Monday, April 21, 2014

Products I Regret Buying Vol. 3

It seems that I like to write these disappointing products posts every two years or so (Volume 1 here and Volume 2 here), so now's the time for another update! We all love a good make-up rant once in a while, so here's me venting my frustration about some nearly useless make-up products I dug out from the murky bottoms of my stash:
Following a recent post on my favorite lip glosses for spring and summer, I had a good rummage through my lip gloss drawer and came up with two products I haven't touched for probably close to two years, if not more. First off, a Lancome Juicy Tubes in Rio Mango ($18 for 14.16g/ 0.5 oz) - I know for some it's a cult classic, but it does feel a bit heavy and sticky on my lips, and to top it off the shade Rio Mango has absolutely no color to it; it's basically clear. Also, mine has completely separated and despite kneading the tube like crazy, I couldn't get it to its former consistency. I think at this point it needs to go in the trash - and I won't buy this again.

Similarly, I absolutely can't recall the last time I wore the Revlon ColorStay Mineral Lip Gloss in Continuous Coral ($6.99 for 0.15 fl. oz) (probably here...?). It was never my favorite formula but I guess when I first got it, I was determined to make it work; these days I probably wouldn't have bothered and simply returned the darn thing. It smells like cough medicine, sits heavily and more like liquid lipstick on the lips, and the shade is just wrong on my complexion. In the trash it goes! Next!
Speaking of Revlon, the Brow Fantasy in Dark Blonde ($7.99 for 0.31g/ 0.011 oz of pencil and 1.18 ml/ 0.04 fl. oz of gel), a brow pencil back-up I whipped out a month or so ago, turned out to be at least a partial fail. While the pencil side performs reasonably well (however, not completely in love with the shade), the gel is just horrendous: it dries in white chunks on the tips of my brow hairs and makes me look like I have some weird isolated case of brow dandruff. I'm going to use up the pencil side, but I don't dare to touch the gel side anymore.

I'm also desperately trying to use up the Physicians Formula Eye Booster 2-in-1 Lash Boosting Felt Tip Eyeliner + Serum ($10.95 for 0.088 oz - are you kidding me with that name, PF?! Life's too short for this shiz). A couple years back, everyone was raving about the original Physicians Formula eyeliner with the skinny nib, but I couldn't find at my drugstore and so purchased this instead. Well, the 'bold' felt-tip applicator is very hard to maneuver on the lashline, and the product skips and fails to deliver an even, inky black line. No comments on the serum front. This kind of turned me off trying the original skinny one as well.
Now for some eye bases/ cream eyeshadows: I didn't exactly purchase this little pot of Graftobian Luster Creme in Orchid Odyssey ($4.79 for 1/8 oz), as it was a gift with purchase of their HD foundation (which I love), but I still regret it taking space in my collection. While the shade is a beautiful, glowy lavender with a slight pink shift, the formula of the Luster Creme is so greasy and sheer that it completely fails as an eye product. I suppose it may be usable for theatrical make-up, but I simply can't make it work, and believe me, it's not for the lack of trying.

I have very similar feelings towards NYX Jumbo Eyeshadow Pencil in Cottage Cheese ($4.49 for 5g/0.18 oz). I still hear people rave about these on YouTube from time to time, but I don't see how this would not crease on just about everyone - the formula is just so oily, and the shade I've got is not very pigmented either. I was trying to use it in my inner corners for a while, but I don't know why I should bother - a waste of time, really.
Lastly, here's a nearly full pot of Everyday Minerals Jojoba Base in the shade Alabaster  ($14 for 4.8g/ 0.17 oz), a supposedly moisturizing loose mineral foundation. On me, Jojoba Base fails to cover anything, but quite successfully manages to turn me a weird pink shade all over - and you guys know I have pink undertones in my skin. The shade Alabaster, instead of evening out my skin, almost enhances any redness I already have on my face, making me look ruddy. This also gets shiny on me within an hour or so, an all-time record I think. I'll try to use it up as face powder, but we shall see if I won't run out of patience.
And there you have it! Hopefully this was useful to some of you, or at least you had fun hearing me rant. Have you bought any disappointing products recently? What other make-up products should we all avoid like a plague?

Friday, April 18, 2014

Three Easy Radiant Orchid Nail Art Ideas for Spring

I realize what you may be thinking right now - me and nail art?! But you know, sometimes it is fun to whip out some nail polishes you've had in your collection for a while and combine them into something completely new and different. I'm a total neub when it comes to nail designs, so if I can have a go at these spring-appropriate looks, I'm sure everyone can too; there are minimal tools required, and it's all rather on trend with the Radiant Orchid color theme. Can you tell how proud I am of myself? I am trendy, you guys.

1. Tonal Lavender Gradient with Zoya Julie & Hudson
This was my second time dabbling with a sponge ombre, and I've decided to use two shimmery lilac/lavender shades from Zoya for a subtle tonal gradient. I applied two coats of Julie on my nails, allowed them to dry well, and then dabbed with a sponge painted with a stripe of Hudson (to about 1/3 of my nail length) and a thicker stripe of Julie - I repeated this twice for more coverage. I absolutely loved this look: the ombre effect was delicate but still visible, and I enjoyed the more pronounced warm shimmer running through Hudson.
2. Rose Gold Triangle Accents with China Glaze That's Shore Bright & Champagne Kisses
For these glitter accents, I painted two coats of China Glaze's That's Shore Bright for my base color,  then blocked off the shape of my slim triangles with strips of scotch tape, layered on Champagne Kisses in the triangle area and removed the strips immediately before the polish had a chance to dry. Once I had all the triangles in place, I hand painted more glitter on for greater opacity. I felt that this design was the most interesting texturally: a slightly matte finish of the neon purple played off the sandy grittiness of rose gold glitter rather well (I skipped a top coat to preserve the original finish of these polishes).
3. Easter Egg Polka Dots with Essie Splash of Grenadine & Van D'Go
Happy Easter, my dears! Every year I like to sport a festive manicure for Easter, usually using some fun spring pastel shades. This time I went for a cheerful pastel polka dot look, using two coats of Essie's Splash of Grenadine as a base, and stamping on Van D'Go with a bamboo skewer (I'm not fancy enough to own a set of dotting tools... but I just might one day!). I think this speckled egg 'dotticure' is just perfect for Easter, and I can't wait to play around with other color combinations!

I hope you enjoyed these nail art ideas! It was definitely a lot of fun for me to push myself and experiment with something I'm usually too lazy to go for. Are you into nail designs or do you prefer simpler manicures? Would you try any of these looks yourself?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Giving Bronzer Another Go With Too Faced Milk Chocolate Soleil

For the past couple of months, I'd been only reaching for bronzer to apply it on my... neck. I know I've lost some of you there, but bear with me: it simply looked WRONG on my pale face, and the only use I could find for it was bronzing up my neck slightly to match a too dark foundation on my face. But, there's something to be said about the effortless, summery glow that a quick swipe of bronzer instantly adds to one's face, and so I decided to track down a bronzing powder which would look RIGHT on my fair, fair skin.
Enter a lovely suggestion from Lisa Eldrige's 'How To Wear Bronzer Beautifully' video: Too Faced Milk Chocolate Soleil Light/ Medium Matte Bronzer ($30 for 10g/ 0.35 oz). In theory, it ticked all the boxes: reasonably light shade, rather compact, matte finish, decent price tag. Review spoiler alert: in practice, all the boxes remain gloriously ticked.
 While the plastic packaging lacks simple elegance and class of some more luxurious brands, the compact feels sturdy and snaps shut with a secure click, and comes with a large mirror. In reality, the 'Milk Chocolate' marketing blurb is more of a gimmick: the claims of antioxidant cocoa are probably a bit far fetched, as it comes towards the very end of the ingredients' list, and the sweet hot chocolate scent is most likely all due to the artificial fragrance. I don't really mind it though: I'm looking for a well-formulated bronzer, not pressed cocoa powder to dust on my face. And the chocolate lover in me does appreciate the happy, delicious scent emanating from the compact.
The texture of the powder is fine and silky: it does have a fair amount of slip and feels creamier than my other bronzers. I was a bit worried that could cause blending issues with the powder grabbing too much onto liquid foundation, but no, it blends out seamlessly and doesn't sit on top of the skin, or sink into pores. I would say Milk Chocolate Soleil has medium pigmentation; that, combined with the lighter hue, gives just a whisper of warmth to my skin with one swipe, but it can be built up to the 'I just came back from a beach vacation' level (or, as much as I can hope to achieve one...) with a couple more layers.
Here's a quick shade comparison for you: next to my only other light matte bronzer, The Body Shop Honey Bronzing Powder in 02 Fair Matte (yes, they do make one shade lighter and yes, I have used the heck out of mine), Too Faced Milk Chocolate is warmer and more well... uhm... orange. I know 'orange' is officialy a no-no when describing a bronzer, but you guys - my natural tan is a peachy, orangey shade, and so are my freckles (or actually, my facial tan often equals freckles). So yes, it is more orange compared to the slightly pinkier The Body Shop Honey bronzer, and a lot lighter and less brown than both Benefit Hoola, and the darkest bronzer in my collection, theBalm Bahama Mama.
L-R: Too Faced Milk Chocolate Soleil, The Body Shop Honey Bronzing Powder in Fair Matte, Benefit Hoola, theBalm Bahama Mama.
To showcase my recently rediscovered bronzing passion, I decided to go for a simple, sunkissed look with Too Faced Milk Chocolate Soleil used on high points of my face (liberally on the cheeks, temples, up into the hairline, a tiny bit across the bridge of my nose and on the chin, as well as - you guessed it - down on my neck), and also lightly in the crease of the eyes for some definition. I smudged a dark brown eyeliner pencil on my lashline, applied lots of black mascara and finished with a slick of Rimmel Soft Coral lipstick, patted down with a finger to take off some of the glitter and shine. I like this look: it's quick, it's easy, it makes me look rested and subtly polished.
Do you also struggle with finding the right bronzer shades? Is bronzer an everyday part of your make-up routine, or do you reserve it for specific looks? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Five Spring & Summer Lip Gloss Picks

I don't know what's going on, you guys - I'm kinda into glosses at the moment. While I still think you can't beat a nice bright lipstick with a stick, and long wind-blown hair caught in your sticky glossed lips drives me absolutely bonkers, I'm really enjoying the sheerer pigmentation and mirrored shine of lip glosses - while preferrably tying my hair into a ponytail or a messy bun. Here are five different shades and formulas I've been wearing recently, swatched for your viewing pleasure.
One common denomination between all these different glosses is the fact that they're virtually shimmer and glitter-free, which is my preference in both lip glosses and lipsticks. By 'virtually', I mean that I suspect maybe two of the glosses below have very very fine, very very minimal shimmer, but it's nearly undetectable in the arm swatches as well as on the lips. They're also all comfortable, non-drying formulas that I'd definitely recommend if you're looking for a new gloss; I'll link to respective reviews where possible for more info on the formulation and longevity.
1. Clarins Instant Light Natural Lip Perfector in Rose Shimmer 01($23 for 0.35 fl oz, previously mentioned here). Possibly the nudest lip gloss shade I own, the Clarins Rose Shimmer still manages to even out and beautify the lips without verging on the concealer lips territory. The formula is most often described as a balm & gloss hybrid, and it does feel smooth, cushiony and hydrating on the lips. Great gloss to keep in your purse for completely-forgot-to-apply-a-lip-product situations as well as touch-ups on the go.
2. Revlon Super Lustrous Lip Gloss in Coral Reef (sadly discontinued - I'm guessing the closest shade match in the new repackaged & reformulated Super Lustrous Lip Gloss range is Pango Peach, $5.99-7.99 for 0.13 oz). Remember when these were all the rage? Yeah, I totally jumped on that bandwagon with Coral Reef, and haven't regretted it since. It's a beautiful, apricot coral shade with medium pigmentation, bright enough to lift a neutral look but not too in your face. I'm kinda bummed this shade was discontinued - my tube has started separating, and I think it's the last season we can enjoy each other's company.
3. NYX Mega Shine Lip Gloss in Dolly Pink ($4.99 for 11ml/ 0.37 fl.oz, the four shades I own are swatched & reviewed here). Actually, I don't reach for this gloss nearly often enough; I will admit that I find the cherry cough drop scent a bit offensive, and there's something about the formula that I don't absolutely love - but I do like it, and Dolly Pink is a wonderful blue fuschia shade that works great with my coloring. You know, sometimes these posts serve as a reminder for me to go rummage through my drawers and come out with something pretty that doesn't get enough love... like this gloss here.
4. Essence Stay With Me Long Lasting Lip Gloss in Candy Bar ($2.99 for 4ml/ 0.13 fl oz). Mentioned a long time ago by Driveller Kate and more recently, Tiffany from Will Work For Make-up, I had this gloss mentally filed away in the 'try-at-a-later-date' category. But, I was placing an online order at Ulta for Mr's shampoo & conditioner, and needed an inexpensive item to get to the free shipping treshold - and so it was meant to be. Candy Bar is such a beautiful, bright coral, and possibly the most pigmented out of the glosses featured here. It has a slightly strange, fruity old-school scent; I remember another gloss from my teenage years by a Polish brand 'Bell' that had the exact same scent... and oddly enough, this gloss is actually also made in Poland. Hmm... Anyway, I don't think you can get a better lip gloss for three bucks than the Essence Stay With Me - I just wish they had more than three colors in the range.
5. Buxom Full-On Lip Cream in Cherry Flip ($19 for 0.14 oz, previously reviewed and swatched here). Still one of my absolute favorite glosses, be it spring, summer, fall or winter; Buxom lip-plumping formula is a winner for me. Cherry Flip looks quite similar to Essence Candy Bar here, and I admit they're not miles apart, but Cherry Flip is slightly more red in a clear base, making it look less vibrant than the pinkier Candy Bar, which has a bit of a white base - hope you can see that in the lip swatches. I always walk past these Lip Creams in Sephora for fear of accidentally plopping more shades in my basket.
Have you been more into lip glosses or lipsticks recently? Or maybe liquid lipsticks, seeing as they're all the range at the moment? I did buy one shade of a newly released lip gloss formula during the Sephora VIB sale that I'm hoping to share really soon (any guesses?), but in the meantime, let me know your spring & summer lip loves - a girl can never have too more lip products, right? Or at least she can start a new wishlist...

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Scent Travels: MIKMOI Eau de Parfum Sample Set + Scent Bracelet

A couple weeks ago, Mr and I felt that we couldn't take the East Coast winter temps anymore, and decided to escape for a weekend to the beautiful, sunny San Francisco, one of our favorite cities in the US. While in New York the temperatures were still well below freezing, and the snow was piling in dirty mounds on the sidewalks, I was planning a trip that included a stroll among blooming magnolias in the Botanical Garden, a visit to the Conservatory of Flowers with its stunning orchids and butterflies lazily floating in the air, and a lot of chocolate tasting at the 2014 International Chocolate Salon, which turned out to be even better by the inclusion of SF Annual Artisan Fragrance Salon, where I could not only (at long last!) catch up with Meredith of Seattle's Sweet Anthem, but also had the opportunity to meet Michael aka Mik of the San Fran's own MIKMOI Handmade Artisan Fragrance.
Long story short, I was very intrigued by MIKMOI's concept of fragrances inspired by Michael's world travels but also the journey of self-discovery, as well as the minimalist aesthetics, and was very kindly given the opportunity to try his EDP Sample Set*, which comes with a chic MIKMOI Himo Scent Bracelet ($30 for a set of four sample sprays).
The Japanese-inspired presentation is gorgeous: a white matchbox stamped with the fragrances' symbols has four generous spray vials nestled safely inside, and my favorite of all, there's also a simple black and white rope bracelet included. Michael explained to me that on the occasions when you'd prefer not to wear his EDPs on the skin (strict work environment, allergies, wanting to change your fragrance from day to night, or layering scents), the knot on the bracelet can be sprayed directly, making it into a scented piece of jewelry. I instantly thought the idea was very interesting and unique, and would make for a perfect gift - I for one did not want to take off my bracelet at the end of the day.
There are four eau de parfums in the set: Aldwych, Vesper, Ao and Itoh; each fragrance is also available individually in 50ml bottles, retailing for $90. Let's start with Aldwych, a green carnation: 'An homage to Oscar Wilde. Absinthe top notes, crisp carnation lavender and aged patchouli create a bespoke British flair.' (scent description taken from the included card). Aldwych opens up with sour citrus and green anise, and I smell some of the carnation/geranium in the background. With time, it settles more into fresh, crisp lavender, balanced out with tobacco sweetness. To me, it's a reinterpreted classic gentleman's cologne, slightly soapy and bracing.

Vesper, a sueded incense: 'Cocktails trailing Bond Girls. Aperitif top notes, fig leaf, black rose and smooth suede redeemed in a myrrh and frankincense base'. Vesper is one of the most layered, developing fragrances I've ever worn: it starts with boozy cocktail bitters, almost rubbery leather, dusty woods and dry resins. The top note is cool and metallic, almost a bit medicinal, and the whole thing resembles the leather interior of 007's Aston Martin. But the drydown is a completely different story: the dustiness of fig turns into a sweet, candly-like fruit with a touch of rose, built on the leather incense. Quite fascinating.
Ao, Thai ginger, is my absolute favorite of the four fragrances. 'Ao ('ah-ow') is 'Bay' in Thai. Young coconut juice infused with tuberose and cool ginger float on a warm beach bonfire base'. The top is fresh, citrusy, slightly spicy ginger, mellowed out by the creamy sweetness of coconut. I get a cool, calming camphorous woods note, which reminds me a bit of eucalyptus. In the middle, the indolic headiness of tuberose really shines through, with more smokey, warm cedarwood rounding out the floral sweetness towards the drydown. This is absolutely going to be my summer fragrance this year!

Lastly, Itoh, a woody peony: 'A tribute to Self Discovery. White cedar, pink lotus and peony with tobacco leaf evoke a journey; precious oud guards the elusive path'. To me, Itoh is a Tibetan Temple: I smell incense, smokey cedarwood undermined by the sheer, watery lotus and sweetness of peony. As it dries down, I get more grounding, smooth woods with a touch of spiciness, rounded out by the florals. It's a mindful, meditative fragrance.
I definitely recommend all niche-loving fumeheads to check out MIKMOI's Eau de Parfums: everything from the packaging, through the compositions, to the fantastic quality and wear demands attention. I can't wait what else Mik has in stock for us all!

Disclaimer: The product marked with an asterix (*) is a press sample I received directly from MIKMOI for review consideration. All opinions are 100% honest and unbiased, no matter if the products featured were purchased with my own monies or provided as a free press sample. Thank you for reading!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Bedside Beauty Edit

It's a sign of a true beauty junkie to have a specific collection of products just for the bedside pampering, always within reach when you're all snuggled up in bed and ready to doze off. I'm pretty nosey and love to know what beauty products people keep at their nighstands, so I thought you lovely people may also be interested in what I use every day before bed.
First off - gotta take care of that dry and scaly bod'. I know it's probably more effective to moisturize your body right after you get out of the shower, while your skin is still damp; but truth is, I already spend way too much time in the bathroom on different ablutions, so I've moved that part of the routine to my bedside. I've been using The Body Shop Brazil Nut Body Butter ($20 for 6.9 oz) for the past couple months and I really, really like it - smells like fresh nutty donuts. I also find it very moisturizing, but it absorbs quite easily, and doesn't get all over my sheets.
I don't slather my whole body in The Body Shop butter every night, so when I'm feeling lazy (most days), I just do my hands, knees and elbows using The Body Shop Almond Hand & Nail Cream ($20 for 100ml/ 3.3 fl oz). It's a pretty lightweight lotion that sinks in quickly, so when eczema strikes, I bring out the big guns - Neosalus Cream. It's a prescription moisturizer/ barrier cream that feels very tacky at first, but then absorbs fully into the skin, forming an invisible layer to seal in all the moisture. I realize that talking of Rx creams may not be super helpful to everyone, but I also know many of you struggle with extremely dry, itchy skin conditions, so maybe ask your dermatologist about it next time you're in for a visit - if you'd rather go the OTC route, I also recommend the CeraVe lotion.
For my dry, peeling cuticles, I like reaching for the Badger Organic Cuticle Care ($5.99 for 0.75 oz). It's a solid balm in the tin (by the way, how cute is that packaging?!) that melts into an oil on your skin, and smells absolutely amazing: like mandarin oranges, lemongrass & ginger. It does feel quite oily on the skin and doesn't sink in immediately, so I try to use it as the very last step before going to sleep. On my lips, I always use Osmia Organics Honey-Myrrh Lip Repair ($22 for 0.28 oz); you can read my detailed review and comparison to Nuxe Reve de Miel over here.
Lastly, two sleep potions: a pillow spray and an oil rollerball. When I feel a bit anxious and have some trouble winding down from the day, I like to spray the Bath & Body Works Aromatherapy Sleep Lavender Vanilla Pillow Mist ($10 for 5.3 oz) on our bedsheets. It's a sweet, comforting, almost creamy lavender, not too overbearing but the scent does linger on the linens for about an hour to two hours; I'd say it's a good alternative to more expensive pillow sprays, especially when you're not quite decided yet if it's a product you'll get a lot of use out of. For a more natural, essential oil option, I use the 21 Drops in 18 - Sleep ($29 for 8 ml/ 0.27 fl oz). It's a blend of sandalwood, ylang ylang, palmarosa and vetiver essential oils that you can roll onto your wrists, temples and sides of your neck to help with a racing mind and restlessness. I do think aromatherapy and scents in general can help evoke different emotional states, and breathing in this slightly spicy, sensual woodsy concoction aids in letting go of stressful, worried thoughts before hitting the hay.

Do you have your own little stash of products you like to use before drifting off? What are your favorites for a bedside pamper session?

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Project Make A Dent #1: First Progress Check

Time for the first progress check on my Project Make A Dent!
If you haven't heard about it yet, it's an idea originated by Lola at Lola's Secret Beauty Blog of challenging yourself to make a concentrated effort to use up or at least make a dent in certain make-up products you've selected from your collection - but not at the exclusion of using other items. Here's how I'm doing at the end of the first quarter of 2014:
The photo above shows the usage on my chosen products when I joined the challenge. The photo below shows how much I've used up since:
Sorry, I seem unable to recreate exactly the same layout of products, or the same lighting conditions. But you get the gist.
You can certainly see quite a bit of usage on the Annabelle eyeliner pencil, and some progress on the two lipsticks. Also... can you see that tiny bit of pan winking at you from the Annabelle eyeshadow?! I know, very exciting. There isn't much observable progress on the blushes though - I was using both quite a bit but I think with blushes the progress is going to be rather slow. And before you get too excited, Bourjois Healthy Mix Serum foundation isn't missing from the photo because it's all used up, but rather it was easier to show the usage in this shot here. I have less than 1/5 of the bottle to go!
Overall, I think I'm doing all right - not amazingly well, but not terrible either. The part of the challenge I struggle with the most is trying to use my chosen products diligently, though without depriving myself of the rest of my make-up collection. I don't wear make-up every day, so making sure that I reach for the denting victims but still taking out other products for a spin is definitely hard - more so than I expected. Consequently, I can see a little bit of boredom creeping in, and I've been trying to remedy the feeling by mixing the project's products with some other items I own. I've been mixing two different shades of lipstick, layering eyeshadows, blending various foundations together... that way I'm still using things for the challenge, but I can change the shade depth and finish for more variety.
As a bonus, here's my everyday face using my chosen products. I've found that on its own, Bourjois Healthy Mix looks more even and doesn't cling to dry patches as much when used over a primer. I still think NYC Blushable Creme Stick in Plaza Pink is a fantastic, glowy, enlivening shade of blush for my skintone, and for the lips, I actually mixed the Rimmel's coral shade with the NYX Tea Rose.

What have been your most reached for products recently? And the ladies participating in Project Make A Dent, how are you doing?