“Beauty, to me, is about being comfortable in your own skin. That, or a kick-ass red lipstick.” -Gwyneth Paltrow

Benefit Stay Don't Stray

Benefit's "Stay Don't Stray" is one of the more recent additions to the eye primer market. Released in the spring, it touted itself as a different sort of primer...not only was it for eyeshadow, but also for concealer. Yes, apparently Benefit felt the need to create a concealer primer. I found this interesting, as I often used concealer as a primer for my eyeshadow, but hey, they seemed to know what they were doing. 

I first learned about this new primer at, of course, Sephora. I had wandered in there looking for a good eyeshadow primer. I was actually looking for either Urban Decay Primer Potion or Too Faced Shadow Insurance, but the SA was so, so, so excited about this new arrival I couldn't help but share her enthusiasm. When she informed me that I would be the very first person to purchase Stay Don't Stray from my Sephora, well, I was sold! 

The premise of Stay Don't Stray is simple enough. You simply pat several tiny, tiny dots (remember these instructions later in the review...they will be important) around your entire orbital area (both top and bottom) and blend. Wait a minute or so for the product to set, then follow with your normal eye products, ie concealer and shadow. It claims to make application easier, wear time longer, to decrease creasing and fading, and to help shadows stay more vivid longer. 

Stay Don't Stray is a good enough primer. As a matter of fact, it has several good good qualities. Here's what I like about it: 

* It applies very smoothly. As a matter of fact, the creamy consistency is a breeze to work with. It feels rather moisturizing going on, and sets well within about one minute to a matte finish. 
* It's flesh-toned and gives some coverage. I do find it a bit yellow for my skin so I don't use it as concealer, but if I wasn't so ghostly, it would work as a light-cover concealer very well. Remember, it isn't meant to hide flaws on its own, but rather to act as a primer, so don't expect too much in this area. However, if you just need a little evening out under your eyes, it's great. It also works wonders for lightening and brightening the upper eyelids, covering slight purple or red discolorations with ease. 
* It lasts all day. I had no issues with creasing with this product, so it did its job there. Keep in mind, though, that I'm not a "creaser," so this isn't exactly an amazing feat. It is summer time, so there is some oiliness and a lot of humidity, but I typically am not one of those women who has shadow go all oily and nasty within hours, so I wasn't setting the bar too high there. However, I do tend to have a lot of problems with fading. Without a good primer, my eyelids suck the life right out of my shadow and leave me with sad, bland, naked lids by the end of the day. With Stay Don't Stray, my shadow stayed put, stayed vivid, and didn't fade until I removed it. Well done!

All in all, Stay Don't Stray did exactly what it said it would do. 

Now for what I don't like: 

*  The pump. The pump sucks. As a matter of fact, it's a paragon of suckiness. It's possibly the worst pump in the history of pumps. It's definitely the worst pump in the history of eye primers. Which is sad, since one of the reasons I bought this primer was because of the pump. See, I love pumps. I love that they are hygienic, that they are easy to use, that they keep the package clean, and that they DISPENSE THE PROPER AMOUNT OF PRODUCT.  Which is where my experience with Stay Don't Stray went horribly, horribly wrong. 

What you see above (despite my very limited photography skills) is a single pump of Stay Don't Stray. Hopefully, what you can see is that there is as much primer pumped out as what you would get from a foundation pump dispenser. As in, enough to cover your entire face. And there's no way around this problem. I know, because I tried everything. I tried to get a half-pump...no luck. Nothing came out at first, and then a rocket squirt of primer went flying across the room. I tried tap-tap-tapping gently on the pump to get just the tiniest amount of product out at a time. This seemed to work at first, until I realized that primer continued to ooze from the pump after I was finished with it. There's just no getting around it...the pump gives you literally 10 times as much product as you need, and there's no way to make it not so. Considering that you are instructed to use only the tiniest bit of product, this is a huge problem and a gigantic waste.

You may also have noticed what a mess my pump is. Sadly, that's what it looks like after  having been wiped down. Not only does the pump dispense too much product, it leaks. It leaks all over the inside of the lid and gets all over everything. One day when I was rifling through my makeup drawer I realized there was primer all over half my makeup because so much had leaked out of the pump that it had actually leaked out of the lid as well. I had to wipe everything down, including the inside of the drawer. That sealed the fate of Stay Don't Stray in my book.

So essentially, although Stay Don't Stray is not a bad product in and of itself, the packaging is so abysmal, so horrific, and so plainly crappy that I cannot recommend it to anyone. Unless you see this come out in a tube sometime soon, stay away. It isn't worth the effort, especially with so many other comparable and better products out there. It pains me to say this, as Benefit is one of my favorite lines, but this is a definite NO.

This product was purchased by me at my own personal expense.

Milani 3D Glitzy Glamour Gloss

     Image courtesy of Milani Cosmetics

I happened upon Milani lip gloss while waiting for a prescription refill at CVS the other day. I literally had nothing to do for 10-15 minutes and wound up in the cosmetics area, where I stumbled upon the Milani display. The 3D Glitzy Glamour Glosses had a place of prominence on the display, and a brilliant fuschia color called In Vogue caught my eye. Seeing as the gloss was only $6.99, and seeing as I was literally trapped in CVS and bored out of my mind, I of course purchased it.

Now, there are a few things you need to know about me. First, I've come very, very late to the lip gloss game. As in, I've only started wearing glosses in the last few months. I didn't even realize that glosses were all the rage until about a year ago. Apparently, I'm either totally out of touch, or I'm comfortable enough in my own skin to buck the trends and work my own personal style. I prefer to believe the latter.

Second, I'm a lipstick FREAK, especially red lipsticks. I've yet to meet a red lipstick I don't NEED in my life...it's truly a sickness. As for glosses...well, to me they were always more for 18-year-olds and people who are afraid of lipsticks. Obviously, since I'm 40 and prefer to rock the RED lipstick on a daily basis, neither of those conditions apply to me. As you can imagine, I never saw glosses as a part of my makeup arsenal.

Enter Chanel. Yes, Chanel, because of course, if I was going to start with a lip gloss, it was apparently going to be with the best, and Glossimers were the way to go. No wading in for me! No, sirree...I just jumped right in. Ironically enough, I learned about lip gloss at the launch of the Rouge Coco lipsticks, when my favorite (read: evil) MUA at the Chanel counter decided to "enhance" my Rouge Coco with some Venus Glossimer. The skies parted, the angels sang, and an obsession was born.

However, I digress. Since that day, I have collected 6 Glossimers and many other high-and low-end glosses. Today's addition, Milani's 3D Glitzy Glamour Gloss, sounds ridiculous to me, but the color In Vogue is beautiful in the tube and intrigued me, largely because I was dying of boredom wandering around CVS. Truthfully, I had very low expectations for this gloss, since most products that appear this vivid in the tube go on extremely sheer on the lips, but I thought I'd give it a try anyway since honestly, I really, really had nothing better to do with the next 10 minutes.

Well, color me surprised! As you can see  above, 3D Glitzy Glamour Gloss (I seriously cannot get past the corniness of that name) in In Vogue is a gorgeous, deep fuschia with holographic sparkles. I have swatched it lightly and heavily, as the color is buildable. It is not sticky or gritty, and has reasonable lasting power. There is no detectable fragrance or flavor. The applicator is a brush rather than a doe-foot sponge. It looks lovely on the lips...it truly brightens my face, and gives almost as much color as one of my beloved lipsticks. This is perfect for me, since I expect my glosses to pack a lot of pigment punch...there's nothing I hate more than buying what I think will be a nice, bright lip gloss only to have it go on super-sheer on my pale (and I mean PALE) lips (I'm thinking of you, Dior). Although the holographic sparkles are definitely noticeable, they add definition to the color rather than looking tacky or over-the-top. The formula, despite the sparkles, is amazingly smooth and not terribly sticky, although it lasted over 2 hours on me even after minor water-drinking and normal talking (which for me, as you may have guessed, is a lot).

I definitely give this one a thumbs-up. If you are a fan of glosses, you need this. If you aren't a fan of glosses, you still might need this for days when you just really don't want to do a full face of makeup. If you ever get stuck at CVS, you absolutely need to stop at the Milani display. Let me know how you like the other colors!

This product was purchased by me at my own personal expense.

Avene Retrinal Cream Review



I recently turned 40. Due largely to my total aversion to the sun and my complete obsession with skin care, not to mention some very fortunate genetics, I have quite good skin. Thus far, I've only just begun to see slight signs of aging around my eye area, and still have pretty good texture and little to no discoloration to my skin. 

That being said, I did turn 40, and  I've suddenly become preoccupied with preserving the state my skin is in and halting any further signs of aging. I was considering going with a prescription-strength retinoid...until one of my coworkers went that route. Seeing her red, flaky face convinced me that I just don't have the patience to deal with that breaking-in period. I want my skin to look better, not like a victim of leprosy. Although she eventually acclimated to her product, I got pretty turned off by the entire process. 

Enter retinal. Supposedly, retinAL is the step between retinOL (what you get at the drugstore and in many HE beauty products) and the prescription-strength retinoic acid (Retin-A, Differin, etc.) It is stronger than OTC retinoid products, yet doesn't require a prescription. It also doesn't cause the irritation, redness and flakiness associated with retinoic acid. Although the results are not as fast or dramatic as those found with prescription products, neither are the side effects. Could this be the perfect product for me?

Avene Retrinal is a retinal cream sold in two strengths: 0.05% and 0.1%. It is suggested that users begin at the lower strength to determine the effectiveness of the product and minimize the chance of irritation, then move up to the higher strength as their skin allows. 
I began using the 0.05% cream approximately 30 days ago. The cream itself is dispensed from a tube, is thick and peach-colored, and is lightly scented. It spreads fairly easily, although I do have to work it a little more than I'd like to get it to spread evenly across my entire face. The first few times I used it, I felt it wasn't spreading well at all, but as I began to see the exfoliating effects of the product it began to apply more easily and sink in more quickly. While I initially felt it necessary to apply moisturizer on top of the cream, within a week I found this was no longer necessary, although I continued with my eye cream. I was also told by the aesthetician who sold it to me that it is, indeed, okay to wear moisturizer over this product...it will not dilute the effectiveness. Just let it soak in for a couple of minutes first, then continue with your regular moisturizer if you like.

For the first week or two, it was a rocky road. Although I had previously been using a 14% glycolic acid lotion on my skin, I still had some minor peeling for the first week or so, although no redness or irritation. The peeling mainly occurred around my mouth, and was especially obvious at the end of the day. I was able to exfoliate it off with a washcloth and moisturize it away, but it returned each day. Of course, YMMV, as my skin was pretty well conditioned due to the glycolic acid usage. Depending on how dry or oily your skin is and how well-conditioned your skin is to exfoliating ingredients, you may see more or less peeling. I do have dry skin, despite it being used to the glycolics, so maybe that was the problem. 

My skin also had some pretty good breakouts for the first 10-14 days. This really freaked me out, as I almost never break out. They were only small red bumps and whiteheads (no nasty cysts), but there were enough of them concentrated around my cheeks and jawline to alarm me quite a bit. However, I hung in there and rode out the storm, and the breakouts diminished around day 14 and disappeared completely around day 21.

So are there any actual benefits to this cream, you ask? Has it been worth the breakouts and peeling? Why yes, it has! After just 30 days, I have seen a great improvement in the clarity and tone of my skin. My skin looks fresher and more radiant. It's clearer, with fewer discolorations. It's softer, with a finer texture. The fine lines around my eyes have not really diminished (these things take time), but the area seems plumper and more refreshed. It seems as if my under-eye circles have diminished somewhat. This product has done more for my skin in 30 days than my glycolic acid lotion (which I was very happy with) has done in the last year. Gotta love that!

I have to give a big YES to the Avene Retrinal so far. Although it's still early in the game, I feel the improvements in my skin are well worth the $56 price tag and difficulty in locating the product (it can only be found online and in select dermatologist's and aesthetician's offices). Well worth the effort, in my opinion. Of course, it's imperative to wear a high-SPF broad-spectrum sunscreen during the day while using this product, so please be careful if you are going out in the sun--better yet, do what I do and just avoid sunlight as if you are a vampire. 

I will continue with this tube, and plan to go up to the 0.1% next, at which point I will submit an updated review. If you've used it, let me know--I'd love to know what you think!

This product was purchased by me at my own personal expense.

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