Sample Overload

In the past, I may have mentioned that I’ve collected a lot of samples over time.. you might not have realized I meant a lot A LOT:

(Of course I realized this picture was blurry only after I spread everything out, clicked a few shots, and uploaded.)

You could call it a boatload.

With the spending freeze under way, I have plenty of time to try these out and share reviews, so that’s exactly what I’m doing.  I don’t like trying more than one product at once because it’s harder for me to pinpoint the effect each product had.. so I’ll be doing a sample a day.

Starting with… Brazilian Peel Clear!  (It’s the little blue and white syringe-looking thing.)  I chose it specifically for the fun-looking packaging, and it didn’t disappoint.  The tip twists and pulls off, exposing an opening for both tubes (there’s a clear gel and a creamy liquid).  According to instructions, you push the end in like a syringe to squeeze both fluids into your hand, and then mix it up until it’s warm.  My fluids went from room temp to HOT in a matter of seconds, and I was a little hesitant to rub it on my face.

It went on clear, like a gel, and stung a little upon application.  I’ve had lactic, salicylic and glycolic acid facial peels, though, and Brazilian Peel was pretty mild, comparatively.  I left it on for 10 minutes per instructions without any stinging or burning (just a generally warm sensation), and then rinsed it with cool water.  My skin looked… the same.  Slightly smaller pores if anything, but not my typical post-peel blush and glow.

I felt bad for putting my skin through the heat blast for limited results, so I treated it to a thick coating of Clinique Moisture Surge Extended Thirst Relief.  It’s a thick moisturizer that leaves my skin shiny (but not greasy) – so I only use it when I’m not planning to wear makeup on top.

I’m keeping an open mind, knowing that some peels improve skin in the following days and not immediately, but Brazilian Peel sells at Sephora for $78 for a set of 4 syringes – and for that price, I’m saying helllll no!  I could get a good facial with a proper peel for just a little more than that.

Fun packaging, you can’t trick me.



Overnight Success

It’s great waking up to pretty skin.  Most days, it’s just my foggy vision blurring my face into evenly toned, pore-free gorgeousness – but I do have an arsenal of no-fail products for days I need to wake up looking like a Disney princess.

For smooth, ready-to-go morning hair, I start with a good blow dry (either left over from my day, or after a night shower).  Sleeping on wet hair has never done me any favors.  Before heading to bed, I rub a few pumps of Alterna Caviar Anti-Aging Overnight Hair Rescue $38, on my palms and coat my hair from the middle to the ends.  A quick pass with a wide tooth comb, and it’s good to go.  In the morning, I have freshly conditioned, pretty-scented, silky hair that’s ready to walk out the door.  My only word of caution is to err on the side of too little product – too much looks greasy.

For my face, I can’t forsake my old stand-by: Alba Even Advanced Night Cream $15.  It really evens my skin tone and makes my pores less noticeable.. but for can’t-risk-it days (weddings, brunches, and DRIVER’S LICENSE PHOTOS) I turn to AMOREPACIFIC Moisture Bound Vitalizing Masque $60.  After cleansing with my Clarisonic brush and finishing off with Clinique Clarifying Lotion, I apply the “masque” generously all over my face and neck.  It feels like a moisturizer, but takes a little longer to soak in.  It’s miraculously not greasy, sticky, or chalky, so my compliments to the chef.
In the morning, my face is plump (in a good way), smooth, soft, and even.  After a quick rinse, I have the perfect canvas for Big Day makeup.

Lastly, there are the eyes.  One big problem with my “need to look good tomorrow” nights is that my sleep is often compromised, and the eye bags give it away.  I don’t typically have issues with redness or puffiness, but when I do, it’s on an important day.  I’ve found out, though, that I can usually nip the problem in the bud with Clinique All About Eyes Serum De-Puffing Eye Massage $28.  It’s an eye serum with a metal roller ball applicator – which I always found a little gimmicky until this.  I rub the cold metal under my eyes and over my lids before bed, and by morning – normal eyes with normal eyelids.  I couldn’t ask for more.  It doesn’t do the miracle work of my everyday eye cream, but I can easily tap that on in the morning to take care of fine lines, dryness and circles.
These three products are my best shot at overnight success.  But I’ve also heard amazing things about Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery and I’m kind of dying to try it when my buying ban is up.

Do you have a no-fail night routine?


Everyday Skin Care Arsenal

I love makeup to death, but at the end of the day, I want every speck of it off my face.  It creeps me out thinking it’s lingering in my pores, so I go hard on my skin care regimen.  Here’s what’s working for me:

First I pre-wash the majority of my makeup off with my hands and Noxzema deep cleansing cream ($4.39) – the kind in a big blue pot.  (I pre-wash because I don’t like to get my Clarisonic brush too clogged up with makeup… it feels like I’m rubbing foamy old foundation around on my face.)  I’m not especially attached to this cleanser, I mostly use it because I get to scoop handfuls out like ice cream.

Next I deep clean with my Clarisonic Mia 2 and a cleanser: Purity Made Simple facial cleanser ($20), old school Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser ($11.49) or Biore Complexion Clearing Ice Cleanser ($7.49).  Whichever I blindly grab.

Usually, my eye makeup sticks around even after the brush, so I rub in some Clinique Naturally Gentle Eye Makeup Remover lotion ($18) and wipe it off gently with tissue (cotton balls leave awful little fuzz strings in my lashes.)

After that, I swipe my face and neck with Clinique Clarifying Lotion 1 ($13) and CVS’s hugest cotton balls ever ($1.49).  (I know, I’m sharing my favorite brand of cotton balls.  But they’re seriously huge and luscious.  I love them.)  It removes the last traces of makeup or dirt and leaves my face feeling fresh.

Then I apply Clinique Repairwear Eye Cream around my tired old eyes, and Alba Even Night Cream on my face and neck.  And it’s relaxing and wonderful, and my skin is grateful.

What skin care product or routine do you swear by?


Average Day Arsenal

I recently shared with you my super-quick makeup arsenal.  It gets me through the grocery store and the post office, but if I’m doing anything social I usually step my game up a bit.  A very tiny bit.

Here’s my “average day” makeup routine.

First comes the Devita SPF 30+ moisturizer and Clinique Repairwear eye cream.  Keeping my face together under the makeup is a must.  I give the moisturizers a little time to soak in, and stare blankly into my closet at all the “nothing to wear.”

Then comes Rimmel London Primer (apparently now in the lead in the battle of the primers).  It just feels a little more moisturizing than my Make Up For Ever primer, and it makes me look more natural in the day time.

I smear on about two small pumps of Make Up For Ever HD Invisible Cover Foundation in #145 or #150 ($42) near the center of my face and then buff it out with my foundation brush.

The Sephora Pro Foundation Airbrush #56 ($32) amazes me.  As long as it’s clean, it buffs liquid foundation out to a really smooth, even layer.  The trick is shampooing this brush often, because after about three days, the bristles are so stuck together with leftover foundation they’ll leave straight-up stripes on your face.

Next, I tap on Benefit Erase Paste in Medium ($26) under my eyes, using my finger.  It’s a little lighter than my skin, but its crazy miracle formula blends right into foundation.  As advertised, it really does brighten up dark circles – but it takes a very tiny bit to look good and not like a reverse raccoon.

To set the erase paste, I use a wedge sponge to dab on MAC Studio Fix in NC35 ($27).  Then comes the big powder brush to buff on a very light powder layer.  I know it’s kind of foundation-over-foundation, but it works.

Then blush.  The three I have in heavy rotation right now are: Milani Blush in Luminoso ($7.49), Cover Girl Cheekers Blush in Pretty Peach ($3.99) or Benefit Bella Bamba ($28).  I just follow my heart.

Next I use the Sephora Complexion Brush #53 ($19) to add a little Tarte Mineral Powder Bronzer in Park Avenue Princess ($29).  The brush is not my favorite, and I don’t especially care for it.. but it’s big, and it’s here, so I use it.  The bronzer goes just under my cheekbone for a liiiittle bit of contouring – I’m no crazy 80’s freak, but I like a little definition.  This is a perfectly subtle warm color.

Then again, the eyebrow fill-in with the darker brown in Clinique Colour Surge Eyeshadow Duo in Coffee Shop  ($19.50) and an angled shadow brush.

A quick swipe of Make Up For Ever Aqua Eyes Eyeliner in 0L ($18) along the top waterlines and lash lines.

I set the liner with tokidoki Cromatico Eye Shadow in Adios matte black ($15) and the flat side of Sephora’s Classic Dramatic Eyes brush ($7 on sale).  I might even be fancy and go for a little bit of a cat-eye (ooh la la.)

With the opposite end of the Dramatic Eye brush, I sweep a little of the Tarte bronzer from the outside corner of my eyelid along the crease.  It’s the no-eyeshadow eyeshadow.

I do a little highlighting with a small shadow brush with Clinique Colour Surge Eye Shadow Soft Shimmer in Sugar Sugar – shimmery white and/or Starstruck – shimmery light nude ($15) in the inner corner of my eye, along the inner bottom lash line, and just under my eyebrows.

 Then I curl my eyelashes and choose between Smashbox Hyperlash or Maybelline Full N Soft Mascara (both from Splurge Steal or Skip awhile back) – depending on how humid it will be, or whether I plan to cry later in the day.  Who knows!

Lastly a tinted lip balm if I’m keeping it casual, maybe some lipstick if I’m being a fancy guy.  But more on that later.


6-Minute Makeup Arsenal

Even on the laziest (or most rushed) of days, I won’t subject the outside world to my makeup-free face.  I feel like a beady-eyed, pasty little mole rat.  I’ve found that taking about 6 minutes to pretty up my face makes all the difference to me.  Here’s my running-out-the-door makeup routine.

I wash my face if necessary, then moisturize with Devita SPF 30+ moisturizer and Clinique Repairwear eye cream.  I fix my hair while I wait for it to soak in a bit.

Then I rub Rimmel London Primer (from battle of the primers) all over my face with my hands.  Sounds primal.  Usually is.  The subtle tint evens my skin out a little, so I don’t have to mess with a lot of foundation and concealer.

I use a wedge sponge with a heavy dose of MAC Studio Fix in NC35 ($27) to cover up any problem areas, and my under eye circles.  I bust out the big powder brush and buff on a thin dusting to even out the rest of my face.

To look a little more human, I brush on Milani Blush in Luminoso ($7.49) – I found it on Temptalia’s dupe list for Nars Orgasm blush, and I love it.  Right now, I use the Sephora Complexion Brush, but it’s pretty ‘meh’.

Because my hair is so dark, I feel like my eyebrows look awkward when I haven’t filled them in a bit.  I use an angled shadow brush and tap on a bit of the darker brown in the Clinique Colour Surge Eyeshadow Duo in Coffee Shop  ($19.50).

I know a lot of magazines say black eyeliner isn’t for daytime, but it’s all I use.  My eyes are dark, my eyelashes are dark.. black works for me.  Make Up For Ever Aqua Eyes Eyeliner in 0L ($18) is a smooth, dark black, perfect for my water line and upper lash line.

To set my eyeliner, I use tokidoki Cromatico Eye Shadow in Adios matte black ($15) with the flat side of Sephora’s Classic Dramatic Eyes brush ($7 on sale).  Waterproof or not, Make Up For Ever’s Aqua Eyes smears if I don’t use powder eyeshadow over it.

If my eyes are looking dead tired, I use a small shadow brush with Clinique Colour Surge Eye Shadow Soft Shimmer in Sugar Sugar – shimmery white and/or Starstruck – shimmery light nude ($15) in the inner corner of my eye, along the inner bottom lash line, and just under my eyebrows.  I rub it in a little.

Then I curl my lashes quickly, skip the mascara, and add some tinted lip balm.  Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment SPF 15 in Sugar Rose ($22.50) is my fave right now, but it takes a gentle application.  (It’s so soft, I broke the top off while rubbing some on at a bar.  The shame.)

Easy, fast, and pretty works for me.


Best Stuff: Eye Cream

When I was younger, eye cream was the absolute last thing on my mind.  I figured it was for older, sagging people.  People named RuthAnn, whose husbands were old guys named Ted, and their houses smelled like dust and wilted roses.  Smelly or not, I so wish RuthAnn had been my friend in college, because I would’ve looked worlds better in all those facebook tags.

Eye cream is now a serious staple in my skin care regimen.  But it took awhile to find the right one.  A few years ago, I had settled on Clinique All About Eyes Rich ($29) and Skyn Iceland Eye Cream ($45).  They both moisturized well, and Skyn seemed to tighten things up around my eyes.  They were sufficient.


But then came summer.  And pictures.  And big, squinting smiles into the sun.  And the completely horrible and shocking moment when I saw for the first time: under-eye wrinkles.  I’d noticed them before, when my eyes had puffed up due to cat allergies, heavy drinking, or crying.. but these ones were showing themselves in the day.  Brazenly.  Mockingly.

I admit I freaked out a little, but it was me vs. the wrinkles, so I had to armor up.  I headed to Sephora to seek out the next level.  That’s when I found my personal holy grail: Clinique Repairwear Intensive Eye Cream ($40).

This cream, I am convinced, makes me look seven years younger around the eyes.  The mini-wrinkles have vanished, my skin is moisturized and smooth, and my dark circles are more like medium-colored circles.  The huge benefit is that my concealer actually conceals completely, and without creasing.

I literally can’t praise this product enough.  Cliché  or not, I only regret not trying it sooner… because now, I’m storming this summer’s photos like:


10-second review: Clinique Chubby Stick

Full disclosure: I’m hung over so this is gonna be quick.

Clinique Chubby Stick Moisturizing Lip balms are a simple pleasure.  They’re buttery smooth and colorful (I got mine in Mega Melon as part of a Clinique freebie), and they make me feel like a toddler drawing on my own face.  They’re like the big fat crayon partner of Revlon’s Just Bitten felt-tip marker lip stain.

I wouldn’t call this balm especially moisturizing, but it wears very comfortably.  I completely forget it’s there until I wipe smudges of coral onto a napkin by mistake.  On that note, I should mention that it slides right off at the slightest touch, so don’t go eating an ice cream cone if you want it to last at all.

At $16 each, I’ll pass on buying any more Chubbies.. They’re cute, simple, and fun, but they don’t fill any needs for me right now.  (Or maybe ever.. who really needs translucent balmy lips that brush off on a coat sleeve?)

Plus, the question remains – how do you sharpen these little beasts?


P.S.  If you’re interested in more Chubby Stick opinions, I recall Anonymous Hedonist’s review not so long ago.  Check it out here.


I’ll be the first to admit I’m a straight-up sucker for gifts with purchase.  I love the thought of buying a couple of things, but getting A BOX FULL OF THINGS instead.  It’s a cheap thrill.  Or more accurately, a free thrill.

A lot of times, gifts with purchase are useless little samples designed to rope customers into spending money on something they don’t want.. but after loading up on hideous department store freebies as a teen, I’ve come up with a few rules for myself:

1. Always buy something useful to ‘earn’ the free item.

2. Don’t jump for the freebie unless it’s something I already like, or am very interested to try.

My best tip is to keep a shopping list of makeup and tools you use and replace regularly (for me it’s Clarisonic brush heads, Make Up For Ever foundation and concealers, nail files, new Essie polishes and hair products.)  When some amazing gift with purchase comes up, I have a legitimate NEED to spend the money and earn some free swaaaag.

And with that, I announce my two newest freebie shipments from Clinique and Sephora.  (I should have posted on this sooner, since I think the Clinique promo is over.. sorry homies!)

Here’s my Sephora haul:

I spent, I think, around $40 on this fine array.  I bought the Make Up For Ever concealer, Sephora primer (now entering the ring in my primer battles – more on that later), Tokidoki nail tattoos (can’t stop loving the cuteness) and the Sephora Hot Hues neon lip balm.  My three free samples were the Dior serum, MUFE HD primer (I already use it, but this little packet will be handy for traveling), and a daily face peel.  I got the Fresh Sugar Kisses duo free as a birthday gift, and the Benefit Bella Bamba blush free with 100 Sephora Beauty Insider points.  The Tokidoki eyeshadow (in Diamante) was a gift with $25 purchase promo.

And then there was Clinique.  I can’t find their eyeshadow duo in Coffee Shop in any store anywhere, but the colors are so good with my skin.  They’re the perfect warm neutrals, and I will love them til the night closes in.  Clinique has such killer gifts with purchase that I added the eye makeup remover SORT OF on a whim.  I’ve been half-assedly looking for one, and Clinique’s had great reviews.

So for a total of around $45, I got these bad boys PLUS a fancy bag full of excitement.

What’s in there, you say?  Another eyeshadow duo (Lucky Penny and Chocolate Chip), Moisture Surge Intense, Repairwear Laser Focus, All About Eyes Serum mini rollerball, Lash Doubling Mascara, and the ol’ Chubby Stick in Mega Melon.  Yessss.

My favorite things about freebies are that I get to try a bunch of new things, and they’re usually small enough to stuff in my purse.  Also, I like that they are free.

With that, let me point you toward for their “15 Days of Thrills” promotion… 12 days left with a new gift with purchase daily.  And‘s not looking too shabby with their 5-piece Philosophy gift set with purchase.  Get your freeloading on, friends.