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Sunday, November 22, 2009


Leading dermatologists Susan H. Weinkle, M.D. and Heidi A. Waldorf, M.D. tell how to get the most out of your beauty budget. The key is to invest wisely and know where you can and can't compromise. The three essentials to keep your skin in top shape now--to avoid expensive corrective procedures later--are sunscreen, an antioxidant moisturizer, and a product containing retinoic acid.

Products – money savers and splurges

Worth the Price:
* Prescription retinoids (tretinoin, tazarotene, adapalene) – nothing else has been shown to do as much for photoaged skin; and one tube should last several months
* Certain cosmeceuticals (idebenone, coffeeberry) – your dermatologist knows what works and what you’re more likely to tolerate

Budget Picks:
* Cleansers – a gentle over-the-counter non-drying cleanser will do the job.
* Sunscreen – drug store options with appropriate ingredients abound, and you need to use a lot of it.
* Eye cream – to save money, use your face cream for your eye area too.

Augmenting in-office treatments at home:
* Get more bang for your buck – use a home microdermabrasion system between professional treatments
* Non-invasive treatments work best when accompanied by an effective at home regimen of sun protection and some combination of retinoids, anti-oxidants and/or peptides.
* Don’t work against your treatment: avoid cigarettes, tanning, and picking.
* Ask your dermatologist for a prescription to slow hair growth while you’re undergoing laser hair removal

When is do-it-yourself okay and when do you need the doctor?

* Pop your own pimple or ingrown hair – you’re just spreading the inflammation
* Mix together at home peel kits with other ingredients –the combination can increase the depth of penetration dangerously
* Play with at home lasers and gadgets when you’re tan – you risk skin discoloration and scarring

* See your dermatologist for a painful acne cyst – a dilute cortisone injection can reduce it in 1 – 2 days
* Gently exfoliate once or twice a week but avoid anything sharp (if it hurts on your hand, don’t use it on your face)
* See your dermatologist for laser or light treatments – she can confirm it’s safe and appropriate for your problem

Reasonable investments for Long-term beauty
* The current long-lasting fillers are cost-effective. A recent study of hyaluronic acid showed that once you achieve your optimal correction, keeping it up requires only half the original volume used once or twice a year. For patients who can’t pay for full correction the first visit, there’s the option to gradually achieve correction over several months – each treatment builds on the last because the prior filler isn’t gone and new collagen has been formed.
* Tightening procedures utilizing lasers and radiofrequency cost far less than surgery, can put off the expense of a surgical lift for several years and don’t require a lot of time off from work.
* Botulinum toxins continue to be a safe and effective way to look fresher without downtime and for about the cost of hair and nail maintenance.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

There's More to Do Than Watch The Baseball/Football TV Marathon This Weekend

Of course we're rooting for the Yankees and the Giants this weekend, but that doesn't mean we have to watch every game (from Friday evening to Saturday evening and all day Sunday!) Leave the boys home and check out these stylish and deeply discounted fun activities:

On Location Tours' Bus tour of sites seen on TV's Gossip Girl guides you through over 40 sites seen in the hit TV drama , including the New York Palace Hotel.
Full price: $40
Goldstar.com price: $19

$100 Lunch or Dinner for $50
At Wild Ginger Restaurants: A $100 dining coupon is just $50 online at nyhalfoff.com.
Valid at 4 Wild Ginger Locations:
226 E. 51st St, NY, NY
10 Park Place, NY, NY
48 Great Neck Rd, Great Neck
467 Columbus Ave, NY, NY

Play Tourist for a Weekend (or an entire week)
At citypass.com, $79 Citypass includes admission to 6 top NY attractions (a $140 value). Citypass booklet contains six actual admission tickets, each with a tip revealing a secret to skip main ticket lines. Plan a weekend -- or take up to nine leisurely days to explore shops, restaurants, and neighborhoods.
Empire State Building Observatory
American Museum of Natural History & Rose Center
Guggenheim Museum
The Museum of Modern Art
The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Cloisters
Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises
Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island

Monday, October 12, 2009

Defensive Driving Course Available Online Saves You Hundreds

Pay less for auto insurance and you’ll have more to spend on clothes, makeup and other fun stuff. If you’re not getting an easy 10% discount off your annual auto insurance rates because the required two-day defensive driving course is a time consuming hassle, here’s news: you can take a virtual defensive driving course online (I just completed mine, in between commercials during Mad Men, in my PJ’s).

Listen smarty pants, in addition to saving money, I bet even you can brush up on your driving skills.
For instance:
What’s the #1 cause of fatal crashes? A. Speeding. B. Drunk Driving. C. Failing to Maintain Lane Position.
Correct answer: C.
If you think you’re perfect at maintaining lane position when driving, you’re smarter than the 41,000 people who die in motor vehicle crashes each year.
True or False: Never take your eyes off the road?
Correct answer: False.
Rule for changing lanes safely: before you change lanes glance over your shoulder to check the blind areas to be certain no one is near the left or right-rear corners of your vehicle.

If you’re the world’s best know it all when it comes to driving, then just do it for the discount. The in-person or virtual course fee averages $49 and is good for three years. Save 15% at Idrivesafely.com; the site offers a defensive driving course for only $35.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Half Price Haute Haircuts, Haircolor

Great deal: Get your hair cut and/or colored at one of the world’s hippest, most fashionable salons for about what you spend at the corner beauty shop. Nick Arrojo, the hair pro on the hit show What Not to Wear, is offering summer specials including two-for-one and blow-dry lessons with the pros.

• Half Price Cuts/Color: Mon-Thurs, bring a friend(s) who is new to ARROJO studio and get two cuts and/or colorings for the price of one (11:30-4:45pm). Using one of the lower priced but still very experienced stylists, you and your friend(s) can pay as little as $34@ plus tip. Both appointments must be back-to-back with the same stylist.

• Be a Blow-Dry Pro: $50 gets you into a professional group blow-dry class, where you’ll learn to do a smooth blow-out, loose flowing waves, tousled and textured tresses. You leave with $50 of ARROJO product for free. Call for class schedules.

To make an appointment, or to check on availability of these offers call 212 242 7786. Mention the offer you are booking when you make your appointment.
Arrojo Studio
180 Varick Street
New York, NY
photo ©Arrojostudio

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

99¢ Pasta Wins Taste Test

New York Magazine recently taste tested several brands of pasta. Quick, easy, filling, and still cheap, which brand is the best? And is the artisanal Italian variety better than what you can get at D’Ag’s?

Expert panel of pastavores blind-tasted eight brands of dried spaghetti. The 99-cent underdog from Trader Joe’s triumphed, edging out the pricey artisanal competition and the popular Barilla brand.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Quit Flushing

If you turn red when you’re trying to maintain your cool and you break out like a kid, you might have rosacea.

Characterized by redness, bumps and pimple-like blemishes, rosacea is a chronic beauty bummer. If you suspect you have rosacea or have tried traditional medications and lifestyle changes with little success, recently FDA approved oral Oracea ® (doxycycline, USP), seems extremely promising. "I often recommend my patients take Oracea® to help treat the signs and symptoms of rosacea," said Hilary Baldwin, MD, associate professor and vice chair, department of dermatology, SUNY Downstate Medical Center.

Available by prescription from dermatologists, Oracea® is unique because it doesn't cause bacterial resistance like long term antibiotics used to treat rosacea and it can reduce red bumps and pimples associated with the condition. With Oracea® on the job, it’s unlikely we’ll be seeing many W.C Fields look-a-likes in the future. For more ways to tame rosacea, visit www.BestFaceForward.com/

Hmmm, if Oracea® works on rosacea induced pimples, maybe it’s an “off-label” cure for common acne?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Be a Budget Savvy Bride

Know anyone getting married on long island? Check out gettingmarriedonlongisland.com. This awesome new website, started by a budget savvy wedding expert, includes unique ideas, hot trends and one-on-one advice.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ride out the Economic Downturn with Bangs Instead of Botox

Press releases that hit my inbox are generally ho hum sales pitches, but this budget savvy one from a PR wiz at Trent & Co deserves a shout out.

Bangs instead of Botox? A simple snip could have the same overall affect to someone’s face as those paralyzing toxins. According to celebrity stylist Suki Duggan, owner of Donsuki Townhouse Salon, bangs are an affordable wrinkle fix. “A lot of my clients are asking me for bangs as a way to hide the imperfections of their forehead,” said Duggan.
Budget style on a shoestring adds: Hurray for bangs; this season they're a major beauty trend. Many models and stars ( including Kate Beckinsale) showed up at NY Fashion Week sporting freshly cropped fringes. Insider tip: Bangs need more frequent trims then the rest of your hair but, it's protocol for hairdressers to offer free bang trims in between haircuts.
Instyle.com tells how to groom long wispy bangs like Jessica Alba's:
HOW-TO: Blow-dry with a paddle brush, not a round one, to avoid a wave-like effect on hair and bangs. Finish with an anti-frizz sp
ray to ensure a smooth look. TRICK: Because of the thinness of these bangs, they can easily be pinned to the side or clipped back and are easy to
grow out.
BUY ONLINE NOW Spornette Small Paddle Brush, $6; shop.com.

Monday, March 23, 2009

When your beauty favorite goes bye bye

What to do when your favorite beauty product is hard to find or discontinued? Find out by reading my story in latest Consumer Reports Shop Smart Magazine, featured on CBS early show this morning. See When Your Beauty Favorite Goes Bye Bye http://shopsmartmag.org/

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Quick Fix for Biggest Beauty Blunders

Producing makeovers for magazines for years (including 620 makeovers in 12 years for Woman's World Magazine) I've witnessed what works and what doesn't, what's too pricey, too time consuming or a waste of time. Between budget friendly blogging, I'll be sharing some of the best hair and makeup artists tips I've come across. I'll also blog about makeovers for beauty blunders ... those no no's hair and makeup artists see most ... and that are easiest to fix.
First installment: Coping with comma brow
Comma brow comes from over plucking, resulting in a sperm-like blob where the brow starts, and an overly rounded pencil thin line to the rest of it ... like a big surprised comma.
Quick fix: brush or pencil in a natural looking arch while you try to let your brows grow in.
Best way to learn: stop in at Sephora or a makeup counter at Macy's and have their makeup pro show you how-to, for free.
On your own: find your ideal arch. To do, line an eyeshadow brush up with the outside edge of the colored part of your eye; where the brush meets the brow is where the highest part of your arch should be. Your brow line should be full from the inner corner to the arch, gradually narrowing from the arch to the outer corner.
To plump comma brows: Makeup artists recommend you use an eyeliner brush to brush brown or taupe matte eye shadow or brow powder along your brow line. To try: Maybelline Ultra Brow Brush on Color, $4.99.
For truly sparse spots: using a brown or taupe pencil, diagonally feather tiny hair-like flecks to fill in. Many makeup lines include a brush on brow color, which is ideal for plumping the brow line and to cover grays ... but it doesn't fix a comma shape.
If you're really all thumbs: it's more of an investment than a splurge to get a one-time grooming by celebrity brow maven, Eliza Petrescu ($120 at Exhale Spa in NY). She'll also tell-all about how to do-it-yourself so from then on, you can do your own upkeep. Check Eliza's website, elizaseyes.com, for more dish on her and for a virtual encyclopedia of tips on beautifying your brows.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Don't Fall Victim to Beauty Puffery!

Can a lip product plump your pout? DuWop Lip Venom ($16), Lipfusion ($38) and a slew of other plumpers promise to boost lips like collagen.

On assignment for the NY Daily News, I convinced my daughter Julie (pictured, right) to test dozens of popular lip plumpers. Julie said some made her lips sting or burn, others added a pretty gloss, but none truly plumped her pout … and she’s not the only one. In a study published in the Archives of Facial Plastic Surgery, researchers found the products offered no observable change in lip size on a study of female patients. "If a lip-enhancing product did what a dermatologist can do, armed with lip-plumping injectables, it would be classified as a drug and not a cosmetic," says Deborah Sarnoff, M.D., associate clinical professor of dermatology at NYU Medical School. "Like all 'cosmeceuticals,' lip plumpers don't require FDA approval, nor do they need to prove their claims," she adds.

Lip plumpers contain ingredients such as niacin, cinnamon, capsaicin, menthol and clove that can make the mouth sting or burn. You'll
get fuller looking lips with reasonably priced lip liner and lipstick from companies like L'Oreal, Cover Girl, Max Factor or Maybelline. To do:

* Using lip pencil in a shade close to the lip color you'll wear, keep mouth relaxed and slightly open. Rest your elbow on a table or counter for support and hold the lip pencil like a regular pencil. Balance your pinky on the side of your chin to help maintain a steady hand.
* Place pencil tip at the center point between crests of your upper lip. Following the outer rim of the natural shape of your lips, draw a line from center to top of crest on one side; repeat on other side. Extend the line from top of each crest, along the very outer edge of your lip line, down to the outer corners of your mouth. For bottom lip, pinpoint the exact center by holding the lip pencil vertically under the tip of your nose. The point where the pencil touches your bottom lip is the center. Draw a dot there. Starting at the dot, draw a line along the very outer rim of your lip line, to the outer corner of your mouth; repeat on other side. Apply a long wearing lip color within outlined area. Another option: Use a lip pencil to line and color lips; it's less creamy than lipstick, so color lasts longer.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Save on Avon

Looking to earn extra cash? A popular way is direct marketing, selling products not available in stores to consumers. Problem is, many companies require a substantial initial investment, offer pricey goods and pressure you to stalk everyone –- from your babysitter to your boss -- to buy. One exception is Avon: becoming a Representative is a $10 investment; you needn't sell to a single customer and you automatically get substantial discounts on your personal orders.

Scaling back on spending? Avon has some great buys. Their Anew costs less than most other anti-aging brands, and budget friendly Skin-So-Soft is a global best-seller. Today you no longer need to thumb through little catalogues, since many Avon Representatives are online. My Avon "Lady," Susan Broderick, currently offers Free Shipping on online orders (use coupon code 6SFWR) and 50% off on many items, including ANEW REJUVENATE Flash Facial Revitalizing Concentrate, now $24; Lighten Up Plus Eye Cream, now $7.50; MOISTURE THERAPY Intensive Hand Cream, now $0.99; Skin So Soft Body Wash, now $2.99. Shop Susan’s store (or sign up to be an Avon Rep) at youravon.com/sbroderick.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Freebie Finds

Free Shoes: As a DSW Rewards Member (no fee), you get a $10 Welcome Certificate, reward certificates for every 1,500 points earned, double points shopping days, special offers and a birthday gift certificate. At a recent DSW clearance sale, I found my favorite sneakers -- New Balance 725's -- marked down from $75 to $29.95. Armed with a $20 reward certificate and my $10 birthday certificate, the cashier handed over the shoes and I paid nothing. Unlike most stores, DSW allows you to apply multiple offers to a single purchase.

If you've had a similar experience at another store, please tell us about it.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Professional manicures no longer fit your budget? Here’s how to pay less or to do-it-yourself like a pro.

Abandon acrylics: Foregoing fake nails is a real money saver, but removing acrylics is tricky, time consuming and best left to a pro.

Reduce your manicure budget: every other manicure, get a polish change instead.

Picking polish: Essie,($8) Opi,($8.50) and Creative Nail Design,($6) cost twice as much as Maybelline, but these brands brush on smoother and stay on longer than others, which is why professional manicurists use them.

Color cues: light shades are most forgiving and the finish looks better, longer. With fashionable dark colors, smudges, sloppy application and chips are obvious.

Do it yourself:
1. Shape: With an emery board, file nails across the tips, in one direction. Only file sides or corners to smooth nicks.
2. Condition: Massage cuticle conditioner into cuticles and nail beds. Next, gently nudge cuticles down using a cotton swab or an orangewood stick. Wash and dry hands. Best bets: Creative Nail Solar Oil,(½ oz, $5.50), prevents cuticles and nails from becoming brittle and promotes healthy nail growth. Cheapie petroleum jelly also works well.
3. Color: Apply a ridge-filling base coat, so color has a flawless surface to adhere to. Follow with two coats of color, then clear top coat. To do, apply enamel up the center--from cuticle to nail tip--and then up each side of the nail; let dry a few minutes between coats and thirty minutes after top coat has been applied.
4. Maintain: Every few days, apply a fresh layer of top coat so your manicure lasts longer.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Stretch Your Beauty Dollar

Money Saving Suggestions of the Day:
Avoid excessive application of beauty and grooming products. People tend to apply more than they need, so adhere to these beauty rules:
Apply a dime-sized dose of:
Facial moisturizer
Use a quarter sized dose of:
Use an amount the size of a golf ball of:
Body moisturizer
Full body sunscreen
Shaving Cream

Conditioner Trumps Shampoo, Moisturizer Trumps Cleanser, and so on

Skimp on shampoo, spend on conditioner: any shampoo will clean your hair, it's what you use after that affects your hair's condition. For instance, try pairing a classic like Flex Shampoo, (15 oz, $2.69 at drugstore.com), with the highly rated Aveda Shampure Conditioner (8.5 oz, $9.50 at Aveda.com.)

Cheap cleanser, quality moisturizer: Facial cleanser gets washed away, moisturizer works all day. Pair the dermatologist recommended Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser (8 oz., $7.99 at Walgreens) with Allure Magazine's Best of Beauty Award winner: Neutrogena Healthy Defense Daily Moisturizer SPF 45, (1.7 oz, $12.39 at Target).

Check back for more trumps, tomorrow.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Spider Woman

The health fairy hasn't been kind to my cousin. 50 years old, she's been on oxygen and cortisone 24/7 for decades. She doesn't consider herself alluring, but what eyelashes! At a recent visit, I couldn't help noticing her lashes; they looked downright "spidery," they were so long and curly. "Awesome lashes," I told her, thinking she had on over-the-top false lashes, the kind worn by drag queens. "My doctor has me on eye drops for glaucoma," she explained. "Now my lashes are growing out of control; they squish into my eyeglasses." I asked if she'd heard that a side effect of glaucoma drops is lash growth. "My ophthalmologist never mentioned that, but knowing it now is a big relief," she said. I also told her how a few beauty companies had illegally used the drug in OTC lash growth products, until the FDA got wind of it. Tempted to ask if I could try her eye drops, instead I offered to trim her lashes for her; she refused to let me.

Although this seemingly miraculous lash growth is no longer attainable over-the- counter, Allergan (maker of Lumigan, the eye drops for glaucoma) just introduced Latisse, the first and only FDA approved prescription drug for growing longer, fuller lashes. In a clinical trial, lashes typically grew 25 percent longer, 106 percent thicker and 18 percent darker.

Parting ways with your lash curler and never fussing with mascara again is a convenient concept, but unless you already indulge in professional lash extensions or you wear mink eyelashes like Madonna does, the $120 price tag for a monthly dose of Latisse might seem extravagant. If so, plump your peepers the old fashioned way: In a recent review in Consumer Reports Shop Smart Magazine, Lancome Paris Definicils, $24, got the highest marks. The runner up: Max Factor Lash Perfection Volume Couture, $7. Honorable mentions include Maybelline Defin-A-Lash, $8 and L'Oreal Telescopic Clean Definition, $9.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

It's Crazy to Pay Retail These Days

One benefit to today's economy -- at least for consumers -- is big retail markdowns. These days it's crazy to pay full price for anything.
H & M is offering buy 3 items, get 50% off lowest price, with a coupon at www.hm.com/us.
Target has Isaac Mizrahi at 50% off, including cashmere sweaters starting at $12.49.
At Barney's annual warehouse sale, regular prices are cut 50-75% thru March 1. (255 West 17th Street, NY, NY)
Forever 21 features daily 21 specials -- 20% off 21 items -- in-store and on their website, forever21.com. Bigger bargains include a sleeveless satin top, $7.50.

Product Safety Savvy

Price doesn’t determine quality in beauty and personal care products. In fact, some pricey products are produced by tiny companies that lack the self-monitoring, quality control and product safety capabilities of big corporations. Turns out you may be better off with brands from giants like Revlon or P & G.

Truth is, with any cosmetic or personal care product, the FDA doesn't require cosmetic and personal care companies to test their own products for safety. "Under federal law, companies can put virtually anything into personal care products, and many of them do. Mercury, lead, and placenta extract —these and other hazardous materials are in products that millions of Americans, including children, use every day," says Jane Houlihan, Vice President of Research at EWG (Environmental Working Group).

EWG is petitioning Congress to turn this around and make personal care products safe. In the meantime, you can check products you use for safety at cosmeticsdatabase.com, a database with information on nearly 25,000 personal care products.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Dry Skin Rx: Less expensive moisturizing products deliver.

Dry, chapped skin is nearly epidemic this time of year, induced by winter's chill and indoor heating. Fortunately the solutions for smoothing and softening needn’t cost a bundle. In fact, products dermatologists recommend most are inexpensive and available in your local supermarket or chain drug store.

Cleanser: Cetaphil is a non-irritating moisturizing cleanser, recommended by dermatologists for sensitive skin, acne, rosacea, dermatitis, eczema and other conditions. This lotion is so gentle it’s safe for use on a newborn baby! It's also probably the world's least expensive makeup remover. Unlike soap, Cetaphil is non-comedogenic, and fragrance free (16 oz, apx. $11.50). Compare to Clinique Rinse-Off Foaming Cleanser (5 oz. apx. $18.50).

Rough skin smoother: What makes AmLactin® 12% Moisturizing Lotion a cure for rough heels, cracked skin, callouses, elephant-hide elbows and other skin conditions is a high concentration of lactic acid, an exfoliant that helps seal moisture into the skin. One reason Amlactin is so effective is its pH balance. The natural pH of the skin ranges between 4.5 to 5.5. "Detergents and cold, dry weather strip away this protective barrier; once it's breached, the skin cells pull away from each other, allowing moisture to escape and the result is flaky, sensitive, itching skin," says dermatologist Audrey Kunin. "Before the skin is broken, apply an active moisturizer containing lactic acid," she advises. Amlactin, 7.9 oz. apx. $17. Get a $2 off coupon at amlactin.com/coupon.lasso. Compare this product to B. Kamins Lactic 8, 1 oz. apx. $38.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Clean Out Your Closet For A Profit

Who wouldn’t love to update a wardrobe without spending a dime and help save the planet by recycling? To do, make money by selling or trading clothes and accessories you’re tired of at the Buffalo Exchange. Clothing and accessories are bought, sold and traded directly with store customers and you can bring in your former favorites for trade or cash on the spot. The ever-changing inventory includes designer wear, vintage, jeans, leather, basics, one-of-a-kind and brand new items. Visit www.buffaloexchange.com for locations nationwide, with the newest store in the East Village in NYC at 332 E. 11th Street, (212) 260-9340.

At Buffalo Exchange, now through Earth Day you can recycle your real fur apparel, accessories and shearling (even if it’s in poor condition) by donating it to Coats for Cubs, at Buffalo Exchange locations. Used furs provide bedding and comfort to orphaned and injured wildlife. To claim a tax deduction, mail your fur directly to Coats for Cubs, The Humane Society of the United States, 2100 L St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20037.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Check Store Websites Before Shopping in Real Time

Sometimes I feel like I'm the only one on the cashier line at Macy's who isn't holding a Savings Pass coupon (so I end up paying full price). Now you needn't rummage through the Sunday newspaper or hope a Savings Pass arrives in the mail, since many stores are offering printable Savings Passes on their websites. For example, for President's Week Sales, log onto macys.com to printout a Savings Pass for 10-15% off most purchases from 2/11 thru 2/16. Lordandtaylor.com's Savings Pass is even better: 20% off most purchases from 2/11 to 2/17.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Free Cultural Events, Free Workouts for Kids and Seniors

Now that the weather is warming up, consider free ways to get fit and cultured at cityparksfoundation.org in NYC ... or check your local parks department website to see what's free in your 'hood.

Free kids lessons: CityParks Golf offers free golf lessons to kids ages 6 to 17, in public parks and on citywide courses. Free use of equipment is available at all lessons.
Geezer workouts: City Parks Foundation CityParks Seniors Fitness offers free tennis lessons, yoga instruction, and fitness walking for people 60+ in nine parks across the city.
Cultural events: Last year City Parks Foundation offered 38 free concerts, 45 free dance performances, 24 nights of free theater, four weeks of free theater workshops for teens and five weekends of free dance master classes for communities across the city. Check their website for event listings for '09.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Best Beauty Appliance Buys

I've been writing for Consumer Reports Shop Smart, a magazine worth subscribing to if you are out to make the best buy on all your purchases.
Reason: Not only does it report on bargain buys (and items to avoid); products are tested/rated by consumers and the magazine uses the same experts and testing capabilities as Consumer Reports.
Blow dryers and flatirons are one beauty category you can spend a bundle on. In the January '09 issue, Shop Smart reports that despite difference in price and wattage, blow drying time doesn't vary much between the products they tested, and if speed is key, shelling out a lot doesn't pay.
Factoring in noise and other features, Revlon Ionic Ceramic Pro Stylist RV484, $20, is their pick as a bargain buy. If you want to make a smart spluge, consider the CHI Pro Dryer GF1505, $135.

Straightening Irons: Revlon Perfect Heat Ceramic RVST2001C, $30, is the best bargain buy. For a splurge, try Conair Infiniti Nano Silver SS9, $100.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Feel Rich When You’re Not ... You can still live it up: Half Price Drinks and/or Free Bar Food

If you won’t be dining at Ducasse (or anywhere else) anytime in the near future, you needn’t sit at home eating Chinese takeout. At the poshest places, happy hour is the new dinner. The holy grail of happy hours? Half price on drinks and bar food (and you needn’t patronize a dive/old man’s bar). Free hors d'oeuvres with your $14 martini is another wallet friendly option. Now, some upscale restaurants offer the best happy hours in town.

Chinatown Brasserie, in the East Village: this celebrity hot spot caters to the rich and famous, but their best-kept secret is half price dim sum and deep discounts on wine and specialty drinks, 5pm-7pm.

Alligator Lounge in Williamsburg, Brooklyn: after 6pm, buy a drink and get a free brick oven pizza.

Rock ‘n Sake (locations in Chelsea and in Port Washington): 5:30pm-7:30pm, Mon-Fri, a decent glass of Chardonnay is under $4; a large sake is $4 in Port Washington, $5 in Manhattan. Happy hour bar menu includes crab shumai, shrimp tempura, sushi rolls and sesame chicken for $3-$4.

The Big Easy, on the Upper East Side: Wednesday’s endless happy hour runs from 5pm- 4am, including $2 mixed drinks and $6 pitchers of Bud Lite.

Common Ground in the East Village: appetizers are two-for-one, apple martinis and cosmos are $5 and a Yuengling is $2, from 4pm-8 p.m.

Black Bear Lodge in Gramercy Park: $3 margaritas everyday until 7pm.

Sweetwaters in Hauppauge, Long Island: half price drinks and complimentary hors d'oeuvres, Mon.-Fri, 3:34pm-6:45pm.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

DIY Facial: Get Glowing

If having a pro massage, squeeze, peel and smooth your face for an hour is currently too pricey a luxury, flawless skin is a self-slough away. From Sephora to Stop & Shop, the market is saturated with at-home microdermabrasion products promising to beautify your complexion. Reasonably priced products like Olay Regenerist Microdermabrasion and Peel System, $27, get high marks from both consumers and experts ... and they make sense financially. Although it can't replace a medical or spa esthetician wielding high tech instruments, a DIY facial is a good deal, considering that a professional treatment starts at about $150.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Many clothes labeled "dry clean" wash beautifully

Cutting back on dry cleaning saves you a bundle, and many items labeled "dry clean" can be washed and air dried. Clothing manufacturers will recommend "dry clean" on a label if it’s the best way to care for the garment, but it also means that you can probably wash the item carefully at home. According to the Federal Trade Commission, many items including cashmere sweaters are mislabeled Dry Clean Only when in fact they may be washable.

I've put this to the test: For decades, except for lined wool or silk suits, coats or blazers labeled "dry clean only" I dry clean my family's new garments labeled "dry clean" the first few times they need cleaning; after that I hand wash or toss them in the washing machine with great results. (I wouldn't risk this with big ticket Gucci, Chanel or Prada originals; I'm referring to more moderately priced pieces that cost under $200). Consider this: Once you have spent nearly as much dry cleaning a garment as you paid to buy it, do you continue to invest in professional cleaning or take a risk by hand washing or machine washing it? From my experience, the risk pays off; even wool lined pants from Express and silk shirts from Ann Taylor launder beautifully on a cool gentle cycle, and wool and cashmere sweaters from Lord & Taylor that I hand wash still look like new.

Dry cleaning at home: home dry cleaning kits let you launder your delicates in a clothes dryer, and this way you avoid perc, the potentially dangerous chemical solvent used by a majority of commercial dry cleaners . Using Clorox FreshCare or P&G Dryer, you can clean 16 garments for about what you'd pay for one garment to be professionally dry cleaned.

Exception: Tackling a stained garment is best left to a professional dry cleaner.


Christabelle's Closet - a web based designer resale boutique, offers savings up to 80% off retail store prices on designer duds, from Chanel to Dior, Pucci to Prada, and many more. Portion of profits goes to The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research. christabellescloset.com

Monday, February 2, 2009

Free Reads: Swap, Download, e-Reads

Buying new books isn't budget savvy if there's a chance you might be reading a pink slip soon, but bargains abound:
Second hand: Gently used bestsellers in great condition are three for $12 at Artists & Fleas in Williamsburg.
Barter: At paperbackswap.com, trade what you’ve read for what you'd like to read, for the price of the postage. Over 35,000 trades take place at the site, which functions like a book club, with member participation.
Download: You can download eBooks and audio books for free through the NY Public Library at ebooks.nypl.org. HarperCollins is offering free electronic editions of some of its books (browseinside.harpercollins.com).
Wireless: Get on line for the Kindle by Amazon.com (proclaimed one of Oprah's "favorite things," it's back-ordered for months). The sharp, high-resolution screen looks and reads like real paper, and after you shell out $359 to buy the device, New York Times® Best Sellers and New Releases are $9.99, unless marked otherwise. You can also download and read first chapters for free before you decide to buy.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Free Comedy, Gym Passes, Half Off Beauty

Complimentary Comedy: Sign up for goldstar.com alerts for deep entertainment discounts including free tickets to comedy nights (such as Cannoli and Cabbage: Irish/Italian/Catholic Comedy Night at the Broadway Comedy Club). Great discounts on theater, sporting events and local tourist attractions.

Money saving makeup: Live in or near NYC? If so, you have access to major beauty markdowns (up to 50% off) at company stores in midtown Manhattan including Avon, Estee Lauder, Clinique, Bobbi Brown, Armani, Lancôme and Ralph Lauren. The catch: you must be chaperoned by a company employee (sort through facebook and LinkedIn to find friends or friends of friends who work there).

Free fitness: If you need to put your Equinox membership on hold and/or part ways with your personal trainer in an effort to cut costs, consider becoming a gym-hopper: Print out 1-3 day guest passes to hundreds of health clubs, Pilates and yoga studios at www.gymsearch.net and see how long you can continue to workout for free.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

People Style Watch Skin Conflict

February People Style Watch magazine has some great money saving fashion and beauty deals. Too bad the beauty feature, "Your Skin Problems Solved," promotes products put out by a few of the dermatologists listed in the "Expert Panel" for the feature. Is the advice in the reader's best interest or the dermatologists? What's your opinion?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Longing for a Gucci bag or Chanel bling?

Feel you currently can't afford luxuries? Rent them!

Netflix for bags and bling: Tote a Louis Vuitton Speedy and drape yourself in Chanel bling from bagborroworsteal.com.

An A-list stylist: Wardrobe NYC rents frocks from Zac Posen, Chloé, Stella McCartney and more. www.wardrobe-nyc.com

A genuine status watch: Rent a Rolex from blingyourself.com.

Free books: On PaperBackSwap.com, trade books for free.

A fresh batch of toys: www.babyplays.com lets you rent the impeccably clean toys for as long as you like, then return them for a new batch.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Haute Hair

Wish you could update your 'do with a superstar like Nick Arrojo, the hair maven on TLC's What Not To Wear? If the $500.00 fee is a deterrent, yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus: You can experience a Nick Arrojo cut or color for $68, by an experienced "base level" stylist, trained in his cutting/styling/makeover techniques. These stylists joined the salon with prior hairdressing experience and they have completed a two year apprenticeship. “Base level” stylists include Nicole, the second runner-up on Bravo's Shear Genius season 2. See bios of the base level stylists at http://www.arrojostudio.com/studio/featured/baselevelstylists.htm. A posh ‘do at this price sounds far fetched, considering other star-calibre NY Salons (including Warren Tricomi and Frederic Fekkai), charge $131 for cuts and $275 for highlights by junior stylists. Truth is, Julie, my budget/style savvy daughter (who, for the past year, got hair cuts and highlights for free as a hair model at Bumble & Bumble) discovered this Arrojo bargain and got gorgeous highlights for $68. She convinced me to join her for a haircut (we went to Rea) and the compliments have been coming ever since.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

There is Treasure in Your Jewelry Box

According to Money magazine, for real gold and other fine jewelry, you can get more than double what you would have gotten five years ago. Today gold is up, at around $850 per ounce.

I felt so bad when I noticed the diamond was missing from my engagement ring. The prongs that secured the stone had deteriorated, so even the 18K gold setting was unsalvageable. I added the ring to the other unusable items in my jewelry box ... several orphan gold earrings, a couple of knotted gold chains, some tarnished silver bracelets, and a gold and opal ring a long forgotten boyfriend gave me when I was 16 inscribed "Love, Richie".

As a freelance writer, I receive press releases from e-sites that buy gold. I googled the topic and I read a feature written by a reporter who sent her jewelry to several online sites that buy gold. The place that paid her the most was usgoldbuyers.com. But why ship my gold to a website address, when I have easy access to the famed 47th Street Jewelry District. Turns out, usgoldbuyers.com is based on 47th street, so I stuffed my tattered gold and silver in a ziplock bag and headed there. (My husband said selling jewelry seemed pathetic, but I wasn't pawning family heirlooms; my measly stash was basically junk).

When I arrived at 62 West 47th Street, the receptionist said: go in Room B and close the door. I found myself in a small enclosure with a plate glass window. A man appeared on the other side and directed me to slip my goods into the sliding drawer. He scraped and dabbed and weighed my jewelry, then he showed me a list with the current market prices and the pennyweights of my 18K gold, my 14K gold and my sterling silver. "$306.59, but we'll round it off to $307," he offered. "Ok," I replied, trying to hide my enthusiasm. "Cash or check?" he asked. I took the cash, stuffed it into a pocket, and left the building with a major smile. My skeptical husband was happy to help me spend my newfound funds.

Since the value of gold is extremely high, this is a great time for you to see what's hiding in your jewelry box. If you want more information, please contact me.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Excessive Sweating Ruining Your Life?

Excessive Sweating? - Smarter Beauty Blog

Are you a sweaty girl? Do you avoid overheated clubs and parties or make fashion fabric/style choices accordingly? Now you can put an end to pit stains with BOTOX injections, an FDA-approved treatment for excessive underarm sweating that might be covered by your health insurance.

Recently, I was invited to a press briefing where I watched NYC dermatologist Doris Day inject botox into a woman’s armpits (she said it was painless) and heard first-hand stories about how these Botox treatments dramatically improved their quality of life.

However if you’re looking for less invasive options, you'll find long lasting sweat-stoppage with an old standby: Mitchum Solid Antiperspirant. For more severe sweating, Dr. Day recommends CertainDri , an OTC antiperspirant that offers 72 Hour Protection, or Drysol, a prescription antiperspirant you wear at night and wash off in the morning.

Botox certainly seems to be a sweat-stopping breakthrough for perpetual perspirers … when conventional treatments aren’t effective. But NYC dermatologist Deborah Sarnoff cautions that if your problem is more body odor than sweat related, up your hygiene efforts (if your skin and clothing are bacteria free they won’t be so odor-breeding).

Are there any awesome sweat solutions you’d like to share? If so we’d I'd love to hear about them.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Best kept beauty secrets: Drug store skin care products are comparable to or better than Perricone, Murad, Clinique, etc

“My patients are disbelieving, when I tell them Olay’s Regenerist Night Serum measures up to the priciest dermatologist wrinkle fighters and it is as good as and has the same active ingredient as the much sought after StriVectin, at $135 a tube,” says Joely Kaufman, MD.

Does Doctor Know Best? Are dermatologist's products better?

Celebrity dermatologists such as Nicholas Perricone captivated a niche of women willing to spend hundreds on cosmeceuticals for the promise of eternally youthful skin. The latest physicians-turned-cosmetologist trend is mainstreaming doctor-brands by partnering with big companies that buy and sell in volume and keep retail prices low, so now inexpensive offerings are as close as the corner drugstore.

Great skin shouldn’t be a luxury. “That price determines quality is a beauty industry induced misconception, so my credo is Dermocracy, all skin created equal.” says Patricia Wexler, MD, New York’s most sought after beauty doc (Her $500 consultation requires a six month wait). Her skin care line, Patricia Wexler MD, is sold at Bath & Bodyworks.

In a similar fashion, Yale University dermatologist Jeffrey Dover teamed with CVS for his anti-aging line, Skin Effects by Dr. Jeffrey Dover. “CVS, the world’s largest drug chain, allows me access to the best ingredients, chemists and packaging that money can buy,” he says. “I could sell 1,000 bottles of wrinkle serum for $100@ at Sephora or 10,000 bottles of the same exact product for $10@ through CVS, and I prefer women pay less.”

Are dermatologist’s products better? “Dermatologists know what helps the skin and what doesn’t,” says Deborah Sarnoff, MD, Associate Clinical Professor, Department of Dermatology, NYU Medical Center. Yet if a skin care product really works miracles -- or at least does what a dermatologist can do with lasers and injectables – it would be classified as a drug and not a cosmetic. Like all “cosmeceuticals,” doctor’s products don't require FDA approval and needn't prove their claims, so there’s a lot of puffery in ads and on packaging.

So there’s no guarantee a doctor’s product is superior. “While some brands claim to use unique technology or stronger formulations, there is a ceiling on how much active ingredient you can add to any product without making it unappealing or irritating to the skin,” Dr. Sarnoff explains. “There are also only so many buzz word ingredients … antioxidants, hydroxy acids, enzymes, peptides -- and the latest and greatest are used in dermatologist and regular products today.

Joely Kaufman, MD, Director of the Aging and Geriatric Skin Center, University of Miami School of Medicine, agrees. “A dermatologist may not be able to offer more in a jar than popular brands like Neutrogena or Olay,” she says. Yet she notes exceptions such as Sheldon Pinnell, MD, of Duke University, founder of Skinceuticals: “He discovered that topical vitamin C, formulated as L-ascorbic acid, provides antioxidant protection against skin damage and aging from the sun, which is about the most you can expect from an OTC skin care product today,” she explains.

Dermatologists have a hard time competing with the technology behind giants like Neutrogena, Olay and Estee Lauder, with hundreds of experts at research facilities world wide. Since compounding a cosmeceutical from scratch is complex, many dermatologists sell an existing product with a personalized label, and a consumer can’t differentiate if the doctor actually formulated it.

Named or not, dermatologists help formulate just about every skin care line anyway, a protocol that originated in 1968, when NY dermatologist Norman Orentreich developed the Clinique brand for Estee Lauder.

“The consensus seems to be that you needn’t spend a bundle to get good skin care, unless you believe a product works better if it costs more,” says Dr. Kaufman. “People tend to think they’re getting more when they pay more, but much of the price tag of an expensive product is related to marketing and packaging, not to the actual contents,” she adds. “If you compare labels you’ll find products on the market with the exact same active ingredients, yet one sells for $20 and the other is $120.”

It’s human nature to put more trust in a brand that has a doctor’s credibility behind it. Bottom Line: If you have more faith in a dermatologist’s brand chances are you’ll use it more, and if price has been a deterrent in the past, the new mass market doctor-brands fill a niche.