Monday, December 27, 2010

Giorgio Armani Beauty Giveaway Contest - Three Rouge d'Armani Lipsticks

While I'm "laid up" for a few days (and not blogging - sob!), I thought it would be fun to leave you with a giveaway contest. Our friend Loyd Cassler and the Armani Beauty team at Saks Fifth Avenue in Chevy Chase, Maryland, decided to help out. Aren't they generous? They donated three fabulous Rouge d'Armani lipsticks for the contest. They sure know how to treat beauty addicts!

The shades are Beige 102, a beautiful pink-beige sure to please all neutral lovers; Rouge 402, a a blue red that borders on plum; and Pink 500, a lavender pink. You can see swatches of all the shades at this Giorgio Armani Beauty link.

We will have three winners! To enter to win this week's giveaway contest, just leave a comment here once. Tell me in the comment which lipstick you would love to have. After you comment, feel free to e-mail and identify your comment. You can never be too careful about sharing your e-mail address on a blog, so I would follow this second step if I were you (an alternative is to code your e-mail, e.g., myname at gmail dot com, in your comment).

You can "earn" a second entry by tweeting this contest. Just make sure to include "@BTiBeauty" (without the quotes) in your tweet. I will tweet the contest this evening, and you can simply retweet it to earn that second entry. You can earn a third entry by following the blog - either here or on Twitter (any entrant who is already a follower will automatically earn the follower point). I can't track followers through a third-party service, so you need to be on Google's list for me to verify the entry.

The deadline for entries will be Monday, January 3, at midnight. The next morning, I will use a random number generator ( to select the winner. I will e-mail the winner at that time. The winners will have 48 hours to reply to my message and provide a shipping address. After 48 hours, the prize will be forfeited, and another winner will be selected. Make sure to check your e-mail - and look in your spam folder - when the contest ends.

This contest is open to U. S. and Canadian residents only. I won't be able to go to the Post Office the week the contest ends, but I can do Click-n-Ship!

Good Luck!

Photo courtesy of Giorgio Armani Beauty

Meet Our Beauty Blogger Roundup Team - Jane

Every week, I post a Weekend Roundup with exciting features written by our beauty blogging friends. They post the roundup too. Some of them have joined us recently, while others have been with us since the roundup's get-go. We thought it would be a great idea if you got to know each of us a little better to find out what drives the beauty passion we share. This week, we meet Jane from Daly Beauty.

Jane lives in Canada and works in real estate. I found Jane through The Non-Blonde. Love reading her blog! You will too, and you can keep up with her on Twitter.

When did you start blogging and why?
I have always been a beauty junkie, but I didn't know what that was until I started reading beauty blogs. I started blogging as an experiment (I know nothing about html or that programming stuff!), and as a personal outlet. My friends would ask for advice regularly, and I was known to offer unsolicited beauty tips as well. So I guess I wanted to share what I know and what I love.

Every blog seems to have a special voice - what's the message on your blog?
My message is that beauty is everywhere if you look for it and that all of us are beautiful. It's all about finding the confidence to experiment and have fun while finding the beauty that is inside us all.

Have you always been a beauty fanatic or did it come later in life for you?
What made it blossom? I don't ever recall a time that I wasn't a beauty fanatic. My earliest memories are perfume related - standing on my tip-toes at my mother's vanity and smelling her Shalimar, playing with her cake mascara (along with our dog - that's another whole story...). My aunt was a full-blown beauty and perfume junkie, and I always felt at home in her room - her round bed with velvet tufted headboard and a dresser FULL of perfumes. Her room always smelled like the ground floor of a major department store, and to this day that is my favorite smell in the world (after the smell of my children's heads...).

Tell us a little about yourself.
I love to read and love beach vacations - my dream is a good long book and a warm beach with crashing waves and sunshine. Heaven. I love to spend time with my daughters - they are 14 and 22, and we have a blast together, always. We love to shop, naturally, and beauty shopping is something we could do every day. No one makes me laugh as hard as they do. One of our favorite activities is to get a delish coffee and get our hair done. Our stylist is a genius and can fit us all in, rotating between the three of us. For us, it's ALL about the hair. Modern and mid-century modern design and architecture are a passion as well, and I like to think I incorporate that clean simple and modern aesthetic into my beauty routines.

What's your daily beauty routine?
Simple - moisturize, tinted moisturizer or primer (lately a good primer on its own has been my go-to) a little concealer, blush/bronzer, neutral eye shadow, and a touch of mascara. A nice plumping clear lip gloss and, of course, perfume, and I'm good to go.

If we were to invade your beauty closet what surprises would we find?
That I have some makeup brushes over 15 years old...I care for them like babies, and it amazes me how a good-quality brush will last for ages. I do need to get some new ones, though.

How many lipsticks/glosses can be found in your handbag at any given time?
Oh geez. At least five.

What's the best beauty advice you've ever received?
Wash your face before going to bed. No matter how tired I am, I always do this.

That's great advice - and it's amazing how many women don't follow it! Head over to Daly Beauty, where you will find a photo of Jane's darling daughters, Brigit and Emilie.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Chanel Spring 2011 Collection Joues Contraste Powder Blush in Espiègle

I ordered the new Chanel Joues Contraste Powder Blush in 65 Espiègle ($42) online, where I found the photo at left. The shade appeared to be a peachy pink. When it arrived, I thought for a second that I had received the wrong blush. I hadn't. Espiègle is very peach. It's a beautiful color, just not what I expected.

Take a look at my photo to below right. This is a true representation of the color of Espiègle. I took my photo in bright sunlight. The color is a light peach, very warm, and to my eye, it has a hint of gold. I don't see the pink, and it's not marbled, as the Chanel photo appeared.

Chanel's powder blusher does have a lot going for it. Espiègle offers buildable coverage with its silky texture, and imparts a flattering radiance to cheeks. This one is not shimmery - rather it glows. The remarkably silky texture ensures an easy, light application and blending. Espiègle is very sheer, allowing you to apply just a wash of color to coordinate with the sultry eyes you'll create with Ombres Perlées de Chanel. It works with the Spring 2011 collection.

My swatch photo was taken in full sun. You can see that the shade on my skin is just a peach as it appears in the compact. The sunshine makes it look sparkly, but it's not. It's a pretty shade. Is it unique? No - unfortunately not. If you love peach blush, you will want it. If you have 20 peach blushers, you might want to take a look at Espiègle at the counter before you purchase. Had I done so, I think I would have passed.

How can I suggest you pass on a beautiful blush? Easy! If you plan to spend your hard-earned money on Chanel for Spring 2011, buy one of the eye shadow compacts, a lip color (still to be reviewed here), or Le Vernis in Black Pearl - the stars of the collection.

You can purchase Ombres Perlées de Chanel at Chanel's own Web site and Chanel counters everywhere.

Photo at top courtesy of Chanel

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Weekend Roundup - Christmas Day, December 25

Can you believe it? It's Christmas! Even though we all have different ways of celebrating the holiday, and different reasons, we come together with friends and family today to remember our shared values of peace, love, and joy. May your holiday shine!

I hope Santa brought you some beauty goodies! He left some for me, including a fantabulous CREED candle! It's Cocktail de Pivoines, or "cocktail of peonies." It has top notes of Italian lemon and heart notes of peony, ylang ylang, and Indian jasmine. A sweet friend knew I really wanted it. It's going to smell good here during January. The scent permeates a room with flowers, even unlit.

We can't skip our Weekend Roundup, holiday or not! Our beauty blogging friends were busy this week, like Santa's elves, helping you find the best of the best. Check out our favorite features from the last week.

Three of us were smitten with Chanel's Ombres Perlées de Chanel for Spring 2011. Check out Café Makeup for Amy's review, The Beauty Look Book for Sabrina's review, and Best Things in Beauty for my review. Think we love it? Get a gift card for Christmas? This could be your purchase - treat yourself! We reviewed other products from Chanel's spring collection, so make sure to scroll for Chanel when you visit.

Kari found a makeup primer that can be used before or after your makeup application. Intrigued? Find out more about Dior's Crystal Nude Primer at Fab over Forty.

Want a golden glow for New Year's Eve? It's not too late to pick up Guerlain's L'Or Makeup Base. Find out why you need it from Gaia at The Non-Blonde. Her endorsement is as good as Oprah's!

Jennifer was hoping for a treat in her stocking: Philosophy's Hope in a Jar, recently featured in Oprah’s “Ultimate Favorite Things." Read Jennifer's review at BeautyXposé.

Benefit granted two Christmas wishes for Laurie: 1) they gave her an awesome spray tan, and 2) a new boxed blush, Bella Bamba! Benefit’s newest face powder brings something new to the Benefit line-up, with promises of a 3-D brightening effect. Read all about it at Product Girl.

Kelly proved she's game for anything at Gouldylox Reviews. Water Marbling isn't for everyone, but if you find yourself snowed in, it's a fun look to try.

Jane got in the Christmas spirit at Daly Beauty. Head over to find out what's ringing her bells for the holidays.

Find out why Debbi was knocked over by a Dior advertisement from 2007 - still airing, still alluring. When you visit DivaDebbi, let her know if you think Charlize Theron knocked it out of the park for Dior.

Was Santa good to you? Hope you enjoy your holiday!

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! I hope Santa was good to you, tucking some beauty-full goodies into your stocking. You did hang it by the chimney with care, right?

Despite the imagery, we have no snow here - and I'm glad! The forecast calls for some flurries tonight and a "minor snowfall" tomorrow. I can't deal with snow while I try to finish preparations for the next week. I hear that friends from the Mid-West to Paris are blanketed with the white stuff, and more is headed toward the East Coast. While picturesque, it's terribly inconvenient. Just think of the extra reindeer Santa needs to give the sleigh traction!

I've left the morning meal for the foxes and raccoons, and I'll be headed out soon with food for the birds and squirrels. Charlie and Savannah have eaten. I'm looking forward to a mimosa and raspberry croissant. All is well at our house. I'm headed downstairs to open some presents too.

I'll be back later this morning with our Weekend Roundup. Until then, savor the day! Hope you have fun.

If you'd like to go off to You Tube to hear one of my all time favorite Christmas carols sung by Barbara Padilla (yes, I'm still bummed she didn't win), check out this link. Incredibly hard to sing - hard to believe I used to be able sing it. Another beautiful version, if you can stand the quick advertisement, is here. No question Renée Fleming can sing!

Update 9:20 AM: It's snowing. It wasn't supposed to happen, except for flurries tonight. How could this be?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Chanel Ombres à Paupières Quatuor in Regard Perlé for Spring 2011

Chanel's Quadra Eye Shadow, 20 Regard Perlé ($56) for Spring 2011 should not be overlooked just because we are all smitten with Ombres Perlées de Chanel. Ombres à Paupières Quatuor in Regard Perlé has a lot going for it.

The photo of Regard Perlé on Chanel's Web site is not true, so I took my own. It's much closer to the appearance of the four shadows in the compact. The only problem with my photo is that you can't really see the green in the upper left shade in the quad. What I find interesting is that the green cast that I can see clearly with my eye in the pan doesn't translate onto my arm. The shade is much more charcoal on the skin - similar to what the camera captures. I haven't had it long enough to play with the color in different lights or with other colors to see if I can force the green into the limelight.

There is nothing revolutionary about these four shades - they are simply pleasing. I swatched the quad clockwise, starting at the top left. All shadows were applied with a sponge-tipped applicator, and my photo was taken in sun.

The pink shade is pretty; I like the tone. The ivory shade is a great highlighter. I've even used a light application as a wash across my lower lid and as a base for layering other shades to create my own look. It's useful! The star of the show for me is the peach shade. It's peach, but it also has nuances of gold and bronze. It's a stunning hybrid of all three colors, and I suspect I'll wear it more often than the other three shades. If you have blue or green eyes, the peach shade will make them pop!

The texture of these shadows is creamy for a powder, and you shouldn't suffer from shadow fallout on your cheekbones. The shimmer - more of a gleam - is tame. It's much tamer than other Chanel shadows of late, so I think it will be a nice addition to your spring makeup wardrobe.

You can see and purchase Ombres à Paupières Quatuor in Regard Perlé and the rest of Les Perles de Chanel at Chanel's own Web site and Chanel counters everywhere.

Photos by BTiB

Merry Christmas! The Magic of Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve, a day of anticipation, last-minute preparations, or both. It's almost as magical as Christmas Day! When I was growing up, we trimmed our Christmas tree on Christmas Eve - actually, I did when I was old enough. My father would wire the tree to hooks on the baseboard so that it wouldn't tip over (say, if a cat decided to climb it), and we would drag out the ornaments - antique and new - to turn it from a beautiful tree into a splendid tree. With the Nativity scene and all the packages under the tree, it was the focus of our living room until New Year's Day. Today, I will hang my wreath on the door in memory of our family tradition.

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas. Even if you don't celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday, it's such a festive time of year - a national holiday, a day of dinners with family and friends, a day of recollections.

It's time for The Friday Forum, although I suspect most of you will be way too busy to stop by. Today, I'll be continuing my preparations for my knee surgery - have to dash out to get lots of cat food this morning. It was extremely cold here yesterday, with a biting wind. I'm hoping for a nicer day. I'll be writing another feature about the new Chanel spring collection and wrapping a few presents. I also want to deliver a gift to a friend who lives nearby. I'll be here most of the day if you'd like to chat.

Thanks for reading Best Things in Beauty! You have been my joy this year! I hope your Christmas brings you love, comfort, and joy - maybe even a Christmas carol or two. Merry Christmas!

Photo courtesy of

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Chanel Ombres Perlées de Chanel for Spring 2011

Chanel's Spring 2011 Collection Les Perles de Chanel Palette Yeux is a stunner. Earlier this week, I received the pieces I had purchased online. On Tuesday, I went over to Saks and picked up the pieces I had purchased over the phone. I bought six items - the first Chanel collection in a long time that has inspired me to purchase deeply into the look.

Over the next few days, I will be showing you the items that sang to me. Today I'll feature Ombres Perlées de Chanel ($65), a limited-edition eye shadow palette that has an unusual powder texture - creamy, almost spongy in the pan.

The palette offers five luminous shades that flatter the eyes a bit differently in every light. The ultra-refined powder formula, with the luster of fine pearls, is presented in five shades: Blanc Perle, Rose Porcelaine, Violine Clair, Gris Vert, and Gris Noir. All leave a beautiful sheen on the eyelids, a sheen that clings. There's no fallout, no micro-glitter, no artificial powder look to these, features that have turned some off to Chanel eye shadows. The texture of Ombres Perlées de Chanel is exquisite.

The magic of this palette comes from its success in mimicking the luster of pearls. Each shade is characterized by the reflective quality or brilliance of the nacre on the pearl's surface. The more lustrous the pearl, the more it shines and reflects light. The more heavily you apply these shadows, the more lustrous they become. The palette is a perfect tribute to Coco Chanel, whose love of pearls is legendary.

Blanc Perle is vanilla-toned, and Rose Porcelaine is a pigmented peach on my skin. The other three shades are smoky. What I like about them is the ease with which I can modulate the intensity of each. I layered them fairly heavily on my arm, using a sponge-tipped applicator. On the first pass, the color is a shadow - exactly what "eye shadow" should be. As I build the color, the personality of each shade appears. This is probably the best photo of the shades I got during the brief snatch of sun we enjoyed yesterday. The shades, shown top to bottom as they are listed above, span a color range that give this palette a flexibility that many don't offer.

My absolute, without-a-doubt favorite shade is Gris Vert - one of the prettiest smoky greens I have seen in a long time. Gris Vert, with the characteristic pearl tones, has the look of a green pearl, rare in nature, expensive in jewelery, but oh so pretty against the skin. I have green pearl earrings I adore. It's a classy shade.

Violine Clair, a smoky violet, is best used on my skin with a light hand, but that's my lavender aversion speaking. It has the same luster that Gris Vert offers - luminously pretty. Gris Noir is more traditional, but sophisticated, a charcoal or gunmetal grey with just a hint of taupe on my skin. In a different light, it might reflect green or blue. It's a complex shade, one that I suspect will adopt the tone of the shadows it's near. I'll know more after I have more time with it. While I may not use Gris Noir to the bottom of the pan, like some of the other shades, it's a stunner on the lids - and a perfect eyeliner.

The shades blend beautifully, so the custom shades you can create for your smoky eye are limitless. Even though I don't think of these shades as "spring," spring in the world of beauty introductions isn't spring anymore. It's winter, the perfect time for a smoky eye. By spring, cosmetics companies will have introduced their summer collections, for a lighter look to wear as your mood and attire lighten.

I've read universally flattering reviews of Ombres Perlées de Chanel (my friends Sabrina at The Beauty Look Book and Amy at Café Makeup have both reviewed it). We're all impressed! That means you should look for it - see if you can resist. You can use the shades with a light hand for day, but you'll find the palette most useful for creating a glamorous evening look. Make sure to wear pearls.

You can purchase Ombres Perlées de Chanel at Chanel's own Web site and Chanel counters everywhere.

Photos at top courtesy of Chanel

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Fresh Island Reverie Face Palette

At the Fresh event at Neiman Marcus, I purchased the Island Reverie Face Palette ($55) Jawn used on me. Turns out this palette was introduced about two years ago, but it's still so popular, Neiman Marcus had to have it sent to me from another store.

The palette has three eye shadows: Tiare, Plumeria, and Rum - all named to evoke the delicious floral fragrance of a tropical island - or the splash of run that that screams "vacation." The palette also contains a blush, Island Reverie, and a bronzer, Treasure Cove. All in all, it's a warm, sunny, tropical delight.

Jawn mixed Tiare and Plumeria together to apply them on my eyelids. The effect was a delightful light peach that warmed my look and made me want the palette. One thing I really love about the palette is the combination of the blusher and bronzer - also perfect for mixing on your brush. Or you can use them to follow Alyson's bronzing techniques (if you didn't read her advice, just click here).

Rum is a great eyeliner color, particularly for those who want to go easy on liner - nothing dramatic, just some punch. It coordinates beautifully with the other shades, so you will find the palette perfect for one-stop color.

My swatch photo was taken in less-than-ideal conditions: in my office in direct, but not sunny light. I swatched the top row of the palette, left to right, and the bottom row left to right also. At the top of my arm, you can barely see Tiare. Actually, you can see the bruise on the side of my arm better than the eye shadow. Tiare is almost skin toned, but with a golden touch. Plumeria is a golden peach - much easier to see in the photo (right above the line of rum). The darkest color is rum, the brown liner. It's a medium brown - not warm, not cool - a perfect contrast to the sunny shades with which it's packaged. The blush, Island Reverie, is definitely warm. A pinky-toned peach, it's a nice shade to warm us up for winter. I haven't had much time to play with the bronzer, but I will. I'll have plenty of time in January!

This is a nice palette, and it appears that demand for it remains strong, years after its introduction. You can find it at Neiman Marcus. I did a quick Web scan and found it hard to locate otherwise. Fresh doesn't offer it at its own Web site anymore. Oddly, you can buy it at, but you'll pay more for it than I did at Neiman Marcus. What's with that?

Photo at top courtesy of Amazon

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Kō Denmark Organic Jasmine + Neroli Roll-On Perfume

I'm tipsy from another rollerball! Kō Denmark Organic Jasmine + Neroli Roll-On Perfume ($45) is created with pure flower oils. Jasmine and neroli oils are known for their enticing scents. Both oils were originally traded along the silk road in the 16th century by European aristocrats. I'm carrying that legacy around with me in my little roll-on fragrance.

Barely two inches tall, this little wonder is packed with purity. The ingredients are organic grape alcohol, Indian jasmine grandiflorum absolute, and Tunisian neroli essential oil. That's it! Three ingredients! With nothing to confuse the pure scents of jasmine and neroli, this little fragrance is intoxicating. I know we overuse the word "intoxicating," but I don't know a better way to describe a scent that pulls in my nose like a magnet finds stray paper clips.

Kō Denmark’s has based a small, boutique line around its two pure organic key ingredients: jasmine and neroli. It takes one ton of flower blossoms to produce just 16 ounces of oil, which makes those two flowers five times more precious than silver! As an antique silver lover, I find that amazing. It also explains the price of this little wonder.

In an "Underground Beauty" article in Allure, I found the following teaser.

Most of us would be hard-pressed to recall an experiment we performed in high school chemistry class, but Henriette Holst has made a career out of one. The assignment? Create a soap from vegetable and plant oils like jojoba. Her grade? 11 out of 13 (her school was in Denmark). Holst continued making the soap for family and friends through college and then, five years ago, turned her hobby into a business. The first product she sold - a jojoba-and-organic-aloe-juice lotion scented with jasmine and neroli flower oils - has developed a following around Seattle. "I wanted a top notch moisturizing lotion for my sensitive skin that was free of artificial fragrance and preservatives," Holst says. She spent two years researching essential oils, consulted an aromatherapist and chemist along the way, and drew on her Danish roots to design the packaging.

How could I not try it? I love jasmine and neroli, I have sensitive skin, and there's always a reason cult fragrances are so popular (just use Child as your example). I decided to introduce myself to the line by purchasing the rollerball. Now I must have the body wash and body lotion. Then I'll be a total Kō groupie. I plan to order them so that they arrive in January, a brutal, sterile month when fragrance treats are a delight. I can't think of a natural scent I associate with January - or February. Once the natural world stirs, I make associations. Months bring memories from the garden. Even December - not the most active time in the garden - is associated with pine, which so many of us carry into our homes. January? I draw a blank.

If you want to try a fragrance that's extremely portable and will stop others in their tracks, try Jasmine + Neroli. You can find it at the Kō Denmark Web site; Beautyhabit, where I bought mine; and b~glowing, which introduced it recently.

Photo courtesy of Kō Denmark

Monday, December 20, 2010

The "Whys and Wherefores" of the Next Two Weeks

On December 28, I will be losing the knee with which I was born - the one that performed with strength and stamina through my sporting days. It supported me as I ran, jogged, power walked, played tennis and racquetball, led cheers, practiced gymnastics, worked in my garden, and trudged through hills, forests, and streams trying to gain conservation easements to save pristine land and wildlife habitat. My legs, and thus my knees, are a part of my history. I'm sentimental about losing part of me.

The problem with joints is that they wear out. I'm not sure God expected us to live as long as we do these days, and our knees and hips are going kaput long before the rest of us. No one ever told me that I would end up a bent-over little old lady, unable to walk normally, if I ran for exercise. The delightful sense of freedom that comes with flying through the air on a beautiful day makes one feel invincible. Years later, when the rush is gone, the pain sets in as the knee joints start to deteriorate. There are many causes for the pain - I had them all - torn cartilage, frayed cartilage, no cartilage (my last set of x-rays showed bone on bone, just as severe as it gets), bone spurs, inflammation. You name it, I've had it - or have it. My knee should be preserved and shown to track teams as a warning for what lies ahead.

I'll go "bionic" on December 28. I've been trying to make my house as clutter-free as a pack rat can stand, but it has been an uphill battle. Charlie and I can hop around piles of unread books or magazines with ease. Who doesn't like to refer to a three-year-old Allure now and then? Those old Escada catalogs? They were like museum pieces. Gone! My to-read pile? Higher. All those eye shadows? Can't part with them; just got them out of harm's way. A metal walker, the one I might be using for a week or two after I get home, won't be as limber. It should be an interesting time when I first come home from the hospital. I am pretty sure I'll be going up and down the stairs on my butt. I did that after arthroscopic surgery - works like a charm.

I am tying to decide whether to give away all my gorgeous pencil skirts. This is how my knee will look soon after the surgery. Not pretty! I've seen knee replacement scars many years out, and they never fade into oblivion. I guess it will be dark pantyhose for me if I choose to wear a knee-length skirt again.

I enjoy success stories, like Liza Minnelli's. The legendary entertainer underwent a knee replacement earlier this year, but is now back working and delighted by how quickly she regained her strength and energy.

“I’m running around like a wild woman,” she said. “You know it’s quite traumatic, having a full knee replacement. But I’m back in dance class every day, plus I go to the trainer. The strength is getting really great, and I’m touring all over the place. My god, I’m everywhere!”

That's what I want! I want to run around everywhere, and while I may have to get the right knee done before I'm able to be my zippy old self. I used to be the fastest walker in any group; I'm determined.

Why am I telling you all this? With the competing demands of getting organized for Christmas, working (I have a "real job"), and getting everything ready (I've banked my blood, picked up my post-surgery prescriptions, seen more physicians and assistants than I can count), I will probably publish only one beauty post per day this week. Then, unless I can find the time to schedule some features to publish while I'm in the hospital, the blog may go unattended for three days. We'll see. I can't take my iPad to the hospital. It's a thief magnet. It might be interesting, though, to see what I'd write while on morphine.

I'll "see you" a lot this week - just not as frequently as I usually do. Just wanted you to know what's up. If for some reason you take off for the holidays without any access to Internet service, I hope you have a fabulous time. Please let us all know in the comments if you've got anything special planned. In the meantime, I am going to make sure to get some new catnip toys at the local pet supply store. Just another thing to do.

Photos by USAtoday,, and showbizspy

Meet Our Beauty Blogger Roundup Team - Gaia

Every week, I post a Weekend Roundup with exciting features written by our beauty blogging friends. They post the roundup too. Some of them have joined us recently, while others have been with us since the roundup's get-go. We thought it would be a great idea if you got to know each of us a little better to find out what drives the beauty passion we share. This week, we meet Gaia from The Non-Blonde.

When did you start blogging and why?

April 2006. I'd been reading beauty and perfume blogs for about six months at that time, but kept feeling that none of them completely addressed my needs and tastes. I also realized I had quite a bit to say, and finally decided to give this blogging thing a shot, though I wasn't even sure anyone other than my mom would ever read it.

Every blog seems to carry a special voice. What's your special message for your blog?
I write the blog I want to read. I'm interested in luxury products, perfume, the beauty and fashion business in general, and I'm a bit too sarcastic for my own good. But the main thing is that I want to show that talking about beauty (and all that's related to it) is not necessarily the domain of the "mean girls" from high school. Smart and nerdy girls love lipstick, too.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I'm 40, married, and child-free. I have 10 cats (not a typo), love reading, antiquing, old movies, and NYC. I'm also a vegetarian and a sci-fi geek.

What's your daily beauty routine?
I'm a skincare fanatic. Gentle cleansers that prepare the skin for more - serums, creams, hydrating mists. All the things that give makeup a boost from beneath. Then I start with color - usually there's at least one new thing I'm testing at any given time. It's never boring.

How many lipsticks/glosses can be found in your handbag at any given time?
Four or five. The problem is the number of handbags I have in rotation. It makes for interesting times when I'm trying to locate a specific gloss that is an absolute must to complete the look I've envisioned.

What's the best beauty advice you've ever received?

"Never skimp on skincare."-- My mother

How often do you actually go to stores or events to research new products or releases?
Let's just say that Bergdorf Goodman is "where everybody knows my name" (and skin tone and lipstick preferences)...

We should have asked her, "How did you name your blog?" Gaia told me that when she started blogging, all the popular blogs were written by blonds. She needn't have worried that she would be confused with others. Her voice is unique and compelling.

I'm sure you've met Gaia on her blog, The Non-Blonde, but if you haven't, you need to put it on your must-read list. It's on mine!

Photo provided by The Non-Blonde

Sunday, December 19, 2010

My Selections from the NARS Holiday 2010 Color Collection

NARS describes the Holiday 2010 Color Collection as "brazenly mesmerizing." There were a few pieces that I found mesmerizing, and I have two of them at hand. I purchased one the minute the holiday collection was available, and I had another on hold for yesterday's event at Neiman Marcus.

Étrusque ($23) is an antique gold eye shadow, reminiscent of the bronze art for which the Etruscans were known. Applied wet for extra drama or dry, Étrusque washes the lid with gorgeous deep gold. This is a shade that should work for you no matter what your skin tone.

I applied my swatch with a sponge-tipped applicator and took the photo in full sun. You can see that the deep bronze-gold shimmers. It's not at all glittery, and I can apply it lightly for an everyday look, or more heavily for evening. I applied it to my arm fairly heavily for this photo.

Sex Appeal Blush ($26) continues the NARS tradition of racy names. With Orgasm, Sin, and Sex Appeal to color your cheeks, who needs sex? [Couldn't resist!] Sex Appeal is a very light pink that appears to have some peach in it in the pan. On my skin, it's more pink than peach. NARS suggests the blush for foolproof contouring. I think it's a bit light for that. Rather, it's the perfect shade to give a natural flush to fair-skinned beauties. I'm not sure how it will translate on dark skin.

I applied it to my arm with a sponge-tipped applicator and took this photo at the same time I took the one above. It's hard to see the pink - it's the best I could do. It's a light shade, one that leaves a very natural and pretty glow on my cheeks.

One more item tempted me as I shopped online last night. I was ordering the Lili Marlene Cream Eyeshadow that Istvan Hrichak had used as a liner on me. Neiman Marcus has run out of it. While I was online, I finally ordered a holiday lipstick I've been eying: Petit Monstre ($24). Described as a lipstick that saturates the lips in rich, luscious, and luminous berry pigment, Petit Monstre sounded like it was made for me. I'll let you know how I like it when it arrives. I'm anticipating love.

NARS is offering free two-day shipping on orders of $40 or more online (right now). You can also find the Holiday 2010 Color Collection at Neiman Marcus, Sephora,, and other locations. There are other new shades - snazzy ones - that weren't the right shades for me, but they might make your heart flutter.

Photos courtesy of NARS or by BTiB

NARS Event at Neiman Marcus and My New Colors

Yesterday and today, NARS had an event at Neiman Marcus at Tysons Corner. Not just one, but two talented makeup artists joined Product Specialist Neilla Elrod to make us gorgeous. Kathy Shoreman (super SA) made sure I was one of the lucky gals with an appointment, so I went over with my friend Berry (you know, the pretty actress who tested Exuviance Age Reverse).

I lugged my camera over to Neiman Marcus, only to find I hadn't brought any memory for it (duh!), so Kathy took the photo at left with her iPhone. Shown at left are Istvan Hrichak and Magda Ogbe, both National Makeup Artists/Stylists.

The minute we met, Istvan said to me, "I know you!" It took him all of a minute to figure out that we had met about three years ago when he was at Saks Chevy Chase with Giorgio Armani Beauty. How about that! A kindred spirit - we talked people before makeup. Istvan joined NARS this year and is having a blast.

Magda showed me the go-go '70's look François NARS created for the Marc Jacobs show during New York Fashion Week. The glossy, glittery green eyes were created with Night Porter Eyeshadow (pearly dark emerald), Nouveau Monde Duo Eyeshadow, NARS Celebrate Soft Touch Shadow Pencil (new shade for spring 2011), Larger Than Life Volumizing Mascara, and NARS Black Moon Eyeliner Pencil (if I got all that right). Patted with Vasoline to give it a dewy glow, it was dramatically smoky - gorgeous for anyone who can pull of such a dramatic eye.

I eagerly jumped into Istvan's chair. I arrived with a naked face, except for skin care, to give him a blank canvas with which to work. After deciding that a natural look was more my speed, despite my admiration for the deep green drama of the latest runway look, Istvan set to work with primers, concealers, and foundation. He used face and eye primers, a Vanilla/Honey Duo Concealer, and Sheer Glow Foundation in Gobi. I liked Sheer Glow, a satin-finish foundation that imparts a bit of a glow. Replete with skincare benefits and the NARS Complexion Brightening Formula, the foundation leaves dry skin hydrated, more luminous, softer, and smoother. He mixed the already iconic NARS Orgasm Illuminator with my foundation, and then he patted extra illuminator on my cheekbones. I was glowing before my eyes, lips, and cheeks were done!

I loved the eye look he created. He used All About Eve Duo Eyeshadow on the lids. The two shades gave me more neutral color than you might expect from the photo at right. He followed with Ondine (Single Eyeshadow) in the crease. He also used a drop-dead gorgeous Cream Eyeshadow, Lili Marlene, as a liner. It's a dark slate color, not as light as it appears on the NARS Web site, and I loved it. He used it on my upper lash line and in the outer corner of my lower lash line. He gave my brows a little extra oomph with Bali Eyeshadow applied with a small brush. Naturally, he used Larger than Life Lengthening Mascara to finish my eyes.

On the lips? Given free reign to choose, Istvan selected Damage Lipstick, a beautiful mauve-pink - again so much prettier than the Web site make it look. He topped it with Stella Lip Gloss, a muted raspberry with a touch of peach. The combo was beautiful, and the effect was exactly the lip look I like. It had enough color to light up my face, but not so much that my lipstick would be the first thing anyone would notice.

What fun! I loved the look he created. I'm pretty picky about makeup - both color choices and application - and I was thrilled with my new look. I purchased all the shadows and lip colors, and I'll show you swatches if the sun ever returns.

Berry got a very different look, more dramatic than mine, but she's an actress. She can wear it! I am looking forward to wearing my new NARS colors. They are shades I might not have selected without trying first - the danger of doing so much online shopping. I hope to be able to swatch my colors from NARS Holiday 2010 this week - just as soon as the sun comes out while I'm near a camera.

You can purchase NARS color at the NARS Web site, Neiman Marcus, Sephora,, and other locations. It's easy to find.

Photo at top by Kathy Shoreman; NARS photos courtesy of NARS; Fashion photo by Getty Images

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Weekend Roundup - December 18

The countdown to Christmas has begun. Here are some great shopping ideas. Whether you are still searching for the perfect gift, doing a little shopping for yourself, or saving your money for spring, we've got something for you.

This week, Sabrina shared some hard-to-find Chanel colors at The Beauty Look Book, lip and eye colors that were exclusive to Saks and Find out why they were worth the hunt! She's also got photos of Chanel's Spring 2011 collection, and it's a beauty. I could feel compelled to buy Black Pearl Les Vernis (in addition to the items I've already ordered).

Julie Hewett, a Hollywood favorite, never misses. Check out The Non-Blonde to find out why Gaia is buying Julie's Hue Color Creams. Mystere looks gorgeous. Gaia wants Malachite next. I plan to try Julie's Camellia Balm. We're not going to let those West Coast beauties outdo us!

Kari's biggest makeup frustration is foundation. She has a hard time getting the perfect match. After reading makeup artist Pat McGrath's recommendations, she tested up a storm at Fab over Forty. The results? Head over to see read her thoughts.

Giorgio Armani Beauty has a new eye shadow formula, Eyes to Kill. Three shades were introduced for holiday as a preview of what's to come, and Amy showed us at Café Makeup how they stack up against some other favorites. I found the metallic, creamy shades to be stunning, but agree with Amy that a little goes a long way. I really hope the rest of the collection isn't seeded with red dye.

At Gouldylox Reviews, Kelly gave us the 411 on a Bare Escentuals steal. Shimmer and shine for the holidays - at a discount! I was frosted when I read about this fabulous sale. I had just purchased the set at full price. It's a buy!

Jane demonstrated how she'll get her holiday glam with The Falsies Volum' Express Mascara from Maybelline. Head over to Daly Beauty to see her amazing before and after photos. Great mascara - I'm still hung up over the not-so once-size-fits-all brush.

Kate Somerville, skin care guru, has a new miracle product. Find out from Carla at Product Girl why you are going to want Kate's CytoCell Dermal Energizing Treatment. I have a sample, so I'm off to see how far I can make it go this weekend. Then I may beg my friends at Neiman Marcus for a few more.

Many of us fret about our holiday hair styles. Kristin showed us how to maintain our curls for the party season. Ever heard of Miss Jessie? You'll be looking for her after reading BeautyXposé.

Debbi was also thinking about her holiday hair style as she tried a dry shampoo. Find out why she gave Oscar Blandi's Pronto Invisible Volumizing Dry Shampoo Spray a rave review at DivaDebbi.

I got my hands on photos of Chantecaille's Sea Turtle Palette and new Hydra Chic lipsticks. See the gorgeous colors for spring - and find out how you can help save the "gentle giants" here at Best Things in Beauty.

Don't forget to enter one of my mystery box contests! There are two here; just scroll around to find them. The deadline for the first one is tonight at midnight, while the second ends next week. While you're scrolling, make sure to check out the Giorgio Armani Beauty colors for Spring 2011. I'm looking forward to seeing them. Come late January, I hope to be sitting in Loyd Cassler's chair at Saks to see how he uses the dramatic shades to create a spring look. One more thing, guest makeup artist Alyson O'Brien shared some great techniques for using bronzer here.

We'll all be in touch before the official start of the holidays, but just in case you head off early, I wish you a happy, healthy, and safe holiday!

Giorgio Armani Beauty Holiday Sale

Giorgio Armani Beauty is having a sale!

This Sunday, December 19, there's a one-day only online sale exclusive to
  • Spend $75 or more, and you will enjoy complimentary overnight shipping. Use code OVERNIGHT.
  • Spend $90 or more, and you'll receive a $10 discount and complimentary overnight shipping. Use code GABSAV1.
  • Spend $100 or more (easy at Armani!), and you'll receive a $20 discount and complimentary overnight shipping. Use code GABSAV2.
Remember, the offer is only valid Sunday, December 19. It's a great time to try the new Eyes to Kill Eyeshadow or Acqua di Gioia.

Photo courtesy of Giorgio Armani Beauty

Friday, December 17, 2010

Mystery Box Giveaway Contest - Round 2

Congratulations to Pam! She won Mystery Box 2!
I posted a mystery box giveaway contest last weekend, and the number of entries has been staggering. So, let's start a second one - even before the deadline for the first!

As a beauty blogger, I am always scouting the counters for the latest and greatest, and if I like it, I buy it (assuming I can afford it). That means I buy a lot of beautiful makeup. I have been cleaning up my house, trying to make lots of room for myself to stumble around after my knee replacement surgery, and I was blown away by the number of pretty things I have bought in the last year - and not used, photographed, or featured on my blog. They appealed to me, and I bought them. I love being surrounded by beautiful things, but I also love giving things away.

The Mystery Box Giveaway Contest Round 2 will have one winner who will receive a mystery beauty box, with a couple of makeup items or a palette that carried me away this year. The prizes were not sent to me by beauty companies for review. If you win, you might get a blusher, lipstick, or eye shadow, or three. It will depend on what I can fit in your box. The brands are only the best, including Armani, Dior, Bobbi Brown, Clinique, Laura Mercier, YSL. You get the drift.

To enter to win this week's giveaway contest, just leave a comment here once. Tell me in the comment about your skin tone (e.g., light, medium, or dark and yellow or pink undertones) so that I can try to select something that will work for you. After you comment, feel free to e-mail and identify your comment. You can never be too careful about sharing your e-mail address on a blog, so I would follow this second step if I were you (an alternative is to code your e-mail, e.g., myname at gmail dot com, in your comment).

You can "earn" a second entry by tweeting this contest. Just make sure to include "@BTiBeauty" (without the quotes) in your tweet. I will tweet the contest soon, and you can simply retweet it to earn that second entry. You can earn a third entry by following the blog - either here or on Twitter (any entrant who is already a follower will automatically earn the follower point). I can't track followers through a third-party service, so you need to be on Google's list for me to verify the entry.

This contest will have a short run so that I can get your box off before Christmas. The deadline for entries will be Tuesday, December 21, at midnight. The next morning, I will use a random number generator ( to select the winner. I will e-mail the winner at that time. The winners will have 24 hours to reply to my message and provide a shipping address. After 24 hours, the prize will be forfeited, and another winner will be selected. Make sure to check your e-mail that day - and look in your spam folder.

Unlike the first mystery box contest, which ends tomorrow, this contest is open to U. S. and Canadian residents only.

Good Luck!

Update 12/22: I ended this contest a few hours earlier than I had originally announced. Entries had slowed, and I realized I wouldn't be able to get the winner's box off if I went another day. I'll do another mystery box contest early in January, so if you were "timing" your entry, there will be another chance.

Photo courtesy of

Smashbox O-Gloss Noir

O-Gloss Noir ($22), the latest O-Gloss Intuitive Lip Gloss shade from Smashbox, is a beauty on the lips. This pretty berry hue adopts to your own lip tone. It goes on a deathly shade of grey and then reacts with your skin chemistry to morph into a custom berry tone. I wouldn't have believed it had I not already tried the original O-Gloss.

There is no sense in swatching this gloss for you. On my arm, it's grey - a horrid shade that reminds me of dirty snow. Once I give it a minute or two on my lips, it's a beautiful, natural berry shade that's perfect for my skin tone. It's magic!

O-Gloss is packed with Smashbox's exclusive microcirculating Goji Berry-C Complex, ginkgo biloba, pomegranate seed antioxidants, safflower seed oil, marine botanicals, and avocado oil for lustrous shine and moisture. It has a little peppermint oil in it, but not enough to make it tasty.

It's a fabulous lip gloss to keep with you - in your jeans pocket or makeup bag for a quick color touch-up. You don't need a mirror to apply O-Gloss. Just swipe and go. You will bloom with your lip gloss. Can't tell you how much I like it! I'm in good company. Reese Witherspoon likes it too.

You can find it at the Smashbox Web site, Sephora, Nordstrom, and Ulta.

Photos courtesy of Smashbox

The Friday Forum - December 17

This beautiful photo from the Sibley Nature Center in Texas shows you what it looked like here yesterday. Two inches of snow - nothing like any of last year's blockbuster snows - was pretty, I'll admit. It was also an annoyance, since I wasn't able to get out to Costco to get peanuts for my birds, squirrels, and foxes. Did you know that foxes love peanuts? Crazy, isn't it? They will pass up Purina One and make a beeline for the unsalted peanuts.

This has been a difficult week for taking photos. Cloudy, overcast, and dark - except for the one day I was able to get photos at a window in my office - it has been a gloomy run-up to Christmas week. Snow was not what the retailers wanted to see yesterday.

I took yesterday and today off from work so that I could get many of my pre-op appointments out of the way. I've got a phone interview this morning with the hospital surgery nurse, then I'll continue "the grand house purge," carrying out to the recycling bins all the magazines I've been saving that I never had time to read, flattened cardboard boxes in which I had been storing beauty products (getting better organized in the process), and assorted other things that the county will cart off today, trash day. I'm hoping that in the midst of all that activity, the sun will make an appearance, and I can get some swatch photos. You wouldn't believe the pretty things I re-discovered as I cleaned over the last week!

I will have Christmas wishes for you next week, of course, but I know that many of you will start to travel or prepare for your holidays early. If you are one of those I might not "see" right before Christmas, I want you to know how grateful I've been for for your friendship and support this year. From sweet comments in contest entries and blog features to my regular pen pals, you have made this labor of love, Best Thing in Beauty, more fulfilling than I had ever expected. I will savor that best-ever Christmas present next week - my readers.

I hope you enjoy the holidays with your favorite people - and pets. What cat person doesn't remember the day kitty climbed the Christmas tree? What dog person hasn't got a special memory of their buddy's first Christmas with the family - or first snowfall? Christmas to me is as much a celebration of our memories and traditions as it is about the "here and now." I can still "see" George (orange tabby of my youth) the day he decided to become part of the Nativity scene I had carefully created. There he was, nestled among the shepherds and their sheep, the three wise men in disarray, with his head in the manger with Joseph, Mary, and their precious newborn baby. Our baby had to be part of the action.

It's time for The Friday Forum. We use the forum to share information and chat. Did you find any deals you couldn't resist this week? Are you using a fabulous product and want to sing its praises? Did you find a beauty product disappointing? Do you have a question others might be able to answer? Want to talk about skin care? Just use the comments. Don't be shy. Just make sure to ask any question you might have over the weekend. By Monday, most readers have moved on.

We have busy weekends and slow ones on the forum. I'm always happy if even one reader stops by. Leave a comment, and say hello - even if you don't want to comment on beauty products. Tell us your own Christmas stores!

Given how much we all have to do this weekend, I'll skip a week of posting good beauty deals in the comments. I'm sure the temptations have flooded your own inboxes.

Thanks for reading Best Things in Beauty! Got anything you want to talk about?

Photo courtesy of Sibley Nature Center

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Yuzu Fou by Parfum d'Empire

'Tis the season to buy fragrance, Fa la la la la, la la la la. In that mood, I did something uncharacteristic: while shopping online, I purchased a fragrance that wasn't predictable. In my world, predictable is floral - or fruity floral, not citrus. Although I have, wear, and love citrus fragrances, I prefer to sample them in person before purchasing. Knowing that categorizing a fragrances in a genre can oversimplify it, I threw caution to the wind and ordered Yuzu Fou at LuckyScent (where I paid $77, although other sites tell me the retail price is $110). I love it!

Some psychologists have strayed into scent typing, describing the characteristics of our personalities that make us gravitate toward certain fragrance types. Most citrus fragrances are light, zippy, and effervescent. They are often considered unisex scents, appealing to pragmatic, strong-minded, decisive, and athletic people. As someone who considers herself to have those characteristics - all except "athletic," which I dropped over the years as my knees deteriorated - I was probably a ringer for Yuzu Fou's description.

Inspired by the Empire of the Rising Sun, Yuzu Fou is an energetic fragrance composed around yuzu, a sparkling Japanese citrus fruit. For the designer, Yuzu Fou (“Crazy Yuzu”) is the occasion to invite us into an avant-garde, futuristic world of edgy electronic music, effervescent mangas, and minimalist architecture. It's a sparkling green, zesty, citrus fragrance in which yuzu is paired with kumquat, bigarade orange, mint, neroli, verbena absolute, green woods, and white musk.

Not too long ago, I flipped for another scent with a yuzu note (Les Nuits d'Izu Eau de Parfum), so I decided to explore this fruit in another pairing. The vibrant yuzu (a citrus grown in Japan and other Asian countries), combined with the raw bigarade orange (also known as the Seville orange), gives Yuzu Fou a grand opening that's fresh, invigorating, sparkling. It's complex, though. A spray of Yuzu Fou doesn't bring to mind peeling an orange. Rather, it draws in the nose for a sample of the other notes that lend the fragrance its complexity. The melange is very pleasing - and long-lasting. It says with me almost all day.

I love the packaging of Yuzu Fou. The tall, slender, cylindrical bottle, topped with a golden cap and adorned with a green label, is simple - minimal. The bottle comes in a cardboard tube with a pop off metal lip. It's all recyclable, although I was tempted to use the tube to hold eyeliners.

Anyone who equates citrus with summer will find Yuzu Fou the perfect citrus for winter. It can hold its own at a time when we look for more depth from our scents. The only problem will be finding Yuzu Fou. In the short time since I ordered it from LuckyScent, it became "unavailable." I'll have to find out where you can purchase it; I'll add an update to this feature when I do.

I'm very excited about trying other fragrances from Parfum d'Empire, a collection created by perfumer Marc-Antoine Corticchiato. The fragrances scents pay homage to Napoleon, Josephine, Russian Tsars, Alexander the Great, and the Ottoman Empire. This blend of history and perfume has resulted in what LuckyScent calls imaginative and unusual scents - as sumptuous as they are elegant. One spritz is enough to carry you away, to the times long past and lands far, far away. Fa la la la la, la la la la!

Photo courtesy of LuckyScent and Wikipedia

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Urban Decay 15-Year Anniversary 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil Set

There I was, primed to strike the second the Urban Decay 15-Year Anniversary 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil Set became available, at 1:00 pm ET on November 29! A limited number of sets was available before the January introduction date, and I was determined to get one. I did, but not without some Internet angst. I paid $92, which is an incredible deal, considering that 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencils normally cost $17 per pencil.

I suspect there were a lot of people like me who clicked on that set the instant it became available. I had refreshed my screen every few seconds, waiting for it to come up. The instant it did, I clicked to "add and checkout." That's when the site groaned under the weight of enormous traffic. It took 10 minutes to go through the checkout screens, a "terminal" wait for each page to load. I really had to be out the door to get to an appointment on time (I made it). I was very pleased with myself, and I was very pleased when the set arrived! Don't worry, if you weren't one of the Urban Decay groupies who managed to order it in November, it will be available again in January.

Introduced to celebrate Urban Decay's 15-Year Anniversary, the 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil Set has six new shades and nine previously introduced ones. I got a shot of the set at work, which you can see at right. I popped over to a window with nice afternoon direct light to get my photos. The problem is, I didn't want anyone to come along and think I was totally crazy, so I only sampled five of the shades on my arm to show you swatches. As the people on my floor get used to my antics, I may get braver. I still haven't forgotten the day a teen neighbor came over to ask why I was taking picture of my arm. How do you explain this to a boy?

Here are the new shades in the set.
  • Asphyxia (pinky iridescent purple)
  • Corrupt (dark metallic brown with silver sparkle)
  • Midnight Cowboy (beige with gold sparkle)
  • Perversion (blackest carbon black)
  • Stray Dog (shimmery brown taupe)
  • Uzi (gunmetal with grey sparkle)
The rest of the shades - browns, navy blue, bronze, aquamarine, black, and more - are very nice. There are a few purples I'm unlikely to wear, but my friends always love the gifts. Danielle, loved you already, but for donating a kidney to your father today, you'll be the recipient of the shades I give away - and a spot in heaven, I'm sure. You are an amazing person!

Here are five of the shades at right. I think I may have found the window and the best time of day for swatching during the winter. Can you tell I applied them in a hurry? From top to bottom, they are Stray Dog (to-die-for taupe), Stash (one of my all-time favorite green liners (khaki), Mildew (so pretty, I applied it in a thicker line so you could see the color well), Rockstar ( a deep-dark eggplant), and Uzi (shimmering gunmetal grey).

Aren't they gorgeous? I love the velvety soft, water-resistant formula of these 24/7 Glide On-Pencils (I'm not sure they are really waterproof). I always forget how soft they are and smush them when I'm swatching. I will have to sharpen Stash, since I broke off the tip. The sharpener that comes in this set is a wonderful touch. Thank you, Urban Decay!

The 24/7 liner is easy to apply because of its softness. It goes exactly where I want it, and once it dries (about a half-minute after application), it stays put all day. Created with 50% moisturizing ingredients suspended in a sophisticated formula, 24/7 Eye Pencils include jojoba oil, vitamin E, and cottonseed oil among their ingredients. I can apply them on my waterline, and they stay there too.

If you don't want to wait for the Anniversary Set to reappear, hop over to Urban Decay. They have a shade - or five - for you!

Photo at top courtesy of Urban Decay

Exuviance Age Reverse Collection from NeoStrata

Exuviance, by NeoStrata, offers a new Age Reverse Collection, designed to make you look "undeniably younger" with a skin-care regimen clinically proven to target all the signs of aging skin with state-of-the-art technology in its multitasking products. The line is designed to:
  • Diminish the appearance of age spots, fine lines, and wrinkles;
  • Rebuild collagen to help restore firmness and elasticity; and
  • Fight damage and prevent future collagen and elastin breakdown.
NeoStrata sent me four Exuviance Age Reverse Collection products to try. I was greedy and kept the Exuviance Age Reverse BioActiv Wash ($35) because I'm a cleanser addict, loving new ones and dying to try it. It's a soap-free facial cleanser that exfoliates and stimulates cell turnover with a potent polyhydroxy acid and bionic blend, filled with botanical extracts to soothe and refresh the skin. Love it!

I decided that my friend - we'll call her Berry - was the best candidate to test drive the rest of the products. Not only is she gorgeous (she was a Broadway actress who often played the leading babe role), she's a journalist. What better person to write? Like any actress, she frets about her appearance, and she's always game to try a new anti-aging product. She has even dreamed about a face lift, although I don't think she needs one.

Berry has used other products with retinol in them, with mixed success, and I suspected she would love the Exuviance Age Reverse Collection. She is horribly critical of her skin - much more than she should be - and she has complained about everything from wrinkles to sagging skin over the last year. OK, so she did drama on Broadway!

What she found using the Age Reverse line was dramatic. Here is what Berry experienced in a month's test of the Age Repair Collection, and it's all good.

Exuviance Age Repair Day Repair SPF 20 ($60) is a triple-firming complex of NeoGlucosamin, retinol, and peptides, combined with an antioxidant complex of pomegranate and vitamins A and E to help reverse the signs of aging skin while fending off free radicals during the day. It's said to firm and plump deep wrinkles, target uneven pigmentation (Berry is prone to redness), and protect and repair the skin.

Berry said it's a pretty, pale pink cream that feels like a gel. It's very light, particularly for a cream with an SPF of 20. It absorbs very quickly, leaving smooth, moist skin behind, with no residue that you sometimes fine with other treatments containing sunscreen. Her extremely fair and delicate skin did not react adversely at all to the retinol, despite a warning on the package of the high retinol strength and advice to use the cream every other day if peeling occurs. She said she smelled no fragrance. She loved the pump-tube, which allows the product to dispense with ease - and the ability to squeeze the tube when the product runs low. Berry said she even loved the shiny turquoise and silver packaging, which looks "glamorous, modern, and clean." After using the line, her uneven pigmentation is gone, a testament to Age Reverse's truthful marketing.

The second product Berry used was Exuviance Age Reverse Night Lift ($68). With its triple lifting complex of peptides, AHA/PHA bionics, and antioxidant complex, Night Lift is clinically proven to reverse the look of deep wrinkles and sagging skin - from the inside out. Here are the test results from NeoStrata's trials.
  • 97% said it improves overall appearance
  • 93% discovered brighter, more luminous skin
  • 90% had plumper, fuller skin
  • 83% experienced skin that was lifted and less droopy
  • 79% reported a reduction in fine lines
Berry said the night cream has a slightly heavier/creamier formula than the day version (as I would hope). It's also a pretty pink. She found it surprisingly moist, but, like the day cream, it absorbed quickly without leaving residue - just a feeling of lovely moisture, which lasts through the night. Both products made her feel as if her own natural moisture was being locked in as additional protection was added to her skin.

The third product Berry tested was Exuviance Age Reverse Eye Contour ($68), which target crow's feet, droopiness, and sagging to reveal brighter, younger eyes in four weeks.
  • Peptides help replace collagen and firm skin around the eye area, targeting droopiness and sagging
  • Maltobionic acid/PHA alleviates appearance of crow's feet
  • Fortifies skin's protective barrier
  • Caffeine deflates puffiness around the eyes
  • Botanicals refresh and soothe
  • Optical diffusers brighten and illuminate
Berry found the eye contour to be an extremely nice, "non-greasy" creme that absorbs, but doesn't leave a feeling of plumpness, which you really don't want around your eyes. She used it during the day on her own wrinkles (doesn't everyone over 30 have "expression lines"?), and she reported that it definitely softened and minimized them. She said it felt soothing under her eyes. She also patted it on above her upper lip and saw a softening of lines there too.

Berry reported that she was thrilled with the Age Reverse Collection, and now I'm feeling guilty that I didn't give her the cleanser too. She said she has never used anything so simultaneously effective and gentle. Other anti-aging products with retinol have burned her skin on contact or made her more sensitive to sun exposure. The Age Reverse products had none of those harsh side effects. Not only that, Berry has not been reacting to cold or wind as she does with other products. Her skin feels protected.

Is that a resounding recommendation? I'd say so! I guess since I haven't used up all the BioActiv Wash, it's going to Berry so that I can lose the guilt - although I have to tell you I really like it. It's so nice, foamy, and effective.

You can purchase the Exuviance Age Reverse Collection at NeoStrata's Web site, where you can learn more about this fabulous new line and its undeniable results. It's also available at Ulta and Pure Beauty - at price points that are extremely attractive for a new, state-of-the-art skin-care technology. I'm impressed that a regimen with retinol could be so gentle!

Thanks, Berry! Glad you love it! Can we share?

P.S. Other than a cleanser, Berry used no other skin care on her face and neck while she was testing the collection.

Update 12/19: Berry has the cleanser, and I am guilt-free. I hope she enjoys it. It tickled me that Berry's husband is now calling her Berry. Maybe I should name him too. :)

Photos courtesy of NeoStrata

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Pro Makeup Artist Guest Blog: Bronzer Techniques

This weekend, I introduced you to Alyson O'Brien, shown in the photo at left. I mentioned that Alyson is the Fresh Account Executive for the Mid-Atlantic region. What I didn't tell you was that she's also a celebrity makeup artist! Did I mention darling too?

While we chatted at the Fresh event, I learned that Alyson has many passions, including writing. She was interested in writing beauty features. As you might imagine, I jumped at the chance to offer her a guest post - or as many as she wants to write. She's talented and fun, and I knew she would be able to share with you her "tricks of the trade." First, though, the budding makeup artist's history. She's a hoot!

In her own words...
Ever since I can remember, I drew faces. It was always a face, with detailed separation of eyes, lips, and cheeks. I noticed this type of thing as a small child and found deep pleasure in drawing “portraits” of people. I normally drew females. I can remember drawing long eyelashes on people who had close-set eyes, adding fullness to lips when they needed symmetry, and contouring cheeks to different levels, depending on the face shape. This may be why people loved the pictures that I drew of them…because I made them look, well, better.

Cutting and styling hair at the age of nine for my extended family was also commonplace in my young life, and I loved doing it. I knew where the hair needed to fall after it was cut - and how the hair needed to look to accentuate a person’s face.

“Hey Alyson, how does this look?” was a common question in my home before my family members departed for fancy events. Fashion was also a huge passion of mine - mixing and matching color and putting cloth and color where they were needed to accentuate features.

When I got my first cosmetics job at the Clinique Counter at Macy’s almost 15 years ago, as soon as I saw a client, I would know immediately what I wanted to use on her, even as I analyzed her face and sized up her personality. The rest is history, and I continue my beauty journey, making people shine from within because they feel better about the way they look.

That’s what it’s all about, right? That’s why you’re reading this, and I’m writing this. We all want to feel better. Usually when you look good, you feel good.

My approach to beauty is very rudimentary, probably because I learned it prior to kindergarten. If you need color, add it. If you need moisture, add it. If a feature looks big, make something else look even bigger. My job is to educate people so they know what to do about their personal beauty concerns. This will not be done in one general blog feature, but I can help with “tips and tricks” as I write about what comes naturally to me. Ninety percent of the time, when I meet someone, I see something that I can improve with beauty products. It’s an automatic response. "Mom, that lady’s pants are too tight," Good thing I’ve always been soft spoken.

I interrupt Alyson to show you the photo at right of Kelly Monaco, after Alyson prepared her for the red carpet in New York City. That day, Kelly was a modern-day interpretation of Disney's Cinderella, re-released on DVD. Alyson used a lot of bronzer on Kelly - even on her neck, chest, and arms - but you can't see the bronzer, unless you look very carefully, because of Alyson's techniques. What you see is a gorgeous woman! The event was outdoors, which made it even more challenging to make Kelly look natural!

Here's more from Alyson...
My first tip, which is a general rule, not only for makeup, but for any form of art is to apply light color when you want to feature something and make it prominent, and apply dark color when you want a feature to recede. Let's focus on this tip, while I will tell you about using bronzer. Bronzer and the technique with which it’s applied can make an immediate, positive difference to someone’s beauty. Bronzer isn't just for Jersey girls - and I'm a Jersey girl! Take a close look at the men on the evening news. They are all wearing bronzer. Sometimes the makeup artists miss the ears, which is the telltale sign that the men are wearing it.

The following techniques can be used for applying bronzer by incorporating a light/dark art theory. Use bronzer all over the face evenly and don’t forget your neck and ears if you want to give your face a smaller look or reduce fullness. Since you are making the face darker, it will appear smaller, just the same as wearing black pants. This is one of the main reasons why some people feel and look better with tan skin.

Use extra or a darker bronzer when...
  • You have a weak chin or double chin, and you want your neck or double chin to recede. Apply the bronzer below the area of the chin you want to emphasize.
  • You have a large forehead and you want to minimize it. Use bronzer along your hair line. This is especially effective if there is a large contrast between the color of your skin and your hair.
  • You have full cheeks. Use bronzer directly under your cheekbones. Darker color creates definition under the cheekbones by creating a shadow effect to make them more prominent. Use a highlighter at the top of your cheekbones.
  • You have a wide nose. Use bronzer on the sides of your nose. This creates a slimming effect. Use a highlighter on bridge of your nose to enhance this trick.
Use less bronzer when...
  • You have deep-set eyes. You don’t want to make them appear more shadowed. By keeping them light, they will appear to be more prominent.
  • You have dark shadows or circles under your eyes or a prominent bridge of the nose.
  • You want your nose to look smaller. The crease on the sides of the nose where it meets the cheeks is a small area that generally should remain light-colored.
  • You have to stretch your bottom lip up to cover your bottom teeth to get to an area on your chin. If that's the case, chances are good that you should not be applying bronzer there - a crease that does not need to be accentuated by a deepening of color.
Fresh's Here Comes the Sun Face Palette ($45) is a fabulous choice for trying out these techniques. The formula is made with crushed pearls, so it reflects light, eliminating a "powdery" look and imparting a slight dewiness. You can layer it and never look like you dipped your face into a bowl of flour! The palette has three bronzers with which you can experiment: one darker and one lighter, along with a natural blush or highlighting shade. Remember you can swipe your brush across more than one to create your perfect shade.

I'll be thrilled if just one of these tips for using bronzer to lightening or darkening areas has helped you. Sometimes the smallest things can make the biggest difference. Stay tuned for my next feature on highlighting - more on the light/dark theories. Please leave a comment if you have any questions or want to share your own techniques for applying bronzer. I love to talk beauty!

Blurry photo of Alyson by BTiB; photo of Kelly provided by Alyson; palette photo courtesy of Fresh