Monday, January 30, 2012

Make-up Haul: The Best Things Come in Twos

I've been doing a little bit of damage recently; nothing major, but shopping in Poland over Christmas and some minor drugstore purchases have managed to accumulate enough for me to post a small make-up haul - just to make up for that recent empties post, right?

Setting up those multi-product photoshoots is always a lot of fun - I like to play with colors, shapes and textures (that short sentence should come with a warning 'confessions of a beauty blogging nerd').

First up, I picked up two of Sephora's Nano Eyeliner pencils in 'Azur Blue' (no.16) and 'Nuage' (no.14) for $5 each - a review with swatches is coming up very soon.

Then, a long while ago (in October!), I purchased these two Sleek Make-up Mineral Eyeshadow palettes in 'Au Naturel' and 'Oh So Special' from a Polish online beauty retailer and had them shipped to my parents' address; I had no problems whatsoever with my order and can safely recommend it if any of my Polish readers are looking for a good source of Sleek products.

I was also craving another nude blush, and after successfully resisting Tarte's Exposed, I settled on NYX Powder Blusher in 'Raisin'; but buying just one on eBay is so not effective cost-wise that I had to get another one, 'Spice'. So, by paying more, I actually saved more - a typical case of female logic, my husband would undoubtedly say. Again, photos and swatches of my entire collection of NYX Powder Blushers coming soon.

Obviously, I could not ignore the hype any longer and gave into Revlon Lip Butters; this is 'Peach Parfait' and 'Berry Smoothie'. I don't think I'll spam the blogosphere with another review, so my quick thoughts are that these are not moisturizing at all, but they have a nice shine, good selection of shades and are very wearable. If you manage to find a good deal on them and like the colors, you could definitely do much worse.

And lastly, two odd ones out: a Bourjois Healthy Mix Serum foundation in the shade Light Vanilla (no.51) and an Inglot Freedom System eyeshadow no. 467 Double Sparkle; fortunately, not overly shimmery/glittery at all. I was impressed with my make-up restraint in Poland - I got some cute clothes and accessories (would you like to see my favorite purchases?), but in the make-up department, nothing really caught my eye. I think I might be maxxed out when it comes to Inglot shadows now.

There you have it! Overall, I'm starting to feel a bit saturated with make-up shopping for a while (says she after getting a few more things in the last week...). I think I'd maybe like to focus more on clothing/ accessories for some time; so many things in my make-up collection are not getting enough love while I sport the same outfits over and over. What are your thoughts on make-up hauling? Are you lusting after the Spring releases or are you done for a while?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Review & Swatches: Wet'n'Wild Silk Finish Lipstick in 'Dark Wine' 522A

This is probably the last dark and bold shade of lipstick I'm posting about this winter; to be honest, after last week's snow storm, I'm feeling a bit over the cold season (snowboarding excluded). I've posted about the Wet'n'Wild Silk Finish lipsticks before (swatches of the summery 'Hot Paris Pink' shade here), and for $.0.99, I really do think they're the perfect drugstore pick-me-up. I just wish Wet'n'Wild came out with more cream finish shades!

As you can see, the packaging really does look quite cheap, and I've never been brave enough to just throw these in my purse for a longer time - the bullet is a bit wobbly inside the tube. I'd also prefer Wet'n'Wild put the name of the shade instead of number on the bottom of the tube. I like however how they come packaged in this protective plastic film, no unsanitary surprises here (hello, Rimmel!).

The formula is creamy and comfortable on the lips, and doesn't feel too drying at the end of the day; Wet'n'Wild states these are enriched with conditioning ingredients such as Vitamins A&E and Aloe Vera. Without eating and little drinking and a more thorough application (working the lipstick into the lips, blotting, applying again), it lasts about 4-5 hours on my lips - or more, I cannot really go without eating for more than 5 hours, even for the blog testing reasons :)

The shade 'Dark Wine' 522A is actually not as dark as I'd expected, it's more of a darkened, slightly dirtier pink with red/brown tones. I think this would be a good choice for someone just venturing into the world of bold lips, even more so because the investment is really minimal. For me, a bold lip lover, it's all right - a bit less bright than I would like, somehow it doesn't lift my face the same way Sleek Make-up Cherry does, for example.

As you can see below, the lipstick can be also lightly worked into the lips for a pretty yellow-toned pink stain; below is the full-on opaque lip swatch for comparison. For swatches on a different skintone, check out Citrine's review here.

I really like these Wet'n'Wild Silk Finish lipsticks, the value for money just cannot be beat. I have my eye on two more shades, but honestly can't justify the purchase right now - my lipstick drawer doesn't close anymore! Have you tried these lipsticks? What are your favorite shades?

Monday, January 23, 2012

New Year's Empties!

Oh, another empties post - it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside (guilt-free would be another way to call it). While I've broken my loosely imposed no-buy from November, I've actually managed not too accumulate too much crap, plus I'm still working hard on using up a lot of my stuff. I think I like that way of reducing my spending more than a very strict and regulated ban; I just find that if I really want something and think it's unique enough that my collection could still expand to include it, I'd rather go for it than torment myself with thoughts of beautiful things escaping my greedy fingers. I don't impulse buy at all anymore, so I think I'm not doing too bad in general!

Back to my empties. These have been collected over a couple months now, gathering in this paper Bath & Body Works bag under my bathroom sink. As a sidenote, Mr. helped to empty some of these as well, like the shampoo and hand creams! Also not depicted, I've managed to use up two half bars of soap and two facial cleanser deluxe samples. I deserve a golden handshake :)

Hair and bodycare. As stated above, the shampoo was a collective effort; the Alaffia Body Milk and an exfoliating body wash from a Polish brand Joanna that authentically smells of strawberries are all my own. Actually, the body lotion is only half empty - it started to give me a burning allergic reaction, so in the bin it goes.

Hand creams. 4 hand creams!!! Ok, one is a mini. This just shows how indispensable hand cream is in our household of two. I won't recommend the Aveeno or that weird Philosophy rip-off I bought in New York, but the Neutrogena and Ahava both worked quite well.

Skincare and perfume. Alas, two are only samples; but I swear it takes me at least two weeks to use up a regular perfume sample, what the heck? That La Roche Posay Effaclar Duo was kicking for such a long time that in the end I used it up on my elbows and knees, and the Mario Badescu Special Cucumber Lotion worked ok for drying up more pimply areas when I had bad skin days. I won't repurchase either of the skincare bits, but really liked that Tocca Cleopatra perfume...

Used-up make-up. Two deluxe mascara samples - YSL Faux Cils and Lancome Hypnose Drama, won't repurchase either. Also, my eternal pot of MAC Studio Finish concealer; I loved it, but it was nearing 3 years (sic!) since I started using it. I used that stuff almost every day for those 3 years, and see, there's plenty of it still left. Unbelievable.

Tossed make-up. Some very, very old make-up items from my collection that I hadn't even touched for over a year and that simply needed to go. A cheapie and awful no name lash curler, a Bourjois loose powder that smells very old school, some Avon chocolate-scented lip gloss, a Coastal Scents gloss/lipstick in a pot, NYX glitter liner, a Victoria Secret loose eyeshadow I got in a swap and hadn't used a single time... I won't miss you.

I have a lot more products that are literally on their last legs, so I hope there'll be another round of empties to show off to you rather soon. How are you doing in terms of reducing your make-up collections/ bathroom clutter? Any victories to report? I'd love to know!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Diaries of an Obsessive Compulsive Picker: Month 2

I can't believe so much time has passed since I started my fight with picking! Time really must magically fly faster toward the end of the year... But anyway, enough procrastinating, I guess if you're reading this, you do want to know how I'm doing with trying to combat my compulsive skin picking.

Well... I think I'm doing really well! I'd say I've managed to cut back about 80% of my picking :) In other words, I still occasionally pick, but mostly whiteheads that look like they could be easily extracted; I'm more capable now of letting my skin do its own thing and I also don't seem to mind every tiny bump or clogged pore anymore. Yay!

Not to let this post turn into a lenghty public display of patting my own ego on the back, I decided I'd share some things that I (retrospectively) think have helped me come closer to my goal of stopping the skin picking.

1) Getting away from it all. I definitely believe that our Christmas trip back home helped me gain some perspective and shift the focus away from my appearance woes. Being home, surrounded by my family, always busy doing things together didn't leave much time on my hands to obsess over every new pimple. However, I did relapse one or two times, and I could clearly see how strongly stress-related my picking is.
2) Addressing built-up tension. Being away and talking to my family also helped me realize some issues here at home that were making me unhappy but which I didn't know how to face. I think I was feeling like I had no longer any control over some aspects of my life, and was trying to regain that by forcing control over my own skin. Addressing those problems and releasing the tension just made me a bit happier and calmer all around, so that I don't feel the urge to pick as often as I had in the past.
3) Getting dermatologic help. Truth be told, my trip to the dermatologist was a direct result of an awful hand eczema flare-up I've been experiencing this winter, but I decided to discuss my acne with the doctor as well. I'll be writing a separate post devoted to my treatment and all that jazz, but just knowing that you're under professional care and things should be improving from now on is a vast relief and a huge source of hope.

And there you have it! I'm not exactly sure how often (if at all) I'll be posting new updates on my fight with picking, just because I'm pretty sure I don't have that many more refreshing thoughts and tricks to share that could be helpful to fellow pickers; there have been some amazing suggestions in the comments to previous 'Diaries' posts though, so go check these out if you're looking for inspiration!

Before I let you go, I'd just like to thank all of you from the bottom of my heart for your amazing support, gracious comments and crossed fingers. They all helped tremendously and I'm really grateful for having such a fantastic bunch of readers and blogging friends as you, ladies. Thank you!!!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Review & Swatches: Physicians Formula Nude Eyeshadow Palette

In all honestly, I'm really glad that drugstore brands jumped on the Urban Decay 'Naked' bandwagon and started coming up with their own versions of neutral eyeshadow palettes. See, I prefer my eye make-up quite boring, and then I like to play up my lips & cheeks a bit more, which is why I'm always looking into new neutral shades to add to my collection.

Hence this Physicians Formula Shimmer Strips Nude Eyes palette ($10.99 for 0.26 oz). I just couldn't resist, it's so tiny and cheeky with that lace overlay, meow.

As you can see, the palette is not much bigger than a tube of Revlon lipstick, and comes with 9 shades of eyeshadow in one single pan. I'm not a huge fan of this solution, because the individual strips are rather narrow so it's difficult not to mix shades when picking them up with a brush, but I can still live with that for the price of portability. Physicians Formula suggest these 9 shades are in fact split into 3 trios, Natural, Playful and Dramatic, for achieving different looks. Personally, I just like to mix and match.

In terms of formulation, these are definitely not my favorite. They seem a bit bumpy under the brush and after swatching with a (clean!) finger, it looks like there's a bit of a greasy film left on the surface, which makes it difficult to pick up pigment with your brush. It's almost as if they're too hard, but creamy. As a result, the pigmentation is not the best, but can be built up for more intensity. Physicians Formula also claim these can be used wet, however I personally never bother to do that.

I still really enjoy using this little palette for its shades - I'm sorry the swatches are not the best, I couldn't get them to show up exactly right. The shadows perform best over primer, here they're swatched on top of Benefit F.Y.eye base.

Overall, Physicians Formula Nude Eyeshadow Palette is definitely an interesting foray into the world of neutral palettes from a drugstore brand, but the shadows themselves could be better formulated. Does it replace my Urban Decay 'Naked' Palette? Hell, no, but I think I actually enjoy the 'Nude' palette shade selection better; I mean, look at those taupes, people. If you're a neutral palette collector and prefer cooler shades, I do recommend it, but if you're looking for a 'Naked' alternative, look elsewhere.

What are your favorite neutral eyeshadow palettes?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Battle of Chemical Exfoliants: AHAs vs BHAs

Ever since I'd started watching Dr. Neal Schultz's DermTV YouTube channel, I've vowed to replace all my manual/physical exfoliating products with a good chemical exfoliant I could use regularly. Dr. Schultz and many other dermatologists/ skincare experts seem to agree that while physical exfoliators (scrubs containing granules/ particles such as walnut or apricot shells, silica crystals and so on) are quite irritating to the skin, causing teeny tiny tears in its surface, chemical exfoliants (products containing fruit acids/enzymes/retinoids) provide all benefits of exfoliating such as removal of dead skin cells, diminishing the hyperpigmentation and stimulating collagen production, without causing any damage.

I will say that this makes quite a bit of sense to me, plus, having more acne-prone skin, I was often recommended to use products containing some sort of chemical exfoliating agent. Which is why I purchased these two very different chemical exfoliants: M.D. Forte Glycare II For Oily Skin ($19-24 for 2 oz./60ml) and Paula's Choice 2% BHA Gel For All Skin Types (now called Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Gel Exfoliant, $18.95 for 3.3. oz./100ml).

Let's talk about M.D. Forte Glycare II first. It's a clear liquid that contains mostly water, alcohol, glycolic acid and eucalyptus oil, and that should have been my first warning sign; both alcohol and essential oils are known irritants, so this not only stings, but also stinks. Secondly, Glycare II supposedly contains 20% glycolic acid (alpha hydroxy acid), which is one of the highest concentrations I've come across in a non-prescription product. However, I've said 'supposedly' - I've also found some information that in fact it's a 20% concentration of 'glycolic compound', which acts more like 8% concentration of your normal glycolic acid. I was also unable to find any information on the pH level of this product, which is something that affects the effectiveness of the acid on your skin. As you can surely deduce, I'm not too smitten with this - I don't feel like it did anything good to my skin such as the promised reduction in oil production or diminished imperfections, and using it is certainly unpleasant.

Paula's Choice 2% BHA Gel is a clear runny gel containing salicylic acid (beta hydroxy acid) with some antioxidants such as grape seed extract and green tea extract. It's fragrance, paraben and oil-free and claims to calm redness, build collagen, unclog and diminish enlarged pores and create radiant, clear, even-toned skin. Generally, BHAs are preferrable to AHAs for people with acne-prone skin, because BHAs not only exfoliate the top layer of your skin, but are also capable of penetrating the pores and loosening the debris collecting there. I can personally vouch that the Paula's Choice BHA Gel did in fact work a lot better for me than the MD Forte Glycare, whether it's because one contains BHA and the other AHA or because the former is just a better formulation all around. Paula's Choice BHA Gel was gentle enough for me to use every night (and my skin is rather sensitive too), didn't feel drying at all, seemed to fade some of my hyperpigmentation marks and somewhat helped control my breakouts. The pH level of 3.2-3.6 also guarantees the effectiveness of the acid. My only gripe with the gel is that it feels incredibly sticky on the skin, no matter how much or how little you use; on top of that the bottle tends to spill when travelling, but that's been improved on since I bought mine. All in all, I wouldn't necessarily repurchase this exact same product from Paula's Choice, but I might try her BHA liquid next time I'm on the market for a chemical exfoliant.

I hope this has been somewhat useful, at least to those of you whose skin might be similar to mine. Speaking of skincare, I will be posting an update on my fight with picking very soon, and I've also recently been to a dermatologist and wondered whether you, my lovely readers, wanted to hear about my experience. Other than that, please let me know in the comments your favorite exofliants, be it chemical or not!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

December 2011 Favorites

I'm still digging through a mountain of photos I'd taken before I left for Christmas, and this was one of the posts I meant to publish last year (sounds very dramatic, har har). There are some goodies here too, so it'd be a shame to let this go to waste!

I guess most of these will come as a no surprise, and some that I haven't talked about yet might also deserve their separate posts; well, it's kinda like a collection of the most interesting things I've gathered throughout the last month. Let's start with make-up:

1. Milani One Coat Glitter nail polish in 'Red Sparkle' (521): The perfect Christmas nail varnish. Unfortunately, an awful eczema flare-up prevented me from wearing it on my fingers, but I've been sporting it on my toes and even my dad was impressed. Simply gorgeous, a bit better on two rather than one coat, and decently long-wearing. It's love.
2. Fresh Sugar Tinted Lip Treatment in 'Honey': One of the very few warm nude shades that I can actually wear, plus a great moisturizing formula. For lip swatches, see my last post here.

3. Estee Lauder Double Wear Light in 'Intensity 1.0': I know I've promised a full review on this one, but my initial impression is that I rather like it. The shade I have is spot on, the finish not too matte, and it really does last on the skin. The light coverage evens out the skin, still looking very natural. I'm slowly converting back to liquid foundations!
4. Milani Color Perfect lipstick in 'Berry Rich': My Christmas and New Year's lipstick of choice this year. For a full review with swatches, click here.

5. Milani Baked Blush in 'Berry Amore': What's up with me and the berries?! Anyway, this is not a berry at all; rather a pink tan with slight golden shimmer that adds dimension instead of sparkle to the face. Smooth, pigmented, blendable, I tell myself it just goes with everything. If you'd like to see a cheek swatch, this is the blush I was wearing in the recent Lipstick Bandits post.
6. Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-on eyeliner pencil in 'Stash': This is definitely one of my favorite shades of the UD 24/7 pencils - a dark olive with golden shimmer, which adds just a bit of interest to an otherwise everyday make-up look. Swatches here.

Now, onto skin and body care:
7. Paula's Choice 2% BHA Gel: Since repackaged, this is a great staple for anyone struggling with imperfections such as blackheads, clogged pores or post-acne hyperpigmentation. This is basically a salicylic acid treatment that doesn't irritate but is still effective. My only gripe with this is that it leaves your skin incredibly sticky, so it's better for a night-time use. A more in-depth review/comparison coming soon.
8. Lush Three Gold Rings bubble bar: Bubble bars are my favorite bath product from Lush, and Three Gold Rings (Limited Edition for Holiday 2011) does not disappoint. If I recall correctly, this is supposed to smell like the Creme Anglais body lotion, which is rich vanilla and myrrh. A delicious sweet treat for the hectic pre-Holiday days.
9. Luxury Lane Soap in 'Love Knot': Pictured here is obviously my mum's bar, mine is already reduced to next to nothing. Great winter soap for more sensitive skins, a full review here.

And that's it! I realize that I usually also publish a 'Best Beauty Buys' yearly favorites post, but I don't know, somehow this year I wasn't feeling very inspired - which is not to say that I haven't discovered some fantastic products! Anyway, let me know in the comments your greatest end-of-year discoveries; also, are you excited for all the New Year product launches?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Review & Swatches: Fresh Mini Sugar Kissing Trio

I'm back, lovelies! Our Christmas trip was amazing, on top of stuffing ourselves silly with all kinds of Polish deliciousness we had some fantastic time with our families, hiked, snowboarded and even played tennis. Obviously, I had this grand scheme about posting throughout our visit, but an awful cold, family obligations and sheer laziness kept me from actually making it happen (as always, ekhm). Anyways, I'm back with a short but image-packed review of a little Christmas present I got myself: Fresh Mini Sugar Kissing Trio, which comes with Sugar Tinted Lip Treatment mini balmy things in Honey, Passion and Plum.

I will confess that I took a lot more photos of that cardboard box, but refrained from posting. Happy?

I'd prefer if we just didn't mention how ridiculously overpriced these are for a tinted lip balm, because we all just buy them regardless. That's a pretty cute packaging for a tinted balm though, no? Especially on these mini ones; the metal casing kinda gets some scratches in your purse, but the marks can be wiped away with a licked finger (or a baby wipe, if you must).

I would also appreciate if we just didn't comment on the fact that I couldn't even test them at first because the tubes have a screw-on cap and I tried to rip them open. How classy. Apart from the fact that I made an ass of myself, this is obviously a good idea for just throwing the tube in your purse.

What I didn't like when I first opened the tubes in my box was the fact that the bullets seemed a bit wobbly inside, and the top looked as if it was smashed against the cap. See?

Now, packaging woes aside, I do like these. The formula of the balm itself is surprisingly thick and a bit waxy, which makes it stay on the lips for a long time, giving them a soft, hydrated, cushiony feeling. I think that these are not only non-drying, but actually moisturizing to a degree; I even wore them snowboarding and still felt like my lips were well protected against the elements. The pigmentation is quite impressive for a tinted balm, and while they sometimes do go on a bit patchy, the sheerness of the formula is still forgiving enough.

I swatched the shades next to Clinique Almost Lipstick in Black Honey (did you hear they're coming out with more shades?), which in comparison feels a bit more solid and less creamy and is also more sheer than the Sugar Tinted Lip Treatments. As you can see, the shade Plum differs quite a bit from Black Honey as well.

Passion swatched...

Honey swatched...

And Plum swatched too. So far, I got the most wear out of Passion, but I honestly think all these shades are beautiful and can be worn across different skintones. I'm very glad I got myself this little set and would highly recommend it if you can still get your hands on it; if not, maybe at least my swatches are somehow useful. Let me know your thoughts if you've tried them in the comments below!

I hope you all had amazing holidays wherever you were and whatever you were up to and I'm happy to be back in the swing of things!