Monday, April 29, 2013

Murad Monday: Skin Perfecting Lotion

Recently, I received a good selection of Murad skincare as a little bonus from work and have been very excitedly trying out my new goodies. Since Murad is such a varied and popular line that somehow isn't very talked about in the blogosphere, I've decided to bring you some reviews here and there in form of a 'Murad Monday', and today we'll start with my new morning mate, Murad Skin Perfecting Lotion ($35 for 1.7 fl oz).
'Pores are minimized as texture is refined by this ultra-light, oil-free moisturizing formula. Queen of Meadow and Algae Extract penetrate to clear pores and reduce sensitivity. Retinol encourages healthy cell turn-over while Arnica soothes irritation' (from Murad's website).

First off, props to Murad for encouraging acne-prone and oily skins to use a moisturizer; I know how badly dehydrated my skin gets with all those acne treatments! The Skin Perfecting Lotion is essentialy a lightweight hydrator with a hefty dose of retinol to help exfoliate the skin, and interestingly enough it's part of two lines within the Murad product range: the Acne line (blue) as well as Age Reform (purple, formerly grey) - it's exactly the same product under the same name, just different packaging and target group. Pretty smart, right?
The consistency of the Skin Perfecting Lotion is that of a quite thin, almost gel-like lotion (duh!) with a very, very subtle fresh scent; most of the time I can't smell it at all. For my face and neck, I squeeze out a dollop about the size of a hazelnut, spread it onto my fingertips a bit and then quickly pat it on the face. It completely sinks in within a minute but still gives a bit of a glow to my skin; the finish is definitely not matte. The product feels very cooling and refreshing on my face and actually helps to calm down the redness I get after washing my face. After applying the lotion, my mug feels hydrated, supple and very comfortable - no tightness or tingling there!
But the main reason this is such a firm favorite not just for me, but also for hundreds of people who have rated it on Makeup Alley, Sephora and Murad's own website is that this light refreshing lotion REALLY hydrates, without any of the greasiness or clogged pores some moisturizes leave behind. My face can get very irritated and flaky due to acne topicals I've been prescribed and this really helps to balance it out in the morning. I definitely enjoy using my tube of the Skin Perfecting Lotion and will probably repurchase once I run out.

Have you tried Murad's Skin Perfecting Lotion? What is your favorite lightweight oil-free moisturizer?

Friday, April 26, 2013

(Com)Pressing Fyrinnae Eyeshadows

Yet again, I've succumbed to the lure of Fyrinnae loose eyeshadow minis (remember that one order I already had planned back in March?); I looove the ultimate appeal of their sparkliciousness. I hate however how inefficient these little pots can be - so while I was a rather absent blogger for the first two weeks of April, I was a very dilligent (com)presser.
Pressing loose eyeshadows really is a rather satisfying experience. Look at all the space saved! All these empty pots consolidated into one perfectly slim palette! Oh, and the simplicity of just dipping your brush into the tiny pan, no spillage, no fall out! I will admit that I have become quite an ardent enthusiast of squeezing sparkly goo into tiny metal receptacles and I'm certainly enjoying the fruits of my (messy) labor.
In terms of the process itself, I largely followed Kate's instructions on pressing her Fyrinnae minis, with some minor adjustments. First off, I purchased my supplies at TKB Trading, including the 15mm tin pans (which, although prone to rusting if exposed to water, have the advantage of magnetizing to my Z palette, as opposed to the aluminium pans), as well as their little pressing kit, pressing ribbon and their own mixing medium, which I used instead of glycerin suggested by Kate. In terms of the process itself, I found that in order to get the just right consistency of the mixture, I had to add the mixing medium immediately followed by isopropyl alcohol; it simply refused to ball together otherwise. Lastly, I was not able to press right after filling up the tin pans because there was too much of the mixture oozing out the sides - so I waited a couple hours for the alcohol to evaporate before using the ribbon and my little stamp to press the eyeshadows down.
Here's a look at all of my pressed old & new Fyrinnae minis together in a Z Palette - oh, and an extra Barry M Dazzle Dust in Mushroom I couldn't stop myself from pressing too. Some of you are probably thinking a) at least half of these shades look exactly the same b) why even go to all this trouble? To that, I can only answer that I am slightly addicted to neutrals in general, taupes in particular, and that I really enjoy my Fyrinnae shadows. I find their shade selection interesting, the complexity of the shadows unique, and the price point more than tempting. So there. Oh, and their lab is within an hour drive from where I live - buy local!
 All of the shadows together, left to right, top to bottom: Electric Stardust Arcane Magic, Newcastle, Snow Leopard, Herbivore, London Mod, Nijiro, Witchy Woodland Creatures, Feisty Fennec Fox, Barry M Dazzle Dust in Mushroom, When I Grow Up, (shades I owned previously:) Moon Child, Kurisumasu!, Envy Me, Steampunk Arcane Magic, Madame & Eve's Arcane Magic, (new) Enchanting Otters, Crimson Ghost, Sacred, Damn Paladins (renamed Work Safe Blue), Evocation, Purgatory, (new) Dapper Mr Shark.
Swatches of the newly acquired shades after pressing, neutrals first, on bare arm (no primer): Nijiro, Witchy Woodland Creatures, Newcastle, Feisty Fennec Fox, Snow Leopard.
And the brights: Electric Stardust Arcane Magic, Herbivore, When I Grow Up, London Mod, Dapper Mr Shark, Enchanting Otters (look at the multicolor sparkle! look look!)

So far, my new favorites are definitely Witchy Woodland Creatures, Electric Stardust AM, When I Grow Up, Dapper Mr Shark and Enchanting Otters. I haven't experimented with all of these shades yet but I do have a couple looks already that I'm intending to post some time soon, so keep your peepers peeled. Also, I haven't noticed my pressed shadows performing any differently to their loose forms and the biggest upside to the whole endevour is that I now reach for my Fyrinnae pretties almost every day.

Have you ever tried pressing loose pigments or eyeshadows? What shadows have you (re)discovered recently?

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Springtime Bathtime!

I'm a bath person, through and through. Every night, I look forward to my relaxing soak, lights slightly dimmed, sounds from the rest of the apartment muffled, just my underwater floating pale limbs and... bubbles. Preferrably, lots and lots of fluffy bubbles, smelling like cleanliness, peace of mind and a good night's sleep. Because that's what baths are for, are they not?
Last months, after going through the last dregs of my bubble collection, I picked up a couple treats from Lush and I thought I'd share my thoughts. First off, Dorothy Bubble Bar ($6.25 for 3.5 oz): 'Our Dorothy bubble bar will take you far from the rain and grey clouds to somewhere over the rainbow where blue birds fly (...) The exotic floral scent of ylang ylang, sweet figs and uplifting orange oil will take you down the yellow brick road and far away' (from Lush website). Dorothy is an item I'd been meaning to try for a really long time and I'm really glad I finally decided to give it a whirl. Being partial to both ylang ylang and singing 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow' in the tub, this is just perfect for me: sensual, warm floral with the feminine sweetness of ripe figs, similar to their Figs and Leaves bar soap. Now, I'm pretty stingy with my bubble bars, so this size comfortably lasts me four baths, somewhat justifying the price tag.
 For some fun in the tub and to try one of the reusable bubble bars, I've also chosen Carrot ($7.95 for 4.2 oz), which was released with their Easter collection. 'This bubbly carrot may not improve your eyesight, but it will fill your bath with piles of frothy lemon and buchu scented foam.' For ignorants like myself, buchu is an African fragrant shrub with an herbal aroma. Carrot smells mostly of sweet Sicillian lemon with some clean musk, simple yet refreshing. It also produces lots of bubbles when held under the running tap water, although the process is a bit more time-consuming than using their regular bubble bars.
Rose Jam Bubbleroon ($6.25 for 3.5 oz) is my current absolute favorite; 'Rose Jam is based on a decadent traditional Turkish recipe for rose jam that our Turkish rose absolute supplier shares with us every year, and is made with our sophisticated new rose perfume.'. Growing up in Poland, I have very fond memories of rose jam, which our delicious donuts (pączki) are traditionally filled with. This rose bubbleroon certainly evokes the feeling of sweet decadence with its powerful but slightly green aroma; while there's very little of the geranium aspect to this rose (which I prefer), it's not musky old-lady either. The coconut-oil center does make this bubble bar more moisturizing than others I've tried, although the bubbles seem to disappear slightly faster.
Lastly, a robin egg bath treat from my Spring 2013 Fortune Cookie Soap Soap Box: The Birds and The Bees bath fizzy ($4.50 for a set of 2). I don't have it anymore to give you a run down of the scent but it had a very pleasant fruity kick to it, with maybe a bit of luscious late-blooming floral. The formula boasts honey powder and sweet almond oil to moisturize the skin, and I did notice a bit of oil residue floating on top of the water.
I also wanted to share how I now store my bath treats: I purchased these two clear plastic food containers from The Container Store and they're just perfect for preserving the scent of the bubble bars for longer. They're easily stackable inside my bathroom drawer, easy to wipe down and most importantly, now I can see what I have in stock instantly.
What's in your bath tub or shower this spring?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Spring Make-up Update: Guerlain Rouge Automatique in Shalimar

Remember how I mentioned that luxe lipstick I picked up recently as part of my two item monthly allowance? It's love, peeps. But before I get ahead of myself, we're talking Guerlain Rouge Automatique in Shalimar no. 166 ($35 for 0.12 fl oz or 3.5g) , a long-lasting, hydrating formula ensconced in some of the most gorgeous packaging available. So there.
The story of how this came about is that I had a Nordstrom gift card I received for my birthday (in September!) from a friend, the present accompanied by a remark that it was meant for a Chanel lipstick of my choice. The thing with Chanel though, I don't love their formula, at least from what I've tried. So I buried the gift card in a drawer until Kate from Drivel About Frivol posted about her all-time favorite lipstick formulas - and it was a done deal then.
As far as the most evident aspect of the Rouge Automatiques, the simple gold tube is simply stunning. To me, the design evokes a vintage, 1920's atmosphere, a slim bullet with beautiful, cursive engravings that would be produced from a tiny beaded clutch with a flourish. In terms of practicality, I was somewhat anxious to smush the tip of the lipstick into the automatically retracting top but of course, nothing like that has happened as the design is simply without fault.
Guerlain's Rouge Automatique lipsticks have 'an innovative formula [which] combines long-lasting hold with comfort and radiance'. And this, my dears, is actually the truth; this fantastic lipstick forms a veil rather than film of color on the lips but stays on just as well as the most clingy formulas. It cushions the lip with just the right amount of slip, looks faintly glossy and doesn't sink into the vertical lip lines. But best of all, it lasts (and lasts) without drying out the lips in the slightest; even at the 6 hour mark, my lips remain soft and comfortable without the need to reapply. It's perfection!

Shalimar no. 166 is a neutral cool hot pink with hints of strawberry, no shimmer. In the tube, it appears as it might contain just a whisper of sparkle but this doesn't really translate onto the lips, however the finish is quite glowy. The pigmentation is good but the formula itself is thinner so a couple swipes would be ideal to build up the intensity. The lightweight feel entails an effortless, more natural look as opposed to something more old-school like YSL's Rouge Purs.
L-R: Guerlain Rouge Automatique in Shalimar, Annabelle Twist-Up in Kinky Pink, Revlon Kissable Balm Stain in Smitten, Revlon Lip Butter in Berry Smoothie
The past couple of weeks I've definitely been more discerning when it comes to my lipstick formulas and shades, maybe because I'd somewhat culled the collection and ascerned what I like and dislike in my lip products. I can honestly confess that nothing gets my heart beating faster than a beautiful cool pink lipstick with no shimmer in a hydrating formula, and Rouge Automatique in Shalimar is all that and more. I will be definitely picking up more colors in the near future; Champs Elysees and Nahema in particular are calling my name.
Have you tried Guerlain's Rouge Automatique formula? What is your favorite high-end lipstick?

Monday, April 15, 2013

Rocaille Reviews: Sande Handmade Natural Soaps

As regular readers of this blog may know, I am a bit of a natural skincare afficionado: if I can find a natural product that's just as effective as its more chemical-laden brethren, I'm going to treasure it for a long time. I've been on the lookout for natural bar soaps for a while now and have tried a number of small, independent companies, so when Pam from Sande Handmade Natural contacted me and graciously asked whether I'd be interested in reviewing her products, I jumped at the chance - and was very pleasantly surprised!
First off, the soaps came snuggly wedged in a mountain of peanuts with pink tissue and individually wrapped in bubble wrap. That's possibly one of the few things I would suggest changing; I hate packing peanuts with a passion and they are detrimental to our environment, so there. The full-sized soaps came all with cardboard sleeves with a bit more information about the product, and the very generous sample size soaps came wrapped in brown paper, as you can see above. I received 7 of the big soaps and 4 samples, all in different scents, and a natural washcloth.
One of my immediate favorites when I opened the box was the Hearts Desire Soap ($6.95), complete with a pink heart jutting out the top and some iridescent glitter. Heart's Desire is a 'romantic delicately scented soap, formulated with essential oils of rose geranium, tangerine, and lavender' and to me, it would make a perfect Valentine's Day gift. It's a very feminine, fresh soapy floral without the usual green tomato vine aspect of rose geranium. As far as I've noticed, all of Sande soaps feel quite creamy and soft to the touch, thanks to a mix of base oils (olive, coconut, palm and sweet almond oils) but lather well to a dense, rich foam that rinses with no residue but also without leaving the skin 'squeaky' clean. They're not as moisturizing as my Shikai shower gel or L'Occitane Shower Oil but a lot less drying than something like Lush bar soaps.
The suspiciously dark Cocoa Mint Soap ($5.95) smells just like After Eights, or Starbucks Peppermint Mochas. 'This luxurious soap smells subtly of peppermint and chocolate. Cocoa Butter is a rich emollient that moisturizes your skin while the peppermint essential oil energizes and awakens the mind and adds in a refreshing cooling sensation'; this would be just perfect for a quick morning shower. Apart from cocoa butter, this soap also contains aloe, shea and illipe butters and truly feels very decadent and pampering on the skin. Another favorite!
Now, something for lavender lovers: the Lavender Oatmeal soap ($6.95) is 'beautifully scented with lavender essential oil and textured with oatmeal to make a mild exfoliating soap scrub'. As opposed to rock-hard Porridge from Lush, the oatmeal particles are much smaller, softer and scaterred more sparsely throughout the bar so that the soap feels more knubbly than scratchy on the skin. The top of the soap is decorated with lavender buds and the soap smells of fresh, slightly sweeter lavender without the pungent herbaceous notes that I tend to dislike in lavender scents.
The Patchouli Rose ($6.95) is probably the single soap I don't love from the selection I received; it smells of extremely earthy aspects of both patchouli and rose, a bit like kaolin clay and geranium, which again, I quite dislike. 'A dreamy blend of citrus oils with warm lavender and added lemon balm leaves makes this soap one of a kind'. I don't get any of the lemon and lime used, to be honest, and I wish the scent was a bit brighter - but I'm sure there are soap fanatics out there who love this.
'Strong and sultry, our rosemary soap gives off a powerful, refreshing aroma to stimulate the skin and mind. Made with botanical oils, shea butter and pure rosemary essential oil to energize and renew' ($3 for travel size). Again, this would be fantastic as a morning and/or summer soap, as the rosemary is both vivacious and herbal with a touch of coolness. My only complaint is that after a couple weeks, the rosemary aroma is a bit less pronounced than when I first got it but I'm not sure if that could be helped.
The Kitchen Blend soap ($6.95) is a pleasant mix of lemon, lime, orange and rosemary essential oils that help to neutralize cooking odors; you know, like when you have this lovely combination of onion and garlic from your bolognese sauce right on your fingertips? Kitchen Blend is also nicely textured with coriander, sesame, poppy, fenugreek and celery seeds - it's almost like the contents of my spice and herb drawer in one lovely soap.
I also received four sample-sized soaps, from left to right: a Lemongrass soap ($6.95) with orange peel, cedarwood and of course lemongrass essential oil, which health benefits include helping the nervous system, toning, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. This is also blended with cornmeal to mildly exfoliate the skin. Next, the Sweet Hearts glycerin soap ($6.95) is a musky pink lotus and golden amber blend with moisturizing mango and shea butter, and it looks super cute with its dark pink hearts design although the color transferred onto my skin slightly. The unassuming creamy bar to the right is another favorite, a Gardenia & Grapefruit soap ($6.95) smells like an exotic getaway with clean floral and citrus notes. And lastly, the Dark Amber soap has a spicier, more sensual scent with maybe a touch of vanilla and it's the one I currently keep in my soap dish.
Pam also included a 100% Natural Ayate/ Agave Washcloth ($6). When dry, it looks absolutely terrifying and scratchy but when soaked in warm water, it turns soft and pliable and makes a great exfoliator for the skin. It also helps to spread the lather on your body nicely without wasting too much soap. Personally, I'm not a big fan of washcloths in the bath/shower, although this makes for a great natural and more durable alternative to a loofah.

All in all, I really enjoyed trying Sande Handmade Natural soaps and I've definitely found a couple of new favorites among her scents. Sande Handmade Natural now also carries natural perfume oils, bath salts, mineral mud masks as well as lots and lots of other delicious soaps; I particularly like the sound of Honey Almond Oatmeal soap and Eucalyptus & Lemongrass soap with Dead Sea Salt. If you're looking for a new soap company to try, definitely check out Sande's Etsy shop, link here.

Do you prefer using bar soaps or shower gels for your body? What is your favorite soap brand?

Disclaimer: The article above features products I received for review consideration from Sande Handmade Natural. All opinions are 100% honest and my own. Thank you for reading!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A Week in Photos #2

I apologize for the sparsness of blog posts recently; I seem to have lost my motivation somewhere and it hasn't turned up yet. But, in the meantime, some things I've been enjoying...
Rose flavored macaroons from Chantal Guillon // Spring on the way to the library // Favorite mug of the moment: David's Tea The Perfect Tea Cup // And speaking of tea, David's Cream of Earl Grey... // That's what's cooking, good-looking: Wagamama // New Fyrinnae pretties // Surprised by how much I like Murad's Skin Perfecting Lotion // German chocolate!

What have you been up to?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Review: Elemental Herbology Purify & Soothe Cleansing Balm

I'm sure by know you all know I'm a big proponent of non-foaming cleansers (like the previously reviewed Clarins Extra-Comfort Cleansing Cream or REN ClearCalm Claryfing Clay Cleanser), especially of the balm variety. A good couple months ago a new one came on my radar, the Elemental Herbology Purify & Soothe Facial Cleansing Balm ($46 for 2.5 fl oz on, a deliciously thick, fragrant example of what I like in my cleansers from an up-and-coming natural British brand.
The Elemental Herbology cleanser comes in an esthetically pleasing matte white tube with a screw on top, and once squeezed out, lookes like a thick, oily salve in a suspicious yellow/brown color. Once warmed up with fingers, it liquifies into a viscous oil which is easy to spread on the face, and smells strongly of Angelica and some other herbs; as far as I can remember, Angelica does wonders for dehydrated skin, so a big plus for me here.

I use about hazelnut size dollop of the balm and massage it vigorously into dry skin after getting rid of most of my make-up with a separate remover; I'm only using this as a second cleanse so I can't vouch for its make-up removing properties. Also, I don't use it on my eyelids, although I have used it very close to the eye area and haven't noticed any irritation. It feels pleasant and nourishing on the skin and wipes off easily with a hot flannel, leaving no greasy residue but only clean, glowy skin.
I've been using the Elemental Herbology Purify & Soothe for about a week now and overall I'm really happy with its performance - my skin feels properly cleansed but doesn't get very red in the process, and the action of massaging the balm into the skin helps me to get rid of any dry flakes. I do however question the price point; as you can see below, in comparison to my hand, the tube is rather small and probably won't last very long. Would I purchase it again at the full price of $46? Probably not. The quest is not over yet.
Have you ever tried cleansing balms or do you use non-foaming cleansers? Which ones are your favorites?