Sunday, April 27, 2008

Tighten Your Wallet and/or Your Belt

Hey folks! So, you know how it's all hot and sunny out? And you know how the need for caffeine strikes grad-student-bloggers who stay up way too late drinking way too much beer while watching their hockey team (who hasn't won the Stanley Cup in way too many years) let in waaayyyyy too many goals to lose yet another series ... um, where was I? Right: Coffee. Need it. And when the temperatures are on the rise, the desire for something cold, delicious, and Starbucks kicks in.

Yeah, but that lush-lookin' frap has over 300 calories, and that's WITHOUT the whip. And not that I'm one to obsess over these kinds of things, but the idea of consuming a meal's worth of calories* in one drink on a regular basis is a bit disconcerting (Grande ain't just a drink size, people). Besides, these babies are like $4-something a pop, and at my typical rate of coffee consumption, I'd go broke in no time.

So today, while standing in line at Starbucks, I pondered: I want coffee. Just like my regular brewed coffee, but... cold. How does one make hot coffee cold? With ice, you say? And what's this on the menu... "Brewed Iced Coffee"?? And it only costs a bit more than the regular coffee? How have I never thought to order this before?!?!

Even if you are a sugar freak like me, and put in 2 shots of flavoured syrup PLUS sweetener, with a dash of skim, it still all comes to just about 150 calories for the Grande size. At $2.68 for all that, I am a happy camper. A happy, caffeinated, cool-as-a-cucumber camper. Sugar-free syrup would put you at 110 calories, and if you're feeling especially frugal, you can skip the syrup and just use sweetener -- it dissolves better than sugar, and you don't really taste the "fake-sugar" aftertaste much due to the coffee-ness and cold-ness of it all.

Yes, okay, so it doesn't look as sexy as the Vanilla Frap. But pour some milk into that baby, watch it billow out in silky clouds, and tell me that it doesn't make you feel like a coffee artiste.

And since this is a beauty blog and all... in beauty-related wallet-friendly news, my favourite go-to conditioner, Thermasilk, is long gone. It's been replaced by ThermaShine in the Sunsilk line. While it's not 100% the same, it's pretty darn close (even the scent!). I just don't get excited about it in the same way though... I think the blue/lilac colour is throwing me off. I did pick up another bottle the other day when I ran out, so obviously it's good enough. And it's cheap and easily available, which is always good. (That's what she said.)

*To be honest, I can never finish one of those anyway. It's just too much -- makes me too full. Plus, they're either too cold to start, or too warm and gross and separated by the time it's liquid enough to really drink. I am a sucker for their whipped cream though!

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Product Review: The Body Shop Brazil Nut Body Scrub & Africa Spa Body Balm

Hey guys and dolls! Not to be harping on a Body Shop theme or anything, but talking about that Q&A yesterday reminded me that I wanted to review their Brazil Nut Body Scrub. Apparently, in some parts of the world, Spring has been sprung for weeks, and you lovely ladies out there have been frolicking in the sunshine and whatnot. But for those of us in Canada (ok, non-BC Canada) and the Eastern parts of the US, the sun has only recently been peeking out from grey skies, and those chilly winds have just begun to calm down.

And so, all of a sudden, I must deal with the dilemma of scaley elbows paired with short-sleeved shirts. My skirts are a-begging to be worn, but my legs are all "Hell no lady, not 'til you get some heavy-duty moisture on us!" What to do when faced with such dermatological unpleasantries and... um, limbs that yell at you?

Scrub and Moisturize!

Let me be the first to say that I hated the Body Shop scrubs of yore. The ones that were in the scent of the Body Butters? They were greasy and oily and sloppy and leaky and just plain not good. But things have changed, my friends! The Brazil Nut Body Scrub, once a sugary hot mess, is now full of creamy, scrubby goodness.

Replacing the sugar granules with crushed walnut shells gives you greater exfoliating power, while the luscious creamy base feels silky and soft. A thin layer of moisture is left on the skin after you rinse off, helping you achieve that healthy, supple glow. And the scent! It's not exactly the same as the Brazil Nut Butter itself, but it is very close, and it's leaps and bounds better than the old one, which had this burnt-sugar and plasticky scent.

To really indulge, I like to slather on some Africa Spa Rich Body Balm after I hop out of the shower. It's fairly light for such a moisturizing product, so it's good for use in the summer (although it does feel a wee bit sticky sometimes). I love this soothing scent (always have), and the $25 price tag doesn't seem so bad now that the regular butters are $22 a pop. (Not that I'm bitter or anything.)

If you have super dry skin and don't mind splurging even more, the thicker Hand and Foot Honey Butter is amazing as an all-over moisturizer. Cute-Helpful-Salesgirl also suggested the Africa Spa Salt Scrub, but I was already sold on the Brazil Nut Butter Scrub. Next time and next paycheque, Salesgirl!

Diligently using these products will banish that scaley, itchy, leftover-Winter skin, leaving you and your gorgeous epidermis to burst forth like... um, some terribly cute animal into some terribly cute springtime scene. And if you've been turned off by some of TBS' products in the past, hop on over there and take another look. Some great classics are still lovely as ever, and some former-losers have been transformed into all-around winners!

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Ask the Body Shop!

Hey y'all! Some of you may know that I used to work at The Body Shop back in the day. I loved the job... learned a lot, and made some lifelong friends. It was a blast! One thing I remember especially was watching the training videos for the then-newly released makeup line. I loved The Body Shop's head makeup artist, Chase Aston, both for his helpful tips ("bend the mascar wand when applying to another person's lashes") and for his lurrrvely accent. So when I got the opportunity to ask Chase some of my most burning beauty questions, I jumped at the chance. Here are my questions, and his answers, for your viewing pleasure!

Glitterati: Wedding season is upon us, and with it brings a whole lot of photo ops. Do you have any tips on how to look your best in photographs? (For brides and guests!)

Chase: Here's the secret to looking amazing in your wedding photos: add some special touches that you would not normally wear everyday. Visit your nearest The Body Shop store wearing your normal everyday make-up, and speak to a consultant about trying a new look for a special occasion. Ask her to demonstrate The Body Shop Spring Bloom collection on you and/or any other products to create a look for that special day.

Glitterati: Over the past few seasons, we've seen a lot of striking looks on the runways: from the return of lipstick, to all-over-neutrals, to bold 'n bright eyeliner. What beauty trends have inspired you the most? What trends or looks do you forecast being influential in the upcoming seasons?

Chase: When working on creating color trend collections, I work closely with The Body Shop product development team. The inspiration comes from art, color trends, fashion and the environment. The team liases with trend forecasters, then we discuss new formulations, textures and innovative trends and products. Once we have assimilated all this information, myself and the team then start laying down shades and formulations, that are trend led, innovative and also suit most our global customers. The Body Shop sells in over 52 countries, so it is a very tall order, but very exciting, always.

A trend that I believe will be influential in the upcoming seasons are a near-nude mouth. It catches light for an instant plumping effect and appears ethereal when part of a dewy, monochromatic face. It can be paired with creamy neutrals on eyes and liquid foundation on skin.

My fave Body Shop products for achieving these looks? For a flawless photo-ready complexion, consider applying your liquid foundation with a foundation brush. Yes, it takes more time, but you get a smooth, perfect finish, and you actually end up using less foundation. It's also very easy to stipple on extra product on problem areas, so you get coverage without masky-ness. The Body Shop's foundation brush is nicely weighted, with soft-yet-firm bristles, and at only $20.50, it costs less than other brushes of similar quality.

Since weddings are all about chatting and laughing and drinking and eating, I find that a lip stain lets me do all that without worrying about how my lips look. The Body Shop makes a lightweight gel version in a slightly-cool red. It goes on sheerly for a boost of healthy-looking colour, perfect for Spring. Double-duties as a cheek stain too!

As for the perfect nude mouth... I truly don't believe that there is one nude lipstick that is flattering for all. You simply have to get out there and try on a bunch of colours to see what works best for you. But to acheive an innocent, ethereal look, I cannot wait to try on the new Blushing Daisies Powder. Aside from the adorable compact, the shimmering shades (in Light Pink, for my skintone) look like it would be perfect for creating a multi-faceted, angelic glow. The Marula oil in the formulation keeps it silky soft and non-drying, and the different shades in the compact can be used in varying intensities all over the face for that chic monochromatic look that Chase describes (check out the link above for tips).

Many thanks to the Beauty Blog Network and Chase Aston for making this Q&A possible! Be sure to check back in the next couple of days to see what other beauty bloggers had to ask Chase!

Photos courtesy of The Body Shop and Metropolis Japan

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Product Review: Eco Tools

As the Glitterati comes crawling back... Sorry guys, I know it's been ages. I hate when life gets in the way of blogging! If you're still here, thanks for your patience and understanding!

Everyone's going Green these days. From grocery stores to cosmetic companies, CEOs are getting the hint: caring about Mother Earth is cool, and it'll also get you a cool chunk of change if you cash in on the trend.

Not to be overly cynical... there are many excellent companies out there who truly wish to minimize their ecological footprint. And if they make dependable, affordable products that are friendlier to the environment, why not buy from them?

Introducing: EcoTools. Launched just a couple of months ago, this company produces bath and beauty accessories made out of renewable & sustainable materials like bamboo, ramie, and recycled plastic. But concerns of the conscience aside, does using these nature-friendly materials result in a better product?

Well, I suppose it depends what you're looking for. I had the chance recently to try the EcoTools line, and I must say that I'm pretty impressed*. The brushes are much softer than any other that I've tried in the drugs-store price range (and softer than some that are much pricier!). The large powder brush is especially lovely -- it's like sweeping your face with a kitten wearing feathers (minus the claws and the allergies). The "floppier" bristles leave just a perfect whisper of loose powder, invisibly setting your makeup. Great for applying all-over shimmer too.

Since the brush handles are made of light-weight bamboo, you might find that the balance / feel is a bit different than what you're used to. But if you're like me and schlepp your brushes (alll your brushes) everywhere with you, then the lighter load will be heartily welcomed.

Another clever product from the line is the Bamboo and Loofa Facial Buffs. Just dampen it and squirt your favourite cleanser on there... one side gently exfoliates your skin (it feels like a rougher face towel), and the other side is covered in terry cloth for cleansing. I leave one in my office drawer; it's great to brighten those post all-nighter complexions. Much more convenient and much less waste than the disposable buffing pads.

And speaking of refreshing, but gentle exfoliation, I really like EcoTools' Ramie Bath & Shower Mitt. Unlike its plasticky brethren, this bath mitt won't rub you raw. It's perfect for those... ahem, more delicate areas that you normally wouldn't go near with an abrasive scrub or loofah.

So if you're looking for brushes and accessories that are environmentally-friendly and wallet-friendly, do give Eco Tools a try. If you're in the US, you can find the line at select Walgreens, K-Mart, and Ulta. Or, you check out their other goodies and place orders from the EcoTools website.

* Even before knowing the impossibly low prices... the largest powder brush is only $8!

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