Saturday, May 26, 2007

Saturday's Best of Blogs

I am totally loving the newest Gawker Media blog, Jezebel, which combines celeb fashion and gossip with fantastic criticism of pop culture. Read their manifesto and add them to your RSS feed (explanation here, and while you're at it you can add our RSS feed here). You won't be disappointed.

Beauty Addict continues Fake Bake Month, reviewing Lancome's Flash Bronzer, L'Oreal's Sublime Glow and many more.

The Luxe Mix asks whether Forever 21 is helping or hurting the fashion industry and decides on the former.

Fashionista and their readers weigh in on the Anya Hindmarch "I am not a plastic bag" scandal. Turns out the bags are plastic, but does that mean they haven't had a positive effect in raising awareness?

Have a great Memorial weekend, everyone!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Friday Finds: Sunscreens

I've gotten a few e-mails recently from readers asking for sunscreen recommendations, so I'm devoting this week's Friday Finds to a few of my favorite sunscreen products. As I've mentioned many times on the blog, I'm very fair, spent most of my childhood outdoors and sunscreen-free and I have a family history of skin cancer. After a long lecture from my dermatologist and getting involved in the Makeup Alley skincare boards, I realized a couple of years ago that I needed to start getting serious about sun protection and began wearing sunscreen daily and becoming more conscious about sun exposure.

As a result, I've tried tons of different sunscreens, and while I'm by no means an expert on the matter, I've learned a lot about the differences between different formulas and their protection level. The first thing you want to look for in a sunscreen is UVB and UVA protection. Both types of solar rays can cause cancer, but UVA primarily leads to photoaging (wrinkles, leathery skin, etc) and UVB rays give painful burns.

The second thing to consider is whether the product is photostable. A sunscreen is stable if it "doesn't appreciably degrade when exposed to sunlight". A sunscreen can provide great protection, but if that protection is nonexistent after an hour or two and you're not religiously reapplying, you're in trouble. I really don't understand all the science behind figuring out which products are photostable, but I find that if you do a search for whether a specific sunscreen is photostable, you'll usually find an answer pretty quickly. Asking your dermatologist for recommendations is also a great idea.

The third thing you want to do before buying a sunscreen is consider your skin type and what you're using it for. Some sunscreens are very moisturizing and great for dry skin while others work as a mattifier and help keep makeup from melting off oily skin. If you're going to be swimming or sweating a lot, it's smart to get a waterproof formula. And be realistic about how much you'll use it. I don't buy photounstable sunscreens because I know I'm too lazy to reapply it and I buy the spray formulas for my body since I'm too busy in the morning to slather lotion all over.

Sunscreen is the most important beauty product you can use, so my final advice is to make sure you're using a good one (high spf, photostable) and that you're using it as you're following directions carefully. And don't think that you don't need sunscreen because your skin is dark- while African Americans are less likely to get skin cancer than whites, they're more likely to die from melanoma.

On to my recommendations... all of these are products that I currently use or used for an extended period of time with positive results and all of them are photostable.

La Roche-Posay Anthelios SX Daily Moisturizer with SPF 15, $29 (available online, but I've also found in drugstores)

It's got the most protection of any sunscreen available in the U.S. and it doubles as a moisturizer. Though I initially didn't like Anthelios (my skin was particularly sensitive at the time), I've been using it regularly for over a month and really love it. You can read my full review here. I especially recommend it for those with dry skin, as it is a fairly heavy moisturizer on its own and does leave some shine (though it hasn't broken me out... yet).
Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Body Mist Sunblock SPF 45, $9.99 (widely available)

This is my go-to body sunscreen as it's easy and fast to apply and dries quickly, leaving no residue on skin or clothes. A bonus is that it's waterproof and sweatproof, so it's especially convenient for athletes or any outdoor activity.

Olay Total Effects Moisturizing Vitamin Complex with UV Protection, Fragrance Free, $17.99 (widely available)

It's my holy grail moisturizer (read the full review here), is the best thing in the world for my combination dry/acne prone skin and works beautifully under makeup. I'd recommend it for any skin type, as it's a great moisturizer but isn't at all greasy.

Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Face Cream SPF 50, $37 (available online and at Shiseido counters)

This sunscreen doubles as a primer/mattifyer and is a godsend to anyone with oily skin. It's actually the most effective mattifyer I've ever used, but as my skin has gotten drier in recent months, I've had to give it up. It keeps makeup from melting and is impervious to sweat and water.
Cetaphil Daily Facial Moisturizer, SPF 15

Another sunscreen that is just as effective as a moisturizer, this product has great protection for a reasonable price and is available everywhere. It might be heavy for those with oily skin, but it works very well for normal-dry types.

What's your favorite sunscreen?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

DiorShow-Off

In the vein of "This Is Spinal Tap's" famous amplifiers that turn all the way to 11, Christian Dior has created a mascara that thickens, lengthens, curls and amplifies lashes more than I thought was humanly possible. It's called DiorShow, and I decided to try it myself because so many of you raved about it during my "What's Your Routine" contest earlier this year.

I don't know why it took me so long to check it out, but when I finally did I felt like I'd gone 21 years without ever fully realizing my eyelash potential. With my light blonde hair, my lashes are barely visible without mascara, and since I'm generally a makeup minimalist, I always reach for a mascara that makes it look like I simply have naturally long, pretty lashes (you can read about my previous experiences with mascara here). But since I started using DiorLash, I've converted to the "I don't care if people can tell I'm wearing makeup, I look amazing" school of thought.

It's certainly not the most subtle look, but it's an amazing, "fake lashes without the falsies" look. With my pale skin and hair I couldn't even handle the black shade, but even with the brown I walk around feeling like my lashes could be seen from space.

The entire process of applying DiorShow is totally different from other mascaras I've tried. First, the tube is larger and heavier than your average mascara tube. And the wand is just enormous- the brush is at least an inch long and a centimeter high. When the Sephora sales associate whipped it out I could only imagine getting mascara all over my face every time I tried using it myself. This is a hazard you must accept if you're on the clumsy side, so keep a Q-Tip at hand at all times.

I find that curling my eyelashes isn't nearly as necessary with this mascara, as it's curling power is quite strong and lasts a long time. And because of the thickness of the product, it's necessary to brush through lashes between coats to prevent clumps.

Unlike every other mascara I've used, the product actually has a scent. The idea of having perfumed eyelashes is quite romantic, especially coming from the House of Dior, but those with extreme sensitivity to scents might want to be careful. But once you get the swipe, brush, wipe method down, you'll have incredible results.

As I said, this isn't a subtle look, and I wouldn't pair it with eyeliner or a dark shadow for day. But if you want a really dramatic eye, aside from applying falsies, you probably couldn't do much better than DiorShow.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Do You Feel Bad For Celebs?

A few days ago I was working out at the gym when "VH1's All Access: Lindsay Lohan's Most Shocking Moments" came on the screen. I've expressed my love of bad television before (particularly in the context of the gym, where there's nothing more effective than a dose of Flava Flav to make time on the treadmill fly by), but this show just depressed me. As those un-funny VH1 comedians counted down Lindsay's most ridiculous and embarrassing public moments, I couldn't decide whether to feel pity for her or be disgusted by her immature and irresponsible behavior.

When I hear celebrities like Lindsay, Paris or Britney whining about how they can't get a moment of privacy from the paparazzi, I normally roll my eyes and think, "well maybe if you consistently wore underwear, tried to be sober more often, and stopped encouraging attention from the media, this wouldn't happen." For some reason, I have a hard time believing that when they visit the hottest clubs and restaurants and party with other stars, they think that they're not being watched and photographed. Besides, with all the money, fame, beauty and professional success someone like Lindsay Lohan has, it seems like getting followed by paparazzi isn't such a huge price to pay. And there are plenty of A-listers who manage (for the most part) to stay out of the spotlight and retain their privacy... why can't these girls do that too?
But watching this special, I began to think about something. For most people, all the stupid, embarrassing mistakes we make when we're young gain us attention only within a small group of people, and are generally forgiven and forgotten within a short amount of time. Maybe you had a little too much to drink and hooked up with a lame guy...you might have to undergo the "walk of shame" the next morning, but aside from some gossip and teasing from friends, you're able to learn your lesson and move on with no real consequences. If you're an A-list celebrity and you do this, your photograph is on the cover of every magazine and newspaper the following morning and you're forced to do damage control for weeks.

As a 21 year old, I can say with total confidence that young people are stupid. It doesn't matter if you're a Hollywood starlet or a regular kid in a small town, you're going to do dumb things because you just don't know any better, it's just part of growing up. And while those dumb things vary (having too much to drink once or twice is forgivable, doing coke regularly and bragging about it on camera is not), having your mistakes become America's water cooler fodder is a punishment no one deserves.

Still, I can't decide whether that's enough to excuse the ridiculous behavior of so many young celebs. You hear them crying and whining about how they can't get a moment of peace from the paparazzi, but they also defend their right to hit up Hollywood hotspots, party hard and hook up with other celebs without anyone documenting their actions. Of course, you can't have it both ways. While I can't defend the actions of the rabid photographers who stalk stars, I see a very simple solution to this privacy problem. I can almost guarantee that if Lindsay Lohan kicked her drinking and drug habit, avoided the party scene, dated non-famous guys and worked on building her very promising career, specials like "Lindsay Lohan's Most Outrageous Moments" wouldn't exist. She'd also gain respect as a talented, capable actress (which she is) and reverse the damage she's already done to her career.

I think the saddest part of it all is that we (perhaps secretly) prefer to watch celebrities fall hard than put their lives back together. A normal, healthy, responsible celebrity is a boring celebrity. The fascination with which we're glued to footage of Britney shaving her head, Lindsay or Kate Moss doing drugs, Alec Baldwin verbally abusing his daughter or Anna Nicole losing touch with reality suggests that we don't mind when a celeb's personal life becomes more entertaining than their movies or television shows. And it's unlikely that we care whether they get better, because celebrities are replaceable.

What do you think?

Monday, May 21, 2007

Athletic and Sexy

People describe many Hollywood celebrities as "athletic" (Jessica Biel, Jennifer Garner and Kate Bosworth in her "Blue Crush" days come to mind), but while there's no doubt that many top actresses are in great shape, their bodies have little resemblance to those of professional female athletes. There seems to be a cutoff point where society deems women "too athletic" to be considered beautiful, where defined arm muscles and 6-pack abs are sexy but large muscles, the kind required for professional sports, are masculine and off-putting.

Even among female athletes there's a huge difference between the way that women are treated based on their looks, regardless of talent. Compare the fame of Venus and Serena Williams with Maria Sharapova or Anna Kournikova, whose model good looks have landed them loads of endorsements as well as spreads in fashion and men's magazines. It's not that Venus and Serena haven't been successful off the courts, but like thousands of other top female athletes who look like athletes and not supermodels, they aren't able to have the crossover success.

One thing that really bothers me about this phenomenon is that it reinforces the idea that athletic women aren't sexy or feminine. Or rather, you can be athletic, but you can't look like an athlete.

Which brings me to my latest obsession, Ms. Laila Ali, a woman who's at the top of her game athletically, has the body to match, and is currently kicking ass and looking drop dead gorgeous as a contestant on ABC's "Dancing With The Stars."

Okay, I know I'm making myself look bad by admitting my love for "Dancing With the Stars," American Idol's even cheesier cousin which pairs C-list celebrities with professional dancers, a live band and Vegas-style theatrics. But it really is a fun show to watch, and this season's contestants are really talented. And because these stars are all only moderately famous or previously famous, you feel like they really need your love and attention, as if my tuning in each week will somehow make Joey Fatone feel like he'll be remembered for something other than being the fat guy in *NSync.

So anyway, back to Laila Ali. She's Mohammad Ali's daughter and the undefeated women's world boxing champion. She's 5'10 and 175 lbs of pure muscle. But amazingly, she's one of the best dancers in the history of the show and she's beaten out every other female contestant (including a supermodel and former Miss America). She's also totally beautiful and despite the fact that she could probably benchpress the rest of the professional female dancers on the show, she never looks out of place in a long ballgown or sexy disco minidress on the dance floor.

Here she is doing the Samba:




And here doing the Cha Cha Cha:



And if you want more videos you can check out her performance of the Jive and the Mambo on Youtube.

I just love how Laila is proving that women can look athletic and still be totally confident in their sexiness. I also think she makes a great role model for girls who love sports but don't want to be considered masculine just for being good at what they do. Hopefully we'll be seeing more of Laila and other women who challenge the stereotype of the female athlete as masculine and totally lacking sex appeal.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Ask Meg's Mom: Impressing His Parents

Anastasia e-mailed me the following question last week:

Hi Meg,

I've been a fan of your blog for a while and both you and your mom give thoughtful, well-written advice, so I'd really like her (and your) take on this question: what do you wear when you're trying to Impress His Mom? I'm eating with my boyfriend and his mom in a couple of weeks and would like her to get a good impression, so any etiquette/clothing tips? I would hate to come across as rude or tasteless...also, in casual situations that might involve running into her, what do you recommend wearing?
Thank you!!!
Anastasia

Here's what mom had to say:

Dear Anastasia,

How thoughtful that you want to impress his mother! My advice is to wear something on the conservative side. You’ll never regret playing it safe. Keep your own style, but if it’s a little bit out there tone it down. Avoid showing a lot of skin and stick to outfits where you're mostly covered. Before the big day arrives, ask what the restaurant attire is and be sure that you're dressed appropriately. If it's at his house, ask your boyfriend what your family usually wears to family gatherings and try to dress accordingly. Even if they're very casual, you'll want to look put together (jeans, a blouse and flats instead of a tank top, ratty jeans and flip flops, for instance).

Now, you can’t control a situation where you just happen to run into his mother and you’re wearing miniskirt or plunging neckline. If you're in that situation, try to be polite, respectful and confident that she will see your true personality beyond the belly ring and realize what a find you are for her son. It wouldn’t hurt to laugh off an excuse like, “Sorry, you caught me on my laundry day."

As far as restaurant etiquette goes, here are a few tips for making the best impression:

  • Don’t monopolize the conversation
  • Be cognizant of the expense if someone else has offered to pick up the tab
  • Offer to pay for your own meal but accept with grace if there is any objection
  • Don’t order more than you’ll eat
  • Include her in your conversation and ask her questions but stay away from discussing controversial subjects like politics, religion, sex, etc.
  • Don’t drink if she isn’t drinking – better yet, don’t drink on the first meeting at all.
  • Don’t be competitive for your boyfriend’s attention. He still belongs to her and she will probably always feel that way.
  • Keep your hands to yourself. No fingering his hair or sneaking in kisses at the table.
  • Send a thank you note to her the next day.
If you’ve been invited to dinner at her home:
  • Always bring a gift for the hostess
  • Offer to help with dinner
  • Don’t overstay your welcome.
  • Make sure to send a thank you note to her the next day.
The fact that you’re inquiring shows that you are aware there are do’s and don’ts and you’re very sensitive to the feelings and perceptions of others. I'm sure she'll love you!

My take:

I wrote a very detailed post about meeting your significant other's parents for the first time in an earlier post, which you can read here. My biggest suggestion is to do some reconnaissance work beforehand and find out absolutely everything you can about her, the family, the restaurant, etc before the big dinner. The more prepared you are, the less likely it'll be that you make a faux pas.

Once you know what the restaurant dress code is (you can always call the restaurant yourself and ask what most people wear), ask your boyfriend how his mother dresses. If she's a very formal woman herself, dress up a little more than you usually would. If she lives in jeans, wear jeans yourself (but again, you still want to look put together). Find out what her interests are so you can ask questions during the meal (there's nothing worse than a dead conversation the first time you meet someone), it'll show that you're interested in learning more about her and getting to know who she is as a person and not just your boyfriend's mom.

It's also good to find out if there's anything about yourself that you should downplay in front of her. Perhaps she has very different political views, or she's uncomfortable with the fact that you're of a different religion than her family. Avoid those topics, and if she's at all confrontational about it, stay calm, answer her as best you can and try to steer the conversation toward something else.

I also definitely agree with my mom. If you want to impress her so much, it definitely suggests that you'll probably do a fantastic job impressing her.

Anyone else have any suggestions for Anastasia?