Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Product Review; "Alba Botanica Pineapple Enzyme Facial Scrub"

Alba Botanica should definitely find a new word to describe this brilliant cleanser besides "scrub". The Pineapple Enzyme Facial Scrub has almost no granules that draw comparison to any other exfoliators. And it certainly doesn't feel like "scrubbing".

In general, exfoliating lotions have small beads of silicone, sand, sugar, or other moderate abrazives to remove dead skin cells and reveal clean newly rejuvenated skin. This process also induces circulation but can do more damage than you'd like if frequented too often.

Using mostly certified organic and botanical ingredients like awapuhi, papaya extract and bromelain, this watery lotion uses the inherent enzymes to breaks up the integrity of dead skin cells and, using fingers, softly buffs them away without scraping the underlying healthy layers. Though the ingredients are regarding as mild irritants, use of this product is recommended up to 4 times a week, twice the amount of traditional exfoliants.

Since it also contains aloe vera and jojoba esthers, it's slightly moisturizing and is great for acne prone skin to unclog pores. It's also ideal for gentlemen who shave on a regular basis. By sloughing off dead cells but keeping new ones hydrated, razors will glide over bumps and fewer nics are likely to appear.

Simply use warm water applied to the face, then a small amount of lotion rubbed over cheeks, chin and forehead in a soft circular motion, then rinse. The first time I used it, I didn't realize it had even worked until I saw my complexion when I got out of the shower. Bright and clean skin and, over time, fewer blemishes and certainly no shaving nics. I didn't know you could get that kind of result without scrubbing.

Alba Botanica Pineapple Enzyme Facial Scrub; $12.95

Working the Poll; "Product Loyalty"

As technologies continue to develop, many skincare, haircare and makeup products will see their lives come to an abrupt end in the years to come. Many consumers will find this irritating, others will ask "why?!" and a small few will throw a fit in the middle of a department store.

Personally, I only like using one (sometimes two) skincare products and get a little perturbed when I forget to have a back-up in my closet... ya know, just in case. Still, I'll try pretty much anything. Since it's my job to try many products, I always look at them as objectively as possible, but can't help but compare them to my favorites.

Even if there seems to be "better" ingredients or more enticing packaging, I'll stray only for the amount of time it takes me to gauge how effective the formula actually is. Often times, I'll find that it is indeed pretty awesome and the bottle is beautiful to behold, but I've already met my skin-mate.

As distracting as that gorgeous casing may be, your formula is no match for my faves. And though I may stray from time to time, I never go too far for too long.

Breaking News; Formaldehyde getting banned?

Most nail polishes are now available in what is called a "3-free formula"; a concoction that no longer boasts the chemicals DPT, Toluene and Formaldehyde. These chemicals, though utilized to extend wear, finish and luster, have been linked to numerous irritations including the possible contribution to disease and infirmaty as well as linked to certain forms of cancers... yea. Though it's unlikely that such minimal exposure could create a serious detriment, better to eliminate them altogether and find alternate solutions that are just as effective.

Recently, major contraversy has been surrounding another beauty treament known as the "Brazilian Blowout" that utilizes a smoothing solution guaranteed to close the cuticle of hair follicles and create completely straight strands that resists any and all frizz. Main effective ingredient: Formaldehyde. Wildly popular, some have even taken to ignoring the solutions possible link to aforementioned conditions in favor of silky smooth, straight hair. And while cosmetics company lobbies have been trying to maintain the same "it's so small, it can't hurt" argument, the New York Times reports;

" workers have reported headaches, nosebleeds, burning eyes, vomiting and asthma attacks after using the product and other hair-straighteners."

Even outside of annectodal evidence, 4 years of beauty industry arguments have been busted as government agencies such as the NIH (National Institute of Health) have added Formaldehyde to their list of detrimental carcinogens meaning further investigation and possible banning of the ingredient's use in cosmetics altogether. However, similar lists released by the NIH have included chemicals found in things like second-hand cigarette smoke, mothballs and tanning beds.

More extensive research is still to come but certainly doesn't seem favorable to Brazilian Blowouts which have become staple treatments in salons all around Manhattan and the states in general. Use of the solution, while not yet banned entirely, has prompted salon owners of famed houses like Frederic Fekkai to hault use until they've done their own research and found a safer efficacy.

Maybe it's time to start looking for a replacement?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Product Review; "Guerlain Super Aqua Serum"

Do me a favor: scroll down to the bottom of this post and just look.

No seriously, I'll wait.


Yep! No kidding.

Though the price-points can be somewhat alarming on most Guerlain products, sticker-shock subsides once products are given an opportunity to prove their worth.

Super Aqua Serum is a rich, dense, luxuriously sweet smelling fluid that immediately hydrates parched skin in ONE pump. Packed full of emollients and formulated to feel like silky water, this serum boasts a Desert Rose Flower Complex;

"...originating from a flower which miraculously defies the harsh conditions of it's arid environment, acts as a veritable protective shield. It reinforces the skin's internal barrier, thus increasing it's reserves of moisture and increases cellular resistance to time and external factors."

Most cosmetics that are made very well, need very little in application. As I mentioned earlier, you only need ONE pump of this serum. After removing makeup and cleansing skin, take (again) ONE pump, rub gently between palms and pat over skin including the brow bone and just under the ocular cavity. Though I found my palms a bit silky afterwards, my face felt smooth and hydrated with no residue. I ended up using my, now soft, hands to press into my neck and around my jawline to make use of any excess product.

The bottle is 50mL and since you only need ONE pump per use, you should have it for quite some time (at least 6 to 8 months). So though, intially, the dollar amount is jarring, it seems to be pretty worth it in the long run, however overpriced it may seem at first.

Guerlain Super Aqua Serum; $165

Product Review; "Lancome Hypnose Waterproof Mascara"

When the sweltering heat hits in a week or so, foundations will become lighter, lipsticks will become balms and all mascara should go waterproof. Though many will resist the traditionally thick formulas, Lancome breaks the mold with it's tremedously light-weight cream that resists clumping with each swipe.

Hynose Waterproof Mascara is the kind of formula that is ideal for a no-makeup makeup look as it applies thinly and then slowly builds until you get the desired length and density. Marketed as a volumizing product, it boasts an exclusive complex called SoftShield™ that keeps a smooth application that will coat every follicle without fail. The patented POWERFULL™ brush seperates each hair from eachother that dries down quickly before the next application to prevent globs from coming together. And should a bead of sweat hit your lashline, it's strong waterproof hold won't budge or smudge even if you're squinting hard in the sun.

Mascara is ideal for perking up eyes but is one of those products that you should switch out pretty often (1 every 3-4 months) as they will begin to dry out or transfer bacteria. And, just like every mascara, the Hypnose line should adhere to the same guidelines. However Hypnose Waterproof seems to dry out just a little bit faster (2-3 months) so I would recommend not "pumping" the wand (it forces air into the tube) and storing it in a cool dry place (no purses).

No need for touch ups, this mascara, available in black and brown, will last up to 16 hours with no flaking, budging or smudging regardless of how many layers you decide to swipe on. Destined to become the star of your cosmetics wardrobe this Summer, you'll get thick, full lashes without feeling weighed down.

Lancome Hypnose Waterproof Mascara; $25.00

Product Review; "Bumble and Bumble Sumo Wax"

The authority on healthy-looking hair, Bumble and Bumble has designed a dense wax that melts to the touch and coats each follicle with a light yet pliable hold. Boasting a semi-glossy finish, it is applied to barely dampened hair to maintain a sheen to any and all styles while keeping them firmly in place.

Sumo Wax has a really thick, almost candle-wax feel to it right out of the pot, but once a dollop has been rubbed between palms, it melts down to a creamy paste that is slick to the touch and easily smoothed over short styles or stretched over shoulder length hair. If you don't feel like putting in the work, it's recommended that you take a blow-drier and hold it over the top of an open jar to heat up the wax before applying, but either way, the finish is just as alluring.

Ideally, I have found myself using this for short/blunt cuts that are prone to a bit of frizziness. On clean hair, and after coating palms with warm product, I tussle small groupings of strands with my finger tips and work around the crown of the head until it's all pretty much standing on end. Then I rub my palms over the back and sides to distribute any excess. Once every portion of hair is coated, you can style with a brush or smooth out, then shake under a blow-drier to create any shape that will hold fast once it's cooled down. Guys with finer hair will need no further products for a look that will hold all day but I do recommend that guys with thicker locks hit their complete look with some hairspray as an insurance policy.

But Bumble and Bumble does recommend you use the least amount of product possible since it will keep stretching the more you touch it. Too much product (more than a dime-size) will start looking a bit greasy. It'd be wise to listen to the authorities.

Bumble and Bumble Sumo Wax; $25.00

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Product Review; "MAC Cremeblend Blush"

Best known for rich colors, MAC Cosmetics is also notorious for having some dense formulas. Though possibly unwarranted, that reputation can usually be attributed to a poor application method.

I have before opted for formulas that dry down a bit more satin-finish and have little to no texture but have found over time that a "thicker" product wears longer with color that is much more vivid. Fortunately, MAC Cremeblend Blush may feel a bit denser to the touch, but when it hits cheeks, it melts away and blends effortlessly with fingertips or a sponge.

Gently tapped over the apples of cheeks, continue to move the product even after the texture has dissipated to get it to completely become one with skin. Since the base ingredients have a blend of emollients like cocoa butter, avocado oil and mango seed butter, you get pigment and texture that nourishes skin creating beneficial hydration with just a tinge of luminosity.

Ironically this formula, which is ideal in Winter months when chapped cold air can dry skin out, is great in the Summertime when less and less foundation products are used. Just a bit of Cremeblush, though slightly rich, is great for perking up complexions without creating obvious texture. Available in an array of colors from pinches of pink to full on bronze, you can use it to create structure to skin and make cheekbones more prominent. As long as you blend it properly, of course.

MAC Cremeblend Blush; $19.50

Product Review; "CONAIR Men's 2-Blade Trimming System"

There are very few moments when men actually find it necessary to take care in how they look. Particularly without the right tools and especially when they're not easily portable.

I don't really own many grooming products from CONAIR, though they do seem to make some of the more reliable ones as is evident from my Men's 2-Blade Trimming System. This pocket sized trimmer, only slightly bigger than a permanent marker, has the power to erradicate errant hairs and fuzz around the nape of the neck and hairline without any drag or nics. An easy tool to keep handy in your gym bag or medicine cabinet, it operates on 1 AAA battery and uses minimum power for quick touch-ups.

In the kit, there is also a comb attachment that can be used for cleaning up moustaches, sideburns and even nosehairs. Yea, pretty much any hair that is where it shouldn't be can be literally brushed aside quickly and gently with no need for shaving cream. The buzzing action is so minute, it picks up hair that you don't see and is sensitive enough for earlobes, over cheekbones, and other more... sensitive areas... should you be so inclined. I particularly like to use it around eyebrows to make them look more ruly without having to bust out a razor that can create more aggressive lines.

Multi-purpose on all counts and portable to boot, there's no more reason to go without cleaning up a bit. The right portable tool for men to have for that rare moment when they do take care of how they look.

CONAIR Men's 2-Blade Trimming System; $11.99

Product Review; "NARS Powder Foundation"

A powder product that feels smooth to the touch, NARS Cosmetics offers up a coverage powder that finishes matte without looking dry.

NARS Powder Foundation is not only light-weight, but using a brush finishes with a vague velvet texture. Not necessarily with a sheen so much as with an almost supple texture. The formula has in it the usual suspects like Titanium Dioxide and Talc, but is milled so thin the ingredients don't have time to congeal and become dense even when introduced to an oily complexion.

Ideal for the Summer months, you can use it in conjunction with a tinted moisturizer, spot concealer or alone for a weightless finish. With the included sponge tapped over T-zone and over cheeks you get more dense coverage that picks up excess moisture and is surprisingly easy to blend provided you don't get too crazy with product.

Touch-ups are easy to address with either a brush or sponge and usually don't require much more application of product. Simply pull any additional moisture up with blotting film and see skin return to it's initially prepped state; a clean, smooth finish that looks like perfect skin, never dry.

NARS Powder Foundation; $45.00

Product Review; "INGLOT Matte Eyeshadows"

INGLOT Cosmetics offers something called "The Freedom System", an opportunity I discovered at their Chelsea location that affords me the choice of building my own palletes of colors and textures. Recently, among the broad spectrum of bright, richly pigmented shimmer tones, they released a line of matte textures available in a 40 well pallete that impress just as much as their shimmery counterparts.

INGLOT Matte Eyeshadows are exceptionally creamy. I say that knowing the obvious contradiction; a dry texture that feels creamy? Yes, indeed they do.

Ridiculously soft to the touch, each powder shadow releases easily onto brushes with little to no agitation, making it easy to over-swipe product. Once applied to skin, they adhere easily with surprisingly little fallout whether or not you've gotten a bit overzealous. Over eyes, whether skin is prepped or not, you'll find rich flat pigment that blends easily alone or in conjunction with other shadows. If eyes have a hint of a priming base, foundation or even eye cream the colors show even richer even with very little applied.

The tones come in choices of vivid yellows, rich pinks, dense violets or complimentary neutral tones that read almost exactly as they seem in the tin. Available as single packaged tins or in palletes of 2-40, prices will range accordingly. Fortunately, it seems that the more you purchase, the larger the pallete you can get and the lower the price goes. Feel free to load up on mattes or purchase a larger pallete to accomodate your existing shimmer tones.

INGLOT Matte Eyeshadows; $4.50-$12.00

Product Review; "MAC Pro Longwear Concealer"

I usually like to reach for thinned out coverage products that make skin look more luminescent or mimic how fresher, hydrated, smoother complexions would look. In general, choosing colors to offset the existing tone involves a lot of neutralizing tricks as most full-coverage products (that match skin exactly) can seem a bit too thick or heavy. Often times, truer pigments in MAC foundations do me this service well, but finally, I have a formula that feels weightless without sacrificing coverage.

Pro Longwear Concealer is a light-weight fluid that reads colour-true; on skin, this product looks exactly as it looks in the bottle. When you do a swatch on cheek or chin, you'll find that you get maximum buildable coverage from very little product. Ideal for camoflauging prominent discoloration like undereye areas and acne spots, you can dab this formula with a sponge or brush, and set it with powder or leave it be. The watery consistency holds for only a moment before drying down to a semi-matte finish that will last up to 15 hours. No seriously. Even if you don't set it with powder, you'll get at least 12 hours of wear without budging.

After it's dried down, you can dab a tiny bit more product for additional coverage without building weight. Though the formula may not be right for very dry complexions, by prepping with moisturizer, you'll find that you get a smoother application. Though, if you over-hydrate, it'll sheer out the coverage and wear like a neutralizing product. I won't be going down that road again.

MAC Pro Longwear Concealer; $16.50

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Working the Poll; "Public Makeup Artist"

I take the 1 train everyday into Manhattan to get to clients, gigs, bookings, meetings, pretty much everything. Generally bright and (way too) early.

Often, I get the opportunity to view some interesting morning rituals, none more entertaining than women putting their makeup on. Should I interject? I mean, I won't... ever. But should I?

I've seen foundation mismatches, mascara blobs, blush streaks and the use of FINGERS. I rarely use my bare hands to apply makeup as a prevention against contamination, but I've seen ladies reach for the subway rails and then go right into their concealer. Bleh.

Added to the "ichk"-factor, there's the obvious bump and tumble of the train's movement as well as the opportunity for bumps from fellow passengers that can result in some major corneal damage. Sure it's funny watching someone slip and get lipgloss on their chin, but I'd rather not see anyone gouged by a mascara wand.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Essentials; Men's Grooming

My father used to threaten me that if I didn't clean my room, he'd take away my Nintendo system. I started reading more.

There's a certain stubborness when it comes to guys handling cleanliness. Particularly in regards to their own bodies. Women seem to be more concious of appearing primped, put-together and groomed from head to toe. Though, major fussiness isn't necessarily the appropriate approach, there is something to be learned from the fairer sex.

From handshakes to hugs, a strong, firm grip is the single most important trait a man can have to assert himself and get noticed. But strong shouldn't translate to rough, though manicures can be easily bypassed given you have some of the major players in the process. Sephora's dual nail buffer pushes back cuticles, grinds down jagged edges and buffs out all imperfections creating smoothed fingertips that look strong and welcome to touch ($5.00). Once buffed, Healing Hands Cream from FACE Stockholm coats hands in dense moisture that absorbs into skin making rough patches disappear and that firm embrace all the more inviting ($22.00).

Shaving is one of the first things guys think of when it comes time for looking good. If you prefer a scruffier, yet tidy, facade try the Lithium Ion All-In-One Trimmer from Wahl. It has multiple attachments for trimming, clipping, buzzing nose-hairs and particularly for cleaning up sideburns and fuzzy hairlines on the back of necks. Especially if you can't make it to the barber ($39.95). For a closer, more shorn look a standard razor like Schick Quattro glides over skin when prepped with Xotics Shave Therapy lotion from celebrity groomer Curtis Smith. Used on the likes of P. Diddy, this cream is rich in essential oils that soothes dry skin creating a slick surface that raises hairs for clean cuts and does double duty as a moisturizer. After rinsing just take a small dollop and rub over shaved area to calm any irritation and heal nics with no slick residue ($15.00).

Once clipped and cleaned, a little hair product will do wonders. The waxes in Dirt by JONATHAN Products are strong enough to tame stray hairs and create healthy shine but are low maintenance enough to be handled without a mirror. Taking a full fingertip sized sample and rubbing between palms breaks up the product and turns it into a milky balm that can be tussled into hair, beards and even eyebrows for desired styles that stay manageable through the evening($26.00). For a more permanent look, spritz Aquage Finishing Spray all over in a few quick bursts. The fast drying formula freezes hair into place with no dried out flaky finish and leaves only a bit of shine to mimic strong healthy hair. Plus, it's humidity resistant so there's no chance of major frizz out ($19.00).

Ya know, now that I think about it, my dad tends to be very concious of how he looks. Always has had pretty clean hands, shaves and hairstyles... I wonder what his dad threatened to take away from him.

As Seen On TV; "Dark Girls"

The contrast of seeing this striking film preview in my facebook feed among promotions for cosmetics that make skin "lighter, brighter, fresher..." was heartbreaking.

Set to release in Fall/Winter of 2011, Dark Girls examines colorism:

"...a state of prejudice, conscious and unconscious, that causes both black people and white people to label as more beautiful or desirable or intelligent individuals with lighter shades of skin, particularly when it comes to black women." - NYTBlog

Among the viewpoints and biases of varied racial communities when it comes to deep complexion, contributions to those biases also come into scrutiny including the "white-washing" of images of black women in mainstream ads and the deep-seated prejudices reinforced from times of slavery.

Though the subject matter may seem very heavy for most makeup enthusiasts, please take the opportunity to examine why we percieve "beauty" the way we do.

Directed by Bill Duke and D. Channsin Berry
Produced by Bill Duke for Duke Media
and D. Channsin Berry for Urban Winter Entertainment
Co-Produced by Bradinn French
Line Produced by Cheryl L. Bedford
Edited by Bradinn French

Please visit and support the Dark Girls page on facebook for updates and breaking news.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Product Review; "Ready To Wear Lash Extension"

The last purchase I made from HSN was the amazing Beautifully Baked Collection from cosmetics firm Ready To Wear Beauty. After falling in love with their powder, I have now moved on to swoon over Lash Extension; a cellulose fiber product that is added to mascara for length you have to experience to believe. When I saw it demonstrated on the telecast, I thought I was watching a magic trick and had to rewind the show to watch it again to cement the step-by-step process into my mind

Simply take your regular mascara, any kind at all, and do a simple swipe on your lashes. Then, you take Lash Extension and coat it from the top and underneath and finally, one more coat of mascara to seal it together. The natural cellulose fibers grab onto mascara and stretch out beyond it's scope creating length, length and length. Each swipe of Lash Extension extends your lashes out so you could go crazy and do multiple coats for ridiculous amounts of length and volume for both the upper and lower lash lines.

Of course, if you use a volumizing or thickening mascara, you get even more impact, but I found that reaching for a clear mascara works just as well and gives the illusion of strong, long naked lashes. Using the exact same process, you get a flutter that looks like a gift of genetics that opens up eyes for a no-makeup-makeup-look. Particularly useful for skipping out on false lashes and glue, Lash Extension comes clean away with regular makeup remover and gives actual false lashes a bit of competition.

Though I may keep my box of falsies handy just in case, when someone asks me for fuller, longer lashes, the innovative technology of Lash Extension will always be on my mind.

Ready To Wear Lash Extension; $22.50

Product Review; "L'Oreal Magic Perfecting Base"

I never touch skin with my bare hands.

I think it's something I picked up from traveling around on the subways and being worried I might unintentionally smear New York City on a clients face along with her foundation. I've found that I don't really need to either, particularly when I have a great supply of brushes to choose from.

L'Oreal offers many things to suit your makeup needs, but brushes aren't one of them and when it came to their Magic Perfecting Base, I think I understand why. This souffle-like texture is creamy and soft to the touch and glides on with fingertips like a second skin. In the jar, the product reminds me of a satin pillow on Valentine's day but once dipped and massaged on face, it goes completely transparent leaving only a perfectly matte finish.

I did actually try to use it with a foundation brush and found that it beaded up and spread fairly uneven especially around the eye area. It wasn't until I took my ring finger and tapped it out that I realized that the formula melted down from the heat and smoothed out without any further effort. When I layered a cream foundation on top of it (with a brush) there was little need for touching up as I didn't need as much product; the base made coverage and blending all the more soft and even. On guys, I even noticed that it kept oil at bay and the subsequent shine under control.

I guess now I rarely touch skin with my hands.

L'Oreal Magic Perfecting Base; $12.99

Product Review; "Alba Botanica Kona Coffee After-Sun Lotion"

I went for a walk yesterday. Been indoors for the last week trying to nurse a cough that persisted even after sunshine and the accompanying heat had banished the strangest flow of rain this "Summer" has had to offer. I forget sometimes that there's a period of adjustment you need to take into consideration before baring pale Winter flesh to strong Summer heat.

I realized the sun was beating down on my skin, but it wasn't until I went back indoors that I noticed what a lack of proper sunscreen was about to inflict. Fortunately, for the absent-minded sun worshipper, Alba not only makes an excellent lip balm, they also have in their arsenal Kona Coffee After-Sun Lotion; a potent antioxidant formula designed to repair, revitalize and soothe sun-scorched skin.

A blend infused with macademia nut oil, shea butter and kukui oil to drench skin in moisture also bears antioxidants like kona coffee and caffeine to invigorate damaged skin into repair. Applied topically over affected areas, it has a distinct, yet light, aroma that lingers throughout the day remminiscent of creamy coffee without the bitterness. Personally, I'm not into scented lotions, but this one actually has a calming quality to it that makes applying it all the more luxurious. Though full of essential oils and extracted moisturizers, you'll find there is no greasy or sticky feel and it absorbs only after a few moments.

An hour after I applied it to my shoulders, arms, legs and head (just got my hair cut), I found that redness was fading, the heat had died down and there was an obvious suppleness that refused any kind of drying or flaking usually associated with sunburn. A little is great to calm irritation and any kind of "burn" but feel free to slather it everywhere including the face on a daily basis. Applying before sun exposure (and sunscreen) would be ideal for a walk around the neighborhood. You never know when the rain might break up.

Alba Botanica Kona Coffee After-Sun Lotion; $11.95

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