Tag Archives: sephora

beauty buzz: sizzling summer essentials

when the temperature climbs, my normally fastidious skin care and makeup routines go right out the window, along with every ounce of patience in my being.  i’m forced to pare down to basics, because i just can’t stand being cooped up in a steamy bathroom for any longer than absolutely necessary. so, i thought i’d take a moment and share my current shortcut routine for summer.

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okay…well, that photo doesn’t really look like a shortcut, does it?  but trust me.  compared to the time i’m willing to spend when the weather’s cold, i’m downright neglectful of my face this time of year…when, arguably, it needs my help most!  fortunately, my shortcuts seem to keep my skin as happy as can be expected in this heat.

for face care, this year i’m hopelessly devoted to skyn iceland’s glacial cleansing cloths and that olay pro-x system i told you about last week.  and i’m still head over heels with skyn iceland’s SPF moisturizer for day – that tingly cooling sensation seriously lasts for hours. it’s the only thing that gets me through some of my mornings without a/c! i honestly wish all of my products came with the same chilly goodness.  (note to self: must start storing eye cream in freezer.)  on real scorchers, i top it off with clarins uv plus SPF 40…a fair-faced girl can’t be too careful, and this stuff sinks in beautifully, leaving no trace of oil.

as for makeup, my recent discovery of armani beauty‘s newest products simply couldn’t have come at a better time. i start with my old reliable, benefit’s lemon-aid (or my new, higher-maintenance love, laura mercier’s undercover pot, but we’ll talk more about that later).  from then on, it’s all armani for me this summer.  their face fabric ($48) is the lightest foundation i’ve ever tried.  the texture is incredible – it virtually disappears the moment you put it on, is perfectly mattifying, and truly doesn’t budge all day.  their soft lash mascara ($28) is utterly foolproof, curls lashes without forcing me to break out the lash curler, and doesn’t make your lashes feel like deadly weapons.  add a touch of their unbelievably cute “eyes to kill” eyeshadow palettes ($59) (i especially love the bronze coral set for summer, on just about any skin tone), and you’re basically done.  it works as a liner and highlighter (if i have that kind of energy), with perfectly pre-selected shades i don’t even have to think about.  i top it all of with my new favorite cheap beauty thrill: carmex’s new moisture plus.  $3 at your neighborhood walgreens, and seriously, it’s now all i’ll use. burt’s bees doesn’t live here any more!

when it comes to hair, i’m looking for something seriously simple – i want as little to do with my hairdryer in july as humanly possible.  i’ve told you before about wonders of living proof’s “no frizz”, and especially in summer, it’s a life-saver when i just can’t bear the thought of styling. plus, their new refinishing spray gives me at least an extra day’s life from my blow-dried styles, and works so much better on my perpetually dry hair than dry shampoos that are supposed to give the same benefits.

last but not least, i know this might not seem like a beauty essential, but it truly is.  while i’m horrible about getting my 8 glasses during the rest of the year, i’m like a camel in fill mode when the weather gets hot – i can’t leave a table without downing 4 glasses of water.  thankfully, i discovered this sweet little PUR built-in water filter when we moved (great new house, ancient fridge).  it was only about $45, a bargain i wasn’t expecting, and it was insanely easy to install. it’s been running nonstop in my house ever since, and saving me from my water snobbery (before this, i was about to resort to buying fiji water by the case!).  all that h20 has definitely been saving my skin this summer…my face doesn’t need nearly as much moisturizer when i’m hydrated, which means less to sweat off later in the day.  definitley a win/win.

so, now i’m wondering…other than a staffer feeding you frozen grapes poolside, what are your summer beauty must-haves?

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for the facial fanatic

one of my first rules of beauty gifting is to hand out products that i’ve come to love during the year, or that are perennial favorites of mine.  after all, if i love it, my friends should too…right?

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i’m a long-devoted fan of caudalie, particularly their vinoperfect radiance serum, which i’m pretty sure contains actual magical properties.  i’m constantly raving about it to friends, family, strangers on the street…you get the idea.  so, for the women i know that get as excited as i do about really amazing skin products, the caudalie vinoperfect radiance set is a no-brainer.  the set includes a full-size bottle of the serum plus mini bottles of their day cream with spf, night cream and a great mask, all for $79 at sephora (which is what you’d ordinarily pay for the serum alone, incidentally).

which brings me to a nonsequitor about the beauty gift set:  keep in mind that nearly every holiday set out there involves some serious savings over the products sold separately during the rest of the year. so, while you’re out shopping for your near and dear, remember to check out the sets that include your daily regimen – you’re bound to find a steal or two.  ’tis the season to stock up!

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beauty buzz: sephora’s color-dipped brush collection

makeup brushes are one of those nuisance purchases in my book.  i know i need them, they can be pretty pricey, and they’re not exactly exciting to buy.  really, who gets worked up about a new blush brush?

but when i spotted these bright new color-dipped versions at sephora – well, i actually got pretty excited about makeup brushes!  these work wonderfully well, and the colors (in addition to bringing a little brightness to my bland bathroom counter) help me spot the brush i want in a snap.  hey, it’s the little things. plus, these are silky soft, well-shaped, and so far, the shedding has been minimal.  since that’s about all i’m looking for in a makeup brush, these are perfect!

the only drawback (at least for me) is the double-sided feature.  super handy for application, it’s true…but i typically keep my brushes in a vase on the counter, and i can’t really do that now without risking ruining the bristles.  the way i see it, the only solution is a new brush case.

pricing runs from $18-35 per brush…if you’re due for new brushes (and, let’s be honest…i’m guessing we all are), these are a great choice.

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beauty buzz: the flawless face


i’ve never been a big fan of foundation – or, for any matter, any cosmetic that adds a new step to my morning routine.  i’m pretty lazy before 8 am.  but lately, it’s become clear that maybe it’s time to put aside my bias.  and so, i set out to find a few options that made enough of a difference that it was worth the extra effort.

my first stop was laura mercier, whose tinted moisturizer is the stuff of beauty legends.  i had a hard time believing it could live up to expectations, but i was dying to find out.  so, i tested each of three formulas:  original, illuminating and oil-free.  the original version was good, and gave a decent amount of coverage, but i’ll admit, i wasn’t hearing violins and seeing rainbows (yes, my standard are unreasonably high – is this news?), so i moved on.  i wasn’t a huge fan of the oil-free – the product just didn’t blend the way i wanted it to – but that could have been because i wasn’t a great match for any of the colors.  but the illuminating!  violin city!  when i applied it, i honestly thought it was maybe a little too high on the shimmer (i’ve since been told by the laura mercier authorities that mixing it with your daily moisturizer alleviates that problem).  but during my testing, i had people i barely knew asking if i’d been on vacation recently, commenting on the glow my skin had, and generally telling me i looked awesome.  which is, after all, the point, right?  sadly, both the original and that amazing illuminating moisturizer caused my overly particular skin to rebel via acne, and so i was forced to abandon ship.

but, i was not about to give up!  i called my fabulous friends over at benefit to see what they had that would fit the bill, and they instantly exclaimed they had just the thing. perfect!  and before i knew it, i was testing their latest powder foundation, “hello flawless.”  now, because my skin tends toward the dramatically dry, powder foundations tend to be an awful idea – they make my skin look drier, they settle into wrinkles…it’s bad.  but “hello flawless” did an amazing job of gliding over my skin, making it generally more even-toned and clean-looking, without any of the aforementioned side effects.  in short, i looked pretty awesome!  plus, the coverage is designed to be layered – so i used a brush to get light coverage all over, and then applied with a sponge to areas that needed a bit more TLC.  it worked perfectly, and i haven’t needed a drop of concealer since i started using it.  i have, however, needed blush and/or bronzer – the coverage is very matte and uniform, so unlike with the laura mercier, you have to put a little dimension back into your skin.

so, the results of this exhaustive testing?  if you’re not terribly acne-prone and/or have a pretty good handle on your skin’s moisture balance, laura mercier’s tinted moisturizers are most definitely the way to go – particularly the illuminating formula.  and for the more sensitive among us, benefit’s “hello flawless” is the miracle cure du jour.  plus, both provide SPF, so they’re perfect for summer.

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beauty buzz: caudalie friends & family


i spend, well, a lot of time trying beauty products.  so, i have many “favorite” products – basically anything that makes the cut on my bathroom counter for longer than a week.  but there aren’t very many companies whose products i adore across the board – in fact, i could easily count them on one hand.  but i think it’s time to add a new company to the list.

the science behind caudalie is that all of their products contain nutrients extracted from grape seeds.  the details involve big words like polyphenols, but i figure, since wine is supposed to prevent heart disease, and grapeseed oil is even better for you than olive oil, that’s as far into the chemistry side as i need to delve (plus, i once promised my chem professor that i’d never, ever do anything science-related).  

i’ve spent the bulk of my time with their vinoperfect line, which is designed to make your skin bright, radiant and generally happy.  and it does just that, beautifully.  i have yet to meet a caudalie product that i don’t love – and, in fact, their radiance serum is maybe my favorite serum of all time, which is saying something (i’m a pretty serious serum addict).  and their foaming cleanser is literally the most gentle cleanser i’ve ever tried – it’s like cetaphil, but with better results.

so!  there are a couple of budget-friendly ways to give caudalie a go this week.  first, this fab set at sephora is deeply discounted, and a great way to pick up a sample of everything i love best (except the cleanser):  day cream, night cream, serum and beauty elixir,.  (oh yeah, and use code NATURALBAG to get a mega-sample goodie bag at sephora this week.)  or, if you’d prefer to pick and choose your goodies, the quite wonderful people at caudalie just offered to extend their friends & family discount to you all….but it’s ending today, so shop fast!  just use code VINESALE at checkout, and you’ll score 20% off caudalie’s site plus free shipping!

(oh, and ps…the brand is set to launch a new line called “1st wrinkle” in april – i admit i haven’t spent much time with it yet, but i’m pretty freaking excited about it.)

Sephora.com, Inc.

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deals, deals everywhere…

it’s getting to be that very special time of year:  friends & family season!  while i normally save sale roundups until the end of the week, some of the best deals are expiring, and all are too good to miss.  so!

  • from 11/13 to 11/16, take 30% off sitewide at old navy, gap and banana republic for their annual friends & family event – plus, they’ll donate an additional 5% of your purchase price to charity.  use code B6BQLJDLGF8W at checkout.  i’ll admit there’s not a lot i’m after right now, but i am loving the jewelry at banana republic right now, and i think this is my green light to buy a few pieces.  (thanks to J for sharing this one!)
  • shopbop is also offering 30% off sitewide (well, except for sale, jewelry and accessories) – it started this morning and is good through thursday at midnight.  use code EARLYGIFT at checkout.
  • not nearly as exciting by comparison, but as long as we’re sharing, you can save 20% on all sweaters at jcrew through thursday at midnight.  use code SWEATERS at checkout.  i’ve been bummed to see the quality of j.crew’s cashmere decline of late, but this cozy academy cardigan looks like it might be the exception.
  • sephora’s friends & family is going on through 11/22 as well…20% off sitewide with code FF2008.
  • more friends & family goodness at restoration hardware:  20% off from 11/13 – 11/16 with code FFR2008.
  • and, one more – zoe is offering 40% off all coats, jackets and sweaters through 11/18 with code 8331064.  i’m sorely, sorely tempted to stock up on some lovely inhabit cashmere…if i can stop myself from picking up a cozy moncler down coat.

i think we all owe it to the economy to take advantage of a few of these…don’t you agree?

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asked and answered: the perfect brows

i recently received a question from a reader who’s about to go international – ooh la la! 

Dear Ms. SMC,

As I head out of the country it is unclear what sort of resourcing I will find in the brow waxing field once I arrive in Switzerland. Any product suggestions to help me keep the brows in check if I have to do it on my own?


one of the worst parts about moving is having to find all new professionals to trust with your home, health and – most importantly – beauty.  it’s challenging enough stateside, but add a foreign element, and it’s downright frightening.

fortunately, this one’s an easy fix.  what you want is a brow kit from celebrated brow guru (yes, such a thing exists) anastasia beverly hills.  i’ve tried it, and i can tell you it’s as close to foolproof as DIY brow maintenance gets.  simply pick the right stencil for your brow shape, hold it over the brow, fill in the lines with brow powder, and tweeze anything outside the lines.  clean off the excess powder, use brow gel to put everything in its place, and add the highlighting pencil to make your arch look even more fabulous (my favorite part of the kit, by far – it’s fantastic!).  voila – perfect brows. 

all of the equipment you’ll need for the steps above is included in the sephora-exclusive brow kit from anastasia – it’ll feel like an investment at $75, but if you manage to skip 4-5 brow waxes, it pays for itself.  to be honest, i’d buy most of the products in the kit separately anyway, even if someone else was doing my waxing for me.  plus, i have to admit there’s some appeal to not leaving your brow shape completely to chance (or to the whim of your aesthetician).

i did find that i’m more partial to their stick-on stencils than i am to the sturdier, plastic stencils that come in the kit.  it can be a little tricky to hold the stencil still while you’re applying the powder, until you get the hang of things.

i hope that helps ease the transition, M – send us a postcard from switzerland (or better yet, a nice big piece of chocolate)!

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what i want today: kat von d cosmetics from sephora

when i first heard about the new line of cosmetics from kat von d for sephora, i honestly wasn’t sure what to expect.  kat is a well known tattoo artist and, more recently, a reality tv star.  in other words, i’m not exactly her target demographic.  but i actually sort of loved it!

first, i’m a total packaging whore, and this line lured me in right away with the styling.  black boxes, printed with gorgeous tattoo-inspired florals, and gunmetal tissue paper sealed with a faux wax seal – very goth fab (if there is such a thing).

i’m not what you’d call adventurous when it comes to my beauty routine…i’ve been wearing the same pale pink eyeshadow for two years now.  but if anyone could make me branch out and try an actual new look, it’s kat.  her eyeshadows just beg to be smeared all over for that “i just rolled out of bed looking this fabulous” look – in fact, it happens almost without trying.  because they’re all a little bit irridescent, you’re left with this sort of inexplicable, sexy shimmer effect, but it’s definitely not your teen sister’s sparkle shadow.  

i also checked out the two things that most terrify me in the land of cosmetics:  liquid eyeliner and red lipstick.  but again, pretty impressed, actually.  the lipsticks have that rare combination of matte and moisture – for you girls that are really into the deep red lips, i think this is one of the best color palettes and formulations i’ve found for that.  as for the eyeliner, the brush was so well-designed that i actually managed to put it on without painting my cheeks – and the dark aubergine shade (i tried ‘turbo lover’ ) was gorgeous, and so much less harsh than black.

overall, it’s a line worth braving your neighborhood sephora to check out (seriously, couldn’t they make those aisles just a little wider?).  or, better yet, just buy online 🙂

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