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Archive for the ‘Drugstore Beauty Finds’ Category

Product Review – Crest Vivid White Toothpaste

Posted by Karen on April 20, 2007


Product: Crest Vivid White Fluoride Toothpaste in Refreshing Mint
Use: A whitening toothpaste
Price: $3.99 for a 4.1 oz tube
Makeup and Beauty Blog Rating: A+

I have a slight obsession with teeth. It’s not freaky or scary or potentially debilitating (I hope), but I have to admit to loving vigorous flossing and Sonicare brushing a little too much. It hasn’t always been this way. It started when I met my current dentist Dr. Y – a total character and diva extraordinaire. When I first sat in her dentist’s chair she immediately asked me who made my suit (it was bebe.) She then told me to check out the Versace store down the street – “They have similar cuts in their clothing and it’s very flattering for petite women. Plus, I get a discount!” Just when I thought that I met the coolest dentist ever, she frightened the bejeebus out of me by giving me a totally scary lecture on the importance of gum health. There were many, many, many frightening pictures of gingivitis and swollen gums. It ain’t pretty, folks. I’ve been touting the virtues of mint floss ever since.

A few months ago when I told Dr. Y I was getting married the first thing she said was, “Congratulations! Is this your first?” She was the only person who had that reaction, but then again she’s been married three times. But whose keeping track? The next thing she said was that for my wedding gift she’d hook me up with Zoom teeth whitening. Woo hoo!

The process of Zoom whitening itself was pretty painful – and to be blogged about in sordid detail in a future post – but in the end I got a set of really nice, white teeth. However, the teeth whitening was in June so it’s been a while. I’ve started to do things to keep my teeth from re-staining, like drinking coffee and red wine with a straw (I know, I know, it’s kinda tacky-looking in public but I don’t care!) but I still noticed in the past few months that they aren’t as white as they used to be.

I asked one of my best friends, Mary Anne, a superb dentist as well and all around cool gal (sorry fellas, she’s taken), and she recommended Crest Vivid White Fluoride Toothpaste in Refreshing Mint. Mary Anne told me that it’s probably the best whitening toothpaste you can get at the drugstore, and after three weeks of use I have to agree – this stuff is the shizz for getting those canines white!

The formula doesn’t make my teeth feel tingly or weird. It has a refined mint taste. The biggest pro: it actually works. The whitening effect is subtle yet noticeable. Granted, if you’ve been smoking for 20 years and sip coffee through your front teeth I don’t know how white your teeth are gonna get. It’s a tube of toothpaste, not a Christmas miracle, people.

It’s pricy for toothpaste. My good old stand by toothpaste, Colgate Total, is the same price for a tube that’s twice a big, but ultimately I don’t mind because I don’t use a lot and it works really well.


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A Quick Makeup Removal Tip

Posted by Karen on April 18, 2007


derma e Jojoba and E Skin Oil – A Versatile Product and Your New Best Friend

I’m right handed, so I hold brushes in my right hand and use the back of my left hand as a palette. I put cream or liquid products like MAC Paint, tinted moisturizer, concealer, etc. on the back of my hand before applying with a makeup sponge or brush. I also use the back of my hand to get rid of excess color. Instead of blowing on a brush to remove excess eyeshadow, blush or powder, I’ll swipe the brush head against the back of my hand.

This leaves me with all sorts of makeup on the back of my hand, which can take a long time to remove with bar soap or liquid hand wash. To get rid of makeup quickly and easily I keep a bottle of derma e Jojoba and E Skin Oil in my medicine cabinet. I drop the smallest drop on the leftover makeup on the back of my hand and then give it a quick rub and voila – it’s all gone. I’ll rinse with water and then just rub the leftover Jojoba oil in for some quick moisture.

Jojoba and E Skin Oil is one my favorite workhorse products because I use it for so many different things. When my hair feels dry, I put a rub a few drops between my palms and then work the oil through the ends to condition it. After a shower, I use it as a body moisturizer. You can also use it as a massage oil as well. It’s $9.50 for a 2 fl oz bottle, and a little bit of the product goes a long way. Derma e products aren’t tested on animals, have no parabens and are 100% vegetarian, too. Yay for your skin, and yay for the bunnies.

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A Quick Money Saving Tip for Beauty on the Cheap – Keep Scissors in Your Bathroom

Posted by Karen on April 13, 2007

As most of you know, I’m a big fan of making my dollar go as far as it can when it comes to beauty, makeup and skin products. One way that I stretch out my dollars is by keeping a pair of scissors in my medicine cabinet. I use it to cut disposable products, like Oil of Olay Daily Facials Express Wet Cleansing Cloths. A box of 30 cleansing cloths is about $5.50, and if you use one cleansing cloth every day that’s $5.50 per month or $66.00 per year. You can make those Olay Cleansing Cloths last even longer by cutting them into two pieces, or sometimes four (which is what I do when I only have to remove tough eye makeup or just need a quick refresher.) If you cut them into half, you can easily make that box last two months, and save $33.00 per year.

I cut or divide stuff in half when I can – I’ve done this with cotton balls (just tear them apart, you don’t need the scissors), makeup remover cloths and benzoyl peroxide pads.

For non-disposable products that aren’t easily “divisible” – like expensive face treatments and creams – I just use less to make them last longer. For example, I’m currently using a pricier product for acne treatment, DDF Benzoyl Peroxide Gel 5% With Tea Tree Oil, which costs $24.00 for a tube (ouch). But because I only use a pea-sized amount over my entire face, I can stretch out the use of the product for at least 8 months. That’s $3.00 of DDF product usage per month, which my wallet can totally get behind!

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Garnier Skin Products Finally In The U.S.

Posted by Karen on March 22, 2007

Garnier Regenerating Eye Moisturizer

Garnier Purifying Wet Cleansing Cloths

I was wandering around Long’s yesterday and found that Garnier has some new skin products available for the face. I haven’t tried them yet, but I’m going to pick up the Regenerating Eye Moisturizer and the Purifying Wet Cleansing Cloths when my next paycheck comes in. I’m really excited that Garnier has finally released some skin products here. I went to England in 2005 and while I was in a Boot’s store I randomly purchased a bottle of Garnier’s Body Cocoon Lotion, which isn’t available in the US. I kid you not – it was possibly the best lotion I’ve ever tried . It smelled light, absorbed easily and provided excellent moisture. I hope that they roll out body products in the future. I’ve been jonesing for this lotion for two years!!!

Garnier’s Body Cocoon – Possibly The Most Awesome Lotion Ever

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Drug Store Skin Care – Queen Helen Mint Julep Masque

Posted by Karen on March 15, 2007

Queen Helen Mint Julep Masque

Product: Queen Helene Mint Julep Masque
Use: To exfoliate or purify acne-prone skin
Price: About $3.50 for an 8oz tube
Makeup and Beauty Blog Rating: A+++++++++++

Before I started writing this entry I slathered on a thick layer of this green, minty, clay mask and as I’m waiting for it to dry I can feel all of the gunk being sucked out of my pores. This really is the raddest mask ever, and it’s a must-have in any acne-prone person’s routine.

What it does
The tube says that Mint Julep Masque “helps dry up acne pimples, rinse away blackheads, and shrink enlarged pores.” And for once, I think the marketing folks weren’t just trying to sell hope in a jar (or tube), because this stuff works. Granted, I didn’t witness any miraculous skin revelation after using this once – I’ve had this in my skin routine for about two years, and I think with consistent use this product really helps to keep my skin clear. As the mask dries I can feel my skin tightening up and after I wash it off I can see all of the whiteheads that are brought to the surface. Gross, I know, but strangely fascinating.

How I use it
I use this mask once a week, right after I get out of the shower when my pores are opened up. I slather on a thick, even amount and avoid the eye area. Then I walk around the house with the scary green mask and try to scare my husband or any other person in the vicinity, ha ha ha! Actually, I’ll let the mask dry as I do other stuff like put on lotion, iron clothes, etc., and after 15-20 minutes I rinse it off with just water and follow up with a toner.

While this mask is great for oily and acne-prone faces, it might be too harsh if you tend to dry out easily. Also, the packaging is not cute at all. And I’ve noticed that if I have a tube for a few months, the mask consistency gets thicker and harder to manipulate out of the tube.


Still, you can’t be the cheap price and the effectiveness of this product for acne-control. I’ve shelled out many dollars for high-end at-home masks from Dermalogica, DDF and other brands and nothing compares to this stuff. Try it, use it, love it!

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Garnier Nutrisse Product Review Plus Tips For At-Home Hair Color

Posted by Karen on March 8, 2007


Product: Garnier Nutrisse Permanent Color
Use: At home color to change your current color or cover up grays
Price: about $7.00 for a one application box
Makeup and Beauty Blog Rating: A

I can justify spending $75 on a haircut because I have naturally wavy hair that’s really hard to tame – I’ve had so many bad haircuts resulting in everything from the poofy mushroom to the rats nest look – so I never skimp on getting a good haircuts.

Throughout my 20s and early 30s, I was also willing to spend money on salon color. I went through all sorts of hair color phases, changing my naturally brown-black hair with red highlights, light brown and blonde highlights. It’s so much fun to change your hair color, but now that I’m living on a writer’s paycheck it’s really hard to part with $120 every three months to get those roots done, especially when the do-it-yourself color boxes at the store are $7.00.

During my year of living cheaply (wait, what am I talking about, I’m still living cheaply) I gave up getting my hair colored at the salon. I was a little nervous about doing it at first because the last time I did at-home hair color was in high school. I mean, what if my hair turned orange? Or what if I accidentally fried it somehow and it started breaking off? Or what if I ended up with scary too-dark Halloween hair that looked like an Elvira-Mistress-Of-The-Night wig? The mishap possibilities were endless.

I wish I could say that it all went perfectly from the get-go, but I can’t. Like with any new skill, I made a few mistakes along the way but thank god it didn’t really result in anything too horrific. One time I started from the roots because I got really freaked out about seeing gray hairs at the front of my head, so I piled on globs of dye on the roots like a crazy person and I ended up with light roots and dark ends. And another time I used a too-dark color that I left in too long which resulted in scary dark Elvira-Halloween hair for about a week until most of the color washed out. But in the grand scheme of things, these mistakes weren’t *that* bad. They weren’t noticeable to the majority of bystanders, unless I pointed it out (which of course I didn’t).

Now I color my hair every month, and it’s as easy as pie. I use Garnier Fructis Permanent Hair color. The smell is pretty strong, but in comparison to other at-home dyes it’s not bad. It also doesn’t dry my hair out, which is one thing I hated most about Feria, the dye I used in high school. If you have dark hair like me and want to go a few shades lighter, Garnier is a good choice, because it does a pretty good job of lifting your hair color a few shades.

Here what I do to make at home hair color work for me:

    1. I wash my hair in the morning with a clarifying shampoo. Right now I use Alberto VO5 Kiwi and Lime Squeeze shampoo. It’s cheap and gets the gunk out. I use a lot of gel so I shampoo twice to get my hair squeaky clean and don’t put any conditioner afterwards.

    2. I then let my hair air dry during the day so that I can dye my hair in the evening.

    3. When it’s time to dye, I put on an old t-shirt and sweatpants so I don’t ruin any nice clothing. I also grab an old wash cloth and wet it. I use this to immediately wipe any dye that accidentally gets on my face or my neck. I don’t have to use this as much now, because I’m getting less messy with practice.

    4. Garnier gives an estimated time of how long you should leave the color in. I start the clock the moment I being the coloring process. If the box says 35 minutes, then I take into account total dye time from start to finish. I do not dye my hair and then wait for 35 minutes – the one time I did the color ended up being too dark, which resulted in the Elvira-Halloween hair mishap. Ugh!

    5. If I’m using a new color, I always start from the ends and put the color on the roots last.

    6. I never pile the hair on top of my head while I’m coloring. I just let it hang down (hence the wearing of the crappy t-shirt).

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Product Review – Drugstore Mascara

Posted by Karen on March 6, 2007

I know some people who will only use a certain brand for all of their makeup products, but I like to use a mix of high-end and drugstore makeup. I’m really picky about what products I spend my money on, so while I’m willing to pay more for products like powders, concealers and brushes, I’ll spend less on things like blushes, cleansers and lipliner. Ultimately whatever products are worth my hard-earned cash do the same three things: perform well for the price, complement my coloring and don’t break me out.

One makeup staple that I usually don’t spend a lot of money on is mascara. The shelf life of a tube of mascara after it’s opened is three months, so if you’re good about replacing it every three months, that’s four tubes a year at the minimum. And if you buy your mascara from Sephora or from the makeup counter chances are you’re spending from $20-40 a pop – that’s $80 worth of mascara every year, ya’ll!

Besides its short life span, another reason I don’t spend lots of money on mascara is that even though I’ve tried several high-end mascaras by Dior, MAC, Bourjois, Lancome and Clinique (just to name a few), I’ve still yet to find one that I think is worth paying a lot of money for because drugstore mascaras work just as well. (Sidenote: This weekend I’m going to pick up a tube of Benefit’s Bad Gal lash in blue, so we’ll see if that statement changes.)

The closest I’ve ever come to high-end mascara nirvana is Diorshow, but it’s $23 and I think Max Factor’s 2000 Calorie mascara works just as well (if better) for only $6.00.

In fact, my two current favorite drugstore mascaras are all by Max Factor: 2000 Calorie and Stretch & Separate. Each provides a different look and great performance for the price. Color selection is somewhat limited, so if you like crazy colors then they might not be your cup o’tea.
Product: Max Factor 2000 Calorie Mascara Straight Brush in Rich Black
Use: Volume
Price: about $6.00
Makeup and Beauty Blog Rating: A+

This mascara is my everyday, go-to mascara, and it SERIOUSLY. ROCKS. MY. WORLD. It thickens the lashes without clumping, and two coats make a dramatic difference without looking spidery. This performs similar to Diorshow, except that it’s even better than Diorshow because it doesn’t smudge. It comes in four colors: Rich Black, Soft Black, Black Brown and Deep Auburn. ROCKS!

Product: Max Factor Stretch & Separate Mascara in Deep Blue and in Rich Black
Use: Length
Price: about $6.00
Makeup and Beauty Blog Rating: Deep Blue – B+, Rich Black – A-

The marketing people weren’t messing around when they named this mascara; it indeed lengthens and separates very well, and does so without clumping or smudging. Whenever I wear this mascara I feel like a 40s film star because it makes my lashes super long. This would get an A but the blue isn’t really that blue. It shows up as black on me. Also, my lashes aren’t super thick, and this formula doesn’t provide enough volume. If you have really thick lashes then you might really love this. Comes in: Rich Black, Deep Blue, Soft Black and Black Brown.

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Drug Store Skin Care – Three Cheap, Affordable Sunscreens

Posted by Karen on February 28, 2007

Three Drugstore Suncreens That Rock

The American Academy of Dermatology suggests applying the amount equivalent to one shot glass (1 oz.) to exposed skin every day. That’s a lot of sunscreen, and you can end up spending a hefty chunk of change if you’re using high-end brands.

If you’re living on a budget then buying a 3 oz tube of $40 Skinceuticals sunscreen may not be a cost effective way to get your sun protection. So what’s a girl to do? Hit the drug store, of course!

I’ve tried many drug store sunscreens and found three that work well: Oil of Olay Complete for Sensitive Skin, Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry Touch Sunblock and Alba Botanica Sea Moss Moisturizer. Here’s the skinny on each of these fab sun blockers.

Oil of Olay Complete for Sensitive Skin SPF 15
Price: $8.99 for 6 fl oz.
Makeup and Beauty Blog Rating: A-

A dermatologist recommended this sunscreen to me and I’ve been using it for over ten years.

Pros: Subtle light scent, sinks into your skin easily (but you’ll still want to let it sit for about 10 minutes before putting on your makeup), provides great every day skin protection.

Cons: When I tan and get darker, I notice that this lotion casts a slight white sheen on my skin. During the coldest and windiest winter days it doesn’t provide enough moisture. I can’t wear it when I work out, because when sweat runs down my face this lotion goes into my eyes and makes them hurt. Ouch!

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry Touch Sunblock SPF 30
Price: $9.00 for 3 fl oz.
Makeup and Beauty Blog Rating: A

I don’t like having a sticky neck, so I use this sunblock on my neck, shoulders and arms.

Pros: Light scent, leaves your skin feeling dry, absorbs easily. This has excellent sun protection. I went through two bottles of this a week before before my wedding day last July (I didn’t want to be too tan for the pictures) and I didn’t get too dark, even after days of surfing and swimming. I also always wear it when I run, bike or hike outside because doesn’t hurt when it runs into my yes.

Cons: Not very moisturizing, and can leave a slight greasy (yet not sticky) film on your skin after you apply it.

Alba Botanica Sea Moss Moisturizer SPF 15
Price: $14.99 for 2 fl oz
Makeup and Beauty Blog Rating: B

This sunscreen has a strong smell – you’ll either love it or hate it. I like it, and I think the bottle is cute, too.

Pros: Smells good, non-greasy, very moisturizing.

Cons: Ample sun protection, but not as effective as Oil of Olay and Neutrogena sunscreens.

When you’re searching for your drug store sunscreens, look for ingredients which provide broad-spectrum protection like benzophenones (oxybenzone), cinnamates (octylmethyl cinnamate and cinoxate), sulisobenzone, salicylates, titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, and avobenzone (Parsol 1789.)

And always remember to apply your sunscreens 15-30 minutes BEFORE going outdoors.

I go through sunscreen quickly because I slather a lot of it on – while I’m rubbing what seems like a ridiculous amount on I just think of all the wrinkles I’m preventing. I’ve been using sunscreen since my teens and I’m starting to now really appreciate what it can do for your skin. I’m 31 and I still get carded. =)

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A Cheaper Alternative to ProActiv Solution

Posted by Karen on February 21, 2007

Poor Woman’s ProActiv Final
Before I was a freelance writer, I worked as a legal secretary for five years. While not the most stimulating job in the world, it paid well. For beauty product junkies, more disposable money often equals expensive beauty habits. I went to spas to get facials, used only high-end brands like Dermalogica and was a total drugstore snob.

But in my late 20s I started breaking out like crazy, and nothing, not even Retin A or Differin, seemed stop the zits. I bought ProActiv out of desperation and lucky for me, it actually worked.

When I quit my job last year to write full time, I had to find ways to save money. Spending $50 on ProActiv was no longer an option, so I looked for similar, cheaper products with the active ingredients in ProActiv’s cleanser, toner and repairing lotion.

After experimenting with different products for a few months, I found what worked best for me: washing with a gentle cleanser, using a toner with glycolic acid, waiting for 10-15 minutes and then following up with a benzoyl peroxide pad. I like to call this process “Poor Woman’s ProActiv.” Using drugstore products can deliver similar ProActiv results and save you up to 30 dollars!

The products I use are:

1. Clean and Clear Foaming Facial Cleanser for Sensitive Skin. I never liked the harshness of ProActiv’s benzoyl peroxide cleanser, so I use this gentle wash. It removes makeup and cleans without leaving my skin feeling tight.

2. Neutrogena’s Pore Refining Toner. The first ingredient is alcohol, so it may not be suitable for really sensitive faces. My skin is pretty oily so I can tolerate it. After I apply the toner with a cotton ball I wait for 10-15 minutes to let my skin dry.

3. Stridex Power Pads. These 2.5% benzoyl peroxide pads are big, so I cut them in half and use one half in the morning and the other at night. This saves you even more money!

I can’t guarantee that what worked for me will work for you, so you may have to try different combinations to find your skin’s own version of Poor Woman’s Proactiv. Purchase your products from stores with a good return policy and keep your receipts in case they don’t work for you. And lastly, be patient. It may take a while before you find the right combination.

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