Archive for the ‘Extreme Vanity’ Category

La Mer The Radiant Concealer vs. Dermablend Cover Creme

It’s time for another side-by-side product test!

I care a lot about makeup and skincare performance, and am willing to spend whatever it takes to get the best product for my face. However, I’m not really an experimenter.  I overhaul my makeup kit only every other year, and I throw away products only once they harden or start to smell funny.  I still have eye pencils from ten years ago.

Finding the right face color, however, seems to be a never-ending quest. My skin is perfectly neutral, which means neither the “yellow” shades or the “pink” shades work for me.  When I feel as though I must cover my face with something  I usually mix an ivory shade with something darker and make due with the result.

I never needed a good concealer before my late 40’s. I spent the first 20 years of my adulthood makeup-less, and even today I’m barefaced at work unless I know I’m getting photographed. I don’t have dark under-eye circles, and at least until peri-menopause I used to have very good skin, so never had to worry much about a concealer’s effectiveness. Any drugstore product was fine so long as the color was close enough.

Even a cloudy day at the beach calls for full makeup now

Well?  As they say, that was then this is now.  I’ve always been pale, but age has made me practically transparent!  I’ve also started using makeup as sunscreen, since really don’t care for the way sunscreens feel or look on my face. Being with Spooky means I spend a lot of time in outdoor fields and football stadiums, so my makeup needs to be FULL coverage or I’ll burn.  It also means my makeup foundation has to match my skin tone perfectly, and look natural in bright light.  That’s a tall order.  I don’t think I’ve found the perfect foundation yet.

But concealer?  I got this.  Ladies, don’t bother with elite brands.  Don’t make my expensive mistakes! Just buy Dermablend.  It’s made for people with serious skin problems, so the coverage and performance can’t be beat.  Why did I try to switch?  I just got bored, that’s all.  I thought a new product might be better, more luxurious, more . . . something.  I should have saved my money.

Dermablend means business.  Now watch him take it off!

I bought the La Mer Radiant Concealer ($70) last spring at Nordstroms while waiting for my personal shopping appointment.  I had my Dermablend at home, but it was two years old and I figured it was time for a replacement.  I loved La Mer’s other products, so why not splurge? Sigh.  Six months later, and . . . I guess the LaMer concealer is OK.  It’s a little dry, which is fine if you want to cover a zit. It comes with a little brush that works nicely.  It passed the “nose blowing test” with flying colors, so that’s good. But in terms of overall coverage and performance, I expected more for $70.  It settles into my pores and gives me a spotted look when viewed under 10X magnification.  It’s ever-so-slightly orangey, a problem I associate with cheap cosmetics.  When I used it on a big patch of skin – such as my cheeks when I had a rosacea flareup – it looked pasty and fake, so I never did it again.  Mostly it sits unused in my makeup drawer.

I went back to using my 2-year-old Dermablend, hoping I could eventually find a replacement in my color.  I tried to find it online to no avail.  I went to the local Ulta and either they didn’t carry if anymore, or they were out of it, or . . . don’t tell me it was discontinued! Dermablend has a new line of concealers I unfortunately don’t care for, and the new line of foundation colors that were supposed to match Sand (Camel and Bisque) are much too dark for me. But I did like their classic Cover Creme in Almond Beige!   I also bought their new Liquid Camo foundation in Cream, and the Setting Powder in Cool Beige.  I’ll report back in a few months and let you know if they’re destined to be my new standbys. They all perform better than the LaMer concealer.

For work I chose Urban Decay’s Naked Beauty Balm.  It was time for new eyeshadow, so I bought the smaller, Basic 2 version of the Naked 2 Palette. I like the natural look and gravitate to matte tones of fawn and taupe, even when playing dress up, so I grabbed an extra single eyeshadow pot in Naked. Some Naked blush/bronzer in “Streak,” some Anastasia eyebrow gel in Brunette, and some plain lip balm and I was done makeup shopping, hopefully for a long time.  I’m covered now, for at least a year, or maybe even two!

Naked 2 Basics


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Kelly Gray circa 1999

During random dissassociative moments I find myself googling for vintage St. John ads.  I do it in part  because pop culture has destroyed my mental image of the midlife female with “Cougar Town” and reality TV, and I may be trying to scrub Hollywood’s Disgraceful Older-Woman imagery out of my brain with more appealing images.  The old St. John ads were purposeful design parodies, and they were fabulous, and the sophisticated look was in vogue in the late 90’s when I got divorced and started buying my own clothes.

The other reason is, I just bought my first St. John dress:

Isn’t it ordinary looking?  It’s really not: The department just store picks the wrong models for their established designer lines. On a middle aged woman with some shape St. John knits are perfect:  Professional, forgiving, just right, worth the price, but only on clearance.    I was lucky enough to be in a store that had my size: One of their stylists picked it out for me and I fell in love with the quality and the fit.  There is a reason the St. John Tribe is so devoted:  It’s one of the few design houses that cater the midlife body. Customers scream bloody murder when new designers try to “update” the style or fit.

As a woman at midlife, I find that if I want notice, I must command it. Waiters can be slow to respond to my black Banana Republic pantsuits. But they “ma’am” my St. John.

My first St. John was a $1000+ splurge, but I’d just gone through a period of extreme wardrobe aggravation. My super-abundant closet space had been overstuffed with clothes I loved but couldn’t wear, not because I’d gotten “fat” but because my body had changed shape without my permission.  My ribcage expanded, which made button-up shirts out of the question. All of a sudden I had hips . . . which was good in a way, since I’d never really had them before, but DAMN, I couldn’t button my tailored pants anymore.

Much in the way one’s eyesight fails in one’s forties, there is nothing that can be done about middle aged spread except buy new clothes.  This is why women in their forties wear yoga pants all the time:  We don’t want to admit we’ve reached the elastic-waistband-pants stage of our older female relatives, who we swore we’d never look like.  Unfortunately Time doesn’t care what we think.

I finally boxed my old size (4) and put them in the attic for some future when I magically reverted to my old weight, as if that would ever happen. I decided to give them to my niece. A year later, I boxed my size 6 clothes, and will probably give them to my younger sister.  Today, some of my 8’s don’t even fit, unless they’re knits, which means my wardrobe is now 95% knits. I’ve come to terms with it, and found a way to make it all look professional.  The smartest tactic was to go high-end retail on important items, and fill in the rest with stealth.  I went crazy during Coldwater Creek’s going out of business sale, and returned to my old online standby, Boston Proper’s slowly-morphing travel collection. Some recent acquisitions:

One would think I’d find solace in my shoes, because at least feet don’t get fat, right?  WRONG.  Feet expand and contract when hormones go whackadoodle.  For a year or so my feet shrank a whole size.  Then they grew back.  Now even they are tight.  Consequently my closet is full of shoes I can’t wear on any given day so . . . My advice?  Unless they are adjustable, shoes are NOT an “investment.”  DO NOT DO THIS:

So am I finally reconciled with my new body and my new closet? More or less, since Spooky doesn’t give a flip either way.  I can get through a work week without headaches now, and my old clothes no longer taunt me from their hangers. Out of sight, out of mind!  The shoes though . . . both my feet and my pocketbook say “Ouch.”

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I’m sensing a pattern here:  TOO MUCH SHIT

This is how I get my New Years’ resolutions to stick:  I’m not obligated to live up to any of them until December 31!

Too many people give up the first time they fall off whatever wagon they climbed upon:   One cigarrette and they’ve blown it, or if they sleep in one morning instead of going on that promised morning jog (or whatever) they think they failed.  If they’d only give themselves the WHOLE YEAR to achieve their goals they’d have a better chance of succeeding.

I gave myself a whole year to achieve my goal of distilling my “product lineup” to its bare essentials. 

It actually cost me a pretty penny, since my “bare essentials” are The Big Guns:  Growth factors, collagen builders and spot faders.  When a gal turns 40 she has a choice to make: Get Serious or Give Up.  It was worth the expense, because these products do exactly what they say they will, and I do look younger because of them. I also got rid of a bunch of unused crap and am enjoying the new open spaces in my bathroom.  In the long run, I believe, I’ll save money by not chasing every fad.

I did give up on my goal of sticking with only “green” products.  I’m sorry, True Believers:  Green products are pretty (pretty expensive), and their intentions are good, but they just don’t seem to work.

I also threw out my old makeup and bought new:  Basic neutrals, nothing fancy, a mix of high and low brands.  My favorite find is Shiseido’s primer.  I don’t know if I’m lucky or what, but it matches my skin tone perfectly and I can skip the makeup entirely if I want to.  That big eyeshadow palette is the Urban Decay Naked 2.  I like the colors, but not the fact that more than half of them are too glittery for me to wear to work, so I had to supplement it with some light matte colors from Sonia Kashuk (Target). When they wear out I’ll get the Urban Decay Basics.

Anyway, that’s all done and – oh look! – It’s 2013! Time for a new resolution, which is to get my “house” in order.  Unfortunately there are SO many layers to that onion, I’ll need to focus on just a few aspects.  I’ve narrowed them down to the following three:

1. Financial house in order:  Eliminate 2 forms of monthly debt payments. I’ve identified two candidates, and have until end of year to wipe them out. I’d like to eliminate debt every year until all I have left to pay off is my house.

This year’s “Storm of the Century” kicked some major ass

2. Actual house in order: Thanks to Hurricane Sandy my house needs a new roof.  That’s a bare-minimum goal for 2013.  However, for me to be able to sell the place I’ll also need plumbing/electric work, a new ceiling in the library, plus a few coats of fresh paint in the spare bedrooms.  I can do the painting myself, but the rest I’m going to have to contract out. Whether or not I can afford it remains to be seen: I already took money out of my 401K to pay for the roof.

3. Physical-house in order:  See dentist.  Get fillings if necessary. Whiten teeth. See neurologist/cardiologist/endocrinologist etc. and find out what’s causing those random dizzy-spell and loss-of-consciousness episodes.  Eliminate dairy from diet (again). The good part is, if I eliminate dairy I’ll probably lose 15 pounds (again), and my skin should clear up (I hope). Losing weight and clearing up my skin aren’t resolutions, however; those will just be happy side effects.  At my age there is no “controlling” what time does to the body.

Unfortunately, getting my House in Order will cost a LOT of money, and I still have a kid in college!  Maybe I should content myself with just choosing ONE thing on my list?  I suppose if I can pull off all three I deserve some kind of award,  since I probably won’t be able to afford much in the way of personal items during 2013. This year ALL my discretionary money will be going to the plumber, the electrician, the roofer, the doctors, the dentist, the laboratories, the radiologists, Bunny’s landlord, and the University! I’ve even given up my morning coffee.

So my present to myself for pulling this off is . . .

1. Peace of mind

2. Improved health

3. A graduating child – 2014 here she comes!

4. Something nice with staying power for EACH goal achieved, such as a nice piece of jewelry that will remind me of my accomplishments.  Of course, by January 2014 I’ll probably be so wiped out I’ll have to wait until 2015 to buy them.  I suppose that can be next year’s resolution?

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Got PMS zits? Coconut oil soap is magical in that it’s somehow drying and softening at the same time.  It’s an affordable weapon for anyone’s anti-acne arsenal.

However, use it for more than a week at a time and you’ll probably be sorry:  Many experience a “rebound effect” as their skin finds a way to over-react to the dryness.  Sometimes this over-reaction involves MORE breakouts and the bitter conclusion that coconut oil soap “doesn’t work.”  Oh it works all right, because all oil soaps are paradoxically drying, but perhaps it works TOO well.

I found a way to take advantage of the anti-acne benefits of plain coconut oil soap by only using it for a few days during PMS-time, then switching to a gentler cleanser during the rest of the month.  This way I avoid the rebound effect while clearing up what my hormones do to my face. It works!

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Via Shine:

. . . what exactly would you have to go through to get the ‘perfect’ Barbie body? In the latest issue of O Magazine, model Katie Halchishick becomes the human diagram. Posing for photographer Matthew Rolston, her glamorous, Marilyn Monroe-type features are surgically outlined according to Barbie’s proportions.

Here’s a breakdown of what she’d need done to be the kind of doll women aspire to: a brow lift, a jaw line shave, rhinoplasty, a cheek and neck reduction, a chin implant, scooped-out shoulders, a breast lift, liposuction on her arms, and tummy tuck, which would also have to be sculpted as if it were lined in whale-bone from the inside. And that’s just the half of her.

This model is simply gorgeous. She shouldn’t change a thing about herself, but today it’s not good enough to just be pretty.  The American “beauty myth” decrees women must spend all her disposable income to look as “perfect” as possible. 

What’s “perfect?” a woman asks Culture.

” Well, honey, that’s a moving target, so just keep trying. While you’re at it could you bring me a bucket of air?  I love to see a lady scrimp scramble and scamper. Now run along.”

Brittany Murphy

You know society has a problem when women put “get skinny” at the top of the list when asked what they want to accomplish in life. What about education, career, and family? Somewhere further down the list. What about learning a foreign language, an instrument, a skill? No, too many women think being skinny is the pinnacle of achievement.

That’s really sad, but I blame fashion magazines more than I do Barbie.  Look at what they did to poor Kimora Lee Simimons (right).When a little girl plays with her Barbie the last thing she’s thinking about is her waistline, but when a grown woman picks up a fashion magazine and sees a women with no pores whatsoever on her face, or mile long legs with no knee-knobs, she feels grotesque in comparison. She needs a tap on her skull to remember the photo is airbrushed. 

Fortunately Katie Halchishick (the original subject of this post) does not want any of the abovementioned cosmetic procedures.  She’s considered a “plus size” by the fashion industry because she doesn’t look like a clotheshanger, but she doesn’t care, and she gets plenty of work. She and her associates have started a new website that focuses on women and body image: Healthy is the New Skinny. The title is lame but the intentions are good, and maybe someday magazines will choose to leave their “aspiratonal imagery” au naturel.

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Claridge & King – Quality tailoring, some ironing required 

I recently added four Izod no-iron cufflink button down shirts to my wardrobe.  Either my chest has deflated to the point where it no longer gets in the way of menswear inspired women’s fashion, or Izod has just figured out that women have boobs.  Either way I am happy to have more choices, and so long as I don’t have a drycleaning bill or a pile of ironing I’m going to wear them to work.

How times have changed: I used to be a bit of a fashion icon at my office.  I had a lot more energy back then, and spent a lot of time and money at the tailor. One of my hires, when I was the company recruiter in the mid-2000’s, was a beneficiary of  my mid-life weight gain:  I gave her several Dior jackets I’d outgrown, plus a few pair of really nice high heeled shoes.  Through the years (she said) she watched how I dressed and marveled at how no matter what was going on in the fashion world I always “got it;” i.e., I made it work for the office.  She confided she’d been following my fashion lead all along.

I can totally see my boss in this outfit.  Me, not so much anymore. These days, I’m the one in the cubicle, dressed like a boy who’s still in prep school.

Today that woman is my supervisor.   During the past two years she has been promoted two levels above me. Fortunately my new boss didn’t pay attention to the way I dressed while I was struggling with my hormones, squirrelled away on detail to Contracts, trying my best to remain under the radar. Those days were about glorified pajamas, but even then I made them work, favoring black and brown knits in sillouhettes that whispered “elegant” instead of “t-shirt.”  I managed to get several complements, even though I indeed, was wearing some form of a knit t-shirt and elastic waistband pants every damn day.

Sorry, not good enough, lady, they still won’t take you seriously

Today I’m feeling SO much better.  However, now that I’m back at my new-old job in engineering, I realize I can’t go back to being a fashion plate.  To be fashionable in Engineering is to be marked as frivolous, because I work primarily with and for men in a relentlessly masculine field (defense) where khakis and blue oxford shirts are the standard.   Looking young and dressing fashionably in 2010 contributed to my losing a customer  – I’m convinced of this – because the program manager, a very male-identified woman wearing khakis and blue oxford, didn’t take me seriously.

Victor Victoria

Since that humilating week of self-reflection I’ve been wearing a lot of menswear inspired tailored pieces, dressing like a boy essentially.  That’s right: I’m cross-dressing these days, going to work drag, business-casual drag.  My closet has changed so much that I began to wonder if the fashion magazines were promoting the look.  Perhaps I was just picking up on a new trend without really knowing it?  NOPE: Menswear-inspired women’s wear is no more a trend today than it is any other year, lurking in the background, because no matter where fashion goes, most of us still need to get up in the morning and go to work.

I’m not surprised that one of the first things my new boss pronounced when she took command was that an internal dress code would now be enforced, in order to raise the department’s image in the eyes of our paying customers.  My team lead assured me that I was doing “fine” and did not need to change anything; rather, it was the men wearing t-shirts and the women in flip flops who needed the talking to. “Business casual” is a confusing relic from the 1980’s, but folks in Engineering can be slow to pick up social cues, and difficult to change once a habit becomes ingrained.

Forbes: What Not to Wear to Work

You may have noticed how the “rules” – general though they are – are different for men and women.  Women can wear just about anything to the office these days so long that it’s neat and covers body parts that need to be covered. Apparently a woman needs to be wearing flip flops before someone lectures her on how to look like a professional.

I thought about this for awhile:  Perhaps dress codes need to be as stringent for women as they are for men.  Perhaps letting women off the sartorial hook and giving them much more creative license, is actually a problem? If men are required to cover their knees and wear sleeves and collars, but women are not, what does that say, really?   Perhaps it says a combination of things:

Carissa Rose’s Zarinah Shirt, for the woman with boobs and $125 to spend on just one shirt

1. The variability of women’s bodies, and the capriciousness and high cost of women’s fashion makes it unfair to impose a male fashion standard on women.  Men have it easy in that Brooks Brothers is the business standard and there is not much variation to it. Men learn the Standard when they are boys, and the Standard varies only slightly over generations. Every town has a store within driving distance that sells mens’ suits in nearly every cut and size.  Men can go into any department store and find a traditional shirt that fits in a number of classic colors and patterns.  They can also pay someone to wash and iron it for about a dollar.

Women, on the other hand, do not have a Brooks Brothers tradition. Even if women can find affordable button down shirts (rare) they’re more expensive to dry clean than mens’ shirts. If we decide to save money and wash ours at home, we’re stuck ironing them. It’s also too much to ask women to wear pantyhose when even the irregulars cost $5 pair and often last for just one wearing. Also, men still get free tailoring in department stores, but women do not.

2. Laziness.  Also: Picking Our Battles.  If you’ve not noticed, the fashion world isn’t trying to help women get promoted.  Neither is anyone else, so it’s up to us to figure it out.  However, life is busy and time and money are in short supply, so we wear whatever we can afford when we can find it.  If it’s “fun” so much the better. Marketing wants us to “feel better about ourselves” through shopping, so now we have all this pseudo-feminist “feeling empowered” BS that we fall for again and again. We’re so busy trying to “feel empowered” that we never get promoted to a job that will afford us that Chanel suit or YSL smoking jacket that will zoom us to Badass credibility.

Management has a similar time and energy crunch: There are only so many battles Management has the energy to fight, and our bad fashion choices aren’t among them. Unfortunately, when we don’t live up to Management’s internal, often poorly understood and largely unspoken standards we just won’t get promoted. They won’t tell us why, mostly because they’re not very self-reflective. Really, they have no idea why you’re not executive washroom material; you just aren’t. Next problem please.

Unfortunately I’m of the suspicion that the more lax requirements for women reflect (perhaps) a reluctant attitude toward female promotability in the first place. Meaning, women as a class are not really taken seriously so who as long we’re not distracting the menfolk, who cares what we wear?  If this is a true motivation it’s unfortunate.

Personally, I don’t care if I get promoted before I retire.  That said, I realize the young women in the office look to SOME of us lady old-timers for cues. I’m at the age where I SHOULD be at the top of my game, and dressing the part.  I don’t look or dress like their grandmother (yet), and the day that I do is the day I become invisible. While I still look like a player my sartorial slacking only encourages them to slack, which only encourages people to discount them.  That’s a problem.  SO, I need to step up my game, for the sake of the young women around me and THEIR promotions.

HOW I’m supposed to do this, with my closet full of bright knits and open toed shoes I barely wore this summer, and a bunch of boring prep school staples, will be the subject of an upcoming post.  For now it’s easy:  I just pack them up because it’s September, when the weather is so cold I naturally begin wearing more conservative business attire. It’s Turtleneck Time!

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Pinky being a little embarrassed by how much money she spends on beauty products

I did it again:  I bought another jar of LaMer The Eye Concentrate.  It’s my third jar  in two years.  I keep trying to find less expensive alternatives – I even tried coconut oil and plain old Vaseline – but I’m about ready to give up and admit I’m addicted to the LaMer.

I am resigned that my super-sensitive skin responds better to sea mineral creams than vitamin creams or anti-aging creams that use exfoliating ingredients; hence my attraction to La Mer products.  I haven’t been able to bring myself to pay for the Concentrate, however, because $275/oz is just nuts, even if devotees swear it’s cured their acne.

I even tried to “save money” (I know, what a joke) by buying La Mer’s new Moisturizing Soft Cream, thinking I could use it on my face and eyes.  Ounce for ounce the face cream –  no matter the formulation –  is less expensive than the eye creams.  Just know that the stiffer the formulation the longer the jar lasts!  The Soft Cream does work nicely, if you would like to have just one cream.

However the eye cream, which is actually a cream-gel, really is special.  It has a very low “melting point” and soaks into the skin without my having to rub or even pat it in.  It’s effects are also near-immediate, possibly an optical illusion but who cares:  The stuff makes me look more awake in the morning and that’s what matters.  I can put undereye concealer right over it if I want the extra coverage but most of the time I don’t need it.

What else have I discovered in the realm of anti-aging?  I learned that my Clarisonic face cleaner was worth the high price tag.  I don’t know whether or not the cheaper knockoffs work as well and don’t plan to try them, but if you have one, feel free to weigh in if the less expensive sonic care items work for you.  It’s too late for me but not for other readers, to save some money if they can.

Right now the jury is out on the Clarisonic Opal I purchased a few months ago:  I’d have to use it on just one eye-cheek for several months to know whether or not it makes a difference.  Right now I’m inclined to just take their word for it.

I had a late stage, very bad reaction to Prevage, so I had to quit using it.  The FAQ for Prevage says this happens sometimes, especially if a person is using other treatments like facial peels.  What a shame, because I was really liking what it did to my skin tone.  I now have a brand new tub of the night cream ($125) that I’ve not yet been able to pawn off on anyone. Maybe I’ll leave it in the ladies’ room at work with a sign “Free to Good Home.”

I don’t use Dermablend makeup because fortunately I don’t need to: It’s for people with serious skin troubles.  As might be expected the foundation  requires a cosmetic crowbar to remove. Fortunately the company has just the makeup remover for it and I’m happy to take advantage of its take-no-prisoners approach. One drop and makeup dissolves ($22), plus it’s gentle on sensitive skin.

Who in their right mind would spend $35 on a facial cleanser?  I did, and you would too if you tried Reluma Cleanser.  I found it at the Truth in Aging website, where it got rave reviews.  I bought my first pump-bottle at TIA as part of a kit to save money on the Reluma serum.  The cleanser dissolves whatever is on your face and rinses away clean. My face feels so soft after using it that when I ran out I ordered another bottle at Aspen Leaf Spa for a whopper 30% discount that I occasionally get from my plastic surgeon.

The Reluma serum was okay, but I found AQ growth factors worked better for me. I still use AQ Skin Solutions serum religiously and will try the company’s new eye serum when it’s time to reorder.  I actually get anxious when I’m almost out of product, especially during late summertime.  During the March-April timeframe I place a bulk order (three!) to hold me over until Fall. Each pump-jar lasts a month an a half if I use it sparingly. I only order beauty products through the mail in the winter so the heat won’t get to them, so come November I’ll be placing another order.  Will my last bottle last until then? Oh the suspense . . .

Osmotics Blue Copper products are great, especially on broken skin and acne breakouts. I’ve gone through two tubs of the cream ($85).  I’ve got the serum now (more sanitary) but I’m using it sparingly.   For a zit cream it’s awfully expensive ($75), but it works without making me peel.  Copper is a miracle mineral when it comes to healing!

When my face is extremely bothered, I use Weleda’s sensitive skin  cleanser and moisturizer or Avene products like Cicalfate Restorative Cream.  I also like Avene’s 20SPF sunscreen spray and use it on my arms and hands, even in the winter, because I get most of my sun exposure while driving my car to and from work.  It smells real nice.

So there you have it: Purchases adding up to over $1000 and that was just for the summer!  Still, I don’t mind promoting products for free when they feel good on the skin, smell nice and actually work. I’ve also managed – amazingly – to downsize my vanity cabinet and will be reporting on that project in a few months.  Did I cut my product usage in half?  Enh . . . maybe not half . . . maybe by a third, but it’s progress.

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