French Drugstore Beauty Favorites

French Drugstore Beauty Favorites

As any beauty junkie will tell you, Europe–and France in particular–corners the market on great beauty products. In some cases, they use active ingredients¬†that aren’t approved for use in the U.S. In other cases, they go much simpler (example: micellar water) and create really phenomenal products. For all these reasons, I was pretty excited to begin shopping beauty products when I moved over. Here in Italy, it’s been touch-and-go. I can get by with my broken Italian, but trying to read product labels in our local farmacia has been tough. France, on the other hand, has been much easier to shop. English often shows up on their packaging, making it much easier to understand what I’m buying.¬† Continue reading

Omigosh It Does Work, or Trying Out the Tanda Zap

I love those Good Morning America and Today Show Steals & Deals segments. Most of the time, the goods really aren’t things that interest me. Then there’s that (maybe) 10% of the time when they feature something really, truly fantastic (like the Cambridge Satchel I scored late last summer for $100). Two weeks ago, Good Morning America partnered with Tanda to create a great deal: the Tanda Zap for only $24.99. I have been using light therapy in the form of the LightStim for a couple of years, so I figured it was worth trying.

If you aren’t familiar with the Tanda Zap, it’s a small, hand-held device that emits a pulsing blue light that supposedly kills the bacteria in and around a pimple, making the blemish go away faster without drying creams. While there’s a larger, much more expensive Tanda model that can be refilled with light charges, the Tanda Zap is a 1000-use-only device that retails for about $50.

tanda zap in pink

I do suffer from adult acne on my chin. It’s usually well controlled with prescription Differin Cream but products like Differin and Retin-A are kind of no-nos when you’re pregnant. Unlike my first pregnancy when my skin was instantly clear and glowing, it hasn’t been like that this time around. I consistently have breakouts on the right and left sides of my chin–ranging from cysts to generic blemishes.

After washing my face the evening my Tanda Zap arrived, I used it for a 2-minute cycle on the right side of my chin. I though I would do my own scientific experiment, using the Tanda on one side and not the other. The instructions say to use the Tanda Zap two to three times a day on the affected spot. I used it twice–morning and evening. Lo and behold, by day 2, the right side was clearing up. The two blemishes I had were dried up and no new ones were forming. The left side had some new ones popping up. After 5 days, the right side was clear (although I do still have some red spots where everything is healing). I figured at that point, it was time to try the Tanda Zap on my left side. Boom…by the end of day two, that side was clearing up.

Now I haven’t had the chance to try this device on a nasty, huge cyst (thank goodness). But I’m really interested to see what it does when one pops up eventually. For now, I must say I’m sold. I’m not sure exactly how long 1000 cycles will last me given my breakout pattern but I’m tentatively certain that I’ll replace it when the Tanda Zap dies.

Where are the before and after pictures? I’m afraid you’re going to have to take my word for it. Honestly, my ego wouldn’t allow me to post make-up-free, blemished photos up for all to see on the Internet.

I can’t seem to find a great deal like I had for my Tanda Zap, but it is readily available at a number of stores. Nordstrom ships for free and has a great return policy, which might make it the best choice for ordering. If you try it, let me know how you like it.

Swoon-Worthy Tech Cases

ikat case closed

When I’m tapped to write any kind of gift guide featuring indie designers for, I always know I’m in trouble. Five minutes on Etsy turns into an hour and (usually) into several purchases for myself. One of the shops I discovered back around Thanksgiving, Pencil Shavings Studio, absolutely stunned me with cool products. The owner/designer/all around cool chick Rachel Shingleton creates some of the most gorgeous, vibrant lines of cases and stationary products that I’ve seen. I upgraded my iPhone in December, then my beloved Dodo iPad case fell apart a few weeks later. I’m not going to say I was really upset since that gave me the only reason I needed to place an order.

My Ikat iPhone case came first. At $39.99 plus an upgrade fee for the “tough” package (an extra insert to cushion and protect the phone), it was a little on the spendy side (I tend to use $10 cases off Amazon). It’s really holding up well, though, and it has totally protected my new iPhone through two traumatic (for me) drops.

Once I was sure I was going to love the Ikat cases, I went ahead and ordered the Ikat iPad case. It came Friday. As you can see in the second photo, the iPad is held in with leather (or leather-like?) straps.There is one internal slash pocket, which could be really handy for a notepad. The cases ring in at $65.

If you’re looking for interesting people to follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram or to add to your blogroll, Rachel would be a smart pick, too. We’ve never met and have only conversed via Etsy for the purpose of placing orders, but I find her posts either humorous or really inspirational. Visit her blog at

open ipad case

Currently Loving: Urban Decay Oz the Great and Powerful Glinda Kit

oz pkgI have been a The Wizard of Oz movie fan practically since conception. Way back before VCRs and DVDs, I can remember eagerly anticipating the return of The Wizard of Oz to CBS during the months of March or April (prime tornado season in Missouri). Even reading L. Frank Baum’s original Oz series didn’t help. I loved the cinematic flair of MGM’s take on the story. Years later, I fell in love with Wicked and the novels that followed. And now Disney is bringing yet another take on the world of Oz. Of course there will be marketing and licensed products for this (does Disney do it any other way?), but I’m kinda stoked about it all.

Just this week, Urban Decay launched their licensed Oz the Great and Powerful palettes–one in ethereal tones called Glinda and one in earthly tones called Theodora. Both retail for $49 and contain limited edition shades. Given my porcelain skin and light hair, I thought Glinda would be the perfect kit (although I bet Theodora winds up in my beauty stash, too). The crummy thing about being so fair is that eye shadows often don’t translate well. The depth that can show up on darker-toned skin just doesn’t seem to look as interesting when you’re pasty like I am. Even despite all that, though, I really think there’s some nice payoff with this kit. You’ll see the swatches below, but there’s a slight holographic quality to most of the colors. What I love most is that the colors are buildable and not overly glittery. I also adore the lip crayon (top, near my wrist, out of the swatches below). The color is just a great nude tone.

oz swatch
Arm Swatches Top to bottom: Glinda Gloss, Tornado, Aura (white/blue shade first, white/pink shade second), Magic, Illusion, Oz (golden shade first, silver shade second), South

oz open kit

Palette Swatches Left to Right, Top to Bottom: Tornado, Aura, Magic, Illusion, Oz and South. Liner: Rockstar. Lip Gloss Pencil: Glinda

Both kits come with duo-tone shadows. For the Glinda kit, these both fall in the center, as you can see above. The top, Aura, contains an iridescent white tone that shifts a bit toward blue and one that shifts toward a pinkish-red look. Oz, located center on the bottom row, has a golden tone with gold glitter and a silver tone with silver glitter. Both are wearable–no chunks of glitter falling down into your lashes.

I think the Glinda palette is an absolute winner, and as I said earlier, I’m sure I’ll cave for Theodora in the coming days.

Beauty Review: Mama Mio Pregnancy Essentials

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As I mentioned last week, my Tracy Anderson Pregnancy Project Nine Month Stretch kit from Mama Mio came with trial pack of pregnancy “essentials”: Boob Tube bust and neck firmer, Tummy Rub Butter, and Lucky Legs cooling peppermint lotion. All three are supposed to temper the ravages of pregnancy (my words, not theirs) on your body. I’ve written about Mama Mio products in the past for various blogs but had never actually tried them. This was the perfect time!

Boob Tube–Would Re-Buy
This lightweight cream is billed as a product to firm and promote elasticity in the breast, chest, and neck areas. Honestly, I don’t expect anything short of surgery to firm and lift breasts. Perhaps it has a longterm cumulative effect? Despite my skepticism, I really did love Boob Tube. The sample lasted well over two weeks, applying 8 pumps total to the entire decolletage and neck area. I applied it at night after my shower. On morning one, I noticed that my decolletage was much softer and smoother. I chocked it up to residual cream on the skin but even after showering, the effect was still there. I never saw a visible difference (I do have some sun damage) but the change in my skin’s texture was enough to sell me on it. I would like to buy a larger bottle to try for a longer period of time.

Tummy Rub Butter–Won’t Re-Buy
Although many reports have shown that there’s nothing you can do to prevent stretch marks during pregnancy, I still religiously applied a stretch mark cream with my first pregnancy. I came away with nary a stretch mark, so I’m doing the same this time just to be safe. I usually just pick up either Burt’s Bees Belly Butter or Palmer’s Cocoa Butter. Despite the much higher price tag, I was happy to use the Mama Mio Tummy Rub Butter. It smelled lovely–a little herbaceous in a good way. The trial-size tube was small and only lasted a week, applying it to my stomach and hips nightly. It did feel moisturizing and relieved the itch that seems to start the moment your bump begins to stretch the skin. For the $38-$48 price tag, however, it didn’t do anything better than the other belly butters I’ve tried. While I liked the scent of this one much more than that of the Burt’s Bees and Palmer’s, I’ll just stick with the products in a lower price point.

Lucky Legs–Would Re-Buy
Peppermint foot and leg creams are a dime a dozen, it seems. They all do the same thing for the most part–cool tired legs–and few have lasting effects. The Mama Mio Lucky Legs cream was like a mint lotion on steroids. According to the ingredients list, it contains both spearmint and menthol, along with things like lavadin, cypress, and yarrow that are supposed to be anti-inflammatory and generally great for swollen legs. At $19.50 per bottle, it’s not the cheapest leg and foot cream out there but it’s not the most expensive either. I don’t have a lot of swelling right now but my legs do feel tired and heavy at night in a way unlike how they feel when I’m not pregnant (un-pregnant? sans baby? without child?). Lucky Legs really seems fantastic. I look forward to applying it every night. I plan to buy more for sure.

Even taking into account my lukewarm opinion of the Tummy Rub Butter, the Mama Mio line holds promise. I will certainly be game to try more products in the future. It isn’t exactly cheap but I don’t mind spending a bit more when the products stand out like the Boob Tube and Lucky Legs. Have you tried any of the Mama Mio line? What did you think?

Tracy Anderson’s Pregnancy Project: A Review

I don’t feel like I’m one of those types who looks good during pregnancy. I tend to look chubby rather than pregnant, which just makes me self conscious. With my first pregnancy, I was hyper-aware of any weight gain to the point that I gain only the bare minimum, yet I still looked pudgy until about the eighth month. This time around, I’ve been gaining some right from the very start. The result is that I still don’t look pregnant, just doughy. Given how important fitness is during pregnancy and how badly I don’t want to have 30 or 40 pounds to shed post-pregnancy, I decided to find a good exercise regimen this time around. Gwyneth Paltrow practically has my dream body, so I immediately went looking for exercise videos by her personal trainer, Tracy Anderson.

To my happy surprise, Tracy Anderson did release her prenatal fitness system, The Pregnancy Project, just last October. The downside is that it’s really hard to find. After scouring the web, I finally found it via As part of a Mama Mio special edition, The 9 Month Stretch Kit contains the entire Pregnancy Project 9-disc DVD set as well as a trio of trial-sized skin products (Tummy Rub Butter, Boob Tube chest and breast skin firming cream, and Lucky Legs cream). I will absolutely review the skincare samples later, but for now, let me just talk about how much I already love the Pregnancy Project system.

tracy anderson bundle photos 002

The 9 Month Stretch Kit by Tracy Anderson, $75,

The Pregnancy Project contains nine discs, one for each month of pregnancy. Tracy focuses upon strength and flexibility especially in the arms, back, legs, and butt. She also incorporates range of motion exercises that indirectly (and safely) work you abs. Let me tell you, too, that it kicked my butt the first few days. Throughout the videos, Tracy explains how subtle positions will work certain muscle groups more intensely and boy do they. You have the option of hearing Tracy’s voice and music or just music. In my opinion, she isn’t annoying to listen to in the least. The music is soothing and enjoyable. Oh, and she’s pregnant in this video series, too, which means you hear her huffing and puffing as sequences get tough. For that, I give major props. Solidarity, sister!

tracy anderson bundle photos 003

Pregnancy Project DVD set

Given that I was 15 weeks when the system came via UPS, I chose to begin with the Month 3 DVD. It utilized two three-pound hand weights, a dining chair, and a hand towel for resistance. After two days with that, I decided to go back to Month 2 DVD just for variation. This one utilized the dining chair more heavily and worked the arms a bit more. I absolutely saw (and felt) results after the first five days. I even saw my oblique lines just a tiny bit (hooray!).

The only downside that I see to this set is that the same DVD for four weeks may get a little old and repetitious. Depending upon how my body responds to this pregnancy, I can foresee going back and forth between months as long as it feels safe and comfortable.

As I’m beginning my second week using the system (and ending my 16th pregnancy week), I have to give the kit 5 out of 5 stars. I wish I could have waited until March when releases the DVD system for around $30 but the $75 I spent on The 9 Month Stretch Kit seems to be well worth the money to me at this point.