Spring Break (Sort Of)

Original image from Marie Claire

I wish this were a real spring break. With a months-long project finishing up and my new course starting, this week I'll be taking an unplanned hiatus. Maybe if I put on some sparkly cocktail rings, give myself a pastel manicure, and keep a cup of coffee close by at all times, I can comfort myself with small, glamorous luxuries and keep the stress at bay until Easter weekend.

The blog might be a little quiet, but you can still find me on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest. I'll be back next Monday with new posts. Your patience is appreciated during these trying times, dear readers. Until next week!

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Latest Outfit: Spring Weekend

MICHAEL Michael Kors jacket | J. Crew silk blouse | H&M lace top | Banana Republic jeans | Benji Frank shades (c/o) | Roots clutch | Nicholas Kirkwood shoes | ILIA lipstick in 'Voila' (c/o)

With spring on my mind, I'm a little too eager to swap my boots for flats, wool trousers for cuffed jeans, and wool coats for light trenches. Too bad Mother Nature doesn't seem to feel the same way. On any given day, the weather can go from sunny to blustery to rainy within a few hours, plus it's still pretty cold to boot. My favourite trick for surviving without donning heavy winter clothes? A couple of insulating layers (in this case, a Uniqlo heat tech camisole worn under a silk blouse and a lined lace top) and a transition-appropriate but warm jacket. I felt very wind-proof and sleek as the boy and I went to Sunday brunch. (Lacking my layering prowess, he shivered and yelped at every gust. Poor boy.)

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Estée Lauder Spring/Summer 2013 Preview

While we eagerly await longer days, sunnier weather, and wearing our favourite sandals for a walk to the local gelateria, a sneak peek at spring/summer 2013's beauty offerings can only sweeten the anticipation. At least, that was how I felt when I attended the Estée Lauder media preview. Even though rain and cloudy skies cast a grey pall over the city, inside the luxe surroundings of the Hotel Georgia, Estée Lauder's new colour cosmetics and skincare products--all in the line's signature gold packaging--more than gladdened the heart of this beauty lover. Here's a glimpse of what you can expect at an Estée Lauder counter near you.

Nailed it

Two new colour collections join the popular Pure Color Nail Lacquer line. The French Nudes Collection ($25 each at Holt Renfrew, available for a limited time March 2013) comprises five nude shades that match or contrast with diverse skin tones. "This collection is like foundation for nails," says creative director Tom Pecheux of this collection. "It's all about enhancing nails, rather than making a big statement with color." It's a refreshing and sophisticated departure from the OTT nail art and colour trends we've seen in the last few seasons. My personal favourite is 'So Vain', an elegant taupe several shades darker than my natural skin tone. And for those who crave a hit of colour in spring, the new macaron-inspired Heavy Petals Collection (second row) might just be the sweetest pastel shades out there.

For stay-cations and beach vacations

The Bronze Goddess Collection (summer 2013) features limited-edition lip and nail colours in corals and fuchsias (so flattering on sun-kissed skin), and the prettiest gold and tortoiseshell palettes. Meanwhile, the no-fuss, no-muss AERIN collection has everything a girl needs for a jaunt to St. Barths: a multi-tasking Summer Style Palette with neutral eyeshadows, blush, two lipsticks and two glosses; Pretty Bronze Portal Illuminating Powder which comes in its own brush dispenser; neutral glosses and lipsticks; and a nourishing Beach Cream that rehydrates hair and skin after a long day in the sun.

From the archive

This year marks the 60th anniversary of Estée Lauder Youth-Dew, a bath oil that doubles as a spicy fragrance. Originally launched in 1953, Youth-Dew turned the American fragrance market on its head by making it socially acceptable for women to purchase and use fragrance themselves. Before Youth-Dew, the act was considered immodest and women would wait for someone to buy them a bottle as a gift, which then sat unused on a vanity. Check out the limited-edition bottle with the detachable Swarovski bow--how pretty would that be on a modern vanity?

From the Orient

Estée Lauder will be introducing North Americans to some of its bestselling products from Asia this year--exciting! The CyberWhite HD Collection (available March 2013) targets dark spots that appear over time, particularly in Asian and Caucasian skin. The Nutritious Radiant Vitality Collection (available April 2013, not pictured) uses the anti-oxidant properties of pomegranate to bring out a healthy glow.

Other exciting skincare launches (not pictured here)

The Perfectly Clean Collection of multi-tasking face cleansers ($28-32) for every concern (my pick is the Triple-Action Cleanser/Toner/Makeup Remover, aka "the lazy girl's solution"); the Perfectionist [CP+R] Line Smoother ($72), which blurs and softens even the toughest forehead ridges in an instant and improves the condition of skin over time; the Daywear Advanced Multi-Protection UV Defense SPF 50 ($45), a chemical sunscreen packed with anti-oxidants to defend against free radicals.

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Introducing Benji Frank

Is it possible to offer high-quality eyewear at an affordable price, and still give back to charity? Up-and-coming eyewear purveyor Benji Frank thinks so.

Benji Frank promises to donate one pair of glasses to a developing country for every pair sold as part of its "One Pair, One Vision" program. Their retro-inspired prescription glasses and non-prescription shades only cost $100 (frame and lenses), but still have all the traits of more expensive eyewear. Anti-reflective and scratch coatings come standard with prescription lenses, while sunglasses have polarized lenses and provide 100% UV protection.

The line drawing of the 'Kennedy' shades had precise measurements.

I was intrigued when Benji Frank invited me to check out their site and choose a pair to review. Even though buying eyewear online seemed daunting, Benji Frank made the process easy with its cheerful, user-friendly site. Frames were sorted by type (optical or sunglasses), gender, and face shape. Detailed descriptions, precise line drawings, a "virtual try on" feature (try the frames on a head-shot of yourself), and Live Chat functionality all proved helpful. After much deliberation, I finally chose the 'Kennedy' sunglasses.

My new sunglasses arrived within 2 weeks and I couldn't have been happier. The frame felt sturdy and well-made. The lenses were comparable to the lenses on my Chanel or Ray-Ban shades: they blocked out the sun's rays without dimming my vision or distorting the true colour of objects. And like sunnies from luxe brands, Benji Frank's came packaged in a fancy box, along with a hard protective case and a soft optical cloth.

Sneak peek of Friday's outfit post featuring my new favourite shades

As you can see here, here, here, and in this post, I've been wearing my new 'Kennedy' sunglasses non-stop, especially now that spring is on its way and we've been enjoying an increasing number of sunny days. If you're in the mood for new sunglasses, or if you're ready to retire your current prescription frames for a stylish new pair, I definitely recommend Benji Frank.

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Featured in PEOPLE StyleWatch

So, this is kind of exciting: I'm in the April 2013 issue of PEOPLE StyleWatch! That's Jennifer Lawrence on the cover (making this the second time I've been in a magazine featuring the Oscar-winning actress as a cover girl), and that's me on page 68 along with some seriously stylish PEOPLE StyleWatch readers. I'm pretty flattered by the glowing terms the editors used to describe my outfit: "A denim shirt and casually looped belt look cool and unexpected with feminine pieces like a lacy pencil skirt, clutch and pumps."

Do pick up an issue if you're looking for some shopping inspiration this season; its pages are full of accessible ideas, affordable finds and easy styling tips. Thanks, PEOPLE StyleWatch!

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Gender Balance


When the boy and I bought our condo, combining our decorating tastes into something feminine yet guy friendly was a challenge. It took time and effort to achieve a cozy, modern space suitable for hosting dinner parties (me) and UFC nights (him). During the decorating process, I also learned a lot about what appeals to both sexes – wisdom which I’m sharing today via a round-up of my favourite living room pieces from Urban Barn:

  • To impart a masculine vibe in any space, opt for sleek, streamlined and neutral when making a major furniture purchase, such as a couch or coffee table. Also, the couch can’t just look good; it must be comfortable to veg on. (That’s non-negotiable for most guys.)
  • Counteract the potential blandness of neutral furniture with colourful textiles and accents. Bright jewel tones or primary colours like blue and teal usually fare better with boys than pastels.
  • Geometric patterns like stripes, Greek keys, lattices and trellises aren’t as off-putting and overtly girly to guys as floral or polka dot motifs. Plus, they’re an on-trend way to add visual interest and personality to any room.

Have you ever had a decorating dispute with your guy? How’d it turn out?

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Urban Barn offers a stunning array of contemporary furniture, home decor and accessories that will look right at home in your place, for years to come. By shaking up a winning cocktail of great design, quality and value with liberal splashes of fun, they've become a true favorite of the style conscious shopper.

Disclosure: This post was brought to you by Urban Barn via Glam Media Canada. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Urban Barn.

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Latest Outfit: Favourites Mix

J. Crew white shirt and sweater | Togs coat | Gap 1969 Always Skinny jeans | Bloch oxfords | Vintage Coach bag | Benji Frank sunglasses (c/o)

Just a quick outfit shot from last week (so sunny!), wearing a mix of old and new-ish favourites that have been featured time and again on the blog. Classic standbys are all I seem to want to wear these days. This actually works in my favour, because my self-imposed clothing allowance--which is just large enough to replace worn out basics, buy a few fast fashion items, or splurge on one higher quality item--has made me very, very picky.

If I buy something, it's always with the knowledge that my budget will keep me from buying something I find later and like much more. Talk about pressure! However, there is some good news. First, this constant fear of not being able to buy something has made me come in under-budget for the last two months, and my self-imposed rules dictate I can carry these balances forward.

Second, I rocked my annual performance review, earning a promotion and a raise in the process--the sort of milestone I usually celebrate with a splurge like shoes or a handbag or a vacation. I'm a little torn about what to do this time around: the prudent side of me wants to pay off the mortgage a bit faster or save a bit more, while the side of me that worked so hard last year wants a treat. So, what to do? Decisions, decisions...

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Vancouver Loves Natural Beauty: Lisa McGregor of Whistler Naturals

Vancouver Loves Natural Beauty is a semi-regular column that highlights organic and natural beauty and skincare brands founded in our fair city.


Whistler Naturals is out to prove you don't have to sacrifice your whole paycheck for natural skincare that's high-quality and effective. Bio-active and anti-aging ingredients abound in its cleansers, moisturizers, and bath and body products. For discerning consumers, the list of what's not in the products is just as impressive: parabens, synthetic preservatives, artificial fragrances and colours, and animal products.

The best part? Individual products retail in the $15-30 range and can be found at your local grocery store. I caught up with one of Whistler Naturals's founders, Lisa McGregor, for the inside scoop.

What inspired you to create Whistler Naturals?

I worked in the natural health products industry in early 2000 and started learning about toxic chemicals in cosmetics. There were hundreds of companies creating natural skincare products for high-end customers and enjoying mark-ups of upwards of 600+%. At the opposite end of the spectrum, there were the “granola” skin care companies selling cheaper products at farmers markets and health food stores. But there was nobody in the middle selling quality skincare to the mainstream retail market. So I set out to create the high-end products I wanted to use, but at the prices I wanted to pay, and Whistler Naturals was born.

Do you have a background in the beauty industry?

I have a background in business and accounting and my business partner, Christie Angeloni, has a background in cosmetology and worked for years with Clinique among other beauty suppliers and spas.


What were some of the challenges you encountered getting the line off the ground?

Initially, the biggest challenge was finding a natural preservative that worked. Many skincare manufacturers told us there was no such thing as a “natural” preservative and the only options were the toxic ones, or they claimed to be using things like Vitamin E as their preservative, which we quickly found out doesn’t work. After tons of research, experimenting, and testing, we discovered a probiotic that is highly effective at preserving the final product and also really good for your skin. Currently, we are working with a laboratory in the US for rigorous product testing (no animals are used) and continue to run random batch tests of all of our products.

What are your favourite Whistler Naturals products?

Our Vanilla Silk Sugar Body Scrub and Buttercream Icing Body Butter have always been huge favourites for both of us. I have to stop myself from using the scrub every day. I am also in love with our new Naked Apricot Lily Body Butter. Our most popular products are the Carrot Soy Cleansing Lotion and Triple Berry CoQ10 Crème Moisturizer, which are perfect for dry skin and also have natural anti-aging ingredients.


How did you get your product into Save On Foods, Nesters, and IGA?

I had experience in the natural health industry as the Canadian regional sales manager for retail accounts and we brought a number of products to market in Canada. I brought my experience with me to Whistler Naturals and it gave me the confidence and knowledge I needed to approach these accounts, along with a few others.

What's next for Whistler's Naturals?

We have a couple of big projects up our sleeves, but first we are moving to a bigger location as we have quickly outgrown our current space. A 100% Natural Sunscreen lotion, in addition to a ski/bike face protector are close to being ready for launch, and we are also working on a baby product line. We are also really excited to be auditioning for Dragon’s Den this spring, so keep an eye out for us – this is going to be a really exciting year!

Whistler Naturals products are available online and through these BC retailers.

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Tutorial: Fine Hair Blowout Using John Frieda Luxurious Volume

There's a whole world of products for fine hair and blowouts that I wasn't even aware of until I attended the launch for the new John Frieda Luxurious Volume hair-care collection, which promises to add natural-looking, long-lasting volume to fine, flat locks. The line's star ingredients--high-tech polymers, lightweight conditioners, and gentle cleansers--are supposed to bond and add structure to individual strands without weighing them down. All in all, it sounds like a welcome product line for fine-haired femmes.

Because I have thick hair and couldn't test the products on myself, I needed help in the form of one of Vancouver's best hairstylists, Chris Funk, and my friend Paula. Chris is a mobile stylist and makes house calls (so convenient!); we all met at my place one Saturday afternoon to test-drive the John Frieda Luxurious Volume line and learn how to give fine hair the best possible boost.

How to Do a Fine Hair Blowout

Step 1. Good volume begins in the shower--or in this case, the kitchen sink. Chris shampooed Paula's hair with Touchably Full Shampoo ($10.49) and conditioned the ends with Touchably Full Conditioner ($10.49).

Step 2. Gently squeeze water out of the ends with a towel (don't rub!), and use a detangling brush to get rid of any knots.

Step 3. Apply Root Booster Blow-Dry Lotion ($10.49) to the roots, and spritz ends with Fine to Full Blow Out Spray ($14.99). The new targeted spray nozzle on the Root Booster Blow-Dry Lotion makes it easy to apply product precisely and evenly. Chris spritzed Paula's hair liberally, explaining that the products were lightweight and wouldn't weigh down her 'do.

Step 4. Blow-dry the roots, and pull hair in the opposite direction of where it will lay with your fingers as you're doing it. (For example, if your part is on the left and most of your hair lies on the right, pull the hair that lies on the right up and toward the left as you dry the roots to give them a lift.) Chris cautioned against "overdirecting" (i.e. pulling hair to one side, directing a lot of heat on it, and accidentally blow-drying it into place). "It creates a funny shape and might not sit right later."

Step 5. Separate hair into sections: a top section, 2 side sections, 2 mid sections, and 2 bottom sections. Starting with the sides, wrap a section of hair around a round brush and start blow-drying using a medium-high heat setting. Chris recommended tugging the brush to set roots away from the head instead of flat against it, and directing the blow dryer's air flow from underneath. To avoid frying fine hair, keep the blow dryer constantly moving.

As Chris worked, I asked him what he thought of the John Frieda Luxurious Volume line as a professional hairstylist. His opinion: The products do what they're intended to do. He particularly liked the Root Booster Blow-Dry Lotion and the Fine to Full Blow-Out Spray. "The sprays weren't too gritty but they had good hold," he said, which allowed the round brushes to slide through hair easily without getting caught.

Step 6. When a section is finished, use a blast of cold air to set it. Then wrap it loosely around two fingers, and secure the loop with a bobby pin.

Step 7. By the time you've finished all the sections, you should have a head full of bobby-pinned, looped hair. Once it's cool, remove the bobby pins and loosen the waves. Set the style with All-Day Hold Hairspray ($10.49). According to Chris, "The hairspray goes on a bit firm, but it will help set hair and the crunchiness softens throughout the day."

Step 8. Do what Paula did and enjoy your beautiful hair! An hour after Chris finished, she went to Starbucks where the barista exclaimed "Your hair looks amazing!" while she ordered a mocha. Although the results were dramatic (as shown above), as the day wore on and Paula went out for dinner and salsa dancing, her blowout gradually relaxed into a polished, natural-looking 'do with subtle volume. It looked like her own hair, but better.

John Frieda Luxurious Volume is available at most drugstores and mass retailers.

Special thanks to Chris Funk and Paula for their help. For more information about Chris's hairstyling services, or to book an appointment in the convenience of your own home, go to funkdhair.com.

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Insta-Life

Room service at the Grand Hotel | The Garnier shoot behind the scenes | Wrapping up | Meeting Glam Media Canada editorial director, Aya McMillan | Bidding TO farewell | My poor feet between dance workshops at the Vancouver International Salsa Festival | Waiting for the performances to start | The boy ready to take the stage | A new living room addition

The last week flew by in one happy, busy blur. I'm still pretty worn out from my whirlwind trip to Toronto, a couple of extremely focused days at work, and press events. Plus, my weekend was full of dance workshops and salsa until 4am, so my body and my feet are hurting a bit too. While I'm taking today to rest, here's a little glimpse of the past few days courtesy of Instagram. I'll resume the regularly scheduled programming tomorrow, promise.

P.S. Two days left to enter my Facebook giveaway. Details here.

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You're Making Me Blush

I'm game for trying anything when it comes to lipstick and mascara, but for some reason I've been stubbornly loyal to my tried and true blushes. After all, NARS Orgasm is a classic for good reason, while ILIA Multi-Stick in 'All of Me' was my initiation into cream blushes.

But when ILIA 'All of Me' ran out and NARS Orgasm bit the dust, it was time for something new. I turned to my treasure trove of beauty samples and uncovered two gems which I couldn't resist sharing. Not only do these compacts create a universally flattering flush, their sheer prettiness would sway even the staunchest "I don't buy makeup just for packaging" consumer.

Lise Watier's limited edition 'Pink Power' blush ($30; available February to April 2013) is a thing of floral-embossed beauty. Its finely ground colour pigments provide sheer but build-able coverage. Swirl a blush brush over the entire pan to blend the light pink highlighter with the matte dark pink. 1-2 swirls gave me natural-looking colour, while 5 swirls gave me a distinctly rosy-cheeked appearance (so pretty for spring).

Stila's 'All You Need is Love' limited edition cheek palette ($14) features four shades that can be worn separately or blended--perfect for a girl who wants to experiment with peach and coral one day, or a fuchsia-toned flush the next. It's more pigmented than the Lise Watier compact, so a couple of light swipes across the squares with a soft blush brush will more than suffice. I recommend brushing away all the gold "love" embossing and then swirling your blush brush on a clean tissue before you use it for the first time. Unless you're a Twilight vampire, the gold overspray is just a bit too much sparkle for one's face.

What's your go-to blush? Do you experiment or stick to a single product?

P.S. Speaking of Stila, my Facebook giveaway is a great chance for you to experience their beloved eyeshadow formulas firsthand.

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Colour Craze

I didn’t realize how much fun colourful electronics could be until I bought my camera a couple years ago. The camera store was out of basic black (my first choice) and only had red and brown at the time. “Red,” I said hesitantly after some deliberation. Since then, I’ve grown to appreciate and love my camera’s unusual colour. Now, when I snap photos at events, its red exterior elicits compliments. Some people have even pointed out it matches my lipstick or handbag.

What I learned from this experience is that a brightly coloured gadget can be an extension of one’s personal style statement, whether it’s a camera or a smartphone like the Nokia Lumia 920. The Nokia Lumia 920 (available exclusively through Rogers) will be available in yellow, red, black and white this spring. To celebrate, I was invited to share fashion picks inspired by its striking hues, so without further ado, here they are!

Red

A touch of red is always chic, whether it’s in the form of a pointy-toed pump or a pair of retro-inspired sunnies. Personally, I always carry a clutch or wear red lipstick when I want to add some crimson to an outfit. Scarlet manis work too.

Yellow

Yellow is a statement-making shade on its own. But when used in a pair of sketch-adorned pumps or on the lapels of a minimalist coat, it gains a whole new dimension of playfulness. This spring, I’ll be wearing my yellow cashmere cardi over sailor tees and shift dresses when I want a hit of sartorial sunshine.

Black & White

My favourite colour trend of the season involves (surprise!) no colour at all. I love all the graphic black-and-white pieces in stores right now. Wear them head-to-toe in an on-trend ensemble, or combine them with colourful separates for a look that transcends seasons.

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Finally, a phone as colourful as you are. The new Nokia Lumia 920, available exclusively at Rogers. Express yourself with your choice of four vibrant colours - yellow, red, black and white. Visit rogers.com/nokiacolours for details.

Disclosure: This post was brought to you by Rogers Wireless via Glam Media Canada. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Rogers Wireless.

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Hello, Toronto!


By the time you see this post, dear readers, I'll be en route to Toronto for an exciting collaboration with Garnier. More details will be revealed in the days to come, but the Instagram above should be a hint. Exciting! I'll be too busy to blog while I'm there, but you can follow my adventures on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

See you soon!

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Latest Outfit: Sunny Sunday Fun Day

J.W. Anderson x Topshop dodo sweater (available at Topshop at The Bay now!) | J. Crew cafe capris and polka dot clutch | Benji Frank sunglasses (c/o) | Nicholas Kirkwood shoes | Joe Fresh lipstick in 'Neon Red' (c/o)

This simple Sunday outfit makes me happy for so many reasons. First, the dodo sweater: I've had my eye on it since writing this post, so imagine how glad I was to see that it in my size when I previewed and pre-shopped the J.W. Anderson x Topshop collection last Thursday. (For the Vancouverites and Torontonians who want to shop the Topshop designer collaborations first, here's a tip: Get to know the personal shopping department and make an appointment on the day of the collection launch.)

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Product Review: TRESemmé® Keratin Smooth™ Collection

I was lucky enough to be blessed with thick, straight hair—the ideal wash-and-wear hair type—which is great because that’s how I roll. But even wash-and-wear girls need help in the form of good products. My hair tends to dry out easily, so I look for moisturizing, smoothing formulas that tame frizz and restore healthy shine; if they don’t cost a small fortune, even better.

Enter TRESemmé®. Their calling card has always been “professional, affordable,” and their new TRESemmé® Keratin Smooth™ collection is the latest in a long line of salon-grade products at drugstore prices. TRESemmé® Keratin Smooth™ promises smooth, easy-to-style hair thanks to a lower-sulfate formula that moisturizes better and infuses hair with keratin (a key protein in healthy hair and nails). In other words, it sounds tailor-made for my hair concerns. So how does the collection stack up?

Based on three weeks of testing, TRESemmé® Keratin Smooth™ definitely lives up to TRESemmé®’s reputation for delivering results. The Keratin Infusing Shampoo ($5.99 for 700 mL) produces rich suds that cleanse gently from root to tip without stripping hair of moisture. The Keratin Infusing Conditioner ($5.99 for 700 mL) is surprisingly rich with a texture akin to face cream; it coats every strand while detangling.

With TRESemmé® Keratin Smooth™, my hair feels smooth, healthy and blow-dry ready straight out of the shower. So it stands to reason that the final product in this 3-step regimen, the Heat Protection Shine Spray ($5.99 for 236 mL), isn’t a heavy moisturizer but a lightweight protectant that promotes shine. (Tip: When spraying, hold it away from you at arm’s length to get more even product distribution.) A quick comb-through and blow-dry later, I have groomed-looking locks sans the “I just washed my hair” dryness and frizzies.

So, would I purchase the TRESemmé® Keratin Smooth™ line on my own? Yes! The products are well-priced and effective. But I might not have to do it anytime soon because at a whopping 700 mL per shampoo/conditioner bottle, it’s going to be a while before I run out.

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Rule Your Hair! TRESemmé® Keratin Smooth™ is a new lower sulphate system that nourishes hair and infuses keratin from root to tip. The result? An instantly smoother style and frizz control that lasts for up to 48 hours. Now you can have frizz-free salon smoothness everyday, without the salon price.

Disclosure: This post was brought to you by TRESemme® via Glam Media Canada. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of TRESemme®.

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