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Beauty Favorites Nail Polish Skincare

How to Maintain Hands for Healthy Looking Nails + My Personal DIY Manicure Tips

February 7, 2017

Hand and Nail Care Essentials | The Beauty Look Book

The most frequently asked questions I receive from readers relate to hand and nail care. For my nail polish posts I feature a mix of DIY and salon manicures. Finding a good salon and a reliable manicurist can take some time, then maintaining the nails with professional care can take up to 1 hour for a regular manicure so that requires additional time. Because I did so many polish reviews and swatches over the past years I could not afford to get regular manicures with the frequency of reviewing polish – both with the cost and time. I had to learn how to do it on my own so I observed the techniques of my favorite manicurists and practiced on my own. I will say that regular salon manicures and pedicures are 100% worth the splurge. Often times during high-stress periods in my life I found it impossible to shut off my mind and de-stress, even after work hours. Manicures kind of helped me stay sane because when someone is working on your hands you’re pretty much stuck doing nothing except for fun brainless tasks like reading magazines or listening to music or watching YouTube videos on your phone. It helped my brain go into hibernate mode so to speak. Also there’s something refreshing about having freshly groomed fingers or toes that makes you feel instantly alive and more put together.

For hand and nail care I typically stick to a few tried and true items and it has been the case for several years. I did my Nail and Hand Care Essentials back in 2014 (wow time flies!) but many of you have asked for an updated post with a tutorial. I finally have one to share with you today and if you compare the posts you’ll see that not much has changed. A few notes for newbies. If your nails are not in the best state I would highly recommend getting them cleaned, cuticles trimmed and polished professionally. Doing something like a manicure once a month or every other week for a little while can help improve the look and health of your nails. I think they can work miracles! If you have any cracks, chipped nails, or problem areas, a manicurist can help smooth everything out nicely. Once they’re in a better state you can do touch ups or manicures at home in between professional manis.

Up first are the tools then a DIY manicure tutorial of how I maintain and paint my fingers. Note that even after all this time of practice I can’t give myself a pedicure without it looking like I gooped a bunch of finger paint on my toes.

Tools of the Trade

Nail Files, Trimmers, Tools | The Beauty Look Book

I wish there was one brand or store where I could find all the best tools, unfortunately there is not. If you’re going to use my list as a shopping list for yourself, you will have to do a bit of shopping around. Most of the items I’ve bought can be found at Sephora, Ulta and Nordstrom (my 3 favorite beauty stores). Many of the items can also be found online at Amazon. If you’re shopping in store – check the online store locators to check inventory first. Often times I’ve gone to Ulta and found they were sold out of all the items on my list. They do restock frequently but to save time it’s best to research online and make a list first if you’re going to go out to multiple stores. As usual I’ve linked all the products to where I’ve bought the items in the past.

  • Revlon Nail Clippers – these are an older style, I can’t remember how long ago I bought these, the current versions have an embossed pattern on the surface, to clip nails I recommend clipping about 1/2 to 1/4 of what you think you need to trim. It’s better to do it in stages and then clip more. My biggest challenge was over-clipping.
  • Nail files – I usually accumulate cheap ones here and there, I’m not brand loyal to any particular type.
  • Ulta Beauty Crystal Nail File is no longer available online but you can find one from the Sephora Collection that is only $10. These are great for those with sensitive nails, there’s no grit texture like with traditional files so it’s more gentle on the nails.
  • Deborah Lippman Cuticle Remover is what I call my secret weapon for nails. It softens the cuticle area so you can push back any excess skin to trim them. This is an essential in my routine. I don’t know if she changed the packaging – I’ve seen a few in stores with a brush applicator instead of the dropper.
  • Tweezerman Cuticle Nipper is what I use to trim cuticles, it fits well in the hands and does the job well, mine has lasted since 2014, I do need to replace it soon though.
  • Face It Pro Salon Nail Pusher is something I bought at a local Korean Supermarket (Zion Marketplace in San Diego), I have super tiny fingers so this one is a bit large for my hands but still works, I like the shape of the tools and quality.
  • Tweezerman Pushy Nail and Cuticle Cleaner has been my go-to tool to push back the cuticle area and keep fingers looking groomed. Also available at Amazon for a cheaper price.
  • Not shown above, but there was a limited-edition Zwilling Manicure Set my husband uses and loves, this has been discontinued but he likes the quality of their tools if you’re looking for items for your man.

Base and Top Coats

Base and Top Coat Favorites for a DIY Manicure | The Beauty Look Book

My absolute favorite base and top coats have now been discontinued (Deborah Lippmann Rehydrating Base Coat, Formula X Base Coat, Chanel Brilliance Top Coat and all the items from Rescue Beauty Lounge). I have still found some others that I really like.

  • Nails Inc. 45 Second Top Coat with Kensington Caviar is a great top coat that doesn’t have any shrinkage with polishes like Chanel, Dior or Tom Ford. Mine lasted about 2.5 years before it got thick and I had to throw it out. It lasted me so long because I rotate top coat brands. This one does dry within 45 seconds – just make sure your polish coats have properly dried first before applying. This gives the nails a super glossy cushiony look.
  • Nails Inc. base coats I’ve tired include the Nailkale Superfood Base Coat and the Base Coat with Kensington Caviar. I prefer the Nailkale Superfood Base Coat because it’s nourishing and doesn’t tint the nails. It has kale to strengthen the nails and keratin to help harden and stimulate growth. This is what I attribute to having healthy looking nails. With base coats I think it’s important to not apply too much – if it’s too thick it doesn’t dry properly and then polish on top just sits there. The Base Coat with Kensington Caviar has been a long-time go-to as well, but it can get a bit thick with age and it also can tint the nails pink.
  • Formula X Base Coat has been my favorite for a long time. Unfortunately it looks like the line has been pulled from Sephora. If you visit your store you may see a bunch of items on clearance. So stock up if you see any favorites there.
  • CND has been a long-time favorite. One of my salons used both the Stickey Base Coat and Super Shiny top Coat. They’re reliable staples and I highly recommend both.
  • Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Coat has never really been a favorite because it has major shrinkage with brands like Chanel, Dior, Tom Ford, YSL and pretty much all the brands I use. It does work well with OPI, Essie and Louboutin though and since it dries quickly I like the way it works and looks. Your mileage may vary depending on what polish you use. If you find that Chanel or Dior gets really quick tip wear on you, check what top coat you’re using. Some formulas are not compatible with 5 free formulas and cause shrinkage which pulls back the polish from the ends like tips or cuticles.
  • Chanel Le Gel Coat is a newer top coat that Chanel launched. It wears really well and gives the nails a cushiony shine. I love this with Chanel polishes and it also works well with Dior.
  • Louboutin Loubi Primer and Loubi Gloss is one of the best nail care duos I’ve used. The price point is high and this comes as a duo. The primer keeps nails from yellowing and helps to hydrate them well. The top coat gives one of the best high-gloss shines I’ve ever seen and keeps polish lasting long for up to 7 days for me. It’s not the fastest drying duo but well worth the extra time it takes.

Extras

Best Hand and Nail Care Essentials | The Beauty Look Book

The extras that make a huge difference in hand care rounded up below:

  • L’Occitane makes some of my favorite hand creams, they’re great for dry skin and I love the fun packaging. For those with sensitive noses the Shea Butter is the best and most gentle. It has a very natural smelling scent that is soothing.
  • Molton Brown makes my favorite scented hand creams, they have a lightweight texture so they’re not greasy and I love their scents. Pink Pepperpod and Coco Sandalwood are my favorites but really all the options are great.
  • Kiehl’s introduced scented hand creams in a Limited-Edition Trio this year, you can buy them separately in a larger size, but the minis are exclusive to Neiman Marcus (while supplies last). The Kiehl’s Ultimate Strength Hand Salve is the unscented version and I also really like it. I don’t have one at the moment because my husband uses it as well and we go through them frequently.
  • Molton Brown Alba White Truffle Hand Treatment and Scrub are amazing for a hand cream and scrub. I’ve written about this duo before and absolutely love it. I’ve never done a hand scrub before trying this. Over the holidays a year ago many of you mentioned you do regular hand scrubs and that it works wonders on your hands.
  • Deborah Lippman Cuticle Oil has been my go-to for years. I’ve gone through several bottles and love it.
  • Dior Huile Abricot was interesting to me because it seemed to be less messy and easier to apply compared to most oils. It’s a great touch up for the cuticles and is super hydrating without getting messy. I really like it.
  • Two polish removers I swear by are Deborah Lippmann The Stripper and Zoya Remove +. If you find your nails peel it may be because you’re using harsh polish removers. Both of these are super gentle and good for sensitive nails. Amy from Cafe Makeup recommended the Zoya remover to me years ago and as her nails always look pristine I took her advice and am forever grateful for this discovery.
  • Chanel Le Coton is one of my favorite facial cottons, it’s bit spendy to use for polish remover but it soaks up a lot so you can use one square for one hand for lighter polishes. Facial Cotton review and comparison here.
  • Sephora Collection Cotton Rounds are great because they’re cheap and don’t leave fibers behind which can be super annoying when you need to get the nail surface completely clean. Love these and have have lost count of how many times I’ve ordered these.

The DIY Manicure

Step 1

DIY At Home Manicure | The Beauty Look Book

Step 2 is optional, let the fingers soak with warm water and bit of hand soap to soften the cuticles. I absolutely love the Molton Brown Hand Washes – they smell amazing, don’t dry out the skin and I love the packaging.

DIY At Home Manicure | The Beauty Look Book

Step 3

DIY At Home Manicure | The Beauty Look BookDIY At Home Manicure | The Beauty Look Book

Step 4

DIY At Home Manicure | The Beauty Look Book

Step 5

DIY At Home Manicure | The Beauty Look Book

Step 6

DIY At Home Manicure | The Beauty Look Book

Step 7

DIY At Home Manicure | The Beauty Look Book

Step 8

DIY At Home Manicure | The Beauty Look Book

Step 9

DIY At Home Manicure | The Beauty Look Book

Step 10 – Color is OPI Be There in a Prosecco

DIY At Home Manicure | The Beauty Look Book

Step 11

DIY At Home Manicure | The Beauty Look Book

Step 12

DIY At Home Manicure | The Beauty Look Book

A few personal notes on nail care. I’m not a manicurist or nail professional but based on my experience I think the only way to avoid breakage is to keep nails on the shorter side. I do believe there are a lot of nail strengtheners and sometimes nail hardness depends on diet and health, but no matter what I do I can’t avoid breakage when they get long. For me playing frisbee always breaks my nails. On tip wear your mileage will vary depending on hand activity and nail length. The longer the nails the easier it is for the tips to come in contact with things like a keyboard or anything else you touch and therefore they get more wear than shorter nails. If you have broken chips, hang nails, cuts or any issue I highly recommend that you try to get them fixed by a professional manicurist – the few visits to get them to a healthy state is well worth the splurge. Also depending on hand or foot activities a salon can work wonders. I did ballet from the time I was 7 years old until 18 and my feet were badly calloused for years. I didn’t think there was anything I could do to get them fixed to a normal state. I did not get my first mani or pedi until I was 21 and was amazed at how much it improved my feet. It took about a year of regular pedicures every other week or so to get them into a presentable state.

Also a note on gel nails, I’ve never had my nails with gels so I can’t give any advice or input on those.

Best Hand and Nail Care Essentials for a DIY Manicure

An extra step that I just started doing is masking my hands. I used on a few occasions the Glamglow Thirsty Mud Mask and SK-II Facial Treatment Mask on hands and afterwards it was like years had been lifted. I don’t know that I have the patience to do this on a regular basis but on super dry skin days with the dry weather this helped a lot.

I hope you found this roundup helpful! With nail care there are so many options to try – the fancy packaging and pretty bottles are always so tempting at the store. I get overwhelmed at Ulta and whip out my phone to look for online reviews, realize it’s going to take too much time to research and end up sticking with what I’ve tried and loved.

If you have any favorites, tips or tricks please share in the comments! My advice is practice makes perfect! It does take time and there were many times in the beginning I just gave up and ended up going to my salon because it would be faster and more efficient for them to take 40 minutes to an hour to do them rather than try to finish myself. I gave up many many times. Eventually I got better and can do both hands easily at home on my own. I still get professional manicures when time allows. I would say over the past year for reference that the vast majority of the nail polish reviews I did were done on my own. Ballpark figure is over 80% of the nail swatches were done on my own.

Press samples include the Molton Brown Alba White Truffle duo and Louboutin Loubi Nail Kit.

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L’Occitane Harmonie Divine Skincare Collection

November 22, 2016

L'Occitane Harmonie Divine Collection Serum and Cream

Earlier this fall L’Occitane launched the Harmonie Divine Collection which includes a serum and cream designed to combat signs of aging. This line combines two natural and rare ingredients from earth and sea including oils from the Immortelle Millésimée flower and extracts of Jania Rubens a red algae. The two ingredients work together to improve skin texture and elasticity with the smoothing effects of the flower oil and rejuvenating abilities of the red algae. I’ve incorporated both the Serum and Cream into my daily skincare routine over the past month and love the comforting and nourishing feel it has on my skin. After regular use my skin feels more balanced and smooth. Fine lines on my forehead have started to soften. Texture has improved as well and the skin has an overall brighter appearance.

L’Occitane describes harmony as “a happy relationship between the parts of a whole, beyond a simple balance” and I think L’Occitane’s definition is spot on. This collection gives a harmonious skincare experience from texture, scent and effect. If I could describe the line in one word it would be “comforting.”

A few notes on ingredients and sourcing from L’Occitane:

  • “Both Immortelle Millésimée and Jania Rubens are sourced from the island of Corsica, where the sun drenches the soil and makes for some of the highest concentration of active molecules.
  • Immortelle Millésimée essential oil boasts warm colors and floral notes, and contains an optimal, more potent concentration of active molecules due to the sun saturation and climatic influences of the region. With only several acres of land for Immortelle Millésimée harvesting, the limited quantity makes for very precious oil.
  • For the first-time in our history, L’Occitane performed exclusive sourcing from Revelatta’s Bay in Corsica for red algae Jania Rubens. The preserved area within the Mediterranean Sea fosters more sun, great temperature and a smooth sea surface that allows sun rays to better enter the water, which allows for the continuous regeneration and replication of the red algae organism.
  • Based on this natural regeneration, L’Occitane created the first sustainable growing program under controlled laboratory conditions with no impact or destruction on the nature of the algae to develop the natural extract found in Harmonie Divine products.”

Up first is the Harmonie Divine Serum ($220 for 1 fl oz). This is a serum that encapsulates 5,000 micro-drops of Immortelle Millésimée oil in each bottle. The oils capsules are suspended in the serum to keep them in their pure state. The serum portion contains the Jania Rubens algae. Both ingredients are combined when you pump/dispense the product. The texture is lightweight and absorbs quickly into the skin. The immediate effect is brightening and smoothing – something you can even notice if you test this on the back of your hand.

L'Occitane Harmonie Divine SerumL'Occitane Harmonie Divine Serum

The L’Occitane Harmonie Divine Cream ($198 for 1.7 fl oz) is a unique cream-to-oil formula that is like a cushion for the skin. It has a soft cream texture that transforms into a soft oil upon contact with the skin. When massaged into the skin, the face feels very smooth and hydrated. Using both the serum and cream in conjunction with each other gives a higher concentration of the ingredients and therefore yields better anti-aging results. The packaging is well designed as there is a protective cap hinged onto the container so it won’t get lost or misplaced. This helps keep the product as fresh as possible. There’s a very soft and natural scent to it which gives a calming effect.

L'Occitane Harmonie Divine CreamL'Occitane Harmonie Divine CreamL'Occitane Harmonie Divine Cream

The two combined create a truly harmonious skincare experience:

L'Occitane Harmonie Divine Collection

Finding good soothing skincare suitable for sensitive is a challenge but L’Occitane is one line I’ve been able to rely on for years. They use natural ingredients that are gentle but still effective. In using the Harmonie Divine line for over a month the past weeks I’ve noticed a visible difference in having skin that is brighter and more plump. In addition those fine lines on my forehead have started to soften and I have high hopes that continued use will reduce the fine lines even more. The price points are on the high side but the serum and cream deliver visible results and I highly recommend you give them a try. Overall I am really pleased with the way it makes my skin feels, plus the soft and natural way it smells adds to the harmonious experience on a daily basis for morning and night.

You can find the Divine Harmonie Collection in stores and online at L’Occitane. Have you tried this line yet? What did you think?

Sponsored by L’Occitane.

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Beauty Favorites Skincare

Autumn-Winter Skincare Favorites for Sensitive Skin

November 9, 2016
The Beauty Look Book - Sensitive Skincare and Bodycare

As the weather shifts my skin has been in need of an extra hydration boost. The air is dry and I can definitely feel it as my arms and legs tend to get a little itchy when skin is dry. My skint ype is pretty much normal combination but I do have super sensitive skin – I’ve mentioned a number of times that I’m allergic to a number of things so I always patch test items before applying them all over. However as a beauty blogger it is my duty to try and test things to be able to see first hand how they work so I don’t mind an occasional reaction here and there. Many of you liked the Spring Skincare Favorites for Sensitive Skin so today I have a roundup of Beauty Look Book sensitive-skin approved products that will help with dry skin and add that extra boost of moisture for winter months.

Up first are some lip products I’ve been loving right now for dry lips. You can see a more detailed comprehensive Winter Roundup from 2015 if you want more options. The Armani Him/Her Lip Care are also great options for tinted unscented options.

The Beauty Look Book - Lip Treatment Clarins, Dior, Lanolips

Clarins Instant Light Natural Lip Perfectors (c/o, all shades swatched here) and Instant Light Lip Comfort Oils (c/o, also reviewed here) are among my favorite for hydration and smooth coverage. They are scented though so if you’re super sensitive to fragrance you may want to smell first before buying – I am semi-sensitive to scent in lip products but love both. There are a number of holiday sets out so be sure to check them out (there’s also a few cute GWP options going on at Clarins). The Sweet Kisses Set has 3 lip oils at a value price, Clarins Kisses has minis of both formulas, XOXO, Clarins! has 3 full size Lip Perfectors at a good deal as well.
The Dior Addict Lip Glow Pomade has been a staple for hydration and smoothing lips. It gives instant relief for dry lips and really does work to help improve texture and look of the lips. I have two tubes because I want one at my desk and one to carry in my purse when I’m out and about.

The Lanolips 101 Fruities Duo in Strawberry and Peach are a Net-A-Porter exclusive and I cannot rave about them enough. They’re a thick but very smooth balm that feels incredible on the lips. I’ve never tried any other lip product that gives such a comforting hydrating feel like these do. The Strawberry option is also available at Ulta Beauty.

Up next are some hand cream favorites. I’m obsessed with hand creams of all kinds – I do prefer a smaller compact tube so it’s easy to carry with me and also because they take up less space whether it’s on my nightstand, clutch, purse or drawer. Molton Brown is always a good option for me as I love the lightweight feel and they absorb quickly. Coco and Sandalwood (c/o) and Pink Pepperpod (c/o) are my favorites but I’ve tried them all and they are ALL amazing options. (I buy the Fiery Pink Pepper Cracker set every year.)

For holiday Neiman Marcus and Kiehl’s have an exclusive trio with the Limited-Edition Scented Hand Cream Trio and it’s only $16 (they are 1 oz each). They also have the regular unscented version in a the Limited-Edition Ultimate Strength Hand Salve Trio they have every year in the full size. The scented ones are just as hydrating with a slightly creamier feel. I love the scents which are Grapefruit, Coriander and Lavender. It’s great and I highly recommend it as these are the best I’ve tried for super dry hands.
The Jo Malone Geranium and Walnut Hand Cream is new for this season and comes in a slightly smaller tube than the regular Vitamin E Hand Treatment (which I find a bit greasy). The Geranium Walnut has more a green geranium scent with only a tiny hint of walnut. It’s hydrating and makes the hands smooth.

The Beauty Look Book - Hand Cream Molton Brown, Kiehl's, Jo Malone



Face Oils and Serums are something I’ve never been into historically – I’ve only really gotten into them in the past couple of years as I’m more of a lotions and cream kind of person. Quite a few of you asked about the La Mer Renewal Oil and I’ve been able to acquire a few minis from gift with purchases. Out of all the oils it has the thickest feel upon application but actually absorbs the best for the least emollient finish which is rare for oils. It’s very hydrating but also scented. The scent doesn’t bother me and it did not irritate my skin. Once I use up my others I will most likely buy it – it hydrates, balances the skin and reduces redness.

The Beauty Look Book - Oils for Sensitive Skin La Mer, Darphin, Kate Somerville, Kiehl's

The Darphin Intral Soothing Serum does just what the name implies. It helps reduce redness from itchy dry skin and works wonders to calm down flare ups. If you’ve tried this and found it didn’t do much for you it’s probably because in most cases serums are meant to be used in conjunction with a moisturizer on top. Serums alone have a unique texture that doesn’t always work well with your makeup, but when you layer them with your moisturizer they help keep the skin balanced and hydrated. This is on the lighter side so if you have super dry skin it probably won’t have enough moisture, but if you’re normal and sensitive this is a good one.

The L’Occitane Divine Youth Oil has been a favorite for a long long time. I’m pretty much finished with this bottle but kept it for this story as it’s a good one. L’Occitane skincare in general is underrated and it’s among the most gentle and natural that I’ve tried. It smooths the skin, makes it glow, plumps up the surface. You can use it alone or with moisturizer. I like to use it at night too and I wake up with glowing smooth skin. This is a great one for winter time.

Another favorite is the Kate Somerville Dilo Oil Restorative Treatment and I tried this thanks to a number of recommendations from my readers who commented on previous posts. This oil is everything. If I were forced to use one oil the rest of my life this would be it. My friend tried it as well and she couldn’t stop repeating “my skin feels sooo amazing.” It really does everything it claims: smooths skin, strengthen, replenish and restore elasticity, maintain suppleness and helps improve skin evenness. It has the most amazing scent which is hard to describe but it’s not irritating.

Kiehl’s Daily Reviving Concentrate is one that is well-loved by many and for good reason. It’s another oil you can use daily but has an energizing/reviving aspect to invigorate the skin. The description for this says it has “antioxidant protection with a powerful blend of naturally-derived oils, including Ginger Root, Sunflower and Tamanu, to help skin feel fresh and look energized morning to night.” I was nervous to try this but have been hooked every since I tried it.

Next up are lotions and creams. Note this looks like a lot and it is, but quite a few of these are empties that I’ve used up. First Aid Beauty is the best affordable mid-end skincare line I’ve tried and one of the best for truly sensitive skin. One of my best friends is in her mid 30’s and loves their line and my younger brother is in his early 20’s and it’s one of the two skincare lines he asks me to stock him up on (Kate Somerville being the other).

Many of the First Aid Beauty items contain colloidal oatmeal to help soothe dry itchy skin. I’ve tried their Ultra Repair line and also the Purifying line with Red Clay (best for summer/oily skin) and everything is gentle but effective. The Ultra Repair Ultra Repair Face Moisturizer is a great basic no-fuss lightweight moisturizer for normal sensitive skin. It contains, “meadowfoam seed oil and avocado oil soften and hydrate while shea butter and ceramides help protect the skin’s barrier function. The best in the line is the Ultra Repair Cream and if you’ve been reading recent posts, you know they just launched the Ultra Repair Cream in Vanilla Citron (c/o) which is amazing. I bought the Ultra Repair Cream Minis set and feel almost like a broken record talking about it, but it’s GREAT. I still prefer the unscented version because even though there’s no scent it has a soothing undertone in the formula. They always have great value sets so be sure to browse those if you’re new to the line.

If you need something natural but not heavy, the Chanel La Solution 10 de Chanel (c/o) is something I just started using on a more regular basis and it’s a great one for something simple but effective. The Chanel is a great in between option if you need something that acts
somewhere in between a lotion and cream. It helps calm down flare ups
and is great for sensitive skin. This year they added a larger 1.7 oz
version (the smaller 1.0 oz version is shown below).

Two other great basic options I’ve used up include the Ole Henriksen Sheer Transformation and Kate Somerville Nourish Daily Moisturizer. Both are really good for a simple no-fuss kind of cream that hydrates, smooths, calms down irritation and rebalance skin. They are lightweight and absorb nicely into the skin.

If you have very dry sensitive skin, I’d recommend the Tatcha Indigo Soothing Triple Recovery Cream or Kate Somerville Goat Milk Moisturizing Cream (I have the older original version but have tried both and the new one is just as good). If you read customer reviews on both their sites you’ll find an overwhelming number of others who love both. The Tatcha is on the expensive side so if you’re unsure of splurging $100+ be sure to check out their Travel Size Shop. They have all their items in minis and also in sets that are great to try out.

A few more notes on the La Mer Moisturizing Soft Lotion. I featured it in this post here to compare it to the Soft Cream and I prefer the lotion because of the pump packaging and texture. It’s quite the splurge and I do think it’s amazing. I have no regrets buying it but the others in this roundup are also great at more affordable price points.




The Beauty Look Book - Skincare First Aid Beauty, Kate Somerville, La Mer, Tatcha for Sensitive Skin




Last but not least, for the body three things I’m loving right now are the Moroccanoil Dry Body Oil Spray, Kate Somerville Dry Skin Saver and also the First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream as a body treatment. They offer instant relief from itchy dryness and I’m obsessed with the way the Moroccanoil Dry Body Oil smells. The Kate Somerville Dry Skin Saver is one I’ve bought multiple tubes of now for friends. I get texts a lot from my girl friends that say “help my skin is freaking out, what do I need?” I either tell them First Aid Beauty or this one. I love that First Aid Beauty made their Ultra Repair Cream in different sizes and packaging options for travel, full size and value size.

The Beauty Look Book - Body Care for Sensitive Skin

Two other body products that deserve a mention but I just used up and didn’t keep the empties include the Tatcha Indigo Body Butter and L’Occitane Shea Butter Extra Gentle Lotion for Hands and Body. Both are extremely good for super sensitive skin. The Tatcha is the most hydrating one I’ve tried and is on the thick side since it’s a cream but feels amazing. I like to use it at night. I love the formula but it’s a bit too rich for my skintype for day time – I would absolutely die if they made this in a lotion form. The L’Occitane has been featured a number of times before as well. It’s the best lightweight gentle lotion that gives relief without feeling sticky or heavy. It absorbs well and anytime my skin feels itchy or irritated this is my go-to to help with relief. I need to go buy another one soon.

I hope this roundup give you some ideas on what to try if you’re suffering from dry itchy skin or flare ups. Recommendations as always depend on your specific skin type, age, formula preference and scent preferences. I turned 35 this year and my skin has finally seemed to rebalance itself and I attribute this in part to finding good skincare.

As I transitioned from my late 20’s to my early 30’s my life went through a lot of stress and my skin suffered. I have always been able to manage a lot of things in life but in my early 30’s the stress of life, career, balancing a full-time corporate job, a part-time job, this blog along with other things in my personal life took it’s toll on my skin and it suffered. I experienced breakouts on the chin even though I never had any acne issues growing up. I had pretty bad texture issues on all areas of my face. Red spots from scars were pretty bad as well. Finding balance in life, learning to say no to some things, taking time to take care of myself and worry less have helped my skin as I’ve worked to improve things from the inside out. Many of you have asked about work/life balance and I’ll have more on that when I publish my get to know me post.

Back to the skincare – I’m always asked if I could only pick one in each category what would it be. I like options, I always have. It’s really hard to pick just one favorite because I have many and preferences change. Right now I will say that:

My favorite face oil is a three-way tie between Kate Somerville Dilo, Kiehl’s Reparative Treatment and L’Occitane Divine Youth Oil

My favorite body treatment is the Kate Somerville Dry Skin Saver

My favorite face moisturizer is a three-way tie between La Mer Moisturizing Soft Lotion, Kate Somerville anything, First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream

Most gentle items for sensitive skin are the First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream, La Solution 10 de Chanel and Ole Henriksen Sheer Transformation Cream

Best lip balm of the moment is Lanolips

Favorite hand cream Molton Brown Coco and Sandalwood or the Kiehl’s Scented Hand Cream Trio

As always if you have sensitive skin, dry skin issues or eczema – please chime in on what your favorites are!

Press samples indicated with c/o. All other items purchased by me.

Nordstrom Skincare

Body Care Staples for Soft and Smooth Skin

October 18, 2016
The Beauty Look Book - Body Care Routine for Soft Skin

As the weather has started to shift to cooler and dryer temperatures I’ve felt the need for some extra skincare boosts when it comes to body care. I have extremely sensitive skin so I usually stick to a few select brands for body lotions, scrubs and shower gels. There are some lines that cause an allergic reaction for me (scent or fragrance isn’t always the issue) so I always try to do a patch test first. Today I’ve teamed up with Nordstrom to share some tried-and-true body care staples I use to keep my skin smooth, itch-free, and hydrated.

I usually prefer light weight lotions or dry oils because I don’t like things that feel thick or heavy. Three I swear by include the L’Occitane Shea Butter Extra-Gentle Lotion for Hands and Body, Kate Somerville Dry Skin Saver, and L’Occitane Foot Cream. You can click on the icons in the images below to shop the products directly from Nordstrom.

My most repurchased lotion is the L’Occitane Shea Butter Extra-Gentle Lotion for Hands and Body because it’s truly gentle but still effective. I love the Shea Butter line from L’Occitane for the soft soothing scent it has that’s truly comforting. It absorbs into the skin well, leaves skin feeling soft, and I can wear this at night while I sleep without sticking to my sheets or blankets.

Kate Somerville previously had their Eczema Cream which has been renamed Dry Skin Saver. This has a slightly thicker texture compared to the L’Occitane Lotion but is unscented and helps give instant relief for dry skin. It’s suitable for face, body and lips. I gave one of these to my brother who is in his early 20’s, has dry skin that is probably more sensitive than mine and he really likes this one.

I tend to neglect my feet as I find that my 2x a month pedicures are usually enough to keep them looking decent. There are a number of foot creams I’ve tried but they usually feel greasy or smell horrible. I tried the L’Occitane Shea Butter Foot Cream from a small travel size I received from a gift with purchase years ago and was immediately hooked because it’s not thick, it absorbs quickly, instantly soothes any dry spots and has a slight lavender oil scent which is really relaxing.

Next are a few bath products and scrubs. I almost could say that I’m one who lives for bubble baths. There are few things that I enjoy as much as a long bath. It really does help melt away stress and helps me relax.

Fresh Bath and Shower Gels are one of the few shower gels where the scent actually lasts bath the shower or bath. There are a wide range of options and my current favorite is the Fresh Life which is a bright sweet citrus kind of scent. It lathers up really well with a wash cloth or loofa and leaves the skin clean.

In one of my previous shower gel posts a few of you told me to try the Le Labo Santal 33 Shower Gel. I’m all for trying new luxury products but the $50 price tag prevented me from buying for a long time. I eventually did and was instantly hooked. This is a truly luxurious splurge – but I’m one who loves sandalwood scents that aren’t too woody or earthy and this one is just perfect. I’m on my third bottle and the price is indeed very steep so I will be using this sparingly.

For scrubs, my favorite body scrub formulas have all been discontinued (from Clinique, Estee Lauder, Kiehl’s). They’ve either brought new formulas out or discontinued the items completely which has made me very sad. The one favorite that I’ve found hasn’t changed is the Aesop Geranium Leaf Body Scrub which leaves the skin revitalized and super smooth. It has an emollient base which makes it easy to move over areas of the body in the shower but doesn’t leave the skin with a greasy film.

Bath and shower oils are items I try every now and then. I know many of my readers love them because they leave the skin feeling super hydrated and soft. I’m still more of a shower gel kind of person but the ones from Jo Malone are very good. They come in a number of scent options and they have both bath oils and shower oil options. I bought the Blackberry and Bay Bath Oil and it’s amazing. It also comes in the smaller travel size and also the shower gel format.

One more shower gel that deserves a mention is the Diptyque Revitalizing Shower Gel for Body and Hair. This is probably my favorite one of all time but I go through it so quickly I’ve tried to find cheaper alternatives because it gets spendy. I have yet to find one I like as much as I like this one though.

Last but not least two items I think we usually associate with summer beauty routines but I still find suitable for year round use.

The Soleil de La Mer Face and Body Gradual Tan Lotion is the only one I’ve liked enough to use on a regular basis. The formula is gentle so it doesn’t cause an allergic reaction on my skin (many other formulas do). The scent is pleasant and doesn’t have that strong chemical odor you find in self tanners. It also doesn’t turn my skin orangey or yellow which is a huge plus. I see a tan start to develop by the second day of use. There’s no streaking or transfer to clothing. It’s expensive but worth the splurge.

I alternate between body oils and find I gravitate towards different ones depending on season. The Moroccanoil Dry Body Oil is one I found too heavy during the summer but I love it for right now. It has that signature Moroccanoil scent which I find natural, earthy and soothing all at the same time. I love that this comes with a spray dispenser – I think all body oils should come with one. It absorbs quickly into the skin. The scent has a warm and cozy feel which was probably why I didn’t really use it a lot over the summer time but now that it’s cooler, it’s perfect.

For those who like body care products I hope you found this post helpful in case you’re looking for items to soothe dry skin that are also suitable for sensitive skin (and noses). As always I’d love to hear your favorites! Many of you have asked for a roundup on face moisturizers and serums I use since I have sensitive skin. I’m in the process of testing a few brands but will have a post up in the next few weeks.

Many thanks to Nordstrom for partnering to sponsor this post. As always all opinions my own.
Uncategorized

Spring Face Cleanser Rotation

March 11, 2016

For skincare I think my favorite things to try out are facial cleansers. There’s nothing quite as refreshing as the feeling of having squeaky clean skin. I have sensitive skin that reacts to a lot of products and when it happens it usually happens instantly with a flash of tiny little red bumps that surface everywhere. I need cleansers that are gentle but still effective at getting rid of excess oil and dirt. I have normal combination skin so I look for cleansers that are strong enough to feel like my skin is thoroughly cleansed, doesn’t leave any film but at the same time won’t strip the skin and leave it feeling tight. I have a roundup of face cleansers I think are really good for right now, especially as we transition to spring. A few are tried and true and some others are new to me that I’ve been testing since January. I took these photographs a little over a month ago but wanted to wait and use up a few tubes entirely to see how I felt about them and also which ones I thought I would be repurchasing.

Finding a cleanser depends on so many different things. Skin type is the main deciding factor so if you have normal but sensitive skin like me I think you will find this review most helpful. I probably switch up my cleansing routine more than the average person. I tend to use a different cleanser for morning versus night. Also on full makeup days I like to double cleanse by using a cleansing water or cleansing oil first to remove my makeup. Then I follow with a regular liquid or cream cleanser afterwards to make sure my skin is cleansed all the way. On workout days I find myself giving my face an extra wash – right after I work out and also right before I go to bed because I have this thing about sleeping with clean skin.

I’ll split my recommendations by type and by intensity. I’m a huge wimp when it comes to any kind of tingle for skincare so all of these in this roundup are tingle-free and super gentle.

Up first are the cleansing oils I’ve had in rotation from Tom Ford, Tatcha, SK-II and L’Occitane. For these it’s really hard to pick a favorite because all four are extremely good. I’ve reviewed oils before (a few years ago) and I’m really picky with what I repurchase. As long as an oil doesn’t break out my skin or cause a reaction I’ll use it up entirely because I don’t want it to go to waste. Many leave an emollient film on the skin that I personally don’t like. Others strip the skin. Some others just don’t emulsify well on my skin when you add warm water. A few thoughts on these four:

Shown above from left to right:

  • Tom Ford Purifying Cleansing Oil ($80 for 6.7 fl oz) is the newest cleansing oil that I’ve tried, it just launched this year. Tom Ford Beauty describes this one as having a velvety formula, filled with nutrient-rich natural oils such as Jasmine Flower oil, Evening Primrose oil, Buriti oil, Tamanu oil and botanical extracts such as Panax Ginseng Root Extract and Thistle Fruit Extract, to cleanse and detoxify skin.” It indeed does have a velvety texture and cleanses the skin entirely. It removes all traces of makeup including eyeshadow, although I did not test on mascara because I don’t like oils near my eye area. It is on the purifying side but isn’t stripping. It did leave my skin feeling firm and smooth, but not tight.
  • Tatcha Pure One-Step Camellia Cleansing Oil ($48 for 150 ml / 5.1 fl. oz.) has been reviewed here on The Beauty Look Book before. I would say this is my no-fail go to for cleansing oils. It’s gentle and leaves the skin feeling soft and smooth. It’s non-irritating and melts away all the makeup from your skin when you add warm water to emulsify and massage into the face. I love that they make a well packaged mini versions perfect for travel.
  • SK-II Facial Treatment Cleansing Oil ($70 for 8.4 fl oz) is another favorite. This one has the most velvety cushiony texture out of all the ones I’ve tried. It’s just as gentle as the Tatcha but I find the SK-II leaves the skin feeling a bit more moisturized. On days I feel dry this one is best for my skin because it’s not quite as purifying as others but still removes all traces of makeup.
  • L’Occitane Immortelle Cleansing Oil ($32 for 6.7 fl oz) full review here, but quick take is this is one of the most gentle but effective cleansing oils I’ve tried and used up. I really love this one because it’s nourishing and leaves the skin feeling super soft and smooth without any residue.
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Next are more traditional formulas, but as I’ve been testing some new ones I’ve found some really interesting ones that are quite innovative in texture and how they apply on the skin.

Shown above from left to right:

  • Kate Somerville Gentle Daily Wash ($34 for 4 oz) this is one I’ve used up entirely and I love it. Over the summer I fell in love with the Detox Daily Cleanser because it was good for those super hot humid days. As we transitioned to cooler weather I started using the Gentle Daily Wash and it’s a lot more gentle on the skin. It’s a really good daily mild cleanser that I love for super sensitive skin days. It’s effective enough to use every day multiple times a day without stripping the skin. For me this one is pure love and I will be repurchasing this one. It helps calm down the skin on irritated days.
  • Kate Somerville Exfolikate Cleanser ($38 for 4 oz) is the newest cleanser from the Kate Somerville line. I also used this one up entirely (I just finished it 2 days ago). This one is such a unique cleanser. It has no gritty texture like scrubs do but does contains a mix of glycolic acid and lactic acid along with pineapple, pumpkin and papaya enzymes to exfoliate the skin in a natural way without being harsh or drying. It’s gentle enough to use daily but I like to use this 2-3x per week and alternate with the Daily Wash. It’s super gentle – there has been no irritation or harsh feeling  on the skin. It’s amazing at improving the skin texture without the harsh feeling of a scrub.
  • Algenist Gentle Rejuvinating Cleanser ($25 for 4 oz) is another really good gentle cleanser option. I’m about 80% finished with this one and think it’s yet another incredible discovery. It’s similar in performance to the Kate Somerville Gentle Daily Wash but the Algenist is a unique cream texture that has a slightly mousse-whipped feel. This is one of the few cleansers I can use 2x a day 7 days a week without feeling like I need to switch up cleansers. It’s gentle as the name implies but does a great job at cleaning the skin.
  • First Aid Beauty Skin Rescue Deep Cleanser with Red Clay ($24 for 4.7 oz) has been featured on the blog a few times and definitely has reached a favorites spot for me in terms of being one of the best purifying cleansers. It cleans out the pores and the red clay helps draw out excess oil. It helps clear up the skin when I have breakouts. The texture is almost gel-like but still liquid. I think this is a great balancing product for those with normal, combination or oily skin. Right now I can’t use it daily because it’s a tiny bit drying for the weather/season right now – but that’s for my normal combo skin.
  • bareMinerals Clay Chameleon Transforming Purifying Cleanser ($22 for 4.2 oz) is another really good clarifying cleanser. This one is interesting because you apply it directly on dry skin and massage it until the cleanser turns white. It’s a light red color that has a clay-cream like texture. Once you massage it into the skin you rinse with warm water and it cleans the skin entirely. This one is slightly stronger than the one from First Aid Beauty but is still gentle and non-irritating. It leaves the skin feeling firm but not tight. I like this on days I feel oily or after workouts. My husband really likes this one, although his go-to is still the Kiehl’s Facial Fuel.
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Out of all the ones I’ve been testing, I would say that my top two favorites for cleansing oils right now are the L’Occitane and Tatcha with SK-II being close third. I find L’Occitane to be the most soothing and gentle for my skin while Tatcha is a classic staple. The SK-II one is good but the price prevents me from wanting to purchase over and over again although I really really like it. The one from Tom Ford is one of the most purifying ones I’ve tried – I suspect it might be a bit too strong if you have dry skin. It’s definitely a luxurious one but I think you can find other more affordable options that perform just as well.

For the regular cleansers, I’ve been so impressed with Kate Somerville. I can’t rave enough about the line because the skincare just works so well for my sensitive skin. For everyday my favorites are the Kate Somerville Gentle Daily Wash and Algenist Gentle Rejuvinating Cleansers.

Do you have a favorite cleanser of the moment? I always love hearing about skincare favorites so please share in the comments!
Press samples included from all brands featured above except SK-II. As always all opinions my own.

Uncategorized

Youthful Glowing Skin with L’Occitane

February 22, 2016

When it comes to daily skincare, my main focus is on finding items that are anti-aging and that will help maintain the skin’s natural glow. Keeping the skin smooth and healthy looking are my primary concerns and I’ve been loving the Divine Collection and Immortelle Skincare lines from L’Occitane to keep my skin glowing. My current skincare routine has included a mix of their beauty oils, creams and balms that I find perfect to add just the right amount of hydration while smoothing the skin and improving the complexion. The Divine Cream and Divine Youth Oil are really good at helping transform the overall texture of the skin. With regular use these both have been instrumental at restoring my skin’s natural radiance. The Immortelle items such as the Immortelle Precious Mist and Immortelle Precious Eye Balm are more preventative in treatment for emerging wrinkles. Both also are really good for revitalizing and refreshing the skin.

Items I’ve been loving and incorporating daily:

Divine Cream is a lightweight cream moisturizer and has been my daily go-to for months now. It has a smooth texture and very natural light scent to it (it smells like very soft flowers). Each jar contains nearly a hundred Immortelle flowers and the oils give my skin a natural radiant youthful glow. The cream is an anti-aging formula and designed to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, leaving skin smooth and luminous. I have normal combination skin that needs just a little bit of moisture for day to day. This one is just perfect in terms of texture and it’s non-irritating. It absorbs quickly but has enough moisture to make the skin feel well hydrated. Regular use of this has helped balance the skin and smooth texture. I like that it works well with a wide range of foundations – it won’t break down your makeup but still keeps the skin feeling moisturized and healthy throughout the day.

The Divine Youth Oil is something I’ve been using for over a year and it’s one of my top three favorite facial oils of all time. A little goes a very long way and as someone who usually finds beauty oils too rich, this one is perfect in texture. It’s not too light and not too rich. I like to use this anytime I’m feeling tightness in the skin or I start to feel the
slightest bit of irritation. It works wonders to calm the skin and restore moisture. When I use it at night, the next morning my skin glows with a noticeably brighter look and firmer feel. It helps reduce the look of fine lines that creep in when my skin gets dry. It definitely feels like youth in a bottle to me, I love that it hydrates the skin and has an almost velvety finish. Lasts all day without getting too dewy.

Immortelle Precious Eye Balm is probably the most impressive skincare item I’ve tried from L’Occitane. I’m in my mid-30’s and don’t have under eye wrinkles yet, but I know using preventive skincare is key. The Immortelle Precious Eye Balm is hands down the most impressive eye treatment I’ve used. It gives the skin an instant brightened look and provides an immediate refreshing awakened feel. It has that same effect that eye masks have in terms of giving your eyes a little spa treatment, but in a balm form. The texture is creamy and almost gel-like. It absorbs quickly and feels incredible – for me it had an instant wow factor from the very first time I tested it out. If you try one thing new from L’Occitane, definitely check out this Eye Balm. It gives life to the skin.

Another favorite that has been featured on the before is the Immortelle Precious Mist. I love a good face mist and this one is one of my favorites because it’s refreshing and hydrating. I like that the mister dispenses an ultra fine mist evenly across the face. This one has the same soothing soft floral scent as other Immortelle products. I love how gentle it is and it’s one of the best facial pick-me-up for mid-day that I’ve tried.

Last but not least, if you’re into the double cleansing routine and are looking for a cleansing oil that is gentle and hydrating, the Immortelle Oil-Makeup Remover is one I think you should try. I find one pump is enough for the entire face. It has a smooth velvety texture that emulsifies really well with warm water. It will remove waterproof eyeliner and cream shadows, although I still prefer to remove eye makeup separately (it’s just easier for me). After rinsing I find it removes all traces of foundation, powder, concealer and blush without stripping the skin.

If you’re looking for something to add some radiance and glow to your skincare routine, I highly recommend you check out some of the items from the L’Occitane Immortelle range. If you’re like me and use a wide range of brands for skincare, I found the L’Occitane items easy to incorporate and mix into my daily routine. The items are gentle but effective at reducing emerging signs of wrinkles and in particular helping restore and maintain a youthful glow. My top two favorites right now are the Divine Cream and Immortelle Precious Eye Balm.

You can find all the items right now at L’Occitane stores and online at usa.loccitane.com.
What’s your skincare routine like right now? As always I’d love to hear about what you’re loving or testing out right now. Do you have any go-to’s to maintain a natural youthful glow?

This post was sponsored by L’Occitane, but as always, all opinions my own.

Roundup Skincare

Best in Skincare and Grooming 2015

December 31, 2015
I discovered a lot of new favorites in 2015 for skincare. I’ve compiled a list of items I consider game changers that have made a significant difference for my skin over the past year improving texture, clarity, and smoothness. I struggled over 2014 with lots of stress with some life changes and didn’t take the best care of myself health-wise. It impacted my skin and took months to recover. In 2015 my husband also went outside of his comfort zone to try more in skincare and grooming. We’ve rounded up our favorites for the past year. First up, best skincare picks for me:

Shown above featured from left to right:
  • Le Mieux 4-in-1 Ultrasonic Anti-Aging Skin Perfecter* (review here) best cleaning device tool discovered this year, helps to clean pores and with gentle extractions that won’t break the skin
  • Glamglow Supercleanse Daily Clearing Cleanser (review here) best daily cleanser to help clarify skin, clean pores and help prevent breakouts
  • Tatcha Indigo Triple Recovery Cream* the entire Tatcha Indigo Line actually should be on the list as I’ve found every item I’ve tried to be a game changer for my sensitive skin. It’s great for those who have eczema, for me it helped moisturize and soothe irritated and inflamed skin on flare up days, you can try the entire line in the Soothing Indigo Mini Set
  • Charlotte Tilbury Magic Cream (review here) one of my top day creams
  • Eve Lom Brightening Cream* (review here and here) also in the top day creams which really helped with brightening the complexion and lightening dark spots and acne scars
  • Kate Somerville Dermal Quench and Dermal Quench with Retinol * (review here and here) experiencing the Kate Somerville line in person this year at the clinic in Los Angeles changed my life, I had always been interested in the line but didn’t know where to start, having an in person assessment and facial helped me pick out what would be best for my skin, the Dermal Quench items have been game changers to improve skin texture for day and night, helps give the skin a lift and also reduce redness
  • Hourglass Equilibrium Biomimetic Skin Active Serum* (review here) I wrote about this back in February after giving it a thorough 50+ day test (or night that is), it comes with a hefty price tag but I found it to be the biggest game changer for my skin, at the beginning of the year I had horrible skin texture, lots of dark spots from acne scars, breakouts on the chin area – nothing I tried seemed to restore my skin and at that point I was too scared to use anything with retinol. This completely restored my skin in a gentle non-irritating way. It’s a night treatment that helped with resurfacing and rebalancing. I continued using it weekly throughout the year as needed and I’m almost finished with the bottle. Whenever I feel my skin starting to act up this has hands down been the best treatment to help improve texture.
  • Tatcha Pore Perfecting Sunscreen* (reviewed here and here) best sunscreen I’ve ever tried that doubles as a matte primer, helps smooth skin, doesn’t look white on the face, keeps oil controlled
  • First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream* back in November, my skin suffered a serious allergic reaction to Neosporin. I put it on a couple scabs that I had picked from acne to help with the healing process, instead my face literally blew up into a serious rash with tons of deep red bumps and swelling. It took around five weeks for my face to recover (it wasn’t bad enough for any prescription treatment, I was told the only thing to do was wait for it all to heal). The First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream was one of the few creams I could use for my irritated inflamed skin. My friends swear by it. I really love it.
  • L’Occitane Divine Youth Oil* best facial oil that I like to use at night or weekends on no makeup days, helps restore the skin’s glow and moisturize without being too greasy, bottle lasts forever as a little goes a long way
  • Chanel Sublimage Eye Cream after all the eye creams I’ve tested this is still my favorite

For my husband, best in men’s grooming:

Men’s grooming favorites shown from left to right:

What were your skincare favorites? Any new discoveries that you found to be game changers?

Press samples featured with a * indicator next to the product names.