A reunion, a wedding, & a race: Chapter 2 (Prep)

Most days (as in 355 days a year or more) I wear no make-up. Not a dusting of powder. Not a hint of eye liner. Not a touch of lip tint. Typically, I do my Origins Wiel face routine (wash, eye cream, moisturizer) with a bit of ROC retinol for the eye bags and a dab of Aquaphor to the lips and I am good to go. But when attending special events calling for special outfits I do enjoy trying to do something special with the colors and contours of my face. This mega weekend I will turn to the following favorites. 

Eye palettes by Smashbox. Undoubtedly the best pigment around. Doesn’t cake. Doesn’t flake. It will dust a bit when applying (I use MAC brushes to apply) the the Smashbox fan brush is ideal to brush away any excess. For simplicity they will group colors into shades that work together but I am obsessed with the versatility of their special addition palettes. The small ones are great for air travel when one is trying to minimize the load (this trip was a local road trip so I grabbed my entire home make up back and brought it along!) 

Blush by Nars. The world only needs super orgasm’s shimmery almost iridescent pink  tone but Nars has other blush colors as well that are perhaps more suitable for less festive occasions. So while I mostly use my favorite shade, I have 5 others sold as single compacts or in convenient pallets (again great for travel and comes with a few decent but not as good as Smashbox shadows as well).

Dramatic eyes by Dior. Years ago I tried competitors but I came back to Dior every single time I tried to see what else was out there. To be honest though I like the effect of the classic DiorShow I really dislike the smell. But, I love the effect of DiorShow Iconic and it doesn’t have a weird smell. I use regular for the upper lashes and waterproof for the corner and lower lashes. Finally, when I am in the mood for an ultra glam look, I run a coat of DiorShow black over the lashes and color in the sparser areas of my brows with the Dior universal brow pencil.   

Refresh for May Day #31: My Favorite Makeup Applicator

Okay, so drumroll please…. last product in our refresh for May series!  And I am saving the best for last… it is the BeautyBlender.  This product has absolutely changed how I apply my makeup.  It’s quick, it’s easy, and the results are flawless – perfectly blended – no streaks or brush marks.  It literally will give you an airbrushed look in less time than other makeup applicators.

Yes.  It is a makeup sponge.

Why is it any different than any other makeup sponge?  Short version is the material and how it holds water, leading to really good results.

How do you use it?

Take the dry sponge and completely saturate it under running water.  The sponge will double in size during this process.  Then, squeeze the excess water out of the sponge.  I take it one step further and do one and only one quick squeeze of the sponge inside of a towel.  You want the sponge to be damp, not wet.

I either place the foundation/BB Cream, etc on the BeautyBlender or dot the makeup directly onto my face.  The moistened BeautyBlender is then used to bounce or stipple the makeup onto the face, which blends while applying.  I use the larger, round base for cheeks and forehead, then use the tapered end for around the eye and nose.  Because of its shape, this one product will work to blend and apply makeup anywhere on your face.

After you are finished, you clean the sponge, then leave out to air dry and it will shrink back to its original proportions 🙂

The link I am including is to the set that I purchased – which includes 2 sponges and the cleanser.  It’s a great deal (I have one at home and one at my office) and it includes a great cleanser which can be used for any other brush or makeup applicator you might own.

Hope you all enjoyed our Refresh for May series!

Link to product and image from Sephora.


Refresh for May Day #30: My Favorite Styling Tool

Most days my hair goes straight up in a pony tail. (I know you wouldn’t know it based on how often I mention the blowout on this site but when you have is much hair as I do and have as little time as I do to get it cut trust me a good cut and a great blow out are a big deal.)

A lot has changed since my most recent cut and new found love of the blowout. First, myhair is about 4 inches longer. Second, I have replaced the OGX keratin line with the Aveda Smooth Infusion line. But by far the greatest addition to my hair routine, as infrequent as it may be, is the John Freida Salon Shape Hot Air Brush. This tool won’t dry the hair sufficiently on it’s own. For that you need a professional grade hair dryer. I use a T3 Featherweight that I love. And, if I do it well using a 1.5 to 2 in ionic barrel brush on day 1 I get a great blow out and the hot air brush is not even needed. But, for those who struggle with using the barrel brush in one hand and the hairca-salon-shape-hot-air-brush dryer in the other, this tool does potentially simplify the original blow out as many other bloggers have noted.

Where I find that this is a total must is on the post blowout days. When I have a little wet hair say from a shower cap that can’t handle the mass of hair I have or post-workout I can dry those areas and re-sleek the blow out in a jiffy. Just a few runs through the hair on the high heat setting then finish off quickly on the low heat and voila the extended blowout looks just as good, if not better than day 1. I apply dry shampoo after this process to soak up the scalp oils then I brush out one last time. I take the hot air brush with me when I travel now instead of a travel hair dryer. I can use it off as my barrel brush or on for touch ups as described.

Refresh for May Day #29: My Favorite Facial Supplement

Supplements are big in today’s market. Countless patients come in on an array of non-FDA approved vitamin supplements purported to have some key, typically not scientifically proven, health benefits. Whether it’s for sleep or joints or weight loss or staying young there’s a supplement for you. But, facial products are less often thought of as supplements. As it turns out though, while I loathe daily pills for any reasons, I am quite beholden to Vitamin C in my facial products.

Topical Vitamin C, or ascirbic acid, has a number of reported benefits related to collagen stimulation and diminishing free radicals. While the facts about Vitamin C’s role in these two biologic pathways are correct, I must admit I haven’t scrutinized the studies linking these to better skin. But I do know that my skin is less dull and the dark patches less pronounced when I use Vitamin C containing products.

The array of vitamin C products one can find in the beauty aisle of the drug store or at places like Spehora and Ulta will make your head spin. Some are fairly pure and others a combined with other reportedly face rejuvenating Vitamins. I haven’t tried most but these are my top three:

1) Origins High Potency Night-a-Mins: “Put dullness to rest. Wake up radiant & refreshed. Now nature’s famed night cream is newly fortified with a system of time-released resurfacers plus Vitamins C, E & H, minerals & moisture-rich replenishers. While relaxing aromas lull you to sleep, skin sloughs away dry, dead layers. Deletes dullness” according to the manufacturer.

NightaMinsI have a serious allergy to sunscreens so for years this was my daily morning moisturizer. I will confess that this was during my surgical training and so I didn’t have a nightly routine. If I made it home it was an event. If I ended up not asleep on the couch in a pool of my own drool it was a miracle. So primping before bedtime was not even on my radar. But I had started residency with no routine at all except for washing my face with Neutrogena anti-acne face wash so coming upon Origins and starting a routine was a big deal for me. I settled on Origins because the staff took the time to learn what I was allergic to and what kind of skin type I had and helped me choose a face wash, a lotion (their name for toner), a moisturizer, and an eye cream. And so for the next decade or so, I used their Checks & Balances, United State, Night-a-Mins, and Eye Doctor. In recent years, I have changed up a little and today I use Origins Brighter by Nature line for my daytime routine (from wash, to eyes, to moisturizer) but I still use the Night-a-Mins at night (still not great at nightly but so much better) because it has an amazing smell, a soothing effect, and does result in a more wide awake look the next day. I don’t think I will ever stop using this stuff.

2) Tarte Maracuja C-Brightener Eye Cream: “Refresh, renew and recharge tired eyes with our eye treatment enriched with C-brighter™ technology. By harnessing the power of maracuja fruit, vitamin C and advanced botanicals, this skintuitive™ eye treatment visibly hydrates, firms and brightens the delicate eye area” according to the manufacturer.

tarteeyecreamI have used various other eye creams from Origins in the past. But a few years back, I was over the lingering disco effect of the GinZing eye cream and started to look for another. I did eventually decide on the Brighter by Nature which, as noted above, I use daily (over RoC’s Retinol Correxion Eye Cream) in the mornings. However, I expanded my search beyond Origins accidentally. When searching for a new concealer for my under eye baggage, I learned that Tarte does not use any chemical sunscreens. Thus, knowing that spending time at the Tarte counter would not leave me incapacitated for days beholden to oral steroids and topical anti-inflammatories (and I have had a few horrific events at beauty counters despite my clear statements of the exact chemicals I am allergic too) I stumbled upon the Maracuja eye cream while I was looking for safe make-up. The packaging is super cute. There is no discernible scent. The texture is luscious and I have found that it is a perfect evening companion to the Night-a-Mins. I am pretty sure my dark circles are here to stay but the intensity of the under eye marks of fatigue are lessened by the product for sure. And, as it turns out, I don’t have the patience to add something like concealer and make-up to my daily routine (I tried it for like 3 days and the extra time and effort just was not worth it for me to look better at work) so having products that diminished the appearance of tiredness without make up is a necessity for my aging face. [But if you want to use make up to look wide awake, check out this post.]

3) Peter Thomas Roth Retinol Fusion PM: “Maximum results. Minimal irritation. Potent concentration of microencapsulated Retinol at 1.5% helps to encourage the skin’s renewal process. Moisturizing formula, infused with Vitamins C & E, suits all skin types. The appearance of tone and texture is enhanced. The look of fine lines and wrinkles is visibly reduced. Skin looks renewed, refreshed, restored. Oil-free. Fragrance-free” according to the manufacturer.

PTR_retinolPMGranted this product has a lot of other key ingredients but I came upon it after searching for a Vitamin C serum to supplement the two products above which I have been using for more than a decade and over two years, respectively. My eyes were better so I wanted to have the same betterment for my entire face (especially since adding any make-up, BB, or CC product was out of the question for the reasons noted above). I found the Tarte Maracuja oil to be just too oily and the Mario Badescu Vitamin C serum’s Lavender smell was migraine inducing for me. (I shop for these things at Ulta because I have one within 2 miles of my house and its return policy for these products is one of the best in the industry–if the product [non drug store brands only] doesn’t work for you for whatever reason, you give it back no matter how much you have used). So given that the Retinol Fusion PM had the Vitamin C that I was looking for along with the retinol my derm and plastics friends say I should have started in my mid-20s, I went for it and I really like this product. I confess that I don’t use it often enough as many nights I just collapse into a ball without a night time beauty regimen but when I have gone several nights in a row applying this product before applying the two products above, I have definitely noticed that I look younger and more refreshed. The drops come out almost like water. I take a few in the palm and them apply all over my face. It’s a new skill but I think I have got it down now and I have no desire to return this product.

So yes, I love Vitamin C for my face. It is without a doubt my favorite facial supplement.

Refresh for May Day #28: My Favorite Dry Shampoo

This post of all the others on the blog should clarify that there are two of us. I read another blog post once on dry shampoos that was about “best drug store” dry shampoos. The implication obviously was that drug store brands are in a different, that is inferior, league than department store or salon brands. Now, you can’t follow this blog and not know that I am totally fine with fancy schmancy. But, even though my blogging alter ego already posted about her favorite dry shampoo from an elite salon brand I feel compelled to share my favorite in the same product line which does, in fact, make it to the top of the “drug store” brand, “Under $10,” “Inexpensive” dry shampoo in a number of other forums (just google dry shampoo).

My requirements are:

1) A scent that won’t give me a migraine and make me vomit

2) No white residue after brushing (which is pretty obvious in my black hair)

3) Actually makes my blowouts last longer

The Batiste Dry Shampoo–which I have mentioned before–is really perfect in my book. I like the Cherry and I like that there is a travel size so I don’t have to change up my brand when I travel. This does leave a white residue when applied but easily brushes out. I might have to try the one for dark hair at some point if the scent is tolerable.

Refresh for May Day #27: My Favorite Finishing Powders

Finishing powders are like the decorations on a wedding cake – the cake may taste great without them, but with them, the cake becomes sensational.  I don’t necessarily use finishing powders every day, but you can bet that if I know my photo is going to be taken, both of these products will be used!

Links and images from Sephora.

Make Up For Ever HD Pressed Powder


This sets your makeup beautifully – giving you a believable, not too matte finish.  Makeup lasts longer, prevents it settling into any fine lines you *might* have, and imperfections are blurred.

Hourglass Ambient Lighting Palette


So this palette is another travel-must for me, and can be used in conjunction with the Make Up Forever powder as well.  This is different, however, because it gives more of a luminescent finish.  The three shades are perfect for highlighting, bronzing, and contouring.  The goal of this palette is to give you a “candlelight glow”… Since OR lights can not really be compared to the glow of candlelight I can’t necessarily tell you if that is the look achieved, but I can say that this gives a very flattering finish to your skin, with or without makeup underneath.

Refresh for May Day #26: Best Eyeshadow Palette

Eyeshadow palettes are a bit like a season of “The Bachelor” for me.  Even though I bought it for all the “right reasons” (multiple awesome colors allowing you to obtain a variety of looks and ideal for travel), after you become acquainted with it, I am invariably disappointed by its relative uselessness.  In other words, I end up not using all, or even most, of the colors, the formulation is not great resulting in the staying power of an engagement from “The Bachelor”, and I overall end up feeling like I have wasted my money.  Until, I met the Urban Decay Naked3 Palette.  It has become my Holy Grail of eye palettes.  It contains a mixture of finishes – matte, shimmer, and metallic and I have used every single color!  I can get a smoky eye night out on the town look as well as a subtle natural look all from the same palette!  There are 3 other versions of the Naked palette from Urban Decay  –  original Naked, Naked2, and the Naked Basics.  All of the palettes are slightly different and work with probably any variety of skin tones and eye colors possible.

Brief description of each:

Naked  – combination of warm and cool undertones, variety of finishes

Naked2 – taupe and beige with cool undertones, variety of finishes

Naked3 – all warm undertones, variety of finishes.

Naked Basics – 6 shades, all matte

I do like all of the palettes, but for my green eyes, the warm hues in the Naked3 mean that every single shade is flattering.  Although the $54 price tag can seem a bit daunting, for 12 eyeshadows that are all used regularly and a quality double ended eyeshadow brush, it definitely is worth the price.


Link to product and image from Sephora

Urban Decay Naked3 Palette





Refresh for May Day #25: My Favorite Care Product for Sensitive Skin

As many of you know by now, my skin can be pretty sensitive.  I flush terribly with exercise and heat – and that flushing can stick around for awhile.  A friend of mine, who also happens to be a pharmacist, sells Rodan and Fields, and she mentioned this product to me.  And no, I do not sell Rodan and Fields or get any reimbursement whatsoever for my humble opinion.  I know, it’s sad.  Anyways, back to the product.  This product is used after cleansing but before moisturizing, twice daily.  I have to admit, they named this lotion very appropriately – it is indeed soothing to my skin, feels cool, and has definitely improved my redness and flushing even with my imperfect use (i.e. not twice daily).  So, for anyone who has some baseline sensitivity or redness issues, I highly recommend.

Link and photo to Rodan and Fields company website.

Soothe Sensitive Skin Treatment


Refresh for May Day #24: My favorite hair care line

I was inspired by the discovering the right haircut (though it’s been 7 months since that happened and I have yet to get it cut again) to find the right hair products. Originally, I wanted something to tame the frizz of my thick naturally wavy hair that would work on the days I straightened (and then extended the blowout). After that original post, I discovered the Aveda Smooth Infusion line. And my hair has gotten better and better ever since.  

 This stuff is great for when I straighten my hair and when I simply let it do its thing. I have been using the shampoo and conditioner from this line 3-5 days a week depending on work schedule and travel. The aloe, maize, and guar gum in those two evidently team up to tame frizz. To go natural, I apply the Smooth Infusion Style Prep and Glossing Straightener (yes you read correctly the glossing straightener has allowed me to embrace my curls!) and I have non-frizzy bouncy waves. To go straight, I apply the same style prep and then the Smooth Infusion Naturally Straight and make the blowout happen by blow drying with a round or straight brush. I haven’t used my flat iron in forever. The time it takes to blow dry on the days that I do it is definitely diminished.

I love this stuff. It’s a total game changer for someone how has a lot of texture in their hair and to prove it I am posting two simply unflattering photos of me with hair that is nonetheless exemplary of this line of products (see, I want you to focus on the hair!).  The straight is on call before lopping it up in a ponytail to hit the trauma bay. The wavy is post call. I look exhausted but my curls are refreshed. 


Refresh for May Day #23: Just face it (in a light up magnifying mirror)

If you intend to care for yourself fully, you must invest in led mirror countera good magnifying mirror that lights up. You cannot expect to create an expert swipe of the eyeliner, or tweeze to perfection, or realize the potential of your pore minimizing lotion without on. Trust me. The next time you find yourself looking face to face with yourself in a brightly lit, well mirrored dressing room or a hotel room with a good a proper magnifying mirror (there’s a reason why actors’ benches and beauty parlors are set up the way they are–overhead lights create weird angles and a lighted magnifying mirror gives led mirror wallyou a close-up and avoids the shadows) you will realize that you aren’t really looking at yourself in your standard bathroom mirror when you groom or put on make up. The mirror I use is from Frontgate. (no longer available).  It’s oval and has an LED light but (similar to round one shown except shape/bluetooth and oval one except wall mount). I use it every single day.