Poor Man’s Lancôme Mascara

Foreword: I minored in French and it never ceases to frustrate me that I can’t get the proper accents on French words – at least easily. I went out of my way to get the one for Lancôme, but not the rest of the words listed. My apologies to anyone who cringes at this, as I do.

Most of you know what a devout fan I am of Lancôme. See “Bottom line, these are awesome.” In that particular post, I laud the traits of Lancôme’s L’Extreme mascara.

Their Definicils is one of their best-selling, and it is also very good. This post refers to their Hypnose Drama mascara. For some reason, I can’t get on board with the regular Hypnose, but I tried a tube of Hypnose Drama and I’m hooked. I love having mascaras that produce different effects and this one definitely gives you that lash ‘wow’ factor. It’s very black and gives the lashes lots of volume and oomph, if you will. I go between it and the L’Extreme, depending on my mood.

The illustrious tube of Hypnose Drama

However!  I have found myself unable to splurge on Lancôme before, seeing as each tube of mascara is at least $24. Desperate times call for desperate measures and so I found myself staring at all the mascaras in my local drugstore not too long ago. I knew that there were certain brands that had good reputations and I had also remembered seeing an ad for a relatively new mascara from Maybelline….So for less than half the price of a tube of Hypnose Drama (about $11.50), I went ahead and purchased Maybelline’s Lash Stiletto mascara in black. Tada!

Lash Stiletto

And the results are in. This is HONESTLY the most similar mascara you will find to Lancôme. It even has the same chemical in it because it has the same funny smell. (I never thought mascara smelled before but whatever product they’re using in these two is distinct. L’Extreme doesn’t have it, nor does Definicils.) Your lashes don’t dry like twigs, it’s a very black, glossy mascara when you put it on, and your lashes look absolutely gorgeous. I’m going to post a photo below of me just wearing the mascara below. The quality isn’t amazing (it’s a tad orange) but it’s not terrible. You can definitely see my eyelashes standing out.

So this is definitely on the list of Zoe Recommends. You save money and you look fabulous. Way to go, Maybelline. My hat is off to you. This is not to say that you should cut Lancôme out of your life or anything – that’d be plain ridiculous – but as a short-term alternative to the best mascara in the world, this one will do very nicely.

Anybody else tried it and loved it? Leave me feedback!

My one-time experience at the Bloomingdale’s makeup floor


Post Christmas shopping. New York City. January of the New Year – in this case, 2009.

I had a couple of appointments today in “the city,” as I refer to Manhattan since I live in Queens. Going in on a weekend day is always a gamble with how long it will take. Catching a train within two minutes of getting to the subway platform on a Saturday or Sunday can really set the tone for the day. However, if the train line is under construction and/or rerouted, God only knows how long it will take to get to a destination, be it one or five miles away. I got lucky today and wasn’t rerouted upon boarding.

I met my friend Cornelia on the UES and after a little bit of shopping, we drifted down Lexington to Bloomingdale’s, since I received a $50 gift card for Christmas. I was actually pretty excited, since in three years I’ve never had a reason to actually go in the store. I take that back: I met another friend there once on the makeup floor, but since I wasn’t there to actually buy anything and we left within minutes of meeting up, I didn’t count it as an actual trip to Bloomingdale’s, ie Bloomies. Since I’m not a regular shopper, I don’t think I can get away with calling it that.

What can a person buy for $50 at Bloomingdale’s? I’ll be honest – not a whole helluva lot. Let me put it this way: I’m reading a fabulous book Helen sent to me, entitled The Best of Everything, which is a novel delving into the lives of young secretaries working in a publishing firm in the 1950s in New York City. The starting salary is $50 a week, which apparently was really good money back then for being in a typing pool. Flash forward fifty-three years later, and my $50 gift card can buy me either a discount on something more expensive, a singular expensive item that shouldn’t be expensive (like a tie, a pair of panties or a travel size bottle of perfume), or two small expensive items. So one week’s salary from the 1950s is buying me something small and hopefully classy.

That having been said, most women know that the best bet is to go to the makeup counter (unless that woman is not a girly girl). There are lots of things $50 and under. Seeing as I was still using the same, tired tube of L’Extreme Mascara I wrote about back in November, I knew exactly where I was headed: my beloved Lancome counter.

I really tried to find an excuse to buy a gift set of perfume or something unexpected, but everything was more expensive than I wanted it to be, and damn it, my eyelashes have been crying out for fresh mascara. They simply won’t lengthen anymore with the practically-dried-up tube I have at home.

So here’s the downfall about being on the makeup floor at Bloomingdale’s, one of the most famous stores in the world: it’s a fucking snake pit! Nordstrom, something we don’t have here (pity), is known for its customer service. I would really love to do some compare and contrast shopping because God’s honest truth (and I had a certified New Yorker, Miss Cornelia, with me), the place is loaded with a higher ratio of sales people to customers, practially, all scrambling for a commission on whatever you end up purchasing. They don’t care if you have the money or not, nor how much of your precious time they’re taking up; and they certainly don’t care if they come off as bottom-feeding jerks. It’s all about the sale.

First things first: it’s a good thing I knew exactly what I wanted to buy at Lancome, because while they have the samples of mascara sitting out, everything is hidden and not organized well. I’m sure there’s some marketing scheme on why nothing flows together, like a candy aisle at the grocery store, but it just added to the confusion, if you ask this consumer. The woman who “helped” me didn’t describe anything about any of the other mascaras or eye makeup, didn’t mention any specials, sales or what goes really well with L’Extreme; she simply got out the box I asked for and handed it to me.

My lady was probably in her 50s or 60s, short, and sported a poof of coiffed, blonde (dyed) hair and lots and lots of green eye makeup. I own a subtle shade of green eyeliner of which I don’t like to dab on too much, but this woman had the super bright set all over her: upper and lower lids, corner of the eyes, with green eye shadow to match. I think she even had something glittery. I don’t know about 60 year-olds with glittery eyeliner. I’m just saying.

Maybe when you’re a salesperson you have to make yourself stand out as much as possible, because then I could always find her, saying, “It’s the one with tons of green eye makeup at the Lancome counter.”

“Ah! That’s Zsa Zsa. Right this way,” the helpful Information person might say.

“Zsa Zsa’s” lame attempt at upselling was encouraging me to buy a gift set of Juicy Tubes, which are “only” in stock now and then they’ll be gone forever. Yeah yeah, lady. I held onto my mascara box and continued looking. When I strayed too far at the Lancome border, almost into MAC country, she told me she could just hold onto it for me until I decided. Clearly she was worried I would pocket the mascara in my purse. Fine, I leave it with her. So I turn the corner to go find Cornelia, unsure yet of what else I would be purchasing (because nothing’s worse than having $20 on a gift card at an expensive store – I just wanted to use it up!), and suddenly, an overly groomed, waaaay too much gel in his hair sales guy, accosts me and proceeds to give me the hardest sell I’ve ever had in my life to sign up to have a makeover done by a professional makeup artist at the end of the month.

Thankfully, Cornelia found me in the middle of his spiel (even though I was clearly giving off the not interested vibe), and she managed to keep him at bay. The catch was we had to purchase a $50 gift card to Bloomingdale’s that day and if we missed the appointment, we could just use it towards Bloomingdale’s some other time. They don’t give a rat’s ass whether you come and get the glamorous “makeover,” they just want you to purchase a $50 gift card that day. They’d love it if it never got spent, or better yet, put it towards an even more expensive purchase if you come back for the makeover and Francois or whoever is doing the makeover, recommends $250 worth of products. Uh huh. I’ve got your number, Slick.

When I said I couldn’t afford the $50 today, he literally said, “But it’s like money in the bank!” Who says that? It’s not money in the bank; it’s out of my bank account and going towards something I haven’t even bought yet. Furthermore, I’m signing myself up to come back to this place…on purpose….again in three weeks? No thanks. Somehow I managed to get out of his clutches. I returned to the Lancome counter and bought a new Le Stylo waterproof eyeliner in black (add it to the Bottom Line, These Are Awesome list!). Again, thankfully I knew the name but did Zsa Zsa even try to care about the sale? No. When I picked up the bottle of Oui perfume, which smelled delicious, I asked her how much the small bottle was.

Here is the perfect opportunity to try to upsell me on something I already have an interest in! Instead, Zsa Zsa says to me in her thick Slavic accent, “Ummm…I don’t know, I’ll have to look it up.” I checked out, my items coming to $51.50 (so close!), and she did not bother looking up the price of Oui. No matter. I can probably buy it on Fragrancenet.com or somewhere else for at least 10% less. But seriously? That’s the best they can do? Could she have given less of a shit?

And don’t even try to walk through the areas where a lighted sign says Information. It’s more Bloomingdale’s sales people who hold onto random colognes, perfumes and/or clipboards, waiting for lost and befuddled prey. I couldn’t believe how popular it was to be in there! You would think they were giving the stuff away – and I assure you – they were not.

Lastly, Cornelia and I stopped by a sunglass counter, where she tried on some pairs of aviator sunglasses. The woman raved about a particular pair, that while looked very nice on Cornelia, she and I both agreed that the fake rhinestones around the edges (just a few, strategically placed), took away from some of the refinement of them. The woman said she was going to try to find something else for her, after telling her that they were “nothing,” that there weren’t really any sparkles on the glasses. She turned to me and promised me an associate would help me find something for myself. I said, “Oh okay,” but I hadn’t taken any interest except to ask Cornelia if she thought tortoiseshell frames would look okay on me. Thanks for making that leap, but I’m aight.

Cornelia’s saleswoman turned away from her to help another demanding customer in the middle of assisting her, so we left in disgust. I was happy to have my two pieces of new makeup tucked away in my first “little brown bag” I’d ever had from actually purchasing something, but all in all, the experience rates a C-. Sorry, Bloomies. Insert “wah wah wah” sound effect.


I have yet to attempt to go clothes shopping there (and let’s face it, I’d need at least a $1,000 gift card to try that) but if I’m going to go the designer route, I’ll have to try somewhere else – Saks, perhaps?

I have no idea what Bloomingdale’s was like fifty years ago, but I would hedge a guess it didn’t feel like you walked in with a bullseye on your forehead with a sign on your back that read, “Total sucker.”

Nice try but no dice. In the meantime, I will be walking around with my fabulous matching black eyeliner and eyelashes, thanks to my own personal research, and no thanks to Zsa Zsa’s piss poor sales skills.

Bottom line, these are awesome

After taking a ten day break from posting to the blog, I’m making my efforts to get back in the game with one or two posts this weekend. I checked my drafts and notes I’ve made to myself to see what sparked my interest. Some material just begs to be written, ya know?

Anyhow, one post I’ve mulled over quite a bit is giving props to some of my favorite things as of late. They don’t really run together in a thematic way, but that’s just how I roll. Even when I journal, I’ll interrupt my own thoughts to write about something completely off topic and then go back to finish writing on the first subject. Re-reading my journals definitely cracks me up and absolutely gives credence to the term “stream of consciousness.” (I don’t usually go back and reread, though. I have a weird thing about that.)

But let’s get to the awesome stuff, shall we? A couple of weeks ago, I was at my local grocery store and I came to the cereal aisle. I don’t purchase cereal too often, since I’m hardly ever home to eat it. I get to the weekends and usually want it but to me, it doesn’t make sense to run to the store to get a box for two whole days. But this time, I specifically went to the cereal aisle to see if they had something in stock that I’d been secretly wanting to try for quite some time: Chocolate Lucky Charms. Oh yeah. None of this grown-up, 20g-of-fiber-per-serving crap. “Whole grain,” chocolate and marshmallow infused, sugary goodness. I could practically hear my inner 5 year-old shrieking with delight.

I put the box in my basket, made sure I bought fresh milk, and proceeded to jam home so I could dig in. I poured a huge bowl immediately, let the cereal sit in the milk for about a minute and dug in. I love this closeup I found of the stuff:

I love the rainbows!



If you have had any remote inkling within you to try a kids’ cereal, try this one. Sure, Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Frosted Flakes are all fine and dandy, but this one tops it all, guys. Trust me on this one. It’s a close race but the only other kids’ cereal I would eat with regularity (but don’t allow myself to) is Reese’s Puffs. reeses-puffs-cereal-box

OOOOOMMMMMGGGGG they are so good! But since they don’t have marshmallows, they make #2 on Zoe’s List of Awesome Cereals. Have you ever had whole milk or dare I suggest it, half ‘n half on cereal? The quality of milk is very important. Don’t even try to tell me that cereal is good with skim milk on it, because we all know it’s not. It’s blue water. Remember the movie Friday where the mom tells Ice Cube’s character, “Use water. Won’t hurt.” when there’s no milk for his cereal? Yeah. That’s disgusting. (Incidentally, I think my dad suggested that to me once when I was a kid. Water on cereal tastes like you’re eating it out of the toilet. I’m just saying.) Creamy, delicious milk on Chocolate Lucky Charms absolutely makes the weekend. Try it for yourself.

Moving on. Something else that has been at the forefront of awesomeness for me is Lancome. (Jennifer, I know you hear me on this one!) Ladies, this is not just crappy, American slop with a fancy French label. This is the real stuff from Paris and their skincare and makeup is hard to beat. If you only buy one thing ever from Lancome, make it their mascara. For a very long time, their Definicils was my favorite but then…they came out with L’Extreme. My fellow Lancome lover Jennifer told me to try it and I’ve never looked back. Does it cost $24 for a tube of mascara that, worn faithfully, will only last you three months? Yes. But is it worth every superbly lengthened eyelash? You bet.

In fact, if you go to Lancome’s website and click on Best Sellers, the first five things that grace the page are their Bi-Facil eye makeup remover (which totally rocks, I can attest) and four of their mascaras, including Definicils. Their new one is Oscillation. I don’t know a thing about “vibrating” mascara but it’s selling well, obviously. You can watch the demo video. It’s ten bucks more but if you want those fabulous eyes framed by longass lashes, it could be worth it. For those of us who live in New York, we have access to Lancome through more than one outlet: Sephora, the Lancome store and any number of department store makeup counters. I have a little of everything in Lancome, but I have also tried their Pure Focus skincare line and it’s nothing short of fabulous. For those like me who have oily skin, a MUST HAVE in your regiment is their Tonique Pure Focus. It has mattifying powders in it that keep your face from getting nasty greasy throghout the day. Worth every cent and photographs without a shiny T-zone. I won’t even get into Juicy Tubes or their eyeliners, but the point is obviously to try some Lancome. You’ll never go back. The reason I can say this so emphatically is that due to budget constraints, I bought some L’Oreal Bare Naturale mascara and I gotta say, I’m not impressed. I do like that it boasts more natural ingredients, yes. And I have tried and really love the whole natural makeup thing – I have Bare Escentuals powder foundation and it’s the only thing I’ll use. But what I don’t like about this particular mascara is that not only does it take much more time to try to get the same effect as Lancome’s L’Extreme, but my lashes harden very stiffly. I’ve also noticed that my eyes get irritated at the end of the day and so while I saved $20 by trying it out, I will not be repurchasing. That having been said, I have read reviews where women swear by this stuff, but it’s not for me. What can I say, my lashes demand more. They have expensive taste.

The last thing I’m writing in-depth about is autumn. I love this season. I really enjoy the transitional seasons more than the extremes. I was born in the spring so maybe that makes me biased. There are even parts of winter I enjoy (like Christmas) but after awhile, the extreme cold gets to me and I’m ready for warmer days. After spring, summer hits and I tire quickly of the blistering heat and sweating constantly with a million other people sweating in the NYC subway. Blech.

What I love about autumn is the transition from hot to cold, progressively, over its three months. The leaves change color and gives us these gorgeous views. My mom took some photos and sent them – I thought these two were particularly grand:


The leaves fall, getting nice and crunchy. They coat our sidewalks, streets and homes. A chill begins to permeate the air. Is there anything better than smelling wood smoke on a crisp, autumn evening? The heaters begin to come on and at least in New York apartments, the sound and smell of steam from the radiators becomes a part of the apartment atmosphere (unless your landlord is a dick and keeps the heat at some ridiculously low temperature and you freeze).

Road trips in autumn are my favorite. Back in college, my friends and I would go up to my old roommate’s house in Lake Placid, New York, where the scenery just stole your breath. Plenty of wood smoke smell there! Listening to music and driving whilst sipping on something like pumpkin spice coffee or hot chocolate….mmmmm…..it’s like all my troubles melt away. Damn, it just reminds me I don’t own a car anymore. To Do: buy a car in the future.

Then after the road trip when you get to your destination or back home, the cold night air makes you want to curl up and watch a favorite movie under a toasty blanket. I recently purchased Good Will Hunting, a movie I’ve been wanting to add to my collection for a long time. (My book club debated on who was hotter in that movie, Matt Damon or Ben Affleck. I’m in the Matt Damon club.) There’s nothing about autumn I don’t love – Halloween, Thanksgiving, the lead-up to Christmas….mmmm. I’ll have to write about the holiday season in another post – I love it. I’m one of those annoying people who can listen to Christmas music the start of November. Uh huh.

All of this makes me want to go unwrap the new movie and give it a spin. I even have the perfect blanket in which to wrap myself. All I need now is some Chocolate Lucky Charms and extended eyelashes care of Lancome.