Saturday, March 31, 2012

Rouge Bunny Rouge ¬ Bronzing Glow Liquid - As if it Were Summer Still

I'm going to come out with it: I hate bronzer. It looks unnatural on my pale, pink skin, and I don't think I look that good with a tan, anyway, so I have given up on trying to mimic that sun-kissed glow.

But wait!

In one of my recent orders from Zuneta, I received a generous sample of Rouge Bunny Rouge Bronzing Glow Liquid As if it Were Summer Still, and it has quite possibly made me rethink things.

Because it is not a powder, I can mix it into my moisturizer or foundation to give my skin the most subtle glow. I loved how it looked dotted directly onto my skin and blended high on my cheekbones, in the middle of my forehead up against the hairline, and across the bridge of my nose. I also loved it on my collarbones and plan to wear this lovely liquid bronzer on my deltoids (shoulder caps) this summer.

The bronzer comes in a tall, slender bottle (1.75 fluid ounces, ~$100 USD) with a pump dispenser. Like Rouge Bunny Rouge's packaging for their primers, foundation, and illuminators, this bottle is slightly frosted.

If you are fair skinned, this might be the one for you—if you like liquids, that is. The color is a pearlized honey bronze with zero orange. It imparts a really lovely glow, which is not obviously shimmery.

Indirect sunlight
Indoors, natural light

Bottom line: Pricey, but if you have been unable to find a natural-looking bronzer that also gives you a glow, this could be the one.

Zuneta presents RBR ¬ Bronzing Glow Liquid from Zuneta Beauty on Vimeo.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Happy Birthday Everyday Beauty: Now You Are One

Zuzu, her petals, and her family who were blessed with true everyday beauty
One year ago today I blogged my first article. It has been a fun and exilherating year, and I am continually amazed by the kindness and generosity of my fellow bloggers, especially those who took me under their wing when I was just starting out and completely unknown.

I am also most grateful to my readers. Without you there would be no blog, because there's hardly any point in writing if no one is reading. So thank you for all of your support, comments, and above all, friendship.

I gave up tracking blog statistics many months ago, but out of nostalgia I just reviewed the most-read posts, and I was surprised by some of them.

Here's a recap of what you enjoyed reading:
I have loved every minute of it. So if there is anything you'd like to hear from me, don't hesitate to contact me.

Thank you one and all for a great year!


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

NARS Sheer Lipstick Dolce Vita: Review, Swatches

There's not much to say about NARS Dolce Vita Lipstick ($24) that hasn't already been said. NARS calls this extremely popular lipstick a sheer dusty rose, and that's exactly right. I won't bore you with all the blah blah blah about quality and formula, but if you want to be assaulted by adjectives, see my reviews on Manhunt and Flamenco.

Otherwise, suffice it to say that Dolce Vita is a subtle ... dare I say ladylike lipstick, giving the lips a muted, rosy hue. I bought it, hoping it would be my version of a nude lip, but I have finally accepted that some of us are not meant to wear such low-contrast color on our lips.

Indirect sunlight

Indirect sunlight

Slightly different angle,trying to capture DV's rosiness

Indoors, natural light, no flash. This muted image is how it looks on my lips.

Swatched on my NW15 skin, you might be able to see the warmth in this lipstick.

Swatched on white paper shows how muted (dusty) this lipstick is. Here I see hints of brown undertones.

The white paper swatch

Don't be fooled by the following picture, where the color seems flattering on my lips in isolation. When I see my whole face wearing Dolce Vita, I looked washed out because the color is too warm and muted.  "Dusty" should have been my biggest sign, and as pretty as DV is in the tube and on other people, I should just stick with what I know works for me, clear, slightly-brighter lipsticks, and give up on looking for the MLLB shade.

Dolce Vita worn on medium-pigmented, mauvish lips

Bottom line: Excellent go-with-everything rosy pink lipstick.

What do you think? Is Dolce Vita your perfect natural/nude lipstick or do you prefer a bit more oomph?

All photos mine.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Living with Lobster Face (aka Battling Rosacea)

One of the first signs of sun damaged skin might not be what you'd expect, especially if you are of Northern European descent. That's my heritage. As a child, I had the "English Rose" complexion with milky white skin and pink cheeks. In the summer, I would get a smattering of freckles across the bridge of my nose that faded long before Halloween. The rest of my sun-tanned skin faded just as quickly, and by Christmas my face and body once again looked the underbelly of a deep-sea, salt-water fish.

When I was a child and young adult, the only concern about sun exposure was to avoid a sunburn because sunburns hurt. We did not yet know that each burn would aggregate the damage that many of us would start to see in our 30s. Plus, it was kind of fun to peel off the epidermal layers from healing skin days after a burn. I admit it.

What we did have back then was suntan lotion, with the subliminal message that if you applied this goo to your body, you'd look like the Bain de Soleil model. The following Mademoiselle ad from 1961 was a bit before I was born, but Sea & Ski was the suntan lotion my family used. I wonder what the SPF was in that little green bottle. I do remember that it smelled heavenly.


I have always been very active outdoors, so my skin soaked up a lot of sun. I also had my share of sunburns—some so bad they blistered, yes, even on my face. Ever get a cold sore after a sun-drenched weekend? I did. Cold sores (aka fever blisters) are a virus, so having one crop up on my lower lip was my immune system telling me to please back off.

There weren't as many options for sun protection in the 70s/80s as we have today, other than Sea & Ski, Coppertone, zinc oxide (what lifeguards wore on their noses), or putting on a tee shirt. I had no idea then that spending my summer days on the lake or beach or sailing from Wentworth to Boothbay would come back to bite me.

By now, we all know that prolonged exposure to sun prematurely ages the skin. When the sun's ultraviolet rays hit the dermis, they prompt the cells to produce pigment, which some of us will see as a tan, but which, with chronic exposure over the years, can create brown spots (they no longer look as cute as freckles) that do not fade in winter the way our tans used to.


The condition of the woman's face below at left is similar to what I saw in the mirror in my late 30s, though her skin appears to be slightly more sun damaged. What is truly telling is the underlying damage to the skin when seen through a black light (aka ultraviolet light, or Wood's lamp) in the photo at right.


The following image shows a more extreme case of sun-damaged skin. If you grew up near the ocean, you almost certainly saw older women (and men), just like the lady below, who appeared on the beach, impossibly tanned, as early as Memorial Day.

Years before I noticed changes in my skin pigment, I noticed a silver-dollar sized cluster of red splotches in the middle of my chest, which on closer inspection appeared to be tiny, extremely-thin, red veins. I went to a dermatologist who pronounced, "Sun damage." That's ridiculous, I thought. It looked more like a rash or broken blood vessels from an injury. He then said, "I can permanently remove those veins ... and also get that vein near your left nostril, as well." He bought out a giant magnifying mirror and showed me a vein the width of a silk thread, which only an atomic force microscope would see, but I said yes. Nuke 'em.

I learned years later that I had undergone my first laser treatment, which was probably KTP or diode or Nd:YAG laser, all of which doctors used to treat single, large, visible blood vessels. The laser came out of a device that looked like a pen attached to a metallic, folding arm, which he wielded like a dentist drill, and oh, did it hurt! I can be quite stoic when it comes to painful treatments—I've even removed deeply-embedded glass from my own foot—but some advance knowledge would have prepared me for what felt like someone snapping my skin with a slingshot.

The next morning, the affected skin scabbed over, but it wasn't anything that kept me hiding at home. In a couple weeks, the red splotches and barely-visible veins were, indeed, gone, but because I was still an outdoors person, and because I did not believe that the visible veins could have been caused by the sun, they came back. And guess what. They brought some friends.

Disappointed, I assumed the dermatologist had lied about the procedure being permanent, and so I lived with an increasing family of teensy veins near my nose and on my chest for another several years. During that time, a miniscule, slightly-raised red spot appeared under my right eye, but I forced myself to get used to that, as well.

Traveling back to my mid-to-late 20s, another change I noticed was that the intense flush I would get from vigorous exercise, cold winds, alcohol (especially red wine and beer), and even sex took longer to fade than it had previously. Now, more than a decade later, I realize that the dermatologist had been partly right when he said that the redness was caused by the sun. Aside from creating hyperpigmentation, ultraviolet rays also break down the blood vessels under the skin and can cause red blotches that fade very slowly or, for some of us, not fade at all. There was an underlying, chronic condition that would eventually get worse over time that had to do with my own DNA and my lifestyle.

Do you blush? I have always been a blusher. You know how some people turn pale when they feel embarrassed or upset? Or their face doesn't change at all when they are having a good belly laugh? That's not me. I turn red. Furiously, neon, beet purple-red. My eyes water and redden, and even my ear lobes turn red. At time marched on, I observed that when I blushed, my skin didn't return to its normal fair state as quickly as it had previously—even when the blush wasn't a blush brought on by extreme external conditions, like cold, heat, or exercise. Sometimes a blush was just a blush, seemingly out of nowhere, but it could burn and last more than an hour, and my cheeks and chin and ear lobes would actually feel warm to the touch. Sometimes a more earnest flush was accompanied by a sensation of stinging or burning, and my eyes would feel swollen, though they did not appear that way.

One day, as I was sitting at my dressing table, I noticed that if I pulled the skin taut across my chin, I could see a cluster of veins on the surface. What I had thought was pink skin was actually caused by the vascular system underneath, veins that had risen to the surface and stayed there. Looking more closely, I saw that the same veins were present on both apples of my cheeks, but my chin had both red and blue in it. I'd been using Prescriptives custom-blended powder to even out my skin tone for many years, but it was no longer concealing the redness, not past the first hour. Panic and vanity prompted my mission to find a more effective, concealing foundation, a quest that was moderately successful, at least for a time. Meanwhile, I wanted to know why my face stayed red all the time, sometimes just pinkish and other times really really red. The catalyst that drove me to seek medical treatment was after a colleague commented on the sunburn I'd gotten over the weekend—except I hadn't been out in the sun at all. I called my primary care physician that afternoon.

Diagnosis: Rosacea!
My doctor told me I had Rosacea, a condition I had never heard of before. She sent me home with some pamphlets and a prescription for Metrogel, which is a topical antibiotic that was supposed to clear up the skin and help calm the redness. I didn't have anything that needed clearing up (I've never had acne), but I was hoping the gel would remove the visible veins.

Rosacea is the visible result of swelling of the blood vessels just beneath the skin's surface. It is not harmful, but you might feel like harming someone when you wake up day after day with a face that looks scorched. Even the National Rosacea Society has not identified a single cause, probably because there isn't one.

What NRS do know is that you are more likely to have or develop Rosacea if you:
  • are fair-skinned
  • are female (not as common in men, who can develop the more severe type of rhinophyma, like W.C. Fields)
  • have a history of excessive alcohol consumption and/or abuse (they aren't called "gin blossoms" for nothing)
  • are pregnant
  • have a history of repeated sunburns
  • are between the ages of 30-50 (I was 34 when diagnosed but noticed signs as early as my late 20s)
DISCLAIMER: Before you read on, please know that I am merely a fairly well-read amateur on this issue. I have no formal medical training. If you think you might have Rosacea, see a qualified dermatologist, preferably someone who is traditionally trained but has a strong interest in integrated medicine. Much of Rosacea can be managed by lifestyle changes (diet)—especially if you don't have permanent redness yet. The sooner you learn how to manage it, the better your skin will look for the rest of your life, and you might even be able to avoid the pharmaceuticals used to treat the condition.

Signs/symptoms: The primary signs of Rosacea are:
  • Blushing or flushing easily, where the blush lingers longer than it does in other people or than it used to on you
  • Permanent facial redness, with or without visible spider-like blood vessels, which are called telangiectasia
  • Acne-like bumps on the skin, called papules and pustules (P&P), which might ooze or crust over
  • Tightness, burning, or stinging sensations in the face
  • Irritated, bloodshot, watery eyes (a subtype called ocular rosacea)
  • A red or bulbous nose (rhinophyma, which is rare)
I read everything I could get my hands on and have concluded that rosacea to be both a lifestyle and vascular condition. You can't escape your heritage, so if you are fair skinned, never ever let your skin burn in the sun. But if you're a blusher (and I can now so easily identify those adorable, blooming-cheeked children who will be at risk for developing Rosacea as adults), there isn't much to be done about it besides knowing your personal triggers and trying to avoid or minimize them.

Test: Diagnosis is not difficult. It simply requires an office visit where the doctor will examine your face and ask you questions about your medical history.

Triggers: It is impossible to avoid all triggers; for example, there's little you can do about walking into an overheated building from the cold outdoors, so we do our best. Triggers can also vary from person to person, but you can minimize some of them and help prevent or reduce the length of flare-ups.

The following are the most common triggers identified by the NRS, combined with some of the triggers I have discovered over the years:
  • As much as possible, avoid direct sun exposure. Even strong sunlight through a closed window, such as while driving, can cause a flare-up in some people, even in winter.
  • Use sunscreen every day, though keep in mind that we do need to absorb some sun for its vitamin D. Speak with your healthcare practitioner about managing your risk (like exposing your thighs or butt to the sun, instead of your face).
  • Experiment with the kind of sunscreen you use. I've found that my skin can handle only the tiniest amounts of chemical sunscreens. Larger amounts irritate (redden) my skin, so I prefer a blend of physical (mineral) and chemical to protect me from both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat with a strong SPF. Be careful of woven hats, which can still let the sun reach your skin.Visors are OK, but they leave the ears exposed.
  • Protect your face from cold, strong winds with a scarf, but I noticed that warm breath trapped under the wool can cause my face to overheat and flush.
  • Don't take super-hot showers and baths; use tepid water. Even when I avoid getting my face wet in a hot-hot shower, I can end up flushed for hours.
  • Avoid saunas, steam rooms, and hot tubs. (Unless in your own home, those things are icky, anyway.)
  • Carefully read the ingredients list in skincare and cosmetics products and watch for trends in your skin's reaction; then avoid buying products that contain those ingredients (such as chemical sunscreen, alcohol, menthol, witch hazel, and so on).
  • For exfoliation (if needed), consider using a gel or lotion that contains beta hydroxy (salicylic) acid. BHA can be less irritating than other acids, such glycolic or lactic acid. Avoid granule exfoliation or Buff-Puff sponges, and be gentle if you use a wash cloth.
  • If you use tretinoin products, your skin cells will turn over more quickly, which can make skin more sensitive to sun. This is especially true when you first start using Retin-A. Wear a sunscreen that your skin tolerates well, plus a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Avoid vigorous activity in hot weather, especially under the midday sun. Try to exercise in the early morning or early evening. Alternatively, work out indoors where you can direct the breeze from fan or air conditioner to your face, and drink lots of ice water throughout. 
  • Try to reduce stress. If you don't do yoga or meditate, now might be a good time to start, but be aware that bending poses, with your head parallel to or below your knees, can trigger a flush, so start a yoga practice with upright positions. (Bending over to tie shoes or put on stockings can also bring on a flush—when possible, keep your head over your heart.)
  • Limit hot spices, alcohol (especially red wine), and hot beverages.
As you pay attention to your triggers, here are some other things you might consider:
  • Keep a food diary and write down what you eat, so you can more easily spot dietary trends that may cause a flare-up. Some of the most common food triggers are fermented dairy products (yogurt, kefir, sour cream), vinegar, certain fruits (pineapple, avocado), certain vegetables (spinach, mushrooms), nuts and legumes (hard to digest), and any food to which you have an IgE/IgG response, with wheat, milk, corn, soy, fish, and eggs being the most common.
  • Experiment with controlling your carbohydrate intake and eliminate or limit sugar and flour. This is the single best dietary change I make to keep my skin calm. All carbohydrates raise insulin levels, and a diet chronically high in carbohydrate (which becomes the predominant dietary macronutrient when you drastically lower fat) can lead to systemic inflammation. I know lots of people, including myself, who get immediate, visible relief by limiting carb intake to below 100 gross grams a day and choosing above-ground plants over cereal grains.
  • Carry a mini portable fan with you, like this one (not affiliated). Maybe even one that disperses a fine mist of water, which you can aim at your face to cool it down ... and also annoy people on the subway!
  • Sip ice water. I carry an insulated Kleen Kanteen with me at all times. Sometimes I hold an ice cube in my mouth during a heat reaction and pull it out to rub the cube against my skin. 
  • Breathe through your mouth. Although this may sound odd, when I feel my cheeks start to heat up, I'll open my mouth to let the heat out, and take in long, cooling breaths. This method can often avoid a flare up, even if it makes me look like a guppy.   
Treatment: There is no known cure for rosacea, only treatment and trigger avoidance. Your dermatologist can help you manage your symptoms with one of the following treatments:
  • Oral antibiotics (such as the 'cyclines) or topical (such as metronidazole) can help control acne-like skin problems. Note that Rosacea is not acne (though the P&P are referred to as Acne Rosacea) so it won't respond to over-the-counter acne treatments, like benzoyl peroxide or AHAs/BHAs. As far as I know, no one has proved that rosacea is a bacteria, so I prefer to avoid antibiotics, but they do seem to help some sufferers.
  • Other vitamin A-type medications (such as Accutane or isoretinol) are stronger alternatives to antibiotics. You might also need to experiment to see if your skin can handle tretinoin (Retin-A). My skin loves it, but I started very very slowly, taking almost 6 months to work up to everyday use. When my skin reached max benefits,  I dropped Retin-A application to 3 nights a week.
  • Laser procedures, which collapse surface veins and can thin swollen nose tissue.
Is it really that important to quickly get a flare-up under control? Yes! It is the chronic blushing and flushing that ultimately leads to permanent redness (telengectasia) as those blood vessels become aggravated, much the same way sitting with your legs crossed can lead to varicose veins.

What I did
After a month on Metrogel, I refused additional antibiotic treatment. The treatment did not reduce redness, and it made my skin feel tight and itchy. Also, because I didn't have acne, I saw little point in using a drug long term that might compromise my immune system.

I lived with the redness as long as I could, using makeup to mask it, until it got to a point where the red shone through anything I put on top, the same way Rudolph's red nose burst through the clay cover meant to hide his shameful glow. I finally decided I'd had enough and consulted my dermatologist, who referred me to a cosmetic dermatologist. This doctor performed laser treatment to get the red out. Was it necessary? No. Did I do it based on vanity? Yes. Did I feel better after? Oh, yes. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.

I didn't just jump in, though. I had already spent several years reading about Rosacea and trying to manage my symptoms naturally. If you think laser treatment might be for you, educate yourself and be aware of the risks before you go through with any procedure. Even non-invasive procedures that don't require surgery have risks. Make sure you get a referral from someone you trust or research the doctor you are thinking of seeing. The internet has a confusing mix or both real and fake reviews, to be careful.

During my consultation, this new doctor and I discussed the different types of of treatment available, what each procedure targeted (for example, the difference between laser or intense pulsed light therapy for red and brown in skin), what the risks factors were, and what's the worse that could happen. She immediately managed my expectations by telling me that it would require several sessions of IPL to achieve satisfactory results. My skin was that red. She also mentioned that touch-up sessions are often needed every 4-12 months, depending on how well the treatment addressed the underlying condition and whether I maintained a lifestyle that minimized my triggers.

She recommended that I use a combination of Vbeam and IP, and that I could very well maintain my results with IPL a few times a year. She was right. (Update: Going back every 1-2 years is the ideal maintenance interval because I work hard on minimizing/ameliorating flush triggers.)

The Vbeam pulsed dye laser, which is highly specialized for treating Rosacea, produces an intense, single wavelength (burst) of light that selectively destroys the targeted blood vessels without damaging the surrounding skin and tissue. (More on that in a minute.) Vbeam treats vascular skin conditions, such as rosacea, facial and leg veins, psoriasis, scars, red birthmarks (hemangiomas and port wine stains), cherry angiomas, uneven coloring of the neck and chest, red stretch marks, and warts. It can also be moderately skin rejuvenating and smooth over fine lines, but I don't have redness in areas where fine lines form, so I cannot comment on those claims. Vbeam gets the red out IMMEDIATELY.

Though atypical, Vbeam can cause some bruising, but this depends on if you bruise easily and if the machine is initially set too high. An experienced practitioner will quickly correct the setting, but she will start at the highest setting she thinks you can handle (based on her experience with other clients) so you get your money's worth, as you are charged by the number of pulses. You can expect extreme redness immediately after the treatment (which calms down dramatically over a couple hours), and possibly some swelling, which can last a couple days. I experienced all the extremes of redness and bruising, but it was nothing that would have kept me out of the public eye for more than a day. For example, I would not schedule a Vbeam treatment and expect to go back to work the same day, but I showed up for work the day after, applying concealer over the bruises.

Intense Pulsed Light
Unlike Vbeam, which targets specific blood vessels, IPL (also called also called Photoderm, Fotoderm, and Photofacial) is not a laser. It produces a broad spectrum of light that works best on diffuse redness and brown discolorations and goes deeper than Vbeam, which handles only the surface veins. Though my face was almost as red as after Vbeam, the skin was normal within 45 minutes. I could easily schedule an IPL treatment during my lunch break and go back to work with no one the wiser.  No down time whatsoever.

Before your first treatment
Here are some tips based on my research, my experience, and tips from the dermatologist:
  • Plan your first treatment when your skin will be at its most pale. Don't show up tanned. The paler the skin, the more easily the treatment can target the red for Vbeam and both brown and red for IPL. 
  • Consider making a Vbeam appointment on a Friday, so you have the weekend to "recover." It shouldn't take more than a few hours, unless you bruise easily, like I do.
  • Starting two weeks before your appointment, avoid direct sun exposure. Always wear sunscreen, and if you need to be outside, wear a hat.
  • Clean up your diet. Avoiding junk food like sugar and white flour can help minimize any potential swelling after the treatment.
  • Do not drink alcohol or take aspirin before your laser treatment. If you are bruise prone, you should not bruise as deeply if you avoid blood thinners. Also watch how much fish oil you consume in the days before. If you have a headache, take Tylenol.
  • Bring a wide-brimmed hat to the appointment. Your skin will be extremely sensitive afterward, and you don't want any sun to get on it. 
  • Bring sunscreen to your appointment. The dermatologist might also offer you some. I was given samples of EltaMD® SPF 46 UV Clear through my treatments. I liked it so much I ended up buying it as my daily sunscreen.
  • Wear absolutely no makeup to your appointment, not even sunscreen. Nothing. If you are coming from work and can't face your colleagues bare faced, you can quickly wash of your makeup with micellar water, such as my favorite by Bioderma.
  • For IPL treatments, wear a shirt you don't love. Though the doctor will cover you in a paper bib, there could still be a goo mishap.
  • Ask about taking an oral antifungal, starting the day before your appointment, especially if you have ever had a cold sore before. The doctor will need to write you a prescription, and some may do this as a matter of course. Mine did.
  • If you bruise easily, consider taking arnica (an OTC supplement), starting 10 days before treatment and right up to the day of the appointment. Continue taking it afterward until bruising heals completely. You can buy arnica at any pharmacy. I let my tablets dissolve bucally for maximum absorption.
During the appointment
Depending on what procedure you choose, your appointment might be similar to or different from what I experienced. Here are some things you might expect:
  • The person performing the treatment might ask if she can take your "before" picture. I never saw my before-and-afters, but if it goes into the portfolio and helps a prospective customer make a decision, that's fine with me.
  • Estheticians and nurses can perform IPL treatments, whereas physicians perform Vbeam, at least in my state.
  • Your operator might hand you a warm, wet washcloth and ask you to cleanse your face, even if you went to your appointment barefaced. Do it. You want maximum results.
  • You'll put a paper cap over your hair (goo protection) and then you will lie down on an examining table.
  • The operator will cover your eyes with sticky eye patches (don't bother curling your eyelashes that day) and she will spread thick, cold gel on your face for IPL using a wooden tongue depressor. Expect some of the goo to transfer to your hair along the hairline. The goo reminded me of ultrasound gel, and it rinses clean quite easily. (Gel is not used for Vbeam.)
  • During treatment (both Vbeam and IPL), each pulse will feel like a rubber band snapping against your skin. It is not even remotely pleasant, but it is not teeth-clenching pain, either. On a pain scale of 0-10, I'd give it a 4, but I have a pretty high pain tolerance.
  • A typical treatment lasts anywhere from 10-30 minutes.
  • At the end of an IPL treatment, the operator scrapes the gel off your face with the same tongue depressor. Though the operator dropped a blob on my shirt in my third treatment, it came out in the wash. I used a moist washcloth, which the office provided, to get the rest of the stuff off my face and hairline.
  • Before leaving the treatment room I was given small, frozen blue-ice thingy (technical term) that I gently pressed on my skin during the drive home. At a later appointment, I was given a black tea bag in a cup of ice, and I pressed the teabag on my skin. Unfortunately, the tea water dribbled down my chest while I was driving home. I preferred the frozen gel pack but there are probably other benefits (anti-inflammatory) to using tea. Another reason to wear a shirt you don't love.
After the treatment
Don't be alarmed if your skin looks like your worst sunburn, ever, afterward. My face looked positively scalded after Vbeam (just neon red, no blisters). It looked a bit less red after my IPL treatments, but neither one was immediately pretty.

Recovery is quick, much faster than laser resurfacing or a chemical peel (neither of which I have ever had). By the time I arrived at home, 45 minutes after the Vbeam treatment, my skin had mostly gone back to normal. After IPL, I could have gently dabbed on a little mineral foundation and gone straight to work.

As I mentioned above, I bruise easily, and my skin bruised during both Vbeam treatments, but much less the second time. The doctor immediately saw what was happening and adjusted the machine to a less intense setting. I had a little blue splotch on one cheek and a couple bruise dots on my chin that my concealer mostly covered.

The evening of my first Vbeam treatment (ignoring the wee bruises) I thought my skin looked great! Much of the redness had vanished, and my skin was calm and fair again. Talk about instant gratification. There were still a few veins that didn't get zapped away, but some of them disappeared on their own over the next week. For the ones that didn't, I scheduled a followup appointment a month later. There was some swelling around the bruised areas, but it wasn't bad.

One month after my second Vbeam treatment, I started IPL so we could now target the brown discolorations in my skin. Unlike the immediate improvements from Vbeam, results from IPL are more subtle and occur over time, resulting in a lessening in the brown pigmentation was once freckles. But here's one very important thing: If you expose the treated skin to the sun without sunscreen, the brown pigmentation will come back. So I'd recommend IPL only if you can commit to a rigid sunscreen practice and/or are willing to go back for followup treatments.

My doctor called after every treatment to see how I was feeling. ♥

What does it cost?
These treatments are not cheap, and they are not covered by insurance because they are considered cosmetic. If you are trying to remove a port wine stain, some insurance companies might cover that cost. Cost also varies by region and by practitioner. My first Vbeam treatment cost $750, the second Vbeam cost $500, and each IPL treatment was $350.

What has life been like since
I still love the outdoors, although the six months I went through these treatments, my gardens suffered. And as much as I love a good accessory, I won't hide under a hat full time, so I have mostly given up on IPL. I kind of like my "freckles." But when my redness comes back (and it will because I am a furious blusher), I'll go back for a Vbeam treatment, which was more aggressive and slightly more painful but which gave me the fastest, longest-lasting results.

As for sunscreen, I use different products for different needs. For everyday, incidental exposure, I wear EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46, which is a combination physical/chemical sunscreen. It is cosmetically elegant and works very well under makeup.
Active Ingredients: 9.0% Zinc oxide, 7.5% Octinoxate. Ingredients: Purified Water, Cyclopentasiloxane, Niacinamide, Octyldodecyl Neopentanoate, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Polyisobutene, PEG-7 Trimethylolpropane Coconut Ether, Sodium Hyaluronate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Lactic Acid, Oleth-3 Phosphate, Phenoxyethanol, Butylene Glycol, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate, Triethoxycaprylylsilane.

If I am going to be outside for more than a 15 minutes, I will top off the Elta MD sunscreen with Jane Iredale Powder Me SPF 30 Dry Sunscreen.
Active Ingredient: Titanium Dioxide 17%. Ingredients: Mica, Montmorillonite, Boron Nitride, Aluminum Hydroxide, Punica Granatum (Pomegranate) Extract, Pinus Strobus (Pine) Bark Extract. [+/- (May Contain) Iron Oxides (Ci 77489, Ci 77491, Ci 77492, Ci 77499), Chromium Oxide Greens (Ci 77288)]

For more prolonged or intense sun exposure, I'll wear a sun hat over my sun-protected skin, which includes the Elta MD, Jane Iredale PurePressed foundation (SPF 20) and the Jane Iredale Powder me SPF 30.

Where to get more information
There's a ton of information available on the web about Rosacea prevention, symptoms, management, and treatment. One place to start is the National Resource Society.

UPDATE: Another great resource is a Web site by a dermatologist, Dr. Cleckley, who writes about Rosacea and sunscreen. This noncommercial site also provides excellent information about chemicals and antioxidants in sunscreens, the importance of Vitamin D, and links for further reading. At at a minimum, I strongly recommend you start with the sunscreen selection guide he created for his own patients. (I am not affiliated with Dr. Cleckley or his site.)

I hope you found this article helpful.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Fickle Friday: Finding Foundation


I received a request to do a foundation comparison. This is a bit of a challenge because I don't have much of it to compare, as I haven't experimented that widely across brands. Foundation is, surprisingly, the one beauty product where I am not especially fickle. Lipsticks and eyeshadows may come and go, but my foundation tends to be the one constant for years at a time.

My first foundation was Clinique Pore Minimizer. Does anyone remember that? You had to shake it up and it dried almost the instant you applied it to the skin. I learned later that it contained alcohol, but what did I care, that stuff was amazing on my young, oily skin. And even though my skin is eleventy billion years older now, I wore the Pore Minimizer for at least five years, and it if Clinique brought it back, I'd be first in line.

If you squint rilly rilly hard, you can see it (source)

After that, I got color printed at Prescriptives and bought whatever matte liquid foundation they were selling 20 years ago for a Blue/Red, extremely fair person. My color was Real Camellia, and my skin must have been a lot more pale back then, or it lacked the ravages of time, because when I tried Real Camellia again a couple years ago, I could just as easily have smeared calamine lotion all over my face and called it a dupe. But back in time to that first Prescriptives experience, they didn't sell anything in a bottle that was pale enough for me, so I had them custom blend a powder for me, which I applied using a Shiseido puff because I hate hate hate loose powdery mess. I wore that powder for ten years.

In the late 90s, I noticed that when I blushed, the color didn't fade away. When I looked very closely at my skin in the mirror, I could see surface redness that appeared permanent. I went to the doctor who told me I had mild rosacea. I was fortunate that I never had acne, but walking around looking like a boiled lobster was no fun, and my Prescriptives powder wasn't cutting the redness, not beyond the first hour anyway.

On the hunt for something to ameliorate the red, I found myself in Barneys, hovering over Stila Illuminating Powder Foundation. My waffling must have triggered the sales associate's radar because she pounced. She suggested that I try Vincent Longo's Cream-to-Powder Foundation, but when I saw it in the compact, I was underwhelmed. She put Stila 10 Watts on one side of my face and VLWC in Porcelain on the other side. I will never forget that frisson of pleasure when the Water Canvas first touched my face—soothing, cooling, quite divine, really. Both foundations looked good, and I could not decide, so I walked away from a sale and headed to Bloomingdale's to do some power shopping. I got hot (those mall halogen lights could trigger a hot flash in a 12 year old) and probably even worked up a sweat. While I was in the dressing room, I looked up and there was my face. NORMAL looking. At least the Vincent Long side was. The Stila side was red and shiny, but the VL side was calm and porcelain. Needless to say, I raced back to Barneys and bought two. My love affair lasted 5 years until it was shot down by some unknown event that caused the foundation to be unavailable everywhere. And when it miraculously came back, the color I had previously purchased (Porcelain) was not the same. Instead of being a cool pinkish beige, it was now peach.


Just as I was finishing my last backup of Water Canvas, I came across this ad:

Original photo from edited by me

I was so impressed I immediately started researching this Jane Iredale makeup I had never heard of and learned that Jane started her makeup line at a time that coincided with the rapid growth of laser resurfacing (a fairly aggressive procedure that removes sun damage, acne scars, and wrinkles but which also leaves skin bright red for many weeks). Her seminal product, a mineral-based foundation, which also provides concealer and sunblock in one product, was designed to completely conceal the redness of post-surgery patients without further irritating their skin. To demonstrate, she had laser resurfacing and then posed for the above unretouched photograph, which showed the extraordinary ability of her mineral foundation to conceal and heal skin conditions. That's good advertising.

My discovery of Jane Iredale occurred in 2000, when her cosmetics were not yet widely sold, and they absolutely were not yet sold online. I was lucky enough to find a salon not too far from me and went there as soon as I possibly could. Because my skin was oily, I decided against the Amazing Base® and chose the PurePressed Powder, which I still wear today, twelve years later. Back then, I used it to set the Vincent Longo Water Canvas Foundation, and I was completely satisfied with the face I presented to the world every day.

When Jane Iredale products became more widely available, including online, I experimented with her loose powder as, well.

Here are some thoughts after having used both formulas:

Amazing Base
  • Messy—all that loose powder flying around ... not to mention how much of it I might have inhaled. Yech.
  • Finicky—I found that had to lightly and quickly buff the powder in and move on because the more I worked it into my skin, the shinier my face would look. All that buffing also irritated my skin and triggered a rosacea flush.
  • Too moisturizing—My combination skin got oily earlier in the day (by 10:00 am) and required blotting several times (I use Shiseido blotting papers), and then I had to reapply the loose powder because much of it came off with the oil.
  • Frankenpores—Because my skin got oilier when wearing the AmazingBase, my pores would be visible by noon, with little divots of beige pools sitting in my skin. Ick.
  • Inconvenient—Not particularly portable. Sure, I could toss the jar into my bag, but then all the powder would work its way through the sifter and make an unholy mess the next time I opened the lid. Conveniently, Jane Iredale introduced a retractable Handi brush a couple years ago, which meant I could dump some powder into the cap and carry extra powder with me in my makeup bag ... if I stayed with the loose, that is.

PurePressed Powder
  • Flawless—Takes as much abuse from the Handi brush as I dish out and still provides natural, even coverage with a smooth finish that isn't sparkly in the slightest. It goes down matte at first but evolves into a semi-matte finish within an hour or so, taking on a subtle glow instead of an oily look.
  • Coverage—Perfectly conceals redness without the need for any concealer or foundation underneath. Mind you, my rosacea is quite mild, and I had a two V-beam and five IPL treatments to remove most of the redness, but I still have flaws I like to conceal, like "freckles" that used to pop out in summer as a child, which now no longer fade into my porcelain skin winter (hello age spots; thank you sun damage). What I love best about the pressed formula is it still lets my natural skin show through. I don't want to be poreless, but I don't want my pores emphasized, either.
  • Convenient—comes in a compact with full-sized mirror. Nuff said.

I realize that not everyone is as enamored with mineral makeup as I am. It really works for me, and I love it. For now. Who knows what will happen in another five years. Meanwhile here are a few tips I stumbled across over the years:

  • If your skin used to be oily and you are not yet ready to move on to AmazingBase (or another loose mineral powder, like those by Alima Pure or elea blake), and you find that initial application of the pressed powder looks too dry, give your face a quick spritz of something moisturizing. Any will do, even distilled water. I use Jane Iredale Pommist or her Balance Antioxidant Hydration Spray. I spray a flocked sponge (don't want to wet my mascara!) and then roll it onto the skin's surface. Instant radiance.
  • If, after application, your skin appears ashy or chalky, you are either using too much powder or too light a color. Either choose one shade darker or apply the powder in thinner layers. Lean back from the mirror and examine your face the same way you would when applying brow color; the point is to avoid zooming in—visually take in the entire face when you apply minerals.
  • If the finish from any mineral powder is more shimmery than you want, use your fingertips to press the minerals into your skin. The warmth from your fingers will help the mineral particles to lie flat and you'll get more of a glow than a sparkle.

Bottom line: That's it. Not fickle with foundation. What about you?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Becca Beach Tint (Raspberry): The Epitome of Simple and Versatile

Natural-looking makeup that is easy to apply and lasts a long time sings to me. Lip stains are a good candidate because of their lasting power, and Becca Beach Tint ($24) stands above the crowd for its versatility.

Beach Tints set quickly and their waterproof gel formula, which feels more like cream-to-powder to me, means they work with both liquid and powder foundations and blushes. My skin drinks it in, and there it stays put, where the result is undetectable--as makeup anyway. On cheeks, I get a rosy, slightly-flushed result with no visible pores, and the tart color lasts on my lips for hours, unless I eat something oily, like salad dressing.

Raspberry, which is a true raspberry color, smells like raspberries. Go figure. If you are fragrance averse, the scent dissipates quickly, but there is an initial olfactory berry burst.

Here's a picture of it, blobbed onto my skin, moderately sheered out on the left, and applied slightly more heavily on the right.

Swatched on white paper to avoid undertones from my skin:

The 7ml (0.24 fl oz.) tubes look teensy, but a little goes a very long way, and the color is buildable, where you can really get some vibrant berry goodness going on the lips. Just make sure your skin is well exfoliated.

Beach Tints dry matte and provide no moisture, so I like apply a bit of lip lube on top, like Julia Hewett Camellia Lip Balm (#1 fave) or Rouge Bunny Rouge Kiss Elixir, which is more glossy and gives my lips the tingles. I never apply balm first because I want the stain to sink in.

You need to shake the tube really well before each use or a squirt of watery silicone might come out. Some tubes do this and some don't, so I err on the cautious side and shake shake shake, which gives my bat wings a bit of exercise.

One minor annoyance: Once out of the box, none of the Becca Tints is labeled, so if you have more than one Eye Tint or Beach Tint, you'll have to look at the color through the tube's little window to figure out which color you want to use.

Bottom line: The only "stain" product I need.

Ingredients: Isododecane, Cyclopentasiloxane, Cera Alba (Beeswax), Oxidized Polyethylene, Isostearyl Neopentanoate, Dimethicone, Polyethylene, Trimethylsiloxysilicate, Disteardimonium Hectorite, Tocopheryl Acetate, Nylon-12, Propylene Carbonate, Parfum (Fragrance), Titanium Dioxide, Iron Oxides.

Do you have a favorite lip or cheek stain?

Purchased from All pictures mine.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Love Affair With Makeup: When Did it Start?


Comments in a recent post I made about shopping my own stash made me think about when my obsession over beauty products truly started--as in, how did it get to the point I had to even consider shopping from my own "collection," a word that makes me throw up a little in my mouth, since I am not a makeup artist.


I was definitely born with a strong interest in beauty products, but I don't know where it came from. I didn't have nearly the ocean of information available to me then that is available to girls today. And my mother was no tutor. The ultimate minimalist, she was more into layering fragrance and wearing pearls and her gold studs than wearing makeup. In fact, she wore only lipstick, but she wore it every single day, never left the house without it, and always looked great.

Blasé Apricot—Mom's holy grail (still sold!)

Starting at age 7, I asked Santa for a vanity table every single year.  Why? My mother didn't have a vanity table, so I guess it was the influence of old movies (Bette Davis is a favorite.) In any case, that Red Rotundo never delivered, and you'd think he'd have gotten the hint year after year. By age 13, I was first to snatch up the Avon catalog, which I stared at for hours and then begged my mother to let me get some makeup (fat chance—I'm sure I wasn't even shaving my legs then). I read Seventeen Magazine in junior high and subscribed to Cosmopolitan, Mademoiselle, and Glamour (adored their Do's and Don'ts) in later years, finally graduating to Allure, InStyle, Vogue, and Elle. I'm sure I read others but you get my drift. To this day I love nothing more than a radical makeover, as well as those yearly best-of articles, and when Chic Simple had a monthly spread in InStyle, I was in heaven. But I am jumping ahead of myself.

My mother seemed uninterested in cultivating that girly side of me after I hit puberty (wanted to preserve my fresh-faced chastity as long as possible, no doubt) so I was on my own to explore. I had to resort to stuff I could get to within walking distance, which was the local drugstore, but clearly I was born to be mild because my splurges amounted to powder and mascara. Whoopee. I satisfied my love of color with nail polish. I probably had at least 10 bottles of Revlon and L'Oreal.

I was 24 when I made my first department store purchase. It had less to do with feeling intimidated by those counter ladies in their black smocks or white lab coats than with my lifestyle at the time. Expanding my makeup horizons hadn't occurred to me yet. I lived my life on campus during the school year, sports and play after classes, and summers out on the water, where the thought of makeup didn't even reach my level of consciousness. When you're young, sun-bleached hair, sun-kissed skin, glowing cheeks, and rosy lips are a gift not to be taken lightly. Who'd want to cover that up?

So, I was a late bloomer—at least compared to women today. I quickly settled on Prescriptives and picked up other staples at Clinique and Shiseido. I had zero interest in Estée Lauder (moms shopped that counter, dontcha know), determined that Lancôme and Borghese colors were too vivid for my coloring, and assumed Chanel, Dior, and Elizabeth Arden were for mature ladies.  ;)  I went makeup shopping once or twice a year. No, that was not a typo.


Enter the 90s. My first non-counter purchase was MAC. I had read an editor's-choice spread, probably in Allure, about MAC's "universal" Spice Lip pencil, and I had to have it. This was in 1993 before the Internet, unless you had a Prodigy account, and even then, almost no one was selling online. In fact, MAC might not have even been in the US yet. I was living in Bar Harbor, and trust me when I tell you that they rolled the sidewalks up in October. For a budding makeup addict, my options were zip unless I drove 90 minutes west to Bangor or 3 hours south to Portland. So my first sight-unseen purchase was made after calling a non-800 number in Canada and ordering MAC Spice, Wedge eyeshadow, and Prism blush, which all turned out to be bad color choices for me, but the thought that I could actually do this started the incubation period of a baby demon. One badass, hungry demon who demanded to be fed.

But before that demon had the chance to grow into a frumious bandersnatch, I remained more or less satisfied with my moderate stash for more than 15+ years. My everyday, go-to products were by Prescriptives and comprised one custom-blend powder, two eyeshadows, one lipstick, and a single lip pencil. I bought my mascara and eyelash curler at the drugstore, and I wore zero eyeliner, lip gloss, or blush. I occasionally picked up the odd item that captured my curiosity, but I quickly lost interest and always went back to my Px "system," which made me happy and made me look like an improved version of myself.

By the mid 90s I began to get an inkling for what I might be missing. I saw my first Bobbi Brown counter at Bloomingdale's (zero interest in that brown stuff), and I received my first bliss world catalog in the mail. Bliss introduced me to brands I wasn't seeing at my local malls: Chantecaille, T. Le Clerc, Shu Uemura, Stila, Laboratoire Remède, Phyto, and others. Of course I had to actually call my orders in. Despite having a computer, I wasn't online yet.

I tried a couple new things but always went back to my old standbys, which now included a few products by Jane Iredale, which used to be available only in select salons. Things were quiet for a while, but as it turns out, that was just the lull before dorking.

Enter 2007. Wanting something new and not feeling like driving to the mall, I typed "taupe eyeshadow" into Google, and I swear I heard someone scream, "Release the hounds!" Those innocent-looking two words led me to:
  • Makeup Alley, where people reviewed products I had no idea I wanted! (Don't you hate when that happens?)
  • YouTube, where people were actually putting on makeup in front of the camera! (You mean people actually wear more than two eyeshadows at one time? And WTH is the "outer v"?)
  • Forums, where women (and men) were discussing all things beauty!
  • BLOGS! Aka Lemming Generator™. There are a few of you (names withheld to protect the dastardly) who are indirectly responsible for my near-complete Edward Bess, Ellis Faas, Chantecaille, Laura Mercier, and Bobbi Brown collection ... probably others. I forget.
So that's my story. I lived a pretty unremarkable makeup life until just a few years ago, when things simply exploded. If it weren't for physics and law enforcement, I'd be unstoppable.


When did your makeup appreciation start and how did you exorcise (or exercise) those demons?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Fickle Friday: Shopping Your Own Stash


After nearly a year of beauty blogging—a year when I amassed more makeup than I could ever use up on my one face—I find myself becoming almost desensitized to new product launches, collections, and all the pretty little things that spread like wildfire around the blogosphere. I'm not completely immune—I will always love makeup—but I am no longer so easily led over that cliff. A friend who had once been an actor told me that there are only four original story lines in Hollywood, and I often remember that when I think about makeup and The Next Big Thing.  It's already been done. Carry on.

Though formulas and textures will continue to improve, and more and more makeup will contain treatment, there are only so many minky-grey or shimmering petal or rosy red colors designers can come up with. Even if this season's new packaging is beautiful, like Dior's Garden Party clutch compact, don't I already have cool pale pastels just like them in my own stash? And would I ever use such anemic lip gloss? No.

Drool, drool, and more drool. Too bad the formula and finish are awful

In my goal of making more discriminating purchases, I have been paring down in parallel: taking in less new stuff while whittling down what I already have, specifically to the items I tend to use all the time. In a massive purge, I moved more than 90% of my excess to a blog sale drawer, a sale I intended to hold this past Christmas, and yet I still haven't done it. Why am I hanging on? Because I am FICKLE. What if I like that thing again, I whimper. But surely it must feel liberating to let these perfectly-good-yet-abandoned items go to someone who will actually use and appreciate them.

Let's face it. Letting go is hard. I bought said item for a reason, and one would assume that reason is still valid. So I have decided to let my instincts guide me when I am thinking of parting with an item I haven't used in a while (if at all):
  • If I had put the item into the Purgatory Box practically unused, it's safe to let it go. Life is too short for blah makeup. 
  • If I put something away that I got a fair amount of use out of, a product that once did, indeed, wow me, then that is probably worth keeping. Fickle can come in handy here.
The only caveat to the second scenario is I cannot have more than one of it's kind. As in, I need only one pink-tinged ivory base or dusty lavender eyeshadow and only one sheer rose lipstick (oof, that's gonna be hard). No matter how pretty, if I have more than one of a kind, it's really just about the packaging, and since I depot, who cares! La la la  ♪ ♫  Having multiples can be stressful, and being stressed out by makeup is just, well ... pathetic.

Obviously, the best to come out of all of this is shopping my own stash. Sometimes putting things away for a few weeks (or longer) lets me fall in love all over again. So its like getting something new. And that's where a palette system comes in handy. I can move items in and out as the mood strikes me. Sometimes Hannibal helps me choose. (Click to see how cute his wee paw is.)

Are you a ruthless reductionista (buy-use-toss/gift) or do you tuck items aside and later shop your own stash? Or (OK now, be honest), have you ever repurchased something you threw away? More than once?

All photos mine except the Dior palette from stock

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Rouge Bunny Rouge Eyeshadow in Bashful Flamingo and Sweet Dust Seriema: Review, Swatches, Comparions

On the day of their release at Zuneta, I ordered the two new Rouge Bunny Rouge eyeshadows, Bashful Flamingo and Sweet Dust Seriema.  I felt such anticipation over their arrival, I called the post office ahead and warned the postal carrier to wear a helmet, knee pads, and a cup when he made his delivery. Unfortunately, there was a SNAFU in customs, and it took almost 8 weeks for them to get to me, so by the time they arrived, I had worked myself into a lather.  And you know what? At first I felt just meh. But that was just at first.

Since I am fresh out of new and exciting adjectives, this will be (primarily), a pictorial review.  I tried so hard to capture the subtleties of these eyeshadows in different lighting conditions, but it was tough. I did not quite manage to capture the beauty. Meanwhile, if you want to know my opinion on RBR eyeshadow formula, finish, and texture, you can read some of my previous reviews, though I have not yet reviewed the other two matte eyeshadows I own.

Natural light

Indirect sunlight

Rouge Bunny Rouge calls Bashful Flamingo a semi-opaque pale powder-pink, but pink is not what I see when I look inside the compact.  I was actually disappointed when I first opened the lid. Maybe a warm pink with beige or a cool-neutral peach, like the inside of a conch shell, but certainly not the pale powder pink I was expecting, which connotes coolness. Prepared to hate it, I tried it on, and that's where the big surprise came. The peach toned down the yellow-beige discoloration on my eyelids from sun damage and ever so slightly brightened the eyelid skin, primarily by adding a touch of color that was just a tiny bit off my own skin tone. Flamingo is right on the edge of my comfort zone, as it leans warm and I almost exclusively wear cool-based everything, but there is no denying that BF does something special to my lids, even if it's a little dark for above the crease. 

These photos do not do this bashful beauty justice, but even in good light, Bashful Flamingo looks like nothing special in the pan.

Sound the trumpets--and give an angel her wings, for god's sake

Rouge Bunny Rouge came closer in their description of Sweet Dust SeriemaSemi-opaque cool dusty mauve taupe. In fact Sweet Dust is exactly what I wanted Solstice Halcyon to be. It takes the best from both Solstice Halcyon and Grey Go-away Lourie and puts it into one delectable pot of cool muted-grey goodness.

Swatched (double swipe—so a little powdery) on NW15 skin in natural light, you can see how Bashful wants to sink right into my skin and become one with it, though it shows up a little more obvious on my eyelids.

Here are the two of them swatched on white paper to eliminate undertones. It looks warm, almost beige, but I blame the copier paper I used, my photography skills, and the dull northeastern light at the end of winter.

The first thing I wondered (and bet some of you are wondering) was how similar Sweet Dust Seriema was to Solstice Halcyon. Not too similar. Dust is slightly lighter and cooler, and of course it is completely matte; I see not even a hint of a satin/glowy finish, which is a shame. Although Solstice Halcyon is a gorgeous eyeshadow, and possibly as universal as they come, over time I have discovered that it turns slightly muddy on me because of its warmth. Sweet Dust is the more flattering color on me, so it is probably ideally suited for cool, light skins.

Here's a picture of Sweet Dust Seriema and Solstice Halcyon together.

Natural daylight, indirect sun (wee gouges in SH from depot)

Photo taken right under the sun, which warms both up a bit

Here are the two RBR taupes swatched on my skin. Solstice appears almost bronze, by comparison, and the warmth within becomes much more noticeable:

Finally, the requisite paper swatch comparing Sweet Dust and Solstice. Here you can see how much more brown Solstice contains, where Sweet Dust appears more grey:

What surprises me is that the blogosphere is not infected with reviews on these eyeshadows, especially Sweet Dust Seriema. It's a TAUPE, people! It sold out almost immediately, so where are the reviews? Kate at Drivel About Frivol (most clever blog name ever) has reviewed/compared this lovely taupe, so be sure to check out her opinion and swatches.

Like all Rouge Bunny Rouge eyeshadows Bashful and Sweet Dust are semi sheer, layerable, and wear well, though I found I needed a primer for these to last all day (especially with Bashful). I use Paula Dorf, which has been my go-to eye primer since the mid 90s. Though semi opaque, Sweet Dust can be built up to a more intense, cool taupe, and with an eyeshadow transformer. Zuneta says you can use water, I haven't had much luck applying water to talc. Light skinned beauties might find it a suitable eyeliner, especially for under the lower lashes.

Bottom line:  A truly worthy addition to the RBR Long-last eyeshadow lineup and essential for those of us who love subtle neutrals. As for Bashful Flamingo, is it just BF to you or BFF#?

All photos mine