........A Chicago area beauty blogger's foray into day-spas, med-spas, and countless beauty counters........

(Anything in BLUE or GRAY within the text is a LINK to more information)

MAC Cosmetics' Recycle Program

Apparently the "Back To MAC" MAC Cosmetics recycle program that has made me a longtime customer isn't as well known as I thought! I was in the Nordstrom cosmetic department the other day and heard MAC artists continuously ask customers if they were familiar with the recycle program and repeatedly the answer was "no."

Besides the great products and trendy colors, the recycling program is one of the main reasons I buy MAC. Combined with their dedication to charities, good causes, and HIV research, how can anyone not get behind MAC?!

Ok, so here's the deal:

You buy MAC Cosmetics. You use up your MAC cosmetics. When you get to 6 empty plastic MAC containers, you bring then to your closest MAC counter, and you get a FREE lipstick! OR, instead of the department store MAC counter, you head over to a MAC store, and you can choose a lipstick or an eye shadow.

Pretty simple, right?!

So you get quality trendy awesome makeup from a company that helps a lot of people, you look beautiful, and you help the environment. So why aren't you out shopping yet? GO!

Make Up Forever HD Invisible Cover Foundation

I've worked in marketing and advertising for a long time, so it annoys me when I'm sucked in by an ad or commercial. I mean, I know the tricks, so in theory I should know better, but when it comes to beauty products I am so easily swayed!

You've probably seen the ads for Make Up Forever HD Invisible Cover Foundation. The ones with a woman with gorgeous skin staring into the camera with caption "Real Life Is Unretouched Just Like This Ad," followed by a note "This model has not been retouched." 

I mean that's nice and all---I have photographer friends who take great pictures without retouching too. I know about lighting, lenses, camera settings, and all of that, yet STILL I HAD to try this foundation. For $42. 

I love Make Up Forever as a brand,  so I wanted to love this product.

I already had Make Up Forever's primer (samples) and HD powder, but I hadn't tried their foundation, mostly because I like the one I use and also because I find matching my skin tone difficult in many brands. Some brands tell me straight out they don't have a color light enough for me, or their shades are too pink or too yellow, and send me on my way.

The Sephora store where I made my purchase did a color match on me-- on my neck, side of face, and also on my arm. It looked great in the store, but when I got outside into the 6pm outdoor lighting, I had tan streaks, so I headed back inside to exchange my purchase for 1 shade lighter. (Hey Sephora---you sell makeup all day, maybe you want to get some appropriate lighting??). I still don't think the color is fantastic on me, but it's ok.

This foundation has a very thin, lightweight formula yet remains heavily pigmented. You don't really need to build the coverage because it covers very well on the first application, much better than most heavier-weight formulas. A little goes a long way. I really like that. The less makeup you have to put on for coverage, the better!

The first time I tried this foundation I didn't like the look of it using just the primer and the HD powder as suggested. It just dulled my skin and made me look tired, and the makeup didn't stay on well AT ALL, so the next day I used my regular powder over the foundation and used the HD powder to set all my makeup once it was all applied.

On both days that I tried it (both using the HD powder and the next day using another powder) I noticed that the formula didn't last very long on my skin (better wear using my other powder than with just the HD powder). I have fairly DRY skin, yet all day long I was powdering my shiny nose. This doesn't happen with my other foundation(s). I even used a mattifier on the third and fourth days underneath the primer and again before the foundation. I still had a shiny nose within a couple hours and throughout the day. By the end of the work day some of the makeup was off my nose and off my chin and it was settling into fine lines.

In other words, start of the day or end of the day, my skin didn't look anything like that "unretouched" model  and my dry skin looked oily in some areas. I can't imagine what someone with combination or oily skin would look like with this foundation. I suspect it would slide right off their face. I don't like retouching my makeup throughout the day, and I choose products that don't require me to.

I'm actually not saying this is a bad product, it holds up about as well as some of the very inexpensive brands, but for the price and the advertising claims, I expected A LOT and I was let down. There are MANY department store and drugstore brands that cost less and wear MUCH longer without the shine and constant nose/chin powdering throughout the day.

I like this brand, but I'm sticking with their eye liners (love!), blushes and the HD powder. I'm going to switch back to my previous foundation and am debating if I should return to Sephora and get my $42 back.

Until I get a lighting crew to follow me around all day to light me perfectly, the HD Invisible Cover Foundation isn't for me!

B.B. Creams: Not Replacing Skincare Products

I think we need to get real about B.B. creams (blemish balms / beauty balms). They're no miracle and they're not going to "change" your skin like good quality skincare products with high grade, high potency ingredients. They're not going to make it so you can give up your antioxidants or your retinols or your acne creams, or whatever your anti-aging /clear skin rituals are.

That said, what B.B. creams are is CONVENIENT. They're tinted moisturizers with a kick. Most have a hint of color and SPF and are of course moisturizing. Each brand out there varies in what it does---some have primer, others have antioxidants, many have pearly pigments to reduce the appearance of pores and fine lines, some have peptides or a high concentration of water to plump skin.

Some brands have only 2 colors and others have up to 5. They blend with multiple skin tones because they're not heavily pigmented and they're much lighter coverage than foundation. These creams usually absorb into the skin enough so that no powder needs to be applied to set them like with foundation.

B.B. creams tend to be advertised as something that will "change" your skin, but for the most part, they don't contain enough anti-aging products, if any, to do anything except mask skin flaws. In Garnier's version for example, the active ingredient is octinoxate, a sunscreen.

They're great if you're on the run and want light coverage since you apply them like a moisturizer instead of blending as you would foundation, but yes, you do still need to invest in a skincare program if you want anti-aging benefits or are fighting acne. For a night out you're probably still going to want to wear foundation instead for more coverage and a flawless look.

The prices range from around $10 at drugstores up to $60 at department stores, averaging around $39. Dior makes one, as do Smashbox, Stila, Garnier, Clinique, Too Faced, and a few other brands have jumped on the B.B.cream bandwagon. I've tried a few and the color does run if you're working out and sweat a bit, and they also run if your face gets wet. The color comes off on pillow cases and towels too. They're convenient and easy, particularly for people who don't typically like to wear much makeup, but they don't have the all-day wear of a foundation.

In general, B.B. creams are a good product and easy to use, but they're not replacing skincare programs or foundation as commercials would have us believe. They're pumped up tinted moisturizers for light wear and quick application......and there's nothing wrong with that!

Revlon Colorstay Nail Enamel

Everyone who reads my blog knows about my dilemma to find a long-lasting polish and keep my nails from breaking after removing acrylic nails back in October. Of course for regular nail lacquer you'll be hard pressed to do better than Butter London (6-8 days of wear with their base and top coats), and for gel manicures Red Carpet Manicure UV Gel Pro Kit for home is awesome (2-3 weeks of wear but takes a long time to remove while sitting with nails wrapped in acetone and foil), but now I see advertisements in every major magazine for Revlon Colorstay Nail Enamel claiming "Gel-like shine. Shatterproof color up to 11 days."

Hmmm....since it was on sale at Ulta for $4.79, I picked up a bottle of Amethyst (purple) polish to check it out. Regular nail polish that's supposed to last up to 11 days? Sounds like a crazy claim.

I painted my nails on a Friday afternoon. I didn't use Revlon's base and top coats as Revlon (of course) recommends because I already have Butter London Nail Foundation and it's the best base coat I've ever used, and I have Butter London Hardwear top coat and also Seche Vite top coat (not to mention the gel top coat that goes with Red Carpet Mani)---enough with the base and top coats already. If this stuff doesn't stay on using BL's base, then it's not going to stay on. Keep in mind, base and top coat need to be used to get good wear from any polish, but if you have to choose because of budget, always go with a better quality base coat than top coat. Base coat is what all the other layers cling to in order to stay on the nail.

The first thing I noticed is this polish is THICK like a gel. Not the easiest to spread, but if you have nails that break easily, this thick enamel should make them more resistant to breaks. The brush is wide and not very flexible or easy to maneuver, but I got used to it. It takes awhile to dry, like most regular nail polishes do--even 2 hours later with a quick-dry top coat I could still dent the polish. The color before adding top coat is pretty dull, it's not even as shiny as most polishes are when a top coat is added, but it's decent.

Here's what matters: I got to day 6 without a chip. That's not to say that the ends didn't wear, as they do with any polish or gel from typing, texting, etc, or that the shine didn't begin to fade, because it did, but 6 days is excellent for me considering most polishes last less than 1 day on my nails. At the end of day 6, 6 of my nails were chipped and 4 were not.

Most brands (OPI, China Glaze, Essie, etc) chip off my natural nails the same day. Even when I get professional manicures, I rarely make it 24 hours before I get chips or entire sheets of polish lifting off my natural nails; sometimes it chips an hour after I leave the salon making it not worth the money for me to pay for manicures.

I know the PR people at Revlon would tell me that if I used their base and top coats I'd get to 11 days (whatever--then send me a bottle), but I'm good with 6, and I suspect other people would get longer wear than me considering my history with other polishes.

I recommend adding a top coat every other day to extend the life of the polish and keep it shiny and free of chips, but Revlon Colorstay is definitely a great buy!

Have you used Revlon Colorstay Nail Enamel with Revlon base and top coats and gotten 11 days of wear without chips? Tell me about it on Facebook---I really want to hear!

Living Proof RESTORE Hair Care Line

Apparently PolyfluoroEster is one of my best friends. I just didn't know it until I tried Living Proof Restore shampoo, conditioner, and hair mask treatment.

I mentioned last year that I love Living Proof's FULL Thickening Cream because it makes my hair thicker and gives it control without weighing it down. Chicago wind can blow my hair as strong as it wants, but using FULL means it will fall right back into place yet feel like there's no product in it whatsoever! (It's a hair miracle! ;)

Years of bleach, blowouts, and flat irons have wreaked havoc on my blonde locks (and let us not forget about the hot rollers and curling irons of the 90s...ahem!). I noticed a few months ago that there's more hair on the floor after a blowdry and more breaking off when I brush. No, no, no--we can't have that! Time to seek out a new hair miracle, for sure!

So I headed out to Sephora to find a treatment that could keep my fragile strands from splitting and breaking. After spending an hour in the shampoo section reading bottle after bottle, claim after claim, and Googling on my phone, I ended up with Living Proof RESTORE products.

Using a molecule created by those smarty-pants at M.I.T., Living Proof has managed to control moisture in hair and put a weightless protective layer on each strand to keep hair soft, strong, shiny and manageable! Gotta love it!

So a few days ago "it" finally happened....I was in the cosmetic section at Nordstrom when someone asked me what I use on my hair because it looks so good. Yes, I did secretly SQUEEEEEEE inside! Luckily, we weren't too far from the hair care products, so I turned around and handed her a bottle of Living Proof telling her she proved to me it's worth every dime! :) 

I will say I wouldn't bother buying the shampoo/conditioner ($28 each), AND the hair mask ($42) again. I'd choose either the shampoo & conditioner OR the mask because using all three doesn't seem to give any additional benefits to my hair, and my hairstylist told me that using all together could end up causing hair to start breaking again (too much of a good thing, so to speak). I'd recommend using the shampoo & conditioner and then find a once-a -week moisturizing hair mask like Redken  Real Control Intense Renewal Moisturizing Mask which is only $16 instead of $42.

Living Proof products are available at Sephora, Ulta, Nordstrom and online, and do NOT contain parabens, sulfates, synthetic dyes, petrochemicals, phthalates, GMOs, triclosan or any other "bad stuff!"

Have you used the Living Proof haircare line? Come over to Facebook and tell all about it!

Tracy Anderson Metamorphosis Hipcentric DVD Workout

The first thing I need to say about Tracy Anderson is her body is ridiculous.


Slender, toned, defined long lean muscles, nothing jiggles, nothing moves, but still feminine. What percentage of body fat does this chick have? 15%? No wonder Gwyneth Paltrow, Nicole Richie and Madonna are friends/clients of hers---I wanna hang out with her too and maybe I'll become super slim by osmosis. Ridiculous. Inspiring and maybe a little annoying. ;)

The second thing I need to say is she is definitely a dancer. I am not. I was an aerobics instructor for years, but I was more militant than dancer, so trying to do her 30 minute dance workout in my livingroom doesn't even get my heart rate up because learning the moves, which she does not cue at all, takes too long. I do my own cardio at the gym instead of the cardio DVD included with Metamorphosis.

I wish this 4-set DVD (1 cardio, 3 toning) included 1 short segment where Tracy describes the moves and breaks them down; a training section. I also wish she cued people when she switches from one move to another. My only requirements for any fitness class I take is the instructor has rhythm and can be on the beat of the music, and she cues properly, so working out with a Tracy DVD is a little awkward at first, and you're always 1-2 moves behind her because she doesn't cue the next move. That's a little annoying.

So on to the toning DVDs of Metamorphosis Hipcentric...

First, when buying the DVDs ($90), you choose the set for the area you want to concentrate on. For me, that's hips, thighs, and glutes, so I bought Hipcentric. (There is a workout just for glutes, but the website describes it as a workout for people with a flat bootie--I don't have that for sure! ;) The workout changes every 10 days over the course of 90 days so your muscles are constantly confused and don't get used to doing the same thing so they continue to work hard the full 90 days.

Hipcentric starts out by working arms and abs before getting to hips, thighs and glutes. Some of the moves are similar to what you see in other toning videos or even in some pilates toning videos, but Tracy does hers with more intention. There's no flowing through the movements, they are precise with a stopping point after each movement. There are also many more repetitions than you do in most other toning classes or DVDs. I mean A LOT more repetitions. There may be 35-40 repetitions of one exercise on the same leg before going into a slightly different exercise on the same leg, while working that leg for 10 minutes nonstop (feels like 30 minutes nonstop ;). The whole point is to exhaust the muscles---mission accomplished! Even if you workout regularly, you'll be hard pressed to do all of the repetitions the first several times you do this workout.

What there ISN'T in this workout---the same old boring squats and leg lifts you've always done and that stopped working long ago. Also not included: pre-workout stretching. I recommend some serious upper and lower body stretching before popping this DVD into the player.

At the end of this workout, you feel good. You feel like you've worked your muscles but not beat them down with weights. It's not easy, but it's also not so hard and/or boring that you don't feel good afterward.

Will this workout "transform your body" as Tracy suggests in the infomercial, particularly if you're already someone who works out regularly? Not sure---let me get back to you in 30 or 60 or 90 days with an update!

In the meantime, I recommend this DVD just because of how you'll feel afterward. That's priceless whether or not there's "transformation" in 90 days! :)

Have you completed 90 days of Tracy Anderson Metamorphosis? Come over to my Facebook page and tell me about it!

Get Your Helix On!

What the heck is a HELIX?!

The Helix is a new(ish) cardio machine that burns around 800 calories per hour!


Unlike the elliptical machine which moves leg muscles up and down/back and forth focusing mainly on the quads and hamstrings, the HELIX targets the core, quads, hamstrings, glutes, AND inner and outer thighs all at once by moving legs side to side in clockwise and counterclockwise motions!

Sure, people look a little crazy working out on this thing, but who cares when you're burning enough calories to actually enjoy dessert tonight AND toning up those impossible to reach inner and outer thighs?

My gym doesn't have any Helix machines yet, but I'm on a mission to find one for myself! Burn fat! Burn! ;)

Have you tried the HELIX machine? Tell me about it on Facebook .

Raspberry Ketone Not For Me

Oh Dr. Oz. You let me down.....AGAIN.

So far nothing I've tried that Oprah's "poop doctor" has talked about has worked for me, but once again I got sucked in by one of his claims.

One day I tuned in to watch the "Dr. Oz Show"(ok...more like I DVR'ed it because I got sucked in by commercials for the "miracle weight loss supplement with no side effects" for a show I rarely watch! ;) and there was Dr. Oz and a guest talking about a "miracle" in a bottle that burns fat safely with no side effects whatsoever.

Dr. Oz included visuals of how the fat cells shrink by using balloons immersed in liquid nitrogen making them shrivel "just" like fat cells do when taking Raspberry Ketone. There were even photos of 2 people who lost significant weight while taking Raspberry Ketone.

"#1 Miracle in a bottle to burn your fat!" Dr. Oz told viewers.

He never mentioned a particular brand, so it didn't seem like product placement or a plug, so I trusted the information and OF COURSE placed an order! Well, me and everyone else on the planet it seems. I went to 5 health food stores and they were all out of it telling me everyone had see Oz's show. I looked online but couldn't find any store that still had 100% PURE raspberry ketone in stock.

Finally I pre-ordered a bottle of Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals Raspberry Ketones from GNC for $22, and I waited for it to arrive. And I waited...and waited...and waited.....until 1 month later there was a new supply of raspberry ketone distributed to stores across the country!

Dr. Oz's guest that day said to take 100-200 mg per day and that results would be seen anywhere from IMMEDIATELY to 5 days! (Hmmm....) The longer you take it, supposedly the better your results.

I workout, I eat decently, but I feel like I'm at the standstill where I need a little boost to lose weight, so I added raspberry ketone, 200 mg per day for 4 weeks before I gave up on it.

No change. None. Not a little. Not a half pound, not a half inch. Nothing at all.

No "miracles" here. Although I will say I do seem to have a tad bit more energy when taking it....maybe it's just in my head, or maybe it's real, but working out seems a little easier and I feel more alert. So I will give raspberry ketone that much credit.

I've decided to turn OFF my  DVR and skip Dr. Oz's show in the future. No more fooling me in to spending my money on unproven fads just because a guy is wearing scrubs. :/

Guess I'll just keep hitting the gym harder! ...and maybe a little Power Plate workout too? 

Shake It Up: Power Plate Workout

The Power Plate. 

Sounds like a giant serving at a Vegas buffet, but NOPE, it's an accelerated workout that pushes every muscle to the brink in just 30 minutes, boosting muscle activity up to 300%, IF you can handle it.

You have to expect a lot from a technology that was discovered by a Russian scientist and promoted by a Dutch Olympic trainer. So what exactly is this workout all about?

While standing on the Power Plate machine doing squats, tricep dips, push-ups and other toning exercises, a strong current is sent through your body causing reflexive contractions between 25 and 50 times per second! The theory (and science!) is that these vibrations increase muscle activity, which creates more calories burned and longer leaner muscles in a shorter amount of time than the same workout without Power Plate. The science behind the machine also reports it rebuilds bone mass, increases circulation, improves range of motion and decreases the appearance of cellulite. Hmmm...sounds too good to be true, but WOW if the claims are accurate!

So does it work?

I haven't tried this workout yet, but the science is there. Also Madonna, Elle MacPherson, Hilary Swank and Rachel Weisz are all reported as being devotees...if that's true, since Elle MacPherson never seems to age, I want in! ;)

I'm definitely going to find a Power Plate workout studio near me and give it a try----even if it ends up not giving the results it claims, an intense 30 minute strengthening workout is MUCH better on my schedule than a 90 minute less intense one!

Have you done a Power Plate workout? Tell me about it on Facebook!