ELF Exclusive Offer

If you’re like me, the holidays are a great time to play with your “look.”  Holiday parties offer the perfect excuse to glam it up, make it dramatic, or just have fun playing with color and glitter.  This is why I was oh so excited to get this offer from ELF in my inbox.  A free 100 piece eyeshadow palette with any purchase of $20.00 or more?  Yes please!

Go to ELF, pick out your cosmetics/brushes/tools/etc, and at check out enter the code 100FREE. The palette will automatically be added to your order!  The offer is only valid through 12/19/12, so take advantage of it now!


Styling Saturday: Cruelty-Free for Under $15.00

“I admire what you’re trying to do, but I just don’t think it’s practical.  I’m a single mom on a budget.  I can’t splurge on cruelty-free cosmetics.  Maybe if you were a mom you’d understand”  Dee took a sip of her latte and gave me an apologetic look.  We’ve been lamenting her 4 year-old’s attempt to make home-made crayons out of Mommy’s make up collection.  Now she’s facing a full-on restock.  I suggested she go cruelty-free, and she immediately jumped to the expensive designer brands only available in stores like Ulta, Sephora, or high-end department stores.  The thought of replacing her entire daily make up routine was daunting enough, but the idea of breaking her budget was even more frightening.  “Believe me, if I could afford that stuff, I’d do it in a heart beat, but I’m lucky if I spend more than $25.00 on an entire look.”

Challenge accepted.  Dee’s right, I’m not married and I’m not a mom, so my disposable income is a bit more flexible than that of other women my age.  That being said, I do have a budget and I don’t want it to go bust on cosmetics.  So while I do feel there are certain items that are absolutely worth splurging on, I am all about finding a good deal.  I got Dee to agree to let me go shopping with her.  I promised her that not only could I give her a great daily make up look, but that I could do it with only cruelty free cosmetics and I could do it for less than what she would pay for the standard drug store brands.  Unfortunately Dee didn’t want to model for me, but because her complexion and coloring are very similar to mine (and since the Product Purge I’ve been in need of a new “emergency kit” to keep at work) I bought myself a duplicate set.

So for this week’s Styling Saturday I give you: Cruelty-Free for Under $15.00

Primer, concealer, foundation, pressed powder, eye shadow, color stick, eye liner, mascara

Perhaps the most important thing to note here is the all-over color stick.  This may be my favorite time-saving-find ever.  It works as a cream eye shadow, cream blush, and lipstick.  It blends with your skin tone so you don’t look like you’ve put the same color in all three places, and on your cheeks it gives you that great dewy look.

Applying the cream stick as eye shadow

Sorry for the awkward photo angle, but my tripod went missing so I had to MacGyver that shit.

As blush. 

Yes, I make ridiculous faces when applying blush to the apples of my cheeks.

As lipstick.

I prefer to use a q-tip to apply lipstick.  I feel like I have more control over the color and it’s more sanitary than brushes.

Put a little more mascara on

I…am not sure I can rave about the mascara.  It came out thick and rather gloopy.  Dee, however, loves hers.  She hasn’t had the same issue with the mascara as I have.  Then again, for only $1.00 I’m not sure I can complain about the mascara either.  Also, don’t laugh guys.  Your girlfriend also makes ridiculous faces when putting on mascara.

All made-up.

Sorry I couldn’t give you guys a great big smile here.  It was Monday when these pics were taken, so really I’m lucky I didn’t break the camera.

So all in all I used: primer ($1.00), concealer ($1.00), studio foundation ($3.00), translucent powder ($3.00), cream eye shadow ($3.00), all over color stick ($1.00), eye liner pen ($1.00), and mascara ($1.00).  Final total with tax?  $14.83.  Dee got a new cruelty-free daily look for less  than what she would have spent on regular drug store brands that she loves.  She bought herself a bottle of wine with the difference.


WEN for the Win!

Infomercials are a dangerous thing.  They are almost a form of brainwashing with they way they play repeatedly on every channel at all hours of the day and night.  Not to mention the several home shopping channels which have built their empires entirely around the infomercial concept.  You fight the “but wait! there’s more!” instinct for a while, but after enough exposure you start to think “Hey, that product really does sound wonderful.”  Once you hit that point, you’re done for.

This is how I discovered WEN.  Through repeated twelve-minute commercials, QVC airings, and even adds on many of the sites I visit on a daily basis I hit that point of no return, and found myself ordering the product.  I was more than pleasantly surprised.  After all, who among us hasn’t been duped by the infamous infomercial ploys.  (Don’t lie.  You know there’s a tub of OxiClean in your laundry room.)  This product promises natural body, shinier appearance, and stronger, healthier, more manageable hair in only the first wash.  The more you use it, the better your hair gets.  Even when placing my order I was skeptical, but when it arrived at my door I followed the directions and used the product as it’s creator, Chaz Dean, directed.  Sure enough, I saw an extreme difference in my hair after the first use, and so far it’s kept its promises.  I’ve been using it religiously for about 3 months now, and I honestly can’t imagine going back to regular shampoo and conditioner.

WEN is a cleansing conditioner.  It takes the place of shampoo and conditioner in one easy step.  You also use it as your leave-in, if your hair requires it.  It makes your hair shiny, brings out natural body, and makes it extremely low-maintenance when it comes to styling.  Not that my routine was ever really high-maintenance to begin with.  Unless it’s a special occasion, it basically consists of blow drying with a round brush and velcro rollers for some extra body.  Here’s how that looked on a regular basis before WEN.

Not bad, but as you can see, I have very fine hair with very little natural body.   Now, here’s a picture after having used WEN regularly for several weeks.


In both pictures I styled my hair exactly the same way.  To me, the difference is staggering.  I never thought I’d see the day when my hair looked like this on a regular basis.  Seriously, same blow dryer, same round brush, same velcro rollers.  Extremely different hair.

Now I will admit that WEN is a little on the pricey side, and you can’t buy it in stores.  (You have to buy it from either QVC or WEN’s website.)  These are both downfalls, however I find the results are worth it.  What I like most is the variety they offer for all different hair types.  I use the lavender, which is designed for fine hair, but I have friends who use the pomegranate which is designed for thicker hair.  They also have options for curly, coarse, and ethnic hair.

I do know there are less expensive products that are comparable on the market.  I recently heard L’oreal makes one, which says on the bottle it’s not tested on animals.  (Although I’m not sure the individual ingredients aren’t, so take that as you will.)  WEN is listed as a vegan product, so it’s entirely cruelty-free, which for me makes it entirely worth the splurge.

RE: Oatmeal Banana Face Mask

It has been exactly a week since I experimented with the oatmeal banana face mask I found in my Grandmother’s recipe book, and I wanted to give you a quick review before I head out to enjoy the holiday weekend.

As a face mask, this recipe worked fairly well.  My skin maintained that intensely moisturized feeling for about three days.  By day four my  face was feeling dry in the mornings prior to my daily moisturizer, but not nearly as dry as it had last Saturday.

As a hair mask, this did wonders for my hair.  A week later and my hair still feels soft and healthy all the way down to the ends.  I’ve had less breakage at the ends, and I have had zero knots.  This level of health is unheard of when my hair is in such obvious need of professional help.  This recipe will definitely become part of my regular hair care routine.  In fact, I’ve already made a batch to have waiting for me when I get home from the Great Outdoors on Monday afternoon.

Happy Columbus Day!

Great Beauty Product Purge

It was a sad day in Smalltown, America.  Heavy grey clouds hung in the sky, too sad and disheartened to move on.  Our heroine, with puffy-eyes and tear-stained face, said her silent goodbyes.  Her quest, though valiant and honorable, has claimed its first victims and she mourned the loss of her dear friends, The Duchess of Olay and Lady Maybelline.

Okay, so perhaps it wasn’t quite that dramatic, but The Great Beauty Product Purge has certainly left its mark on my cosmetics and toiletries.  If you’ve read the rules you’ll remember that No. 4 states all toiletries must be cruelty free.  This includes my collection as it currently stands stood at the time.  So a week ago, I did the thing I was dreading most at the start of my year-long journey.  I compared my cosmetics collection to the Cruelty-Free Companies and Products list.  I have to admit that while the results were largely within the realm of my expectations certain things truly surprised me.

Look for this little guy on products for quick cruelty-free confirmation

If you want to live cruelty-free you can pretty much say goodbye to drugstore cosmetics.  That’s right ladies.  Cover Girl, Almay, Neutrogena, etc.  It doesn’t matter which end of drugstore price spectrum you run, none of them are on the cruelty-free lists, and neither are their various umbrella corporations.  This was, sadly, not a surprise. What did sadden me was the lack of Olay on these lists.  (I checked several different ones, and then their website.)  Olay has been my trusted skin care line for the past 9-12 months, so I suddenly find myself without a skin care line.  But never fear ladies!  There is still a budget-friendly cosmetics option. I was absolutely thrilled to discover that E.L.F. Cosmetics proudly displays the cruelty-free bunny.  Not only are their cosmetics and products a bargain, but they’re now widely available at Target stores across the country.  (Ideal for those situations where you drive 3 hours for a job interview, only to realize you’ve forgotten your make-up.  What?  You’ve never done that?  Oh, well neither have I…)  Seeing E.L.F. on these lists was a good surprise.

A not-so-good surprise was the discovery of how many of my favorite, more up-scale products were not represented on these lists.  MAC, Benefit, NARS, and Laura Mercier were all found to be cosmetic contraband.  Benefit and NARS especially surprised me because their websites boast not testing on animals, however their umbrella corporation animal-tests on both ingredients and finished products.  This led to the dilemma of “if a product is cruelty-free but the company isn’t, is it within the rules or is it contraband?”  Ultimately I had to say that yes, it counts as contraband.  It broke my heart to say goodbye to one of my favorite eye-shadow pallets, but ultimately I believe it’s truly cruelty-free if the company that makes it is not.

So what does this leave me with?  Too-Faced, Urban Decay, and Stila are all safe, along with the E.L.F. collection I’ve built.  (With most products being $1.00 a piece, they’re a little tough to resist.)  I have the beauty basics covered.  My hair care is covered, even if I did have to part with a large amount of styling products.  That is thanks in large part to a miraculous product which I’ll cover later.  Surprisingly, I still have both of my fragrances of choice.  I was expecting the designer fragrance to be okay, but fully expected Bath & Bodyworks to make the “no list.”  Way to go, B&B!  I’m also left with a rather large bin of contraband, for which I now must figure out an acceptable fate.

I was also left needing to replace some products.  Skin care products aside, at the end of this product purge I was also in need of basic things I hadn’t really thought about being affected by this whole process.  Things like toothpaste, antiperspirant, and shaving cream were never really a blip on my mental radar.  Now, they were a legitimate reason to run to the (locally owned!) health food store.

Oh, and on the way home I stopped into a thrift store where I found this little guy.  Now he sits in my bathroom as a reminder to double-check all products before I buy.

Oatmeal Banana Face Mask

I love when the seasons change.  The beautiful green of summer gives way to vibrant orange, deep red, and glittering gold leaves.  Eventually that fades away and the world is covered with a crisp white blanket of snow, which melts into explosions of flowery color.  Yes, the seasonal change has always been something filled with joy and magic.  And dry skin.

It’s no secret that nourishment and moisturizer are the key to soft, supple, youthful skin.  I follow a strict skin care regiment twice daily, and yet every time the seasons change my face does an excellent impression of the Sahara.  For a solid week it feels like there is not enough moisturizer in the world to quench my skin’s thirst.  Until the Great Beauty Product Purge, I had a lovely selection of low-to-moderately priced facial masks to help battle this desert-like dryness.  Unfortunately the change to Fall caught me by surprise, and I haven’t had time to find an appropriate replacement.  So when I woke up this morning with that tight dry feeling, only five days after turning 29, I panicked.

I was tearing through my bookshelves looking for my home remedy and holistic healing books when I saw it.  My Grandmother’s recipe notebook. My Grandmother had beautiful skin.  Even through fighting cancer, she always looked ten years younger than she was.  I didn’t expect to find anything in it regarding skin care, but seeing it made me miss her so I started looking through it.  I wasn’t really reading the recipes.  I was noticing how similar our handwriting is, how the loops and slants in our letters are the same.  Then, as I was pondering how we both use a mix of print and cursive, I saw her recipe for an oatmeal banana face mask.  “For when I need extra moisture in my face and hair.”

I’ve never tried to make a mask out of basic kitchen ingredients before, but I was desperate.  I gathered up the ingredients and started “cooking.”  Honey, milk, half of a sliced banana (the other half was a nice compliment to my breakfast), and half a cup of oats.  Slice the banana, crack the egg, blend it all together, and voila!  Baby food.  I wasn’t thrilled at the idea of putting this on my face, but I’d come this far.  I might as well finish what I started. I covered my face and neck with a generous portion and still had plenty left over.  I decided to apply it to my hair as well, (I have serious end damage, but I’m not ready to search for a salon just yet.) and left it on for the required 15 minutes.  By the time it was dry I looked like something out of George Lucas’ imagination.

Admittedly, it was not easy to remove the mask from my hair, but the results were amazing.  My skin was quenched and actually glowing!  It felt like my face had drank ten gallons of water.  And my hair?  Soft, shiny, and healthy.  Even my tragically dry ends look and feel totally nourished.  It’s amazing what you can do with a few standard breakfast foods.

Oatmeal Banana Face Mask

1/c cup oatmeal
1/2 banana, sliced

1 medium/large egg
1 tsp honey
1 tsp milk

Mash banana, and place in a blender.  Add all other ingredients and puree until creamy and smooth.  Apply liberally to face and neck.  (If using as a hair mask, apply to midshaft and ends, the pony tail section).  Leave on for 15 minutes.  Remove with soft cloth and lukewarm water.