I do still love Stark Skincare’s Meadowfoam, but I have to admit I ventured further into body oils this year, as the cooler seasons rolled in.
I was seeking an all-over glow with beautiful scent, and these get me there. All are made with high quality oils, and leave the skin ultra soft. I use a bit after a shower, and run my hands through my hair, too.
May Lindstrom’s The Good Stuff: As regular readers know, I love all things May. She knocks it out of the park with every single product. This body oil was the only thing I had yet to try from her line, and it’s a wonderful indulgence. I normally don’t like ylang-ylang on me, but the subtle blend with rose, lavender and the killer cocoa absolute is addictive. If you love the scent of The Honey Mud, you will love this too. This oil has a bit of mica, which mostly just makes it look very pretty in your hand, but I’ve never noticed any overt sparkle once I’ve spread it on my skin. It’s a very special treat. ($110/3.38oz)
La Bella Figura’s Skin Aficionado: The ingredients start with some of my favorite oils: camellia, sunflower and meadowfoam. It has quite a unique blend of scents, but the ginger is what grabs me. I really notice how supremely soft my skin is after using this oil. Right now I’m working the last bit of the generous sample I received, and it’s on my list for a full-size purchase soon. ($90/3.4oz)
Osmia Organics Body Oils: Water Lily is my favorite of the various scents. Rich with vetiver, it’s grassy and spicy and wonderful. On the website, it says, “you may find yourself sniffing your arm during meetings.” Well, yes, I actually caught myself doing just that, and had to laugh! On a few occasions while wearing this, people have mentioned how nice I smell. I even put some in a little roll-on bottle* to carry around with me and use as perfume. There are many other scents to try. I like Night to seal the deal on a relaxing evening bath. Stream is also nice, and more on the flowery side. I love that this oil comes in an unscented version, and in different sizes for easy gift-giving and travel. ($24/2oz or $70/7.5oz)
Looking for an even more budget friendly option? Body oil is quite easy to DIY. You can pick up unscented carrier oils, EOs and bottles at your local clean products spot or Mountain Rose Herbs. MRH also has helpful information on which EOs go together nicely. Make a big batch of oil, and you’ll have a beautiful little something for everyone you’re gifting this year.
Which body oil would you love to give (or get) as a gift?
*these are coated glass, if you’d rather avoid that the same site has clear glass rollers and so does MRH
Where I live: Oakland, CA (across the Bay from San Francisco)
My relationship with makeup: Reformed. I’ve been in a love/hate relationship with makeup since puberty. I grew up wishing I could wear makeup like my older sisters did, but I wasn’t allowed until I was sixteen. For a while, I would sneak my sisters’ old and discarded eye makeup and blushes (gross, and so not the right shades for me) and apply them on the school bus, wiping it all off on the way home. When I was finally allowed to wear makeup, I was in a phase of not wearing much. I went back and forth several times over the years, with periods of wearing or not wearing color. But I always had some type of concealer. For many years, I only used makeup to cover up my real or perceived imperfections. As if the circles under my eyes or big zits were less noticeable with makeup. When I discovered mineral makeup in my thirties things took a positive turn, and I was also taking better care of myself, which showed in my skin. Then when I went clean a few years ago, I learned to love makeup. I still use it partly for concealing, but mostly for enhancing now.
I have a ton of stuff, though I don’t wear much all at once. I always use a light, protective base. Color wise, I’ve been doing two looks lately:
1. Illuminator for lashes, lids, cheekbones, and just a touch under the eye, plus cheek and lip color.
2. Mascara, illuminator for eyes and cheeks (sometimes it’s good to embrace the pale), and maybe a subtle lip color.
Alima Pure Satin Matte Foundation: I apply this under eyes, on lids, and any blemishes with their Concealer Brush. It covers perfectly, and only requires a light touch to do its job, which means no creasing. My shade is Olive 1, and they have such a variety I think anyone could find a match.
DIY Finishing Powder: Equal parts Alima foundation, kaolin clay, arrowroot powder, and rice powder applied all over (including around eyes) with a flat kabuki brush gives a nice finish, retaining the look of bare skin that’s neither dry nor oily.
RMS unpowder: The teensiest bit of this gem applied to just my forehead with a Lili Lolo baby buki brush means absolutely no excess shine, ever. No matter what. I’m pretty dry at my age, so I wouldn’t use this on the rest of my face, but I highly recommend experimenting with this if shine is ever an issue for you.
Ilia Illuminator: Polka Dots & Moonbeams is my standard, but the slightly more golden, limited edition Cosmic Dancer is lighting up my eyes and cheekbones lately. The Ilia illuminators are perfect for lashes on no mascara days.
RMS Buriti Bronzer and RMS Lip-to-Cheek in Diabolique: I am obsessed with these right now. They compliment each other and also layer amazingly well (either work on cheeks or lips). I have never been into bronzers, but when Buriti launched I had to try it. On cheeks, it doesn’t look like I’m faking a tan, just like I’m not my typical True Blood vampire pale. On lips, it is the perfect nude-ish, almost-shimmer shade. And I love Diabolique so much, I had to buy a second jar since it’s a limited edition. It’s my current favorite for a bolder lip. I find the color stays on cheeks the full day when layered over Buriti, otherwise it will fade somewhat over the course of the day, as with most cream blush.
Ilia mascaras: I was so excited about Ilia’s mascaras when the new phenoxy free formula came out that I was wearing mascara every day for a while (when I had gone months/years without). It’s fun to change up the color, and Asphalt Jungle and Macao are both lovely.
Afterglow’s Perfecting Under Eye Concealer: I’m experimenting with this a bit lately, using the palest shade, Meringue. I like just a touch under the eyes, and a light brush of my usual Alima foundation over it. It’s a good option for brightening without the finish of an illuminator, and I love that it has de-puffing and anti-aging ingredients.
Some long-standing faves that will eventually be back in the rotation are Alima blushes (like Apple Blossom), Juice Beauty’s Irresistable Glow Highlighter and RMS eye shadows (like Karma, Magnetic, and Solar). My other Ilia lipsticks/conditioners/crayons make occasional appearances too (Ink Pot, Lust For Life, Femme Fatale, Desert Angel, These Days, Come Undone, Dress You Up). Huh. I think I may have an addiction there.
What’s in your makeup bag this time of year?
I’ve always had trouble with mascara, though I don’t feel my needs are overly demanding. I have dark lashes, but I enjoy some additional volume. Plus, color that stands out all the way to the tips would be nice. I don’t want to look “made up,” but rather put together and polished. Maybe mascara is just a difficult cosmetic, or maybe it’s my inept application technique. In spite of having a mother and two older sisters who were very into makeup, I never received any instruction. I also seem to have a face that changes drastically as color is added. As a result, it’s easy to go too far, and in moments I can go from fresh-faced to Marge-Simpson-with-the-makeup-gun-set-on-whore*.
My misspent youth saw my lashes slathered in every dirty drugstore brand out there. There were a few years with no mascara, or a clear formula. Right before I went clean, my favorite was Bare Minerals Flawless Definition. Even that, though, I couldn’t wear on my bottom lashes without smudging or just looking silly. Add to this my sensitive nature. With many mascaras, even natural ones, my eyes burn. Or there’s an icky scent and I can literally smell my eyelashes all day. Then there’s that awful hyper-awareness of my lashes that happens with many brands. Plus, of course, the standard smudging/flaking/raccoon eyes thing (In spite of my dryish skin, I’m an oily lid girl).
For well over a year, I’ve been routinely going without mascara, except for some playing with a couple of newish colors from Real Purity. Violet lashes are not really an every day look, though.
Then this fall, Ilia launched a new phenoxyethanol-free formula, in four beautiful colors. Cut to me wearing mascara again.
What’s to love:
- Short length handle is easy to maneuver
- Rubbery brush gives easy, smooth application
- Brush has short bristles on one side and long on the other, so you can flip it around to reach different bits of lashes
- Dries fast and is layerable
- Lashes stay soft, not stiff (especially with only one coat)
- Nice balance of volume and length
- Insanely gorgeous and unique colors
- Essentially no scent
With Ilia mascara, I don’t look in the mirror and say, “Wow, look at those lashes.” I say, “Wow, my eyes look pretty.”
There’s enough volume to make it worthwhile even with one coat, and length as well, while still working for every day. Layering, while not usually my thing, will give you a more powerful and glamorous look. After some experimenting, two light coats on top lashes and one on the bottom is ideal for my tastes. I have not yet had a smudge, and learning to apply carefully has left me nearly flake free. At the end of a work day, it still looks good. There’s a flake or two if I rub my eyes a lot or take a nap in it. I have not had a good cry or a rainy day in it yet, but I do often mist Lotus Wei on my face with no problems.
Okay, so we have to talk about the colors. My hazel eyes LOVE Macao, which is a coppery shade that is so much more fun than a standard brown. It adds soft emphasis and brings out the green in my eyes. Asphalt Jungle is charcoal goodness, and simply THE perfect color for those like me who think true black is just too much, but are bored with brown/black shades. Nightfall is the blackest black I’ve ever used in a mascara, and surprisingly, I like its richness. This color is a one-coater for me, too intense for daytime with more coats. So you ladies looking for more va-va-voom may love it. I can wear all of these colors on my bottom lashes with no trouble, and they all wash off with my usual cleanser.
Who’s tried the new Ilia formula? From what I’ve heard, it’s quite different from the brand’s first shot at mascara.
*check this out about 45 seconds in for a classic Simpsons moment
This isn’t the first time these two brands have slugged it out on my vanity. Remember last summer’s highlighter battle? Now fall brings us a new reason to quibble over who’s more awesome. A deep berry/burgundy lip is very of-the-moment (or at least it was at the writing of this post). I was quite excited to see this seasonal trend, because I’m a tough nut when it comes to any color described as red or berry. Everything wants to be pink on this pale olive gal, and I’m not super fond of pink. But this time the craze is a shade I can wear. Look at me, following a trend! A rare event, indeed. I snapped up my fave brands’ versions and put them to the test.
Cost: $24 vs. $36
Packaging: Stick vs. Pot
Vegan? Both have bee products, but are otherwise vegan
Scent: Slightly fragranced (vanilla) vs. No discernable scent
For the coconut oil sensitive: None vs. It’s the first ingredient on the list
Color: Sheer yet buildable vs. Less sheer and still buildable
Type of pigment: A bit of synthetic pigment vs. Nothing synthetic
Texture/Finish: A little glossy vs. Velvety/matte, both reasonably moisturizing but a balm is a good idea over or under each
Lasting power: Good vs. A bit better (both wear to a pretty stain)
The verdict? Well, I’ve changed my mind about three times since I bought them. There are no losers here. In the swatch, it looks like Ilia has a bit more berry and RMS a bit more brick going on, but it really depends on the lighting. They are incredibly close in color, but on my lips, I feel like RMS is a touch more purple. Right now, I’m more into a matte finish, so RMS Diabolique has the edge. I think the RMS is also somewhat more versatile. The tiniest bit applied looks quite different from when it’s layered. I prefer both colors when pressed into the lips rather than swiped on. The RMS pot is convenient for this, but, hey, nobody’s stopping you from using your finger or a lip brush with Ilia’s stick.
Have you tried these colors? Is another brand helping you work this trend?
This post has been a long time coming. I’ve been playing with brightening DIYs and brands since I first went clean. I used to say “lightening,” but to some, that implies changing your skin tone. What I’m talking about here is evening out your skin, and getting back the smooth tone you had before you built up acne or sun damage. I doubt this plan will do a thing to your freckles or moles, but it will do away with dark spots and blotchiness. Results will be noticeable within a couple weeks, and major within several weeks. I’ve ditched probably 90% of the damage that was a combo of mother nature and my own previous bad habits. I doubt there’s any topical treatment that can do more.
When it comes to skin brightening, you need a short term and a long term plan. We are going to nix the damage, and keep it away. First thing, as always: eat well and exercise. Now, let’s talk products.
My Skin Brightening DIY: You can use whatever oil or cream you like as the base. I’ve used Kahina’s argan, though I think next time I mix a batch I’ll do half argan and half La Bella Figura’s Barbary Fig oil. In a container that is large enough to allow you to shake well or even mix with a hand blender, add 100 ml of your base, 3 g licorice, 3 g bearberry, and 1.5 g arbutin (I use this scale). I get all of these from skinactives.com (click the “expert details” tab for each ingredient for additional info). They are all powders, and not completely soluble in oil, so you’ll have to shake well before each use. I transfer a portion of my brew to a 30 ml bottle and smack it against the palm of my hand for 15-30 seconds to mix. It does feel gritty, so I use it at night only these days, and always with a hydrosol first to help it all sink in. Safety wise, licorice is fine for long-term use, while bearberry and arbutin are safe for periodic treatment. My long term routine is to mix up 2-3 months’ worth of this each year, use it up, and enter maintenance mode (see below). For the scoop on these ingredients plus lots more, check out this e-booklet from Blissoma. An alternative for non-DIYers is Yuli’s Cell Perfecto PM, which has bearberry and licorice and other good stuff. It’s somewhat less gritty than my recipe and I’m trying it out right now. Seems to be good so far.
Booster serum: If you want to speed results try Intelligent Nutrients Renewal Complex. I used it for a while (expensive!) and it was worth it for the short term. I used it right after washing my face, let it dry, then a hydrosol, then a few drops of my DIY. Now I routinely use Juice Beauty’s Stem Cellular Booster Serum in the morning. The whole idea is to boost the effectiveness of your other products. It’s not an essential, but a nice addition to a brightening routine if you’ve got some cash to spare.
Maintenance mode includes other brighteners and sunscreen…
Other brighteners: Kojic acid and vitamin C are both known as brighteners, and I tried them out between DIY use periods. I have found that these are actually better for acne scars, while my DIY is better for sun damage. Live and learn. My favorite for kojic acid is Lotus Moon’s Natural Skin Brightening Complex. It does have alcohol, which I normally don’t tolerate well but this is fine for me as a spot treatment. I’ve been using it in the morning when I first wake up, so it has only stayed on me for a couple hours pre-shower. Even so, I’ve had noticeable results on acne scars that had been with me a while, and some previously untreated sun damage that I noticed on my ears. My fave for vitamin C is from Marie Veronique Organics, which I reviewed a while back. I use this nightly, mixed in with a water-based serum (lately Blissoma’s Smooth, which I’ll review another time).
Sunscreen: Do not underestimate the importance of this step! For the level of damage I’ve had, topical treatment only gets at what shows on the surface. I’ve found that just the amount of sun I get walking from the parking lot to my work adds up to returning blotches – even in winter. Fortunately, I’ve found a sunscreen I want to use on my face every day because it does such wonders. It’s the much-loved-by-NMDL Juice Beauty’s CC for me. If you want to keep your brightening results, use a good sunscreen every day. Every. Single. Day.
Okay, so that may sound like a lot. Let’s summarize. If I had to start from scratch with the brightening, here’s what I’d do:
1. DIY (or a brand with those ingredients) for a few months
2. Sunscreen on the face every day, year round
3. Vitamin C and/or kojic acid in between DIY cycles
Have you tried brightening products that get results? Tell us about it in the comments.