Cult Beauty Bonuses + Exchange Rate Savings: Oskia + Kypris + Alpha-H

cult beauty oskia offerIt’s a good time to be spending dollars with UK retailers. The exchange rate favors we Americans very much right now. So of course I had to check out what kind of deals can currently be had from my favorite British niche retailer, Cult Beauty.

My first destination on any shopping site is usually the sale page. Cult Beauty doesn’t have one of those, but it does have an Offers section where you can see the bonus gifts and other special deals that are currently on. There are lots of offers for fabulous, premium brands, but I was immediately drawn to the Oskia bonus: a free full-size Micro Exfoliating Balm with an Oskia purchase of £45 or more. I’ve long felt left out of the Oskia love-fest in the beauty world, so was thrilled to see this.

I ended up getting the Oskia Renaissance Cleansing Gel, a cleanser to which thousands of starry-eyed posts have been devoted in recent years. I also plumped for the Oskia Perfect Cleanser, which lives up to its name according to reviews from Makeup Alley and Caroline Hirons.

kypris moonlight catalystAnother line I’ve been dying to try is Kypris. I was going to suck it up and invest in the Kypris Moonlight Catalyst (I covet the bottle almost as much as what’s inside!) but it’s still sold out, so I had to settle for joining the waiting list. I was able to get Kypris 1,000 Roses, though, so I’m pretty chuffed about that.

Finally, I restocked on Alpha-H Liquid Gold, an overnight glycolic treatment I rather enjoy. You only use it a couple of times a week maximum, so a small bottle lasts ages, and it’s fantastic for resurfacing skin and encouraging cell turnover while you sleep. Bonus: On those nights when the thought of spending a whole five minutes on my skincare routine is simply exhausting, I can cleanse, swipe my face with Liquid Gold, and I’m done. You don’t put anything on top of Liquid Gold, so it makes for the most abbreviated PM routine possible.

All in all, I got five stellar products for $150 – including free shipping from the UK. Not bad! If you’ve ever been intrigued by some of these cult brands or are just looking for a fun, more affordable online European beauty shopping spree on high-end brands that might normally be prohibitively expensive, definitely check out Cult Beauty. Another extra discount: When you sign up for a Cult Beauty account, you get 15% off your first order with the promo code YOU15, for even more savings. Go forth and shop!

Meet Your Heroes: Caroline Hirons Edition

When Jackie Danicki Met Caroline HironsI’m going to try to keep this brief, but you should know I’m leaving my dignity at the door here. HARDCORE fan-girling ahead. You’ve been warned.

Backstory: I started one of the first beauty blogs on the internet – hard to believe, since now there are literally 18 kajillion of them. Back in 2004, my friend Hillary Johnson (known as the Los Angeles Times’ “beauty intellectual”) and I started blogging about beauty for fun. I had a good career in tech startups; Hillary was an acclaimed author who was editing a newspaper in California. We didn’t take ads, ever. It was never our job or career. But if you Googled “beauty blog,” we were the #1 result for years. We were featured in VogueAllureThe New York TimesWWD, and more. But, long story short, I went to work for one of the world’s largest PR agencies and it became trickier for me to write about specific brands, even though I never worked on beauty accounts. Plus I got totally burned out on the amount of truly mediocre or outright crap products being peddled for insane sums, often backed by the most ludicrous marketing  (and I say this as a longtime marketer). Hence the name of this blog: Burned Out Beauty.

I jacked it in, but four years ago, I was 35 and thought maybe I should look into updating my skincare products. I’d been working in tech and innovation for 10+ years, and finally turned my work eyes to my skin. I found Caroline Hirons’ blog and was completely drawn in by her no-nonsense, funny, useful posts. As I told an author friend of mine this week, as he struggled to understand why I care so much about a skincare blog, I would pay good money to have a printed and bound copy of Caroline’s site. A bit pathetic? Perhaps. But she really knows her stuff and introduced me to some wonderful brands, routines, and techniques.

I dreamed of meeting Caroline. On every trip to the UK that I’ve made over the past few years (we’re talking at least a dozen trips), I’ve hoped for her to be doing one of her standing-room-only, line-around-the-block public appearances. Never happened. My next move: Try to get an appointment for a facial with Caroline when I’m in London over Christmas. As I know now, she’s been fully booked for months.

You can imagine my frustration when I saw on Instagram on Monday morning that Caroline was just a few miles from my home. So close, yet so far! I was sure she wasn’t doing any appearances in New York, because surely she’d have blogged about it or done some publicity so her fans would turn out in droves. I may or may not have sulked over this missed opportunity.

The next evening, I was at the Dr. Dennis Gross C + Collagen launch event. I’d secured a prime seat for Dr. Gross’s talk, and was catching up with my old pal Amber Katz and Refinery29’s Megan McIntyre. Dr. Gross’s brilliant comms director, Melissa Sansone, had joined us. Suddenly, a thought popped into my head: Caroline was the one who’d introduced me to Dr. Dennis Gross in the first place. She was in town. “Is Caroline Hirons coming tonight?” I asked Melissa. “Yes, she said she’d be here,” she replied. I gasped, jumped up from my chair, and said, “I gotta go stake out the door!” Them:

A brief word about Dr. Dennis Gross and his wife Carrie Gross, who is CEO of his company: I adore them. They are good people. I could say more, but I’ll leave it at that for now. Dr. Gross came and talked to me while I was lying in wait for Caroline. After we’d chatted about the new line and everything happening with him, I said, “I have to admit something embarrassing. I’m standing here waiting to meet the blogger who first introduced me to your products, Caroline Hirons.” Dr. Gross’s eyes lit up. He knew exactly who I was talking about, and knew why I was a fan. A few minutes later, he told his wife, Carrie, that I was excited to meet Caroline. Carrie totally got my affection, too, so I felt understood rather than like the creepy loser I was also kind of being.

Just to speed this up: Caroline came in while Dr. Gross was speaking to the room of assembled beauty media. I looked over and saw Carrie Gross whispering to her and pointing at me with a huge smile on her face. Caroline gave me a giant grin with those spectacular dimples and I mouthed the words, “I’m sorry” to her, sure that Carrie had informed her that I was sort of a stalker.

After Dr. Gross was done talking, I turned and Caroline was walking toward me. I tried not to humiliate myself too much, but I had to be honest and spill my guts about how her blog had helped me, inspired me, got me back into the beauty blogging game and, ultimately, pushed me toward my Observer column. I told her how disappointed I was when I found out she was so near my home but not doing an appearance, and how I’d dedicated my morning skincare routine to her on Instagram the previous morning (wow, I am even lamer than I recalled). Caroline was exceedingly lovely and didn’t treat me like the lunatic I felt I was in the moment. When she complimented my nails, I had to admit that it was a color I’d spotted on her weeks previously and sought out ever since (Let’s Be Friends, from the OPI Hello Kitty collection). I told Caroline I was the one who’d left the comment on her blog, begging for reviews of Milk and various other lines I am unsure about based on my own limited testing. Turns out we both had the same negative reaction to a certain brand we’d spotted while shopping (separately, I’m sad to report) at the same store in the past week.

I won’t recount our entire conversation, but Caroline was the wickedly humorous, smart, direct woman I’d dared not hope she’d be. Having worked and hung out with a fair number of celebrities over the years, I am not often starstruck. But it was quite surreal to believe it was the real Caroline Hirons in front of me, when I’d had no idea when I’d woken up that morning that I’d be meeting her. In fact, I’d been annoyed and let down the previous day because I was starting to think I was never, ever going to meet her. But I was wrong, life is full of surprises, and Caroline Hirons is the best in person as well as online. Made my year, that.

Soap & Glory The Ultimelt Hot Cloth Cleanser

soap & glory ultimelt hot cloth cleanserWalgreens/Duane Reade is really killing it with beauty sales lately. I’m excited they’ve brought Soap & Glory over from the UK, because I would stock up on every trip to London and now I don’t have to! Even better, the entire Soap & Glory range is on buy one get one 50% off right now. My favorite from their line is The Ultimelt Hot Cloth Cleanser ($14), which comes in the best packaging ever – like a giant toothpaste tube, super easy for dispensing. It is a great morning cleanser, makeup remover, or second cleanse at night. I tend to choose something more basic and boring to remove makeup, because I save ‘the good stuff’ for a second cleanse that will actually work on my skin. But still, you could use this to take off makeup, and then cleanse with it again for round two. I’m going to restock on that, plus grab the Soap & Glory Beauty Sleep Accelerator ($18), a hydrating cream that gets rave reviews all over the web.

I used to be really into Soap & Glory’s body products, like The Righteous Butter ($15 for a 10+ ounce tub that will last you AGES) and Hand Food ($4). But you know how sometimes, you absolutely love a fragrance until one day you can’t stand it? Maybe it’s just me, but it happens sometimes, and that happened to me with the ‘original pink’ scent of their body products. It still smells nice to me; I just got burned out after using it so much. But the body products are very rich and hydrating, so definitely check them out – especially with colder, more dehydrating temperatures upon us in the western hemisphere. (Note: Soap & Glory is a brand of body products I like to give to the young ladies in my life, and they love it, so bear that in mind with winter holidays coming up so quickly.)

OGX Hydrate + Repair Argan Oil of Morocco Miracle In Shower Oil

OGX Hydrate + Repair Argan Oil of Morocco Miracle In Shower OilFirst of all, there’s no “miracle” in this oil, but it is pretty wonderful. I’ve been using it for a few weeks as a boost to conditioners that aren’t quite deep conditioning masks, and it always leaves my hair extra-shiny. I also recently discovered that it’s a fabulous dry oil for the body, absorbing instantly. If you have dry hair, you might also want to add a couple of drops to your shampoo. It’s yet another OGX hair product I find worthwhile, as I use their shampoos regularly. More good news: The entire line is on a buy one get one 50% off offer in Walgreens/Duane Reade (which also has a new, free Beauty Enthusiast program that gives you bonus loyalty points, beauty coupons, and other perks when you register). Stock up now!

New Observer Column: Please. Wash. Your. Face.

cleansing wipes are bad for washing your faceI know I sound super-judgy when I write about this topic, but I don’t judge anyone who doesn’t realize just how bad cleansing wipes are for her skin. When you know better, you tend to do better. If you know better and still use them, well, you get the face you deserve. Please, read this and know I write it out of love: Don’t use cleansing wipes, but if you do, here’s how to minimize the damage you’re doing.