Aug 5, 2014

Prove It! Review of the Philips PureRadiance Facial Cleansing System

 
With the increasing popularity of high-tech cleansing tools in the beauty world, I probably shouldn't admit this, but I'd never actually tried one until two months ago. For one, most of these tools are quite an investment at around $150 a piece. With dry and at times sensitive skin, the idea of scrubbing away layers of my face is scary. Yes, exfoliation is an important step of a skin care routine, but if you've dealt with products that have made your skin freak out before, you may also understand the struggle against exfoliator-induced panic attacks.

All of these concerns were placed at the back of my mind when I was given the chance to try out the Philips PureRadiance Facial Cleansing System, an electronic face brush comparable in both price and function to the popular Clarisonic brush. Two things in particular greatly reduced my urge to run away from the vibrating, advanced dual-motion brush that claims to remove 10x the amount of makeup and other residue from the face than regular cleansing.

1.) I used a Philips Sonicare toothbrush for years (until one fateful day when I accidently left it on for eight hours straight) and my teeth never felt better, short of a good cleaning at the dentist. I figured the cleansing system was worth a shot if it used the same Philips sonic technology.

2.) The fact that celebrity facialist Joanna Vargas, whose Fifth Avenue spa focuses on natural and organic skin care products, partnered with Philips for the US launch of the beauty tool made me hopeful that the brush wouldn't be overly harsh on my skin. True story: the only time I have been able to walk away from a facial and straight to dinner with friends without applying makeup happened after a visit to Joanna Vargas' spa.

The Verdict

Although officially approved for use twice a day, I heeded advice of friends who had overdone it with their cleansing brushes and started off nice and slow. After my first use, I noticed an immediate difference in my skin the next morning, particularly with the small breakouts around my chin. They had shrunk in size, the redness was less visible, and my skin felt smoother and had an overall healthier glow. Of course after that I took things a little too far, using the tool three times in one week and noticing that the skin around my nose was peeling a bit. This is why I can't have nice things.

Realistically, I've never needed to exfoliate my skin three times in one week. What made me think I needed to do it more often because I had a fancy new tool? It took me a few weeks to acknowledge that just because the PureRadiance brush was super easy to integrate into a skin care routine, especially with the one minute timer which beeps in three-section intervals as a reminder to move to another area of the face, that doesn't mean I need to be using it that often. To thine own skin be true, as Shakespeare once said (well, I'm paraphrasing).

I'm now down to using the tool once or twice a week. The Philips PureRadiance brush has become my gateway to an indulgent evening of cleansing, a good hydrating face mask (one of my favorites is from Mario Badescu) and some mint chocolate chip ice cream. 

You can purchase the Philips PureRadiance Cleansing System at Bed, Bath and Beyond for $125 (with an instant $25 rebate) at the time of this post, and at Philips.com for $150.  

Jul 28, 2014

There's Finally a Cure for Phobia of Shiny Eye Shadows


Generally I prefer my face to glow, not sparkle. Sparkles are just not my thing. Adding even a single sequin to something is the quickest way to ruin it. Since I am nearly certain this aversion is a response to a deep-seated childhood trauma like wanting a pink sparkly unicorn shirt and being denied it, the fact that I have finally found an eyeshadow that can be described as "sparkly" and yet I still want to wear it feels like a tremendous victory.

The amount I hate sparkles is equivalent to the amount of ambivalence I feel for mousse eye shadow. The texture can be odd, I suck at applying it evenly, and why did I buy three different eye shadow brushes if I'm not going to be using any of them, anyways? In general, avoidance of mousse eye shadow has been my go-to response. When I was given a sample of the Jouer mousse eye shadows, my ambivalence started slowly shifting when I couldn't stop touching the spongy and smooth shadow. Caressing may be a better way to describe it actually.

The shiny particles caught the light when I sampled them on the back of my hand and while this would normally turn me off, the sparkly factor combined with the darker color of the shadow made me feel like a grown woman, not a sparkly tween. The fact that the color remained in place on my hand even after washing with soap and water pretty much sealed the deal. I would have to actually try this out, full in vivo exposure.

Last night I finally decided to give the eye shadow a real world test drive when I went to see Lauryn Hill perform at Brooklyn Bowl. (I had to name drop that because it was an amazing show and now I can't stop whisper-singing Killing Me Softly under my breath. I'm doing it right now.) This is going to sound like an infomercial or QVC testimonial but... four sweaty, danced out hours later I headed home in a surprise downpour. When I investigated the state of my face upon my return, somehow my eye shadow was not streaked and the kind of rouge sparkles that haunt my dreams were nowhere to be found.

Beyond the longevity, I was pleasantly surprised at how subtle or dramatic the shadow could be based on the amount of product you choose to apply. I went for a more natural look (surprise, surprise) by just dabbing on two to three layers with my finger. If you really want to go all out with a dramatic dark, glossy eyelid, well, there is a good reason why Jouer founder Christina Zilber describes the shadows as "fantasy in a pot".

Jouer's long wear creme mousse eye shadow is available exclusively on Birchbox.com for $30. Photos feature Twilight and Night Sky.
 

Jun 11, 2014

Cleansing Rituals: The 7 Step Guide to Summer Skincare

When the sun goes down, so does my skincare routine
Most routines make my shoulders tense, my teeth clench, and bring tears of boredom to my eyes. Give me an unplanned evening that starts with dinner and turns into a 3am dance party any day. Or really, any day where I can sleep in past 10am. However, one of the few areas in life that I absolutely, positively need to follow a carefully regimented plan is skincare. Specifically my evening facial routine. Even though products rotate in and out as the seasons change or my skin decides to go all weird on me, there is always a tight plan in place. Here's the breakdown for Summer 2014, specifically designed for freshly aged 30 year old skin.

1. Shu Uemura Cleansing Oil: Massaged onto dry skin, the oil lightly foams when rinsed off with mildly warm water and does a great job of removing eye and face makeup.

2. Meow Meow Tweet Face Cleanser: From a natural apothecary based in Brooklyn, this cream cleanser is made of "organic plant oils, a touch of castile soap and wild harvested witch hazel" to "lift away impurities while providing protective nutrients and vitamins." My skin feels clean but also ridiculously soft which is a difficult task post-cleanser for us dry-skinned ladies. 

3. Mario Badescu Glycolic Cleansing Lotion: This is hands down the best toner I have ever used. It has forever answered the debate of whether you need to even use toner -- yes, if it's this one. My skin glows more, breaks out less, and is not the least bit dried out.

4. Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Eye Cream: Actually I just unearthed a sample of this eye cream and since my Amarte eye cream ran out, I haven't been ready to commit to a new one yet. I like that it really sinks in to the eye area immediately.

5. Vitivia Vitamin A15 capsules: With a small percentage (.15%) of retinol, I put this on "trouble areas" where I have fine lines or a breakout and have found with regular use these capsules really do subtly get the job done without irritating skin.

6. Violet Oasis Organic Moroccan Oil: Just a pinch of this light oil melts into my skin and leaves it feeling moisturized without a sticky residue. Some nights I use more than a small drop and use this as my main moisturizer.

7. Eucerin Q10 Anti-Wrinkle Sensitive Skin Cream: Although it appears thick in texture, this Eucerin creme is continuing its way in my summer routine because it easily absorbs into the skin and I wake up singing "I woke up like this" when I happen upon my reflection.

So there we have it, seven steps. That's pretty normal, right? 

May 7, 2014

The Space In-Between: In Life, In Hairstyles

Most of life happens in what is best described as the "in-between zone". Sure, those big moments when we move to a new city, change jobs, or start (perhaps end) a relationship seem to be the more crucial points. In the film of our life, those pivotal moments would make it into the hyped-up movie trailer. Not featured would be the routines that make up the average day, and the waiting, always waiting, for the next big thing to happen. But it is those in-between moments that seem to encompass the majority of our story.

Washington D.C, stumbled across this charming tree in between finding an ATM and buying lunch

While there are several areas of life where I'm currently swimming my way through the "in-between" seaweed, one of the most annoying in-between zones at the moment is my hair.

If you're on Instagram and happen to follow me, you may have noticed I like to change my hair. Long, short, dark(ish), blonder. At the moment I am truly in an in-between zone. My hair is growing, but not quite yet "long". My color needs a touch-up but my appointment is not until later this month. This leaves me not only waxing poetic about how much of life happens while we are waiting for some bigger event, but also in search of products to hold me and tell me everything will be alright during the waiting process.


Granting me much needed patience with my hair color, I was recently introduced to eSalon, a website created by (a very chic, French) colorist to provide affordable and custom blended hair color delivered to your home. While eSalon is still working on their own highlighting kit, thus limiting my choice of color as a blonde (surprise, surprise, the in-between zone strikes again), I have been testing out their Tinted Love color enhancing treatment in Beige. Using natural pigments to enhance color between treatments, the formula is actually gentle enough that it leaves my hair feeling softer while adding some shine and a much needed color boost. I'm only two shampoos in and was told that after six shampoos is when I can appreciate the color most.


While Marcia Brady's theory on brushing hair a set number of times nightly may or may not actually work, when I get impatient for my hair to grow, I find myself participating in rituals like brushing hair nightly to help stimulate the scalp and spread the oil (or something) as well as taking a multi-vitamin and Omega-3 fish oil supplements. I've actually started looking forward to brushing my hair nightly after testing out the Olivia Garden Ionic massage bamboo brush. It just gets in there and gets right to the scalp, easily detangling any misbehavior of the hair in its path. A good brush really makes a difference in the overall appearance of hair, and Olivia Garden's Ionic thermal round brush has been helping me gain confidence in an at-home blow out. Miraculously there is no tangling while I clumsily blow-dry my own hair and it imparts a good amount of volume into my super straight, fine hair.   

The thing is, when life is full of in-between's, you start appreciating the intricate details a bit more than usual. The smell of blooming trees on your walk to work or the kindness of a stranger holding the elevator for you somehow becomes much more important. On the surface it may seem like not much is happening, but upon closer examination your life is slowly but surely unfolding, one hairbrush stroke at a time.  

Apr 22, 2014

The Beauty of Earth Day: Free for All Birchbox


Is it just me or does there seem to be a rise in special "days" commemorating the randomest of things? Be it National Candied Orange Peel Day or Lumpy Rug Day, I can appreciate the idea that people are passionate about a wide range of things and every dog should have his day, as the saying goes. That being said, Earth Day is not one of those random holidays.

Earth Day is a day where we can all join together in our feelings of guilt for not doing more to be environmentally aware. Or on the flip side, if you are quite environmentally focused, today is the day where you can talk all you'd like about your compost pile, how you keep your carbon footprint so small, and the evils of plastic water bottles. We are listening and taking notes. Earth Day is also a day where I find myself even more aware of the environmental factors involved with what I put on my face through makeup, skin care, and other body products. So when I read about Birchbox's Limited Edition Free for All box of ingredient-conscious products, all of which are free of parabens, phthalates, sulfates, petrochemicals, and GMOs, I thought there could really be no better way to celebrate Earth Day than with a natural beauty product binge.

For $44, the Free for All box includes eight products from natural beauty brands like W3LL people, Alima, and Jurlique (to name just a few) as well as the exclusive Birchbox x FEED Project's beauty pouch (also sold separately here for $16). The cost of the BB x FEED pouch provides 10 meals to a child in need globally through FEED Project's social programs targeted at alleviating poverty and hunger. How can you not become a fan of FEED's mission and awesome collaborations like this one with Birchbox?  

Full details on the Free for All Birchbox are available here.