Friday, October 16, 2009

Product Review: Zax's Bruise Cream

I am a clumsy girl. I mean, really clumsy. At the time of this writing (8:45AM), I have already this morning bashed my knee against the bathroom counter and jammed my finger against the railing in the stairwell. I am already dreading winter with its inherent slips and falls...

Luckily, my friend Sean has introduced me to my new favourite product - bruise cream! I picked up some of Zax's Bruise Cream in August, and have been using it on my various bumps and lumps long enough now to provide a review...

The instructions on the package say to use it three times a day, but I'll admit that I forget to do that since I'm lazy, I mostly remember in the morning and at night during my regular moisturizing routine... And maybe it's psychosomatic, but I really feel like it makes the bruises both lighter and last for less time.

In case you don't know, a bruise results from a bash that happens with enough force to damage capillaries (and sometimes venules), so that blood seeps into the surrounding tissue. Not super-damaging in the small variety, but big accidents can cause big bruising...

The three active (and natural) ingredients in Zax's Bruise Cream are arnica, witch hazel and menthol. Here's how each of these things work with relation to bruising:

Arnica: One of the compounds in arnica is sesquiterpene lactone, which can assist in the healing of bruises by decreasing swelling, speeding blood reabsorption to the surrounding tissue, and decreasing pain.
Witch hazel: Witch hazel contains tannins, which give it astringent properties (in a pinch I have used witch hazel by itself as a mild astringent, and while the smell is unpleasant at best, it is gentle on the skin). It helps tighten up the blood vessels which have been damaged by a bash on, say, the underside of a countertop.
Menthol: Provides a cooling sensation, especially useful if the bruise is aching.

It doesn't smell great, I'm not going to lie to you. But it works, and for me at this clumsy stage in my life (wasn't I supposed to outgrow my gangly teenager years?) it is a godsend.

Five stars. No question.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Evening elegance.

(Image found on A Dress A Day)

As the days turn cooler, I find myself thinking about the upcoming holiday season - Christmas and New Year's parties, time spent with family and friends, the people I love the best. And I feel like this year I want to wear something simple and elegant to these events, instead of my hastily-thrown together outfits or the same old, same old grecian-style evening dress I've worn every holiday season (and to every event, it seems) for the last six years.

I do have a lovely little black silk number that has served me well for a couple of holiday parties over the years (sleeveless, princess seaming, with floral beading near the knee-length hemline), but I don't know if my chubby little tummy* is going to fit into it this year, despite the foundation garments I have to support it.

That's why I'm looking to vintage patterns for inspiration this year. I love, love, love the dress on the left, and I think it would be absolutely stunning in a navy or royal blue silk taffeta for the holiday season.

The thing with evening clothes is that the best ones are simply designed and made from beautiful fabrics - a simple design will let gorgeous, luxurious fabric speak for itself (not to mention showcasing expanses of lovely skin and setting off shining hair), and it will stay stylish for years longer than something with excessive detailing. (This also helps prevent the dreaded, "Oh, she's wearing that old thing again.") Also, simplicity is most often more comfortable. If you're pulling and tugging at your dress all night, you can't very well be your wonderful, charming, witty self!

While black is both slimming and elegant, it seems like everyone wears it (at least in my circles). I like to stand out a little, which is why a little colour goes a long way for me. (Please note I am not condemning black in any way, but if you do choose an all-black ensemble you should give extra thought to your accessories.)

I would pair this dress with simple drop earrings and a tennis bracelet . Also a minaudiere and lovely shoes .

*Please don't take this as a criticism of my chubby little tummy, it's lovely and plump and the skin is so soft...


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Simple sipping.

In an effort to simplify my life I've been purging a lot of things out of my apartment lately - I am lucky to work in a place that has an online bulletin board where you can sell things, and I'm making a tidy profit off of my unwanted items. A profit that can be spent on booze.

Having said that, I used to be the kind of girl who liked complicated cocktails. But not anymore. No longer is it necessary to have my cocktail match my dress.

Thank God. I only own so much pink.

I have recently learned the joy and simplicity in maximum two-ingredient cocktails.

Bourbon: I don't know everything about bourbon. I don't know anything about bourbon, actually. I do know that Knob Creek Bourbon is lovely just neat, on the rocks, or, in the summertime, mixed with lemonade. And that's it.

Vodka: With soda. And sometimes ice. And a slice of lime if I happen to have some in the fridge (a rare occurrence, but you never know). I'm not picky about my vodkas, but some people are. I guess if I were drinking it straight I would worry about it, but if I'm drinking vodka straight my biggest worry is smelling like Boris Yeltsin.

Champagne: Don't get me started. I love champagne. I could drink it all day. (But then I'd be drunk all the time, and no good could come of that...) My best friend and I like to drink it on Friday nights to celebrate the end of the work week and the beginning of the weekend. (We call this drunk-up... To the point that I have pajamas and a toothbrush that live at her house in case of impromptu drunk-ups - or is it drunks-up?) We usually put in an ounce of some sort of spirit - peach schnapps are a favourite, but we also recently discovered that ice wine is great in it as well. Champagne also makes a great aperitif - I will often have a glass with my first course at a nice restaurant. Prosecco can also be substituted.

The key to drinking stylishly is that you shouldn't have to:
  1. Tell the bartender what goes in your drink; or
  2. Blush when you ask for it (Orgasm, Sex on the Beach, etc.)
Simplify, friends. And remember an anything-tini isn't a martini.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Product Review: L'Oreal Bare Naturale Mascara

I get sucked in by advertising. I'll be the first to admit it.

So when my last mascara dried up, I went for the one I had most recently seen advertised - L'Oreal's new Bare Naturale mascara.

L'Oreal calls this a "gentle, nourishing mascara" which contains "86% natural-origin ingredients, shine-enhancing minerals and is both paraben- and fiber-free."

I should have known better than to trust those jerks over at L'Oreal

I do have to say that I adored this mascara when I first tried it out, but wow, it didn't take long for it to start sucking. After the first couple of days, the formula got really flaky, causing my eyes to be all red and itchy by lunchtime. It's a good look for me, I know.

The formula does go on beautifully though, without any clumping or lumping. I would definitely use this in a photo shoot if it was only going to be on for a couple of hours. It does give a very soft, natural, thick, dark lashline. It also was easy to remove. However, I wouldn't recommend it. As a matter of fact, I like it even less than the Telescopic. Again, it seems that Great Lash is the one to beat!

Rating: One out of five.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Makeup Tutorial - 1920s Flapper

Once again, another great tutorial from Amy at Ask Me Makeup. Products are clickable to buy. Products which show up differently from the products she recommends are my personal choice replacements.

And can I just say, I love that she has Carol Channing in this, music-wise? Oh man, I love Carol Channing.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Product Review: Oscar Blandi Trattamento al Fango (Marine Mud Treatment)

I have dry, limp, boring hair. There. I said it. So it was with great delight that I received a sample of Oscar Blandi's Trattmento al Fango (Marine Mud Treatment) on a recent Sephora bender.

I started using this once a week about a month ago, and all I can say is wow. I don't often gush about products (and I might after using them once, but certainly not after using them a bunch of times), but all I can say is that my hair is starting to look really amazing, and I really think it has to do with this product.

Not only is my hair softer, it's more manageable and strangely enough has more body. Seeing as the only thing that has changed in my haircare regimen is this product, I have to chalk it up to the miracle that has come into my life.

And even though it's made out of mud, it smells lovely.

I usually apply it in the shower and leave it on while I do my other bathing ablutions, but I have once tried the "recommended" usage, which is to apply the product, put on a shower cap, and then wrap your head it a hot, wet towel (which felt oddly vulgar). Rinsed it out with cool water and couldn't stop touching my hair.

This product is a lifesaver. And at $26.00USD (Sephora) for 5.3 oz, very reasonable for a haircare product with such an amazing result. The 2.2 oz container I got as a sample is not even halfway empty, and I've been using it weekly for over a month on my (admittedly short) hair.

Rating: Five out of five. I only give things a five out of five if I'm planning on buying them again. This is definitely going into the regular beauty routine.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

How-To: Keep Your Skin Looking Young

Young-looking skin is practically an obsession in our culture. What can I say - I am jealous of babies, not just because of all the attention they get, but also because of their wonderful skin. But there are some things you can do to keep your skin supple and young-looking. While you can't reverse the aging process, or even stop it, you can reduce it to a slow crawl.

The first, and most important thing, is sunscreen. SPF15 at least. I'm a fan of Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunblock in SPF30. It doesn't feel gross on the skin, it absorbs quickly, non-greasy... I love this product! Throw it in your bag (next to your sunglasses, which you should always be wearing anyway to prevent those nasty crow's feet) and go!

While we're on the subject of crow's feet, get that eye cream on, ladies! I know I harp on that a lot here, but start now and you'll thank me later.

There are a few habits you can train yourself in that are simple enough to help you out as well. When you are cleansing your skin, never pull or tug, especially around the delicate eye area. As a matter of fact, just keep your hands away from your face as much as you can. And for anyone with pesky little spots (pimples, I mean), do not pick at or pop them. Tempting, I know, but let them go on their own. If you must, put a hot compress on them to bring them to a head, a dab of rubbing alcohol to dry it out, and a touch of Visine to take the redness out (betcha you didn't know that!).

Finally, do yourself a favour and start doing some facial exercises. There's tons online that you can look up. Alternately, this video is great:

Warning: Funny faces are made.

Preferably, do these in the bathroom with the door closed if you cohabitate. Trust me, you're going to get some pretty funny looks if you do it in front of anyone. Actually, let me take that back - do it in front of your partner, it's a great test of love.

You're well on your way to beautiful skin for life!


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Product Review: Shiseido Bio-Performance Advanced Super Revitalizer Cream

For the last couple of weeks, I've been using this cream courtesy of a Sephora sample.

Sephora calls this a "luxurious, yet lightweight, highly-concentrated skin treatment that combats the effects of an aggressive environment, reducing the signs of dryness, roughness, and fine lines as it rehydrates. Antioxidants fight skin-aging free radicals to protect against wrinkles. Exclusive Super Bio-Hyaluronic Acid and Bio-EPO attract and retain moisture for continuous hydration. Recommended for all skin types. Use morning and night..."

While I would hesitate to call this cream lightweight (I am definitely very aware that I am wearing it when I put it on, and it takes at least ten minutes to absorb), it is definitely luxurious. The Shiseido website recommends application on a "pearl-sized" amount (whatever that means - freshwater? cultured?), I have found that a tiny dab of this cream goes a long way on my extremely oily skin. Also, given my oily skin, I only use it before bed.

As for any of its magical properties (fighting free radicals, and again according to the Shiseido website, filling in wrinkles), I haven't noticed any particular benefits over my trusted Clinique.

When it comes to the aethetic qualities of this cream, it smoothes over my skin beautifully. It's not unscented, but the scent is light and floral without being overpowering. It smells a little like the bathroom at my Tante Francine's house!

This lotion retails at Sephora for $70.00 USD for 1.7 oz. Given the tiny amount you need, that should last you a good long time, especially if you have oily skin.

Rating: Three and a half out of five.


Friday, January 9, 2009

Product Review: L'Oreal Telescopic Mascara

Last February, I was asked to volunteer my time as a makeup artist for the annual Valentine's Day performances of The Vagina Monologues for VDay here in Ottawa. I had the pleasure of working with another local makeup artist, Reine G. One of the first things I noticed about her was her incredible eyelashes - they were super-long and thick and gorgeous!

Now, I'm sometimes a shy kind of gal and don't always have the guts to ask people questions about their grooming habits, so it took me a couple of days to screw up the courage to ask her what kind of mascara she uses. She was kind enough to inform me that it was L'Oreal's Telescopic Mascara.

Here's the thing with mascara. I think the formulations have all been done at this point. There's nothing new they can add to it to change it (although Cover Girl is trying with microglitter), so they are compensating with different brushes. And yeah, it sucked me in a little.

Never again!

The first couple of weeks I had it, the formula was so fluid that I had to take the applicator out of the tube when I started putting my makeup on, and about five minutes later (when I got to the point that I was ready to use it), it had congealed enough to go on smoothly*. After a couple of weeks the tube had dried out enough on it own (they do that) to avoid this step.

Despite my best efforts and light hand, I could never get this mascara to apply clump-free. It took a lot of fiddling to get my lashes to look pretty. And about midway through the day my eyes would start to itch and the mascara would start to flake and irritate my eyes. Not good.

The only good thing about this mascara was the tackiness (by which I mean stickiness) of it. Sometimes (mostly when I'm channelling Mary Tyler Moore) I like that 1960s look of very sooty lashes, which was easily achieved with this mascara. However, it's not an everyday look. At around $10.00 a tube, I'd say skip this mascara. Give me Great Lash or give me death!

Rating: 2 out of five.

*Please don't do this. It's pretty unsanitary; I would never do this on a client or recommend they try it on themselves.