Thursday, May 28, 2015

MOAR Acid Tone: Clarins Gentle Exfoliator Brightening Toner

I know that I just reviewed a new-to-me chemical liquid exfoliant, the Pixi Glow Tonic. But! But. I've read on multiple skincare websites and blogs that it's more effective to have a few different acid formulas in your routine to rotate, as the skin tends to get used to a given concentration/ acid type. So I decided to pull the trigger on an acid toner I'd had on my wishlist for a while, the Clarins Gentle Exfoliator Brightening Toner ($39 for 125 ml/ 4.2 fl oz).
This acid toner used to be part of the Clarins HP Brightening range, but I guess it was reformulated and re-released under a slightly different name; interestingly enough, I couldn't find it on Nordstrom, so I just waited for a free shipping offer and got it from clarinsusa.com instead. I was really interested in testing it out even though it's not the best value for money, and what's more contains alcohol and fragrance; but I've had good luck with Clarins products in the past (the Blue Orchid Face Treatment Oil for Dehydrated Skin and the Extra-Comfort Cleansing Cream), so I went for it anyway.
The acid composition of Clarins Gentle Exfoliator is predominantly glycolic, but it also contains tartaric acid (an AHA from grapes/ wine that's less stable than glycolic and lactic acids) and salicylic acid, a BHA. It does contain alcohol high up on the INCI list, but it also has quite a bit of glycerin, and it doesn't feel drying on the skin - I also don't get the typical alcohol sting, so that's nice. One piece of information I wish I could find on this toner (and nope, Clarins isn't very forthcoming when it comes to real info on their formulations) is the pH level, but alas, it seems I'd have to test it myself to find that out.
As for the most important part, meaning how well it works for my skin, I think it's alright. I do use it about twice a week, as recommended, in lieu of my usual First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads. Maybe I don't use it often enough to notice a dramatic difference, but so far, I haven't seen any added benefit of incorporating the Clarins Gentle Exfoliator into my routine. Sure, it feels nice and refreshing on the skin, doesn't cause irritation or breakouts, smells really nice... But I don't know if I'll pay $39 again for another bottle. I doubt it, actually.

If you're new to liquid acid exfoliants and you're a fan of Clarins products in general, I think this is a good product to try out. However, if you've been using the acid tone step for a while, the Gentle Exfoliator isn't groundbreaking enough to warrant choosing it over another less expensive option. That's just my two cents. Have you tried this Brightening Toner? What are your must-have products from Clarins?

Monday, May 25, 2015

Minimalist Monday | Part 1 of My Closet Tour: KonMari Drawers

Dum DUM dum... Here it is: unedited, raw, messy Part 1 of my Closet Tour, featuring my chest of drawers organized according to the KonMari folding method (if you've never heard about it, here's my review of Marie Kondo's book, 'The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up'). I know you've all been waiting for it! Hmm, or maybe not. Either way, this is the state of my chest of drawers after having decluttered about 40% of my clothes. There's still a lot left, so I can't exactly call it a capsule wardrobe, but it's something - and I also wanted to write this post for myself to look back on as I continue my journey towards a more minimalist closet.
To give you some sort of visual/ spatial reference, the chest of drawers in question is from the Ikea Malm range - I have the chest on the left, and my husband has a second matching one on the right. They're set against the wall in our bedroom, facing the bed. Because they're quite tall, I can keep some decorative and sentimental items on top, as well as a wooden tray with my current perfumes and jewelry for easy access.
Well, the tour is mostly unedited: I didn't tidy up or alter the organization in any way just for the sake of this post, but I did decide to omit my underwear drawer, for two reasons: first, it's my undies we're talking about, second, it's not really organized or folded using the KonMari method. I keep my bras and underthings separate, but that's about it. Don't worry though, you're not missing much from the tour - here's my sock drawer instead! I used to fold my socks in compact balls to keep the pairs together, but Marie advises against that: so I simply folded the pairs in halves or thirds and set them up vertically. I also used an old shoe box to keep my athletic and no-show socks separate. In the back, I keep extra thick and snowboarding socks I only use occasionally, and in the very front, my most used crew socks, organized by color family.
The second drawer down houses my short and long sleeve tops, as well as tank tops. This drawer has seen quite a big transformation compared to what it looked like before I started to declutter. I used to store all my tops folded on top of each other, and I actually had to keep my summer tops separate, because they wouldn't all fit in one drawer; as a consequence, I rarely wore any of my warm weather clothes. After pairing down the tops, everything fits nicely into one drawer, with some room to spare in the back. From left to right, I have short sleeve tops, long sleeve tops, and small sushi rolls of tank tops and camis. I haven't really put any effort into color-coordinating these with the exception of tanks, but I tend to put freshly laundered tops toward the front of the drawer, in an attempt to rotate them with the stuff from the back. It only works half of the time ;)
The third drawer down contains my sweaters and some of my scarves (mostly off-season and rarely reached for scarves). The two sweaters in the middle of the drawer are stacked on top of one another because they are in fact too thick to stand up vertically. I don't reach into this drawer a whole lot right now as the weather continues to warm up, but I find it pretty functional when I do. This drawer used to stuffed to the brim with just knitwear, but after decluttering, I was able to move my scarves into it from a hanging closet organizer, which we actually don't need anymore.
The second last drawer houses my workout clothes & swimwear on the left and sleepwear on the right. If you're interested in capsule closets or challenges like Project 333 at all, you may know that those two types of clothing are considered 'extras', as they're only worn for very specific purposes - so it made sense in my mind to store them together. Again, the vertical organization works so much better than the awkard piles I had in there before.
Lastly, the bottom drawer contains my bottoms (cue Minion laugh). I have long bottoms on the left, leggings & lounge bottoms in the middle, and shorts and warm weather bottoms on the right (along with some belts I currently use). This drawer also used to be full to bursting with jeans and pants, and now I have some space left that I may use for something else, like maybe the rest of my belts, or my tights and stockings that I keep in a separate box in our closet.

And that's it! Overall, the vertical organization works so much better for me than the old piles: I can see everything I have at a glance, which makes dressing in the morning a lot easier and quicker. One thing I was worried about before making the switch was that the drawers would somehow get messy very easily, but I can honestly say that hasn't been the case at all - when I remove quite a few items and a row starts to fall down, I just push everything to one end to keep it together. By decluttering my clothes and then organizing them properly, I've also been able to see what I clearly have enough of that I used to purchase quite frequently (like socks and leggings), and to visualize my ideal wardrobe color palette - can you already guess what it is from looking at the photos? ;)

Let me know if you have any questions about my drawers at all, I'd love to hear them. Part 2, featuring our walk-in closet where I keep clothes that need to be hung, should be coming quite soon - there's still some reorganizing I'd like to do in there when I have a spare moment. I hope you enjoyed this peek at how I store my clothing, and maybe it has inspired you to tweak your organization to suit your needs in the best way possible. Thank you for reading!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Summer Sheers: Lancôme Shine Lover Lipstick in 323 Effortless Pink

So far, I've been really picky this year about my new lipstick acquisitions. Maybe it's the realization how long it takes to use up a lip product after rotating through the same couple of options in my Project Make A Dent, maybe I just haven't really been blown away by any of the new releases... Either way, I knew that I wanted a new sheer lipstick for the summer. The combination of a bright shade in a more translucent formula has been my go to in the warmer months for the past couple of years, so when Lancôme released their new range of sheer lipsticks, after much hesitation, I decided to pick up one: the Shine Lover Vibrant Shine Lipstick 8H Moisture in 323 Effortless Pink ($25 for 0.1 oz).
Let me just say that I really appreciate how Lancôme decided to keep their hydration claims on the reasonable side with 'just' 8 hours of moisture. After foundations claiming to last anywhere from 16 to 20 something hours, I like that they aren't joining the game of the most ridiculous claim around. The Shine Lover lipsticks come in a pretty silver outer box with the shade NAME of the lipstick, however, the bottom label on the lipstick tube only lists the shade NUMBER. I guess it's not a big deal for most people, but I'd prefer to have the shade name of the sticker as well.

Speaking of the lipstick tube, I was pleasantly surprised when I opened the box. From looking at photos and promo images online, I expected the white tube to made out of a flimsy lightweight plastic, but it's actually a lot heavier and sturdier in my hand, and the white has a pretty opalescent finish. I also like the minimal design with silver stripes and Lancôme's rose on top of the cap.
Effortless Pink no. 323 is a sheer cool-toned hot pink shade in a lightly glossy finish, no shimmer. In the tube, it looks scary bright, but applies very, very sheer on the lips with one swipe; the intensity can be easily built up though. In that, it reminds me most of the discontinued Giorgio Armani Rouge d'Armani Sheers, but maybe a hair more pigmented and less glossy. Among my collection of other bright pinks, it's the most similar to Fresh Sugar Tinted Lip Treatment in Tulip, but even more vibrant. The Shu Uemura Rouge Unlimited Supreme Shine PK331 is warmer and contains micro shimmer particles.
While the shade itself is nothing terribly unique, I do find the Shine Lover formula to be quite unlike other sheer lipsticks/ tinted balms in my collection. It's incredibly smooth and lightweight on the lips; so much so that I actually forgot I was wearing it, and started devouring a watermelon slice without removing it first, which could have ended pretty Joker-like with any other lipstick - but since the Shine Lover formula is so thin, it didn't really migrate from my lips at all. It does seem to stay put quite nicely, and when the subtle shine wears off, Effortless Pink leaves behind a bit of a stain; I still had on a pretty pink flush after dinner.

L-R: 1 swipe of Lancome Shine Lover in Effortless Pink, 5-7 swipes of Effortless Pink, Guerlain Rouge Automatique in Shalimar, Fresh Sugar in Tulip, Shu Uemura PK 331
One thing that may be a bit of a let down for some is that the Shine Lover finish is in fact not very shiny at all. It has comparable shine/ gloss level to a standard creamy lipstick; to give you some examples for reference, the Shu Uemura Rouge Unlimited Shine and the Fresh Sugar tinted balms are both more glossy on the lips. I personally don't mind - from browsing online swatches, I expected a lower level of shine - and I think that's also the reason why the Shine Lover stays better on the lips than other sheer formulas.
The scent on these is a very delicate fruity floral; I can only smell it a little in the tube and the fragrance doesn't linger whatsoever. As for the '8H Moisture' claim, I can't wear any lipstick for that without touching up, but I will say it's certainly not drying, which is already a huge accomplishment on my flaky lips. When applied, it also doesn't catch on dry patches, and while it doesn't plump up all the fine lines, it doesn't gather in them either, making the overall appearance of my lips more smooth and healthy.

I'm really happy I decided to try out this new lipstick from Lancôme; so far, I'm pretty impressed with it, and it's one of my new favorite lip product formulas. Even though the shade is so cheerily bright in the tube, it looks very naturally pretty on the lips; truly, an 'Effortless Pink' color. Have you tried these Shine Lover lipsticks already? What is your favorite sheer lipstick formula?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A Week in Faces of the Day

Things haven't been particularly interesting in these parts when it comes to new make-up acquisitions, so I figured I could just show you a couple (well, five) make-up looks I've been sporting recently. These are my usual 'a tweak here, a tweak there' everyday looks, so it's not anything you haven't seen before, but still, maybe you'll find an element or two inspiring or fun to incorporate into your routine. Enjoy!
This is one of my go-to looks, featuring a brighter lip color (Inglot Gel Lipstick no. 58 from my Project Make A Dent) and a slightly winged out eyeliner - I believe this was possibly the last of my Urban Decay Rockstar eyeliner, also from the Project. I wanted to multitask my denting products, so I layered a Michael Todd lipgloss in Natural under the berry lipstick, and I did not like that effect at all - you can see a little bit in the photo, but basically it caused most of the pigment from the bright lipstick to migrate towards the outside of my mouth, almost giving the look of a darker lipliner. Don't try this at home, kids! I was unsatisfied with this look enough to have another go at it later in the week, which you'll see below.
This was my attempt at a lazy but glowy weekend look. I say lazy, because I skipped a product here that I very rarely omit from my make-up routine: a spot concealer. In fact, a spot concealer is the one product I always said I couldn't do without. But my skin has been looking pretty clear recently, and I haven't had the need to do as much pinpoint concealing as I used to. For my base, I applied Dermalogica's Sheer Tint SPF20 in Light (which turned out to have no coverage whatsoever), and layered Laura Mercier's Mineral Powder in Tender Rose over the top, which gave my skin a lightweight, dewy look with most of my freckles peeking through. On the eyes, I played with Urban Decay Electric on the waterline, and made sure to add plenty of black mascara. Cheeks are Laura Mercier Lotus Pink, lips are Revlon Superlustrous gloss in Coral Reef.
Now, I've recently been lemming a lavender blush to add to my collection. I think it's the result of craving something new to play with, and browsing Korean make-up products on eBay; it seems that pastel purple blush is a big trend in Korea. But, I've exhausted my make-up low buy allowance for this month, and I also expected said blush wouldn't get to me in time to be seasonally appropriate (not with the hot and humid weather we've been having in NYC recently), so I shopped my stash instead, and came out with La Femme Powder Blush in Flamingo Pink and NYX Mega Shine Lipgloss in Dolly. I thought they complemented each other nicely, and I did a very basic eye with the Dior quint in Earth Reflections coupled with a more interesting dark teal liner by way of Sephora Contour pencil in Surfer Babe.
Here's another rendition of that first failed berry lip look. This time, I decided against a cat eye, opting for a very fine line right against the lashline instead for some extra definition; the eyeshadow look was also rather subtle thanks to the lighter shades in the Dior Earth Reflection. I've used quite a bit of Stila Convertible Color in Lillium (also from Project Make A Dent) on the cheeks to offset the darker lip, and patted my Inglot no. 58 over a layer of Milani Anti-Feathering Transparent Lip Liner to achieve a more matte look. I thought it turned out much prettier than the first attempt!
Lastly, here's my version of a daytime smokey eye. I decided to wear my Rouge Bunny Rouge Chronos Eyeshadow Palette on the eyes, using the navy charcoal shade in the outer corner. I also bronzed up my face a little with Too Faced Milk Chocolate Soleil, dabbed some of that Stila Lillium on the cheeks, and swept a small amount of Laura Mercier Baked Highlight on top of the cheekbones - that's where that subtle glow is coming from. On the lips, I used only the nude Michael Todd lipgloss. Overall, it wasn't my favorite look either - I think I'm looking a bit tired and sallow here, and maybe a slightly darker My Lips But Better shade would have counteracted that. Well, you live, you learn, right?

Which one of these looks is your personal favorite? I hope this wasn't terribly boring, you guys - I always enjoy seeing what people actually wear on their faces from day to day, so I thought it was worth sharing. Let me know what make-up look you've been sporting most recently!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Cult Classics: Caudalie Beauty Elixir Review

Caudalie's Beauty Elixir ($18 for 1 oz/ $49 for 3.4 oz) mist is one of those cult products I'd always wanted to try for myself and see what the raves were all about. So, after finishing a bottle of Skindinavia Make-up Setting Spray, I went ahead and ordered a bottle of the Caudalie to replace it. I could just imagine misting my face with the refreshing Beauty Elixir on a hot summer day... What a relief that would be, right? And so luxurious...
Well, my Caudalie dream hasn't quite come true though. Here are the good things about it: the mist is very fine (not squirty at all), the frosted glass looks beautiful on my vanity, and it does feel cooling on the skin for the 3 seconds before it dries. Aaand that's about it when it comes to what I like about this product.
Here's what I don't like: guys, what is the point?! Does this give my skin an amazingly glowy finish? Nope. Does it smooth or tighten the pores? Nope. Does it contain effective skin-loving ingredients? Nope. Is the smell absolutely amazing? Nope, more like spraying your face with a gentle mouthwash (combination of alcohol + peppermint scent). What the heck am I missing here?!
If I sound a tad angry at all, it's because I am. I feel that Beauty Elixir is Caudalie's golden egg-bearing goose: they put some water, alcohol, fragrance (why?!) and a few essential oils in a pretty bottle, and it rakes in amazing profits. No skincare profit for me though - I'd much rather use something like Andalou Naturals 1000 Roses Floral Toner, which actually does contain beneficial ingredients and retails for between $10-13 for a 6 ounce bottle. You can use it the exact same way as the Beauty Elixir, it just doesn't claim to be a 'part-toner, part-serum mist' - but it sure does perform better.

Beauty Elixir fans, tell me, what am I missing? Is there some magical way to make this work? I have to say that so far, my experiences with Caudalie have been less than satisfactory every single time: I strongly disliked the popular Vinosource Moisturizing Sorbet, and found the S.O.S. Serum very sticky. Do you have any favorites in the Caudalie skincare range?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Understated Elegance: Dior 5 Colour Iridescent Eyeshadow in 609 Earth Reflection

I've recently come to the realization that I may have finally gotten big eyeshadow palettes out of my system. It's not that I don't reach for the ones I have in my collection - I do all the time - but at some point, you just start accumulating doubles and triples of the same shades over and over. So, I think I'm done on that account (watch me as I pick up another neutral eyeshadow palette in a couple months' time...), which of course doesn't mean I'm not interested in eyeshadows anymore. I've simply switched my attention to singles, duos, trios, quads and quints, like this one: the Dior 5-Colour Iridescent Eyeshadow in 609 Earth Reflection ($62 for 0.21 oz).
I've actually had this on my mental wish list for a very long time, but just couldn't quite pull the trigger. Last week, I spotted it on an Instagram sale (watch out, blog sales, there's a new kid on the block!) for $30 with shipping, and so I wasn't able to resist it any longer.
Here's the deal: from swatching Earth Reflection multiple times in-store and reading reviews online, I knew it wasn't going to be anything earth-shattering (har har) in my collection. I could probably find near dupes scattered among my other palettes and singles. But! But there's just something so luxuriously elegant about Dior quints. From the simple packaging to the effortless formula inside, they're oh so very chic. They're not trying hard to impress with their pigmentation, texture, complex shimmers or uniqueness. They just are what they are. And I quite like that.
After playing with the palette for a couple days, here are my general thoughts: it's a great basic palette for fair and light skintones. I believe medium and dark skintones may have issues getting a complete eye look out of the palette, due to the fact that it contains three very light shades and the darkest shade is more or less the same depth of MAC Satin Taupe, which I know is a lid shade for most (I've always used it in the crease and outer corner in the daytime on my fair skin).

All five eyeshadows in Earth Reflection are shimmers, or pearl/frost finish (not metallic, not glittery, just smooth sheen). While for some it may be a deal-breaker, I was able to get a balanced look using just the quint, since the darkest shade I used in the crease isn't very reflective when blended out on the eyes. Another thing worth noting is that the three lightest shades (a warm champagne, pale pink in the middle, and ivory pearl) come across quite similar on the eyes - I wish especially there was more variation between the pink and ivory.
But other than those slight drawbacks, I very much enjoy Earth Reflection. The two taupe shades are absolutely stunning, and I was happy to see that I could use the lighter taupe on the lids quite easily for an everyday look. As you can see below, for this post I did more of a smokey eye using the darkest shade to add drama, but you could also get a barely there look with this quint using the champagne on the lid and the light taupe in the crease; quite similar effect to my beloved Shiseido Luminizing Satin Trio in Nude. The texture is smooth, easily buildable and blendable, and I haven't noticed any fallout on the eyes during application or wear time.
Dior 609 Earth Reflection swatched clockwise from top left corner, with the pink in the middle swatched last
I don't know you guys, there's just something about this that I deeply enjoy. I can definitely see why these Dior quints are so popular - they're just so effortless. I already know that I'll be taking Earth Reflection with me when I travel, simply because you can do a whole eyeshadow look in minutes without thinking about pairing shades together or their careful placement.
In the face shots, I'm wearing lighter taupe on the lids with a bit of champagne layered over it in the centre, darker taupe in the outer corners in a more cat-eye/ elevated shape, lightest ivory in the inner corners, and the combination of taupes on the lower lashline. I've also tightlined my upper waterline with Pixi Endless Silky Eye Pen in Black Noir. I'm wearing Josie Maran Coconut Watercolor Cheek Gelee in Getaway Red with Too Faced Milk Chocolate Soleil on the cheeks and Essence Stay With Me Lipgloss in Candy Bar on the lips, since the weather suddenly turned very summery here in NYC.
Do you own any of these Dior 5-Colour Eyeshadows? What is your favorite colorway? Do you prefer smaller palettes like this or the larger ones with 10+ shades?

Sunday, May 10, 2015

A Quartet of Peachy Pinks: Marcelle Quad Blush in Ultimate Pinks

One of the awesome things about having beauty blogging friends, besides being able to talk their ears off about all the latest make-up excitements without being completely ignored or hit in the face with a flying pillow, is that you can swap products that are not immediate loves between each other. Me and Kar Yi have recently taken to ferrying a couple goodies here and there between our make-up stashes, and thus I became a happy recipient of Marcelle's Quad Blush in Ultimate Pinks ($16 for 0.16 oz/ 4.6 g, in the US available at Birchbox.com).
 Eeeee, iz sooo pretteh! When I first laid my eyes on this sleek blush compact, I was super excited to swatch all the shades and play with different combinations on my face. Because what's not to love? I just love the idea of customizable blush with complimentary hues of pink, and I think the design of the product is really neat, although I could do without the brush compartment underneath - I don't ever use the implements that come with make-up products, and so I don't appreciate the added bulk.

The blush itself looks and swatches completely matte. While I do love my satins, a good matte is nice to pair with a more visible highlighter, or to wear on those days when you have some unwanted texture on the cheeks. The four quadrants look like very distinct shades in the pan, but I was surprised to find that the nude and the peachy shade right underneath it look very similar on the skin. Both the hot pink and the baby pink pull cooler, with the lightest shade having the least amount of pigmentation.
I'm not sure how well it's coming across in my close-up and arm swatches, but all of these shades have some amount of a white base to them, making them appear more pastel on the skin. This is probably the reason this blush didn't work for darker and warmer complected Kar Yi; but as you know, I love pastel shades on me. I will generalize here and say that Ultimate Pinks will probably work the best on a fair, cool skintones, and may appear too pale and chalky on darker skintones.
Speaking of chalky... This Marcelle Quad Blush is indeed a bit chalky. What a bummer, right? The pigmentation is medium at most in my opinion, and when you attempt to build up the color on the skin, it gets a bit powdery and obvious. You can probably see that a little bit in my heavy arm swatches.
Shades swatched separately clockwise from the close-up photo; the last swatch on the right is all the shades mixed together.
Ultimate Pinks still look pretty on the cheeks - as you know, I just love peachy pink blushes on me. But I do wish the formula was a bit better; it just doesn't meld into the skin as well as some of my other favorite matte or satin formulas. So ultimately (har har), I'm not sure if I'll keep this Quad Blush in my stash or pass it on to a more appreciative friend or relative.
Canadian friends, what do you recommend from Marcelle's make-up range? I think I've only ever tried their moisturizer with sunscreen when I lived in Vancouver, and it was just okay. Are there any hidden gems? Everyone else, what is your favorite multi-hued blush? I have to say Marcelle's Quad Blush is the first one I've ever tried!