Monday, April 28, 2014

Weekend Getaways: Washington DC

If you follow me on Instagram (please do, I'm scintillating!), you may have noticed we got away to Washington DC for the Easter weekend. Not being American, it was quite a curious experience of lots of marble columns, temples enshrined to fathers of American democracy, war memorials, fantastic museums, and quite unexpectedly, delicious food and coffee - we recommend the Cedar restaurant and Swing Co. Coffee Roasters, respectively. I did a quick poll on Twitter if you'd like to see my photos from the trip, blogger friends said yes, so here we go!
The obligatory: Lincoln Memorial.
Washington DC has some beautiful architecture; we stayed in a hotel 5 minutes away from Georgetown, which was particularly picturesque.
Fail: we were in DC exactly one week after the National Cherry Blossom ended, and let's just say the cherry trees were past their prime. And yes, that's trash floating in the pond.
F.D. Roosevelt Memorial.

Tidal Basin totally flooded that poor park bench. Made for a nice picture though.
Jefferson Memorial.
Remember what I said about those marble columns? Yeah.
Yes! Cherry blossoms! Success!
Thinker on a Rock by Barry Flanagan in the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden, modeled by Mr.
The stone (marble?) benches around the fountain in the Sculpture Garden were surprisingly comfy. Also, my feet really, really hurt.
The Capitol.
National Gallery of Art West Garden Court.
I've probably never mentioned that I really like Edward Hopper's work. This is Cape Cod Evening, 1939.
I hope you enjoyed my highlights from our Washington DC weekend getaway! Where have your travels recently taken you?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Three Sheet Masks, Three Price Points

Until very recently, I'd never tried a facial sheet mask - I know, I'm pretty late to that particular skincare party. But, since they've been steadily trickling into the mainstream US beauty market, it was much easier to get my hands on a couple to try out, and today I have three different ones to show you, with the prices ranging from dirt cheap to luxuriously spendy.
1. Sesha Skin Therapy Rejuvenating Anti-Wrinkle Mask for Mature Skin* ($9 for a single use packet). 'Packed with nutrients and peptides such as Argireline™, Vitamins B, C, and E, and botanical extracts, this anti-wrinkle mask not only smoothes fine lines and wrinkles, but also calms the skin from environmental stresses to rejuvenate it back to a youthful glow'. I definitely do not have a mature/dry skin type, but I was still curious to see how the mask would perform on my skin. It's a thicker paper sheet mask that turned out a bit large for my small face, but I have no complaints about that. It's nicely satured with the liquid serum/ essence, sticks well to the face and has a faint scent to it that I can't quite put my finger on. I've kept it on for about 20 minutes while in the bathtub, and it still did not dry out on my skin, and peeled off easily. I then patted in the remaining essence, which felt rather sticky for about five minutes, but ultimately absorbed well into the skin, and went to sleep without layering any other skincare products over the top.

I woke up the next morning with a refreshed, even-toned, plump, hydrated face. Sesha's Rejuvenating Mask calmed most of inflammation and redness I had in my skin, and smoothed out fine dehydration lines. My skin felt so, so soft and very bouncy, so I do think it would work exceptionally well for more mature skin types. Definitely recommend.

2. Freeman Blue Agave Facial Hydrating Paper Mask ($1.99 for 15ml/ 0.5 oz). 'Transform skin from dry to dewy! Serum-enriched paper facial mask contains soothing Blue Agave to soften and rehydrate. Ultra-hydrating Hyaluronic Acid and Allantoin help give skin a refreshed look and feel for a smoother finish'. The paper on this sheet mask was definitely thinner than Sesha's, but it was still nicely satured with the essence. Unfortunately, that's where my praise of this mask has to end. I found the shape of the mask did not fit my face very well, and while the sheet didn't dry out on my face, as soon as I removed it, the super thin liquid immediately sunk into my skin, leaving it a bit tight actually! So much so that I had to top it with an overnight oil, and in the morning, didn't see any extra benefits from the mask. One more thing to point out is that this contains artificial fragrance and coloring - the liquid is actually tinted blue (so you can SEE it contains blue agave...?), which I think is absolutely pointless.

3. TATCHA Luminous Deep Hydration Lifting Mask* ($28 for one mask with 20ml of serum or $95 for a set of four). 'This mask combines a proprietary red algae blend with our HADASEI-3™ Bioactive Complex. The silken serum infuses skin with powerful moisture-enriching actives resulting in smoother, more luminous skin in minutes. The unique coconut-derived biocellulose mask, developed originally to speed healing for burn victims, forms an occlusive layer on the skin that enables 53% deeper penetration vs. paper masks'.
You guys, I wish I wasn't married already so I could use this mask before my wedding day - as it is, I used it before a week-long visit from the in-laws. This gel mask was the easiest of the three to use, and fit the most comfortably on my face. Because the mask itself is a gel type, it doesn't exactly seem like it's saturated with serum - maybe more like it's coated, and then the gel mask acts as a sealant to help absorption (I may be totally wrong here but that's how it felt to me).

The TATCHA masks offers the most bizarre sensory experience while it's on your face: the tingling sensation mentioned in the instructions felt like my face was getting warmer, but when I removed the mask, the skin was calm and cool to the touch. And yes, the contours of my face did look a bit tightened, while my skin felt smooth, plump and hydrated. The remnants of the serum absorbed easily in a minute and two, and because I don't have TATCHA's Moisture Rich Silk Cream to layer over the top, I used my usual facial oil. In the morning, my skin was still beautifully hydrated, even and soft. While the TATCHA Deep Hydration Mask is definitely pricey, I would without a doubt recommend it before a big event (or you know, every week if you have the budget for it); I think it's worth the money.
Just 'cause I really, really like you guys. Wearing the Freeman Blue Agave mask.
I really enjoyed dipping my toes into the world of sheet masks, and thanks to my awesome friend Xiao, I have some more paper masks from My Beauty Diary to experiment with in the next couple of weeks (you can expect a review too!). I also got an immense kick out of scaring the crap out my husband by creeping in on him while wearing the mask, ha! Do you like using sheet masks? Which ones are your favorite?

Disclaimer: The products marked with an asterix (*) were press samples I received directly from TATCHA and as a part of a complimentary Glossy Box (SESHA Skin Therapy) for review consideration. 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, April 21, 2014

Products I Regret Buying Vol. 3

It seems that I like to write these disappointing products posts every two years or so (Volume 1 here and Volume 2 here), so now's the time for another update! We all love a good make-up rant once in a while, so here's me venting my frustration about some nearly useless make-up products I dug out from the murky bottoms of my stash:
Following a recent post on my favorite lip glosses for spring and summer, I had a good rummage through my lip gloss drawer and came up with two products I haven't touched for probably close to two years, if not more. First off, a Lancome Juicy Tubes in Rio Mango ($18 for 14.16g/ 0.5 oz) - I know for some it's a cult classic, but it does feel a bit heavy and sticky on my lips, and to top it off the shade Rio Mango has absolutely no color to it; it's basically clear. Also, mine has completely separated and despite kneading the tube like crazy, I couldn't get it to its former consistency. I think at this point it needs to go in the trash - and I won't buy this again.

Similarly, I absolutely can't recall the last time I wore the Revlon ColorStay Mineral Lip Gloss in Continuous Coral ($6.99 for 0.15 fl. oz) (probably here...?). It was never my favorite formula but I guess when I first got it, I was determined to make it work; these days I probably wouldn't have bothered and simply returned the darn thing. It smells like cough medicine, sits heavily and more like liquid lipstick on the lips, and the shade is just wrong on my complexion. In the trash it goes! Next!
Speaking of Revlon, the Brow Fantasy in Dark Blonde ($7.99 for 0.31g/ 0.011 oz of pencil and 1.18 ml/ 0.04 fl. oz of gel), a brow pencil back-up I whipped out a month or so ago, turned out to be at least a partial fail. While the pencil side performs reasonably well (however, not completely in love with the shade), the gel is just horrendous: it dries in white chunks on the tips of my brow hairs and makes me look like I have some weird isolated case of brow dandruff. I'm going to use up the pencil side, but I don't dare to touch the gel side anymore.

I'm also desperately trying to use up the Physicians Formula Eye Booster 2-in-1 Lash Boosting Felt Tip Eyeliner + Serum ($10.95 for 0.088 oz - are you kidding me with that name, PF?! Life's too short for this shiz). A couple years back, everyone was raving about the original Physicians Formula eyeliner with the skinny nib, but I couldn't find at my drugstore and so purchased this instead. Well, the 'bold' felt-tip applicator is very hard to maneuver on the lashline, and the product skips and fails to deliver an even, inky black line. No comments on the serum front. This kind of turned me off trying the original skinny one as well.
Now for some eye bases/ cream eyeshadows: I didn't exactly purchase this little pot of Graftobian Luster Creme in Orchid Odyssey ($4.79 for 1/8 oz), as it was a gift with purchase of their HD foundation (which I love), but I still regret it taking space in my collection. While the shade is a beautiful, glowy lavender with a slight pink shift, the formula of the Luster Creme is so greasy and sheer that it completely fails as an eye product. I suppose it may be usable for theatrical make-up, but I simply can't make it work, and believe me, it's not for the lack of trying.

I have very similar feelings towards NYX Jumbo Eyeshadow Pencil in Cottage Cheese ($4.49 for 5g/0.18 oz). I still hear people rave about these on YouTube from time to time, but I don't see how this would not crease on just about everyone - the formula is just so oily, and the shade I've got is not very pigmented either. I was trying to use it in my inner corners for a while, but I don't know why I should bother - a waste of time, really.
Lastly, here's a nearly full pot of Everyday Minerals Jojoba Base in the shade Alabaster  ($14 for 4.8g/ 0.17 oz), a supposedly moisturizing loose mineral foundation. On me, Jojoba Base fails to cover anything, but quite successfully manages to turn me a weird pink shade all over - and you guys know I have pink undertones in my skin. The shade Alabaster, instead of evening out my skin, almost enhances any redness I already have on my face, making me look ruddy. This also gets shiny on me within an hour or so, an all-time record I think. I'll try to use it up as face powder, but we shall see if I won't run out of patience.
And there you have it! Hopefully this was useful to some of you, or at least you had fun hearing me rant. Have you bought any disappointing products recently? What other make-up products should we all avoid like a plague?

Friday, April 18, 2014

Three Easy Radiant Orchid Nail Art Ideas for Spring

I realize what you may be thinking right now - me and nail art?! But you know, sometimes it is fun to whip out some nail polishes you've had in your collection for a while and combine them into something completely new and different. I'm a total neub when it comes to nail designs, so if I can have a go at these spring-appropriate looks, I'm sure everyone can too; there are minimal tools required, and it's all rather on trend with the Radiant Orchid color theme. Can you tell how proud I am of myself? I am trendy, you guys.

1. Tonal Lavender Gradient with Zoya Julie & Hudson
This was my second time dabbling with a sponge ombre, and I've decided to use two shimmery lilac/lavender shades from Zoya for a subtle tonal gradient. I applied two coats of Julie on my nails, allowed them to dry well, and then dabbed with a sponge painted with a stripe of Hudson (to about 1/3 of my nail length) and a thicker stripe of Julie - I repeated this twice for more coverage. I absolutely loved this look: the ombre effect was delicate but still visible, and I enjoyed the more pronounced warm shimmer running through Hudson.
2. Rose Gold Triangle Accents with China Glaze That's Shore Bright & Champagne Kisses
For these glitter accents, I painted two coats of China Glaze's That's Shore Bright for my base color,  then blocked off the shape of my slim triangles with strips of scotch tape, layered on Champagne Kisses in the triangle area and removed the strips immediately before the polish had a chance to dry. Once I had all the triangles in place, I hand painted more glitter on for greater opacity. I felt that this design was the most interesting texturally: a slightly matte finish of the neon purple played off the sandy grittiness of rose gold glitter rather well (I skipped a top coat to preserve the original finish of these polishes).
3. Easter Egg Polka Dots with Essie Splash of Grenadine & Van D'Go
Happy Easter, my dears! Every year I like to sport a festive manicure for Easter, usually using some fun spring pastel shades. This time I went for a cheerful pastel polka dot look, using two coats of Essie's Splash of Grenadine as a base, and stamping on Van D'Go with a bamboo skewer (I'm not fancy enough to own a set of dotting tools... but I just might one day!). I think this speckled egg 'dotticure' is just perfect for Easter, and I can't wait to play around with other color combinations!

I hope you enjoyed these nail art ideas! It was definitely a lot of fun for me to push myself and experiment with something I'm usually too lazy to go for. Are you into nail designs or do you prefer simpler manicures? Would you try any of these looks yourself?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Giving Bronzer Another Go With Too Faced Milk Chocolate Soleil

For the past couple of months, I'd been only reaching for bronzer to apply it on my... neck. I know I've lost some of you there, but bear with me: it simply looked WRONG on my pale face, and the only use I could find for it was bronzing up my neck slightly to match a too dark foundation on my face. But, there's something to be said about the effortless, summery glow that a quick swipe of bronzer instantly adds to one's face, and so I decided to track down a bronzing powder which would look RIGHT on my fair, fair skin.
Enter a lovely suggestion from Lisa Eldrige's 'How To Wear Bronzer Beautifully' video: Too Faced Milk Chocolate Soleil Light/ Medium Matte Bronzer ($30 for 10g/ 0.35 oz). In theory, it ticked all the boxes: reasonably light shade, rather compact, matte finish, decent price tag. Review spoiler alert: in practice, all the boxes remain gloriously ticked.
 While the plastic packaging lacks simple elegance and class of some more luxurious brands, the compact feels sturdy and snaps shut with a secure click, and comes with a large mirror. In reality, the 'Milk Chocolate' marketing blurb is more of a gimmick: the claims of antioxidant cocoa are probably a bit far fetched, as it comes towards the very end of the ingredients' list, and the sweet hot chocolate scent is most likely all due to the artificial fragrance. I don't really mind it though: I'm looking for a well-formulated bronzer, not pressed cocoa powder to dust on my face. And the chocolate lover in me does appreciate the happy, delicious scent emanating from the compact.
The texture of the powder is fine and silky: it does have a fair amount of slip and feels creamier than my other bronzers. I was a bit worried that could cause blending issues with the powder grabbing too much onto liquid foundation, but no, it blends out seamlessly and doesn't sit on top of the skin, or sink into pores. I would say Milk Chocolate Soleil has medium pigmentation; that, combined with the lighter hue, gives just a whisper of warmth to my skin with one swipe, but it can be built up to the 'I just came back from a beach vacation' level (or, as much as I can hope to achieve one...) with a couple more layers.
Here's a quick shade comparison for you: next to my only other light matte bronzer, The Body Shop Honey Bronzing Powder in 02 Fair Matte (yes, they do make one shade lighter and yes, I have used the heck out of mine), Too Faced Milk Chocolate is warmer and more well... uhm... orange. I know 'orange' is officialy a no-no when describing a bronzer, but you guys - my natural tan is a peachy, orangey shade, and so are my freckles (or actually, my facial tan often equals freckles). So yes, it is more orange compared to the slightly pinkier The Body Shop Honey bronzer, and a lot lighter and less brown than both Benefit Hoola, and the darkest bronzer in my collection, theBalm Bahama Mama.
L-R: Too Faced Milk Chocolate Soleil, The Body Shop Honey Bronzing Powder in Fair Matte, Benefit Hoola, theBalm Bahama Mama.
To showcase my recently rediscovered bronzing passion, I decided to go for a simple, sunkissed look with Too Faced Milk Chocolate Soleil used on high points of my face (liberally on the cheeks, temples, up into the hairline, a tiny bit across the bridge of my nose and on the chin, as well as - you guessed it - down on my neck), and also lightly in the crease of the eyes for some definition. I smudged a dark brown eyeliner pencil on my lashline, applied lots of black mascara and finished with a slick of Rimmel Soft Coral lipstick, patted down with a finger to take off some of the glitter and shine. I like this look: it's quick, it's easy, it makes me look rested and subtly polished.
Do you also struggle with finding the right bronzer shades? Is bronzer an everyday part of your make-up routine, or do you reserve it for specific looks? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Five Spring & Summer Lip Gloss Picks

I don't know what's going on, you guys - I'm kinda into glosses at the moment. While I still think you can't beat a nice bright lipstick with a stick, and long wind-blown hair caught in your sticky glossed lips drives me absolutely bonkers, I'm really enjoying the sheerer pigmentation and mirrored shine of lip glosses - while preferrably tying my hair into a ponytail or a messy bun. Here are five different shades and formulas I've been wearing recently, swatched for your viewing pleasure.
One common denomination between all these different glosses is the fact that they're virtually shimmer and glitter-free, which is my preference in both lip glosses and lipsticks. By 'virtually', I mean that I suspect maybe two of the glosses below have very very fine, very very minimal shimmer, but it's nearly undetectable in the arm swatches as well as on the lips. They're also all comfortable, non-drying formulas that I'd definitely recommend if you're looking for a new gloss; I'll link to respective reviews where possible for more info on the formulation and longevity.
1. Clarins Instant Light Natural Lip Perfector in Rose Shimmer 01($23 for 0.35 fl oz, previously mentioned here). Possibly the nudest lip gloss shade I own, the Clarins Rose Shimmer still manages to even out and beautify the lips without verging on the concealer lips territory. The formula is most often described as a balm & gloss hybrid, and it does feel smooth, cushiony and hydrating on the lips. Great gloss to keep in your purse for completely-forgot-to-apply-a-lip-product situations as well as touch-ups on the go.
2. Revlon Super Lustrous Lip Gloss in Coral Reef (sadly discontinued - I'm guessing the closest shade match in the new repackaged & reformulated Super Lustrous Lip Gloss range is Pango Peach, $5.99-7.99 for 0.13 oz). Remember when these were all the rage? Yeah, I totally jumped on that bandwagon with Coral Reef, and haven't regretted it since. It's a beautiful, apricot coral shade with medium pigmentation, bright enough to lift a neutral look but not too in your face. I'm kinda bummed this shade was discontinued - my tube has started separating, and I think it's the last season we can enjoy each other's company.
3. NYX Mega Shine Lip Gloss in Dolly Pink ($4.99 for 11ml/ 0.37 fl.oz, the four shades I own are swatched & reviewed here). Actually, I don't reach for this gloss nearly often enough; I will admit that I find the cherry cough drop scent a bit offensive, and there's something about the formula that I don't absolutely love - but I do like it, and Dolly Pink is a wonderful blue fuschia shade that works great with my coloring. You know, sometimes these posts serve as a reminder for me to go rummage through my drawers and come out with something pretty that doesn't get enough love... like this gloss here.
4. Essence Stay With Me Long Lasting Lip Gloss in Candy Bar ($2.99 for 4ml/ 0.13 fl oz). Mentioned a long time ago by Driveller Kate and more recently, Tiffany from Will Work For Make-up, I had this gloss mentally filed away in the 'try-at-a-later-date' category. But, I was placing an online order at Ulta for Mr's shampoo & conditioner, and needed an inexpensive item to get to the free shipping treshold - and so it was meant to be. Candy Bar is such a beautiful, bright coral, and possibly the most pigmented out of the glosses featured here. It has a slightly strange, fruity old-school scent; I remember another gloss from my teenage years by a Polish brand 'Bell' that had the exact same scent... and oddly enough, this gloss is actually also made in Poland. Hmm... Anyway, I don't think you can get a better lip gloss for three bucks than the Essence Stay With Me - I just wish they had more than three colors in the range.
5. Buxom Full-On Lip Cream in Cherry Flip ($19 for 0.14 oz, previously reviewed and swatched here). Still one of my absolute favorite glosses, be it spring, summer, fall or winter; Buxom lip-plumping formula is a winner for me. Cherry Flip looks quite similar to Essence Candy Bar here, and I admit they're not miles apart, but Cherry Flip is slightly more red in a clear base, making it look less vibrant than the pinkier Candy Bar, which has a bit of a white base - hope you can see that in the lip swatches. I always walk past these Lip Creams in Sephora for fear of accidentally plopping more shades in my basket.
Have you been more into lip glosses or lipsticks recently? Or maybe liquid lipsticks, seeing as they're all the range at the moment? I did buy one shade of a newly released lip gloss formula during the Sephora VIB sale that I'm hoping to share really soon (any guesses?), but in the meantime, let me know your spring & summer lip loves - a girl can never have too more lip products, right? Or at least she can start a new wishlist...