5 Budget Beauty Bargains We Love

Wednesday, June 14, 2017




Don't be a product snob! I used to be.
 

To think of the products I missed out on because of the notion that "I only use organic/green/luxury/natural/beautifully packaged" products. Enough already.

The drugstore, Target, Walmart, Amazon, and your local grocery store may very well just have some of the best beauty and skincare products you've ever tried.

 



Here are five freakin' fantabulous products you'll regret not trying:

Freeman Polishing Charcoal + Black Sugar Gel Mask + Scrub -- If this product nixed the synthetic fragrance, it'd be near skincare perfection. I have tried so many charcoal masks, from Beautycounter and Origins to GlamGlow and The Body Shop and Posh. None are as good as the Freeman for just $3.27. Seriously. I have used this one for 2 weeks now and love it more each time. There are multiple skin-perfecting ingredients, including Kaolin, Banana Fruit Extract, Papaya, Raspberry, and more. It helps to pull out the "gunk" from your pores, but does so gently. It scores an A+ in my book.


There are many amazing drugstore mascaras. I love Maybelline Full & Soft and L'Oreal Voluminous. Another tried and true was a repurchase of Rimmel Extra Super Lash. It had been more than 10 years since I last used it and I had a HORRIBLE budget mascara (Essence Beauty in black & mint green tube) that was the worst purchase ever in recent memory. I stumbled upon a two pack of Rimmel at Walmart for $4.47 & bought it. It's really lovely.


Speaking of Essence Beauty, it's not all bad! While I didn't like the mascara, I love the Make Me Brow. It is a gel brow mascara and it is a great dupe for Lancome Modele Sourcils. I use it over my NYX Brow Sculpt & Contour.


Another rave -- at Walmart, I found LA Color Craze Nail Polish. I bought shade 788. I had low expectations for this since it was $0.98, but it is actually pretty good. Well worth the buck and much better than other cheap polishes like Sinful Colors. It's not Essie, OPI, Butter or Zoya, but it is a great pedi color.


Lastly, I have mentioned Alpha Skincare before. It's high end caliber, well-formulated skincare at an affordable price. I use their AHA cream daily and the Enhanced Wrinkle Repair Cream (.15% Retinol) at night. It is a great gentle retinol with an effective concentration for sensitive skin and at the right pH. It works. Try it!

The Beauty Writer's Guide to Exfoliation: Under $20 Edition

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Exfoliation is one of the most overlooked steps on people’s skincare regimens. It is also one of the most important. People seem to be aware of the fact that using an exfoliant is crucial, but they are often unsure of why it’s necessary.


An Intro to an Essential Skin Care Step

The skin that you are seeing right now is actually dead skin cells. It sounds far-fetched, but your skin sheds approximately 35,000 skin cells per minute. It is part of a 28-cycle where our skin is constantly exfoliating itself. This process slows down around the age of 35 and skin may appear bumpy or uneven and dull as if it has lost its glow.

These skin symptoms are caused by an accumulation of dead skin cells on the sratum corneum, or the top most layer of the skin. When we exfoliate the skin, we are speeding up cell turnover by sloughing off the accumulated dead skin cells. The result? A fresher, more radiant complexion with a smoother texture.

Exfoliation also helps your other skin care products work better. Picture an old door that you would like to repaint. The door is peeling, with layers of paint and environmental debris. If you attempted to paint over the door, the door would still be peeling and worn. It would be uneven and the painted would not be smooth and flat. Instead, what would you do first? To get a smooth paint finish, chances are you would scrape off the old paint, sand it down, and prep it for the rest of your painting.

This concept can be applied to your skin. If your skin is dull and uneven with an accumulation of dead skin cells, your other skin care products will not work as efficiently. Once you have exfoliated, however, the active ingredients in your skin care treatments will penetrate more deeply and reach the pores. Another perk? Your skin will look younger with regular exfoliation.

Mechanical vs. Chemical: Which is better?

There are two main varieties of exfoliation, each with its own advantages. It’s a matter of finding the best treatment for your skin’s needs.

What does the Derm say?

I recently talked to board-certified dermatologist Dr. R. Sonia Batra of Batra Dermatology in Santa Monica, CA to get the scoop on skin sloughing. She broke down the two key types of exfoliation -- mechanical and chemical -- and explained the benefits of each.

Mechanical Exfoliation

Mechanical exfoliation, or physical exfoliation, uses scrubs, sponges, microdermabrasion and brushes to buff off dead skin cells. Dr. Batra recommends this form of exfoliation to older people whose skin is becoming dry or showing signs of dullness, as opposed to those with oily and acne prone skin.

Just say NO to nutshells: What to look for in a manual exfoliant

  • When choosing a facial scrub, be sure it is free of nut shells, as they can scratch the skin and do more harm. If it contains nuts, be sure it says "flour" after it on the ingredients list.
  • Avoid scrubs with polyethelene beads, as these are bits of plastic that harm the earth. 
  • Look for natural fibers in sponges and brushes as opposed to synthetic. 
  • Mechanical exfoliation should be done no more than twice a week. 

Products to try:


Acure Organics Brightening Facial Scrub is right around $10 and if gentle and effective. This reminds me of the brightening scrub from 100% Pure, but I like this one more and it is much less expensive. It is rich in antioxidants, including pomegranate, blackberry, and acai. Walnut shell flour very carefully scrubs, while lemon peel helps brighten and exfoliate, This one also contains Rooibos and kelp.


One Love Organics Cleansing Sponge is made of 100% pure plant fibers and bamboo charcoal to gently exfoliate and clean the pores. Simply apply your gentle cleanser to the sponge and use instead of a traditional washcloth.


Chemical Exfoliation


Chemical exfoliation is different. You may hear it referred to as chemical peeling, even though a true chemical peel is not a procedure one would do at home. A chemical exfoliant involves the use of skin care products formulated with hydroxy acids (alpha, beta, etc.), retinoids, or enzymes to loosen the connection between skin cells and stimulate cell turnover. Chemical exfoliation can remove several layers of skin, help correct sun damage, and treat wrinkles. Dr. Batra recommends this type of exfoliation is for acne prone skin. NEVER use a manual (scrubby) exfoliant on acne. It is one of the worst things you can do!

Choosing the right chemical exfoliant


  • Beta hydroxy acid (look for salicylic acid) is best for acne, blackhead, whiteheads and rosacea. BHAs, unlike other hydroxy acids, can penetrate and unclog the pores. Another benefit of BHAs is that they are anti-bacterial. 
  • Alpha hydroxy acids are best for sun-damaged or dry skin. These acids cannot unclog pores. Of the different AHAs, glycolic has the smallest molecular size and is best able to penetrate the skin. 
  • Retinol (topical Vitamin A) works to encourage cell turnover from the deepest layers up, as opposed to working primarily on the outer layers. It is effective for deeper wrinkles. 
  • Fruit enzymes are ideal for congested skin. Looks for products containing pineapple or papaya, because they contain bromelain and papain to lift off dead skin cells. 

Chemical exfoliants to try at home:


 AHA/BHA -  Nip + Fab Glycolic Fix Night Pads are the perfect sloughing cocktail. Glycolic acid helps to improve the look of patchy, flaky skin while the salicylic acid works to unclog bacteria from the pores. Hyaluronic acid (not an exfoliant -- but plumps and softens). These come in pad form and are very affordable.


RETINOL - Alpha Skincare Enhanced Wrinkle Repair Cream with 0.15% Retinol  targets deep lines and wrinkles over time using a stable form of retinol. The packaging is great, as it properly protects the retinol to keep it stable. I use this one every night and it works as well as products 5 times more expensive.


FRUIT ENZYMES - There are a couple enzyme based exfoliants I love, but not this affordably priced. The one I am really loving that is super affordable is Garden of Wisdom Pineapple Red Wine Enzyme Gel. You leave this light, gel-like mask on and the enzymes do their magic, lifting off the dead skin cells. Burgundy wine is also present.




SALICYLIC ACID - For an exfoliant that is strictly BHA based, you cannot go wrong with Humane BHA Clarifying Toner Blackhead and Pore Minimizer Salicylic Acid 2%. On Amazon, it is around $18 and the ingredients are very good.


You can get too much of a good thing.

A word of caution when it comes to skin exfoliation. Many people are so happy with the results they see from their exfoliation that they decide to do it daily instead of as recommended. Excessive exfoliation can damage the skin and even make you look older. Use your products only as recommended and you’ll see your long-lost glow beginning to return.

Posh Mask Review

Thursday, June 1, 2017

I have talked about Perfectly Posh on the blog here before. I first tried this line of skin pampering products back before Christmas 2014, when I tried a chocolate scented body cream and the Caffeinator Skin Stick. I have ordered on and off and I joined Posh to get a seller discount briefly back in 2015. Posh has some really good stuff!



As you know if you're a regular reader, my day job is as a magazine beauty writer. I love some of the products so much that I have even featured them in my recommendations in magazines. Smashing Good Pumpkin and the Daily Grind Body Scrub are two of these products I have mentioned in print.

When I found out from my dear friend Steph that her niece, Bri Connaughton is a Posh consultant, I knew I had to get right on it and TELL YOU.

Posh makes some incredible products and Bri is The Beauty Writer's go-to Posh girl from here on out and I want her to be yours, too. In my opinion, though, the brand really excels at formulating some top-notch masks, so I am focusing on those today.

I was recently compiling a list of favorite masks to share my for the face and body with you and realized that half of my favorite skin masks are from Posh, so let's dish.

It is VERY rare that when I am making a list of favorite products (such as mascaras or conditions, for example) that half of my favorites would ever be from one brand -- in fact, I have never done that before. Posh hits a home run with their masks, though, and I wanted to share my thoughts with you.



Apricots Overnight is actually my favorite skin mask in ANY price range. As someone who has been in the skincare field for more than 20 years, I have had access to professional and boutique brands and Apricots Overnight really is an incredible product.

First of all, it contains a cocktail of proven anti-aging ingredients such as Acetyl Hexapeptide and luxurious Argan Oil. Protective sunflower seed oil is rich in antioxidants to help fight free radical damage, while Sodium Hyaluronate (AKA hyaluronic acid) holds 1000 times its weight in water. WHy does that matter? Well, it matters because as we get older, our own level of hyaluronic acid is greatly reduced, which causes a loss of elasticity. The result is looser, sagging skin with lines and wrinkles forming. When you apply a skincare product with hyaluronic acid like this mask, it helps replenish lost moisture and prevents new moisture loss. It is also known for giving skin a plumper, healthier appearance. 

Additionally, aloe vera soothes irritated skin and jasmine flower has been shown to help improve the appearance of scars, including those left behind from acne. 

Another standout ingredient in Apricots Overnight is CoEnzyme Q10 (Ubiquinone), which is an enzyme with antioxidant benefits. It is also a proven anti-aging skincare ingredient with many years of research behind it.

What I really love about this mask is the fact that it is a mask that you leave on while you are sleeping. It is a proven fact that skin cells work their magic most effectively at night. While you are getting some ZZZs, your skin is actually working really hard. 

Says dermatologist Dr. Howard Murad: 

"While cells repair and rebuild at all stages of sleep, the majority of cell turnover and regeneration occurs during deep REM [rapid eye movement] sleep."

After you cleanse your face at night, apply a layer of this mask and leave on overnight. Rinse clean in the morning. I personally use this mask twice a week, but you may find that more or less works best for you. A little goes a long way with this product. Mine lasts me for several months and at $22 per tube, you are left with skin that feels buttery soft and smooth and is dewy and plump in the morning. If you can only buy ONE product from Posh, trust me when I say that you need to snap this one up from Bri YESTERDAY. ---Apricots Overnight


The Stripper -- Let me preface this with a plea: For the love of all things holy, please DO NOT use this one on your face.

I see photos of it on Instagram and then people want to know why their skin is burning. It is NOT a facial mask. The Posh website clearly states this. The esthetician in me begs you to stop applying it to your face (trust me, your skin will thank you down the road) and use it the way it was intended. Now that I have gotten that off my chest, this product is the ONLY mask that I use on my body regularly. 

About 20 years ago, I started using an expensive body mud called Borghese Fango Active Mud. It was a splurge, but it made me feel like I was having a mud treatment at the spa. I used it twice a week as part of my regular "spa nights" at home. I had never found anything I liked that was similar, so I continued to purchase it. Since I have tried Stripper, though, I have not reached for my Fango mud. That is a big deal, my friends. In fact, we moved to this house a week before Christmas last year and I still have not unpacked that jar.

So just why would you want to use a body mask like The Stripper Detox Body Mud? I mentioned earlier that I like to have mud masks on my body at the spa. Let's face it, though, I don't have time or the desire to strip down naked anymore and have a stranger rub me with mud. It's just not happening. It was one thing when I worked at a spa and could have it done for free, but I'd rather get mud-rubbed in the privacy of my own bathroom, thank you very much.

The ingredients in muds such as these help draw out environmental impurities from the skin. Charcoal, for example, has myriad skin benefits when used in a mask. Activated charcoal has the ability to "attract" skin impurities, pulling them from the skin. These are the same impurities that can trigger breakouts, a dull complexion, and skin congestion. 

Are you oily? Do you suffer from the embarrassing -- but very common -- acne on your back or butt? Then you will likely see a dramatic visible improvement after a few applications of this mask.

Charcoal is believed to help expedite wound healing and soothe inflammation, too, so that is another big perk.

There is also kaolin in The Stripper. Kaolin, a clay that is naturally occurring, is oil-absorbing, tightening, and anti-aging. A mud mask like this is great to get the skin from the neck down looking healthy and radiant. 

A tip: Get yourself a dry skin brush and use that first, then apply your mud. The brushing boosts skin circulation and will help the mud work even more effectively.

The Stripper is going to quickly before your favorite mud mask for the body! A large jar is just $24.
Get it here ---> The Stripper



Smashing Good Pumpkin

If you are oily, acne-prone or combination, you will adore this mask. It is a such a fantastic product that I wrote about it in the September 2015 issue of Cosmo Biz:


I love this mask because it contains Salicylic Acid, which is oil soluble and can get into the pores and help clean out the bacteria. Tea tree oil is naturally antibacterial, while the pumpkin contains Essential Fatty Acids and antioxidant Vitamin E, which can help to regulate oil production. 

In addition to being an exceptional mask for those with acne, it is also a good choice for those who are aging. I would recommend this for those going through the hormonal changes of menopause, which is actually a time when many women experience acne. The carotenoids in the pumpkin fruit (yes, it is a fruit!) will help improve skin cell turnover and make your skin look fresher and renewed.

Smashing Good Pumpkin ---; Find it here.

While Posh has so much more than just masks, the masks are my most favorite products, so try them without reservation. Shop with Bri and tell her The Beauty Writer sent you.

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