by Rebecca Taras | May 29, 2019 | Beauty, Beauty Products, Cosmetics, Duty Free, Flying, Makeup, Skin Care, Skincare, Traveling with Style
Truth: I get pretty excited about the beverage service cart on an airplane — even the food cart despite the fact that I actually rarely eat the meal (I am big into packing healthy goodies and not-so into overly cooked pasta and mystery meat.) But one rolling in-flight feature I could never get on board with is the duty free boutique. I think I can count on one hand the times I actually saw someone purchase something. Seriously, who buys that stuff? Well, on my Aer Lingus flight from Paris to Dublin, I was the sucker who raised my hand when the stewardesses quietly repeated “gifts, cosmetics, fragrance…”
Even worse, I strategically planned what I was going to purchase before they even made it halfway down the aisle. The good news is that I got a lot of loot for a little under 130 euros. The bad news is that not everything was on-point—my decision-making must have been influenced by my Bloody Mary. Whether you have a weak shopping moment in the friendly skies, the department store, or online, here are the products that I think are worth the splurge (and which you should skip.) Editor’s note: the prices listed are what I paid Duty Free and the exact same kits may not be available online or in stores.
Photo courtesy of Clinique
I wasn’t one of those teens who learned the importance of a skin care routine via Clinique’s famed three-step system. In fact, I think the only time I purchased anything was when it was Bonus Week back in my high school years (Black Honey lipstick forever!). As an avid traveler, I’m constantly battling a dehydrated complexion, so I am naturally drawn to any product that promises a serious moisture surge. For €32, I thought the box would be comprised of all travel sizes, but much to my surprise, there was a generously sized (75 ml) Moisture Surge and 15 ml All About Eyes Serum. The Moisture Surge Spray came in at 30 ml. It’s convenient for in-flight misting and the active aloe in the formula kept my skin from feeling tight. The moisturizer promises 72 hours of continuous hydration and while that’s really difficult to judge because I religiously slather on product morning and night, I can say that it instantaneously gave my skin a wonderful dewy glow—yet I was still able to wear makeup without it sliding off. I particularly enjoyed the cooling sensation upon contact (especially in-flight) and the addition of caffeine helped fade signs of fatigue associated with jet-lag. Verdict: I’d definitely repurchase any of the products in this kit, if not the entire kit itself amidst another weak in-flight moment.
Photo courtesy of Nip + Fab
I really wanted to love this one, but the “universally flattering shades” (nude, petal pink, and mauve) made me look more tired than I actually was, so I prefer to stick with my go-to red lippie. I even tried their suggestion for layering…nope. This is not to say these hues wouldn’t look great on someone with a different skin tone or hair color—the formula is really nice; non-sticky and long-lasting. I DID love the espresso lip liner because it was easy to create great definition and it helped my own lipstick stay put for hours. Verdict: As someone who handles copy for top beauty brands, I give this brand props for the product description as it reeled me in hook, line, and sinker. However, it’s not a repurchase for me as the hues made me look like I had the blues.
Photo courtesy of Alpha-H
Mechanical exfoliants (scrubs) and gommages rarely remove all of my dead skin cells, so I like something with more of a punch. I was under the impression that this product was going to be more of a viscous consistency because it’s described as an “acid toner, exfoliator, serum, and moisturizer in one.” Well, it’s a straight-up liquid comprised of 5 percent glycolic acid, licorice extract, and silk proteins. I tried the product on its own by found it too drying—anything but moisturizing—so I followed up with a serum and moisturizer as suggested. It did, however, dissolve the dead skin cells on my forehead after just one use. This is definitely a product that requires a patch test before starting as it’s quite strong and could potentially overly stimulate sensitive skin. With long-term use, the product promises to reduce wrinkle depth and skin roughness while boosting moisture levels. I am only using it about two times a week for now until my skin gets used to the level of acid. Verdict: I had to pull back on this one because I went through an uncomfortable bout of eczema, but I’ll give it another try as it’s recognized as a “cult favorite” and beauty award winner.
Photo courtesy of Tan-Luxe
I am not a sun bunny and while that’s helped me hold onto somewhat of a smooth and even complexion (the sun breaks down the collagen in the skin) at 40 years of age, there are periods throughout the year where my skin looks downright pasty. I used to spritz on an aerosol self-tanner, but along with color, I would gain dryness and occasionally, breakouts. These self-tan drops alleviate all of those concerns because the product hydrates while delivering a natural looking tanned face and neck. Simply mix 2-12 drops with your serum or moisturizer (depending on how deep of a tan you want to achieve) and apply as usual. The color gradually fades evenly, just like a summer tan. Verdict: I will 100 percent repurchase this product. It’s without a doubt the best face self-tanner I’ve ever tried. The results are natural and my skin is left soft and supple. What’s not to like?
Photo courtesy of Instant Effects
I was lured into this product (and its pout plumping sister) due to the fact that it touted a “Best Beauty” honor. That and the fact that flying, a good French Bordeaux, and erratic sleeping patterns aren’t doing my peepers any favors. This product says it’s been “proven” to reduce under eye circles and puffiness within 15 minutes of application. I can’t say I noticed any real dramatic change. Perhaps for me, the results will be more progressive—clinical trials have shown an improvement in skin elasticity and a reduction of fine wrinkles after six weeks. Verdict: This one is a pass for me. I’ve seen more instantaneous results with Obagi’s ELASTIderm Eye Cream.
Photo courtesy of Instant Effects
While I did achieve an immediate plumping effect and improved hydration level, the effects definitely didn’t last four days. It’s a nice little pucker pick-me-up, however. Verdict: I will most likely not repurchase this product as plumpers of any kind tend to dry out my lips, thus eventually leading to a counterproductive result.
Did you ever purchase in-flight beauty products? Which ones did you love?
by Rebecca Taras | Feb 27, 2019 | Hotels, Luxury, Luxury Hotels, Spa Resorts, Travel, Traveling with Style
I recently became a contributor for TripExpert, a really cool resource for getting unbiased reviews from experts. I’ll be contributing pieces on Paris (and France in general), as well as other wonderful destinations around the globe. Here’s an excerpt from my piece on hotel openings to watch in 2019.
Checking into a newly-opened hotel is a lot like moving into a new home. The paint is fresh, the sheets are crisp, the bed still has a bounce, you can see your face in the pristine tiled bathroom, and the space has a true fresh aroma. But unlike one’s residence, there’s an attentive staff to take your luggage, prepare top-notch cuisine, and book those practically unattainable theater tickets. It is for these reasons — and more — that staying in a hotel is always a memorable experience. While you may have your favorites, here are some up-and-comers opening their doors in 2019. Get ready to pack your bags. Read the entire story on TripExpert.
by Rebecca Taras | Feb 27, 2019 | Beauty, Hamam, Istanbul, Rebecca's stories, Spa Resorts, Spa Retreats, Spa Treatments, Spas, Travel, Traveling with Style, Turkey
If you’ve ever been to a fancy hotel or destination spa, then you’ve probably experienced some sort of treatment incorporating traditions and ingredients from a faraway land. Whether it was a Thai massage, Chinese acupressure, or an Indian Shirodhara ritual, it probably wasn’t too hard to feel temporarily transported to another destination—even if just for an hour. While I’ll never stop my endless quest for finding the most authentic and results-driven global services that delight the senses as well as the mind, I was almost about to call off the dogs after my recent experience at an authentic Turkish hammam (a.k.a. hamam) in Istanbul.
Dating back to 1556, the Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Hamam (located between the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque) is one of Istanbul’s most stunning representations of the time-honored Turkish bath culture. The historical structure was designed and built by Mimar Sinan, the chief Ottoman architect, upon the requisition of Hurrem Sultan (Roxelana), the wife of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in the 16th century (1556-1557 AD). Its location is particularly significant, as it was erected where the ancient public baths of Zeuxippus (100-200 AD) used to stand, which also happens to be where the Temple of Zeus once stood.
The Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Hamam was built in the classical period Ottoman bath style, yet it was an innovation in Turkish bath architecture because it was designed to have the sections for men and women constructed on the same axis as mirror images of each other. My journey began on a beautiful fall evening in Istanbul—which was much needed considering I had just completed a two train, plane and cab journey from Lake Como, Italy, starting at the ripe hour of 4:30 a.m.
There are a variety of individual services and packages to choose from, but having never experienced a hammam, I went for one of the more robust options, which only set me back about $100 for 90-minutes of bliss. Despite being there in off-season, note that you still have to make advanced reservations—though I only made mine the day before and was granted my preferred time slot.
From the moment I walked into the hammam, I knew I was in for something special. My first impressions were: It was as clean as a whistle, the architecture was even more drop-dead gorgeous in person than on the photos I saw online, it smelled like an exotic Garden of Eden, and the traditional Turkish music that was playing softly in the background was the perfect catalyst for transporting visitors into another time and place—including yours truly.
I was escorted to a small changing area where I was given disposable panties and a very small towel (the traditional bath wrap called a pestamal) to cover myself with—let’s just say that it didn’t quite cover everything. I was then taken to the main room of the bath house where all the magic happens. My therapist instructed me to drop my towel, which was a new experience for an American who has worked in spas where proper draping was non-negotiable. I quickly scanned the room and noticed that women of all shapes and sizes were sporting their birthday suits without any inhibitions, so I let that terrycloth hit the floor and got ready to hammam like a pro.
The therapist left me on a heated marble step near a gold faucet/marble basin, where I was instructed to ladle warm water over my hair and body with the use of a beautiful, gold-plated ottoman bath bowl. Next, we moved to the nucleus of the room—a heated, octagonal slab of marble—where I laid on my back while my therapist gave me a traditional body scrub and relaxing bubble wash scented with essential oil of Melissa, which smells very similar to lemongrass. After I turned over and the process was repeated, I moved to yet another “station” where my hair was washed and conditioned with Judas tree essential oil-infused products.
The next step left my skin as smooth as silk for days—even after showering a few times. My therapist slipped a traditional olive oil bar of soap (again, scented with Melissa E.O.) into a dampened bath glove and vigorously rubbed every extremity of my body in an effort to give my skin a thorough exfoliation. Next, I was rinsed and wrapped in a large towel and escorted to the main relaxation area, where I was served water, Turkish Delight and a local beverage called Ottoman sharbat, a cold beverage made from fruits, spices and flower petals.
After a few moments of of becoming entranced by the hypnotic music in my relaxed state, I was escorted up three flights of stairs to a private room for a Judas tree essential oil aromatherapy massage. The top floor rooms aren’t covered, so I was able to take in the glow of the dreamy blue light that filled the beautiful domed ceiling of the hammam itself.
My hammam tips and takeaways:
- Get over being body conscious. Trust me when I say nobody is looking at you, and an experience like this is more about wellness than vanity. Refreshing, right?
- Take the time to really soak in your surroundings. Chills ran down my spine when I thought of how many people enjoyed this amazing ritual in the exact same spot over the past 400-plus years.
- Go for one of the larger packages of services. You can receive a full hammam experience in less than it costs for one service at a traditional spa or resort; it’s completely worth it!
- You’re going to love how you feel and smell when you leave, so take note of how silky smooth your hair and skin feels afterwards. As mentioned earlier, I still felt the results even after taking several showers. What won’t last, however, is the delectable aroma of essential oils that envelops your hair and skin from top-to-bottom.
- Each guest receives their own “hammam kit,” which includes everything you need for your entire journey, so it’s extremely sanitary. You even get to take home body lotion, olive oil soap, your bath mitt and sandals. A perfect souvenir until you can make it back to paradise.