Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Happy Holidays from the Lipstick Bandits!

It's five more days till Christmas! Well, five for me - as some of you may know, in Poland the biggest holiday celebrations actually take place on Christmas Eve, when we sit down for a no-meat dinner just after the first star appears on the winter sky. We're flying to Warsaw on Friday and I'm super excited (as well as praying for no snow so that we can in fact make it to our family dinner in time)!

Just in time for the Holidays, Lipstick Bandits bring to you another lip-obsessed post, this time the theme being red and sparkly! No, I don't think it gets any better than that...

Well, other than I have a little confession to make. I kind of struggle with sparkles on the lips - anything bigger than tiny shimmers and I feel like I'm back at highschool. I know however that I was not the only one secretly bitching about the sparkles! Anyway, so I cheated a little bit; I just layered a nude gloss with a very fine shimmer for a bit of oomph. Not that my lipstick of choice actually needed any more oomph - just take a look!

I posted a little sneak peek of this beauty in my Milani Haul; it's a Milani Color Perfect Lipstick in Berry Rich. Does the shade name remind anyone of the Very Rich Hours of the Duke of Berry? No? Well then, it's just me...

Here are some shade comparison swatches for you; MAC Cockney is a good example of a 'true' red, Berry Rich just looks pink next to it! Sleek Cherry is definitely darker and a bit more purple, with Inglot no. 58 being the closest match. However, I find Inglot to be a bit more of a raspberry pink, whereas Milani is leaning towards strawberry; does it make any sense to you or are you just picturing a fruit salad now?

The top lip swatch is for Milani Berry Rich dabbed onto the lips and worked in with a finger for a light stain; how different! The middle one is Berry Rich applied opaquely from the bullet with no lip liner, and the bottom is Berry Rich topped with Michael Todd lipgloss in Natural. See, I told you it was red!

And some full face shots - if Larie can do it, I can do it too!

Are you positive no one's watching and I can eat my Christmas cookie now?

As per usual, check out other Lipstick Bandits' picks for the season :)
I will also take this opportunity to wish you all a fantastic Holiday season, with lots of beautiful gifts, delicious homemade food and of course amazing time with your friends and families. Wesołych Świąt!

*EDIT* I'm sorry about publishing a slightly outdated post - I didn't have time to edit before I left! Anyhow, links are uploaded now, so go peruse gorgeous wintery reds, lovelies :) More posts coming soon!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Santa Tracy, slip a blusher under the tree...

For me! Been an awful good girl... Ok ok, you get the idea! Tracy from Beauty Reflections slipped something amazing in the mail for me - just look at these beauties!

A couple weeks ago I met up with Tracy, who was visiting her brother, and Larie (who wasn't, ha) for some much-needed blogging gossip, coffees and make-up shopping. While at Sephora, I mentioned that I was thinking of picking up NARS 'Douceur' blush, and Tracy was kind enough to send me her unloved one... together with this beautiful Laura Mercier 'Nectarine' blush!

Aren't they both a blushing dream come true? Even Mr commented how nice the NARS packaging looked compared to other brands (which was promptly followed by a remark that the inside wasn't as impressive - what does he know, huh?).

And a quick swatch swatch for you, because I couldn't stop myself.

Tracy, you're an absolute angel, thank you so so much! Now, I'll be putting together a little package to send all the way to Canada...

Saturday, December 17, 2011

RockEye: Lancôme Hypnôse Drama Mascara Review

The more accents circonflexes the better, right? This little sample tube of Lancôme Hypnôse Drama was included in the Parisian Sultry set with the Coral Crush palette I reviewed a while ago, and I decided to crack it open just in time for the Holiday travelling.

Here's what it promises to do:
'Get instant lash drama in a single coat with this ultra volume-boosting mascara that’ll take lashes from so-so to show-stopping. The full contact brush, with its S-shaped curve, grasps and loads lashes for a fanned out, full body fringe. Lancôme’s luxe Texturizing Complex features highly saturated waxes and intense black pigments for maximum lash volume. The triple coating system delivers a fluid and creamy application to quickly and easily build big, battable lashes that won’t clump or flake.' (from Lancôme's website)

The mascara retails for $25. As you can hopefully see in the photos, the brush indeed has an interesting shape - it's curved and the bristles are a bit longer on the sides, making for a more challenging application; in fact, almost every time I manage to smear some on my lids, which is easily remedied by a quick swipe of a q-tip. Here are the pros and cons:

What I like:
- the black shade is definitely black enough
- I can get long, full and defined lashes with one coat
- the brush design makes it possible to reach the outer corner lashes
- it holds the curl nicely
- it's quite easy to remove at the end of the day
- it has that mascara scent which I remember Bourjois mascaras used to have and yes, that's a plus for me :)

What I dislike:
- it does flake on me; you can even see it in the photos, which were taken 5 minutes after application
- it also does start to clump after more than 1 coat
- the stopper on the tube is quite loose so that the brush gets overloaded with mascara and the excess needs to be wiped off
- the formula is quite wet, which makes it easier to smear
- it tends to stick to the very tips of my lashes, which makes for a 'spidery' look
- the writing on the sample tube wears off very easily (not sure if the same issue applies to the full-sized tube)
- a word about the marketing blurb: why on Earth is this shade of black 'excessive' and the volume you get with it 'indecent'? It's a freakin' MASCARA, not striptease.

Will I repurchase? Unlikely. Overall, I think it's a decent enough mascara; I especially like that it makes my lashes nice and full and holds the curl very well. However, I'm not impressed with the flakies, and wielding that brush is a bit of a challenge. Well, onto the next one...

Have you ever tried Lancôme Hypnôse Drama? What is your favorite Lancôme mascara?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Review: Tarte Amazonian Clay Blush in 'Dollface'

...or, as I secretly refer to this post, 'A Cool Pink Blush Extravaganza'. You may intepret the word 'cool' both ways here and it'll still be relevant, by the way.

Not so long ago, as a result of browsing through Sephora's brightly-lit shelves with Tracy from Beauty Reflections and Larie from Eye Heart It, I came in possession of the much talked-about Tarte Amazonian Clay Blush in the shade 'Dollface'. The decision was facilitated by Tracy's expert opinion and the words 'It's lavender-based, very pretty', to which my happy retort was 'Oh, I don't have anything lavender!'. Ekhm... or do I [suspenseful background music]?

Well, let's discuss the blush first. As everyone and their dog knows, the blusher is housed in a pearlized plastic compact reflecting the shade of the blush inside (sort of). I'm actually not a huge fan of this packaging; I see that it's practical, but also a bit... juvenile? Given that the blush retails for $25, I'd be much happier with something more elegant. With that being said, the mirror inside is a very decent size and I like the Amazon river embossing.

'Dollface' is a matte, cool-toned light pink. It's quite a pure shade of pink, but it applies softly and blends quite easily without, in fact, giving you a bad case of doll cheeks. It's just brightening enough to naturally compliment cooler skintones such as mine and the perfect shade of light pink for the winter season.

It is not, however, very unique. Just take a look below... Eeek! Have I really managed to accumulate 4 exact same shades of pink from 4 different brands?

No, not exactly [fans herself]. While you can already see subtle differences in the pans, the true differences come through in the swatches. No. 7 Natural Blush in 'Soft Damson' is definitely warmer and a bit more tawny than 'Dollface'. NYX Powder Blusher in 'Angel' is plummier and has a different finish - it's more satin with tiny silver shimmers. But... Inglot blusher no. 72 is pretty darn close; maybe a touch cooler and a bit deeper. Not different enough to warrant keeping 'Dollface' though; so, I was a good girl, and returned it :(

A word about longevity - it's impossible for me to verify whether the Tarte Amazonian Clay blush really lasts 12 hours. Or else, I think it did, but almost all my other blushers do last just as long on me as the Tarte one. And... the Inglot blush was MUCH cheaper. Just saying.

What's your experience with the Tarte Amazonian Clay blushes? What are your favorite cool pink blush shades?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Milani Cyber Monday Haul

I normally try to be a bit more interesting (or less boring, depending on your point of view) and not publish two of the same type of posts in a row, but I've lost my blogging mojo somewhere between buying Norwegian-sweater leggings and cooking dinner today. So, this will have to do for now.

I was actually convinced that I was not going to receive my Cyber Monday haul at all because I made a typo in the billing information; much to my surprise, a week later the little package was already waiting for me at home. I'm so glad that it came through, I'm loving everything I got! The Cyber Monday 50% off sitewide sale was a bit of a pain to navigate due to heavy traffic, but so worth it in the end, especially that Milani is very difficult to come by here in WA.

I'm not posting any swatches just now on purpose, I actually have a couple more comparison posts planned featuring these products. Let me know though if there's something you're dying to see!

Also, how many shots of the exact same thing can you fit into one small post? Apparently, THREE.

What have you got during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

'I die of cuteness!' aka Luxury Lane Soap Haul

There's not going to be much to read in this post, but plenty to gawk, squeal or even flail; yes, Rae, I'm talking to you!

A couple weeks ago I found Luxury Lane Soap's online shop via Kylee Lane's, the owner's, blog, where she posted her response to the Ivory soap commercial - you all go watch that video, it's amazing! Anyway, back to the soap: I found the website, spent a blissful morning adding every single product to my basket, then I came to and subtracted most of it, and that's how I ended up with what you can see here. Hey, some of these are stocking stuffers, no pointing fingers at your poor soap hoarder!

I mean, really? REALLY?! Tiny smelly colorful dinosaurs?! These were a gift with purchase, by the way. Cami, are you dying of cuteness too?

Can we all please take a moment to ponder the perfection of *pink* Hello Kitty and Sugar Cupcake soaps WITH SPARKLES?! I'm so bummed that I don't get to keep these for myself; they're a Christmas gift for my sisters-in-law, aged 14 and 16. Sigh.

These in turn are for my mum and mum-in-law; they each came in a pack of two, so I get to keep one, of course... Both the scrubby snowflake and the Love Knot are part of the Holiday Collection, and on top of being beautiful they smell amazing too!

A little pile of cuteness all together...

I also decided to try two of the half-bar samplers from Kylee's Organic Artisan soap line (clearly, because I have a problem); I got half of Cafe Mocha regular-sized bar and half of Goldilocks mega-sized bar. I haven't tried either yet, but again, they smell amazing and seems to me that the scent on these is a bit stronger than the other soaps. Also, Goldilocks really reminds me of Lush's Snow Cake scent-wise!

So far, I've only opened one bar - the three-tiered Love Knot. I haven't had the occassion to use it a whole lot just yet, but from my initial impressions, I've never used a soap that lathered that well. A couple swipes through my loofa and I get a mountain of fluffy, incredibly creamy goodness, delicate enough to use on the entire body. I have a rather sensitive skin, and haven't had any problems; also, my skin seems less dry than usual. Also, the bar itself is very soft and creamy; it sorts of melts in your fingers just a little bit. The scent is rather subtle, but lingers a bit on the skin so that my husband comments on how good I smell after a bath. What more could you possibly need from a soap? :)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Dry Hands Rescue: Moisture Jamzz Moisturizing Gloves

Many a time on this blog I have gone on and on about how awfully dry my hands are and how virtually nothing's been working to moisturize these horrendous eczema blisters and scabs I developed on my fingers over a year ago (don't worry, there won't be any photos of those in this post... or ever!). I've tried numerous hand creams and I'm still purchasing more, but to be honest, they do very little indeed to effectively moisturize and provide a bit of a barrier to lock in the moisture.

If you read my previous posts on obsessive skin picking, you also know that I've started wearing cotton gloves to prevent myself from touching and scratching my face. However, the pair that I got at the drugstore turned out to be simply ridiculous: way too loose, too short in the wrist area, and not as soft as I would like. As a result, I turned to Amazon, and after a bit of browsing, came up with this: Moisture Jamzz Love Ultimate Moisturizing Gloves ($10).

These gloves are 90% cotton mixed with some Lycra/Spandex fibers to fit your hands snuggly without stretching too much in the wear. I chose the 'Love' print, which I think looks much cuter than just plain white, and they arrived in this clear plastic box with a little sample tube of Malcolm's Miracle Hand & Body Hydrate that I've yet to try. As far as I understand, the company Moisture Jammz no longer sells their products, and Malcolm's Miracle distributes them instead - the product also qualifies for free shipping on Amazon, which is always a plus.

Let me tell you, compared to standard cotton gloves, these are simply amazing! They fit my small hand with long fingers like a glove (LOL), do not stretch or fade in the wash, and are made of a very soft and comfortable fabric. They really do lock in moisture much better than using just hand cream on its own, and seem to keep my anti-eczema steroid cream in place. Best of all, they also keep me from picking my face (or fingers!) but are snug enough for me to be able to perform a lot of things while wearing them; and they never, and I mean never, fall off when I am asleep.

If you experience any problems with dryness on your hands, I highly recommend you look into these moisturizing gloves. Now, onto finding my perfect hand cream... Any suggestions?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Darn you, deathly nudes!

Ladies and gentlemen, I've fallen into the nude trap again! Let me elaborate: a couple weeks ago, I decided that the only shade of nail polish I was truly missing in my collection was a good nude. So, like any sensible beauty blogger, I perused some reviews and got myself this: Essie Topless & Barefoot. Oh, I should have known better!

The application's a breeze, the formula just right, the brush easy to manipulate... But, the result is obvious: corpse fingers!

While we're on the subject of deathly nudes, let me present to you two other mistakes I've committed in the past lip-wise: Gosh Darling lipstick and Rimmel Mirror Shine lipgloss in East End Snob. These two clearly don't do it for me on their own, but I can make them work when layered with darker and/or more vibrant shades - I'm desperate to use them up!

In my modest experience, all universally acclaimed nude shades look quite horrible on me; having porcelain skin, I'm just too 'nude' myself. There isn't enough contrast between the skin and the nude color, and it just makes me look... yep, I'll say it again, quite dead. However, if you're pale like me and looking for a good everyday shade, I recommend you take a look at my '3 Neutral Lipsticks' post - these work for me nicely!

What are your favorite nude nail polish and lipstick shades?

P.S. No nude polishes were harmed in the writing of this post; in fact, Essie Topless & Barefoot has just found a loving home today.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Diaries of an Obsessive Compulsive Picker: Week 2 & 3

I've been dreading writing this post for a very simple reason: I haven't had much success in the not-picking department these past two weeks. I've been having some trouble breaking away from the vicious cycle of picking: I pick, feel very guilty indeed, promise not to do it anymore, I give my face a break for a couple days to heal and it looks better and better, I pick again because I spy some clogged pores or a whitehead that's begging me to be squeezed. Most of the time, I manage to stop fairly quickly, but twice I definitely overdid the picking and gave myself some more trouble spots in the process. Right now, the challenge definitely feels quite daunting - but I have a couple ideas for improvement to incorporate into my routine.

1) Crochet. To stop my fidgeting fingers from roaming in the vicinity of my face, I picked up crocheting - for realz! I used to do a lot of needlework as a teen, and while at the university, I stopped completely. I believe it's important for me to start doing it again; firstly, it keeps my hands busy, secondly, the repetitive patterns have a very soothing effect, and lastly, it proves that my fingers are capable of doing some good for once. I've started an infinity-scarf project in the shell pattern, which you can see in the photo - I recommend that book too, very easy to follow and lots of ideas/patterns to try!

2) No mirrors. I really, and I mean really, need to stop checking my face in the mirror every time I go to the bathroom. Because, when I'm standing there in front of the mirror, I lean closer, and when I lean closer, I can see every single enlarged pore and tiny pimple that I immediately want to do something about. So, no looking into the mirror for me! (Plus, it gives me a back ache to lean over the sink).

3) Treats. I think one of the main reasons for my recent lack of success is that I've set a bar very high without any sort of external encouragement to motivate myself. I'm on a general beauty and fashion no-buy, plus I'm trying to use up some very unloved items from my collection; it's almost as if I'm punishing myself in the process. So, I've decided to treat myself to something lovely from the top of my make-up wishlist if I manage to at least diminish the picking - I think I deserve a reward!

4) Words of encouragement. I cannot stress enough how much your support and the experiences you've shared mean to me; I would just throw in the towel without you! I seriously need to re-read your comments on the original post more often, they help so much! I've also been collecting some inspirational quotes to put me in the good spirit. Here's one my favorites:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God; your playing small doesn't serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
*EDIT* by Marianne Williamson, used by NELSON MANDELA on May 10, 1994

I'll leave you with these amazing words for now and check back in 2 weeks to hopefully report some more progress. I hope some of my tips and tricks might help you too - please let me know in the comments if you have any of your own!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Favorite November Lip

Or maybe November Favorite Lip? Who knows... probably some lazy leprechauns laying down at the end of the rainbow, getting drunk on rain drops. Anyway, what was I saying? Yes, favorite lip product for November.

Now that I'm with the cool kids, by which I mean that I was accepted into Lipstick Bandits, we're bound by an eternal oath involving blood and chocolate chip cookies to all post at the same time, on the same topic - this month the subject line being favorite fall lipstick. I feel like I shot myself in the foot twice; firstly I posted an overview of my fall favorites last year, secondly I'm on a no-buy (I know, I know).

BUT! I did overlook a true gem last year, the fall ruby in question being the Sleek Pout Polish in Plum. I posted about it numerous times, though never in this context - lovelies, it's simply a genius fall shade which one wouldn't suspect given its slightly drab appearance in the pot. Keep reading for swatches!

As you can see, I've managed to accumulate three of these beauties thanks to the kindness of my fellow UK bloggers, Cami and Franky. My favorite of the bunch is still Plum, an amazing darkened red with a tinge of brown, perfect for everyday when patted lightly onto the pout as well as fantastic for evening when layered for intensity. If that wasn't enough, it's also amazing blended out on the cheeks!

I've swatched it together with a couple similar shades; first from the left is Sleek Pout Polish in Plum, second is Clinique Almost Lipstick in Black Honey, third Ophelia's Apothecary Chai Latte Lip Tint in Caramel. Clinique would do in a pinch as a possible dupe, although it's much less pigmented, a bit more brown and not as long-wearing, so that's something to consider if you (like me) can't get your hands on Sleek easily.

Before I wave goodbye to you for today and go snuggle under my faux sheep skin blanket to crochet a couple rows, I urge you to go check out favorite fall lipstick posts from other Lipstick Bandits:What is your favorite lip product for November?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Haul and Review: Ophelia's Apothecary

Have you heard about Heartsy, lovelies? It's a voucher website that features handmade goodies, from jewelery, stationery, home decor to bath and body products; I found out about it at the beginning of September, got super excited (who doesn't love an awesome deal?) and prompty purchased my first voucher ($19 for $41) to Ophelia's Apothecary, an Etsy shop with bath, body and cosmetic products - my Haus of Gloi stash was running low and I wanted to give a chance to another company.

I placed my order on Sep 2 and the shop clearly stated their turnaround time was 'at least' 14 days - I didn't mind waiting a bit longer, I still had other things to use up. On Sep 28 I received a copy and paste convo saying they were aware that they'd surpassed the stated turnaround time, but that 'all orders through the 7th (Sep) would be shipped out by the 1st (Oct)'. By this time I had to go and purchase something else to use in the shower. Finally, my order shipped out on Oct 15, with a note apologizing for the delay and thanking me for my patience. What I'm trying to say is that this is a REALLY long TAT; while I understand the shop owners had their difficulties (there were so many of them that they started to seem more like excuses) due to the move to a different state, I don't understand why they'd decided to run a Heartsy deal at such a time when obviously they would be getting slammed with orders. All right, rant over; you probably want to know whether the products were worth the wait...

I purchased a Whipped Cream Soap (4 oz) in the Vanilla Noir fragrance ($8.25), a No 9 Sea Salt and Sugar Body Buff (4 oz for $18) and a Caramel Chai Latte Lip Tint ($7.75). I'll start with my least favorite product - the salt & sugar body scrub. I've used it once so far, and won't be able to use it again for quite a while; basically, it really hurts my eczema covered hands. It's more of an oily formulation compared to other scrubs I tried and it's also rather abrasive, I guess way too abrasive for my tastes. The scent is a strong rose with a touch of glycerin; more on the grandma-ish than the sexy side.

The whipped soap is a nice, smooth, creamy consistency, it doesn't feel drying on the skin and I was quite pleased with my choice of scent, although I suspect Ophelia's Apothecary uses readymade fragrance oils instead of their own in-house blends (like most sellers on Etsy). The soap is definitely comparable to Haus of Gloi's whipped soap formulation.

My favorite from the bunch is definitely the Lip Tint - it's a silky smooth moisturizing formula that melts onto the lips, with a very fine and delicate gold shimmer running throughout. The shade 'Caramel' is a reddish brown, very natural and a perfect everyday color for the season. It hasn't left my purse since I got it and I live under the impression it just goes with everything :) The scent is subtle vanilla, maybe with a touch of spice - I wish it was a bit more like chai latte, but I still really like it.

Overall, I'm not sure whether my order with Ophelia's Apothecary was worth the looong wait; there was just one product that I'm really loving, and the price points are significantly higher than other sellers', including my beloved Haus of Gloi. Have you ever tried anything from Ophelia's Apothecary? What are your favorite indie bath & body companies?