Showing posts with label Hand Cream. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hand Cream. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Hand Creams and Treatment Rotation, Favorites and Recommendations for Him and Her

I'm a bit of a hand cream addict. There's not a week that I don't have at least 2 hand creams in my purse not to mention all the drawers in my home that I have little hand cream tubes stashed. The weather has turned in the past few weeks, the air is extremely dry and my skin has really felt it. Extra help with moisture has been essential for me on all fronts. Last year I put together a list of my favorite hand creams that I had in rotation. Today I have a roundup of some new ones that I've been putting to the test including three designed more for men (thanks to my husband for testing some too).

When it comes to hand creams, there are three things I look for: good packaging, quick absorption, noticeable hydration. While I don't mind feeling the moisture, I like treatments don't have a greasy feel or silicone-like slip in the finish. On scented hand creams, I'm all for a good one with fragrance because it lifts the mood but sometimes I want something fragrance-free so it doesn't interfere with my perfume. For my husband, he doesn't like any of the ones I have that have girly scents. He has used and likes the one from Kiehl's, but it's pretty emollient and he's been asking me to find him something that has a quick dry time.

Up first is my favorite hand cream formula ever, L'Occitane. I've been hooked on L'Occitane since a family friend gifted me a tube of the regular Shea Butter version to help me with my peeling cuticles and dry hands. The regular Shea Butter is extra gentle and perfect for those with sensitive skin and noses. It's also thick and ultra hydrating. This one is L'Occitane's best-seller and comes in a few different size options. There are some value sets which give you a price break, so before you buy, definitely check out the sets like this Hugs & Kisses Duo or this Hand Cream Trio (there are larger value sets too).

I'm super picky when it comes to scented body products so it's somewhat of a miracle that I've loved every single L'Occitane scented hand cream. The options vary in thickness and texture depending on formula, but all are pretty much the same in terms of hydration. There are two whipped formulas in the Shea Butter Whipped* and Melting Honey Whipped* (review here) both have 25% shea butter and have a lighter texture but are very moisturizing.

Amande (Almond) is one of the few that doesn't have shea butter. It's made with almond oil and has an emollient and thinner texture. It's a favorite of mine but the scent is pretty strong. The Collection de Grasse scents (reviewed here) are also stronger in fragrance, many of which are very floral.

By far, my favorite is the Pierre Hermé x L'Occitane collaboration. I've stocked up on the Pierre Hermé Hand Cream Trios because you save $7 by purchasing the set, and it also comes packaged in a cute limited-edition tin which makes it perfect for gifting. Pamplemousse Rhubarbe is a warm well rounded grapefruit. You can smell the citrus but the rhubarb makes it softer, warmer and not as sharp as a true grapefruit. Jamine-Immortelle Neroli is a very soft gentle jasmin and citrus mix. I normally don't like wearing jasmin scents, but this one is very soothing and I adore it. Miel Mandarine is soft orange scented hand cream. It's got a creamy roundness to the scent because of the honey in it. All three are hydrating but have a quick drydown and leave the hands feeling silky smooth. There's no greasy feel and it absorbs super quick (quick as in less than 30 seconds).

L'Occitane wins for most fun packaging designs, best formula for sensitive but dry skin, and widest variety of scents and ingredients to suit your preferences and needs.

Next up are the Molton Brown Hand Creams*. I've been a fan of the line for a long time (long before most everything was reformulated or scents renamed). Their current line up of their hand creams are just as good as L'Occitane but the Molton Brown has different scents and packaging. There are currently seven scented options, some are called Replenishing Hand Creams and others simply Hand Creams. I tested all the scents and formulas and they perform the same. They have a fast absorbing texture that is not too thin but not too thick. Hands feel moisturized and smooth. With scented body products there's often a hit or miss, but in this case there's not a bad one in the entire lineup. Scents are noticeable and last a decent amount of time. My top three favorites are Gingerlily, Pink Pepperpod (also available in this cute holiday cracker) and Ylang-Ylang.

The latest launch is the Alba White Truffle line which consists of a Hand Treatment and Hand Exfoliator. You can buy them individually or in a boxed duo gift set (prices are the same whether you buy separate or together). These are scented with nutmeg, olibanum and vanilla and they smell absolutely delicious without being overpowering or too sweet. The formula of the hand cream is a lot richer than the other ones in the Molton Brown line. It's very very moisturizing and you can definitely feel the strength of it. It does absorb fast and doesn't leave a greasy feel although you can feel the moisture. It's a pampering kind of treatment that I really like. The best part of this line is the Hand Exfoliator. I've had scrubs with pedicures before but never on the hands. This is new to me but I'm hooked. The scrub gets rid of all the dead skin and build up and leaves the hands feeling refreshed, moisturized, ultra smooth and just so much better. I would love to use it everyday but that would be overdoing it. I've used this 1x per week and my hands feel like dead weight has been lifted off that I didn't know was there. If you're looking for a hand duo for someone who already has almost everything this is a good option as it just launched in mid-October and is relatively new.

Next up are some other brands that have one formula or scent of hand cream. Many are either skincare or fragrance lines.
  • Eve Lom Hand Cream with SPF 10 is one of the most gentle hand creams I've tried that's unscented. If you're super sensitive to any fragrance or simply don't like it, this is a good option. The formula is on the thick side so a little goes a long way. It absorbs quickly.
  • Nuxe Rêve de Miel is the most lightweight in texture that I've tried. I'm a fan of all things Nuxe, I bought mine in a duo set from Paris, but you can buy the individual tubes online (currently there's a sale online at Nuxe). It has a soothing but very soft and gentle honey scent.
  • Elizabeth and James Nirvana Black and Nirvana White Hand Creams restocked at, both are limited-edition and come in sleek slim tubes perfect to slip into a clutch or small bag. I bought a couple tubes of both since I love the fragrance. The formula is nicely moisturizing and scent is pretty strong.
  • Ole Henriksen Empower Hydrating Hand Cream* is a new formula from Ole Henriksen. It's a lightweight super absorbent hand cream that strengthens and protects the skin. It also has Willowbark which is a natural exfoliant (salicylic acid) to sheds dead skin cells and stimulate new cell formation. I like that it absorbs fast and the moisture lasts a long time. Even though it has a natural exfoliant I was relieved to find it didn't make the skin peel or pill. It has a super lightweight clean scent. It makes the hands look smoother instantly. (Also available at Sephora.)
  • Leif Kakadu Plum and Macadamia Nut Hand Balm* is a super hydrating emollient hand treatment. It smells really good like macadamia and it's so good I almost want to eat it. This one is larger than most of the tubes I have but still works to fit inside my purse. I would say it's as moisturizing as the Kiehl's but has a thinner texture. I really like the Leif as a cuticle treatment too.
  • Tatcha Indigo Soothing Silk Hand Cream* is hands down my favorite treatment hand cream. The Indigo line is really good for sensitive, dry or itchy skin. It has a lightweight refreshing sakura-like scent to it. I would recommend it to anyone for any skin type. If you don't want to buy the full size without trying it, Tatcha has it in a smaller Travel Size. It's also available in a mini in the Soothing Indigo Mini Set. If you want the full size there's a Aiiro Soothing Duo set that has the hand and body cream.

For men, I've been on the hunt for a good basic hand cream designed more for men versus something that is unisex. When it comes to skincare, packaging is key for my husband. It has to look good and have easy to use packaging. He won't use anything pink or girly-looking. The Kiehl's Ultimate Strength Hand Salve comes in a small size in the Men's Starter Set and my husband likes it and uses it daily. It is very hydrating and when it comes to waiting for something to absorb into the skin, my husband (Andrew) wants it to be fast (he doesn't like waiting). With the Kiehl's, he will apply it to his hands or feet. Any excess is rubbed off onto his arms or on a towel. I also like it because it's very good for super dry skin is unscented and even though it's emollient I find it dries within a few minutes. It's available in a number of holiday sets and bundles where you can save like this trio.

Andrew's been a fan of Baxter and Jack Black, so I ordered both for him to try. He's a fan of the Jack Black Cool Body Moisturizer because it has a nice clean scent and feels refreshing. He says it applies well and absorbs into the skin quickly without feeling greasy. The Jack Black Industrial Strength Hand Healer comes with a lot of high ratings on online reviews. It's also been recommended by many of my female readers. I had high hopes that my husband would like this one because he's a fan of the line. After trying this - he felt it too emollient, too thick and he kept wanting to wipe off the excess from his hands. I thought he was in one of his impatient moods and tried it myself. He was right. I also found it very thick in texture and a bit sticky. The benefits of the Jack Black are that it's very very hydrating. It soothes dry spots instantly. There is a slight menthol scent to it but it fades. I let it sit for as long as I could to see if it would dry down. It never did but I found I could tolerate the texture as an overnight treatment. It makes the hands look visibly smoother and in the morning they look and feel a lot better.

Baxter of California is a men's grooming line my husband discovered at the Birchbox Roadtrip event earlier this year. He's been a fan of everything he's tried so far and has some of the value sets on his holiday wishlist. A couple reviewed in this monthly favorites post here. I ordered the Hydro Salve Hand Cream which is a white cream in a squeeze tube. This one is his favorite because it adds noticeable hydration but dries quickly. It leaves the hands feeling moisturized, fixes dry cracks and soothes the skin without any greasy residue. I tried it as well. On one of the days I had some issues with cuticle dryness (some were starting to crack). Within minutes my hands felt instant relief and by the afternoon, my cuticles were almost healed. The description of this one is "Packed with aloe, shea butter and avocado oil, this unscented moisturizing cream hydrates and helps repair very dry skin. Infused with vitamins E, C and B5, the extra thick cream delivers nutrients to rough and chapped areas." It's exactly as described.

Above: Collar Stays from Nordstrom, Travel Case by Tumi (current style here)

There are several I did test in store that had very high ratings online in customer reviews but that I didn't like enough to purchase. I'll mention three briefly. Ahava Mineral Hand Cream came highly recommended to me by several readers. I bought this during the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale and had very high hopes. I couldn't tolerate the smell and the while formula dried quickly it had an almost silicone-slip to my hands that I couldn't wait to wash off. Deborah Lippmann Rich Girl Hand Cream also came highly recommended to me. I liked the formula but found the scent overpoweringly sweet. La Mer The Hand Treatment is a cult classic. I actually splurged on a tube many years ago and used it up. I considered repurchasing recently but found the formula overpowering in fragrance. I also found it felt very emollient, almost greasy. I do think it will be good for super dry hands or an overnight treatment.

That wraps up my roundup of hand cream testing for fall to winter. If you're in the market for a new hand treatment especially in this dry weather, my top picks include:

Most variety and best formula:
L'Occitane and Molton Brown

Best unscented options:
L'Occitane Shea Butter, Eve Lom and Baxter of California

Most intense for super dry skin:
Kiehl's, Jack Black, Molton Brown Alba White Truffle and Leif

Most lightweight texture: 
Nuxe Rêve de Miel

Best for sensitive skin/instant relief:

Personal favorites for scented hand creams:
L'Occitane x Pierre Hermé (all three)
Molton Brown Gingerlily
Elizabeth and James Nirvana Black

Husband's favorite for men:
Baxter of California

There are a number of really good gift sets this holiday. I can't get over how good they are this year. You can find the brands above at a number of different retailers but some products and sets are exclusive to the brands own retail website. All the products are linked above in the reviews to where you can buy them so you don't have to click around to find things. Many times it's easier to shop at larger retailers but if you're looking for good deals or savings, I'd recommend researching ones that sound interesting to you, make a list and bookmark websites. A lot of the individual brands will have savings and gift with purchase offers on Black Friday and Cyber Monday - so while it might be a bit of extra work to shop, I do believe it will be worth the effort. I'll have a roundup of promotions, codes and deals on Friday and Monday so stay tuned. 

I think skincare or scented products are often tricky to gift to people, especially if you don't know them extremely well. I think hand creams fall into the more neutral category. I've gifted L'Occitane for years and it's always well received. There's been confirmation in this conclusion since those I've gifted the hand creams have always repurchased what I've bought them, they often buy as gifts for their friends as well.

As usual, I've love for you to share what your favorites are. Please let me know in the comments!  

Press samples included in the feature indicated by a *. All others purchased by me.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

L'Occitane Shea Melting Honey Collection Launches

Earlier this fall L'Occitane launched their Shea Honey Body Collection which combines the rich smoothness of Shea butter and the soft gentle scent of Provençal honey. The collection is exclusive to L'Occitane stores and online. I was a huge fan of some of the older honey items that they discontinued and was sad when it was pulled, but the items in the new collection are just as divine. There are six pieces in this collection covering bath, body, lip and hand care. I have four pieces to share a review of today.

The Shea Honey items smell like a soft sweet soothing honey. It's a warm and well-rounded kind of scent that is amazing. There is a very slight hint of floral to the scent, it's not overpowering like some honey scents can be. If you have an ultra sensitive nose and don't want any fragrance in your body products, I highly recommend the Shea Butter line. The Extra Gentle Lotion for Body and Hands has been a staple for years. I've repurchased so many times I've lost count. It's lightweight but super hydrating and good for sensitive skin.

There are two bath items in this collection. The Shea Melting Honey Soft Shower Gel ($20 for 8.4 fl oz) is a gentle body cleanser that lathers up nicely in the bath or shower. It has a thick consistency but foams up well to leave the skin feeling super smooth and well hydrated. I've had some dry patches on my legs this past week and this has really helped hydrate my skin. A little goes a long way.

There is also a Melting Honey Solidarity Soap ($3 for 1.7 oz, sold out online, but I did spot this available in stores still). I'm not a bar soap kind of girl, but L'Occitane is the one of the few lines I actually like and use for bar soaps. They have the best lather and are moisturizing but don't leave any film on the skin.

My favorite item in the collection is the Melting Honey Ultra Soft Cream ($36 for 3.4 fl oz). This is a super lush and soft cream that melts into the skin. It's like a body cream or body butter but with a much softer texture. It feels super emollient without any greasy feel. I'm completely obsessed with the formula. I hope L'Occitane expands this formula into other lines like the Almond and Shea Butter (they currently have it in the Rose Heart, Vanilla Bouquet and Zesty Lime). The Melting Honey Ultra Soft Cream has 10% shea butter.

Last but not is the Shea Melting Honey Whipped Hand Cream ($12 for .59 fl oz). I'm a sucker for hand creams that come in cute packaging and L'Occitane launches are always among my favorite. (Have you seen the packaging for the new Pierre Herme x L'Occitane launch? The hand cream trio to die for!!) The whipped hand creams come in an airy whipped formula that feels lightweight but is still super hydrating and creamy. The texture has just the right consistency where you feel moisturized but not greasy. It absorbs nicely into the hand and smells really good. The Melting Honey Whipped Hand Cream is made with 25% shea butter. The honey is very softening on the skin.

I'm thrilled with each item in the new collection. Everything is super hydrating which is perfect for this time of year but lightweight enough so it doesn't have any heavy feel. The best part about L'Occitane is that they have a wide range of body products to suit everyone's tastes. I buy the gift sets every holiday as Christmas gifts because they are beautifully packaged and never fail to make friends and family happy (even for the super picky ones that are so hard to shop for). I'm looking forward to seeing this year's holiday collection and sets in person. The Advent Calendar is the cutest set I've ever seen.

Have you checked out anything from the Shea Melting Honey Collection yet? If not, what are your L'occitane favorites? All the Shea Melting Honey items are exclusive to L'Occitane Boutiques and online. Also all pieces are limited-edition.

The Shea Melting Honey items were sent courtesy of L'Occitane for review consideration. All opinions my own.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Monthly Beauty Favorites: Skincare

Happy October everyone! I hope you had a great September. It's officially fall but we're still having really warm sunny days in the high 70s and it feels like fall weather will never arrive. September brought about a number of new beauty discoveries, in particular new lipsticks. I think I fell in love with every single new lipstick formula I tried from Charlotte Tilbury (hands down one of the best mattes ever), Louboutin (oh so luxurious), Buxom Cosmetics (so many good colors with an amazing formula) and Tom Ford (how can you not love TF lipsticks?).

I decided to do a different favorites roundup this month and focus on skincare loves. Smooth clear skin has been a focus lately and I've been trying new things over the past few months. It takes time to see visible results - so here are some things I've been putting to the test and absolutely love. My skin has improved a lot - even my husband has commented on it. As always if you have any skincare recommendations I'm all ears! I just picked up this AmorePacific Moisture Bound Set because so many of you raved about the Enzyme Peel in the comments.

Here's what I've been loving this month (the bag above is one of the pouches from the MAC Clearly MAC Trio):

My go-to moisturizer all throughout the summer has been the Eve Lom Brightening Cream ($110 for 1.7 fl oz). It's described as a hydra-cream designed to "correct pigmentation and boost luminosity to reveal beautifully radiant and even-toned skin." It has a brightening ingredient called Dermapep™ that corrects hyperpigmentation - after using this I've noticed my skin is visibly more bright, complexion is smooth and dark spots become less noticeable. I would say it's better as a daily lightweight moisturizer rather than a spot corrector - but it has kept my skin smooth, lightly hydrated and works well with all the foundations I use. Even with daily use for months I still have a good portion of the jar left - so I'm thrilled it's lasted a long time.

Last month I had the opportunity to receive a complimentary facial at the Kate Somerville Clinic on Melrose (more on this soon). It was hands down the best facial I've ever had and I highly recommend the clinic. Since then I've been slowly incorporating some Kate Somerville items in my routine. On your first visit they provide a detailed questionnaire for you to fill out on your skin type, preferences and goals. Mine included dark spot correction, texture improvement, anti-aging prevention, help with wrinkles on my forehead, brightening. The facial and products are used in various treatment processes in concentrated formulas based on your needs. Three things I've been loving:
  • The Daily Detox Cleanser ($34 for 4 fl oz) is a really good deep-cleaning cleanser for everyday. I use it with my Clarisonic. It helps fight acne and removes impurities from the skin. It's helped to rebalance my skin and even with the heat we've been having my skin is less oily. It contains phytic acid which helps fade post-acne scars and reduce inflammation. I can't rave about this enough.
  • Dermal Quench Liquid Lift Advanced Wrinkle Treatment ($95 for 2.5 oz) was recommended as a replacement for my regular toner. It's a product that helps combat all my skin issues: aging, wrinkles, uneven skintone. It also helps with dryness - and I've seen a big improvement in my skin. Forehead lines have started to soften and using this helps prep the skin for serums or moisturizers.
  • RetAsphere 2-in-1 Retinol Night Cream ($85 for 1 fl oz) is something I've been experimenting with as well. It's been recommended by many that I incorporate some kind of retinol treatments into my routine. I have super sensitive skin and things I've tried in the past have been too strong for me. This one is ultra gentle and as a night time treatment, I've noticed it's helped smooth the skin while increasing firmness. My skin looks more glowing and soft. I've tried this every other night for several weeks and I've had no irritation.
The Aesop Parsley Seed Mask ($39 for 60 ml) still remains a tried and true favorite. It's my go-to cleansing and clarifying mask that really draws out all the yuck from your skin. It's recommended use for 2x per week, but I've found it gentle enough for me to use 4x per week on trouble spots. I love how effective it is while still being suitable for sensitive skin.

I've tested a number of cleansing oils and have several favorites. These days I've been loving the SK-II Facial Treatment Cleansing Oil ($70 for 8.4 oz). It has a lightweight pleasantly refreshing scent to it. It has a good medium thickness to it - it's fluid but not too fluid. I love how it blends into the skin easily and seamlessly. It emulsifies well with warm water and removes all trace of makeup (I still remove my waterproof mascara/eyeliner with a cotton pad first though). Leaves the skin feeling completely clean, soft and hydrated with no greasy residue.

Tatcha is always a favorite in my regular skincare routine. The Pore Perfecting Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 35 ($68 for 2 fl oz) is my holy grail face sunscreen. It has a smooth texture that disappears completely into the skin (no white cast). It helps control oil on me and doubles as an amazing primer for foundation. The Indigo Soothing Silk Hand Cream ($38 for 2 fl oz) is a staple for sensitive or dry skin. I've bought many tubes and given them as gifts to friends. The entire Indigo line is phenomenal. If you're new to the line, there is a mini set that I also recommend.

I've featured the MAC Prep + Prime Blemish Control Gel ($22 for 05 fl oz) before and it's still a staple. It's one of the few acne spot treatments I can use during the day without it making the skin look weird and goopy (others leave a weird clear film that is noticeable). It's also one of the few that really works to help acne spots disappear without making the skin super red by the next day. I think I'm on my third tube - I also recommended my husband try it and it's strong enough for his skin.

Last but not least for lips, I've been loving the Glossier Coconut Balmdotcom ($12) and Dior Crème de Rose ($28). Both are super hydrating and make the lips feel smooth without that greasy feel. My lips are super sensitive and I've gotten reaction to several lip balms (they go numb and then tingle and swell up). These are perfect for my sensitive lips and keep the dry flakes away.

I hope everyone has a great Friday and will have some time to enjoy the weekend! As always I'd love to hear about your current beauty favorites. It's a great way for me to learn about new things :)

Press samples featured in this post include items from Kate Somerville, Eve Lom, Tatcha and Glossier. All other items purchased by me.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

L'Occitane La Collection de Grasse Hand Creams

For spring L'Occitane has a number of boxed sets with new scents and skincare items. L'Occitane's La Collection de Grasse Hand Cream Trio is my one of favorites which includes three 1 oz hand creams of Iris Bleu and Blanc, Neroli and Orchidee and Jasmine and Bergamot ($28 for a boxed set or $12 each individually). As usual the presentation is beautiful and hand creams come packaged in a lovely box for the set. 

The three hand creams have shea butter and are smooth in texture. They dry down to a silky finish. Each scent in the set is a floral. The perfume/fragrance factor is stronger in these than most of the other L'Occitane Hand Creams since they are extensions of each perfume fragrance. Iris Bleu and Iris Blanc is a refreshing iris floral scent. It has a bright fresh feel to it. Jasmin and Bergamot is a strong floral mix of bergamot and reminds me of clean fresh laundry mixed in with florals. Neroli and Orchidee is a citrus floral. My personal favorite is the Iris Bleu and Iris Blanc. It smells clean and refreshing. All three leave the hands nicely moisturized without that greasy or film-like feel.

Here's a quick snapshot of the ingredients of two of the hand creams:

Bottom line a winner. You can't go wrong with L'Occitane for spring gifting whether it's a birthday, thank you, small housewarming gift or just because. They package everything beautifully so there's no extra work needed on your end to gift wrap or box it. However I know there are many who prefer unscented body products so there is no interference with your everyday perfume. In case you're not a fan of fragrance in hand creams, L'Occitane's classic Shea Butter Hand Cream or Whipped Shea Butter Hand Cream are both softer in scent without perfume mixed in. For more hand cream options, a list of my favorites from other brands in this post here.

Have you tried anything from L'Occitane's La Collection de Grasse? Did you check out the hand creams yet? If not do you have a current L'Occitane favorite? You can find the Hand Cream Trio at L'Occitane stores now. Also online at L'Occitane (US).

The L'Occitane Hand Creams were provided courtesy of L'Occitane for review consideration. As always, all opinions my own. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Byredo Bal d'Afrique L'Huile Parfum Oil Roll-On and Blanche Hand Cream

I stopped by Fashion Island a few weekends ago with Beauty Professor for lunch and beauty shopping. One counter we stopped at was the Byredo counter at Neiman Marcus where I fell in love with their new Blanche Hand Cream ($35 for 30 ml/1 oz, made in France) and Bal d'Afrique L'Huile Parfum Oil Roll-On ($78 for 7.5 ml).

I've been a huge fan of Byredo candles, but since I don't have easy immediate access to the line, it's a fragrance brand that I tend to overlook because I like to smell things in person before buying. They recently released three hand creams in Blanche, Bal d'Afrique and La Tulipe, all of which have been on my radar for quite some time but I was reluctant to buy because of the packaging. These come in a sleek white squeeze tube similar to the original Stila Lipshines or Aesop Skincare tubes. They don't keep their shape and seem extremely delicate, but after testing them, I had to give one a try. These are some of the fanciest hand creams I've ever seen and the scents are absolutely divine.

On the nails, Louboutin Sweet Charity (review here)

Blanche is a clean lightweight fresh floral with a soft linen feel. The notes include, top notes of White rose, pink pepper, aldehyde, heart notes are Violet, neroli, peony, base notes are Blond woods, sandalwood, musk. The texture is semi thick with an emollient feel and hydrates the hands nicely. The scent is just so luscious and luxurious - I can't think of a better treat for your hands. That being said, I do think there are hand creams that will do a better job at moisturizing (my favorites here) but the Byredo one is still very good. If the packaging were sturdier I think I could give this a glowing rave review. Due to the delicate nature of this one, it's not one I can comfortably carry in my purse or makeup bag even though I tend to be very careful with my purse contents.

Bal d'Afrique L'Huile Parfum Oil Roll-On was love at first smell. I opted for the roll on version because I used to use Gypsy Water spray version but found it induced a migraine if I didn't spray it just right. Bal d'Afrique is a sweet scent that smells slightly fruity with a hint of peach. The notes include top notes of bergamot, lemon, neroli, African marigold, bucchu, heart notes of Violet, Jasmine petals, cyclamen and base notes of Black amber, musk, vetiver, Moroccan cedar wood. My nose doesn't quite smell all those notes, to me it's a mix of lemon, neroli and jasmine but the mix is quite unique. I adore this one which really surprises me because it's on the sweet side and I normally do not like sweet scents on me. This is definitely more of a spring-summer kind of fragrance. I like it right now, but do feel it's more seasonal rather than year-round. Lasting power is quite good on me, it lasts several hours without fading. I like the convenience of the roll on because it's easy to apply precisely and also small enough to fit into a clutch or makeup bag.

I received a small sample at the counter of Mojave Ghost and Black Saffron - both of which smell amazing as well and are on my wishlist now.

Do you have any Byredo favorites? If not, what's your current go-to scent? I'm always looking for recommendations to check out even though I have a super picky nose.

You can find Byredo at select Neiman Marcus stores and online. I've also bought items from the line in store at Barneys New York and online from Net-A-Porter.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Hand Creams, Lotions and Treatments in Winter Rotation

This post has been several months in the works and with the winter weather I thought it the perfect time to share my favorite hand creams to battle dry skin. I've had my favorites in hand creams that I've tried, loved and been very loyal to which include L'Occitane, Tatcha and Caudalie. A few close friends have sworn by their personal favorites from different lines and insisted that I give them a test drive. Based on their recommendations I compiled a list of what to check out at stores near me and put several others to the test. Today I have a roundup of what I've tested, liked and my thoughts. Shown above from left to right:

Caudalie Hand and Nail Cream ($15 for 2.5 fl oz)
This one is purse friendly, absorbs quickly, lightweight texture, soft sweet grape scent. I'm really particular with scented hand treatments this one has a nice smell. If you're in need of quick and instant hydration I highly recommend this one. Moisturized feel lingers for a few minutes but the skin absorbs it fast and the hands are left feeling nicely hydrated and silky for hours.

Kiehl's Ultimate Strength Hand Salve ($15 for 2.5 fl oz, $22 for 5 fl oz)
I never tried this until last month even though so many have raved about it. It is an intense treatment and I've found offers the most hydration out of all the ones I tested. There is a soft eucalyptus almost minty scent to it straight out of the tube, but the scent disappears almost instantly and leaves a very slight hint of fragrance. If you're sensitive to fragrance this is a good pick. It absorbs quickly and doesn't leave a greasy feel. I bought the smaller size which is purse-friendly.

Estee Lauder Re-Nutriv Intensive Smoothing Hand Creme ($60 for 3.4 fl oz)
I got this as a gift with purchase over a year ago and it has lasted a long time (still going strong). I remember when I researched this after receiving it thinking the price tag was extremely high for a hand treatment. I put it to the test and have been thoroughly impressed with the way it smooths the look of the hands instantly and improves texture over time. It is on the thick side but doesn't leave any greasy residue on the hands because it also absorbs nicely. I wish it came in a smaller size option.

Formula X Hydrate Hand Crème with Kpangnan Butter ($16 for 3.4 fl oz)
Is a new hand cream from the Formula X line at Sephora. It smells absolutely delicious without being overpowering. It has a mix of shea butter with almond scent. It is very emollient and you can feel instant relief after applying. It is on the rich side so you can feel the moisture linger for about 15 to 20 minutes before it absorbs entirely. That being said it doesn't feel heavy even though the formula is rich. I do wish the scent lasted a bit longer, it fades after 15 minutes or so, but the formula is good. It comes in a medium sized tube (also wish it came in a smaller option).

Eve Lom Hand Cream with SPF 10 ($35 for 1.6 fl oz)
This has been on my radar for months and I finally put it to the test in December. It's the most lightweight hand cream I've tried with an airy texture and it absorbs into the skin instantly. There is no detectable scent so if you're super sensitive to fragrance this is an excellent choice. It offers instant relief for dryness and lasts a long time. Although it is moisturizing, I found it on the lighter side compared to other treatments.

Malin + Goetz Vitamin B5 Hand Treatment ($20 for 1.7 oz)
Is a rich hand treatment that's oil-free and made with a very soft almond-like scent. It claims to be quick absorbing which I agree with, but it has a super emollient texture which makes it feel a bit greasy even after 10 minutes. I found it a bit too heavy for my hands for day but do like it for night. That being said I did try this multiple times in stores before purchasing to give it more extensive testing. When my hands were super dry, testing this at the store gave my hands instant relief. The initial scent is really nice but after the dry down the scent disappears completely. 

Tatcha Indigo Soothing Silk Hand Cream ($38 for 60 ml / 2 fl oz)
This has been a long-time favorite. It comes in a travel size option which is nice to test it at a cheaper price point. If you have super dry or itchy hands, this is my ultimate pick for relief, hydration and also has the best lightweight scent. It has a blue tint but it disappears and absorbs into the skin (and doesn't stain). I usually prefer hand creams that are priced $20 and under, but this one is so so good, I'm willing to overlook the price.

Diptyque Eau Rose Hand Cream ($28 for 1.7 oz)
This was released last year with the limited-edition Rosa Mundi collection. The Eau Rose Hand Cream is still available and is the sweetest rose I've tried. I think rose fragrances can be hard to do right, Diptyque's Eau Rose has bergamot, blackcurrant, musk, cedar and honey mixed in making it more complex and less floral. The packaging is to die for.

L'Occitane Shea Butter Hand Cream ($12 to $28, 1 oz to 5.2 oz)
This was the first hand cream I used when I was in high school and in my college days. I love the small travel size tubes these come in and also love every single one of the different scents and formulas. The Shea Butter formula is the classic one with the thickest and richest texture. I can't count the times I've purchased this or tubes I've used up. L'Occitane is on my list every year to purchase as stocking stuffers. I'll purchase tubes throughout the year as mini gifts, combine a mini hand cream and small box of chocolates and it makes a nice affordable treat for any occasion.

L'Occitane Scented Hand Treatments, assorted
L'Occitane's scented hand creams are among the few that my sensitive nose can tolerate. They are subtle enough for me to wear without feeling self-conscious but strong enough that you can still smell them. I adore the sets L'Occitane offers, the holiday Arlésienne Velvet Hand Cream (.35 oz mini from the holiday L'Occibox shown, but available for purchase in the 1 oz size) is rose, sweet violet and saffron mix which is a pretty feminine scent (my husband approves of it on me). If you missed out on the holiday L'Occibox Elle x L'Occitane illustrated hand creams, the good news is that there is a cute 4-piece tin called the Irresistible Hand Collection which has the full sized 1 oz tubes. 

As you can tell, I'm a bit of a hand cream fanatic. Taking good care of my hands is a must, especially since I tend to wash them frequently and they are prone to dryness. In terms of picking my favorites, my criteria includes: has to absorb quickly, medium or lightweight fragrance, must be purse-friendly, cute packaging, and prefer something $20 and under. My recommendations to you will depend on what your skin is like, fragrance tolerance and also what your personal needs are. My quick take:

My personal top three picks for best formula for hydration:
Tatcha Indigo Soothing Silk Hand Cream
L'Occitane Shea Butter
Kiehl's Ultimate Strength Hand Salve

Best fragrance (for sensitive noses):
Tatcha Indigo Soothing Silk Hand Cream
L'Occitane any, my favs are Arlésienne, Amande and Cherry Blossom
Caudalie Hand and Nail Cream

Fragrance free (or almost no fragrance):
Kiehl's Ultimate Strength Hand Salve
Eve Lom Hand Cream

Most rich and moisturizing:
Kiehl's Ultimate Strength Hand Salve
Malin + Goetz
Estee Lauder Re-Nutriv

What are your favorite hand creams? I've been looking for a good liquid hand soaps, if you have any favorites that are gentle on the hands I'm all ears for your recommendations.

The Tatcha Indigo Hand Cream and L'Occitane baby hand creams were part of press samples provided for review consideration. All others purchased by me.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

L'Occitane Shea Butter Whipped Collection

This year marks the 20th anniversary of L'Occitane's best-selling shea hand cream. In honor of this event they have released a new limited-edition Shea Butter Whipped line with a special lightweight cushiony texture. The new items look and smell amazing, the collection smells good enough to eat (I have resisted so far). The new items available include:
  • Hand Cream ($12) has a 25% concentration of Shea Butter. It's just as hydrating as their Classic version but more lightweight in texture. It has a whipped/airy formula. The scent is soothing but slightly more fresh compared to the other items in the Shea Butter line. The Whipped Shea Butter hand cream has a nice dry down and is really nice for dry hands.
  • Body Cream ($24) is a whipped body cream. This has a 10% shea concentration and is very hydrating and creamy but easy to blend. It absorbs quickly into the skin and has a nice medium dry down so there isn't any greasy feel but you can still feel the moisture on the skin. There are few body moisturizers that work as well as L'Occitane does on my sensitive skin. It can get itchy and dry during fall and winter months, my favorite is the Extra Gentle Hand and Body Lotion.
  • Shower Foam ($20) is a unique liquid shower foam. It has a pump that creates a foamy texture once you dispense the product. This is a nice treat to have, for me a week of use (for both myself and my husband) used up about half the bottle, but it does feel nice and lightweight while hydrating the skin. It's definitely worth trying, but might end up being a bit pricey if you use it up quickly like me. (This Shower Foam + Body Cream Duo gives a slight price break.)   

Close up of the packaging:

Shower foam in action (Burberry Elderberry on the nails):

The hand cream and body cream are musts for me, especially this season when my skin tends to feel dry. The shower foam is nice to have (or try) but not a must. I see it as more of a luxurious splurge or nice treat. The packaging and product design are both really unique though.

You can find the collection online at L'Occitane and also in their boutiques (Store Locator here). If you're starting to shop online for holiday gifts, be sure to check out their deals and promos. L'Occitane always makes it to my gifting list every year, they have great stocking stuffer ideas and nice gift sets. I find them perfect for those who are hard to shop for. There's always something new to discover.
Thanks to L'Occitane for sending these samples for review consideration.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Deal Alert: L'Occitane Hand Cream Trio (Limited Time Offer)

For a limited time, L'Occitane's best selling hand cream is available in a trio for $3 (normally $10) in this cute Hand Cream Pouch Set. It has travel sizes of: Shea Butter Hand Cream 0.3 .oz, Cherry Blossom Hand Cream 0.3 .oz and Almond Delicious Hand Cream 0.3 .oz. (Note the regular hand creams are 1 oz.)

If you're looking to stock up on L'Occitane favorites, be sure to check their Special Offers. Some other deals and codes to take note of, valid while supplies last:
  • Enjoy a travel set for $22 with any $45 Purchase, use code GETAWAY, includes travel sizes of Lavender Perfumed Sachet, Verbena Shower Gel, Peony Hand Cream, Bonne Mere Rose Soap, Aromachologie Repairing Shampoo (Valid 7/30 thru 8/19/2014)
  • Receive a travel ready set free with any $125 purchase, use code DIVINESUMMER, includes 3 Divine Cream Samples, Immortelle Essential Face Water, Rose et Reines Hand Cream, Jamsin & Bergamot mini Eau de Toilette, Divine Eyes (Valid 7/30 thru 8/19/2014)
  • Enjoy our Provencal jumbo sized shower gels free with any $40 purchase, use code JUMBO (Valid 7/30-8/19/2014)
  • Receive free tropical sandals with any $35 purchase, use code TROPICAL (Valid 7/31 thru 8/20/201) 
  • Receive a free Ambre & Santal Shower Gel and Body Milk with any La Collection de Grasse Ambre and Santal Eau de Toilette Purchase, use code AMBRE (Valid July 30th thru August 19th 2014) 
Have a great Friday!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Nail and Hand Care Essentials

The most frequently asked questions I've received have been focused around hand and nail care. I review lots of nail polishes and change colors frequently and taking care of my hands has always been a must. I'll go through my hand and nail care routine and answer some questions that I receive on a regular basis.

I'll share a bit of background on my nail/hand care routine and history. I played the violin when I was younger and kept playing through through college. This required me to keep my nails extremely short with only a sliver of the white tips showing. Out of habit and personal preference I've always kept my nails on the shorter end, although in recent years I've started growing them a bit longer. You can see the difference then in 2010 vs. now in 2014. For everyday hand activity I've had a diverse work history that has required a lot of typing from number crunching and market research. I tend to type with my hands at an angle (rather than having finger more at a 90 degree angle) so my nails don't tend to hit the keys as much as someone who holds their hands at a more perpendicular angle to the keyboards. Some frequently asked questions:
  • Are your nails always professionally manicured? Or do you maintain them yourself? My manicures are a mix of both professionally applied nail polish and DIY. For the longest time I couldn't properly do my own nail polish for a full manicure. Being able to paint one's nails doesn't always come naturally, it takes lots and lots of practice. I would say my manicures are 50/50 done myself versus at a professional salon.
  • How often do you get professional manicures? It varies depending on what I'm testing out, swatching, and also time constraints. I would say it ranges from every other week to once a month.
  • Your nail polish seems to have a long wear life without tip wear, I work at an office job that requires a lot of typing, how do you avoid tip wear? Tip wear will probably depend on how long your nails are, if they are on the long side there will be a lot of surface contact which can lend to more tip wear. I recommend keeping them on the shorter end to avoid breakage. Make sure you use a good base coat, brush the tips of the nails with a bit of color to cover the end of the nail, make sure your top coat covers not just the top of your nail but brush over the tip end as well.
  • What base and top coats do you use? I'll go into what I use below, I usually use Deborah Lippmann Rehydrating Base Coat and Chanel Top Coat but it varies depending on what brand of color I'm using.
  • My nail polish never lasts more than 3 days, it starts to peel and chip no matter what brand, help? Several things could contribute to short-lived manicures. For prep, your nail might not be entirely clean. Even with polish remover, if you've used oils or lotions, there could be remnants of product still lingering on the nail. Use a nail cleaner or polish remover that helps clean (more below). You could be loading on too much color too soon. While it may seem to be a time saver to load up more color for 1 coat, don't do it. Apply your polish in thin coats even if it looks uneven the first coat. The second or third (for sheerer colors) will smooth out the surface. You also might not be covering your entire nail tip with top coat - doing so will make sure you covered the entire nail.
  • What advice would you give to those who are a novice to DIY manicures? I would recommend getting your nails professionally manicured the first 3-4 manicures you have so you can observe their application technique in person. You really only need salon manicures every once in a while for a clean up. It's easy to maintain your nails yourself in between salon visits. You don't necessarily have to do it yourself, as some can vouch, manicuring your own nails can sometimes take longer and be more frustrating.
  • Do you need to stick with the same brand of polish and base/top coats? Or can you mix and match? I don't think you need to stick with the same brands, although using the same can often be best. Different brands have different formulas and don't always work well together for me. For example I'm super picky with top coats - I don't like any sign of shrinkage where the top coats dry and shrink over the nail polish leaving a visible line around the edges. (Seche and OPI do that with Chanel for me). I like to mix and match.
The items I use are going to broken down into the following categories: Removers, Treatments, Tools, Base Prep and Top Coats. Like most beauty routines, I believe nail care items should be built slowly over time with testing or by researching reviews online.

I used to use cheap nail polish removers from CVS and Target, but after I started changing my nail polish frequently, I found that they made my nails and fingers extremely sensitive and that my nails started to peel (the actual nail). Based on reviews and recommendations I've found several new removers that are gentle for sensitive fingers but still very effective in removing all traces of polish. Items shown above described left to right:
  • Zoya Remove + Big Flipper is a 3 in 1 product that removes color, preps the nail and conditions. I discovered this thanks to the recommendation of Café Makeup - we discussed nail care, I shared my finger woes, she said try the Zoya, it's "so good." She was right. Read the reviews on Zoya or Makeupalley and you'll see others agree. There are different size options, I like the Big Flipper because it has an easy push down dispenser.
  • Sephora Formula X Delete Nail Polish Remover is another love (reviewed here). This is another item I bought based on online reviews. It has a similar push down dispenser lid. I like this one because it's compact and the design is very sleek and simple. The easy to use pump action makes it super handy -  you don't have to flip over the bottle and risk ruining painted nails if you need to clean edges or mess-ups.
  • Dior Dissolvant Abricot is an ultra luxurious and pricey non-acetone remover, it has a rich abricot scent formulated with ingredients to nourish, hydrate and strengthen. I found it was extremely effective in removing Dior's Gel Top Coat and dark polish underneath. I'm not a fan of the price and those sensitive to fragrance may find this too heavy. I went through one bottle pretty quickly and repurchased a second. It's the only remover I've tried that has a slightly moisturizing/hydrating feel. If the bottle were about 3-4 times larger I think I could justify the price for more frequent use.
  • Deborah Lippmann Cuticle Remover is the only cuticle softener that I've tried but I was lucky to find a really good one on my first try. It comes in a milky white liquid with a dropper. Apply to the cuticle area for a minute and then push back with a cuticle tool and it removes excess cuticle skin easily. This is a definite must for anyone who does their own manicures. It's gentle but super effective.

I attribute good looking hands to good hand care. I'm almost always carrying one to two hand creams in my purse. I rely on L'Occitane because they come in travel sizes, a variety of scents and have fun packaging. Plus the formula is hard to beat. For extra care I've discovered layering oil into hand cream can help give an added boost of moisture. I prefer hand creams that absorb quickly into the skin and that aren't greasy feeling so it doesn't ruin paper, clothes or get everywhere you touch. My current loves, left to right:
  • Deborah Lippmann Cuticle Oil is as good as it gets (there's a mini version as well). A little goes a long way with the dropper, you only need a little bit. It's not greasy but can get sticky, I recommend applying this with precision to the cuticles and rub in quickly. It has Jojoba Oil, Coconut Oil, Mineral Oil and smells amazing. I use this about once a week and it keeps the cuticles looking really good.
  • Caudalie Divine Oil is a must for me (review here), unfortunately they've changed the packaging of the mini size and it doesn't come with the spray pump dispenser. When I visited the Venice Boutique, they had hand massage treatments and they mixed the oil with their Hand and Nail Cream (review here) which is another staple of mine. I can't rave enough about these.
  • Tatcha Soothing Silk Indigo Hand Cream (review here) helps to soothe dry or irritated hands, it hydrates well and absorbs quickly into the skin, the packaging is compact enough to fit into the purse
  • L'Occitane Hand Creams have been a classic for me for years (check out the L'Occitane Hand Cream Bar), they can be on the pricey side for the side, but the formula is worth every penny, these come in a variety of scents and special formulas, my current favorites are the Shea Butter Honey (soothing and creamy) along with the new Vitória-Régia from the Viva Brazil collection (lush sweet floral). L'Occitane has monthly gift with purchase promotions in stores and online, it's one of the few brand newsletters I subscribe to that I don't mind receiving weekly (they have good deals). I've converted so many of my friends to L'Occitane as these hand creams make good small gifts or add-ons (just add a box of Godiva chocolate or small bouquet of flowers).
  • Estee Lauder Re-Nutriv Hand Cream was a huge step-up gift with purchase from Neiman Marcus at one of the Estee Lauder events they had a year ago in store. I was a bit intimidated by the size and packaging as it looks like an intensive treatment. It is indeed an intense hand cream but still very gentle and is the best at smoothing lines. You can see the effects immediately and over time it does improve the overall look and appearance of your hands.

My tools are very basic, items were either found at local drugstores or Ulta. There are a wide number of tools out on the market, I'm sure there are more experienced nail experts who know more about tools, my picks were picked out without much research or planning.
  • Revlon Nail Clipper is an older version that I have, they've gone through a few revamps and upgrades in packaging design but the overall shape and size remains the same
  • Tweezerman Nail File I've picked up various nail files over the years, I find Tweezerman to be sturdy but with a rough enough surface to be effective on harder nails but not too harsh, the ones from Sephora that I've bought come with a plastic storage sleeve which is convenient for storage (and makes sure it doesn't scratch your other products)
  • Ulta Crystal Nail File if you're one who hates the feeling of filing nails, you need to check out Crystal Nail Files, a multitude of brands have these such as OPI and Sephora. These have a unique fine-grade glass surface that is good for sensitive or thinner nails, it gently smooths edges and also has a tapered precision tip to clean beneath the nail.
  • Tweezerman Pushy Cuticle Pusher is a smaller tool for cuticles, I prefer smaller shapes, although some prefer ones with larger curved tips to match the natural shape of the nails. I find the Tweezerman one to be small enough for my small fingers, it's sturdy and effective for me. For any kind of cuticle removal or care, I recommend you proceed with extra caution. Don't push too hard and be extra gentle with the cuticles - this is where I recommend you observe a professional several times before attempting on your own.
  • Revlon Cuticle Nippers are another basic drugstore purchase, I've had two from Revlon, both have lasted over 5 years, just make sure you clean them regularly with warm water and soap (I use antibacterial dish soap) or alcohol. I wouldn't recommend using cuticle clippers regularly, I use them to clip hang nails or only use if the cuticles have been softened and properly prepped.

For base coats, I look for something that helps protect bare nails. I look for items that won't turn the nails yellow, items that aren't drying and that also don't make the nails peel. I'll highlight the ones I use briefly, let me know if you need more information on any of these, I find they all work well with other brands such as Chanel, OPI, YSL, Dior, Tom Ford and NARS.
  • Sephora Formula X Nail Cleanser (reviewed here) is a relatively new discovery for me but I find that having a completely clean nail surface before using base coat or color really makes a difference in the wear of nail polish
  • Sephora Formula X Base Coat (reviewed here) is a sticky formula that helps polish adhere well, I like this best with the Formula X polishes but I've also tried (and love it) with Dior, Marc Jacobs and Chanel
  • CND Stickey Base Coat is a classic that I've repurchased multiple times, it's an affordable option that works well with all brands I've tried
  • Deborah Lippmann Rehydrating Base Coat is my most-frequently used base coat, I don't usually have nails that peel except when I do a lot of swatching and comparisons on the fingers, this helps immensely

  • Sephora Formula X Shine Top Coat (review here) is an awesome top coat but is on the thicker side, it works best with Formula X brand nail colors, when I used The System and their Nail Color, I had a manicure last over 7 days without any tip wear or chipping
  • Creative Nail Design Super Shiny Top Coat is another beauty staple, some of the nail salons I go to layer this with a Revlon top coat for an ultra cushy look (I haven't looked into the Revlon personally)
  • Chanel Laque Brilliance Extreme is my all time favorite top coat, it helps my polishes last long, doesn't crack or chip and give a lush shiny gloss
  • Rescue Beauty Lounge Top Coat is another item I've repurchased (I'm on my third bottle), it's just as good as Chanel, some say it's better, mine has a pinkish tinge because I didn't let my pink nail polish dry long enough and had some color transfer
  • Dior Gel Coat is a top coat I've found works best with Dior Polishes (Chanel v Dior post here), it works well over other brands for a gel-shine finish and lush look, but can be prone to cracking on certain brands
This sums up my hand and nail care favorites. I hope this give you a comprehensive overview on my personal hand and nail care routine. To recap, I definitely think you can maintain your hands and nails on your own but regular salon visits help keep hands looking better. You don't need an expensive salon to maintain your nails, there are a lot of good ones that are more affordable.

This post contains some items that were sent for review consideration. Most items were purchased by me. Press samples include Sephora The System, Tatcha Indigo, L'Occitane Vitória-Régia. For more information refer to my Disclosures.

design + development by fabulous k | COPYRIGHT © 2009-2014 THE BEAUTY LOOK BOOK