Test Drive: Bio-Oil

The relatively mild Carolina winters are brutal on my high-maintenance skin. It takes all of five seconds for my hands to turn into a mess of dusty, brittle flaky skin. And, of course, my skin is crazy sensitive too. So nothing too harsh or oily, heaven forbid, lest the (still!) unknown balance be upset.

I had heard quite a bit about Bio-Oil and it’s magical properties, so when I was offered the chance to review, I didn’t hesitate. Touted as the top-selling multi-use skincare oil in the America, Bio‐Oil is said to smooth and tone scars, stretch marks and uneven skin tone.

The ingredients in Bio-Oil are a mixed bag, much like my experience with the product. Full of deliciousness like Calendula, Lavendar, Rosemary and Chamomile oil, the product also has some unpronounceable ingredients as well as the potential pore-clogging baddie: mineral oil.

I obsess over my décolletage, so I tried Bio-Oil the aging, dry skin of my neck and chest, hoping for improved firmness, brightness and evening of skin tone. Instead, my experience was the same of so many other reviewers with slightly acne-prone skin: almost immediate breakouts.

That’s not to say it was all bad with Bio-Oil — the top of my wrist had a run in with a hot oven rack over the holidays that left two prominent burns on my arm. I applied Bio-Oil twice a day for three or so weeks, and the healing process was faster than I expected, and the scarring less severe. I also used Bio-Oil as a before bed cuticle treatment on my hands and feet and was pleased with the results.

Another bonus? It is oil, not cream, which means a little (and I do mean a little — like one or two drops) goes a long, long way. $19.99 for 4.2oz at Ulta

Score! Drugstore faves

Jesse's Girl 9 Pan Eye Shadow Compact can be found online and at select Rite Aid drugstores for $3.99.

I’ve learned (sometimes the hard way) that you pay for what you get.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t love a good bargain every now and again. When you can find that sweet spot of price and quality, you’re in my happy place. Especially when it comes to cosmetics and skincare products.

Here are a few of the drugstore products I am loving right now:

Baby powder: You will never need to buy dry shampoo again. Seriously. Tap out a smudge of powder, pat it between your hands, flip your hair over and work into the roots. Aim a blow dryer at your roots and vigorously work in the powder. Voila! Instantly fabulous Day 2 hair. Low tech and low price! $2ish (or less) for the travel size.

Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Stress Control Night Cleansing Pads: I love some Salicylic Acid — anything that can help tighten my pores, help reduce acne and promote exfoliation gets an A+ in my beauty book. These pads are life-savers for my finicky, oily-but-dry skin. I use them first thing in the morning (instead of washing my face with cleanser). Afterwards, my face is clean, bright and ready to accept tinted moisturizer. $7.99 for 60 pads

Lumene Sensitive Touch Cleansing Wipes: Yes, I’m sure we all know how important it is to really wash your face every night, but there are just some times when I am so beyond tired that the thought of pumping cleanser into my hand and splashing water on my face is enough to bring me to tears. Enter Lumene Cleansing Wipes: gentle and effective enough to remove waterproof eye makeup without scrubbing. It’s no surprise the product as chosen as a Beauty Best by Allure magazine in 2011. $6.99 for 25 wipes at CVS

Jesse’s Girl 9 Pan Eye Shadow Compact: As I’ve mentioned before, I discovered Jesse’s Girl at Cosmoprof last year, and my love of their products is deep and unwavering. The shadows in this palette are heavily pigmented, apply like a dream and don’t flake, crease or disappear on their own. The line regularly bests many other drugstore brands in quality and price. $3.99 at select Rite Aid locations

Summer Must-Haves

Badger SPF 30 is my favorite sunscreen -- a little goes a long way and it's natural, organic and waterproof.

I was beyond thrilled to share my love of beauty and fashion products with the viewers of Charlotte Today recently. The adorbs Colleen Odegaard and Jen Byrum were the perfect pair to chat with about all things summer!  Here’s a bit more information about the products we featured:

Becca Beach Tint: I have to admit, I am obsessed with the entire Becca line (Eye Tint and Luminous Skin Colour are my raison d’etre but I digress), but this two-in-one product screams summer fun. The cream stain is for lips and cheeks and gives you just a hint of waterproof color. $25, beccacosmetics.com

Urban Decay 24/7 Eyeliner: I love this product so very much, I’ve written about it before on here, so I’ll save my words and just tell you to click here. $17, urbandecay.com

John Frieda Luminous Color Glaze: I love this product so much, I could have sworn I have featured it as a Fab Find on this blog. No! It was in a secret-spilling interview with Scoop Charlotte! Tired summer hair will get an immediate boost of shine, softness (and color if you’d like) from this drugstore fave. $8. Johnfrieda.com

Badger Sunscreen: It’s got a ton of zinc oxide in it, which means you could end up looking like a lifeguard if you’re not careful, but it’s very worth it. This fantastic all natural and organic sunscreen is gentle, waterproof and safe for use by the whole family. $16, badgerbalm.com

Test Drive: The Natural lip scrub

My lips don’t get the love they so deserve.

For all of my obsessing about products, I tend to neglect my lips. I will put color on in the morning and forget to maintain/reapply well into the afternoon, if at all.

When I’m working out, I often don’t realize I’ve forgotten my lipstuff — again — until I’m halfway through a ride or run and my lipped are parched and chapped.

So how to remedy those gross, peely lips? A wee facial for the lips, thankyouverymuch.

The Natural Lip Scrub is just that: an all natural product that exfoliates and deeply conditions with the help of organic sugar, vitamin E, castor seed and safflower oils and beeswax. The scrub is available in natural flavors that are so delish you’ll be tempted to eat: raspberry lemonade, orange, lemon, peppermint and lime (my fave).

Take a pea-sized dot of the scrub, close your mouth and rub the sweetly soothing product on your pucker to lift away dead, flaky skin while moisturizing. Use a warm, damp washcloth to remove the scrub and your lips will be back to their moisturized, pristine condition.

$20, thenaturallipscrub.com

Test Drive: The chicest anti-scrunchie

I prefer the Sephora Super Clamp without bling ($10), but this bedazzled clip will set you back $20.

I’ve been growing my hair out, and for the first time in ages, it’s long enough to be pulled up off my neck.

And, it’s taken all of three warm-ish days for me to want it up all the time. Isn’t that why I cut it in the first place?  No matter — I’m going to keep it long, but I was on the search recently for something that will keep my hair up and chic at the same time.

I had come up dry the first few places I tried. Everything was too sparkly, too big, had too many butterflies. I was fearing that I may be forced to reignite the scrunchie-on-the-wrist-as-an-accessory craze from high school (I still have one lone scrunchie holdout — a Peruvian print scrunchie from my hippie days).

That was until I found something called the Super Clamp at Sephora. I snagged one, keeping my expectations low. Though it sounds vaguely sexual and or torturous, it’s far from it. The $10 clip (no bedazzling for me please, but if you so desire, the clip will set you back $20) is a trifecta of fashionality: form, function and price.

At the first sign of a bad hair day or if I want to rock out to vintage Van Halen with the car windows down, I can throw my locks up into a messy twist, whip open the substantial clip (it’s about three inches long, two and a half inches wide) and voila: an effortless chic up-do.

Test Drive: Susan Posnick Coloressential Lip Color

I am in love. And it’s with Susan Posnick’s Coloressential Lip Color (the perfect color for me is NYC).

This is a major development. I haven’t worn lipstick since the days of the requisite raised-in-Grosse-Pointe love affair with Revlon’s storied Zinc Pink.

When I realized the error of my blindingly frosty pink lips, I quickly moved on to the more sheer gloss, and have stayed put pretty much ever since. I like the consistency, the sheerness, the lack of commitment (just take a sip on a straw, and some gloss goes away). And, most of all for a frenzied/lazy product junkie who is easily distracted and forgets to reapply, gloss won’t leave your lips crazy dry like some lipsticks do.

That is so not the case with Coloressential. The lipstick is rich (formulated with minerals and vitamins A and E) and crazy moisturizing (enriched with Paracress, a South African plant with exceptional antioxidant and rehydration properties).

It’s not greasy, so it doesn’t slide all over, and there’s no need to layer anything on top — the color is subtle but present and has just the slightest touch of shine.

$17, select stores and online.

Test Drive: Melvita Nectar de Rose Day Cream

I’ll let you in on a little secret: early morning at Chez Sutherland is rarely the stuff of fairy tales.

There are no little blue birds singing sweetly, gently tying up my hair with ribbons. Woodland creatures may sit on my window sill, but that’s only because the squirrels use the back of the house as their personal climbing wall.

So, I’ll take all the help I can get in finding my center, putting on a smiling face and approaching the day with a little less crabbiness. And Melvita’s Nectar de Rose Day Cream goes a long way to accomplishing that feat.

The rose isn’t just a thing of beauty, it has powerful natural healing properties, including fighting depression, aiding circulation and acting as an aphrodisiac.

The Melvita organic cream blends all things rose: rose flower water, rose hip oil, rose seed milk and Damask rose essential oil to minimize and delay the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It nourishes gently and is absorbed into the skin quickly. The only drawback is the lack of SPF, which should be part of every daily face routine.

But the scent is out of this world. It is subtle, not cloying, deliciously feminine and seems far too decadent to actually be good for you.

$42 at Beauty.com; $55 as part of set with Rose Floral Water at Melvita.com; related products available at beautorium.com.

Test Drive: Clarins Gentle Beauty Soap

Bar soap? That’s so old school.

Except that Clarins has made retro a good thing with the new Gentle Beauty Soap. Bar soaps lost its coolness with the advent of liquid cleansers and foaming products. But now, as we are educating ourselves as consumers, bars are chic again for efficacy and green-ness.

There is less packaging associated with bar soap than with most liquid cleansers. When a bar is used up, it simply disappears.

But I digress. The Clarins round bar is gentle, organic and can be used on the face and body. It’s not drying, but is contains cleansers that will take off makeup without using harsh chemicals. It contains shea butter, hazelnut oil and essential oils to give it a subtle citrus scent.

$15, online, at most major department stores.

Test Drive: Aquaphor

Editor’s Note: This post contains a bit of whining. You’ve been warned.

So I’m fighting this annoying cold-like thing for what seems like the 50th time this winter. Congestion, coughing, the works. My skin is parched, especially my lips.

The only thing that keeps them moisturized is Aquaphor Healing Ointment. It’s not an overstatement to say it’s my own personal Windex (think the dad in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”), except that Aquaphor isn’t toxic or blue.

That little patch of dry skin on your eyelid? Aquaphor will help. Picky cuticles? Dab on some Aquaphor. Unruly brows? Brush on a little Aquaphor. But it’s especially fab for chapped lips. When you’re in hardcore cold-fighting mode, a little dab on the lips is incredibly soothing (try a bit on the tender skin around your nose, too, after especially after lots of tissue use).

After you’ve beaten the cold into submission, Aquaphor is the perfect lipgloss, paired with a subtle lip stain like my fave from CoverGirl.

I am partial to the little pocket-sized tubes that sell in a two-pack, but the product also comes in pots and larger tubes. Prices vary, but start around $5.79. Available online and at most drugstores.

Test Drive: Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil

I don’t ask much from my cosmetics. Well, I take that back — maybe I do. After I apply a product, say eyeliner, I don’t want it to move about my face. I need it to stay put.

I don’t want to be horrified by raccoon eyes when I happen to catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror mid-day. Suddenly it all makes sense: the pitiful looks from coworkers, the cautious tones from friends. You were unintentionally rocking a Courtney Love look (and the million dollar question here is: Why didn’t anyone tell you?).

Enter Urban Decay’s 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil. It doesn’t move. Ever. And I love it for that reason, especially the Zero and Bourbon shades. But don’t be scared of the waterproof — it comes off easily with cleanser and/or eye makeup remover.

24/7 works great for underlining (lining the inside of the  lash line, under the lashes). The super pigmented creamy liner goes on smooth and easy. And, with a gentle formula that contains jojoba oil, vitamin E and cottonseed oil, there’s no irritation.

Because the color is saturated, a light hand is ideal for everyday use — a single swipe of the pencil is all it will take to boost your lash line. Go with a heavier hand and stronger colors (such as Electric or Mildew) for a bold look.

$17, online, Sephora, Ulta