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

Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Shimmer Ink Gel Eyeliner in Black Mauve

Image Courtesy Bobbi Brown Cosmetics
Believe it or not, I only jumped on the Bobbi Brown bandwagon about 2 months ago. I know, I know, there's no excuse. I just never got around to it, I guess. I got caught up in my favorite lines and all the products and collections they had to offer and stopped being so adventurous. I also stayed away partly because I have read on several occasions that Ms. Brown firmly believes that everyone should wear a yellow-based foundation to "warm" the skin, to which I say...hella NO!!!! I look like I'm suffering from jaundice when I wear yellow-based foundations, and nobody is going to change my mind on that, I'm afraid. 

However, I'd heard so much about the Bobbi Brown gel eyeliners that I decided I had to give one a try, just to see if the hype was true, and that's where Black Mauve enters the picture. 

Sephora Rouge Cream Lipstick--The Red 04

Image Courtesy of Me

We are off and running with another red lipstick review, ladies! This time, it came from one of my wonderful employees, who I had complimented a couple of weeks ago on her lovely lipstick. Lo and behold, she arrived at work today with a Sephora bag in hand with a nice little lipstick inside! Some days, I really love my job. 

As I already have so many reds, it's getting hard for even me to differentiate between them, so I've started to become very picky in my choices. There has to be something different about the lipstick, be it the color, the formula, the lasting power, the pigmentation, etc., to really get me excited these days. Today, the draw was value!....

LUSH Cosmetic Warrior Mask

Image Courtesy of LUSH Cosmetics

Last week, Atlanta had the 4th-worst snow and ice storm in the history of EVER. We got 6-8 inches of snow as well as ice on every conceivable surface. The ice wouldn't melt, either, because the flipping temperature didn't go above freezing for 4 days straight. This is unheard of in Atlanta. The entire city shut down, including highways, businesses, and, you guessed it....schools. For 5 days. Oh. My. God. We were literally snowed into our home together with no way out for 5 days. 

It was with the resulting case of cabin fever that the girls and I ventured out to the mall this weekend. I, of course, stopped in the Cosmetics department at Macy's. The girls wanted to go to Claire's to add to their ever-growing collection of cheap jewelry (sorry, I know that's mean, but I really can't stand Claire's). I sent them on their way and wandered around LUSH for a few minutes. 

So anyway, here's where things got dicey. I wandered around looking at things for about 5 minutes before the poor SA could say hello to me, because she had one of those horrid, demanding customers who think the world revolves around them. This woman had obviously already been there forever and was apparently determined to stay until closing time, and she wasn't going to be ignored! She also wasn't having any of me butting my little head in and asking some questions. This went on for another 5 minutes or so before I finally stepped right in front of her and politely asked for help. After all, I had kids roaming the mall without me. Someone had to protect the general public.

So I finally had an SA, but we were under the gun, because by now it had occurred to me that now that they had been set free in public for 15 minutes, it was entirely possible that my 13 year-old had found a way to live her dream, which is to dispose of my 10 year-old without leaving a trace behind. She's a very smart girl. Of course, so is the little one, and the little one is a scrapper, but still, you don't tempt fate.  So rather than going into my usual long-winded description of my skin type and concerns, yada yada yada, I basically looked at her, pointed at my chin, and howled, "Help me!" Seeing that she probably wanted nothing more than to go home and start drinking by that point, she just nodded, opened her little refrigerator, and yanked out a mask, seemingly at random. For my part, I didn't ask what it was, what it was supposed to do, who it was meant for...I just paid for it and went off in search of my kids.

Tarte Smooth Operator Tinted Moisturizer

Image Courtesy of Tarte Cosmetics

I've been on a bit of a tinted moisturizer kick lately. I've never been one for heavy foundation, and after one too many episodes wherein I looked in the mirror halfway through the day and saw either no makeup at all or slipping and sliding foundation, I finally decided that I might as well just downsize all the way into the world of TM's. 

Off I went to my local Sephora for some play time. The SA I was talking to recommended Tarte's Smooth Operator Tinted Moisturizer. He said it had higher coverage than most TM's, but still gave the light, moisturizing feeling I was looking for. I decided on a whim to take the plunge. 

Shiseido The Skincare Night Moisture Recharge Enriched

Image Courtesy of Me

By now you all probably know that I am a fan of Shiseido's skincare products. I've been reviewing items from a Gift With Purchase I recently received, including Shiseido The Skincare Hydro-Nourishing Skin Softener and The Skincare Purifying Mask, both of which I've loved. However, as you all know, a skincare routine isn't complete without a good night cream, and that's where Night Moisture Recharge Enriched comes in.

LUSH Full of Grace Solid Face Serum Bar

Image Courtesy of Me

I'm a big fan of LUSH skincare, especially for the face. As a matter of fact, I find it unfortunate that they insist on selling so many gimmicky bath products and over-scented soaps because I honestly believe their skin care line deserves a lot more attention than it gets. It's high quality and very reasonably priced, and deserves a look from anyone interested in trying new products. 

I'll be reviewing Celestial Face Cream soon, but first I'd like to talk to you about a wonderful little find I stumbled upon a few months ago called Full of Grace. 

Garnier Nutritioniste Skin Renew Anti-Puff Eye Roller

All Images Courtesy of Me

I have issues with my eyes. Specifically, I have issues with my eyes in the morning, when I tend to wake up with huge bags and dark circles. It seems that unless I sleep sitting in an upright position, this is my fate. The bags just show up on their own, and I suppose the dark circles can be attributed to my fair, thin skin. Anyhow, it's a constant battle. I have yet to find a good solution to the problem since concealers never look right on me and I have yet to find a good eye cream that truly addresses the problem. Estee Lauder Advanced Eye Recovery Complex comes close, but it doesn't really fix the bags and circles once they show up; rather, it helps keep them from occurring overnight. Once they break through the Lauder barrier, I'm left swinging in the wind. So it was with a great deal of interest that I examined the Garnier Nutritioniste Skin Renew Anti-Puff Eye Roller the other day while I was at the drug store. 

Make Up Forever Rouge Artist Intense Lipstick--Moulin Rouge

Image courtesy of me

So, as some of you may have guessed by now, I'm a lipstick FANATIC. More specifically, I'm a red lipstick fanatic. At any given time, I probably have a minimum of 4 red--just red--lipsticks in my purse, in addition to any other more subdued colors, in addition to glosses and balms. I have the attention span of a gnat, so I usually switch things up with every lipstick reapplication, so there actually is a need for this many lipsticks, but still, I know it's ridiculous. I just don't care. It's truly a sickness. 

Anyhow, I'd been hearing all about MUFE's new Rouge Artist Intense line of lipsticks. They've been getting rave reviews, and I've been dying to try one. Most especially, I've been interested in the line's flagship color, Moulin Rouge. It's been described as a true, universal red that can be worn by any woman. Hmmm...intriguing, yes?

So you can imagine my surprise and delight when I got an unexpected email from Cindy over at Prime Beauty Blog, offering me her brand-new Moulin Rouge as a beautiful RAOK!! She said she isn't a red lipstick kind of gal but she knew I was, and the lipstick deserved a loving home. I couldn't jump on that offer fast enough!....

Bobbi Brown Cleansing Oil

Image Courtesy Bobbi Brown Cosmetics

I'm huge into cleansing my face at night. I don't think I've ever fallen asleep with makeup on, even during my crazy, highly inebriated days at the University of Georgia. I may not always do a great job washing my face, but wash it I will! 

Currently, I am using cleansing oils to remove my makeup and sunscreen each evening, followed by mild foaming cleansers to remove any leftover residue from the oil. I need the oil cleanser because I use a waterproof sunscreen under my makeup every day, and just cleanser will not remove it. It is necessary to use an oil to break down the sunscreen completely and remove it from the skin. Yes, I know it sounds tedious, but it really only takes an extra minute or two and it's well worth it.  

Shiseido The Skincare Extra Gentle Cleansing Foam

Image Courtesy of Me!

I'm an avid sunscreen user. Currently, I'm using Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Cream for Face SPF 55 PA+++. Just about anyone will tell you that sunscreen is imperative for the prevention of skin cancer and premature aging. However, what they won't tell you is that sunscreen can very easily clog your pores, especially if it's waterproof. It takes more than just your average cleanser to completely break down and remove a waterproof or water-resistant sunscreen. One of the things I do every day to make sure my face is absolutely, perfectly clean is to use a 2-step cleansing program in the evening to remove makeup and my sunscreen and cleanse my skin. First, I apply an oil-based, water-rinseable cleanser to remove all traces of makeup and to break down and remove my sunscreen. Then, I use a foaming face wash to be sure I've also removed every trace of the oil-based cleanser. I know it sounds a little redundant, but it works. I almost never break out, I don't have clogged pores, and I never wake up with "raccoon eyes." I have several good oil-based cleansers, including those made by Clinique, MAC, Bobbi Brown and Origins. I've had good results from every one of them. I'm debating whether to bite the bullet and try the famed Shu Uemura version as well. 

What I haven't always had good results from are foaming cleansers. Since my skin leans toward the dry/very dry side, many of the foaming washes strip my skin, leaving me feeling as if I'm one step away from turning into a mummy. There have literally been times when I've washed my face and then been afraid to move a muscle for fear that my skin will crack right then and there. Seriously. Very scary stuff. 

Now, I could simply use the oil cleansers on their own, as they are water rinseable and it's perfectly acceptable to use any one of them on its own without the need for a foamy follow-up. However, I'm really meticulous about my skin and need that second step--plus, I love the feel of a foamy, creamy lather washing my face every night. 

Shiseido's The Skincare Extra Gentle Cleansing Foam

I received this cleanser as part of a Gift with Purchase, and I was really excited to try it because I've had some success with Shiseido cleansers in the past. Well, I'm just going to come right out and say it...this stuff is righteous!! It's extremely thick, coming out of the tube the consistency of toothpaste, yet it's whipped and easy to work with. It's one of the few products I've tried where it's actually true that you only need a pea-sized dollop. It foams up into a beautiful, creamy lather and spreads exceedingly well over the skin into a thick foam. It rinses off cleanly and completely. Most importantly, it doesn't leave my skin feeling Sahara-dry after use. I still definitely need moisturizer, but I don't feel stripped after rinsing and patting dry. 

I would recommend this for any and all skin types, as it leaves my skin feeling completely clean and refreshed with no residue, yet it does not dry my skin. For the purposes of this review, I even tested it alone to remove my makeup, and it did an admirable job. I did find that in order to remove all of my eye makeup I needed to use more than just a pea-sized amount, but not much more. If you're going to use this for nighttime makeup removal, I suggest using an eye makeup remover with it. I also ended up going back with my oil cleanser because I was wearing Shiseido's Ultimate Sun Protection Cream which requires an oil-based cleanser, but if you don't have that issue, this could work as your singular cleanser. But you really should be wearing sunscreen every day. Every day. No matter what. Because if you don't use sunscreen every day, you'll end up old and wrinkly before your time, not to mention the skin cancer. And most good sunscreens really need an oil-based cleanser for proper and thorough removal. So really, you NEED to use it as I do, as a second step in your routine and in the shower in the morning. Just trust me on this one.  

In conclusion: Finally, I have found a bubbly, frothy, foamy cleanser that works for me without sucking the very life out of my face! It's like finding a little piece of skin care Nirvana.

Overall grade: A-

Chanel Spring Eyes

Image Courtesy of Chanel.com

Okay, as those of you who have been reading this blog for any time can attest, I am a Chanel fiend. I'm absolutely in love with all of the lipstick formulas, Glossimers turned me on to lip gloss, and the blush...well, there is nothing like the beauty of a Chanel blush, with it's domed shape, rose scent, and silky texture.

That being said, I also have quite a soft spot for Chanel eye shadows. Although there are many quads from Chanel that I could easily pass, I find that when they do it right over there, THEY DO IT RIGHT, offering an absolutely irresistable color combination that leaves me powerless to deny it's overwhelming allure. Such was the case with Fall's Enigma quad. I simply didn't stand a chance.

Well, here we go again, ladies. I've gotten a glimpse of the new eye colors for the Chanel Spring 2011 collection and all I can say is: Oh. My. God.

Ombres Perlees de Chanel

Ombres Perlees de Chanel is an absolutely gorgeous quintet from Chanel this Spring. It has a beautiful, versatile range of colors that offer subtle and dramatic looks. The texture is creamy and velvety as is to be expected with Chanel, and  application is smooth and easily blendable. Pigmentation on Ombres Perlees is not as strong as some previous collections, but that may be intentional. I found that when applied without a primer, every one of these shadows offered a sheer wash of color, lending a subdued but ethereal feel to the final look, while use of a primer added impact for a more dramatic effect.

Image Courtesy of  Chanel

The colors of Ombrees Perles are extremely complex. Each of them has multiple colors throughout, despite the base color, so it's difficult to describe them and impossible to photograph. If you maximize the above photo, you may be able to see the sparks shooting from the deep gray on the far right, but there was no way to capture the subtle champagne sheen that emanates from the white shimmer on the far left, or the golden duochrome effect found on the pink next to it. However, in an effort to describe them, here goes: From left to right, we have a shimmering white with a champagne overlay, a delicate pink with a gold duochrome effect, a blackened purple, a deep moss green with a golden sheen, and a blackened gray with multicolor sparks and a blue undertone. The colors work beautifully together. I personally would use them primarily for night as they all have a good bit of shimmer, but the colors themselves are fairly muted. 

I feel this is a very useable palette, especially if you love shimmery eye shadows. The colors have a great deal of depth and are definitely eye-catching without being crass or vulgar. Again, if you don't mind shimmer and don't use a primer, Ombres Perlees will provide you with beautiful sheer washes of color, perfect for creating a subtle daytime look. Add a good primer for night, and you'll have a variety of smokey eyes to build. Who could ask for more?

Grade: A

Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Cream for Face SPF 55 PA+++

Image Courtesy of Me!

I am one white woman. I mean very white. I'm that girl who always has to get the lightest color foundation...and sometimes even that's too dark. My skin is blinding in the sunlight. It can be frightening. To make matters worse, I can't even tan well. I used to try, but I finally gave up the ghost on that whole disaster back in college. So for the last 20 years, I've avoided the sun almost as pathologically as a vampire. In addition to avoiding the sun, I also always wore moisturizer with sunscreen in it, and I thought that should be enough until the last couple of years, when I began reading all sorts of articles where dermatologists began insisting that we must, must, must wear sunscreen at all times, even if our only exposure for the day will be a short ride in the car. 

After making the earth-shattering decision to follow their advice, it came time to start shielding my skin from the sun. I started with basic drugstore brands, only to end up with my makeup sliding off my face by the end of the day. Then there were the thick white concoctions that looked like diaper ointment and left even my pale face looking ghostly. After a couple of those disasters, I began to research products before purchasing by learning about ingredients and reading online reviews. I still had a ton of fails, but at least by that point I knew something about each product I tried.

Finally, over the last two years, I've begun hitting the jackpot with sunscreens. First, I found the outstanding Chanel UV Essentiel Multi-Protection Daily UV Care SPF 50, which truly changed my life. However, at $52 an ounce, it became prohibitively expensive fast. So once again I hit the streets in search of the perfect UV protectant.

As usual, I stopped by my local Shiseido counter. Shiseido has always treated me very well, and I've always been exceedingly impressed with most of their products. I'd also read review after review  of Shiseido's entire sun care line, and had been personally told by many women that it couldn't be beat, so I felt that was a logical place to start. Unfortunately at my Macy's the Shiseido and the Clarins counter share a bay and the Shiseido SA is never there, so I had to ask the Clarins SA for help. She wasn't exactly helpful and actually tried to sell me Clarins' version of what I wanted. But--yay me!--I persevered and got what I went in for.

Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Cream for Face SPF 55 PA+++.

Let me tell you all about this amazing cream. First, let's discuss how effective it is. It contains 3 ingredients to protect you from UVA/UVB rays: Octinoxate 7.4%, Titanium Dioxide 2.2%, and Zinc Oxide 16.3%. Octinoxate is a chemical filter, Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide are physical blockers. The current belief in the scientific community is that the most effective sunscreens contain both types of screens in them because they each work in different ways and therefore complement one another. I'm not going to get into all that, but trust me when I say I did a ton of research and I'm fairly confident in their reasoning. So I'm pretty impressed with the actual active ingredients...plus they've added Rose Apple Leaf extract to add antioxidant benefits.

So now you know you have excellent protection. But that's not really what you want to know, is it? You want to know if you're going to be dealing with a greasy mess, a thick, white, goopy mess, or a thick, white, goopy, greasy mess, right? I know that's how I roll. Because let me tell you, there are some seriously nasty sunscreens out there. I've dealt with sunscreens that apply no better than Desitin ointment would, and stay nearly as white on the skin despite 5 minutes of vigorous rubbing. Not so with Shiseido!!!

Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Cream for Face is admittedly a thick, white lotion. You'll probably freak out a little when you first see and feel it, and if you are in the store when you do so, please don't let it deter you from buying it. Rub it into the back of your hand or something so you can see how easily it blends into the skin. It's very rich coming from the bottle, yet it's so elegant that it spreads perfectly evenly across the skin with virtually no effort. I use 1/4 teaspoon on my face every morning and only rub it in for a moment, then do my eye makeup while it sinks in, and by the time I'm ready to apply foundation the Shiseido has dried down to a clear, semi-matte finish. It makes a perfect base for makeup, holding it like glue all day. It has never, not even once, given me a shiny forehead. It simply outperforms nearly every sunscreen I've ever tried. Best of all? It costs a mere $19.50 for 1 oz!

This has become my newest Holy Grail sunscreen. I'm currently on my 3rd bottle, and will get the 2 oz size next time. I never, ever by 3 or 4 of anything, so that should tell you just how much I love this. Love, love, love.

So for those of you out there who are learning to embrace your paleness the way I have, rejoice! Help has arrived, and it is Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Cream for Face SPF 55 PA +++.

Overall Grade:  A

Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair Eye Recovery Complex

Image Courtesy of Me!

Estee Lauder has had great success with its Advanced Night Repair Synchronized Recovery Complex. I'm not a fan of it because I think it's more hype than performance and I don't think it lives up to its many claims. That being said, when my mother gave me an almost-full jar of Advanced Night Repair Eye Recovery Complex, I jumped at the chance to try it. Number one, it was free, and who can pass up free eye cream? Second, I wanted to give EL a chance to redeem themselves after wholly underwhelming me with their regular Advanced Night Repair Synchronized Recovery Complex. Finally, I'm constantly in search of the perfect eye cream, so I couldn't resist the chance to check it out to see if it would be my holy grail. 

Advanced Night Repair Eye Recovery Complex

Advanced Night Repair Eye Recovery Complex is a very interesting product. It's amber in color and the consistency is very difficult to describe. I suppose it's a thick gel, but that doesn't really do it justice. It's really more like the marriage between a fairly heavy cream and a gel...you can't quite see through it and it has a bit of stiffness to it when it sits on your fingertip. 

ANR Eye is designed to combat all the major signs of aging: fine lines, wrinkles, puffiness, dryness, and uneven skintone. I was a little bummed to see that it is not designed to combat dark circles, as those are one of my major issues, but hey, I guess you can't always get what you want. 

To be quite honest, I didn't have terribly high hopes for ANR Eye, given how generally unimpressed I was with ANR Serum, but I was willing to give it a fair shake because, unlike ANR Serum, ANR Eye doesn't make crazy claims of perfection, or that beautiful eyes can't live without it. 

What it does for me: This performs beautifully under makeup. It feels wonderful on application...cool and refreshing, yet moisturizing. Fine lines and crepiness are minimized immediately, followed by a slight firming effect. Puffiness is somewhat relieved, as well.  I also noted a cumulative effect in diminishing the lines around my eyes. They were definitely easing up by the end of my 2 month trial period.

What it didn't do for me: I found that I liked using it more at night than during the day. The reason for this is that at night, in combination with my heavier night cream, ANR Eye gave me enough hydration without leaving my eyes puffy and dark in the morning...a true first for me. However, whenever I wore it during the day, I found that the hydrating effects began to wear off by mid-afternoon and by late afternoon I was having to supplement with another eye cream. I simply need something that can carry my through an entire day. 

So basically, this is a very good eye cream with just a few misses. It could definitely stand to be more hydrating, yet it still works hard to alleviate fine lines and wrinkles. It has a lightweight, cool and refreshing feel to it that is fairly unique and very pleasant. Most important to me, it diminishes puffiness under and around the eye area and doesn't cause it overnight. Major issue solved! I'll be continuing with this as a night eye cream for the time being. 

Overall grade: B

My First Award!

I just found out I received a Bloggy Award from Cindy over at Prime Beauty Blog! Along with offering Cindy my deepest gratitude, I must thank my mother for instilling in me a fascination for lotions, potions, powders, and paints, my best friend Tonya for enabling me every time I need to justify a purchase, and my husband for never, not even once, rolling his eyes when I bring home yet another red lipstick. 
All kidding aside, this is the first award I've gotten, and I'm really excited! I'm having a blast writing these reviews, and if I can figure out the "in's and out's" of everything associated with running and promoting the blog itself, all will be right in the world, lol!

Now I’m paying it forward and naming 3 of my favorite unknown blogs. Here’s the rules for the Bloggy Award:
  • Post about this award and copy the rules. Link the person that has tagged you.
  • Choose 3-5 blogs you would like to tag and link them too. Leave a comment on their blog that you’ve linked them.
  • Important: This award is for unknown blogs or the ones that are just starting out rather than the “big names."

  • Into the Palette--Olivia, aka the Unknown Beauty Blogger, has just started this blog filled with fantastic makeup tutorials. She uses Photoshop to digitally apply makeup to volunteers' faces, explaining each step along the way. Not only is it one of the coolest things I've ever seen, she's an absolute genius with eye shadow! Maybe I could send in a photo?
  • Let Them Have Polish--Christina's nail polish obsession makes my red lipstick issues look like child's play! Check out her blog for reviews on virtually every polish known to God and man...and if she hasn't reviewed it yet, I'm sure she will soon!
  • Lipstick and Luxury--Nicole loves to share her finds in makeup, fashion and accessories. Her reviews are always helpful and spot-on, and her taste is eclectic and elegant, with plenty of fun thrown in! Plus, I love the fact that she not only looks for products that perform, but those that perform with minimum time and effort involved. 
All of these blogs are new and working their way around the blogosphere, just as I am. They deserve a look today!

Now, back to Prime Beauty. This month, Cindy is having a new giveaway EVERY SINGLE DAY in celebration of her blog-o-versary! You need to check it out, as there have been some wonderful goodies--including today's offering, a full-size bottle of Wen Conditioning Shampoo. While you're there, be sure to poke around a bit. It's a fantastic site with plenty of wonderful reviews and information, especially on products for those of us who are over, ahem, 40...let me know what you think!
Talk to you Monday!

Shiseido The Skincare Purifying Mask

Image Courtesy of Me!

I looooooove me some facials. I personally believe there is just about no better feeling in the world than having someone spend an hour working on your face, perfecting your skin, making sure it is perfectly clean, purified, moisturized, massaged, soothed, and most of all...masked. Yes, my favorite part of any facial is the mask. I don't know what it is...maybe the fact that there are always a few choices I can make as to which mask I'll choose. Do I want deep cleansing today, or moisturizing? Should I get a collagen ampule tossed in, or add an eye mask? Mmmmm...the choices go on and on. And no matter what I choose, the result is always glowing, gorgeous skin. 

Of course, I can't afford to get a facial every day. I can't even afford one every week. So, I rely on at-home masks to get me through. I have tons of them...clarifying, purifying, firming, toning, moisturizing, hydrating, equalizing, antioxidant, collagen...you name it, I have it. But very few actually impress me enough to make me think of a facial while I'm using them. Not so with a mask I recently received as a Gift with Purchase from Shiseido. 

Shiseido The Skincare Purifying Mask

Made with Marine Mineral Clay, this is a mask that actually does what it says it will do and does it well. It's a white mask with a very slight fragrance, somewhat thick in consistency but still easily spreadable. As it spreads across the face, it almost has a whipped texture, making it feel light and airy despite the fact that it's a clay mask. It's easily rinseable with warm water. 

As for usage, simply spread a layer of the Purifying Mask across your skin, avoiding the eye and mouth area. Allow to dry for approximately 5 minutes, then rinse with warm water. Follow with skin softener/toner (I've been using Shiseido The Skincare Skin Softener) and moisturizer, and you're done! Easy peasy. 

As for results...well, they're wonderful. The mask itself is very soothing on the skin, with a cooling sensation on application which then warms to the temperature of your skin. As it dries, it does not get terribly tight the way many clay masks do. Furthermore, this mask is designed to be rinsed off in only 5 minutes, so there is no extreme drying necessary. After rinsing, skin is left refreshed, soft and clean, not tight. However, it appears tighter, firmer, and more even-toned, and feels purified and clean. It's incredibly soft to the touch. 

Although I usually alternate moisturizing masks with purifying/deep cleansing masks, I have found myself reaching for the Shiseido The Skincare Purifying Mask more and more often lately. As a matter of fact, I almost have to force myself to use other masks these days...that's how good this one is. Highly, highly recommend. 

Overall grade: A

L'Oreal Skin Genesis Multi-Layer Cell Strengthening Daily Treatment Eye Serum

Image Courtesy of Me!

Okay, let me begin this review by stating that I am NOT going to refer to this eye serum by its full name throughout this review. I'll list it once, and from that point on it will be known as "Skin Genesis Eye," because I am officially protesting the ridiculously long names some of these products have. Seriously, should it take a full paragraph just to name an eye cream? 

Okay, on to the review. 

L'Oreal Skin Genesis Multi-Layer Cell Strengthening Daily Treatment Eye Serum

I was at the drugstore the other day waiting on a prescription, which is never a good idea for me. As usual, I was poking around the skincare shelves and this time I came across L'Oreal's Skin Genesis Eye Serum. After reading about it, and given that I can't resist eye creams, I decided to give it a try. 

Once I got Skin Genesis Eye home, I decided to do a quick web search to see if there were any Lancome products that were similar to it. As many of you may know, L'Oreal owns Lancome, and oftentimes they will release a product for exorbitant prices through Lancome only to come out a year later with an almost identical product from L'Oreal at 1/3 the price. Sure enough, in this case, the Skin Genesis line can be compared to the Absolue line from Lancome. They both contain a groundbreaking ingredient called Pro-Xylane, a molecule small enough to penetrate the skin's surface. The main difference between the two lines is that the Absolue line includes more ingredients aimed at an older audience to increase elasticity and radiance, while the Skin Genesis Eye is a more basic formula suited more to younger skin. 

The Skin Genesis Eye Serum itself is really an eye cream, in my opinion. It is in an airless pump bottle (yay!) which actually pumps correctly and does not clog. The serum is thick and creamy and feels very emollient on application, yet it sinks immediately into the skin...so much so that I've even applied eye cream on top of it, although the directions do not instruct that. Thanks to the hyaluronic acid, it gives good moisture and plumps the area well to diminish the appearance of fine lines. Skin Genesis Eye also has caffeine in it, which aids with puffiness, so this is a good moisturizing eye cream for me for both morning and night since I tend to get puffy at the drop of a hat. 

As far as the claim that the Skin Genesis Eye is skin strengthening, I did not see any of that. I didn't notice the skin around my eyes getting thicker (it's very thin, with a tendency towards dark circles due to my fair skin), nor did I see a reduction in circles or any other major change. I did note diminishing eyes and an improvement in the crepiness under my eyes, which few creams have accomplished without causing my eyes to become puffy. 

So overall, I do like this eye serum. I feel that at $19.99 it's a great value. It doesn't have all the bells and whistles that some of the higher-end creams do, but it delivers on most of its claims...particularly the more important ones. Well done, L'Oreal!

Overall grade:  A-

Lancome Genifique Youth Activating Concentrate

Image Courtesy of Me!

Okay, here we go. I'm sure all of you have seen the many, many, many ads that have been run by Lancome touting their Genifique line. "DNA!!!!" they scream! "Boosts the activity of genes!"

I, of course, had to go out and buy some last Spring, because it is imperative to me that I foster my vanity at every opportunity. To that end, I am attempting to slowly but surely purchase every youth-enhancing serum I can find, regardless of how ridiculous the claims or how unsupported the science. In this case, the claim for the Youth Activating Concentrate is that it functions as a catalyst for your actual skin care regimen, allowing it to work more effectively. It also supposedly activates youthful proteins and the activity of youth-enhancing genes in the skin, leading skin to virtually turn back the clock, leaving you with incredibly luminous, radiant, smooth, supple, wrinkle-free skin.

Genifique Youth Activating Concentrate

I started using the Genifique Youth Activating Concentrate last April. The packaging is lovely but rather impractical. Although gorgeous, the bottle is heavy and clunky to deal with. I always worry that I'm going to drop it. Additionally, the dropper is ineffective. It only pulls about a drop or so at a time, not quite enough to cover the face, much less the neck. This means that each time I use it, I have to double-or triple-dip the dropper into the bottle. Not a huge deal, but an annoyance. The concentrate itself is a relatively thick liquid, milky in color. It spreads very easily across the skin and sinks in quickly with no residue. It is moisturizing due to the sodium hyaluronate it contains, but not hydrating enough that you can forgo your moisturizer. This concentrate is to be used on bare skin, immediately after cleansing and before moisturizing. 

As for the results: Lancome claims that results can be seen in 7 days, but at that point I had still seen no noticeable improvements.  After 7 days of use, I did not note any change at all in my skin.  After 2 months, I did note some improvement in the texture of my skin. It became smoother and softer while I was using the Youth Activating Concentrate. I also noted a very slight improvement in the fine lines near my eyes, although crepiness was not improved.  

Most important to me were the effects I did not see. I truly believed Lancome's claims that skin tone would be dramatically improved, yet the minor skin discolorations I suffer from did not change one iota. Furthermore, at no time did my skin look "lit from within" or "breathtakingly radiant," two other claims I was really, really hoping to prove positive. 

In Lancome's case, they offer just enough info to get you reeled in, but not enough to give you an actual clue as to how the stuff works. Lancome claims that Genifique is cutting-edge technology, but they don't share what that technology is. The ingredients list is largely unimpressive, relying almost completely on Bifida Ferment Lysate and sodium hyalurate as its star components. The Bifida Ferment Lysate supposedly maintains the skins natural flora (huh?). It's a new concept, so I suppose it can be considered cutting-edge, but the studies that have shown it to be effective have all been done in petri dishes, not on people. Nobody really knows if the stuff will actually improve the skin growing on your face...just the cells they grow in a lab. Sodium hyalurate is very beneficial in that it can hold up to 1000 times its weight in water. 

Now, if you do the math there, the concept seems to be that Genifique will keep the skin's flora maintained (much the way the flora in your intestines can be maintained through the use of probiotics). Okay, that's great...but aside from my point about us not knowing if that actually applies to human facial skin, what if your flora isn't off in the first place? Furthermore, any time you put sodium hyaluronate on the skin it will increase moisture dramatically, which in turn plumps the skin and temporarily decreases the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. In addition, there is a good bit of dimethicone in Genifique concentrate, which also helps diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. How any of this ties in with DNA is beyond me. 

So on the surface of things, what it seems we have here is a marginally (at best) effective anti-aging treatment being sold at an exhorbitant price amidst claims of cutting-edge scientific discoveries and patents.

Therefore, it is with much sadness that I say I am disappointed in Lancome's Genifique Youth Activating Concentrate. I feel that it does not hold up to its claims. I also feel that Lancome is not giving adequate information as to why this is such a groundbreaking formula, and when one actually takes the time to research, it becomes evident that the reason for this may be because there really isn't much in the way of groundbreaking ingredients in this formula. Which makes the price totally unwarranted. 

Overall grade: C

Clarins Huile Santal Face Treatment Oil

Image Courtesy of Me!

Recently, I've given you reviews for Clarins' Vital Light Day Cream  and  Beauty Flash Balm, both of which I am loving. I've also talked about how with winter here in the South giving us temperatures in the teens and 20's on a regular basis, my skin is very, very unhappy. Being deathly pale, it really shows up when my skin acts up. It's bad enough to deal with tight skin and flakies, but it's the redness that I really can't deal with. When I get red cheeks, people think I have a fever. And let me tell you, nothing improves the self esteem like being asked, "Are you sick? You don't look very good!" 40 times a day. So a couple of months ago I went on a quest to find something that would heal my skin, soothe my dryness, and calm all that stinkin' redness down. My skin needed something different.

Clarins Huile Santal Face Treatment Oil

Huile Santal is one of Clarins' more old-school products...I remember using it way back in the early 90's when I sold cosmetics and skin care myself. Back then, I used the Lotus Oil for combination skins, but as I've grown older my skin has grown drier each year, and this year when I rediscovered the Face Treatment Oils at the Clarins counter, it was time for Santal, which is marketed to dry and extremely dry skin. 

Huile Santal, as you can see in the picture above, is a clear yellow face oil. The scent, to me, is absolutely intoxicating. This particular oil has essential oils of cardamom, sandalwood, and lavender, which are reputed to help decongest the skin, ease redness and discomfort, and calm the skin. Hazelnut oil is also a beneficial part of the formula as it is very rich and hydrating to the skin. The SA at the Clarins counter assured me that she uses this product and told me that it's a miracle product for skin like mine. She said it would help things settle down right away. And, being the optimistic skin care junkie that I am, I decided I MUST have it. 

To use Huile Santal, just pour a few drops ( and I mean 2-3...otherwise, you will just end up greasy, without any additional benefits to your skin) into your hand, warm by rubbing your hands together, and then apply using the Clarins method, which is to press it into the skin rather than rubbing. I'm still not completely sure why this method is supposed to be so much more beneficial than rubbing. My guess is that it keeps you from stretching out all that delicate skin by pulling it this way and that. I also find that when I press my skin care into my skin, I use less of it...so now I use this method for all my lotions, creams, and potions. However, I'm not sure that there is really a hard-and-fast rule or even a valid reason for this application method. I'm just telling you what they told me to do. :)

Please be alerted that this oil is NOT packaged with a pump, which is a huge pain in the ass. And by huge, I mean HUGE. Nearly every time I use this, I end up pouring too much product into my hand and it goes down the drain as it drips between my fingers. Sends me into a cussing fit nearly every time. It would be absolutely amazing if Clarins would get a clue about the packaging of this stuff and just add a pump...or at least a spout or something. The medium-sized hole in the lid just doesn't cut it. 

Anyhow, enough of that rant, and back to the Huile Santal. Generally speaking, this is a great addition to my skin care routine. I only use it on an as-needed basis, but that's been pretty frequently since I bought it. I do not use the oil on its own, but use it sparingly underneath my night cream when I am having specific troubles. I especially like to use it when my skin is taut, dry and red from being inside all day in the dry heat, which means there are weeks when I use it every day during the winter.  With only 2-3 drops, the redness that tends to appear in my skin calms quickly and is completely gone by the morning. The dry, itchy irritation I feel by the end of the day is soothed and alleviated almost immediately. I find that when I get home from a long day at work and have an irritated face, I literally run to the bathroom to wash my face and apply this oil for its immediate relief. I also love the fact that it takes such a tiny amount to achieve an effect. And despite the wastefulness of the packaging, the picture above is of a bottle that has been used consistently for more than 2 months. 

This may not be a NEED for everyone, but I would definitely put it on the "seriously consider adding" list. It's a great addition to my ritual each night...every part of the application is pleasant, from the amazing natural herbal fragrance to the immediate softening and soothing of the oil itself, and definitely on to the calmed, refreshed skin I have in the morning. I do highly recommend as a winter adjunct to your program. 

Overall grade: B+

Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair Synchronized Recovery Complex

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I have been rediscovering the Estee Lauder line over the last year or so, largely because my mom is a fan. However, she decided on a whim to switch lines, so she gave me everything she had, which included several full-size, almost-full products (and my husband wonders where I get my fickle personality!). I let them sit under my sink for a few months, but then I rediscovered them and decided to give a few of them a try. Today's review will be for the one that is undoubtedly the most famous of them all, the Advanced Night Repair Serum. 

Now, let me start by saying that Estee Lauder makes some pretty lofty claims about this stuff, starting off with their tag line, "The one formula beautiful skin can't live without!" Hmmmm...really? As in, if you have beautiful skin, it can't live without you using this serum? Because I'm pretty sure it can. And if you're going to put thoughts like that out there into the universe, Lauder people, you better have something that fixes every problem my skin can throw at you, repair every sin I've committed in the past, and prevent any future issues--because that's what it's going to take to convince me that my beautiful skin can't live without you. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but that's just one helluva claim for a company to make, and it made me go into this review with some pretty high expectations.

Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair Synchronized Recovery Complex

So, now that you all know my feelings about Lauder's marketing ploys for the Advanced Night Repair, let's talk about what they're claiming it can do. It's supposed to do just what I asked...repair past damage and prevent future signs of aging, all while providing intense hydration and free radical protection today. It  neutralizes up to 90% of environmentally generated free radicals such as smoke, pollution, UV rays, etc. The only issue I have with that claim is that this is specifically a night treatment, so it won't actually be on your skin during the times when those free radicals will be attacking your skin. The claim is that Advanced Night Repair works overnight to repair and heal your skin and build an anti-oxidant reserve. They call it "insurance" for your skin. I understand what they are trying to sell here, but it seems to me that this might be more effective during the day if free radical protection is one of its main purposes. 

I used Advanced Night Repair for two full months. It's very easy to use. Simply apply a couple of drops to the skin with the dropper, rub into the face and throat, then follow with the rest of your nightly ritual. I did this religiously for the entire 8 weeks I was testing the product. I did not note any negative effects from Advanced Night Repair, such as breakouts or irritation. My skin suffered no sensitivity reactions to it, either. 

However, I did not experience the kind of benefits from Advanced Night Repair that the people at Lauder claim I should have experienced.  First I'll tell you what it DID do for me. It left my skin with a velvety smooth texture and added a wonderful boost of moisture that aided my moisturizer. This, I believe, is due to the hyaluronic acid in the product (HA can hold up to 1000  times its weight in water). It temporarily decreased the appearance of the fine lines around my eyes, but only temporarily. I found it worked at night when I had it on, but the effect was gone by morning and had definitely left me by the time I washed my face and started fresh to face a new day. 

What did Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair NOT do for me? Well, as I said, it didn't really diminish any of my lines for more than a few hours. Although my skin always felt velvety after applying the serum, its actual texture showed no significant improvement over two months. I also saw no decrease in the slight discoloration on my cheeks, which is definitely a sign of prior damage. So as far as repairing past signs of ageing, I have to give this one a fail. Finally, when it started getting colder and drier outside, I began to get red, flaky skin, which means the hydration was not enough for my dry, relatively sensitive skin. The Estee Lauder "insurance" plan wasn't cutting it for me. Because of the new skin conditions that were popping up, I had no choice but to discontinue use and look for something that would give me the hydration my skin needed. Given all of this, I have no plans to try to continue using it to see if it will slow or halt future signs of ageing. 

Simply put, I was highly unimpressed with this serum. I know how popular it is and that I'm probably speaking blasphemy by saying this, but I feel Advanced Night Repair is a lot more hype than hard fact. I give Estee Lauder credit for what they are trying to do, I just don't think they've succeeded. I was very excited to try it, and was quite disappointed with the results. Also, given the extraordinary claims Lauder makes for this product, I don't feel my expectations were too high...I simply wanted to see some truly noticeable results (of some sort) within 8 weeks. I didn't get them. 

Overall grade: C

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