First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream, Face Cleanser and Lip Therapy: The Rundown

Picture it—I had just got diagnosed from my doctor with a severe allergic rash around my lips due to my use of the EOS lip balm.  I am allergic to petroleum, paraffin, mineral oil AND beeswax so what is a sensitive skin gal like me to do? First Aid Beauty’s products to the rescue!

First Aid Beauty products--a sensitive skin gal's best friend

First Aid Beauty products–a sensitive skin gal’s best friend

 

Exclusive to Sephora stores, First Aid Beauty products are billed as, “allergy-tested and free of parabens, fragrance, and harsh chemicals, and perfect for even the most sensitive skin” .  For someone like me who is practically allergic to air this product line seemed custom made for me. I picked up the Ultra Repair Cream, Cream Cleanser and Lip Therapy products and over the past two months me and this troika have become  BFFs in caring for my sensitive skin.

First Aid Beauty’s Ultra Repair Cream is a medium-weight cream that is a creamy white color with a trace of scent.  It goes on very smooth, is almost immediately soothing and my skin absorbed it quickly.  It is perfect for a quick blast of moisture if you skin is very itchy.  I did try it on my peorial dermatitis around my lips and unfortunately it stung for a little while–ouch! So while it is good for moisturizing eczema-irritated skin, if you have peorial dermatitis I would advise staying away from it.   This is a very nice hand cream to put on before bedtime.   It isn’t as nice smelling as my L’Occitane Shea Butter hand cream but it gets the job done–especially if you have sensitive skin.

I did test a sample of the Ultra Repair Cream Concentrate which is a solid yet pliable balm with no discernable scent. A little goes a very long way to provide lasting moisture to the skin. On my peorial dermatitis the balm stung a little but the feeling went away within a minute or so.   As my skin healed further the stinging sensation upon application went away but as I am sensitive to beeswax (which is in this product) it started to irritate my skin so I discontinued using it. Very disappointed as it is a very moisturizing balm to use.

First Aid Beauty’s Cream Cleanser is a pearly white cream cleanser has a trace of a scent and you only  need a small bit to clean your entire face. It made quick work of dissolving my foundation, concealer and my sweatproof eye makeup but my mascara hung on a little afterwards.  As gentle as it is, it did dry out my peorial dermatitis where it was uncomfortably dry but I don’t see this happening with simple ezcema. I like to use this cleanser to remove the rest of my makeup off of my face after I’ve used a makeup remover especially for eyes.

Last but definitely not least, First Aid Beauty’s Lip Therapy is my holy grail when it comes to lip balms. Free of petroleum, paraffin, mineral oil and beeswax, this yellowish creamy balm contains soothing shea butter and jojoba oil among other soothing ingredients.  This balm kept my lips moisturized very nicely overnight and I was pleasantly surprised to find out it soothed my peorial dermatitis  without any stinging.

The Ultra Repair Cream 2oz and Lip Therapy retail for $12 USD each while the 5oz Face Cleanser retails for $20 USD. First Aid Beauty products are sold at Sephora stores, Sephora.com, QVC.com and at FirstAidBeauty.com

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Father’s Day Shopping Guide: Fragrance Gifting

Think fast! Have you purchased your Father’s Day gift(s) yet?

“Fifty Shades Of Grey is Every-damn-where!”

If you are anything like me, you put off purchasing any gift at the last possible minute.  Unfortunately it makes you run around like a headless chicken. But not to fret–I’ve got you covered.  Unlike a tie (which is a lame loser gift anyway) fragrance is something that not only enhances the attractiveness of the wearer, but makes the wearer nice to be around.  It’s a gift that gives way past the recipient and giving it suggests you took time to consider what they would like as opposed to just shoving something in a box that you wouldn’t gift to your worst enemy.

For your consideration and last-minute shopping, I have culled together an assortment of men’s fragrances that are fresh, classic, edgy and downright awesome for gift-giving.  I realize fragrance is a very personal thing but given the testing I’ve done over the past several weeks, talking with lonely but very helpful men’s fragrance counter sales associates, reading industry articles, talking to friends and getting the scoop from the 2012 Fragrance Industry (FiFi) awards, I feel this is a safe assortment of scents that won’t recall fragrance memories of Brut, Hai Karate or even worse, Axe body spray.

Gucci Guilty

Gucci Guilty for Men — The 2012 Fifi Mens’ Fragrance of the Year

I’m not even going to mince words.  Gucci Guilty, the brainchild of the ever-so-sexy Tom Ford, is a kick-ass sexy fragrance in a bottle so masculine yet elegant, James Bond would sport it without shame.

The industry says:

Made for the man who knows what he wants, this fragrance is a powerful mix of excitement, allure, and sensuality. It awakens the senses with a burst of zesty lemon, cool lavender, and spicy pink pepper. The subtle heart notes then reinforce the fragrance’s clean freshness, creating a bridge to the sensual and provocative woodiness in the base. As it dries down, the scent focuses the hallmark of all Gucci fragrances, patchouli, and mingles alluringly with cedar, sandalwood, and amber. The overall effect is young, stylish, and sexy—a bold and uncompromising fragrance that captures the essence of Gucci.

I say:

Blows back your nose hairs from the pure, raw sensuality of the fragrance then softens to a sexy, alluring mix of fresh woods and spices.  It won the 2012 FiFi Award for Best Men’s Fragrance.  In other words, the people for whom fragrance is their business have anointed this men’s fragrance as ‘The Business’.  Make this the FIRST mens fragrance you smell while shopping.

Aqua di Gio

Aqua di Gio by Giorgio Armani — 2012 Fifi Awards ‘Hall Of Fame’ Winner

Back in the day (and I know I’m dating myself) the clasically timeless fragrances were the likes of Polo by Ralph Lauren and Drakkar by Guy Laroche.  Fast forward to today and Aqua Di Gio has earned its way into this prestigious club.  Don’t think so? I dare you to walk into anywhere mens fragrance is sold and not see this prominently displayed.  Even Target has it on hand.

The industry says:

A resolutely masculine fragrance born from the sea, the sun, the earth, and the breeze of a Mediterranean island. Transparent, aromatic, and woody in nature Aqua Di Gio Pour Homme is a contemporary expression of masculinity, in an aura of marine notes, fruits, herbs, and wood.

I say:

Classically sexy.  If you’re shopping for a man who takes risks within reason and loves to be the best dressed in the room with his own edge, this is an excellent choice.  This year it won the 2012 FiFi Hall Of Fame award so those who have a paid ‘nose’ have known for years how hot this fragrance is and how many man consistently flock to it and women are drawn to the smell of it.

Hanae Mori HM for Men

Hanae Mori HM For Men

My affinity for this fragrance is completely Neiman Marcus’ fault.  At first sniff you are captivated by the strength and complexity of this fragrance.  It takes a certain masculine strength to wear this fragrance or else it will wear you.  Frankly, this is my first choice for gifting to anyone in the military for Father’s Day.

The Industry says:

A subtle blend of 50 exquisite essences harmonize with the warmth of the skin to produce a woodsy Asian scent unlike any other. Lemon, lavender and black currants float over a mossy vanilla and sandalwood base. The cap’s design is inspired by the Tsuka, the piece found at the extremity of antique samurai swords. HM by Hanae Mori —an enduring classic.

I say:

This fragrance contains oakmoss which adds to the strength of this woodsy fragrance and makes it stand out in contrast with other woodsy fragrances like Ralph Lauren’s Polo.  If the man you are shopping for is into finely-crafted goods whether they be watches, swords or my favorite, firearms, this is an excellent choice.  Hanae Mori fragrances are mainly found in upscale retailers so while it is possible it may be in the prestige fragrance section at Target, I wouldn’t bet on it.

Guerlain Homme

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Guerlain Homme by Guerlain

Fresh from my favorite luxury brand comes a new men’s fragrance that is so fresh, so clean I consider it a must-have for men who live in the tropics and sub-tropics.  I had the great fortune of smelling this fragrance at the Guerlain boutique in the France pavillion at EPCOT.  Not sure if it was the amazing sexy smell or the Cuban Disney Cast Member trying to sell me on it but it definitely made an impression on me.

The Industry says:

Introducing Guerlain Homme, a magnetic new fragrance for him, inspired by the famous “mojito” cocktail. A splash of citrus and fresh floral notes atop aromatic, woodsy accords blend into an addictive, subtly faceted mélange that is both astonishing and familiar. This scent is the ultimate stimulation for the senses—the essence of luxury for the sophisticated man.

I say:

The use of lime, sugarcane, rum, vetiver and rum in this fragrance makes it an excellent choice for men who love their cigars.  Even if your man isn’t a cigar afficionado (and why isn’t he?), this scent has a lighter, sweeter smell with musky grassy notes from Vetiver and Pelargonium.  Fresh, surprising and unmistakeably masculine.

Bleu de Chanel

Bleu de Chanel–fresh, crisp and masculine

If you remember Davidoff’s Cool Water, Bleu de Chanel is more sophisticated but still retains that ‘ocean’ freshness.  This is a fragrance I believe is more suited to younger men (remember, NO Axe!) but if your man is young at heart it is still an excellent choice.

The Industry Says:

A woody aromatic fragrance for the man who defies convention, and resists the ordinary every day, finding satisfaction in the unexpected. His fragrance, a provocative blend of citrus and woods, liberates the senses — fresh, clean, profoundly sensual — a signature statement of determination and desire. Be unexpected.

I say:

Men who love luxury but are not into showing it off all the time, or young men making their first real foray into the land of men’s fragrance should find this scent appealing.  This is a pretty safe choice for gifting.

Chrome by Azzaro

Chrome by Azzaro

Azzaro’s Chrome is a fresh light smell very similar to Bleu de Chanel but a touch fresher.  Chrome has lingering orange-citrus notes while Bleu de Chanel leans slightly more woodsy.

The Industry says:

Inspired by the dreams of a new generation and the reflections of those who came before, Chrome is a contemporary, yet traditional masculine fragrance that speaks to men of all ages. Created in 1997 by world-renowned couturier Loris Azzaro, Chrome’s fresh citrus notes are an authentic expression of man and his infinite tenderness.

I say:

The industry description may sound ‘flowery’ but this fragrance is anything but.  It is a ‘fresh from the shower’ type of smell.  Still masculine, this is a softer and more contemporary scent.

Finalizing Your Decision

So have you decided yet?  What I’ve presented is a mere fraction of what is available in the world of Men’s fragrance but what I consider to be the ‘cream of the crop’.

Still not sure what to get?  Not sure which scent your man would like for Father’s Day? Just like with my Art of Shaving article, Sephora has you covered.  Behold, the Deluxe Fragrance Sampler for Him by Sephora:

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The Deluxe Fragrance Sampler for Him by Sephora. Get all of these for a great price to sample for Father Day and redeem the enclosed certificate for a full size of his favorite!

Granted Sephora does have other sets but the Deluxe set includes three (3) of my absolute favorite scents for men: Gucci Guilty, Hanae Mori HM and Aqua di Gio.  The other scents are quite nice and the small sizes make them perfect to put into a carry-on without having TSA confiscate it.  The best part is, while only priced at $50 (it’s almost a $100 total value), your man can decide which fragrance he likes out of of the group and using the certificate inside can redeem it for a full-sized bottle that he (or you) like the most.

So let me know–what men’s fragrances are your favorites?  Remember, we get to do this all over again for Christmas/Hanukkah!

Father’s Day Shopping Guide: The Art of Shaving

On the occasion of Memorial Day I can’t help but remember my grandfather. He was a WWII vet who would recount to me on what seemed every chance to tell me stories of the war over in the European theatre. The most intersting ones were always told when he was shaving.

The Art Of Shaving–reclaim it this Father’s Day

I remember being a little girl, dressed in my best Sunday dress waiting to go to church with Grandaddy in his big gas-guzzling Cadillac. I’d always have fun just being mesmerized by how careful his shaving ritual was and how much pride took in it. I’d have fun ‘painting’ the shaving cream on my small hands and laughing as he would bend down for me to pat it on his face.  It had to be the second-coolest thing he’d ever done aside from taking out his false teeth on playful demand from me.

The shaving ritual is as cool from old school guys like my grandfather to the likes of Vin Diesel shaving his head with a makeshift knife and engine grease in the movie Pitch Black. But for the men in your life who only know the likes of a disposable razor, propellant-based shaving cream and the dreaded Axe body spray, it’s time for a shaving intervention. And for those who are already firmly entrenched in the Brotherhood of Shaving, check out some new items to freshen up the routine. For your consideration, I present two brands I believe have the most in variety and product innovation to offer for a memorable gift this Father’s Day.

Jack Black

Straight out of Texas, home to Walker, Texas Ranger, this mens grooming collection consists of premium quality, high-performance, easy-to-use grooming products for men.  It’s unimstakably masculine packaging takes its style cues from old-school liquor labels and cigar boxes.  Frankly this is the line I’d steal things from to use myself and would admit to it. Winner of the ‘holy grail lip product’ award on Beauty blogs for their SPF25 lip balm, the product line is both old school yet modern.

It’s very easy to say everything is a ‘must have’ from this line because it is–it’s that good. Its unabashed masculine design makes it perfect as a ‘mans man’ Father’s Day gift. Personally I think Chuck Norris would approve.

Top Jack Black Gift Picks:

First Class Five Gift Set

First Class Five Gift Set

Jet-set traveller’s set

Jack Black: Jet Set Traveller’s set

On The Road Travel Pack

Jack Black: On The Road (Beauty.com exclusive)

Clean and Clear Body Care Basics

Jack Black: Clean and Clear Body Care Basics (Beauty.com exclusive)

Jack Black products are available at Nordstrom stores and at Beauty.com, Sephora.com, Ulta.com and of course at GetJackBlack.com.

The Art of Shaving

A luxury line of locations offering an old-school shave at their Barber Spas, it also has a line of products and hand-crafted shaving implements dedicated to, you guessed it, the Art of Shaving.  If you’re shopping for the man who has everything, this is a great place to start.

Top Art of Shaving gift picks:

The Four Elements of the Perfect Shave

The Art Of Shaving: Four Elements of the Perfect Shave

Fusion Chrome Collection Shaving Brush

The Art Of Shaving: Fusion Chrome Collection Brush

The Carry On Kit

The Art Of Shaving: The Carry On Kit in Sandalwood

Ocean Kelp: The Four Elements of the Perfect Shave

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The Art Of Shaving: The Perfect Shave in Ocean Kelp (Nordstrom)

The Art Of Shaving products are available at Nordstrom.com, Sephora.com, and at their website at TheArtOfShaving.com (where you can get gift certificates for their Barber Spa services).

So what kind of shaving products do you recommend for a guy like me?

So what kind of shaving products do you recommend for a guy like me?

Not sure what to get? Luckily for you Sephora has you covered as they offer The Finest Shave Deluxe Sampler. This is a gift box consisting of six (6) deluxe samples of various shaving items from the likes of Anthony Logistics, The Art of Shaving, Jack Black and more. For only $25, he gets an assortment of items to try and can redeem the enclosed certificate for a full-size version of his favorite item from the set. This is an extremely good deal considering the total value of the set is $65.

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Sephora’s The Finest Shave Sampler Kit

So now that you’ve decided, you have to get something to put all that stuff in, right? How cool, how unique, how downright impressive is it to put everything in something like this?

Harvey’s Seat Belt Shave Kit Bag. Also available in Camo and Grey.

Built in the USA, Harvey’s produces this shaving kit bag made from automotive seat belts, retails for $68 and is guaranteed for life. You can purchase at SeatbeltBags.com.

PowderFX Mineral SPF10 Foundation: The Rundown

Anyone who has ever had to deal with oily skin in the heat and humidity of Florida knows how invaluable powder foundation is to keeping your complexion fresh. My grandmother (whom I inherited my crazy oily skin and who had no wrinkles even at age 60) always had her handy powder compact within reach. So when I returned recently to Florida for a family vacation at Disney World, I knew I couldn’t arrive there without any. Last year I used Bare Escentuals mineral powder and while it was okay, it was messy and caused all kinds of packing problems I didn’t want a repeat of this time. And as I’d been meaning to try the color diverse and dermatologist developed Canadian beauty brand CoverFx for quite awhile, I decided to take the plunge.

CoverFX's Powder FX Mineral foundation

CoverFX’s Powder FX Mineral foundation. Perfectly milled and excellent for hot temperatures.

CoverFx SPF10 pressed powder foundation contains .42 ounces (12 grams) of product and comes in a very sleek lightweight plastic/aluminum compact complete with mirror. The physical sunscreen consists of the natural ingredients of Titanium dioxide (3.5%) and Zinc Oxide (3%). Its low profile packaging makes it easy to stash in your purse or theme park swingpack without taking up more precious space that it needs. A small sponge comes with it but if you have oily skin I would recommend tossing it. It is embossed with the CoverFx logo with plastic protector and the powder is very silky and well-pigmented.

Press shot PowderFX in B25 (the shade I bought)

The shade I chose was B25 which was a very good match for my NW43 about to go to NW45 skin in the Florida heat. My main use for this pressed powder was to finish my look and keep my oily skin at bay while using NARS Pro-Prime primer and their new Tinted Moisturizer. After using the NARS primer and tinted moisturizer in, I used the EcoTools retractable kabuki brush to blend the CoverFx powder into my skin to take the dewy shine off from the tinted moisturizer and provide a matte finish.

Because of the dense pigmentation, it is very easy to build coverage to the intensity you desire without looking ‘cakey’. CoverFX does sell a sheer touch-up powder but as I have super-oily skin I decided the foundation was a better buy for me. A unique feature about this product is that it is printed with an expiration month and date. As I go through a lot of pressed powder during the year I’d use mine up well before the expiration date. What I like is the implication as to the freshness of the product and I like that.

Florida Performance

In the morning before heading out one of the Disney theme parks, I applied the NARS Pro-Prime primer, Make Up for Ever Full Cover concealer under eyes and on acne scars, then blending in NARS Tinted Moisturizer in Martinique, then buffed the CoverFx SPF10 foundation into my skin. The powder felt very light and I did not use much as I wanted a natural look and only needed to take the ‘dewy’ look off of my skin. My skin felt very comfortable despite the 90 degree heat during the day (and about 90 – 95% humidity). While I did sweat, my skin did not itch because of the powder nor was it irritated by the active ingredients in the sunscreen. Twice during the day I gently blotted the sweat off of my face and reapplied a light dusting of the CoverFX SPF10 powder and my complexion was refreshed quite nicely. In the evening after a shower, I again applied NARS primer first, then tinted moisturizer and concealer, then built up the color of the CoverFX SPF10 powder foundation on my skin for a more formal and flawless look. Although in the evenings I spent more time in air conditioned restaurants, my complexion still looked fresh, flawless and comfortable. I didn’t bother with touch-ups in the evening as the temperature was cooler (lot 70’s) and humidity lower at night during Easter in Florida.

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Wearing CoverFX’s PowderFx in outside Florida light over NARS Tinted Moisturizer in Polynesia (eye shadow is NARS Rated R Duo)

Because of the lower SPF in this product, the strong Florida sun rays did penetrate to darken my skin, but I’m please to say it did so very evenly. The darker shade of this powder compensated for my skin’s browning in the Florida heat. Side note: I did bring my lighter shade of NARS tinted moisturizer (Martinique) with me because it was Spring in Florida and not summer. Even when I darkened to NW45, the color adjusted flawlessly.

Final Impression

I am so impressed with the packaging, natural sunscreen, formulation and performance of this product that I expect it will replace my MAC Careblend powder as my setting/retouching powder of choice. I’m also impressed with CoverFX because it has so many deep tones to accommodate the complexions of women of color. The line seems to be inclusive of all skin tones rather than catering to a core few and this is why it personally ranks up there with the likes of NARS and MAC for me. In fact, I like this product so much it is hereby FLORIDA APPROVED! CoverFX products are available exclusively at Sephora, Sephora.com and on CoverFX.com

B Series Color for CoverFX. Love how deep the colors run!

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My Powder Fx SPF 10 pressed powder–my new favorite finishing powder.

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Back of package. Note the printed expiration date–nice!

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My well-loved Powder Fx SPF10 Mineral foundation in B25.