Posted by: Chelsea Novak | June 6, 2011

Bare Essentials: Buxom Lash

I’m back! And I’m back talking about mascara. All is right in the world again.

I’m also way overdue on some product reviews. As usual I’ve been testing up a storm and keeping all the juicy details to myself. Bad Chelsea.

Way back during the holidays (seriously, it’s been awhile) I got the perfect gift. A Sephora sampler pack of mascaras. It’s called LashStash and it included 10 sample sizes of premium mascaras. Fun for weeks right there. I hope to review my favourites in the next little while.

The first of the bunch and the only one I’ve purchased in large form (Benefit’s Bad Gal aside, as I already know how good that stuff is) is Bare Essentials’ Buxom Lash.

As it’s been a little while, it might be prudent review what I think makes a good mascara.

  • First, it has to look fabulous. One coat should give you natural with oomph, two coats should have you feeling a bit sassy and three coats should have you well on your way to vamp-ville. Four coats should get your lashes registered as a weapon.
  • Next, it has to last. I find most mascaras have a breaking point. They’re great all day and then boom, they’re flaking and making you want to tear out your eyes unless you get that shit off your lashes right away. 12 hours is my minimum standard.
  • It can’t stink. I understand that there’s some serious chemistry going on with mascara, but if I’m meant to put this stuff near my eye, then it can’t smell like turpentine.
  • Finally, a good applicator. Applicator brushes are a matter of personal taste. I haven’t found one I like more than the Givenchy Phenomen’Eyes, but if you’re throwing down $32 for a tube of mascara, you should get something that’s easy to use and yields results.

So how does Buxom measure up? It’s a volumizing mascara, which I prefer. It meets all the above criteria for sure. As I prefer a little more than natural with my makeup, 2 to 3 coats works well for daily wear. And I can usually get about 14 hours before it self-destructs on me. The applicator is pretty easy to use and like most premium mascaras, it’s patented (ever wonder what it would be like to work in the IP department of a beauty conglomerate?).

For the beauty-obsessed who are also particular about the chemicals that they put on or near their body or have profoundly sensitive skin, it’s made by Bare Essentials; the company that brought the mineral makeup craze into the mainstream. If you have sensitive skin, this may be a good option for you as it’s free of some of the things that people commonly react to. I do have one minor gripe: they say there are no synthetic dyes or fragrances. It seems to be suggesting that if a fragrance is natural, then it’s better for you. I’m allergic to a bunch of natural fragrances, so I don’t quite get why this is a selling feature. Sigh.

Summary, it’s a solid mascara and as such, it gets a solid A-. It would get a full A if I weren’t so smitten with Phenomen’Eyes, but honestly, nothing has compared yet.

Posted by: Chelsea Novak | January 9, 2011

Givenchy – Le Prisme Collector Limited Edition

As I go through different phases of life my interests in beauty have evolved. In my teens… well, let’s not talk about my teens. There was a lot of white powder, black eyeliner and not much else. In my 20s, I developed a fascination with lipgloss. Colour, texture and endurance. Fun flights of fancy were the norm. Such is youth. Now in my 30s, my obsessions are a little different. Things I really took for granted, like skin tone, have become my area of focus.

A product I picked up on a whim last time I was in the USA is Givenchy’s Le Prisme pressed powder. A part of their 2010 Vintage Christmas collection this pink sparkling powder has been a fun little find.

Admittedly, I was drawn to it for the faux patent crocodile case that it comes in (as an aside, why don’t more beauty companies make truly beautiful pressed powder cases? It’s such an easy opportunity for glamour). However, the wonderful smelling powder within it is even better than the case. The finish is very soft and radiant. Apparently the powder is atomized (blown through a filter to give the different powder elements regular size) to give it a great finish on your skin and to help it last.

And last it does. Using it in the morning, without a primer on clean skin, it’s still there at the end of the day. I could tell because it’s pretty sparkly, so it’s hard to miss. Also, in light of it’s serious shimmer density, it’s too intense for all over the face use (at least during the day in my opinion). It’s pretty perfect as a highlighter supplying a youthful glow, but not recommended as an all-over powder. Instead, concentrate it on the eyelids, cheekbones and (sparingly) forehead.

Givenchy also suggests using it on your décolleté (chest for those who don’t need to use French to talk about the more exciting parts of female anatomy). While putting the powder on places where people are known to look is good in principle, it also means you’re going to get sparkle all over your clothes, scarves and anyone you hug.

If your local purveyor of beauty items has any left in stock, check it out and pick it up. While it is intended for the holiday season, there’s no reason why you can’t sparkle in the long, dark winter months ahead.


Posted by: Chelsea Novak | January 5, 2011


I’m doing this new thing where I note three good things that happened each day. It’s an exercise that’s intended to show me that good and bad aren’t absolutes.

Good and bad things happen all the time. We give these things different weights and levels of focus depending on our state of mind. A negative incident may not ruffle feathers when one is in a relatively good mood, but the same thing on a bad day could be easily construed as “the worst thing ever.”

Like it or not, I’m in a place that makes putting a negative spin on things very easy. I don’t feel like I can always trust my emotional perspective. So this idea of documenting the good things will hopefully help counterbalance my negative perceptions, helping me internalize that, in fact, it’s not all bad.

Admittedly when the exercise was first suggested to me, I had stomach-churning visions of Gratitude journals, saccharine bookmarks and wall plaques with floral designs on them. It’s thankfully not like that (and really, who am I to scoff at people who are into emotive things – if it works for them, then aces). Cynical as I am, there actually seems to be merit in it. I’m actively changing my thought patterns about the state of the world. An empowering thought in chaos.

For example, today’s note went something like this:

1) Had a quick, but nice, walk with a dear friend that I’ve missed
2) Husband sent me links to websites/stories that made me belly laugh
3) Made it to Pilates and did well in class

Does it mean that everything is sunshine and puppies? Nope. It’s not even overcast and hamsters. Crummy stuff happened today too, but it wasn’t all bad. I could have listed 100 good things that happened today. Which means there’s hope, a good thing I’d like to note every day.

Today’s sing-a-long song: “My Favourite Things” from The Sound of Music


Posted by: Chelsea Novak | January 4, 2011

Chanel – Poudre Cristalline

There are many things that define beauty. In fact, ask 100 people what’s beautiful and you may get 100 different answers. When it comes to personal beauty, science and nature have told us that things like symmetry and colour are powerful attractors. You can learn tricks to make an a face appear more balanced and add colour to a pale face. One feature that I think is powerful in terms of personal beauty is good skin. It’s something that women and men around the world go to extreme lengths to achieve. Young looking skin, clear skin, glowing skin, spotless skin, bronzed skin – a lot of work goes into good skin.

It’s part of what got me into beauty. Or more accurately, not having good skin is what got me into it. Needing to learn how to make sub-par skin look like normal to good skin is why foundation is one of my strongest makeup skills (closely followed by eyeliner 🙂 ). You can get away with using cheap colours on your eyes and lips, save dough with drug store mascara but cheap, poorly matched/applied foundation you cannot get away with.

One product that I’ve recently discovered that helps those with not as good skin have good skin is Poudre Cristalline by Chanel. Looking for a replacement for the limited Poudre Douce in Almond that I’ve been using for the last little while (and cannot find anywhere, stupid limited edition) a very awesome makeup artist at the Chanel counter introduced me to the Poudre Cristalline. It’s a superfine transparent white powder. Intended as a finishing powder, it’s silica based, meaning it does a really good job at preventing shine. However, as the name might suggest to you, it’s all about how it reflects light. The wonderful makeup artist used a term, which I now only incorrectly remember as photovoltaic (not right), that he suggested refracted light in a flattering way. Sadly, I don’t remember the term he used, but what I can say is that it does create a glow. Not a sparkly shimmer, but a glow. At at the same time, it smooths out the skin, both in texture and in colour. A soft focus-like glow and it effectively minimizes skin imperfections. Win.

I’ve been pretty pleased with it since I got it (and got the last container of it in Toronto at that time). The only complaint I really have is that it’s messy. Loose powder is generally a messy affair, but this one takes the cake. The poof that it comes with collects more powder than needed, so sometimes I just use a large powder brush instead. Also, traveling with it messy. Very messy. Such is applying makeup with loose powder.

As someone who has spend much of her life perfecting the art of perfect skin without a perfect canvas, this powder is a powerful tool. I very highly recommend it.


Posted by: Chelsea Novak | January 3, 2011

Level Up

I had a long overdue coffee date with of my besties today, Tasharific. As she’s a new mom and I’m still working on getting back my version of normal, we haven’t had a lot of time to catch up. Tweets, IMs, text messages and e-mails have done well in a pinch, but a face-to-face chit-chat really can’t be topped.

We’re both in situations that are hard for our “take action to get it done” personalities. Events of last year really taught me how powerless a person can be, regardless of how much you try to do things right. And in processing it all, I can only allow for the passage of time. Not exactly the kind of way I like to approach a problem, but here we are.

From what I can observe of the many new mothers around me, there’s lots of action to be taken and an endless amount to get done, but little of it seems to be plan-able. A lament I’ve heard many times is that new parents are frustrated by how they can’t get things done like they used to and wonder just what heck they used to do with all their free time. (The answer: whatever they wanted to, therein lies the rub).

As we were reflecting on how frustrating it is/must be to not be able to plan and execute like before she became a new mom, I had a bit of a brain wave. “What if,” I suggested, “this is about learning how to do things again, but in a new way. Before you were a parent, you’d pretty much mastered the nuances of life. You have a job, you have a relationship, you maintain a home, pay your bills. You’ve got all of those things pretty much down. Now that you’re a parent, you’ve upped the degree of difficulty. Just like when you level up in a game, things get harder, you get attacked by a few flying turtles and fall down a few pits, but eventually you learn how to do it and you’re on your way again.”

The more I think about it, the more I think it works for anyone who is working through change (though I’m going to put it out there, based on observation, having a kid seems to be a change like no other). I’m pretty sure it jumped into my head because of an article a someone on my twitter feed (can’t remember who, sorry) linked to about the way Super Mario Bros 3 levels were designed and the way that it (and many other games) layer on difficulty and complexity. We learn new skills we’ll need as we progress and level up. I’m not suggesting that it’s a perfect analog for the way people learn to overcome adversity and change. Life doesn’t have a pause/reset button for one.

I think I’m going to make it my mantra of 2011. Rather than feel beaten down and powerless by things I can’t control, I’m just going to say “Level up” and realize that new challenges are hard and daunting, but I can learn how to master them.

Today’s sing-a-long song: “You Should Learn” by We Are Scientists


Posted by: Chelsea Novak | January 2, 2011

Sultra: The Bombshell 1″

Beauty reviews are back my pretties and oh my is there a backlog. During my hiatus, a bucketload of products have crossed my path. I’ll do my best to catch up and then we can all glam it up. Boo and ya.

To begin, I’d like share my thoughts about the Sultra Bombshell clampless curling iron.  In the eight years that I’ve been blogging about beauty products and the like, I’ve chronicled my frustration at having heavy, straight hair. You name the curling option, I’ve tried it. Steam rollers, velcro rollers, pillow rollers, perms, coke can rollers, curling shampoos, industrial strength dryers, animal sacrifice… the only thing that really works (and by works, I mean holds curl for more than 30 minutes) is a curling iron on dry hair with no product in it.

I have a pretty great ceramic iron with variable temperature settings that has done pretty well by me for the last few years, but the lines left in my hair from the clamp always bugged me. Hair this straight is pretty unforgiving. A bad clamp and impatient hold and it’s all bad. To further complicate things, I don’t curl my hair often enough to be proficient with it like the pros are. As much as I think I look better with curls and waves, the damage done by the heat and the clamps keeps it an occasional thing.

This brings us to the Sultra Bombshell. I don’t want to overstate things, but this thing is awesome. It’s basically a blazingly hot ceramic rod that you wrap your hair around. It comes with this crazy pink glove that you wear to protect your fingers from burning while you hold the hair in place around the rod. I cannot express to you how important it is that you use the glove. USE THE GLOVE. Otherwise, you will get very singed hands.

Minor burns aside, the Bombshell is very, very easy to use. Check out YouTube for some helpful videos on how to use it. For the messy waves I’m fond of, I found it best to hold the Bombshell upside down and wrap my hair around it from the base of the iron to the end. The results were better than I’ve ever been able to achieve.

Also, it’s quick. Curling my hair used to be a 15-30 minute enterprise (the more time I invested the better the result). With the Bombshell, I’ve got messy waves in 5. Glam hair in less than 10. Crazy ringlets in 15. Because there’s no clamp, my ends don’t get as fried either as they aren’t being compressed and abused. The curls last. Of course they fall some during the day, but generally, they hold together.

In the market for a curling iron? I wholeheartedly recommend this one. Unless, of course,  you don’t like beauty tools that are easy to use, yield great results and don’t cause hair damage. If you do, get one of these, fire it up and get ready for some easy to achieve, beautiful hair.


Posted by: Chelsea Novak | January 1, 2011

Top 10 of 2010

2010 was a challenging year to say the least. With me throughout the good times and the bad, there was music. Good ol’ music. I’ve decided to remember 2010 for the positives rather than the negatives. In that spirit I’ve assembled, in no particular order, the 10 songs I liked best last year.

Hang With Me – Robyn
Robyn put out three, count ’em, three albums this year as a part of her Body Talk project. Of all the great tracks on Body Talk, “Hang With Me” is some of her finest work. It may be the perfect electro-pop song.

At My Heels – Twin Shadow
I’m not much of an album person, but if I were and I were making lists of awesome albums, Forget would be on it. But I’m a singles girl and “At My Heels” is quirky and dark with hints of pop. Also, it’s about being chased by a ghost.

Teenage Dream – Katy Perry

There may have been better Top 40 songs this year. There may have even been better Katy Perry songs this year, but “Teenage Dream” really stuck with me. Perry and her team (which includes Scandinavian super producer Max Martin) wrote about how falling in love with “the one” feels like you’re falling in love for the first time, all the time. I liked that. There was also talk of tight jeans.

In The Sun – She & Him
This song, from She & Him’s Volume Two ended up being my 2010 anthem. It also manages to be really upbeat about people who are feeling sad. A refreshing change from all that straight-ahead mopey stuff out there.

Tighten Up – Black Keys
Summer 2010 was about all things Black Keys. From solo projects by Dan Auerbach, Dummer, BlakRoc and all the previous previous Black Keys albums, we were on a steady diet of this Ohio duo. While there are many phenomenal tracks on this year’s Brothers I had to give the nod to “Tighten Up” if only for the awesome tempo change at the end.

F**k You – Cee Lo Green
“F**k You” may be the best example of calling a spade a spade out there. Revenge against a gold-digging girl in the form of making bucket loads of money with a hugely successful pop song… well played Cee Lo. A hat tip as well for giving us all something catchy/feisty to sing loudly in the car.

Heard It On The Radio – The Bird & The Bee

When I heard The Bird & The Bee were doing a tribute album to my beloved Hall & Oates I was pretty excited. The album faithfully covered eight Hall & Oates hits and a playful original “Heard It On The Radio.” When I wasn’t listening to the Black Keys, I was listening to this song.

End Of Line – Daft Punk (Tron Legacy)

I’m a geek. No doubts about it. As you might imagine, I was pretty excited about the Tron: Legacy sequel that was released in December. The fact that the wonderful electronic geniuses Daft Punk were doing the soundtrack, it was like eating a chocolate cake with no threat of weight gain. The album is a yummy fusion of symphony and electronica. “End Of Line” is a big highlight.

Eclipse (All Yours) – Metric
Yes, yes, I know this is from a Twilight movie. But as cheesy as the books and movies are, the soundtracks are good. Like, better than they should be good. The title track from the most recent film is pretty mushy for a Metric song, but even a mushy Metric song is a pretty good song. Sometimes I get mushy. It happens.

Castles In The Snow – Twin Shadow
Yes, two Twin Shadow tracks. That’s just how much I liked Forget. “Castles In The Snow” is much darker and slower than other Twin Shadow tracks, with the angst factor dialed up to eleven. Like, so much so that I’m fully expecting to see it in use this year on the Vampire Diaries while pretty people stare at each other feeling, you know, angst.

No sing-a-long song today. I just gave you ten.


Posted by: Chelsea Novak | August 15, 2010

A scent to sneeze: A haircare tragedy in one part

I have a pretty firmly held belief that scent is the most powerful of the five senses. Considering that I’ve never smoked, don’t drink things like coffee nor eat exceedingly spicy foods, I’ve done very little to deaden the power of my sniffer. So for me smells, good or bad, make a big difference.

When it comes to beauty products, people learned early on that making things smell good helped those same things smell well. People, like myself, have even been prone to using mediocre products just because they smell so delish (Revlon Flex Shampoo I’m looking at you). Sometimes, an item smells as good as it works (Hi, Smith’s Rosebud Salve and Oscar Blandi Dry Shampoo). Other times… other sad and tragic times… a product yields wonderful results, but smells wrong.

Before I get into this particular rant, I’d like to offer a caveat that preferences in smell are mightily subjective. We all have different chemistry and as such find different tastes and scents variously appealing or repulsive. For the billions of people who think that anise is what heaven smells like, there will be another billion or so like me, who think it smells like evil crawled up it’s own ass and set itself on fire. Different strokes for different folks as it were.

With that out of the way, I bring us to the issue at hand. L’Oreal’s premium line of hair care products: Kérastase. Considered by most in the beauty scene to be the best of the best of the best of the best of hair care, Kérastase, while exceedingly expensive, yields pretty phenomenal hair results. Indeed, when I first started using their Résistance line I was flinging-my-hair-around-like-it-was-a-shampoo-ad impressed. My hair was strong, shiny and manageable. Also, the stuff smelled great.

I told my stylist that I had treated myself and bought a shampoo and powerfully restorative conditioner from the Résistance (green) line. She let me know that I should really be using the Nutritive (white/orange) line for slightly dry hair. Being the fairly obedient gal that I am, I trotted off and hooked myself up.

Expecting another treat for my olfactory system, I was taken aback by this version of Kérastase. Within moments of starting up a lather, my nose started itching as though I’d done a swan dive into a lake full of ragweed. While the actual scent was more death by wild flowers than hell fire, the effect was unpleasant. By the end of my shower I was lucky that I hadn’t torn my nose fully off from all the itching. The upside? My hair looked amazing. Not to be dissuaded by the first bad experience, I tried washing my hair with the shampoo and conditioner 4 more times. Each time with an immediate and intense allergic reaction. Sad, sad faces for me.

This left me with three thoughts:

1) I’m becoming one of those* people
2) This is why I can’t have nice things.
3) Any of my friends in the city who aren’t allergic to EVERYTHING, if you’d like 3/4 full bottles of Kérastase Nutritive Shampoo & Conditioner, let me know and they’re yours.


*those people are the ones who can’t bear powerful scents and allergens and eventually end up having to live in a scent-free bubble. I fear and loathe the scent-free bubble.

Posted by: Chelsea Novak | March 23, 2010

My mother was right

Sigh. There will be no stopping her now, but yes, my mother was right. I mean, she’s a very smart lady, she’s often right, but in this case I was SOOOO sure I was right.

When I was a young girl of 11 or so my mother was kind enough to teach me about colour. Not just what happens when you mix red and yellow together, but how colours have temperatures, how they can effect mood and how you can use them to make you look your best. Handy stuff to know for sure.

She was even so kind as to determine what my optimal colours were. There were scarves of various shades used for comparison and she determined that I was an autumn. For those who are new to this colour thing, its divided into four seasons.

I took a look at the colour palette that autumns were meant to wear and was crestfallen. Brown, red, beige, dark blue, mustard yellow… these were not the colours I wanted to wear. I wanted to wear black, or hot pink, or more black. I was not an autumn. I was not going to be wearing those earth tones. No ma’am. I was going wear black or white. I would be a winter and I was going to be complicated.

This desire to wear black started young. I remember many a back-to-school shopping trip that started with me pointing at all the black, pink and teal (it was the 80s) and my mother gently saying no and I went home with red and navy. I wore so much red as a child, I didn’t wear it from the day I gained full providence over my clothing choices until I was about 21-22, whereupon I learned that it actually makes me look awesome. You may think I’m exaggerating, but every thing I owned seemed to be red. My sister can corroborate as she was highly encouraged to wear brown (all she wanted to wear was purple and pink).

I clung to my black like a castaway clings to driftwood. Then a few weeks ago as a part of an exercise in learning how to dress when all you do is dress down, I had my colours done. Again the scarves were out. Comparisons were made and it was clear that I look best in strong autumn shades. My best colour: red (sigh). Banished from my wardrobe: black (kiss those goth days goodbye for good).

The evidence was impossible to deny. Black made my skin look flat, my complexion uneven, my eyes meh, my teeth yellow and hair dull. Put me in navy and pow. Porcelain skin, bright eyes, whiter teeth and hair with gold highlights like crazy.

Being a strong autumn means I can wear very dark, strong shades (but not black!). And there are actually a lot of nice colours to wear. Shopping is even easier because I know what to avoid (all pastels, jewel tones, white and black).

The only downside really was having to call my mother to offer a mea culpa. Of course she was completely gracious about it and I think a little happy that her youngest daughter wasn’t going about life looking like a reanimated corpse.

If you ever have the chance to find out what your best colours are (it translates to makeup too) I highly recommend it. Though be prepared that you may have to acknowledge that your mother was right about buying you all that red as a child.


Posted by: Chelsea Novak | March 23, 2010

Sarcasm never sleeps

M: I’m not so much with the tired.
C: Me neither.
C: You could tell me a story.
M: I’m not that not tired.
C: You could tell me a bad story.
M: I couldn’t sleep. The end.
C: There you go.


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