Monday, January 31, 2011

Rocaille of the Day: Violet and Vest

Just a quick Saturday outfit post for you, lovelies - I know I've been slacking in posting these! Truth be told, most week days when I stay at home I just throw on some tee and my Victoria's Secret PINK sweatpants; not very exciting, right? I do however try to make a bit of effort for the weekends when we run some errands or eat out.

This outfit features some of my all time favorite pieces: my 'Viking' boots, these black shorts with a slight retro feel, a military-inspired vest and a purple animal print scarf. I really like wearing shorts with bright-colored tights, and vests are a fun way to dress up an ordinary top.

Scarf: Tally Weijl
Top: H&M
Vest: H&M
Shorts: Promod
Tights: ?
Boots: Ecco

I hope you're having a great start of the week so far... and see you in February! x

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Brand Focus: Alaffia

Alaffia is a Washington state-based, sustainable and natural skincare company which was founded to help West African communities become sustainable through the fair trade of indigenous resources, especially handcrafted, unrefined shea butter. Alaffia is Fair For Life-certified and committed to empowering individuals through a range of projects, including Bicycles for Education and Maternal Health to help reduce maternal death rates in central Togo.

I first heard of the company while browsing for neem oil at my local Whole Foods. When I got home, I researched Alaffia online and was quite impressed with its morals, so I decided to try some more products. After I ran out of face wash, I purchased their Rooibos & Shea Butter Antioxidant Cleanser ($13.95), and recently also got their Shea Butter Body Milk ($11.95) in the Vanilla Almond scent.

For a detailed review on the Alaffia Basics Neem Oil, click here.

As some of you may recall, I featured Alaffia's Rooibos & Shea Butter Antioxidant Cleanser in my 2010 Best Beauty Buys post, and for a good reason. I still think it's absolutely fabulous: it has a silky smooth texture that melts away impurities while leaving my face soft and clean - but not squeaky clean! It's also subtly scented with ylang ylang essential oil, which makes using it a pleasure. In the 'natural cleansers' category, I do like it better than Bioelements All Things Pure face wash because of the smoother texture and better smell; plus, it's a fraction of the price!

I also enjoy using the Shea Butter Body Milk very much, although I wouldn't exactly call it a 'body milk'. It's more like a rich lotion which seems to have something of a whipped texture, and it takes a while to spread out on the skin. Once it sinks in however, my skin instantly feels rehydrated. The lotion mainly contains unrefined shea butter like most of Alaffia's products, which has the maximum amount of healing, moisturizing and anti-ageing properties. As for the scent, I can't smell much of vanilla in it, the almond notes are definitely stronger, plus I can also feel sweet orange which is listed among the ingredients. It just smells like... orange marzipan, quite delicious really. I'd love to try some more scents!

All in all, my experiences with the company are very positive and I will continue to buy their products, supporting their goal of helping those in need. I definitely recommend you take a look at Alaffia's shelf while grocery shopping, or browse their products online.

Have you recently discovered any new brands or products?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Battle of Natural Lip Balms

I know I may have a bit of a lip balm obsession, but my lips get really dry in the dead of winter, and I bet yours do too...

Today's contestants:

1. Badger Creamy Cocoa Lip Balm: a deliciously thick, certified organic and fair trade balm featuring cocoa butter, extra virgin olive oil and seabuckthorn berry extract among its ingredients.
2. Burt's Bees Replenishing Lip Balm: 100% natural (Natural Products Association certified) and cruelty-free balm with sunflower oil, beeswax and pomegranate oil.
3. Sweet Beauty Organic Chocolate Lip Confections in Mojito: all natural, preservative-free balm with sweet almond oil, lime oil and organic extra virgin coconut oil
4. ChapStick 100% Naturals Lip Butter with 5 natural butters, such as cocoa, mango and raspberry butter
5. EOS (Evolution of Smooth) Smooth Sphere Lip Balm in Summer Berry: innovatively-shaped, 100% natural, 95% organic balm containing olive oil, shea butter and blueberry extract.

My thoughts:
I have been using these 5 natural/organic lipbalms (click here to read about the difference between natural and organic skincare) for a good couple of months and have some definitive favorites. Despite the fact that the key ingredients in all five are quite similar, these do not perform in the same way. All natural lip balms I have tried so far have quite a hard, waxy texture which melts onto your lips thanks to your body temperature. They don't have much of a taste, but come in a variety of scents obtained by adding some natural extracts/essential oils to the product.
My criteria for choosing the best of these five were as follows:
- lasting hydration
- protection
- pleasant scent
- no flavor
- ease of use

While some of the balms featured tick some of these boxes, only one fulfills all criteria. And the winner is...

Badger Creamy Cocoa Lip Balm. This is the only one out of the bunch that I reach for most often and will definitely repurchase. If you have problems with dry, chapped lips I strongly recommend you check this guy out. It lasts all night on my lips, and can also be used on other parts of the body; it works a treat for soothing the eczema on my hands.

What is your Holy Grail lip balm?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

NOTD: Wet'n'Wild 'Jezebel'

I was looking for something a bit less wintery for my nails, and 'Jezebel' from the Wild Shine range looked like it would tick all the right boxes. A beautiful raspberry with soft copper shimmer, what's there not to love, right?

Well, I didn't love this one. It applied quite streaky and with a bit of drag at the cuticle, but it's still a two-coater, so for the price, I could live with that. Unfortunately, it also chipped at the tip of my middle and index fingers within 12 hours of application, even with Seche Vite on top. Lastly, the color just falls a bit flat for me: the shimmers are virtually invisible once on the nail, and compared to Barry M 'Raspberry', it's just not bold enough.

*EDIT*: Within 24 hours, half of my index finger nail chipped off, closely followed by other nails. I even got chips on my pinky, and that never happens! Very disappointed on the longevity front.

A shade comparison for you. First, a classic fire engine red (Sinful Colors 'Hot & Sour'), then we have 'Jezebel', and finally Barry M 'Raspberry'.

So far, I only have a couple of Wet'n'Wild polishes, and while I love some of the colors on offer, after this one, I'm beginning to worry about the quality. Which Wet'n'Wild nail polish range do you find the best? What's gracing your nails at the moment?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

My Favorite EcoTools Brushes

All make-up artists seem to agree that good brushes are an essential part of a flawless look. All of us, beauty addicts, sigh with resignation at this obvious truth, handing our hard-earned money at MAC and the like, because when it comes to make-up brushes, beauty certainly does come with a (hefty!) price. Or does it?

For me, parting with the sums MAC hails for their brushes has always been too painful and I've been on the lookout for some budget options ever since I started my make-up journey. I believe I have found my Holy Grail inexpensive quality brushes; I hereby present you my EcoTools brush regiment I turn to every morning. All of these brushes but one come from three sets: EcoTools by Alicia Silverstone set of 4 brushes ($15.99), EcoTools Bamboo set of 4 brushes recommended for mineral make-up ($12.95) and EcoTools Bamboo Eye set of 5 brushes ($6.39). They're all super soft, durable, vegan, sustainable, synthetic bristle brushes suitable for both powder and cream formulas with aluminum ferrules and bamboo handles. I've washed mine several times and none of them shed even one (sic!) hair or lost its shape; the only thing is that they take a bit more rinsing to wash all of the shampoo out than my other natural bristle brushes.

Face Brushes:

1. Smudge brush from the Bamboo Eye set: I use this tiny pencil brush for concealing blemishes and little flaws. It's precise enough to conceal just where I need it, but also perfect for blending the edges. Alternatively, it can also be used to apply inner corner highlight or to smudge the eyeliner.
2. Blending brush from the Bamboo Mineral set: I use this amazingly soft brush to apply and blend concealer under my eyes and around my nose. It's a bit too big and fluffy to be used in the crease for my tastes, but would also work fabulously for blending on the eye.
3. Duo fiber brush from the Alicia Silverstone set: I use it to apply my blusher or bronzer: it picks up just enough product not to make me look like a clown and blends beautifully. However, it's too soft and bendy to be used for liquid foundation; a great budget option for that purpose would be the e.l.f. Studio Flat Top Powder Brush.
4. Mini kabuki from the Bamboo Mineral set: I use it for my mineral foundation or powder on selected areas of my face. It's a baby buki, so it might be not big enough for some, but since I don't apply powder on my whole face, it's perfect for me: ultra soft and smooth, but dense enough to really buff it in.

Eye Brushes:
5. Blend brush from the Bamboo Eye set: I use this fat paddle brush to apply color on my lid; I guess the MAC equivalent would be the 227. It's just the quickest way to get intense color on the lids and blend it upwards before any crease work.
6. Highlight brush from the Bamboo Eye set: I use it in the crease or to blend lid color further if I'm going for a simple, one eyeshadow look. The MAC equivalent would probably be the 224 (I'm not sure because I don't have it): it's small enough to fit in my crease and has just the right level of density to control the amount of eyeshadow I'm putting down.
7. Shade brush from the Bamboo Eye set: I use it to deepen the outer V and along my upper and lower lashline. It's also firm enough to blend your pencil eyeliner for a more smudgy look. I imagine the MAC equivalent would be the 214.
8. Eyeliner brush from the regular line: I use it to fill in my brows, it has just the right firmness for that purpose. Sometimes I also use it to deposit black eyeshadow along my lashline instead of pencil liner, but I definitely prefer smaller, more precise brushes for my gel eyeliner. The MAC equivalent would be the 208.

All in all, I think all three of these sets are worth getting; I don't mind the shorter handles (see in the first photo) and just store them in a glass votive candle holder so that it's easier to pull them out. They're all fantastic value for your money and apart from the travel-sized handles, I don't think they compromised the quality compared to the regular line brushes. Mind you, I like all of the brushes that come in the three sets, these are just the ones I reach for Every. Single. Day.

I hope this lengthy review helped some of you looking for inexpensive quality brushes. Have you ever tried EcoTools brushes? What are your thoughts?

Friday, January 14, 2011

I've been meaning to tell you...

... that I've had my hair cut. SHORT. Like this:

Eyes: Wet'n'Wild eyeshadow trio in 'Walking on Eggshells'
Cheeks: Wet'n'Wild Ultimate Minerals blush/bronzer in 'Amber Glow'
Lips: e.l.f. Mineral Lipstick in 'Rosy Raisin'

I know it may come as a bit of a surprise to some of you, but I'd been thinking about a chop for a long time and finally went for it a weekend before Christmas. The reasons were manifold, the main one being that the condition of my hair worsened a lot and it demanded too much upkeep. The most important thing however is that I like my new Keira Knightley-inspired haircut and I think my friends and family like it too, even though Mr may call me his teenage boy from time to time. I'll do a separate post on styling short hair if you're interested, it's super quick and easy but versatile.

Have you ever gone for a more drastic cut?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Best Beauty Buys 2010

In apology for my long absence, my personal Best Beauty Buys for 2010; hopefully, not too late, because it's never too late to learn about some amazing new products, isn't it?

(clockwise: Mauve, Peach, Pinky, Angel, Taupe)

1. NYX Powder blushers
My most often reached for blushers, period. I'd even go as far as to claim that 2010 was a blusher year for me since my blusher collection grew considerably in the last 12 months. I find that on my pale skin, a touch of blush is indispensable, it just makes everything come together and evens out the complexion, giving it a healthy, glowy appearance. I like the fine texture and satin finish of NYX blushers and use the above pictured shades interchangeably. However, if you need one shade recommendation, I'd go for Angel: it's a perfect all rounder for my cool-toned skin.

2. Inglot Freedom eyeshadows
Thanks to these, I honestly haven't felt the need to check out MAC eyeshadows in ages. For my favorite neutrals with swatches, check out this post; I have also got three more shades on my recent trip to Poland and plan on posting a more wintery look soon. These are simply such a great quality and range for such a reasonable price, and the pearl finish blends like buttah.

(L-R: Hot & Sour, Lying Nails, Sharon's Heart, Vacation Time, Opal Glitter, Aqua)

3. Sinful Colors nail polishes
Best drugstore nail polish brand. I've heard there are some duds in the range, but I've yet to encounter them. Granted, my China Glaze polishes are just as good and their glitters even better, but then there's an obvious difference in price and for me, availability. I like how Sinful Colors are bringing out new trendy collections all the time too.

4. Ecotools brush sets
There's an assortment of different brushes and sets in the little glass holder above and I pinky promise to post a more detailed review and recommendations, but for now, let me just say that from all of the Ecotools brushes I've tried, there haven't been a single one I disliked. I use them every day and moreover, I'd be happy to go without all of my other brushes from various brands and use just these. They're that good, and vegan and sustainable to boot.

5. Tweezerman Slanted Tweezers
Staying in the tools category, this has become a staple in the Rocaille house. This is exactly what I mean when I say it's sometimes better to splurge on a quality item that quickly becomes an essential. I do my own brows and this has helped to keep the unwanted hairs under the browbone at bay; it grabs even the tiniest baby hairs and gets rid of them in a second.

6. Soap-free natural facial cleansers
I have tried two so far, the Bioelements All Things Pure organic cleanser with clay and this Alaffia Antixodiant Facial Cleanser with rooibos and unrefined shea butter. I seriously think that using a natural, chemical-free cleanser has changed the condition of my skin noticeably in the past 6 months, so much that even my family commented on how nice my skin looked. It has revolutionized my beliefs on treating oily, acne-prone skin. Let me know in the comments if you're interested in a review on the Alaffia cleanser, it's amazing to say the least.

(L-R: Vanilla in the Mist, Figs & Leaves, Oatmeal soap)

7. LUSH bar soaps
I've also been using LUSH bar soaps for the past couple months non stop. I'm particularly fond of the more sweet, foodsy scents, and so far my favorites have been the Honey I Washed the Kids and Vanilla in the Mist, this last one being a seriously underrated soap - it smells exactly like a vanilla latte. I find they're not too drying and a small chunk lasts a very long time, making them very cost-efficient.

So there you have it! Again, apologies for no posts in the past two weeks; I had every intention of scheduling some post for you, but I guess I got overwhelmed with the Christmas preparations and then my trip home, which, by the way, took us 25 hours. No amount of mini tooth brushes, travel pillows or great books is ever going to make such an experience better, but with 12 hours between flights to spare in Paris, at least we got to sample some French croissants and see the Notre Dame. And then, we had a Christmas Eve on Christmas Day, since we finally arrived in Warsaw at 1 am on December 25th. Phew!

I hope you all had a lovely Holiday and I wish you all the best for the 2011. x