Freebie Quickies!

Today I’ve got a couple of freebies for you!

If you have curly hair, you can sign uphere to be a hair model for Ouidad. Ouidad salons and products are targeted to curly hair and they use models to train stylists in their cutting technique. That means there is a risk since you’ll be sort of a training model, but if you’re willing to try it out you get a consultation (which means you get a say in what they do!), a cut, and possibly a deep conditioning treatment. You can check the Salon Locator to see if there’s a Ouidad salon in your area.

Origins is offering free mini facials at their retail locations. (The online ad says 7/8-7/11, but I just got this promoted in an e-mail today, so call your store to find out if this is still a valid offer.)

I tried a “weird” beauty product.

It was only a few posts ago that I was ranting and raving about ridiculous and gross beauty treatments, and here I am about to tell you how I used something that sounds pretty weird and maybe a little gross. The irony is not lost on me.

I was in the drug store a few days ago desperately looking for some kind of treatment for my frizzy, dried-out locks. I’m way overdue for a haircut and my ends start to get tangly and frazzled after a while. I’m very particular about what I use in my hair – I follow a modified curly girl method, which basically means that I don’t use any products with sulfates or silicones in them. I also try to stick to organic-based products when I can. Because of this, looking for a new conditioner can be hard since silicones are a major component of most conditioning products.

Finally I picked up a packet of Hask Henna Placenta Hair Treatment. I was under $2 and had no silicones, so I figured why not?

I know what you’re probably thinking. Placenta? In your hair? Gross! I thought that too, but my hair was feeling desperate. I couldn’t run my fingers through it without painful tangles and the damage from constantly pulling it up to fight summer heat was getting bad.

And once I got passed the “ick” factor, I was blown away! The package recommends that you leave the treatment in for at least ten minutes and heat it with a blow dryer or wrap your head with a hot towel. I used a blow dryer before rinsing the conditioner out and letting my hair air-dry. My hair dried soft, frizz-free and with no tangles! I was made a believer.

BUT! Today I did a little Googling and found that the use of placenta in hair products has been linked to breast cancer or premature development in young girls. This site lists it as one of their top ten products to avoid. So now I’m torn. I think I’ll consider using the Hask conditioner as a once-in-a-while treatment when my hair is in dire straits and stick to more conventional products for more regular hair care.

The things we do for great hair…

Summer-proof your beauty routine

It’s hot out there!

Summer means a lot of time outdoors. And while I know plenty of women blessed with gorgeous skin and coloring that requires no makeup, I am not one of them. That means that when summer comes I start worrying about raccoon eyes from melted mascara, unintentional smokey eyes from smudged eyeliner, creasing shadow, and oily skin. That means adjusting my routine to accommodate the heat and humidity as well as the increased oil my skin produces when it’s warm. Continue reading

New dumb trend: socks with sandals.

One of my favorite things about summer is the fact that I can pack away all my socks until it gets cold again in favor of bright pedicures and sandals. Well, bad news for me, because apparently socks with sandals is now a trend.

I ask you, does this look cute?

Image courtesy of NYMag.com

That’s actually not the worst example they’ve got – you should really check out the slideshow. This look was all over the spring runways, too.

I don’t get this. Isn’t the point of sandals and open-toe shoes to be… open? Isn’t that why they exist in the first place? So we can enjoy one less layer of fabric in a hot season? I don’t know what the weather is like where you are, but here in New England it’s hot and sticky. The less unnecessary fabric I can get away with, the better. Even worse, all the socks in the New York Magazine slideshow look like they’re mostly nylon – can you think of a sweatier, less desirable fabric to wrap around your feet in the heat of summer?

Sorry fashion world, I’ll be sitting this one out. I’d rather flaunt my brightly-polished toes in your disapproving faces than deal with sweaty, hot, smelly feet. Also, I’m not really interested in taking fashion tips from this guy:

Image courtesy of Top10Kid.com

Quickie: The bracelet that tracks your sun exposure

So you’ve applied your sunscreen dutifully. Great! But what if it wears off? How will you know before it’s too late? Now there’s a way to tell: the UVSunSense bracelet:

Developed by a nuclear physicist, the UVSunSense wristband technology is similar in principle to monitoring devices used for personnel at nuclear power plants or in jobs dealing with nuclear medicine. But instead of measuring gamma rays, UVSunSense is calibrated for ultraviolet – or UV – radiation present in sunlight. The band’s four color stages indicate changing conditions and how a user should adapt to the sunlight. The wristband is orange when removed from the packaging. It becomes purple when exposed to the sun, indicating that it has been activated. When it transitions to a dark brown the wearer needs to immediately reapply their protective sunscreen. If the band turns a salmon color, the wearer should get out of the sun completely, having approached the recommended daily limit of UV radiation. Further exposure will likely result in painful sunburn and increase the risk of sun poisoning, also known as photodermatitis.

Here’s a diagram to illustrate the color changes:

Image courtesy of Amazon.com

The UVSunSense band is available in packs of 7 for $6.85 (plus shipping) at Amazon. Or you can check out the “Where To Buy” link on the UVSunSense website (linked above) for local retailers.

What price beauty?

Keep young and beautiful,
It’s your duty to be beautiful!
Keep young and beautiful,
if you want to be loved.

So says the Annie Lennox song:

But sometimes we get a little crazy in our quest for beauty. The search for that miracle cream that will sweep away blemishes and wrinkles, or the magical hair product that will give us luster and shine, can lead us to some outlandish places.

One salon in London is offering clients a protein treatment made from – wait for it – bull semen:


Touted as “Viagra for Hair,” this 45-minute treatment ranges from £55 to £85 ($90-$138 U.S.) and uses semen from Aberdeen Angus bulls. Hari’s combines the sperm with the root of the protein-rich plant Katera. The protein-enriched potion is massaged into the client’s hair after it has been shampooed. Then the client is put under heat so the treatment penetrates the hair. The final step is the blow out, which gives the hair an awful lot of body, as well as shine.

As someone who has spent plenty of cash on different conditioners and treatments in the pursuit of frizz-free, shiny hair, I can honestly say this is a bit much for me. But it’s nothing compared to using urine as a facial treatment. Urine! On your face! It seems to me that if your body had much use for what was in that urine, your body would have kept it in the first place. But don’t worry about that, because you can skip the urine and get a facial that uses synthesized human sperm or snail slime instead.

Total Beauty has a list of ten strange beauty treatments that includes the bull semen hair treatment as well as procedures involving live fish, the feces of nightingales and crocodiles, and placenta.

Vanity is a strong force, isn’t it? We spend so much of our lives being judged on how we look that it can make us crazy and the next thing we know we’re paying hundreds of dollars to have things smeared on us that we’d otherwise avoid in the hopes that it will make us beautiful or keep us young for a little longer. I certainly have nothing against natural remedies – I’m a fervent champion of honey and its many many uses. (I use it mixed with my conditioner and occasionally with crushed aspirin tablets as a facial mask.) But there’s a difference between embracing the idea of alternative methods and leaping into any unproven (and/or gross) new thing just because it’s trendy. A few years back Gwyneth Paltrow caused a stir when it was rumored she was using a facial moisturizer containing snake venom because the paralytic venom was believed to have a Botox-like effect on the face. Like a lot of these types of things, the claims were unproven and the side effects potentially dangerous. But tell women the stars are doing it (or just charge a lot of money) and we’ll line right up.

Some of these things do have a basis in science – the bull semen hair treatment is high in protein, for example. But you can get any number of protein-packed hair treatments without spending that much cash or drenching your head in bovine bodily fluids. In fact most of these trends have lower-priced and less insane counterparts. If you look at what’s supposed to make it work, it’s usually based on the ingredients and science already present in the beauty products you can get at any drug store. (Well, maybe not the live fish that eat the dead skin off your feet… but that’s another story.)

The Beauty Brains are a great resource for topics like this. The site, run by cosmetic scientists, explains the science behind beauty in terms anyone can understand and debunks a lot of the claims made by trendy beauty treatments.

It comes down to research. Before you try any new “miracle” treatment or product, do a little Googling and a little reading. It might save you some cash and some time.

Yet another dumb way to cover your assets.

Remember the Backtacular? The silly-looking bedazzled patch made to cover your ass crack in low-waited pants? Well apparently ridiculous crack-camouflage is a growth industry. I give you the Hip-T:

Image courtesy of Refinery29.com

In case you think your eyes are deceiving you, yes, that is a band of fabric made to do nothing but sit around your waist and look like you’re wearing a tank top underneath your shirt. To which I ask… why not just wear a tank top underneath your shirt? Most retailers make nice long tank tops now – I have a long waist and I own plenty that are more than long enough for me. And all of those tank tops cost less than the $14.95-19.95 that they want for the “Hip-T.” $20 for a band of useless fabric! For the price of two of these things, you could get a pair of jeans that covers your ass! (I’m sorry, Hip-T calls it “bum cleavage.” I guess that’s better than calling it a “coin slot.”)

I really just don’t understand why there’s a market for overpriced items like this. This one is especially confusing – what keeps it from riding up? Or just bunching itself up into a rumpled sloppy belt? What’s the point of paying money for a glorified ace bandage to mummify your middle? I have to agree with the folks at Refinery 29 who covered this before me: you’re better off just buying pants that cover you. Or invest in a few long tank tops for layering.

Weekend Quickie: Hit the Sales!

It’s a big sale weekend, so if you have the time, hit the stores for some great deals.

I just got this dress at New York & Company for $19.99, reduced from $56.95:

Image courtesy of NewYorkandCompany.com

It’s smocked under the bust which creates a flattering line, and it’s super comfortable. Plus the halter top let’s you adjust the strap length.

Other retailers having big sales this weekend:

Bath and Body Works – Up to 75% off bath and body products, perfumes, and cosmetics.
Victoria’s Secret – Get deals on lingerie, clothing, and beauty products (though the clothing is only available online).
Gap – I saw better deals in-store than online, so check out the store in person for additional discounts if you can.
Payless – Select styles as low as $7!

There are plenty more that I’ve missed, so hit your local mall if you have the time for some great summer deals.

Don’t believe what you see!

It used to be you could trust a photograph to show you a factual representation of a source or subject. But not anymore! Why? One word: Photoshop. I confess, I am a Photoshopper. Any photo of me that touches my computer gets “fixed:” teeth whitened, color corrected, blemishes banished. But magazines and advertisers go a lot further than that. They use Photoshop to take an existing image and turn it into something that not only doesn’t exist, but sometimes can’t possible exist.

For example, Ralph Lauren caused a controversy last year over this image of an impossibly proportioned model (her shoulders are wider than her hips!):

Image courtesy of the Huffington Post.

Before that, Redbook caused a stir with a heavily retouched cover shot of Faith Hill. More recently, ads featuring Demi Moore and Julia Roberts have been so heavily altered that it’s hard to tell that these already beautiful women are even human.

Not even Betty White is immune! She’s 88 years old and they’ve removed all her wrinkles. Is it no longer acceptable for an 88-year-old woman to have wrinkles?

In a world where women are expected to aspire to beauty ideals, these types of images create an even more unattainable idea of the beauty norm. (Though if you can find me an actual adult human woman whose shoulders are wider than her hips, I’ll consider a retraction.) We’re constantly bombarded with images of women who are impossibly thin, ageless, and devoid of imperfection. How can any woman feel comfortable in her own skin surrounded by this crap?

Fortunately, the wide exposure of recent years has started a backlash and is – slowly – beginning a movement in opposition. Jessica Simpson famously posed for the cover of Marie Claire with no makeup and no retouching a few months ago. (And if you ask me, she looks fantastic.) And now a UK department store is openly displaying before- and after-Photoshop shots of a swimsuit model in their stores:

Image courtesy of NYMag.com

It’s a refreshing move, but there’s still a long way to go. The truth is that Photoshop is never going away. It will always be used to clean up flyaway hairs and blemishes and correct color at the very least (and you can pry my copy from my cold, dead hands!). But until the fashion and beauty industries scale back the usage to those parameters we’re going to have to treat every image we see with skepticism. Jezebel has a really interesting gallery of Photoshopped images here. Check it out and see just how much you’re being fooled.

DIY Quickie: The 1-Hour Dress

Summer is the time for dresses! And if you like making your own clothes, check out this 1-hour dress at CraftStylish:

Image courtesy of CraftSylish.com

There’s some argument in the comments about whether this dress can actually be made in an hour. (I don’t sew, so I can’t say how accurate those comments are.) But they include a detailed list of what you’ll need and diagrams to help you along your way and the instructions were easy enough for a non-sewer like me to understand. I love that the silhouette is simple enough that you can make it in stretch jersey and have a comfortable day dress, or bring up the hemline and use a fabric with metallic threading for a cute cocktail look.

If anyone makes this dress at home, let me know! I’d love to post your pictures and hear how well this pattern actually works.