How-to: American flag nail art for the Fourth of July!

Since today is Independence Day, I thought I’d experiment with some American flag nail art.

First, I started with a layer of base coat and three thin coats of white nail polish. This gave me a nice, solid background for the flag. Make sure you let each coat dry thoroughly before applying the next one; if your nails still feel tacky when you touch them together, give them more time.

American flag nail art how-to

Next, I added a small square of navy blue in the lower left-hand corner of each nail. You might need to apply two coats to get a nice, deep blue.

American flag nail art how-to

Once that was done, it was time to add the stars and stripes. I used a $3 angled eyeliner brush from E.L.F. to add the small white dots for “stars” on each nail. For the stripes, any true red will do. Again, if you need to do so, use two coats to make sure the red is deep and the white “stars” really pop.

American flag nail art how-to

Finish it all off with a couple of coats of clear top coat to protect and add shine, and you’re done! Investing in a good top coat is worth the extra $$$ when you’ve spent so much time creating artwork on your fingertips.

American flag nail art how-to

Happy Fourth of July, everybody! Check out more American flag nail art on Pinterest.

A week’s worth of maxi dresses (all under $30!)

Summer was made for the maxi dress, and maxi dresses were made for summer. They make great casual pieces to throw on for brunch or a day of errands, cover you up going to and from the beach, and with wedges and some bracelets, they can even go out to dinner and a movie later in the day. Here are seven cute maxi dresses (all under $30) to brighten your summer:

Cute maxi dresses for summer

How do you style your favorite maxi dresses? Get style inspo on Pinterest.

Got the Monday blues? Check out these wild wedges!

Need a little pick-me-up this Monday morning? Check out these wild wedges from Payless—they’re guaranteed to put a spring in your step!

Love these wild wedges from Brash!
Brash Lunar platform, $34.99, Payless

Nice, huh? I could see these wild wedges with everything from skinny jeans to sundresses. And with so much color, you can slack off a little on the rest of your outfit—shoot, you can wear head-to-toe black if you like—and still look ready for the party. FYI: they also come in black, ivory, cobalt, and fuchsia, just in case you’re not feeling the wild pattern!

What’s the wildest pair of shoes in your closet? Any wild wedges or crazy heels, or do you mostly play it safe?

Product review: Hard Candy Lash Ink 4 Day Lash Stain

Product review: Hard Candy Lash InkI tend to feel like I look a lot more put together if I at least have a little mascara on, but I usually don’t have time for applying and removing makeup every day. So the idea of a lash stain that promised multi-day wear had me hooked immediately. Does it live up to its promise? I tried it…

The product: Hard Candy Lash Ink 4 Day Lash Stain ($7 at Walmart.com).

The claim: “Mascara that won’t quit until you do…paint Lash Ink on and don’t reapply for up to 4 days. Shower, go in the pool, cry, rub your eyes, or get rained on—your lashes will stay flawless no matter the circumstances!” (from the tube)

I tried it: I applied the lash stain per the directions and let it dry. A word of warning: this stuff isn’t called a stain for nothing, so let your top lashes dry before applying it to the bottom lashes to avoid getting spots on your skin. The spoolie is just a basic brush, nothing big and scary, so it’s easy to wield. The formula does seem to take a while to dry, though.

As promised on the tube, the stain is waterproof and rub-proof. However, I must say that after one shower, the stain on my lower lashes smeared and wore away—not surprising, considering no mascara formula I’ve ever tried has lasted more than a few hours down there, but odd considering how budge-proof my upper lashes remained.

The formula really did stay put through 2-3 days—no flaking, no smearing—but I think stating that it lasts four days is pushing it a bit. Still, three days was enough to make me happy.

My final thoughts: This would be a perfect option for a long weekend, a day at the beach, or for anyone who wants to apply it 2-3 times per week and then forget about it. If you prefer your lashes darkened but don’t want the everyday hassle of applying mascara (and then worrying about smears), then this is the product for you.

However, Hard Candy Lash Ink is not the formula for anyone who likes volumizing/lengthening/curling mascaras, since it doesn’t do any of the above. It merely stains your lashes jet black. My lashes are already long enough, so for me, this is the perfect formula.

In short, I love it, and at $7, it’s actually cheaper than my current favorite mascara, Revlon Grow Luscious, which typically retails for around $9 at drugstores. Considering that summer is just around the corner—that season of smeary makeup and on-the-go, no-time-for-the-mirror schedules—I think this is one product that will find a permanent place in my beauty bag. Visit hardcandy.com for more details.

Have you tried Hard Candy Lash Ink, or anything similar? What’s your favorite waterproof mascara?

Have you heard about Lemongrass Spa products?

Lemongrass Spa is all natural and cruelty-free!I’m not usually much into fancy-looking products, but I just had to share about this company. I’m not being compensated for this post, I just really fell in love with their products!

Lemongrass Spa is a Colorado-based company that makes natural, spa-quality bath and beauty products. Like other specialty beauty companies such as Avon, they sell their products through independent consultants, online, and through catalogs.

What makes Lemongrass Spa different? For starters, their products are free of sodium laureth sulfate, lead, parabens, alcohol, petroleum-based ingredients and phthalates. All their fragrances are phthalate-free, the colorants are from natural sources, and the essential oils are organically grown. Backing up that commitment to natural goodness, Lemongrass Spa is a signer of the Compact for Safe Cosmetics (http://www.safecosmetics.org).

The packaging for these products places an emphasis on sustainability with eco-friendly and/or recyclable materials. And, last but certainly not least, their products are cruelty-free.

If you have heard about Lemongrass, it was probably the same way I did: by going to a “spa party”, where a consultant gives you the pampering treatment with hand and foot soaks, scrubs, balms, and more, while showing the line of Lemongrass products.

Here’s the thing: I’ve been to parties before, and I’ve been snagged by sales guys and gals at the mall who want to show off their “exclusive” products. But this line actually impressed me.

The products are not only completely chemical-free and cruelty-free, they’re products you’d actually want to use. Yummy offerings like Candy Cane, Grapefruit Lily, and Pomegranate are just a few of the scents featured in these fab products.

Yummy scented bath products from Lemongrass Spa!

Considering that they’re all-natural, the products are comparable price-wise to anything you could find on store shelves, at the department store makeup counter, or in another mail-order beauty catalog. (Total selling point for this budget chick!)

So, bottom line: I’m psyched to discover a new company that sells natural, cruelty-free bath and body products. I think I’ll definitely be bookmarking their website for future perusal.

P.S. If you do get invited to a Lemongrass Spa party, by all means, go. Even if you end up deciding not to buy anything, you’ll get a great hour or two of fun and pampering with your friends, without the price tag of a day at the spa! And if you can’t attend, check out their online catalog and hook up with a consultant so you can try their products out for yourself!

Product review: Queen Helene Mint Julep Masque

Queen Helene Mint Julep MasqueWhen the weather gets cold, my skin tends to get dry, especially my face. But that doesn’t mean that my blemishes disappear completely; I still have to deal with blackheads and oiliness in the T-zone.

Since my usual anti-blemish cleanser is too drying in the winter, I switch to a gentle cleanser and gentle scrub, but that usually doesn’t do the trick for the aforementioned blackheads. The solution? A masque that can be applied just to the oily areas, to keep things balanced. I decided to pick up this Queen Helene Mint Julep Masque and see how it worked. Boy, was I pleased!

The product: Queen Helene Mint Julep Masque ($4/6 oz.; available at drugstores or online)

The claim: “Helps dry up acne pimples, rinse away blackheads and shrink enlarged pores.”

The test: My skin swings from combo/oily in the summer months to combo/dry in the winter, which means I need to choose my products carefully to keep everything balanced. Blackheads and enlarged pores are two worries that don’t change with the seasons, though, so I needed a product that would handle my blemishes without stripping my sensitive skin.

I actually tested the Queen Helene Mint Julep Masque in two separate ways while reviewing. The first way, I spread a thin layer of the masque all over my face as directed, and was pleased to find that it left my skin feeling deep-cleaned but not stripped. This would make it perfect for those times when my skin is more oily all over.

The second way I tested the masque, my skin was feeling drier, so I used the masque only on my T-zone. This turned out to be the perfect solution to my combo skin problem: it really sucks the dirt and oil out of your pores, so you get the deep-cleaning you need without affecting the dry spots on your face.

And, did I mention the smell? The mint seems a little strong at first, but it’s actually really relaxing. A great treat for your skin after a long week! The masque is also really easy to wash off with warm water and a washcloth (unlike some masques that dry and then don’t want to scrub free).

My final thoughts: This masque rivals pricey salon-style products, and is one product I would heartily recommend even at twice the price. As it is, this masque is a steal at only $4.

Have you tried the Queen Helene Mint Julep Masque? What masques or deep treatments do you love? Any recommendations for me?

Long hair 101

Have long hair? Thinking about growing it out? Good news: long hair will be hot for spring this year! With that in mind, there are a few things you need to know about caring for long hair.

1. Watch out for split ends. The upside to a long ‘do? Unlike a short, styled ‘do, long hair doesn’t require a monthly salon visit to keep everything trimmed and tidy. That said, no matter how you style your long hair—straight, curly, layered, blunt—you should still trim your long hair every few months to avoid split ends.Gisele is famous for her long hair

2. Layers add bounce to heavy hair. If long hair is especially thick, it can look flat, so you might want to see a pro on a semi-regular basis to cut and maintain long layers, a la Megan or Gisele. Layers add motion and bounce to a long style and don’t require a ton of upkeep on such a long style.

3. Long hair is fragile, so be gentle! Grab some of those “ouchless” elastics and a nice brush that won’t pull on your hair—you can find natural and synthetic bristle brushes at the drugstore for about $10 that will keep your hair looking soft and shiny. A wide-toothed comb is a must for detangling.Megan Fox women's long hair cut

4. Know how to shampoo. Very long hair can become dry and brittle, so it’s important to use a moisturizing shampoo and a good conditioner. (If hair is very dry, you may wish to shampoo only every other day.) Work conditioner through from ears to ends, applying only sparingly from the shoulders up; conditioner can weigh down hair if it’s glopped onto the roots. Leave in for 1-3 minutes before rinsing out with cool (not hot) water.

5. Pick your styling products carefully. A leave-in conditioner/detangler is a must, and the use of an intensive conditioning mask every week or so will help to keep hair silky, shiny, and soft. Avoid piling on too much hairspray, gel, etc., as overuse of products will weigh down your hair and make it look dull.

6. The same goes for heat tools! Hot rollers, irons, blow dryers—they all damage the hair, and since long hair is already delicate, it’s especially important to use these tools judiciously to avoid damaging the hair. When you do heat-style, use a good thermal spray beforehand.

7. Be cautious with color. Dying your hair can be a great way to kickstart a new look, but it is also a damaging process that can leave hair dry and unruly. Drastic changes—dark to light, red to blonde—involve stripping out your natural color, which will damage your hair no matter the length. If you plan to make a drastic change, have delicate hair, or change your color often—see a pro!

Photo of Gisele Bundchen (C) Tiago Chediak via the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. Photo of Megan Fox (C) Megan Fox Rules! on Flickr via the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 license.

Beauty resolutions: wear sunscreen every day, even in winter

You need to wear sunscreen in the winter, too!
Photo © Copyright RichTea and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Since January is here, I thought it would be good to highlight some of the health & beauty resolutions I’m making in 2010! Today’s resolution: “I will wear sunscreen every day!”

Ready for a fact check? Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, with over one million new cases diagnosed every year. (Find more facts about skin cancer from The Skin Cancer Foundation.) So, as you’re going through your list of beauty resolutions for 2010, you might want to highlight “wear sunscreen”.

Why? Sunscreen helps to prevent the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays from reaching your skin. The two types of rays—UVA and UVB—affect the skin in different ways, and a good sunscreen will protect you from both. While UVB rays typically cause you to burn, UVA rays penetrate the skin more deeply, accelerating the aging process and increasing your risk of developing skin cancer.

That’s where the real kicker lies. While many people are fairly regular, even religious about applying sunscreen in the summer when frolicking outdoors or at the beach, they don’t wear sunscreen on partly cloudy days, or in the wintertime, when the effects of the sun aren’t as noticeable. However, even when the weather turns cool and cloudy, the sun’s UVA rays still reach your skin, even if you don’t show any sign of developing a tan or a sunburn. (Read more about sunscreen here.)

So, gals, now you know why you need to wear sunscreen year-round. But what about the how? The easiest way to ensure daily sunscreen use is to buy a body lotion with SPF 15-30 (or higher!) for daily use. (Check out this one from Alba Botanica.) Remember that sunscreen is generally effective for only two hours, so if you’ll be in the sun for a prolonged period of time, it’s a good idea to pack something a little more heavy-duty, and reapply often (especially if you’re prone to burning, like I am).

Remember also that while cosmetics with built-in SPF are a great help, they’re not enough on their own. Generally, to get the full amount of SPF labeled on the package, you’d have to glop on about a teaspoon of your chosen foundation or powder—yuck! Instead, opt for a facial moisturizer with SPF 30 or higher. A good one will feel weightless under your makeup and won’t leave you greasy.

Finally, while we’re on the subject of sun and sunscreen, why not make a Beauty Resolution to quash the tanning habit for good? Whether outdoors or at an indoor salon, tanning is dangerous and accelerates the aging process, causing wrinkles, sagging, and spots. In fact, studies no suggest that indoor tanning is even more damaging to your skin that regular sun exposure, thanks to increased levels of UVA rays in new tanning lamps. (Skincancer.org has a host of articles and info on tanning and tanning beds here.)

Now that you’re ready to commit to sunscreen, it’s time to go shopping! Because I don’t believe in animal testing, I choose not to recommend products unless they are cruelty-free. I do recommend checking out Caring Consumer, which has a great product guide to help you locate sunscreen, sunless tanning lotion, and other sun-care products, all of which are cruelty-free.

So remember: wear sunscreen daily, even on cloudy winter days! Your future self will thank you!