Friday, January 10, 2014


I don't know where this came from.  One day I was walking around the mall doing xmas returns and minding my own business when suddenly I needed a pair of sunglasses.  I hadn't even seen any I liked.  But I suddenly started stopping at every rack at every department store (and some others) in the mall.  It was kind of an impulse but now that I have found them I'm not sure how I lived without them.  Behold....

The Tom Ford Jennifer. 
Although they look huge above, they are more subtle than most round shades, both in size and shape.  They are stunning in person and the gradient on my pair fades from a neutral brown to practically clear.  Go get 'em. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Top 13 of 2013

I can't believe how many contenders there have been, and I haven't even been blogging a whole year.  Lots of "can't live withouts" that didn't even make the list.  I've also included an "out with the old" collection below, I find warnings to be just as important as recommendations.  These lists cover beauty products, makeup, skin care, tools, and fragrances.  Not fashion though.  Also, I've ranked them from 13 to 1, with 1 being the highest rated of the year, by yours truly.

13th: Chanel Les Beiges.  I expected "nice" and splurged for the product everyone was raving about.  I was almost sure it wouldn't work on my very very light skin with red undertones.  I have like the anti-chanel skintone.  But it exceeded my expectations as a light base makeup that doesn't need much enhancement and goes on in seconds with no mess or cleanup. 

12th: Clinique's almost lipstick.  Despite my constant testing of higher-end options including Dior, YSL, and Guerlain, I always come back to this.  There are shades for every day (mine is tender honey) or more special occasions.  I had a dream featuring my sample size of black honey -  that's the affect these have had on my psyche.  The colors are natural and will look good on a variety of skintones, and they are so flattering.  Many of them are natural enough to put on without a mirror.  Others are a little flashier.  Clinique has really taken the top spot for lip color with this one.

11th: Sisley Paris's alcohol free floral toner.  This stuff is amazing, not only does it probably serve the intangible ph balancing function but seconds after I apply it my skin looks so much more even-toned, than pre-wash.  It's as if I'd gotten a full night sleep followed by a full spa hydration routine all in the last minute.  I love that it's alcohol free and it smells amazing but light and the scent doesn't linger.

10th: Este Lauder Day Wear Advanced Multi-Protection Anti-Oxidant and UV Defense SPF 50.  Really EL with these ridiculously long names (see also their mascara under honorable mentions).  The formula is magic though, this is the result of a couple years of searching for the perfect SPF.  It absorbs well, even over moisturizer, smells amazing, and has broad spectrum coverage at SPF 50.  It's even affordable.  It's the perfect storm.  And I've tried a lot of high end SPF creams.  My search has ended.  I wish it came in a bigger tube.

9th: Chanticaille Just Skin Tinted Moisturizer.   Unlike a lot of products on this list I discovered this before 2013.  The list is my favorite of the year, whether released this year or not.  This is simply the best tinted moisturizer out there.  I know everyone's in love with the Nars TM and that is a decent and more affordable alternative. But I found it settled into pores the way Chanticaille's doesn't.  Just Skin has the perfect luminescent quality to it and the colors are soooo natural.  It just doesn't get better than this for TM.  Which is surprising to me as I really can't stand some of this brand's other products.

8th:  Bobbi brown long wear gel liner.  The black is the best thing for tightlining.  Which I do for work every day under the top lash in addition to a pencil above the top lash.  A word of caution though - while the black goes on like butter and stays all day, i bought the blue (cobalt ink) and could not get it to stick.  It was ridiculous, the brush was saturated but it would not transfer to my eyelid.  It went back since it was basically useless.  I hope they haven't changed the formulation of the black since I bought that color. 

7th: Bare minerals precision face brushes.  This includes the full and travel sizes.  They are magic for powder or powder foundation.  I can't understand how I got this far in life without them (some brushes are like that - shout out to Laura Mercier's flat eyeliner brush).  This is the brush that makes everything (from morning setting powder to afternoon touch ups, to days when you only need a powder for coverage (hello weekends with les beiges) ) work.  I cannot recommend these enough, I love them both and since I bought them I've scarcely used any of my other powder brushes. 

6th:  Guerlain meteorites voyage compact.  This is a pricely little number but with an heirloom compact, a one-shade-fits-all formula, and a $55 refill - not to mention an effect that is pure magic - it is worth the investment.  There was a more affordable, more compact and more uniform alternative meteorites illuminating version which I can't find anywhere but which is almost equally amazing (blogosphere help me out).  I keep it in my makeup bag for daytime touch ups as the voyage compact is to precious to subject to every day handbag josteling. 

5th: Clarins Blue Orchid face oil.  I've tried quite a few face oils this year and while Josie Maran and Nude's are fine, this is in a different league.  This is the only overnight treatment I've used that has caused a noticeable difference in plumpness, tone, and reduced redness the next morning.  It's effect is really stunning.  It absorbs well, mixes with moisturizer, I use it under La Mer's ultrarich creme for my nightly routine.

4th: Clarisonic Mia 2.  This device has changed skincare forever, it's no secret.  I don't think it's fair to call this a cult favorite because the term "cult" implies some kind of faith among followers.  There's no faith required here, it just works.  Breakouts are less, skin treatments have a better chance to work, cell turnover is hastened.  It works with almost any non-abrasive cleanser.  There's nothing not to like, it will improve your skin.  Period. 

3rd:  La Mer Ultrarich Creme.  This is the flagship product for this brand and it's easy to see why.  Simple, straightforward, and effective.  No fancy Rx gimics, retinols or complications that cause a name to take up a whole paragraph, this stuff is simply really rich lotion made of the best ingredients on earth.  And it moisturizes like no other.  So if that's what you're looking for, give it a spin.  I use it for day and night.  I've never seen anything work so well on my super dry and sun/acne/chemially damaged skin.

2nd: Shu Uemura anti-oxi cleansing oil.  I bought this thinking I would use it for the occasional heavy makeup pre wash but I use it not only for nightly pre-washes, regardless of makeup, but sometimes as my only clenaser morning and night.  It's perfect, far better than the JM and Nude cleansing oils.

and, drumroll please..............

In first is the Diorshow Maximizer lash plumping serum.  I know.  I'm as surpirsed as you are that a mere primer, and an eyelash primer at that, blew me away so hard that it took my #1 spot for my first blogging year.  But it did.  This was the product that I couldn't live without on a daily basis and which has caused the biggest difference in my life. Certainly it has led to the most compliments.  And for good reason, it actually changes your appearance significantly - it lengthens and volumizes and people have asked me that question of questions: are those real?  Not to mention it makes every mascara flake and smudge proof so if you have a favorite mascara-except-for-that-[no staying power, smudgy, fill in the blank]-problem, this primer will probably fix it.   This is a no brainer and the alternatives I've tried haven't come close.  Get it and your life will change for the better. 

Honorable mentions (in no particular order):

  • Chanel Perfection Lumier foundation.  Great color match for me (and I almost never get a match with chanel), great coverage, SPF 15, my only disappointment is that it contains alcohol.
  • Este Lauder Sumptuous Extreme Lash Multiplying Volume Mascara. Despite the obnoxious run-on name, this was the biggest surprise of the year for me. I have adopted the "as big as you can make them without falsies" approach to lashes this year and this is the only mascara that doesn't look overdone but that similarly provides the best volume, thickness, and length enhancement of anything out there. Non clumpy, not too shiny, very natural looking. I got this as a sample, never would have tried it otherwise, but I'm so glad I did. 
  • Nars illuminator in orgasm.  Perfect illuminator and hint of color for your dewey look days.  If you apply it right on top and a little above your cheek bone it has this amazing two toned effect where the flat(ter) part of your face on top of your cheekbone is illuminated and you get a subtle flush of color to your cheeks.
  • YSL rebel nudes.  Favorite lip color of the year after Clinique's almost lipstick.  Great shades, good staying power.
  • Josie Maran coconut watercolor cheek gelee.  Amazing formula, natural ingredients, not an argan product so it doesn't come out greasy.  I LOVE this product, this will be in my makeup bag probably as long as they make it. 
  • Vaseline. seriously, as an eye contour and lip mask at a fraction of the price.  Good for sensitive skin.  I haven't found anything else that doesn't irritate my eyelids.  Stay tuned though, I just ordered Sisely Paris's eye mask. 
  • T3 single pass hair straightener.  This reduces the time it takes me to get ready and makes my hair sleek and shiny without damage, despite the one-temp setting (410 deg. F).  One pass indeed.  And I only have the travel size. 
  • Oscar blandi dry shampoo powder. This has been a staple for me and the larger size has lasted six months.  I am a dry shampoo believer because of this, it's saved my hair and saved my time.  Not sure if I will repurchase this or try the B&B pret-a-powder next. 

Out with the old:

These are a few misses for me this year.  I know several of them have received rave reviews but they just didn't work out for me.  Most of them were returned and none of them will be repurchased.  Again, in no particular order:

  • La mer cleansing lotion.  Expensive and not that special in terms of a cleanser.  It's not particularly moisturizing and irritates delicate areas - i.e. areas around the eyes where you would typically want to use a gentle cleansing lotion. 
  • Caudalie beauty elixer.  I know, this is bloggosphere blasphemy.  But I think this is kind of a gimmick.  It's alcohol with a few droplets of oil.  And who wants to spend all this time moisturizing and drinking lots of water only to spray alcohol all over your face.  And who wants to spend $50 a bottle doing it?  Beyond these complaints I certainly didn't see any change in my skin or think it served as an effective toner or setting mist.  It just made me feel dry.  I luckily only bought the small $18 bottle and have been using it as a facial antiseptic (think purell for your face) for days when I or my children happen to be touching my face a lot or when I just feel grimy like after a barre class.  But even in that regard I don't think it's particularly useful and I won't miss it. 
  • Chanticaille Sun Protection Primer.  Gross.  It's so greasy and oily.  I cannot wait until this runs out.  It has an SPF of 50 but at $90 a tube, it should have some other benefits.  It claims to be a primer, but just try to put makeup on top of it without making your face into a flesh-colored oil slick.  In fact if you look at the product on their website, it looks like they're trying to rebrand it as a sunscreen rather than as a primer.  Good move.  It probably is a very healthy-for-your skin SPF since it contains anti-inflammitory ingredients, and a little goes a long way, but unless you are made of money (that you like to waste) and don't need makeup, I'd stick to the Este Lauder offering in the top 13. 
  • Glam Glow Supermud Clearing treatment.  It's ok as a mud mask but there are cheaper alternatives.  I found this a little drying, and it didn't have any positive effect on my occasional acne.  In fact, every time I used it I noticed at least one new blemish. 
  • RMS living luminizer.  Not great. Though I did think the sheer shimmer was about right for highlighting areas you want to highlight, the consistency was a major turn off.  I felt like I was applying chapstick to my skin.  Totally blocking it off and preventing it from breathing.  Sure it's made out of natural ingredients, but that doesn't make it a good skin product.  Plus it was so thick that you kind of have to press on and stretch your skin to apply it.  And then you feel like you have grease paint on your cheekbones.  No thanks.