Skincare - One of the Few Places You May Want to Spend a Few Extra Bucks!

These days it's overwhelming to pick out a skin care regiment.  With random celebrities promising you brand new skin overnight and new fads popping up every single day it's hard to know what's best for your skin.

Recently, a guy near and dear to my heart, came to me because he had the breakout blues.  However, like most guys he wasn't willing to go run to Sephora to get an expert's advice - he was just using whatever stuff he could find at the local grocery.  Don't get me wrong, the grocery store has some great finds, but many skin care products just aren't cutting it and he was seeing no change in his skin.

Fortunately, he came to the right person.  I have had flare up skin since probably the 4th grade, and have probably tried every skin care line you can think of.  What I've found is that most don't work for my combination skin - they either don't get rid of the oil or dry me out!  So, after years of experience here are my do's and don'ts on skin care products - with a list of many of my favorites.  Don't let the price tags fool you...if you use many of these products the right way they can last for 6-months to a year.  And...that's a whole lot of piece of mind!

One of the first things I asked my friend was if his face wash or toner was turning his towels strange colors.  He replied that they were definitely turning colors.  Well, what most people don't realize is the secret to many skin care lines is lots of bleach and alcohol.  While these won't hurt you, in most cases they don't get rid of your acne by treating it, but seek to dry out those pesky zits.  Problem?  Yeah, they do that to your entire skin.  It dries your skin out so much that once your skin gets a little oil guess what?  The zits are back.  These products will strip your skin and cause redness and puffiness.  So, read the labels!  While words like "organic" and "natural" may have caused you to steer clear in the past, they may actually be worth looking into.

Secondly, make sure you use products in the right order.  Someone recently told me they didn't understand why they couldn't get rid of their acne.  However, after questioning them they had the right products but weren't using them as directed.  It sounds silly, but if you pop a zit and then try to use your toner to calm down the inflamed region, you're only spreading the bacteria that just came out of your pore.

Lastly, if you are a lady, invest in make-up remover.  It doesn't have to be top of the line make-up remover (I actually prefer Sephora's totally affordable $10 bottle below), but you do need some.  Why? Well, if you have heavy eye make-up on and simply try to use your cleanser to remove it, you'll end up using twice as much cleanser and won't fully clean your face - causing a breeding ground for bacteria and oil to get trapped and have a zit pop up by morning.  If washing your face isn't your strong suit, then invest in a face brush.  While I have not tried the over-the-counter brushes, I love my Clarisonic and the best part is that any product can go on the brush.  You'll get a deep clean and softness that you won't feel after just a quick wash.

Sephora Waterproof Makeup Remover, $9.50 for 4.2oz bottle

If you're looking for an all-in-one cleanser, try Philosophy's Purity.  It's one of the most affordable cleansers and the `6oz bottle will last you a year if you use it two times a day.  This product is the perfect every day cleanser for the person who wants to keep it simple.  

Purity Made Simple, $32.50 for 16oz bottle

One of my favorite natural brands available at many drugstores and groceries is MyChelle dermaceuticals.  When I found out I had Celiac's disease, I had to get rid of a few of my favorite products and turned to this brand for some gluten free relief.  I'm a huge fan of the White Cranberry Cleanser - it's gentle and controls oil which is perfect for summer weather.  And, at a totally affordable $10/bottle it won't break the bank! 

MyChelle 2.1 oz White Cranberry Cleanser, $9.69

If you're looking for oil control in the t-zone or all over there are a few products that are great.  Depending on how oily your skin gets, you want to proceed with caution.  I use some of my deeper cleansers or exfoliators just 1-2 times a week so I don't dry out my skin.  One of my favorite lines for oil control is Kiehl's White Clay - the Deep Pore Cleanser is a God send.  You will definitely feel this product working, and at only 1-2 times a week it will last forever!  Just remember a small bit goes a long way!  

Kiehl's Rare Earth Deep Pore Daily Cleanser, 5oz, $22.50

One of my other favorites for oil control is from a high end line called La Mer.  This product was recommended to me by one of the ladies at Nordstrom, and if I had known the price I probably would have never purchased it.  However, 6 months later I've used only 1/4 of the tube and love how it control my oil.  The best part?  It's a cleaning foam that works great with a brush system or just a little friction from your hands.  I use 1/2 a dime size and have enough for my whole face - one of the best investments I've made!  

La Mer Cleansing Foam, $65 for 4.2oz

And lastly, for an every day cleanser that smells great, feels great, and does great things try Fresh Soy Face Cleanser.  This gentle cleanser leaves your face super soft - and it's French!  Ooo la la!  

Fresh Soy Face Cleanser, 5.1oz bottle for $38

Still not sure?  Check out the travel or trial sizes of many of these products.  It's a great way to see if it's the right cleanser for you without breaking the bank! 

Just remember, even if you have genetically flawless skin (like my mother, ugh!  thanks, dad!) you still need to take care of it!  Damage to your skin is irreversible so treat it well!

Outfit Breakdown - Race Day!

Calling all race fans!  Race Day is just around the corner and just because some people will be sporting...less clothing than normal...doesn't mean you can't look flawless but be comfortable at the same time.

Now even if you have someone to impress, Race Day is not the time to break out those new wedges you've been dying to wear...but you may not want to show up in your Jeff Gordon get up either (plus, he's Nascar...duh!).  What you'll want to do is dress for the occasion...and be sure that if your clothes did get dirty or sweaty you're not going to yell at your neighbor in the in field "Hey this is dry clean only!"

Below I've put together a great race day look for just under $75.  By looking at some of my favorite affordable retail shops, I've combined some basics (that you may already have in your closet) with a little pop of color to keep you looking fresh all day.

I'm a huge fan of these shorts from Old Navy, and the bow detail and fresh navy color make it a staple for your summer wardrobe.  This style can be dressed up or down, so for race day throw on your favorite racerback tank for more coverage and lots of comfort.  I love this style from Penney's because the straps aren't too thick - making it less likely that you'll end up with super crazy tan lines!  

Instead of your usual flip flops, opt for a sporty espadrille like this version from Airwalk for Payless.  There will be lots of traffic off the track as well, so you'll want to protect your tootsies (and your recent pedi) as much as possible!  

Lastly, throw on some fun accessories to give your outfit a twist.  I'm a big fan of these rubber Ray Ban Wayfarer knock offs from Target - only $12.50!  Then you won't have to feel bad if the bright color doesn't go with everything (although I love my bright shades!).  For all of the "food and drinks" you may be lugging in, pick up a shopper's tote like this one from Forever 21.  The fun print adds spunk to any outfit, and for $1.50 you won't be discouraged if you leave it behind.  A great pair of earrings (I recommend studs so you don't lose them) and a fun bangle like this one from Forever 21 gives you the extra edge so that makes you look effortless.  

Comfort?  Check.  Inexpensive?  Check.  Ready for racing?  Oh yeah...

Got the Blues?

Blue tones are everywhere - especially for your nails!  And I have to say, I'm loving the way they look on everyone's skins.  Whether they are jewel tones or baby blues, these colors are adding a little flare to every outfit.

My favorite?  I love "Go Overboard" from Essie's 2012 Summer Collection.  The color is so rich, and a little bit goes a long way.  The way this pictures looks shows it with more green tones, but it's actually much darker than shown here.  I'm in love...

If you've got a good tan go for something more demure like Coat Azure or Barbados Blue.  They will bring out the bronze your skin is showing off in the summer months.  

Summer is in the air and it feels so good...

Fashion Star - Worth the Hype?

For over a year now we have been hearing the hype about Fashion Star, NBC's latest reality series with a Project Runway-esque vibe.  While I was skeptical (Jessica Simpson as a fashion mentor...not exactly my idea of Tim Gunn...) I still had to watch - thank goodness for DVR because this lady can't make it past that 10pm hour.

First of all, I have to give the creators a hand for at least trying to diversify themselves from other fashion shows out there.  Let's face it, when Bravo sold Project Runway to Lifetime and decided to revamp the show they may as well have called it Project Runway 2.0.  However, Fashion Star looks more at how an item will actually sale in the retail world by having buyers from 3 pertinent stores (Saks, H&M, and Macy's)  bid on items that the store would be willing to sale.  This year's competition took place last summer and I was so confused as to why that was.  Then I realized - it was so they had time to manufacture the clothes!  That's right, the items that the buyers bid on are available online and in stores the next day - my favorite aspect of the show.  Don't you hate on Project Runway with Rami has draped the most exquisite cocktail dress and you never see it again?  Boo!

All positives aside, I must say that Fashion Star should be more like "Amateur Hour" in my opinion.  Perhaps it's because the show is only on its first season, but most of the talent seems new to the fashion world and very few have been consistently successful.  Those that have though, have earned their spot in the final 3.  My favorite?  Kara Laricks.  Not only is her story unique (she was at one time a closeted lesbian elementary teacher) but her design esthetic of menswear inspired pieces manages to have just the right touch of modern details.

And who could forget Ronnie Escalante?  Named by John Varvatos as the "dark horse" Ronnie has come up in the past few weeks as the buyers and mentors favorite designer.  Me?  I'm not so sure.  While I usually like the cut of his pieces, he seems to have trouble picking fabrics?  He did a women's suit this past week in a floral print that looked like it belonged more on the windows then on your bottom.

Nzimiro Oputa is the last finalist, and while his designs were strong initially, I believe he is in the finals because he brings a menswear perspective.  His style is very Brooks Brothers with a European twist, and most men I know wouldn't be wearing what he's selling...but then again, I do live in Indiana...

The finale airs next Tuesday, May 15th on NBC.  Before then, check them out their designs at H&M, Macy's, and Saks.  The winning designer is supposed to be able to appeal to all retailers, which as you can see could be pretty challenging for three places known for completely different options.  Either way, I'm interested to see how the show turns out and if it will come back.  Personally?  I say they clean house.  The only mentor I'm impressed with is Nicole Richie...she has really made her stamp in the fashion world and those 15 minutes last for days!

Here are some of my current favorites selling, both from the finalists and past designers.  Snatch up these one of a kinds (err...most of them) while you can.  Some of these designers are worth a second glance.

Colorblock Dress by Orli Shani, $295,

Suit by Ronnie Escalante, $208,

H&M Top by Kara,

Designers you Love at Affordable Prices!

I don't know about you, but I love a designer collaboration when it saves me some dough.  Recently, many stores have started offering special limited time collections from your favorite high end designers at a more affordable price.  Here are a few that are on my radar that I couldn't help but share with all of you!

Trina Turk is known for her vibrant colors and classic cuts that makes going to work fun!  In June, Trina and Banana Republic will be launching a 60 piece collection available at Banana Republic stores nationwide.  With pieces ranging from $50 to $250, be sure to sign up for e-mails to ensure that you catch the latest coupons.  Nothing will make that purchase better than 40% off!

Trina Turk for Banana Republic

Rachel Roy has been designing a line for Macy's for a little while now, and it offers easy silhouettes is bright colors that can be worn to work or a night on the town.  Like Banana Republic, Macy's is always having a sale, so be sure to hit the store when these great pieces are discounted.  

Romper, $109

And who could forget QVC?  While you may not have a chance to try on these items before you purchase, why would you need to with styles from Rachel Zoe, Isaac Mizrahi, and the Kardashians.

Rachel Zoe Military Jacket, $132

Isaac Mizrahi Crossbody Quilted Bag, $148

K-Dash top, $52.32

Big style, great designers, and more affordable prices?  Yes, please. 

Beat the Brass - Renew Your Color Without a Stop at the Salon

Now, while I hate to make assumptions, I would guess that most of you out there have had your color done a few times in your life.  Well, with summer approaching it's easy for your color to lose that glow you achieve after just having it done.  Rather than going back every few weeks to renew that look, why not use a product that will give you that "just left the salon look."

Rita Hazan, Celebrity Colorist, has recently come out with her Foaming Gloss product that promises to take out the brassiness and have your locks looking shiny and new.

For $26, it's much cheaper for most of then hitting up the salon again.  Just be sure to pick the right shade for you...if you don't have golden tones, you definitely don't want to pick that shade.  

So don't put the ball cap on just yet - renew your color and shine and have everyone asking how your color always looks great!

Buying on eBay - not as Scary as it Seems...

Many people are surprised to learn that I not only use eBay for selling some of my old items, but I also buy some of my higher end items there as well.

Here's a great example: You walk into Saks Fifth Avenue and fall in love with a M Missoni cocktail dress.  It's gorgeous, unique, and everything you are looking for in a statement piece for your friend's summer wedding.  You try it on, and it fits like a glove...and then you look at the price tag - $650.  Say what?  With a few months until your friend's wedding you scour the Saks website and store praying for a sale...of epic proportions.  However, the next time you head to the store your dress is gone and with only a week to go you are freaking out about what you will wear to your friend's wedding.  Relax.  With a little planning and your best car salesman attitude I can get you that dress, probably in brand new condition, for a fraction of the price.

Since college I have been super savvy when it comes to purchasing items that I know I won't get much use out of - high end cocktail dresses, fancy heels, and even jewelry.  I always want to look unique and put together at certain events...and my worst fear is being the girl at prom whose dress is also on several other girls.  So, a few years ago when I was prepping for a college formal I went to Nordstrom and bought the prettiest dress I could find...that was way outside my budget.  While I looked amazing the night of, I never wore that dress again and I realized that I had gotten caught up in the drama of the dress rather than thinking about the worth of the dress.

At that point I was still an eBay novice, but I started to think that if I sold a lot of my items on eBay that other people probably did as well.  The next time I had a special event coming up I did my research.  I went to some of the high end retailers I loved and tried on loads of dresses.  I examined them all closely and using my notepad (every girl who doesn't use a smartphone should carry one!) and copied the designer, style of the dress, the price, and the size that fit me best.  Satisfied that I had done enough digging, I went to eBay and started searching for the dresses.  Low and behold, there were tons of dresses there - some the same style but different prints or colors and a variety of sizes.

Here's where the wheeling and dealing comes in - a lot of eBay sellers sell full time.  It's there job, and they can't buy more inventory until they sell their others.  Whether they work for the brand, live close to an outlet mall, or just have a killer discount they get the styles at a fraction of the price and want to turn a profit on ebay.  However, if an item has been on sale for awhile they want to get rid of it.  This is what I normally do if I have time.  I "watch" the item for at least a week.  A lot of items are buy it now, and if no one has purchased it in a week there's a good chance you can deal with them.  In that case, message the buyer and offer them a lower price.  For example, if a dress is $150, offer $115.  that gives you both room to negotiate and get a great deal.  Usually buyers will offer the dress at 50% off, give or take, so $115 would be over 60% off the retail price!  In some auctions there is a best offer button available where you can negotiate, and others are like live auctions where you can have a bidding war with other buyers.  Be careful not to get caught up in the adrenaline rush of bidding back and forth.  Rather than pushing the price up days before auction end, wait until the last few hours if you have time.  More than likely other bidders will have forgotten about the item.

Honestly, this works! And the best part?  If you hate it or wear it once, you can turn around and sell it on eBay as well - sometimes even making a profit!  It's an awesome way to look fabulous without feeling guilty.  I've purchased sunglasses, handbags, shoes, dresses - you name it!

Now, there is one warning.  If a deal seems too good to be true, proceed with caution.  While eBay has gotten much better about keeping fraudulent people off the site, many people will sell counterfeit items. So, if a Louis Vuitton bag is $50, don't expect it to be authentic.  Check the sellers feedback to see if other sellers have been pleased.  Anyone with a feedback rating under 97% should be avoided.  And don't be afraid to ask questions...if you want to see a receipt or ask if authenticity is guaranteed than ask.  That's like an insurance policy in case issues arise and you have to open up a case with eBay.

Lastly, many sellers have opened up there outlet stores on eBay - check out Neiman Marcus Last Call, Coach Factory, Under Armour, and other retailers for awesome deals on some of your favorite styles and brands.

There's nothing wrong with getting a good deal and looking great - in fact, I think I love my items better when I know that I paid less than the person next to me!

BIg Girl in a Skinny World - A Must Read for the Curvy Lady

While everyone else is joining the high tech world of Nooks, Ipads, and Kindles, I still enjoy the feel of a good magazine.  However, I must "thank" those of you who have moved on to these devices because magazine subscriptions are super cheap and several years ago I subscribed to nearly every fashion/fitness/gossip magazine out there.

Even though I love my fashion magazines, I get annoyed with some of the super editorial looks that feature women with abnormal measurements in clothing that the Queen probably couldn't afford.  Honestly, who wants a $20,000 motorcycle jacket?  Love you Gucci, but when the price says, "upon request" this girl is out.

That's why I found it so refreshing when Marie Claire started featuring a monthly column from their own Nicolette Mason.  Mason is unlike most of the women working in this superficial industry; she is plus size and proud! Each month she takes on a new topic that often finds curvier women shying away when it comes to fashion.  May's issue featured Nicollette sharing her own former fears about shorts.  While shorts have emerged all over the runways, most of them are a wee bit, well...short, and nothing is less chic than a lady pulling her shorts down every time she takes a step!

Check out her blog and learn more about her fashion finds.  Even if you're a skinny twig, some of her advice is applicable to all of us.  With her personal touch it's hard not to identify.

So the next time you're at the Supermarket skip the Cosmo (do you really need to know how to make your man hot in bed...I mean...he's a guy...he probably doesn't care...) and pick up Marie Claire.  With fashion advice from Tim Gunn and Nina Garcia, it's hard not to see that Marie Claire is heading in the right direction when it comes to fashion for all!

Big Style, Small Price - Designers that Give You More Bang for your Buck

I've always been jealous of my friends that live in larger cities because they always pick up the most unique items that looks super chic and expensive but are completely affordable.  I don't know about you, but there's nothing I despise more than going to the mall and seeing 3 people with the same top on.  It's funny, because at 14 I wanted to look like everyone else (Abercrombie & Fitch all the way!) and as an adult I want to be completely unique from my peers.  I want to enter a room and have someone say, "wow I love your dress" and then be able to say, "yes, and I got it so cheap!" - there is nothing more gratifying than feeling like you got your moneys worth.  Well, some of us may never have the opportunity to peruse the local high end consignment shops in search for someone's 1970s Missoni dress but with the internet there is a way that some of us can still look chic without having to give in to the monotony of so many stores these days.

For those of you who have been in a coma for the last year, you may not have heard that Kate and Pippa Middleton have emerged as the style elite.  However, unlike some of their peers they like to mix up high end pieces with more affordable items as well.  There favorite go to brand?  Zara.  This international brand has just recently made the move to the States, and for almost a year us Americans have been able to peruse the shop online.  Seriously, this was big stuff for someone like me.  For the price, Zara's quality and tailoring is impeccable and most looks are classic enough that you will get several seasons out of it.  Here are some of my favorites for spring.

Blazer - $99,

Dress - $79.90

Shorts, $59.90

Topshop is another fabulous brand that offers some cutting edge designs for a much more reasonable price than premiere designers.  Many celebrities have been seen at high end events wearing pieces from the line, while others have collaborated to create designs.  One of the most popular collections from Topshop was designed by Kate Moss - who still works with the line today.  Pregnant?  No problem - they offer maternity gear too!  Best part - free shipping over $100...and since it's coming from the UK, it's well worth the discount! 

Chiffon Dip Hem Dress, $84

Floral Romper, $76

So if you're tired of the usual mall stops try out these two online havens.  One recommendation - check the size charts!  European sizing is very different than US sizing and many silhouettes are more narrow.  If you have to change your size, don't sweat it - just send it back and order something new.  Trust me - you can find something from these fabulous lines! 

Celebrity Fashionista of the Month - Jennifer Lawrence

Jennifer Lawrence is certainly living the high life right now - she has hit mega stardom after being cast as Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games series, she is on the cover of all of the hottest magazines, and oh yeah...she's drop dead gorgeous!  All of the hottest designers are throwing their latest and greatest creations at this girl because she is walking the red carpets EVERYWHERE!

But before she was walking the streets of LA in a Balenciaga jacket, Miss Lawrence was growing up in Louisville, Kentucky with fairly humble beginnings.  However, with that face, that hair, and those piercing green eyes I think it's safe to say that she's right where she belongs.  Check out some of her latest looks!

at the LA premiere of the Hunger Games

at the 2012 Peoples Choice Awards

in Ralph Lauren @ the Hunger Games premiere in London

a look from her Glamour photoshoot

another look from her Glamour photoshoot

This "girl on fire" has really made her mark.  Seriously, can she look bad?  Let's hope not...we wouldn't want to have to revoke her "fashionista" status!