Friday, July 22, 2016

My Nail Polish Collection and One Last Declutter

Uhm, well, at least I *think* it's the last declutter for a long while... I've been itching to further edit down my nail polish stash for weeks and thought it would be fun to share my purging process with you. I personally enjoy watching others downsize their beauty collections, but more than the actual products, I'm always really interested in how exactly we determine what to keep versus what to let go of, and I'll attempt to illustrate in this post what my decision process looked like this time.

Before we dive right in, here's a little back story on my nail polish collection. In college (when I still lived in Poland), I used to have about 5 bottles at any given time - sometimes I would toss a shade when I noticed its quality had deteriorated, sometimes I would buy a new one when something caught my eye at the drugstore, but overall, I only did my nails occasionally and nail polish wasn't something I was very drawn to. Fast forward to when I graduated/ moved to Washington state and became an avid beauty blog reader (and a blogger myself) and surprise surprise, my stash started growing - I'd pick up a color every few weeks at the drugstore because it seemed like an innocent treat, and everything looked new and exciting - so why not try it out for myself? My nail polish amassing ways peaked when I started working in beauty retail; not only was it important to present myself well by always having an impeccable manicure, but the store I worked at also carried a wide selection of OPI, Essie and China Glaze along with all of their Limited Edition collections. I bought A LOT of bottles myself in the 1.5 years I worked there, but also received a good number as gratis.

But ever since I quit that job and we moved to New York City, my passion for nail polish has been on the decline. In late 2013 and early 2014, I still polished my nails pretty regularly, and even thought about trying out some more nail art; but in the end, I proved too lazy for it. I would buy a few new shades here and there but already felt my stash had grown too large and overwhelming. Now, through all of 2015 and the first half of 2016, I purchased exactly ONE new nail polish. I gave a lot away though - last year I passed on 4 to various family members, tossed 2 older ones and used 2 up (can you tell it was still difficult for me to let go of my pretties?) and had roughly 68 bottles remaining, in April I gave away 15 to my coworkers (Instagram photo above), leaving me with about 53 bottles - that is, until yesterday.

I wanted this declutter to be a lot more thorough this time and my loose goal was to whittle the stash down to the point where it could all fit in one Birchbox lid; even though I haven't been subscribed to the service for over 3 years now, I still use their boxes to organize my beauty stash. I don't know why I pictured exactly that amount in my mind - it just seemed like that would give me the most variety without becoming overwhelming or holding on to shades that were alright, but not my favorite. You can see in the first photo in the beginning of my post what I started out with: 2 Birchbox lids in the front (but one of them holding only my 'manicure kit': files, tools, thinner, base and top coats) and 4 manufacturers' boxes for 6 bottles each in the back of the drawer.
The 'Before' photo of my stash.
I started by dividing my stash into color families so I could both see how many I had in each group, and also be able to compare and contrast shades more easily. I took photos of each grouping and also swatched them all (one coat only) on some sticky tape against a white background - I realize this is not an ideal representation of how those shades would look on my actual hands but it was enough to jog my memory, and much less time consuming than applying everything to my nails.
L-R: OPI Alpine Snow, OPI Ski Slope Sweetie, Essie Urban Jungle, OPI Don't Burst My Bubble, OPI I Theodora You
Let's start with my palest shades of white, ivory, pale pink and nude. I decided to give away OPI Alpine Snow and I Theodora You - the former I only ever used for nail art when I needed a pure white, and the latter just wasn't super great on my skintone, on top of needing at least three coats to look decent. Decluttered 2 out 5.
L-R: OPI Pedal Faster, Suzi!, Zoya Julie, Zoya Megan, Essie Chinchilly
Pink & purple pastels and grey neutrals. Out of this group, I didn't part with any bottles, even though I've never worn OPI Pedal Faster, Suzi! - maybe because I was focused on I Theodora You instead ;) I wear the other three regularly. Decluttered 0/4.
L-R: Essie Absolutely Shore, Zoya Neely, Essie Bikini So Teeny, China Glaze Secret Peri-wink-le, OPI You're Such a Budapest
Pastel greens and blues - some of my all-time favorite shades to wear. However, as you may be able to see, Essie Absolutely Shore and Zoya Neely are so close that there's no excuse in keeping both; there's no way I'm going to need a 'back-up' in the next 5 years. I opted to keep the Essie because Zoya was a touch darker and more muted. Which was the same reason I parted with China Glaze Secret Peri-wink-le; it's not really a pastel on me, more of a light denim blue, and I prefer both Essie Bikini So Teeny and OPI You're Such a Budapest to it. Decluttered 2/5.
L-R: Essie In the Cabana, Essie Butler Please, Revlon Royal, OPI Into The Night
Darker blues. I'm currently sporting Essie In The Cabana on my toes after not wearing it for over a year, and I love it so much that there's no way I could part with it - just need to remember to wear it more often. However, both Essie Butler Please and OPI Into The Night haven't been worn in 2 or 3 years and I don't think I want to wear them now; Revlon Royal is quite close to Butler Please anyway, but somehow more visually striking. Decluttered 2/4.
L-R: Essie Cute As A Button, Essie Off The Shoulder, Essie Pink Grenadine, China Glaze That's Shore Bright, OPI Pamplona Purple
Bright pinks and purples. I believe I used to own a lot more coral pinks in the past, but somehow Essie Cute As a Button is the only one remaining now after various culls, and I'm not letting it go now - it's always beautiful for a summer pedi. However, Essie Off The Shoulder is just a bit too pink for me and I never reach for it. As for China Glaze That's Shore Bright, it's one of those colors that I love to admire in the bottle, but it's just not 'me', and I don't think I've worn it more than twice. As for OPI Pamplona Purple, I have still never worn it, but I think it's more because I was distracted by other shades and not because I dislike the shade. Decluttered 2/5.
L-R: Essie Head Mistress, OPI Lost on Lombard, China Glaze Merry Berry, Orly Star Spangled
Reds. Now, this is an embarrassing category. I've never ever worn Essie Head Mistress nor China Glaze Merry Berry. Why? Because every time I wanted a classic red - which is usually around the holidays - I would reach for Orly Star Spangled instead, which as result has only half a bottle remaining and is now thick and gloopy. I finally trashed the Orly and am now left with a brighter cool-toned red (Head Mistress), darker berry red (Merry Berry) and a strange, muted, slightly brown cream red I absolutely love in the autumn (Lost on Lombard). Decluttered 1/4.
L-R: Zoya Toni, Zoya Jem, Zoya Payton, Revlon Perplex, OPI Muir Muir On The Wall, China Glaze Naughty and Nice.
Vampy purples, wines, burgundies. First of all, I had no idea I have so many in this color family - but then I love me a dark manicure in the fall and winter. I knew right away two of these had to go: Revlon Perplex because I haven't worn it in more than 3 years (looks muddy and grey on my skintone), and Zoya Jem because I've worn it too much thanks to the splendid idea of including it in a Project Pan. Yes, you can be overexposed to a certain shade, and yes, you can burn yourself out on it even if it used to be one of your favorites. My current opinion is that I will never try to pan another nail polish ever again, especially if it's a nearly full 0.5 fl. oz. Decluttered 2/6.
Misfits and metallics. Here I also knew right away what needed to go: OPI Just Spotted the Lizard because I haven't worn it more than once and don't intend to in the foreseeable future, and the Wibo peachy orange - it has too much orange and too little white for my skintone and I'm never completely in love when I wear it. Decluttered 2/5.
Maybelline Precious Pearl, China Glaze Champagne Kisses, OPI The Living Daylights, China Glaze Mrs Claus, OPI Polka.com
Glitters. I used to own many more, but have steadily been getting rid of them in the past few years; not because I don't love looking at them in the bottle, but because I never wear them, mostly dreading the removal process. I think I've worn Mrs. Claus two Christmases ago, and that's about it for how often I now wear these. My two least favorite were chosen to go, but I think that at the end of the year, I'll have to let go of Mrs. Claus as well - I only have about half a bottle left and what used to be a mix of red and silver glitters now appears to be just one mass of light pink. Huh. Decluttered 2/5.
The last group is my base and top coats and other treatments. I didn't think I was keeping too many unnecessary things on hand, but still decluttered the OPI Chip Skip (never use it, don't see the need for it - you could just clean your nails with a remover before you start), a Trind nail balsam thingy, and some old argan oil cuticle concoction. I will soon be tossing out the mostly used-up bottle of China Glaze top coat; see how red it's gotten? But I'm working through a coral red now so I'll use it a few more times and then call it done.
Here are all of my nail polishes swatched (in the same order & color families as photographed above), with the 'X's marking the bottles that are leaving my stash. Overall, I've decluttered 15 nail polishes and 2 nail treatments. This is actually not more than my polish declutter earlier this year, but I feel that this round was a lot more difficult because I enjoyed nearly all of these shades at some point, and found them all very pretty to look at. But realistically, was I actually using them? No.
And here is my 'After' photo. As you may be able to see, I haven't quite reached my goal - I did manage to get rid of all the boxes in the back, but my actual nail polish colors spill out a bit from one Birchbox lid to the next, which used to house just the treatments and tools. That's okay though; they all fit easily in there anyway, and I can see all of my stash at a glance. I currently own 29 nail polishes, compared to about 70 last August.

Do I ever regret owning as many as 100 bottles at some point in the past? Not especially. For me personally, I think those couple of years of collecting nail polish (or beauty products in general) were very important in exploring the beautiful variety and richness of shades, and then in turn figuring out what I liked and what suited me best. If I've never experimented, I wouldn't have had so much fun in discovering my individual preferences. However, I am now content and confident to follow my taste exactly and don't need to hold on to my 'experimenting tools' any longer. Plus, I'm pretty sure my family, friends and coworkers were all very happy recipients of my rejects :)

I hope that you enjoyed this very lengthy post and thanks for sticking with me to the very end. I would love to learn more about your decluttering process if you care to share, and especially what you personally consider to be 'ideal size' for a nail polish stash. Please let me know in the comments!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Inexpensive Finds: Andalou Naturals Pumpkin Honey Glycolic Mask Review

Exfoliating masks are a staple in my skincare routine; I may skip the purifying clay ones, I may even go without a moisturizing one... but I just have to treat my face to some deeper chemical exfoliation at least once a week, and I see the biggest difference in my skin out of all mask varieties when I do. I've been trialing a lot of more expensive masks of this kind last year (here's my round-up post) but didn't love any one of those enough to shell out the big bucks, and when it came to purchasing a replacement for my regime, I opted for something a lot less expensive: the Andalou Naturals Pumpkin Honey Glycolic Mask ($14.99 for 50g; I purchased mine on Vitacost for $11.99).
You may remember that in general, I've had great luck with Andalou Naturals products so far: some of my favorites from the brand include the Apricot Probiotic Cleansing Milk (reviewed here), the 1000 Roses Floral Toner (here) and the Probiotic + C Renewal Cream (here). I would happily repurchase all of these products in the future, and they've set the bar pretty high in terms of my expectations of the brand.

The Brightening Pumpkin Honey Glycolic Mask claims to 'gently dissolve and lift away dull surface cells, exfoliating and resurfacing for even tone and smooth texture', and includes a whole host of delicious natural ingredients. The key chemical/enzymatic exfoliants in the formula are pumpkin puree, pineapple juice and glycolic acid, supported by nourishing antioxidants and humectants such as sunflower and meadowfoam oils, aloe vera, glycerin and hyaluronic acid (Sodium Hyaluronate), manuka honey, rooibos extract and Vitamins C & E. Ingredients lists like this one are why I get so excited about Andalou products - there are no fillers, no mysterious chemicals, no questionable bullshit (well, I do have a gripe with their stem cell claims - but I just ignore that, I don't think they're harmful to the skin or anything), just beautiful, yummy naturals I want on my face ASAP.
The mask comes in a sturdy plastic jar (there's a clear lid inside to prevent spills in shipment); nothing fancy but practical enough, and for once I don't think a tube would be a great improvement for this product. As you can see in my close-up photos, the Pumpkin Honey Glycolic Mask looks, feels and smells exactly like pumpkin puree; it's quite dense but creamy and easily spreadable on the skin, with tiny brown specks here and there - I'm not sure, but those may be from the cinnamon, nutmeg and clove powders included in the formula. Are you thinking pumpkin pie yet? You betcha.

The instructions state to apply evenly avoiding eye and lip areas, leave on for 10 minutes and rinse with cool water; quite standard for any mask of this type I've used in the past. But let me tell you guys: this shiz is INTENSE. I have never used an exfoliating mask that had as much tingle - or, you know, burn - as the Andalou Pumpkin Mask. As soon as the orange puree touches my face, my face starts feeling really hot and quite uncomfortable, and continues to do so for another 3 minutes or so, after which the tingling subsides and eventually goes away completely.
The first time I experienced it I was convinced my face was going to melt off, and that I must have an allergic reaction to the product or something. However, once I rinsed the mask off, my face wasn't red or irritated in the least - actually less so than from other exfoliating treatments. Huh. The experience also reminded me of getting a professional facial once; I remember the aesthetician used an exfoliating pumpkin mask from another line and it felt exactly the same on my face as the Andalou one - so I'm thinking that maybe pumpkin enzyme masks are meant to be this intense, and as long as my skin doesn't seem angry afterwards, it's all good. You just need a decent 'tingle tolerance' to use them :)

But most importantly, is the uncomfortable tingle really worth it? Yes, I believe so. I've been using this mask once a week for the past month or so, and after application, my skin looks exactly like Andalou claimed it would: smooth, even, more plump and luminous. Any blackheads or large pores on my T-zone seem cleaned out and slightly diminished, and my face feels baby soft to the touch. I follow up with a good hydrating serum and a moisturizer, and the next morning I admire my refreshed complexion in the mirror (no, really).
All in all, the Pumpkin Honey Glycolic Mask is another hit from Andalou Naturals in my book. In the future, I would like to see if their Berry Fruit Enzyme Mask for Dry & Sensitive Skin is just as effective but maybe without the intense tingle, but for now I'm happy with my pumpkin pie mask. Have you found any inexpensive skincare treasures recently? What is your favorite exfoliating treatment? I'd love to know!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Summer in NYC: My Handbag Beauty Essentials

Most of my life, summer was always the season I looked forward to - I mean, what's not to love, summer holidays, sunshine, abundance of fruit, bright colors... But ever since we moved to New York City nearly three years ago now, summer has become the season I absolutely dread. The stifling heat and humidity just make it so hard to enjoy my usual summer pasttimes, and maybe because of the added challenge of pregnancy this year, I'm doing all I can to make it through the next two months. However, I'm not alone in the struggle - I've taken to toting a few beauty essentials around with me that make my summer life in the city a lot easier. Let's have a look.
The bag I'm carrying currently is a simple tote from Ralph Laurent I got a few years ago at TJMaxx; I quite like the structured style and I can organize everything inside really well thanks to numerous pockets. I usually keep my beauty essentials corraled into a small make-up bag like the one in the photo, although more frequently used things end up thrown into the large zippered pocket.
If you've ever ridden on the New York subway, you know exactly how important it is to carry a good hand sanitizer with you. Now, I'm not a germophobe by any stretch of the imagination, but something about those turnstiles and poles makes me feel really dirty. I've been using plenty of Neal's Yard Remedies Organic Defence Hand Spray* ($10.50 for 1.69 fl. oz, available at us.nyrorganic.com here) to combat the inner cringe and I love the refreshing scent of its essential oil blend. I've never used a spray hand sanitizer before but I find it easier and more economical than a typical gel. Big thumbs up. After hand washing, I always follow up with a bit of hand cream to make my dry hands feel more comfortable; I'm currently using this deluxe sample of Bliss Grapefruit + Aloe Body Butter ($29 for full size 6.7 oz).
Even with an effective primer and setting powder, my T-zone can get a little oily after a few hours - more often than not, it's a combination of oil and sweat to be perfectly honest. I generally don't carry a mattifying powder with me (because I don't like faffing around with brushes or puffs, plus piling more powder onto oily skin seems wrong somehow) but I do reach for blotting tissues - these Palladio Oil Absorbing Rice Paper Tissues with Rice Powder ($3.99 for 40ct) are nice and large but I would prefer something without powder once I'm done with this packet.

Once I'm done getting rid of the oily shine, I sometimes like to freshen up with a face mist; I've used Eau Thermale Avene Spring Water ($9 for 1.76 oz/ 50g) in the past but I'm currently enjoying another NYR product, the White Tea Facial Mist* ($19 for 1.52 fl. oz, currently on sale for $14.25 here). I was a bit skeptical of this product because aside from some lovely ingredients like antioxidant white tea, aloe vera, glycerin and marigold flower extract, it also contains a lot of alcohol denat., and I try to avoid that ingredient in my skincare. However, I've found that in a facial spray used over my make-up, I don't actually mind it in the least - and if you look at ingredients lists for most setting sprays, alcohol is usually very prominent. The mist on the Neal's Yard product is delicate and even, and I'm a big fan of the lavender & geranium scent; I definitely prefer it to the cult Caudalie Beauty Elixir, which I reviewed here. The White Tea Facial Mist leaves my face feeling soothed, fresh and more luminous.
I also always have a few lip products floating around in my bag; I've been more into neutral mauve lips recently and you are probably tired of me waxing lyrical about these Buxom Full-On Lip Creams ($19 for 0.14 oz, reviewed here and here), but what can I say? I really love this lip gloss formula. Dolly is a great My Lips But Better shade and its minty tingle feels nice and cool on the lips in the summer heat. Maybelline Color Elixir in Caramel Infused ($6.99-8.99 for 0.17 fl oz, here) is another great option that feels balmy and nourishing on, and the shade is just a bit deeper and warmer than Buxom's Dolly.
Other non-beauty things I like to carry around with me include my Klean Kanteen insulated bottle filled with water, as well as some nuts; I like the convenience of a small packet of these Orchard Valley ones I received in my June Degustabox* (shown here), but I usually buy larger bags - I've been munching on these Now Foods Roasted Sea Salt Cashews a lot. If I'm out and about for longer, I also like to take some seasonal fruit with me; lately it's either some peaches or cherries. I find fresh fruit + nuts to be my ideal snack in between meals, and packing those to go helps me avoid unhealthy impulse buys when hunger strikes unexpectedly.

That's about it - as you can see, I don't actually carry around a lot of beauty products; to be honest, I'm just not one for frequent touch-ups. And you know, that helps to carve out more space in my bag for snacks, or a good book :) I hope you enjoyed this peek into my purse and let me know what your summer handbag essentials are - I'd love to know what you like to always have on hand!

Disclaimer: Products marked with an asterix (*) were press samples I received from the brands' PR for review consideration. I purchased all other products myself. All links are non-affiliate. All opinions are 100% honest and unbiased, no matter if the product featured were purchased with my own money or provided free of charge. Thank you for reading!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

No More Dry Skin: TATCHA Overnight Memory Serum Concentrate*

I mentioned in my Evening Skincare Routine post (here) that I've been using a new product from TATCHA's Luminous range for a while now - the Overnight Memory Serum Concentrate* ($110 for 50ml/ 1.7 fl. oz), so it's high time to give you my thoughts on it.
The Overnight Memory Serum claims to 'restore hydration, refine texture and visibly plump fine lines' thanks to Okinawa Red Algae and 7 botanical extracts. It also contains quite a few plant oils (squalane from olive oil, rice germ and camellia), as well as glycerin and royal jelly. The serum can also be used in a fine layer to add extra glow during the day; Tatcha says this is the ultra-concentrated version of their cult Dewy Skin Mist, and recommends using one to two spoonfuls per application.
Why the golden spoon, I hear you ask - isn't that a bit gimmicky? While it certainly adds to the luxurious appeal of the heavy glass jar, it's actually very useful to scoop out product as Tatcha's newest serum has a very interesting texture: it is in fact a jelly. The serum wobbles amusingly in the pot when shaken, which really reminds me of panna cotta, but curiously once you scoop out a little, the surface evens itself out within a couple minutes. The jelly turns to watery gel when picked up with your fingers, and spreads easily and evenly on the face. I appreciate the novelty factor of this packaging and texture, but to be honest, I think it does take more time and effort than just pumping a blob from a bottle, so there's that.
The serum has a faint herbal scent that dissipates quickly, and is suitable for all skin types, including sensitive skins. I have been applying it most nights for the past three months, and here's what I think: this is another damn good product from Tatcha (see my reviews of their One Step Camellia Cleansing Oil & Rice Enzyme Polish here, as well as Camellia Beauty Oil and Nourishing Lip Balm here. Oh, and I also really like their Deep Hydration Firming Eye Serum). I'm sorry - at this price point I wish I could tell you to save your money - but it really is effective and makes a noticeable difference in my skin. In simplest terms, I haven't had any dry patches or flakes on my face since I started using the Overnight Memory Serum. None. I used to always, always have a few flakes around my nose but those are completely gone now, and I can't remember the last time I had to worry about dry, crusty skin on my face.
So in terms of hydration and moisturization, Tatcha's serum wins in spades. Because my skin is now so hydrated, it also looks more plump and glowy overall - but if you were hoping for a brightening effect as in reduced hyperpigmentation, I don't think this serum really targets those issues. My other miniscule gripe with this product is that now that we've entered the hot and humid months, it's actually a bit too moisturizing; it doesn't absorb all the way into my skin leaving a bit of a tacky layer, even when used in a small amount and without a moisturizer over the top, and in the morning my skin is quite oily. It hasn't however caused any breakouts or clogging - it's just that I don't really enjoy the feel of  heavy layers on my face in this damn heat, which is also why I don't use a facial oil in the summer. Personally, for my combination skin, Tatcha's Overnight Memory Serum Concentrate is a godsend in the winter, but a bit OTT in the summer.

I'd say that if your skin is oily, I'd skip the Memory Serum altogether and maybe go for something like their just released Pore Perfecting Water Gel Moisturizer (I haven't tried it myself though - just pointing out there are other products in the range geared towards combo and oily skin). If your skin type is combination/ normal but seasonally dehydrated, or dry - by all means, get yourself a jar and watch your flaky skin disappear. While the price point is quite high, one jar should last you a really long time - mine doesn't even look like it's been used. What is your favorite hydrating serum for night time? Do you prefer jar packaging or a pump bottle?

TATCHA Overnight Memory Serum Concentrate is available on tatcha.com here (complimentary shipping and returns in the US as well as a deluxe sample gift on your first order) as well as at Sephora, Barneys and QVC.

Disclaimer: Product featured in this post is a press sample I received from the brand's PR for review consideration. All links are non-affiliate. All opinions are 100% honest and unbiased, no matter if the product featured were purchased with my own money or provided free of charge. Thank you for reading!

Friday, July 8, 2016

Beauty Empties: 2nd Quarter of 2016

The bag of beauty trash is overflowing again, so here we go! To be honest, when I do my empties posts quarterly, I get quite overwhelmed with the number of products and dread having to type them all up - but then again, I still personally love empties posts and videos from others, so I continue doing them as well. Let's start with my skincare - I made a lot of progress!
Products I disliked and wouldn't repurchase: Peter Thomas Roth Rose Stem Cell Mask (reviewed here), First Aid Beauty Facial Cleanser, Paula's Choice Hydralight Toner* (reviewed here but when used over a longer period of time, it started irritating my skin)
Products I enjoyed, but I'm trying out other things: Shu Uemura Anti Oxi Cleansing Oil (reviewed here - I said I was on the fence about this product and now I still think it's overpriced, but I've tried some other oil-based make-up removers from my back-up stash recently and they don't even come close in efficacy to the Shu), Insta Naturals Vitamin C Serum* (reviewed here), Eau Thermale Avene, Dermalogica Skin Hydrating Booster, Paula's Choice Hydralight Moisture-Infusing Lotion* (reviewed here), Josie Maran 100% Argan Oil (would rather buy a cheaper argan oil)
Products I would repurchase (but am probably trying out other things too):  Pixi Glow Tonic (reviewed here), Paula's Choice RESIST 5% AHA Smoothing Treatment* (reviewed here - I have a back-up already)
I've also finished quite a lot of make-up products in the past three months, mostly thanks to my Project 10 Pan. If you like seeing make-up empties from me more regularly, make sure to follow me on Instagram where I'm counting up all of them to see how many I can go through within a year.
Products I disliked and wouldn't repurchase: L'Oreal Telescopic Carbon Black Mascara (reviewed here)
Products I enjoyed, but I'm trying out other things: Givenchy Phenomen'Eyes Mascara (reviewed here), Guerlain Maxi Lash Mascara (here), Stila Waterproof Eyeliner in Bluefin, Revlon Lip Butter in Berry Smoothie (discontinued), Jane Iredale Lip Plumper in Tokyo (deluxe sample), NailTek Hydration III base coat (reviewed here)
Products I would repurchase (but am probably trying out other things too): Marc Jacobs Velvet Noir Major Volume Mascara* (reviewed here), NARS Smudgeproof Eyeshadow Base (so far, my HG eyeshadow primer), Fresh Sugar Shine Lip Treatment (reviewed here - I have another deluxe sample in the shade Rose waiting to be used)
I've also made considerable progress on my fragrance collection, and I'm getting very close to hitting my inventory goal for perfumes - yay! Mind you, I've been working for over two years on the two full-size bottles in the photo.
Products I disliked and wouldn't repurchase: Givenchy Dahlia Divin perfume sample
Products I enjoyed, but I'm trying out other things: Victoria's Secret Dream Angels Heavenly Fragrance Mist, Prada Candy EDP, Annick Goutal Petite Cherie perfume sample
Products I would repurchase (but am probably trying out other things too): Thierry Mugler Angel deluxe mini.
Bodycare empties are somewhat modest this month; but aside from that one soap box in the photo, I used up three more bar soaps but as they came unwrapped/ packaged in just a bit of paper, I didn't want to clutter the picture.
Products I disliked and wouldn't repurchase: Derma E Vitamin E Intensive Therapy Hand Creme (for the price and ambitious claims, it did very little to moisturize my dry, eczema-ridden hands)
Products I enjoyed, but I'm trying out other things: Bulgarian rose soap (gift from my mom), Purell Hand Sanitizer, L'Occitane mini hand creams in the Almond and Peony scents (my favorite is the original Shea and I would purchase a small size of that one to keep in my purse)
Products I would repurchase (but am probably trying out other things too): Suave Essentials Almond Verbena Body Wash (the cheapest shower gel I could find in a local RiteAid, but I ended up really liking it - it may have some harsh ingredients but surprisingly I didn't find it to be particularly drying).
Haircare - look at all these deluxe samples/ travel sizes exiting my stash! Pretty much all of these were really good.
Products I disliked and wouldn't repurchase: None.
Products I enjoyed, but I'm trying out other things: Redken Diamond Oil, 12 Benefits Leave-in Hair Treatment*, Pacifica Super Kale Juiced-up Shampoo* and Conditioner* (good but I wasn't a fan of the minty herbal scent)
Products I would repurchase (but am probably trying out other things too): Aveda Air Control Hairspray* (reviewed here), Pacifica Hairvana Leave-On Detangling Conditioner* (reviewed here), Batiste Dry Shampoo Travel Size in the Cherry fragrance
Sheet and one-time (more like 5 times) use masks.
Products I disliked and wouldn't repurchase: DHC under eye patches (did absolutely nothing to hydrate my eye area)
Products I enjoyed, but I'm trying out other things: Murad Pomegranate Exfoliating Mask (discontinued - and the full size actually came in maybe 5 of these foil packets), Freeman Pumpkin Peeling Mask (reviewed here - when I had the genius idea to use the remainder up on my chest and shoulders, it left my skin red and burning... So that's a no, I guess. Discontinued anyway), Freeman Brightening Facial Paper Mask (not much essence, didn't notice any results from one use).
Products I would repurchase (but am probably trying out other things too): Leaders Insolution Moisturizing Recovery Mask (the second Leaders mask I've tried and I liked both very much - would purchase another from the brand especially that it's now available at Ulta).
Lastly, half-used and barely used tosses; all of these products either ostensibly went bad or are now too old for me to use comfortably.
Products I disliked and wouldn't repurchase: Bobbi Brown High Shimmer Gloss in Bellini deluxe sample (pretty shade but I dislike glitter in lip products)
Products I enjoyed, but I'm trying out other things: NYX Powder Blush in Taupe (from my Project 10 Pan), Revlon Superlustrous Lipstick in Cherries in the Snow (fantastic drugstore lipstick but I have a similar shade in my stash, and currently would also rather use a red shade with a matte finish), Mountain Rose Herbs Hazelnut Oil (gone rancid - I shouldn't be purchasing any plant/ carrier oils in such large bottles), Paula's Choice C15 Booster sample, Maybelline LE Color Sensational Lipstick in First Class Fuschia (smells off, haven't been in a mood for a bright pinky coral in months).
Products I would repurchase (but am probably trying out other things too): None.

I think that was quite a lot of products, especially in the make-up, skincare and fragrance categories. Using up my products and not repurchasing much is definitely helping to bring me closer to my goal of a smaller, manageable beauty stash. Have you finished any difficult products recently?

Disclaimer: Products marked with an asterix (*) were press samples I received from the brands' PR for review consideration. I purchased all the other products myself or they were gifted to me by friends and family. All links are non-affiliate. All opinions are 100% honest and unbiased, no matter if the products featured were purchased with my own monies or provided free of charge. Thank you for reading!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Summer Proof Mascara: Shiseido Full Lash Volume Review

Summer heat and humidity is already upon us here in New York, which creates the perfect conditions to test the wear of a make-up product. Having recently finished off my sample tubes of mascara, I dug this one out of my stash: the Shiseido Full Lash Volume Mascara in Black ($25 for 8ml/ 0.29 oz). I haven't had great luck with Asian mascara in the past (click here for my review of Heroine Make Volume & Curl) but they do often wear much longer than the ones from Western brands, so I thought now would be the perfect time to give the Shiseido a try.
The mascara is packaged in an interesting 'twisted' tube, which reminds me of the Frank Gehry building in Lower Manhattan. It's quite sleek and not too bulky, something I really appreciate in make-up packaging in general. The brush itself has a curved shape with lots of short natural bristles all the way around; nothing innovative but very functional nonetheless.

Shiseido's Full Lash Volume promises 'flexible' volume (whatever that means) with a natural-looking curl and soft, touchable finish. It also claims to separate lashes for a 'stunning fan effect' with no clumps. All of those things sound great to me, but does the product actually deliver?
Well, yes and no. The formula of this mascara is a bit on the wet side right when you open the packaging, but now that I've been using it for about three weeks, it has definitely dried out to a significant degree. The brush is designed very well to separate lashes from roots to tips, but as the time goes by, I have noticed more and more clumping. I would say the volume I get from this mascara is quite good, but nothing dramatic - I usually have to build it up in two coats, and really concentrate the tip of the brush, which has more mascara on it than the rest of the brush, on my outer lashes to get any product there.
I don't find that the curved shape of this brush gives my lashes any more curl - if anything, I think they look a bit less curled than they usually do, maybe because of the wetness of the formula? Another downside is that I don't think it actually fans out lashes very well; they seem to all go in one direction instead. However, where this mascara absolutely excels for me is the wear. As you may remember, my perpetual struggle with mascara is getting transfer onto my browbone, and I have had absolutely no smearing there. I also haven't noticed any flakes or fading throughout the day. I would have thought this mascara was waterproof if it weren't for the fact that it's also very easy to remove at the end of the day with just about any make-up remover/ facial cleanser.
Top: bare uncurled lashes, bottom: after 2 coats of Shiseido Full Lash Volume
All in all, I really enjoy not having to worry about flaking or smudging when I wear this mascara, although I have used other mascaras in the past that have given my lashes a fuller, longer and more dramatic look. While it's not my Holy Grail, I may revisit it next summer if I don't find anything better with similar longevity. Have you tried any mascaras from Shiseido? What is your favorite mascara to wear in the summertime?

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Project 13 Pan 2016: Halfway Update

Similarly to my progress on Project Pan That Palette, I'm quite happy with how my current Project Pan is going. I have worn make-up a lot more often the past two months (due to working and socializing more, as well as using my products during our two week holiday), and I think it shows in the results. Here's a flat lay of all 13 products from the beginning of the Project two months ago, in May:
And here's a current shot:
Now let's talk about my progress on each individual item and how I'm doing on my goals stipulated in the Intro post (here):
1. MAC Blot Powder in Medium. I've expanded the pan but not as much as I would have liked. You may be able to see that I've been concentrating my brush in one area mostly and there's a definite dip showing, so my goal is to further expand my pan there in the next two months. I don't think I'll be able to use this entire powder up by the end of the Project.
2. The Body Shop Honey Bronzing Powder in 02 Fair. This again is moving, but moving slowly. I also picked one side of the compact to focus on and there is progress there, but there's no way I'll be finishing this entire bronzer up in the next two months. My deep down motivation to include this product was to toss it at the end of the challenge and replace with a new product, but now that I've been using a bronzer every single day, I don't think I'm much of a bronzer person. I like to wear one occasionally, but definitely not all the time - and since I have two more bronzers aside from The Body Shop one in my stash, I definitely don't need to purchase another one for my collection.
3. Buxom Full-on Lip Cream in Cherry Flip. I've been working quite hard on this and there's very good progress - I'm definitely on the way to finishing it all up in July and August.
4. OPI Nail Lacquer mini in Red Lights Ahead... Where?. Decent progress here but I could have done better - this is just three applications, one mani and two pedis. I would have liked to wear it more on my finger nails, but I don't like matchy-matchy fingers and toes, and it's all I've been wearing on the toes in May and June. Hmm. It is getting thicker though so it should be done in two months either way.
5. Giorgio Armani Rouge d'Armani Sheers in 301. I'm anticipating trouble on this lip product - even though I made alright progress so far, the formula of this lipstick is so thin that it doesn't go down as quickly as most other products with thicker textures, like Revlon Lip Butters for example. That's okay though - I still really like it so I don't mind having a small nub left at the end of the Project.
6. Bite Beauty High Pigment Lip Pencil in Sablé. Really good progress and I'm certainly on track to finishing it all up by the end of August. I'm still really liking this shade although I think it's better suited to the cold season when my skin is at its palest. I sometimes like pairing this nude lip pencil with a slightly darker mauve lipstick, or a MLBB gloss to give it more depth.
7. Pixi Beauty Endless Silky Eye Pen in Black Noir. Again, great progress and should be very easy to finish the rest off in the near future - especially that I can't sharpen these pencils all the way down. I'm still enjoying this pencil but it's better suited for the upper lashline than the waterline - it smears in the outer corner for me when I tightline with it, so I won't be replacing it once I run out.
8. NYX Micro Brow Pencil in Taupe. Woohoo, all done! I quite liked this eyebrow pencil for its precision, but the past week I've been using eyeshadow in my brows instead and I think I may like that softer effect a bit better than pencil.
9. Laneige Cushion Concealer SPF30 in Light*. I could be doing better on this concealer but there were two weeks when I haven't touched it at all, so all things considered my progress is fine. I'm still not a huge fan of this product: I like that it's lightweight and melds into the skin seamlessly (I can even use it alone on bare skin on days when I can't be bothered with foundation), but it never sets and moves around a lot during the day unfortunately.
10. NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer in Chantilly. Despite using this nearly every day, there's not much progress to be seen here. Yeah, so maybe it wasn't the best idea to put this product in my Project - I don't think I'll actually be able to use it all up in the next two months. I don't know how some people can use up a concealer like this in just a few months; I have to use it very sparingly or else it looks heavy and cakey on my face. Anyway - I'm still doing my best.
11. Bourjois 123 Perfect CC Cream in 31 Ivory. My progress is more or less what I expected it to be. Even though I wore foundation on more days than I usually do, I use very little for each application, so I'm not flying through this tube. My plan is to try and use a bit more and see if that helps to use it up faster (my initial goal however was to use up 3/4 of the tube, not the whole thing).
12. Hourglass Mineral Veil Primer. It seems that I'm right on track to finishing it all up by the end of August. I think this product works all right but I wouldn't repurchase by any means - it has also separated a bit in the bottle and I can't mix it back up.
13. Maybelline Color Tattoo in Just Beige. Slow going on this one - I'm using it every time I wear make-up but these Maybelline Color Tattoos are very difficult for me to use up. Either way, it's drying out more and more, so I'll be tossing it at the of the Project.

I'm content with my results so far and I haven't been feeling too terribly bored or constrained by my choice of products - and I think that once I use a few more items completely up, it'll be fun to play around with adding other products from my stash into the mix and coming up with new color combinations. I find it interesting how by panning a contour powder in my first Project Pan this year, and now a bronzer in my second Project, I have completely lost the interest in purchasing more products in those categories. I found that while I consider blush to be a must-have for me, bronzing and contouring is just not essential and doesn't even look all that great on my fair skin most of the time. I think realizations like this are the biggest reason why I do these panning projects - it's just fun to know your individual preferences and taste a bit better and adjust your make-up routine accordingly.

How are you doing with panning your make-up? Have you discovered anything new about your likes and dislikes in the process? I'd love to hear about that!