Tag:  alex. asher sears Archives - Beauty Banter

Baby It’s Cold Outside: The Tarte 2012 Holiday Collection

By | makeup | 43 Comments

I’m something of a Tarte devotee. It’s my go-to eco-chic makeup line because they consistently create fabulous products and raise the bar on green beauty. So, I was more than thrilled when they shared a sneak peek at their 2012 holiday line, Baby It’s Bold Outside. All wrapped up in festive foil ikat wrap, the sets are incredible deals and offer something for every makeup lover on your gift list. As far off as the holidays seem, one look at the calendar, and I realize the countdown is on.

For holiday parties all month and through New Year’s, I’m loving the EYE CATCHERS set, which comes with 5 full size Amazonian clay waterproof smolderEYE liners and also includes the debut of their brand new skinny smolderEYES in onyx. Each comes with a built in smudge brush on one end, and work for creating day to night looks. The pigments are incredible, and the Amazonian clay reduces oils on the eyelid while nourishing the skin. Retailing for $39, it’s a $144 value. You can find them at tarte.com, through Sephora and Ulta (online and in stores).

I have written before about how I love the 12-hour Amazonian clay blushes and after years of cream blushes and cheek stains, they had me putting my blush brush back to work. The fantastic foursome Amazonian clay 12-hour blush enthusiast set with half sized pans are perfect for travel. The colors are great for all skin tones and you can build color depending on the look you want. Also, when they say 12-hour, they really mean 12-hour. They live up to their promise in triple digit Palm Springs heat and humid New York August days. I’ve tested them repatedly. The set of four retails for $35 and is sold exclusively through Sephora, online and in stores.

The for the love of lipgloss 15-piece maracuja lipgloss collector’s set is genius because you can give it as one gift or divide it into several as they’ve packaged them in three sets ready for stockings or Secret Santas. They’re great for all ages, from my grandmothers to my preteen cousins. The marajuca oil nourishes, the Vitamin C exfoliates and they’re perfectly sized to throw in an evening bag. Exclusive to Ulta, you’ll get $120 worth of glosses for just $32. If split as three gifts, it’s about the cost of two drinks at Starbucks. But far prettier.

Tarte makes my favorite eyelash curler, and they’ve created a super cute ikat version for the holidays in the picture perfect™ curler and deluxe lights, camera, lashes!™ 4-in-1 mascara kit. It’s paired with a mini of my absolute favorite mascara – I’ve tried so many eco-brands and this remains my top pick. Made with rice bran and carnauba waxes, it adds volume while nourishing lashes. It’s $16 and available at tarte.com, and Sephora and Ulta online and in stores.

When it comes to everyday lip color, I always carry a Tarte lipsurgence lip tint. For the holidays, they created the statement lips 5-piece LipSurgence™ collector’s set and I think they make a great set or would be perfect to split up and tied atop gifts as a little something extra. Normally, a single lipsurgence pen retails for $24, but here you’re getting 5 for $34 – a $120 value. I’d grab a set to gift and another to keep. Available at tarte.com, Sephora and Ulta.

I’m not always a big fan of all-in-one kits, but Tarte created an Ulta-exclusive boxed set that offers a nice selection of eye, cheek and lip color – a $435 value – for $48. the big thrill limited-edition color collection includes 16 Amazonian clay shadows, 3 Amazonian clay blushes and my favorite bronzer, Park Avenue Princess. Three evening bag sized vitamin-infused lip glosses are great for day or night. And, they also include a great little cheat sheet for creating four looks using what’s in the box. Just add makeup brushes! I think a set like this is the perfect gift for any age, but especially teens just getting into makeup. You can pick this up at Ulta stores or their website.

While Tarte always does great value sets, I love that for 2012 they created a “best of” set with the stand outs limited-edition kit. It includes the top picks of Maureen Kelly, Tarte’s founder: a full sized Lipsurgence lip tint, full sized Amazonian clay eyeliner with a dual-sided brush, and a deluxe sized tube of lights, camera, lashes. For just a dollar more than the cost of one lip tint you get a great set that can create subtle looks for day or be layered for a more dramatic eye at night. A $58 value, you can pick this up for $25 at tarte.com, Sephora and Ulta.

In keeping with their eco style, each and every one of these sets is packaged to gift, with a “to” and “from” tag on the back of each box. Just add a bow and get gifting! xo alex

Alex Asher Sears is a writer, photographer, and fourth generation Angeleno. She believes that you can find inspiration anywhere but thinks Slim Aarons, Nöel Coward and Diana Vreeland are a great place to start. Since 2007, she’s been sharing her eco-beauty finds with BB readers. You can find her on twitter at @AlexandraWrote.

(This post contains affiliate links.)

Sensationail Summer Gels: Tips and Tricks for Perfect Gel Manicures

By | diy, how to | 5 Comments

Last July, I first shared my love of gel manis with Beauty Banter. In January, I wrote about a new DIY gel manicure kit from Sensationail that I was trying out. At the time, I did a pedicure and wasn’t sure if I’d ever use it for my own nails as gels take a bit of precision. Well, I feel a bit like I’ve been cheating on my manicurist, but here’s the thing: I love this line. I’m doing my own nails all the time now.

I love the convenience of being able to get great results in less than thirty minutes, that dry instantly and last almost two weeks, without the need to make an appointment. Anywhere. I picked up a number of polish colors ($12 each) and have become a big fan (as have my mother, sister and friends).

Sensationail emailed me to say they had a limited edition Summer Lovin’ Collection and sent me a few colors to check out. I always love corals for summer, and Tahiti Sunset is a fabulous shade even on fair skin like mine. (I can tan, I opt not to.) The Pink Bouquet is bright without verging on a trendy neon.

With LED instead of UV rays, I love that there’s no worry about skin damage. Also, my nails are as healthy as ever.

That said, DIY gels are not the same as a manicure. My manicurist is a magician who makes my hands look amazing without a cuticle clipper to be found (she has a no cuticle cutting rule). When skipping professional manicures and doing my own nails, I moisturize my cuticles and, as always, carry a travel-sized Weleda Skin Food in my purse.

I’ve heard people speak about the damage done by gels. I think it’s possible, but it hasn’t been my experience. After wearing them for almost two years, and as someone who was quite skeptical to begin with, I’m amazed by how healthy my nails are. In fact, I think they’re stronger than ever because they’re always taken care of.

My tips and tricks for gel manis and healthy nails begin with proper application:

– If you buff your nails at all before applying, do it as gently as possible. As you would with any normal manicure. These are not acrylics.

– Make sure you are applying the primer LIGHTLY and in a circle around the rim of the nail, not the whole nail. This helps adhere the gel to the base. A little goes a long way. A long way.

– Use thin coats of polish. Gel is not the same as regular nail polish. It’s a bit shape shifty. If you feel the need to add more to a coat, start by simply brushing over the same wet coat without adding much to the brush. The gel will move and settle on the nail. Sometimes less is more.

– Use a good polish corrector pen to keep gels off cuticle and skin. Clean up the edges before you slip your hand under the lights. Once under the lamp, the gel is set.

Proper maintenance helps extend the length of your manicure and keeps your hands looking, well, polished.

– No picking at gels. If an edge begins to lift, grab a nail file and gently smooth it down.

– Use a good cuticle oil, I like Solar Oil ($7.50) to keep skin hydrated.

– No picking at gels. It’s worth saying twice. Seriously.

Removing gels takes a bit of time, but with the right tools it’s easy.

– I find the best way to remove them is to either soak cotton balls in remover and then wrap them around each nail with aluminum foil (the foil activates the remover) or use the super easy SEPHORA by OPI gelshine Gel Colour Removal Kit ($18 for five sets) as they’re all in one and you put gloves on over the wrapped nails, meaning you can do something during the 20 minutes while you wait.

– I don’t use acetone, instead opting for OPI Expert Touch Lacquer Remover ($5.95) because it nourishes your nails while removing the gels. Win-win.

– I know they’re ready when they begin to lift and they flake off easily with the edge of an orange stick. I prefer a plastic one or a stainless steel one, though you must be careful to scrape away the gels without scraping your nail bed. Once removed there might feel like some residual base coat remains. Gently buff nails using the side of the buffer with the softest grain. Again, less is more.

From prepping with cleanser to the need to wipe away polish, never use cotton balls. Lint and gels are hardly a match made in manicure heaven. Stick with lint free pads, like the ones Sensationail includes with their kits. I buy the Sephora OPI ones ($3 for 200), too, and they’re great for regular manis, too.

Have you tried DIY gels? I’m curious to see what Sephora’s new OPI gel shine is like, and I’m also looking at the Gelish minis, too. I wear Gelish when I have my nails done professionally, so it will be interesting to see the difference. I’ll keep you updated! xo alex.

Alex Asher Sears is a writer, photographer, and fourth generation Angeleno. Since 2007, she’s been sharing her eco-beauty finds with BB readers. She writes at AlexandraWrote, and also, quite literally, at Type A Calligraphy. Find her on twitter at @AlexandraWrote.

Makeup Bag: Alex Asher Sears

By | makeup | 6 Comments

“When I was little, my sister and I loved hanging around the makeup trailer wherever we were on location with my dad making a film. I loved playing with makeup then and still do. About seven years ago, I found out that of 1100 chemicals banned from beauty products by the European Union, eleven are banned in th US. Eleven. I didn’t like those statistics. With multiple food allergies, I’m a big label reader, and when I started to look into what was in my lipsticks and shampoos and moisturizers, I decided to make big changes.

Now, 90% of my skin, hair care and makeup is free of petro chemicals, parabens, phthalates, synthetic fragrances and dyes. And I try to keep it gluten free, too. Not everything I use is organic, but it’s important to check labels because “organic” and “natural” aren’t the same as eco-friendly. Some things I use contain a few ingredients that aren’t as green as others, but I won’t use anything with parabens or phthalates, and I opt for eco-friendly wherever possible.

My Makeup bag:

I’ve always had a thing for stripes and Henri Bendel’s laminated fabric bags are indestructible. I have a few and this one is at least 10 years old. It looks small but holds a ton inside (as you can see):

I never leave the house without mascara. Ever. And I go back and forth between KORRES rich, rice bran mascara and tarte’s lights, cameras, lashes. I usually have this in brown and tarte in black.

Mascara is always a must and this lash curler from tarte is the only one I’ve ever used that doesn’t pull at lashes, plus it makes me look like I got a good night’s sleep even when I haven’t.

After mascara, primers are my next favorite thing. When I went to Sephora looking for something new, I told the sales guy I was frustrated because I tend to go green and a friend had shown me this amazing tinted primer she’d found that wasn’t. He handed me Miracle Skin Transformer and told me this would make me happy. It totally does. It’s made without talc or petro chemicals, synthetic dyes or fragrances. The 5-in-1 product is “designed to hydrate, prime, enhance, mattify & protect.” The tinted one has coverage like a like a BB cream, but most days I opt for the translucent. Both are fabulous.

Miracle Skin Transformer Treat & Conceal was sent to me by the company when I contacted them to find out more about the line. Like their primer it has a number of healing botanicals and minerals and it is the best thing I’ve found for undereye circles since I cut out old favorites that weren’t so green. It’s skin treatment and cover up all in on.

As fair as I may be, I actually do tan, but I opt for SPF and big sun hats. Still, I like to have a little color, and tarte’s park avenue princess bronzer is my favorite of them all. It works with all skin tones and I never find the color uneven.

I use self tanners in spring and summer but all year I use Michael Kors Leg Shine. It isn’t a bronzer but it moisturizes with a bit of sheen that makes legs look sleek. Perfect day or night. They have a larger sized stick, but these mini ones are the perfect size to throw in your bag.

I gave up blushes for a long time when tarte cheek stains came along. Then about a year ago they introduced their Amazonian clay blushes and I fell in love. I use blissful and dollface, and sometimes layer them with the matching stains. Blissful is a perfect pinky coral, the clay is super refined and I love the way it makes my skin feel.

I tend to wear glosses and lip balms over lipsticks, but tarte lip stains are the perfect hybrid. I have a number of these – they’re goof proof, long lasting color. Plus, in a pinch you can use one for cheek color, too.

I use both the green and the brown eyeliners from KORRES because they make my hazel eyes brighter. I use Sephora eyeliner in pearl beige instead of a nude pencil very, very lightly to line my lower eyelids in the evening. It gives a bit of glimmer when it hits the light.

My Tweezerman tweezers are ancient – the name has just about rubbed off the side – and they’re as sharp as they day I got them.

I wish tarte still made their eyebrow kit, and when they put them on sale a few years ago I bought a few. I’d hoped they were just repackaging, but they never brought it back. It’s perfect for travel and the powder is the perfect shade. I kept the spoolie that came with the brow gel (I always toss those things after 3-6 months). I often use a dab of Elizabeth Arden 8 Hour cream to set them.

I have several Z palettes, which I wrote about here a few years ago. You can take any pan and remove it from it’s container and using the magnetic tape strips, they adhere to these perfect little palettes. This one has a few smashbox cheek highlighters and some neutral shadows from philosophy. Each came from larger sets but half the colors I didn’t like or use. Z Palettes solve that and cut down on clutter.

When I grabbed the Miracle Skin Transformer last month, I got an added surprise at the register. It was just before my birthday and they threw in minis of my favorite Sugar Lip Treatment by Fresh. I told them I wished they sold them this size as they’re kind of adorable. I found out they do. I think I’ll only get these little ones now!”

– Alex Asher Sears, www.alexashersears.com, @alexandrawrote

Bathing Beauty: Laura Tremaine is a Hollywood Housewife

By | bathing beauties | 6 Comments

Laura Tremaine is a Hollywood Housewife, but there is no Bravo-esque drama taking place at Chez Tremaine. She’s simply living a creative life with her filmmaker husband and their two little ones. Plus the occasional camera crew in the living room.

I met Laura several years ago, when I hosted a photography workshop taught by our friend, Jules Bianchi. A talented photographer herself, Laura writes daily at Hollywood Housewife on everything from motherhood to makeup to movies. Her Friday Links never cease to provide some fabulous article (or three) I’ve missed online or in print.

There are lifestyle blogs, and then there are blogs that deliver life and style all the while feeling like you’re chatting with an old friend. I think it’s a rare talent in this social media whirl.

After the evening at Blushington she threw last month, I asked her if she’d share some of her favorite things with Beauty Banter.

What are your top 5, can’t-live-without products?

1. Moisturizer (I change brands frequently, but my skin looks TERRIBLE without it, no matter the weather)

2. Loreal Voluminous mascara in blackest black, with a curved brush 

3. A quality straightening iron (I’m currently using a T3 from Sephora)

4. Stila lip glaze in berry

5. Very new to the list – but an instant favorite: Clarisonic Mia

What is your all-time favorite product?

Probably the above-mentioned mascara, or possibly Essie nail polish.  There are so many colors I’m addicted to, but Ballet Slippers and Mademoiselle are both classics.

What product do you buy in bulk?

MAC facial wipes.  I know there are a lot of wipes on the market, but I’m addicted to these.  I love their texture and smell, I buy the huge packages.

Favorite hair product?

I don’t use a lot of hair products, but I will say that Bumble & Bumble Surf Spray has saved the day more than once.

You moisturize your face with…

I’ve tried everything from La Mer to straight Vitamin E oil (and both of those things I love).  Currently I’m using the Philosophy Miracle Worker and it feels perfect for right now.

Favorite body product?

When I remember, I like to splash on Neutrogena’s sesame oil just before I get out of the shower.

Favorite beauty secret you’ve picked up along the way?

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that less is more when it comes to makeup.  Too much product ages me.  But on the other hand – blush is the key to looking alive!  I can wear almost nothing else, but without blush I look like the sleep-deprived mother that I am.

Beauty icon you admire?

Of course I find inspiration in the icons from the past – Audrey Hepburn, Twiggy – but I also get invigorated by the unexpected – Tammy Faye Baker, for example.  As for someone who I admire currently, I’m all about Rachel McAdams.  I just love her confident red carpet style.  She has a little something to do with my pink hair and my new love for high waisted pants.

Photos by Greer Inez (top) and Laura Tremaine


Alex Asher Sears is a writer, photographer, and fourth generation Angeleno. She believes that you can find inspiration anywhere but thinks Slim Aarons, Nöel Coward and Diana Vreeland are a great place to start. Since 2007, she’s been sharing her eco-beauty finds with BB readers. She writes at AlexandraWrote, and also, quite literally, at Type A Calligraphy. Find her on twitter at @AlexandraWrote.

How To: 10 Ways To Use Elizabeth Arden’s Fragrance Free Eight Hour Cream

By | how to | 11 Comments

Sometimes, even a classic can do with a few updates. And after 80 years, Elizabeth Arden’s iconic Eight Hour Cream Skin Protectant ($19.50) has done just that – with a bit of an eco twist. The new fragrance free version offers those who don’t (or can’t) use synthetic fragrances the chance to get all the benefits of this little black dress for skin care and repair without a paraben to be found. Which makes this green beauty loving girl very happy.

Since we’re both fans, Sarah and I  put our heads together to share our list of just some of the ways Miss Arden’s brilliant balm can enrich your life (no pun intended).

*from left: glossy lids, stained and glossed lips, highlighted, glossy cheekbones, shiny limbs.

Here are our Top Ten Eight Hour Tips and Tricks:

1. As a highlighter on cheek and brow bone – Dab a small amount onto the area and gently tap into the skin for a luminous shine.
2. Over shadow to create a glossy lid (love mixing textures; very on trend for Spring). L’Wren Scott used a glossy lid in her spring 2012 NYFW show.
3. On lashes to make them look shiny and healthy, and a bit like they have mascara on them. This is a great trick if you are sleeping at a boy’s house and want to look fresh-faced and wide-eyed without the makeup (but still may need a bit of beauty help). The “shiny lashes” secret really opens up the eye area.
4. On brows at night to condition. I also use it by applying in an upwards motion to train them to grow “up” – kind of like training a pesky cowlick.
5. Layered on top of a lip stain to create a gorgeous barely-there, natural hue with a come-hither gloss for freshness. Think of it as a just bitten lip, or eating berries in the garden and then licking your lips. Quite sexy, oui?
6. On legs (or arms or stomach) to give mega-shine, elongating for a thinning effect. Word on the beauty street is that the Sports Illustrated models slather 8-Hours cream on their arms and legs for extra thinness and a whole lot of shine appeal while shooting in those barely-there bikinis. For day or night, mix it with liquid bronzer to give legs a bit of color, too.
7. On hands for an instant mini manicure – rub it into cuticles to give your hands a polished finish. It soaks right in so hands aren’t greasy.
8. On elbows and heels, it’s the perfect way to pamper your skin during these colder, dryer months.
9. On flaky patches of skin before you put on makeup to hydrate any dry spots or patches. Rub in just a dab (a little goes a long way) then apply makeup to fake a flawless finish.
10. On burns – by sun, flat iron or pan – use the “skin protectant” properties to sooth and hydrate. (The story goes that the cream got its name because a woman used it on her child’s scraped knee and it looked fine after just…eight hours.)
You can find the new fragrance free cream online at www.elizabetharden.com and at Elizabeth Arden counters nationwide, alongside the entire Eight Hour line.
Now tell us, why do you love it?  xo sarah & alex
images from www.alexashersears.com and www.beautybanterimspiration.tumblr.com – follow us on tumblr for beauty inspiration!

LA Story: Beauty by Blushington

By | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Working both online and in print, I have a mantra of sorts: I love social media but we need to lead social lives as well.

Sometimes the two paths intersect beautifully, like Monday night, when my friend Laura Tremaine, who writes Hollywood Housewife, threw a party at Blushington – quite possibly my new favorite place on earth. Or on Sunset, at least.

The concept is brilliant – a walk-in welcome salon made up of professional makeup artists who’ll make you over for an evening event or lunch with friends for $35. You can also add on options like airbrushing or lashes (faux, extensions, tinting and more).

Did I mention appointments aren’t necessary (though highly recommended for special occasions and Saturday nights)? For $35.

I’m a pushover for fabulous branding, and they had me at the blush pink beribboned logo featured on Laura’s invitation (loved the Dior vibe). Once there, I was truly impressed. From the wall of mirrors made from compacts to the Hollywood Regency feel that reminded me of the the beauty salons of once upon a time, in places like Bullocks Wilshire or George Cukor’s The Women.

They carry a highly curated line of products – Stila, Kevyn Aucoin, Julie Hewitt and Becca – less can be more and still offer a multitude of options.

(I can’t tell you how happy I was to see they included an eco-chic pick like Hewitt in the mix. Her lipsticks prove that eco-luxe cosmetics exist – like something out of a 1946 issue of VOGUE.)

I spent time talking with Blushington’s close-knit team and was thrilled to see how much they love what they do, and how hard they’re working to make it unique.  There’s something very cool, and rare, about a place that’s luxurious without being snobbishly exclusive. We need more of that in this world.

images courtesy author and laura tremaine

With some seriously fabulous eye makeup (courtesy of Blushington’s Emma Willis – whose station happened to be filled with carefully labeled Z Palettes…small world), it was an evening of makeup, drinks and good conversation with friends (old and new) at sunset, on Sunset. I love LA.

Emma gave me a wonderfully dramatic and defined eye, a bit mod yet modern, and mixed a few Stila lip glazes to create a sheer berry hue. And I loved the way she did my friend Morgan’s makeup, too. (I wrote about Morgan’s maternity beauty regime on BB in 2009, here).

Laura and Blushington hosted a wonderful, much needed evening. I loved getting to see friends – both URL ones and IRL ones, too. I’ve decided I need to do more Dramatic Eye Makeup Mondays. Because Mondays can use all the help they can get.

From Awards Season in full swing to Monday blahs, it’s nice to know Blushington is there. (With DryBar literally next door, this corner of Sunset Plaza is like the beauty version of Clark Kent’s superhero-changing phone booth.)

And knowing that this sort of thing is accessible to all? Well, that’s the beauty of it, really. xo a.


Alex Asher Sears is a writer, photographer, and fourth generation Angeleno. She believes that you can find inspiration anywhere but thinks Slim Aarons, Nöel Coward and Diana Vreeland are a great place to start. Since 2007, she’s been sharing her eco-beauty finds with BB readers. She writes at AlexandraWrote, and also, quite literally, at Type A Calligraphy. Find her on twitter at @AlexandraWrote.

tarte’s putting on the glitz

By | makeup | No Comments

When I first decided to go green with my beauty products about seven years ago, I was faced with the reality of waste (a ton of haircare, skincare and makeup) and cost (swapping out the old with the new). If your New Year’s Resolutions include going green, one tip I always recommend is grabbing those incredible sets put out around the holidays by eco-beauty brands, like tarte, KORRES and Josie Maran.

In the midst of the Christmukkah 2011, tarte shared a wonderful new set they’d created (and is still available) the putting on the glitz color collection and clutch.

As opposed to one giant palette or boxed set that requires a ton of counter space, this contains three magnetic palettes, which contain a total of 18 eyeshadows and three of their Amazonian clay powders – a blush, a shimmer powder. Each snaps into a small coordinating clutch that has a space to hold the included maracuja lipgloss, as well as pullout mirror, slots for your ID and credit cards. I love the idea of throwing the clutch inside my bag, with palette de jour inside, and in the card slots placing blotting papers, fashion tape, Band-Aids – sort of creating a beauty emergency kit on the go.

Tarte’s own Maureen Kelly created an eye makeup cheat sheet to help create looks using all the colors. From matte neutrals to shimmery jewel tones, you get long wearing color without a paraben, petro chemical, synthetic fragrance or dye to be found. I find this especially important with eye makeup – red, itchy eyes are often a reaction to the synthetics and harsh chemicals.

Retailing for $48, the set is a $406 value. (You read that right.) And it includes some of their most popular products, like park ave princess Amazonian clay bronzer (their brozers are a staplein my makeup routine), and a 12-hour Amazonian clay blush in darling (a bit like their classic tipsy with just a bit of shimmer).

Because the three palettes are themed: the neutral a walk in the park, everyday basics in nine-to-five and all you need for a smoky eyes in girls’ night out –you can pretty much cross 2/3 of greening your makeup drawer off the list (while keeping everything organized, too). xo alex

*This limited edition set is available online at tarte’s website and QVC.com.

Alex’s DIY: SensatioNAIL at-home gel manicures

By | diy | 11 Comments

As you well know, I am head over heels for gel manicures. I’ve been having them done regularly for a year without any damage to my nails and can’t say enough about how much I love them. Lately, I’ve seen “gel-like” products hitting the mass market but wasn’t particularly curious. When I was asked to try out SensatioNail, I was intrigued. The kit included polishes, primer and a LED light, not unlike the Gelish I wear (Shellac and OPI use old fashioned UV) – I couldn’t wait to try it for myself.

Maybe it’s all the time having them done professionally, but I’ve watched the way gels are painted, and it takes different skill than regular polish. It takes precision that I wasn’t sure I could tackle on my own hands, so with 10 applications in that bottle of Scarlet Red, I decided to start with a pedicure. The light had ample room for my foot, and I thought that I’d have better results than with a manicure.

With five simple steps and about 20 minutes from start to finish, I had a perfect pedicure. I actually poked at a nail with the tip of an orange stick after the topcoat sat for 30 seconds under the LED just to see if they really set like “real” gels. Not a knick to be made.

Still unsure I could do my own, I decided to ask friends and family if I could test it on them. The starter kit color came with just the Scarlet Red (they’re releasing a total of 12 colors this month). It’s definitely a bit more coral than blue-red, but a fun shade. Each manicure took about 20 minutes and again, they each time they looked good. Better than I’d expected. And my testers were pleased, too.

Ten days later, my pedicure is perfect and not a chip or scuff to be found. Reports from my guinea pigs are that than their nails are holding up beautifully. Will they have the 2-3 week staying power of a salon gel mani? We’ll see. Still, even a week of perfect nails in a shade brighter than Mademoiselle is pretty fabulous.

I think this looks like a great line, but it’s really the sort of thing one is best having someone else give them a hand with (no pun intended). If gel polish gets on cuticles and cures under the LED, that polish isn’t coming off until you soak the whole nail (that’s 15 minutes with an acetone-soaked cotton ball on the nail wrapped tightly with a strip of aluminum foil.) Maybe with a baby pink shade I wouldn’t notice, but red hides no flaws. For DIYs, I’ll be sticking with pedicures until I can try a ballet slippers-esque hue. But I’m thrilled to know that all polishes – bright or neutral – will be free of the big three: formaldehyde, toluene and dibutyl pthalate.

The starter kit ($60) comes with everything you need for 10 applications, plus the LED light. You can find it at CVS and WalMart stores nationwide. Additional polish colors will launch this month at about $12 a bottle. Visit Sensationail’s website, Facebook or twitter feed for details. And please, if you DIY, let me know what you think! xo alex


Alex Asher Sears is a writer, photographer, and fourth generation Angeleno. She believes that you can find inspiration anywhere but thinks Slim Aarons, Nöel Coward and Diana Vreeland are a great place to start. Since 2007, she’s been sharing her eco-beauty finds with BB readers. She writes at AlexandraWrote, and also, quite literally, at Type A Calligraphy. Find her on twitter at @AlexandraWrote.

All Things Bright and Beautiful: Alex’s Twelve Days of Gifting

By | Uncategorized | 7 Comments

With Christmukkah less than three weeks away, you may still have a few presents to pick up for your nearest and dearest. It happens to the best of us, whether you spend the year gathering treasures and stowing them away for the holidays or you battle the crowds on Black Friday in one fell swoop.

Personally, there are two kinds of gifts I like to give – those that I come across in unexpected spots immediately making me think of the recipient, and the fabulous things that I adore myself and want to share with everyone I know. This list falls into the latter category. And so, here are twelve gifts as fabulous to give as to receive. Maybe a bit of both?

1. The tarte shining stars limited-edition best sellers collection ($25) is perfect for someone new to the line but also full of the beloved products than any tarte fan would love to have in travel size. The special edition set includes a cheek stain, lip tint, waterproof liner and my beloved lights, camera lashes mascara. The tint and stain would also fit nicely in a clutch if you need touch ups on New Years Eve.

2. Sometimes the best gifts don’t arrive in fancy packaging. Egyptian Magic ($26-37) is a simple jar filled with magic goodness – but so many people I know say they feel crazy spending $35 for a jar of all-purpose cream. Which is why I think it’s sort of perfect to give – so versatile, so nourishing, the skin/hands/nails/lips of the recipient will be thanking you through the dry, cold winter and all year round. Find it at your local Whole Foods or online, here. Keep with the Egyptian theme and wrap it up alongside of this set of gorgeous scarab flat cards by stationer Connor.

3. tarte Amazonian clay 12-hour blush ($25) in dollface is a great for all skin tones, day or night. I had traded powder blushes for tarte’s cheek stains years back, but these are incredible. The color is long lasting and has incredible properties that are beneficial to both dry and oily skin types (it’s all in the Amazonian clay).

4. As I wrote a few months back, I am a gel manicure devotee. And gift certificates for gel manis with my amazing manicurist will be a gift that keeps on giving…two weeks of chip-free nails. I love the fact that Gelish sets under LED light instead of UV. Nails look fabulous for several weeks, remain strong and, once removed, no damage. It’s important to find a manicurist who’s trained properly, so visit the Gelish Salon Locator to find a location near you.

5. Speaking of manicures, I always loved the story Diana Vreeland wrote in D.V. about how Revlon stole her Parisian manicurist’s varnish to make their polish. This year a new book collecting her wit, wisdom, and style has been released. Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has To Travel ($55 in stores; about $35 on Amazon) is a beautiful coffee table tome about the fashion editor and style icon. You can up the fabulousness by including a set of the limited edition Vreeland-inspired stationery by Connor for Barneys ($98) (I am loving Connor’s paper goods if you hadn’t noticed.)

6. And while we’re talking hands, these leopard print glittens by J. Crew ($34.50) are not only going to keep hand cozy and skin soft, but the mitten tops pull back tp reveal adorable fingerless gloves – the easier to text, email, and send those Instagram shots with.

7. My love of beauty products is matched by my love of all things organized, which is why I find z palette’s ($14-20) to be one of the greatest ideas yet. My friend Erin, makeup artist extraordinaire, first turned me on to them and I think they make for great gifts. We all have a mix of eyeshadows and blushes taking up unnecessary space, or those large sets that come with 724 shadows with only a few colors we really like. With a z palette, you consolidate all of your pots of creams and powders into these sleek, magnetic cases – and with see-through lids you can find what you’re looking for quickly and easily.

8. Speaking of organization, I adore Closette’s Travel Jewelry Case ($50). Great on the go or home, they come in waterproof linen cases and hold a variety of pouches to fit your storage needs. I suggest picking up two. Because if you buy one for a gift, I’m pretty sure you’re going to want one for yourself. I know I did. (By the way, did you see Sarah’s piece with Closette on organized beauty? Read it here.)

9. In winter I like wearing brighter lip tints, but it’s also the time of year when lips need the most hydration. KORRES uber-moisturizing Cherry Oil lip glosses cover all bases, and I love this limited edition, value set for Sephora ($28). Give the Quad as a set or split them up as stocking stuffers.

10. tarte picture perfect eyelash curler set ($15) comes with the best eyelash curler I’ve ever found, and a deluxe size tube of lights, camera lashes mascara. I don’t leave the house without mascara. And before I put on LCL, this lash curler instantly makes me look bright eyed – even on those days where I could really use some extra beauty sleep.

11. I love paddywax soy candles ($25) and their holiday collection comes in these gorgeous honeycomb patterned mercury-like glasses. There’s the cypress and mandarin PEACE candle, a combo I love, as well as HOPE (pomegranate and spruce), JOY (cinnamon wood and honey), and GIVE (clove and vanilla bean). All holiday scents are available as diffusers and in travel candles, too. Paddywax candles are eco-minded, as is their packaging – the paper unfolds to become a gift tag or ornament.

12. I know I talk about Spin Pins (about $6.50) a lot. A whole lot. So much so that the good people of Goody actually began following me on twitter and said they were happy I liked them. I Spin Pins as gifts all the time, tying them to the tops of packages, or just because – like my cousin the ballerina or my friends in Sydney who can’t get them there. (Goody, please go to Australia. They love you.) You can find them online or at your local drugstore. They’ve now added Spin Pin Minis (about $6.50) to the collection. Give these as gifts and every day will be a good hair day through the holidays and all year long.

Happy, Merry…Everything, BB!

As Beauty Banterers well know, I love eco beauty and all the gorgeous brands that have made skin, hair care and makeup as eco-chic and luxe as the rest. And while I don’t exclusively use organic products, I am happy to know that the options out there are pretty fabulous. When it comes to makeup, tarte has long been my go-to brand. And so I was more than a bit giddy when they announced their FRENDS and FAMILY SALE is on now through December 12th – just enter promo code FFDEC at checkout to receive 30% off and free shipping on orders over $40. ‘Tis the season!  xo a.


Alex Asher Sears is a writer, photographer, and fourth generation Angeleno. She believes that you can find inspiration anywhere but thinks Slim Aarons, Nöel Coward and Diana Vreeland are a great place to start. Since 2007, she’s been sharing her eco-beauty finds with BB readers. She writes at AlexandraWrote, and also, quite literally, at Type A Calligraphy. Find her on twitter at @AlexandraWrote.


By | skin | 35 Comments

I adore beauty products. I really, really adore them all the more when they are green. When I began writing about eco-beauty here four years ago, the good stuff was harder to find. But now it’s just as luxe as it’s less eco counterparts. Which means your vanity can be filled with pretty bottles and pots free of parabens and petro chems and synthetic fragrance and dyes. It’s a win-win.

Thanks to our friends at the French beauty brand Caudalie, think of it as a win-win-win situation.

A few weeks ago I was telling you about the great set of goodies they sent me – the top three products their own team loves most: Vinoperfect Radiance Day Fluid ($68), Premier Cru the Eye Cream ($95), and their Beauty Elixir ($16/30ml).

Now their three cult faves can be yours, too! Enter our Caudalie giveaway to win this trio, a $179 retail value.

– Leave a comment below with your Facebook name (very important!) now through Sunday, September 4th at 10PM PST.
– Subscribe to our newsletter (if you haven’t already) by becoming a BB member (see that box in the top right corner).
LIKE us on Facebook – simply click the link on your right.

We’ll be notifying the winner via our Facebook page after Labor Day, on Tuesday, September 6th. The lucky winner will have 24 hours to respond. If we don’t hear from you, we will choose another lucky BB reader. So, watch our FB feed on the sixth!

All winners are chosen at random, and while we like to believe in the honor system, we also believe in playing by the rules, so we’ll be checking to see that entrants are subscribed to our newsletter.

(We love all of our international BB readers but the Caudalie giveaway is open to United States participants only.)

Also, if you’re in New York City on September 8th, join Caudalie in celebration of Fashion’s Night Out.  Founders Mathilde and Bertand Thomas will be at the Sephora at 5 Times Square – details to follow!  xo alex.


Alex Asher Sears is a writer, photographer, editor and fourth generation Angeleno. She believes that you can find inspiration anywhere but thinks Slim Aarons, Nöel Coward and Diana Vreeland are a great place to start. Since 2007, she’s been sharing her eco-beauty finds with BB readers, but calls AlexandraWrote home.

About Beauty Banter
Beauty Banter was launched in July of 2006 as a comprehensive beauty blog covering trends, tips and tricks, insider secrets, and weekly must-haves. Beauty Banter has a reputation of being on the cutting edge of emerging trends and product launches so our readers are always the first to know what’s hot and what’s just not.