Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Capsule Collection 2015 Progress Round-up and Goals for 2016

It's New Year's Eve tomorrow, so prime time I think for a (probably overly lengthy) round-up of this year's attempts towards a smaller, well edited beauty stash in general, and a make-up capsule collection in particular. I'm very happy to say that in 2015, I've made some really big strides in downsizing my collection, and it's brought me a great satisfaction to learn more about my make-up preferences, curb impulse purchasing, and really use what I already own and love.

So what exactly have I been doing to reduce my stash? I've already discussed my various strategies in other posts on this subject, but let's rehash. I believe the key to my progress this year has been what I like to call a three-pronged approach. Firstly, I have been decluttering my vanity and passing on products that are no longer favorites to family and friends. Secondly, I've been slowly but surely using things up via Project Make A Dent and Project 10 Pan. And thirdly, I have stuck to my low-buy of only purchasing two make-up items a month. Alright, let's elaborate on these three points.

2015 could easily be dubbed 'The Year of the Declutter' in the online beauty community, mostly thanks to the popularity of Marie Kondo's 'Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up' (my thoughts on the book can be found here). However, this year has not been my first year of decluttering my collection. I believe I actually started going through my make-up with a fine tooth comb back in 2013, pulling products aside and gathering them into small pouches to give to coworkers and some family members. I also got rid of quite a few items towards the end of 2014 (read my post here). In July of this year, I did another bigger purge (documented here) on top of constantly weeding out smaller things here and there.
Box of products to donate, currently housing 4 face mask sachets, 3 blushes, 1 powder and 5 lipsticks.
I've now permanently assigned a box for products to give away that I keep close to my vanity, so when I pull out something I have not used in a while and after a few days of wear decide I don't care for it anymore, it doesn't go back into my drawers. This is how I would like to keep decluttering from now on - not in a some big way, deliberating on every single product I own, but on a case-by-case basis, only when I realize there's something in my stash I could definitely live without.

This year, I've also finished or very nearly finished the highest number of products since I started collecting (hoarding?) make-up 6 years ago. I have just published my Project Make A Dent 2015 and Project 10 Pan 2015 finale (here); I'm getting rid of 19 products through both of those challenges. I realize that for some seasoned make-up panners, that's not a very significant amount, but for me, it's an achievement I'm quite proud of. On top of those 19, I have also used up a fair number of other make-up products that I've been including in my quaterly make-up posts: there's been a whole lot of mascaras and lip balms as well as some face primers.
Box of finished make-up products from my panning projects.
In both of these Projects, as well as my Project MAD in 2014, I focused mostly on some older items in my collection, and while I'm happy to have them out of the way, I think for next year, I should include a lot more newer items; the thought of them sitting in my vanity drawers unused, gathering dust, makes me a little anxious. If there's one thing that panning make-up has taught me, it's that you need to make sure you're including firm favorites in your Projects; otherwise, you're forcing yourself to use mediocre stuff while your best products are going to waste, stashed away for hypothetical future use.

Lastly, in 2015 I have been really sticking to my make-up low buy of purchasing only two new products a month, which I started three years ago (I elaborated more on my low buy progress throughout that time in this post, if you're curious). One of the strategies that helped me the most was writing down every single make-up purchase in a journal. This may sound silly, but looking at how much I already bought this year, all listed in one place, month by month, often deterred me from placing another order. According to my notes, I actually purchased 21 products this year, so I came in just a little under my allowance; one thing I wasn't sure how to count were make-up brushes and gifts - some of them I included in my final count, some of them I didn't. I also didn't count gifts with purchase, but there weren't very many of them this year.

To sum all of these efforts up, I have definitely succeeded in reducing the size of my beauty stash in 2015, while both enjoying what I already have and occasionally treating myself to a new acquisition. I feel good about my progress; I think I'm pretty close to achieving my perfect balance of sustainable consumerism, lol - or being a make-up fanatic without so much waste, if you will.

For 2016, I want to continue my path, but focus less on decluttering and more on using up what I own as well as buying less. I will be doing more Project Pans next year (introduction post coming soon!) to move products out of my ownership, and I've already announced my 2016 Skincare (face and body) No Buy over a month ago (read more about it here), which so far has been a success.

As far as my 2016 Make-up Low Buy, I had contemplated making it even more challenging by going down to just one make-up purchase allowed per month, but in the end, I decided I don't want to do that - I think it may already be quite difficult for me with my skincare and bodycare no buy thrown in the mix. The 2016 2-item allowance includes all cosmetic purchases, as well make-up brushes and nail polish. It doesn't account for gifts from friends and family, gifts with purchase and PR samples. Rolling unused buys forward is allowed but not encouraged (by which I mean that if I only purchase one thing one month, I am allowed three products the next, but I'll do my best not to do that). I think these rules are quite fair and should definitely be doable for me. I will also continue writing all my purchases down - I have also applied this strategy to clothing and accessories purchases this year, and it's been very helpful.

And that's it! I hope it was at least somewhat interesting for those of you who are also trying to reduce; I would love if you shared your progress and plans for 2016 in the comments, or shared little tricks and tacticts that made it easier for you to work on your goals. Have fun tomorrow at your New Year's Eve parties - we need to celebrate our downsizing achievements, after all!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

15 Best Beauty Buys of 2015

Drumroll, please! Tis the time you've all been waiting for: my yearly favorites! Every December, I really enjoy looking back at twelve months of posts here on Rocaille Writes and deciding which products are making the cut into my favoritest favorites. However this year, I have to say that I was a bit stumped: I tested a lot of average products that I was feeling a bit 'meh' about, and a lot of good products that I liked, but maybe not quite enough to put them on the list. Then when I searched my memory for products that I used the most this year, a whole lot of them were things I've already mentioned in previous years' installments of my Best Beauty Buys: Buxom Full-On lip glosses, bareMinerals READY eyeshadows, First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads...

But in the end, when I thought about products I tried this year that I would not hesitate to recommend to just about anyone, these 15 beauties emerged from the depths of my beauty stash. All of them have been previously reviewed in detail, so I'll link all the separate posts and just jot down a few additional thoughts to spike your interest. Now, in no particular order...
1. Laura Mercier Matte Radiance Baked Powder in Highlight 01 (review):
This year has definitely been the year of powder highlighter for me, and it all started with this one. In the past, when my skin was quite oily and I was struggling with textural issues, additional glow on the face was not my friend; but as my skin's became more balanced, I've been enjoying wearing luminizing products a lot more. Laura Mercier's Baked Highlight is a cult favorite for a reason: incredibly smooth texture, universal shade, and easily controlled to suit both very subtle as well as more dramatic looks. Yes, it is a bit pricey, but for the amount you get in the compact, it should very well last you for years.

2. Inglot HD Sculpting Powder in 504 (review)
I'm definitely not a fan of the strong contoured look championed by the Kardashians, but Inglot's HD Powder in 504 has won me over with its silky texture, supreme buildability and a very natural look on the face - when used sparingly, it's definitely subtle enough for my critical eye. Since my initial review, I've also been using it a lot as a transitioning shade in the crease to blend out just about any eye look. Big thumbs up.

3. Pixi Beauty Glow Tonic (review)
If you're looking for a gentle acid tone product to incorporate into your routine - perhaps something similar to my favorite First Aid Beauty pads but more economical - Pixi's Glow Tonic is your friend. I'm very nearly done with my first bottle and already have another one on back-up, and I love using it especially in the mornings, because I can rest assured it will keep my skin smooth and bright without any irritation or redness.

4. Hada Labo Gokujyun Hyaluronic Acid Lotion Moist (review)
Out of all the hyaluronic acid serums I've tried over the years, I truly believe that Hada Labo Gokujyun is the most effective at hydrating my skin - and probably the least expensive price per ounce. It's an incredibly simple product: hardly more than a mixture of water, glycerin and three types of hyaluronic acid, but boy, does it work like nothing else. It's also quite a multipurpose product, as you can use it as a toner and serum in one, or on its own as a lightweight moisturizer, or like Claire suggested, mixed into a clay mask to make it less drying on your face.

5. Laneige Water Sleeping Mask* (review)
 I believe that 2015 was the year of Korean beauty trends truly emerging on our market - even Sephora now carries an assortment of popular Korean brands (obviously, at a steep mark-up; I recommend you browse around online to find the best price). One of the bigger trends are sleeping packs or simply put overnight face masks, out of which Laneige's Water Sleeping Mask is a cult favorite, and for a good reason. The ingredients may raise an eyebrow from those who prefer fragrance and dye-free products, but the truth is that this product really works - much better than the Origins Drink Up Intensive Mask that was so popular a year or two ago.
6. Fresh Sugar Shine Lip Treatment (review)
I've been a big fan of Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment SPF15 and its various Tinted offspring ever since I tried them in a Sephora birthday kit years ago, but this year I finally tried the Sugar lip gloss and was very pleasantly surprised by it. It's just as comfortable and moisturizing as the lip balms, but gives an extra bit of shine and can be easily paired with a lipstick, especially if you want to counteract some drying effects of a less than stellar formula. As you may see in the photos, I'm very nearly done with my mini tube of the Clear shade, but I've recently snatched another mini in the Rose color and I'm very excited to crack it open.

7. Zoeva Make-up Brushes (review of brushes no. 105, 109, 227, 231 and 317 here, review of brushes no. 101, 102, 142 and 226 here)
Zoeva's make-up brushes are easily my most used make-up tools this year. Yes, my Surratt Artistique brushes are more luxurious, but I think that in terms of performance for the price, Zoeva is hard to beat. Out of the nine brushes that I own, my favorite are the 101 Luxe Definer, the 105 Luxe Highlight, 227 Luxe Soft Definer and 231 Luxe Petit Crease - I find the shapes of all these brushes to suit my personal needs perfectly, but all of the Zoeva brushes I have are great quality and have so far been holding up very well, even with almost daily use.
8. Koh Gen Do Aqua Foundation (review)
It has somehow transpired that I've been trialling a whole skew of new bases this year, but out of all the older ones in my stash and the newcomers, Koh Gen Do Aqua Foundation is definitely my favorite. I find that a lot of liquid foundations and BB Creams in my stash are a bit finnicky to work with - they either accentuate dryness unless I prep my skin very carefully, or slip and slide on the face within a couple hours, but the Aqua Foundation does neither; I can really count on it to look great every time I apply it. A word of caution, my bottle isn't the newer reformulated version, but I've heard that die-hard fans are still using it, so I'm hoping it's not massively different.

9. YSL Rouge Pur Couture Lipstick in Rose Stiletto* (review)
And conversely to foundations and BB creams, I have not actually tried very many new lipstick formulas this year, instead focusing on using up what's already in my possession. I haven't been overly impressed by the old YSL Rouge Pur Coutures, but the newly reformulated iteration is much, much better. Sure, it's not the most moisturizing lipstick I own, but the high pigment, beautiful satin finish and long wear time make up for that - and Rose Stiletto is one of those 'it' shades you need to swatch next time you're at the counter.

10. Catrice Defining Blush in Rose Royce (review)
Drugstore make-up fanatics rejoice, Catrice is now available in the US at Ulta! Sad face though, because their Defining Blushes, which are among my very favorite products from the brand, have not been brought out here (yet - I hope). Out of all the powder blushes at the drugstore, I truly believe Catrice's formula to be the best: buttery with just enough pigment, and very natural-looking on the skin. I only wish they carried a bigger shade range in the permanent displays.

11. Maybelline Color Elixir in Caramel Infused (review)
Maybelline's Color Elixir formula is my drugstore lip pick for this year. I realize that make-up aficionados are divided on this: some people love the Color Elixirs, some people hate them. I find the Maybelline lipstick-lipgloss-lip balm hybrid to be very comfortable and cushiony on the lips but not very long lasting, but that's expected for such a glossy product in my humble opinion. I really enjoy the one shade I have, and I may look into purchasing more in the future.

12. Rouge Bunny Rouge Matt Eyeshadows in Sweet Dust Seriema and Chestnut Napped Appalis (review)
Some people use a matte beige/ off white eyeshadow in every single eye look, but I find a matte midtone brown infinitely more useful to seamlessly blend out shadows on the lid and those darker shades in the outer corner. Rouge Bunny Rouge Matt Eyeshadows are beautiful to work with, and these two shades pair easily with any look: Sweet Dust Seriema with cool-toned hues, Chestnut Napped Appalis with warmer colors. They're my current shadow-transitioning staples.

13. Makeup Revolution Death By Chocolate Eyeshadow Palette (review)
I thought long and hard whether to include this inexpensive eyeshadow palette in my yearly round-up. Even though the quality is great and the colors beautiful, I was trying to find fault with it - and my conclusion was that it's TOO EASY to use. Excuse me? I wasn't happy how effortless it was to pair any of the shades in this palette together - like that's a bad thing? Seriously, I don't know what's wrong with me. So yes, if you like a challenge in your eyeshadow palette, don't pick this up. If you're a normal human being who likes neutral eyeshadows, please do yourself a favor and get it.

14. Andalou Naturals Apricot Probiotic Cleansing Milk (review)
I've tried quite a few products from Andalou Naturals this past year and many - most of them get two thumbs up from me. But I guess if I were to choose one stand out product that's not widely available from other brands, be it green or not, Andalou's Apricot Probiotic Cleansing Milk is the one to look out for: an effective non-foaming cleanser at a very reasonable price point, gentle and non-drying on the skin, and packed full of skin-loving plant oils. As you can see, my bottle is half empty already! (or half full. Depending how you're choosing to look at it :)

15. Perfume: Serge Lutens Ambre Sultan Eau de Parfum
This is the one product in this line-up that I have not reviewed separately on the blog; mostly because I find perfume reviews a bit difficult to write in a convincing fashion. Out of all the fragrances in my stash, Ambre Sultan is my absolute favorite. It's definitely a ballsy scent: heavy, lingering, attention-grabbing... meaning, not something I can wear at all times (NYC subway in the summer, anyone? I don't want to be THAT person). Yet I wish I could - it feels warm and cozy, like pulling on your favorite sweater. It's a sweet and spicy oriental heavy on resins, myrrh and amber. If you enjoy wearing orientals, you need to give it a sniff - you can thank me later.

I hope you enjoyed reading about my favorites from this year; I bet that if you're a regular reader of Rocaille Writes, few of these were very surprising to you. Please let me know in the comments your best finds this year - I love reading about your favorite products too! And while we're talking about the best in beauty, please spill your biggest fail too; I had quite a few personally, but I felt that Nature Republic Botanical Shine Lip Tint (reviewed here) was a complete dud. What should we all be avoiding in the future?

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Project Make A Dent 2015 and Project 10 Pan Finale

Merry Christmas Eve, everyone! It may just be too much excitement, but on top of one more sleep til' Christmas, today I'm sharing the finale of my Project Make A Dent 2015, started twelve months ago, and Project 10 Pan 2015, which I started in July (click for intro). Are you ready to see some make-up empties?

You might be thinking that I got beyond bored with all my products after working on them for such a long time and was more than ready to move on to something else. And on one hand, that's true; I have definitely been neglecting most of my make-up stash, and I'm happy to go back to some things I haven't played with in a while. But on the other hand, I got weirdly attached to the products I've been panning, and as I was setting them aside to be recycled, I almost felt a little sad. As you'll see in a moment, not all of my products are completely used up - but since all of them are quite old by now, I promised myself I'll be tossing them by the end of the year. Having them all lined up to go in the trash almost made me go back on that promise, although it really is time to say goodbye!
Progress of Project MAD at the third update, 9 months in.
Let's start with my Project Make A Dent. As you may remember, the goal of this challenge is not necessarily to use everything up to the last smithereen, but rather to put a good dent in your products. Well, I certainly did that! If you'd like to see what my chosen items looked like in January, click here. In this post, I wanted to show you how much progress I made in the past three months, so I'm comparing with the photo from the end of September.
Project MAD Finale, 12 months in.
A little reminder: the products I have finished at the second update in June (click!) were Urban Decay 24/7 Eyeliner in Rockstar, Make Up For Ever HD Powder mini, Michael Todd Creme Glace lipgloss in Natural, Revlon Superlustrous Lipgloss in Coral Reef and Face Atelier Ultra Foundation in Porcelain. By the end of September, I have not used up any new items. As of now, I have one more product that's completely gone: the Chanel Rouge Coco Shine in Monte Carlo. The four remaining items that are not used up all the way are the Maybelline Color Tattoo in Bad to the Bronze, Stila Convertible Color in Lillium, Sephora Nano Eyeliner in Nuage, and Inglot Gel Lipstick no. 58. All of them show quite a bit of progress and I've been using them nearly every time I wore make-up, with the exception of that Nano eyeliner, which was so bad I kinda gave up on it shortly after the third update.
Products at the halfway update, 3 months into the Project.
As for my Project 10 Pan I started 6 months ago, I have some nice progress to report as well. At my halfway update in September (click!), I have finished two items: Buxom Full-On Lip Shine in Dolly and the Revlon Lip Butter in Peach Parfait. Since then, I have used up four more products: Estee Lauder Double Wear Light Foundation in Intensity 1, both of my Orly mini polishes in Gumdrop and Rage (the bottles are not completely empty, but the polishes are too thick to use now), and Pixi Endless Silky Eye Pen in Copper Glow (I can't sharpen it anymore). I have also hit major pan on the MAC Pressed Blot Powder, and used up quite a bit of Covergirl Jumbo Gloss Balm in Watermelon Twist and Revlon Colorstay Foundation for Combination/ Oily Skin; my marks were a bit off on that one when I started so there's been more progress than what you see from my sharpie lines. The one product that I didn't get to use a whole lot was the Elf Mineral Lipstick in Rosy Raisin, which broke off at the base of the bullet and couldn't be salvaged - so while it's not gone, it needs to be thrown out anyway.
Project Finale, 6 months in.
Overall, I'm really happy with my results. 6 finished products out of 10 in Project MAD, and 6 out of 10 in P10P. Like I mentioned above, all of the products I've been working on this year are exiting my stash, no matter if they're entirely used up or have a bit left, because I feel that they're too old now to stay - with the exception of my MAC Blot Powder, which is quite old but I can't detect any changes in color, texture or scent from when I first purchased it. To sum up, that's 19 majorly used products on their way out; that's a lot!
Final progress on my liquid products marked with a sharpie.
I've really enjoyed panning this year and I'm very satisified with my small achievement. Looking at my progress, some of you may think I wasn't really committed to my products, and maybe if I really stuck to using them day in and day out, more would be finished by now. That's not really true though; I've used these products about 98% of the time I wore make-up (which is not daily, by the way). Take that Stila cream blush, for example - it's a mini that had a tiny bit of pan showing to begin with, and at the end of twelve months of use, it's still a far way from being used up. But I have been using it ALL THE TIME - I think that just goes to show that I use very small amounts of products when I apply my make-up. So I do know that I gave my items as much attention as I possibly could, and I can't expect more from myself than that. How are your projects going, dear readers? Are they drawing to a close too, or continuing into the New Year? I already have a new Project planned for 2016, so stay tuned for my intro in just a few days...

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Only Lip Gloss I've Ever Repurchased: Buxom Dolly

How often do you guys happen to repurchase the exact same lip product? I have to admit that I'm usually very fickle with my make-up; by the time I actually manage to use something completely up, which is not very often, I'm usually ready to move on to something different. But Buxom Full-On Lip Cream in Dolly ($19 for 0.14 oz) is my first exception to the rule - I just couldn't get enough of it.
Well, okay, I guess I'm stretching the truth a tiny bit here - I had a mini of the Lip Shine in Dolly (reviewed here) that I somewhat recently finished as part of my Project 10 Pan; Buxom's Lip Shines have varying degrees of subtle shimmer to full-on glitter, but forunately the Dolly shade had just a whisper of tiny gold dust. I also own a different Lip Cream in the shade Cherry Flip, reviewed here, which is a favorite in the summer. So I sort of combined the two favorites when I decided to purchase the Lip Cream in Dolly, which has the same gorgeous hue as the one I used up but without the shimmer.
I've discussed my feelings about the Lip Cream formula in detail in my review of Cherry Flip, and some more when I reviewed the Lip Shine in Dolly - I think both the cream and the shimmer finishes on these Buxom glosses are the same formula, albeit if you chose to purchase a Lip Shine with chunkier glitter, your experience may vary. And while regrettably I don't have anything left in my tube of the shimmery Dolly to compare with the creamy Dolly, from memory it's the exact same shade but with one tiny difference: the Lip Shine in Dolly had also a bit more of a translucent jelly finish, the Lip Cream is slightly more milky. However, once on the lips, I can't really tell a difference.
Dolly is my perfect lip perfecting gloss: the cushiony texture softens the look of vertical lip lines and dryness, while the subtle mauve shade evens out my lips' pigmentation. It's very close to my natural lip color, which makes it ideal for effortless daytime looks. It's also one of few lip gloss formulas that stay on my lips for a reasonable time, all the while feeling comfortable and moisturizing. In general, I'm not a fan of tingly plumping formulas, but I would say that Buxom glosses are more cooling than anything else, which I certainly appreciate more in the summer than in the winter, but overall don't mind all that much.
I don't have another lip gloss shade that's close to Dolly - as you can see, NYX Mega Shine in Beige is positively baby pink next to it. Out of my lipsticks, Suqqu Creamy Glow Moist in no. 3 Fuyuzakura is quite similar, but a little lighter once on the lips. Maybelline Color Sensational in Warm Me Up is darker and warmer.
L-R: Buxom Lip Cream in Cherry Flip, Buxom Lip Cream in Dolly, NYX Mega Shine in Beige, Maybelline Warm Me Up, Suqqu Creamy Glow Moist no. 3
I will be honest with you and admit that it took a lot of my willpower not to purchase one of those larger sets of Buxom's mini glosses that Sephora releases every Holiday season. I've contemplated their smaller set with two glosses and a Bold Gel lipstick, but upon swatching it in store, I decided that the Lip Shine in Gabby was way too glittery for me. I'm quite happy that I settled on Dolly in the end, because I know for sure I'll reach for it again and again, and I'm glad to have a tried and true gloss I can rely on. What is your favorite everyday lip gloss? Do you wear the same one again and again, or do you frequently rotate the ones in your stash?

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Final Beauty Empties of 2015

Since we're flying home for the holidays, I'm writing my final empties round-up for 2015 a couple weeks early - but I also don't think I would have completely used up any more products before the clock strikes midnight on December 31st, so it doesn't change things much. I think my usage was quite consistent for the last quarter of this year, and similarly to the previous update, I decided to toss some half-used and/or expired items as well.
Let's start with make-up this time, just to keep you on your toes ;) In the comments to my previous empties post, Neo suggested that she would like to see the tosses separated from the products that are completely used up. I took that suggestion to heart, but I have to say that when it comes to make-up, it can be a bit difficult to establish the line between empty/ no longer usable and somewhat used/ decided to throw out. I tried though - let's start with the tosses:
Products I disliked and wouldn't repurchase: Peter Thomas Roth Instant Mineral SPF30 (expired; scratchy brush, orange-tinted powder that looked heavy on the skin), Maybelline Baby Lips SPF15 (expired, dried out my lips), Fyrinnae Pyxie Epoxy (started to make shadows adhere unevenly to the skin; overall good for making pigments pop, but too much hassle to use)
Products I enjoyed, but I'm trying out other things: Estee Lauder Double Wear Stay in Place Concealer (half-used but had it for too long now; mini review here), Fyrinnae Lip Lustre in Visual Kei (I've had it for too long; review and swatches here), NYX Mega Shine Lip Gloss in Garnet (color changed; nice product but I'm not into pigmented glosses any more).
Products I would repurchase (but am probably trying out other things too):  Inglot Cream Blush no. 88 (scent changed; great cream to powder formula at a good price point).
Now for the make-up that I did use all up or at least used to the point where it was no longer serviceable (too dry/ thick to apply).
Products I disliked and wouldn't repurchase: LORAC Front of the Line PRO liquid eyeliner in Black (reviewed here)
Products I enjoyed, but I'm trying out other things: Anastasia Beverly Hills Lash Genius (waterproof mascara topcoat - liked the option of making any mascara waterproof, but truth be told forgot the extra step most of the time), Benefit Stay Flawless 15-Hour Primer (a good but not outstanding face primer)
Products I would repurchase (but am probably trying out other things too): Mally Beauty Volumizing Mascara in Black (review), Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment SPF 15 (review), NYC In a New York Minute Nail Polish in Manhattan (discontinued, swatched here; used up 2/3 of the bottle before it got too thick)
As for skincare, I did pretty good on my minis/ deluxe samples, and finally finished some products I've been working on for a really long time. The Paula's Choice RESIST sunscreen and Jurlique serum are about 2/3 used up, but I had to toss them as they're now expired.
Products I disliked and wouldn't repurchase: Andalou Naturals 1000 Roses Pearl Exfoliator (reviewed here; did absolutely nothing apart from leaving my face covered in large glitter particles - WTF?), SK-II Facial Treatment Essence* (review), Andalou Naturals Blue Geranium Creamy Clay Mask (the product itself was fine, but the packaging sucked - couldn't get any mask out of the tube no matter how hard I squeezed, which is why it's cut open).
Products I enjoyed, but I'm trying out other things: Jurlique Herbal Recovery Serum* (reviewed here), Paula's Choice RESIST Superlight Sunscreen SPF 30 (review), Reviva Labs Microdermabrasion Pomegranate Scrub* (review; very effective but prefer dissolving scrubs), NUDE Omega Treatment Oil, Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Eye Cream
Products I would repurchase (but am probably trying out other things too): Andalou Naturals 1000 Roses Rosewater Mask (review), Andalou Naturals Probiotic + C Renewal Cream (review); funny how Andalou made it both to my least and most favorite products' lists :)
Bath and body products: you can clearly see the colder season has started from the number of hand creams I've finished. Mr helped me on the shower gel and shower oil front, and Soap & Glory body washes (both this one and Clean On Me) are his favorites. I know.
Products I disliked and wouldn't repurchase: Reviva Labs Seaweed Soap* (unfortunately, too drying, and didn't enjoy the scent)
Products I enjoyed, but I'm trying out other things: Kiehl's Ultimate Strength Hand Salve (not all that super duper ultimately moisturizing, actually), Boots Botanics Bath Soak in Rebalance, First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream* (again, not moisturizing enough for my hands), Neosalus prescription barrier cream (effective, but not OTC and VERY expensive)
Products I would repurchase (but am probably trying out other things too): Soap and Glory Rich and Foamous Body Wash, Nivea Natural Shower Oil (good drugstore alternative to L'Occitane Almond Shower Oil but unavailable in the US), Lush Massage Bar in Soft Coeur
Haircare - finally finished some lingering bottles from my shower and bathroom cabinet! It takes me an inordinately long time to finish my hair products.
Products I disliked and wouldn't repurchase: Nivea Intense Repair Shampoo (passed on to me by my mother in law; the shampoo contains SLS, which I may be sensitive to, makes my hair quite greasy by second day, and I disliked the scent - smells almost like hair dye), Kenra Platinum Finishing Spray (too wet, the nozzle didn't work well, too strong of a hold for me)
Products I enjoyed, but I'm trying out other things: Goldwell Rich Repair Hair Mask (great mask, but I don't really need hair masks on my smooth fine hair), MoroccanOil Clarifying Shampoo (again, great product but I'm questioning the need for it - further explanation in this post)
Products I would repurchase (but am probably trying out other things too): OGX Coconut Water Conditioner, Batiste Dry Shampoo in the Blush scent (already repurchased in the Classic scent - to be honest, I get whatever scent is the cheapest online)
And just a few foil samples/ one use sachets this time.
Products I disliked and wouldn't repurchase: Koh Gen Do Makeup Base SPF 15 (sad to say, but this makes my skin look ashy and contains fine glitter particles)
Products I enjoyed, but I'm trying out other things: The Face Shop Hand Sheet Mask (great concept, but didn't really make much of a difference to my hands), Japanese Vitamin C Mask (sorry, don't remember the brand - it was a gwp), Tata Harper Resurfacing Mask (I'm glad I had this sample as I was really interested in purchasing the full size; however, after trying it, I concluded it's a nice product, but not worth the price tag for me).
Products I would repurchase (but am probably trying out other things too): Aura Cacia Meditating Cedarwood Mineral Bath (this was probably my third packet; possibly my favorite scent out of all Aura Cacia's bath salts)

And that's it! Well, okay, I forgot to include a mini of Pureology's volumizing hair mist (wouldn't purchase the full size), and one of my serums run out literally the day after I took shots of all my trash, so I guess it will have to be included in the next post. I'm glad to have all of these products done & dusted and to move on to some other back-up stuff in my stash. As you may remember, I'm attempting not to purchase ANY new skincare products for all of 2016, both for the face and body, so I'm just really focusing on clearing out what I've accumulated so far. What was your favorite product that you've recently finished? I think out of all of my beauty trash, I'm sad to see my NYC Nail Polish in Manhattan go, but I have so many other similar shades that it's a bit silly to feel that way, to be honest.

Disclaimer: Products marked with an asterix (*) were received complimentary for testing purposes from the brands or won in an official giveaway. All opinions are 100% honest and unbiased, no matter if the products featured were purchased with my own monies or provided as free press samples. Thank you for reading!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Holiday Party Glow: Anastasia Beverly Hills Illuminator in Starlight

I'm really sticking to that wishlist, you guys, and it's working for me - all of my purchases so far have been great successes, knock on wood! One of those is Anastasia Beverly Hills Illuminator in Starlight ($28 for 0.32 oz/ 9 g), a beautiful powder highlight in the 'gelee'/ MAC Extra Dimension type of formula. I'd never had a powder product with that texture before, so I was excited to play around with Anastasia's version.
I was also right to wait it out and see if Anastasia's own website would have any Black Friday/ Cyber Monday deals on this product, and while the sale wasn't super amazing, I managed to get my Starlight plus their A23 Highlighter brush (pictured) in a set for $26 with free shipping. I'm not going to review the brush right now - first impressions are that it isn't anything special - but still, the combo was just a little bit cheaper than the full price of one Illuminator.
I've read somewhere that the Illuminator's packaging looks cheap and doesn't go well with the rest of Anastasia's make-up line, but I don't really find any problems with it. Sure, it's just black plastic, but it seems sturdy and comes with a large mirror inside the compact.
Word on the street is that the pretty art deco-inspired embossing on the powder was chosen not just for visual impact, but for how increases powder pick-up on the brush. Hmm, maybe - I haven't really noticed anything different about that, but then again I normally use a very soft highlighter brush (Zoeva 105 Luxe Highlight, here) that allows me to precisely control the amount of product on the bristles. Either way, I think it's a beautiful design that adds a special something something to this highlighter.
Now, as for the gelee formula... I guess if I wasn't told before that it was a special type of formulation, I probably wouldn't have noticed all that much - sorry. The product is pressed quite firmy in the pan, which I like as it diminishes the amount of fly-away dust all over the compact like in the other two powder highlighters in my stash. Despite that firmness, it's easy to pick up quite a bit on the brush, and it's nicely pigmented - definitely not sheer, but not fully opaque either (that would be terrible for a luminizing product, don't you think?). Anastasia's Illuminator has a nice slip to it as well, which makes blending out a breeze - it definitely feels creamier/ less dry than my two baked highlighters, shown below for comparison.
The other significant difference between Anastasia's powder highlighter and the other two that I own is that the Illuminator has a lot more, well, glow to it. It's more reflective, and when applied heavily, can even verge on that metallic/ wet look that I usually avoid. However, it doesn't exaggerate pores too much, and it's quite easy to sheer out for daytime, so I'm happy to at least have the option of a heavier highlight if I want - it'd be really pretty for a Holiday party look, for example.
As for the shade, Starlight is the perfect highlight for fair to light skintones. I've heard it described two ways - either as a very pale white gold, or as a very pale pink, which seemed quite confusing to me; is it warm or cool-toned then? Well, it's a little bit of both. In artificial lighting, it definitely has more of that white gold iridescence, but in daylight, I see more of the baby pink, so I believe it's a white gold/ pale pink duochrome on a white base. Either way, I would describe its tone as neutral, so it should suit a variety of lighter skintones - it also compliments just about any blush shade. Compared to my other highlighters, Laura Mercier Baked Powder in Highlight 01 (click) is more champagne/ beige, while Makeup Revolution Vivid Baked Highlighter in Radiant Lights (click) is significantly darker and more peachy pink. I'm sorry these swatches are not more visible, but truth be told all three of these products are rather close to my skintone.
L-R: (far left) Anastasia Beverly Hills Illuminator in Starlight blended out, then swatched heavily, Laura Mercier Baked Highlight 01, Makeup Revolution Baked Vivid Highlighter in Radiant Lights
I took a whole bunch of face shots to try and show you Starlight in action, but I think winter afternoon light isn't bright enough to pick up on the glow - the only thing it managed to pick up on was my dry and flaky skin (I also didn't apply the Illuminator heavily on my cheeks because I was heading out to work). You can see it concentrated more in the inner corners of my eyes, but uhm, yeah - well I guess this picture shows that you really can apply this highlighter more sheer and subtle for daytime.
Anastasia's Starlight rounds up my powder highlighter collection very nicely, and I'm happy that I pulled the trigger on it. I really love all three of the luminizing powders I now have in my stash, and I don't think I'll be adding another one any time soon - I feel that three is a really good number to have some variety but still be able to regularly use all of them. What was the last powder highlighter that you've bought? How many do you have in your stash?

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Vanity Tour: My Current Make-up Collection and Storage

I've been spending a lot of time lately talking about downsizing, simplifying, editing and curating my capsule make-up collection, but so far I haven't actually had the guts to show you what my current beauty stash looks like - maybe because, uhm, I wouldn't actually consider it a capsule. Just like my wardrobe, it isn't a capsule in terms of only having a small number of pieces you wear over and over again; although I kinda do that anyway by committing to the products in my Project Pans. I'm absolutely aware that my stash is way bigger than what an average woman would need to make her face up, because you know, I used to be that average, non-beauty obsessed woman with just a single make-up bag to house all of her product - imagine that!
However, make-up is my passion, and I get excited when I have an above average amount of products to rotate and play with - but what I'm trying to achieve is ensuring that every single item in my stash is loved and used on at least a somewhat regular basis. If it's not, I need to pass it on; I guess that's how I would define the goal for my capsule collection, which is a constant work in progress. I figured that it could be helpful to show you exactly how much I have (well, visually - I'm still not ready to do a numerical inventory), and how I store it, and maybe show you my collection again in a year's time. So, are you ready to virtually tour my vanity?
The vanity table itself is a popular IKEA Malm model I purchased around 4 years ago, and it's held up reasonably well - although the bottom of my drawer warped under the weight of things I was storing in it, and I have to be very careful with it now. The little chest of drawers on top is also from IKEA from around 6 years ago, I believe it's been discontinued. The plastic drawers under the table are from The Container Store, but I don't keep any make-up products there; I use them for back-up skincare, as shown in this post, nail polish (would you like to see that in a future post?), and my husband's out of season shoes, lol. The only two things I keep out on my counter is a simple mirror (again, IKEA) and my daily brush cup.

Let's start with the large drawer, since it mostly houses products I use on a daily basis - my biweekly/ monthly make-up basket, if you will. Anyone who's ever owned one of these IKEA vanities knows that this drawer has a VERY significant drawback - it only opens about halfway, which means that accessing the back of the drawer is a *tad* difficult (which is also why I had to take out this entire drawer and lay it on my bed to be able to show you the contents more clearly). I use the back portion to store rarely reached for things: my silver and gold jewelry, extra brushes I'm not using currently (I like storing them flat in a drawer as they get a lot less dusty than in a cup),  back-up/ not yet opened make-up (I'm working on emptying that box entirely and freeing some space there), and lastly some costume jewelry - all of the clear acrylic organizers are from The Container Store.

In the front of the drawer starting on the left, I store all of my lipsticks upright, roughly organized by color families, as well as a TATCHA box full of fat lip crayons and a few lip liners - well, the Guerlain space tampon doesn't fit into my lipstick organizer, so it's in there too. Next, we have cotton buds, Avene Thermal Water Spray to dampen brushes or mist my face, and my daily essentials in a little box; these are mostly products from my Project Make A Dent/ Project 10 Pan.
Next, I put aside some space in my jewelry organizers to display some more of my make-up stash: all of my pencil eyeliners, and some vertically organized compacts I'm currently using; a few powder blushes, a bronzer, a highlighter, the YSL Blur Perfector. The smaller compartments help to separate the lipsticks I'm using now. The last compartment on the left that's not filled with costume jewelry is meant mostly for smaller eyeshadow palettes I'm playing with at the moment. And that's everything in my vanity drawer!

Moving swiftly along to the small chest of drawers on the counter, it has three narrow drawers on top and two wider drawers in the middle and on the bottom. The top left drawer houses all of my lipglosses, liquid lipsticks/ stains and lip balms in the back. The small middle drawer has single eyeshadows towards the back, but mostly eyeshadow quads, quints and two bareMinerals READY 8.0 palettes, organized vertically. I've put all of my cream eyeshadows, both in glass pots and sticks, in the top right drawer, as well as random bits and bobs like eyelash glue, sharpeners, Inglot Duraline and eye primer samples.
The wider middle drawer houses face products: foundations, BB creams, face primers, setting powders and highlighters mostly in the box on the left, cream and powder blushes and bronzers on the right - I've shown you this drawer more close-up in my Addicted to Blush Tag post here. I organized all of my larger eyeshadow palettes (both pre-made and freeform like Z-Palettes) in the bottom drawer; you can see all of my eyeshadow palettes in more detail in this post, although I've since downsized some of the palettes shown there.
Phew! Well, I guess this post isn't quite as long as I was expecting, though it's certainly quite picture-heavy. Looking at the photos, my drawers seem a bit cluttered, but day-to-day and for my personal use, I find this set-up very practical and easy to navigate. Please let me know if you have any questions, or if you've spotted something you'd like me to discuss in more detail in a separate post - I'd be happy to oblige. I have to admit that I'm quite satisfied with my stash right now; I'm planning to use up some more products in the next year, but there are also things on my wishlist I would like to try, so I'm not sure how much further I can reduce my stash without giving or throwing stuff away - and I don't really want to declutter anymore, at least not to the extent I've been doing it this year. I hope you enjoyed this glimpse at my make-up collection and storage, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!