holiday

Review: Arbonne Lip Polish

Arbonne is one of those lines that I don’t really follow, largely because they still rely mostly on “Independent Consultants” like Mary Kay and Avon used to have — and you know how I feel about sales pressure. Oh, and they’re outrageously expensive. However, a holiday product caught my eye and I could not resist ordering it: a trio of Arbonne’s Lip Polishes. Had there not been a gorgeous burgundy in the set, I wouldn’t have looked twice, but … well, there it is.

Arbonne bills itself as a company that was cool and hip and botanical before botanical itself was cool and hip, if any of us can remember back that far. (I think I was four.) So, green, right? Natural, environmentally responsible, earth-friendly … OK, I can’t even sell myself on this.

Let’s look at the size of the products.

Now let’s look at the size of the products compared to the standard-size Beauté gloss I recently reviewed. The Beauté is on the left.

Oh. I see. They’re small. OK. Value-for-price aside for the moment, if they’re that small then surely they should come in a tiny box, n’est-ce-pas?

Oh. Er. Seriously, you could have fit about 40 of those tiny kits in this box. I am so tired of seeing companies that market themselves as “environmentally responsible” and “earth-conscious” and all that jazz use way, WAY too much packaging. Arbonne even has a “Green Commitment” statement, which reads as follows:

Arbonne is committed to environmental responsibility. As our business grows, we strive to minimize our impact on the earth through the implementation of innovative and responsible environmental practices, and we encourage our manufacturing and sourcing partners to do the same.


At Arbonne we:


•    Support responsible harvesting of our botanical ingredients (harvest and replenish)
•    Never utilize endangered plant species in our formulations
•    Practice “source reduction,” optimizing packaging and product design to use less materials
•    Use renewable sources for all of our paper packaging
•    Strive to achieve Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification for all paper packaging
•    Incorporate Post Consumer Recycled (PCR) content in all shipping cartons and plastic packaging, wherever possible
•    Print with soy-based inks wherever possible
•    Ensure our distribution facilities have recycling programs for all incidental packaging and shipping supplies

“Optimizing packaging.” Er, what was the option you rejected for this lip polish trio? A 6×6 crate made of pernambuco, perhaps?

Anyway. Enough of that. How are the products?

Well, uh … average. I mean, they’re fine. They’re maybe a B-, which is to say that they’re even slightly above average but that they don’t exceed expectations in any recognizable way. I do love the burgundy color. The others are … meh. Not only that, but I have a hard time imagining what kind of skin tone could wear all three of these colors: burgundy, camel, and something that’s reminiscent of latté foam.

Here are the swatches:

I do love the burgundy, and would like to find a way to work with the medium golden brown shade. The “nude” shade, the lightest, is going to be hard for me to work with — and I’m already fairly pale.

Wearlength is about average; stickiness slightly less than average. Packaging: D-.

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Arbonne Lip Polish Trio: $58 (individual permanent shades available at Arbonne’s website)

Provenance: Purchased. (And, by the way, the order got screwed up the first time, which doesn’t make me love them any more.)

Price/Value Ratio (high-end: poor/fair/good/excellent): Poor. Is there a category worse than “poor”? No? I should make one.

Purchase again? Ha! No.

(Have you used this product? Love it? Hate it? Want it? Give a holler in the comments!)

Thursday Tossup: On The Making of Lists, And The Checking Of Them Twice; Sales

::taps foot impatiently::

Sephora Friends and Family is just around the corner (UPDATE! starts 10/22), and I’m compiling my list. Will I actually get everything on it? Probably not. That’s why I am checking it twice multiple times. Many holiday collections are newly out and some of the items are very tempting. Here are some of my wishlist items:

Laura Mercier Crème Smooth Foundation. I’m currently working through a tester of this and it’s very nice. Like most Laura Mercier complexion products, it’s slightly yellower than I’d like (and I use the lightest, pinkest shade), but this is close enough that I can pull it off.

• Speaking of Laura Mercier, there are two shades of the Metallic Creme Eye Color I don’t own yet. Must remedy this. These are my new favorite cream eyeshadows (reviews to come).

Illamasqua Pure Pigment in Alluvium. I am in love with this gorgeous, vibrant silvery-blue shade.

• The 2010 Sephora Favorites samplers are out, and these are always a good deal. Last year I picked up the My First Make-Up one, and I’m still using a lot of those products. I also snagged a lip sampler this summer and am still testing those out. Thus far, mostly winners (again, some reviews to come). This year’s Best of Basics Makeup Starter Deluxe Sampler has some nice products in it, and if you’re looking for trial samples or travel-friendly sizes of products, this kit looks like a win. (There’s also usually a coupon inside that gives you 50 extra Beauty Insider points when you purchase a full-size version of one of the products in the kit.) There is also a mascara sampler (like the one A Biologist reviewed, but with some different brands), a lipgloss sampler, a shimmer sampler, a black eyeliner sampler (yes, it’s a bunch of black eyeliners), and a haircare sampler, as well as the annual fragrance samplers for women and men.

• And speaking of samplers, please buy this in droves so that there are none left for me, because I do not know if my removable wallet can resist it: Tarte’s “Jewelry Box” holiday palette. 32 shadows, a new pink shimmering powder, a full-size tray of Park Avenue Princess mineral bronzer (the only powder bronzer I have ever really been able to wear), plus lipglosses and five eyeliners.

• Finally, I’m hoping that the Bobbi Brown holiday collection items come to Sephora. There are some gorgeous, gorgeous red lip items — a liner, some lippies, and two glosses. Stop me, I’m drooling. Very unattractive.

How about you? What’s on your F&F shopping list?

Sales!

Well, it looks like you will have to be content with visions of sugarplums sales dancing in your heads, because there aren’t many real-life sales to report. To wit:

Korres is offering 25% off on orders of $35 or more through October 31. These orders will also get free shipping. Use checkout code SAVE25.

Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/crazycatchthecat/4199679004/

The Most Gorgeous, Useless, Expensive Holiday Cosmetics Item You’ll Never Get Your Hands On

There ought to be a special edition of the Neiman Marcus Christmas Book that’s just for frivolous and outrageously expensive cosmetics and skincare. If there were, the centerfold of this year’s edition would be (based on brands that have released promo materials thus far): NARS’ Bento Box.

Go ahead and oooh and ahhhh. They sure are purty.

These little cups each contain a hand-poured, new-and-exclusive shade of NARS lipstick. (The cups are not filled up with lipstick like a candle; the lipstick is applied in a waxy layer that follows the contour of the cup, which is why they look so freaking cool.) The colors are based on the bright lip colors of Japanese Kabuki theatre, and it comes with a specially designed brush which you can use for application and for mixing the colors together.

Because for the low low price of $125, you ought to get a brush with the thing.

And just because it’s NARS, it’s extremely limited-edition. Only 2,000 sets created total, and only 1,000 of those available for sale in the United States. If you want to be notified when they are released, you can sign up at http://www.narscosmetics.com/bento_box_set.aspx. It’s supposed to be released November 1, but I bet it will sell out in an hour, so you are advised to stalk the website and your inbox if you want one.

Photo via NARS.

Holiday Shimmer: Be a Vixen, Not a Vamp (Part II: Lips/Eyes/Body)

Yesterday, we did the hard stuff — shimmer products for the face. These are difficult because since the face is such a large amount of skin real estate, it’s super-easy to go from foxalicious to frightening in a single swipe. In comparison, getting a nice shimmer for lips, eyes, or body is easy-peasy.

By the way, I’m not suggesting that you glitz up your face AND your lips AND your eyes AND your body. Usually one is sufficient. Coco Chanel’s famous advice on how to tastefully accessorize an outfit is to put on what you think looks right, then take one thing off again before leaving the house. Great for bracelets and necklaces; not so much for makeup. So go conservative from the beginning — you can always add a touch more, but it’s hard to remove shimmer if you’ve put on too much without washing your face and starting from scratch.

Lips:

This is perhaps the easiest way to add shimmer to your look, and it can be done on the cheap at any drugstore. There are so many shimmer lip glosses on the market now you can hardly turn around without tripping over one, so I won’t even bother making a recommendation. A shimmer gloss that’s close to your natural lip color will be gorgeous without being overstated on nude lips, and a clear gloss with shimmer can go on top of any color, so it’s exceptionally versatile for holiday wear. Smaller glitter particles always look more sophisticated than larger, and shimmer particles that are all the same color look more sophisticated than multicolored glitter. If the idea of a sparkly lip makes you nervous, you can go with a shiny colorless gloss over the lip color of your choice instead. Glosses don’t have a terribly long wear-life, especially if you plan to sip champagne and nibble on those yummy little quiche thingies at a holiday party, so tuck it in your bag for re-application.

Eyes:

Here you have to be careful. I mean, really careful. I would vote for the minimum amount of sparkle possible. Actually, I would vote for no sparkle on the eyes, and only a bit of shimmer. Glittery eye shadow has Hello Kitty written all over it, and really shimmery eye shadows are of a consistency that is not friendly to eyelids that are past their 30th birthday. Keep the majority of the eye color neutral and satin-finish, and use a light shimmer shade as a highlighter under the brow. (Or, you could go all-out and do a smoky eye, but that’s a different post.) Again, there are so many shimmer eyeshadows on the market that you can just choose your favorite line and chances are there will be several options. Test on the back of your hand before applying  to the eye; it can be hard to predict how much shimmer is in an eyeshadow just by looking at it in the pan and a test stripe on your hand will save you a lot of time and anxiety if it turns out to be way more shimmery than you were expecting.

There are also some fun shimmer eyeliners and mascaras out, both high-end and in drugstores, and these are easy to experiment with and hard to screw up, especially if you stick with eyeliner shades that are shimmery but basically dark (i.e., not electric blue or chartreuse). LA Splash makes some nice ones that are inexpensive and fun, and in a range of colors including some sophisticated dark shades; a few months ago I purchased some of their products and was impressed with the line (I’ll be doing a review of their liquid eyeliners soon).

If you really want to step it up, you could pick up a set of those false eyelashes with rhinestone tips that are popular this year. I certainly won’t stop you!

Body:

I’ve included nails in this section because there is a particularly fantastic lot of sparkle holiday nail polish out this year. You can get anything from the subtlest hint of shimmer to multicolored glitter. I’m especially fond of OPI’s Meet & Jingle (red) and Glove You So Much (purple) from their 2009 Holiday Collection (they can be seen here on this page from the terrifically fun nail polish blog Vampy Varnish). But there are also other options. Good glitter nail polish is harder to get at the drugstore, though, since less expensive brands’ glitter tends to be less finely milled.

Two ways to get shimmer for the rest of the body are via shimmer body powder (like the Urban Decay flavored body powder I mentioned in one of the gift guide posts) or shimmer lotion. Shimmer lotions tend to last longer than powders, and you can either buy one that’s already shimmery (although it will probably also be fragranced, which may or may not be up your alley) or DIY with plain body lotion and a shimmer powder like one of the ones I mentioned yesterday. If you don’t have any of that stuff, you can buy an inexpensive shimmer/glitter loose mineral eyeshadow from the drugstore in a shade you like and mix away.


The Whole Package:

Finally, if you’re looking for the whole kit and caboodle, you can’t do better than the Sephora Glitz & Glam Shimmer and Shine Deluxe Sampler ($38), which (amazingly) is still in stock at Sephora.com. The Guerlain shimmer meteorites in the kit are a particularly hot item this year, but there are a variety of other test-worthy products in the kit, including products for body, cheek, and lip. The value on these Sephora sampler kits is extraordinary, especially because they usually come with a coupon for savings off a full-size version of one of the products in the kit. Plus, it will let you try shimmer products in a variety of formats — powder, stick, gloss, spray — so you can see what works for you.

Top photo (which I adore): http://www.flickr.com/photos/green-beauty/ / CC BY-ND 2.0

Provenance of items mentioned: prior purchases.

Holiday Shimmer: Be a Vixen, not a Vamp (Part I: Face)

sparklers by jenny downing (r&r).If ever there were a time to pull out your shimmer, your glimmer, and your sparkle, the next two weeks are it, baby. New Year’s Eve in particular is a great time to add some shine to your regular ‘do — but since I assume you don’t want to look like an 8-year-old who dumped glitter all over her face, it would probably be a good idea to take a look at some shimmer options that are holiday-festive but also sophisticated, subtle, and sexy. (If you do want to look like an 8-year-old who dumped glitter all over her face, I would like to gently suggest to you that you may be reading the wrong blog.)

The advantage is that pretty much every cosmetics line on the market makes something shiny or glittery. Some of these products are lovely and sophisticated on their own, and others can be worked with to adapt them to your desired level of shimmery gorgeousness. Before you do any work with shimmer products you should make sure that your skincare and foundation products have left you with a matte or satin finish; shimmer does not go on well over oiliness.

Smashbox Soft Lights ($28) are very, very nice finishing powders that give you anywhere from the subtlest sheen to a healthy glow, depending on how much you apply. I use these as a finishing powder year-round, but they’re particularly nice in the summer. Use a very, very light touch to start and add more just a bit at a time. If you have good brush skillz, you can use a blush or powder brush (a real one, not one of those ones that comes in a drugstore powder blush compact), but using a fan brush helps make this pretty idiot-proof because it only allows you to pick up a tiny bit of product at a time. These come in three regular shades, all of which I own: Shimmer, which is a very light champagne-neutral shade (and the most shimmery of the bunch; requires an ultra-light touch); Prism, which is the shade shown in my photo — it looks very bright in the container but goes on sheer and delicate and girly pink (this is my favorite one); and Tint, which is a warm golden coral shimmer. In the summer, I use Tint almost like a bronzer, since traditional bronzers don’t really work on my very pale skin. There are also a variety of “fusion” Soft Lights compacts, which feature a pie chart of different shades all in the same container; I don’t like these as much because it’s so hard to predict what color you’re going to actually end up with on your face, and it’s unrealistic to think that you’re going to be able to just get at one of the colors in the container. However, if you do find a composite color you like, the quality is as good as the other Soft Lights powders.

If you like, you could use Prism or Tint as an all-over face color (again, use a VERY light touch), or you could use any of the three as a finishing highlighter. Where exactly you choose to apply a shimmer or highlighting product will depend on your bone structure, but in general the areas to look at are the top outside areas of the cheekbones, just below the brow, on the temple, and on the bridge of the nose. Start with the top of the cheekbones and then see if you need to add more. If you like it other places, by all means feel free to add it there too; I sometimes do a bit on my forehead right up against the hairline or a very light swish on my chin.

Although it’s not on my favorite-product list, NARS The Multiple ($37) is a cult-favorite stick highlighter that can be used on cheeks, lips, and eyes. It comes in many shades; all of them are too shimmery to work on me, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention it. (NARS Orgasm blush is another cult-favorite product, and likewise, I find it too shimmery for me.)

Unfortunately, many of the sparkly cosmetics products out on the market are pretty much straight-up glitter, which is neat-o for Halloween or special effects but which makes them virtually unusable on their own for those who want a more subtle effect (and for anyone over the age of eight). The good news is that lots of these can be successfully combined with other products to create something that’s more usable.

For example, a few years ago I ended up with a full-size container of Bare Escentuals’ All-Over Face Color in True ($18). I think it was a gift with unrelated purchase; honestly, at this point I don’t even remember. According to the Bare Escentuals website, “True All-Over Face Color is a complexion chameleon, adapting its sheer, coral pink glimmer to any shade of skin — no matter how tan or fair.” This is true (no pun intended), if by “chameleon” you mean “Gila monster” and by “sheer, coral pink glimmer” you mean “raspberry glitter that you could see from Mars.” The product on its own did not work for me at all; it was impossible for me to apply it lightly enough that it did not become blotchy and unblendable. However! Since it’s sometimes hard for me to find a good mineral powder foundation shade — most of them are too yellow for me — I often buy several shades and make myself a custom blend, which then lasts me quite a long time. I did like the pink color of the Bare Escentuals product, but it was way too strong to use on its own. So I put a few shakes of it into my custom blend, which is now just a tiny bit pinker than it was before and also has a subtle glimmer that I really like.

Along the same lines, I recently received this miniature Tarte Glistening Powder in Sugar Daddy as a free sample with another Tarte purchase. (I can’t link you to the product directly, since it seems to only exist as part of a holiday kit, but here’s that link.) On its own, this is much too shimmery for me; while there is some base color, it seems to disappear from my skin quickly, leaving me with what looks like bare skin on which I’ve spilled some glitter. But when mixed with a little liquid foundation or tinted moisturizer, it adds a really pretty glow, and you can adjust the amount of shimmer you want every time you use it. Never be afraid to get creative with your products! Many things that initially seem unworkable might be able to be beaten into submission cajoled into loveliness when combined with another product.

Tomorrow: Holiday Shimmer, Part II: Eyes, Lips, Body


Provenance: Smashbox Soft Lights: purchased; Tarte and Bare Escentuals: gifts with purchase. I do not own NARS The Multiple.

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jenny-pics/ / CC BY 2.0

Foxy Voxy Holiday Guide: Gifting, Part III (Skincare)

Part the Third of Gift-Giving: Skincare Gifts.

The caveats from my makeup post still apply — giving anything that’s too skin-type-specific is not a good idea unless you know there’s a particular product your recipient is jonesing for. (For example, if anyone wanted to get me Creme de la Mer, I wouldn’t say no. Of course, since no one who’s likely to play Santa for me is independently wealthy, that’s going to have to stay a lovely sugarplum dream.)

But it’s easy to find skincare gifts that pamper all skin types and will be a deliciously luxe treat for winter skin and beyond. These are some of my favorites, but it’s by no means an exhaustive list!

Spa Services

Thai Massage at Rama Day Spa Frankfurt by thomaswanhoff.I am a spa-lover to the core. My ideal vacation is ten days at a resort spa. If it happens to be in Italy or France, so much the better. Most of the time, though, these services are outside my budget, at least on a regular basis. However, a gift certificate for the service of my choice at an area spa would be a fabulous gift. If your recipient doesn’t have a regular favorite spa, or wants to try somewhere else, I recommend getting your gift certificates through spafinder.com, since their gift certificates are accepted at thousands of spas and your recipient can choose her (or his!) favorite place. A safe guesstimate when figuring out how much to spend is $100 per service.

Because my daily work requires extensive use of the upper body, and because I have always tended to store muscular stress in my upper back, shoulders, and forearms, with painful and uncomfortable results, I finally decided that it would be a good idea for me to get massages on a regular basis, since they’ve really been shown to have a beneficial health effect. (The fact that I enjoy them is gravy.) Well, actually, I had decided that I should do this a long time ago, but it was really out of reach financially, until my recent discovery of Massage Envy. They have locations all across the US and offer a variety of massage services (but no facials or other spa services at this time). My intro massage was so good that I signed up for their monthly program, in which each massage costs $49 (plus gratuity). This is an affordable amount for me to spend per month, and my massage therapist is amazing. I’ll do a whole post about spas some other time, but if you can find a massage therapist you like, this is a good investment. They offer a $39 one-hour massage introductory special, which makes it affordable for most people. If you would like to give a spa gift certificate, but $100 is out of your range, you might consider getting a gift card from Massage Envy; their minimum gift card purchase is $50, which would cover an introductory massage and gratuity. Do check to be sure there’s a location in your recipient’s area!

At-Home Spa/Skincare Gifts

lushLush. Cult following. ‘Nuff said.

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caudalie_spaCaudalie Spa in a Bag ($30, Sephora). If you go to a Caudalie spa, you will get all sorts of nummy treatments with grape products (or so I hear, anyway). The Crushed Cabernet Scrub in this set is particularly good, and along with it you get a shower gel, a body lotion, and a hand/nail cream, all with grape polyphenols. Any gift with the name Caudalie on it positively gleams with luxury, so your recipient will definitely feel pampered. (If you prefer a wider variety of products in your kit, there’s a Caudalie VinoGo Weekend Kit also available at Sephora for $32; it contains 8 products including a Cabernet Shower Gel).
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bliss_socksBliss Softening Socks and Glamour Gloves ($48 each, Sephora). Here’s a technological development I can get behind: in the last few years both high-end and drugstore lines have come out with wearable products with moisturizing gel built in. I tried one of the drugstore brands and was very pleased, so if you’re looking for a higher-end version for someone who has chronic dry hands or feet, the Bliss socks and gloves are one way to go.

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ole spaThe Ole Henriksen Worship Your Body spa set ($24, Sephora) not only comes with seven bottles of products ranging from body oil to scrub to a sore muscle tonic, but also comes with a CD of spa music to really bring the spa experience home. This is a steal at this price.

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LO259-best-of-loccitane-09If you know someone who is a L’Occitane devotee, she might enjoy the Best of L’Occitane Gift Set ($49, L’Occitane), which contains 12 (!) of L’Occitane’s best-selling cleansing, skincare, and body care products. Again, in terms of price-for-value, this is an unusually good deal.

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dr_hauschka_kitI’m a fan of Dr. Hauschka facial products, but I wouldn’t take a chance buying them for someone else. But this Daily Body Care Kit ($22.95, drugstore.com) is something I would buy as a gift and would consider a good introduction to the brand. There is also a Dr. Hauschka Aromatherapy Bath Kit ($15.95, SkincareRX via Amazon [oddly, SkincareRX seems not to offer the product on their own website; their Dr. Hauschka products come through an affiliated site]) containing five vials of aromatherapy bath oil: Lemon, Lavender, Rosemary, Spruce, and Sage.

Spa photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wanhoff/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

Foxy Voxy Holiday Guide: Gifting, Part II (Makeup)

IMG_3057 by tonydolor.Makeup is only an easy gift to give for the holidays if you’re content with buying any old assortment of stuff in a plastic pack and handing bits and pieces out to random people. But you’re better than that. You give thoughtful gifts, gifts that are matched to the recipient’s age, lifestyle, habits, and tastes. Right? Of course you do.

Unfortunately, that makes makeup a very difficult gift to give. (Think of it as a challenge.)

Your glamazon friends already know what they like, so it’s usually best to let them buy their own cosmetics and skincare. A Sephora gift card is always a good option; they can collect several and combine them to buy makeup crack something outrageously expensive like a Temptu.

Exceptions to this include:

• if you know there’s a specific product they want but haven’t gotten yet

• if you know there’s a line they’re dying to try but haven’t yet, and you can get them an intro kit from that line

• if you’re sending products overseas to countries in which those products aren’t sold (careful of shipping regulations)

• if you think the product you’re buying is TEH AWESOME

or

• if the product you’re buying really is TEH AWESOME (e.g., Temptu, Clarisonic, or Bobbi Brown’s services for a year).

Otherwise, let those people choose their own makeup and skincare.

Awkwardness can also arise if you’re buying a makeup product for someone who doesn’t really use makeup, or who doesn’t use it as well as you think they should. “What are you saying? Are you saying I need to wear makeup? Are you saying I don’t look good the way I am? Huh? Huh?” and then someone gets jabbed in the eye with an Urban Decay eye pencil and it’s all downhill from there.

So who are the people for whom makeup and makeup accoutrements (especially kits and palettes) would be good gifts?

• People who already have a makeup routine but who would secretly appreciate an upgrade in glam. Extra points if said upgrade does not have a steep learning curve (i.e., liquid eyeliner is out).

• People who are already using good products but who would appreciate some high-quality tools (brushes, etc.).

• People who don’t currently use makeup but who have expressed an interest in learning and playing around with it, AND with whom you have the kind of relationship in which they will be absolutely sure that you are not criticizing their current habits.

One other thing about gifting makeup: I may be an old fogie, but I think there are certain rules of gift-giving etiquette that should be observed. One of those is this: if you are giving me something that came out of a set that you split up and distributed among different people, I should not be able to tell that. I do not want to know that you bought a kit, split up the parts, and just handed them out willy-nilly. (Someone recently suggested that you could buy the Sephora fragrance sampler, split up the samples among your friends, and keep the certificate for a full-size bottle for yourself! Shocking. That definitely gets a Voxy Veto.)

Now there are a few specially packaged assortments of products in which you would be able to split up the contents and your recipients would not sense that they were receiving 1/3 of a gift. For example:

korres_lipbalm_trioThis lip butter set from Korres ($19.50, Sephora) contains three of the exact same lip butters that are sold for $9 apiece; they’re just packaged in a value pack. (There are two other equally splittable Korres gift sets at Sephora with lip glosses instead of butters; the glosses are not quite full sized but no one would know it was part of a sample kit.) This would be a great gift for someone who “doesn’t really wear makeup” — the color is sheer and subtle and they really are primarily lip butters, not lip color. Since they’re also “natural,” they’re good for the eco-conscious folks on your list.

korres gift set 2And oh, hey, speaking of Korres. Another break-up-able Korres gift set is the “Never Too Many” shower gel/body butter set ($39.50, Sephora). This kit contains one shower gel and one body butter in each of six scents: Basil Lemon, Jasmine, Guava, Clementine, Melon, and Mint.

So if you really needed to get your hands on a bunch of stocking-stuffer-type gifts, this would be the way to do it. But let’s get on to the more fun things, the things in which nothing gets split apart and in which each of your recipients gets something chosen with their personalities and tastes in mind!

All right, so you really don’t need me to tell you everything that’s on Sephora’s gift page. You can look there yourself (link), and there you will find kits and palettes galore, from every cosmetics line and at every price point. Tarte Treasure Chest, Urban Decay Book of Shadows II, Smashbox Wish for the Perfect [Everything], they’re all there, and if you have someone for whom a kit would be a good present, then these are all good and much-lemminged options. What I’m going to mention here are makeup-related gifts that I think are clever, useful, high-quality, and fun, and whose value goes beyond Christmas morning glitz and turns into year-round usefulness. (Substitute the holiday of your choice, of course.) Part of the fun of gift-giving is also to be a little indulgent and give the recipient something she might not buy for herself. (Speaking of which, I’m also a fan of gift certificates from spafinder.com, but I should probably talk about that in Part III, Skincare.)

The list that follows is, therefore, somewhat random, except that they’re all things I like.

josie_maranThe Josie Maran Moroccan Holiday Collection ($25, Sephora) is a clever, clever little gift. Not only does it contain among its little treasures a small vial of the much-hyped Argan Oil, the box converts into a Moroccan-patterned picture frame, so even the packaging is part of the gift!

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ecotools

Ecotools brushes and brush sets are a great gift for people who want to step up their makeup/skincare routine just a bit. Good brushes are really important, and these extremely inexpensive brushes (Target and other retailers, about $5-$12) are astonishingly good. I like some of them much better than brushes I paid a lot more for. As their name implies, they’re also eco-friendly, so they’re excellent for the hip earthy-crunchy granola gals on your list.

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ud body powderDefinitely an uncommon-but-glam gift: Urban Decay’s flavored body powder ($26). Now before you go wrinkling up your forehead and saying “eeeew,” this is actually a very subtle and sophisticated product. It’s just slightly shimmery, all of the scents are lovely, and it delivers a very nice glow. The flavors change periodically; right now it’s available in Cocoa, Marshmallow, and Honey.

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bare_escentualsIf you know someone who enjoys makeup but wants to learn some of the new trendy techniques, Bare Escentuals produces a set of Tutorial products, including this one for smoky eyes ($32 at beauty.com). Help your friends avoid looking like they came out the worst in a bar fight.

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smashbox o-glowA fun gift for the cosmetically curious: Smashbox O-Glow Intuitive Cheek Color, $26. This is another one of those products that starts out colorless and changes color when it hits your skin. I bought this when it first came out and I really enjoy it; it leaves a velvety finish and has great staying power. You do have to be willing to learn how to blend the product, so it’s not for the makeup-shy. There’s also an O-Glow lip gloss and an O-Glow bronzer; the cheek color and lip gloss can be found together in this set (along with a lip plumper) for $48, but really the cheek color is the standout product of this bunch.

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TwilightVenomYou may have heard about this little vampire movie craze that’s sweeping the nation. People are positively singing in the streets about it! (Oh, wait, wrong vampire craze. Sorry.) And can you let your Twilight/New Moon-loving pal get through the holidays without a tube of DuWop Twilight Venom ($16)? No, I don’t think you can. From the product description on beauty.com: In a chilling twist of fate DuWop’s signature product, Venom, is also the means by which Meyer’s mortals become transformed into vampires.  Rather than a typical gloss, Twilight Venom is a shimmering crimson lip stain suspended in a venom-laced liquid lip conditioner containing argan, avocado and olive oils as well as vitamin E. Twilight Venom should be shaken before use (to represent the blending of the human and vampire worlds) and can be applied repeatedly until desired intensity of color has been reached and lips are plumped and revitalized.” Bloody fabulous!

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jdebortoli/ / CC BY-ND 2.0
Disclaimer: All of the above products that I own were purchased by me.

Foxy Voxy Holiday Guide: Gifting, Part I (Fragrance & Bath/Body)

Ho, ho, ho! And away we go.

I’ll be mentioning both things you might want to gift and things you might hope to get this holiday, but in the spirit of the season, we’ll start with the giving. There is so much good stuff to both gift and get this year that I had to split this into a few parts so it was a little more manageable. This part is the good-smelling part.

Fragrance: Traditional perfumers

sephora_scent_samplerSephora: One of the best fragrance deals around is the wildly popular Deluxe Fragrance Set for Her (or its male counterpart). For $50 your gift recipient gets sample size vials of 12 popular fragrances, plus a gift voucher that can be redeemed for a full-size bottle of whichever one she likes best. This year the kit also includes an atomizer! (The male version contains a deluxe sample of Anthony Logistics for Men Shave Cream instead.)

harajukuAlso available at Sephora, Harajuku perfumes have become incredibly trendy this holiday season, and are lemmings for thousands and thousands of girls and women looking for something that’s as cute as Hello Kitty but that isn’t targeted at eight-year-olds. Including one of these in someone’s stocking will definitely mark you as the hip, cool, and in-the-know friend, mom, sister, or aunt.

If you know you’re going to give a fragrance sampler as a gift, you might consider buying it from fragrancenet.com, where you can often get products at anywhere from slightly to considerably less than regular retail prices. (They have some skincare and makeup, too, but often don’t stock whole lines, so product selection is hit-or-miss.)

Fragrance: Etailer love

Etsy: If you haven’t yet poked around Etsy, wait until you have a few hours to spend and then direct your browser to this multi-etailer cyber-marketplace. On Etsy you can get reasonably-priced handmade items of all types from small etailers and artisans. I advised you to wait until you have a few hours because you can easily lose a half a day just wandering around the site drooling over things.

loreto custom perfumeLoreto/L’aromatica: In the beauty/skincare category, there are several Etsy sellers offering things like handmade soaps and scrubs, and some mineral makeup sellers who might show up in one of the other parts of this gift-giving guide. But if you’re really looking for a unique, personalized gift for a fragrance-loving friend, you can’t do better than a custom perfume from Loreto. I got one of her custom perfumes last summer and I love it. There are two options. For $15 (a steal!) you can get a perfume in which you (or the person for whom you are buying the product) pick up to five notes from her extensive list. Loreto, whose customer service is fabulous, will help you tweak the notes if they don’t quite go together, or if you want something that’s a little heavier on the amber and a little lighter on the floral, etc. She is an expert perfumer, so she can take what you think you want and make it even better! Or, for $30, you get this excellent twist: a personalized perfume based on a personality profile that she sends you. You (or, again, the person for whom you’re buying this gift) fill it out, return it, and she puts together a perfume based on your answers. You get to have some input — there’s a place on the questionnaire to list notes you love and hate, so if you can’t stand patchouli, she’ll be sure not to put any of that in.

The one I got last year was one of the personality-profile types, and the scent she created for me has the following components:

Top notes: Orange, sage, guava, juniper, lime, bergamot, pine, pomegranate

Middle notes: Ginger, rose, vanilla, Spanish moss

Base notes: Patchouli, frankincense

It’s a lovely scent, and the assortment of notes is definitely one I wouldn’t have put together myself, but that’s why she’s the master perfumer and I’m not. I was really surprised by how much I liked it! This is truly a unique gift, and it’s a great price (particularly the pick-your-own-five-notes version).

Bath and Body Etailers:

villainess crushed smoochVillainess: If there’s someone on your holiday list who loves bath creams and scrubs and soaps, then Villainess is definitely a site to check out. Their bath and body products have various edgy-chic, not-quite-naughty names, like Smooch! (moisturizing sugar scrub) and Smack! (cleansing and moisturizing scrub) and Whipped! (body cream). They also have soaps and facial masks, and offer both single-note scents and their own combinations (crushed raspberry/dark chocolate/sandalwood, dark chocolate/vanilla/citrus/black pepper/nutmeg, and oh the list goes on). I’m not as wild about their fragrance oils: they are enticing when first applied but I find that their staying power leaves something to be desired. In addition, the bottles, which are beautifully exotic and delicate, are not exactly practical and tip over easily.

BathFrostingwTextIoEIsle of Eden: I’m almost afraid to mention this one, but I can’t leave it out because the products are so darned good. Isle of Eden produces lovely, lovely bath creams, scrubs, moisturizers, and fragrances (they also do shampoos and conditioners but I haven’t tried them). The reason I’m hesitant to mention them is that the turn-around time has historically been epically lethargic: upwards of 6 weeks. However! They say they have changed their operations and now have a TAT of 10 days or less. (Caveat emptor.)

Isle of Eden is definitely a bit over-the-top in terms of product appearance and product descriptions. Their colors are garish and some of the products look like they are the unfortunate results of an explosion in a clown factory. But in spite of all that, I love, love, love them. The sugar scrubs are moisturizing, the bath frosting makes a rich, smooth lather that’s excellent for shaving, and one of their fragranced body sprays inevitably draws compliments every time I wear it. And they all smell AMAZING. Unlike the Philosophy scented bath products, the scent on these does linger on the skin after bathtime is over. The colors may be garish but the packaging is plain; the goodies are all on the inside of the container. Choose the Bee So Soft cream over the Whipped, and the Bath Frosting over the Cashmere Crème Body Wash (the latter has a tendency to smell a bit plasticky).

Other fabulous fragrance or bath/body gift ideas? Leave ’em in the comments!

Review: Urban Decay Sparkle Pens (discontinued but available)

urban_decay_red_sparklerDiscontinued, schmiscontinued. (Yeah, that doesn’t work so well, huh?)

Although Urban Decay has discontinued this lip product, there are still a reasonable amount of them running around out there, so I’m providing this review in case you happen to see some of them and wonder if you should plunk down your hard-earned Benjamins on them, although since they are probably going to be dirt-cheap (and if they aren’t, don’t buy them), a minimum of Benjamins will be required. Actually, only a small fraction of a Benjamin, maybe just the B part. At any rate, with the holiday season coming up, you might be looking for a way to inexpensively add some sparkle to your makeup palette, and these are a good and surprisingly subtle choice that you could really wear year-round.

Like Stila’s Lip Glaze, the pens have brush applicators; you twist the bottom of the pen (it makes a clicking sound) and it advances the plunger towards the brush, forcing the product up through a little tube in the center of the brush and out to the brush tips. “How-it-works” geeks like me will get full value just from watching the mechanism. You will have to turn the bottom quite a bit to get the product to the brush tips; in the photo, the level of the pigment is around the E of “Urban Decay,” and I had to turn it enough so that the plunger had pushed the pigment up to between the star and the D before the product reached the tips.

This gloss has a lovely smooth lip-feel and is not sticky; it has a slightly fruity fragrance that’s barely noticeable. I do wish the color were more saturated; I was hoping for a nice bright, rich holiday red and what came out is sort of a light cherry/strawberry pink. It’s actually pretty, but it’s definitely not what I expected given how red the product appears in the tube. The “sparkle” is not so much sparkle as gentle shimmer, very subtle and easily wearable at work. It would also layer well over more matte products. Wearlength is standard gloss wearlength, which is to say that you will want to bring it with you for touch-ups during the day and after eating.

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Provenance: Purchased (Marshall’s clearance!)

Price/Value Ratio (high-end: poor/fair/good/excellent): For the price I paid ($3): excellent! For full-price ($10): fair.

Purchase again? Yes, but only at the Marshall’s clearance price.