Review: Stila “It Girl” Eyeshadow Palette

Stila’s summer deal prices are so low they’re virtually giving stuff away, so if you’ve been itching to try some of their products, you can probably pick up some good bargans. Case in point: the $10 Stila “It Girl” Eyeshadow Palette.

This palette contains three almost-full-size eyeshadows: Kitten (a sparkly white-gold color that is their most ubiquitous shade; it seems like you can hardly buy anything from Stila without tripping over Kitten*), plus two limited-edition shades that are exclusive to this palette: Lamé (gold) and Chloe (brown). The palette is larger than I expected, and I wonder if they could have gotten away with less packaging as it seems slightly bulky. I don’t mind that the shadows are slightly less than full-sized; I think that most of the time products are too large anyway, and besides, $10 is less than you would pay for a single full-size Stila shadow, which retails for $18 and doesn’t even come in any sort of container that closes. (They sell them in pans with the idea that you’re also going to buy an empty Stila palette and make your own.)

As I’ve mentioned before, in general I like the quality of Stila’s eyeshadows a lot, and if you’re a fan of shimmer and sparkle, this palette won’t disappoint. For me, Kitten is too shimmery (almost metallic) to be used over the full lid, but it works beautifully as an accent or (when applied very lightly) as a highlighter. Lamé is too yellow to work on my pink-toned skin except as part of a bronze-and-copper look, but Chloe is a warm golden brown that’s very attractive.

Close-ups and swatches!


Lamé (top), Chloe (bottom)

L-R: Lamé, Chloe, Kitten

*No actual Kittens were harmed in the writing of this post.


Stila “It Girl” Palette: $10

Provenance: Purchased.

Price/Value Ratio (high-end: poor/fair/good/excellent): Excellent! Would love a version with cool neutrals as well (and no Kitten!).

Purchase again? Probably.

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

Beauty on the Cheap: 3 Foxalicious Upgrades to the $50 Challenge

So let’s say you already have some of those things I mentioned yesterday. Let’s assume that somewhere in your life you managed to acquire a lip gloss, or a blush, or a tube of foundation that you like. Now you’re probably rattling around with all sorts of loose change in your pockets, since you didn’t spend all of your $50, and wondering what else you could buy.

Why yes, of course I have suggestions. ;)

These suggestions are going to go a bit beyond the basic. So if you already have the elements of a starter kit and are ready to add a product or two, keep reading. I’m no longer working within the $50 limit, but I am keeping this to drugstore products only.


L’Oreal has just come out with a really, really nice primer that’s newly available at Target. It’s called the L’Oreal Studio Secrets Secret No. 1 Magic Perfecting Base, and it normally retails for $10.99 (right now it’s 10% off at my Target and online). I haven’t seen it anywhere else yet, but I’m sure it’s on the way. Both Targets at which I’ve seen the product also have a tester available in the display, so you can try it on the back of your hand. I was so impressed with it that I bought one (again, the fact that it was on sale and I had a small Target gift card burning a hole in my removable wallet helped) and will do a full review of it soon. It has the same smooth silicon texture as high-end primers. If you’re interested in seeing what a primer is like, this is the one I’d recommend starting with. It looks pink in the container, but when it’s on your skin it’s translucent and basically colorless, so don’t be put off by that. This would go on before your foundation.

Cream Blush

I love a nice cream or gel blush, and the Almay SmartShade ones are really nice for drugstore products. They have terrifically long staying power, and although it’s certainly possible to apply them boldly, I was also really impressed by how subtly they can be used and still last all day. There are three shades: Pink Rose (light-medium pink), Natural (more peachy/brown-toned), and Berry (slightly deeper pink). There’s also a bronzer if you’d like to experiment with that. These are all $8.39 at (I forgot to price them at Target; sorry!).

Finishing Powder

A liquid/cream foundation is nice, but sometimes you want a dusting of powder on top to blend products, cover any remaining shine, give a soft-focus effect, or create a velvety texture. For a drugstore product, one of the best choices (in my humble opinion) is Cover Girl Professional Loose Powder (about $5.25-$5.50 depending on where you shop). These powders are translucent rather than opaquely pigmented, so they’re not good as a foundation unless you are quite young and have excellent skin to start out with — you just don’t get a lot of coverage. But if your skin is good and you just want something to use to reduce shine, they’re an excellent choice, and because they are translucent, they work well as a finishing powder over other makeup. Please throw the poofy thing out immediately. Use the fluffiest powder brush you have, or a skunk brush if you happen to own one (note: not actually made from skunk).

L’Oreal also makes one of these in their Bare Naturale line; it’s called Bare Naturale Mineral Finish and it comes in two slightly tinted shades (Translucent and Translucent Medium), one shimmery shade (Luminizing) and one mattifying shade (called, er, Mattifying). I use the palest tinted shade, the Translucent, as one of the ingredients in my custom mineral powder blend; it sheers out the mixture and makes it a little less opaque. The Mattifying shade is one I haven’t tried but it seems to be similar to the Make Up For Ever HD powder that I reviewed previously — it’s also silica-based, although it has considerably more ingredients than the MUFE product. (One of those ingredients is carnauba wax, and I can’t quite figure out what that’s doing in a mattifying powder since it is more often used to hold emulsions together and make them shiny — think lipstick.) These are all $12.49 at Target.

So there are some variations for you. I’d love to hear about any other great drugstore finds and/or steals you’ve discovered, so please post them in the comments!

Beauty on the Cheap: The $50 Drugstore Start-Up Makeup Challenge

Gauntlet for the Left Hand by unforth.So, a few weeks ago, Froggy challenged me to put together a start-up kit of makeup, using drugstore products, for $50. (Well, using the word “challenged” makes it sound like she came to my house, called me out, threw a gauntlet on my front steps, and told me to pick my second as we would be dueling at dawn the next morning. It wasn’t like that. Although, I wouldn’t be surprised if Froggy owned a gauntlet. ;) )

I am pleased to report that I did it! and came in $1.50 under to boot. OK, so I didn’t count sales tax. And I did the majority of the shopping at Target and (hides face) Wal-Mart. I know! I know! But getting a whole face full of stuff for under $50 is hard! If you don’t want to shop at Wal-Mart, you can call it an under-$60 challenge and do it wherever you like. I live quite near a Wal-Mart but I didn’t realize how small the beauty department at this particular store was; only two aisles, and short ones at that. So you may have even more options than this!

Below I’m going to give you the basics and what they cost. Tomorrow, there will be suggestions for adding on to or changing products out of this collection.

For $48.50, according to prices in-store and online, you can get a foundation, a concealer, an eyeshadow quad, an eye/brow liner, mascara, a blush, a lipgloss, and brushes. That’s pretty darned good, I think.


It will be no surprise to regular readers that I’m going to go for the Almay SmartShade Anti-Aging Foundation (SPF 20) for $10.97. I use this myself and like it very much; the sunscreen does not break me out, the product does not clog my pores, and the shade matching works very well. (I reviewed an earlier version of this product here.) It comes in only a few shades, but the color-matching technology is good enough that it should suit most people. If you prefer a mineral powder foundation, I’m opting for L’Oreal Bare Naturale, which I’ve also reviewed previously; this was available at my Wal-Mart for $10.50.

Other popular drugstore foundations at the moment include Revlon ColorStay ($12.99 at and Cover Girl Advanced Radiance ($10.99 at


Again, sticking with a on old standby that has worked well for me for both undereye circles and for blemishes: Cover Girl CG Smoothers concealer stick, $5.99 at Target.


There are a few products on the market that do double duty as eyeliners and brow liners. (Obviously, they are brown.) Brown eyeliner looks good on anyone, and if you get something that also matches your brow color (or, preferably, is a tiny bit lighter), then you’ll in effect be getting two products for the price of one. Can you use a regular brown eyeliner, one that’s not specifically made for brows, as a brow pencil? Sure — but because those formulas are usually a little creamier, it might smear.

Because cost was a primary concern, I went with Cover Girl Brow and Eye Makers 2-pack for $2.86. The package even comes with a sharpener, which is handy. Maybelline makes a comparable product which does not require sharpening and costs $4.48. Getting this one instead will put you 12 cents over the $50, but I have to say I think it’s worth it. For the sake of the challenge, my official pick is the CG for $2.68, but I strongly suspect the Maybelline product is superior. I have to admit that if I weren’t aiming for a $50 target, I’d probably have recommended separate eyeliner and brow powder/pencil, just because it’s hard to get something that’s the right texture for both different uses. Prestige Cosmetics makes excellent inexpensive eyeliners in a variety of colors (if you go to their website, don’t be distracted by the fact that they are picturing lipliners instead of eyeliners; they look just the same and the color selection tab at the bottom works properly to show eyeliner colors); they are $5.39 at ULTA but can usually be got cheaper elsewhere.


In terms of mileage for the buck, you can’t do much better than a nude trio or quad. Most lines make some version of these, so you’ll have options. In general I think neutral shades are safe to buy in the drugstore; I tend to go high-end if I want something that’s bright, bold, or highly pigmented. (And, I admit, it is luxurious to have some high-end neutrals too.) Here I’m going with Rimmel’s Color Rush eye shadow in Smoky Brown (or Smoky Brun, depending on whether you’re looking at the product or the display!). You get two lid colors, a highlighter color, and a crease color, all for $4.28. You don’t have to use all four; you can just use one lid color and call it a day. But at least you get options.

I chose the nude quad because everyone looks good with a natural eye. But if you’ve got some brown shadows at home already and are looking for something different, you can get similar sets of mauve- or blue- or grey-tinted neutrals. And take your skin tone into consideration — some lines’ nudes lean a little warm, and some a little cool. Again, I’d stay away from the ultra-brights if you’re just starting out.


This is a category I thought a lot about, and I have to confess that my eventual recommendation is not actually a mascara I’ve tried, but it’s one that’s gotten very, very good reviews, and quite a lot of them. For several years I used Maybelline Lash Stylist, until it was discontinued, and around that time I switched to Tarte Lights, Camera, Lashes!, which I love and so I don’t see myself going back to drugstore mascaras anytime soon. Because I stuck with Lash Stylist for a few years, I missed a lot of the other mascara releases that happened during those years. So, take it with a grain of salt, but know that I read a lot of reviews.

The product I’ve picked for this challenge is Cover Girl Professional All-in-One Curved Brush Mascara, which retails for $3.99 at Target. It also comes in a waterproof version for the same price, if you prefer that, but I don’t tend to recommend waterproof mascaras as a first option as I find they are more likely to irritate my eyes and are harder to remove. (And at Target, if you want to get the straight brush instead the curved one, you’ll save another 10 cents! Srsly — it’s $3.89 while the curved brush is $3.99.)

Right now there’s a lot of buzz about Cover Girl Lash Blast mascara, which is a little pricier, but one of the things that people commonly complain about in regards to Lash Blast is that the enormousness of the brush makes it difficult to control application of the product. If you’re looking for a starter set, it’s probably better not to get something that hands you a steep learning curve straight out of the package.


Here I went with Maybelline Expert Wear Blush ($4.48), because they offer a wide range of colors: 13 blush colors and 3 bronzer colors if you prefer a bronzer instead of a blush (same price). Revlon also offered some nice-looking blushes, but the color range wasn’t as wide and prices were in the neighborhood of $8-8.50 instead of $4.50. They do look like interesting products, though, and they offer cream, powder, and mineral formulas, so if you don’t find anything in the Maybelline aisle that suits you, I wouldn’t hesitate to hop over to Revlon.


For someone who’s new to makeup, a gloss is IMHO a much better bet than a lipstick or lipstain — easier to apply, less worry about smearing or smudging, less worry about the color being too strong, etc. Glosses do come in a wide range of pigmentation (more is better) and stickiness (less is better), and after carefully perusing the options, I went with Revlon Super Lustrous Lipgloss, which Wal-Mart had for $5.94. I actually purchased the Cherries in the Glow shade I’d mentioned the other week in the Drugstore Red Lippies and Glosses post, and like it very much. It’s very sheer and I can’t think of anyone who couldn’t wear it. It definitely does not scream “HELLO MY LIPS ARE VERY RED!” like some lip products can. They also have a variety of other tones: pinks, corals, and nudes. P.S. — Dear Revlon, I still hate your website. Plz fix it. OKthxloveyoubye! — Voxy.


So, since you’re going to throw out all the applicators that come with those packages (right? you are, aren’t you?), you are going to need some brushes — at least for the blush and eyeshadow, and possibly to smooth out the foundation or apply concealer in hard-to-reach spots as well. Fortunately, there is a perfectly priced set of Essence of Beauty brushes available at CVS (their exclusive retailer, so you won’t find them elsewhere): a six-brush travel pack of face brushes for $9.99. This package contains the following: powder brush, blush brush (either of these can really be used for blush), eyeshadow brush, shadow eyeliner brush (in case you want to use the dark shade out of your quad as an eyeliner), smudger brush (so you can blend the colors in the quad together), and concealer brush. Voilà! Everything you need. Like Ecotools, Essence of Beauty brushes are far better than their price point might lead you to believe. I just bought two sets of EoB brushes for myself — not the travel set I’m mentioning here, but a two-pack eye brush set and some dual-ended face brushes.

So, where do we stand with the math?

Almay SmartShade foundation: $10.97

CG Smoothers concealer: $5.99

CG Brow and Eye: $2.86 (but really, think seriously about the Maybelline; I’ll send you the twelve cents. If you get the straight brush mascara instead of the curved brush at Target, there’s a dime right there, so you’d only be TWO cents over!)

Rimmel eyeshadow quad: $4.28

CG Professional mascara: $3.99

Maybelline ExpertWear blush: $4.48

Revlon Super Lustrous lipgloss: $5.94

Essence of Beauty brush pack: $9.99

TOTAL: $48.50

Note: In addition to tomorrow’s post on possible additions to or substitutions for items in this list, I’m planning to do another one of these kind of posts for higher-end products, probably a $100 Sephora challenge. (I can’t do it on $50.)

Review: Run Don’t Walk to Sephora for Tarte’s “Maureen’s Favorites” Set

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I have a pretty serious crush on Tarte. Like, the blushing and stammering kind. The kind where I don’t want to be caught looking but can’t stop myself. The kind where I write “Voxy + Tarte 4Ever” in little hearts all over my notebook paper.

(I totally don’t do that.)

As is the nature of crushes, I find myself wanting to talk compulsively about the wonderfulness and magicalness of the object of my affections. Now, I am the first to admit that there have been some Tarte products I have not been too crazy about in the past, and their packaging still leaves me baffled on occasion (purple snakeskin condom mascara). And I am not too wild about their lip products for the most part. But nobody’s perfect! I mean, are you going to hold it against Dustin Hoffman that he once agreed to star in Ishtar?

Okay, yes, I am too, I admit it. Bad example.

Anyhoo, this new set, exclusive to Sephora and for Beauty Insiders only — and if you aren’t one already, for heaven’s sake join — is so perfect for me that I refer to it as Vox in a Box. (Well, it’s actually Vox in a Bag, but that doesn’t sound as good.) It’s called “Maureen’s Favorites” because the products are apparently the picks of Tarte’s founder Maureen Kelly. I first saw it online, but for once had the good sense to step away from the computer and check it out in person at a Sephora store before buying. And it is fabulous.

This package of delightfulness contains the following:

• Full size Lights, Camera, Lashes! mascara (the purple snakeskin condom thing)

• Full size Natural Lip Crème Pencil in shade Peaceful (limited edition)

• Slightly-smaller-than-regular-size Lock & Roll Creaseless Eye Shadow Duo in shade Deep Amethyst (new, and also limited edition AFAIK)

• Deluxe sample size Natural Cheek Stain in shade Exclusive (limited edition)

• Deluxe sample size Mineral Powder Bronzer in shade Park Ave Princess

• a purple bag for putting things in, with a purple flower pin which they say you may wear out in public but about which I am HIGHLY DUBIOUS

So, lookit. The mascara by itself costs $19. The lip pencil by itself costs $24. So at $39, this kit is less than the combined cost of the two full-sized products, and you get the others basically for free!

I reviewed the Lights, Camera, Lashes! mascara previously, and I still like the product very much, although I have not warmed up to the … er, wrapper … at all. I also reviewed the Natural Lip Crème Pencil previously, and although I was disappointed by its lack of staying power, that bothers me much less in a product that’s nearly nude to start out with. In the swatches at the end of this post you’ll see that on my skin it looks like quite a bold terracotta color, but lips are darker than skin, so on my lips it is a just slightly tawny nude.

The Lock & Roll Creaseless Eye Shadow Duo is a clever product that has a cream shadow on one end and a matching powder shadow on the other end (which comes out in a ROLLERBALL, which you know contributes to my giddy excitement). You put the cream shadow on first, then set it with the powder, and it’s supposed to last for 12 hours. Most of the permanent Lock & Roll shades are quite light, so you could use them on the whole eye. This dark amethyst is a gorgeous deep warm purple, so using it over the whole lid is out of the question, but near the lashline this will be a great accent color. The size of the product in the kit is 0.12 oz of cream shadow and 0.04 oz of loose shadow; the full-size version is only a tiny bit larger — 0.14 cream and 0.05 loose — and retails for $17.

If you’ve missed my previous posts on Tarte’s cheek stains, these are some of my favorite products on the planet. Most of the ones I’d previously accumulated (True Love, Berrylicious, Tickled, Blushing Bride) were red or rose-colored, with Blissful (apricot-peachy-red) and Tipsy (a less complicated apricot) being the exceptions. This new “Exclusive” shade is a perfect slightly brown neutral. For a no-makeup look, I can’t really think of anything better. I’ve only ever seen the Tarte cheek stains in two sizes: the full-size (1 oz) version, which retails for $30, and these smaller sizes (0.24 oz), which you can only get as parts of samplers or other combination packs. I have sample sizes of Blushing Bride, True Love, and Tipsy, and haven’t even made a dent in them, so I think this will last anyone a long time.

The last product in the lot is the Park Ave Princess Mineral Powder Bronzer. Confession: As a fair-skinned, slightly cool-toned girl, I am scared of bronzers. I have not found a one that has not made me look either dirty, orange, or both. So I looked up some reviews of this product before purchasing and found several from other fair-skinned women who said this was the only bronzer they’d ever been able to wear. So, we’ll give it a go. This is the lighter of the two shades of Mineral Powder Bronzer Tarte offers; on skin it does swatch out a pretty pure bronzy-gold color and doesn’t look orange.

Oh, yeah, and there’s a bag. With a purple flower pin. (I hate these bags that come with kits. Almost all the time they’re useless — and in fact, the last time I bought a Tarte combination set, it came with a bag that was so heinously ugly I kept it just so I could use it to scare off thieves, vandals, and small children. Dear cosmetics companies: Please stop making cheap bags that don’t hold enough product to make it worthwhile; it’s wasteful and adds no value to the package.)

Pics and swatches!

Left: Cheek Stain in “Exclusive”

Right: Natural Lip Crème Pencil in “Peaceful,” which goes on my lips as an almost invisible tinge of warmth

Lock & Roll Creaseless Eye Shadow Duo in Dark Amethyst

(left: cream shadow; right: powder shadow)

(still trying to figure out why skin on my wrist is differently toned in these photos than the skin on my arm; must keep working on photography skillz)

Bag, for those of you who like these things.


Tarte “Maureen’s Favorites” Exclusive Value Set: $39, exclusive to Sephora

Provenance: Purchased, gleefully.

Price/Value Ratio (high-end: poor/fair/good/excellent): Excellent! Fantastic!! Amazing!!!

Purchase again? I’d definitely buy individual components again, but I doubt I’ll be running out anytime soon (except for the mascara, of course, which I would repurchase).

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

Beauty on the Cheap: Drugstore Red Lipsticks and Glosses

Last week, LadyStarlight posed the following perplexing puzzler:

So I was in my local WalMart looking at makeup (because I was alone, ie, no boys of any age with me) and saw Cover Girl lipsticks on sale and thought “I would like a red lipstick but… 1) How do I choose a shade that flatters me and 2) Are there any drugstore available glosses or lip stains that aren’t as…noticeable, I guess, as a lipstick?”

And so, I hitched the dogs to the sled, packed up provisions for the long journey, put my affairs in order, and set off on the quest to find some good drugstore red lippies.

(OK, I am being just a tiny bit melodramatic. I got in the car and drove to ULTA. Satisfied?)

I talked a bit about Question #1 in this post, and it fundamentally comes down to the warm vs. cool issue again, just like it does with foundation. If you are cool/pink-toned, look for a neutral-to-blue-tinted red. If you are warm/yellow-toned, look for a neutral-to-orange-tinted red. The true neutral reds, which are hard to find, can usually be worn by either cool or warm skin tones. It can be difficult to tell just by looking at a lippie by itself whether it is blue-tinted or orange-tinted (red just sort of looks red, after all, until you figure out what you are looking for), so I suggest you look at at least two lippies at a time for comparison. The white paper trick is also still a good one. Also remember that your lips are at least a little bit (and in some cases a lot) darker and more pink than your skin tone, so unless you’re planning on covering your lips with foundation before putting on lipstick, you can expect it to look a little different on your lips than on your hand.

It will also depend on the lightness of your skin; dark- and olive-skinned women can wear some gorgeous shades of red that are overpowering on my pale skin. (You lucky ducks!) As I mentioned in my last foundation post, I’m an NW20 — light-skinned, slightly cool. I look best in reds that are neutral to slightly cool. This is not a very wide range (others may have better luck), but within that narrow pie wedge, I can wear things from sheer to full pigmentation and in a range of tints from light to dark. So it’s less limiting than it sounds. I am still a big fan of buying some inexpensive lip palettes and mixing colors just so you can see what looks good on you; then you can take that color to the store and try to find yourself a match in a brand you like.

OK, let’s get to the goodies. I have four products to recommend; I’ll cover them from the most sheer to the most pigmented, starting with the glosses. By the way, the reason I’ve been in such a snit over my missing Lancome Rouge Magnificence gloss is that it’s a lovely, soft, sheer, subtle, neutral shade of red gloss that looks good on top of anything. If you decide to go high-end, I recommend it. I’m sure the lipgloss-eating monster under the front seat of my car would also give it a strong endorsement, since he’s had it for at least two months now. Stupid monster. I’m sure he looks very pretty.

#1. Revlon Super Lustrous Lipgloss in shade #80: Cherries in the Glow ($6.99 at

OK, so pardon the horrible, horrible skin tone here. I appear to have been zombified when I wasn’t looking. The lighting was bad, I swatched it right over the tendons and veins on the back of my hand, and I was taking the photo with my iPhone;  in correcting the image to accurately render the color of the gloss, I have now made myself a candidate for the next Twilight movie. My apologies. Please don’t let it put you off; this is a good product!

This is, I think, an excellent “starter red.” Because it’s a gloss, it’s nice and sheer. It can be worn over bare lips or, if you’re feeling a little more bold, over another lipstick or lipstain to intensify and redden the color.

I think they’re undergoing a packaging change, but the product should look something like this (minus the “tester” sticker):

#2. Neutrogena Moistureshine Lipsheers in shade #50: Ruby Bliss ($8.99 at

This is packaged like a lipstick, but has a sheer texture, like a lip balm stick. The color is more intense than a lip balm, though; it may be applied very sheerly or built up for more intensity, so it is a good “intermediate red.” It looks moist, like a balm, but does not have an obvious glossy shine.

I looked on a lot of sites and didn’t see any swatches that actually represented the color of the product, so don’t be alarmed if you go to the website and say, “uh, that can’t be it; it looks too pink/brown/green.” (OK, not green.)

#3. Revlon ColorStay Mineral Lipglaze in shade #545: Stay Ablaze ($8.99 at

I love this. I very nearly bought all four of the products in this post, but this was the most tempting. This is a beautiful, rich red that is on the warm side, but because it is darker and not fire-engine bright, it will flatter many different skin tones. It has the shine of a gloss and the pigmentation of a lipstick.

(P.S. — Dear Revlon: Your website sucks. I will not send any of my readers there. Plz fix. Love, Voxy.)


#4. Cover Girl Outlast Double Lipshine in shade #265: 14-Carat Ruby ($9.29 at

OK, now don’t be scared of this one, but if you are new to red lippies, you will probably want to work up to this one via glosses and less pigmented products, like those listed above. This is a gorgeous, gorgeous red. The Cover Girl Outlast Double Lipshines are double-ended products with a long-wearing lipstain on one end and a clear gloss topcoat on the other. I only swatched the lipstain side here. I was really impressed by both the shade and the amount of pigmentation. The only problem with these kinds of long-wear products is that sometimes the lipstain portion is drying (which is why you get the gloss; that’s meant to keep the lips moist). I didn’t test it on lips, so I don’t know. I do have some other products of this type and in general I like them a lot.

You can also “thin” the application of the stain if it’s too intense for you by putting on the gloss first. Then dab the stain on the center of your bottom lip; rub lips together. Dab additional dots where you need it; rub lips together. If you need more precision to get the cupid’s bow right, use a small lip brush.


So, there you go. Four good drugstore options for red lippies, from gloss to lipstains. Please let me know in the comments if you pick up any of these products and if they work for you, or if you have other drugstore reds you’d recommend!

Photo: / CC BY 2.0

What You Get for the Money: SkinCareRX’s Beauty Caché

First, let us all agree that that accent over the e in “caché” just doesn’t belong there. To quote John McIntyre, former head of the copy desk at The Baltimore Sun:

“Baltimore looks for prestige, for a little extra cache, or so a recent article suggested before the copy desk got at it.

The right word, of course, is cachet, pronounced ka-SHAY. A cache, pronounced kash, is a place where supplies are hidden for safety, or the supplies themselves. As a verb, to cache means to store something in a hidden place, as campers hide their food in a place where bears won’t find it.

Cachet, in the sense of possessing distinction, derives from the same root as cache. In pre-Revolutionary France, the crown used the lettre de cachet, a secret, sealed letter containing a warrant, to imprison someone without trial. The cachet was the seal that kept the letter secret. A cachet has thus come to mean a seal or stamp on a document and, by extension from the lettre de cachet, a mark of official approval. Odd that a negative connotation should metamorphose into a positive, but that is how language works.

Why anyone would confuse the two words is obscure, but I suspect that some responsibility must fall to Caché, a retailer of women’s fashions that has added an acute accent to cache to suggest cachet. Now you see the peril of allowing retailers to influence English usage. (Macy’s uses a little star instead of an apostrophe in its logo, but that doesn’t mean that you should use little stars instead of apostrophes.)”

I don’t know — I kind of hope the little stars thing catches on. However,  I do draw the line at dotting the letter i with a smiley face, heart, or daisy.

But! To the matter at hand, which is showing you what you get for the money when you get one of these SkinCareRX Beauty Cache packages (I refuse to use the accent). These are available for $29.95 and you don’t know what’s going to be in them, but the products are supposed to be valued at a minimum of $350. They will produce four different caches per year, but even within the same quarter’s caches, products may vary somewhat.

I know this because the first Beauty Cache I received had had a leaky product in it, and it had gotten goo all over the other products and the bag. Calling Customer Service got me a free replacement, with prepaid labels to send the other set back (and no, I did not get to keep the products from the first set). The products in the second bag (which arrived unharmed) are not all the same as the products in the first. Here’s what I got:

(Back row in photo)

1. Obagi Nu-Derm Foaming Gel cleanser (2 fl. oz.)

2. Avene Rétrinal 0.1 Crème (5 ml) (anti-aging cream with retinaldehyde, a less-irritating form of retinol)

3. Dermalogica Hydration sample kit, containing small samples of Multi-Active Toner, Skin Hydrating Booster, Skin Hydrating Masque, and Intensive Eye Repair.

4. Avene Moisturizing Self-Tanning Lotion for Face and Body (100 ml/3.38 fl. oz.)

5. La Roche-Posay Lipikar Lipid-Replenishing Body Emollient (15 ml/0.5 fl. oz.). Very purse-friendly size.

6. DDF Wrinkle Plus Pore Minimizer Moisturizing Serum (7 ml/0.23 fl. oz.)

7. Caudalie Démaquillant Soin Doux/Gentle Cleanser, normal to dry skin (30 ml/1 fl. oz.)

8. Sothys Homme Detoxifying Active Cleanser (15 ml/0.5 fl. oz.)

(Front row in photo)

1. Dermaquest DermaFirm anti-cellulite cream (29.6 ml/1 fl. oz.). OK, I’m not on the anti-cellulite cream bandwagon, but whatev.

2. (dropper vial) SkinCeuticals Phloretin CF antioxidant treatment. Bottle bears no measurements, but I’d guess it’s about 4 ml.

3. Colorescience Sunforgettable SPF 30 Sun Protection (2.25 g/0.8 oz.). This is a powder sunscreen.

4. Kinerase Pro Therapy Advanced Repair Serum, full-size (15 ml/0.5 fl. oz.). This sells for about $132, so getting it in a $30 bag is a good deal if you like Kinerase products. I’m willing to give it a go.

And let’s not forget the bag itself. I normally hate bags that are part of cosmetics giveaways, because I always find them too small or inconveniently shaped. This one, however, holds a nice amount of product and I will definitely be taking it with me when I travel.

If you order one, you will likely get some different products, of course — a fact which caused no little consternation for some SkinCareRX customers who evidently don’t know what the prominently displayed phrase “CONTENTS MAY VARY” means and who are angry that they didn’t get this or that product that was pictured in the photo — but at least this will give you an idea of the quality and quantity you’re getting for your $30. There certainly is a lot to try, and it gives you the chance to sample products from lots of different lines that you might not otherwise have been able to do (especially if they are not carried at your local Sephora or ULTA).

I’ll be interested to see what the next installment is; it should be out around April. While the contents of each bag do vary, my understanding is that within each quarter, they are more alike than different. So from January to March, each bag will contain samples drawn from merchandise on List A; from April to June, List B, etc. Hopefully the lists do not overlap!

Foxalicious Fundamentals: Brushes 101

Why on Kitchen role? by Mini OzzY.There’s this funny thing that happens when you start a new habit or activity — you get a little ways into the activity and then all of a sudden you get the impression that you’re also supposed to go out and buy a ton of activity-related accessories and paraphernalia and doodads… at which point carrying on starts to seem frustrating and fussy, especially if you’re not really confident about how to use the doodads in question.

If you’re just starting to explore makeup, or deciding to be a little more adventurous or explore more products, one of these daunting doodad categories is brushes. So let’s get this one out of the way right now:

Q. Do I really need all those fancy brushes?

A. No. No, you do not.

If you’re just starting out with makeup, there are only three brushes I think you need to own:

1. Blush/powder brush

2. Concealer brush

3. Eyeshadow brush

If I could throw a fourth in there, I’d say a brow/lash brush, because I think brows should be groomed even if you’re not applying any product to them. But really, I’m good with the first three. Here’s why:

Any tinted moisturizer or cream, stick, or liquid foundation can be applied and blended with the fingers. (Could you use a brush, or a sponge? Sure. Is it absolutely necessary? Nope.) Same goes for cream blushes.

Foundation/Blush Brushes

If you have a powder foundation or a powder blush, then you’ll need a brush. It is perfectly OK to use the same brush for these when you’re starting out. Powder mineral foundations work best with kabuki brushes, so if you plan to use a mineral foundation, get one of these; with a light touch you can use this for blush as well. If you’re not going to get a mineral foundation, a puffy powder brush is fine, and is easier to adapt to both foundation and blush. If you buy drugstore makeup (which I am not dissing, as there are many good brands), chances are that the brush that comes in the makeup compact is not worth the cost of the plastic used to make it. Unless you are Bobbi Brown, you cannot apply blush in a subtle and sophisticated manner with a two-inch brush with a head that would be better suited to applying war paint.

Concealer Brushes

There are good concealers out there in all shapes and forms: liquids, powders, sticks, creams. While you will use your fingers a lot of the time to blend a liquid, stick, or cream concealer into your skin, a brush is really useful for precise placement. This is particularly true if you’re using concealer over blemishes or in the eye area, because often your fingers are too big and round to put the product where you want it and nowhere else. A concealer brush will have a flat head (not poofy like a powder brush) and the bristles will be trimmed into a round or elliptical shape. Think of the end of a popsicle stick; that’s the shape you want for an all-purpose concealer brush.

Eyeshadow Brushes

Those spongy applicators that come with eyeshadow palettes are the little evil cousins of the compact blush brushes. They are not doing you any favors. If you are only going to get one eyeshadow brush, I highly recommend a slanted crease eyeshadow brush, because it’s easier to make this brush also double as a lid or highlight shadow brush than it is to get one of those brushes to double as a crease eyeshadow brush.

Most people who are starting out with makeup routines will probably be using pressed eyeshadow rather than loose mineral eyeshadow (it’s just easier). If you do find yourself wanting to try a loose mineral eyeshadow, you are likely to find that a brush made for those products works a little better.

How to Use

A common misconception that people have about brushes (not unreasonably) is that they are meant to place product on top of the skin. For most cream and liquid products, and for some powders like eyeshadows and mineral makeup, they are instead meant to press or work the product into the skin. This will be true of liquid and cream concealers — except when you are trying to cover up a blemish, in which case you want to get the product on the skin with the minimum amount of poking around at it — and if you decide to try a brush or sponge for liquid or cream foundation it will be true of that as well. Try a stippling or dotting motion rather than a gliding motion to apply and blend these products. Mineral powders are best when pressed gently into the skin using a buffing motion.

Care and Feeding

OK, no feeding required. But brushes do have to be washed regularly. Once a week is great for starting out, but you can probably get away with 2-3 times a month. You can buy special brush cleaners, but you don’t need to; your facial cleanser will work just fine. I usually put a squirt of facial cleanser into a drinking glass, add about 3/4″ of warm water (not more!), swish it around, and throw in two or three drops of tea tree oil, which is a natural antibacterial agent and which helps dissolve gunk on the brushes. I put all the brushes in to soak for about 5 minutes; keeping the water level in the glass low helps minimize the amount of water that gets into the metal ferrule. Over time, too much water in the ferrule can dissolve the glue that holds the bristles in the brush, so you want to minimize this.

After the brushes have soaked for just a few minutes, swirl each around in your palm with a little bit of cleanser. Swish until no more color comes out. Rinse well, pat dry with a towel, and lay them down to dry with the brush head over the edge of the sink or counter. If possible, position them so that the brush head tilts down; again, this helps get water out of the ferrule. An easy way to do this is to put a piece of non-slip drawer liner over an empty three-ring binder and lay the brushes on the sloped surface with the brush heads hanging over the edge. Let them dry overnight.


There is no need to spend a ton of money on brushes, particularly when you’re starting out. I recommend the following:

Ecotools makes really excellent brushes for next-to-nothing. They’re available at many stores, including Target and ULTA, and on They offer both individual brushes and inexpensive brush sets; selection will vary depending on where you’re shopping. A good starter package is the Ecotools 5-piece brush set (which is really four brushes plus the bag, but whatever): $10.99. This contains a fluffy brush that can be used for powder foundation or blush, a concealer brush, a mineral eyeshadow brush (which could also be used to apply regular eyeshadow), and a small kabuki brush. I’m not really wild about the small kabuki brush (it’s too loose), but all the other brushes are excellent. The powder brush and a “deluxe” version of the concealer brush (I’m not sure what the difference is except that the handle is longer) are also sold separately for $8.99 and $3.99 respectively.

For a better kabuki, try the Ecotools Retractable Kabuki ($8.99). Not only is it firmer to start out with, but if you want it to be a little firmer still, you can retract the brush a tiny bit back into the holder and it will compact the fibers a little bit more. Also, it’s travel-friendly.

On the slanted crease eyeshadow front, I use a Sephora Professionel brush that appears to no longer be available; this brush from Avon’s Mark line looks like a comparable product, and will only set you back $7.00. A lot of the crease brushes made today are smaller and thinner than I would recommend for a beginner; a brush that’s closer to 1/2″ than 1/4″ wide is easier to get started with.

Beyond the Basics

There are tons of other brushes available, and they’re each designed to do specific things. As you become more comfortable using these basics, you might want to try out some of these other brushes. I’d say the next set of brushes to explore would include the following: brow brush, eyeliner brush (or small tapered eyeshadow brush; either can be used for applying gel eyeliners), lip brush, contour blush brush, non-tapered eyeshadow brush for color application and blending.


Provenance: I do not own the Avon eyeshadow brush; all other brushes were purchased.

Photo: / CC BY-SA 2.0

Review: pHisoderm Anti-Blemish Gel Facial Wash

pHisoderm 2I love my Clarisonic. Did I mention that?

The only — and I mean the only — drawback to it is that it eats cleanser. Positively devours the stuff. Then it bangs its fists on the table and yells, “MOAR!” The thing is insatiable.

The best way I’ve found to use it is to first lather up my face with cleanser, then wet the brush and rub it into my palm (both to get out the extra water and to pick up some of the lather), and then load an extra squirt of cleanser directly onto the brush before turning it on. This ensures that I’ve got enough product on my face and the brush to get a really good cleansing.

It became evident after only a few days of Clarisonic ownership that my beloved Dermalogica Special Gel Cleanser, my previous Holy Grail facial wash, was just not going to cut it. I adore the Dermalogica, but at $48 for 16.9 oz., I couldn’t afford to go squirting that away willy-nilly — especially since when I was not trying to use the Clarisonic with it, I needed less than a pea-sized amount to clean my face. Having to load up the brush with two or three whole pumps of cleanser in order to get the brush to lather made me wince every time. I needed an inexpensive alternative that I could afford to use freely with the Clarisonic without fretting about how much it was costing me to wash my face every day.

I can’t remember what made me pick this up the first time at ULTA. I think there was probably a “save $2 now!” coupon sticker on it. I’d never used anything by pHisoderm and in general I’m not a huge fan of BHA cleansers, of which this is one. But it fit the bill in terms of price, so I thought I’d try it, and much to my surprise, it is almost as good as the Dermalogica. Really.

My skin used to be dry but in recent years has drifted towards normal/combination, so I wanted a cleanser that would really get rid of dirt and makeup without stripping all of the natural moisture from my face. The pHisoderm Anti-Blemish Gel Facial Wash does that, and does it very well. On days when I’ve used heavier makeup, like an all-over primer or a liquid foundation, I usually do an initial quick wash with this cleanser using just my plain old hands, then rinse that off and have a second go-round with the Clarisonic. This process gets off just about everything. Only rarely do I need to use makeup remover to get off the last traces of eyeshadow or mascara.

The best thing about this cleanser, other than the price — no, even better than the price, which is $4.79 for 6 oz. at — is that it leaves my face as soft and smooth as my Dermalogica cleanser … which, if you recall, is $48 for 16.9 oz. That means that the price per ounce … well, math skillz were a few weeks ago, but at any rate the pHisoderm is a much better bargain.

[Oh, okay, fine! I can hear you rolling your eyes. I’ll do the stupid math. Dermalogica = $2.84 per ounce; pHisoderm = $0.80 per ounce. Happy?]

The only fly in the pHisoderm ointment is that if you get this cleanser in your eyes it does sting and cause irritation (as do many other cleansers). I run into this more often than you might think because by the time I’ve lathered my face, wet the Clarisonic brush head, loaded it up with product, and gone through a cleansing cycle, the lather has been on my face for something approaching two minutes, and you have to figure that at some point some of it is going to trickle close enough to your eye to cause irritation.

The Anti-Blemish Gel Facial Wash is also a BHA cleanser, as I mentioned above, but I’m with those who say that BHAs in cleansers are not effective because the cleanser doesn’t stay on your skin long enough for the BHA to be absorbed. (For the life of me I cannot figure out why they still make and sell BHA cleansers. Oh, right: filthy lucre.) So BHA in a cleanser is never something that draws me. Rather, I like this cleanser in spite of the fact that it contains BHA (2%, for those who are wondering).

I’m not getting rid of my Dermalogica cleanser, which leaves my skin even a tiny bit softer and which does not irritate my eyes if I accidentally whack myself while washing, but I only use it now when I’m taking a morning off from the Clarisonic. I have enough room in my heart for both the Dermalogica and the pHisoderm. Enough room on my bathroom counter, though… well, that’s a different problem.


pHisoderm Anti-Blemish Gel Facial Wash: $4.79 at

Provenance: Purchased

Price/Value Ratio (drugstore: poor/fair/good/excellent): Excellent

Purchase again? Yes, but don’t tell my Dermalogica.

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

Review: Korres Lip (and Body) Butters

korres pomegranate lip butterI know it seems like even though this blog is only a few weeks old, it’s already been kind of lippy. That’s actually unusual, because up until now I haven’t been that much of a lip fanatic. (You would not believe how much having this blog has changed my skincare and makeup habits. Of course I have to wear lipstick! I have a responsibility! It is my sacred duty!)

Here’s the review in a nutshell: run-don’t-walk to your nearest Sephora or ULTA and pick up the amazingly fantastic Korres lip butter. “Full price” for this is only $9, so I’m marking it a steal even though it feels like a splurge.

A full-size container of the Pomegranate Lip Butter came with the Sephora sampler pack I mentioned previously (which is made of win, by the way; more reviews to follow but I have three rave products already, of which this is one!).

But considering that November is All Largely Somewhat About Skincare, I figure I can get this in under “skincare” just as easily as under “makeup,” because it is without a doubt the most fabulous-feeling lip product I have ever had the pleasure to apply, and that includes hot fudge.

Some other time I’ll get into my rant about lip balms, waxes, and other supposed dry-lip solutions. (Do you know what’s in Carmex? Yeeesh.) So you can safely assume I didn’t have high hopes for this product. As has happened several times recently (DuWop Circle Block, Almay Smart Shade foundation), I am pleased to be wrong, wrong, wrong. The lip-feel of this product is nothing short of extraordinary.

Not only that, but the color is fantastic: a sheer translucent full-bodied pink with a hint of melon. Gor. Geous. This is a product with some fragrance, but I don’t find it obtrusive: it’s a delicious fruity scent.

I do, of course, wish it had more staying power. But it’s easy to reapply and feels so good that frankly you might want to apply every hour just for the sybaritic pleasure of it.

There are several other shades available, besides the scrumptious Pomegranate: Guava, for those of you who prefer an untinted lip butter, and tinted butters in the following shades: Quince, Wild Rose, Jasmine, Plum, and Mango. Bonus: you can also use them on your cheeks if you’re out of blush. (OK, I sometimes do that anyway, but these are specifically approved for that.)


To up the “skincare” legitimacy of this entry, I’ll also mention that I recently tested a sample of the Korres Guava Body Butter, which I liked but which I didn’t feel like plunking down $29 for. (I mean, really.) They have a sampler/gift kit that has three smaller-but-still-reasonably-sized tubes in it (Guava, Quince, and Fig), which was, I think, $24.50? Something like that. Anyway, still too expensive. But as it happened, my next stop on the way home was TJMaxx, and lo and behold, what did I discover in TJMaxx but the exact same body butter 3-pack for the low low price of $6.99. Well, now, that’s a different story. I may review these later as part of a hand/body cream round-up.


Korres Lip Butter: $9

Provenance: Purchased (part of Sephora sampler pack)

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

Purchase again? You bet your sweet lips I will.

(Have you used these products? Love ’em? Hate ’em? Want ’em? Let us know in the comments!)

Review: Almay Smart Shade Makeup — Foundation and Blush

almay_smart_shadeThis is one of the products that I purchased as a result of my lost weekend drugstore testing spree at ULTA. I’d seen this and similar products (Revlon’s Beyond Natural Skin Matching Makeup) advertised on TV, but was very much a skeptic. The ads claimed that the product, which comes out of the tube more-or-less white, will self-adjust to match your own skin tone perfectly.

Pah, I thought. Piffle. Baloney. Hogwash.

As it turns out, I was more wrong than Bjørk’s swan outfit, more wrong than Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley, more wrong than Temptation Island.

Which is, if you think about it, a really staggering amount of wrong.

I wouldn’t have bought it without the opportunity to test, but I gladly (and, I admit it, cockily) squeezed some out onto the back of my hand, scoffing at its chalky whiteness, and knowing that it would never, ever, manage to blend into my … wait a minute. Where did it go?

Well, that couldn’t be right. It must be the funny light in here. Let’s try again.

Again: same results. Astonishingly, the makeup really did blend right into my hand. So I tried it on the inside of my arm, where the skin was lighter, and it blended in there too. When I lowered my arm and brought it back up again, I absolutely could not tell where I’d applied the product.

It performs equally fabulously on my face, which is good, since that’s where it’s designed to go. The product comes in three shades: light, light/medium, and medium. (I don’t know what to tell you darker-skinned folks — is Almay’s “medium” actually a shade that would work for darker skin, or is it really just another version of “light”? An evaluation from someone looking for a foundation for darker skin would be welcome!) I’m quite fair-skinned, so I chose the light shade and was very pleased. Even better than its ability to match my skin color almost perfectly (it is a *tiny* bit more yellow than my actual skin tone, but no one besides me would notice) is that it contains, wonder of wonders, an SPF 15 sunscreen that does not irritate my skin. This is basically unheard of. So even if it ended up being just a tinted sunscreen, rather than a foundation, it would be worth the cost, and more. Fortunately, it is a fabulous foundation. It leaves the skin with a lovely, velvety texture; lasts all day; and does not budge. It also does not clog pores, which was a real concern for me. Sometimes I apply only this; sometimes I apply this with a dusting of mineral foundation powder on top, and sometimes I precede the application of this product with Dr. Brandt’s Pores No More. The combination produces a fantastic finish. almay_smart_shade_blush

Because the foundation was made of win, I went ahead and bought the blushes, too, with which I’m equally pleased. They come in three tints: pink, natural, and berry, all of which are very natural. My skin is very fair and I can get away with wearing a sheer application of any of the three, but the color can also be easily layered for greater intensity or for those with darker skin. It produces a dewy finish and the color is extremely long-lasting: 12 hours or more with very little fading. The line also includes a concealer, which I’m eager to try, and a bronzer, which isn’t really my thing, as when I wear bronzer I don’t turn into a person with a healthy glow, but instead look simply like a pale-skinned person with a dirty face.

Really, I couldn’t be happier with these products and they rate up there among my top purchases of the year. I did test the Revlon Beyond Natural product as well, but didn’t like its consistency as much as the Almay.


Almay Smart Shade Makeup and Blush

Provenance: Purchased

Price/Value Ratio (drugstore: poor/fair/good/excellent): excellent

Purchase again? Absolutely. Highest recommendation.