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7 Tried & True Must-Have Products

By Dustin Hunter, Makeup Artist

Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, Dustin Hunter has been designing various media since his early teen years. Studying several different art forms, Hunter’s creative background ranges from illustration and photography to fashion and interior design to music production and makeup artistry. He has worked for over a decade as a professional illustrator and his retail interior design concepts have been featured in nation-wide publications, receiving recognition for their uniqueness and creativity.  Check out his blog and YouTube channel!

MAC Reflects Transparent Teal Glitter

7 Tried & True Must-Have Products

I’m a sucker for multi-purpose products: pigments, cream and liquid paints, mixing mediums, etc. I like to custom-blend just about everything! Not everyone feels the same way, though, and sometimes, it’s nice to have one product that does a job and does it well. These are some of my tried-and-true favorites from a few different companies (hopefully some that you haven’t heard of before)!

Estée Lauder Pure Color Lipstick | Their Long Lasting Cream finishes are some of the best lipsticks I own. They cover well and feel luxurious on the lips. The BEST ones are almost always limited edition. Favorites in the Permanent Range: Cherry Passion, Melon and Rose Tea.

Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics Lip Tars | I’m actually not a huge fan of these on the lips, but, OH, the blushes these make! They last forever and blend like a dream (they DO have mint in them though so avoid the eye area). Favorites: Cha-Cha and Divine.

Face Atelier Ultra Sheer | I love these liquid luminizers because you can mix them with foundation, cream blush or bronzer for glowing skin or apply them on their own (I use a fluffy blush brush) for a natural highlighting effect. Favorites: Champagne.

Terra Firma Gel Mineral Matte Finish Bronzer | I use this on myself all the time. It’s highly pigmented (I dilute it with body lotion), long-wearing, won’t rub off on clothes and looks SO amazingly natural – If most bronzers are too orange for you, look no further! (There’s also a shimmering version if you like to twinkle.)

MAC Reflects Glitters | A MAC PRO exclusive (but anyone can buy from MAC PRO). I’ve used these in a multitude of ways: mixing custom lip gloss, over mascara for sparkling lashes, on top of just any eye look, pressed over lipstick for a metallic foil effect, as a face and body highlight, worked into a hairstyle, etc. Not many things are THIS pretty! (Be aware that MAC lists these products as “not for use in the eye area.”) Favorites: Reflects Bronze, Reflects Gold and Reflects Transparent Teal.

MAC Blot Powder and Purely Cosmetics Diamond Perfect Finish Powder | My two favorite setting powders! Blot Powder by MAC is perfect for mattifying a look without adding any color or texture. Diamond Perfect Finish Powder by Purely Cosmetics is a transparent loose powder that easily outperforms the transparent powders I have from MAC and MUFE (smoother application, better line diffusing AND it doesn’t bounce light back in photography).

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Sam’s Teen Beauty Must-Haves

By Sam, Teen Beauty Expert

Sam is 14-years old, lives near Atlanta, Georgia with her mom and two (of three!) older brothers. She was born and raised in Georgia, but her family originally hailed from Illinois. You will find her busy meeting new people and enjoying teen soap operas/dramas (like Vampire Diaries)–and of course, she’s madly in love with all things beauty. When she’s not playing around with makeup, you’ll find her with headphones on listening to everything; from classical to rap, pop to heavy metal, and almost everything in between (though she favors rock!).

Sam’s Teen Beauty Must-Haves

Here is a list of my must-have beauty products. I have tried many out there but these are the ones I always reach for in the end. Feel free to comment if you have tried any of these and what you’re experience was like, or if you have any recommendations! Also if you have any questions, I would gladly help as much as I can. 🙂 Now tell me, what’s on your “must-haves” list?


Too Faced Shadow Insurance is my go-to eyeshadow primer. You only need to use a tiny bit for it to perform flawlessly! I’m forewarning you though, this stuff adheres eyeshadow to my lid like a second skin. It lasts on my slightly oily eyelids all day and night with little to no creasing. Even after taking a shower, my eye makeup will still be in almost-perfect condition.

Urban Decay’s Naked Palette is my all-in-one eyeshadow palette. It doesn’t seem to matter what kind of eye makeup look I’m going for, I always use at least one of the shadows. Hustle is my favorite for making my brown eyes pop, and Buck is the perfect color for filling in my brows.

NYX Jumbo Eye Pencil in Milk is my favorite cream shadow in my collection. It works great as a base to make colors pop even more. And, thanks to Xsparkage, I’m obsessed with using it as a tear duct highlight. My makeup just isn’t complete without using this as a highlighter!

Crown Brush has a 15 Piece Brush Set that comes in a really neat faux crocodile skin case, and include pretty much every brush I will ever need. All the brushes are very soft (I can’t open the case without my cousin rubbing the blush brush all over her face!), and they do their job well. I like to use the foundation brush for applying face masks! I have a few other brushes (mostly Bare Essentials) that I keep in the case and use often. But for the most part, this set can’t be beat!

Make Up Forever’s Aqua Liner in #14 is my favorite liquid eyeliner for my top lash line. The black/brown base doesn’t appear too harsh on my eyes, and the gold and purple micro glitter make my eyes stand out! And I’m in love with the sponge applicator–it’s practically fool-proof!

Jack Black’s Intense Therapy Lip Balm is my favorite lip treatment. I have never tried any lip product that works as well as this. I’m a lip balm junkie and tear through tubes exceptionally fast. I can literally apply this at night with damaged lips, and when I wake up they’re practically healed! The original/mint flavor is great for everyday use, but the lavender/vanilla is my favorite for applying right before bed. Lavender essential oil has some pretty amazing healing power, while inhaling it helps me sleep better. (Is anyone else insomniac?)

Check out hair care, skin care, and fragrance must-haves!

ThermaFuse HeatSmart Serum Dry Oil Treatment

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!

ThermaFuse HeatSmart Serum Dry Oil Treatment

Before trying ThermaFuse’s Dry Oil (Salons only, price varies depending on location & size, see website for local availability), I didn’t think hair oil was for me. I had the misconception that it would weigh down my hair and feel greasy, which is something my fine, dry hair already struggles with before adding any heavy product on top. Then, my hair stylist recommended this serum, and I was amazed with the results. If you have fly aways, frizzies, dry or dyed hair–or you just want something that gives your hair satiny shine and styling ease–you, too, need to check out this product.

ThermaFuse HeatSmart Serum Dry Oil Treatment gives me model looking hair. It has a lustre and shine to it that I have never been able to achieve before. When air-dried, my hair develops tons of frizz and fly-aways as well as a messy, tangled, wavy style. After applying this oil and doing a simple blow out, which is something I assure you that I struggle with, my frizzies and fly aways are smoothed. My hair has a healthier feel to it, and is touchable, tamed, and soft. I actually save money on my conditioner, because I can use less conditioner in the shower. Instead, I work the dry oil into my freshly-washed strands as the serum can be applied to dry or damp hair.

One of my concerns when first trying this product was weighing my hair down. Since my hair is so fine, if I apply products that are heavy, I end up totally flat. This is not the case with this serum. I can apply this product if I am straightening or curling my hair. When I straighten, I get silky shine and sleekness. When I curl, my curls are just as shiny, while still being bouncy and holding shape. It also does not shorten the amount of days I can go without washing my hair, which hovers between three and four. They really mean dry oil, because the ingredients are easily absorbed, preventing the oily or greasy look. Speaking of ingredients…

This dry oil contains a mixture of three organic oils; argan, acai and flaxseed. These three oils are filled with essential fatty acids and vitamins that coat and calm the hair cuticle while infusing into your hair. The serum also contains proteins, amino acids and healthy plant extracts while being sulfate, paraben and glycerin free. These ingredients help to prevent split ends and breakage while improving hydration and health. When you improve the health and moisture content of your hair, it becomes shinier, stronger, and more workable.

Finally, this contains ThermaFuse’s HeatSmart technology! “HeatSmart Complex® combines a silicone molecule with a wheat protein molecule. Together they stay on the hair AND in the hair, penetrating to smooth any frazzled cuticle while also adding shine. The icing on the cake? HeatSmart Complex® is accentuated by and activated with heat. Where in the past blow dryers, curling irons and flat irons damaged hair, with ThermaFuse they repair it!” Heat protection is a must-have product, so if you don’t already have something you are happy with, I strongly recommend giving ThermaFuse a try. If you are using one product for heat protection and another for shine, try this one serum for both!

In summary, we have organic ingredients, a whole slew of healthy ingredients, heat protection with HeatSmart that actually repairs your hair, easy styling, shine and healthy, workable hair. On top of all of this, ThermaFuse HeatSmart Serum Dry Oil Treatment smells fantastic! My husband regularly compliments me on the smoothed texture, being able to run his hands through it easily and the summery, fruity smell. My experience with this product: yes, it really is that good.

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5 Must-Have Products for Beautiful Nails

By Edith (Edie) Bryan, Nail Care Expert

Edie is 27-years old and hails from the beautiful country that is Wales, in the UK. She’s an esthetician and has been trained in all aspects of beauty, from waxing to skincare, but she specializes in nails. She discovered her talent for nails at 17 and worked as a junior technician. In 2005, she started her own business running a nail salon in her home town. She found creating beautiful nails was the perfect way to combine her natural creativity and her obsession with fashion and beauty into one. Check out her blog Touch Beauty and follow her on Twitter!

5 Must-Have Products for Beautiful Nails

You don’t need an extensive kit to achieve healthy, strong and beautiful nails. Here are my five must-have nail care products and how to use them for optimum results…

CND Super Shiney High Gloss Top Coat | I have used this top coat religiously for over 7 years! I love it simply because it is super-fast drying, long-wearing. and has an incredibly high-gloss finish. I have a big 2.3oz pro-size bottle at home, which I have had for a couple of years, and it is just as great now as when I bought it. It gives glass-like shine, keeps my nails strong, and my polish looking fresh. I have tried many other brands in my time as a nail tech, but this is most definitely the best I have used. It has a slight purple tint and UV filters to stop yellowing. It is formaldehyde-, toluene- and DBP-free (no nasties), scratch-resistant and super tough.

OPI Avoplex Cuticle Oil | There are a multitude of cuticle oils on the market, and all of them are designed to do exactly the same thing. OPI Avoplex is my favourite because it has a slightly thicker viscosity than the others I have tried, and it has given me the best results. Rich in avocado oil and high quality antioxidants, it nourishes nails and conditions the cuticle area. Cuticle oils penetrate the layers of the nail, restoring moisture and natural lipids. Use them sparingly – a little goes a long way. Apply at night before you go to bed for maximum benefit. A little dab may be used to perk up natural nails before a night out, or buffed gently into the nail for super glossy finish on natural nails. If you wear nail enhancements – cuticle oils won’t cause lifting, in fact they will help keep your enhancements flexible and strong, so it is worth picking some up next time you visit the salon.

CND Glossing Buffer | A glossing buffer is an essential addition to any Nailista’s kit. By buffing your nails gently, you increase the blood flow to your fingertips – this promotes healthy nail growth and gives your nail bed a much pinker appearance. By using the different sides of the buffer in order, you can achieve smooth natural nails, so your nail polish will sit better, and it is also less likely to stain.

Mavala Cuticle Remover | Some type of cuticle remover is a must for every nail kit; dry and overgrown cuticles instantly ruin the appearance of the hands. These products soften and remove dead cells from the nail plate. They are not designed to be used all that frequently, but every 10-14 days, it is worth giving your cuticles a real clean up, and then maintain them with your cuticle oil. Cuticle removers must always be rinsed off with soap and water, or else they will leave a residue on the nails, which will mess up your polish.

Stainless Steel Cuticle Pushie or Plastic Hoof Stick | I recommend that for doing any cuticle work – you use a pushie or hoof stick. Orange sticks are a big no-no for me, as they aren’t very effective, and tend to be unhygienic. Metal or plastic cuticle pushers can be cleaned and re-used, so they are a much better investment, as well as more effective and comfortable to use. If you manicure your nails regularly and are confident with cuticle care, go for a stainless steel one.  If you are a newbie to caring for cuticles, go for a rubber tipped hoof stick, until you have mastered the technique.

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An Introduction to L’Artisan Parfumeur

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!

An Introduction to L’Artisan Parfumeur

French perfume house L’Artisan has turned out everything from cult classics like Dzing! to critical darling Timbuktu. I’ve sampled most of their fragrances, I own two bottles, and my to-buy list contains another three. Bertrand Duchaufour is the current nose. Two members of his travel-inspired series: Dzongkha and Traversee du Bosphore, wowed me. A turkish delight note is Traversée du Bosphore’s big selling point, but it’s the curious tulip note that piqued my interest and sent me down the rabbit hole of perfumes interpreting what is essentially an odorless flower. Dzongkha marries two of my favorite notes, leather and iris. It is a contemplative fragrance that smells like nothing else. And I’ve never loved an opening the way I love Dzing!’s burst of vanilla and cardboard. And when the horse barn smells of hay, leather, and sawdust chime in, I love it even more. Like Traversee de Bosphore and Dzongkha. All three are on my to-buy list.

L’Artisan has something for everyone (or, if you’re a perfumista, everything for someone). There’s the conventionally pretty candied violets of Verte Violette and the flamboyantly pretty Drôle de Rose. Drôle de Rose was my first L’Artisan purchase and my second niche fragrance acquisition, marking the time I became seriously interested in perfume. I love this pink juice with its giddy burst of violets, roses, and powder, but it can get tedious as the day wears on. What was a fun choice in the bright hustle of the morning can set my teeth on edge by 3:00.

I get the most mileage out of The pour un Été, a fragrance I didn’t have much patience for the first time I sniffed it. It was too sheer–I felt I couldn’t get a proper whiff and that it was too literally tea, anyway. I’m glad I revisited it; it’s as close as I’ll ever get to a signature scent. The pour un Été is a soft, sweet dream of summer with bitter green tea dregs to keep it interesting. The jasmine is soft and round, without the indolic, smothering sweetness that usually puts me off of jasmine fragrances. The pour un Été lifts my spirits at the office and carries me through the weekend. It is it comforting in the winter and refreshing in the summer.

My only quarrel is with Havana Vanille. With its smooth duet of vanilla and tobacco, Havana Vanille would full-bottle-worthy if it didn’t turn to banana and root beer on me. Also a member of Duchaufour’s travel series, he composed this fragrance in 2009 as an homage to Cuba. Timbuktu I can appreciate but wouldn’t wear. Smokey isn’t my thing, even when it’s as well-executed as it is in Timbuktu.

L’Artisan values creativity. They can release something as niche as Poivre Piquant, a wan floral that overdosed on pepper, or as amiable as La Chasse aux Papillons, a creamy white floral with droves of fans. Fragrances like Mûre et Musc (an unlikely partnership of berries and musk) set trends, and fragrances like Premier Figuier (a tree branch laden with ripe figs) perfected them. Because most of the line’s fragrances are offered only as eau de toilettes, there’s a transparency that pervades even the cream-drenched spices of Safran Troublant and the huge, earthy patchouli note that opens Patchouli Patch. It’s a signature that, to my mind, marks a perfume as a L’Artisan.

L’Artisan enjoys wide distribution for a niche brand, probably due to its mainstream tendencies. Its price point is higher than what you can expect from any given fragrance Sephora offers, but not unreasonably so. A 50 ml bottle typically retails for $95, a 100 ml for $145. Decants are of course available at The Perfumed Court and The Posh Peasant. I have personally purchased from Beautyhabit and Luckyscent and can recommend them highly. Aedes, Beautycafe, Blue Mercury, and Four Seasons are other reputable carriers of the L’Artisan line. Barney’s and Neiman Marcus are two department stores that carry the line, and some Nordstrom stores do, too.

Will you try this line? Have you tried it? Share your experiences in the comments!

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Importance of Gentle Cleansing & Layering Moisturizers

By Dain, New England, Skincare Contributor

Dain is a freelance editor and writer, who graduated with a Bachelor of Art in English. She expected to pursue an academic career but found her interests straying elsewhere–like beauty! She has dry, sensitive skin and is always looking for ways to keep her skin hydrated.  When she isn’t writing about beauty, she loves to play video games, cook (and eat!), and read.

Check out her blog, Ars Aromatica!

A battalion of moisturizers, each trained to a specific purpose.

Importance of Gentle Cleansing & Layering Moisturizers

The skin is our body’s first line of defense against environmental aggressors. As a barrier, mine is deficient as a barrier. It’s both sebum-starved and paper thin, the conventional definition of “sensitive”. Consequently, I follow two principles in my approach to skincare.


All but the mildest cleansers are too aggressive for my skin. For a simple cleanse, I’ve faithfully purchased Weleda Calendula Baby Wash ($11 for 200 mL) many times over. Coco glucoside is a minimally invasive surfactant, approved for use on babies. Plus, it smells like tangerines. To remove makeup, I like micellar waters, such as cult classic Bioderma ($30 for 500 mL). It feels like water yet it dissolves stubborn eye makeup with ease. If I need a thorough, deep cleanse, I massage a cream cleanser generously onto dry skin, using the friction from my fingers to break down makeup and sunscreen. If you dislike residue, a good trick is to add water incrementally during the massage, slowly emulsifying the emollients. I’m currently enamoured of Trilogy Cream Cleanser ($37 for 200 mL), but I’m always open to suggestions.


If there’s a skin trick I swear by, it’s to fragment moisturizing into several steps. Creams for dry skin, because they’re so rich in oils, can sit uselessly on the surface as a greasy layer. It took years of disappointment and thirsty skin to recognize that dehydration (water loss) and dryness (low sebum) should be addressed by separate products.

First, I saturate my skin with a softener. Pat, don’t rub, to maximize absorption. The humectants draw moisture deeper into the skin, penetrating past layers of dehydration and enhancing the performance of your moisturizer. I prefer formulations that feature hyaluronic acid, such as Shiseido Eudermine ($56 for 125 mL). With its gorgeous red bottle and fragrant with rainwashed peonies, Eudermine hits a high note in luxury skincare, but it’s also interesting from a historical point of view, as the seminal force behind Asian skincare. Then, while my skin is still damp, I apply a rich emulsion. Keep in mind, I’m the sort of girl who has half a dozen moisturizers on rotation; it’s unlikely I’ll ever settle on any single product. At the moment, my favorite is Tata Harper Rejuvenating Serum ($150 for 50 mL). Finally, I seal in everything with my favorite face oil, Kahina Serum ($90 for 30 mL), an enriched argan blend that nourishes the skin for a well-conditioned glow and soothes with anti-inflammatory EFAs. By splitting one moisturizer into three layers, I find it maximizes absorption, thanks to the softener, and yet provides a long-lasting protective barrier, thanks to the oil, with the emulsion sandwiched in between.

For daytime, I switch to a mild, avobenzone-free sunscreen like Avène Hydrance Optimale SPF 20 ($24 for 40 mL). Since it forms a barrier, in my mind it’s roughly analogous to the face oil: the final layer, applied last. Antioxidants and sunscreen go hand in hand, so I’m in the market for an antioxidant serum to layer under sunscreen, after softening. While I insist on actives—too many serums are no more than overpriced blends of silicones and humectants—alas, my skin does not tolerate vitamin C. I’m open to suggestions, reader!