moisturizer

Review: LUSH Skin Nanny (and an update on Lovely Jubblies)

All right, I know you all want to know about the Lovely Jubblies first.

When I was picking up all my other LUSH goodies, a salesperson made me a large deluxe sample of Lovely Jubblies so I could try it out for a few weeks. It smells kind of herbal and is a sort of ecru color. Now let’s get one thing straight: I was not expecting this product to turn my decolletage into something that could rival Christina Hendricks. But I did hope it would make my skin feel nice — and it really disappointed me in that regard. Most of their other products have a much nicer body-feel than this one (and I’m really not a fan of herbal-scented creams).

It also broke me out. And if there is one place worse than your face to have pimples, well, there it is.

On to something that so far my skin is liking a lot better than Lovely Jubblies: Skin Nanny!

The same salesperson had also given me a sample of Skin Nanny to try, and I liked it so much that on a return visit I bought a container. (Dear stores that don’t give samples: See?) As I’ve said before, and as the above experience indicates, LUSH skincare tends to make me break out. I haven’t tried it yet as an all-over facial moisturizer — it’s still too hot and humid here for a cream that is as thick as this one — but it turns out to be a stellar eye cream.

LUSH is almost as bad as Tarte in their marketing language. Maybe they use the same professional writers? Here’s what LUSH has to say about Skin Nanny:

Skin Nanny is the natural way to protect your skin from wrinkles. If you are going out in the sun and want to look after your skin, you’ve got to choose a moisturizer with some protection. Skin Nanny has natural AHAs from the fresh apple juice, helping to combat free radicals. It’s all part of our holistic approach to keeping your skin bright by using the whole fruit.

Heavy duty moisture soak.

Starflower oil moisturizes and hydrates your skin. Skin Nanny’s C and E vitamins come naturally with almond and hibiscus oils to penetrate your skin and smooth wrinkles.

OK. First of all, I don’t know how much AHA apple juice provides, how much apple juice is in the product, what the concentrations of the AHAs are, and what the pH of the product is. But I do know that AHAs increase skin’s photosensitivity, so implying that an AHA cream will protect your skin from the sun seems problematic at best. Now it does have some sunscreen ingredients in it: ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate (Parsol) and butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane (avobenzone). Older reviews of this product that I dredged up on the web say it’s SPF 30, and one even cites that as part of LUSH’s marketing language, but at this time they are no longer advertising it as SPF 30 on the lushusa.com website. And given that the cream is really thick, I doubt you’d be applying enough for this to be a real substitute for a sunscreen.

As for wrinkle-fighting, it doesn’t contain any fancy peptides or moon rocks or fairy dust. But it does contain a well-blended mix of shea butter and cold-pressed oils (almond, coconut, jojoba, starflower, hibiscus, and ylang-ylang). So it combats wrinkles by plumping the skin up with emollients. This is, of course, just a temporary fix, but if you had a serum or a lighter lotion with fancier ingredients that you liked and felt did a better job against fine lines, there’s no reason you couldn’t put that on underneath. I must say, though, that for my dry undereyes, it does an excellent job of moisturizing for most of the day (and it also works well as a night cream) without clogging pores. And though it’s not cheap, it will last ages (or until the expiration date has passed, anyway) — I’ve been using it twice a day and still haven’t finished my sample, which was much smaller than the Lovely Jubblies sample.

If you want to use it on the whole face, the consistency makes it hard to spread evenly if you start out with dry skin. Try using a toner or a serum first, then rub the cream between your fingers to warm and melt it a little before pressing it lightly onto your skin. This will help it spread more easily, but you’ll still only need a tiny amount.

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LUSH Skin Nanny: $48.95

Provenance: Purchased.

Price/Value Ratio (mid-range: poor/fair/good/excellent): Fair. I think their products are overpriced and I hate the packaging. I also wish they made smaller-sized products and sold them for less (which, to be fair, they do; I bought a trio of small jars of other body creams for, I think, about $8 total).

Purchase again? Maybe. Depends on how it gets me through the winter.

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

Review: C.O. Bigelow Lemon (and Lime!) Body Care

If you’re looking for a reason to stop into Bath & Body Works for their semi-annual sale, allow me to introduce you to C.O. Bigelow’s Lemon Cream (at right in photo), one of my all-time favorite body care products. Over the last couple of years they’ve expanded into “Lemon + X” varieties (lemon & pomegranate, lemon & orange blossom, lemon & lime), but for the most part I think the straight-up lemon products are still the best. The Lemon & Lime Soufflé pictured here (at left) is the exception.

The original Lemon Body Cream is a smooth, creamy product that’s the consistency of pudding. Those of you who dislike the stick-your-hand-in-a-big-jar method of dispensing the product won’t be fans, but I’m not overly sensitive to this, especially in a body cream. The texture is fabulous; it absorbs quickly but doesn’t disappear, and it really does leave skin exquisitely soft and moist. But the best thing, the thing that has kept it in my Top 5 list for the last five years, is its scent. It is like taking a stroll in a lemon orchard. (OK. I have never actually done that. But I imagine it would be just like that.) The scent is so divine because the fragrance is all-natural (or at least that’s what we were told the summer during which I did a retail stint at Bath & Body Works): it’s the natural aroma of lemon oil, which is not only sweet and tangy but which also has long been used as a skin-brightening ingredient. You will want to eat it, but please don’t.

The Lemon Body Lotion is a lighter version of the body cream, with a lower concentration of lemon oil (the cream is 4.5%, the lotion 2%; both should be OK for use unless you have the most sensitive of skins). It absorbs very quickly and is perfect for summer use.

The Lemon & Lime Soufflé is the only product I really like from the “Lemon + X” lines. It is a different texture than the Lemon Cream — more like Key Lime pie filling rather than pudding. It has lemon oil and extract 1% and lime extract 1%. It goes on feeling cool and light and is also a great choice for a summer moisturizer. Day out in hot sun plus cool shower plus Lemon & Lime Soufflé = ahhhhhhh.

I also own the Lemon Hand Soap and the Lemon Cream Body Wash and can recommend those as well.

These are currently on sale at Bath and Body Works as part of the semi-annual sale. Prices and deals in the semi-annual sale change from week to week (and sometimes from day to day; there are always things that aren’t ringing up properly) — when I purchased these, the Lemon & Lime Soufflé was half off (which I don’t think it should have been) and the other two products were part of a buy-two-get-two deal. The other two products I got with this deal are more for winter, so I’ll review them in a few months.

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C.O. Bigelow Body Care: prices vary, but on sale now at Bath & Body Works

Provenance: Purchased.

Price/Value Ratio (mid-end: poor/fair/good/excellent): Fair. They’re more expensive than I’d like, but the products are good and last a long time.

Purchase again? Yes!

(Have you used these products? Love ’em? Hate ’em? Want ’em? Spout off in the comments!)

Review: Hard Candy Sheer Envy Tinted Moisturizer

Part of the ongoing Foxalicious Fundamentals: Foundation series!

I don’t understand why the people who make $40 tinted moisturizers can’t do as well as this one, which costs $8 at Wal-Mart. (And if you are anti-Wally, you are out of luck, because they have the exclusive in-store distribution rights to Hard Candy products, at least for now. You can get some things via Amazon or eBay, though.)

It’s too early to say whether this is my Holy Grail of tinted moisturizers (I suspect not, because the choir of angels singing its praises is just slightly off-key), but it is better than all the other ones I’ve tried. The only contender is my Sue Devitt TM, which outshines this in terms of both coverage and finish but which isn’t moisturizing enough. I’m still saving that one for the hot swampy days of July. Still, let us not allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good. Of all of this year’s tested products to date, this is the best tinted moisturizer overall.

Hard Candy is an uneven line, with some really excellent products (especially for a drugstore line) and then some odd misses. You will have to get over the fact that some of the products look like they are designed for eleven-year-old girls who are just moving out of the “Hello Kitty” phase. However, the Sheer Envy tinted moisturizer is generally a hit for grownups as well as eleven-year-olds (and if you are wearing foundation at age eleven, STOP IT NOW). It has good coverage, a reasonably nice finish, and SPF 15 that doesn’t break me out (hence the choir of angels). It only comes in six shades, though, and I’m not sure how forgiving they are. This one, which is “light” (#2 of the six), was the only one that was pink enough for me to wear, so if you have more yellow tones in your skin than I do, you will probably do well. If you are pinker than I am, it might be difficult; this turns pretty neutral on me but might look sallow on anyone pinker than me.

I’ve tried this both alone and over primer, and I do find that its finish is better over primer. I also set it with HD silica powder; without setting powder it dries to a finish that is a little too shiny for me. The final finish is smooth but not as velvety or dewy as my cream foundation. It lasts all day without peeling or flaking, which sets it ahead of some of the other products I’ve tried, and it’s easy to remove. Here’s an odd thing: it does tend to cling more to my eyebrows than other foundations — that is, when I’m applying it to the forehead, if I get it on my brows I really notice it (particularly on the colorless hairs around the dark brow hairs), whereas if the same thing has been happening with other products, I haven’t picked up on it. That was a little weird, because it was hard to get the product *off* of my brow hairs without also removing it from the neighboring skin.

Right now this is definitely the leader in the tinted-moisturizer-for-summer category. I still wouldn’t wear it as foundation for a chi-chi-frou-frou event, but for most casual summer living it will do just fine.

Swatch!

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Hard Candy Sheer Envy Tinted Moisturizer: $8 at Wal-Mart

Provenance: Purchased

Price/Value Ratio (drugstore: poor/fair/good/excellent): Excellent! How often do I get to say that?! Not very.

Purchase again? Hello Kitty says Yes.

(Have you used this product? Love it? Hate it? Want it? Let us know in the comments!)

Monday Mix: Olay Professional Pro-X Check-In, Sales

Gavel by walknboston.Remember I was going to take the 28-day Olay Professional Pro-X challenge? The one in which if you used the products for 4 weeks you would see reduction in dark circles and puffiness, and in 12 weeks reduction in fine lines and wrinkles?

That was at the beginning of March. It is now the beginning of May. I let it go twice as long as I had originally intended (8 weeks rather than 4) because there were times when I wasn’t so compliant with the regimen and I wanted to be sure I had given the product a fair shake before tossing it in the dustbin.

Dustbin, ho.

The pluses were as follows: the “Wrinkle Smoothing Cream” is a perfectly good evening moisturizer if you don’t need it to do anything special. It does moisturize the skin well, but in my experience there are no other visible benefits. It will become my go-to elbow moisturizing cream until I finish it up. The “Eye Restorative Complex,” it turns out, attempts to reduce wrinkles by … moisturizing the eye area. Uh-huh. Right. OK, it’s a decent eye moisturizer, but I think it’s been pretty well proven by now that moisture alone does not do anything long-term for the reduction of wrinkles.

This leaves the Age Repair Lotion, the daily moisturizer with SPF 30, which did not moisturize me at all but which did break me out and leave my skin greasy. F.A.I.L.

Voxy’s Verdict: Save your $60 and invest in something else. I’ve gone back to my old standard Stri-Vectin eye cream and am trying out a new daytime moisturizer with sunscreen. I’m also trying some new evening products, and will be reporting on all of these in future days.

Sales — don’t get excited

Only one new sale to report: Korres is offering 25% off (and free shipping) through 5/12 with code SURVEY.

Some old ones still in progress. Check last Monday’s post. Bigelow and Hourglass sales still going on, I think Paula Dorf as well.

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/walkn/ / CC BY 2.0

Review: Urban Decay Guardian Angel Spray Moisturizer SPF 8

OK, so let’s get this out of the way right up front — if my guardian angel can only protect me at the level of SPF 8, then I have a 90-pound weakling for a guardian angel. SPF 8 is the equivalent of “protects against paper cuts, overcooked food, smelly shoes, and schoolyard playground insults.” Is there some sort of celestial Navy SEAL training I can send my angel to?

So just forget that this product has any SPF in it at all. If you actually get any sun protection from it, consider it a bonus — don’t count on it for your primary sunscreen. That said (and in spite of the criticism I am about to unleash), I really like this product. I’ve been looking for a light spray moisturizer to replace the old Wexler product I finally finished, and I think this one is a keeper.

Since my skin is dry, I always use this in conjunction with other products, so I don’t know how well it would stand up on its own. UD’s marketing language sez: “Time-release technology hydrates your skin up to 24 hours as the hygroscopic formula miraculously attracts moisture to your skin, yet always feels weightless.” First, I hope that “miraculously” is a play on the whole “angel” business, but the cynical part of me (which is, let’s face it, pretty much all of me) says it’s probably just a happy coincidence of pomp and circumstance. Something that is hygroscopic by definition attracts moisture, so I’m not really getting the whole “miracle” thing, unless we’re talking about the everyday miracles of the sun rising in the East every morning, gravity pulling objects down towards the Earth, or a parking spot opening up right in front of Einstein Bros. Bagels just as you pull into the lot. Divine intervention, surely. You were meant to have that egg bagel with cream cheese and bacon. Also, the phrase “up to 24 hours” could, in point of fact, mean five minutes. However, it performs at least as well as other moisturizing serums I’ve used in terms of prepping the skin for other products. I don’t notice any huge improvement in end-of-the-day dryness, but it isn’t any worse either, so all in all it seems to be doing an OK job.

Here’s where this falls in my routine: cleanser, toner, this product, AHA, other moisturizer, makeup and sunscreen. The product is slightly milky-white in color, but leaves no white traces on skin. It absorbs quickly and completely. If your skin is not dry and you are looking for a light summer moisturizer, this might be a good stand-alone product for you; if your skin is dry and you are going to use this in combination with other moisturizers anyway, this is a good companion product to go underneath your other products. My skin reacts negatively (read: “throws a hissy-fit”) to most sunscreens, so the fact that it doesn’t react badly to this is a good sign.

Definitely a paws-up on this one!

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Urban Decay Guardian Angel Spray Moisturizer SPF 8: $26.00

Provenance: Purchased

Price/Value Ratio (high-end: poor/fair/good/excellent): Good.

Purchase again? Yes, unless interrupted by the Rapture.

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

Review: Urban Decay Urban Defense Tinted Moisturizer SPF 20

Part of the Foxalicious Fundamentals: Foundation series!

Rejected product names for the Urban Decay Urban Defense Tinted Moisturizer:

Urban Derision: The foundation that mocks you

Urban Detritus: The foundation made from cigarette butts, ticker tape, and gum picked up off the street on New Year’s Day in Times Square

Urban Decomposition: The foundation that makes you Urban Decay just a little more quickly than you otherwise might have

Fortunately for the folks over at UD, they are not likely to run out of cutesy names anytime soon; MoreWords.com lists 3772 words that start with the letters “de.” Urban Detumescence, Deworming, and Dentures are just a few keyboard strokes away!

UD Urban Defense Tinted Moisturizer SPF 20 is a new product that’s just been released. I thought I’d review it now so that if you find it tempting (“Desirable”) you can order it during the UD F&F Sale (“Deal”).

As so often happens, I’m going to pick on (“Derogate”) the packaging first. I don’t know why so many of the people who make tinted moisturizers have made the choice (“Decision”) to use opaque packaging that neither clues you in to the color of the product nor lets you know how much is left. I assume it has something to do with keeping the sun-protective ingredients away from light, but there are SPF foundations that get around this and use the same ingredients, so I’m at a loss. The UD product comes in an opaque purple pump container that is just not particularly haute-looking (“Deluxe”). In fact, I think it looks a little cheap (“Declassé”). But anyway.

The product comes in only 4 shades, which are (from light to dark) Halo, Bodyguard, Bulletproof, and Forcefield. I ordered Halo, and was concerned it might be too light, but it blends in well enough. It’s not as perfect a match for me as the Sue Devitt TM, but it’s close enough to blend. Again, I would regard it more as a light foundation than an actual moisturizing product; I used it in place of a moisturizer one day and found it insufficiently moisturizing, but over my regular moisturizer and primer it performed much better. The primer was particularly valuable in keeping it from drying to a blotchy finish — once it’s dry, it’s really difficult to try to buff, remove, or otherwise redistribute the pigment, so use a primer and be sure you’ve blended well, especially around the hairline. The color looks quite different wet vs. dry, so don’t be surprised. In the swatch below, the wet product looks too yellow for me, but as I sheered it out and it started to dry and be absorbed, the yellow tone became much less detectable. If you’re less pink than I am, you’ll probably have no trouble at all.

It did last reasonably well all day without looking overly dry, but there’s no question that the finish is less dewy than either of my regular liquid/cream foundations. I’m still looking for a TM that is truly grab-and-go for summer wear — I’d wear this as a tinted sunscreen for a beach trip, a bike ride, or running errands in the sun, but it won’t substitute for a foundation for me for any work-related or formal activity where I need to look put-together. But if your skin is less dry than mine, or you don’t need or use a primer in your regular makeup routine, this will probably work much better for you than it did for me.

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Urban Decay Urban Defense Tinted Moisturizer SPF 20: $32

Provenance: Purchased.

Price/Value Ratio (high-end: poor/fair/good/excellent): Fair.

Purchase again? No. (“Denied.”)

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

Review: Sue Devitt SpaComplexion Tinted Moisturizer SPF 15

Part of the Foxalicious Fundamentals: Foundation series!

So let’s say you want to even out your skin tone and get a little bit of coverage but don’t want to go the full foundation route. Tinted moisturizers are definitely something to consider. Much (though not all) of the time, they are more forgiving in terms of color match than a regular foundation, because they are usually more sheer.

Please to meet the exception to the rule: Sue Devitt Spa Complexion Tinted Moisturizer SPF 15.

Sue Devitt is a line with which I don’t have a lot of experience (which is to say that I haven’t flung very much money in its direction). I can’t quite figure out why this is, since I seem to fling money at lots of other lines kind of indiscriminately. Plus, Sue Devitt offers loose eyeshadows in rollerball containers. Rollerballs! You know what I think about rollerballs. But I’ve tested them often in stores and never managed to bring one home. It probably also doesn’t help that Sue Devitt is not sold at Sephora and the area devoted to the line at my local ULTA is tiny and overwhelmed by the big hulking Urban Decay and Smashbox displays that are right next to it. Whether this is fair or not, it implies that the brand is unpopular. (The amount of dust on the box tops didn’t help either.) After using this product, I think this is definitely a quality line, but I still don’t find myself sleeping out in front of ULTA before it opens in the morning so I can be first to pick up the rest of her products. Which is probably a good thing, overall.

I tested this tinted moisturizer in-store just on a whim, and because I was thinking about how I’d never tried any of her products. And I bought it because to my very great surprise, it was exactly my skin color, and when I applied it on the back of my hand it blended beautifully and was smooth as silk with excellent coverage. (And I had a 20% off coupon.)

The full coverage of this product is not a problem for me, but if you want a really sheer look, you will probably want to look elsewhere. The SPF ingredients in this product are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, both of which are pretty opaque — so there’s just no way this product could be as sheer as some of the other tinted moisturizers on the market that use chemical sunscreens instead of physical ones. This gives more coverage than some regular foundations I’ve tried. And because it’s so much less sheer, it’s that much more surprising that Sue Devitt produces it in only three shades. Three?! Really? This is why I was amazed that it matched me. In the swatch at right there’s a little squiggle of product and then I’ve shown it blended out; I had to deliberately create a ragged edge on the left of the blended section so you would be able to see where it began because it blends in so well. I wear the lightest shade, which is called Tupalu; the others are Moorea and Manihiki (all the names of islands in various chains, although Tupalu is apparently more commonly called Tuvalu).

Paradoxically, my problem with the product is this: it isn’t moisturizing enough! And I apply my regular moisturizers before using it, too, so it’s not like I’m relying on this product to carry the load. It looks fabulous for a few hours, but then it starts to dry me out, and by the end of the day I’ve got more flakes than a box of Raisin Bran. So I’ve put it in my “summer” pile, and will hope that in warmer and more humid weather, when I don’t need as heavy a moisturizer, this will be a great substitute for liquid or cream foundation. In other words, I really, really, really want to love this product. So, in about 3 months, we’ll see where we are.

(Side note: The other problematic thing is that nowhere on the tube [nor, as far as I can recall, on the box] does it tell you the expiration date for the sunscreen. This is a common omission among cosmetics with sunscreens, and although sunscreens are designed to remain stable for up to 3 years, not having an expiration date on the package bothers me. This is especially important if you’re using this as your primary means of sun protection. It would probably be a good idea to supplement this with some other sunscreen, just in case.)

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Sue Devitt SpaComplexion Tinted Moisturizer SPF 15: $40

Provenance: Purchased

Price/Value Ratio (high-end: poor/fair/good/excellent): Fair. $40 seems kind of a lot. Had I not had the coupon, I probably wouldn’t have purchased.

Purchase again? Well, now, that depends, doesn’t it? Ask me in July.

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

Olay Professional Pro-X Anti-Aging Regimen: Day 1

I am grumpy.

I am grumpy for many reasons. For example, there is a distinct lack of tulips and hyacinths outside my window, even though I have declared, repeatedly, that it is time for spring.

I am also grumpy because I recently finished a tube of RoC Retinol Correxion Eye Cream. The grumpiness here is not because I’m sad to see the end of the tube, but because in spite of using it as directed, in near-perfect compliance, it had no visible effect on my skin. Their website says it “visibly reduces wrinkles around the eyes and crow’s feet in 12 weeks. In addition, it evens out dark circles and reduces puffiness in 4 weeks.”

It did nothing at all for darkness and puffiness, and I think I have more wrinkles around the eyes now than I did when I started. Srsly. It feels like several months of wasted time.

To add to my general pissiness, I have grudgingly decided to try the Olay Professional Pro-X line instead. This contributes to my grumpiness for two reasons: 1) it costs an arm and a leg given that these are drugstore products, and b) I have not liked the Olay line for many years. I know lots of people do like Olay, but my skin has never taken kindly to their products: they are either not nearly moisturizing enough and leave me dry and flaky, or they make me greasy and clog my pores. Plus, their sunscreens irritate my skin. Gripe, gripe, gripe.

So why on God’s not-yet-green-and-flowery earth did I decide to try it? Because of the recent clinical trial, reported last month in the British Journal of Dermatology, in which Olay Pro-X was pitted against prescription Renova — and won. (You can read a nice summary of the trial here at agelessbeauty.com.)

I purchased the Anti-Aging Starter Kit, which contains small sizes of three different products, for $59.99 at my local Tarjay. Yeah, that’s some serious sticker shock for a drugstore line — but the price of each full-size individual product was $39.99, so this seemed like the lesser evil. The Anti-Aging Starter Kit contains their age repair lotion, SPF 30 (their recommended daytime moisturizer/sunscreen), the eye restorative complex, and the wrinkle smoothing cream. (They also have an Intensive Wrinkle Protocol starter kit, which contains the age repair lotion, the wrinkle smoothing cream, and a small tube of their deep wrinkle treatment. This kit sells for a few dollars more.)

Olay’s website promises the Pro-X line will give me “younger-acting, younger-looking skin in 28 days.” All right, Olay, you’re on. Today is Day 1. Check back in with me 28 days from now and we’ll see what’s happened.

Open-Thread Thursday, A Biologist Goes to Sephora, Q of the W, SALES

Hooray for LOLcats by mherzber.Three cheers and hip hip hooray! Recently, A Biologist made her first trip to Sephora! (I am SO EXCITED!) I asked her to share her experience and she was kind enough to do so. So for all of you who are a little intimidated by the bright lights and eau-de-chic that they spritz into the air over there, take heart! If A Biologist can do it, so can you!

Here is her story:

My First Trip to Sephora (by A Biologist)

It’s been a week since my first trip to Sephora. I kept putting it off because I was afraid of getting the hard sell and coming out with $150 of stuff that I wouldn’t wear and didn’t know how to use. I didn’t want to get scolded for not wearing makeup or for improper skin care. I was also nervous because it is the one store in the mall where all the women going in and out look chic and polished and put together. I feel decidedly frumpy when I pass the store. My daily makeup routine pre-Sephora was usually just chapstick. After discussion here, and some—okay, a lot—of online browsing, I chose two products from the Laura Mercier line to try, a tinted moisturizer and an undereye concealer. I planned to go after work on a weekday so the store wouldn’t be as crowded.

The big day arrived. What to wear? Should I wear makeup? Will I get the stink eye from the salesclerks for being hopelessly un-beautified? Finally I chose a crisp white button down shirt, but skipped makeup for ease of product testing. I felt better if I thought of it as a research experience. I have done much scarier things for Science than walk into a store full of glamazons. My white shirt was a stealth lab coat.

As I entered I was immediately overwhelmed. Dazzling lights were reflected from mirrors on seemingly every surface, but the lighting was somehow also a little dim. The store was three times bigger than I thought it would be, and there were rows and rows of products organized by brand. I tried to quickly find the Laura Mercier section, but I walked through the store twice and couldn’t find it. Green and purple Urban Decay eye shadows screamed for my attention. Sparkly makeup boxes and posters of models with elaborate makeup distracted my eye from the shelf labels. There were also rows of “All Natural” products with Body Shop-esque packaging. Several shoppers were being made up by saleswomen, with a girlfriend or two watching intently. Maybe I should have brought a friend. I was the frumpy one with no friends who couldn’t find Laura Mercier even though every shelf was clearly labeled at eye level. Quelling rising panic, I asked one of the women with tool belts full of makeup brushes if they have Laura Mercier. She smiled pleasantly and walked me over to the shelf, which was right next to the entrance. She said she was “with someone” but if I could wait a few minutes she would send someone over to help me. I sagged with relief.

I looked over the products to identify the moisturizer and concealer I’d chosen.   I usually wear the very palest shade of a product, and I had just had enough time to notice that the concealer came in both a light yellowish and a light pinkish shade.  A young woman with dyed dark hair, dramatic eyeliner, and a French manicure with black tips arrived to help me.  Quirky.  I felt more comfortable.  She radiated calm, unhurried helpfulness, and I began to feel calm myself.  I told her I was looking for an undereye concealer.  She took a close look at my face, tipping her head to the side, and picked the more yellow concealer.  She applied a dab of the tester to the back of her hand then used a q-tip to apply it under my eyes and her fingertips to blend.  “Are my nails making you nervous?” she asked.  I must have been blinking a lot.  We surveyed the results in one of the mirrors.  The lighting was surprisingly unhelpful, so I couldn’t tell much, but I do know my skin is cool, not warm.  I suggested we try the pinker base as well.

The saleswoman applied it to my other eye and carefully considered.  “Which is which again?”

“Pink on the right, yellow on the left.”

“You’re right, you do need the cooler one,” she said as she bent down to choose the correct box for me.  She then asked if there was anything else I’d like to see, and I replied that I’d like to try the tinted moisturizer.  After determining I didn’t want the oil-free version, she quickly chose shade “pasty”—I mean “porcelain.”   She brought over a brush with a long, flat head to apply it.  While she brushed it on I pointed out the poster of the model demonstrating Laura Mercier’s version of smoky eyes and commented that the model looks great, but I don’t wear makeup very often and I’m not that advanced yet.  “Then this is a great line for you,” she said, “Laura Mercier is all about natural.”  I was pleased.   The makeup felt very cool and light going on, so I decided to purchase it as well.  She again carefully checked the box to be sure the shade is the correct one before handing it to me.  I took a look in the mirror.  The pinker undereye concealer was almost invisible, and the moisturizer left my face smooth and feeling very soft. The saleswoman was very unhurried, despite the other customers, and I felt comfortable that I’d had time to assess the products before purchasing.  At the checkout, my sleek little gray boxes went into a cute little black and white bag.  I am a secret sucker for pretty packaging.  I was asked if I would like to join the Beauty Insiders.  I would get a present on my birthday and special offers. Who can say no to that?  Leaving the store I happily swung my little Sephora bag a bit.  The boots on sale in the shoe store window, for once, didn’t attract me. I wanted to go home and play with my new makeup.

I’ve been waiting to publish until all the results were in—that is, until I’ve used my new products for several days.   The Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer makes my skin look and feel soft and smooth.  It is very light coverage, but my skin tone appears more even and it is invisible in the brightest sunlight or fluorescent lights.  It is very dry here now, so I have been applying my regular moisturizer beneath it.  The sun protection seems adequate for winter, but I apply it thinly enough it may not be enough for summer.  I’m very pleased with it for a daily routine.  The Undercover Pot concealer is amazing.   No yellowish reverse-raccoon eyes.  My coworkers agreed they couldn’t tell I was wearing undereye concealer.  I still need a little practice to determine exactly how much to apply so I don’t have to blot some off or make a second pass, but it takes almost no time using a concealer brush as recommended by Voxy.  This is my biggest epiphany so far—I am amazed at how perfectly the stiff, rounded brush works.  I just need to pat the edges a little bit with my fingertip and swipe on the translucent powder and it is ready to go.  The Pot has a second color to cover blemishes, and I had a bad moment when I got home and couldn’t remember which side was which.  Luckily, someone on the Sephora web page had the same question.  I haven’t had to use the blemish side yet, as the moisturizer appears to agree with my skin.

I’m looking forward to my return trip.  It was such a pleasant experience.  I decided that I would wait one month and see if keep up my new routine, which also includes mascara and eyeliner.  If I do, I’m thinking very strongly about eyeshadow primer and a neutral eyeshadow.  Or black nail tips.  I can’t decide.

A Biologist, you are AWESOME. Bold, brave, and appropriately assertive. I agree with you about the bad lighting in Sephora (if you are more on your own next time, remember the trick of going over to the perfume wall, which is usually mirrored, and looking at your face in those lights, which are brighter and cooler) — and the difficulty of finding the right Laura Mercier shade for us pale-skinned girls. (I’m between “Porcelain” and “Nude” myself.)

Will she go back? Stay tuned!

So, related, here is the Q of the W: are you nervous about or intimidated by shopping at stores like Sephora? Share your retail anxieties here!

As for me, I am totally at home in Sephora (there’s a reason I call it “the mothership”), but I intensely dislike shopping at department store counters where there are pushy sales associates who always think they know more than I do. (Again, I’m thinking about my horrible Estee Lauder experience.) I don’t like being pressured to buy something. However, today, if the roads are passible, I’m planning to head up to a mall with a MAC store (and MAC counters in the department store) to take a look at those MAC Spring Colour Forecast products I’ve been lemming. I would prefer not to, but I need to swatch them to see if they’re really worth buying, so I have to bite the bullet and go to a store or counter. Le sigh.

Speaking of MAC, the two new Viva Glam lipsticks are out as of yesterday — one, designed by Cyndi Lauper, is a light coral-red lustre, and the other, designed by Lady Gaga, is a very light pink that I can’t imagine will look good on anyone, but that has not stopped it from being wildly popular among people who love Lady Gaga. Which is pretty much par for the course. All proceeds (not a portion of the profits, but ALL the money from the sale) goes to the MAC AIDS Fund, which sponsors AIDS research.

Sales!

Er, uh, not much new.

Previously announced sales still going on:

SkinStore: 20% off sitewide (some exclusions) through 2/15; use code LUV20 • BeautyTicket: 20% off through 2/28 with code INSTYLE20 • TheCosmeticMarket: 20% off through 2/28 with code ALLURE

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mherzber/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

Review: Neat Feat Foot & Heel Balm

Favorite. Foot. Cream. EVER.

While in most ways I am the girliest of girls, I have to admit that my Achilles heel is — well, my heels. Actually, the whole bottom of my foot is kind of a disaster. Year-round, but especially in the winter, I have calluses and buildups of dead skin on my heels and on the ball of my foot that would shame a sasquatch. I have ruined more pairs of tights and hosiery than I can count because they get runs up the back from the tiny prickly stalagmites sticking out of my heels. (Yes, I know, eeeeew. Sorry.)

My arsenal of tools for dealing with this problem includes a callus shaver, a wide range of abrasive devices (pumices, emery boards, microplane graters, and even — I’m not kidding — a battery-operated rotary tool with a gritty quartz head, like a Dremel rotary carver), and every foot cream known to man. Or, woman, because honestly I haven’t met too many men who care if the bottoms of their feet are scratchier than 30 grit sandpaper.

A few years ago, I bought a little pair of toeless socks that had been treated with a thick moisturizing gel in the heel. They were essentially heel patches, with enough sock around them to hold them in place on the heel. They came with a tiny sample of foot balm, and the deal was that you would put the foot balm on your heel, put on the heel sock, and go to bed. The moisturizing gel and the heel balm together would theoretically do a number on your heels overnight and presto! you would wake up in the morning with fabulous heels.

And presto! it worked. And it continued to work while I went through that sample of foot balm. And then I ran out, and I figured I would just use some other foot cream instead — and then it stopped working, and there was much sadness (and many ruined stockings) in the House of Voxy. While the gel socks were a good idea, it turns out that the magic was in the foot balm — which was not available at Target, or Walmart, or any drugstore, or anywhere on this continent. While other products from this New Zealand company were being sold in the US, this particular one was not, and so at the time there was no way to get it.

Since then, the interwebz have improved a lot, and prompted by a recent inquiry elsewhere in cyberspace, I looked it up, and just about fell over with excitement when I saw that I could now buy this product online and have it shipped to me from New Zealand! (It’s still not sold in American stores, as far as I know; if you find out otherwise, let me know in the comments!)

This magical mystery product is, of course, Neat Feat Foot & Heel Balm, and it is the single best unsightly-feet-fixer I have ever used.

When looking at something to penetrate and soften dead and callused skin, urea (lab-synthesized) is the magic ingredient, but there are plenty of foot creams that have urea that don’t do squat. Unlike most other drugstore foot-care products I’ve tried, Neat Feat Foot & Heel Balm is a thick, oil-based balm, which means that it stays where it’s put and takes a long time to absorb into skin. This gives the urea a long time to penetrate and really softens the skin. The balm does not smell like roses or cookies or anything else delicious, but it certainly works. This is a product that caused me to see a real difference in just one night.

Use in conjunction with other dry-skin removal practices: cleansing, exfoliating via an emery foot board or other appropriate abrasive, and overall foot moisturizing. The wear-socks-to-bed trick is still a good one, and this balm works just fine for that.

Right now Neat Feat is having a 2-for-1 sale, so you can get two tubes for the price of one. Each tube is only 75 g/2.6 fl. oz., but since it is so thick and you don’t use a lot at a time, it will last a reasonably long time, especially if you only have dry-skin troubles in the winter. The value of the 2-for-1 deal effectively cancels out the high cost of shipping from NZ to the US, but even if it ended up not quite evening out, it would have been worth it to be able to get this product again. I ordered on January 5; it was not shipped until January 18 for some reason, but it arrived at my door on or about the 25th. So, a week from shipping date to arrival date, give or take.

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Neat Feat Foot & Heel Balm: $9.95 US for 2 tubes, plus $8.50 shipping from NZ to US

Provenance: Purchased

Price/Value Ratio (drugstore: poor/fair/good/excellent): Fair. The product price itself is good, but having to pay overseas shipping is a drag. If you find it in stores in the US, let me know.

Purchase again? Yes, ma’am!

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