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Five Great: (Very) Personal Care Products Under $12

Aside from Catherine Zit-a Jones, my monthly pimple pal, I’ve had relatively unearned luck when it comes to the body’s largest organ.

It seems along with her pointy chin and penchant for morning martinis, my grandmother –who subscribes to the Keith Richards school of nicotine and alcohol consumption and looks a full twenty years younger than she is (which is forty years younger than she has the right to)– bestowed upon me her preternaturally good skin.

Unfortunately, stress and a complete environmental change have let slip the dogs of clogged pores and your previously porcelain pal Plummy has found herself in need of some serious skin care.

So too has Hot Latin Boy, whose flawless smoldering face has gone all Vesuvius.

He insists he never had so much as a blemish before he met me.

I assured him it was probably a result of his hormones going into hyperdrive from all the sweet, sweet lovin’ he’s been getting and the best course of action would be to cut way back on the international relations. He backpaddled so hard he nearly tripped over my dog.

Despite evidence to the contrary –last night I plucked an unusual yellow fruit the size of a jumbo olive from a neighbor’s tree and blithely popped it in my mouth before realizing I had no idea what that particular morsel was or whether in fact it was edible– I’m not much of a risk-taker when it comes to my health so I opted to order from drugstore.com where I knew my potions would be approved under the boring-but-important FD&C and FPLA (Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and Fair Packaging and Labeling Act, respectively).

For all I know, Mexico could be just as strict as the US when it comes to their equivalent of the FDA, but I don’t especially want to take that risk quite yet.

Nivea Creme Travel Tin

I think I’ve mentioned these pocket-sized wonders before, but they deserve all the praise my freshly moisturized hands can throw at them.

I buy them by the dozen and stash them everywhere.

There’s at least one in every handbag, in all of my coats, a few in the car and one by my bed. What makes them so brilliant is their portability. They’re slim enough to keep in your pocket or bag without taking up much room, and since it’s a tin and not a tube, it’s virtually leak proof.

Recently I’ve been using it when I go to the beach to protect my face against chapping in the wind and to replenish the moisture lost in my hands from all the salt air. They’re also dead handy to have around when I want to partake in street food and either have to use my own disinfectant wipes (harsh) or the combination powdered hand and dish soap (harsher) provided by the taco joint in question.

That way I can have clean hands and still enjoy my taco without my cuticles painfully turning into papyrus. Plus they’re dead cheap and seemingly last forever. What’s not to love?

Desert Essence Tea Tree Oil Facial Cleansing Pads

I’m a little sensitive to both salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide, two of the most common active ingredients in OTC acne treatments. Nothing especially terrible happens, I don’t develop leprosy or break out in hives, just a little peeling, but I still try to avoid them when possible.

Tea tree oil has always been good to me as has witch hazel; these little astringent pads contain both.

They are outstanding.

What they’re not, however, are cleansing pads. I always think of cleansing pads as something to replace your face wash. These are more like Oxy pads for grown ups, and I’d use them in place of a toner or astringent.

I really like the pads themselves, which are just scratchy enough to feel like you’re getting a good rigorous bit of exfoliation, and although the witch hazel/denatured alcohol/tea tree oil does tingle, it feels reassuringly strident without making my skin peel or go red, even if I forget to moisturize after.

It’s pretty good bang for your buck too, 50 pads will set you back just over five smackeroos and they can be used as middle-of-the-day skin refreshers too.

Alpha Hydrox AHA Enhanced Anti-Wrinkle Creme

Man this is great stuff.

I remember back in the day you could go to Walgreen’s for your middle-of-the-night PMS run (spice drops, Coca Cola and beef jerky) and get a nice-sized vat of Alpha Hydrox creme for like six bucks on sale.

I would slather it all over my body and then do a dry brush/salt scrub whenever I was feeling particularly crusty and gross.

It worked like gangbusters and I’d emerge from my bath looking just as fresh and pink as a pig in buttermilk.

They’ve either discontinued or reformulated that particular product, but this moisturizer with 10% pure Glycolic Acid –an alpha hydroxy acid naturally found in sugar cane– holds its own when it comes to gently reducing fine lines, spots and improving the tone and texture of your skin, even on delicate petals like me.

HLB has been using this in combination with the tea tree wipes for two weeks and his complexion has almost completely cleared, plus the dark spots blemishes leave behind for a month after a breakout have faded considerably.

I’ve mostly noticed an improvement of tone in my skin and the few fine lines that appear in my forehead whenever I’m particularly stressed or dehydrated have vanished.

I’ve put these last two products behind the jump because they’re a bit intimate in nature, but I get a surprising number of emails about products like these, so here we go.


Five Great: Products for a Party Polished Neutral Lip Under $10

Fashion, like every curse, is cyclical, and makeup is no exception. We’ve been having a serious smudgy-eyes, slap of lipgloss moment for a little long while now. That’s great, but as the winter party season is getting into full swing, I’ve noticed the fine art of the polished neutral lip has eluded many, many women who really ought to know better and it’s leaving otherwise perfect party looks a bit haphazard and undone. Have we forgotten how to do an evening neutral?

A nude or neutral lip takes just as much effort as a bright. It’s the colors, not the technique, that changes. Here are the five products I use for my evening-appropriate neutral lip.

N.Y.C. Automatic Lip Pencil in Naughty Nude

I think I’ve already sung the praises of N.Y.C.’s Big Apple cream blush stick as a total game changer and the only blush I’ll ever love, so I shouldn’t have been so surprised when this historically inexpensive drugstore brand produced what is essentially a duplicate of Chanel’s “Roux” lipliner with all the payoff at one-tenth of the price.

Naughty Nude is a warm toasted brown, a little darker than you might think you’d want for a neutral lip, but it translates to depth and richness, not darkness once you put it on.

I know it’s been the fashion to line your lips and then fill in with a pencil, but for this application I truly just line the outside and then fill in only the corners of my lips, smudging inward to create a more three-dimensional pout. This is especially handy if you’ve got flat or large lips like your pal Plummy. A bit of depth helps them from visually taking over your (my) face.

Revlon ColorBurst Lipstick in Rosy Nude

Is it just me, or has Revlon really been bringing their A game to the lip color scene recently?

I honestly can’t tell you the last time I’ve worn straight outta-the-tube lipstick on a regular basis. Probably not since Chanel reformulated my beloved “Energy” but Revlon might just change that.

Rosy Nude reminds me of nothing so much as the sort of lipstick models wear in commercials where they’re not supposed to be wearing any makeup and of course they just happen to look fresh and dewy and flawless because when you’re a model, you just roll out of bed looking camera ready (I, on the other hand, look like a tearful rhinoceros doing her best Winston Churchill impersonation…in a fright wig).

I also appreciate it’s fragrance-free.

It’s not that I really ever minded a little scent in my lipstick, and I know folks of a certain generation love the smell of old school lipstick, explaining the success of the pretty but surprisingly proletarian “Lipstick Rose” scent for Frederic Malle, but it’s nice to be able to pick a lipcolor without worrying whether it’s going to affect your sense of smell, taste or bother anyone you might be smooching.

Revlon ColorBurst Lipstick in Soft Nude

Don’t trust the Amazon image, which is much more lavender than the actual product. I’ve posted the image with the closest color reproduction I could find.

Muchas gracias to the original photographer.

On me, Soft Nude is considerably paler than my natural lip color, so it’s not a shade I’d wear all over unless I was going for a very nude lip, like this Edie Sedgwick look from the always brilliant Samantha Chapman (tutorial here). Actually, I don’t think Sam is even using a lipcolor at all here. If I remember correctly I think she used concealer on her lips. You could do that, of course, but a pale nude is much more wearable.

What I use it for is as a lip highlighter.

For my evening look, I line my lips with Naughty Nude, filling in the outer corners a bit as I’d mentioned, then I apply Rosy Nude all over the lip.

The Soft Nude goes on the middle of the upper and bottom lips in the center half to bring the center of my lips visually forward, a trick Brigitte Bardot used to great effect, enhancing her already perfect pout.

If you’re a perfectionist you could blend it with a lip brush, but I’m not so I either buff it with my ring finger or make a few gentle kissyfaces.

Next comes the lipgloss.

Revlon ColorStay Ultimate Liquid Lipstick in Perfect Peony

Again, the Amazon image on my screen is too blue like it seems to be with all the Revlon images, but it really is a perfect neutral peony.

I apply this in a thin layer all over the lip when I know I’m going to be eating or drinking, or if touch-ups won’t be practical, it’s sheer enough to let the other colors play through but adds longevity to the look.

Admittedly it dries a little sticky, so I wouldn’t wear it without a slicker, more moisturizing gloss on top.

The color is amazing, doesn’t peel or kiss off, but for me this is not a standalone product. It’s great as part of this look an I’d wear it for a regular day look topped with (lots) of hydrating lip gloss, but if you’re looking for one lippie to toss in your bag and be done with it, you’ve got better bets elsewhere.

Revlon Colorburst Lipgloss in Rosegold

Now THIS is what I’m talkin’ about!

I swear this is a spot-on dupe of MAC’s Lychee Luxe Lipglass and just about the prettiest gloss I’ve come across in a month of ice cream sundaes. It’s shimmery without being glittery, shiny without being goopy and incredibly easy to wear.

The shape of the sponge applicator is new and takes some getting used to for those of us used to the traditional doe foot, but I like it and gives excellent one-pass coverage.

For my evening look I just top everything off with a slick of this gloss but if I wanted to do a low-key everyday neutral, I could easily see myself wearing the Rosegold over the Rosy Nude without thinking twice.

Do you have favorite products for a neutral evening lip? Requests for other product recommendations or reviews? Put it in the comments and have a fantastic weekend!

Fab Four: Cheap Thrills


Okay gang, I have no idea what’s going on with the semi-loading photos on this blog. Is it the Lord’s way of saying that flats are an abomination and contrary to everything that is good, holy and hard on your ankles? Maybe. Is it possible that some unnamed person whose name may or may not rhyme with Kiss Rumflake did something dumb and messed it all up to hell? Less likely than a divine fashion intervention, but still technically possible. My internet connection has been spotty as of late, but as soon as the small children I’ve hired to hold the tinfoil and hangers out the window get back from their smoke break, I’ll get on it and figure this stuff out.

In the meantime I have an update from the quick and dirty dried-out lipstain experiment.

A few weeks ago, one of our lovely and thoughtful readers asked if I knew how to revive a lipstain marker that had dried out. Thankfully I had two semi-parched pens in my makeup bag: one Covergirl Outlast and one Revlon Just Bitten.

First I wiped each nib with an alcohol pad, the idea being maybe oils from my lips or other lip products had gotten on the felt and were wrecking shop in the application department. Then I replaced the caps and popped off the tops on the opposite end, exposing the barrel and the marker inside. I dripped a few drops of nearly boiling purified water mixed with a little bit of vodka (for evaporation…and kicks) into each barrel, right onto the felt, put the tops back on and shook them like a baby bad martini.

The liquid ran into the cap reservoir so I turned them upside down again, basically rolling and rotating the things until all the juice was evenly distributed. It took about two days to make sure everything was nicely absorbed (science takes time y’all!) and the results were mixed.

The Just Bitten, which had more juice in it to begin with, perked right back up. The application was a bit thinner the first few days but other than that it was like new. The Covergirl Outlast, which was much older and seemingly dried out a week after I bought it, was more of a mixed bag. The marker doesn’t absorb or distribute the product as evenly as the Just Bitten one does, but the product itself –the actual juice– I don’t think it’s a problem with the product as much as it is with the delivery system as when the stain actually DOES come out it’s plentiful and does what it says on the tube.

I don’t expect a call from Sweden any time soon — at least until they have a Nobel Prize in Accessorizing– but if you’re desperate to make your Outlast last a little bit longer, you might as well give it a go.

Do you have any tricks to revive dead lipstain? Put it in the comments.

What Miss Plumcake is…

Greetings my little rock and roll hoochie koos (ha, you’re welcome for THAT earworm) how’s every little thing? Me, I’m great. Just living it up south of the border, which is technically north of where I actually live. Anyway, it’s Tuesday and time to find out
What Miss Plumcake is…


Summer Legs Part 2: Makeup (or not) for shiny, happy legs

The first time I visited New York I spent a fascinated hour watching a Rockette carefully apply pancake makeup to her bruised legs before encasing them in two pairs of hi-test ultra-shiny dance hose and donning the rest of her costume. Fortunately, body makeup has come a long way and even though we mere mortals don’t have to have Rockette-approved legs, we can help nature along courtesy of various potions and tricks to even skin tone and make legs look longer and healthier. Here are a few to consider:

MAC Face and Body:

I love MAC Face and Body and wouldn’t be caught dead without my big bottle of White, which I use as a foundation in winter. Basically this is an extremely light, buildable, water-resistant foundation makeup artists use all over the face and body, thus the clever name. You get coverage by building up layers, so it’s much sheerer and more natural looking than face foundation applied to the legs. I’d use this if you’re gunshy about applying makeup to your body but want to even out the tone a little. Just goop some in your hands and rub into your legs, like lotion. Let it set a few minutes and go over it with a tissue to buff it a little. Then if you want more coverage, do it again.

Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs:

This is great stuff IF you can master the application. Theoretically you can just spray it onto your legs and buff it in. Uh huh, yeah. Good luck with that. It goes on like theatrical makeup so if that’s the look you want, great. If not, you’d be better served in putting a dime-sized blob of lotion in your hands and spraying the product onto the lotion, then rubbing it all over your legs. The lotion thins out the makeup and gives it more slip, plus time to buff it in. The downside is you have to wait for it to absorb, or else you’ll leave marks everywhere, so don’t do it if you’re in a rush. I’ve had luck covering up bruises and such by applying the spray to a cosmetic sponge and then buffing it in. When you’re done, scrub your hands with dish soap. Do NOT touch your eyes if you wear contacts. If a bit of the product gets on your lens, you might as well throw them away.

The Old Stripper Trick:

I don’t know why it’s called “The Old Stripper Trick” since it’s basically just highlighting your legs the way you’d highlight your face. Once your legs are tanned and moisturized and you’ve done whatever else you plan on doing to them for the evening and they’re nice and dry, take a bit of highlighting powder –NOT BRONZER– and starting just below your knee brush it straight down your shin bone. Easy does it on this one: you want a highlight, not a racing stripe.

I don’t use highlighting powder for my face –I don’t like shimmer– and I didn’t want to buy a fancy one just for this so I popped into drug store closest to Stately Chateau Gateau and picked up N.Y.C. Sparkle Eye Dust in Champagne and it worked like a charm. It’s a loose powder and comes with its own (admittedly pretty junky) applicator brush. I applied it with the (still junky) brush and then blended it out slightly with my fingers. I didn’t want to use one of my brushes because even though this is a shimmer and NOT a glitter, sparkly things have half-lives of plutonium and I had no desire to get any on my brushes and subsequently, my face.

Sweet Almond Oil:

Slightly glossy legs look fantastic but can be a pain in the neck to achieve for daily wear. There are all sorts of short-term tricks: petroleum jelly, baby oil, glycerin and water, even cooking spray, plus a hundred and one different shimmer lotions, but my favorite is just good old-fashioned Sweet Almond Oil. I discovered this completely by accident one morning. See, the night before, SoccerBoy had invited me over to watch Casablanca. People talk about seeing Casablanca on the big screen as if it’s the way it must be seen. False. The way to watch Casablanca is while getting a sweet almond oil massage from an eager to please soccer player FROM Casablanca who ranks your pasty and corpulent body just above Ryan Giggs’ left foot and just below Zinedine Zidane’s nutmeg skills on his personal list of Greatest Things Ever.

In the morning I still had no idea whether Ingrid Bergman got on that plane, but I did notice sweet almond oil, liberally and enthusiastically applied (seriously, rub it in) makes my legs look glossy and healthy without looking greasy. Here’s lookin’ at you, SoccerBoy (though that doesn’t mean you’re still invited to walk into my gin joint, if you know what I mean.)

A Note:

Without oversharing any more than I already have, if you’ve got a Special Friend who is especially enthusiastic about your legs, you might want to give a bit of thought to whether the products you use are visitor-friendly. Is it going to smudge, feel weird or taste weird? Skip it. Opt instead for pure cocoa butter or my beloved almond oil and invite them to stay a while.

Summer Legs Part 1: Sunless Tanning for Idiots Like Me

Greetings gang, I’m back in Texas! In a few weeks I’ll be leaving the spend most of the rest of summer in an idyllic little beach house in Mexico, which brings me to the subject at hand. Or rather leg.

Yesterday when I surveyed my wondrous gams in preparation for wearing some very short shorts indeed –I haven’t worn shorts since Clinton was in office– the outlook was Not Good. I needed to summerize my pins with a quickness, so I thought I’d offer you some tips and tricks on making your legs look long and shapely for summer.

Today it’s self-tanning.

I’m not gonna lie, my legs are really white. That doesn’t bother me, I don’t mind being more Snow White than Malibu Barbie (fun question: would you rather live with 7 really short dudes or have a closet case for a boyfriend?) but they look like those see-through lizards that hang around my door at night. You can see all the internal workings; hair follicles, the anterior and posterior tibial arteries, PLUS whatever bumps and bruises and random injuries I have done unto myself at any given moment. It’s less than ideal.

I don’t subscribe to the Everyone Must Be Bronzed At All Times theory of summer leggery, but since my wardrobe in Mexico is going to be all about my legs, especially since the other occupant of the bungalow thinks my gams are the greatest things since sliced vodka and I have every intention on keeping the illusion alive as long as I can.

If I’m going to be showing off vast tracts of leg, I want them to look their best and that means a bit of color for that healthy glow and evenness.

I’m not about to sit out in the sun to get a real tan, but what are the alternatives? I’ve had epic fails with every sunless tanner or spray I’ve tried and it stinks so bad I can barely stand it.

Until now.

Enter the L’Oreal Sublime Bronze ProPerfect Salon Airbrush Self-Tanning Mist in Medium Natural. Friends, Romans, fellow residents of Honky O’Sunburn’s Home for the Chronically White, this is good stuff. I mean REALLY good. Even I didn’t mess it up, which is saying something, plus it’s one of those gradual tanners where you add color over several days so there’s no way you’re going to go to bed alabaster and wake up Oompa Loompa.

Preparation is the most important part for sunless tanning.

You want to exfoliate as if your life depended on it.

I got a handy dandy loofah pad and scrubbed myself, then I shaved my legs with a new razor –if you’ve got extremely sensitive skin, I’d shave a day before– had another spin with the loofah, and then rubbed my legs down with a towel pretty vigorously. The goal was to make sure all the dead skin got gonesville. Then I hung out naked under a ceiling fan for a while until I was completely dry. No moisturizing yet.

Once dry, I rubbed a thick body butter all over my feet and put on a pair of very short socks –this ended up creating a bit of a tan line, but rather than orange feet– and with the remaining lotion on my hands, rubbed my knees and just below my knees. Your knees take color more easily than the rest of your legs, and rubbing a bit of lotion on them slows absorption, which makes for a more even-looking tan.

Then I sprayed.

This can sprays from all angles, so I could hold it upside down and get an even, steady mist. I started with my thigh and worked my way down, skipping my knees –I let the overspray get it– trying to make sure I didn’t go over any one area much more than others. I’m sure I did and the tan developed fine anyway, but it’s worth making the effort.

There’s no rubbing or massaging or anything like that so I moved on to the next leg, did the same thing and then stood under a fan for a few seconds until I felt good and dry. About 30 minutes later I dusted on some baby powder –sweat is the enemy and I wanted to be safe– all over my legs, especially behind my knees and between my thighs, took off my socks and went to bed.

The first thing I noticed was it didn’t smell. I am very sensitive to the sunless tanning smell and although there is still just barely a tiny hint, it’s completely tolerable, even for a big nelly like me. I knew it didn’t smell when I applied it, but the proof is in the newly-bronzed pudding because that’s when the DHA develops and the stench comes out. Since this is a gradual tanner –meaning you put it on several days in a row– it’s got less DHA, which means less stink. Plus there aren’t any gross heavy fragrances to make things worse.

Second thing I noticed was that my legs were indeed darker. Not a ton darker, but I’d say what I’d expect from a full afternoon in the sun. There are no streaks and absolutely no orange (phew!) and although there is a bit of a tanline from my socks, it’s natural looking. I did another application this morning since I knew I was going to be in the house for a few hours and could do the same naked lounging with baby powder thing, and this time I just moisturized my feet and then sprayed.

I’ll keep you updated on how the tan progresses, but so far so good, so get spraying!

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