wishlist

Santa Baby

Santa Chair by ladydragonflycc.Dear Santa,

I have been a very good girl this year. I have managed not to kill, maim, set on fire, trip in the hallway, throw coffee on, arrange to have whacked, or otherwise inconvenience any most of my coworkers this year. For that I think I get a gold star. Pardon me while I go over to my MAC Fluidline review and steal the one I handed out there yesterday.

Anyway. Dear Santa, I would love a little teeny tiny sparkly present for Christmas. Maybe a nice necklace. Diamonds are, as you know, a girl’s best friend, and pearls are always elegant. Maybe a necklace with a couple of each?

Oh, look, Santa! Here is one on HauteLook that would be just perfect. And it’s on sale, too! Wow, 70% off!

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necklace

Look how much money you can save! It’s only $15,295.50 — 70% off of the regular price, which is $50,985.00. OMG, what a bargain. At that rate I hope you will throw in some matching earrings. They have some nice white South Sea pearl and diamond earrings for only $11,812.50, 70% off the regular price of $39,375.00.

Of course I have no self-interest in this; I’m just trying to save you money in this difficult economy. No, no, don’t thank me. Just doing my bit for the team.

I’ll leave you some nice chocolate-macadamia nut cookies and a glass of organic milk next week. Chances are that we will also have received some fruitcake and/or springerle cookies that we would be happy to shove off on someone else share with you.

Love,

Voxy

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/19646481@N06/ / CC BY 2.0


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

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

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

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

Exceptions to this include:

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

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

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

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

or

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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ecotools

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ho, ho, ho! And away we go.

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

Fragrance: Traditional perfumers

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

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

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

Fragrance: Etailer love

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

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

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

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

Middle notes: Ginger, rose, vanilla, Spanish moss

Base notes: Patchouli, frankincense

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

Bath and Body Etailers:

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

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

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

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

Review: Clarisonic Skin Cleansing Brush

clarisonic 1The holidays are coming up, and I can’t think of a single better beauty purchase to find sitting under the tree, stuffed in your stocking, wrapped in gold foil, pinned to your Yule log, or tied up with a “Happy Winter Solstice!” bow on it than a Clarisonic. I bought mine last year around this time and it is still the best beauty purchase I’ve ever made. Yes, it cost me $200, but I haven’t regretted one copper penny of it. Not one.

The Clarisonic is the equivalent of a sonic toothbrush for your skin. It uses sonic vibrations to help loosen and remove dirt, makeup, and surface oils from your face. The inside of the brush (inside the black circle) rotates back and forth, very very fast, in tiny arcs. The bristles do not actually scrub your face (more on this in a minute); the sound waves loosen the debris and the bristles of the brush help sweep them away.

When the Clarisonic first came out, many people were upset because it didn’t seem to exfoliate as well as they had expected. This is because that’s not what it’s for. That’s what I meant when I said the bristles do not scrub your skin. This is not like taking a carpet cleaner to your face, which a) is good, and b) is what some people evidently expected from looking at the product. You are not supposed to scrub at your face with this piece of equipment; you move it around your face slowly with very-light-to-no pressure and it does all the work.

It comes from the factory with some pre-set timings; the default is a one-minute cleansing cycle in which 20 seconds are spent on the forehead, 20 seconds on the nose and chin, and 10 on each cheek. The handset beeps to tell you when it’s time to move on to the next area. You can change these settings, although I’ve seen tax forms that were more intuitive than the directions for this process. It comes with one of three different brush heads: normal, sensitive (what I use), and delicate (which the company says is safe for people with rosacea, but I’ll let someone else talk about that!). The brush heads should be replaced every 3 months. They cost $25 each, but now these are starting to be marketed in multi-packs at a discount, so that’s all to the good.

The box includes some sample size cleansers, but I wasn’t a fan of them so I use it with my regular cleanser and it works just fine. From the first time I used it, I was really taken aback by how clean my skin looked. I mean, I had thought my skin was clean before, but it reached heights of cleanliness that may even have transcended godliness, not just been next to it. I use it either once or twice a day; overuse makes my skin a little sensitive, so every now and again I give it a rest.

Since I bought mine, they have come out with some smaller models that run about $150, so you can get one for slightly less than I paid, but there’s no question that this is a significant outlay of funds. However, think of the two or three facials you won’t be needing, and it suddenly becomes a good investment. If you ask Santa for one, tell him he should get it at a store with a good return policy (like Sephora) so that you won’t have any trouble taking it back if you find it’s not for you.

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Clarisonic Skin Cleansing Brush: $145-$225

Provenance: Purchased

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

Purchase again? Absolutely, though I hope I never need to!

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