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.

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Getting Slick

So, Real Girl has some Big Life Decisions on her plate that have kept her away from this dear pink page of lovelies, and I can only hope I make the right choices. But nothing takes your mind off Oh-God-What-Should-I-Do like…deep conditioning.

First, the story. A few weeks ago, Real Girl visited her beloved stylist Julie for a cut-and-highlight extravaganza. Mmm. Bouncy root-free ringlets. Heaven. (By the way! Julie’s got a fab web page on the way soon, and it just might be the cutest thing ever, with writing by yours truly!). While in Julie’s Chair of Beauty, Real Girl confessed her deepest hair angst: the winter weather has left my tresses dry and scraggly. I try to hide it as well as possible, but really. My mop needs some help.

Unlike some stylists who would recommend EVERY PRODUCT on their own shelves (for what, $20 each?), Julie just looked at me and said, frankly: “Olive oil.” Apparently, Julie clues all of her clients into this miracle home remedy, but until now, only one girl had ever tried it—the girl whose hair made Julie say, “Boy, your hair has gotten so healthy. What are you doing to it?”

Real Girl has tried Julie’s secret to healthy hair. I used what I had in my kitchen--Filippo Berio Extra Light Olive Oil, which I like because it’s good for baking. But now it was going on my hair. Oil. On my fine, delicate hair. Wait, did I really want to do this?

If you had seen Real Girl try this treatment, you would have laughed. I laughed. I didn’t want to get oil on my shirt or on my bare back—because, hello, clogged pores much? So I did what any home beautician would do. I tore holes in a garbage bag for my head and arms and turned myself into a bag lady. Then, I spilled some olive oil into my hands and slathered it all over my hair—making sure to avoid the roots, which have enough oil of their own. BLECH. The texture of my hair seemed like I hadn’t washed it for a month. Julie had said to wrap the treated hair in plastic, so I tore open a Whole Foods bag and wrapped it like a scarf around my head, tying it just above my forehead. Getting the picture now? Next, I ran a hair dryer around the plastic, heating up the oil. Finally, I left it to stew for half an hour, heating it once more before shampooing like I’ve never shampooed before.

Results: For real, my hair felt softer afterwards. I’m glad to say there was no oily residue, and in general, I noticed a healthier sheen. I’ve only tried this baby once so far, but I’m ready to make it a regular treatment—once a week if I can, until my hair gives up the last of its scraggle. I would say there’s some experimenting involved. I’m pretty sure I should use more oil next time, even given the BLECH factor.

I haven’t used V05 Hot Oil since I was in high school, but I like the fact that the olive oil option is more natural, and I know for sure there’s no alcohol or chemicals. Still, it’s pretty much the same idea, I'd suppose.

Another home remedy from La Julie? If you think your hair’s full of build-up and needs a deep cleansing, just mix a scoop of baking soda into your shampoo and wash away! No stripping detergents needed.

In the comments for Real Girl’s last entry, we got some great kitchen-based beauty advice. Do you have other home remedies to share, for either hair or face? Any favorite deep conditioners? Feel like chatting about V05 Hot Oil? Anything at all?

With love,
From one Real Girl to another.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Don't Wait! Exfoliate!

I can’t believe it took an “Ask Real Girl” segment to get me talking about exfoliation. I will admit. I’m somewhat of an exfoliant newbie. I’ve always used granule-based scrubs on my body, but I’ve been afraid to swipe them over my sensitive, you-only-get-one-so-take-care-of-it-dammit, face. But I’ve seen the light. I’ve been converted. And now you get to hear about it…in superduper detail, bien sur.

Right after this question from Boozie:

Hey there,

I read your site about once a week or so to keep on top of stuff. Do you know anything about the
Clinique Pore Minimizer stuff? I like it, but I feel like there's probably something better out there, most likely something I've never heard of.

Any thoughts?

Hi Boozie! I’ve never used the Clinique Pore Minimizer products, so we’ll throw that question out to all the faithful, informed, fantabulous readers out there. But here’s the thing. Your pores don’t enlarge or shrink, they just appear larger when clogged. Especially when those blackheads hunker down and make you scream at them. Scream things like: Die, you blackhead bitches. Die. Beauty logic goes that if you keep your pores exfoliated, they not only look smaller, but those blackhead bitches actually do die. (Rest in peace mother f*ckers.)

But before Real Girl goes on, she wants to give props where La Props are due. What I’m about to write for this segment I learned almost entirely from Paula Begoun, the Cosmetics Cop in her book Don’t Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me.. According to Paula, exfoliating does more than clear out your pores. It sloughs off the dead skin cells so that healthier cells rise to the surface, and what’s more, research shows that exfoliating can increase collagen production. But here’s the stunner—to me, at least. All the facial exfoliating I’ve done in the past is…not quite right. I mean, it’s not exactly wrong. It just could be better.

For about a year, I’ve been using St. Ives Apricot Scrub Gentle, for Sensitive Skin. It’s not a bad granule-based exfoliator (or what Paula calls “manual exfoliant.”) Instead of using irritating sodium lauryl sulfate, it uses sodium laureth sulfate, which—go figure—is actually quite gentle. But the granules in this product—which, by the way are so less harsh than many others I’ve tried, including Clinique Exfoliating Scrub--might still be too harsh for someone with truly sensitive skin. If you’re wedded to a granule-based exfoliator (although I hope you won’t be by the end of this entry!!), then my buddy Paula recommends just “mixing baking soda with your cleanser to create a thin, paste-like consistency,” which—hey, cheap and easy.

But now let’s jack it up a notch. Let’s move past those granules and into something more scientific-like. One of the best ways to exfoliate your skin is to use either an AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acid) or BHA (Salicylic Acid) product that 1) stays on your skin, and 2) has a PH low enough to let the product do its pore-digging duty. The most common AHA ingredients are glycolic acid and lactic acid, and we’ve all heard of salicylic acid, which is in enough cleansers and scrubs to fill twenty pages. However!! If you’re looking for an AHA or salicylic acid fix from a cleanser or a scrub…you ain’t getting what you think you’re getting. This stuff needs time to work. It needs to hang in there, flushing out your gunk, sweeping away your tired old skin cells. You need to use a lotion or gel that will stay on your face all day or all night (you shouldn't need to apply twice.)

Now, let’s see which exfoliant is right for you. Got oily skin? Get breakouts occasionally? Go for the salicylic acid. That’s the only option that’ll break through oil and get down deep. AHA’s tend to stay more at the surface, but can be better for fighting sun damage and skin discoloration. If your skin tends to be dry, that’s your best option.

But here’s another thing. Lets say the PH of your lotion or gel is too high (which it most often is!!). Well, then, there goes the exfoliation. You might as well just use your pores for storage. Are you getting now that finding the best AHA and salicylic acid products ain’t so easy peasy???

There are a few good options out there. A very good, non-greasy AHA choice would be Dr. Mary Lupo AHA Renewal Gel II, or if you’re willing to pay more for added moisturizing and antioxidants, Exuviance Vespera Bionic Serum. But let me also direct your gaze to Paula’s own products. I hasten to say I haven’t tried them yet (I’ve got three samples on the way!!), but boy does she know her stuff when it comes to beauty ingredients. She’s got both AHA and BHA (salicylic acid) options, and one of the samples being sent to me is the 1% Beta Hydroxy Acid Gel (Please note! Her exfoliants will increase in price by $2 starting May 1!). I’ll be sure to report back on all. I’m pretty excited.

Other strong salicylic options include: MAC Oil Control Lotion, Neutrogena Clear Pore Treatment Nighttime Pore Clarifying Gel Salicylic Acid Acne Treatment (for very oily skin), Serious Skin Care Clarify Clarifying Treatment , and Ultima II Vital Radiance Skin Renewing Toner Normal to Dry Skin.

So! To summarize!! The best way to “minimize” your pores is to keep them gunk-free. Your best option to do that, for oily skin, is a salicylic acid-based lotion or gel, or for dry skin, an AHA-based lotion or gel. And for this information, we owe thanks to my friend (in my Real Imagination), Paula Begoun. I’ll report back when I’ve tried her product samples!

But, my darlings, what are your exfoliating secrets? Any thoughts to share? Products to recommend? Have you tried the Clinique Pore Minimizer line? Do you have a body scrub you adore? Let's talk skin sloughing!

With love from,
Real Girl

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Let's Cheer Like Phonetic Spaniards: Olay!

Real Girl tip for the day: Don’t let your computer die. Because it sucks buckets. Huge, bulging buckets of suck. Thankfully, my computerless two weeks are over, and now Microsoft Word can once again tell me that words like “computerless” do not actually exist.

So, you patient superstars. And now back to our regular programming. (After one question: am I really the only one who’s flabbergasted by the separated at birth resemblance between Mickey Rourke and Kim Jong Il?? Erm…okay, then…)

Before we talk product, here’s a confession. Real Girl has not yet gotten her coveted Clinique Superdefense in “Normal to Oily.” Because in the meantime, I’ve been subsisting on another product sample. One that covers a lot of skin care bases, and is definitely going in the makeup bag rotation. Best part? It’s under twenty bucks. Yeeee-haw!

It’s time to talk about Olay. Many people have mixed feelings about this brand, and let me hasten to say that some folks break out wildly from their products. But I’ve found one I like, and I want to talk about it! Olay Total Effects 7x Moisturizing Vitamin Complex, UVA+UVB protection, fragrance free. Got that? Basically, it’s the Total Effects option with sunscreen and without fragrance, which irritates the skin. (FYI, the link I’ve used was the cheapest option I found. Normal price is $18.99.)

Let’s start with the ingredients. Real Girl likes to “advise” a hell of a lot more than she likes to “lecture,” but really, if you’re not using sunscreen every day, you’re just asking the aging gods to attack your face. I’m a huge fan of antioxidants, but when it comes to skin damage, here’s the analogy I like to use: Let’s say you’re jumping off a ten-story building. Which would you rather have, a harness to save you from harm, or a net at the very bottom to maybe stop you from dying? SPF is the harness; antioxidants are the net. Point being, the Olay Total Effects has good sunscreen, which is a gift to your skin.

The second cool thing in this product is something Olay calls “VitaNiacin,” which is really the ingredient Niacinamide (also known as Vitamin B3), which does have some proven benefits for the skin. Here’s what the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology had to say about it: “In ageing skin, topical application of niacinamide improves the surface structure, smoothes out wrinkles and inhibits photocarcinogenesis…Because of its verifiable beneficial effects, niacinamide would be a suitable component in cosmetic products for use in disorders of epidermal barrier function, for ageing skin, for improving pigmentary disorders and for use on skin prone to acne.” I will not pretend to know what epidermal barrier function is…but still, niacinamide sounds pretty neat, no? In addition to sweet little Niacinamide, Olay Total Effects also has Vitamin E, which is a swell, proven-to-fight-free-radicals antioxidant that you should seek out eagerly.

Now, the drawbacks. 1) The scent. Yay that there’s no added fragrance to irritate your skin. But you know that unique sunscreen smell? The one that reminds you of when you were a kid at the beach, and your mom would instantly grab you and smother you in white lotion? Yeah, that’s the smell. I’ve gotten used to it, however, and can deal. 2) No Vitamin C. I’m a big fan of products that include both Vitamins E and C, as both are reliable antioxidants. But one way to pile on more antioxidants would be to use a serum first, like my divine When Hope is Not Enough. 3) Break-outs. Here’s the thing. So far, this product has not made me break out awfully. But I must admit. After weeks of trying new facial lotions, I had to start using break-out prevention. I’m only willing to suffer so much for the ultimate beauty products. I have been applying the magical Oxy Balance for Sensitive Skin every night, and it works wonders.

There you go! A new product for the skin care rotation! I can see myself alternating days between the Olay and the Clinique Superdefense. Or, maybe I’ll use the Olay as a base, and then concentrate the more expensive Superdefense on the key areas near the eyes, around the laugh-lines, and on the forehead. Because wrinkles? You are on Real Girl's “do not fly” list; your visa to RealGirlLand has been categorically denied.

All you lovely readers? Approved.

Care to share your Olay loves and hates??? Are there other drugstore brands you love? I've been without you for so long!

With love,
From one Real Girl to another.