Real Girl Beauty

For every girl who's imagined herself as Lucky Magazine's "Lucky Girl." Or who's conquered her addiction to the bitchier-than-thou forums. Or who reacts every day to her Daily Candy email with the same: "Who can afford that?" Here are some heartfelt health and beauty tips from one Real Girl to another.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Sensory Product Overload? So Not Possible.

OK! So last week, I get this divine email from Liz (thank you, Liz!!!) basically saying: Sephora grand opening! Union Square! Party and samples! Run, you fool sitting on your loveseat. RUN, I tell you. (By the way, Real Girl lives a block away from Union Square. There is now a Sephora in her BACK YARD. I used to have to walk seven whole blocks to reach one.)

(Warning: This post will require LOTS OF CAPITALS. We’re talking about FREE BEAUTY PRODUCTS and SERVICES here. If that doesn't warrant caps, than what the hell does???)

So…I ran. I expected to find the new Sephora store packed with gals eagerly pawing up free goods like they were Tom Cruise and that free Pout lipstick was Katie Holmes. Only, you know, with actual true love involved.

BUT NO. There was no store opening in sight. Instead, there was an OUTSIDE EXTRAVAGANZA in the park that included cotton candy, slushies, live music, and a gagillion pristine white tents filled with people offering FREE BEAUTY SERVICES. Sound like Shangri-la? It was! Except for….the lines….Oh. My. God. The lines. You’d think we were starving Soviets awaiting the last scraps of bread in sight. But no. We were beauty-starved New Yorkers awaiting the latest paraffin hand treatment from Bliss spa. Facials. Makeovers. Brow shaping. Hair styling. I nearly passed the fuck out.

I picked up a bagful of goodies, perfumes, makeup, skin care. All of which you will see reviewed on the pinkness that is Real Girl Beauty in the coming weeks. But why wait? Let’s start now and get that beauty ball rolling.

First, the disappointment. I had such high hopes for the gorgeous silver tube I found in my sample gift bag. The one from my beloved Stila, whose packaging never disappoints and whose products usually don’t either (except for the overpricing compared to comparable brands). I mean, you know how excited I get about mascara. So—Stila! Mascara! What’s to lose? (I also enjoy the bit of trivia that the makeup artist who created Stila is married to Anthony Edwards, aka Adorable Dr. Green from ER.)

Sigh. I can find no redeeming quality about Stila’s Major Lash Mascara, which should be renamed CrappyAss Lash Mascara. 1) It uncurled my lashes after I expertly curled them with the best ever Shu Uemura Eyelash Curler so my lashes looked flat and unsexy. 2) It does not thicken. At all. Sparse looking lashes there, Stila. 3) As for lengthening? Eh. I personally didn’t notice anything to write home—or here—about. For realsies, this is one of the few products I’ve ever found that I deem unusable. Actually unusable. Stila, you used to be one of my favorites. You have disappointed Real Girl.

But I would hate to leave off on such a sour note, my lovelies. And so I introduce one of the best smelling products I HAVE EVER FOUND. Y’all know I like those dessert scents like vanilla, cake, cookies, butterscotch….and chocolate. I’m telling you. For Really Real. Philosophy’s Double Rich Hot Cocoa body wash smells EXACTLY like the best cup of hot chocolate you’ve ever drank. Oh, I SO SWOONED when I smelled it. It’s an instant pick me up when you’re craving chocolate in the shower. Or for when you don’t even realize that you’re craving chocolate in the shower, but you so totally are.

Of course rarely is a product free from constructive criticism. I do wish the scent lingered on my skin more strongly after washing, and I don’t recommend using the product as a shampoo even though the bottle says you should. The lather and texture of it on my hair didn’t feel quite right, and again—there was little scent memory (you know, that dreamy after effect of smelling like your favorite product at least until you get to work).

Still, to smell that whiff of pure chocolate every morning…without a single shred of calorie guilt…well, that’s just priceless

So, what about y’all? Got any Stila products to redeem my severe disappointment? Feel like crowing about your favorite Philosophy products? Your favorite scented products? Anything at all?

Love ya!
Real Girl

Wait! P.S.!!! You think I’m fanatically pushy about sunscreen? Take a look at this excerpt from July’s W Magazine describing the routine of “Manhattan dermatologist Amy B. Lewis”:

“She coats her face with a green-tea antioxidant cream every morning, followed by a thick layer of SPF 60 sunscreen. She’s had her Toyota armored with UV-Shield, a window treatment that blocks the sun’s ultraviolet light. She wears wraparound sunglasses and wide-brim hats, attempts to stay indoors between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun’s rays are strongest, and admonishes patients at her Upper East Side practice to do the same.”

Holy Crap. Now I know why I don’t live on the Upper East Side.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Plumpy Pouty? Or Petered Pucker?

Don’t you love it when a product purports to solve your every problem? Got a wrinkle you don’t like? Our cream will make it vanish! Dark circles under your eyes? Our serum will lighten them in a heartbeat! But the most trendy promise of the moment is this: You say your lips are too small? Screw collagen injections--our gloss will plump those suckers out until it looks like you’ve suffered the sting of a thousand insanely pissed-off little bees.

Yes, my friends, we all strive to have those bee-stung, pouty, voluptuous lips. I mean, it’s not like Angelina Jolie got Brad Pitt by having a puny pucker! Am I right?

So, while strolling through Sephora a couple weeks ago (soooo dangerous), I remembered a sample that my best friend Madgirl had given me. It was a pale peachy gloss, a color called Buttercup, and I lurrrrved it. I had worn it as I usually wear lip gloss, either over lipstick or over my can’t-live-without Aveda Lip Tint. But this was no ordinary lip gloss. When you put it on, it...tingled. It kind of...well....stung. Not quite like a thousand bees. But maybe like one really tenacious wee bee. The shine was good, the consistency not too sticky, and--most importantly--it looked cute.

Fast forward back to Sephora. The strolling. The complete and utter un-Angelina Jolie-ness of my own tiny lips. I came across a display of three lip glosses. A plumping station, if you will. A kiosk of pout-enlargement. Let’s take a look at what I saw.
1) LipFusion: Thirty-six to thirty-eight dollars for lip gloss? For lip gloss? That shit better cut off Angelina Jolie’s lips and sew them onto my face for that kind of loot. I think I’ll pass.
2) City Lips: Twenty-nine dollars. Still a bit high for lip gloss, but this one has been called the best plumper by more than one magazine.
3) Lip Venom by DuWop: Hey! This is that brand I liked. The one I tried in “Buttercup.” Fifteen dollars isn’t too shabby compared to collagen lip injections! Ooh, let’s try it in clear this time.

Ok. So did I really expect the Lip Venom to plump my pucker? Well...not really. What these products do, basically, is irritate your lips. They feel spicy, slightly burny, and tingly (some more than others), and in effect, they make your mouth swell a tad. If you don’t like the way your lips feel after eating really spicy food, then just forget the plumping gloss. I didn’t particularly mind the feeling of the Lip Venom, although I’ve tried others that were just too strong. Maybe they plump you up more, but I don’t know if it’s worth the sensation of HAVING YOUR LIPS BURNED OFF. Hmmm. Think not.

And now the big reveal! Was I a modern day, female Jack planting my magic beans and instead of a beanstalk getting really fat lips? Erm...not really. I mean, I think I saw some plumping. If I looked really close. Yes, definitely. There’s some more fullness in my lower lip. Hey, see that? It’s bigger! No, really. It is! Come on, look closer! Don’t you see it!?

Basically, babes, don’t expect too much. You’ll see some slight plumping. Maybe. But on the plus side, the gloss is gorgeous. It gives the effect of my absolute favorite clear gloss, MAC Clear Lip Glass without the tacky, goopy feel. (Alas, that means it doesn’t last as long as the MAC. It’s either smooth, luscious-feeling, short-lived gloss or long-lasting, goopy-feeling gloss. Your choice.)

I love my Lip Venom on top of lipstick, and gladly, the lipstick doesn’t dull the tingle. But more? I adore the colors that Lip Venom comes in (although I’m not sure if Sephora stocks the colors). For an extra buck, you can have a good-textured, nicely colored gloss that makes your lips tingle and kinda maybe makes ‘em look a bit bigger. Do I recommend these glosses over a non-tingly one? Not really. But then again, I don’t regret buying one either.

What about you guys? Have you tried the lip plumping glosses? Got one to recommend? Feel like chatting?

With love,
From one Real Girl to another.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Thanks Blonde Neighbor, I Know I'm Pale...

So guess what? Gaining back three pounds? Really easy. Easy peasy. Gaining four pounds? Even easier. Piece of cake. Er...several pieces of cake...Not to mention that this weekend at the Mets game (with big fan, Real Boy) I discovered a new weakness: The corn dog. Corn bread and hot dog. Who knew you were such a treat?

Also? You guys rock. And not in a Lite FM kind of way. I mean like heavy metal, head-banging, skin-tight jeans kind of rock. Without the over-processed hair.

So in honor of your rockaliciousness, I'm resurrecting an old beloved Real Girl Beauty tradition: The List. Here goes!

(Did I mention how much y'all rock?)

Summer approaches swiftly. With the sun, the beach, the frolicking in the park…and, for Real Girl at least, the heaps of facial sunscreen. Of course it’s the only way to fight wrinkles hard core! But it’s also the only way to stay as pale as friggin’ paper (and my dears, adjust that paper color to all shades as appropriate). Now, without make-up, Real Girl looks sickly pale. In fact, when my neighbor once saw me make-up free on my way to the gym, she even asked if I was feeling alright. Yes, I’m feeling alright, Perky Blonde Neighbor. I just don’t put on my favorite blushy bronzer to get all sweaty and out of breath at step class. Scandalous, I know.

But, my friends, I digress. The other day, while preparing for an evening out, I felt like looking tan. Why? Because everyone else recently spent Memorial Day weekend off at the Hamptons or Shelter Island or Nantucket or wherever Eastern city folk go when blessed with an extra day of weekend. Meanwhile, Real Girl was just trying to stay sane. And pale. Did I mention the pale? So, fine. Self-tanner, you say. Go wild. And I will admit—I have looked into the self-tanner option. I’ve got multiple self-tanners in my beauty notebook waiting to be tested. Except, I’m kind of scared of self-tanner. Know what I mean? It’s just permanent enough for all your self-tanner boo-boos to be exposed to the world. That orange tone? The streaks? The red hands? (And yes, I know—exfoliate first, wash your hands like mad, etc., etc. Still, I will look like a freak. I am sure.)

Which brings me to the other day. Feeling like a tan. Without the wrinkles—because hello, obvious reasons. But I remembered my favorite product from last summer—the moisturizer that both protected me with SPF and gave me some color, all with the option of washing or blotting off whatever I didn’t like. That product is….tinted moisturizer!! And, more specifically, Benfit’s You Rebel

Here’s the thing: Benefit only has one color of tinted moisturizer. It works with my yellow-based skin tone (but beware you blue-toned lasses), however it’s at least a full shade darker than my skin. Great for looking tan. But perhaps not for you. Only one color! Hate that about Benefit. But it has SPF so you can wear it during the day without having to use a separate moisturizer/sunscreen! Love that!

But wait, there's more! Tinted moisturizer is a great alternative to self-tanner, yes, but it’s also a great alternative to foundation! There will have to be a Real Girl Beauty foundation entry sometime in the near future (with, bien sur, a fabu List!), but for now, let’s talk about the TM. The tinted moisturizer. My new summer best buddy. This stuff works great to even out skin tone. If you’re using foundation to hide serious skin flaws, the TM option may not be for you. But if you’re just interested in improving the all-around tone of your skin without having to delve into something really make-upy, then an SPF tinted moisturizer might just be your key to euphoria.

So let’s say Benefit’s You Rebel, in its one yellowish, darkish color, isn’t for you. Here’s a list of other tinted moisturizers with SPF protection that just might float your boat to fabulous skin. I present the latest Real Girl Beauty Listarama!

Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer SPF 20: This is the gold standard of tinted moisturizer, beloved by every single beauty magazine. However, beware! The sunscreen ingredients in this product are not the very best…
Biotherm Aquasource: A very reliable brand and product.
Stila Sheer Color Tinted Moisturizer SPF 15: Lordy, I love me some Stila.
Hard Candy Hint Tint: Not just for teeny boppers!
MD SkinCare Tinted Moisturizer: Another of those dermatologist lines, this one including antioxidants vitamin E and C, but also a bit pricey.
Cover Girl SPF 15 Tinted Moisturizer: Gotta have the drugstore option! This looks good for oily skin, too.
Bobbi Brown SPF 15 Tinted Moisturizer: Oddly masculine packaging, but offers some nice shades.
MAC Select Tint SPF 15: I know people who swear by MAC.

So that’s my list of the top tinted moisturizers—to be used either as a substitute for foundation or alternative to self-tanner. And it makes a brief appearance in my novel! Which, by the way, now has a publication month exactly one year from now, June 2006. Oh, the waiting…

But what about y’all? Have you tried La Tinted Moisturizer? Any secrets for looking sun-kissed without baking your skin? Just feel like chatting? You know I love to hear you!

Much love,
Real Girl

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Conceal Me, Baby

These are dark days for Real Girl. I have been in the constant grip of anxiety for the past two weeks, neither able to sleep nor eat normally. That leaves Real Girl at the lowest weight she’s been since she was 16. I am really trying not to enjoy being three pounds thinner than I should be at my thinnest. It’s not so hard, though. Being hungry and yet unable to eat? Not so fun. I have decided to leave my new job—and perhaps my new career. Which leaves Real Girl...rather unsteady in the world.

And also?

With big, honking, huge, dark, cavernous circles under her eyes. Sleep, for every minute I ever took you for granted, I apologize. Clinique Quick Corrector Concealer, for every shadow you’ve hidden, I bow to you with gratitude. Real Girl has used many concealers over the years, and I’ve become quite picky about my texture and application methods. I only like concealers that come with sponge-tip applicators. It’s like having a Q-tip built right in--and many of the best make up artists always dab on concealer with a Q-tip. Also, have you ever used concealer from a tube? The kind you have to squeeze? Let’s just say it together then: Ew. I mean, with the oils and the clumps and the squishiness. Just Ew.

So. Let’s say you’ve got slight darkness under the eyes. Nothing to run screaming away from, but still more than you’d like. The best sponge-tip applicator option for you would be Prescriptives Traceless Skin Responsive Corrector.

But if you need more coverage, like Real Girl does, then the Clinique option (not the tube one!!!) can cover a heck of a lot. Warning! Only use a little!! Dab three dots of concealer under your eye and then blend.

BUT WAIT! Whatever you do, ladies. Please, please don’t rub your eye area. That’s your thinnest skin. It can be tapped. It can be pressed gently. But rubbing will give you wrinkles. Your best bet, indeed, will be to use a concealer brush. I, for one, have not yet invested $30 in a good concealer brush. I use my $4.99 Sonia Kashuk brush from Target, and I am a-okay-alright with that. If you’re not into the brush option, just make sure to tap and press with your finger--and never, ever rub. Also for brush users, wash the brush every day--not with synthetic brush cleanser, but with your own facial cleanser. That way you won’t have to worry about irritating your face.

Now, I can talk about concealer all day long. But what do you use? I’ve never tried the non-liquid concealers, although I hear people rave about Laura Mercier Secret Concealer. Have you got any under-eye-circle-covering secrets? Anything at all to share? Got winter storage you need to pack up in my eye bags? Space is limited, and it's first come first serve basis...

Finally, here’s this in response to some of your emails. All you nice people who say such nice things to Real Girl and stand by her in her time of need. That time is now. And Real Girl thanks you. When she finally gets some sleep under her belt, she’s hoping she’ll look like her old self. Which will be this (after all, have we any secrets here???):

Real Girl