Saturday, January 14th, 2012

By Nicki Zevola, Pennsylvania, Skincare Expert

Nicki Zevola is a beauty expert and the founder of FutureDerm.com, where she provides clear, well-researched information about beauty+skincare, fashion+style, nutrition+fitness, and personal development from a different perspective from most in the blogosphere. Named one of the top beauty bloggers since 2009, Nicki is also a medical student (M.D.) with an estimated graduation date of May 2013. Continue reading her full bio


Photo by mira66

5 Things You Must Know about DNA and Beauty Products

It’s been almost a decade since the human genome has been sequenced, and all of a sudden, it seems everyone wants to get in on the hot biological terminology. From sequencing to splicing to cloning, you can’t walk into a Sephora without having someone ask you about your genes (and sorry, honey, we’re not talkin’ about your Sevens). Unfortunately, while some industry insiders are utilizing the technology to make skin care bravely go where no product has ever gone before, others are, unfortunately, being a bit deceptive in their approach. Here’s what we know about the technologies:

1. There is no such thing as a single “Youth Gene.”

A product that shall go nameless recently advertised that it is clinically proven to turn on the “Youth Gene.” Unfortunately, the Human Genome Project has affirmed there are 19,599 protein-coding genes (Ornl.gov), and it is likely that the expression of nearly all of them decreases with age. Furthermore, there are likely hundreds, if not thousands, of genes targeted towards manufacturing proteins that can help make you look younger. It is the decrease of function a number of genes, not just one, that contribute to aging. So beware of any product that claims to target a single gene. It may have other redeeming factors, but this should not be your primary reason to buy.

2. The secret to red wine is not just resveratrol.

Want to know why people are so excited about resveratrol? Although resveratrol is a noted antioxidant, its main benefit is that it may upregulate proteins called sirtuins, which in turn prolong the life of your skin’s collagen-producing fibroblasts. Sirtuins do this by turning off unnecessary gene expression, so when the fibroblasts aren’t expending more energy than they need to on unnecessary tasks, they will theoretically last longer. This means that your fibroblasts enable you to make collagen naturally for more years than if you did not treat your skin with sirtuins.

Unfortunately, numerous studies suggest resveratrol does not influence sirtuin production, including a 2005 study in the Journal of Biological Chemistry2009 study in Chemical Biology and Drug Design, and 2010 study in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. It is also hard to know for sure if sirtuins in skin care products are able to diffuse through the your skin’s cellular and nuclear membranes to affect the genetic material within in the first place. Preliminary data from companies like Avon, who feature the ingredient in their Ultimate Age Repair Elixir Serum and Night Cream, seem to suggest that sirtuins applied topically may have an effect. However, there may also be confounding variables, as the other ingredients in the products have previously been proven beneficial for the skin. Clearly, more research needs to be done.

Three more facts you NEED to know!  Continue reading →

Friday, January 13th, 2012

By Chelsea Nusbaum, Fragrance Contributor

Chelsea grew up in Los Osos, California, which is a small coastal town. She completed her undergraduate degree in Literature/Writing at University of California, San Diego. She recently completed her master’s degree in Rhetoric and Professional and Technical Writing. Chelsea currently works as a proposal editor for a local defense company. She loves to freelance and edit, but between her full-time job and awesome pets, what little time she has left she devotes to fragrance!


Perfume and Memory: Miller Harris Fleurs de Sel Review

Herbaceous, rugged, and tethered to the earth that inspired it, Fleurs de Sel reminds me of my hometown. But my tiny coastal town perpetually shrouded in fog was not what perfumer Lyn Harris had in mind when she created this fragrance: hers was. She has a family home in Batz sur Mer, a small village in Brittany, France, where she says she spent her happiest times. She composed Fleurs de Sel using materials found at the nearby salt marshes. It was released in 2007.

Miller Harris Fleurs de Sel is a fragrance I never would have worn as early as a year ago, and now I count it among my favorites. Name aside, it isn’t floral—at least not in any obvious sense—and its opening is smoky. I hate smoke. Red thyme gives it an antiseptic edge that I’m also not fond of. Up until falling in love with Fleurs de Sel, I liked my perfumes floral, or at least sweet. Fleurs de Sel is pungent and aromatic. It didn’t fit my idea of how a perfume should smell. But I kept thinking about those salt marshes that inspired it, and the estuary I grew up near. Nostalgia led me to take a second sniff, and then a third. Once I got past the nose-crinkling opening, I was combing the internet for a discontinued bottle.

In addition to the smoke, Fleurs de Sel opens with a bundle of herbs and a kick of ambrette seed. I’ve learned to appreciate the opening, but I don’t really love Fleurs de Sel until about 20 minutes in, when the smoke evaporates and the wildflowers blossom behind a curtain of herbs. The herbs have such clarity that this fragrance still feels modern, in spite of its country roots. The antiseptic quality mellows considerably as the fragrance wears.

Extended exposure to Fleurs de Sel will make you think Harris’s family home is actually near a salt mine—it is very, very salty. The big salt accord is buoyed by the host of herbs from the top notes: red thyme, rosemary, and clary sage. The “fleurs” are there, but not so distinguishable that I could pick them out note-by-note, although the official notes list iris, narcissus, and rose. Rather, they form a sheer backdrop to the earthier aspects of the fragrance; herbs and salt are what take center stage.

Fleurs de Sel’s musky base comes courtesy of ambrette seed, with a woody assist from vetiver, which to my nose usually smells dry and earthy, but here is rendered as wet, freshly dug earth. There is a touch of leather.

It is not my signature scent—I’m incapable of olfactory monogamy—but it is the fragrance I consider the most “me.” When I wear it, I smell like where I came from.

Ambrette seed—the soul of Fleurs de Sel —is expensive, and I suspect it’s partially to blame for the unusually high price tag. Miller Harris perfumes typically retail for about $100. If you’re up for paying full price, £110.00 for 3.4 oz of eau de parfum (about $170, plus international shipping), you can order directly from Miller Harris. Or you can pick it up for about $20 less and save on shipping at online discounters Overstock and Fragrance X.

What perfumes conjure memories for you? Are you willing to give a challenging fragrance like Fleurs de Sel a try, or multiple tries?

Friday, January 13th, 2012

By Laura, 40s, New York, Skincare Contributor

Laura “came of age” in the 80s, so she considers a survivor of some very disturbing fashion and makeup trends, like shoulder pads, acid-washed jeans worn unironically, streaky blush, and thick eyeliner that we softened with a lighter before putting it on–don’t even get her started on what women wore to the gym in those days! She now works in a more conservative field, and she’ll get an odd look or two if she wears crackle nail polish (and she expects we’ll look back on that trend with the same disbelief we now reserve for horizontally-striped leg warmers).


Photo by Darwin Bell

Exfoliation: An Essential Step in Your Skincare Routine

As I’ve posted here before, I have a particularly galling skin type – namely, skin that’s not only middle-aged that I have to worry about fine lines but is still prone to oiliness and breakouts as well. For both issues, I find that exfoliation, which is a fancy word for removing the outer layer of skin, is essential for my skincare routine. Along with Retin-A cream, exfoliation has led to the greatest visible improvement in my skin. (Retin-A, incidentally, is not an exfoliant, contrary to popular belief.)

Exfoliation benefits most skin types, but if you have oily skin like me, you want to exfoliate to avoid blackheads, whiteheads, and pimples. Those skin problems result from an overabundance of sebum, which is a waxy substance produced by your skin’s sebaceous glands. Under normal circumstances, sebum is actually a good thing, since it reduces natural water loss from the skin. However, when your sebaceous glands overproduce sebum, it tends to clog the pores, not only with the sebum, but with skin cells and bacteria. By exfoliating–helping the skin cells to shed off your face–you help keep the pore from getting clogged, and with a little luck, no breakouts.

Exfoliation can also benefit sun-damaged skin by removing the thickened layer of skin that results from over-exposure to sun and makes your skin look ashy or sallow. As for dry skin, it can also benefit from exfoliation; the process helps shed skin cells, permitting moister skin cells to surface and make the skin look more dewy. Not incidentally, if you have dry skin, exfoliation will also help your skin absorb moisturizers better, as the dead skin cells fall away and no longer act as a barrier for the moisturizer.

So which exfoliants to use? I prefer chemical exfoliants (alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acid) instead of physical exfoliants (scrubs or plain old washcloths), since the latter don’t penetrate below the surface. For my oily and aging skin, I usually use a BHA, which is salicylic acid (yep, close to what’s in good old aspirin). Unlike AHAs, BHA not only exfoliates the outer layer of skin, but is also fat-soluble rather than water soluble, so that it gets inside the pore to get rid of all the stuff clogging it.

Your BHA product should have a concentration of one to two percent, with a pH of 3 to 4 (roughly as acidic as vinegar).  To be certain you’re getting an effective product, salicylic acid should be high up on the ingredient list. And although I know you’re using sunscreen every single day (you are, right? RIGHT?), you have to be extra careful to use a good sunscreen when you’re using a BHA, because BHAs increase sun sensitivity. My own favorite BHA is Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Gel Exfoliant  ($18.95), which is formulated for oily skin.

I also like to use an AHA product once or twice a week; I notice a definite difference in the suppleness of my skin when I do. Again, you want to make sure your product has the right amount of AHAs to benefit your skin: five to eight percent AHA and a pH of 3 to 4, so that it has enough acidity to be effective (look for fruit acid high on the ingredients list). As with BHA, make very certain you’re using a proper sunscreen, as AHAs can also increase sun sensitivity. My current favorite AHA product is Olay’s Regenerist Night Resurfacing Elixir ($29.99).

A couple of caveats: I don’t use an AHA and BHA together, and I don’t generally exfoliate every night, since I do notice that if I don’t take a little break, my skin will sometimes get flaky–not exactly the look I’m striving for!

What are your favorite exfoliants?

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

By Kimberly Nissen, Local Contributor – Australia

Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, Kimberly started her working life early at the tender age of 15. For most of the past 10 years, she has worked for some of the biggest media corporations her sunny country has had to offer. She always wanted to become a writer, but with no training and never having finished high school, it didn’t look like it was going to happen, but then she created The Plastic Diaries and The Styleless Diaries. She also co-founded the first niche-specific blogging event in Australia, the Australian Beauty Bloggers Weekend.


The Best of Face of Australia

Australian beauty brands are different to the rest of the world. While striving to make the perfect product is a universal goal, I feel the Australian approach to beauty is simplistic. In general, we like easy to use, understated, realistic beauty. We live an outdoor, active lifestyle and we want to look good without interfering with it. One brand that I believe encapsulates the Australian beauty culture is Face Of Australia.

Face Of Australia is an Australian owned and made brand of color cosmetics. Their philosophy is to make products specifically designed for Australian consumers, who want a high quality, innovative range of cosmetics at an affordable price.  Being an Australian beauty lover can be difficult due to our lack of access to international brands and their high price points. Like most women, I wanted to stay on top of color trends and try products containing the latest ingredients and developments. Face Of Australia is one brand that consistently brings on new products that are often better than the luxury alternatives.

Discovering their products changed my life not only in bringing me the products I wanted, but also restoring my faith in the Australian color cosmetic market. Because of them I started to try more Australian brands, and I have never looked back. Plus, they are 100% against animal testing and that means a lot to me.

The Products

I couldn’t leave without telling you my top 3 products by Face Of Australia. I have already mentioned a couple of these previously but they are that good they deserve another mention.

  1. Liquid Eyeliner (AUS $8.95 rrp) is my holy grail liquid eyeliner.  The brush head is super fine and the long handle makes controlling the application extremely easy. Once dry, it doesn’t budge.  It’s available in four shades:  Black, Brown, Charcoal, and Navy.
  2. Face Base Primer (AUS $11.95 rrp) is my favorite primer to date.  The oil-free formula is hydrating and leaves my skin feeling soft and supple. It does all the things a great primer should do, but why I like this one is that it is fragrance-free and doesn’t clog my pores.
  3. Lip Quench Moisturizing Lipstick SPF30+ (AUS $9.45 rrp) is beautiful range of lipsticks that has one key factor that makes it a standout to me:   SPF30+. The lipsticks are nourishing, the colors are gorgeous, and they don’t have that icky ‘lipstick smell’ but all of that is just icing on the cake to the fact they provide broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection.  Available in 13 shades: Malibu Barbie, Forbidden Fruit, Pink Champagne, Nude Satin, Lychee Crush, Iced Almond, Ruby Delight, Power Surge, Pink Ambition, Pure Plum, Silver Rose, Sweet Nectar, Cocoa Cherry.
Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

By Rae Chen, Local Contributor – Canada

Rae, the easily-distracted Canadian blogger behind theNotice: a beauty blog, is neither the brains nor the beauty of the operation. (The subjective existence of either has yet to be determined – we’ll get back to you on that one.)

She is, however, a rather relentless makeup junkie with a camera, a lack of a filter, and a writing style that’s rather more snark than sycophant.

Strange Tips for Surviving Prairie Winters

There are winter skin tips that I’m sure we’ve all heard by now: don’t shower in hot water, switch to a heavier moisturizer, make sure to exfoliate your body. But – what about all the tricks that slip through the cracks?

When you grow up on the Canadian prairies, you pick up a trick or two. Here are some of mine!

Please note: instead of featuring only Canadian products, this post focuses instead on products (some Canada-only, some not) that are great for our rather unique winters. So, no matter where you are in the world – if it’s cold, there should be something in here for you, too!

Check out the best products for a tough winter from cheeks to lips to skin! Continue reading →

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

By Amanda Allington, Hair Care Contributor

Amanda Allington was born in Vancouver, B.C. in Canada but her family moved to southern California when she was just five years old. She’s lived along the west coast, including Hawaii but has just moved to Washington D.C. Amanda has been married to her husband for four years and they have a two-year old son. Her husband is part of the military, so she and her family move around often, but she really enjoys it, because she can experience different places and people! Luckily, no matter where she has moved, she always finds other people who are as beauty obsessed as she is!


Photo by Tavis Leaf Glover

Must-Have Styling Tools for Hair

Make this year the year that you master your hair! Below are ten hair styling tools that I think are essential for making any air type styled and fabulous!

Blow Dryer

A good blow dryer will dry hair efficiently without overheating. Ceramic coils maintain a more even heat, which helps prevent the blow dryer from overheating and damaging your hair. Tourmaline is a semi-precious gem that aids in negative ion production. Negative ions are said to absorb water faster, thus speeding up drying time, as well as smoothing the hair follicles. Although, there is still some question to both of these claims.

Over 400 reviews on Amazon.com give the Revlon RV544 1875 Watt Tourmaline Ionic Lightweight Dryer ($25.00) an average of four stars. Self magazine says it is the fastest dryer for the money and Consumer Reports named it the best ionic dryer for the price. At around $25, it is a great purchase and better than many blow dryers twice the cost. The only negative is that this dryer does not use ceramic coils so heat damage could be an issue.

With ceramic coils, tourmaline and negative ions, the Conair Infiniti Tourmaline Ceramic Ionic Hair Styler 223X ($40.00) has it all and gets an average of four stars on Amazon.com with over 100 reviews. InStyle magazine has named this their best budget dryer for four years straight, and Self magazine recognizes this blow dryer as the best for fine/limp hair, because it reduces static. I love the bright pink color that is available and at $40, this is my pick and a fantastic mid range tool.

The T3 Featherweight ($200.00) has been reviewed in just about every beauty site and magazine out there with an average of four stars. The T3 also uses ceramic coils, tourmaline, and ionic technology. It’s named best for travel by Women’s Health, best lightweight by Self magazine, and best professional dryer by Consumer Research. Despite the reviews, some people are just not impressed with this dryer so if you decide that you want the T3, I suggest you swing by your local Sephora and try it out.

Get tips on picking a straightener, flat/curling iron, and more!  Continue reading →