Saturday, March 24, 2007

Saturday's Best of Blogs

Blogdorf Goodman's 40 Days and 40 Nights of Beauty Brand Reviews reaches MAC and Annie and the girls have a LOT of recommendations.

Capitol Hill Barbie reviews "Japan's H&M" Uniqlo, a store I'm dying to visit when I get to NYC this summer.

Everyone's favorite blogging makeup artist Elke Von Freudenberg has a fantastic post on how to find and apply the best bronzer for everyone's skin type.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Contest Entry #4, Christina from Bon Bons in the Bath

Today's featured routine comes from the lovely Christina Hull, the blogger behind Bon Bons in the Bath, "a blog for bathing beauties" and anyone who enjoys humorous, fun reviews and commentary on beauty and bath products. Although she focuses on beauty and bath products, her personality really shines through the funny personal anecdotes she includes in every post, and I've found her to be as bubbly and friendly in real life as she seems on her blog.

As a beauty blogger, Christina has tried it all, and I've had a lot of success when I've bought products she's recommended (it helps that we have a similar skin type). She's about the 54th person to recommend jojoba oil (even if you're acne-prone) so I think I'm going to finally break down and pick some up at the drug store today. Without further ado, here is her daily routine.

Christina of Bon Bons in the Bath, 26 years old

Warning: since I run a beauty blog, I am forever changing my routine and what I use. Not only do I do it for my blog, but I also love trying as many new things as my skin can tolerate. Below is the routine I’ve currently been following.

Skin type/color: prone to acne and dryness, extremely sensitive, Asian skin that is on the fair side

Hair type/color: straight, unprocessed, healthy and normal, oily scalp

Morning Routine:

Shampoo: Kerastase Nutritive Bain Satin Shampoo, Johnson’s Baby Baby Shampoo, Philosophy Pure Grace Foaming Bath and Shower Cream

Conditioner: Finesse Conditioner Enhancing for Normal Healthy Hair

Body Wash: I am everywhere when it comes to what I use to cleanse my body. However, lately I’ve been using Sabon NYC Glycerine Soap in Lychee, Philosophy Pure Grace Foaming Bath and Shower Cream and Elemis Sensitive Cleansing Wash

Face Wash: Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser. For all the crazy beauty experimenting I do elsewhere, I will never stray from this one. That’s because my skin is so finicky and I know it’s going to be a riot if I try to go anywhere else.

Toner: Since my skin is so sensitive, I don’t use a toner. I find that the less I use on it and the simpler I keep my routine, the clearer and calmer it is.

Face Moisturizer: Purpose Dual Treatment Moisture Lotion, SPF 15. My dermatologist recommended this to me when I was in high school and I have been using it since. It’s a light moisturizer and also has great sun protection.

Body Moisturizer: I don’t always use a moisturizer on my body, to be honest. I actually prefer to use a body scrub instead. Since body scrubs are made from oils and butters, they moisturize at the same time that they exfoliate. If I need to use a moisturizer, I go to L’Occitane Amande Firming and Smoothing Milk Concentrate for a light moisturizing touch, or California Baby Calming Botanical Moisturizing Cream when my skin is feeling especially parched.

Foundation: If I want some coverage, I go with DuWop Revolotion Face in Caitlin

I love this stuff because it provides good coverage for a tinted moisturizer, while still giving your skin that sheer, natural look. Plus, it contains sun protection against both UVA and UVB rays.

Blush: Tarte Cheekstain in Flushed. This is my absolute favorite. If I go very bare bones with my makeup, I at least make sure to put this on. It gives my skin a dewy, youthful finish and is so easy to apply.

Mascara: Right now it’s Lancome Fatale which is great at thickening.

Lip balm: Oh my goodness, I’m such a lip balm whore. I’ll use almost anything short of a Crisco. But at night, I always coat my lips with Smith’s Rosebud Salve before bed.

Lipstick: I’m not a big fan of lipstick because I find that you have to be more precise at applying it. So I usually go with tinted balms or lip glosses. Lately, I’ve been enjoying Tarte’s Rise and Shine Plumping Lip Stain.

Night Routine:

Face Wash: Purpose Gentle Cleansing Wash is the face wash I use to remove my makeup and cleanse my face.

Toner: None

Face Moisturizer: Same as morning. In addition, at night, if my skin is feeling extra dry, I’ll soak a cotton ball in jojoba oil and swipe it across my skin. I know, it sounds totally frightening wiping oil across your face, but it is amazingly moisturizing and softening.

Acne Medication: I use Dr. R.A. Eckstein’s Azulen Paste as a spot treatment. It is a sage green color so you don’t want to use this other than at night when no one can see how freaky you look (hehe).

Body Moisturizer: Same as morning.

Friday Finds: Shorts

Why is it that there are far more ugly, unflattering shorts than cute ones? Earlier this week I was in Florida (more on that later) and my theory was proven as I saw hundreds of women of all shapes and sizes wearing shorts and so few of them wearing pairs that actually looked good. Finding a good pair of shorts is definitely an ordeal. It seems that nearly all pairs fall into the following categories:

Too Long- witness the return of the dreaded Bermuda, which has invaded every popular retailer with an strength of last year's bubble skirts. I've only witnessed one woman who successfully pulled off the Bermuda, and she looked and dressed like a J.Crew model (she appeared to be missing hips, thighs and a butt). Whether women with more than a pinch of fat on their hips and thighs will attempt to recreate this look is yet to be seen, but this is definitely not a universally flattering look.

Too Short: Short lengths go in and out of fashion, but there will always be a significant portion of the population (particularly among 12-18 year old girls) who prefer shorts with slightly more coverage than an average bikini bottom. This really is only acceptable as a cover up on the beach, because otherwise one would feel naked walking in public with what is essentially glorified underwear.

Too Old: A medium cut waist and 4-5 inch inseam is totally practical (hides upper-thigh cellulite, no butt exposure of any kind when you bend over) but they scream stay at home mom (no offense to the stay at home moms out there). This is an old lady short, and while I like the idea of more coverage, a pair like this takes all the sex appeal out of wearing shorts.

Too Young: On top of inseams shorter than 1/2 inch, many brands are releasing shorts in crazy patterns, colors and materials (damn you Juicy and your popularization of velour!) that are far too silly for a grown woman to wear in public.

But finally... I present the most frightening short of all...

I don't care what Nordstrom says... the career short is a sin against fashion. How many offices that require at least business casual would let you in the door in an outfit like this? And if you get in the door, you have to have really cruel coworkers if they don't tell you to go back home and change. Please friends, stay away from the career short.

So what's left for a girl who wants to look cute, put together and age appropriate? Most of the time I stick to skirts in the summer unless I'm exercising, hanging around the house or running errands. But I was determined to find at least a few pairs that I wouldn't mind being seen in public in. I looked at length, coverage and pocket size/placement when considering which shorts would meet my criteria of looking flattering, sexy and classy. Here's what I found:

J.Crew, Women's Seersucker Short, $50

The Gap, Women's Stretch Short Shorts, $39.50
Hollister, San Clemente Short, $34.50

J.Crew, Women's Washed Linen Trouser Short, $58
Abercrombie & Fitch, Cathy Short, $39.50

Anyone else have any suggestions for brands or stores that carry cute shorts?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Did She or Didn't She? Part 2: Breasts

Last year the New Yorker published an article reviewing Playboy's "The Playmate Book: Six Decades of Centerfolds" which was accompanied by a full page photo comprised of centerfolds from each year of the magazine's existence. Aside from my amazement that The New Yorker of all magazines was essentially publishing a page of pornography (though obviously it was used to illustrate the article's arguments), I was shocked to see how the ideal female look had changed over the years. By far the most striking was the introduction of breast implants in the late 70's/early 80's, whereby nearly every model after that point had them. It was almost shocking to see a picture of a naked woman with small, droopy, slightly uneven breasts who was presented as sexually attractive. When was the last time you saw that?

The article and photo got me thinking about the prevalence of breast implants today among female celebrities, and how it's gotten to the point where our whole idea of what breasts are supposed to look like has totally shifted. I thought about all the men whose first views of naked women were/are through Playboy and other soft-core porn magazines and websites. Everyone growing up before the 1980's would've seen women who were essentially natural- no plastic surgery, un-augmented breasts, whereas nude models today are far more likely to have implants than not. And today, especially with the widespread availability of the internet and the relative acceptance of watching porn online (I'm reminded of the Avenue Q song "The Internet is for Porn"), why should we expect any sexually unexperienced male to have any clue about what natural breasts look like? And experienced or not, what's to stop him from comparing the bodies of his sexual partners with those he's used to seeing in videos and magazines?

First it was porn stars, but now breast implants are the norm for "hot" female celebrities. And because most actresses, models and musicians aren't going for the Pam Anderson, "there's no way you could believe that these babies are natural" look, these changes are rarely questioned. It's only the biggest celebs, like Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan, whose breast size was dramatically changing over the course of a few years, that draw questions. Here are just a few celebrities whose breasts appear to have magically grown (into perfectly round, perky, even breasts, no less) since they became stars.

Salma Hayek

Mariah Carey


Christina Aguilera

But the most dramatic change is on supermodels. If you've ever looked at Giselle and wondered how one could be blessed with D-cup breasts on a 5'10, 127 lb frame, check out these before and after pictures:

Here's Heidi Klum:

Finally, here's supermodel Adriana Lima:

My intention is not to say that I'm against anyone getting breast implants (or any form of plastic surgery for that matter), it's all a question of personal choice. But I am concerned about this huge societal shift in idealized female bodies, to the point where large, augmented breasts are the norm. When women are told, both by the media and the men in their lives, that this unnatural look is preferable to the real thing, how are we supposed to respond? I'm certainly content with my push-up bras, but it's frustrating to see that more and more women each year are choosing to go under the knife, often because they're unhappy with what they perceive is a body that doesn't fit society's definition of attractive.

On a related note, last month it was reported that Jane magazine was shooting a photo spread called "Jane's Guide to Boobs" where 53 women (real women, not models) would be photographed topless. I'm not sure when the issue featuring the spread will come out, but I think it'll be great for women and teenage girls to get a look at natural, normal breasts for a change. I love Jane's subversive attitude and I can't wait to see the spread and article when the issue comes out.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Did She Or Didn't She?

I have a confession to make... I'm fascinated by celebrity plastic surgery. Through following various blogs that compare older and recent pictures of celebs, it's incredible to see how some of the most recognizable parts of celebs are "recent additions." Two of my favorite sites, Good Plastic Surgery and Awful Plastic Surgery, do a great job breaking down what procedures celebrities appear to have had (of course, all of this is speculation but it's undeniable that these stars look very different). For instance:

Jessica Simpson: rhinoplasty, eyelid work, lip injections (not shown in this picture, but which she's admitted to having), breast lift.

Angelina Jolie: cheek implants, rhinoplasty, lower lip reduction, upper lip injection.

Jennifer Lopez: two rhinoplasty surgeries, lip reduction, possible cheek implants.

Catherine Zeta Jones: She has a habit of suing anyone who suggests that she has had plastic surgery, so all I'll say is that she looks um, different.

Sarah Jessica Parker: Three rhinoplasty surgeries.

When you look at celebrities, you need to always look with a critical eye. If you're browsing a magazine photo spread, you can be sure there's photoshopping (just watch this Dove commercial for an idea of how dramatic these changes can be). If someone's walking a red carpet, don't forget how easy it is to insert silicone breast enhancers (also known as chicken cutlets) and butt padding and use slimming hosiery (corsets, shapewear, tights).

And of course that doesn't include what makeup can do to completely transform a person. Oprah has shown pictures of herself without makeup on her show (brave woman!) and this is a decent picture of what she looks like without it:

And when pictures of Eva Longoria not wearing makeup were revealed, people were shocked by how unrecognizable she was.

I think as women it's impossible not to compare and criticize our faces and bodies for not looking like the women we see in television and the movies. But once you realize just how many people have had work done (in addition to non-surgical procedures, which you can pretty safely assume nearly everyone in Hollywood has), it's easier to tell yourself that comparing yourself to models or actresses is pointless. Of course your breasts aren't as perky, round and even as Heidi Klum's... her's probably aren't even real! But I'll get to that tomorrow when I talk about how our idea about what "normal" breasts look like has evolved over the past 30 years due to the explosive rise of breast implant surgeries, so be sure to check back.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Contest Entry #3: Gala

I mentioned earlier that I asked a few of my favorite bloggers to contribute to my contest by contributing a list of the products they use on a daily basis. I read a lot of beauty blogs and beauty bloggers are always being asked about what products they use. They're the experts, so this comes as no surprise, but there are a lot of other super stylish, product-crazy bloggers out there who cover other topics, and I wanted to know what they used as well.

This first blogger entry comes from Gala who runs Gala Darling, a site that covers just about everything related to living a fabulous life, where you can get tips on everything from how to get a fabulous haircut to how to adjust when moving to a new city to how to get a tattoo you'll never regret. Gala's opinionated, insightful, sweet and always has a creative take on things, which is why her blog is so much fun to read.

When I first read Gala's routine, I wasn't surprised one bit by her product choices. She's loyal to two brands in particular that totally embody her blogging personality, MAC and LUSH. They're bold, colorful brands with a lot of wit and attitude, and I could totally see why she'd be drawn to their products.

I've read a lot of entries so far and I know that Gala isn't the only MAC and LUSH addict... anyone else have recommendations of products from these lines?

Gala, female, 23 years old.
Skin type: fairly normal, pale, a bit drier in winter, a bit oilier in summer.

Morning routine:
Shampoo & conditioner: Dumb Blonde from Tigi's Bedhead range. I've been using these for a while, & found them quite exceptional when my hair was pink (held the colour & were very restorative in terms of moisturising my damaged tresses). They're not really doing the trick for me now, as my hair is white. Feel like I need some purple shampoo. Lush used to do one called Daddy-O but it's been discontinued! Boo!
Soap: Anything by Lush. I really can't use anything else now, I've been totally spoilt. At the moment I'm using Almond Cake (Christmas special edition), but I also love Rock Star, Honey I Washed The Kids & Alkmaar.

Cleanser: Always Lush. Either Angels on Bare Skin or Ultrabland.
Toner: Again, always Lush! I'm using Tea Tree Water at the moment but they are all fairly similar to me.
Moisturiser: I used to be a deadset devotee to Lush's Afterlife, but it has unfortunately been discontinued in Australia. Currently I'm using Lush's Cosmetic Lad but I'm not very satisfied with it. I'm in the market for something else!

Primer: M.A.C. Prep + Prime. I absolutely love this, nothing gives me a better base to work from.
Concealer: M.A.C. Select Moisturecover. I'm happy with this but I'm looking for something with better coverage of dark circles. I think M.A.C. Studio Fix Concealer SPF 35 is going to be my best bet.
Foundation: M.A.C. Studio Fix, though I'm thinking about upgrading to M.A.C. Select SPF 15 Moistureblend...
Powder: M.A.C. Blot Powder.
Eyeliner: M.A.C. Fluidline in Blacktrack. I apply it with a 269 Medium Angle brush. (Again, M.A.C.. Do I have a problem?!)
Eyeshadow: All M.A.C., all the time. My favourites are Aquadisiac, Parfait Amour, Jewel Blue & Honesty.
Mascara: M.A.C. Fibrerich Lash, & an eyelash curler of course!
Lipstick: M.A.C. Red or M.A.C. Bombshell.
Lipbalm: The Body Shop's Cocoa Butter Lip Care Stick. It's definitely the best lip balm I've ever used.

At night-time I repeat my morning face routine.

Review: Product Body

I have a routine that I go through every time I finish my midterms or finals. After I've finished my last test and handed in that final paper, I realize just how gross my life has become. I've been too busy furiously studying to shower more than once every few days, I've put off doing laundry to the point where I'm reusing socks and oblivious to the fact that my favorite sweatshirt has tea stains all over it (I probably drink 3-4 cups a day during that week), and underneath the books and piles of paper strewn all over my floor is a dust bunny party that's been raging uninterrupted for far too long.

And as exhausted as I may be, I get this unstoppable urge to clean everything in sight. I do 3 loads of laundry, vacuum and scrub my floors, dust all surfaces and organize everything (luckily a Queer Eye marathon was on Bravo, so I had extra motivation to renovate my life). Then when I'm finished and my room looks as beautiful and sparkling clean as the day I moved in, I take a long, relaxing shower and let myself unwind for the first time in days.

Luckily, I had two samples of Product Body products to try- Crush on You, an exfoliating body cleanser, and Whipped Shea Butter, which is exactly what it sounds like. After shampooing and conditioning my hair, I scooped out a little of the Crush on You and started scrubbing it on my arms and legs. It's a wonderful exfoliant, but the real bonus is the shea butter and macadamia oil that leave skin soft and smooth, without the need for lotion. I made everyone in my family feel my arm just to prove how well it worked and even they were amazed. It's very moisturizing, but because it has cleansers in it, you don't need to use an additional body wash, even if you're as sweaty and gross as I was.

A few downsides to Crush on You: the scents I tried were nice but nothing amazing. Pink grapefruit smells like pink grapefruit but wasn't strong and citrusy enough for my taste. And Yuzu, which smelled fantastic in the jar, was way too sweet when I used it in the shower. It smells like a very sweet mandarin orange, and I tend to prefer my citrus scents to be more tart than sweet. My final complaint (and these are all pretty minor) is that every time I use this product, I can't help but get Mandy Moore's "Crush on You" song in my head. I didn't like this song when it came out and I certainly don't like it now, but for some reason it's always there and I'm forced to just give in and hum while I scrub.

The other Product Body product I recommend is the Whipped Shea Butter. This body moisturizer is definitely best when used at night, because when the butter hits your skin it melts and turns to oil, which feels wonderful, but isn't practical if you want to do things with your hands (all my books have oily fingerprint stains on them now but I really don't mind). It's very moisturizing, feels lovely and the scents are incredible. I tried the Lemon Essential and Vanilla Mango, but the Vanilla Mango is my favorite, as it smells good enough to eat.

Product Body products are handmade in small batches, made with locally grown and natural ingredients whenever possible. Because of this, they don't come cheap: Crush on You retails for $22 for 8 oz and Whipped Shea is $16 for 1.5 oz. This is more than I usually pay for body products, but after trying the samples I decided the price was justified and bought the full-sized products. The packaging is really pretty, the products work well and are a joy to use and the customer service was top-notch (Product Body founder Joanna Schmidt is as sweet as they come). Each jar will also last a long time, as a tiny bit of product goes a really long way (I was able to use a 1 oz sample of Crush on You for almost 2 weeks).

If you've had a stressful day (or week, or year) and have a little cash to burn, you should definitely give Product Body a try. I feel like I'm at the spa every time I use them, and they'll make great gifts for any friend who deserves a little pampering.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Why I Hate Macy's

When my grandmother wanted to go shopping as a young woman, she would drive down to Hudson's department store in downtown Detroit, where a man in white gloves and formal attire would open her door and walk her down a carpet into the store. You can imagine how special each trip to the department store was with that kind of treatment. At one point, Detroit's Hudson's was the second largest department store in the country in terms of sales, and among it's 16 floors were Detroit's largest bookstore, drugstore and toy store. But as Detroit's economy waned, Hudson's struggled to retain it's former glory, and in 1988 it was demolished.
But Hudson's still kept other stores, mainly within upscale malls scattered around the suburbs of Detroit. While it couldn't compare to Nordstrom in terms of service and luxury, it still was a special shopping experience, even within a mall. In 2001 Hudson's was bought out by Marshall Field's and renamed, but when Federated Department Stores (which owns Macy's and a number of regional department stores) acquired the company in 2005, it was turned into a Macy's. I've been away at school since the change, but I went and visited Macy's a few weeks ago and was really disappointed by the changes they made.

I've been in Macy's before in New York (World's Largest Department Store!) and I've never understood why it's such a popular store. They stuff every inch of space with merchandise, the service is poor and the clothes tend to be overpriced and of low quality. Their in-house brands like INC are especially disappointing, and if you're looking for cheaply made trendy clothes, you're far better off going to H&M or Forever 21 and paying 1/6 of the price. At one point during my trip to Macy's I got stuck in the department that houses JLO by Jennifer Lopez and Baby Phat and I thought I'd died and gone to fashion hell, where everyone is forced to wear rhinestone-studded denim and terrycloth track suits.

Department stores have such a rich history of being these fantastic, enjoyable places for women to spend an afternoon, making it possible for one to buy everything she needs in one place, with top quality service, beautiful decor and high quality merchandise. Saks, Bergdorf's, Neiman Marcus, Barney's and Nordstrom still provide this experience, but only Nordstrom offers clothes and accessories within my price range (and I usually have to shop in the teen department). There's always a pianist, art on the walls and 3 salespeople who are more than happy to help you with anything you need. I know that it's probably not possible for a company like Macy's that's reaching a less exclusive demographic to offer the kind of shopping experience comparable to going to a Saks or Barney's, but it really depresses me that they're taking over all these wonderful regional chains and turning them into glorified J.C. Penney's (nothing against J.C. Penney).

The final reason that I hate Macy's is because they've hijacked some of my favorite shows. The Macy's product placement on Project Runway and What Not to Wear is extensive to the point of distracting from the show (and my two favorite people, Tim Gunn and Stacy London). Now I have no escape; even when I'm not shopping I'm constantly reminded of that store.

Any Macy's lovers/haters out there? Leave a comment and let me know what you think!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Weekly Best Dressed- Christina Ricci

Christina Ricci's career has been mostly defined by dark and morbid films punctuated by a few fun and uplifting flicks in which she played the serious, depressed girl. Does this pattern suggest that poor Christina has been typecast her whole life, or that she's actually as dark as her on-screen persona? The fact that she's rarely seen wearing colors other than black might point to the latter, but after seeing these pictures of her at a recent promotional event for her new movie, I've noticed for the first time since Now and Then (one of my favorite films during my tween years) what a cute girl she is, not to mention a sophisticated dresser.

She's working the mod look that's so huge this season with the trapeze dress and round toe pumps, and the outfit is sexy without showing much skin. As a petite girl, the dress doesn't overwhelm her, and I think it was smart of her to keep the accessories to a minimum, just a bangle bracelet and a pair of diamond earrings. She definitely looks her age, but the outfit suggests a maturity and sense of self that very few actresses in their 20's are able to pull off.

And I love this picture, not only because her makeup, hair and jewelry are flawless, but because she just looks so genuinely happy.

Some of you might be thinking that this is a pretty basic outfit to highlight in my weekly best dressed segment, but what I like about Christina's look is just how easy it is to replicate. Plus, the dress is totally versatile (wear it with a belt, dress it up with accessories, layer it with a cardigan and tights in the winter or wear it alone with strappy sandals in the summer)

Here are three similar dresses, available for reasonable prices.
Alloy Pocket Trapeze Dress, $36.50

Maggy London Twist Front Dress, Nordstrom, $128

Calvin Klein Pleat-Front Dress, Macy's, $148