Monday, October 28, 2013

Inside Out

Have I spent an insane amount of money on topical skincare products since I turned 32 and realized that, despite my greatest hopes, I am not immune to aging?  Yes.  Has that helped?  Yes.  My skin looks better, less lined, less breakouts, more even.  But throughout,  I have understood that the things that have the most impact on the way your skin looks are on the inside.  Genetics is impact-maker #1 which can be both good and bad, depending on who you are.  For someone like me who has inherited dry skin with sizable pores and underlying redness, it's not great.  Genetics is the one factor over which we have no control.  But skin (and hair and nail and general body) condition also has a lot to do with diet.  So to supplement my obsessive topical regime, I have tried to incorporate some healthy dietary habits.  It's a pretty basic list, so far.  Please add suggestions if you have them.

More water.  It's (basically) free and is probably inside-out-impact-maker #2 after Genetics.  I only had four New Year's resolutions for 2013 and drinking more water was one of them.  Note that one of them was not "work out more,"  I don't like to make generic idle resolutions. I was serious about this one.  Unfortunately I don't think I've done that great a job.  And whatever good I've done has probably been undone by the amount of alcohol I drink (what can i say, I like a beer or glass of wine (or two) at the end of the day).  So here is an area for improvement.

Omegas!  Only recently have I discovered the value of the essential fats contained in omega oils.  This is certainly not the best tasting stuff, I think there are others out there that might rank higher on taste.  But it can be blended into a lot of dishes like salads, sandwhiches, smoothies, dips, and spreads in a way that makes it palatable and even a great addition.  I also find that I like it more the more I use it - I guess it's an acquired taste. 

This supplement is especially important to me because I have a vegetarian diet.  And not just any ol' omegas, in any ol' combination will do.  It has to be the perfect 3-6-9 blend.  This stuff is important not just for skin health and clarity but also for physicial performance and can help our aging bodies stay active and fit!  I've only tried Udo's Oil for this and have seen results in about a month of use.  Breakouts during that time have decreased, and my skin looks firmer and more moisturized. 

Less alcohol.  Ugh.  This is the one I am most resistant to.  I know it does damage, but this might fall into the "it's worth it" category for me.  Also, red wine is good for your skin and anti-aging of the body in general.  Even better than grape juice.  Because the fermenting process in red wine uses the skin and seeds of the grape (as opposed to grape juice where all of this is removed) there is a higher concentration of antioxidants (including resveratrol) in red wine as compared to grape juice.  The recommendation is one glass a day for the ladies.  If you can stick to that, bottoms up!

Vitamins.  From food.  I am not a fan of the chalky pill vitamins.  The safer and more effective way to get them is from the food they come in naturally.  The important things for skin are vitamin C (oranges, pineapple) for helping the body to produce collagen, vitamin E (tofu, leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and avocados) to help skin protect itself from UV rays and prevent oxidative stress, beta carotine (carrots, sweet potatoes, grapefruit, broccoli), which the body converts into vitamin A (which is retinol), and Selenium (barley, button mushrooms, mustard seeds, several types of oleic fish) promotes elasticity, zinc (wheat germ, spinach, pumpkin seeds, nuts, chocolate!) to protect cell membranes, maintain collagen, and promote cell renewal.  I bought a blender and some protein powder and am starting to incorporate a berry or other fruit smoothie (with some udo's oil thrown in) into my morning routine.  I didn't really have a breakfast habit before now other than water to re-hydrate from the night and a mocha or other spruced up coffee whenever I got the chance.  Yes it adds a couple more steps to my life: add ingredients, blend, clean (ugh!).  But hopefully this will also fall into the "it's worth it" category.    

Thursday, October 17, 2013


I really appreciate "empties" posts, it's an interesting way to get a blogger's views out about a collection of products tied together only by the fact that, for better or worse, they're over with.  It's a slightly arbitrary but brilliant way to define a collection of products to review for the day.  I also think the true test of whether someone really likes something is whether they repurchase it and "empties" posts are a good way for bloggers to put their money where their mouths are - the ultimate test of whether they really like the products they have showcased is whether they will repurchase.  It's like a "what I can and can't live without" post. 

Personally I like empty cosmetic and skincare containers because it means I got my money's worth.  I hate having products sit on the shelf unused - and sometimes they will sit for years because I spent a lot of money on them or they're very high-quality or popular or whatever the reason.  And then eventually those get thrown out anyway, half full (or more!).  That makes me sad.  I am particularly sad to say I have never "hit pan" in my life.  Ever.  And I bet I'm not alone.  The first lip product I ever got to the end of was my SUGAR lip treatment and I couldn't have been more happy and proud of myself.  Finally, since I am an anti-hoarder, it gives me a sense of relief to lessen the clutter in my bathroom (I'll pretend to ignore for the moment that for every empty I throw away I'm sure I purchase six more products to try). 

Incidentally, since I am "a returner" I think I might introduce a segment of the weekend's returns too.  The reasons for a return also tend to be a pretty strong signal about one's feelings about a product and can provide a good segue to a review of the product.  So stay tuned!

Here are my empties in the last couple weeks, and of course, my thoughts about them.

Dior hydra life pro youth sorbet cream:  I love this product for a mid-range, pleasant but no-frills moisturizer.  It smells clean and not overpowering, the formula is soft but rich and absorbs well.  It works under makeup.  And the range has a number of products for day, night, eyes, etc. that are equally pleasant and pretty effective at moisturizing.  They don't really claim to do anything else.  I repurchased this and the more fluid SPF version a number of times before I discovered La Mer.  Prior to La Mer, while I was using the Dior, I still noticed some flakiness to my skin and thought - well, I'm using a high-end brand, there must be nothing that can fix this problem.  But then I found La Mer and it solved my dry skin problems.  Since nothing compares to La Mer for my very dry skin (and since I am gainfully employed) I think I will stick to that regime but if you're looking in the $50-$100 price range for something simple, particularly for combo skin, I don't think it gets much better than Dior's Hydra Life line. 

Nexxus Pro-Mend Heat Protexx spray:  You may start to notice a trend here.  The only time I venture into drug store products is for my hair.  I'm not sure why that is.  I think it's because I gravitate towards the best treatments for me and, for me, the drug store hair treatments are just as effective as any of the high-end versions I've tried.  This is just not true of, for example, foundations, shadows, bronzers, and moisturizers.  I blow dry and flat iron a few times a week - and I use this stuff religiously before every heat treatment.  I adore this stuff, and I've tried quite a few heat protectants in all price ranges.  Sprays, serums, creams.  Nothing comes close to the simplicity and effectiveness of this product.  The things I like most about it are (a) it's a very light formula, not sticky or oily or cakey or drying the way others can be, and you feel that even if you sprayed the whole bottle onto your head it wouldn't change the texture or style you are otherwise trying to achieve with your hair.  It's like water in that way, only it's not water, it's magic, and (b) perhaps this is because it's so light and not trying too hard to be a complex treatment - the spray distribution is great.  The nozzle is great, the fine mist is perfect, I love the application.  It's also effective, as far as I can tell.  I use my flat iron at an abusive 410 degrees and my hair is silky soft and not too dry, no change in color or texture after years of this.   

Dior Instant Eye Makeup Remover:  I like this remover.  I don't know if it's the best as I have only ever used a few others (Clinique's and Bobbi Brown's bi-phase removers) but it is the best that I've tried as far as getting makeup off without having to use too much effort.  It doesn't sting eyes or skin and it claims to condition eyelashes.  I don't know if that's true but at least my eyelashes haven't deteriorated from everyday use of this product.  I also love LOVE that it's a twist off top, my pet peeve for all of the cosmetics industry is this obsession with child-proof caps on eye makeup remover.  I HATE it, with my Clinique remover I thought I was going to get carpal tunnel.  I have young children and I still hate it.  There are certain products that one must keep away from children if one has them.  If eye-makeup remover falls into that category then so be it, I'll keep it away from them.  Also, how arbitrary is it that eyemakeup remover comes with child-proof  caps but nail polish remover (probably more hazardous), and for that matter nail polish, come with normal screw caps.  Stop the madness.  You might be surprised to hear that I am not repurchasing this right now.  I'm phasing out eye makeup remover from my routine.  I am going to try to rely instead on just a pre-wash with cleansing oil before my normal face wash with my Mia2.  I do the cleansing oil pre-wash anyway and it does a pretty good job with eye makup so why not eliminate a step? We'll see how that goes.

Anastasia tinted brow gel - I have used this for years and I think I'm on my 3rd or 4th tube.  It lasts for a long time.  Not only is this a repurchase, it's one of those things I make sure to buy a backup of when I'm getting low on the current one so I am never without it.  I love it.  It sets brow powder and adds a touch of color (which I need for my light-colored brows) and it's so easy.  I don't intend to ever stop buying this. 

Pantene conditioner:  More drugstore hair products.  Actually I buy this one at Costco.  This is probably the longest-standing product in all of my arsenal.  And talk about generic, I don't even know which variety I use because I just buy whatever is on the shelf at costco.  I will update when I figure that one out.  But I love it. (UPDATE: Itss "Classic."  Of course.  Completely no frills) I got to Aveda salons to get my hair cut (pitifully infrequently, btw) and I have tried some of their super fancy conditioners.  I have also tried the cheapest of the drugstore brands thinking - well if pantene works, why not suave?  But I haven't found anything that works as well on either end of the spending spectrum.  This. just. works.  It makes your hair silky smooth, the texture is nice and easy to distribute, and it sticks on your hair in the shower while you're letting it soak in. 

Laura Mercier Full Blown Volume lash-building mascara:  I like it, it is lash building, I don't know about it's staying power because I use Dior's lash primer under it and that stuff makes everything stay put all day.  I don't love it.  It's nice when it's brand new but it gets 'old' fast, sticky and clumpy.  I'm not going to repurchase.  I think there are better cheaper options.  Like clinique's mascaras.

Smashbox High Definition Concealer:  Not only do I always repurchase this, I have THREE current tubes because one or two is not enough.  One in my purse, one at work, and one in my morning stash.  With any concealer, you need to find the perfect storm...of texture, shade, ease of application for the purpose you're using it for, consistency, buildability.  This is the perfect storm for me.  It works for blemishes and redness.  I don't use it for undereyes but I hear it's great for that too.   So this is a favorite, but concealer is such a personal thing that I can't assume it will be the best for anyone else.  Some people love the concealer that comes in pans and you have to blend two shades - tried it, hated it.  So there you go.

La mer moisturizing lotion: The ultrarich cream is my holy grail for night cream right now.   I bought it for the first time in mid-july and I'm hitting the end of the 2oz jar right about next week. If used in conjunction with the even more ridiculously priced concentrate there is just no equal for a night treatment.  I will be repurchasing this.  As I mentioned above, it wasn't until this stuff that I finally said goodbye to flaky dryness during the day forever.  It's a little rich for day so currently I mix it with the La Mer sunscreen and that combination works well under makeup.  I am debating whether to substitute the La Mer Soft Cream for my daytime regimen and save the rich stuff for night.  The soft cream is a lot more mixable and spreadable.  The rich stuff you have to emulsify really really well and then still it really drags if you try to "spread" it on.  It's meant to be patted on but then you are left with a thicker layer of really rich moisturizer - thus its perfection for night.   

Clinique Lid Smoothie: Last but not least, another repurchase.  I use it as a base.  It works well for that and comes in great neutrals.  I have Bit O' Honey (for shimmery days) and Cashew Later (for more neutral days) and plan to repurchase both.  Goes on easily, sheer enough to use as a base (some people complain about the sheerness but I am all about subtlety and natural looks), holds makeup and doesn't crease too badly.  It definitely stays on all day, even if you do notice a line in there - which I don't always.  This rivals the Chanel pots of cream eyeshadow for longevity and performance as a base. 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Fall boots revisited

Remember my beloved Cassidy booties?

Cole Haan, $278, 2.75" heel.

Well, I took them back.  Here's why.  They were tighter everywhere than the Cassidy's of last year.  I wore them to a party and had to take them off halfway through they hurt so much.  TAKE THEM OFF!  Total fashion nightmare.  I wore my old Cassidys today and I'm pretty sure I could sport them in a marathon with little to no discomfort.  Also, I realized I don't want to settle for nubuck (the only black material I could find them in).  Nubuck is fine if you're looking for that suede, casual look and there's no chance it will get dirty or wet.  But that is the opposite of my situation.  I want something sleek, work appropriate, and that I can clean to a new shine.  And at these price points, I'm going to get picky. 

Speaking of high price points, as a substitute, I settled on these:

Rag & Bone, Newbury ankle boots, $495, 3.25" heel

I wore them all day yesterday and here's what I think.  As compared to the Cassidy bootie, the first thing I noticed was that in the same size, they are roomier throughout.  I think that comes from a slightly wider width, but it's not wide enough to look off (or slip off).  They are also about a half inch higher than the Cassidy's and almost on the too-tall side for me.  It's not really the hight of the heel that determines whether I can wear it, unfortunately (if it were I'd just know not to buy above a certain height).  Like many things, it's really all about proportions.  How close the heel is to the toe (the angle is a little more harsh the smaller the foot is), where the shoe's heel is positioned in relation to the center of gravity of my heel, etc.  And these boots are just on the "but it's ok" side of being a little too high.  All heels shorten your stride, but these boots make me feel like my stride is artificially shortened.  It's not enough to make me return them, they are really comfortable despite the stride issue and the height.  And you do get the consolation of being taller.  You just have to walk slower.

They look adorable with everything - bootcuts, skinny jeans, work pants, dresses.  Have I mentioned I'm excited for fall? 

So excited in fact that I also purchased a related long-time wish-list item.  I needed new tall black flat boots.  The ones I've got are Cole Haans from three or four years ago and they're made of super thin leather that has been great for clinging to my skinny calf but the disadvantage is that they have stretched out over the years and look a little rippled, despite regular conditioning.  They're in ok shape (I am quite diligent about maintenance of all of my leather shoes and bags) and I'll still wear them, but I needed something a little sturdier.  They still needed to be dressy enough for work though.    The other problem with the old CH's is that they have a slightly elongated and then squared off toe.  So not chic.  Was that ever popular?   Finally, although the new tall boots have a little gappiness and don't cling to my calf as well as the old ones, that can come in handy when I'm wearing pants or leggings.  The old boots can't be worn over anything but socks.  The new ones I can wear with anything.  I do find it kind of obscene that I have to have one pair that is calf-clinging for when I'm wearing skirts and dresses and one pair that can go over skinny pants.  But being fashionable is rarely cheap.

Here are the new additions:

Cole Haan Dover, $448

These are amazing.  The heel doesn't rub like other tall boots (if you get the right size) and they have Nike Air technology.  The style is classic and neat. And they look high-quality.  You can't tell from the picture but they have a full zip up the inside of the calf.  The heel, I think, is perfect for flats.  The tread is pretty serious and the sole comes out quite a bit from the upper which is not my favorite thing about them but it will probably be better for the boot's longevity in wet weather.

So my fall shoe collection is complete (see this and this post too for more eye candy!).  Too bad it's going to be in the 80's where I live this week!