Monday, October 31, 2011

Lipstick Bandits!

Hold on to your lippies, ladies - a new gang is plundering the blogosphere, ready to snatch away an unattended lipstick. We're... Lipstick Bandits!

I had to join the Bandits as soon as I'd learnt of their existence; firstly, remember how I kidnapped that poor Rouge Coco Chanel in the woods? Secondly, I'm from Seattle, and we have a great superhero tradition going on in the city - so there must be some supervillains as well [insert evil cackle]. Lastly, I might just be a bad person...

So, I'm officialy joining forces with Arianne, Dani, Danielle, Larie, MM, Tracy, Rae (the original bandits), and the new bandits: Danielle - Bloomin' Beauty, Jen - My Funny Valentine, Xiao - Messy Wands and Paris - My Women Stuff, the lipstick musqueteers of the blogging world. What it means for you is that once in a while, we'll be picking up some make-up related topic, and posting about it on a specific date on our respective blogs; kind of a like a simultaneous tag, if you will. And we might snatch some lipsticks in the process.

Enough of that! The photos you're seeing are my membership application; we were all required to present a mask make-up with obligatory red lips. I wouldn't be myself if I didn't reach for Sleek Make-up True Color lipstick in Cherry, a dark, blue-based red beauty of a lippie. The mask was penciled in using GOSH Waterproof Eyeliner in Black with matte black eyeshadow on top and a selection of three loose pigments: Barry M Winter Berry, Barry M Petrol Black and Jesse's Girl Pure Pigment Eye Dust in Secret Weapon; how fitting, right?

Now... hide your lipsticks, my dears!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Review: Madame Scodioli's Solid Perfumes

One of occupational hazards of working at a perfumery is certainly trying more perfume, which in turn leads to buying more perfume. Case in point: Madame Scodioli's set of 3 Solid Perfume Wee Samples (yes, ironically, they're actually called that - just look at the photos comparing to other brands!) I purchased at Madame's Etsy shop for $16.

Let me start by saying that I just love the image and design of the brand. The travelling circus troupe vibe with its imaginative characters, including Madame herself (the bearded lady) is fun, unique, and certainly a bit geeky. We like.

For my set, I chose the following scents: Dust Shaker (mahogany and sandalwood), Cloven (amber, sandalwood, vanilla) and Boheme (vanilla oak) - isn't the woodsy theme quite obvious here? The scents are ordered, coincidentally, from the most to the least favorite; let me tell you why.

Dust Shaker is a gorgeous, faintly masculine scent in the pot; a bit reminiscent of mahogany-panelled cigar room with opulent volumes on the shelves, and a touch o' travels to the East by way of elephant figurines and plush carpets. The mahogany is almost reminiscent of tobacco here for me, whereas the soft, sweet sandalwood that the fragrance settles into on the skin brings images of flowered temples and monsoon weddings. I like this a whole lot and find it layers beautifully with other fragrances as well (like my classic Burberry EDP).

Cloven is a beautiful, grown-up, non-gourmand vanilla with a touch of feminine woods. This almost feels like a femme fatale kind of fragrance: one that requires a dark lipstick, seamed stockings, high heels and lots and lots of confidence - which, let's be honest, I don't really have. That's why I can't wear it all that often; it just isn't very me and sometimes even feels a bit cloying.

Boheme, unfortunately, is the black sheep here; it reminds me too much of a cheap old-fashioned cologne. The scent is quite pungent, more refreshing than soft, and the vanilla is almost imperceptible to me. Interestingly enough, I know there's a ready-made fragrance oil named Vanilla Oak that many independent perfumers use - I'm not saying this is what Madame used herself, I'm saying Boheme might need something extra for me to like it.

Moving forward, the formulation of the solid perfumes is lovely: they're very solid in the pots, but quickly melt to an oil with the warmth of your fingers and spread on the skin beautifully. I'd say they last good 2-3 hours on the skin, but somehow managed to perfume my dress for full 2 days!

Something to bear in mind: due to the beeswax content, these are not suitable for vegans :)

Compared to other solid perfumes in my posession, they're much easier (softer) to apply than Lush's solids and quite comparable to Sweet Anthem's new formulation (without the coconut oil). I literally have to use my nails to scrape some of Snow Fairy out from the pot; it's certainly not the case with Scodioli's scents. Overall, I think Madame Scodioli's perfumes are definitely worth a try and outstanding quality for the price; I'm thinking of picking up Laudanum (tobacco + black tea) some time soon.

Have you ever tried Scodioli's solid perfumes? What are your favorite scents in the solid form?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Review & FOTD: Lancôme Color Design Palette in Coral Crush

The sky is shrouded in clouds and grey today in Seattle (or rather, as Tom Robbins has put it, 'resembling cottage cheese that had been dragged nine miles behind a cement truck'*), so obviously I've decided to review a warm coral eyeshadow palette for you, just to saturate my vision for a little while.

Some very lovely and even more thoughtful people got me a Nordstrom giftcard back in September for my birthday, which is why I went looking for a good value make-up set to spend it on - and Lancôme had a GWP going on at the time, which pretty much blew all other options out the water. Cue: Sultry Eye Look Set ($48), including Color Design Eye Brightening All-In-One 5 Shadow & Liner Palette in Coral Crush 200 (phew!), travel-size Hypnôse Drama mascara, Aquatique eyeshadow primer and Le Crayon Khôl (I promise the French don't spell everything with the accent circonflexe over every 'o') black eyeliner pencil. Pretty good, huh?

This review is just for the palette, especially that I haven't even started using everything else in the set :) First off, I have to say that I enjoy Lancôme's packaging a lot: the palette is sturdy, pleasantly heavy, simple and elegant - at least, whenever I can keep my fingerprints to myself.

I was quite surprised with how shimmery the eyeshadows appeared at first; as you can see though, it seems like the first layer of sparkle fades away, revealing a lovely satin finish. The shadows are soft, blendable and with pigmentation on par with MAC Frost eyeshadows. They also smell faintly of crayons.

One of the reasons I enjoy using this palette a lot is that you can create both warm and cool neutral eye looks with it; in the photos below, I'm wearing the light taupe highlighter shade all over the lid, the dark brown liner diffused softly in the crease and the all-over pink base in the inner corners. As you can see, these eyeshadows are definitely not overly sparkly. I think my favorite shades have to be the peach and the taupe in the second row, both slightly more unusual but still very wearable daytime options.

If you're looking for a great value set for everyday wear, it's truly a fantastic palette. I cannot wait to try these other products that came in the kit! Oh, I'm also wearing a Lancôme Color Design lipstick in 'Trendy Mauve', which actually is a lot more brown than mauve on me. Have you ever tried Lancôme eyeshadows?

*quoted from Tom Robbins' Jitterbug Perfume

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Finally...! Some Empties

I've been hoarding a collection of empty pots and bottles to silence my guilty conscience by visibly proving that I actually do use up my products - if very slowly. I'm a very strange woman indeed, empty cosmetic packaging makes me happy...

Here's a little round-up of some make-up and skincare bits I've used lately, together with mini reviews for your enjoyment:

1. Haus of Gloi Vice Soft Bubbling Scrub - I gushed about this before, and I still stand by what I said earlier. A deliciously soft scrubbly goodness smelling of hazelnut ice cream - I do miss it now actually that it's gone, but (shock horror!) I veered from the righteous Haus of Gloi path and ordered some bath goodies from another indie company - a review coming soon.
2. Haus of Gloi Spring LE Milkmaid Whipped Soap - I do like HoG's whipped soap a lot and this was a very nice, feminine, musky floral scent that left me feeling clean and refreshed. A little too clean smelling, maybe, but it's just me; I think I prefer gourmand for the bath.
3. Haus of Gloi Spring LE Lassi Bubbling Scrub - I'm glad I only got a sample pot, because I swear to you, this smells of gummy bears. I do love gummy bears, especially biting of their heads first so that they don't suffer unneccesarily (told you I was strange!), but not so much in my bath.
4. Haus of Gloi Madcap Garden Perfume Oil sample - I surprised myself here by enjoying a peppermint fragrance, but then got bored quite quickly, so I don't think I'll repurchase. Great quality though.

5. Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Coat - A classic, but it does go extremely gloopy after some time (I think I had this bottle for a year or so). I'm currently testing a diffrent top coat, I'll let you know my thoughts eventually.
6. Allafia Rooibos & Shea Butter Antioxidant Facial Cleanser - read a detailed review here. Awesome cleanser by a local skincare brand that deserves much more recognition.
7. Mario Badescu Ceramide Eye Gel sample - A pleasantly scented, fast absorbing eye cream that wears well under make-up, but made me break out around my eye area. I think my eyes are just very sensitive, I've had this before with different eye creams, so I wouldn't completely write it off.
8. GOSH Eye Liner Pen - Meh, it's all right, I guess. The felt tip tends to splay out though, making it very difficult to apply, plus this baby will run down your cheeks at the mere sight of water. Not very practical in the Pacific Northwest.

9. Angel Face Botanicals Angel's Balm Body Butter - I didn't get on well with this one. I disliked the herbal scent and the grainy texture, and on top of that, it wouldn't sink in well into my skin, so I just had the feeling I was rubbing it off on my bed sheets all night. You might enjoy it though if you like more oilier body moisturizers such as Lush's Massage Bars.
10. Bath and Body Works Shea Cashmere & Silk Hand Cream - Ooh, this one I did like, we've used every last drop with the husband, and even my dad liked it. I am aware that the silky feeling upon application is due to a crap load of silicones, not the silk proteins; that said, silicones form a barrier preventing moisture loss from the skin, which is important if you have severely dry hands/ eczema.
11. Bath and Body Works Shea Cashmere Shower Cream - read a full review here. Nice enough, but quite pricey for what it is; therefore, I don't think I'll repurchase, unless I have an awesome B&BW coupon burning in my pocket.

Not bad, huh? I hasten to add that using up those four soaps/scrubs that I had on rotation in my bath took me good 4-5 months - quite pathetic. What have you emptied recently?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Dupe Alert: Stila Lip Glaze in 'Guava'

When I got my Stila E! Live from the Red Carpet palette + Lip Glaze set back in July, I immediately knew that lip gloss shade looked familiar...

Mind you, there's a number of brands making those lip glosses with a built-in brush applicator, with Stila, Clinique and e.l.f. to name just a few, but how similar does the e.l.f. packaging look compared to the Stila?!

Do you want to know the craziest part though? I prefer that e.l.f. Hypershine Gloss to the Stila Lip Glaze - and this baby is at least 15 times cheaper (Stila Lip Glaze is $22 for 0.08 fl oz, but the one that came in the kit is 0.05 fl oz, whereas e.l.f. Hypershine Glosses retail for $1. For volume comparison, a Revlon Super Lustrous lip gloss is 0.2 fl oz, so 2.5 times bigger than those guys). The Stila Lip Glaze feels extremely thick and tacky on my lips - it even drags upon application. It also has a tendency to acccentuate any flakies, which the e.l.f. does not.

As you can see, 'Guava' is slightly darker and more muted than 'Flirt', but on the lips, they look exactly the same (see a lip swatch of 'Flirt' here). I see absolutely no reason to shell out my monies for Stila Lip Glazes and I won't be buying any in the future. Have you tried these?

Friday, October 7, 2011

FOTD: Gaultier Fall 2011 Inspired Graphic Liner

Finally, I'm posting one of my favorite 'Fall 2011 Runway Inspired' looks - this time from the Jean Paul Gaultier show. The look consists of two major elements: graphic liner on the top and bottom lid and a strong matte red lip. Perfect!

As you can see in the backstage photos below, the black liner has also been emphasized by touches of white eyeshadow under the wing and in the inner corner. The look also requires decently strong and polished brows, a rather pale matte base, and a set of black false eyelashes.

I will go ahead and admit that I spent an indecent amount of time on the liner and still feel it's definitely not even on both sides - here's the practical lesson on asymmetry of the face for you. I would say the look is worth investing in a very fine eyeliner brush, which I unfortunately don't have; I still like the feathered detail at the ends of the wings, very pretty. I also added a touch of contour at the back of my cheeks, I hate how flat my face looks with such a pale high-coverage foundation.

This look is almost theatrical on me - my husband commented on this eye make-up look by saying I had 'triple eyes'. I guess what he meant is that the liner at the bottom makes the eyes appear much bigger :) I feel similarly towards the lips; you know how they say that a darker lipstick makes your lips appear smaller? Well, unless you have pretty big lips to start with - then it makes them even bigger.

Products used:
Revlon Colorstay Foundation for Oily/Combination Skin in Ivory
MAC Studio Finish concealer in NW20
Physicians Formula Healthy Wear Powder Foundation in Translucent Light
The Body Shop Bronzing Powder in Fair Matte
Annabelle 'Vanilla Chilla' Eyeshadow
Annabelle 'So Foxy' Eyeshadow
Inglot Matte Eyeshadow in 337
Wet'n'Wild 'Sweet as Candy' trio - pearly white shade
Wet'n'Wild MegaLiner in Black
ES Clear Liner V Black False Eyelashes*
Lancome Le Lipstique lip liner in Ideal
MAC Frost lipstick in Cockney

I have a couple more inspirational looks bookmarked and ready to recreate - I'm hoping to get them done some time soon. What was your favorite Fall 2011 runway make-up look?

Disclaimer: Product marked (*) sent for review consideration. Honest opinion as always.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Rocaille Raves: Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay

Aztec Secret 100% Natural Calcium Bentonite Clay is, despite its complicated name, a very simple product: it's essentially a powder face mask that has to be mixed with a liquid before applying to the face. The only ingredient in the mask is green bentonite clay from Death Valley, containing over 50 different minerals and boasting a number of skin benefits: drawing toxins out from the skin thanks to a negative electron charge, nourishing the skin, and of course deep pore cleansing.

Now, you're probably thinking that there must be at least a hundred different clay masks on the market, you've tried a handful and while they worked ok, they're certainly no miracle product. Well, at least this is what I thought - but I've heard some recommendations and it was only $6 for this huge tub, so I gave it a go. And boy, I'm glad I did!

Let me start with the negatives (now that you know that I'm loving it): firstly, the packaging is ugly and super messy, please open it by the sink the first time you try it. Seconly, it being a powder, it requires mixing, which takes additional time - but then it doesn't contain any preservatives and won't go bad for a long time. Thirdly, you won't be able to speak, eat, drink or make any facial expressions while it's on; at least if you don't want to rip your face to pieces. And lastly, it takes a bit time and patience to remove and again, this process is quite messy as well.

Now you're thinking, that's a lot of negatives, no? Why then do I like it so much? Well... because IT WORKS. The Aztec Secret clay deep cleanses the skin fabulously and, if used regularly, keeps breakouts in check. In August/September, I was going through a nasty breakout phase with new whiteheads appearing virtually every day, and I believe this has sped the recovery. At first, I didn't notice much difference, because I believe the clay has brought most of the impurities to the surface; however, once these clogs were removed, my skin healed beautifully without any scarring. The pulsating sensation you feel when the mask is drying on your skin is a bit weird, but I take it as a sign that it's working. My face is quite red for the next 30 minutes or so after washing off, but the redness fades, revealing soft, smooth, glowing skin. It's also fabulous as a spot treatment.

If you're thinking about trying it, the best application method I've found is to place a spoonful in your palm, spritz with some raw apple cider vinegar and/or water to mix into a paste, and paint onto the skin with an old foundation brush. The vinegar is what makes the powder creamy and smooth, but should be diluted if your skin is sensitive. After about 20 minutes, I remove it with a muslin cloth soaked in warm water. The 1lb and 2lb tubs are available from Whole Foods, Vitamin Shoppe and some Bartell Drugs stores in WA for $6-$8. I really recommend it if you have problem skin like me!

What are your experiences with clay masks? Which mask is your favorite?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

September Favorites

I know, I know - there goes my resolution to post three times a week. But at least I can offer an excuse/update on what's been going on in here, I thought you deserve to know! But before I go into that, some favorites of the past month. I've started to enjoy wearing make-up a bit more again now that my skin is not breaking out with the speed of a machine gun, and these are my most worn products:

1. MAC 226 Tapered Blending Brush - I will admit that I got this over 2 years ago and haven't used it that much since, for no reason other than I keep it in my non-everyday brush cup. However, I picked it up recently and it really is perfect for smaller creases, it just fits right in and deposits most of the color exactly where it should.
2. Clinique Plum Eyeshadow Quad - This was part of a last year's Gift With Purchase and contains the following shadows, available separately (clockwise from top): 'Stone Violet' from 'Sunburst' duo, darker shade from 'Beach Plum' duo, 'Night Plum' Stay Matte Eyeshadow and 'Frosted Blossom' Soft Shimmer Eyeshadow. I don't think these are very unique, I've just been loving plum shades on the eyes and these are easy to grab and good quality eyeshadows.
3. Wet'n'Wild Kohl Brow in Taupe - I waxed lyrical about this before, but I'd been using a different pencil for a bit and had actually forgot how much I loved it until I started using it again. The formula is quite soft and somehow manages to look natural while defining my brows.
4. OPI Brisbane Bronze Nail Polish - My first ever OPI! I do enjoy the formula and the wide brush, very easy to apply. But the color! A gorgeous dark copper reminiscent of falling leaves and campfire.

5. Chanel Rouge Coco Shine in Monte Carlo - How funny, I actually wear this one that I found in the woods more than the one I bought. This has been my shade of choice if I don't know what to wear on my lips. Monte Carlo is a sheer pink berry shade that feels comfortable and moisturizing, but doesn't last long on the lips.
6. NYX Powder Blush in Mauve - Not mauve at all, but still very pretty. It's a matte brownish rose that compliments post-summer skin perfectly and suits a variety of looks. I love how warm the shade is without making me look orange like many corals tend to do. Plus, you know how I love my NYX powder blushes!
7. Sweet Anthem 'Anton' Parfum Solide - I kind of feel like it deserves its own review, but I'm not sure if I want to draw attention to my perfume reviewing skills... Warm, spicy, smoky, striking with a hint of fruit, Anton was actually designed as a men's fragrance. Yes, I do sneak it from my husband, I just can't get enough of that perfect fall scent; plus, it's a perfect purse size.

Now, here goes my news/excuse: I'm actually busy interning at Sweet Anthem; for those of you not in the know, it's a West Seattle-based micro perfumery run and owned by Meredith Smith. So, in the spirit of transparency, 'Anton' was a gift, or as Meredith would have called it, a bribe; however, I promise to try and not pitch Sweet Anthem fragrances on the blog too often, even though they truly are beautiful and unique. But more importantly, Sweet Anthem is opening its flagship atelier on October 12 - there will be champagne, swag bags for the first 25 shoppers, and lots and lots of lovely indie perfumes to smell. Well, my lovely local readers, you're all invited to the party! You can find more info on the Sweet Anthem's website and Facebook page.

How's the month of September been for you?