Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Normally a Neimans Girl

There are so many choices in life that the beautiful woman has to make. Closed or peep toe for the Louboutins. Lawyer or investment banker for dinner. Cash or credit for those new jeans. Neiman Marcus or Saks for luxury purchases. Almost all her life, Ms. New Beauty has fallen squarely on the Neimans side of that last decision. Neimans has always seemed to be the younger, hipper, punky sister of the luxury family, while Saks was the old and uptight conservative one. MNB has faithfully purchased most of her handbags, DVF dresses, and elegant evening wear from Neimans since high school. She normally only ventures into Saks when accompanying someone else on a shopping trip. Ms. New Beauty always figured that anything Saks had, Neimans had better. That is until she was literally wearing Saks Fifth Avenue.

Bond No. 9 Saks Fifth Avenue

I had absolutely no intentions of buying this fragrance. None. It was a cold winter day and the wind was whipping all around me. As my mother would say, the hawk was out. I had walked all the way to Saks from Bergdorf's (which is actually only seven blocks, and not the long New York avenue blocks, the short blocks) in search of - well, actually, I don't quite remember what I was on a quest for, but just imagine me marching down 5th Avenue, bracing myself against the cold, hard wind and finding my refuge at Saks. It may not have happened that way, but hey, I'm painting a picture here.

During my obligatory course around the beauty floor, I stopped over at the Bond counter. I was planning to pick up a bottle of Bleecker Street - a unisex scent with a distinct masculine vibe. To me, Bleecker Street smells like Marlene Dietrich, wide-leg tweed menswear trousers, and the captain of Team Take No Shit all in one bottle. It's very "I'm a woman in a man's world." Given all of that, it's exactly the kind of scent I'd wear with pretty pink makeup and a flowy girly dress - I'm all about the juxtopositions. But the sales lady insisted that I smell Saks Fifth Avenue since I was, in fact, inside Saks Fifth Avenue.

Here's where you have to forgive me for my tendency to exaggerate. The sales woman sprayed Saks Fifth Avenue on the tester card since my arms were already covered in Bleecker Street. I inhaled and time stopped. It was literally the most beautiful and downright pretty scent to cross the threshold of my nostrils and reach the olfactory receptors in my brain. And, I normally don't go for the pretty scents, like I said, I love the contrasts of a pretty outfit with a fragrance that's totally unexpected. But SFA is just so pretty and so ladylike, it's my new Sunday-go-to-meeting scent. Every time I wear it, I get so many compliments and people asking me what it is. It's really just that pretty. I won't get into the base notes and top notes and such because I'm not a perfumer - I know what smells good and this definitely does.

$185, available at Saks Fifth Avenue, of course!

Stay loyal to your favorite luxury department store, but embrace the sweet smell of the competition, and don't forget that Ms. New Beauty told you!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Conditioner Snob

Ms. New Beauty has always had a pretty good relationship with her hair. She's never really had to deal with any hair traumas and dramas and the reason for that is because MNB is a slave to routine. Ms. New Beauty and her hair have figured out the kind of routine that normally only couples that have been married for at least 25 years can fall into. Ms. New Beauty makes sure she gives her hair what it needs and her hair does the same for her. MNB keeps her often dry hair moisturized and her hair makes sure it falls right into place every morning when she wakes up with just a few strokes of a big paddle brush. In working out this symbiotic relationship, Ms. New Beauty has learned that she has a scalp full of thousands upon thousands of conditioner snobs. If MNB tries to slather on the cheap stuff, her hair will out and out revolt and make sure that there is a permanent cowlick or fury of frizz in her future until she comes back with the good stuff. It's every hair mother's nightmare - in trying to treat her babies to the good stuff, Ms. New Beauty has turned her hair into snobs that simply cannot take the generic. Luckily, Ms. New Beauty and her hair both agree on the perfect one-two combo of moisture and strength that these two conditioners give.

Frederic Fekkai Moisturizing Conditioner with Shea Butter

I am literally in love with this conditioner. For real. I asked for a bottle of this for Christmas because I had just run out. Nope, not a new iPod or a gift card to Neiman's, but a bottle of conditioner. (FYI - if anyone ever wants to pick up a little something special for me, grab up a bottle of this. I will love you forever. Seriously).

This is the most moisturizing conditioner that I have ever used. At first though, I was a little wary of trying it because of the shea butter. Yes, we all know that shea butter is ridiculously moisturizing. If dry skin is any part of your reality, I highly recommend that you pick up something with shea butter in it. But shea butter is a pretty thick substance so a lot of hair products that use it tend to be heavy. I have a lot of hairs on my head, but they are all quite fine. Anything heavy weighs my hair down and makes it look like a stringy, greased-up mop. But my last hair stylist, my beloved Will, taught me a quick little trick to figure out if a product will be too heavy or sticky for your hair. Squeeze a little onto your finger tips and rub together. If the product absorbs into your skin quickly and feels light to the touch, it'll do the same for you hair. So I tried it with this conditioner and after the quick test, I put a bottle in my cart and never looked back. This leaves my hair soft, moisturized and heavy-looking without any residue or heavyness. The smell is divine and my hair literally drinks it up like fruity cocktail at a beach side resort.

$22.50, available at Ulta

Frederic Fekkai Protein Rx Anti-Breakage Treatment Mask

I learned a long time ago that beautiful hair, just like beautiful women, requires the perfect combination of softness and strength. Too many of the moisturizing products that make hair soft can leave it limp and lifeless. Too much of the protein that makes it strong can leave hair brittle and broken. So, I use this rich protein mask in tandem with the ulta-moisturizing conditioner above. Normally, I let the conditioner above penetrate while I handle the rest of my shower business. Then, right before getting out, I rinse it out and comb a liberal dollop of this through and cover with a plastic cap for at least 20 minutes for deep conditioning treatment.

This mask is ideal for women with color treated or chemically processed hair that's prone to breakage. For the first time since I was 17, I've stopped coloring my relaxed hair which has left my ends more processed than my roots and so prone to split ends and breakage. Fortunately, weekly treatments with this give my hair the strength that it needs and keeps it from breaking off. Even better, it rinses away clean and the fabulous scent lets my scalp know that mama brought home the goods. No bad hair days when this is in the rotation.

$28.50, available at Ulta

Give your hair the good stuff, and nurture it despite its sometimes snobby way, just don't forget that Ms. New Beauty told you!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Mustang Sally

In some aspects of life, Ms. New Beauty can be the walking definition of the marketing term "brand loyalty." When MNB finds something she likes, she sticks with it and accepts no substitutes. Like, she will reach into the depths of her wardrobe for clean clothes before she does laundry with anything less than Tide. The taste of any orange juice but Tropicana just assaults MNB's palate. When it comes to her beauty products, Ms. New Beauty is a little more willing to venture out and try new things. She can't afford to pledge her utmost loyalty to any one brand because not every product works for her every time. She may love a company's moisturizer but find their face scrub not "scrubby" enough. Normally, MNB finds that of the brands she love, their products always work, but sometimes they just don't work for her. Except for one brand in particular - Sally Hansen. Sally Hansen has the peculiar ability to create products that Ms. New Beauty absolutely loves, like this dark polish from fall, and simultaneously promote products that are just plain old crap and do not work, like this so-called "colorless"airbrush foundation. (Notice how "no color" certainly has a color that is a shade that wouldn't even match most fair-skinned New Beauties). So, this post brings us both an all-star product and an absolute Money Saver from a brand that's as hit or miss with beauty as a 6-year-old little leaguer.

Sally Hansen Hair Remover Wax Strip Kit

This is one product by Sally that I always have on hand. Anyone who's been waxed regularly realizes that the waxing process is pretty straight forward. Submit yourself to an esthetician's spatula enough times and you'll have the procedure down pat. And, you'll realize that only certain areas take real skill to make hairless. When it comes to eyebrows and bikini lines, it pays to let a professional handle those hairs. Anywhere else though, you can do it yourself. And, this kit makes that so easy.

There's no mess from goopy wax that needs to be microwaved or cotton strips that shed strands. In this kit, you'll pre-waxed plastic strips that are pretty much ready to go. Just rub between your palms to warm the wax a little and pull the plastic apart to give yourself two strips that are ready to rip. Smooth them on in the direction of your hair growth, grab the skin tight, and pull quick in the opposite direction. You'll end up smooth and hairless. Rub on a little bit of the included oil to remove any stray wax and you're good to go. The best part is, you can wax your whole body for way less than you would pay to just get your brows done at a salon or spa.

Around $8, available at drugstores

Sally Hansen Gentle Peel for Rough Lips

Any loyal New Beauty knows that dry skin is my declared nemesis. I never leave the house without lotion and lip balm lest my mortal enemy catches me slipping. I am also known to vigorously overscrub my lips with a toothbrush in pursuit of a perfectly soft pucker. So, when I first saw this product featured in a magazine, I thought it could be the cure to my toothbrush lip scrubs and just knew I had to have it. I went right out to the drugstore, searched the beauty section until I found it and had swiped it on my lips before even pulling out of the parking space.

This treatment is a fruit acid based peel that gently exfoliates lips to get rid of dry, chapped skin. It comes in a small tube that makes it simple to give your lips a peeling treatment any time. The concept behind it is great! Sadly, the exclamation points of excitement stop there. The concept is wonderful, but the result could not be more disappointing. After using this religiously for weeks, it made no difference. I actually didn't notice any less dry skin after the first use, but I stuck with it for a few more weeks just to be fair. And, I can fairly say it didn't do a damn thing. It actually felt like my lips were a little drier than before after each application. What's worse, this product comes with a felt tip applicator that started to smell bad after a week or so. Something in the formula made the applicator smell like gym socks after repeated use and that is absolutely the last thing I want to smell as I'm approaching my face with a product. This could have been revolutionary if only Sally had gotten right. If only.

About $10, but save it and buy the wax strips instead

Love Sally Hansen when she's lovable, but save your money when she comes with the crap, and this time, tell a friend that Ms. New Beauty told you!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Back to Basics

Ms. New Beauty both loves and hates the arrival of new spring collections in early winter. Because she is a Northeastern girl, born and bred, it is always far too cold for her to truly partake in the lovely little dresses and pretty printed delicate fabrics that typically march down the runways in fall and hit the stores right around now. On the beauty front, MNB is always delighted by the return of petal pinks and cream corals that are often included in spring cosmetic collections. Fall and winter collections have been so loaded down with deep, dark hues that the release of spring looks is such a welcome change of pace by late January. But something just isn't right about looking like Miami when you live in a tundra-like town. To Ms. New Beauty, some of those bright colors are simply a tease to her, reminding her that they won't be fitting the temperature or mood of her environment for quite a few months. Rather than swear off spring's pretty palettes or be forced to stick with the dark and heavy makeup looks that she's so tired of by now, Ms. New Beauty has found the perfect compromise - nothing!

M.A.C. N Collection

N Collection is an idea so simple, it's genius! This is a collection of face, eye, lip and nail color designed to give you the perfect nude look. Now, we all know that you can always get the products you need for a nude face, lips or eyes. But instead of wandering all over the beauty department trying to find that lipstick that looks like you're not wearing lipstick from, say, 35 different cosmetic counters, M.A.C. has put them all here together at once. This collection is essentially the building block of any respectable train case or cosmetic pouch. These are the Little Black Dresses and White Button Down shirts of your cosmetic wardrobes - those basics that are so simple yet stunning and go with absolutely everything else that you own.

The N Color Collection features the lipsticks, glosses, nail polishes, eye shadows and lip liners that will perfectly complement any stronger cosmetic looks. Use the lip colors when you're doing a dark or heavy eye and switch out to the nude eyeshadows when you're sporting a bold lip. My favorite, favorite from this collection though are the polishes. The naturally rich is actually the perfect shade of brown to just blend in with my complexion and the Demi Blanc is the prettiest metallic oyster. It's light enough to be perfectly conservative but the metallic sheen gives it enough depth not to be boring.

The N Face Collection brings back those absolutely coveted Mineralize Skin Finish baked powder foundations and bronzers to make your skin look perfect yet completely natural and untouched.

N Collection is on counter now, but for a limited time so get it while the gettin is good.

Indulge in a new spring treat without looking out of place while it's still winter, but just don't forget that Ms. New Beauty told you!

(Photo courtesy of Specktra)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Centennial Wishes and Champagne Dreams

Ms. New Beauty was so busy yesterday that it seems like she was only home long enough to change clothes. See, yesterday was a very special day for Ms. New Beauty and about 200,000 other ladies on this planet. January 15, 2008 was the 100th anniversary of the creation of the nation's first and finest organization founded for and by black college women - Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. (You absolutely must learn more about AKA's contributions and history if you don't know already by clicking here!) To commemorate the occasion, MNB and several of her sorority sisters threw a nice little social hour (that grew into a social four hours!) at the wonderful Honey in New York City. It was a night of singing, chanting, socializing and celebrating. MNB and the girls also enjoyed some of Honey's amazing martinis, including the group favorite called the Champagne Dream. But, after all the celebrating, and mad cap shopping that occurred beforehand, Ms. New Beauty was definitely looking worse for the wear when she woke up this morning. Luckily for her, MNB knows that the easiest way to disguise the effects of a long night is by using less, not more, makeup and using only the shades that will brighten and freshen her complexion.

DiorBlush in Peachy Keen

My typical blush choice tends to be my never fail Flush, a deep raspberry shade that gives me a subtle windkissed look. But, on days when I'm not 100%, that berry can a little too much color for my face. That berry can get a little garish on my off days. The secret to not looking sick, or tired, or hung over, or whatever, is by keeping your makeup as understated as possible. Use as little makeup as you can get away with and keep the look as natural as you can. Just cover the imperfections and leave the rest alone.

So, on days like these, this light peachy blush is perfect. It gives my cheeks just a hint of color to keep my complexion from falling flat. It warms up my face and highlights my cheek bones. What I really love about this blush is that it comes with two peach shades - one is richer and the other has a little more shimmer. You could use just one or the other, but I just swirl a big fluffy brush through them both and sweep it on. With my complexion, it seems like I can never use too much. I can layer it on and layer it on and the look still works. But that just could be my coloring, I'd suggest that you start with one application and go from there.

$34, available at Sephora (oh, and I know that the picture on Sephora's website makes this shade look like a garish purple and brown combo, but just ignore that. The pic above is much more representative of what it really looks like).

Bobbi Brown Creamy Concealer Kit

On days like this, I skip the foundation and just go for concealer in the spots where I need it. When you're out of it, a whole face of makeup tends to just draw attention to the fact that you're out of it. I go with blush, like I said above, big mascara, and creamy concealer under my eyes. Typically that's all I need to look fresh and natural, despite what I may really be feeling.

This is the only concealer I use on my eye area. The creamy texture literally melts right into my skin and brightens my under eye area. I swear by this on days like this, when I'd rather bury myself under the covers than be awake and in the land of the living. What I really love is that this is pretty much mistake proof. Just use your ring finger (it's the weakest finger on you hand), swirl it into the concealer and then just tap it under your eyes. It melts right into your skin and looks ridiculously natural. This concealer kit also comes with the loose yellow setting powder in a sifter connected to the concealer compact. Just take an eye brush and sweep a little of this powder on top of the concealer to lock it in all day long. I love Bobbi's eye blender brush for that part.

$32, available at Bobbi Brown counters and the Bobbi Brown website

Happy Centennial to all my Alpha Kappa Alpha sorors, and stay looking great throughout all the celebrations, just don't forget that Ms. New Beauty told you!

Monday, January 07, 2008

Matte-r of Fact

Welcome to 2008 New Beauties! After a whirlwind week in Vegas with the girls, Ms. New Beauty is finally back to posting. (MNB would normally dish and give you all the details, but as they say, "what happens in Vegas, didn't happen" so she'll respect the code of Sin City and let all those scandalous secrets come with her to the grave). This reader question came in a long, long, ignorantly long time ago. And, MNB actually had this all typed up and ready to go, but life and holidays got in the way, so she's just now posting it.

I need your help! By the end of the day, my skin gets very oily and my makeup just slid right off my face. I need a solution for this problem so I can avoid being so shiny and greasy. (Please don't say blot paper -- it doesn't work for me). I want the same effect at 8:00 in the morning as well as 8:00 at night. Help!

Oily Skin in Overdrive
My darling Overdrive, Ms. New Beauty is here to help.

Foundation Fixes

First thing's first. If your skin is oily and shiny, make "oil free" your two favorite words. Any foundation you use should be completely oil free. You don't need any extra oil when your face is producing plenty of its own. Also, try to use as little foundation or concealer as you can. The less makeup you put on your face, the less that'll be there to melt away. A cakey concealer right on any blemishes or discoloration will help you achieve the same look without the extra layer of product to feel heavy on your skin.

Smashbox Photo Finish Light Foundation Primer

Here's the point where most people would recommend a foundation primer. And, I have to be completely honest with you, I didn't like them. Every one that I've used goes on matte and looks like it's barely there, but they always make my skin feel incredibly oily since most formulas tend to be silicone based. I don't care what it looks like. If I feel like I've been dipped in grease right along with the Colonel's extra crispy, I'll pass. Or, I used to pass.

Smashbox is one of the innovators when it comes to foundation primer. Their formulas are beloved by makeup artists and cosmetic junkies alike. But, typically, for us oily girls, the results were just like what I described - looks matte, but feels greasy. This new light formula corrects that problem. The result is still the same - a matter finish for your face - but the feel is better. It's much thinner than typical primers and feels like it almost evaporates on contact so your skin doesn't feel bogged down.

My only gripe with this new one is the bottle. The original Smashbox foundation primers came in frosted glass bottles and the look was a little more elegant. This one is in a plastic bottle and though sort of the same style, it really just looks like the regular primers' broke down, cheap little sister. Hopefully, Smashbox isn't transitioning to cheaper plastic packaging all around for the rest of the line.

$36, available at Sephora

Too Faced Absolutely Invisible Pressed Powder

Most fashion and beauty magazines I read tend to shy away from recommending pressed powder, claiming that it can make your skin look cakey. But when you're really oily, your skin will just eat that powder up before it has time to cake. What I love about this powder is that it actually lives up to its name. Don't let that pale peachy color fool you, it is absolutely invisible once you put it on. I am quite brown-skinned and I use this everyday without looking like a geisha. Just make sure you only apply to your oiliest areas, like your forehead and nose. A completely matte face just isn't natural looking, even if you can't see the powder. This also keeps your skin feeling good while it looks good. It's light and won't make you feel weighed down under a pound of product.

This compact comes with its own application sponge to make applying on the go really easy. But, unless you want to throw your money away, pay special attention to the way you put the sponge away. Make sure you always place the side you rub against your face up, facing the mirror. This powder is so oil-absorbent, if you put the sponge face side down, it will absorb the oil from your face that's now on the sponge, harden up and be unusable.

$22.50, available at Sephora

Stay shine free while keeping your skin feeling great, but just don't forget that Ms. New Beauty told you!

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