My 2011 Top 10

It's nearly the end of the year, so why not a best-of list?

I contemplated doing a top ten "new things" and a top ten "all-time favorites" but I settled on just ten total items. This is a mix of things that were new to me in 2011 and things I've loved for a long time.

Naturally, I could compile a top ten nail color list, and I still might, though it will probably be a top 20 because it's very hard to choose and I have...um, a lot of nail polish.

In no particular order:

1. Avene Cleanance Soapless Gel Cleanser
I've raved about this in a couple of other posts, but it's by far one of my favorite discoveries ever. Truly, my face is noticeably softer and clearer. Available online from many sites, including drugstore.com.

2. Chanel Topkapi
I wrestled with whether or not to get this and then when I bit the bullet, it was out of stock. Luckily Chanel.com restocked and I ended up with what may be one of the most perfect shimmery taupe eye shadows around. I super dig the gold, too, and I will cry a very bitter single tear when this gorgeous palette is gone. Limited edition, of course. You can try eBay but this sells for about $100.

3. Coloresse Smooth Shampoo
This is a Sally Beauty exclusive and it works as well for me as Aveda Dry Remedy conditioner, at a fraction of the price. Available at Sally Beauty in stores and online.

4. Murad Energizing Pomegranate Lip Therapy SPF 15
Like the Avene cleanser, this is one of those happy accidents where I received a sample and fell in love with the product. Somewhere between a balm and a gloss, this product has a pleasant mild fruit scent and feels light, not sticky or goopy. I usually use it before bed and then first thing in the morning, while I'm putting my makeup on. Nice and moisturizing. Available online from several sites, I bought mine at aveyou.com.

5. Maybelline Volum' Express The Falsies Flared
Wow that is a mouthful of a name for mascara, but: recommend. I am actually a huge fan of the whole The Falsies line, including the regular stuff and the Black Drama version, but OMG do not use the waterproof unless you want to have to chisel your mascara off every night. Available pretty much everywhere, I usually buy mine at CVS.

6. MAC Viva Glam Cyndi
As much as it seems pointless to include things that are discontinued and increasingly hard to find even on eBay (and inflated to 3x the original price when you do find it there), I really do love this lipstick. It's red, but not heavy handed or overly bright - just pretty and flattering and easy to wear. Which is probably why it sold out quickly and why not many people are willing to give it up for less than $40. Limited edition; try eBay if you must have it.

7. L'Oreal Paris Project Runway Sultry Raven's Blush
Ugh, so this is also a limited edition item that was released this fall with the Colors Take Flight collection. But I have to mention it here because it's my favorite blush and I wear it nearly every single day. It's really a foolproof color and great for every day. Sadly I can't find this online anywhere (okay, I found one on eBay, tragically overpriced) but it's possible you could find one languishing at a drugstore or discount store somewhere. I got mine at Rite Aid.

8. Cover Girl Lipslicks Lip Gloss in Hipster
I've talked about this before, it's probably one of my favorite products of all time. Cheap and available just about anywhere; I've purchased at CVS, Target and lots of other places.

9. Seche Vite Fast Dry Top Coat
This is the top coat I reach for most often, and I'm bummed it doesn't work for me with Zoya, Chanel and certain other brands. But for most everything it works great and looks amazing. I find that it dries very quickly on me and that I can get back to my regular activities in fairly short order. Available in-store at CVS and Sally and probably several other places as well.

10. Smith's Rosebud Salve
At around $6, this is a huge beauty bargain. It's versatile, portable and suitable for both men and women. I use it primarily as a lip balm and cuticle treatment, but you can also use it on rough dry skin and for a dozen other things. I have bought this at Sephora, but you can order it online at drugstore.com and probably lots of other places.

Honorable Mention: Revlon Lip Butter in Pink Truffle
I would have included this above if there weren't already four lip products on the list! I'm not sure if these are limited edition; I sure hope they aren't because they are amazing. Pink Truffle is my favorite of the three colors I bought and I already picked up a backup. I have found these at Rite Aid and CVS. A great bargain for about $8.


December Birchbox

I joined Birchbox in November and really enjoyed my first shipment. I even purchased the full size of the Avene cleanser, which I love. I really cannot recommend it highly enough. The bottle says it's for oily and blemish-prone skin, and I am not either of those, but I have been remarkably and happily blemish free since I began using it. My skin is really soft now, too.

My December Birchbox was more hit-or-miss. It included a fragrance sample, for one thing, which...eh. I'm not crazy about most perfumes, and even less crazy about the sample of Harvey Prince Ageless I received. I would never buy this.

This month, all Birchbox subscribers got a tiny sample size of Jouer lipgloss in a signature color (although it looks suspiciously like the Peony color Jouer always offers) designed especially for Birchbox. It's a very bright pink, though less pink on the lips than you would expect, and shimmery. Not my taste, although it wasn't horrible looking. I doubt I will use it, though.

I have been using my sample of Orofluido Elixir and thus far I can't really see that it has any lasting wonderful effect, other than making my hair smell really really nice. Which is lovely but I'm not going to pay $30 for just that. I have yet to try this on wet hair, but I have no great enthusiasm about buying this.

I'm still undecided about my sample of Benefit The POREfessional. I've used it on the areas of my face that are the most...uh, pore-y and it...kind of works? I have some spots on either side of my nose and right above my eyebrows that kind of bother me, and I've applied this over makeup and I do find that it sort of diffuses the appearance of larger pores. However, the last thing I need is another pricey ($29) product to slap on my face every day, so I'm not at all sold on this. It just seems like a large investment for a minimal payoff.

Truly, I could care less about the Showstoppers fashion tape I received. I'm not a 19-year-old starlet nor in desperate need of attention so I don't wear stuff that's in danger of exposing my breasts and I doubt I will ever use these. But you never know! So I'll hang onto them just in case.

The last item in the box was a packet of EBOOST natural energy booster. I gave this to my boyfriend because he said he was super tired this morning. I'll have to ask him if he felt invincible after drinking it. I like the opportunity to try little things like this, but honestly, I would probably never buy something like this. I'd be more likely to have a glass of ice water or take a nap.

So that's it for this month! We'll see what January brings. If you're interested in signing up for Birchbox, it's $10 per month. You can use this link to sign up (if you subscribe, I get Birchbox points.)


A few holiday colors

I haven't started holiday-themed manicures in earnest yet, but here are a few that I wore a month or so ago that would be good for Christmas.

Revlon Mistletoe
Above is Revlon Mistletoe from the Spice It Up holiday collection. This is a deep evergreen with multicolored shimmer - I can see green, red, copper, gold...really pretty. This has a smooth finish. Now that I'm looking at this picture, I can't wait to wear this again.

Wet 'n' Wild Rockin' Rubies
I purchased two colors from the Wet 'n' Wild Ice Baby collection, and I didn't really care for either of them. I really, really, really hate super lumpy glitter and this is as lumpy as they come. Two coats of Gelous and a coat of Seche Vite couldn't tame this and in fact seemed to make it worse. It was so gritty I couldn't stand it.

Which is a shame, because it's beautiful. Tons of sparkle and some gorgeous holographic glitter thrown in for good measure. Perhaps leaving plenty of time between coats would allow this monster to dry smoother, but I'm reluctant to try. Removal was, as you might imagine, labor intensive.

OPI Speak for Your Elf
Speak for Your Elf is one of this year's Ulta/OPI holiday exclusives. It's a red jelly with red and perhaps pink or silver glitter, nothing groundbreaking, but truly pretty. I wore this for nearly a week and got a ton of compliments (why do people always seem to notice reds, of all things?) The picture above is two coats but I think this could use three for the deepest, richest color. I'll definitely be wearing this on or around Christmas Day. Removal was about as you would expect with a glitter, but I didn't even use foil and it didn't require too much elbow grease.

In addition, here's a link to a holiday post I did two (!!!) years ago, with some more ideas. Some of them are mostly long gone by now (Sally Hansen Project Runway, SH Zip, OPI Visions of Sugarplums, OPI Merry Midnight)...and oy, my pictures. I need to re-take some of those!

What are you wearing on your nails for the holidays?


Jamberry Nail Shields

Earlier this fall, Tara, a Jamberry Nails consultant, asked if she could send me a set of Jamberry nail shields to review. I agreed and she promptly sent over a half sheet of the turquoise and pink polka pattern.
This is a half sheet - each set contains a full sheet, which is enough to do 2-3 manicures or pedicures. A set is $15.

The nail shields have a glossy finish, so you don't need to use top coat with them. The instructions are extremely easy to follow and after a quick read-through you could be up and running with these in no time flat.

To apply the shields, you remove them from the paper backing and warm the sticky side with a hair dryer for 10-15 seconds. I used a pair of tweezers to gently hold the shield under the blow dryer so the hot air wouldn't burn my fingers.

After you heat them up, simply apply the shield to your nail and then trim and file to fit. You do need to work quickly to take advantage of the shield being its most flexible. Once you've got it on your nail, you can press it gently with an orange stick to ensure a tight fit. On a couple of nails, I used the hair dryer to warm the shield up again and then press it down firmly with the orange stick. I simply used a small pair of nail scissors to trim off the excess shield, and then carefully filed off the remaining bits.

My nail plate is relatively small/narrow, and I didn't have any trouble getting the shields to fit. You can see here I had a little bit of a gap at the top of my index finger - that's because I should have trimmed the shield a bit more. Operator error.

But mostly, I think they look great.

Really nice and tidy, which I like.

I love how glossy these are. They also didn't feel thick or uncomfortable on my nail, and they didn't snag on my clothes or other fabrics while I wore them.

Jamberry nail shields are designed to last up to two weeks on fingers and a whopping six weeks on toes. This would be a great alternative for a vacation or any other time you don't want to think about your polish chipping. I think new growth would be the only thing that would keep me from wearing them more than a week, or if they began to lift significantly. (Jamberry recommends using a small amount of nail glue to seal the free edge, if you like.) I think that $15 for 2 or 3 manicures or pedicures is a good price, especially with the variety of designs to choose from.

These were very easy to remove - you just heat them up with the hair dryer for a few seconds and gently peel them off. They came right off my nails with absolutely no peeling or damage to my nail, which is a huge plus.

The booklet I received with my nail shields has pictures of a number of the designs, and some of them look pretty awesome. I realize these pictures aren't ideal, but I wanted to give you an idea of the variety (which you can, of course, also see on the site). There are more than 160 styles available.

I really want to try the metallic silver/white fishnet design. So awesome. The metallic designs look very Minx-like to me. In addition, there are some holiday designs up on the site now - I especially like the whimsical swirls, the dark red floral, sunflower damask and OMG the yellow and gray floral! Tara says there will also be Valentine and St. Patrick's Day designs released soon - great news for those of you who like to tailor your manicure to the holiday.

If you're interested in Jamberry, the site has lots of information, including how to become a Jamberry consultant. You can also follow Tara on Facebook.

A product sample was provided to me for use in this review.


Chanel Spring 2012: June

Chanel's spring 2012 nail release consists of three polishes: April, May and June. Cute eh?

I passed on April and May, although they are both pretty shades. I love berry shades, therefore I own many, therefore I did not feel drawn to April. May is a super pretty, feminine pink, but it's the kind of pink that makes my hands look dirty.

So, I went with June. Right now (through December 16) Chanel is offering complimentary shipping and a free keepsake box if you choose the gift option with your order. You should do this because it's fun.

It's a cardboard box, nice and sturdy.

This should give you an idea of the size of the keepsake box.

June is a creamy apricot color. The finish is a cross between a creme and a jelly. When I first opened the bottle, my heart sank a little because it looked so sheer. But it's not - below is a picture of my thumbnail with one coat of June.

June's formula is excellent - those of you who have Mimosa and found it difficult to work with can breathe a little easier. The polish is very easy to control.

I didn't do any cleanup on this whatsoever, so you can see that the polish is easy to put it where you want it to go.

These pictures are a little off in terms of color, even using an OttLite. In the picture above, my ring finger and pinky show the truest color representation of June. It's more creamsicle than straight up orange - very creamy and pastel.

If you're considering the spring collection from Chanel, don't fear the pastels! I did two thick coats but with three thin coats, streaks should be a total non-issue.


NOTD: Chanel Black Satin

I became fascinated with Chanel Black Satin before my nail polish obsession really started in earnest. Black Satin was released, if I recall correctly, sometime in 2006, and it touched off a frenzy - even The New York Times breathlessly reported on the black/dark nail polish trend.

I wanted it, real bad. At the time I was not yet accustomed to shelling out $18 (remember when Chanel nail polish was $18? How adorable) for nail polish or for that matter ordering nail polish online. Why there was plenty of perfectly good nail polish at every drugstore in town! (And don't ask me why I couldn't have gone to one of these stores and purchased a bottle of plain black nail polish for $1.)

Anyway, I really wanted that Chanel Black Satin with its slight platinum shimmer - the famous Chanel "secret shimmer" - but it was long gone from Chanel counters and I couldn't bring myself to shell out eBay prices for it. So I kind of gave up on it and bought a bottle of OPI Lincoln Park After Dark instead. (Another polish that I still truly love.)

Fast forward a few years and Chanel Black Satin isn't nearly the fashion darling it once was. I picked up a bottle on eBay for just about retail. You can, of course, still buy Black Satin on chanel.com. I am not sure if there is a difference between the Made in U.S.A. and Made in France versions of Black Satin - some people claim there is, some people vehemently insist they are exactly the same. The bottle I have is a U.S.A. bottle, which is different from all my other Chanel nail polish. Whether it means anything or not? I have no idea.

I'm glad I went ahead and got it after lemming it for so long.

Is it different than a $1 bottle of Wet 'n' Wild Black Creme? Well, it is to me. I just wanted the real deal. It does have the platinum shimmer, which I guess you could say softens it a little bit or gives it some depth, but if all you want is black nail polish that $1 bottle of Wet 'n' Wild Black Creme will work just fine and then some. (Or you could buy OPI Black Onyx or Zoya Raven or a billionty other versions.)

I do love black nail polish on shorter nails, so that's why I chose to put it on last night. My nails were getting to that point where they start breaking and looking crummy if I don't go ahead and cut them down, so it seemed like the perfect time to vamp it up.


Live Nude Nails!

Or nearly nude, anyway. This is my NOTD, 10 Professional Pinky Promise.

I keep wanting to call this brand "Pro10," but that's a different brand altogether. 10 Professional is available at CVS and the colors are not terribly exciting, but they are all 75% off right now. I paid about $1.12 for my bottle of Pinky Promise, which I've been wanting for a while now. I've picked it up and put it down a number of times.

It seems strange to be lemming such a run-of-the-mill sheer, I suppose, but Pinky Promise is just the right shade of natural-but-not-too-natural (meaning too clear - I like a little camouflage). And it's not streaky!

The formula was fine - no issues. The brush is a little on the wide side, but nothing like the Sally Hansen Insta-Dri brushes. In the picture above I'm wearing one coat of Palladio ridge filler, one coat of Palladio Fuse bonding base coat, two coats of Pinky Promise and one coat of Seche Vite.

I'm not sure if the 75% off sale means these polishes are being clearanced for good, or just to make way for more colors, but it's probably a good time to buy any you've had your eye on.


NOTD: Revlon Chic

I have been wanting to get a back-up of Revlon Lip Butter in Pink Truffle but I needed a sale or a coupon in order to pull the trigger. I got my wish when I stopped by Rite Aid the other night and discovered a BOGO 1/2 sale on Revlon cosmetics. I did get the lipstick and also picked up Chic from the new Revlon nail color display.

Initially I was looking for Whimsical, the Glitter in the Air dupe, although I probably will not ending up getting it. I just wanted to see it. My Rite Aid doesn't have the display with Whimsical in it, though, so it was a non-issue.

I did like the look of Chic, a dusty blue green that looks to be unique in my collection.
Formula was lovely and nearly opaque in one thick coat (I did two thin coats). I am wearing this with a ridge filler, base coat and Seche Vite top coat.


NOTD: Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics Tattoo

I figured I'd get back in the swing of things with a fairly straightforward NOTD and, coincidentally, a new brand to me.

Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics is changing their nail polish packaging and closing out the old by offering all of their shades for 50% off (I believe the sale is still on, but when I checked today, there were only two colors still available. All the shades will be back, they'll just be in new packaging). I took advantage of this offer by picking up Chlorophyll and Tattoo.
Chlorophyll, Tattoo
Both shades are green cremes (how shocking for me to choose these). Tattoo is a dark, inky green - like a faded tattoo - and Chlorophyll is a bright, almost neon, chemical-looking teal.

I chose to do a manicure with Tattoo first. The formula on this one is simply gorgeous - heavily pigmented and a great consistency that's a bit on the thin side. I had no problem getting this polish to go exactly where I wanted it with no crazy cuticle flooding. I know people will be curious about the so-dark-green-it-looks-black question, but to me this is quite definitely green on the nail. It's murky and awesome! A quick bottle comparison showed that Tattoo is not a dupe for OPI Jade is the New Black or Essie Going Incognito.

OCC's brush is fairly long, but not too floppy or flimsy. However, I am curious if the brush will change along with the new packaging.

I'm sort of bummed I didn't jump at the opportunity to order a few additional colors, because I love Tattoo and I'm a sucker for a beautiful formula. $8 isn't at all a bad price, particularly for a niche/cult brand, though I am also curious if the price and/or product size might change as well. In any case, I can't imagine a reason not to invest in a few more OCC colors at some point in the future!


An unintentional hiatus

Hi everyone - sorry for the long break!

I had a couple of things get in the way of regular blogging - most significant, believe it or not, is the crummy light now that it gets dark so early. I haven't been able to take a decent picture in quite some time, so I really have no backlog of photos to show you. I do however have a little OttLite on the way to me, so hopefully I'll be able to manage some good pictures during the short, gray days of winter.

I do have a couple of posts planned. I finally ordered one of the Zoya Touch colors, Pandora, and I absolutely loved it, so I'd like to share that with you. There are also some holiday colors that I've picked up, including one of the Ulta OPI exclusives, Speak For Your Elf. I just removed that after an entire week of wear and I just adored it. There will also be a review of some Jamberry Nails that I tried, and perhaps even a couple of makeup posts.

One thing that has also slowed down my posting is my informal end-of-the-year policy of buying for others and not myself! I've passed up quite a few purchases online and at drugstores recently so that I can budget for Christmas gifts and other holiday expenses that come up.

So that's what you can expect to see from me in the weeks to come!