Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Month in Nail Polish: September & October

... So, that would make it Two Months in Nail Polish, right? Liar liar, pants on fire. Here's the excuse: I was moving, and it's a widely known fact, moving ruins your nails; also, I was lazy. But, onwards and upwards - let's look at some fall-appropriate nail polish swatches!
 I started the fall season with a newer member of my nail polish collection, Zoya Jem. As you can see in the bottle close-up, it's a beautiful burgundy and gold duochrome shimmer - unfortunately, the duochrome is much less visible once on the nails. The formula was quite thin and would probably require three coats for full opacity; but again, laziness. The tip wear was significant on the second day already and the polish chipped off quickly - but I think my nails might have been to blame as the tips have been very peely lately. Overall, I shall revisit you at a later date, Jem.
Another week, another hard-to-capture duochrome: Revlon Perplex, a famous Chanel Paradoxale dupe. I'm not sure if I ever featured it on the blog before (probably not, as it tends to trick my camera pretty successfully) but it's a gorgeous smokey grey plum with violet microshimmer; think Essie Smokin' Hot but with more dimension. Great formula (two coats), good longevity. A fall staple.
I did wine, I did plum, so next it had to be a navy blue. Essie No More Film actually debuted in their Summer 2012 collection, but I think it's a fantastic shade for the cooler months and for me, a preferrable alternative to this season's After School Boy Blazer; the latter pretty much IS black and thus a smidge too gothic. The glitter for the accent nail is OPI's; I like it much better over a dark shade versus the pink I tried earlier.
Lastly, a bit of a cheat - this is a very old swatch of Revlon Facets of Fuschia (presently, Scandalous) I had sitting in my photo folder for a really long time, and I wanted it out. Nevertheless, it's one of my favorite glitters for All Hallows' Eve; there's just something witchy to it that I can't quite put my finger on. I don't remember much about the formula or wear, but glitters tend to be tenacious.

So, these past two months have been all about vampy shades, duochromes and glitter. Have I already said that I love fall nail polish? What have you been wearing on your nails recently?

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Is It The Only? bareMinerals READY Blush in The One

Please excuse the corny title of this post. Ekhm. A little throwback to the summer here, which is when I acquired this bareMinerals READY™ Blush in the shade The One ($22 for 0.21 oz); a bit of a tall order by means of the given name, isn't it? My motive for the purchase was finding a relatively less hyped-up but still pleasant formula that could deliver a neutral, go-with-almost-everything shade at a middle price point. So, does it deliver? Is it the one and only blush? Bear my ramblings for the next couple minutes to find out (or, you know, scroll to the bottom... quitter).
It is no secret that I love the bareMinerals READY eyeshadows (proof here and here), so I was more willing to take a chance on a less popular blush formula. The compact itself looks exactly the same as the brand's eyeshadow quads, which I quite enjoy - they're minimalist but pleasing to the eye, and rather sturdy. There's also a large mirror included inside, which proved immensely useful when moving house.
The texture of this blush is quite soft and smooth, but not at all powdery; it almost seems rather firmly pressed in the pan. The pigmentation is on the medium side and requires a denser, slightly stiffer blush brush to apply; otherwise the bristles won't pick up enough product. The blush goes on evenly and is easy to blend out, and stays all day for me; please note that the skin on my cheeks is neither oily or very dry, and most powder blushes stay put without trouble.

Clockwise, starting from the bareMinerals The One Blush: Stila Convertible Color in Lillium, Milani Baked Blush in Berry Amore, NARS Douceur, NYX Mauve, La Femme Mocha, Inglot Cream Blush no.88.
The shade The One is a somewhat dusty warm pink tinged with a good deal of apricot. As proved by the swatch comparison, it isn't terribly unique; in fact, my beloved NYX Powder Blush in Mauve (not a mauve, obviously!) is almost an exact dupe. Where bareMinerals The One differs from all the blushes in my neutral collection though is the finish; it has a beautiful, lit-from-within sheen that translates into a glowy satin on the cheeks - no shimmer, just extra dimension. Because of this beautiful property, the powder doesn't sit on the skin, but rather melds into it, giving a healthy, natural appearance and lifting the face.
L-R: bareMinerals The One, La Femme Mocha, NYX Mauve, NARS Douceur, Milani Berry Amore, Stila Lillium and Inglot no. 88
There's definitely something to the bareMinerals READY products that makes them sit so well on the skin (well, according to the company, it's their SeaNutritive Mineral™ Complex with antioxidants and cold-pressed camellia oil... and who doesn't love camellia oil, right TATCHA?). Even though the blush lacks the intense pigmentation of the majority of their eyeshadows, it is indeed buildable, as intended. In this look, I'm wearing the blush paired with YSL Teint Touche Eclat foundation in B20, theBalm Bahama Mama bronzer to contour, neutral eyeshadows from the bareMinerals core line and a Revlon Super Lustrous lipstick in Black Cherry, lightly dabbed on the lips.
I am very happy that I took a chance on this READY blush in The One; it may not be the one and only, since I like my blush too much, but it's a great formula and a staple shade that should suit a variety of skintones in the light to medium spectrum. Check these bareMinerals blushes out next time you're looking for something to add to your stash; maybe you'll find The One?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Warm Red Autumn: Avon Totally Kissable Lipstick in Make Out Red

"Designers want me to dress like Spring, in billowing things. I don't feel like Spring. I feel like a warm red Autumn." - Marylin Monroe
I know what you've been thinking: oh, this NYC business you babble on and on about is all perfectly well, but woman, show us some lipstick, dammit! And I'm happy to oblige today with this Avon Totally Kissable Lipstick in Make Out Red ($8 for 0.106 oz.), which I picked up at the beginning of September along with some more eye pretties. Again, I know what you're thinking (yes, I'm turning into a veritable mind-reader these days): Avon? But isn't it like... frumpy and old-fashioned? Well, maybe - but in my book, they're stepping up their game. The lipstick I have to show you is a far-cry from the gritty glittery bombs of my high-school years, and it's a perfect red for fall and winter.
First off, I think Avon is going in the right direction with their packaging: the Totally Kissable Lipstick tube is quite straightforward in all its silver glory, and feels light but sturdy in my hand. The bullet is secure in the case and has a simple inscription with the brand's logo. The lipstick itself smells faintly of vanilla custard (quite bizarre, but I like it) and has a smooth, creamy consistency that would be the most comparable to Revlon's Super Lustrous cream finish lipstick formula. For some reason, I expected this to be more on the sheer side (which is why I've swatched it next to a Chanel Rouge Coco Shine), but it is in fact a full-on, quite opaque formula with a moderately glossy (non shimmery!) cream finish.
The shade Make Out Red (far left in the swatch) isn't mind-blowingly unique but just a tiny bit different from the reds I already own and love: it's a raspberry red that leans pink, which suits my cool undertones. It's a bit lighter and has more of a white base than Revlon's Cherries in the Snow (middle left) or similar Milani Berry Rich (far right, swatched on the lips here). And umm, yeah, it's nothing like Chanel Rouge Coco Shine in Monte Carlo (middle right). Sorry for the confusion.
On the lips, the Totally Kissable formula is neither drying nor moisturizing, and has an average staying power - slightly worse than the Revlon Super Lustrous but probably on par with the Milani. It also looks great dabbed lightly on top of lip balm, or blotted off for a more matte finish. In the photo below, I'm wearing a couple swipes straight from the bullet paired with shimmery taupes from Fyrinnae on the eyes, some Gosh eyeliner in Black Ink, and a Stila Convertible Color in Lillium.
If you're looking for an inexpensive, no-fuss lipstick formula, I do recommend the Totally Kissable range (although caution should be exercised as some shades contain a lot of shimmer). It's nothing revolutionary, but with all the enticing Avon offers, it's a nice treat. Have you bought anything from Avon recently? What is your favorite red for fall?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Skincare Ritual of the Geisha: TATCHA Camellia Cleansing Oil & Rice Enzyme Powder Review

Which one of us wouldn't want to indulge in the skincare ritual of the geisha and take advantage of their wisdom to achieve baby-soft porcelain skin? I for sure was intrigued when I first learned about TATCHA, a luxury skincare brand inspired by a 200-years old Japanese beauty manuscript discovered by the founder on her travels to Kyoto. I was given a chance to try out their One Step Camellia Cleansing Oil and the Rice Enzyme Powder in the Classic version, and after roadtesting it for about three months, I'd like to share my geisha skincare experience with you.
Firstly, a couple words about the packaging: I don't think I have ever seen any skincare products packaged with such exquisite attention to detail. The outside of the cardboard boxes resembles the texture of dark polished wood, while the inside surprises with a bold violet & ultramarine pattern of bamboo leaves. The products nestled inside are wrapped in hand crafted paper, inscribed with the details about the formulation. The cleansing oil bottle and the rice powder jar are both made out of heavy plastic with a pearlized sheen, embossed with the company logo in gold and navy, and have a very secure closing system for travel. In short, they're beautiful and practical and definitely evoke a sense of luxury. And yes, I have still not thrown my boxes away.
The One Step Camellia Cleansing Oil ($48 for 150 ml/5.1 fl oz) is a light blend of rice bran and camellia oils that claims to remove even waterproof make-up without the need to double cleanse. All TATCHA products are formulated without mineral oil, synthetic colors and fragrances, sulfate detergents, parabens, PEGs, PPGs, urea, DEA, TEA or phthalates so should be suitable for many sensitive or allergy-prone skintypes. The texture of this oil isn't overly viscuous so it spreads nicely on dry skin, allowing for a bit of a facial massage. The product turns into a milk when water is added and rinses away easily, leaving no oily residue or a tight feeling - my face just feels soft and clean, like it should.
Compared to Dermalogica's Precleanse (click for a review), this seems lighter and rinses off better, so yes, you can absolutely use it as your single cleanser, unlike the Dermalogica one which needs to be followed by another skintype-specific cleanser. The TATCHA Cleansing Oil also seems to cloud my eyes a bit less than the Dermalogica, while remaining just as effective; I don't really wear a lot of waterproof make-up, but it removes lots of black mascara and eyeliner without effort. All in all, a big thumbs up from me.
The Classic Rice Enzyme Powder ($65 for 60 g/2.1 oz) is a powder to cream exfoliant formulated with rice bran, papaya and a proprietary HADASEI-3 Bioactive Complex (an anti-ageing blend of green tea, red algae and rice bran extracts). I use it by tipping about half a teaspoon of powder from the jar into damp hands and massaging onto a damp face. The powder turns into a slightly foamy, smooth cream with tiny exfoliating particles, and rinses away leaving my skin softer, smoother and my pores more refined, without causing any redness or irritation. The Classic version (there's also  Deep and Gentle formulations available) seems suitable for daily use on my combination/oily sensitive skin.
Again, compared to Dermalogica's equivalent product, the Daily Microfoliant, the TATCHA Rice Enzyme Powder seems a bit more refined and gentler. The particles in the Dermalogica (physical and chemical) powder exfoliant are larger and a bit rougher. As a result, the Microfoliant can sometimes sensitize my finicky skin and despite the name, I absolutely can't use it every day. Even though in general, I prefer to use strictly chemical exfoliants, I do enjoy reaching for my TATCHA powder for a nice change in my evening routine.

Overall, I definitely recommend you take a look at TATCHA's Cleansing Oil and Rice Enzyme Powder if you're looking for a simple, luxurious cleansing and exfoliating skincare routine. I don't think these products alone can necessarily address more complex skin issues like acne or excessive dryness (which I don't think is their aim anyway), but they would be well suited for normal skintypes, or great staples for the more demanding ones, to be complemented by more targeted treatments. TATCHA products are available online at, and at, where you can get the Cleansing Oil and Rice Enzyme Powder set for just under $85, as well as in store at Barneys.

Disclaimer: This post features products I received from TATCHA for review consideration free of charge. All opinions are 100% honest and unbiased, no matter if the products featured were purchased with my own monies or provided as a free press sample. Thank you for reading!

Monday, October 14, 2013

August-September 2013 Empties

Success, ladies: not only is my blogging laptop outfitted with a new screen and up and running, but I also have some overdue empties to show you today - woohoo! I was quite determined to use up as many products as possible before moving with the aim of having less beauty clutter in the new space... and, as it turns out, there's also definitely less space to clutter with beauty products now anyway. Will this mean more motivation to get rid of all the cosmetic excess? We'll see...
First up, body care items. I'd been trying to use up this massive 500ml L'Occitane Almond Shower Oil for a better part of the year, and it's just now been finished. I did like the delicate sweet floral scent of this shower oil and I found it left my skin soft and moisturized but I also think it's a bit of an overpriced treat; I might actually investigate drugstore shower oil options at some point in time. The Bath & Body Works Coconut Lime Breeze travel shower gel was ok - a bit drying and I found the scent bothersome after a couple uses, but I did like the cedarwood, patchouli & vetiver fragrance of the Elemis Spa @ Home Tranquil Touch Bath Elixir. For the price, I found the Pirouette Honey Jasmine bar soap pleasant but not outstanding; I had very high hopes for the fragrance but didn't find any discernible honey notes in it. I enjoyed using Yves Rocher Tiare Self-Tanner Moisturizing Lotion Face & Body but probably won't repurchase, and the Ahava Hand Cream (discontinued? I preferred the mineral one anyway) wasn't my favorite. The only product I will repurchase from this group is the CeraVe Moisturizing Lotion - it's amazingly hydrating and soothing for sensitive, eczema-prone skin on my hands, yet sinks in quickly without leaving a sticky residue. You may remember that I also enjoyed using their facial cream for PM; so far this brand gets a big thumbs up from me.
In the haircare department, two solid products I may repurchase at some point in the future: Enjoy Sulfate-Free Hydrating Shampoo is fantastic for slightly dry to normal color-treated hair, and the TIGI Rockaholic Dirty Secret Dry Shampoo is the best one I've tried so far (but I haven't tried that many): not too white, easily to work into hair, quite pleasant, grapefruity scent and it doesn't give a lot of product feel. The one product I wasn't super impressed with was Alterna Bamboo Style Boho Waves Tousled Texture Mist; I've tried a lot of different texturizing sprays over the past year (a separate post is in the works!) and this one was probably my least favorite.
 As usual, some more skincare samples: I've spoken about how much I like the DDF Amplifying Elixir in this post - I suspect that my skin enjoys niacinamine, a key ingredient in this product, very much indeed - I'm testing another serum that contains it at the moment and I'm loving the results. A product that featured another ingredient my skin adores right now, Murad Complete Reform serum with glycolic acid, helped to refine my pores as well as minimized breakouts, but most importantly, led me to purchase another product with AHAs that I believe is an absolute game changer - review soon to come. I didn't like Tsukika's Lotion (well, a moisturizing toner, really) and the YSL Forever Youth Liberator Eye Cream was nice; but I have so many eye cream samples to go through!
Some make-up: Clinique High Impact, Lancome Hypnose Star and Bobbi Brown Everything mascaras; my favorite of the bunch was definitely the latter. I also completely used up my mini of Fresh Sugar Rose lip balm and I MUST. REPURCHASE., maybe in a different shade. I also finally tossed L'Oreal HiP Cream Eyeliner in Midnight Blue (click here for a crazy look featuring this liner) as it was completely dried out, as well as The Body Shop lip & cheek stain - I think there are other brands out there that do very similar products in a better formulation, so I won't be buying those again.
 Lastly, the obligatory perfume samples: the Kate Walsh Boyfriend is a good introductory musk/incense scent with its notes of benzoin, myrrh, skin musk, amber and woods, but a bit too sweet and run-of-the-mill for me. The Paco Rabanne Lady Million, a slightly ambery floral with notes of neroli, jasmine and gardenia was also quite uninteresting - but maybe I'm not a fan of grand florals. Lastly, I found this half-forgotten sample of Annick Goutal Ninfeo Mio from Nordstrom - and I like the scent very much indeed because after trying it on the skin last year, I promptly purchased the full size and it's still one of my favorite perfumes (click here for my review).
Phew, that was a lot! I'm glad to finally see some progress in various beauty cupboards and drawers and it feels nice to let go of so many stockpiled back-ups. As for purchasing new products, I'm still (mostly) sticking to my rule of only two new products per month, and actually this month I really had an intense internal battle over buying a couple of pretties; on one hand, I love trying new things and reviewing them for you guys, on the other, it feels really good to be restrained and not buy any beauty products for a while. How do you juggle your love for make-up with the zen feeling of self-restraint?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

NYC Update & OPI Fall and Holiday 2013 Haul

Hullo, long time no see! I'm really sorry about the posting hiatus, lovelies - I had every intention (meaning, product shots taken, uploaded and ready to be edited) to update the blog, but you know... life gets in the way, as it would. The main obstacle, as you might know from Twitter, is that the screen on my blogging laptop has been damaged when flying into NYC; the lesson learnt is that when the airline tries to take your carry-on bag at the gate to throw in with the rest of checked-in luggage, you should pout, cry, and stomp your feet until they let you keep it (that, or just take the damn laptop out...). The result is that it'll still take a while to repair my ailing Dell with all the saved photos, and we shall try and make do in the meantime.

Other than this minor unpleasantness, we're all settled in and unpacked now, and tentatively exploring the neighborhood (yes! walking distance to Whole Foods AND Stumptown Coffee Roasters! It feels like West Coast already :) My brother just flew in yesterday from Warsaw and he's keeping us company so that we don't miss Pacific Northwest too terribly.
In more beauty-related news, I couldn't stop myself from picking up a couple Fall/Winter nail polish shades before I left Bellevue. OPI has come out with some gorgeous autumnal shades in their San Francisco collection, and after careful deliberation, I chose Muir Muir on the Wall and Lost on Lombard. I'm wearing the latter on my nails right now and it's so gorgeous - deep red with some slight brown undertones, but not as warm as to clash with my pinkish skin.
Just a couple days before my last day on the job, we received a shipment with OPI Mariah Carey Holiday 2013 collection; although it feels crazy to be talking about the holidays already, I was glad to get my hands on two wintery colors: Ski Slope Sweetie and Kiss Me at Midnight, a second Liquid Sand texture polish in my personal collection. I haven't worn either yet, but some in-store swatching proved that Ski Slope Sweetie looks ah-mazing over white, and Kiss Me at Midnight... well, on its own - you know my weakness for blue nail polish; it's a bit more purple-y and periwinkle-y than in the photos.
I hope you're all doing well and enjoying some beautiful fall weather; we've been very lucky here in New York so far, it doesn't even feel like it's October yet. I've missed talking to you, dears! Let me know in the comments if you have any questions or post requests, since I've been so MIA for the past month. Hugs!