Baby your face: Forays into Korean beauty

I don’t know how it happened or who is to blame,* but I have fallen down the weird and wonderful rabbit hole that is Korean beauty. I buy sheet masks like it’s my job and think about my skin in an absurdly devoted way. Pros: I am taking better care of my skin than I ever have, and it’s about time, because I’m hurtling toward 30. Cons: I think I may have experimented with too many things all at once, because I was seeing more breakouts at first. So, go slowly, if you decide to venture into the wild, magical wonderland of South Korean skincare.

If you have no idea what I am talking about, familiarize yourself with the 10-step Korean skincare routine. Yes. Ten steps! Each one more valuable than the last!

It’s a little overwhelming, I know. I’m not doing all 10 steps, but I am taking some principles to heart. Namely: Cleaning my face a lot better and pampering my skin.

Here are some of the favorite things I’ve tried in the past four months of adventuring in Korean beauty.

Korean beauty blog postBenton Snail Bee High Content Steam Cream. This face cream has snail mucin (aka snail slime) and bee venom in it. Yes. And it dramatically helps with scarring and pigmentation. I have some persistent acne scars from my youth that I am eager to erase, and this cream is one of the few things I have used that seems to make a difference. I use it nightly. ($20)

The Face Shop rice water cleansing oil. Cleansing oils are where it’s at. If you’re not using one, trust me, your life has a particular sadness about it. This stuff is incredible, and it’s super-affordable too. You massage it into your dry face, and then you start to rinse it off slowly. It gets the day’s grime and your makeup off in the most refreshing and thoroughly cleansing way. Your face will feel like silk. ($10)

Korean beauty blog post

Missha Time Revolution First Treatment Essence. I still don’t know what an “essence” is, but I love this. (They say an essence is like the love child of a toner and a serum, but that just confuses me.) It is the most calming and cleansing final step before moisturizers. And I am always a little appalled at how much comes off my face. This is the thing that is least convincing to me, in terms of end result, but I find it so pleasant and satisfying that I am loath to give it up. ($49)

Korean beauty blog post

Belif moisturizing and firming eye cream. I used to have a bit of milia under my eyes. Then I started using this eye cream. Now I don’t. It’s divine. ($48)

Belif foaming cleanser. This is the most luxe and moisturizing face cleanser I’ve ever tried (and I’ve tried a lot). Will be buying a full size once my travel size cleanser runs out. ($26) *Pro tip if you want to try some of these Belif products without shelling out the big bucks: Buy their really generous travel sampler for $20 (limited release). It will last you quite a while, and I think you will love everything in it, as I have.

Korean beauty blog post

Sheet masks. Of course. The grand foundation of all Korean skincare. I am still getting used to them, to be honest. My face is apparently rather small, and the masks tend to be a little large for my face. And they make me feel weird for the first five minutes (and scare Guion and the dogs), but my pores afterward! The texture of my skin! It cannot be matched. I’ve bought packs of Tony Moly sheet masks on Amazon and ration them like a troll. Fun fact: Urban Outfitters has also started selling a lot of legit Korean sheet masks.

Up next to try: Missha snail repair ampoule and the cult classic Beauty Water.

If you’re curious about more of the Korean beauty revolution, the blog The Klog is an excellent source for product reviews and information.

*My friend Wei is to blame for this obsession. I think. In any event, we are acolytes in the Church of Collagen and Sheet Masks for Life.

Disclaimer: I was not asked to write any of these things. I write about beauty products out of the goodness of my vain and snail-mucin-loving heart.


Sidebar: Because I feel like I have to say this to people all the time now: Your beauty products are not killing you. Just remember, ladies: The word “natural” on a bottle doesn’t mean anything. It is not regulated by government agencies. “Organic” does not mean it’s safe for your skin. Companies can call just about anything “natural,” and many are gung-ho on misleading labeling (like saying conditioner is “sulfate free,” when conditioners never contain sulfates in the first place). Don’t get suckered by the “green” beauty craze without doing some research first. As the author of that post says, “beauty is a business; it’s not a philanthropy.” So-called “natural” cosmetic companies want to sell you their wares just as much as NARS does.


Previously in me writing about beauty products for fun/no monetary compensation:

How about you? Using anything fun on your face lately?

Beauty routine

The last time I was in Sephora, I was offered a job by the manager because he overheard me recommending products to my mom. “You really know what you’re talking about,” he said. “I know,” I replied, without a touch of embarrassment or bashful hedging. “I know. I really do.”

I don’t like to look like I am wearing a ton of makeup, but I love to study it, read blogs about it, and spend an unadvisedly large monthly sum trying products. I am unapologetic about how much I enjoy makeup and skincare. Someday I’ll delve into the theoretical roots of why putting things on my face and on others’ faces interests me so much, but for now, here is what I am currently doing to my body.

Cosmetics postMorning

I don’t wash my face in the morning; it dries my skin out. I also think there’s something to be said for letting your skin do its own thing (and preserve the actually useful balance of oils) in the morning.

Cosmetics postI put on Aveeno Positively Radiant 15 SPF moisturizer, and then this miracle product: Diorskin Nude Air serum. It’s everything I’ve ever wanted: coverage that lets your skin show through but actually gives you a beautifully even complexion at the same time, SPF, and the faintest hint of perfume. PTL.

I touch up my extremely veiny eyelids with Benefit’s Fake-Up concealer, which is marvelous because it has a Vitamin E component, so it doesn’t dry your tissue-fine eye skin out. Gotta fret about that tissue-fine eye skin. If I need extra help, I use the Sonia Kashuk concealer palette and apply with a tiny concealer brush from E.L.F. It lasts all day and can disguise the most hideous blemish.

In the summer, I then dust all of this with a very light application of MAC Studio Fix powder, which easily lasts me a year and a half, if not more. I tend to forgo it in the winter because my skin is dry enough to not need it. Then, a cheekbone-directed swipe of The Balm’s Hot Mama blush, which is like a less glittery version of NARS Orgasm.

Cosmetics postNext, eyes. Depending on the day or mood, I’ll use a MAC eyeshadow in some neutral shade, or possibly a Laura Mercier gold eyeshadow stick. My current favorite eyeliners are both from Bobbi Brown: the long-wear gel eyeliner in a pot or the very easy gel eyeliner pen.

The best mascara ever is Maybelline’s Colossal Volum’ Express mascara. I am not responsible for its stupid name, but it’s the best. And it’s $5 or $6 at a drugstore. If I’m feeling luxe, I will use an eyelash curler.

I comb my brows and most days apply Benefit’s Gimme Brow. I’ve used several brow products, and this is the best by far: it doesn’t become tacky, it looks extremely natural, and the tiny mascara-brush-like wand doesn’t rip out any hairs like a pencil does. Worth every penny.

Lips come next. I prep with Yes to Coconut lip balm, which is about 500x better than Burt’s Bees; you should all switch right now. It actually hydrates your lips. Lip color changes all the time depending on mood, season, and clothing, but some current favorites are NARS satin lip pencil in Rikugien, Clinique Chubby Stick in Bountiful Blush, and L’Oréal Fairest Nude.

Cosmetics postFinally, perfume, if the mood strikes. My current favorite is Tocca’s Stella, which my mother-in-law introduced me to several Christmases ago. It is intriguingly spicy without being too heavy or floral. It’s perfect.

Writing all of this out makes it look like this excessive process, but it takes me about 10-15 minutes to get ready in the morning. When you’re got a routine, you execute it like a cosmetics Olympian. No hesitation. Just drive and focus. This is the morning you have trained for.

Shower/Hair

I use Sachajuan scalp shampoo, which is the first thing that has given me the freedom to wear black clothes. It is a godsend.

I follow with Davines OI conditioner, which is the most luxe conditioner perhaps ever made. You will smell like a goddess all day after using it, and it is extremely rich and moisturizing for your poor dry strands. Once that runs out, however, which will be soon, I will resume using the Organix coconut milk conditioner. Once a week or every other week in the winter, I’ll also do a SheaMoisture manuka honey intensive hair mask, which makes my hair very happy.

Shower time is also exfoliation time. Currently, I’m alternating between Boots Botanics microdermabrasion polish and Clinique’s 7-day face scrub cream. I have also used and liked Acure’s brightening facial scrub with seaweed.

When I get out, I put in Trésemme curl mousse. It’s typically $5 at the drugstore, and it’s better than every other expensive curly-hair product I’ve tried over the past 10 years (and I have tried dozens).

On second-day dry hair, I use Davines This Is a Sea Salt Spray, which is fabulous. And smells like a summery day.

Evening

I take off eye makeup with Neutrogena’s oil-free eye makeup remover, which I have been using since high school, on a cotton round.

Then, I wash my face with this amazing cleansing balm by Boots Organics that we discovered in London, but it’s not yet sold in the U.S. I’m glad we stocked up while we were there, but I think I will switch to Glossier’s Milky Jelly cleanser once I run out. (Wei let me try it when she was visiting, and it is divine.)

Cosmetics postI have a rotating shelf of serums and night creams, mostly samples that I’m working through right now. But the Boots Botanics facial oil* is usually in the rotation in the winter, along with something from Caudalie. I’m interested in trying some heavier night creams for the winter, because the winter is dark and terrible and hateful toward my skin. (*This seems to be a product they have stopped making, which is devastating news. It was so inexpensive and so great.)

Mario Badescu drying lotion is my second life-saving product, after Diorskin. This is the #1 greatest solution for pimples. I could not live without it. Or, I could, but my life would be a formless void.

Jewelry

Cosmetics postTara Montgomery is my primary source for jewelry; almost everything I own and wear was made by her, and it’s all perfect. I consider her my personal jeweler. I get a compliment almost without fail whenever I’m wearing Tara’s jewelry. You can’t go wrong.

*I was not asked by any of these brands to say these nice things about their products. But maybe they SHOULD have asked me to; I’m a great saleswoman.

And now for something frivolous

10 things I am currently loving in my face routine.

1. Diorskin Nude Air Serum

I think this is what I have been looking for all my life. This tinted serum provides sufficient coverage and SPF 15, and it goes on like silk (not at all heavy or cake-y). Mom treated me to this at Christmas, and it’s a sincere delight. $53 at Sephora.

2. Boots Botanics Organic Facial Oil

It took me many years, but I have finally come to understand that my face was producing excess oil because I was not moisturizing properly. Now that I finally have that cycle under control, my skin has never looked better. And I am all about some organic face oil. This stuff is extremely affordable, and that little bottle lasts forever, and it makes your skin feel like velvet at night. $7 at Target.

3. Marc Jacobs Highliner Gel Eye Crayon

Apparently, I have greasy eyelids, and eyeliner is always smudged right under my brows, which makes me batty/annoyed. I have been on the hunt for a long-lasting, non-smearing eyeliner, and I found it in two products—this, and no. 4 below—and I’m never going back. This one is particularly easy to apply and worth the price. $25 at Sephora.

4. Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Gel Eyeliner

It has been an adjustment for me to acquire a steadier hand, to apply this eyeliner from a pot with a thin angled brush, but I am loving it as well, and this stuff really does not budge all day long. Also very much worth the price. $26 at Sephora.

5. Make Up For Ever Rouge Artist Natural Lipstick (N9 Copper Pink–Satin)

This is a glorious shade of lipstick, so glorious that I cannot describe its color in words (a sumptuous vision of a tawny rose), except that it makes me feel like a pulled-together goddess when I wear it. I got it as a Sephora sample a year ago, used it up entirely, and then had to buy it for myself. I wear it all the time. $20 at Sephora.

6. Yes to Coconuts Lip Balm

Yes To Coconuts Naturally Smooth Lip Balm - 0.15 oz

I’m going to share a bit of personal blasphemy, but I am just not that into Burt’s Bees anymore. I don’t think its widely touted lip balms are that great; they are not long-lasting, and I think their formula actually irritates my lips. Enter this magical little product by the “Yes To” line, which works wonders for me, especially in the winter months. This is a daily staple in my life nowadays. $2.99 at Target.

7. Aveeno Positively Radiant Daily Moisturizer

Aveeno® Positively Radiant® Daily Moisturizer with Broad Spectrum SPF 15- 4 Oz

Drugstore staple! No complaints here. This is just a great moisturizer for daily use; it’s not greasy, it soaks into skin swiftly, and it has SPF coverage. What’s not to like? Guion and I share a bottle, and we’re both very happy about it. $13 at Target.

8. Sumbody Body Butter

Body Butter Pot - Tropical Delight

Not sure why it took me so long to try straight shea butter, but this stuff is magic (discovered in a Birchbox sample, actually). So deeply moisturizing! My skin is soft all day long. I now regard shea butter as some kind of delightful witchcraft. Birchbox sells a trio for $23, or you can buy them individually for $7.95 each from Sumbody.

9. Glossier Perfecting Skin Tint

As an avid reader of Into the Gloss, I have been utterly pleased by their release of their own line of skin care and makeup. (I’m especially excited about Phase 2.) This is a great, very lightweight “tint” for the skin; it’s lighter than even a BB cream, which makes it so easy to apply in a flash, especially if you are having a “good” skin day and don’t need much coverage. It also seems to be naturally somewhat moisturizing, so I don’t feel like I need to pile on some face cream before applying. $26 at Glossier.

10. Tocca Stella perfume

This is the best perfume. Really and truly. My mother-in-law gave it to me for Christmas several years ago, and I’ve been hooked ever since. It’s somehow both spicy and complex and alluring without being too powdery or flowery. $34 to $68 at Sephora.

Previously: Beauty products I was into in 2014

(I am not a famous blogger and therefore no company asked me to say any of these nice things about their products. Yes, I am praising these cosmetic items out of the goodness of my heart.)

Cosmetics roundup

Model applying lipstick, vintage photograph

I have never been shy about how much I love beauty products. Furthermore, I am unabashed in my adoration of French cosmetics, although I rarely can find it in myself to shell out the cold, hard cash for products of such Parisian perfection (even though I believe they’re worth every cent).

Without further ado, here are some products I’ve recently been using and loving.

Recent favorite products

Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentré

Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentré (24-Hour Miracle Cream) - 75 ml

A long revered French beauty staple, I’ve had this face cream on my wish list for years. It’s worth the hype! I treat it like gold and use the smallest amount on my face at night and feel so very luxe. Makes your face feel like silk. That’s really all there is to it. There’s a whole worshipful post about it on Into the Gloss, if you’d like more convincing. ($28 for 75 ml on Birchbox)

Jouer Matte Moisture Tint

I kind of want to talk to everyone about this. I have tried at least 10 different types of BB creams and tinted moisturizers, and this is the champion, by far. Of course, it’s also the most expensive that I’ve tried. Naturally. That’s how makeup works. This tinted moisturizer offers enough coverage to call itself a BB cream, but it is light as air, has a matte texture, and boasts SPF 15. What else can you say this about? Nothing. Nothing, I tell you. ($38 for 50 ml at Jouer Cosmetics)

Benefit They’re Real! Mascara

Benefit They're Real! Mascara

Benefit is one of my favorite brands, and this mascara is fabulous. It really does make you look as if you were wearing falsies. My only complaint is that it can be a bit hard to remove, but this also means that it has lasting power throughout the day. The medieval-looking spike at the end of the wand is a bit frightening, but it’s a perfect tool for separating stuck lashes or getting the ends of the lash line. ($23 at Sephora)

Benefit Gimme Brow

Benefit Cosmetics - Gimme Brow

A well-groomed brow is an essential part of every lady’s face. This is one of those universal truths that I hold very dear to my heart. And this product by Benefit is incredible. Don’t use eyebrow pencils; they rip out your fine brow hairs. Instead, a lightly tinted wand (like a tiny mascara brush) is just the thing for taming, shaping, and enhancing. Geez. Benefit really needs to put me on retainer. I could write these rave reviews in my sleep…. ($22 at Sephora)

The Balm Hot Mama! Blush

theBalm® cosmetics Hot Mama Shadow & Blush All-in-One

If you are a white lady, it turns out that peach/pink tends to be the most flattering universal shade for blush. And this blush by The Balm apparently mimics the cult classic NARS Orgasm blush, but is $10 cheaper, so it’s a big win in my book. You just need the lightest dusting of this blush. I think my compact is going to last me 10 years. ($20 at The Balm)

Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl Enhancing Smoothie

Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl Enhancing Smoothie for Thick, Curly Hair

Shea Moisture might make the best and most natural line of products for naturally curly-haired women. I’ve become a devoted fan in a short amount of time. This tub of coconut oil/neem oil/and other things I don’t know much about can be used to reshape dry curls on the second or third day after a washing, and it really works. Plus, it smells amazing. This tub will also last me maybe 20 years. It’s not a product for women with fine or straight hair; it’d be disastrous for such ladies. Thick, frizzy, naturally curly hair only. ($12.99 at Shea Moisture; also sold in drugstores, Target [for $9.79], etc.)

New routines

I’m also exploring new beauty routines, which I find to be very refreshing.

  • I’m not using shampoo anymore, or using it very sparingly (once or twice a month). In lieu of shampoo, I use a sulfate-free conditioner when I shower. There’s a whole explanation and enormous benefit to it, for us naturally curly folk, which I won’t bore you with, but basically, it’s wonderful, and my hair is happier than ever.
  • I’m taking a break from nail polish, which I think my nails have needed. They’ve never been spectacularly healthy-looking, and I daresay they are appreciating the time to breathe. I love having well-done nails, but it’s a luxury of time that I can’t bring myself to these days. Also, gardening + dogs + calligraphy (certain nail polishes will leave streaks on paper!) = nail polish is low on the cosmetics totem pole.
  • I’ve become very faithful about daily moisturizing, and I think my skin is thanking me for it. My complexion is clearer than it has ever been and has felt more balanced, now that it’s getting an appropriate mix of cleansing and moisturizing. Once in the morning, once at night = face is happy.
  • I’m returning to my Clarisonic, after I finally figured out how to get the brush to stop smelling like feet. I use it once or twice a week, and I imagine that it is doing something beneficial for my skin.
  • I use a bit of perfume now in the morning, especially on work days. Current favorites: Tokyo Milk’s French Kiss ($30 at Tokyo Milk), which my sisters bought for me on our honeymoon and I finally restocked (every time I use it, I’m transported back to our magical honeymoon; c’est très romantique!), and Tocca in the Stella scent ($68 at Anthropologie), a gift from my dear mother-in-law.
  • I’m applying lip balm in the morning before any lipstick, which I’ve found makes a huge difference, as I have a tendency toward dry lips. I swipe it on while getting ready and it stays on through breakfast, until I brush teeth and apply color.

Your turn to dish! What are you loving lately that you’re putting on your face?

Previously in this series: An amateur’s journey in the beauty cosmos and a few of my favorite things.

Also: I feel like this isn’t worth adding, but no one asked me to say anything about any of these products. I bought them all myself with my hard-earned, improperly budgeted cash.

 

An amateur’s journey in the beauty cosmos

I’m not shy about the fact that I LOVE beauty products. I don’t even wear much makeup myself, but I love playing with it. Into the Gloss is one of my favorite and most consistently read blogs. Birchbox makes me giddy about beauty samples and eager to experiment. I love how bold Ruby Woo makes me feel. I particularly love putting makeup on other people and pretending like I know what I’m doing. It’s like getting to be a painter… on someone’s face.

Source: Photopin.com, Creative Commons license.
Source: Photopin.com, Creative Commons license.

Big lessons learned

  • Your face needs more moisture and hydration than you think it does. Having oily skin doesn’t mean that you should skimp on moisturizer; usually, it means the opposite. You’re not getting enough hydration, and so your complexion overcompensates. Learning this one thing has revolutionized my actual face.
  • Splurge on face products; skimp on eye products. Having the perfect base, foundation, or powder matters. But no one can ever tell if you spent $5 or $50 on your mascara or eyeliner. Spend money on the important stuff.
  • Experiment until you find the right thing. Everyone’s face is different. Just because half the blogging world raves about this one product doesn’t mean that it’s the best thing for you. Shop samples and travel-sized products when you can until you find what really works for you.
  • Curl your eyelashes! Unless you have naturally curly eyelashes, putting mascara on without using an eyelash curler first is kind of a moot gesture.
  • Also, learn what your eyelashes need. Study the composition of your eyelashes. Are they short but full? Long but sparse? I have decently long lashes, but they don’t look that full naturally, so I need a volumizing mascara. A lengthening mascara is a nightmare for me.
  • Embrace your natural brows. Don’t succumb to the sin of over-plucking your eyebrows. Define them, cherish them!
  • Trust your natural hair. Don’t fight your hair. Work with it; love it; embrace the frizz (or the straightness or volume or thinness, or whatever it is you were born with). It’s easy to tell when people are fighting against their God-given hair (and it’s often very expensive and time-consuming for such people). Surrender to your hair.
  • Stop washing your hair so much. Shampooing every day is so bad for your hair. So bad. Stop it. Your hair hates you for it. I now wash my hair twice a week, and it’s immensely happier and healthier for it.

Favorite products right now

Whish Coconut Milk Correcting Gel

Whish Coconut Milk Correcting Gel. $32. This was a Birchbox discovery, and I swear it’s the main thing that’s revolutionized my complexion, because I haven’t changed anything else. It’s a mostly organic serum that’s composed of aloe vera, water, and coconut oil, and I think it might be magic. It’s also marketed mainly to people who are aging and have skin imperfections. I’m aging (aren’t we all?) and I certainly have skin imperfections, and I think it’s really smoothed out my complexion — AND the biggest thing is that I’ve completely stopped having my seasonal acne flare-ups. I’m a bit obsessed.

Garnier Skin Renew Miracle Skin Perfector BB Cream, Light/Medium

Garnier BB Cream. $12. I’ve tried so many different types of foundations and BB creams, even samples of higher-end products that sell for $50 for a tiny tube, and nothing beats this drugstore version.

Ultra Facial Cream

Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream. $26.50. Yes, a lot of money for a little jar, but this is the best heavy cream/night-time moisturizer I’ve tried. Somehow I also trust it more because of its lack of fancy packaging? Reverse marketing psychology?

Maybelline Volum' Express The Falsies WP Mascara

Maybelline The Falsies Mascara. $7. I’ve probably tried 25 different types of drugstore mascara, and this is my current favorite. I’m really into the slight curve of the brush.

Benefit Fakeup

Benefit Fakeup. $24. I am a very vein-y person. I have tons of veins on my eyelids, and I’m starting to get a bit of darkness under my eyes. This is the best eye-area concealer, because it comes with a moisturizing ring around the concealer itself, so it’s never flaky or drying, and it blends in perfectly with your skin. Love it.

Miss Jessie's Quick Curls -  8oz

Miss Jessie’s Quick Curls. $28. I went on a quest to find the perfect thing for my naturally curly hair, and this is where I’ve landed. I learned that my softer curls got too crunchy with gels, so I was hunting for curl creams. A lot of curl creams can get too heavy or greasy, but this is the perfect stuff. The cream is light and makes great curls on my head, and it smells very strongly of fresh laundry. Which is maybe kind of weird, but it’s not the worst thing for your head to smell like.

SheaMoisture Olive & Green Tea Body Wash -  13 fl oz

Shea Moisture Olive and Green Tea Body Wash. $9. Love this body wash, and I love how self-righteous it makes me feel! It’s all-natural with no parabens, mineral oils, chemicals, etc., etc.

Favorite brands

I’m not loyal to that many brands, because I’m always experimenting, but these three are my tried-and-true favorites.

  • MAC. The serious side of real-deal makeup, but I love everything I’ve ever tried from them. Their lipstick pigments can’t be beat, and their pressed powders are miracle workers.
  • Benefit. I’m not sure what this brand’s deal is, but I also love everything I’ve tried from them. They’re slightly less expensive than some of the more premier makeup brands, too.
  • Essie. It’s completely a looks-based judgment, but I feel like it’s classier than OPI.

One day, maybe I’ll try the really high-end stuff (Dior, Chanel, YSL), but for now, I’m enjoying the low-end experimentation.

Disclosure: I feel like this is not necessary, but whenever bloggers mention products, I get suspicious, so: I was not paid or asked to say any of this about any of these products. These are my independent and trivial opinions about beauty products.

A few of my favorite things

I am going to deviate from my typical attempting-to-be-serious-and-thoughtful fare and take a page from the Cool Lady Blogger (CLB) playbook here. CLBs love to make lists of their favorite products and then tell you why you should buy them. Unlike many CLBs, however, I was not paid or asked to write any of these reviews. I just like these things and use them every day.

Something that I used to keep secret that I am not keeping secret anymore, Interwebs, is that I really like makeup. (Feminists, recoil!) I love playing with makeup. I love shopping for it, even though I am very cheap and could never justify spending $65 on a tinted moisturizer, for example. The small irony is that I actually don’t wear a lot of makeup. But I love it just the same. So, from a now-outed cosmetics devotee, here are the things that I have found and loved.

Aveda’s Flax Seed Aloe Strong Hold Gel

Aveda’s flax seed aloe strong hold gel, $16.

I am a fervent evangelist for this product. I have been using it for more than 10 years now (just like my mom) and I will stockpile it like a crazy person if Aveda ever stops making it. If you have curly hair like I do, you also probably have your “magic product” that you can’t live without. This is mine. Most products marketed toward people with curly hair are greasy and not very strong. A nickel-sized amount of this stuff goes a long way. I use it every other day, right after I shower, and scrunch it through wet hair. Without it, I wouldn’t be presentable in public.

Burt’s Bees Lip Shimmers

Burt’s Bees Lip Shimmers, $5.

My mom’s store started selling these lipsticks from Burt’s Bees and ever since then I’ve been trying to collect them all. (College roommates routinely teased me for my weird, sprawling collection of these identical-looking yellow tubes.) But they are the best, and here’s why: Lipstick dries out your mouth and makes you feel chalky and heavy. These lip shimmers glide on smoothly, add a perfect dab of color, AND feel light and refreshing–producing the cooling effect that Burt’s Bees traditional lip balm has. I haven’t found a shade that I don’t like and I will probably be using these forever and foisting them on my friends. Favorite shades: Rhubarb (nice deep pink); Fig (my go-to fall color); Peony (very light effervescent pink); Papaya (rusty); and Raisin (deep red).

MAC Studio Fix Powder + Foundation

MAC Studio Fix Powder + Foundation, $27.

A pressed but simultaneously lightweight powder that magically smooths and finishes your complexion–and keeps the shine away for a long time. For $27, this stuff lasts me for about five or six months, and I think it’s totally worth it. I don’t like wearing foundation, so this is a wonderful compromise. Brush it on just like you would powder and you’re done for the day.

Sonia Kashuk Hidden Agenda Concealer Palette

Sonia Kashuk Hidden Agenda Concealer, $10.

Concealer is a bummer. I wish I still didn’t have to use it… but I do. And when you do need it, I recommend this set by Sonia Kashuk (at Target). Your skin tone changes with the seasons and your eye area is usually yellower than the rest of your face and so one color of concealer usually can’t cut it. This is where Sonia Kashuk comes in. This set also lasts me for months and months. Definitely worth the $10.

Boots No. 7 Mineral Blush

Boots No. 7 Mineral Blush, $10.

I looked for lightweight, non-glittery blush for what feels like ages (even though it was probably only a year), and I finally found what I was looking for with Boots No. 7’s mineral blush (sold at Target). Best blush I’ve ever used and I’ve tried dozens and dozens. Will never try another one for as long as they keep making this stuff.

Benetint by Benefit

Benetint, $29.

While shopping for wedding makeup, I knew that I had to find a lip stain for the big day. Guion flatly refuses to kiss me, ever, if I have anything on my lips (even chapstick makes him wary). We were advised to try Benefit’s well-known and widely lauded stain Benetint and so we did. It is wonderful. It is the perfect pink color and it lasted all day long. And best of all, Guion would kiss me at the altar! This reminds me that I need to save up and buy some more…

Essie nail polish

Essie nail polish, $8.

My friend Courtney is the queen of nail polish and she once gave me sage advice about it: If you like to paint your nails, buy high-quality nail polish. One bottle of good nail polish is worth more than 30 bottles of cheap stuff, which applies in globs and streaks and chips off in about three minutes. I finally took that lesson to heart and threw out all of my cheap polish. I’ve been exclusively buying Essie–gradually, slowly–and it is definitely worth it. It just makes me happy.

Mrs. Meyer’s Hand Soap

Mrs. Meyer’s hand soap, $4.

A bottle of Mrs. Meyer’s by the kitchen sink even makes doing dishes a pleasant experience. Favorite scents: Lemon verbena, geranium, and basil.

Whew. Is this what real CLBs feel like?

Week 3: Red lipstick

In honor of my sister Grace, I am imposing a set of weekly challenges on myself. For 12 weeks, I will attempt a different “challenge” each week–to do one thing every day for seven days, ranging from serious to silly. At the end of each week, I’ll let you know how it goes.

Red lipstick and a new haircut. Eek.

When I was 16, I routinely gave the announcements at my church. We went to a wannabe mega-church then and so giving the announcements made me feel like a big deal. I had to wear a headset mic* and make sure my face was powdered and my tone was smooth. One morning, I decided I was going to wear red lipstick to give the announcements. I was “backstage,” waiting for my cue before I went on under the harsh lights. A man who worked in production came up to me. “Hey Abby,” he said, and then he looked intently at my face. “What are you wearing?” “Um,” I was startled. “A skirt?” He shook his head. “No, are you wearing lipstick? Red lipstick? Don’t you think you’re too young for that?” I was mortified. I didn’t answer him. As soon as he walked away, I grabbed a tissue from a nearby table and wiped it all off. My teenage pride was sorely offended.

I don’t know if there’s really a moral to this story. Maybe I was “too young” to wear red lipstick, but I don’t think I am now. I really like red lipstick, but I’ve been afraid of it ever since this incident. Part of my aim with these weekly challenges is to conquer mental fears and so, here we have the silly week 3: Wearing red lipstick every day for a week.

I don’t actually have a huge collection of red lipstick and I don’t really buy costly make-up products, as you can see, but here’s what I used:

  • Revlon lipstick in Ravish Me Red. I really love this shade–I wanted one with an orange-red tint–and this stuff is not playing around. It lasted for at least four or five hours. It did dry my lips out considerably, however.
  • Lancome lipstick in Fashion Crave Framboise (I don’t think they carry this anymore. Heh. It’s probably old.) This is not technically red, but I mixed it with some of the other shades on some days that I didn’t want to be screaming BRIGHT RED.
  • Burt’s Bees Lip Shimmer: Merlot. I can’t say enough good about Burt’s Bees’ products. I’ve been using their lip shimmers for years and I think they’re perfect. Inexpensive, light, and all-natural, they last fairly long and have great pigments.
  • Burt’s Bees Lip Shimmer: Raisin.

I’m always inspired by how great Kate from For Me, For You looks with red lips and was delighted to find her make-up review post recently. I definitely want to try MAC products, because the reigning women of the Blogosphere seem to stand by them pretty loyally.

WHAT I LEARNED:

  • When wearing red lips, tread very lightly with the rest of your makeup, else you look like a circus performer. This was a good exercise for me, because I tend to be a big blush girl.
  • I think I will always be the staunchest Burt’s Bees devotee. I just like the way their product looks and wears, even more than the expensive stuff (like the $30 Lancome, which was definitely a Christmas gift).
  • I really like playing with makeup. If I were rich, I’d probably spend an ungodly amount on makeup. I don’t really wear a lot of it–my makeup bag is quite small–but I love to experiment with new things. It’s like painting! On your face! Guion was surprised when I told him this and didn’t really understand when I tried to explain my enjoyment of makeup. But that’s because he’s a spoilsport and won’t let me put some mascara on his obscenely long and luxurious eyelashes…
  • I can wear red lipstick! I CAN!

Coming next: A week of reading and studying Japanese!