beauty biz – black soap?

Using black soap won’t make your face turn black any more than using white soap will make your face turn white.

blacksoap1African black soap is a gentle, all-natural alternative cleanser made only from plant materials.Ordinary store-bought soaps can be too harsh or drying for your skin.  Proponents of African black soap say it does more than just keep you clean — the suds are packed with skin-loving benefits, too.


Most black soap is made with a blend of Plaintain skin, Cocoa Pod Powder, Tropical Honey, and Virgin Coconut Oil.  African Black Soap is most commonly hand-crafted by  village women in Africa who make the soap for themselves and to support their families.

The same women who make black soap choose to use only black soap on their babies, as its purity makes it gentle and non-drying for babies’ sensitive skin. In fact, black soap is generally the only soap used in most Western African countries.blacksoap2

Uses of African Black Soap

African black soap contains shea butter, which moisturizes skin but doesn’t clog pores. Shea butter gives the soap some UV-protection properties, but not enough to replace your usual sunscreen. According to Organic Spa Magazine, the soap may fade skin discoloration and dark spots. The soap cleanses gently, so it’s ideal for people with rosacea, rashes, dryness and other skin conditions. African black soap contains plantain extract, which has antibacterial properties that may help treat acne breakouts. Some people use the soap as a shampoo or mild makeup remover.

How the Soap is Made

African soap is traditionally made by harvesting and sun-drying palm leaves, cocoa pods and the bark from shea and plantain trees. This material is then roasted in a kettle at a constant temperature and mixed with oils, such as coconut and palm oil. The soap then cures for two weeks before it’s ready to use.

What makes Black Soap different:

  • Black soap is made with rare tropical honeys that are known for softening the skin and creating a smooth surface.
  • Black soap is also a natural source of vitamins A & E and iron. This helps to strengthen the skin and hair.
  • Black soap contains a high amount of glycerin, which absorbs moisture from the air and literally deposits it into the skin, making the skin soft and supple.
  • For centuries, Ghanaians and Nigerians have used black soap to help relieve acne, oily skin, clear blemishes and various other skin issues. Many swear by it for skin irritations and conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.
  • Women in Africa will use black soap during pregnancy and afterwards to keep them from getting stretch marks and to protect them from dry skin that is often accompanied by pregnancy.
  • Black soap can also be used as a hair shampoo. The shea butter in the soap softens the hair, while the vitamins give it strength.
  • Men can use black soap in shaving. The high shea butter content leaves the skin smooth and protected.
  • African black soap is unique in that it contains no preservatives, color enhancers, or fragrances. African black soap creates a soft lather without the animal fat additives that are commonly used in soaps made in the US.

    This is the one I bought in New Orleans. It works wonderfully.
    Mine came in this plastic container bought in New Orleans.  It works wonderfully.

Buy at or elsewhere online unless you go to West Africa or New Orleans.

Source: &



Beauty biz – in the BUFF

 On the hunt to find the PERFECT NUDE

Chanel Rouge Coco Shine in Canotier
Chanel Rouge Coco Shine in Canotier
NARS sheer lipsitck in Cruising
NARS sheer lipsitck in Cruising

It has always been difficult to find the perfect shade of nude lipstick, maybe even more so than searching for the perfect Red.  I like a nude lip that doesn’t completely wash you out, still looks natural & closely resembles the color of your skin tone – only slightly enhanced.  I don’t mean plain old beige either, they come in a variety of shades to pick from.  Personally, I find ones that have a lot of pigment are the best – like those from *NARS.lipnarscruising2

Samplings of some Makeup Artist Favourites are found on this page.


Dior Rouge Lip Color in Beige Indecise
Dior Rouge Lip Color in Beige Indecise

What to look for: Two shades up from your natural skintone is a good start. Fair skins look best wearing shades with more pigment like a peachy/pink and darker skin, with more brown. Use some makeup artist wizardry and dab on some concealer to tone down a naturally pink lip (Angelina Jolie uses this trick all the time),  fill in your lips with a nude lip pencil (like Mac Spice) first or use Benefit Lip Plump (which is like a foundation for your lips) before applying lipstick. Don’t go too matte.

Tom Ford Lip Color in Sable Smoke
Tom Ford Lip Color in Sable Smoke

 Be VEIN: A key to understanding undertones is essential to finding a nude lipstick that won’t wash the rest of you out. A quick and easy way to figure it out is to look at the veins that show through the thin skin on the inside of your wrist: if they look blue, you have cool undertones and if they take on a slightly greenish hue, you’re warm. Not sure which way you go? You most likely have neutral undertones.  I believe mine to be blue/green.liptfspanishpink

Choosing a color for your skin tone:

For fair or pale skin: With lighter skin tones, avoid beige lipsticks, which will wash you out. Instead, look to soft pinks and peaches or pale apricot as your base shade.

For the golden girls: If you have lots of golden undertones in your skin, go for creamy, caramel-toned nudes and warm beiges. Avoid anything too cool, like grays or silver-toned shades.

For olive tones: If you have olive skin, you’re a lucky gal. Just about any nude shade will look great on you from beige to bronze to pinks. I love olives but I hate olive girls.

Tom Ford Lip Color in Blush Nude
Tom Ford Lip Color in Blush Nude

For skin with yellow undertones: Think light, creamy-toned beiges like latte or mocha.

For dark-toned skin: Go for chocolate tones such as rich golden browns and coffees.

For the rest of your FACE – a pop of pink or peach blush plus bronzer keeps the face vibrant.

On another note: *I found “the best” toned-down earthy/muted brick red lipstick (goes on smooth & a bit sheer) from NARS – called Gipsy.

Do you have a favourite NUDE? Please share.





Beauty biz – what’s preserving your products?

cosmetics3The good news and the bad on what’s keeping your cosmetics.cosmetics2

For the purpose of keeping this post fairly short I will omit the other (mostly unpronounceable) family names like “Imidazolidynyl urea” that are also used to name the various preservatives mentioned.  If you need to know, you’ll have to google “what other names does “said” preservative go by,” because the list can be unfortunately extensive.

While many people want to avoid chemical preservatives in beauty and personal-care products, manufacturers use them for two crucial reasons: efficacy and consumer protection.  Preservatives aren’t required in all products (e.g., those with no water, such as oil-and wax-based lip balms; hermetically sealed products; and glycolic acid products with low PH). But where they are needed, they extend a product’s shelf life and prevent microbial growth that could lead to infection.  Without preservatives, whether natural or chemical, we’d need to keep products in the fridge (where incidentally, I do have a bunch hiding in the butter compartment – but no butter).

cosmetics1Here’s a glossary of some commonly used chemical preservatives, with information on their safety.  If you check the ingredients list on cosmetics, this post will help you with the latest info.


Found in moisturizers, hair-care products, makeup and shaving products.  They are commonly used as a preservative; effective against a wide range of bacteria, yeast and moulds, thus protecting consumers and extending product shelf life.  All commercially used parabens are produced synthetically (although some also occur naturally as preservatives in certain fruit), and are generally used at concentrations of 0.3% or less.  They come in multiple names like methylparaben and ethylparaben, etc.  What you need to know is that if it ends with paraben then it is paraben. A small scale study in 2004 detected parabens in breast tumours however the study was found to been flawed (?) and there has been no known relationship between exposure to parabens and increased cancer risk. Still, the proverbial horse has left the barn, with many companies opting to go paraben-free.  Why take chances?


Found in eye makeup, foundation, skin-care products, moisturizers, hair-care products, facial cleansers and sunscreen.  It is often used as a carrier or solvent in combination with other chemical preservatives.  Many companies that have turned their backs on parabens use phenoxyethanol instead.  The cost is low.  Health Canada considers it to be safe and does not place restrictions on the levels while Japan’s standards for cosmetics restricts the concentration to one percent.

Formaldehyde Donors:

Found in skin and hair-care products and nail polish. They’re effective against bacteria but weak against yeast and moulds, and are therefore combined with stronger chemical preservatives to assure a long shelf life.  Japan’s standards for cosmetics restricts their use due to safety concerns regarding the release of formaldehyde.  They’re considered safe by the European Union’s Cosmetic Directive and by Health Canada (interesting) at up to 0.2% concentration.  I say you make the decision because regulations are all over the map…literally.


Found in hair products, liquid soaps and some other bath products, some hand creams and sunscreens.  This chemical acts as a strong anti-bacterial, but is weak against yeast and moulds.


Found in anti-bacterial soaps, hand and body washes, mouthwashes, deodorants and toothpastes.  A synthetic ingredient used primarily as an antibacterial in personal care products, but can also be used as a preservative to slow the growth of microbes and to prevent spoilage of the product.  The Government of Canada confirmed in March 2012 that Triclosan in “significant amounts” may pose a risk to the environment. The scientific data is currently being reviewed by the CCTFA (The Canadian Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association.

Other preservatives including natural ones:

You might also see ingredients like glyceryl caprylate, caprylate glycols and ethoxydiglycol.  They may be naturally derived or synthetic.  They have limited efficacy on their own, but they might boost the efficacy of other preservatives.

Natural preservatives (e.g., turmeric and rosemary) may have some drawbacks, such as strong odour and colour, or, like orange-seed extract, have low efficacy.

Another group is the acidic preservatives such as benzoic acid and sorbic acid.  These two molecules are found in nature.  The weak preservative properties of these two acids are improved whenever the PH of the product is low, but there is a drawback: the lower the PH, the higher the potential for irritation to skin.

This in part was taken from an article written by Ann Chandler for “Look Great.”

I’d like to share some kitchen ingredients that can work wonders for various skin issues in another upcoming post. You’ll be surprised at what manuka honey, oatmeal, coconut oil and turmeric (all good for you to ingest) can do to combat skin problems from acne to hyperpigmentation.

Back to regular beauty product reviews next Thursday.

spoiledimage - CopyYou can try for 100% natural face products that not only do wonders for your skin but smell good too.

 Is there a natural personal care product that you recommend?

beauty biz – testing, testing

testing2Product Reviews and Testing Methods

This is a great ad
This is a great ad

No matter how effective a product is and no matter how many people swear by it, I’ve got to tell you that I won’t put anything on my face or body that has been tested on animals – even if they’re rats.  No exceptions here……..unless I didn’t know about it beforehand.

I was about to do a product review on a very well known product (they claim to sell this item every 20 minutes) by a very well known French company that’s been around for eons whose products claim to be all “plant” based. I decided to do a bit more research on it and found out to my surprise and shock that this particular product has indeed been tested on animals. What’s upsetting is that I’ve been using it and like it.  To be fair, I read that it was animal tested on someone else’s beauty blog so just to be sure I contacted the company.

I just received an e-mail from them claiming that they no longer provide detailed product lists on animal testing and sincerely apologize for any inconvenience.  I’m confused.

So let me ask….if you’re a vegetarian and you’ve been eating a brand of veggie burgers that you loved and then found out that there was actual meat in the burger how would you react?

It goes on….”we do not conduct animal testing on our finished products or ingredients except in exceptional cases, when required locally by law.  What law…..where??

The company’s commitment to the protection of animals is also the reason why testing on animals no longer takes place (was that before or after I bought this product?).  The company supports the development and global acceptance of non-animal testing alternatives.  Product safety control is carried out on cell culture in accordance with substitute in vitro methods that are internationally acknowledged and approved by experts.

Still confused, but to be on the safe side I won’t review this particular product because I’m still not sure if it is (or has been previously) tested on animals.  But you would be astounded to find out which of the companies are still testing.

So I guess this post is about awareness of what you put on your skin.  Which leaves me to want to research what goes in to “keeping” your cosmetics…because many people want to avoid chemical preservatives in beauty and personal care products.  I’ll reserve this for my next beauty post.

Signs to look for
Signs to look for

What are your thoughts about this?

beauty – what’s new at Nordstrom

Keeping up with the Customers!   Nordstrom Inc. is giving its beauty departments a fresher, more contemporary look designed to give customers more individualized ways to shop.

photo: Stefanie Keenan

This is good news because what I don’t like about buying cosmetics at most department stores is 1) the hard sale 2) feeling that the sales girl (who works on commission) from the line that you just wasted an hour of her time talking about is watching you go from one counter to the next to check out the competitors. 3) too many other distractions in a department store – stuff like shoes,  clothing & accessories.  Usually I tend to gravitate towards the smaller independent boutiques for most things in general. But this might make me change my mind for a time or two.

Unveiled at stores in the California shopping centers (The Americana at Brand in Glendale and The Sh20ops at Mission Viejo) and expanding to a total of nine stores by January, the most dramatic modifications are to color cosmetics areas, where customers are encouraged to shop how they want, whether it is on their own by opening drawers brimming with makeup or with guidance from staff dedicated to specific brands. Nordstrom is also simplifying beauty shopping by breaking down its vast selection by trend and key product no matter what brand, and offering shoppers access to beauty concierges, trial sizes and applications, consultations and other services so they can more fully experience the products.

    photo: Stefanie Keenan
lengthen, volumize, curl + define.  I want ALL 3 in 1! photo: Stefanie Keenan

The refreshed approach recognizes that the traditional behind-the-counter model of selling beauty products doesn’t work for everyone. Acknowledging Sephora and e-commerce have impacted shopping for beauty products, Pete Nordstrom, president of merchandising for Nordstrom, said, “The best ingredient to success is to be reflective of what the customers are interested in. Customers evolve and change over time, not only in regards to the product, but how they like to be served. In the beauty segment, there is an opportunity to serve the customer in a different and a better way. We have to allow our stores to be able to evolve to be able to appeal to customers, not just to legacy customers, but to our new customers.”

Nordstrom will soon be coming to Canada.

Taken from an article by Rachel Brown for WWD

In the Beauty Cabinet – a pretty palette

There are several constants this time of year—the desire to be wrapped in cashmere 24/7, stay in bed just a little longer every morning and find the perfect makeup palette.

M.A.C Cosmetics Stroke of Midnight Face Palette in Cool, $49.50,
M.A.C Cosmetics Stroke of Midnight Face Palette in Cool, $49.50

When was the last time you actually used every eye, lip or cheek shade included in a makeup kit?  If you’re like me, the answer is never.  Usually something is left out or some of the colors don’t suit you.  You use it a few times and then it’s never to be seen again.  Now, according to Harper’s Bazaar M.A.C has come out with a real beauty must-have:

An all-in-one makeup palette that you’ll use every last bit of.

Product Review: The new edition by M.A.C Cosmetics, seen here in cool, sultry tones (there’s a version with warmer, pink-based shades, too), is a one-stop-shop for fixing your face at home or on-the-go. Because, really, why must you choose between lugging your entire arsenal of products and compromising the integrity of touchups before jetting to dinner? Use the light iridescent pressed powder to revive dull skin; create a natural or highly pigmented mouth with a combo of the mauve and plum lipsticks; give eyes subtle—or intense—definition with the blue-grey and deep plum shadows as well as a hefty dose of the true kohl black pencil.

Okay, like I mentioned you can never find a palette that includes ‘everything’ but you will make use of whatever is in this one (minus the blush) as the shades are universally flattering to all skin tones. Bonus: it’s easy to fit into your purse.

  Can you recommend any?


Beauty : Lip Service

Never wear a discontinued color again! 

Bite Lip Lab
Bite Lip Lab

With Bite Lip Lab it’s pretty easy to find your perfect lipstick match. 

bitelip2Facing up: Lipstick is a pretty important (possibly ‘the’ most important) part to perfecting our makeup look.  Otherwise we wouldn’t be Eating on average 4-7 Pounds of Lipstick in our Lifetimes – would we?

It can’t be all too healthy but we do it anyway – because we’re rather lipstick obsessedbitelip3

How many times have you come across that ‘perfect’ color and then the next time you go to buy it the company has decided to suddenly  discontinued it.  And you have to wonder – were you the only person buying it?  This can be very upsetting – as many colors as there are it’s not that easy trying to find a great shade to suit us.  So don’t throw away your last tube just yet.

You can take in an old or discontinued lipstick to Bite Lip Lap & have them re-create it for you.  They can make a custom made lipstick using a magic lipstick machine in just 7 minutes – which involves melting down the different bullets of lipstick (they look like chocolate truffles!), adding a scent (like cherry, violet, peppermint, or superfruit), pouring the mix into lipstick molds and allowing the formula to harden on a cold plate.  It’s as simple at that!  Then all you have to do is buy two. Looking for the perfect red for a night out?  How incredible is that?

Bite Beauty Lip Lab, 174 Prince Street, at Thompson Street (646-484-6111)

You can always stop by in between visits to museums & art galleries but to some, this alone might be worth the visit to New York.


A 2012 study found that waitresses who wore lipstick got higher tips from men, and scientific research from 2010 found that women wearing red lipstick received the “most prolonged gazes” from men. And yet we’ve know plenty of guys who say they simply hate the stuff.  We can’t please everyone.

 Designer Bill Blass once said : “When in Doubt Wear Red.”  What exactly did he mean?

Red lipstick is a source of strength,’ says Poppy King, creator of Lipstick Queen. ‘You put it on and suddenly you feel more capable than you did without it.’

Consider Jean Harlow’s pointed red pout in the 1930s, Veronika Lake’s in the 1940s and Marilyn Monroe’s in the 1950s. None of these actresses was known for playing the girlish ingénue. They were women with overtly feminine power. They were knowing.

The lure of looking feminine but remaining powerful was such a glorious notion, it’s little wonder women started to use red lipstick as a tool to communicate their own self-possession.

The thing about red lipstick – it’s a beautiful case of chicken and egg. It may require confidence to wear, but confidence can actually be a result of putting on red lipstick – and no one needs to know which comes first.


In the Beauty Cabinet – Chic Cheeks

Feeling Flush?

If you want to PERK UP your complexion in an instant then applying a swipe of blush will do the trick.  With so many varieties on the market how do you decide which one works best?  Powder, cream, liquid, shimmer, bouncy (yes there is one) or stick.  The answer is there is no “one” that is “the best” – there are several so it comes down to personal preference and most woman have experimented with several sorts and brands.  I’ve already done the homework.

Wearing blush should look subtle and simulate a natural glow.  All of these shown here will do just that with the slightest application.   Here are my picks:

by Terry
by Terry

If you prefer LIQUID:

by Terry Rose de Rose Fluid is a sheer liquid formula so a very tiny dab on the finger goes a long way.  It smells beautiful like crushed rose petals because it IS made of crushed rose petals.  The only problem is that it’s not available in Canada.      In the U.S. you can buy it only at Barney’s (New York, L.A., Las Vegas or online at

If you like POWDER with soft, sheer color & a hint of highlights:

Bobbi Brown
Bobbi Brown

BB Shimmer Brick – This shimmering, brush-on powder in five shades creates a soft, rosy glow. Works well with neutral, pink and rose blush shades.
Apply by sweeping the Face Blender Brush through all five shades of Shimmer Brick Compact and dust lightly on cheekbones after blush (or use alone if you like it barely noticeable). Focus on applying shimmer on the top of cheekbones – where light naturally hits the face – for the most flattering look.

NARS Orgasm
NARS Orgasm

If you prefer a PEACHY Pink with golden shimmer then go for NARS “Orgasm” – a bestseller.

It will give you that….well you know…that LOOK!

If you prefer a CREAM that stays put:


NARS the Multiple Stick – a multi-tasker for cheeks, eyes and lips.  It applies easily with just enough creaminess in the consistency for effortless blending. I personally find it a bit drying for lips and depending on the shade I would not wear it on the eyes either. Copacabana and Luxor are 2 shades which are best for highlighting areas such as the cheekbones and browbones.  They have little/no visible colour, but have a gorgeous pearlescent shimmer.  

I have Portofino but you can also get:                      Copacabana 
 South Beach
 St Barts 
and the 3 limited edition Multiple Tints that came out last year: Beverly Hills, Turks & Caicos and Cadaques.

 Bobbi Brown & Nars cosmetics are found at Sephora & other fine department stores.  Available atHolt Renfrew in Canada.

MicaBella Pure Mineral
MicaBella Pure Mineral in Wild Rose

 If you prefer NATURAL minerals:

choose Micabella Mineral powder blush:

This rich, dusty rose pigment with a hint of shimmer is made of 100% natural mica that looks gorgeous & also highlights the cheeks.  It offers natural full spectrum UVA and UVB sunscreen protection, free of the toxic chemicals, paraben preservatives, synthetic dyes and harmful fillers found in most commercial, non natural cosmetics.

Available online under Mica Beauty at

Maybelline – great for travelling.

If you prefer a GEL formula and/or an inexpensive but effective drugstore brand:

Then choose Maybelline Dream Bouncy Blush with a revolutionary new  texture that springs back when you touch it.  • Lightweight like a powder, yet melts seamlessly into skin like a cream. • Natural sheer wash of color that is buildable for greater color intensity.  A good value.

Okay I admit to having ALL of these shown here – for the reasons mentioned & for days when I want to try something different.  You can trust me (I don’t know why you wouldn’t) on this – ALL are Fabulous! 

p.s. I bought the Maybelline because I wanted to find out if it really bounced back – it does.

Is there anything else I should know about?