Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Hair: A woman's true long-term relationship

I haven't put in a post for several weeks.
1)  Because I can be very slack.
2)  But mainly because I have been on a search and discovery mission.

Yes, that's right.  I have been delving into the very pits of female existence.  (And trust me, it isn't as gross or as sexual as that sounds.)
What I am actually referring to is HAIR.  Ladies, hold your ghd up in pride if your hair is the Sun by which your self-esteem solar system revolves around!  Be proud, because a good or bad hair day can actually impact the type of person you are today; it can impact the people around you and how you are perceived and treated.  Hell, it can be the difference between life and death.  A slight exaggeration, but I'm putting it out there, nonetheless.  And I, for one, had been having a very depressingly long parade of bad hair days.  Needless to say, it got ugly.

Let me explain.

When my parents had me, I was unfortunate enough to have inherited the unruly, curly hair gene (a.k.a frizz gene) within my infant body.  By the time I was a teenager, I had not worn my hair out of a tight plait for years.  So much so that I had given myself a premature facelift.
Until I discovered my first hair straightener.  Now, this was a BIG turning point in my young life so I will try and keep it brief:  It was black, it resembled a kitchen utensil and it had raw metal plates.  Not dissimilar to an everyday iron.  In other words, it was BAD. But I couldn't have cared less.  I was in love.

10 years down the track and, yes, in that time I have lovingly and willingly become a ghd convert, however, I no longer have thick, unruly hair.  I don't have any of the same hair I used to.  What I have now is a pathetically thin and frazzled mop in desperate need of serious rehabilitation.  Sort of like Charlie Sheen.

And now, ironically, I have been trying to find ways to make my hair thicker again!  For years I have been looking for a cure for these limp, damaged locks.  And even more recently, seeing as I live in Melbourne where humidity does not exist, my hair has now decided that it can also perform astounding acts of flatness.   And when you're hair is having a bad day, so is the rest of you.  So, as you can see, I haven't been in the best of moods lately.

That was when I realised - I have got to warn people about this! More specifically, I have to tell the younger ladies of the world before they go ahead and ruin what could have been a good thing. And after feeling very sorry for myself for the last month, I started paying more attention to the hair stylings of my local city.  And some of what I found was not pleasant:

a)  Bleaching.  Seems obvious but I am more referring to the girls I saw who are clearly of a European background who have tried to get their naturally black/brown hair to go blonde.  On top of that, also attempting to straighten the very soul out of their natural waves.  I could physically see the split ends of the young girl I stood behind at the pharmacy.  STOP THIS AT ONCE!  Enhancing your natural colour, or having foils put in for depth, I understand.  But forcing your naturally occurring brunette-ness to be the other extreme end of the colour spectrum is cruel.  And completely impossible to maintain unless you are Lady Gaga.  Which you are not.  Be proud in the beauty God gave you.  (And if you weren't blessed with anything close to manageable hair, be patient and learn to braid.)

b)  And really the main culprit - Cheap hair extensions.  They are nothing but foul, yet seem to be all the rage with the 13-20 year olds.  Yes, yes, long hair is very sexy on lots of women, and makes us look more feminine; but if you are paying $40 for synthetic crap from a guy named Lupe, which you have your bestie attach clumsily to your scalp, then you my friend, are an idiot.  Bad extensions are easily spotted, look ratty and nasty and more importantly, RIP YOUR HAIR OUT!  And I am not kidding when I say I saw 12 years olds modelling this masterpiece of bad taste.  Tsk tsk.

Girls, please!  You have got to start looking after your hair properly now!  Not in 10 years, now!  Trust me, I was a true criminal of the heat-styling kind and it got me nowhere. Work with what you naturally have.  It's the only way.   It sounds so ridiculously simple, but it needs to be said.

And if you're wondering whether or not I actually found a remedy for my own hair woes.  I did.  Sort of anyway.  Let's just say I read a LOT of forums, spoke to a LOT of hairdressers and paid a LOT LOT of money for many different products.  And what I found is:
-Massage your scalp briefly everyday, or when you remember.  I stimulates the follicles and encourages growth and natural oils to combat frizz

-Get a regular haircut.  Bet you've heard that one a thousand times, but if you do have thinning, fine or damaged hair like me, keeping it too long will only drag it down and encourage it to be more flat and limp.  Give it a good cut and you will be surprised.

-Stop using heat styling.  If you can't live without it, try and cut down like I have.  I can proudly say I now only use a blowdryer when I wash my hair and limit my straightener to two sessions a week.  Always with a thermal protector.  Give yourself a limit and stick to it!  (I have been getting very creative with my ponytails and loose buns.)  Within a month or two you'll notice a difference and it will get easier.

-Try Nioxin ranges.  Their stuff comes in different 'Systems' to combat different types of hair ailments.  And they seem to be specialists with thinning hair.  I use System 3.  The shampoo, conditioner and scalp activator do make your head tingle and feel a little uncomfortable at first, but it is meant to help stimulate growth and encourage thickness from inside the hair.  I'm no hair doctor, but it sure feels likes it's doing something!

I'll let you know how I go.  Look out for me on the next Pantene ad.....


Until next time, pretty ladies.....

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Review: Cult Classics - Fact or Fiction?

Seeing as it's the beginning of a new year, and just about every glossy magazine available to man has released their 'Best Of' and 'Hall of Fame' awards for beauty and body, I thought I would put in my own two cents worth before you rush out and charge the entire list to your already exhausted credit card.  On the request of a girlfriend, I've taken into account all of the 'Cult Classics' that have been praised and worshipped for years on end and reviewed them myself, in a more honest way.
Here's the thing - magazines actually have deals with cosmetic companies to subtly promote certain products in their glossy pages.  No, not Ads.  Think of it more as a special kind of bias.  So this can make it difficult for readers to get a realistic and honest idea of the product in question.

Having said that, cult classic buys are cult for a reason - they are bought by A HEAP of happy customers.  But us vain and intelligent girls know by now that not everything we buy is going to work perfectly with our individual skin, colouring, complexion (or insecurities) and so on.  And some of these cult buys are pretty taxing on the poor wallet.

Therefore, I have compiled a short list of 'Cult Classics' for the Aussie girl - as most of these "prestigious" beauty awards are based in international waters, its only fitting that the list be slightly more appropriate for us ladies Down Under.  Additionally, I have tried to include a range of prices from the amazingly cheap to the scarily expensive; just because a concealer costs more than your weekly groceries does not necessarily mean it's the best.

Invisible Zinc Tinted Daywear SPF30+:  This little classic is Australian made and owned and so it gives me a little reassurance that whoever is responsible for it actually had some understanding of the ridiculous climate of our fair country.  I love tinted moisturisers, and not only is this a moisturiser but more so a great sunscreen, and this is the only one I can wear to the beach on a hot day.  Not only does it have very high UVA and UVB protection but also anti-ageing properties (a nice consolation for the stress-induced anxiety that comes with wearing your first bikini for the summer.)  However - this stuff is THICK.  To be completely honest, it sometimes feels a little cement-like when you first put it on.  But it won't come off during the dy.  Even when cleansing! You will need to give your face a second wash to get rid of it.  And then tone as well.  Seriously; it's got some balls.  But all in all, its a winner.

Maybelline Great Lash Mascara:  Yes, yes; we've all heard the saying that one of these babies is sold somewhere around the world every 2 seconds.  I can't confirm if this is true; however, IF it is in fact gospel, then I can't help but be a little perplexed as to why?  Here's the positives:  1) it's great value - at around $10 a tube it won't eat away anyone's pocket money.  2)  it's quite natural - I found that it most noticeably made my eyelashes a little longer-looking and separated them nicely.  3) the small brush makes it useful for bottom lashes without much clumping.  Negatives:  I didn't find it amazing.
With all of the new-wave mascaras of the last couple of years - think the innovative no-clump plastic wands - it's hard to believe that this one is still topping the lists.  Particularly when we are spoiled for choice with excellent mascaras that deliver no-clumping volume, false-lash looks, extreme length and even oscillating wands.  But, each to their own.  This is still a good buy for some.  I say buy it in the waterproof formula and use it for beach or pool trips.  Very water goddess!

Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser:  Another amazing budget buy.  This cleanser is one of my long-term relationships.  It's not just dermatologically tested, but recommended; soap and fragrance free and is suitable for just about all skin types.  Any woman who already uses it will swear black and blue that they love it, and so, for some, their first use can be disappointing and I understand.  I first started using it as a teen with acne.  I instantly didn't approve as I thought cleansers should contain strong paint strippers and pimple-killing chemicals.  The thing with Cetaphil is that you have to give it TIME.  I persevered for about 2 weeks and then noticed the difference.  It's so gentle that it doesn't strip away natural oils from the skin, so now as a 26-year old woman with (gasp) DRY skin, it still delivers the goods. Even my country-boy manfriend uses it. And it's only around $10-$20.  Win.

ModelCo Tan Airbrush in a Can:  Let's be honest; fake tan is the way of the future.  I have very strong views on fake tan and its safe use.  In fact, look out for a post on it very soon.  But I digress.
Fake tan is a must in summer.  Tanning and everything associated with cooking ourselves for colour is now frowned upon and the tan market is saturated with all sorts of goodies.  But this is the one that many claim to have converted them.  I too must admit to being a long-time fan.  ModelCo now make their tan in a number of formulas and applications, but their original 360 degree spray can is the best.  The colour is good - slightly more yellow based on the skin, but not orange or streaky.  Provided, you will need to blend in spots.  Another cool hint:  all tans will rub off slightly on clothes and this is no different.  However, you may notice that the colour that appears on your garments, as well as what seems to build up around the nozzle, has a slight greeny-brown tinge.  This is a good sign.  It means that the formula contains a fair amount of Blue 1 (colouring) that helps to maintain a more brown, natural tone as opposed to a formula that is more Red or Yellow heavy, creating the "orangu-tan" look.  It's not a cheap buy - around $40 in most department stores - but it lasts a while and is worth the investment.  Have a shop around online and in some discount cosmetic stores.  It pops up a lot.

Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream:  Probably one of the most famous and oldest cosmetics on the market.  Probably more a favourite with the more mature ladies, but I've had it lying around my bathroom since I was 20.  The original tube contains a slightly, orange gel-like substance that claims it can be used on burns, scrapes, chaffing and so on.  In fact, a girlfriend of mine's young daughters refer to it as her "magic cream."  And it almost is.  But be advised - it is NOT a moisturiser, nor does it have anti-ageing properties.  So why buy it?  It's multi-purpose.  Personally, I use it as a lip balm during our horribly dry and cold Melbourne winters.  It creates a somewhat barrier between the skin and the air, and gives a slight tingle when you first apply it.  Similarly to how it helps with healing burns and such - its a bit like a nice-smelling bandaid.  I give it the thumbs up.

John Frieda Frizz-Ease Hair Serum:  All us girls get the frizzies sometimes.  (And if you don't then God has blessed you, so go and donate money to charity or help granny across the road - give something back!)  Frizz-Ease exploded on the market a good decade ago now and has since proved its staying power by consistently showing up on girls dressers everywhere.  Not without good reason.  It's an inexpensive and accessible friend that you can find in just about any supermarket.  The directions on the bottle say to apply to wet or towel-dried hair, but I use it on completely dry hair as well, to good results.  Look, it isn't going to "transform" your hair like it says in the ads, (nothing that costs $16.95 is capable of that), but it does smooth and give a nice gloss to the frizzy, untamed masses.  And now, it comes in Extra-Stength formula, Over-Night Formula and Heat-Activated Formula, so you can rub some in before and after you blow-dry or straighten.  Tick!

Lancome Juicy Tubes:  Let's face it, there are a bloody TONNE of lip glosses out there.  I still have trouble keeping up with all the different types.  However, Juicy Tubes seem to have cemented themselves a little piece of cult history; similar to the Great Lash story, I've been told that something like one of these tubes is sold every minute, or maybe every 10 seconds, or....something.  Anyway, they're very popular.  They now come in an absolute army of different shades and they do smell very nice.  However, it is still, at heart, a lip gloss.  It is going to come off fairly often.  And considering one tube can set you back $46, I'm still not 100% sold.  I found them to be fairly moisturising on my lips and one of the colours I owned - I believe it was Rasberry Ice - left a nice pigment.  But at the end of the day, they're not a whole lot better than many others.  They do smell lovely, so perhaps thats what got the ladies flocking to the Lancome counter.

Palmer's Coco Butter Formula:  I left the best until last.  If you leave here with nothing else but this I will be a satisfied girl:  every woman, vain or not, needs to own a bottle of this.  There's no downside.  It's cheap, it smells like chocolate, it's a beautiful moisturiser and it even smoothes marks and tones skin.  Naomi Campbell swears by it.  She may be a completely terrifying, long-legged she-devil, but hey, she's hot!  Palmer's have garnered themselves a real cult following for this little piece of genius.  I have been using it for about 10 years.  It melts into the skin nicely and actually feels like its doing something to my poor, scaled legs.  I also use it to help blend in fake tan.  Plus, manfriend says I smell like dessert.  And to add even more accolades, Palmer's now have their own Gradual Tanner, using the same coco butter formula combined with tanner to give a nice, healthy glow without the questionable "fake tan stink."  Absolute winner!

So there's my first list for 2011.  Look out for more reviews and ratings in the near future.  In the meantime, if you have any other honourable mentions you'd like to add to the Classics list, tell me about them!

Until next time, Pretty Ladies.....

Friday, January 7, 2011

Product Let-Down and the Art of being Vain

I love all things cosmetics.  I would set up camp in the beauty department of David Jones if it were permitted.  Cruising through the make-up counters and smelling those intoxicating, perfumed chemicals for me is similar (I would imagine) to how an over-eater feels wandering through Krispy Kreme.  It is my happy place.  Mainly due to the fact that I am vain.

So, as you can imagine, I consequently like to buy a lot of cosmetics.  And I have.  Bought A LOT.  The fact that I only use about 15% of them does not deter me.  The feeling you get when you believe you have just found the answer to all of your vain insecurities can be on par with the same rush of excitement and anticipation you get when you think you've just found the world's first four-leaf clover.

But very soon, you realise, with a thud to the stomach, that this cannot be possible, as these things DO NOT EXIST.  I call it Product Let-Down.  Similar to my theory on Disappointing Fruit; but thats another story.

Even though I am a fully grown, intelligent woman, who is well aware of the tricks of clever marketing, I still manage to always fall for the newest, most improved beauty product that promises to make me look like the love-child of Kate Moss and Halle Berry.  Idiotic.

I won't mention the specific name of the latest product I am referring to, however, this has happened to me countless times.  Needless to say, this pretty much tells you that I have tried nearly every damn cosmetic on the market.  Which I have.  No.  Word.  Of.  A.  Lie.

So, what I am proposing to do is to open up a forum for us girls to discuss and vent on Product Let-Downs we have suffered.  Alternatively, if there is a particular product out there that you are so sweetly tempted by but unsure whether a lipgloss is worth your hard-earned $80, let me know and, in the highly likely event I have already tried it, I will give you my honest opinion.

Let me know what you think!

Until next time, Pretty Ladies.......