Thanks for visiting. This site will no longer be updated.

Please visit my new site.

You can find new writing, new photos at


Friday, January 4, 2008

Cheap Thrills

The other day I had to do one of those marathon shopping sprees that took me to all of the Big Box stores. I made my Costco run and, since I was in the area, a once-a-year stop at Wal-Mart.

The real reason I had to go to Wal-Mart?


Like most other makeup artists and junkies, I am on a quest. A Quest for the Holy Grail of Mascara. Fickle, pouty, never-satisfied mascara questers like myself are constantly pouring over the makeup blogs (god help me) and reading reviews of the newest products. I have banned myself intermittently from reading makeupalley.com because it fills my head with a new crop of brands I've never heard of but now must try, and cosmetics that I feel I can't live without, even though I just learned about them five minutes ago.

I had been reading a review on Capital Hill Barbie about this Maybelline XXL mascara I haven't tried yet, and she waxed so poetic about it that I was convinced it might be The One, or at least a runner-up. Since most mascaras end up being a bit of a disappointment, I really don't want to pay full price for them, even if it's drugstore stuff. I might end up using it once or twice before it goes in the trash, so that's where Wal-Mart comes into play. I also tend to go on drugstore-brand binges from time to time, when my Chanel and NARS and YSL products go on hiatus while I dump a treasure trove of cheapie makeup all over my vanity table (some or most of which then usually goes in the trash at some point, too).

The problem with beauty items being discounted is that a person with a demented brain will buy more of them.

When they have no business doing so.

So my Wal-Mart haul ended up being pretty fruitful. Not only did I get the Maybelline mascara (which I haven't tried yet, silly me), but I got the Cover Girl Lash Blast mascara, which to my surprise, I actually like more than I thought I would. You do need at least four coats, though, to get the "Blast" they must be talking about. I also got the new Maybelline mineral liquid foundation which is apparently so new that I can't find a link to show you. Even though I have to mix two shades together to get my color, the foundation has a very nice finish and SPF 18. For sentimental reasons, I also got some Coty loose powder. This is a vintage beauty product if ever there was one. I forgot how light and silky the powder is, and the scent reminds me of my high school makeup days. It's actually a very nice finishing powder (get the Translucent), and they have a fragrance-free version if you don't want to go around having a face that smells as nice as it looks. ;-)

But the biggest score of all was at Costco. Ladies, get yourself this brush set! For $21.95, which won't even buy you a single brush at Sephora, this is a very, very nice brush set. It has all the basics, and a few nice extras, including a brush roll and some more "fancy" type brushes like a fan brush and a kabuki brush, both of which are great to have, and purchased individually would cost you more than the whole shebang.

If you can get over the fact that all of your brushes say "Kirkland" on them, I think this is one of the best beauty buys I've seen in a while.


So while I'm in Cheap Thrills mode, here are some drugstore products that I use regularly, which are really quite nice and won't break the bank:

NYC Ultra Moist Lipwear in Sheer Red, at a whopping $0.99 a tube. Great consistency, gorgeous berry color (can be used as a stain). I'm on my fourth tube of this one.

Rimmel Gentle Eye Makeup Remover: It's not oily so you won't get goo in your eyes. It doesn't sting, either! Not good for waterproof mascara, though.

Rimmel Soft Kohl Kajal Eye Pencil in Jet Black: I can't speak for the other colors (and those may not be the same quality) but this black pencil is sooty black, soft enough to smudge and full of pigment. This has to be the blackest pencil I've ever used. I'm hooked.

Max Factor Pan-Stick Ultra Creamy Makeup: This is some real old-timey stuff, but it's a worthy and overlooked foundation. Max Factor pretty much created the modern cosmetics industry, and anyone who likes makeup owes him a debt of gratitude. (A fabulous book, if you can find it--I got mine on Amazon-- is Max Factor's Hollywood: Glamour, Movies, Make-Up). But aside from that, this makeup can be blended out for sheer coverage, or layered for more coverage, and best of all, it's quick and easy. Use it with the Costco foundation brush!

Jane Blushing Cheeks: Jane is an Estee Lauder brand so you're getting department store quality at a fraction of the price. I probably have almost every shade of these blushes, even though I am a confirmed NARS blush junkie. But these are really nice for the money and I use them a lot.

Bye Bye Blemish: You can spend $20 on the Mario Badescu version at Nordstrom, or shell out $9.00 and get this stuff. I swear this pink liquid is the bomb if you break out. It's a sulfur-based product that you dab on at night with a q-tip and I promise your pimple will be gone in the morning. It is a little stinky but don't let that stop you. Even The Boy uses it and if he reads this he will make me erase this sentence, so I am going to live dangerously here.

Alpha Hydrox products: I haven't tried all of them but the ones I have (the souffle, lotion and the revitalizing peel) rival any expensive department store or dermatologist brand skin care. The pH of these AHA products is actually effective (so many others are buffered to the point that they are useless) so you can get some really good results with these if you use them regularly. (If all of this sounds a bit too technical, let me know and I'll explain it better.)

Clean & Clear Oil Absorbing Sheets: Don't even buy anything else. The only other thing that works better (and is free) are toilet seat paper cover/protector thingys. Right, Elizabeth?

Cococare Cocoa Butter Lip Balm: Awesome lip balm. Great for bedtime. And it's what, $1.25?!! If you want to smell like a giant piece of chocolate (Johanna?), get the Hand and Body lotion. It's really great for dry skin but if you start going on chocolate binges in the middle of the night, it's not my fault.

The way I look it is if you subsidize your vanity with a few of these Cheap Thrills, then you'll have more money for things that are really important...like shoes.


Anonymous January 5, 2008 at 4:26 PM  

I don't know, TB... I'm already petting my head and feeling up my silky skin to the point it's embarrassing to go out in public. And now I have to start nibbling myself??? I may have pass on the cocoa butter, although it sounds heavenly.

I do have a recommendation for mascara though. Maybelline's Define-a-Lash (metallic green tube) is AWESOME! Really keeps lashes separate and defined. Might need a couple of coats for extra length, but I love it.

Speaking of length, I hardly ever experience satisfying results with products that promise amazing things. Until Revitalash. This product is the hottest buzz amongst us "sisters" for growing back your lashes longer and thicker than they ever were before you lost them. Let me tell you, it works. It works INCREDIBLY well. People are wondering if I'm wearing falsies :-) The caveat is that it is VERY expensive. The plus side is that it lasts for months.

And finally, though not exactly drugstore cheap, I found the PERFECT cream blush at Sephora: Tarte Cheek Stain. At my present amount of use, I should have this stick for about 10 years, making it the cheapest product I've ever bought. A teensy weensy dab goes a very long way, is made of natural products (sort of like rubbing a raspberry on your cheeks), and looks and feels absolutely natural.

tangobaby January 5, 2008 at 5:10 PM  

Johanna, you do crack me up. You know that, right?

I guess if you're already silky and soft and can't keep your hands off yourself, what's the harm in smelling like warm chocolate? But I can see where that might be over the top, too. ;-)

Now on the list after I burn through these other mascaras will be the Define-a-lash, to be sure. Thank you for the tip.

But now you've got me on another subject that to me is even more esoteric than a simple mascara quest: the mysterious eyelash growing potions! I have used Talika's Lipocils in the past, almost in defiance because I was sure this product wouldn't do a darn thing except take money out of my wallet.

To my amazement, it worked! Actually, it didn't do squat for 2 weeks and then miraculously my lashes started getting longer and even growing back in places they were thinning. My skeptical mind could not believe it!

I've also tried the Jan Marini version of Revitalash and it didn't work for me. Have you used that one?

My only problem with these products (and it's mine, not the manufacturers) is that I forget to use them religiously and when you stop using them, the effects decline. So I'm trying to get back on the wagon again with Talika since I have an almost new tube on my vanity.

Do you find the Revitalash makes them grow longer or do they also grow in thicker?

The Tarte Cheek Stain is a nice product, and you're right--it will last forever. I tend to go for the cream blushes rather than the gels because I can wear them over foundation and the Tarte seems to look nicer over bare skin. (Did you know that Sephora makes a tiny gel cheek stick that is similar to Tarte but it's little so you can put it in your purse? They only make three colors, but there is a raspberry color which is similar to the Tarte. They're not too expensive, either.)

Anonymous January 5, 2008 at 5:19 PM  

You know, I'm trying to save up to go back to BA and spending my hard earned pennies on this stuff is NOT GOING TO HELP!

The only lash regrowing potion I've tried is the Revitalash, so I have no other point of reference, The lashes are still growing in and are obscenely long, but not as full as I remember them being (I've been filling in between with liner and they look great). What I like about Revitalash is that it comes in a little mascara-like tube with an eyeliner-like brush. But when this tube runs out, I'll have to try Talika.

I tend NOT to wear foundation (I know, you're going to flog me) so I prefer the gels since they seem to appear more "natural". I'll check out the little check gel tube next time I'm at Sephora since the Tarte is just too honkin' huge to travel with...

tangobaby January 5, 2008 at 5:28 PM  

That's why they're CHEAP thrills, not expensive ones. But I know what you mean. Even cheap thrills add up if you get enough of them.

You will be interested to know that the Talika product only costs about $35.00. It does have a mascara wand but I can definitely see the benefits of the eyeliner wand. Perhaps you can keep the Revitalash applicator and try it with the Talika someday. They used to sell it at Sephora and I know you can get it online, too.

I would never flog you for not wearing foundation. Remember, less is more, less is more! Gel blushes look fabulous on bare skin which is why it looks nice on you--so keep using it. It's just over foundation that they don't look as good. The little ones at Sephora come in a dark squat tube that is almost the same size as the lipstick, but fatter. I should just send you mine...I don't use it. And that will give me a space for something else.

Elizabeth Brinton January 5, 2008 at 5:37 PM  

You guys are costing me money...

Hey, about foundation: I have discovered the tinted moisturizers, and I love them. There is one by MD Skincare, and one from Laura Mercier, which is a better deal, and seems pretty much the same. (Thanks to Tangobaby for that one.) I will try the mascaras, as I have never found one that I really like, it spite of wearing mascara every single day since I was fifteen, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Besos, e

Anonymous January 5, 2008 at 5:37 PM  

Oh, I see where this is going, you sneak. If I help you make space you'll just blame me for reckless spending... even a la "cheap" :-)

tangobaby January 5, 2008 at 5:45 PM  


Look at us as a support group, not instigators to spend money. ;-)

Yeah, tinted moisturizers are great when you find the right product formulation for your skin type. The LM one is really good (and BTW, you can also use a little bit of moisturizer to "cut" a foundation that is too heavy, and kinda make your own).

I still have not found a good drugstore tinted moisturizer that rivals the LM one, though.

Let me know about the mascaras, though. Like you, I am still questing. At least the cheap ones keep you from being disappointed over something that's $20+, although I do like Lancome's Hypnose right now. And YSL's Faux Cils. But gosh, they're spendy and then you have to toss them in a few weeks anyway.


I already have something to fill the hole. I have legions of little products that are crying because they can't fit in the official makeup tray. So I'll just send you mine and you'll make some other little product on my table very happy to have a proper home.

Anonymous January 5, 2008 at 6:32 PM  

Uh huh... likely story...

But if it makes you feel better, sure, send me your old, your tired, your neglected little tubes :-)

Elizabeth Brinton January 5, 2008 at 6:40 PM  

Oh, if and when you have grand-daughters, they are very appreciative if you give them the old stuff/rejected, although their mothers might not be.

studio wellspring January 7, 2008 at 10:31 AM  

always a wealth of fabulous info on how to be more fabulous...very indebted to you tangobaby. :o)
i am so commited to the greatness of max factor's mascaras that i buy two of them whenever i find a store that still sells them.
someday i will invest in some revitalash or talika's. but for now i'm still adoring my max factor solution.

tangobaby January 7, 2008 at 11:07 AM  

I used to be a big fan of the 2000 Calorie mascara until my persnickety-ness made me move on. Actually, I also like the new one: Lash Perfection.

You can order Max Factor products online. I have no idea why in the entire city of San Francisco, you cannot find Max Factor products. This is supposed to be a capitalist society driven by the free market. It's not right!

studio wellspring January 7, 2008 at 2:02 PM  

i'll tell you one reason why: walgreens doesn't carry it anymore. and as we all know walgreens has some borderline-illegal agreement with city hall to be the only drug store within walking distance of union square. so, what walgreens doesn't carry, you don't get to buy ~ unless you leave the city limits that is.
surprisingly i'm not a big online shopper. i much prefer to buy at "real" stores. but if i get desperate enough i'd find max online for sures.

Eva January 11, 2008 at 12:00 PM  

I've been using Chanel Inimitable and really like it but the stuff is too expensive. I will be sure to give Maybelline XXL a try. Just out of curiousity, have you heard of Revitalash? http://www.revitalash.com
(I'm sure you don't have a need for it because you already have gorgeous lashes.) It's a conditioner to help grow thicker longer lashes. I discovered it several months ago... and to my surprise, the stuff actually works.

tangobaby January 11, 2008 at 12:54 PM  

Hi Eva,

I bought the Maybelline XXL but have not tried it yet. I'm still using the Cover Girl, but now am not as in "like" with it as I first was. (Actually, I went back to my Lancome Hypnose today.)

I haven't tried Revitalash yet, but if you read the other comments above, you'll see that Johanna swears by it too. I've used Talika and had good results but it looks like I might have to spring for Revitalash to keep my product junkie creds up to date.


PS. And thank you for the compliment. Although some lashes you see on me may own.

Eva January 11, 2008 at 1:14 PM  

Tangobaby & Johanna,
I've tried Talika as well, along with other expensive japanese potions, but nothing worked on my poor little lashes. Revitalash is just amazing. I noticed new growths in just a few weeks. There was definitely a noticeable difference in length, thickness and fullness. It is pricey but so worth it. I just bought a new tube from Amazon($100).

tangobaby January 11, 2008 at 1:16 PM  

Okay, that settles it. I have to get some. I'm assuming it's cheaper on amazon and that's why you get it there?

Do you have to use it twice a day?

jen January 12, 2008 at 12:26 AM  

Hi Tangobaby,

Thanks for the comment on my blog about learning about planes to get rid of the fear of flying. I'll have to look into it.

All this makeup advice is great! I wish I could take you with me to the makeup counter. I wonder if Revitalash would work to grow back eyebrows as well?

For mascara, I like the look of Dior Addict when it goes on, but after a few hours it has a tendency to flake.

I have very dry lips and never found any lip balms that worked until I used L'Occitane en Provence's 100% Shea Butter. It's not meant for lips but it works great!

tangobaby January 12, 2008 at 11:09 AM  

Hi Jen,

Thanks for visiting my blog. I hope I was able to give you another tool to help with your travel worries. The reason I was so strongly moved to mention it is because I got myself over fear of flying, so that to me means it's not impossible. Not to sound cheesy, but a book you could read is called Airframe, by the novelist Michael Crichton. It was a popular thriller novel, meaning that it's easy reading, but his books always incorporate a lot of research and he writes about airplane construction in it.

I am always up for a visit to the makeup counter with a friend. Hey, you never know, right? If nothing else, we can certainly be makeup pen pals. One other resource to keep in mind for reviews and advice is makeupalley.com.

For your brows, it's entirely feasible that Revitalash could work. For a cheaper alternative, I would start with the Talika product first (see in the above comments). I know for a fact that Talika does make a brow product, and/or that people have used Lipocils to grow back brow hairs with success. The only catch is how long has the area not had hairs. If the hair follicle is dead and the hair has been gone for a long time, there may not be as much you can do about it. But it's certainly worth a try. The most important thing is be consistent. Talika suggests using the product twice a day. I didn't see results for at least two weeks, so patience is a virtue here.

Mascaras often flake when the tube is old. It may not be the formula but that your tube is old. I remember that mascara was a little too thick for me, but I know some people love Dior. They used to make a Cashmere Mascara that was heavenly, and then they discontinued it.

Shea butter is awesome! I hear you on that one. Hey, you use what works best, right? Also, a gently exfoliation before applying your shea butter will keep the flakies away.

Ciao bella!

Eva January 13, 2008 at 7:32 PM  

Amazon seems to have the lowest price. I am using it twice a day, before bedtime and in the morning under my eye makeup. It took about 3 - 4 weeks before I saw results.