I'VE had my nails Shellac'ed, my hair blown out and my lashes extended.
I've been primped, polished and pampered like a Hollywood celebrity. Only, my nails chipped before my tresses were tended and my bouncy new 'do flopped before my lashes were lengthened.
Such is the life of a fashion editor - invited to try out the latest beauty services and showered with hair and cosmetics product samples, but forever challenged to keep it up.
I'm a working gal who gets the inside scoop on the beauty secrets of a glamour girl. But unlike Kim Kardashian, I have nowhere special to show off my newly glossed mane or artfully adorned nails. There are no magazine cover shoots or red carpet appearances pencilled into my dayplanner. And I dabble in beauty services rather than make them part of my routine. Salon visits are timed with product launches, not my social calendar. And in this case, a trio of hot new beauty treatments are spread out over a busy three weeks instead of a single languorous day - each beauty enhancement fading before the next one completed. Am I complaining? Heck, no! And I'm happy to share the inside scoop.
WEEK 1: Shellac Power Polish by CND
An invitation to sample this nail service is sweetened by a complimentary night's stay at the posh Four Seasons Resort Whistler and dinner at swishy steakhouse Sidecut.
This midweek appointment requires some creative juggling of my work and family schedules, but following an after-work drive up the SeatoSky and a blissful sleep in hotel luxury, I'm ready to test drive this product's claims of two weeks of flawless wear, zero dry time and mirror shine.
I show up for my early morning appointment with unmanicured nails and when my Shellac certified nail technician Denise kindly asks how I usually wear my nails, I reply, "you're looking at it!" Routine visits to the nail bar for manis and pedis don't fit my no-nonsense routine.
Yet, less than an hour later I'm sporting a look straight off the fashion runways of New York, where CND polishes have been a backstage beauty staple for 15 years.
Shellac paints on like polish but hardens like gel nails with each coat. My airbrush-effect diamond shimmer nail art was a complicated affair: a base coat of Romantique followed by dry brush applications of CND's new Additives powder pigments in Cerulean Blue and Haute Pink and a sponging on of Moonlight & Roses finished with a top coat of Silver VIP Status. Nails dry briefly under a UV lamp after each coat.
The finished look is a little too girly for my tastes, but Denise tells me I can apply my own polish over top and take it off with regular polish remover with no harm to the Shellac, any time I want to change my look.
The addition of six new shades for spring brings the lineup to 36 shades. By layering these shades and applying freehand the Additives pure pigments, nail techs can create endless looks.
I have the two-hour drive back to North Vancouver to gaze at my new nail art over the steering wheel, arriving in the newsroom at lunch hour, then sheepishly spend the afternoon at my desk, trying hard not to flash my "research" at my hardworking colleagues.
I suffer my first chipped nail at Day 7, a week shy of Shellac's 14-day claim but days longer than my survival rate with regular polish. I also use the Shellac Remover Wraps that Denise slipped me after my manicure, soaked in acetone purchased at my neighbourhood drugstore, rather than booking into a certified salon to have the polish professionally removed, as directed. If you're heading out of town or know you won't have time for a return visit, ask your salon for these; don't try to remove the polish any other way.
Shellac Power Polish is available only at certified salons. Manicures typically range from $25 to $45 and pedicures from $40 to $60. Visit cnd.com for the location of salons and spas on the North Shore that offer this service.
WEEK 2: Professional wash and blowdry with Black 15in1
After off-loading the morning household duties to my husband, including school dropoff, I brave bridge traffic for an early-morning Black 15in1 Blowout at the new Workshop Salon in Vancouver's trendy Crosstown neighbourhood.
Black 15in1 Miracle Hair Treatment counts celebrities Olivia Munn, Nina Dobrev, Ashlee Simpson and Vanessa Minnillo among its fans. In February, the brand launched its Twice A Week Miracle Shampoo and Conditioner.
After cleansing my hair with these two new products, Workshop Salon stylist Victoria returns me to the salon chair where she spritzes Miracle Hair Treatment into her hands then runs the product through my hair, from roots to ends.
"The beauty of this product is you can use it over and over, with no build-up," she tells me, using a round brush and a hair dryer to style my hair into smooth, bouncy waves. Among the product's key ingredients, Black 15in1 contains hydrolyzed cashmere keratin to repair damage, silk amino acids to add shine and sunflower seed extract for UV protection. Its makers claim it tames flyaways and controls frizziness, making it perfect for humid summers.
As the name suggests, the shampoo and conditioner were formulated to be used twice a week and in conjunction with the Miracle Hair Treatment, without the usual build-up that falls between a traditional shampoo, conditioner and treatment.
Black 15in1 is designed to maintain hairstyles for up to four days and work on all hair types and textures. Its promise is ambitious: one solution with 15 benefits - adds shine; softens and smoothes; detangles; prevents frizz and flyaways; moisturizes; protects against humidity; repairs dry, damaged hair; protects against heat styling; enhances natural body; seals and protects hair colour; protects from UV light; strengthens hair; adds volume; soothes dry scalp, and works instantly.
I leave my hair appointment with bouncy, shiny hair and a goody bag, and am at my desk by nine. Three days later I'm still rocking my 'do and thinking enviously of my friends who treat themselves to weekly blowouts. Alas, I'll have to attempt to recreate this salonperfect look at home with my own styling tools and the Black 15in1 product samples from my goody bag.
The shampoo and treatment each sell for $24, while the conditioner is $26, sold in salons across Canada. Visit black15in1.com to find a salon near you.
WEEK 3: Misencil eyelash extensions
Long a Hollywood secret, lash extensions have recently hit the mainstream, with women of all ages taking advantage of this service that delivers long, thick, natural-looking lashes that endure everyday activities like swimming and exercising.
I skip out of the newsroom at lunch hour to check out the new LashFabulous in Ambleside, the North Shore's first storefront eyelash extension studio.
Co-owners Lisa Tomanik and Mara Uhrle have booked me in for a complimentary lash application. When I arrive, I'm greeted by a tall blonde twenty something with Amy Winehouse style eyeliner and the longest lashes I have ever seen. Megan tells me she'll be applying my lashes today and I'm more than a little worried until I spot Tomanik, a sporty blonde whose natural-looking lashes are more my style. I also meet Mara, a dark-haired beauty whose lengthier lashes are more obviously fake but perfectly suit her glamorous appearance.
After Megan applies an under eye gel pad over my lower lashes and secures this with surgical tape, she asks me to close my eyes and sets to work, applying up to 60 individual synthetic lashes to each eye. She uses tweezers and a bonding agent to apply each extension to the base of each individual eyelash.
The extensions can be no longer than double the length of your natural lash (or risk breakage) and for this reason they're available in a number of lengths and thicknesses.
It's painstaking work (for Megan, not me, as I recline comfortably on a leather chaise), but in less than an hour, I am sporting fuller, longer lashes that are so natural looking they escape the notice of my coworkers later that day.
"These are just like the ones I first did for my mom," enthuses Megan, who says her mother is now a LashFabulous devotee and returns for lashes in increasing length and fullness.
"They're addictive," says publicist Diana Zoppa, who has also boosted her first set of extensions with longer, fuller lashes.
A Super Glam set of up to 100 lashes per eye is a two-hour application and will set you back $250. A Glam set, like the one I'm sporting, costs $150.
The extensions will require special care (waterproof mascara, eyelash curlers and oil-based facial products are no-noes) and if properly maintained, should last the lifespan of the natural lash, two to three months on average. Because we typically shed between 10 and 15 lashes a month, the lash line will require a fill every three weeks, a 30-minute process that costs $50.
After the initial splurge, the money and time investment is really no different than what's required to maintain gel nails, says Tomanik.
A girl could get used to all this primping and pampering.
Now all I need is a red carpet invite to appear in my inbox.