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

On Going Natural...

As you all know by now, I've made the decision to start investigating more natural and, when possible, organic skin care products. I'm finding this to be much more difficult and confusing than I imagined. It seems that a huge majority of the so-called "natural" and "organic" skin care on the market is no such thing. There are many, many products out there claiming to be organic when, in reality, they are nothing more than chemical-filled creams, lotions and cleansers containing one or two "organic" essential oils to fool the consumer. Even more unsettling is the common labeling claim that chemicals are "naturally derived" when, in fact, they are highly-processed materials that start off natural (coconut oil is a common one), then undergo heat and/or chemical processing that renders them unrecognizable. I've been frustrated beyond belief by all of the false and misleading claims I've come across in the world of natural skin care.

However, what's been even more appalling to me has been the attitude of some of the truly organic company representatives toward non-organic products and those of us who use them. Last week I was supposed to interview the owner of one such company. Apparently, she didn't bother to read my blog before she agreed to speak with me (or perhaps she was seeing dollar signs at the thought of free publicity for her line), as I later found this quote deep within her website:

"Here's our opinion about wearing non-botanical color cosmetics: they are unnecessary vanity items and their manufacture and use is harmful to life on the planet. I view cosmetics made from metal ores (as opposed to plant dyes) (and other synthetic chemicals such as hair dyes) as I view second-hand cigarette smoke and I wish I didn't have to be exposed to the chemical pollution from the manufacture of these products. If people could find a way to indulge their vanity without effecting my lungs, my brain, my life, my friends, and all the wildlife on the planet, then I say go ahead and indulge. Just don't dump your stuff in my air or water." 

She goes on to state:

"Though we have the ability to produce a color cosmetic line, we have chosen not to do so because we have not seen any legal colorings that meet our standards. We have never seen a cosmetic line without synthetic ingredients and we've never seen a line of makeup that we would recommend." 

Okay, that's fine. However, my blog is called "Lipstick Musings". It's very obviously a pro-cosmetics blog. Regardless of the fact that I intend to delve into the world of organics, I'm still obviously promoting products that this woman is adamantly opposed to. The fact that she can act so morally superior in her views, yet still be willing to shill her product on my site is incredibly hypocritical. As it happened, we were unable to do the interview due to unforeseen circumstances. However, the fact that she even considered speaking to me given her militant objections to basically everything I espouse is telling. It's amazing to me how moral authority falls by the wayside when money is involved.

If the manufacture of non-botanical cosmetics is polluting the environment, we should all be more mindful of what we are using and which companies we are supporting. That being said, there's a way to express one's views that doesn't insult a huge portion of the population. The woman I quoted above also offers commentary to the effect that cosmetics are promoted as a way to make women feel terrible about themselves, as a way to hold us down. It's all a big chemical-company conspiracy to denigrate women and destroy the world. The view of the owners of this particular organic company seems to be that by using non-organic cosmetics, we as consumers and as women are being exploited and exploitative, literally destroying our world to appease our shallow, vain, useless selves. Women like us, who enjoy looking good, who enjoy the rituals of beauty, are seen as selfish, useless, predatory beings with no concern for the world around us. Furthermore, there is no middle ground available to any of us. It isn't sufficient to gradually move towards a more organic lifestyle; rather, you're either right (totally organic with absolutely no synthetics in your life) or wrong (every other human on the planet). End of story.

This same couple also claims that all sunscreens are toxic (including mineral). In their view, skin cancer isn't nearly the risk that sunscreens are. My grandfather died of malignant melanoma as a result of childhood sun exposure. I personally have seen the positive effects of sunscreen--I know it works. It's kept me from burning (or even tanning) on many, many occasions. It may not be perfect, but at this time in history it's the best we've got. Yes, I could wear big floppy hats and loose-fitting clothes while out in the sun, but that's not always a viable option--and when you live in Atlanta, where summertime temperatures are often 85+ degrees by 9:00 am, it's also an extremely uncomfortable (and sometimes dangerous, due to the very real threat of heat stroke) option.

I do not feel "exploited" or "subjugated" by cosmetics companies and the images they put out to the public. I know full well that images are photoshopped, that the ideal of beauty as put forth by the media is virtually unattainable, and that mascara (or even a red lipstick) won't solve my problems. What I also know is that using these product makes me feel happy, and sometimes even empowered. Makeup, for better or worse, is a part of my identity.

I also have no intention of becoming a zero-carbon-footprint kind of person. I do what I can. I recycle as much of what I use as possible, I try to save energy and gas as often as I can, I conserve power. I've had organic gardens in my backyard. I try not to be wasteful of natural resources, and now I'm trying to become more mindful of excess consumption in all areas of my life. I'm also becoming more mindful of the types of things I do eventually consume, such as reading ingredients labels and buying locally.

The fact is, for better or worse, I love makeup. I love the beauty of it, the artistry involved in applying it. I love the way it makes me feel. Do I feel I need it to be complete? No. I also know I have far more cosmetics than any single human needs, which is why I'm paring down my collection. That being said, I do feel my life is enriched by participating in the rituals of beauty. Being the mother of three and having a full-time job, I rarely get time alone. One of my more meditative moments each day is during my nightly skin care ritual. The same goes for my morning makeup application. To some extent, I set the tone for my day through my chosen makeup. Smokey eyes? I face the day as a sultry predator. Red lips? Today I'll be in charge of my world and those around me! Barely-there neutrals? Time to sit back and let others do the talking.

The truth is, makeup can be fun. It doesn't have to be the result of low self esteem or subjugation to the monster corporations out there. And though they are large (and often soulless) and in it for a profit, those cosmetics corporations are obviously giving some of us what we want, or they wouldn't stay around long. Pretty is a big business, and many of us enjoy the hell out of it. That doesn't make us evil.

I won't ever be one of those people who is so committed to saving the world that I'm willing to move up north to the middle of nowhere, live in a house with no running water or electricity, grow all my own food, and protest everyone else. It's not who I am. I still love my lotions and potions, powders and paint. I won't apologize for that. I'll try in the future to be more mindful of my purchasing decisions. Maybe my contributions are smaller, effecting individuals more than the masses. But it's what I've got to offer, and I'm doing the best I can.

I don't intend to stop purchasing makeup and skin care. I do intend to continue featuring new releases and old favorites, sharing with you my opinions and experiences in the world of beauty. As I become more aware of issues, I will share those with you as well. What I won't do is apologize for who I am.

Lovely Lip Review: Gabriel Color Lip Gloss Treatment 8 in Venus

Gabriel Cosmetics was conceived and developed by Gabriel DeSantino as a result of a life of observing his grandmother, a naturopath and herbalist who relied heavily on ingredients from the sea when creating her homeopathic cosmetics. As DeSantino grew up and later entered the cosmetics industry, he noted how young and unlined her skin remained. As a result of his observations, he teamed up with a European Bio-Chemist with 30 years of developing botanical formulations, and Gabriel Cosmetics, Inc. was born.

Gabriel Cosmetics offers both skin care and color. The skin care line has been in development since 1991. Products are tested on a panel of 150 people with a wide range of ages, skin types, and backgrounds. Thus far, there have been no contraindications or negative effects noted with the products. According to Gabriel, their products are made of 100% natural ingredients, with no synthetic chemicals or animal by-products. They are environmentally safe and contain a higher percentage of active ingredients than other similar products.

Now, when I purchased the Gabriel Color Lip Gloss Treatment 8, I knew none of this. I was simply at Whole Foods, and the line was recommended by the manager of the department--plus, the glosses are gorgeous. That particular day I was looking for a more toned-down look than my typical red, so I chose Venus, a slightly rosy mocha creme.

Gabriel Color Lip Glosses are formulated with Jojoba, Chamomile, Aloe and other conditioning plant extracts to create an extremely moisturizing, creamy gloss that lasts for several hours and has good opacity. It's almost more a liquid lipstick than a mere gloss, which I love. My biggest complaint with glosses is often that they are too sheer, with too little color payoff. Not so with Venus. These glosses also contain a non-chemical sunscreen with an SPF of 8, which is an added bonus.

The Gabriel Color Lip Gloss Treatments apply with a doe-foot applicator, as shown below:

Venus is  a lovely, very wearable color. When I compared it to another Gabriel Color Gloss (Mocha), it appeared to have a bit of rose. However, on me it comes off as a fairly straightforward brown, which is fine.

Here's a swatch:

On my lips, the rose undertone fairly disappears, leaving a pretty and very wearable brown tone:

I like to wear this gloss on my more barefaced days, as it doesn't draw undue attention to the lips, yet feels wonderful and makes them appear shiny and plump. The gloss is easy to apply and on me lasts for several hours when I'm simply talking or drinking. As with all glosses, it disappears once food starts to enter the picture.

The ingredients include plenty of natural and beneficial oils and extracts including Sesame Seed Oil, Glycerine, Shea Butter, Apricot Kernel Oil, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Sea Fennel Extract, Matricaria Flower Extract, and St. John's Wort Extract.

Bottom Line: Gabriel Color Lip Gloss Treatment 8 is a great, inexpensive, natural product that I can really stand behind. I like the ingredients and the color, and performance is good as well. I plan to purchase some additional colors next time I hit Whole Foods.

Beauty Blog Link Love 1/28/12

Lisamarie from Beauty Crazed thinks size does matter and tests out her theory with Maybelline Illegal Length Fiber Extensions Mascara - check out her results and see if you agree!

My Funny Valentine is proud to present...A vain person's guide to water sports: how to waterproof your makeup and deal with chlorine.

Nail bling strikes again! Musicalhouses shows you her silver and blue nail art with pearls and hearts!

At Lipstick Musings, Shannon embarks on her first-ever fragrance review with the all-natural artistry of Aftelier Perfume's Cepes and Tuberose.

With the BB cream craze in full swing, Rae takes a moment at theNotice to review (and swatch) the much-hyped Marcelle BB Cream. Find out it if this new wonder-product is all it's talked up to be!

New year calls for new product launches! Miss Beauty Nerd tests out Maybelline's newest - their SuperStay Lip Colors and EyeStudio Color Tattoos.

Beauty In The Mirror has been reviewing the very popular OCC Lip Tars. Pop over for some great pictures and advice.

Kajal Couture shares her tips on preventing eyeshadow fallout.

Prime Beauty is dreaming of spring with the Nordstrom Exclusive Dior Garden Party Milly Garden Clutch.

Looking for some double duty beauty products? Check out Krasey Beauty's recs!

Kimberly at Kimmie Karma Love shows her New Years Eve makeup and the day after pictures!

Phyrra presents a variety of lovely lipsticks and pigmented lipglosses from Morgana Cryptoria.

Tracy at Beauty Reflections has a new PRECIOUS called Guerlain Cruel Gardenia Meteorites.


Join Anita in celebrating reaching 400 followers and win yourself a gorgeous Accessorize Eyeshadow Palette!

My Repechage Facial

I looooove facials. As a mom of three daughters with a full-time job, to me there's nothing better than taking an hour or so to lay down in a dark, quiet room filled with the scent of lavender while someone else takes care of me. An hour with little to no conversation, where the only sounds are the gentle splashing of water and the relaxing notes of gentle music. Nirvana, people, truly nirvana!

Now, I've had some facials that were a bit, shall we say, less than relaxing. For instance, about a week before Christmas I went in for an impromptu facial at a nearby salon with an aesthetician I knew nothing about. BIG mistake. Her room was cramped to the point that my table was pressed up against a wall, she couldn't adequately reach me during the hand massage, the lighting was bright and fluorescent, shining into my eyes from the ceiling, and she chattered on the entire time, asking me questions about myself and my life. I was there to escape, yet I somehow ended up discussing my dysfunctional family for an hour. As I white-knuckled the drive home, I made a decision: never again. From that moment forward, I would stick to reputable salons with outstanding spa services. That's where Three-13 Salon entered the picture.

Three-13 Salon is an amazing salon here in Marietta, GA. I'm lucky to live only 10 minutes away. Last year, my darling husband got me a sizeable gift certificate to Three-13 for spa services, which I used up in a hot minute, loving every second of it. It's a Repechage salon, meaning that all of their facials use products from the Repechage line, a seaweed-based, spa-quality collection of products, both professional and over-the-counter strength.

When I arrived for my appointment, I was greeted at the desk and immediately checked in, then sent to the waiting area (which has the cushiest couches ever). After only a minute or two, I heard my name and turned to see the lovely Kat (really...she's gorgeous), my aesthetician for the day. She beckoned me to follow her, and led me to the dressing area, where I was given a locker key and a dressing room and allowed a few minutes to change into a thick, fleece-lined robe. When I emerged, Kat offered me a drink and led me to the facial room. The room itself was large, dim and quiet, with soft relaxing music playing and the scent of aromatherapy oils in the air. Now, that's what I'm talking about when I say I want a relaxing facial room!

Kat had my lay down on the table and proceeded to inspect my skin and discuss my wants, needs and concerns regarding my skin. Together, we agreed that the 4-Layer Facial would be my best choice. Cosmopolitan UK has called this facial "the best facial of the century", and they aren't kidding. It's sublime.

The facial consists, obviously, of four layers, which are applied in the following order:

  • Layer 1: Seaweed filtrate is a concentrate of freshly-harvested seaweed. It softens lines, adds moisture and helps rebalance and tone skin tissues.
  • Layer 2: A three-movement facial massage is given with a creamy hydrating forumla. Lasting benefits include improved circulation and skin elasticity.
  • Layer 3: The fresh seaweed mask is the cooling and soothing treatment that hydrates while improving skin tone and clarity.
  • Layer 4: The mineral mask is the grand finale. It creates its own gentle warmth to activate the properites of the seaweed mask beneath it.
I simply can't describe how wonderful this experience was. I've had many facials over the years, but this one was by far the best I've had. Kat was amazing...the facial massage she gave me literally had me falling asleep right there on the table...quite a feat considering how stressed I tend to be. I got further relaxation from the neck, arm and hand massage she gave me while we were waiting for masks to dry. She only spoke as necessary, allowing me to focus on the music, the fragrances, and the sensations of the facial. The four layers felt amazing on my skin, layered one on top of the other to create an intensely hydrating and firming treatment. I added on an eye mask and lip treatment, as well. The eye treatment banished my dark circles and puffiness while the lip treatment plumped and exfoliated my lips. 

In short, the 4-Layer Facial was exactly what I needed, and I can't wait to go back for more. I plan to make this a monthly ritual...that is, if I can't do it even more often. If you've never experienced a facial, you need to start now. It's incredibly relaxing, and the effects on the skin are unbelievable. I left the salon without a single fine line, with smooth, supple, hydrated skin that stayed conditioned for days afterward. 

If you're in the Atlanta area, I highly, highly recommend you give Three-13 a call and book your appointment with Kat. She's been an aesthetician for 9 years and truly takes the time to understand your skin and your personal preferences and needs. 

If you'd like more information on Three-13 Salon, feel free to email me at lipstickdiva at comcast dot net. I'm in no way affiliated with the salon; I just like to spread the love when it's so well-deserved. You can reach them for an appointment at 770-426-0313. 

Skin Care Review: Acure Facial Cleansing Creme, Olive+Mint

The Acure Skin Care line intrigues me. Founded by owner Kristy Guerra as a way to honor her grandmother, who battled breast cancer for 10 years, Acure gives a portion of the proceeds of each facial care product to breast cancer research. In addition, the company is committed to simple, effective formulas based on plant extracts and essential oils, with no animal testing. All formulas include the purest, most natural, certified organic ingredients available, and all products are kept as simple as possible while still retaining a high level of effectiveness.  Whenever possible, all ingredients are organic, and many are Free Trade. The company itself is a licensee of TransFair USA, the only independent third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the US. 

From an environmental standpoint, Acure is committed to green packaging, green products, social consciousness, and a triple bottom line based on the good of people and the planet as well as profit. Acure expounds the notion of making informed decisions about your purchases and the way you approach each day, and believes that small changes can have a big impact on our world.

My first foray into the Acure line was the Facial Cleansing Creme, Olive+Mint. It's a very rich cream fortified with olive oil to soothe and moisturize the skin and mint to aid in cleansing. Other ingredients include:

As you can see above, this is a creamy, sugar-soap based cleanser with plenty of antioxidants, plus soothing aloe, organic oils including Cocoa Seed Butter, Virgin Coconut Oil, and Olive Oil. Rounding out the formula are several essential oils, including Spearmint, which helps cleanse and purify the skin, as well as adding a slight cooling sensation. The creme smells divine, with a lovely herbal-mint fragrance infused with a touch of citrus.

Acure Facial Cleansing Creme is very effective, yet gentle. It removed my makeup without problem, leaving my skin soft and hydrated. It rinses off easily and feels cool and refreshing on the skin. I will caution you to keep it away from your eyes, though. The first time I used it I made the mistake of trying to remove my eye makeup with this one. While effective, when a bit got into my eyes, it stung something fierce, so beware.

That being said, this cleanser has become one of my favorites. I especially enjoy using it each morning in the shower. My face feels clean and energized without being dry. Instead, it's conditioned and moist, and accepts treatments readily.

All Acure products are formulated with the following criteria:

  • Vegan
  • Sulfate free
  • Cruelty free
  • Paraben free
  • PEG free
  • Petroleum free
  • Phthalate free
  • Silicone free
  • Won't clog pores

In addition, each purchase of facial skin care results in a portion of the proceeds being donated to breast cancer awareness. Between the fact that you're getting an effective product that's a pleasure to use and helping save lives at the same time, what's not to like?

Bottom line: I find the Acure line to be comprehensive, with products for any skin type. The Cleansing Creme in particular is very effective while also having a certain level of cosmetic elegance often lacking in the more natural products. I'm glad I found it, and do recommend it. I look forward to trying more of the line soon!

Acure products can be found at Whole Foods Market and online at Acure Organics.

My Introduction to Natural Perfumes: Aftelier Cepes & Tuberose

Image courtesy of Flowers-cs.com

Once in a while, a woman makes a beauty discovery that truly rocks her to her foundation. It's exceedingly rare in these cynical, over-saturated times, where everything cosmetic tends to morph into a blur of indistinguishable products bent on saturating us with mediocrity. However, there are those moments when, quite as a surprise, the stars align, serendipity takes hold, and a new avenue leading to true beauty appears. For me, one such moment was the discovery of natural perfumes. Completely unlike their synthetic, mass-marketed counterparts, natural perfumes have the ability to transport the wearer to another time or place, to evoke emotional responses that are visceral and animalic. Done correctly, a truly artistic natural perfume has the ability to bring forth long dormant emotions. Natural essences do not sit on the skin the way that synthetics do; rather, they meld perfectly with the skin, bringing forth constantly changing notes, making the experience a roller-coaster ride for the senses. I've never written a fragrance review, but in this case, I felt compelled to share my experience with an incredibly complex and truly compelling fragrance from master perfumer Mandy Aftel of Aftelier Perfumes. 

Beauty Spotlight Team 1/21/12

This week the Beauty Spotlight Team previews Spring makeup collections, finds some must-have drugstore treasures, keeps your hair looking great and one member channels her inner Supermodel for a day!

Marcia from Beauty Info Zone continued her search for L'Oreal Infallible eyeshadows and found more to love.

Little cat paw print embossed lipsticks, now what could be more fun… Visionary Beauty shares the lipsticks from the cat themed Paul & Joe collection for Spring.

At Everyday Beauty, Zuzu's Petals dishes about beauty and the aging process.

Modesty Brown reviews the L'Oreal Super Liner in Black Amethyst. It might be designed for hazel eyes but this pretty liner is sure to appeal to purple fans no matter what their eye colour.

Guarentee yourself a good hair day! Pammy Blogs Beauty loves No 4 High Performance Hair Care's Lumiere d'hiver Reconstructing Masque.

Lisamarie from Beauty Crazed starts swatching the OPI Holland collection - wooden shoe like to see it? Then check it out!

Over at Pretty in Dayton, it's Story Time! A Fairy Tail come true - Styrch makes a surprising transition from "customer" to "model" for Sittella, by Althea Harper

Paula, from Older Girl Beauty, shows us one of her foreign beauty faves - this time it's Hissyfit Body Double Sunscreen Lotion from Australia.

Perilously Pale finally satisfied her craving for Fyrinnae and shares with us her first set of swatches of the incredible eyeshadows!

At Lipstick Musings, Shannon's falling in love with Laura Mercier all over again, all because of Shimmerplum Sequin Eye Color.

Prime Beauty fell hard for the Burberry Spring/Summer Collection, a beautiful assortment of neutral and brights perfect for the over 40 woman!

A stain that's glossy? Isn't that an oxymoron? Londonmakeupgirl sees if YSL has managed to make it a reality, when she buys a YSL Glossy Stain.

Laura Mercier Review: Shimmerplum Sequin Eye Color

In my opinion, Laura Mercier eye shadows are, hands-down, the best on the market today. Their color selection, finishes, and texture can't be beat, nor can their ease of wear, blendability, and staying power. Quite simply, in my world, Laura Mercier shadows are sheer perfection. I never miss a chance to add more to my collection, and when I had a chance recently to do just that, I jumped at the chance. With it being winter, I chose to go with a deeper, darker color this time around, and was transfixed at the counter when I saw the lovely Shimmerplum Sequin Eye Color.

Truly Organic Skin Care: HollyBeth's Rose Geranium Face Moisturizer

Photo courtesy of  HollyBeth's Natural Luxury

So, as you all know, I've decided to launch myself on a quest for quality, yet natural (and preferably organic) skin care. This is proving to be a bit of a task, for one major reason: it's really, really hard to find truly natural, organic skin care. Most lines that tout themselves as being "natural" are, on closer inspection, better described as "less synthetic" than mainstream lines. As for organic, well, throwing in a few organic essential oils to fragrance a face cream doesn't exactly qualify. So I'm finding myself becoming an obsessive ingredients investigator, constantly looking up various additives to determine their origin and possible negative effects. Yikes. This is harder than I thought it would be!

Starry Gloss Review: Gelée D'Interdit Smoothing Gloss Balm Crystal Shine

I'm not normally much of a lip gloss girl, mainly because I like a lot of color. Unless a gloss is highly, highly pigmented, it doesn't do me much good. However, every once in awhile a gloss catches my eye because it's just so different from anything else I've ever seen, I have to try it. Such was the case with Givenchy's Gelee D'Interdit Smoothing Gloss Balm Crystal Shine in Electric Purple. 

Beauty Spotlight Team 1/14/12--Take a Look Inside Perilously Pale's Mystery Makeup Bag!

This week, we're taking a glimpse into the mysteries of Perilously Pale's makeup bag. What on earth will she be hiding in there? I'm quite certain it will be some seriously high-end goodies!

My apologies for the tardiness of this post. I thought it had gone live Saturday. Apparently, I was wrong!

Click the link to see what Perilously Pale's makeup bag has in store for us!

Beauty Blog Link Love 1/14/12

At Musing on Beauty, Mariella gives Japanese brand Suqqu a try with their Reset Cleansing Oil.

At long last, BB creams are (finally!) hitting it big in North America. Check out theNotice's BB cream coverage, which has only just begun.

polish insomniac shows us how to make a difficult polish look good!

The Pink Sith has FINALLY finished her quest for the elusive L'Oreal Infallible Eye Shadows! Read about the colors she got and see what she thinks!

Have old dried out nail polish strips and don't know what to do with them? Musicalhouses shows you how to save your dried out nail polish strips!

Miss Beauty Nerd loves nude colours, especially ones by Bobbi Brown. Currently, she's coveting the Bobbi Brown Nude on Nude Eye Palette!

Check out Jenn from Spiced Beauty's current obsession from Sleek makeup.

Phyrra shows you the latest lip product she's been lusting after, new Fyrinnae Lip Lustres.

Looking for a full coverage foundation that doesn't feel like a full coverage foundation? Gouldylox Reviews checks out this one from Tarte and puts it's lofty time promises to the test!

My Lips But Better learns the hard way Tweezerman's nail files aren't nearly as good as their tweezers.

Wishing for Spring like Tracy at Beauty Reflections is? Then take a look at the new Lise Watier Aquarella Spring 2012 Eyeshadow Palette.


Beauty Crazed is giving away a giant pile of makeup to celebrate the new year! Come enter and decide for yourself just how crazed they really are!

A Gentler Way to Cleanse: Boots Botanics Organic Face Nourishing Cleanser

The other day I stated my intention to add more organics into my beauty routine, and Boots Botanics is the line that started me on that path. A chance, impulse purchase at Target has led me to start reevaluating my entire skin care program, and the product that started it all is the new Boots Botanics Organic Face Nourishing Cleanser.

Beauty Is....

I've been finding myself redefining beauty lately. After nearly a year of daily cosmetics reviews, it suddenly hit me that I'm overwhelmed with products, some of which work, others that don't, none of which I truly need. Now, had you asked me a year ago if I needed them, the answer would have been a definitive YES! I truly took comfort in being surrounded by beautiful things, among them perfumes, makeup, plenty of lipstick. It was incredibly important to me to discover the perfect products to make me, well, perfect myself. I felt that if I could just get my hands on the ultimate eye shadow, stumble upon the most glorious perfume, ferret out the reddest of red lipsticks, life would be complete...or at least more exciting.

However, I've recently been reading a book called "The Truth About Beauty" by Kat James. James is a makeup artist who found herself working in high fashion in New York City, surrounded by the most beautiful people in the world. She herself was partly responsible for their beauty, as a matter of fact. Yet at the same time, she was grossly overweight and undernourished, a mere shell of what she could have and should have been.

Sounds like every other cliche'd diet book out there, right? Wrong. James makes some profound observations in her book, one of which truly speaks to me: "I'd become a physically distorted beauty statistic for our times--heavy, but well coiffed, meticulously made up, manicured, perfumed, powdered, and groomed..." Wow, is that ever me! I'm not obese by any means, but I've got quite a ways to go before I can be considered thin by anyone's standards. I also rarely feel good. I'm blessed to have fairly good health (totally undeserved given my atrocious health habits), yet I never feel good anymore. I see people all the time who have tons of energy (admittedly, in today's toxic environment there aren't a whole lot of them, but I know a few), happily living out their lives to the fullest every day. I want to be one of those people.

The reason I'm telling you all of this is that the posts on this blog may be changing a bit in the near future. While I still have a gazillion products to try and review, I also want to upgrade not just my cosmetics drawer(s), but my life and lifestyle. I'm making small changes, like adding 2-3 additional servings of organic fruits and veggies per day. That shouldn't be hard, given the fact that I've been known to go days on end without consuming a single recognizable piece of produce. I also intend to start being more conscious of the ingredients I'm putting on my skin. Did you know that 60% of what you apply to your skin is absorbed into your body? Yeah. So all those chemicals I've been slathering on for years may or may not be as good for me as I thought. I intend to start researching all of those ingredients and determining which of them is suitable for me. I'll share my findings with you so you can do the same.

I want to start to pare down my life, bit by bit. I don't want a more organic diet...I want a more organic life. One in which I'm able to prioritize more effectively. One in which I make conscious decisions about what I consume, both physically and at the mall. I want less excess and more meaning in every aspect of what I do.

What does this mean for this blog and for all of you? Well, it means that you may be getting fewer reviews of some of the hottest new collections to hit the malls each season and more informative pieces about ingredients and their effectiveness, as well as reviews on simpler, streamlined beauty products and routines. I'll be sharing my journey and what works best for me, not just spitting out theories I've picked up along the way. I'll be your guinea pig, as it were.

Don't worry, this won't become a tree-hugger, sanctimonious know-it-all blog in which you're told what you can or can't use, purchase, or do regarding your own personal beauty. Rather, it will be a series of snapshots of my own personal journey as I try to regain some perspective about what beauty means to me as a human being...and that may or may not include red lipstick.

I hope you stay for the ride.

Beauty Spotlight Team 1/7/12

Happy 2012 everyone. Are you making any resolutions? The Beauty Spotlight Team has made a resolution to do our very best to keep you all informed of the latest & greatest or the tried & true in this new year. And we keep our resolutions!

Tired of constantly reapplying your lipstick? Then a lip stain may be your new best friend! Check out what Lisamarie from Beauty Crazed thinks are the top picks!

It's a brand new year and time to make resolutions. One beauty resolution that some of us need to make is to keep our brows well groomed. Beauty Info Zone has the answer with Youngblood Brow Artiste. Start your brows off right for 2012.

At Everyday Beauty, Zuzu's Petals opined about the sweaty side of beauty.

Are you suffering from the dreaded "winter hands syndrome"? Shannon at Lipstick Musings was...until she discovered a cult favorite from Dior that gave her "just-manicured" hands every day!

London Makeup Girl reviews Chantecaille Violetta Lip Chic and compares it to another sheer berry lipstick in her stash. Which does she prefer? Find out here: London Makeup Girl Chantecaille Violetta.

This week Modesty Brown shares her thoughts on beauty awards perennial favourite, YSL Touche Éclat. It's a product that divides opinion, which side are you on?

Paula, from Older Girl Beauty, shows us Maybelline's latest eyeshadows, the "Color Tattoo 24hr Cream Eyeshadow" that comes out this month in the US.

Don't ya'll just love all these new 2012 product releases! Pammy Blogs Beautysure does as she tests out Laura Geller's new 2012 release: The Inkwell Waterproof Gel Liner Duo. Find out what she thought!

Visionary Beauty shares her collection of the delightful Rouge Bunny Rouge loose glitter pigments, including the two new tantalising shades; Caress of Mink and Embrace of Cashmere.

You HAVE to check out Prime Beauty's Top 10 Beauty Products for 2011--these aren't just favorites, they are game-changers!

Perfect Cuticles Are Yours! Dior Creme Abricot Review

Even on a good day, my hands take a beating, what with a job that requires multiple washes in harsh antibacterial soap and the duties that go along with raising three kids. Dishpan hands doesn't begin to describe it. Add to that the fact that I tend to be, shall we say, hit-or-miss with the hand cream, and I've got a disaster on my hands (pardon the pun). On top of all these issues, now I'm dealing with cold, dry weather and dry heat indoors.

In response to all of this, I prayed to the gods of good cuticles, and lo and behold, they sent me to the Dior counter for Creme Abricot. The clouds parted, the angels sang, and my prayers were answered. 

My First Gel Polish Manicure!

Image Courtesy of Gelish.com

I know, I know...I'm probably the last beauty fanatic on the planet who hasn't yet tried the gel polish manicure. It's not that I haven't been interested, trust me. Rather, the salon I used to go to only had a few colors (all of them relatively pale neutrals, which, as you all know, is not my thing). Add to that the fact that they require soaking off in the salon when they (finally) require removal. Finally, and most importantly, there's the fact that I'm not allowed to wear polish to my job since I work in a kitchen. With all of those factors working against me, I just never had the time to get the job done...plus, I hadn't seen any nice dark colors that appealed to me, so it seemed a waste. 

Luckily for me, we're out of school for 2 1/2 weeks for Christmas. I, of course, took the opportunity to get a mani/pedi the day after school let out, and I was delighted to see that the choice of colors has expanded dramatically since last I looked. My dark, vampy colors now exist in gel polish! So as you might expect, I was off and running. 

Blemish Buster: DDF Sulfur Therapeutic Mask

Image Courtesy of DDFSkincare.com

I recently had a very unfortunate situation with my skin. Normally dry and fairly sensitive but clear, I suddenly went through a period of constant breakouts. Seeing that I'm almost 42, this seemed completely unfair and ridiculous. I'm sure many of you out there agree that there's just something WRONG about having to battle wrinkles and zits at the same time. WRONG, I tell you! Plus, since I hadn't had breakouts in a long, long time, I'd forgotten what to do about them. At first, I just pretended there wasn't a problem. Then, I attacked it viciously, which just inflamed my face and made matters worse. Finally, out of desperation (and before biting the bullet and heading to the dermatologist), I headed to--of course--Sephora to see what I could find. 

Eyebrow Review: Tarte EmphasEYES Waterproof Amazonian Clay Brow Mousse

When it comes to eye makeup, I'm all about the brows. As a natural blonde who has gone nearly black, it's imperative that I shade my brows each day or I end up looking like an alien. My natural brows just don't show up, particularly when you consider the high contrast between my hair and skin color. So I'm always on the lookout for new eyebrow products, which have proven remarkably hard to find. Pencils tend to be too hard or too soft, too thick or too thin. The gel that is applied like mascara doesn't do anything to shape the brow. Powders can be nice, but they can also be a pain to apply. And creams, although they look great, often like to migrate, or worse, smear if you inadvertently swipe at your brow during the day. And then there's the color. Although it's hard for me to find a brown that's too dark for me, it's often that I end up with colors too light or too red. With all of those issues to deal with, I've actually considered going back to blonde on occasion, just to avoid the whole conundrum. 

However, I have found a couple of good standby's. Tarte's pencil is a great choice, as is Chanel's Perfect Brows powder. Unfortunately, they both also have their drawbacks; Tarte's pencil is so thin it tends to break if you twist too much up at a time, and Chanel's powders can take time to use. So when I saw Tarte's EmphasEYES Brow Mousse, I jumped at the chance to try it. 

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