Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Let's talk about feet

I hate to bring up an ugly topic on a beauty blog, but I want to talk about feet. Especially heels. I can't speak for the rest of you, but many years of too-small shoes (vanity), ballet, field hockey, lacrosse, tennis, squash, cycling, fencing, archery, soccer, and swim team adversely affected my foot aesthetics. My toes are cute, but any cuteness ends at the first knuckle. 

Compounding this gnarly visage, my heels crack in winter. More truthfully, my heels look rather beastly year round, especially now that I no longer live on the ocean, where walking barefoot on sand is the best natural exfoliation. In fact, the backs of my heels look so repugnant, I would not be surprised to see horns pop out.

Not mine (I swear!), but not outside the realm of possibility (source)

Cracking and callus formation is due entirely to my distaste for socks. Socks are practical; they protect shoes from perspiration, prevent blisters, and hold moisture against the skin. And while some of you may rejoice at another opportunity to accessorize creatively with fun hosiery, socks make my feet feel like they are being strangled. I refuse to wear them until the snow on the ground is higher than the top of my shoe—and even then I would be more likely to slip my naked feet into a pair of Bean Boots with shearling insoles. The only socks I wear are wool ragg socks, but I wear them as slippers, inside the house, and they are extremely old and soft and stretched out so they hardly count.

Sock shunning causes my heels dry very quickly, even after I slather on goopy unguents, like Eucerin or A&D Ointment or Badger Balm. A few years back, I intended to attack the cracks with brute force, so  after an ocean of drugstore experiments failed, I visited a podiatrist who prescribed Amlactin lotion (12% lactic acid). After using two full bottles, however, I saw no difference on my feet, though the lotion smoothed out my upper arms nicely.

So it was with low expectations that I ordered Glytone Ultra Heel and Elbow Cream ($48, 1.7 oz) from


The cream is rich and thick, but it absorbed very quickly and left a silky, non-tacky finish, so I assumed it would perform like any other cream/lotion I had tried. Not so. I was pleasantly surprised when, the morning after its first use, Glytone had gone to work immediately, gobbling up little bits of skin like PAC-MAN eating the sad jellyfish ghost.


Glytone contains large concentrations (almost 30%) of pure glycolic acid, also known as AHA. The formula is so effective at sloughing off built-up skin, I was able to rub much of that skin off with my fingertips after the initial application. Not so much after the first week, as the new, smooth skin began to emerge from under layers of its cracked crust.

Glytone products used to be available by prescription only, but we can now buy them over the counter.

How exfoliation works

When deciding between an AHA or BHA-based product for exfoliation, you might keep in mind this tip:
  • AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) works above the skin, on its surface.
  • BHA (beta hydroxy acid) works below the skin's surface.
AHA is available in any skincare product that contain glycolic, citric, lactic, or malic acid. AHAs penetrate the uppermost layers of skin and unglue the dead skin cells, improving texture and appearance and allowing treatments, serums, and creams to be better absorbed. AHAs can help fade discoloration from sun damage (photoaging), and it is rumored that AHA increases collagen production. DO NOT, however, use acids at the same time you apply collagen treatments, like Baltic Collagen, where the acids make the collagen inert. AHAs are best used on sun-damaged skin where breakouts are not as big an issue.

BHA comes in one form only: salicylic acid, which deeply penetrates below the skin's surface, where it exfoliates and sweeps away dead skin and accumulated sebum inside pores. BHA can less irritating than AHA and is ideally suited for oily skins, especially acne-prone skin with whiteheads or blackheads. BHA can also ameliorate surface redness because it is made from acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin), which has anti-inflammatory properties.

Even though the two acid types have different methods of exfoliation, I find that both have a place in my medicine cabinet—especially given the prevalence of skin-suffocating silicones, which are nearly impossible to avoid in nearly ALL products, and which cause milia on me. An excellent two-in-one product is Peter Thomas Roth AHA/BHA Acne Clearing Gel ($45, 2oz.), which contains maximum strength BHA (2%) without a prescription and 10% AHA. I love the way it keeps my pores uncongested.

How to use it

Because my heels were in such rough shape, I applied Glytone a few times a week and used a foot file in the shower every morning to buff away unglued skin cells. When my heels stopped causing sparks on the bed linens, I began using Glytone on my elbows, and, occasionally, on my knees. The instructions recommend rinsing it off, but I don't bother. If I feel discomfort, I apply a very thin layer of any basic moisturizer, which immediately cools the tingle.

Do rinse Glytone off your fingers. Even if the stinging doesn't bother you, it's not worth the risk of transferring residue to eyes the mucous membranes of the nose, and I discovered that the cream got under my nails, even when I was careful to wipe my fingertips clean on a paper towel. 

If you are not a sock hater like me, you could apply Glytone (or your acid of choice) at night and put on a pair of thin, cotton socks to seal in the benefits (e.g., don't let the cream rub off on other things your feet come in contact with). If you experience too much stinging, just rinse it off.

Because this little jar contains such high concentrations of pure glycolic acid, think long and hard about using it on your face. It is not meant for the face. That said, after I had slowly built up a tolerance to AHA, starting at 5% and progressing slowly to 10%, 15%,  and 20%, I decided to try Glytone very sparingly on my nose to see if it made my pores look smaller. It did. I also began applying a tiny dot directly onto a skin tag on the right side of my neck, and the tag eventually disappeared.

What to expect

My heels experienced the most impressive benefits in the first couple weeks, when my skin there was in its worst shape. Because sugar/fruit/milk acids exfoliate only dead skin cells and leave healthy skin alone, it is completely normal to expect diminishing returns. Using more cream or using it more often will only cause irritation. Using it less often means you can stretch out this pricey cream, but do know that continued use of AHA/BHA (or tretinoin) products is necessary to maintain results.

If you are a sock hater like me, you'll find yourself still using it a couple times a week, and 1x weekly seems to be a good maintenance dose for my feet. Over time, my jar of Glytone cream turned bright yellow. I suspect this was caused by a combination of bathroom heat/steam and oxidation; it has had no negative effect on the product's effectiveness.

My heels feel so nice now, I actually like rubbing them against my calves, just to remind myself how soft they have become.

Bottom line: I have been using this product for several years, and I've found it to be worth every penny. Highly recommended for those of us with horny-toad feet who have tried just about everything else.

And, finally, in defense of possums, even if their feet are hideous:

So there! source

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Cosmeticus Interruptus: Favorite Discontinued Products

Some of my blogger sisters are cruel vixens, teasing us with their weekly or monthly articles, which showcase the beautiful products we can't have because those products were either limited edition or have been discontinued.

We've all been there. Raise your hand if you've loved a product—even repurchased it—and then the rug was pulled out from under you when the powers that be decided that product wasn't worth keeping on the shelves. One of the worst feelings was showing up at the counter to buy a refill of something and find out it was gone. Such a trip to the counter was how I discovered Prescriptives was about to be dropped as a brand, and I made a mad search for the last remaining Mushroom and Rose Powder eyeshadows.

You certainly heard (or felt) my wail of agony reverberate around the globe, when I discovered that Laura Mercier had not only discontinued my favorite red lipstick—ever—but that it had been pulled off the shelves and was gone, truly gone, from all department stores. As is, not even on eBay or or ACW or at any of the other usual suspects. That's just mean!

Therefore, I thought I would pay tribute to the dearly departed, not to tease you, but to honor those items that so bravely went before the current lineups ... and, perhaps, send good juju vibes out into the universe, hoping these items miraculously make it back into the brands' regular lineup, if only by the sheer force of my will.
  • Prescriptives Lavish Lipstick, Rosemarine—discontinued years before Px pulled out retail stores, this color is the most gorgeous blue-based semi-matte rose with subtle brown undertones. I have been wearing this color since 1989, and I love it so much I had it duplicated at 3CC. I know Prescriptives will never bring it back; they haven't introduced a new color since they removed their physical presence from department stores, a stupid move, in my opinion.
  • Chantecaille Lasting Eye Shade, Agate—medium-toned, smoky, dusty-grey lavender.
  • Laura Mercier Matte Eye Colour, Margaux—silky grey-plum goodness with a smidgen of brown undertone, but not enough to make me look diseased. Such a gorgeous, basic shade; why take it away, Laura, when your permanent line has so few neutral colors for we cool-toned women.
  • Laura Mercier Sateen Eye Colour, Orchid—a beautiful, glowy purple that applies bright but settles into skin to look like the prettiest shadows from your face, lending a vulnerable Edwardian appeal.
  • Laura Mercier Sateen Eye Colour, Sparkling Dew—the satin version of Morning Dew. This color seems to come out only in collections. I am not sure why LM removed it from the permanent  line, but I would rather have my eye wash colors in a satin finish instead of matte.
  • Laura Mercier Gel Lip Colour, Sweet Cherry—as mentioned above, too pretty for words. Sheer, juicy blue red. THE perfect red to wear during the day, even hot summer days outside in full sun. I have now reached a point where I am digging the last bits out of the tube with a lip brush.
  • Chantecaille Brilliant Lip Gloss, Allure—pigmented-but-sheer cool raspberry, which feels more like liquid lipstick than gloss. This color can still be found, but not at, which tells me it will meet the same fate as their aquablush.
  • Chanel Glossimer, Venus 124—sheer, hot pink with shimmers that brings out my inner Barbie, not that I have one. Really. It's more a preppy pink, and I do have those roots.

There are, no doubt, others I miss, but the above items are the colors/formulas I miss the most.

And there's something else I miss, so please indulge me in a mini rant. I doubt any of us could take issue with the improvements made to the texture of makeup over the last decade. Lipstick, eyeshadow, foundation, and eye/lip pencil formulas have made leaps and bounds over some of the stiff, hard, dry, draggy stuff I bought in the 80s, but I find myself missing the days when I could count on my favorite brands carrying basic colors season after season. Obviously they had to phase out poor sellers while they rotated new colors in, but I doubt individual items sold so poorly when there were fewer options all around—from within their own brand and across brands (much less competition before the mid 90s). Moreover, those brands did not introduce the collection-of-the-month the way they do today—purposely not manufacturing enough in order to drive sales into a fevered pitch and/or sell out as quickly as possible—and then yanking the rug out from under our feet. B O R I N G. 

I don't know about the rest of you, but I often find the assault of new collections to be rather tiresome. Why the frantic pace, oh You Big Brands? Isn't the free advertising you get from beauty bloggers helping to push your sales into the stratosphere? I adore my makeup but sometimes too many choices can feel overwhelming.

What are your favorite discontinued products?

Meanwhile, I shall leave you with a pretty picture from a couple weeks ago, which is definitely something you can't have, as the "leaf peeping" season has passed where I love. Hurricane Sandy rudely and violently sucked the last of the leaves off the trees, anyway. 

Al photos taken by me

Saturday, October 27, 2012

What is the most important thing?

When you buy makeup, what are your primary criteria—besides a flattering color match? For example, must your foundation contain sunscreen before you will even consider it? Do you love or eschew the feel silicone-based ingredients? Do you abhor cream eyeshadow? Do you prefer lip gloss or lipstick, with no chance of merging the two? 

When I wonder about these questions, my mind drifts naturally to the the most important thing I want from my makeup, a quality that extends beyond texture or scent or color, and which might even eclipse it in importance. I discovered it was finish that mattered, how the result interacted with my skin by reflecting light, something I could look for in all my makeup products, whether it be for skin, cheeks, eyes, or lips. Once I realized that the finish mattered most, I knew I could eliminate the "noise" from everything else—much the way I have trained my eye (post color analysis) to race past colors that don't flatter me, as well as linger longer over natural fibers. It seems silly, but such a small thing saves a lot of energy, time, and even money, because I make fewer mistakes.

When I shop for makeup, the following are the most important things I look for in my most-often purchased items:


Because a lipstick is my first choice on that desert-island, I expect it to behave as lip balm. That means it MUST be moisturizing on its own. What's more, if I use the same lipstick exclusively—all day every day for weeks on end—my lips must feel conditioned, not flaky or parched or get that disconcerting "cracked" feeling at the corners of my mouth that happens with some lip products over time, almost as if the shimmer were made of fiberglass (e.g., MAC).

Loving right now:
  • Chanel Rouge Coco Shine, Bonheur, still, for its glossy feel and subtly shimmery finish. It doesn't hurt that it's an MLBB shade.
  • Chantecaille Super Sheer Lipstick, which feels exactly like lip balm but adds a hint of color. Look for a review on the color Maia soon, as I may have found a replacement for the tinted versions of Julie Hewett Lip Balm.
  • Chanel Lèvres Scintillantes (Glossimers), which feel and wear more like a liquid lipstick than gloss, and if you read this blog regularly, you know I don't care for lip gloss. So, yes, these are pretty spiffy  to keep me going back for more. Favorites (so far) are Jalousie, Désir, Imaginaire, Magnifque, Star, Venus, and Glaze—pretty  much all the pigmented pink/rose ones.
  • Chantecaille  Brilliant Lip Gloss, another gloss that makes the cut due to its outstanding formula and finish, so comfortable on the lips. Like with Glossimers, I prefer the ones with more pigment, like Allure, Magic, Patina, Charisma, Glee, and Glamour. I will review more of these soon, as I now have a decent collection that get regular use.


My strong preference for an eyeshadow formula is one with a satin/sateen/semi-matte finish. I don't mind a little shimmer, and I use creamy mattes, but an eyeshadow that catches the light and imparts a subtly-radiant glow is my favorite.

Loving right now:
  • Chantecaille Shine Eye Shade in Meteorite and Lilac Rose. I can't wear Granite and Sel (too warm) so I swatch them on the back of my hand so I can enjoy their glimmery beauty.
  • Prescriptives Rose Powder (satin), loving since 1989
  • Laura Mercier Topaz (luster) and Sparkling Dew (sateen). Sparkling Dew is currently offered in Laura Mercier's Cool Classics Trio and is a mirror image of my beloved Morning Dew, except it has the preferred sateen finish.
  • Becca Chantiilly, one of their demi mattes.
  • RBR's Gracious Arasari has THE most gorgeous finish; too bad the color makes me look like dog meat.


I don't care for concealer, but I love the concealer/highlighter hybrids. Instead of covering, they deflect, which means I don't have to inspect my undereye area mid morning to see if my makeup is caking or creasing or if the concealer sucked all the moisture out of the skin, making it all pruny and wrinkly.

Loving right now:  Estée Lauder Ideal Light Brush-on Illuminator, Soft Pink. I actually prefer it to YSL Touche Eclat #1 for my pinkish skin tone, and I thought nothing would ever replace my beloved TE..


Eyeshadow looks best on me if I wear a primer. Because my eyelids are moderately discolored (due to sun damage), I need a primer that conceals without drying. It's harder to find than you might think. Primers like UDPP or TFSI don't work because they are clear (or shimmery!); the popular MAC Paint Pot, Painterly, is far too warm on my skin (looks yellow); and even the Laura Mercier eye primers are too drying. I guess this makes sense; most women are using eye primers to keep their eyeshadow from creasing due to their oily lids. Well, my lids don't produce as much oil as they once did, and the surface can actually look parched.

Loving now and always: Paula Dorf's primer. It's soft and smooth and evens out my skin tone by concealing the beige and blue and red discoloration, making the perfect canvas for what comes next (if anything). No change in holy-grail status for more than a decade.

Lip pencil

I have reached a point in my life where I need a pencil to keep lipstick from feathering or gloss from migrating. I used to work diligently at matching a lip pencil exactly to a lipstick color, but choosing the perfect match every morning became tiresome. I now have one lip pencil that almost exactly matches my lip pigment and another that's completely clear, so both go with everything, including low-pigmented lip gloss.

Loving right now:
  • Julie Hewett Hue 011, a blue-based mauve that interplays nicely with the blue in my lips.
  • Laura Mercier Lip Pencil, Clear. The tip is soft but firm with a slightly waxier finish, so I find it preferable to Lipstick Queen's clear lip pencil, which has too much slip.



I still prefer powder over other formulas, mostly because liquids and creams settle in my pores, but in order to make the cut, the finish must be smooth and semi sheer. Despite a 10+-year love affair with Jane Iredale PurePressed powder, I fear the relationship might be winding down.

Loving right now:
If I want something sheer but with a tint, I turn to Chanel Poudre Universelle Libre, #20 Clair ... or I'll just apply a lighter-than-usual dusting of Jane Iredale PurePressed, Ivory and then spritz my skin with a finishing spray, such as JI's Pommist (smells heavenly).


I no longer wear matte blush because I have fallen in love with satin finishes, which add the most subtle glow to my cheekbones.

Loving to pieces:
  • NARS Gaiety 
  • Shiseido Luminizing Satin Face Color, PK304 Carnation. 
  • I also like Laura Mercier Second Skin Cheek Color, City Pink, but that one is discontinued, and I like Heather Pink, too..

What is the most important thing you look for when you shop for beauty products?

All photos taken by me, except where noticed in caption with link to the source.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Henri: Politique

All cats should have political leanings, ne pensez-vous pas?

Apparently there was an Internet Cat Film Festival in Minneapolis, and Henri 2, Paw de Deux earned the equivalent of the People's Choice Award.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Challenge of Having Cool-toned Brows

I discussed the importance of eyebrow grooming in an earlier article, but this post addresses brow color.  If, like me, you are completely cool-toned and fair, and your skin broadcasts any warmth added to it in unflattering ways, you already know how hard it can be to find an appropriate brow color.

Brow products did not reach my level of consciousness for a long time. My younger, ashy brows were full and well shaped. Maintenance required semi-weekly tweezing and tidying hairs with a brow comb or clear mascara. In my late 20s, I began neatening the lower tail edges with Clinique Brow Shaper using its enclosed stiff brush. Great.

Now fast forward a decade or two. In the last few years, my eyebrows have become more needy. I've noticed diffuse hair thinning, especially toward the bridge of the nose. My brow hairs have also become noticeably wispier, and new growth is lighter—not white or grey (yet), but not the normal dark ash blonde I'd seen in the mirror for decades. I guess this is the first stage of my hair losing its pigment before it goes white altogether.

Returning to Clinique, I quickly discovered that filling in the bare patches was essential for creating a frame for the face, and that when my brows were full, I could wear less makeup overall. However, if you are cool toned (not cool neutral), be prepared to slog through multiple products that lie about what color they are. Hopefully I can help you slog a little less, though my journey is far from over.

Beauty pundits claim that if you are dark haired, you should choose a brow color 1-2 shades lighter than your hair color, and if you are light haired or grey (or white) you should choose a brow color 1-2 shades darker. I say throw out the rules and try on the product. Only you will know what looks best on you.

For my declining level of  contrast, my brow color must be a little darker than my dark ash blonde hair, that is about 5% grey. My brows have always been darker than my hair, and—unlike the hair on my  head, which takes on gold and red highlights from the sun—my brows are completely ash and cool without a trace of highlight color (warmth). And therein lies the challenge.

Clinique's Brow Shaper in Shaping Charcoaled served me well for almost 20 years. Don't think of a charcoal briquet you'd toss in the grill, which is almost blue black. Clinique's product is a mid-toned grey grounded by a hint of brown. Although it is a powder, it's waxier than eyeshadow. Perfect for those of us with ashy brows, even fair-skinned ash blondes because you can comb out any excess to bring the saturation down. Overall, it is an outstanding product, and although there are only four colors from which to choose, I would guess that 90% of us could find a decent match from one of Clinique's offerings. My alabaster-skinned, True Autumn mother, for example, wears Wheat.
Unfortunately, Charcoaled has recently started to appear too dark, as my brows have begun to fade and thin.

As my hair began to grey and cool even further, and the slow lightening reduced the contrast levels, I embarked on the hunt for a lighter replacement of Shaping Charcoaled in the same hue. I never imagined it would be so difficult. Yet I have spent three baffling years looking for an appropriate brow color, failing time after time after time.

The problem is that designers and manufacturers don't seem to understand that ASH is a COOL GREY color, whether it's wood ash, paper ash, or charcoal ash. All you need do is look at the tip of a burned-down cigarette, or shovel out the refuse from a wood fire, and you can see that those lightweight, flyaway particles are grey and cool, not warm or golden brown or reddish brown.

Does that look warm and brown to you?  (source)

Yet almost every single color I purchased with the word "ash" in its name or description contained visible yellow in it. Sometimes red. Even reviews on Makeup Alley confused me. Did I have special eyes, where only I could see the warmth? I doubt it. I just think the majority of humans buying makeup are warmer in tone.

I doubled my efforts, hoping to find the perfect brow color to replace the utilitarian Clinique Brow Shaper, knowing it had to be out there.

I liked Laura Mercier Brow Definer in Warm (Warm Brunette), which a friend told me was actually a mostly cool mid-toned charcoal brown. The wax formula is excellent with great longevity. Unfortunately, Warm presented the same issue as Charcoaled: Too dark. Ultimately, the color wasn't quite cool enough, either.

I next tried the two other colors in Mercier's Brow Definer formula, Soft and Fair:
  • Soft (Deep Blonde/Light Brunette) was a lighter, neutral-leaning brown that was too warm because of its red undertones. It turned my brows auburn, but Soft could be an option for cool-neutral/warm-neutral skin tones.

  • Fair (Light Blonde) was downright warm. Whoever has been calling this color "ash" and "cool" in reviews must be looking at it in a parallel universe, not on mine. Or their skin is very warm toned. Light is a warm yellow brown, which I could see the moment I unscrewed the lid.

And why do brands automatically think that if you are blonde, you are a golden blonde? Perhaps because it's been the Hollywood standard for decades (even though there were plenty of platinum blondes in Hollywood's golden era). Aren't there a ton of ash blondes/light ash brunettes walking around in the world, or are we such a minority that our wee spending power can't support R&D for appropriate shades?

Other brands and colors I tried and rejected in the last couple years (just so you don't have to):
  • Clinique Brow Shaper in Taupe and Wheat, both too warm. I should have known better with Wheat, but Taupe seemed promising. It was a failure. Taupe is a warm reddish taupe brown. The Clinique sales associate shuddered and, without a word, handed me a cotton pad soaked with Take The Day Off and slid Charcoaled toward me.

  • Clinique Superfine Liner for Brows in Soft Blonde — too warm/yellow. Even now I can see yellow in the product swatch, so I have no idea why I even bought it. Desperation.

  • MAC Impeccable Brow Pencil, Dirty Blonde. One would think this would be an ashy color, since "dirty blonde" is often synonymous with "mouse brown," which by its definition is grey brown. And when I first pulled the cap off, I danced with joy because it looked perfect. Alas, it was not to be, as it was too warm. It looks as though MAC has discontinued the color anyway.

  • Chantecaille Brow Definer in Ash Blonde. This pencil looked extremely promising, but the online color swatch below is completely misleading. In fact, if this pencil didn't lay down a golden blonde stripe, I will eat it. Or I would if I still had it. I returned it immediately and without a shred of guilt due to false advertising.

  • Anastasia Tinted Brow Gel in Granite. Satisfactory in hue, Granite was too dark. Moreover, as gel products deposit color on the hairs, like mascara, they do virtually nothing to fill in bare patches, unless you want to poke wet color onto the skin and brush it out with the wand.

  • Becca Brow Powder, Fair. The online color looked promising. Alas, the swatch and writeup was incorrect. The second I lifted the lid I could tell it would be wrong, and it was, indeed, too warm and golden brown against my skin. (UPDATE: Becca Brow Powder in Ash is cool enough but (... wait for it ...) too dark.

  • Three Custom Colors Brow Powder, #2. The product writeup says "ideal for ash blondes or those with light ash brown, gray or salt and pepper hair." 3CC usually does an amazing job with color matching, but #2 gave me yellow-orange brows.

  • Prescriptives Groom Stick for Brows in Clove.  One of the best I tried in a twist-up pencil, but my skin projected the whisper of red undertones, so it was not an ideal product on me. It's also too dark, but I do have one of these in my dressing table and I still use it occasionally.

  • Shiseido Hard Formula Brow Pencil in Seal Brown 02. and Stone Grey 05.   Both too warm.

Failing miserably with traditional brow products, I next experimented with eyeshadow as brow filler:
  • Bobbi Brown (matte) eyeshadows in Cement, Grey, and Slate and the Long-wear Cream Eyeshadows in Cement and Slate ... all turned yellow on me, much the way they do on my eyelids—although Slate comes closest to being acceptable in hue but too high in value.
  • Maybelline Color Tattoo 24 Hour Eyeshadow in Tough as Taupe. Not horrible, as far as color goes, but I didn't care for the crispy eyebrows the cream shadow created. Also, just too dark. (Great eyeshadow, though.)
  • MAC (matte/matte2) Eyeshadows in Coquette, Wedge, Omega, Mystery, and Concrete—all too warm and/or sludgy. Copperplate was the best of the MAC eyeshadows I tried in my brow hairs, but it was still too warm. Copperplate and Mystery have now been discontinued.
  • Prescriptives U-Pick eyeshadow, Pewter. Almost identical to Clinique Charcoaled with less staying power. Plus it's been discontinued for ages. Meh.
  • Chantecaille Lasting Eye Shade in Zinc and Patchouli. Colors were wrong, and the powder blew off my brows when my cat sneezed across the room.
All failures. I am sure there were many other attempts and failures, but I have forgotten them.

And yet, the news isn't all bad. You didn't think I was going to just write a post about how fruitless the choices are and how we ash blondes/browns are left in the dust, did you?

There does seem to be an almost-good-enough solution: Yves Saint Laurent Eyebrow Pencil 004 ... in  Ash. And it really IS ash; in fact the online swatch at Nordstrom is more realistic.

The texture is interesting. It's hard, similar to Shu Uemura's hard brow pencil formula, but not quite as hard. I immediately thought of Shu when I first swatched 004 on the back of my hand and noticed it deposited almost no color, that I had to sweep back and forth several times until the pencil deposited enough color I could see. It showed up better when I applied eye primer before swatching.

The following two photos are comparisons (in different light) of the standby color I've worn for years, along with some recently tried-and-rejected products. All are compared to YSL Ash for color context.

Indirect sunlight

You can see how Laura Mercier's Fair and Soft clash against my pink undertones. Even Shu's Seal Brown has warm red undertones I'd never noticed before. Mercier's Warm isn't bad and Clinique's Charcoaled is a near-perfect color, but both are too dark. YSL's Ash (which I had to gunk on heavily to get it to show up) was the current winner—but it it is far from perfect because my skin projects yellow undertones that are not visible when looking directly at the pencil "lead".

Natural indoor lighting

I am still in an arranged-marriage honeymoon phase with the Yves Saint Laurent Eyebrow Pencil, and since pencils have never been my first choice, I have one product left to try, which is on its way to me: Anastasia Brow Powder Duo in Ash Blonde/Cool Taupe. Dare I hope they mean what they say when they say "ash?" It looks very promising, and if the reviews are to be trusted, it really is cool toned, but the product image ... well, let's just say I have my doubts.

The above Nordstrom swatch makes the duo appear warm, but when I see it in context with Anastasia's Golden Blonde duo, it looks less warm. 

Bottom line: The YSL pencil is, so far, the best new color I have come across in years for purely cool-toned skin that is fair. It isn't perfect, but it's pretty good.

UPDATE March 2013: The Anastasia Duo powder product was a disappointment, as I found nothing ashy about it whatsoever. It appeared yellow. Also, over time the YSL Ash pencil appeared more and more warm. The product I have been using for the last few weeks is an eyeshadow: Inglot 349M, a lighter and cooler version of MAC Omega.  Cool in hue, right chroma, and good staying power. It's pretty good, but the search is not over.

UPDATE Dec 2013: I'm still searching. Shiseido Natural Brow Pencil in GY901 Natural Black is pretty excellent. It's not really black, more a medium cool grey that I can feather on to the desired intensity. I have also been experimenting with Bobbi Brown's newish eyeshadow called Cool Ivory. It's everything I wanted Cement to be. They look similar in the pan, but Cool Ivory is decidedly more ash (cool). I've been using it as brow filler and a subtle contour, and it's pretty good but not perfect, as it is took light but may hold promise after my brows are fully greyed.

UPDATE 2017: I flit back and forth between Clinique Charcoaled and Shiseido Natural Black. I actually used and repurchased the Shiseido, which says a lot. Which product I chose depends on whether I want pencil or powder. THE HUNT CONTINUES.

Laura Mercier, Chantecaille, Clinique and YSL, Shisido, and Anastasia product images from Nordstrom. Becca and 3CC from Dermstore. MAC taken by me.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Friday Fun (Part II)

I am so sorry to do this to you, dear readers, but it is hotter than the hinges of hell here, and I just thought of having some ice cream.

Of course ... YOU will probably never eat ice cream again.

Julie Hewett Camellia Lip Balm — Ruby and Rose

I am fairly certain I've mentioned I am a lip balm fanatic. I have been since my early teens, and I wear it all the time, even under lipstick. My favorite, by far, is Camellia Balm by Julie Hewett. It comes in stick form, plain and sheer, packaged in her basic black lipstick tubes. It also comes potted. With a tint.

This product is amazing, a true staple. The texture is silky, and it sinks in as it warms up on the skin, but it still leaves behind some shine. This lip balm is truly hall of fame and made it into my 2011 favorites. There's no doubt it will also be among my 2012 favorites. And 2013 and ...

Ruby and Rose potted balm (oversaturated image/warm looking when it's not)

Rose has very subtle pigment. It shows up as a light glowy pink on my medium-pigmented, mauvish lips. 

Ruby, on the other hand, is surprisingly pigmented for such a sheer wash of moisture.

Obligatory white paper swatch: Rose and Ruby

I recently returned from a few weeks of living on the beach surrounded by woods, so I didn't need much in terms of makeup. I lived among the mosquitoes, ducks, loons, fish, egrets, and seals in Julie Hewett Camellia balms—day and night. Now that I am back in my real world, among human creatures, I find this lip balm is outstanding at sheering out matte lipsticks that I love but which can feel a bit dry as they sit on my lips throughout the day.

Get thee to the Julie Hewett web site and buy some Camellia balm. Stat! And I highly recommend subscribing to their newletter so you can be notified of any product launches and sales.

Bottom line: Best. Lip. Balm. Ever.

All photos taken by me

Friday Fun

Disclaimer: Completely safe for work, but you might want to listen with headphones. If you're at home, turn the volume up to 11.

Question of the day: Do we beauty-product lovers get this excited over new collections?

Meanwhile, I am confident the videographer's pants exploded. I sure hope someone offered him a cigarette.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Chanel Glossimer 166 Amour

When I was last at the Chanel counter, I picked up a new Glossimer in the color Amour (166). Much to my delight when I arrived home, I noticed the sales associate had tucked a tiny gift version into my bag.

Amour was part of the the Roses Ultimes de Chanel collection last winter. According to the online literature, the model below is wearing Amour over Chanel's Pink Sugar Lip Pencil (which also contains shimmer). And, yes, they do look that beautiful together.

For some reason the promo picture reminds me of a Kate Bush album cover.

When I look through the tube, I see a cool pinkish peach, or maybe when I turn it just so, the color appears more as a sheer, slightly-bright coral.


Some Glossimers are very shimmery, but Amour's glitter factor is more subtle.

Bottom line: Gorgeous, especially this time of year when the made-up world is wearing bronzes and peaches.

All photos mine except for the Chanel promo and Kate bush album cover. Obviously.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Chanel Rouge Coco Shine 56 Chance

Chanel Rouge Coco Shine 56 Chance is a neutral, warm-leaning pastel pink, and is one of the few with no shimmer.

Chance is slightly less sheer than the other Rouge Coco Shines I own. It is also not a good match for my coloring, and the texture is disappointing, applying a bit patchy.

Chance compared to Aventure and Romance

I had posted a Rouge Coco Shine lineup in my review on Fétiche, but here it is again for your convenience. You can see how Chance appears to be the lightest of the bunch, but actually Royallieu (upcoming review) is the most light and sheer. I guess I also need to review Boy and Aventure.

Top left clockwise: Fétiche, Boy, Romance, Chance, Antigone, Royallieu, Aventure

Here's a slightly closer view:

Bottom line: My first Rouge Coco Shine disappointment. However, if your skin tone is neutral to warm, and your lips are not terribly pigmented, this might be a gorgeous choice for you.

All photos (c) Everyday Beauty