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  • Clarins15% off with code FIFTEEN, ends 8/23.
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Win It! 20 NYX Cream Eyeshadows!

Win It! 20 NYX Cream Eyeshadows!

One lucky reader will receive every shade of NYX Cream Shadow–that’s twenty in total–for a total prize value of $100. These were recently released and come in a tube with a doe-foot applicator in a variety of shades. This giveaway is only open to U.S. readers. Simply use the widget below to enter this giveaway…


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Win It! MAC Pearlglide Intense Eyeliners!

Win It! MAC Pearlglide Intense Eyeliners!

This giveaway features the seven Pearlglide Intense Eyeliners released with MAC’s Vera Collection. Simply use the widget below to enter this giveaway…


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Complexion SOS: Skin Brightening Solutions

By Angela, Cosmetic Chemist

One of the leading brains behind beauty, Angela is an industry-renowned Cosmetic Chemist with over 11 years training and experience in developing cosmetics and toiletries. Having been immersed in the wondrous beauty world from an early age, she was instantly captivated by the rituals, the artistry and the allure. This initial intrigue soon developed into an unequivocal beauty obsession partly fuelled by teenage skin dilemmas but also stemming from a deep seated creativity and desire for self expression. This was quickly followed by a behind the scenes role in new product development where she formulated make up and skin care for an array of global brands.

Still not content with the industry offerings, especially those for women of colour, she still indulges herself with customised formulations to suit her specific beauty needs! Despite her wealth of scientific knowledge Angela takes what she calls a “feelosophical” approach to the industry. So whilst analysing ingredients and technologies, addressing safety fears and generally aiming to reveal the truth she never loses sight of the one essential thing about beauty and that is appreciating how it simply makes you feel! Check out her blog Beauty Feelosophy!


NARS Orgasm Illuminator

Complexion SOS: Skin Brightening Solutions

As the days grow shorter, the nights grow longer, and the  sun becomes but a distant memory, the skin can start to look a little lackluster.  For many of us around the globe, especially women of colour, maintaining a bright complexion, combating hyperpigmentation, and maintaining an even skin tone is a problem all year round!

There are many lightening, brightening and illuminating products out there, but here are just a few of my top solutions for getting through the dull winter months:

Exfoliate but don’t over do it!

One of the easiest and quickest ways to rejuvenate the skin is to remove some of the outermost skin cells that make up the surface of the skin. This also helps to clear hyperpigmentation and speed up the turnover of new skin cells being produced.

Skin takes up to 24 days to create new surface cells, which are, by this time dead and rich in keratin, then about three days for these skin cells to naturally shed. An at home microdermabrasion once a week like Kiehl’s Epidermal Retexturising Microdermabrasion ($41.00) will help to achieve instant radiance (I get compliments on my skin every time I use it!). The scrub uses fine particles of alumina as the main exfoliant along with diatomaceous earth, combined in a creamy emollient base to prevent it feeling too harsh or drying out the skin.

However as easy and amazing as it is, it is still important to remember that those dead skin cells are still there for a reason:  to protect your skin from the elements! Don’t over do it and always make sure you moisturize and use sunscreen after you exfoliate, especially if you suffer from dry skin or sensitive skin!

Vitamin C boost!

Vitamin C is an effective ingredient for brightening the skin and reducing hyperpigmentation. However, it quickly breaks down when used in certain formulations, therefore adding the pure powder yourself will ensure you get the real benefits.

Many people rave about Philosophy’s Turbo Booster C Powder ($35.00) which is (nearly) pure ascorbic acid, which is the stabilized powder form of Vitamin C.  A cheaper way to get your fix is from your local health food store where you will also find Ascorbic Acid powder ($6.95). Dissolve a small amount every day in water, add a bit of glycerine if you can find it in your local chemist as otherwise it can be a bit tingly, then apply directly to the face or with your moisturiser or serum. Be on the look out for 100% ascorbic acid without fillers though!  It is a great antioxidant that helps to protect the skin but that is whole other post in itself!

Fake it with illuminators and highlighters!

Adding a touch of pearl to your bare skin, mixed with foundation, or on key areas of the face to capture the light is a quick-fix way to bring your complexion to life.

For an all-over radiance, NARS Orgasm Illuminator ($30.00) is the type of product that’s great to use even in the day time. I use it mixed in my foundation and on a dull, sleep-deprived day, this is my saving grace. The great thing about this is that it works on all skin types. Products like MAC Strobe Cream or Benefit That Gal or Girl Meets Pearl are great on fair skins but on darker skin barely make a difference.

To enhance contours, an old favorite of mine is Benefit Moon Beam ($26.00)! In the beginning, I wasn’t sure the color, looking at the bottle, would work well for darker skin, but it does and it is a true classic–again great on all skin tones! Other highly recommended products are NARS Copacabana, but this is only really good for the night and has to be used very carefully on dark skin tones to avoid looking like a ghost!

Glow from within!

No discussion on complexion would be complete without a mention about diet and lifestyle so three important ingredients are vitamins (especially B, C and E), water, and sleep!

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3 Indian Lip Products for Soft, Lush Lips on Valentine’s Day

By Mehak Sagar, 24, India, Global Contributor

Mehak is 24-years old and a number-crunching economist from India. When she’s not analyzing data, she’s analyzing beauty, which is where her real passion lies. She loves blush and the color peach, and together, the two give her unparalleled happiness (hence her blog, Peaches and Blush). Aside from beauty, she loves food, shoes, traveling, dancing, and painting. She has an unhealthy obsession with chocolate cookies, lip balms, her three-year-old niece, and planning her upcoming wedding. Mehak lives with a joint family, which means 13 people in a single house, but she says it just means there is more makeup to go around!


Lakme Lip Love Conditioner

3 Indian Lip Products for Soft, Lush Lips on Valentine’s Day

Let’s face it:  most men hate oodles of lipstick, or at least my man does. So with Valentine’s Day around the corner, it’s essential to stock up on subtle lip products that work well for date nights! Here are three Indian lip products for soft, lush lips on Valentine’s Day.

Lakme Lip Love Lip Conditioners (Rs 225 or $4.50): These lip conditioners were made for Valentine’s Day! They come in adorable heart-shaped pots and give a juicy,wet look to the lips. While they won’t heal extremely chapped lips, they ensure your pout is drenched in subtle color and stays hydrated for those Valentine Day Date Nights. My favorites of the Lakme Lip love Conditioners are Flirt, a bright fuchsia pink, and Charmer, a bright coral orange. They also come in two other colors: Hottie and Siren. I recommend you stock up on all four of these! If you want an overload of the cheesiness factor, then also take a look at Lakme’s Lip Love Lipstick which come inscribed with word love on them.

Boutique Bio Berry Plumping Lip Balm (Rs 99 or $2.00) | The Biotique Bio Berry plumping lip balm claims to be a ‘medicinal product’ but one look at the pretty watermelon inside of it, and medicinal is the last word you would think of. It is mostly sheer, giving a light watermelon tint to the lips and keeps lips hydrated and soft throughout the day. While I am not a big fan of the slightly cough syrup like smell, it does give a fuller pout to the lips and makes sure your lips stay hydrated throughout the day!

Colorbar Coral Crush Lip Pot (Rs 495 or $10.00) | The Colorbar Lip Pots are kind of like liquid lipsticks. Similar to NYX Lip Lacquer Pots but much more pigmented, they last an immensely long time, give mostly opaque coverage, and have a cushioned feel on the lips. Coral Crush is an earthy terracotta orange, which looks great on warm skin tones and is a must for me. They come in a range of other colors like Cherry Pop, which is a deep red, and Pink Velvet, which is a plummy pink .

See more photos & swatches! 

The Skin Saga: Breaking Blemish

By John, Skincare Contributor

John describes himself as eccentric–you might find him having a conversation with himself or making “A Beautiful Mind”-like movements while doing so. He’s a stickler for accuracy, so you might find him correcting one thing or another! His goal is to answer questions and provide unbiased, meaningful, and insightful information.

At 21, he is an aspiring dermatologist and will return to school next fall to get those plans moving. John enjoys singing, playing piano, hitting volleyballs, playing video games, and chatting with friends. Some day, he’d love to try more adventurous activities, like skydiving and mountain climbing! Check out his blog, The Triple Helix Liaison!

The Skin Saga: Breaking Blemish

Currently, I have very oily, acne-prone, mildly sensitive skin that occasionally flakes and feels dehydrated in certain areas, like around the nose, mouth, and eyes.  I hope to one day have very pale, perfectly-formed, diamond-hard skin that will occasionally shimmer and radiate when exposed to sunlight!  This post will chronicle the stages of acne and explain how and what ingredients treat those stages.

Formation

A combination of factors including irregular polarization of the keratinocytes, excess sebum production from heightened androgen activity, and inflammation of the hair follicle lining, contribute to the formation of comedones, either as blackheads or whiteheads.  The ingredients that block or inhibit this step include the following:

  • Topical retinoids (tretinoin, adapalene, tazarotene): Topical retinoids function by reducing the positive and negative polarities of keratinocytes, which will allow for more even and normalized natural exfoliation. They do so by decreasing the levels of transglutaminase, an enzyme that cross-links the trans-membrane proteins present on keratinocyte surfaces.

Recommendations: Besides the brand-name and generic prescription treatments such as Retin-A, Differin, and Tazorac that are available from your doctor, the Peter Thomas Roth Retinol Fusion PM ($65.00), which allegedly contains 1.5% retinol, a precursor of tretinoin that is roughly 20 times weaker, is a fantastic option and I can personally attest that it provides significant results without much irritation. Note that “weaker” only refers to the ratio of retinol that undergoes esterification to become retinal and ultimately tretinoin. The word has nothing to do with the molecule itself because the skin cannot use retinol, only tretinoin.

  • Oral retinoids and contraceptives (Accutane, Ortho TriCyclen, Estrostep, and Yaz): Oral retinoids and contraceptives function by reducing sebaceous gland activity. Less sebum means lesser chances of clogs or plugs forming. This may be surprising but retinoids are actually types of hormones because there exist various receptors (RARs and RXRs) throughout the body that are activated by the presence of such chemicals. So while they are distinct, oral retinoids and contraceptives do have overlapping characteristics. Oral contraceptives function by reducing the amount of circulating androgens; they stimulate the production of sex hormone-binding globulin, which inactive testosterone.

Fun fact: Ever wonder why many women experience acne once they reach menopause? It’s because their estrogen levels plummet, which means they can no longer hide the effects of the androgens still present (at now comparatively higher levels). Estrogens exhibit anti-inflammatory properties by decreasing neutrophil chemotaxis (meaning they inhibit and slow down the immune system), while androgens do the opposite. I guess that explains why men love to fight!

  • Hydroxy acids (Glycolic, salicylic): This family of ingredients was already discussed in detail during my last post; they will only be covered briefly here. They function by loosening follicular impactions and inducing exfoliation.

Recommendations: Paula’s Choice makes excellent salicylic and glycolic leave-on products with varying degrees of concentration that employ different vehicular bases for corresponding different skin types. Alpha Hydrox makes several good ones as well. They are just less cosmetically elegant in my opinion.

  • Regarding cleansers with hydroxy acids: Most hydroxy acids require a certain pH range to function properly, which is determined by the acid’s pKa and molecular electronegativity. Now, when pH = pKa that signifies that equal amounts of the free acid and salt form are present in the solution (50/50). Only the free acid form will allow for meaningful exfoliation. Now, even if a cleanser is in an appropriate pH range, which many are not, it  still won’t function optimally because the pH of water is seven. The pKa of glycolic acid is 3.83; salicylic acid’s is 2.97. When you emulsify your cleanser with water and spread it onto your face, the pH will undoubtedly increase. By how much? It depends on how much water you use and if your cleanser is a buffered solution. You will be getting suboptimal or nonexistent treatment for your condition. Cleansers only stay on your face for what, thirty seconds? However, if you are currently using cleanser with a member of the hydroxy acid family in it, continue to use if you enjoy it, but I would advise against purchasing one expecting to see major results.

Learn more about the infection, inflammation, and eruption stages! 

Have a Fragrant Valentine’s Day!

By Caitlin, Fragrance Contributor

Caitlin recently completed her master’s degree in British Literature at St. Andrews in Scotland. She’s just moved back to the U.S., currently residing in Pennsylvania, and now works for a local non-profit. She studed French during her undergraduate years and even lived in Paris for a years. She loves traveling, but now that she has to hold down a “real job” now, she travels by way of new perfumes. She says fragrance has a way of transporting you to a new place, which is one of the reasons she loves perfume! You can follow her on Twitter!


Have a Fragrant Valentine’s Day!

It doesn’t matter what your plans for Valentine’s Day are. Whether you like to go out for an elegant evening or prefer to do a cozy night in (or if, like me, you plan to curl up with a Colin Firth movie and a bottle of wine) there’s no reason you shouldn’t be happy about the way you smell!

For a splash of delicate sensuality, try By Kilian, Liaisons Dangereuses ($225.00). With top notes of ripe plum and rose of Damascus, this fragrance evokes the sense of a leisurely stroll through the grounds at Versailles. Like the French court, this fragrance is decadent, yet not completely reckless or hedonist. Liaisons Dangereuses settles into the smoothest of blends as the florals mix with the base notes of vanilla and white musk. I find that this fragrance wears close to the skin, and all the better too! Spraying this on is like wearing the most charming secret.

For an elegant night out, try Tom Ford, Noir de Noir ($195.00). This is another rose-centered fragrance, but the striking thing about Noir de Noir is the sense of effervescence it conveys. The effervescence is an interesting touch, as it gives the impression of keeping the rose somehow alive on the skin. Darker notes like patchouli and something chocolatey (yum!) creep in during the dry down, but the rose note just lasts and lasts. Noir de Noir is like a glass of champagne with a rose petal floating on top. In other words, the essence of luxury.

Forget the red hot candies, go for Serge Lutens, Rousse ($120.00) if you’re looking for a taste of spicy sweetness. Rousse is a showcase for cinnamon, but the fragrance never becomes too overpowering, as it uses a base of amber, vanilla and musk to anchor the spice. At times the heat of the cinnamon comes across quite strongly. At other times, the amber and musk peek through, adding mild sweetness and depth to the composition. For a fragrance focused on spice, Rousse is more sexy than foodie. Cinnamon has never been so sophisticated or so compelling.

If you’re in the mood to go bold, try L’Artisan Parfumeur, Poivre Piquant ($145.00). This offering from L’Artisan combines white pepper with milk and honey and is for true spice lovers. This opens with a blast of powdery pepper but, the next time I lean in to smell my wrist, I only get soft notes of milk and honey. This fragrance never settles into a smooth blend and it isn’t meant to. This is a composition that not only embraces discord, but celebrates it. The juxtaposition of intense spice with mild sweetness is striking and addictive—I can’t stop smelling my wrist when wearing this. In the end, discord renders Poivre Piquant surprisingly seductive.

Note: I realize that full bottles of each of these fragrances are pretty pricey and I am by no means recommending that you rush out and drop $200 on a bottle of perfume! I myself have samples of each of these. I recommend Luckyscent for samples of the L’Artisan and By Kilian, and The Perfumed Court for Serge Lutens and Tom Ford.

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