Sol de Janeiro adds to its sweet-smelling success

If you’ve read my previous blogs, you know I have a serious crush on Sol de Janeiro’s Brazilian Bum Bum Cream. Hands down, it’s the best moisturizer I’ve ever used and the best smelling too. The company describes the scent as pistachio-based and that may be true, but it’s also tropical and sexy and simply to die for. Even better, it makes your skin soft, silky, supple and touchable.

Awhile back, the company added its Samba Foot Fetish Cream to the product lineup. I was disappointed that it didn’t feature my beloved Bum Bum Cream’s to-die-for scent, but it’s still a great product and the adorable surfboard-style buffer it’s packaged with is a winner.

Fast forward to Sol de Janeiro’s latest launch: Brazilian 4-Play Moisturizing Shower Cream Gel. I’m a “smells good” kind of gal, as my son James described me when he was younger. I’m not interested in generic, run-of-the-mill soap or shower gels. Give me something that leaves my skin clean and moisturized, but leaves both me and my bathroom smelling like a garden of earthly delights.

I’m happy to report that 4-Play is a winner all the way around: Rich lather? Check. Moisturized skin? Check. Great scent? Check, check, check. It smells just like Brazilian Bum Bum Cream. Call me a  velvety-skinned, deliciously scented happy camper.

Note to the team at Sol de Janeiro: I just placed an order for your Rainforest Relief lotion, but I need more, more, more! How about adding other products with your signature scent to the lineup? Bath oil beads? Moisturizing bath bombs? A facial moisturizer? Hair care products? Seriously, it’s the best. 

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Show your lips some love

Sometimes I think there are three distinct camps when it comes to lipstick:

  1. Those who never wear it.
  2. Those who stick to nudes and neutrals.
  3. Those who love it and will try just about any shade.

It pretty much goes without saying that I’m in the last category. I’ll wear anything from nude to red, but I draw the line at vampy, very dark wines and browns, as well as trendy blues, greens, grays and purples.

I haven’t always been a lipstick wearer. In fact, I rarely wore it until I reached my mid-30s, and for a couple of reasons. First, my own lips were deeply pigmented. And second, the waxy feel of lipsticks in the 70s and 80s made me uncomfortable — almost as if my lips were suffocating.  New formulations make today’s versions much more wearable.

As women age, the right lipstick can make their complexions come to life. But women who’ve never worn lipstick often initially feel foolish — almost as if a spotlight is shining on their lips and everyone’s staring. (Take my word for it, they’re not.)

For that reason, it’s best to start neutral and work your way up. Choose a shade that’s an amplified version of your natural lip color and progress from there. That way, catching a glimpse of yourself in a mirror won’t be such a shock.

Remember, too, to create a smooth canvas for your lipstick. Use an exfoliating scrub several times per week. I like Tarte’s Marajuca Lip Exfoliant. I also use a lip mask each day. Because lipstick is the final step in my makeup routine, I apply a softening, moisturizing mask first and let it do its job while I’m applying other products. My favorite is the Best Damn Lip Mask. 

Remember: There’s a lipstick (or two, or 20, or two dozen) for everyone. You just have to get comfortable with a “your lips but better” shade and move forward from there.

An unexpected foundation flop 


I tried the new, affordably priced ($25 for .32 ounces) Anastasia Beverly Hills Stick Foundation today. My skin looks pretty swell in the photo above, so you probably think I loved it, right? Wrong. Very wrong.

I usually have good luck with ABH products, but the foundation is dry, patchy and nowhere near the medium-to-full coverage formula promised.  I applied two layers and my flaws were still apparent. A top-off layer of Hourglass Vanish Seamless Foundation Stick saved the day. The Houglass is a nice foundation indeed, but it’s unfortunately priced at $46 for .25 ounces.

The bottom line is that my skin looks great in today’s pic — but photos can be deceiving. Three layers of foundation is really too much in everyday life. By the way, I just checked the reviews on Sephora and I’m not alone in my assessment of the ABH foundation. Try it at your own risk. Or at least keep your receipt! — Ronda

Ch-ch-ch-changes. The power of working out

Losing weight differently through exercise

If you’ve been following my journey to a healthier lifestyle, you know that I’ve made many changes this year. Here’s the basic roadmap:

  • I started watching what I ate in early February. Frankly, I was tired of feeling lumpy, uncomfortable and unattractive. At first, I simply employed portion control combined with self control. The pounds started to fall away.
  • In May, I decided it was time to start working out, something I’d avoided for many years. To be honest, I hate feeling hot and sweaty. Still, I knew it was time to get moving. My husband and I celebrated our anniversary in June and he was shocked when my gift request was a treadmill. I started slowly: 1.5 miles at 2 miles per hour. Today, I do between 3 and 4 miles at 3.2 to 3.5 miles per hour at a slight incline. For some people, that’s weak. It works for me.
  • In July, it was time to formally start tracking my exercise and healthy-eating efforts. I purchased a Misfit Shine 2 to count my steps and began using the Lose It! app to track nutrition and calories. I also started taking two adult dance classes per week: ballet/stretch and tap. For me, dance is a fun way to get exercise.
  • Last week, I decided it was time to work on my arms and core. I began using the Smart Wonder Core, a compact gadget that has two foam-covered tension bars. Depending upon how it’s positioned, it is used to create resistance for arm exercises, leg exercises, sit ups and more. I also began using the Simply Fit Board, a skateboard-type item with a rounded bottom. Basically, you balance yourself on the board and it twists back and forth as you twist from the waist. (I usually hop on the board during television commercials. I also twisted to the performances during last night’s Video Music Awards.) My goal is strengthening my abdominal muscles and whittling my waist.

I’ve dieted and lost weight before, but I always did it without exercise. This time, I realized that I would never get the ass I want while sitting on it! Two things have happened:

1. I’ve started to actually enjoy my workouts. I feel better physically and mentally when I don’t skip them.  They’ve become a habit.

2. I’m losing weight differently. I’ve always been pear-shaped and unable to wear certain styles of clothing. For example, the column dress in the photo accompanying this blog would have been disastrous on my body just a few months ago, because my top and bottom halves were disproportionate. By getting up and moving my body, I’m losing inches more uniformly.

As of this morning, I’d lost 57 pounds. My original goal was 65 pounds. However, after assessing my body and mental determination, I’ve decided to go for 23 more, for a total of 80 pounds. At that point, I’ll decide whether it’s time to switch to a maintenance plan or lose a bit more.

If you’re thinking about making a lifestyle change, go for it. If I can lose weigh with diet and exercise, you can too. I believe the key is getting yourself into a certain hell-for-leather mindset. I’ve tried and failed to lose weight before, but when I look back I realize I didn’t have the steely, determined attitude needed for the long haul. The right attitude will get you where you want to go. – Ronda

A beauty mask for baby-soft skin

When I walk into Sephora or Ulta, I’m immediately drawn to the makeup aisles. Let’s face it, color products are exciting and alluring. The products on the skin-care side, not so much. Put it this way: If beauty products were lingerie, the makeup aisles would be stocked with sexy bustiers, corsets and push-up bras. The skin-care aisles would be devoted to basics like support bras, cotton panties and shapewear.

Despite the siren call of makeup, my basket usually ends up holding more shapewear than than bustiers. That’s because shapewear provides a great foundation — both in the fashion world and the cosmetics world, where good skin is the foundation that maximizes makeup’s performance.

I always say that if your finances force you to choose between high-end makeup and skin-care products, choose the skin-care products. There are plenty of cosmetic companies that provide great-quality makeup for low prices: Maybelline, Revlon, L’Oreal, NYX and Makeup Revolution, just to name a few. And, yes, there are some good skin-care products in the drugstore aisles, but I’ve had better luck with entries from Dr. Brandt, Chantecaille, Nude Skincare and Sunday Riley, to name a few.

My latest find is perhaps the best beauty mask I’ve ever tried. Yes, it’s on the relatively expensive side at $70 per tube, but it’s worth every penny. It’s Charlotte Tilbury’s Goddess Skin Clay Mask and it is spectacular.

You might hear the words “clay” and “skin mask” and assume this product would be drying. Rest assured, it’s anything but. It leaves my skin feeling nourished, moisturized and baby-smooth. And although no product will eliminate pores, it tightens and minimizes them.

And then there’s the scent. There’s only one way to describe it, and that’s “heavenly.” To me, it smells like I’ve buried my nose in a bouquet of gardenias, but the product description says it contains frangipani. Either way, it smells heady and extravagant.

If you’re looking for a mask that leaves your skin glowing, smooth and clear, give Charlotte Tilbury’s Goddess Skin Clay Mask a try. I could get addicted to this one!

Truth or dare: Answering your questions

L’Oreal Color Riche Lipstick in Wisteria Rose

As I get older, I’m both more and less forthcoming. I’ve learned that some things are better left unsaid, while some that were formerly too humiliating to talk about I now share freely. I’ve been getting a lot of questions from people who follow me on Instagram and I thought I’d answer them here. Some are about makeup, others are about my weight loss, and still more touch on personal topics. Here we go:

Q. If you could look like any woman in history, dead or alive, who would it be?

A. At one time, I would have said Grace Kelly because she was true perfection. Now I’d choose someone else — someone sultrier and sexier. That’s because I’ve never considered my appearance sexy. Everything about me screams “girl next door” and always has. And although I love makeup, I have one of those faces that looks silly in a large wing or dramatically smoked-out eyes. For these reasons, I’d choose to see what it would be like to ooze sex appeal, like Ava Gardner or Elizabeth Taylor.

Q. If you were going out for the evening and could take only one makeup item, what would it be?

A. I used to say mascara, but I finally found a mascara that doesn’t disappear on me in Benefit’s They’re Real. I’d go with concealer because I detest dark under eyes and they always eventually peep out, no matter what I do.

Q. What was your most disappointing makeup purchase?

A. Recently it was two mascaras — the new Charlotte Tilbury and Marc Jacobs ones. They smeared and had no staying power on me, although I’m a big fan of both brands. My most expensive mistake was the Temptu Airbrush System.  You have to wear the foundation that comes in their pods and it wasn’t for me.

Q. Do you have a favorite foundation?

A. I always seem to go back to Koh Gen Do’s Aqua Foundation. It gives me a nice, natural, realistic glow. I’m currently trying out the new Urban Decay All Nighter Foundation and the Hourglass Vanish Seamless Foundation Stick. So far, I prefer the better staying power of the Urban Decay. I’m always looking for the latest, greatest foundation. I can make my foundation look almost perfect, but it only lasts for a few hours. Two recent foundations that didn’t work for me? Charlotte Tilbury’s Magic Foundation and Too Faced Born This Way.

Q. What’s your favorite lipstick?

A. I have several: L’Oreal Color Riche Lipstick in Wisteria Rose, Marc Jacobs’ Le Marc Lip Cream in Clara and Melted Strawberry by Too Faced. They’re all fairly bright and I prefer brights with my skin tone. (My favorite non-bright is Tom Ford’s Spanish Pink.)

Q. Have you had a nose job and, if so, who was your doctor?

A. This is a surprising one that I’ve received several times. No, no nose job. It’s my original nose.

Q. How much weight have you lost? How did you do it?

A. I’ve lost 54 pounds and think I’ll switch to maintenance after another 30. I did not have weight-loss surgery, but would have if my insurance company covered it. I eat healthfully and never go over 1,200 calories per day. I walk 3-4 miles daily on a treadmill and take adult dance classes twice weekly. I also use two products by Hum Nutrition: Flatter Me, which reduces bloating, and Skinny Bird, which purports to reduce stress eating, boost metabolism, curb appetite and control blood sugar. Since losing weight, I no longer have high blood pressure or diabetes.

Q. What does your husband say about your weight loss?

A. Honestly? He doesn’t mention it often, other than to say I look nice. He’s not particularly effusive and never has been. He has mentioned several times that he’d love me at any weight, which is incredibly sweet.

Q. How is your son?

A. My son, James, was involved in a serious head-on collision a month ago. He was in a coma for awhile and there was concern about brain trauma, but we were fortunate. He does have numerous contusions and cuts, as well as broken ribs on both sides. He is healing well, but is in lots of pain. He has been a difficult patient because he suffers from severe anxiety and depression. We will get through it all together.

Q. What makeup trend do you dislike?

A. Instabrows — the large, overdone brows that have been in for awhile. This is partially because I’m a little sensitive about my own brows. I don’t have any, because they didn’t grow back after I had chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer. I have tattoos and it looks ridiculous if I try to draw in bigger brows on top of them. I’m also not huge on a lot of highlighter. I just don’t think it’s particularly flattering on older skin. I try to use it judiciously.

Q. Are there any new products you’d like to try?

A. The new Anastasia Beverly Hills Stick Foundation. And some of the new Charlotte Tilbury lipsticks. Her mascara and foundation didn’t work for me, but her lipsticks are spectacular, as are her eye products and blushes.

Q. You’ve added quotes and poems to your Instagram page. Do you have a favorite?

A. I’ve gotten incredibly good feedback — and a lot of new subscribers — since adding quotes and outfit of the day photos. I try to choose quotes and poems a lot of people identify with, and most of us have either been in love or been hurt in love. I also like inspirational quotes, as well as sharing the poems of talented Instagrammers. Here are a couple items that got great response, followed by my favorite. I hope they inspire you. 

Update: Morning and evening skin-care routines

I’ve been getting a large number of questions about my skin-care routine, so I thought I’d provide a visual look at my a.m. and p.m. regimens. It looks like a lot of steps, but I can complete them in five minutes or under when I’m pressed for time. When possible, though, I dawdle a bit because doing so makes me feel like I’m indulging myself.

The important thing to know is the products that work for me might not work for you. For reference, I have normal skin — neither particularly oily nor dry — that is aging. If you decide to purchase any of the products I’m using, be sure to check your store’s return policy. For example, Sephora and Ulta have generous, no-questions-asked policies.

I want to mention that I’ve been using Nerium’s Age-Defying Night Cream for about a month and am pleased with the results. For one thing, it reduced the number of tiny milia I have beneath my eyes and also shrank the small amount of sebaceous hyperplasia bumps deep beneath my skin. (Note: I don’t sell Nerium products. My friend Helen is a Nerium representative and sent me a bottle to try. I can put you in touch with her if you’re interested, but be assured there’s no financial benefit to me if you decide to try them.)

It’s also worth noting that I use a couple of cleansing tools — the Foreo Luna Mini in the morning and the Bare Minerals Skinsorials Double Cleansing Brush at night. Also, the products are pictured in the order in which I use them.

Curls, curls, curls: A step-by-step guide

From short and straight to longer and curly

Hair is a peculiar thing. We’re never happy with what we have. It’s too thin or too thick, too straight or too curly. Too wavy or not wavy enough. Some of us never come to terms with our hair, while others find workable solutions. It took me almost 50 years — half a century — to realize that I actually love my natural hair, which I’d describe as on the curly side of wavy.

My issues with hair started with my mother. She was forever fussing with my hair and I was the unlucky recipient of several misbegotten home perms. In fact, Mom administered one on the eve of second-grade school photo day. Let’s just say that very few of the resulting pictures survived and I refused to participate in the annual rite of photo-swapping with my classmates. Even in second grade, I was appalled.

You’d think I’d have learned my lesson, but I’m hard-headed. Instead of trying and failing once,  I’ll try something six or seven times just to make sure it doesn’t work. This led to a frizzy mess my freshman year of high school and a disastrous attempt at bouncy curls in college. After that, perming techniques improved and I spent part of the 80s with a half-perm many of my friends copied but that in retrospect was absolutely hideous.

Here’s the way my hair works: When it’s short, I can train it to dry straight with the help of a vented brush and a blow dryer. Let it grow just a bit, though, and the waves start to take over. I kept my hair short for years because I just couldn’t cope with the unkempt, unpolished growing-out stage. Then, a first: A new hairstylist asked if I’d ever tried “scrunching.” And lo, a miracle transpired. Those perms? Not needed. All that was required to take my hair from annoyingly wavy to cutely curly was a can of mousse, some styling products and hands to perform the scrunch. How does the scrunch work? Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  • First, wash your hair with products specially designed to enhance curls, not weigh them down. I sometimes use Bumble & Bumble’s “Surf” products, but when I want curlier curls I stick to products by DevaCurl. In particular, I use the company’s “Decadence” line, which includes a no-poo shampoo and weightless conditioner.
  • When you step out of the shower and grab a towel, make sure you don’t break up the curls or create frizz by rubbing the towel through your hair. Instead, blot and squeeze your hair through the towel to remove the bulk of the moisture.
  • Never comb through your hair, either with a comb or your fingers. Doing so will separate the natural waves or ringlets that have started to form. Instead, spray your damp hair with Frizz Ease Beyond Smooth Primer, then use your hands to “scrunch” sections of hair up toward your scalp.
  • It’s time for mousse. Any brand will do but I prefer either Aussie Sprunch Mousse or DevaCurl’s Frizz-Free Volumizing Foam. Again, scrunch your hair with your hands, pushing it up toward your scalp.
  • If your hair needs coaxing to curl, there are quite a few styling products you can add to damp hair before drying. I sometimes use DevaCurl’s Coconut Curl Styler or Briogeo’s Curl Charisma Defining Cream.
  • At this point, you have a choice, and you should try all three to see what works best for you: Either dry your hair immediately with a scrunching motion and a diffuser, let it dry naturally, or let it get almost dry before using the scrunching-with-diffuser method. I prefer the latter because my curls seem to set better while drying naturally, while finishing up with the blow dryer gives them bounce and life. I use the Curly Pop dryer/diffuser that’s made by Bed Head. Again, don’t brush or comb your hair: Doing so will either pull out the curl or leave your hair frizzy.

Voila! Easy, sexy, bouncy curls that last all day and through the night.

The (s)ex files: weight loss and body image


As almost anyone who’s overweight will tell you, feeling fat often puts the brakes on sex. It’s a body image thing: You don’t feel sexy and that affects your behavior in the bedroom (or the kitchen, or the shower, or …. let your imagination run wild). Oh, sure, there are some super-confident women who embrace their curves and feel sexy at any size, but for most of us it’s an issue.

As some readers of my blog already know, I embarked on a lifestyle change in February. Through a combination of healthy eating and exercise, I’ve been able to lose 48 pounds and want to lose about 30 more. I realize that’s a lot of weight, but in the scheme of things it’s not an incredible amount: I read stories almost every day about women who’ve lost two or three times as much.

Still, the nearly 50 pounds I’ve lost has had positive effects, both physically and mentally. Physically, I’m more comfortable than I’ve been in years. Why? Because in the past, I’ve lost weight with diet alone. This time, I added exercise to the effort. I walk three to five miles on a treadmill five days per week. Last night, I set the speed at 3.5 miles per hour and put in four miles. Now that might not impress some people, but consider that I was a non-exerciser. At first, 1.5 miles at two miles per hour was an effort. Now that seems like a cakewalk.

There’s another element to my exercise routine: Two nights per week, I take an adult dance class. On Tuesdays, it’s a ballet barre/stretch class. On Wednesdays, it’s tap — sometimes one class, sometimes two. I took 17 years of ballet and tap when I was young and love to dance, so the classes are a treat. Ballet and stretching elongate the muscles, while tap strengthens my leg muscles and my mind, the latter because of the long and intricate combinations of steps we learn on the spot.

The weight loss, dance classes and treadmill hours have transformed my body. I’m fortunate –some people who lose weight, particularly at my age — replace their concerns about fat with concerns about loose skin. I don’t have that issue; my skin has reacted well and seems to have retained much of its elasticity. Of course, I’m keeping it moisturized with bath and post-bath products that help.

Though my weight loss journey isn’t over, I feel stronger, more flexible and more sinuous. I move more easily. My body is less cumbersome, less clumsy. It’s easier to bend, flex, contort. And when I run my hands down my body, there’s a new sleekness.

That leads me to the sex part: I feel good. My body feels good. My skin — rid of sugar, preservatives and other toxins — is soft, smooth and glowing. I can feel my ribs, my pelvic bones, the muscles beneath my skin. I’m a breast cancer survivor who had double mastectomies with reconstructive surgery. When I gained weight, my stomach got bigger but my breasts didn’t. It gave me an odd, pregnant-looking profile. Frankly, my breasts look great with my flat stomach (thank you, Dr. Alfredo Villarreal Rios).

All of these things combine to make me more aware of my body, in a positive way. The new physical me has affected the mental me. Result: I feel sexy. I’m good with the way I look naked, and that’s something I haven’t experienced in years. A heightened sense of my own desirability and confidence in my sexuality are welcome side effects of weight loss I didn’t anticipate. I’m not saying that every woman who’s overweight should lose pounds to feel sexual — as I said, heavier women who feel hot can be incredibly sexy. But for me, losing the equivalent of two toddlers has done wonders for my sexual confidence and desire.

A little random: Beauty finds and a flop

What do the items in the photo above have in common? They’re impulse buys — products I just happened upon when out shopping and decided to give a try. For the most part, these purchases were serendipitous and I’d actually buy them again. Mixed among them, though, are one bust and a fence-sitter. Let’s sort the wheat from the chaff, going clockwise from the candle:

  • I always find the neatest little items when I pop into Nadeau’s, which is a very cool store featuring (mostly) hand-crafted wooden furniture at great prices. I have several large pieces from Nadeau in my home and each has a cool, quirky vibe. In addition to furniture, Nadeau has interesting little decorative items, like the candleholder pictured. I love the contrast of its white lattice exterior with its vibrant orange interior. Inside is a deliciously scented candle I purchased at Marshalls. It smells like pomegranate and sweet pea and is very relaxing. I picked up several scents at $2.99 each, including honey, which is my favorite.
  • The tall, hot-pink cylinder is an Oggi stainless steel water bottle I discovered at Marshalls. I love the fact that its contents stay cold for 24 hours without refrigeration. That’s really helpful when you’re committed to drinking a lot of water and you don’t like it lukewarm.
  • I’d never tried the Hempz brand until I picked up the Sweet Pineapple and Honey Melon cream body wash. I love having clean, moisturized skin and also want to smell lovely. When he was about 8, my son told me I always smelled like a “delicious dessert.” High praise from a third-grader!
  • Here’s the surprising bust: Pacifica Coconut Micellar Water Cleansing Tonic. It smells coconutty and Pacifica’s products are usually nice, but here’s the problem: It doesn’t perform. I double wash nightly, first using a micellar water to remove surface makeup and dirt, including my eye makeup, and next with a moisturizing cleansing balm.  I usually use Bioderma’s micellar water, which takes off my mascara and liner with no problem. Not so with Pacifica’s version.
  • Sjal Energy Tonic is a refreshing spray that provides moisture as needed and can also be used to set or refresh makeup. I use it as part of my skin care routine, after acid toning and before applying my serum. This lovely, rose-scented spray is infused with minerals: gold, silver and rose quartz.
  • Skyn Iceland Glacial Face Wash is a staple of my morning shower routine. It has done wonders by eliminating the tiny, under-the-skin whiteheads that plagued my chin when I was stressed. It’s choc-a-block full of good stuff. According to the Sjal website, it “removes impurities from your skin with oat and amino acid-based surfactants. White willow bark purifies pores and soothes irritation to prevent breakouts while revitalizing Icelandic kelp detoxifies and cools inflammation. Cylindrica seed oil repairs the lipid barrier to prevent dryness and neutralizes free radicals.”
  • Here’s the product I’m on the fence about: Korres Golden Crocus Ageless Saffron Elixer Serum.  It purports to use”the antioxidant power of one-day fresh Greek saffron to universally correct all visible signs of aging.” Well, OK. But at nearly $100, I was expecting more transformational results. May Coop’s Raw Sauce is similar in performance, but it uses maple tree sap to impart a healthy glow. It’s just $48.
  • As I’ve mentioned, I love bath and skin products that make my skin beautiful to touch and smell. I love Lush bath bombs, but they’re pricey and there’s no Lush store nearby. I’ve used a few bath fizzies by Fizz and Bubble from Ulta. They come in a variety of scents for $6 each. I plan to try the rainbow sherbet tomorrow.