Monday, March 31, 2014

Battling Breakouts: Spot Treatments Overview & Comparison

I've mentioned in passing recently that I had kind of stopped using spot treatments on a regular basis; well, with a discovery of a new product, I have picked it up again. This new favorite also spurred me to mentally catalogue all the other spot treatments I've tried over the years of battling acne, and compare the various types featuring different key ingredients and their effectiveness on my skin; very much like I did in this Overview of Spot Treatments post from over 2 years ago, but with updated products. As always, your experience may vary - but hopefully you'll find some new product ideas if breakouts are still the bane of your existence.
I've selected one specific product for each active ingredient, but I'll also give examples of other products with the same active and link to more detailed reviews where possible. Let's start with something I'm sure every acne sufferer must have tried at least once in their life:

Benzoyl Peroxide: Coral Actives Penetrating Acne Serum Gel with 6% Benzoyl Peroxide ($22.95 for 1 fl. oz/30 ml). When I first started experiencing acne breakouts in my teens, the first thing my dermatologist aunt prescribed me was a BP cream (but lower concentrations are available over the counter, as in the product shown). Benzoyl Peroxide generally works by killing acne bacteria on the skin's surface and speeding up cell turnover; quite a straightforward mechanism. However in my experience, BP never worked very well for my breakouts; it has helped somewhat with small bumps on my forehead, but never with pustules or cystic acne, which is what I primarily suffer with these days. It is also quite irritating and using it every day, or reapplying frequently, as you would a spot treatment, will cause dryness and peeling. Personally, this is my least favorite breakout-banishing active ingredient, but if it works for you, products like Bioelements Breakout Control Emergency Blemish Lotion or Clean & Clear Persa-gel are another option; both are more irritating though than the Coral Actives Acne Serum Gel.
Sulfur: Mario Badescu Drying Cream ($14 for 0.5 oz, deluxe sample pictured here). Sulfur combats acne by sloughing off dead skin cells, and it's also a potent anti-inflammatory. The downside is that it smells (ashtray/rubber tires/eggs/farts are just a few things it's most often compared to), and it is quite drying on the skin. It does work on deep down cystic blemishes over the course of a few days, but always leaves a dry, flaky patch that's quite difficult to conceal. I also like to apply it on a naughtily popped blemish to calm down the inflammation (sorry - gross), but overall haven't reached for it in quite a long time now. Other options: Mario Badescu Drying Lotion or De La Cruz Sulfur Ointment.

Tea Tree Essential Oil: Desert Essence 100% Australian Tea Tree Oil ($11.99 for 1 fl. oz, available in three sizes). Tea Tree Essential Oil is a powerful antiseptic, antiviral and anti-inflammatory ingredient. In a 2012 study by National Health Institutes, 5% of TTEO has been shown to be as effective in treating mild to moderate acne as 5% benzoyl peroxide. It's a matter of discussion whether tea tree eo can be applied neat to the skin or whether it should always be diluted to avoid irritation - I'd recommend doing a patch test and treading with care if you're sensitive. For me personally, pure tea tree essential oil doesn't prove very effective, but I do quite like it as an ingredient in more complex formulations. Other options to try: many other essential oils have antiseptic properties, most notably lavender essential oil - especially nice if you dislike the scent of tea tree.
Natural Base Oils + Essential Oils Blends: Osmia Organics Spot Treatment* ($20 for 0.16 oz, official packaging looks different - my now sadly gone bottle was a press sample). An oil-based spot treatment blends various essential oils with vegetable oils (if you're confused, read my post on oils here) for a natural, gentler acne-fighting alternative; Osmia's version combines lavender, cajeput, lemon, parsley, thyme, cypress and rosemary in a base of evening primrose oil. It works very well on soothing red, angry bumps without drying out the skin, but it's not the fastest solution in the world, and the oily texture works best overnight. Still, I used every last drop of mine and now I'm sorely tempted to try my hand at a DIY oil spot treatment. Other option: Angel Face Botanicals Blemish Soother.

Kaolin/ Bentonite Clay: Origins Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Mask to Clear Pores ($17 for 1.7 fl. oz/ 50ml or $24 for 3.4 fl. oz/100ml). Clay masks are not spot treatments per se, but they do work quite well in soothing the skin and either supressing a newly forming spot, or bringing things to a head. I quite like to use the Origins Clear Improvement as a targeted blemish mask when I'm home alone (it's almost worse to scare your significant other with black blemishes rather than normal red ones), and it does speed up the recovery process when combined with other spot treatments - but again on its own, not the most effective on my skin. Other options: any clay-based face mask really, I also like this Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay.
Salicylic Acid (BHA)/ Also AHAs or LHAs: Aesop Control ($23 for 0.2 fl oz). Salicylic acid, a beta-hydroxy acid, remains possibly the most recommended active ingredient for acne-prone skin. It works by not only sloughing off the top layer of skin, but also getting into the pore and helping to unclog it. Hydroxy acids are the most effective acne-fighting active ingredients for my skin, although finding a non-irritating formulation can be a bit of a struggle. Control by Aesop is my new favorite: a clear geal combining salicylic & lactic acid (AHA) with niacinamide (Vitamin B3) and sodium ascorbyl phosphate (stable, water-soluble form of Vitamin C) in a non-drying aloe vera base, it can be applied under or over make-up. It gently exfoliates the blemish away, soothes inflamed skin and helps with post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation marks. I highly recommend trying this if you suffer from hormonal cystic acne. Other, less favored options: La Roche Posay Effaclar Duo, Dermalogica Overnight Clearing Gel.

Do you use spot treatments? Which active ingredients are the most effective on your skin?

Disclaimer: The product marked with asterix (*) is a press sample I received from Osmia Organics for review consideration. I purchased all the other products myself, or received them as a gift with purchase. 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!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Pastel Pretty: bareMinerals Eyecolor in Celery

I also kind of wanted to title this post 'Ugliest name, prettiest shade' - I mean, really, Celery?! I hate celery. But I love this shade, so that's what it's going to be all about today; plus another idea on how to incorporate spring pastel-ish shades into everyday make-up looks.
I'm actually stretching the truth a bit here; bareMinerals Eyecolor in Celery ($14 for 0.57g/ 0.02 oz) isn't exactly a pastel shade, and it certainly isn't mint. Celery is more of a light shimmery sage green; it has a grey rather than white base. But because it's such a light shade, it does work quite similarly to pastel shades - I would go as far as to claim that it might work better for those who struggle with pastels, and from what I hear, it's very many of you.

I don't have much more to say about the quality/texture of the bareMinerals Eyecolors (you can check out this post for my thoughts), apart from the fact that I cannot fault this one and found the complex shimmer quite stunning, but not overwhelmingly blingy; you can see it quite well in my indirect light vs. full sunshine arm swatches.
Contrary to my previous look that featured a pastel purple shade (Lancome's Evermore Lilac) in a very prominent fashion all over the lid, I've used Celery sparingly as an inner corner highlight. I think this is probably the easiest way to try wearing pastel shades - the sage green is still visible but the overall look is more neutral than anything. I've used a warm rosey taupe (Inglot no. 402 Pearl) all over the lid, blended up to the crease as well as on the lower lashline, and a matte dark grey (Inglot no. 348 Matte) lightly in the outer corners. I finished the look with a thin line of dark brown pencil liner (Annabelle Smudgeliner in Rich Chocolate) and a generous coat of black mascara (Covergirl Lash Blast Volume).
Lastly, a quick shopping tip: I would really encourage you to sign up for Bare Escentuals e-newsletter. They sometimes email particularly nice offers, including some free products with no purchase necessary, which is how I scored Celery, and recently a deluxe sample of their Lash Domination mascara (am I the only one who wants to call it Lash Abomination?!). I won't say no to free make-up, peeps.
Some pretty green beauty things, because I didn't have any eyeshadows remotely similar to Celery to compare the shade depth. Clockwise: bdellium Tools Green Bamboo Brush no. 975, bareMinerals Celery, Gucci Gracious Tuberose EDT mini, Orly Mini Nail Polish in Gumdrop, Fyrinnae Eyeshadows in Enchanting Otters and Electric Stardust, L'Oreal Infallible Eyeshadow in Golden Emerald.
Have you been incorporating some pastel shades into your eye looks recently? Any favorites I need to add to my list?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Beauty Product Empties: 1st Quarter of 2014

Switching to quarterly instead of bimontly empties posting schedule can only mean one thing... I have LOTS of finished products to show you! They didn't even all fit in the frame --->
I think this may be the biggest empties post I've done to date, and I believe two factors contributed to the amount of empty bottles: obviously, the longer timeframe, but also an accumulation of nearly finished products I had laying around that finally gave up the ghost. Due to the sheer number of products here, I'll only highlight the best and the worst for the sake of your sanity - and patience! Let's dig right in!
Skincare. Click through for my reviews of: REN ClearCalm3 Clarifying Clay Cleanser, Dermalogica Ultracalming Mist, Devita Solar Protection Moisturizer SPF 30, Nuxe Reve de Miel Nourishing Lip Balm, Murad Rapid Age Spot Lightening Serum with 2% Hydroquinone.
Products I enjoyed and would repurchase: REN ClearCalm3 Cleanser, Devita Moisturizer SPF 30, Nuxe Reve de Miel (my HG lip balm), Murad Rapid Age Spot Lightening Serum, CeraVe PM Facial Lotion.

Hair and bodycare. Click through for the review of Deep Steep Bubble Bath and Palmer's Cocoa Butter Formula Concentrated Cream.
Products I enjoyed and would repurchase: Deep Steep Bubble Bath, Palmer's Concentrated Cream, Pureology Volumizing Shampoo & Conditioner (so far, my favorite volumizing haircare duo!), Enjoy Hydrating Conditioner.
Products I disliked: The Fortune Cookie Soap Body Butters (I've tried a couple different scents - wasn't fan of the fragrances and the butters rolled and felt sticky on the skin), L'Occitane Pate Amande Body Scrub (reminded me of the St Ives Apricot Scrub but for the body), Big Sexy Hair Volumizing Dry Shampoo (weird lingering scent + felt very heavy and dirty in my hair... but did volumize!), Philosophy Happy Birthday Beautiful! shower gel (awful, plasticky, synthethic vanilla scent + drying formula), Dove Go Fresh antiperspirant (balled up on the skin, staining shirts and extremely difficult to wash off... any recommendations, ladies?)
Make-up. Click through for reviews of the Physicians Formula Healthy Wear Powder SPF50 and a very old mention of Prestige Total Intensity Eyeliners.
Products I enjoyed but wouldn't repurchase: Guerlain Cils d'Enfer Maxi Lash Mascara (so expensive!), Rimmel Match Perfection Concealer (overall, disliked the squeezy brush applicator and started to look too dry towards the end of my tube), Prestige Powerful Purple eyeliner (applied beautifully when new, after a couple months started to dry out and flake off the eyes), ybf Universal Eyebrow Pencil.
Products I disliked: cheap Coastal Scents Flat Foundation Brush (tried to glue the handle back in numerous times and it always falls off, low quality of bristles), Physicians Formula Healthy Wear Powder SPF50 (discontinued, very low coverage, quite dry on the skin, doesn't exactly provide a high level of sun protection despite its claims).
Perfume samples. No reviews here and no absolute must-haves that I'll purchase any time soon, with the exception of Prada Candy Eau de Parfum that I've had for about two years now - the sample came in handy when traveling. I did enjoy Jo Malone Orange Blossom Cologne for a fresh, citrusy, feminine soliflore, felt quite meh about Diptyque Volutes, Thierry Mugler Alien EDP (much prefer Angel) and Haus of Gloi Troika perfume oil (nice bath product scent but wouldn't wear it all day), and absolutely hated Marc Jacobs Daisy Eau So Fresh EDT.

You know, I'm quite proud of myself - but also can't believe how much space all of these were taking in various drawers and cupboards! Even though it feels great to let go of these products, I still have so many backups to use up that I can't even contemplate purchasing anything new at the moment - well, except for the dry shampoo.

How have you been doing on the empties front? Also, let me know if you have any more questions about any of the products you saw here, I'd be happy to help!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Going with the flow, or going with the crowd?

This is going to be a bit of a different post - so if you're not a blogger yourself, or actively involved in the beauty blogging community, the following might not be of any interest. But for those in a similar conundrum: the blogging blahs have settled, and in my experience if I don't air out whatever is currently bothering me, there may be here for good. So here are some random observations about the state of the beauty blogging union, and my place in all of this.

When I started this blog back in 2009, blogosphere was very much a different beast altogether. Reading blogs was still a relatively niche past-time, being a blogger was very alternative - or simply weird for non-blogging people. Blogs seemed more personal, and intimate, and the community was tight but open to newcomers. That's why it was so enticing to be a part of it; I wanted a space to let the creative juices flow and show my point of view, and I wanted likeminded friends to discuss all things beauty. To a lot of you, it might still be the case - but I feel like something HAS changed.

In 2014, many of those beauty blogs are now competitive buisnesses. Sure, businesses with a strong focus on writing, product photography and social media presence - but so are women's magazines. It's all about the New! Just Released! Limited Edition!, PR samples, press events. Churning out swatches and a review the minute you lay your eyes on a product, because it's all about who can be the fastest, who has the freshest trend. Posts at different blogs featuring a newly released product come all at the same time like a huge wave, and it's really rather interesting (dare I say, annoying?) to see five subsequent Instagram photos from different bloggers featuring the exact same eyeshadow palette that has just landed on their doorsteps. The more posts and YouTube videos about the same product, the more hype around the product, the more people are frantically trying to purchase, now now now, before it's gone.

Now, for a necessary disclaimer: I absolutely do not begrudge successful bloggers' success, or the fact that they have been able to make a career out of something they love. I also understand that what beauty blogs focus on are essentially commercial products, and so brand relationships form and have to be maintained. But - it IS walking a thin line between being truthful to yourself and fearing a cold shoulder from a big company, and no amount of disclaimers is going to change it. Some pull it off with more aplomb than the others, and that's were my readership preferences lay - but that's something you absolutely have to judge by yourself.

What I'm trying to say is that the beauty blogosphere is not what it used to be, and I don't regard is as something pejorative - call it progress or necessary evil, it just is what it is. My feeling though is that in the new blogging landscape, there's a certain paradigm choice to be made: are you going with your own flow, or are you going with the crowd? What's your focus? New collections, swatches and lightning fast reviews, or staying true to your unique perspective, true time-tested favorites, less popular products that really work and deserve a mention? I'm going to be quite blunt: the latter approach is not going to generate as many page views, or give you as many readers - you know, what most people would call blogging success. But is carving your own niche worth it for YOU?

It is worth it for me. I'm not a big player - there, I said it. What I get from beauty blogging are not free samples of the newest products, invitations to press events, external motivation in the form of readers and page ranks; although I'm not saying that I don't appreciate the rare brand outreach, or am not overjoyed over gaining new followers or seeing some nice stats for the month (thank you!!!). The reason I have been blogging for so long and do not intend to quit (come on, I'd be like abandoning my own baby!) is that I get a tremendous satisfaction from the very process of creating, from post ideas, through product photography, to actual writing - about something I love and feel passionate about. And still, the sense of community: so many wonderful readers, friends on and offline. You really are my tribe.

Practically, it means that you won't see many newest product releases, reviews and swatches here on Rocaille Writes. That might be a disappointment to some of you - and I understand. But from what my gut is telling me (and from what I can gather from your very enthusiastic response to the Anti Make-up Phase post), a lot of you are not here for it. What you will see on Rocaille Writes are products I'm truly enthusiastic about, be it old or new, from small or big brands, product comparisons so you don't need to spend your hard earned cash on everything that gets the hype, my own interpretations of current trends, thoughts on the blogging process, quality over quantity of posts, my struggles, experiments, randomness; whatever is on my mind as a writer. If I'm not going to sit with the popular girls because of that - so be it.

And yes, observing the current state of the beauty blogosphere can sometimes be quite depressing, and frustrating, and blogging blahs-inducing; but we shall withstand the storms and persevere. And maybe try not to look at those stats too often, and not compare myself - in the end, I can only be me, but I strive to be the best me that I can. Love you, my unique, fearless, no-bullshit readers. Friends.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Spring Beauty Wishlist

Happy First Day of Spring! Still going strong on that make-up low-buy, peeps - which also means my wishlist is growing exponentially. Making wishlists is a great way of keeping your beauty spending in check; it's like bookmarking products for later consideration so you can avoid impulse buying and focus on things you really want (no, I mean - really really want. Including every new limited edition collection does NOT help). If your current lemming is still high on that list after a couple months - great, it might actually be worth treating yourself to. I might be alone in this, but adding things to my wishlist, deleting things, editing, rewriting, umming and aaahing over it - in short, delaying gratitude - makes me appreciate my new products a lot more when I decide it's finally time to pull the trigger. Plus, I can also shop around and wait for the best deal.
So here's a look at what's on top of my skincare & make-up wishlist at the moment:

1. By Terry Rouge Terrybly Age Defence Lipstick in Torrid Rose #303 ($49.50 for 0.12 oz/ 3.5g)
I've only ever sampled a face moisturizer from By Terry, but the brand is widely known for its fantastic lip products, with Rouge Terrybly formula coming highly recommended by many of my favorite blogging pals. Torrid Rose looks like a gorgeous deep rose pink, bright but not too much for every day. Not gonna lie though, I'm absolutely balking at the price - so I'm not going to buy unless I can find a nice deal.

2. Peter Thomas Roth Un-Wrinkle Peel Pads ($45 for 60 pads)
I'm still on the hunt for the best acid exfoliant for my skin - and while I've recently tried the First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads and I'm in LOVE, I'd like to compare these ones from Peter Thomas Roth (both are Caroline Hirons' approved) so I can get back to you with my favorites. I originally wanted to save on these by getting the almost $10 cheaper Complexion Correction Pads but a quick look at the ingredients list convinced me otherwise; the latter are loaded with alcohol and an artificial peach bellini scent, so Un-Wrinkle it is.

3. Chantecaille Lip Chic ($35 for 2 g)
Again, on recommendation from some fabulous bloggers - and apparently, Chantecaille's best-selling lipstick formula. Lip Chics claim to be emollient, comfortable and glossy, with collagen for plump but not stinging lips. I haven't quite decided on the shade, but I like the look of Sunrise, a bright coral-pink, or Rose Delice, a bright pink.

4. Kevyn Aucoin The Precision Brow Pencil in Ash Blonde ($26 for 0.3 oz)
I have actually just finished my eyebrow pencil, and the drugstore replacement by Revlon is just not the right shade. Gummy has recently put the Precision Brow to the test and liked it, and I've never tried anything from Kevyn Aucoin... so why not? The capless design seems a bit scary, but hey ho, living on the edge, and all that shiz.

5. NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer in Chantilly ($29 for 0.22 oz/ 6 ml)
'Cause I've run out of the darn concealer as well. Kind of (says she, picking through three unsatisfactory back-ups at the bottom of the drawer). Though in all seriousness, my BECCA Dual Coverage Compact Concealer might be on its last legs - I still have plenty remaining in the pan, but lately the texture seems dry as a bone, and looks even drier on the skin. So you know. The NARS is a necessity. Or at least justifiable.

6. Paul & Joe Face Powder S, Secret Garden ($45 for 1.2 oz)
Now here's something that's completely UNjustifiable - I have way too many face powders, including the somewhat recent acquisition of Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder in Diffused. But... look at all the BIRDZ!!! And the pastel pretty BALLZ! I haz to have them *closes website for fear of accidentally adding them to the cart and speeding through the online checkout*

7. Kahina Giving Beauty 100% Organic Argan Oil ($36 for 30ml)
I'd be totally skeptical about paying this much for pure argan oil if I haven't tried a sample of this Kahina one - it absorbed like a dream, giving me beautiful, even-toned, glowing skin in the morning. This paired with FAB Facial Radiance Pads gave me a couple days of some of the best skin I've had in a long time, and that's something I don't say easily. I don't know, you guys - I might cheap out and get a less expensive brand, like Aura Cacia. Or I might not. It's amazing, anyway.

8. Shu Uemura Pressed Eyeshadow Refill in Iridescent Pink ($15, available in 25 shades)
Driveller Kate dedicated an entire post to Shu Uemura glitter eyeshadows, and while most shades she featured are discontinued/unavailable in the US, this is the single one that we can still get our grubby little mitts on. And so I shall, one day - I might also try some other favorites from this previously unexplored brand; I hear from Larie their lipsticks are also amazing.

9. Shiseido Luminizing Satin Eye Color Trio in BE213 Nude ($33 for 1 oz)
Another brand I've never tried anything from - and again, beauty blogger recommended. I've been on a very subtle eye make-up kick, and I think this should fit the bill nicely. Speaking of Japanese eyeshadows, I would love to check out Suqqu eyeshadow quads some day, but I just can't stomach the Ichibankao mark-up or the shipping fee; so in the meantime, I'd be more than happy to experiment with Shiseido.

Ooof, that's a lot of wants - all that wishlist dissecting has really made me hungry. You might notice a prevalence of high-end and luxury brands, as well as some Japanese inclinations; I guess this year I'd really like to try products from brands formerly unbeknownst to me, and since the number of my purchases has drastically decreased, I don't mind paying more for the few things that look interesting.

What's on your current beauty wishlist?

Monday, March 17, 2014

A Month In Nail Polish: Early Spring 2014

I haven't shared any nail swatches in a while, right? Well, you might remember that in January, I decided to give my nails a break from constant polishing to see if it would help with breakage and general dryness. What resulted, however, was a little bit different from what I expected - without the extra protective layer of base coat + nail polish + top coat, some of my nails started breaking even worse! You know, kinda like when you get this tiny crack at the side of your nail that's sticking out, and then it catches on something, and before you notice half of your fingernail is GONE. Yeah, that.

So I obviously decided to stop that nonsense and went right back to painting on some pretty pretty early spring shades.
Essie Nail Color in Chinchilly, two coats. A cult classic for a reason. Chinchilly replaced a bottle of Essie Hot Coco in my collection; while Hot Coco was a bit too warm and brown on me, Chinchilly has a perfectly cool purple undertone. I accented my ring nail with a coat of Zoya Jules, a taupe with gold shimmer.
A sparkling snowy manicure for the last days of winter! This is Revlon Colorstay Nail Polish in Calla Lily (three coats), topped with one coat of Zoya Nail Lacquer in Mosheen from their Winter 2013 collection. Mosheen is such a cool shade: a very sheer light blue base with small opalescent glitters and larger light blue bar glitters. On top of the Revlon shade, it brought out some yellow undertones in my nails I wasn't overly fond of, but now I really want to try it again on top of blue or some darker shade nail polish.
And Zoya strikes again! This beautiful medium orchid purple with white gold shimmer is Zoya Nail Lacquer in Hudson (two coats) from the Spring 2014 collection. I actually won this plus one other shade in Zoya's weekly Twitter giveaway, Tune Tuesday (you can learn more about it here). I definitely recommend checking their giveaway out - it's a lot of fun, and who can say no to some new Zoya polishes?
Lastly, a quintessential warm weather shade - Essie Nail Color in In The Cab-Ana from last year's Resort collection (two coats). This medium turquoise blue (it appears lighter in my photo) was a little thick for my liking, which caused some gaps and dragging, but overall applied opaque in two coats and has lasted with just some tip wear for six days now. This is actually my first time wearing this shade and I like it a lot more than I thought I would!

What nail polish shades do you favor this time of the year?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Angelic White Eyes with Laura Mercier Caviar Stick in Sugar Frost

It's such a stunning, warm, sunny, SPRINGY day today in New York City! I don't care that it's going to be below freezing tomorrow again, for now I'm definitely feeling spring - so I whipped up a semi-simple angelic white Face Of The Day to share with you.
White eye make-up is very much in at the moment, and while usually I can't really be bothered with trends, I thought this was quite 'me'... and a chance to feature a previously undiscussed Laura Mercier Caviar Stick Eye Color in Sugar Frost. You might remember from my older review of the shade 'Grey Pearl' (clickety click!) that I'm a huge fan of the Caviar Stick formula, and 'Sugar Frost' is no different; although compared to Grey Pearl, the texture is a bit less refined and the finish more frosted. On its own, it does give a beautiful, glossy, almost 'wet' look to the lids though, and has since made its way into my current make-up rotation.
For this delicate eye look, I decided to use 'Sugar Frost' as a base on the mobile lid, and a tiny dab in the inner corners. I then applied the shade 'Virgin' from the Urban Decay Naked 1 palette over the Caviar Stick on the lid, and very lightly defined my crease with 'Naked' from the same palette. For my pop of pure white, I pressed some NYX Single Eyeshadow in 'White Pearl' on the inner corners and on the centre of the lid above my pupil, blending out the edges. I finished the eyes with a generous coat of Covergirl Lash Blast Volume Mascara in Black.
On the rest of my face, I'm wearing Bourjous Healthy Mix Serum foundation (reviewed here), BECCA Dual Compact Concealer on blemishes and the Bobbi Brown Corrector in Porcelain Bisque under my eyes. I applied some NYX Powder Blush in Angel (sic!) onto my cheeks and set the whole face with Make Up For Ever HD Powder. Lastly, I applied a couple swipes of Revlon Superlustrous Shine Lipstick in Kissable Pink (more swatches here) on my lips and tapped the color in with my finger for a more natural finish.
L-R: NYX White Pearl eyeshadow, Urban Decay Virgin, Laura Mercier Caviar Stick in Sugar Frost, NYX Powder Blush in Angel, Revlon Superlustrous Shine Lipstick in Kissable Pink
This look is a bit of a throwback for me - in highschool, I used to apply the exact shade of white pearl eyeshadow to highlight the inner corners of my eyes almost every single day. Nowadays, I feel that pure white can be a bit too much for everyday, although with my current very pale skin, I can almost pull it off. I wouldn't however recommend using a pure white eyeshadow if you're much darker than me, unless you're going for a more mod/rocker look. I also completely skipped eyeliner, because I felt that would look too harsh against the white and the eyes would lose some of that subtle, dreamy quality. In this version, I opted for light, cooler pinks on the rest of the face, but I think the white eyes would also look fantastic with a light peach cheek/lip combo.
Have you tried wearing the white eye look already? What is your favorite spring make-up trend?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Fine-tuning My Skincare Routine

For the past two months or so, I'd noticed the condition of my skin gradually deteriorating into the hormonal, congested, flaky, irritated territory. I was at a loss - I was already using gentle, quality skincare products, taking supplements, spending time pampering my skin; surely there's little more a woman can do, right? Wrong! About a week ago I chanced upon an old 'Routines Cheat Sheet' by the indelible Mrs Hirons (whom I've adored and silently stalked on social media for what... 4 years now? Holla, #TBT!) and it spurred me to really fine-tune my skincare routine. Mind you, it's not that I didn't read the cheat sheet when Caroline first posted it... but turns out, I didn't really really read it.
So here's a little overview of my skincare bad habits, some changes I've already introduced into my routine and more changes I hope to incorporate in the near future. I'm already seeing results from these tiny tweaks: my skin is calmer, less red and congested, plumper and more hydrated. I'm hoping there's something here you too might have overlooked and could change in your skincare routine!

1. Cleansing. If there's just one thing Caroline will impress on you, it's the importance of properly cleansing your skin. We're talking absolutely no foaming cleansers, nice balmy textures applied on dry skin, removed with a hot washcloth (stupidly in the past, I thought she was referring to flannels as an actual fabric... and bought some baby flannel wipes that I still need to replace with just your plain old terry washcloths), as well as double cleansing. I have chucked most foaming face washes a while ago but I sometimes failed at double cleansing and using a cloth to remove it all, like when I'm using my TATCHA One Step Camellia Cleansing Oil. I'll now make sure to always remove it properly, and follow up with another cleanser (currently the Elemental Herbology Purify & Soothe) when I'm wearing make-up and sunscreen... and really throw that cloth in the wash when I'm done with it.

2. Toning. Incorporating an exfoliating toner into my routine has probably been one of the best things I've ever done for my skin. But, I'd fallen a bit behind since I first started using my Mario Badescu Glycolic Acid Toner; Caroline suggests using one twice a day, morning and night, but due to some dryness and irritation, I'd been using it only at night. I now think that maybe I actually wasn't nourishing my skin enough afterwards, and also I might be sensitive to the grapefruit extract in the product (which is why I'll be replacing it with another acid toner in the near future). In the mornings, I've now started to mix a little bit of the MB Glycolic Acid Toner with some of the La Roche-Posay Physiological Soothing Toner, and I have to say my skin is now brighter, evened out and much less congested, without the redness I was getting previously.

3. Hydrating serum. Well... I just didn't always apply a serum, to be perfectly honest. If I was using the Murad Pigment Lightening Serum at night, I'd skip it for fear of the serum interfering with the efficacy of the lightening product. In the mornings, I'd skip it for fear of getting shiny too quickly and overloading my skin. Yet, I was still getting dry patches and flakes. Now, I've started to use this Bioderma Hydrabio Serum Moisturizing Concentrate for Very Dehydrated Sensitive Skin every morning, and I layer it over the Murad hyperpigmentation treatment at night, or alternate them every other day. So far, no flakes!

4. Facial massage. Following Caroline's recommendation, I got this little facial massager from The Body Shop, and use it in the evenings with my second cleanser. I haven't noticed any results from it quite yet, but it's quite fun and pleasant to use - the knobbly bits really feel like they're doing something extra compared to just massaging your skin with a cleanser in circular motions with your hands. I'm hoping the massage will help drain some of the toxins causing deep breakouts on my neck, jawline and chin.

5. Supplements. I've been taking fish oil capsules on and off for about a year now, but now I'm trying to step up my game and make sure I'm taking it every single day. Another supplement I'd like to try in the near future is quercetin, which Caroline recommended for acne-prone skin. From what I've gathered, quercetin is a natural, plant-derived antioxidant that may help with inflammation as well as allergies; in fact, some people call it 'the natural anti-histamine'. I'm planning on getting the Quercetin & Bromelain capsules from Vitacost (referral link) next time I place an order.
6. Other tweaks. I used to always apply my eye cream as the last step in my routine; however, even small amounts of serum or moisturizer may prevent it from being absorbed fully, thus making it less efficient. Now I try to make sure I whack it on as the very first step. I also focus on bringing my skincare down onto my neck; because firstly, I do get some breakouts just under my jawline that could use some exfoliating, and secondly because I want to ensure it's getting some anti-aging action - nobody wants a smooth, unwrinkled face and a lined, sagging neck! I've also kind of gotten away from using spot treatments - I feel like they weren't helping much to actually heal the spot, they were just making the area dry and flaky. Now when I see a spot coming up, I smear some tamanu oil on it to soothe the angry offender.

That's it for now; obviously, my skincare routine is ALWAYS a work in progress, so I'll be introducing more changes in the future, especially by way of replacing some products here and there. I still need to find some good exfoliating toner options to alternate (I'm thinking of trying REN's Clarifying Toning Lotion and First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads, which are currently on their way to me!), as well as a lighter cream/milk cleanser to use in the mornigs (maybe REN's Evercalm Gentle Cleansing Milk, or Anthony Logistics for Men Glycolic Facial Cleanser?). I'll definitely review new products as I try them, well if they're worth mentioning anyway.

Have you introduced any changes into your skincare routine recently?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

You're a Doll, Buxom Full-On Lip Polish in Dolly!

Oh, Buxom. Buxom, Buxom, Buxom. You and your lip glosses... I've mentioned before that I'm more of a lipstick than a lipgloss gal, and then I'm DEFINITELY not into shimmery glosses - but I'll make an exception for you, Buxom Full-On Lip Polish formula! Yes, you're THAT good. (I'm not alone in talking to my lip products, am I? Am I?!)
The Full-On Lip Polish ($19 for 0.15 oz, deluxe sample size pictured here) shimmery lip glosses are one of three gloss formulas available from Buxom; the other two being the non-sparkly Full-On Lip Creams (I've raved about the shade 'Cherry Flip' here) and the shimmery, but non-tingly Full-Bodied Lip Gloss, which I've yet to try. Both of the Full-On lines claim to have a gentle plumping effect, on top of being smooth, shiny and moisturizing with hyaluronic spheres and Vitamins A & E.
The plumping effect manifests itself via slightly tingly, but mostly cooling sensation on the lips, which lasts for about an hour on my pout. Interestingly, the Full-On Lip Polish does not smell minty/mentholated - it actually has the most delicious scent of crème brûlée when applied to the lips. It comes with a standard, fuzzy doe foot applicator that deposits just enough gloss to cover my entire lips. The gloss smooths over any vertical lip lines, gives intense shine, hugs the lips for a non-sticky, cushiony feel. It's so, so comfortable! The micro shimmer feels weightless and non-gritty, my usual pet-peeve with any shimmery/glittery lip product.
'Dolly', the shade of a deluxe sample I received with some Sephora order, is a warm pink mauve shot through with delicate golden shimmer. I refused to try this gloss for a while because I thought this shade would be all wrong on me (too brown, too frosty...) - but it's actually very pretty! It's definitely in the 'My Lips But Better' family and on me adds a hint of depth and warmth to my paler, cooler lips. The fine gold sparkle adds some dimension without being too noticeable.
Clockwise from the top: MAC Viva Glam V, Maybelline Color Sensational Lipstick in Warm Me Up, Buxom Lip Polish in Dolly, NYX Mega Shine Lip Gloss in Beige
L-R: Buxom Lip Polish in Dolly, NYX Mega Shine Lip Gloss in Beige, Maybelline Warm Me Up, MAC Viva Glam V
As for the moisturizing claims: the Buxom Full-On formula so far has been one of the most easy and comfortable lip gloss I've ever tried, tied only with the Clarins Instant Light Lip Perfector. It's obviously not as moisturizing as a lip balm but does not dry out my lips in any way. The wear time is standard for a gloss, meaning it doesn't withstand earing or drinking, but doesn't wear off or fade otherwise. Gosh, I'm now kicking myself for not picking up one of the holiday mini sets Sephora releases every year! Maybe next December...

Have you tried Buxom Full-On gloss formula? What is your Holy Grail lip gloss?