Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Blogging on My Birthday: Can Beauty Products Really Make Your Life Better?

Short Answer: Yes. Yes they can.

Don’t worry…a very long answer is coming. Very very long.

Why am I writing a long journal entry instead of a product review? Because today is my birthday, and I feel like being all thoughtful and wordy. I’ve also decided to take long break from blogging – at least for the rest of the summer (possibly longer). I love posting; but my schedule has become too crazy, and I need to scale back for a while. So I thought I’d take a little detour from “the usual.”

The title of my post sounds like I’m being sarcastic, but I’m really not. I love to throw the term “beauty junkie” around; but I also believe that my beloved products were part of a huge change in my life.

There was a time way back in the 2000’s (lol…) when I went through a seriously frumpy phase. “Frumpy” is putting things mildly. I had truly stopped taking care of myself – and stopped thinking of myself as vibrant or feminine. I was taking care of Maria, the singer; but neglecting Maria, the person.

At that time, there were also a lot of old, destructive thoughts still running through my head. I spent a lot of time telling myself that I was too fat, my skin was bad, I was out of shape, my hair was weird, and so on and so forth. And somehow all of these “problems” had come about because I wasn’t a good enough person. I needed more drive. More discipline. Better character. I didn’t deserve to look good and appreciate myself until I’d “fixed” everything. There was certainly no point in putting any effort into my appearance until I’d lost all the weight. Or met Mr. Right. Or gotten my career established. Or won the lottery/cured cancer/whatever.

I was so full of unreasonable expectations that even the smallest step felt almost impossible. And instead of being content to take baby steps and enjoy some progress; I kept piling things on my “to do” list, and feeling even more inadequate and overwhelmed.

Of course the result of all this harsh thinking was that I felt stressed out, exhausted and demoralized. And I looked like hell. The wake up call came in June 2006 when my aunt sent a picture of me holding my baby nephew. I suddenly realized that in less than 7 years, I’d gone from this…

To this.

I was shocked. Seven years isn’t a small amount of time; and there are things like flattering lighting, etc. to consider; but I still looked about 20 years older. Again…I was shocked.

If my adorable nephew hadn’t been in that picture, I would have ripped it up and thrown it away. But adorable nephew photos are too valuable to get rid of. So instead, I buried it under a stack of other pictures. I couldn’t forget it, though. What’s worse…I felt even sadder and was even harder on myself. But only at first.

I’d also been doing a lot of internal work, and it was starting to pay off. I finally took out the picture again; and instead of berating myself, I summoned up a little bit of compassion. And…when I looked at other old (“better”) pictures of myself, I started realizing that I had always been hard on myself. Even when I looked “good,” I never appreciated it. Why? Because I was always thinking of what was still missing or not good enough. No wonder I eventually stopped trying!

Maybe it was time to give myself a break.

In the year that followed, I started taking stock of things. I realized that I had let a lot of things go. Not just my appearance; but my health, social life, romantic life, hobbies, household, and just about everything except singing had fallen by the wayside. I also realized that I spent very little time doing things to make my life happier in the moment. I was always waiting for that magic day when I would reach my weight loss, career and financial goals. Then I would be good to myself. Then my life would start! I was in my mid-forties and waiting for my life to begin. Ooops.

Somehow, I finally decided that even though I wasn’t a skinny, rich, famous opera star with a perfect boyfriend; maybe I would just go ahead and start my life anyway.

One of the first things I did was…buy clothes. Not a lot of clothes. But clothes for the body I had instead of some future body. I even bought cute lingerie. And…I felt better. Much better. Without losing an ounce.

Then came a big change…beauty products. First it was skincare. Then it was wearing my contact lenses instead of my glasses. Then my friend (Nancy) and I went to a spring makeup event at Nordstrom. I bought a lash primer. Which led to wearing mascara, which led to other things. One day I decided I would get up 15 minutes earlier so I could put on makeup before heading out the door. Shocking!

For 15 minutes every morning, I sat at my vanity and played with pretty things. And I started to remember what it felt like to feel pampered and cared for. Instead of starting the day by telling myself what was wrong with me, I began the day feeling more beautiful. And I would catch my reflection every now and then, and be pleasantly surprised! Who was that person in the nice outfit with the snappy eyeliner? It wasn’t vanity either - it was pride. The kind of pride that came from knowing I’d done something that was good for me. It was also fun. And I was putting myself out there as if I mattered instead of trying to “hide” all of my “flaws.” I even started wearing…gasp!...sleeveless tops!

A lot of things changed after that. I eventually started dating again. I also started losing weight, exercising and taking better care of myself. Again…I was behaving as if I mattered. The most important thing was that I started having a life – and more people in it who mattered to me.

Now of course I know that the beauty products themselves were not solely responsible for the changes in my life. But in many ways, those girly things served as both catalyst and tool. No matter what the state of my singing career, weight, financial situation, romantic status was; I always had a quick, easy way to make myself feel good about myself now. I think that’s why beauty products do it for me. It’s a way to be right in the moment when my feelings about the past or the future take me out of the present.

Beauty junkie-dom was (and still is) a playful, creative and positive way for me to be nice to myself every day, and almost any time. Sometimes it’s a way to step out into the limelight, sometimes it’s a bit of armor when I’m feeling insecure, and sometimes it’s a way to cheer myself up; but most of the time it’s playing, pampering and fun – and it reminds me of how lovely life can be. Most importantly, it’s taking time to show some love for myself on a regular basis in a very visible, tangible way.

This picture was taken yesterday.

Again…it’s taken from a highly flattering angle (trust me); but I think that looks like someone who is participating in and living her life. I still have a lot of issues; but most of the time I’m proud of the way I look. I’m also very happy and grateful for my life and the wonderful people in it.

And I “feel pretty” almost every single day.

(Did you really think I could resist a corny tie-in?)

I wish you all a wonderful, wonderful summer (and possibly beyond). My heartfelt thanks to all of you who visit this blog, offer your comments and send me your emails. I wish I could tell you how long I’ll be away – but I really don’t know. I’m still a beauty junkie, though – and I’ll continue to roam the beauty counters, tear ads out of magazines, read everyone else’s blogs, and try out every single product I can get my hands on.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Hair Care Friday: Surya Brasil Henna Cream (RAVE review)

Whoo! What a week! I finally realized that I have completely overextended myself this summer. And it only took me two months to figure it out! I’m going to be taking a break – probably for the rest of the summer – so I can get a handle on everything that’s going on. Which means this will be the last Hair Care Friday for quite a while.

Not to worry, though, it’s a good one. A really good one. From Surya Brasil.

Henna Cream ("Burgundy")

Blurb: It colors without damaging the hair structure. It is the only hair coloring product with organic extracts that treat the hair and scalp. It conditions, moisturizes and revitalizes the hair while coloring, leaving it much softer and shinier. Instead of using synthetic fragrances, Surya Henna Cream is formulated with essential oils of Rose, Ylang Ylang, Jasmine and Sandalwood. These give it a milder and more pleasant fragrance than any other coloring product. Since Surya Henna Cream is a semi-permanent coloring, it gradually washes out. Available in 15 different shades. Contains no Parabens, Peroxide, Ammonia, Heavy Metals, PPD, Resorcinol, artificial colors or synthetic fragrance. Therefore doesn’t harm your hair, your health or the environment.

This is exactly the sort of product that makes me glad I’m a beauty blogger!

When my friend (Kristi) was visiting last weekend, I was telling her that I was thinking of switching to a semi-permanent hair color. My hair is getting really long now, and I’m doing everything in my power to keep it healthy. Since my roots show long before my color fades, it seemed reasonable that a semi-permanent product might be a little bit gentler. Kristi suggested I try henna.

Henna? For some reason, I always assumed that if hair color wasn’t chock full of harsh chemicals, it wouldn’t work. Henna just seemed too…mild. But Kristi told me she knew of someone who got great results, so I decided to give it a try. I trotted off to Whole Foods and asked the nice salesperson for her opinion and she recommended this Henna Cream. I actually tried to talk her into talking me into something else (how’s that for being a control freak); but she stood firm. So I brought a box home.

Cue angelic chorus.

This product is a revelation. For those of you who already use henna, all you need to know is that there's no mess or mixing. It comes pre-mixed, in a convenient, resealable bottle with plastic gloves and a plastic head covering.

Henna works by coating the hair shaft instead of penetrating it. Therefore, the hair shaft and cuticle are left intact and undamaged. For those of you who have not used henna, the process is simple. Wash hair (Use a silicone-free shampoo to remove any product buildup). Towel dry. Put on gloves, open the bottle and start applying the goo to your hair. I just globbed it on until everything was covered. Don’t comb through it, though. You want the color to sit on the hair shaft. Cover your head with the plastic cap (I used my own shower cap instead), and wait. The package has all sorts of complicated suggestions for figuring out how much time to wait; but I ignored them and left the color on for 45 minutes. Then I rinsed completely. The package says it’s ok to use conditioner after rinsing, but I wanted to see what it would look/feel like without conditioner.

Wow! This stuff is actually good for your hair! My hair was softer, smoother and shinier right out of the shower. It looked and felt better than before I’d colored it, and it still felt soft the next morning. It’s been a few days, and my hair still looks and feels great. The color is beautiful and natural (not flat) and the grey is completely covered.

I’m totally sold. Forever.

The only drawbacks I found were that the color still runs off a bit in the shower even after a few days; and I’ve heard that henna doesn’t last as long as “regular” color. But who cares? I can touch up as often as needed now. No more choosing between roots and damage!

A couple of tips. You should not use henna in conjunction with other types of hair color. And your shampoo and conditioner should be free of sulfates. Before coloring, it’s also a good idea to apply lotion to the skin around your hairline (and ears) to prevent staining.

Check out the website, take a look at the other products and visit the where to buy section. Surya is also sold at health websites, vitamin stores, health food stores and Whole Foods.

Have a great weekend!

(ftc disclosure: purchased myself)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Whining and Lining: Pixi Gel Liner (review)

You probably think I’m going to whine about the heat again. You would be right. I’m just not good at hot weather. Tonight I was supposed to go home, do laundry and tidy up around the apartment. Exactly none of that happened. Instead, I watched TV. Hmm…that sounds kind of win-win now that I think about it.

Anyway, in addition to "observing" the hot weather. I’m also observing a stellar product I’ve been using this week. From Pixi.

Gel Liner ("Onyx," "Sapphire," and "Jade")

Blurb: Create retro, sexy eyes in an instant. This gel liner is super easy to use with an intense colour pay off. Long-lasting with and water-resistant, it really goes the distance and stays put all day. With an application this smooth & foolproof, there's no need to be afraid of eyeliner application anymore!

Ever since I tried my first Pixi item, I’ve been hooked. I love the packaging, the selection and the excellent quality. So when I saw yet another type of eyeliner to try out (gel!) - I snapped them up.

As much as I've come to adore eye pencils (especially sexy, smudgy ones); my first and true love is applying liners with a brush. I love the smooth, saturated, clean lines that come with brush application. I’m also able to get much closer to the lash line. Gels are especially good for getting really saturated color – and the formula is a bit more forgiving than a liquid. (There’s also a bit of smudge time before it sets.)

These gels are wonderful. “Onyx” is a true, deep, jet black, and “Sapphire” is a very dark blue/black. “Jade” (which I found on, is a perfect hunter green. The brush that comes with the liner is pretty good – but I always prefer using my own brushes because I’m used to them. The gels were buttery soft, went on beautifully, and delivered highly saturated color and excellent staying power. Perfect score, Pixi!

The “Onyx” and “Sapphire” are currently available on the website. There are also some great web exclusives, and you can get 20% off of your order (use code: TWENTYOFF). Pixi is also sold at Target.

(ftc disclosure: purchased myself)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Cake and Scrapes: Shea Terra Organics Cape Aloe Topical Healing Gel (review)

Today my nemesis is…a cake. A great big cake with tons of frosting and fancy writing. It’s my nemesis because I have to deliver it unharmed to an event that’s 60 miles away tonight. And it’s hot outside. And there’s no room in the work refrigerator to store it. So it’s going to be slightly gooey during the hour-plus drive.

And. And. And.

I know…I’m kind of cranky. Hot weather is not my friend, and we’ve had several days of it. Now I know why everyone gets mad at me in the winter when I get all cheerful about the snow while they’re shoveling out their cars.

The bright side (and there are several) is that I’m going to a fun event with a whole bunch of my friends. The other bright side is that if I’m successful, I’ll get to have...cake! And…before either of those things happen, I get to talk about a fine product. From Shea Terra Organics.

Cape Aloe Topical Healing Gel

Blurb: 99.5% Pure & Natural. Heal acne, burns, razor burns, nicks, cuts, wounds, bites and more all at amazing speed. Rare Cape Aloe is known to be the world's most active aloe. Off beaten paths, along bumpy, rocky roads in the Cape of South Africa grows the wonderous, succulent plant. Kept under the watchful eyes as a protected species, the outer leaves of this wonder plant are harvested to extract the healing jelly within. Made up of over 130 active chemicals, Cape Aloe's amazing healing properties is due to its high saponin, sterol, vitamin, mineral and amino acid content just to name a few. Once applied to skin Cape Aloe immediately goes to work to help cells build a protective barrier and aid them with the nutrients that they need to repair skin at an amazingly accelerated rate.

My other nemesis this week was a bad scrape on my hand. This scrape was caused by my mishandling of a cute tortoiseshell barrette. (Don’t let barrettes fool you – they look all innocent and stylish; but they can turn mean.) Of course cake can go a long way towards making any scrape feel better; but since I can’t actually eat any until after it’s delivered, I needed to try something else. So I tried this Gel.

I really love this product! Lots of people grow Aloe plants so they can run out and snip off a piece whenever they need it. Not me. I definitely prefer a handy pump bottle. It’s way more convenient. The healing properties of aloe make it great for just about anything that makes your skin unhappy. You can use it for sunburns, shaving cuts and even ragged cuticles. It helped my hand heal faster, and there was no snipping involved!

The website is currently in progress, but you can still browse the many fine products they have and sign up for VIP specials. Eventually, you’ll be able to visit the Explore Africa, and shea terra tv sections too.

(ftc disclosure: sample/product received from manufacturer or representative)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Happy Other People: CLEAN Moisture-Absorbent Deodorant (review)

Oh. Em. (Eff.) Gee.

It is freakishly hot this week. Again. Last night I slept on the sofa (again!); and I’m pretty sure I’ll be sleeping there every night this week.

What a perfect time to review this product. From CLEAN.

Original Scent Moisture-Absorbent Deodorant

Blurb: An aluminum-free deodorant with Clean's original scent. This product's breakthrough formula goes above and beyond typical deodorant performance. The Exclusive Cotton Vantage™ technology helps to absorb moisture naturally, without aluminum. Reminiscent of pure soap, the time-released CLEAN fragrance has that just-out-of-the-shower fresh smell. It's everything you need and nothing you don't!

Normally I would say “run, don’t walk” and pick up one of these – but since it’s several million degrees outside, walking is probably the wiser choice.

First…Omigod it smells good! I mean really, really good. And not overpowering – just...good. If you’re looking for an aluminum-free product, this is a stellar item. It contolled wetness really well, and also kept odor at bay. I probably wouldn’t run a marathon in this; but on a hot day with a lot of errands, it did the job. It was also completely non-irritating (a huge plus for me), and it didn’t leave any white residue.

And did I mention it smells really good?

CLEAN is currently overhauling their website, but you can still shop all of their products at Sephora.

(ftc disclosure: sample/product received from manufacturer or representative)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Happy Feet (And Hands): POP beauty nail glam Polish (review)

Whoa. The heatwave is beginning…again. Today was not super fun. Not only did I run around doing a bunch of errands in the heat; I also had to spend way too much time changing all of my passwords. (Something looked suspicious on one of my email accounts, so I wasn’t taking any chances.) A good reason to not have the same password for everything in the first place – it’s a pain in the u-know-what to change them all at once.

Speaking of u-know-what; I saw the final Harry Potter movie this weekend (where u-know-who and Harry have their big showdown). I won’t tell you how it ends (as if); but I will tell you it was a thoroughly spectacular movie going experience (in fancy IMAX 3-D thankyouverymuch).

No cheesy tie-in today. I just wanted to share a bit. But now it really is time for a beauty review. Here’s something nifty - also from England - and POP beauty.

nail glam

Blurb: High intensity nail polish in a dream library of POP colours. Whether you want vampy black, the perfect rouge noir, classic tomato red or way-out fluro pink, POP Beauty has a nail shade to suit your mood and your wardrobe. Each Nail Glam shade is non-occlusive so it wont stain nails and contains nylon creating a strengthening non chip barrier. Nail Glam nails stay sensational.Nail Glam is the brand new high intensity nail polish from POP in 20 dazzling new shades.

These are fabulous awesome colors, and a fabulous awesome formula! I’m showing a lot of pictures just so you can appreciate the array of shades available. It really is like being in a candy store to look at all of these. All the shades I tried had excellent staying power (I used a base and top coat), and the colors stayed true throughout the week.

My absolute favorite was “ocean.” It’s a deep, shimmering cornflower blue that looks absolutely beautiful. I got so many compliments when I wore this – even from people who favor more “traditional” shades. My second favorite was “ultraviolet” – a creamy, rich lavender that looked great on my fingers and amazing on my toes. Honorable mention goes to “orange.” It’s fresh, bright, yummy and a little bit sassy.

Visit the U.S. website, and browse the other shades, Sara's POP picks and the web deals and steals. POP beauty can also be found at CVS,, and ULTA.

(ftc disclosure: sample/product received from manufacturer or representative)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Happy Hair Care Friday! Motions Foaming Wrap Lotion (review)

Grrr…I just realized that my Friday post mysteriously “disappeared” yesterday. Google is really getting on my nerves lately. Just sayin. Luckily, I still had a copy of my post in a Word document, so I’m putting it back up this morning.

Its…Friday!!! My friend is coming to visit, and the weekend is going to be full of sleeping in, mall browsing, Harry Potter, and girl talk. Tomorrow is going to be fun and long; so I’m featuring a fab hair care product to keep everything in place and looking good. From Motions.

Foaming Wrap Lotion

Blurb: Get naturally beautiful control without stiffness using Motions Foaming Wrap Lotion. Holds hair in place and helps it stretch as it dries for a beautifully soft style all day long. Will not stick to irons. Collagen amino acids provide flexible hold and control while Panthenol adds shine. The long-lasting formula holds wraps, wet sets and thermal styles yet combs out easily. You get natural-looking style that leaves hair soft and shiny. Can be used for wrapping hair, wet sets, blow drying, and up dos.

This is a good hair day in a bottle. It’s recommended for fine hair, but it’s been wonderful on my coarse wavy/curly hair. Since I started growing my hair out last year, I’ve only been getting the ends trimmed. So without any layers, my hair tends to get a little bit flat – especially since the top layer of my hair is straighter than the hair underneath.

This product worked wonders as a volumizer – the volume even lasted until the next day! I also got great curl definition, including more curl on the top layer. It also fought frizz, and added some shine without making my hair sticky or crunchy. Excellent!

Check out the website. I recommend visiting find your style section and the product advisor page. Motions products can be found at places like Sally Beauty, Target,, grocery stores and drug stores.

It took every ounce of self control not to go all disco for Friday. But I controlled myself. Here’s something peppy, but completely disco free.

(ftc disclosure: sample/product received from manufacturer or representative)