad and model, and its claims of subtle change. But the song remains the same. In spite of exfoliation, shaving, and a preventive sheen of moisturizer over knees and ankles, my legs have weird, orange-y streaks and overly pigmented knees and ankles. My arms don’t look bad, though, and it hardly smells at all, even to my sensitive schnoz. But I have to stop doing this to myself every year. IT’S JUST NOT WORTH IT.

Shaking a Stick at Shopping Magazines

Friday, August 5th, 2005

It’s taken me some time, but I’ve finally managed to work my way through at least one issue of each of the shopping magazines: the original, Lucky; spinoff #1 Cargo for men; copycat #1 Shop, Etc.; and spinoff #2 Domino for home.

Years ago a friend told me Lucky was a great magazine. I scoffed. The shopping magazine? Then I checked it out, apologized and became a subscriber. Lucky is one of the most successful magazine launches in recent years. It positions its editors as in-the-know girlfriends, dispensing advice on how to dress and what products–classic and new–to try. Lucky is a great magazine for ideas, and it features a wide range of items, from drugstores to exclusive boutiques. The production quality is high with accessible layouts, and good photography, models, writing, and paper stock. Editor-in-Chief Kim France and Creative Director Andrew Linnett are alumni of the late, lamented Sassy, to which Lucky is a much more worthy heir than is the celebrity-suck-up Jane.

I picked up a few copies of Cargo to get fashion ideas for my husband, who tends to be somewhat sartorially challenged. Cargo, though, gave me a headache. It was too bright, too busy, and it’s pitched to a young, metrosexual consumer.

Shop, Etc. has tried to copy Lucky’s success. I found its first issue to be like a low-rent version of Lucky–poorer photography, cheaper paper, fewer models to save on costs, and clumsy attempts to write Lucky-like copy. A subsequent issue themed “everything under $100″ got my attention, but then annoyed me when I spotted the $100+ Mason Pearson hairbrush. I noticed from the letters column that readers seemed to believe it was a shopping magazine for more average lives and budgets, but I’m not sure that’s intended. It may be a response to the cheaper price and production value of the magazine. Aside from the under $100 issue, it features a wide range of items and costs. I found nothing in Shop, Etc. that Lucky doesn’t do better or that I felt Lucky lacked.

Finally, the newest entry, Domino, is like Lucky for the home. The premier issue did all the same things as does Lucky, but didn’t strike a chord with me. I found some of the items in the ads more compelling than the stuff in the features. Maybe it’s that I’m not a DIY-er, so I’m not the target, but I found the mini sections that Lucky has on home items to be sufficient. This full-length magazine was just too much for me.

Interesting, also, was that Cargo, Shop, Etc., and Domino were all difficult to find. Lucky is available up front at Target. The others I had to go to a bookstore to find, and even then, I had to go to more than one bookstore. At the end of my experiment, I’ve found I’m loyal to Lucky. One shopping magazine is enough for me, if not for the magazine industry.

Best Sunblock

Friday, July 22nd, 2005

I was warned out of the sun almost two decades ago by a dermatologist, and I’ve mostly obeyed. Even so, I still got one accidental sunburn a year for a while. In recent years, though, I’ve become less vain about wearing a hat and frumpy cover-ups in the sun, and the accidental sunburns stopped. I am very conscientious about sunscreen/sunblock for both Drake and me, since he inherited my fair skin rather than G. Grod’s dark olive complexion.

My new favorite sunblock is Neutrogena Ultrasheer Dry-Touch Sunblock, which comes in both SPF 30 and 45. As its name suggests, it is a non-greasy, non-sticky formula. It has a very light scent, and comes in a slim, light tube that is easy to slip into a purse or diaper bag. Its pleasant formula makes me dread putting it on less, so I use it more; I just bought my second tube of the summer.

The sunscreen that I am less delighted with is the Coppertone Sport Sunblock Spray. I bought it for my back and neck. While it does allow me to reach those spots, it has a tacky finish, and a strong, traditional Coppertone smell. Most unpleasant, though, is that it seems impossible not to inhale the stuff as I’m spraying it on. I usually opt to wear something that covers my upper back, and then use the Neutrogena on my arms and the back of my neck.

When I went to my annual dermatologist check up this year, the office recommended three brands as being overall good for skin and sun care: Neutrogena, Dove and Olay. Best of all, these are drugstore brands that are usually inexpensive and easily available. I haunted department store cosmetic counters for years. I am much more satisfied, with the products and from a simplicity-of-life standpoint, to buy and use the drugstore brands.

Hot Weather Helpers

Thursday, June 23rd, 2005

The weather here is hot, humid and miserable. I haven’t even yet bothered to venture outside today. Yes, the sun is shining, but it will still be shining after 5 p.m., and I hope it will be slightly cooler. It seems a shame to keep Drake and me cooped up inside, but I find extremes of hot are just as bad as extremes of cold. Yes, one needs less clothing but there’s still hats and sunscreens, so it’s just cover-up of a different type.

I am reminded, though, that the season brings new beauty needs. No longer do I need a rich body lotion. Instead, I use Neutrogena’s body oil, which has a faint, very pleasant sesame scent, and a light, non-greasy texture. To wash off the sunscreen at the end of the day, I take a tepid shower and use Dove’s Cool Moisture body wash. It has a cooling texture and light scent. (I’m also loving the new print ads for Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty.) Finally, to un-toughen winter feet, there are two department-store creams that do a great job, Philosophy Soul Owner and Fresh Rice Foot Cream. The Foot File takes care of rough skin on heels in a jif.

Ode to Green Eyeliner

Friday, June 17th, 2005

At my reunion last weekend, my friends were disappointed to learn that I had scaled back so dramatically on my cosmetics purchases over the years. I was the one who could be counted on for having a zillion lip and nail shades, even the ones that didn’t suit me, because I’d gotten them free or just couldn’t throw them out.

In college I had a favored eye compact from Christian Dior, back when they had the 4 little squares of shadow. Yellow went on my lid, green was dusted along the upper lashes over a bright green pencil, orange was in the inner nook of the brow, and blue was swept along under the bottom lashes. This was complimented by Dior’s electric bluebright blue mascara, which smelled of roses. It was a trashy look, but I loved it, and wore it day and night until those colors were discontinued. I still feel a puff of nostagia for them now and then, as I did when I remembered it over last weekend.

For me, the key part of the look was the bright green. I have been able to find a good substitute, Humid by MAC, which I use as a liner with a wet flat brush. I also like the dark, bright blue of MAC’s Contrast. (Don’t trust the online color chips. They aren’t accurate.) Smashbox has a product called Off Set that converts powder shadow to liner. A neat idea, but given that I rarely wear colored liner anymore, day or night, water works just fine for me. When I do, though, these colors help bring me back to my cosmetics heyday.

Hail, Manolo

Friday, June 10th, 2005

If you are not yet reading Manolo’s Shoe Blog, perhaps one of today’s entries will convince you of its super-fantasticity. Manolo the author, who is not Manolo Blahnik (called “Manolo the Maestro” on the blog), is not a fan of Karl Lagerfeld.

Here is the fat, happy-but-crazy Karl Lagerfeld, smiling at us like the Sergant Schultz from the Hogan’s Heroes, wanting nothing more than the bratwurst and the pastries, and perhaps to destroy the House of Chanel with his clothing designs.

Obviously, this picture it is from before the Lagerfeld he made is infamous pact with El Diablo.

Now, the question for the Manolo, it is should the Faust/Lagerfeld be pitied, or despised?

Manolo’s Shoe Blog covers shoes, fashion, celebrity, and more. It is all written in a stylized pidgin-y voice, with tongue firmly in cheek. It’s funny, sharp, clever, and occasionally bitchy. Best of all, it has a heart. I read the Manolo daily.

College, 15 years later

Tuesday, June 7th, 2005

I went to my first college reunion over the weekend, the fifteenth. I went not so much to catch up with anyone I’d lost touch with, but rather because the several friends I do keep up with were all going to be there, one with her husband and family. When one lives far away, as I do in MN, it’s important to try to get the most out of trips across country.

The night before my flight found me rustling through my closet for pieces that fit and were seasonal, then trying to put together outfits around them. The weather was hot and humid. This was not conducive to either a calm mind, or fitting into tight jeans or skirts. There was much frustrated hopping up and down. Finally I managed to put together four outfits that seemed as if they’d match both the weather and the events I’d be attending. I tucked in the tight jeans, too, just in case I got a last minute reprieve. And I packed a whopping four pairs of shoes, in addition to the one that I’d be wearing. Usually, I wear a pair and pack another. For packing in general, I try to take a bare minimum. Often I end up having under packed, though that’s never been problematic, just rather boring for me to wear the same things over and again. For my reunion, though, the rules were different.

I was fortunate to spend the night before the reunion with my sister Ruthie. I tried on my four outfits for her, all of which she approved. She confirmed that the jeans were too tight so they moved to the bottom of my suitcase. We found another smashing outfit in her closet, though, one that went with an existing pair of shoes. Additionally, we combed through her jewelry and handbags to accessorize all five outfits.

I felt somewhat ashamed of myself for obsessing so much over my appearance. If I was going to see my friends, why did it matter what I wore and how I looked? What did I have to prove, and to whom?

At the reunion, my time was my own–my spouse G. Grod and toddler Drake were at my in-laws. I had luxurious stretches of time to spend with my friends. We tried on each other’s clothes, and talked about our husbands and children. We traded makeup tips and birth stories. We tried to recall who we’d kissed in our younger days, then were shocked to see many of them balding and portly, very different from their 18-year-old selves. Each night I limped into our hotel after a night in lovely heels. My friends and I joked about fashion before function, but my blistered, aching feet told another tale by Sunday. I had fun, though, dressing up for the first time in a long time, and not worrying about having Drake smear up a dry-clean-only outfit (those few that I own) or tug at and break my jewelry.

I realize now that it wasn’t those boys that I kissed, or even the girls I was envious of back then, that I was trying to impress by dressing well. I was trying to give my college self, a chubby, drunk, depressed girl, the happy ending she so desperately wanted.

The first time I took a writing class, I read the following quote by Joan Didion, and it hit me with almost physical force. It still has power, almost ten years later, as I discovered when I read it recently at Mental Multivitamin.

I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends.

– Joan Didion in Slouching towards Bethlehem

I’m a late bloomer. It takes me a long while to get my act together and figure things out. This weekend was good, making new connections with old friends. But I also reconnected with my old self, who wasn’t very happy in college. I think she would be pleased if she could have seen the life we’re living now.

Neutrogena Clean Lash Tint

Thursday, April 21st, 2005

Based on a recommendation in Lucky magazine, I sought out Neutrogena Clean Lash Tint mascara. I almost missed it sitting on an endcap, in what looked to be a temporary, seasonal display. I’m glad I didn’t, though, because this is a great product. It is a lash darkener only, so there are no clumps and bumps. It has a good brush, a long handle, and goes on in one coat for a look that is extremely natural. This is that rare makeup product that enhances without making me look made up. I will be writing Neutrogena to request that they make this a part of their regular product line.

Razor Wars

Thursday, April 14th, 2005

I’m a sucker for a good marketing campaign. When Gillette introduced the Sensor for men in 1990, I bought both the product and the marketing. Its two blades were spring mounted for extra manueuverability, and the handle had sticky grips for better traction in the shower. In 1992, Gillette introduced the Sensor for Women, and I happily plunked down the additional cash. The Sensor for women featured a unique, wide ovoid handle that was easy to use. In 1993, I began to get suspicious, as the Sensor Excel for men was introduced; 5 microfins were added to the two blades for a closer shave. Was Gillette mastering planned obsolescence, introducing a new variation on the product every few years, offering the men’s first because women would buy it too? They gave credence to my theory when they rolled out the Sensor Excel for women in 1996, then the Mach 3 for men in 1998 followed by the 3-bladed Venus for women in 2001. Since then they have added the Mach 3 Turbo, and the M3Power for men, and the Venus Divine for women.

With each introduction, the features, not just of the blade but of the handle, are enhanced. Gillette has been careful that more than the appearance of the handle is changing. Yes, their marketing still trumpets silly-sounding features like “single-point docking,” but the blades, their mounting, and the handles have been evolving continuously. Gillette has also been careful in their intervals. By waiting a few years, rather than a few months, they ensure a long period in which people can adopt their product, rather than waiting a few months to see if the next one will come out, like the special editions of some DVDs.

As each razor was introduced, I became a more reluctant consumer, wondering if the additional blades and features really were resulting in a closer shave. The costs mounted with the new models; the Venus refills cost almost $2 apiece! I did not purchase any Mach 3 or Venus variations. After I used my last Venus refill, I put my skepticism to the test. When warm weather finally came to my upper midwest state, I looked for the simplest, cheapest disposable there was, and found that I could get 14 (!) Bic Silky Touch disposables for about $2–a little more than the cost of one Venus refill. The Silky Touch had 2 blades, a non-pivoting head, no lubricating strip and a colorful plastic handle. These’ll be fine, I thought, angry at having been duped by Gillette for so many years.

My next shave was not a pleasant one. I had to use a lot of shaving cream, the razor kept slipping out of my hand, and I got both cuts and burns. It turns out that some of those Gillette features are useful and contribute to a better shave.

What to do now, then? Keep trying inexpensive disposables? Buy a new set of Venus refills? Pick up the newest offering on the market from Gillette arch-rival Schick, the Quattro for women, with four blades? (Gillette attempted to sue Schick over patent infringement when the Quattro debuted. They were denied.) Before I started writing this entry, I thought the Quattro was the newest offering from Gillette, probably annoyed because Schick interrupted their product introduction interval by offering the Quattro before whatever will be the Gillette men’s 4.0, which is sure to be followed in 2 to 3 years by the women’s.

I am certain that there is some balance in razor-land between super-expensive four-blade-plus-the-kitchen-sink refillables and super-cheap, two-blade disposables. I’ll let you know when I find it.

A Boatload of Beauty Product Reviews

Monday, April 11th, 2005

Attempting to economize, I have been delving into the large stash of beauty swag accumulated over the years from cosmetic gift-with-purchases (GWPs). I’ve not given up on the idea of putting some of it up on Ebay, but for now it seems a reasonable thing to use what I can. This has again confirmed for me how rare are the products about which I can exclaim, “I can see a difference!” It has also got me thinking of how to encode this in a beauty rating system.

F: Ugh. Wouldn’t use it if it were free.
D: Eh. It’s fine. Doesn’t bother me too much.
C: Decent. I like something about it–the scent, texture, packaging–but I don’t notice a difference.
B: Good. I like the product, and I can see some difference.
A: Great. I like it, and I can see a big difference.

Pluses and minuses for other considerations, like bang for the buck.

Body Lotions

Caudalie Vinotherapie Nourishing Treatment for the Body. A GWP from a Neiman Marcus (NM) beauty event. A strong scent that I did not find offensive, but can’t quite call pleasant, either. Did a reasonable job of moisturizing. I would not pay for this product, but was fine with using it having received it for free. $35 for 8.8 oz. Grade: D.

Kiss My Face Honey Calendula Moisturizer. A thick texture and a light, pleasant, sweet scent. Does not absorb easily. I’ve bought it a few times because it was on sale, but would probably not pay full price for it. $10 for 16 oz. Grade: C.

Natura Bisse Diamond Body Cream. A NM GWP. A good-sized sample. Thick texture, easily absorbed, mild scent. Supposedly firming, but I’m not sure how I’m supposed to tell a difference with only the few applications from the sample. Again, I would not pay for this product but was fine having received it for free. Cannot imagine paying the full retail price for this product, which is $210 for 9.5 oz. Grade: C.

Kiehl’s Baby Body Lotion. For the most part, babies and toddlers do not need lotion, in spite of what Johnson & Johnson have cleverly raised us to think. My toddler Drake, though, tended to get red, chapped cheeks during cold weather, and this helped. It is a light lotion with a light, natural scent. $19.95 for 8 oz. See Paula Begoun for other ratings of other baby products. Grade: B.

Fresh Lemon Body Lotion. This smells like lemonade, sweet but not cloying. I found it a good stand-in for perfume. The lotion is fine but unremarkable in texture and moisturization. $32 for 10 oz. Grade: C.

Weleda Calendula Baby Lotion. I bought this for Drake but ended up using it myself. It didn’t do much for his chapped cheeks. A medium-strong scent. Unremarkable. $12 for 6.68 oz. Grade: D.

Eye Makeup Removers

Clinique Naturally Gentle Eye Makeup Remover. I did like that it was a tube rather than a liquid, thus easier to travel with. This is supposed to be non-irritating, with the same Ph as tears. I found it very irritating to my eyes. $14.50 for 2.5 oz. Grade: F.

Neutrogena Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover. “Effective and gentle.” I also found this irritating to my eyes, which are sensitive and I wear contact lenses nearly every day. Less expensive than the Clinique, but no less irritating. About $5.5 for 5.5 oz. Grade: F.

Face Treatments

Neutrogena Visibly Firm Lift Serum. A medium perfume and a strange Neutrogena-brand periwinkle blue color, but I noticed a difference when I began using this serum in addition to my morning and evening moisturizers. My skin looked firmer and better hydrated. About $18.49 for 1 oz. Grade: B.

Neutrogena Visibly Firm Night Cream. Again with the perfume and the light blue, but I also noticed a difference when I began using this–firmer and better hydrated, as above. About $18.49 for 1.7 oz. Grade: B.

Creme de la Mer Moisturizer. I received this from a very kind person in my life. I had previously used it in a sample and had not seen results, but had not received the instructions to warm it before applying it, and to pat it, rather than rub it, on. I am now easily able to see a positive difference in the appearance and texture of my skin. It looks and feels less wrinkled and more healthy. A thick, comforting texture with a clean, classic scent. A great product, though expensive. Grade: A-.

Making Brown Eyes Blue

Sunday, March 27th, 2005

Or, in my case, green. I spent several years of my young life wishing for green eyes. The heroines in the trashy romances I read never had red hair and brown eyes, as I did. If they had red hair they always had green eyes, which were, of course, usually flashing. (Have you ever seen anyone with flashing green eyes? I haven’t.) Finally, though, in the mid-eighties came contact lenses that could change brown eyes to green. I was so excited to get them, only to be disappointed. They sat slightly askew on my iris, leaving a lopsided brown ring around my pupil. They were not the magical transformation for which I had hoped.

My experience with these contact lenses left me highly sensitized to other brown-eyed folk wearing them, like Naomi Judd, L’i'l Kim, Paris Hilton, and most recently Edward James Olmos in Battlestar Galactica. I found this last so curious that I didn’t hold out much hope of having it confirmed. Oh me of little faith. Olmos is wearing blue lenses so he has similar coloring to Jamie Bamber, the actor who plays his son, Lee. Bamber, in turn, is dyeing his normally blonde hair brown, as well as Americanizing his English accent. Interestingly, this is not the first time Olmos has worn blue lenses. He did so in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, to signify “the fusion of cultures and peoples”.

50 Movie Challenge, Real Women Have Curves

Tuesday, March 15th, 2005

Real Women Have Curves 5. Real Women Have Curves. 2002. Directed by Patricia Cardoso. It seems as if my husband G. Grod and I are in the extreme minority of those who didn’t love this film. I appreciated that the main character Ana stood up to her bullying mother and did not apologize for or try to hide her curves. I thought the “strip” scene in the sweat shop was fantastic. Overall, though, there were no surprises in this movie. The writing was sometimes painfully earnest, the boyfriend was utterly non-complex, and there were several moments in which I became aware of Ferrara the actor rather than Ana the character. Its heart is in the right place, but the execution is–no pun intended–too thin.

On a side note, I saw this film about embracing non-conventional beauty standards in the same week that I read Us Weekly’s “20 Best Body Makeovers” issue, which I purchased for the Oscar coverage. In my opinion, nearly all of the twenty women looked better before, i.e., heavier. There was a lot of plastic surgery (I find Jennifer Lopez nearly unrecognizable these days), and a lot of suspiciously unhealthy-looking weight loss.

Wishful product buying

Friday, January 28th, 2005

I saw a blurb in the February issue of Lucky magazine about a product I just had to try: California Baby’s Overtired and Cranky Spritz. According to Lucky, it’s a perfect pick-me-up for both babies and grown ups during that dead zone in the afternoon between 3 and 5 p.m. I guiltily plunked down $12 because even the possibility of relief during the dead zone was too much to resist.

Verdict? Well, it doesn’t make me crankier. I think the phsyical shock of getting something cold and wet spritzed on the back of the neck might be what derails fatigue and crankiness as much as the fragrance itself. It may not be so much a calming thing as a distracting counter-irritant. Is it worth $12? Probably not.

Decent drugstore mascara

Tuesday, January 18th, 2005

Conventional wisdom varies on how often one should replace a tube of mascara. Some generous sources say a year, but others recommend every six months, or even every four. Such frequent replacement can mean that mascara is an expensive part of a beauty regimen.

My previous favorite mascara was Bobbi Brown’s Thickening Formula, which was discontinued and replaced with a combined lengthening/thickening formula called Everything Mascara. I bought a tube last spring. I didn’t like it as much as its Thickening predecessor, but it had a good brush and a not very wet formula that didn’t clump much. It had two strikes against it, though. It was hard to remove, even with the normally very efficient MAC eye makeup remover, and it wasn’t cheap. At $19 a tube, I didn’t love it enough to replace it even twice a year, much less three times. And so I embarked on a search for a decent, reasonably priced drugstore formula.

Most magazines and makeup artists tout Maybelline’s Great Lash regular formula as the best (and one of the cheapest) drugstore mascaras. I tried it a few years ago and didn’t like the brush and got a lot of clumps. I didn’t see the need to test it again.

I did some online research and found some good reviews of products by Maybelline, L’Oreal and Almay. Picking out just one was daunting, though. Each formula comes in multiple colors and waterproof or not. Each brand had about a half dozen different formulas, so there were at least fifty different tubes among which I had to choose. After about ten minutes of deliberation, I chose Maybelline’s Lash Discovery in blackish brown, non-waterproof. It’s both a thickening and a lengthening formula and has a tiny brush. The brush is easy to maneuver, requiring fewer strokes, using less product and lessening clumps. It’s a very good basic mascara and I’ll buy it again. It cost about $6.50, so I could replace it every four months and pay just a bit more than I did for one tube of the Bobbi Brown.

Doll parts

Friday, January 14th, 2005

The first few episodes of The O.C. that featured Alex, Seth’s new girlfriend, had her straight blond hair with its purple streak up in an elaborate ‘do. The artifically stiff, round curl on the side of her head reminded me fondly of one of my favorite childhood dolls, Quick-Curl Barbie. QCB had strands of wire intermixed with the normal platinum strands so that you could use the plastic curling wand to style her hair into a curled coif with staying power. Alas, the wires became brittle after much manipulation and broke off, leaving QCB with rough bits of wire sticking out of her head, looking much more like a science project gone horribly awry than a beauty maven.

I didn’t have much luck with doll hair during childhood. Another favorite doll, Velvet, had blond hair with a ponytail fountain that sprung from a hole in her head and could be pulled out or retracted back. One day the obnoxious neighbor boy yanked on the ponytail for the last time, and Velvet’s crowning glory got pulled clean out, leaving her forever with a short bob and a gaping hole in her head. Her big sister doll, Crissy, had no such problem, but I was unconsoled; Velvet had been my favorite. Like Barbara Eden on I Dream of Jeanie, Velvet’s ponytail was a source of power and wonder. Its loss was a hard one.

A dry-skin caution

Friday, January 7th, 2005

Some might say this is a common-sense caution. I, however, often need to have common-sense things spelled out to me, so I share this dry-skin advice.

The dryness of winter is not a good time to try a retinol product for the first time, especially if you have even moderately sensitive skin. A few years ago I finally bit the bullet on my persistent cystic acne, took my dermatologist’s advice, followed his cautions, and underwent a treatment of Accutane. Accutane, like retinols, is a highly concentrated form of vitamin A that forcefully encourages growth of new skin by sloughing off the outer layers. After several months, the end result was great–I am no longer troubled by cystic acne. My one regret, though, was that I’d undergone the treatment during late fall and winter. The cold, dry air exacerbated the already extreme moisture-draining effects of the drug. Taking retinol in winter made an already difficult process for my skin even more uncomfortable.

If you, like me, are often trying new products, especially ones to combat aging, give yourself and your skin a break. Retinol creams do work for some, but they are irritating. For now, use gentle, hydrating creams and lotions. Products with retinol will still be around in a few months, when the weather and the humidity are more favorable to their use.

Help for dry skin

Thursday, January 6th, 2005

I don’t think we’re going to break 20 degrees Fahrenheit today, and it’s probably not as warm as 50 degrees in our basement. I change multiple diapers a day and am trying to make hand washing before meals a habit for our toddler Drake. All these mean that unless I’m careful, I’m going to have skin, especially on my hands, that is as dry and cracked as the writing on Arrested Development. While eternal vigilance isn’t possible, there are a few things that I do to keep dessication at bay.

One, I’m not drinking much more water. When I was breastfeeding, a nurse told me that while it’s important to keep hydrated, drinking too much water results in frequent urination, which in turn can result in losing more water than is retained. So contrary to common sense and practice, I’m sticking to the usual recommendation of about 8 glasses a day.

Two, I use Cetaphil cleanser for my face. Not only is it gentle, but it can also be tissued off without water.

Three, I apply hand lotion after every hand washing. I keep lotion next to every sink.

Four, I don’t shower every day.

Five, I avoid moisturizers with petrolatum, lanolin and mineral oil in them. These ingredients create barriers so that moisture doesn’t escape from skin, but they can irritate skin and simply sit on top of it rather than moisturizing or healing cracked skin. Using lotions with gentler ingredients immediately after rinsing the skin with water works best for me.

Finally, I find products by Dr. Hauschka good on several levels, though affordability is not one of them. The ingredients are natural, organic and sustainably harvested. They smell and feel great to use. I find the rose moisturizers for face and body and the rose body oil very comforting both in scent, which is light, and texture, which is rich.