Archive for January 2011

I’ve been a fan of NARS and their Velvet Matte Lip Pencils for a long time.  It’s getting the color of lipstick but with a super-thin, precise application with no goopiness.  But, if you wanted glossy shine, you had to put on a topcoat of gloss.  Well, that problem has been solved with the newly released Velvet GLOSS Lip Pencils, which are available at Sephora and NARS Cosmetics.

The pencils gave my lips a nice shine, as if I had taken my favorite lipstick and cut off a small portion and mixed it with a squirt of clear gloss.  I was surprised at how creamy they felt — the non-paraben formula contains Vitamin E and hyaluronic spheres to moisturize.  My lips tend to be very dry, and they instantly felt soft after application.

The pencil didn’t feel sticky at all, and one swipe provided a thin, shiny coat of color.  I did not try a lip liner underneath the pencil color and didn’t feel I needed to — the application is thin and precise and didn’t move off my lips like a thick coat of gloss will.   The color doesn’t feel flat or one-dimensional either — as I looked at the pencil tips, I noticed that each pencil is made up of fine particulates of color and highlight/white pearl to give luminosity to the lips.

These pencils are perfect for travel — just bring one product and you’ve got color and shine, easy as pie!!!  The only drawback is this product is NOT long-wear — you might need to touch up now and then during the day or a night out (especially after eating), and like any gloss product, there will be some transfer to glasses and lips you kiss!  Overall, however, I was really impressed by these pencils.

Right now there are six colors available, and here’s hoping NARS decides to come out with more.  My personal three favorites:  Frivolous, a nude with a hint of pink; First Love, a classic pink; and Baroque, a super-easy to wear red wine color that’s not too red, not too plum/purple.  ($24/each)


Close-up of My Eyes with Mascara

Oh, mascara … one of those beauty products you can’t live without when you’re trapped on a desert island (that and sunscreen).  If the eyes are the “window to the soul”, mascara gives you some really nice curtains for that window!

Generally speaking, I recommend black mascara for everyday wear.  Brown or brown/black looks most natural on lashes that are very blond, but even for blonds black mascara is usually a solid choice.  And, of course, every few years colored mascara becomes the rage (purple, blue, etc.) and it can be a lot of fun to experiment with those, worn alone or over your usual black mascara.

I am going to write today about some brands I’ve tried.  Makeup technology is always evolving and mascara is no exception! 

A Brief History of Mascara

Ancient people (Egyptians most famously) used kohl to darken their eyes and eyelashes.  Victorian women would heat elderberry juice and ash and apply the mixture to their eyelashes, but a real breakthrough occurred when chemist Eugene Rimmel invented a cosmetic using petroleum jelly and coal; more famously, T.L. Williams made a similar product for his sister Mabel and began selling it to the public in 1917  under what became the Maybelline cosmetics brand.   Cake mascara, made with soap and black dye, came next, but it was still messy.   Cream mascara in a tube as we know it today was first introduced in 1957 by Helena Rubinstein, and not long after the “mascara brush” was patented. 

Although mascaras are generally composed of the same essential materials — a mix of wax, oils, and pigment — there are always new innovations in mascara brushes and mascara formulas. 

I should mention here that I lean towards brands that are a little more “high-end.”  Over the years I’ve used Maybelline Great Lash, Cover Girl mascara with their Elasta-Nylon formula, and others, but overall I’ve been more satisfied with department store brands’ performance, and I consistently turn to Lancome (which consistently holds the prize for top-selling mascaras, and with good reason) and MAC for mascara.  That said, friends I’ve surveyed have suggested L’Oreal Voluminous and Rimmel brand mascaras as their personal faves that are a little more budget-friendly.

Long-Time Favorites and New Technology

Waterproof Mascara — an absolute must in any makeup artist’s kit, especially for brides!  I gotta admit my personal fave is and still remains MAC’s Splashproof Mascara.  It goes on smoothly, doesn’t clump, and once it’s on stays put.  You will need eye makeup remover to get it off completely at the end of the day. 

Lash Primer — Mascara/lash primers became very popular when they emerged on the scene a few years ago.  Why use a lash primer?  Primers help add volume to the lash before you put on your mascara (so you can get thickness with gooping on layers and layers of mascara!), help mascara adhere to your lashes, and the right formula can also condition lashes to help prevent lash breakage.  Lash primers are white in color, so effort must be made to hit every lash with mascara after using the primer.

Two of my favorite lash primers are by MAC (Prep and Prime Lash) and Lancome (Cils Booster XL). 

TIP:  be sure to not apply primer too thickly (wipe excess off the brush before applying), and only put on one coat of primer.  If you are using a lash primer, don’t put on more than 2 coats of mascara — your lashes will look overloaded and stiff.

Conditioning Mascaras — Mascaras can be drying, which can contribute to lash breakage.  Since it takes months for lashes to regrow, a conditioning mascara is a good choice if you find that your lashes are “falling out” or breaking, or just feel dry.  A personal favorite is Lancome’s Definicils Precious Cells mascara released this past summer.  Oh, I love love love this mascara!  The first time I tried it, I was incredibly pleased with the smooth feel of the product, and when I touched my lashes later in the day, I was thrilled with how soft my lashes felt — no stiffness, no dry or brittle feeling.  No primer is needed with this mascara – the plant oils in the mascara prep and condition but don’t smudge. Easy to remove with soap and water, or a gentle eye makeup remover. It’s not waterproof but has enough stay-put-ness for the average day. 

Fast Lash Fibers — This innovation by Alcone adds fibers to each lash to lengthen and thicken lashes.  To use, apply your favorite mascara,  immediately apply the white Fast Lash fiber mascara while the lashes are still wet, and then add a second coat of mascara.  I’ve used this product and it does work, but it’s not great for sensitive eyes or contact lens wearers — those little fibers can and do get into the eye during application (which I found a little messy — white fibers went everywhere!), and it’s definitely not smudgeproof.  But I will say that for the first time I felt that I had found a product that truly added significant substance to the lashes, more than the usual claims by “lengthening” mascaras.

“Tubular” Mascaras — No, I’m not talking out a mascara inspired by the movie Valley Girl!  What these mascaras do is form “tubes” around each individual lash rather than painting on pigment.  What’s fantastic about this technology is that it’s perfect for sensitive eyes and contact lens wearers because it absolutely doesn’t smudge, clump, or flake, and the formula doesn’t dry the lashes.  The first and best of the tubular mascaras out there is by blinc and is the only tube mascara I recommend.  The mascara is water-resistant and I can testify that it does not move even after a good cry or if you rub your eye.  Fast and easy to apply — no primer needed, just put on a coat and go.  No eye makeup remover is needed — just use lots of warm water and a washcloth or your fingers (I use my fingers) to gently “pull” off the tubes.  I promise you it’s easy and you won’t pull out your lashes.  The best part?  No harsh eye makeup remover and no raccoon eyes in the morning because you didn’t get all your mascara off the night before.   Great, great product for everyday wear and it’s available in black, dark blue, dark purple, and dark green.  This mascara is available on the blinc site and also at Sephora.

“Natural” Mascaras — Many women are wanting cosmetic products without preservatives, petroleum derivitives, sulfates, or harsh chemicals.  In mascara, there’s still a way to go in achieving a truly “natural” product that will meet consumers’ performance demands.  I have recently tried Tarte’s Lights, Camera, Action 4-in-1 Mascara, which according to their website contains olive esters to condition, rice bran and carnauba wax for lengthening, and provitamin B5 for volume.  However, the mascara does contain a synthetic “film former” to help hold in curl and it’s not clear from the website what’s in that ingredient.  The website claims in clinical trials the mascara increased volume and length by 424% — I can’t say I personally experienced a 424% improvement in my lash volume and length, but it is a good mascara that can produce dramatic results, especially if two coats are applied.  My only major problem with this mascara is that I did not feel that it stayed put as well as other mascaras mentioned in this post and was not as conditioning, in my opinion, as the Lancome Precious Cils mentioned above.

A brand-new product I’m looking forward to trying that falls under “natural” mascaras is by Ojon, the hair care company that uses a palm nut oil from the ojon tree in Central America.  Now only available on QVC until August 2011, the mascara is a double-ended tube — a “restorative treatment” on one side that is used as a primer/conditioner containing ojon oil, and black pigment/mascara on the other.  Ojon has become a very popular brand of haircare due to the effectiveness of ojon oil as a conditioner, so this mascara could hold some promise.  When I get my tube, I will review it in the comments area of this blog post. 


*Note that all products mentioned here were purchased with my own money, and I have never worked for any of these companies.

Due to good dental hygiene and care as a child (and perhaps as well to the addition of fluoride to the water I drank!) my teeth are in pretty good shape — only one very small cavity that was filled in my late teens, and oral surgery to remove my wisdom teeth since my mouth was too small to accommodate them.  I thank the stars at every cleaning for having healthy teeth.

Putting that gratitude aside for a moment, I confess that for years I’ve not been happy about two things:  one, the overbite that needs correcting, and two, the yellow tinge brought on by my daily coffee intake.  I also have a vivid memory, long before Crest Whitestrips appeared in the drugstore aisle, a young person of about 7 or 8 years of age telling me in that matter-of-fact way that kids have, “your teeth are yellow.”

Sure, I’ve tried whitening strips and other topical treatments, and of course several toothpastes claiming to whiten teeth. but none got me to celebrity-teeth-that-can-reflect-UV-light levels, and I’ve always wanted to try something more high-tech. 

Many dentists offer hydrogen peroxide gel in trays that you can wear for 30 minutes a day, but I wanted something even more cool (and less messy and cumbersome!), so when I saw a Groupon for a discount rate on two Zoom Teeth Whitening Treatments at a dental practice in my city, I jumped at the chance, and figured I could blog about my personal experience.

I note here that I bought the Groupon on my own, with my own money.   

It’s very important to also let my readers know that when I arrived to receive my treatment at the dental clinic offering the discount, I was informed that the Groupon would only cover two treatments of 15 minutes each.  My own research after my time in the dental chair has shown me that the standard is three treatments.  Since I chose not to pay above and beyond my Groupon for a third treatment, my whitening level was not maximized, and at the same time the possibility of post-treatment sensitivity was reduced.

Zoom claims to be safe for tooth enamel and has the results of a positive clinical trial on their website.

What Happened in the Chair

Once I got settled in, the hygienist explained how Zoom Whitening works.  A large, open mouth guard is inserted into the mouth to expose the teeth (admittedly, at first I was nervous that this would be painful, but other than initial discomfort from the mouth being stretched in a way that isn’t usual, it looked worse than it felt — no pain at all).  After protective cotton and gel is applied to the gums and inside of the mouth to protect them from the bleaching process, the whitening gel is applied and a special Zoom light is brought to the mouth opening to activate the gel.   You simply lie back and relax while the light and the whitening gel go to work to break up and remove stains.

A whiter smile in 30 minutes in a one-time dental visit?  I was in.

Having cotton barriers placed inside the mouth was the most uncomfortable part of the prep, but it wasn’t painful.  The gel that protects the gumline should be applied by the technician or hygienist in between any significant gaps between the teeth and cover any recessed gum areas.  Gum recessions must be covered since the exposed root area can be damaged by the Zoom light and the whitening gel, leading to severe hot/cold sensitivity in the teeth.   The protective gel is hardened using a special handheld light and is later removed after the Zoom treatments are completed.  When being removed from my teeth after the procedure, the barrier felt like hard flexible plastic.

The hygienist also applied a heavy-duty lip balm to my mouth to protect it from overdrying during the treatment.  I would recommend to anyone getting this treatment to make sure they are using a good lip balm for a few days before hand to prevent the lips from drying/cracking.

The whitening gel was applied to my teeth, the Zoom light was brought to my mouth opening and the first 15-minute treatment began.  The light felt warm but not uncomfortable.  I actually dozed off for a minute!  Once the first 15 minutes were up, the hygienist checked the gumline barriers, added a bit more whitening gel, and started the second treatment.

Getting Out of the Chair

Some patients experience some pain after treatment (as if their teeth were zapped by a laser) and/or gum inflammation.  Hot/cold sensitivity is also common for 24-32 hours after Zoom.  In my case, these side effects were mild, perhaps because I only received 2 instead of 3 treatments .  My teeth felt super smooth and “exposed” for 24 hours, but I could eat and drink normally.  During the treatment there was one area that definitely felt more “zapped” and I was just about to say something (as best you can say anything with your mouth being held open by a plastic guard!)  when my second session ended.  I found myself wondering if there would have been real pain if I’d had a third treatment. 

The clinic gave me Sensodyne toothpaste to use following the Zoom treatments, and emphasized that I should stay away from coffee, red wine, tea, and sodas for a week since the teeth are more vulnerable to staining immediately following the Zoom treatment.  I tried to wear my usual night guard (prescribed for my teeth clenching in my sleep!) that evening but it just didn’t feel comfortable, as if the teeth were a little raw and couldn’t have something sitting on top of them all night.  I was able to wear my night guard the following night as normal.

And were my teeth whiter?  Yes, but only by 2 shades — certainly less than Zoom’s claim of up to 8 shades lighter being possible.  Again, this result was likely affected by the fact that I only had 2 treatments.  On my bottom teeth where I have more gum recession, the barriers left me with yellow at the root, but since since this isn’t an area normally seen when smiling or talking I wasn’t too concerned.  Interestingly, a few hours after the treatment, I could have sworn that my teeth were even whiter than when I left the dentist’s office!  But, with a difference of only 2 shades, I was unable to get a camera pic of my whiter teeth that showed adequately what I was seeing in the mirror.

The next day I told my coworker about the procedure and he said my teeth looked nice and white and confirmed they still looked good 5 days later.  Now at the 7-day mark, I can say that my teeth are still not so white as to reflect the light of the moon at night, but overall I’m happy with the results.  If I wished to achieve a higher level of whitening without going through another Zoom treatment, I could have opted to pay for the peroxide gel trays to wear once a day for 30 minutes.  The hygienist also said that I could go back to using strips and over-the-counter topical treatments to help maintain the new shade.

Giving up my morning coffee  for a week proved to be the hardest thing about the experience, and since I can’t give up my favorite foods and beverages forever, I’m now using a whitening toothpaste system by SuperSmile to help maintain my teeth whiteness.   My teeth may never be as white as Brad Pitt’s, but they look pretty good.

Now if I can just get Invisalign with a good Groupon discount to correct that overbite! …


I am lucky enough to live in a city where Groupon offers fantastic discounts on everything from restaurants to beauty treatments to dental care.


  • None
  • lilmakeuptips: Thanks for your comment! I got your note on the smoky eye and will do a post on the topic soon!
  • Wicked Red: You look REALLY good in those Lil. Thanks for sharing.
  • lilmakeuptips: Thank you so much Emil! I hope to have a New Year's makeup blog entry posted tomorrow ... maybe even a webcam if I can get it done ...