Sunday, March 29, 2015

Peaches and Cream: Catrice Defining Blush in Rose Royce

In my opinion, blushes are one area where the American drugstore has a lot of catching up to do. Apart from my well loved NYX Powder Blush collection, I haven't come across any outstanding blush formulas with an affordable price tag - so I was excited to try out a new inexpensive find I brought from Warsaw, the Catrice Defining Blush in 020 Rose Royce (16 PLN/ ~ $4.50 for 5g/ 0.17 oz, can be found on eBay, but shipping is rather expensive). I'd read a lot of rave reviews of these blushes and really wanted to see if the formula would perform for me as well.
In the drugstore I went to in Warsaw city center (Drogeria Natura for my Polish readers), the Catrice section was pretty picked over, and I believe there were only four shades of the Defining Blush on display (their website specifies there are six permanent shades available in total). I have to say that I really, really like the geometric clear acrylic packaging of most Catrice products, and was sorely tempted by the eyeshadows (singles and quads) as well. The plastic case doesn't feel cheaply made or clunky, but I will say that the hinge on my blush doesn't work very well (stops midway and has to be forced a bit), which makes me worried it may break one day. But you know, it could just be a one-off thing.
And look, look at the back label! This blush was actually made in Poland. How cool! By the way, in case you didn't know, Catrice is a sister company to Essence, which is available in the US at Ulta. That makes me hope that maybe, maybe one day Catrice will come to the US as well. Sigh.
To the touch, this Catrice Defining Blush feels incredibly silky smooth, with that buttery texture we all like to fawn over. It definitely does not feel like a very inexpensive product. While I find it very easy to pick up product from the pan, the soft formula isn't powdery in the least. The blurb on the back claims this blush will smooth out minor imperfections, and while I think that's a bit bogus, it doesn't cling to dry patches or scars like some blushes like to do. I'd say the pigmentation is medium (meaning, not so scary pigmented as to require tapping off on the back of my hand, but pigmented enough to require just one or two layers), and the finish is on the skin is a satiny matte. When you look at it in full sunlight, you can see extremely fine shimmer/ pearl particles, but it just translates as a creamy matte on the cheeks.
I know what some of you are going to say - I picked out such a 'Monika shade'! In the store, having read the shade name, I was under the impression it was going to be a pink rose color, but in fact, it's more of a dusty pinky apricot on my complexion. Either way, I love it. With my current fair winter skintone, it gives me a peaches & cream type of look, and pairs incredibly well with the Revlon lipgloss in Coral Reef, which I'm trying to use up (that's what I'm wearing in the photo below).

L-R: Catrice Rose Royce, bareMinerals The One, NYX Mauve, Tarte Dazzled
Compared to my other natural rosy shades, you can clearly see that Catrice Rose Royce has a more peach than browny red undertone. It's the closest to the bareMinerals READY Blush in The One, one of my most favorite blushes in my collection.
Overall, I can't say enough good things about this Catrice Defining Blush. Some of my blogging pals asked me for European product recommendations in the past, and this has now shot to the top of my list. From the beautiful shade, the texture, to the lightweight but longlasting effect on the cheeks, Catrice hit this one out of the ballpark. I probably won't be able to resist a couple more shades next time I'm in Poland! Do you have any firm favorites among brands that are only available in Europe?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Beauty Empties: 1st Quarter of 2015

I can't be moving with this huge pile of garbage, so now is a perfect time to share my quaterly beauty product empties! As usual, there's quite a lot of skincare and bodycare, and a bonus category - things that have long expired and needed to be tossed *sigh*.
I also have this new idea of discussing my 'Use It Up' goals in these empties posts, just to make it seem like this is going in some sort of deliberate direction. Ummm... maybe it is. At any rate, do you enjoy my artistic trash arrangements?
Let's start with skincare - separate reviews are linked where available.
Products I disliked and wouldn't repurchase: Neutrogena Make-up Remover Cleasing Towelettes (I scrubbed my face with these and my make-up didn't even budge), Burt's Bees Hydrating Cream Cleanser (contained sparse scratchy microbeads - thankfully, not made of plastic).
Products I enjoyed, but I'm trying out other things: Eau Thermale Avene Micellar Lotion (click; in short, I prefer cleansing oils to remove my make-up, but it was effective), Dermalogica Multi-Active Toner (alright, nothing special), Emma Hardie Amazing Face Cleansing Balm (click; lovely, but too expensive).
Products I would repurchase (but am probably trying out other things too): First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads (click; already repurchased), TATCHA Gold Camellia Beauty Oil (click, have a back-up), Rock Rose/ Laudanum/ Cistus Hydrosol (have a back-up; fantastic for soothing and diminishing scars, I use it as a spray toner), Dermalogica Gentle Cream Exfoliant (click; really makes a visible difference when you remove it).
Bodycare - I'm especially proud of that bottle of perfume, as it takes me forever to go through a fragrance.
Products I disliked and wouldn't repurchase: The Body Shop Wild Rose Hand Cream (made my hands feel even drier, if that's at all possible. Very very strongly fragranced. I much preferred the Almond version, here).
Products I enjoyed, but I'm trying out other things: De-luxe Shea Butter Hand Cream (sort of similar to the popular L'Occitane hand cream, but much cheaper), L'Occitane Almond Milk Concentrate (I liked how fast the whipped consistency absorbed into my skin, but sometimes it would roll if I rubbed too vigorously), Tokyomilk Dead Sexy EDP, Lush So White Shower Gel (generous gift from Gummy - I wasn't in love with the green apple scent).
Products I would repurchase (but am probably trying out other things too): Aura Cacia Ylang Ylang Essential Oil, Village Naturals Foaming Milk Bath in Vanilla Amber (pleasant scent, lasting bubbles, very inexpensive for a big jug).
Haircare: lots of travel-sized bottles from our trip to Colorado. I've also realized that I go through a can of hairspray once a year, and still have four more in my drawer from the time I worked in a salon. Maybe I should use hairspray more. Or give it all away.
Products I disliked and wouldn't repurchase: Sebastian Trilliance Shine Shampoo and Conditioner (while not terrible, I thought it was too heavy for my fine hair and made it oily sooner than when I use my OGX Biotin & Collagen shampoo).
Products I enjoyed, but I'm trying out other things: Pureology Perfect 4 Platinum Miracle Filler Spray (used it as a detangler; worked okay, pleasant scent), Enjoy Instant Reconstructor (used as a conditioner; didn't notice a dramatic difference but conditioned well), Klorane Dry Shampoo with Oat Milk (alright, don't understand the raves), Sebastain Shaper Hairspray (good dry hairspray with a medium hold).
Make-up! Only two meager products, but I'm really focusing my efforts on the Project Make A Dent 2015. I reviewed the Tarte Lights, Camera, Flashes mascara here, liked it but wouldn't repurchase for now, and you know of my love for these Fresh Sugar Tinted Lip Treatments; I enjoyed Passion, but this time purchased Tulip to replace it (review with swatches coming soon).
Lots and lots of samples... I had even more, but tossed a couple in Colorado - it's pretty silly to travel with empty foil packets. Lots of My Beauty Diary sheet masks, reviewed in detail here. I would repurchase the Bird's Nest and Earl Grey Tea & Macaron varieties, and I loved my sample of Nude Omega Cleansing Jelly - contemplating a full-size purchase.
Lastly, the sad little group of products that expired and had to be tossed before I even made any significant dent in them. I'm a bit cross with myself that things like that still happen in my stash, no doubt because the said stash is way too large for me to manage. Three of these five products were somewhat unnecessary gifts, so at least I don't have myself to blame for purchasing things I didn't need. I've reviewed the Sulfur Ointment here; I just have too many spot treatments on the go at one time, so I didn't get the chance to use this one up (also, it's a huge jar). Ideally, I'd like to only own one spot treatment at any given time - I still have four to go through though -_-

Now, as for my 'Use It Up' goals for the next quarter, I would really, really like to focus on using up, and not purchasing, any back-ups of anything, skincare, haircare, bodycare, you name it. I want to have one product of each type on the go, use it all up, and then purchase a replacement. I would even like to go a few days without something before repurchasing, just to see how I can manage - and possibly use up some samples this way, or multipurpose my things. I am definitely getting to the point where this exercise will even be possible to carry out, as I've managed to downsize my back-ups significantly compared to last year.

I would also like to reduce my stash of sample foil packets and deluxe/ travel-size samples. Realistically, I travel 2-3 times a year. I don't need to hoard 10 minis of face serums and 5 tiny tubes of eyecream for those occasions, especially that I seem to accumulate these samples a lot faster than I can use them up. I'd like to downsize to the point where I have just a few foil packets 'just in case'/ to try out, and just one deluxe mini of each type of product that I can take with me when I travel, or even less than that, since I could easily depot the amount I need into travel containers. I'm thinking of really focusing my efforts on those samples via a separate project/ challenge, possibly in April or May.

And that's it! I'm pretty happy with my continuous progress in downsizing my stash - I have definitely noticed more space in my various cabinets and drawers compared to early last year, and that's fantastic. How are you faring with downsizing your stash? Have you also been focusing on a specific area of your collection?

Monday, March 23, 2015

Minimalist Monday: Marie Kondo's 'The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up' Book Review

Thank you for all the thoughtful comments and suggestions on my previous (and first!) minimalist post; special thanks to the anonymous reader who recommended I read 'The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up' by the Japanese guru of decluttering Marie Kondo. Soon after my post, I saw another blogger mention she was reading it, and the universe converged in my finally ordering it from Amazon (by the way, I did try to be a minimalist and get it from my local library, but I would have to wait for another 500 people to read it before me ;).
I was very eager to start reading it, and I devoured the whole book cover to cover within three days. If you're intending to do the same, I would just caution you against reading it in bed - I couldn't fall asleep, I was so over-stimulated by all the decluttering plans in my head. You're probably here for my answer to the most fundamental question: 'Is it worth reading?'. When I recommended it to my brother, he made a joke along the lines of 'What could be so unique about this particular book, it probably just tells you to get rid of your shit'. Yes, that it does. But to me, it was still absolutely worth reading.

If you've previously heard anything about this book at all, it's probably Marie's quirky catch phrase of 'discarding everything that doesn't spark joy'. To her, that the single criterion what should use in deciding what to keep - because the focus of the book is on things that you choose to keep, not the things you toss. She does elaborate on how exactly one is supposed to arrive at that decision (decluterring the entire living space in one fell swoop, the order of categories of things, emptying all the storage first and spreading things on the floor, taking each piece in one's hands, making the instintive decision quickly, expressing gratitude to your things, sorting them into piles of keepers and trash/donations), but essentially, that's all there is to her method. She also gives practical advice on storage solutions, which are extremely simple, examples of mistakes one could be tempted to make, and lastly, how decluttering your home will 'dramatically transform your life' for the better.

I know what you're thinking right now: 'So, did the book help you declutter and organize your apartment before the move?'. Definitely. I would say I had had a strong need to downsize even before reading her book, and it was the final push I needed to finally make some decisions about our belongings. I methodically went through my clothing, toiletries, books, papers, some sentimental items. Among my drawers, cabinets and files I found completely worn out socks, stained camisoles, clothes both too large and too small, supplements that expired in 2009, expired beauty products, damaged towels and sheets, broken cups, a fondue set we were given at our wedding and haven't used even once (Mr is allergic to cheese), novels I had no intention of reading again, Sephora invoices from online orders made in 2011, a work orientation file from 2008, empty manufacturer's boxes for broken phones that we long stopped using. You guys, I'm a pretty tidy and organized person, and generally know where everything is in my home, and how it's found its way there - but I was baffled. And a bit embarassed. And massively happy to throw those things away.
I did stray somewhat from her principles: I didn't dunk everything out on the floor, I didn't really do everything in one go, I have kept some things that don't spark joy (for now). Which is probably why I'm still finding more things I'd prefer to do without. Just the other day I was sitting in my bathtub, scrubbing the blue dye from my legs thanks to a pair of dark blue jeans that so far have been staining my calves for 5 years, and realized how ridiculous that was. Especially that I have another pair of very similar dark jeans that have never stained anything, fit much better and are more comfy to boot!

One area that I struggled the most with was gifts. I own a large amount of clothing and accessories that were generously given to me by family members and friends. Unfortunately, I don't wear the great majority of them, because they're either not my size or my style, or the friends have since turned to frenemies, and their gifts have very bad juju attached to them. Buuut... they were gifts! Someone spent their hard-earned money on them! What if I get rid of something, and the gift giver later asks if I'm still enjoying the present? Here's the quote from the book that resonated with me the most: 'The true purpose of a present is to be received. Presents are not "things" but a means of conveying someone's feelings. When viewed from this perspective, you don't need to feel guilty for parting with a gift. Just thank it for the joy it gave you when you first received it.'

I would say that overall, I tossed at least five garbage bags worth of stuff, and donated another five to Salvation Army. While I could attempt to recuperate the cost of some of my items by selling them to a consignment store or on eBay, I have neither time nor the energy to do that - and I realize it would be a very long process, which I can't have, as we're moving this week. Now, our belongings are still not at the point where they could be even remotely considered minimalist, but I'm okay with that. For now, it's enough for me to know that I am using, and ENJOYING, the things I've decided to keep.

One important point of the book that I have a bit of a problem with is how the followers of the Konmari Method never rebound, never go back to cluttering their lives and homes with extraneous stuff again. Even though I can now see a lot more clearly what I own and love (thanks to having less and the vertical folding method), I still feel the desire to shop for just a few more things to 'complete' my wardrobe. I have since been reading more books about minimalist/ simple living, and they touch on that problem in more detail; I'm thinking of devoting a separate post to that issue, and the solutions that have been keeping me from shopping for more. Let me know it that's something you'd be interested in; or maybe a tour of the closet, once we settle into our new apartment? I'm full of ideas!

Have you read 'The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up'? Have you already applied the Konmari Method to your belongings? Please share your experiences in the comments!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

My Spring Make-up Palette

Happy second day of spring, beautiful readers! Can you already feel it coming? Last year, after experiencing the season on the East Coast for the first time, I bitched and moaned that New York didn't get any spring at all - it was just bitterly cold, then grey and rainy, then straight onto summer. But you know what, this year, even though it's still rather chilly and nothing at all is blooming yet except for my house orchids, I feel the change in the air, in the angle of sunlight, in my energy levels. I'm ready for warmer weather!
Taking a page from Gummy's book, I decided to shop my own stash for some spring-themed make-up. I'm all about the de riguer springtime shades like pastels and peachy pinks, because they suit my fair complexion very well. Nearly all of the products featured here have been previously discussed and reviewed in detail, so... Let's just feast our eyes on some cheery product shots, shall we?
For the eyes, I obviously had to whip out my Shiseido Luminizing Satin Eye Color Trio in BL215 Static - I don't own another eyeshadow palette that's more perfect for the season than this one, and as a bonus, it can be layered over different eye bases for a variety of looks. To be completely honest, I rarely do that though; I prefer to use these shades as accents in the inner corners of my eyes or along the lower lashline. I basically plan to use bareMinerals Eye Color in Celery, Fyrinnae Electric Stardust and When I Grow Up, as well as MAC Satin Eyeshadow in Heroine, a beautiful periwinkle blue, in the same way, or to add interest to a pencil eyeliner, like the NYX Slide On in Pretty Violet, on the upper lashline. Laura Mercier Caviar Stick in Sugar Frost can add some dimension via its angelic champagne sparkle to any eye look I decide to create.
L-R: Laura Mercier Sugar Frost, NYX Slide On in Pretty Violet, Fyrinnae When I Grow Up, MAC Heroine, Fyrinnae Electric Stardust, bareMinerals Celery
Nothing groundbreaking on the lips, but I was happy to be reminded of the gorgeous texture of Shu Uemura Rouge Unlimited Supreme Shine in PK331 and the Giorgio Armani Rouge d'Armani Sheers in Coral, both sheer, lightweight, comfortable, glossy formulas. To balance out the high-end stuff, I also threw the Covergirl Lip Perfection Jumbo Gloss Balm in Watermelon Twist into my current make-up basket. Since all of these products give off intense shine on the lips, I didn't really need a gloss, but I always enjoy wearing the Clarins Instant Light Lip Perfector in Rose Shimmer.

L-R: Covergirl Watermelon Twist, Clarins Lip Perfector in Rose Shimmer, Shu Uemura Supreme Shine PK331, Giorgio Armani Sheers in Coral 301
For blush, I was really feeling The Face Shop Pastel Cushion Blusher in Coral Cushion and the NYX Powder Blush in Pinky. The first is a bit too sheer, the other a bit too pigmented, but the effect of both once applied is that of a youthful, glowy cheek. No arm swatches, because... lazy.
The consequence of taking these extreme face close-ups is not only realizing you have stray brow hairs that need plucking and freckles even on your browbone, but also feeling the odd detachment of your own face looking alien to yourself.
For this Face of the Day, I kind of took the 'all the things, all at the same time' approach to feature as many products as I could combine in action, but on a normal day (who am I kidding, what is a normal day?!), I'd only reach for a couple of products from my spring palette and pair them with some boring neutrals. For the eyes, I used Laura Mercier Sugar Frost on the lid with some lighter brown to add definition to the crease, and lined my upper lashline with a dark eggplant eyeliner (Urban Decay Rockstar from my Project Make A Dent), layering NYX Pretty Violet over the top on the inner half of my eyes. I love how that turned out!
On the lower lashline, I combined MAC Heroine and Fyrinnae When I Grow Up, with Electric Stardust in the very inner corner. The rest of my face is a standard base of Face Atelier Ultra Foundation in Procelain set with MUFE HD Powder (Project MAD again), some light bronzing courtesy of The Body Shop Honey Bronzing Powder, NYX Pinky on the cheeks and Shu Uemura PK331 on the lips. Clearly, I don't match my make-up to my outfits, because all of these cool tones look rather clashy against my red sweater. ANYWAY.

Which products out of your make-up stash do you always bring out for spring? Have you bought any pieces from spring collections this year? Or do you abhorr pastels and impatiently look forward to the warm summer shades?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Sensitive Skin SOS: REN Evercalm Gentle Cleansing Milk

For the past couple of years, I've been working on eliminating foaming face washes from my skincare routine, and I couldn't be happier with the results. I feel that my combination skin has become more balanced, hydrated and even; but sometimes I still struggle with lots of irritation and redness when cleansing my face. Which is why I've decided to give the REN Evercalm Gentle Cleansing Milk ($28 for 5.1 fl oz./ 150ml) a try, having liked their Clearcalm Clay Cleanser in the past.
The packaging is a standard REN vacuum pump bottle: functional, hygenic, aesthetically pleasing. Mind you, you won't be able to get every last drop from this cleanser - the product itself is housed in sort of a clear plastic bag inside the bottle, so it can be a bit difficult to judge how much cleanser remains inside when you're running low.
This Gentle Cleansing Milk is aimed at sensitive skin as well as skin affected by pollution, which as a dweller of one of the biggest concrete jungles in the world, I classify as on both accounts. It contains omega acids to nourish as well as calendula and fennel seed to soothe. The texture of this cleanser is somewhere between a cream and a milk - softer and easier to spread that something like Clarins Extra Comfort Cleansing Cream, but not as liquidy as your typical make-up removing milk. It does have an herbal scent that first reminded me of rosemary, but I suppose it's probably the fennel seed.
I have been using the Evercalm Cleansing Milk for about a monh now, and I'm really enjoying it. I did buy it knowing that most likely, it wouldn't have amazing make-up removing properties (and it doesn't - won't make a dent in waterproof mascara and eyeliner, but is sufficient to get rid of eyebrows and a bit of powder/ concealer), although it works perfectly as a morning cleanser or a second cleanse at night (on days I wear make-up, I use a cleansing oil to remove it first and follow up with the REN). It feels very silky and nourishing on my skin, and once I swipe it off using a warm washcloth, my skin isn't aggravated in the least, which often happens when I attempt to thoroughly cleanse my face. It leaves my face quite moisturized too (even compared to a solid cleansing balm like the Emma Hardie Moringa balm), but I wouldn't say there's a residue or a film - just calm, clean, happy skin.

I will always strive to have a more natural cream/ milk/ balm cleanser in my routine, as I've found they work the best on my skin. I'm not sure if I'll repurchase the REN once it runs out (I have my eye on a cream cleanser from Andalou Naturals next), but it's a great product. On a different note, I don't know how I feel about the fact that Unilever has recently bought out REN - I guess it makes me a teeny bit sad, but we can only wait and see what changes that will bring when it comes to the product line. What cleanser are you using currently? Do you have separate ones for morning and evening routines?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Killer Cheekbones: Inglot HD Sculpting Powder in 504

I can't quite wrap my head around the huge popularity of different contouring palettes that make-up brands have been coming out with in the past couple of months. Not only do they seem majorly too ORANGE to me, but really, why does an ordinary woman doing her own make-up need a whole palette to contour her face? To me, you only need one, ONE contouring powder that really suits your skintone for all your sculpting needs. All those other shades included in the palettes? Soon, you're probably going to wonder why you spent the extra $$$ for the untouched pans and bulky packaging.
Anyway, rant over. It's not that I'm against contouring - IF you know what you're doing, which isn't all that easy in itself. For the longest time, I've been quite satisfied with only one contouring product in my stash, the famous NYX Powder Blush in Taupe. But, on a recent trip to the Inglot store, I've noticed they came out with a whole new range of HD Sculpting Powders ($15 for 5.5g/ 0.19 oz), and I grabbed the shade 504 to try out.
In the store I went to in Warsaw, they had a lot more shades on display than the five available on the US website, ranging from highlighting shades (including the popular banana/ yellow shades) to contouring shades, divided into warm, neutral and cool undertones. I thought that was super helpful, but I was surprised to see that for skin with a cool undertone, they only had one shade available (yes, the no. 504), where for skin with warm undertones, they had at least five shades in different depth, depending on whether your skintone is light or dark. It made me feel that cool undertones were being marginalized; but on the other hand, it made my decision process a lot easier.

The HD Scultping Powders are available in the Freedom System, meaning that you have to purchase the refills and the palette separately. I only got the refill pan, intending to keep it in my Z-Palette. The product itself is unscented and has a smooth satin finish in the pan; under fluorescent lights especially, you can see teeny tiny particles of shimmer running through the powder. That worried me from the start - aren't we always told that contouring products have to be matte? However, a helpful sales associate explained to me that on the skin, you can't see any of the shimmer, and the satin formula translates into a natural, flawless (HD?) look. I decided to trust her on that one (which I rarely do...), and for once, yes, she was absolutely right.
The actual texture of the powder is very similar to the Inglot matte eyeshadow formula, meaning: silky, creamy, quite loosely packed (but doesn't kick up as much powder as the eyeshadows). In my swatches however, you can see that it's less pigmented than the Matte Eyeshadow no. 344, which means it's easier to control and blend seamlessly into the skin. I really like the formula of this HD Sculpting Powder: it looks virtually undetectable on and just melds into the skin.
L-R: Inglot Sculpting Powder no. 504, NYX Powder Blush in Taupe, Benefit Hoola Bronzer, Inglot Matte Eyeshadow no. 344, Rouge Bunny Rouge Matt Eyeshadow in Chestnut Napped Appalis
As for the shade I've chosen, I do think it works well on my fair skin with a cool undertone. Hopefully, you can see in my photos that 504 pulls almost mauvey/ rosy, which manages to look like a natural shadow on the skin without pulling too ashy. It's not miles away from the NYX Taupe blush, but I do prefer the formula of Inglot's. I'm pretty happy with this purchase: it has satisfied my need to ride the contouring bandwagon, but without spending an arm and a leg in the process, or adding a large palette to my already bursting make-up drawers.
What do you think of the contouring & highlighting trend? Have you bought any of the newly released sets and palettes, or do you have an eye on one in particular? Or are you too scared of ending up looking like Kim K?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Capsule Collection: How to Make the Most of Your Make-up Stash

I haven't mentioned this anywhere (mostly to avoid making it official), but I'm on a no buy this month; and similarly, I only bought one puny make-up product last month. I've been really focusing on what I already have instead, and trying to make some progress on my new Project Make A Dent 2015. I've been pretty happy channeling minimalist vibes lately, and experimenting with maximizing some of my favorite products - and so I've come up with some general tips on how to make the most out of your existing make-up stash, also known as 'how to use the same products again and again without getting bored out of your mind'.
I'll be illustrating my ideas with some face shots, in which I'm wearing the lip products from my Project Make A Dent line-up, just to show you different ways I've been using them and to hopefully inspire you to try something new with your products, regardless of whether you're trying to hit pan or just have fun with what you own. I've included some quick swatches of the three products I'm using so you could see how they change depending on the application method:
L-R: Inglot Gel Lipstick no. 58, Revlon Superlustrous Lipgloss in Coral Reef, Michael Todd Creme Glace Lipgloss in Natural
1. Experiment with using different tools. The easiest example here is foundation, which can look completely different depending on how you  apply it: with your fingers, a brush, a damp Beautyblender. Case in point: Face Atelier Ultra Foundation, the base I'm currently trying to use up, has a lot more coverage and a more matte finish when used with a RealTechniques buffing brush compared to when I use it with my damp sponge, which sheers it out and makes it look more dewy. But you could also apply this principle to products like pencil eyeliner (a neat line against the lashline, smudged out with a pencil brush, winged out using an angled liner brush) or your lip products (a lipstick applied straight from the bullet, or using a lip brush, or just patted on with a finger - like the Inglot no. 58 in the photo below).
2. Try layering your products. I think this one is the most obvious, but I've noticed that I often forget about this simple idea when I get stuck in a rut of wearing a given product one way; for example, I only used to wear Revlon Superlustrous Lipgloss in Coral Reef on its own, but it's actually very pretty on top of pink lipsticks (in the photo, layered over a thin layer of Inglot no. 58).
You can layer your lipsticks not only with glosses but also lip pencils (in the photo below, Inglot no. 58 worn over NYX Lip liner in Deep Purple), sandwich foundations between primers, powders and even setting mists, blend powder eyeshadows over creams, and then top with glitter for more dimension. I find that layering can also be a saving grace for items that start out as fails, like maybe a liquid foundation that just won't last except for when paired with a primer, or a mascara that looks like nothing on but can be used as the first separating coat before a more dramatic formula.
3. In a similar vein, give mixing products a go. Again, mixing foundations is a prime example here: you could combine two different liquids when you're not entirely satisfied with the shade match/ finish/ lasting power, or even try mixing foundation with moisturizer or primer. You could also try to mix eyeshadow pigments, or different lip glosses - sky is the limit.

4. Have fun with different techniques and placements. By placement, I mean different shapes and areas of applying product to your face - I find that tutorials from Japanese beauty mags, like the ones Driveller Kate and Claire used to blog about, are the best source of placement inspiration for me. Like, who knew you could apply blush to your cheeks according to the letters of the alphabet! But if you're not that adventurous, I think eyes are the easiest feature to play up while experimenting with placements: a horizontal smokey eye from the lashline up, a traditional Western smokey eye with the darker outer corner, cut crease, defined inner crease, winged eyeliner in a multiple of shapes, tightlining and lining the waterline, smudging out and or extending the lower lashline, highlighting the inner corners in various ways. Recently, I've also been really into subtle gradient/ ombre lips, like in the photo below, where I used the tiniest dab of Inglot no. 58 in the centre of the lips and blended it out with the Michael Todd Creme Glace Lipgloss in Natural:
5. Learn to multipurpose your products. We've all heard of using lipstick as cream blush, but maybe there are other ways you haven't thought about? I frequently use a cool brown eyeshadow as a brow powder, dab cheek highlighters to brighten up the inner corners of my eyes, define my crease with a bronzer, or use my NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer as an eye primer. I've even tried using my Project MAD pencil eyeliners as cream eyeshadow bases but alas, they're not really suited to that task. At any rate, it's fun to see what you can think of just to shake things up!
Do you guys like experimenting with different ways of using the products in your stash, or is it something not really worth the effort in your opinion? I generally enjoy playing around with what I have, but when I'm pressed for time, I usually just take the road most traveled. What are your top tips for maximizing your collection, or best ideas on using things up? I'd love to know!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Luminous Matte: Bourjois 123 Perfect CC Cream in 31 Ivory Review

I have a soft spot for Bourjois foundations, there's no denying it. A long discontinued mattifying foundation from Bourjois was the first base I ever bought with my own money, and I still can't resist browsing their new releases when I visit Poland every year.
I've heard some good things here and there about the new-ish Bourjois 123 Perfect CC Cream ($18.50 for 1 oz/ 30 ml on ASOS, cheaper on Amazon or eBay), so I didn't hesitate long when I spotted it on sale - I obviously grabbed the lightest shade in the range of four, 31 Ivory. The foundation comes in a sleek squishy tube with a small spout; not particularly unique, but functional and lightweight for travel. The packaging promises luminous and smooth skin with the help of three corrective pigments: apricot to cancel out fatigue, green to eliminate redness, white to help with hyperpigmentation. It also contains SPF 15.
The foundation itself is a rather liquidy consistency (I've had some spill out on the inside of the cap when I was traveling, unfortunately) and a sweet perfumey scent - I believe all of Bourjois bases are rather heavily fragranced. Thanks to the thin, slightly siliconey texture, it spreads out and blends into the skin very easily, be it with fingers, brush or a sponge.
I'd say the coverage is a perfect medium: it can be both sheered out, especially with a damp Beautyblender, or built up in layers to be more opaque. The finish is very skin like, a luminous matte/ satin that so many brands are favoring these days, which is my preference as well. It's not as lightweight and undiscernible as my favorite Koh Gen Do Aqua Foundation, but doesn't sit on top of the skin either. It doesn't pool in pores or settle into fine lines, and it's quite forgiving on dry flakes too; however, if you have a dry skin type, I think it may have a tendency to look a bit flat.

On my combination skin, it lasts reasonably well; I still get shiny on my forehead and nose after about 4 hours, but the foundation doesn't completely break down and melt off the face, even in extreme weather conditions (I've tested it while skiing and snowboarding). My dry areas also don't look dehydrated or cakey by the end of the day, a big plus.
L-R: Bourjois CC Cream in 31 Ivory, Estee Lauder Double Wear Light in Intensity 1, Revlon Colorstay in Ivory, NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer in Chantilly
My biggest issue with this CC Cream, which I kinda expected from my previous experiences with Bourjois bases, is the color match. At the moment, it's at least a shade too dark for my fair skin, and it does have a bit of an orange undertone (is that the apricot pigment at work?), unlike the Bourjois Healthy Mix Serum in 51 for example, which pulled very yellow. Once I sheer the CC Cream out and blend onto my neck carefully, I can just about get away with it, but 31 Ivory will be much better suited to summer months for me.
Bourjois CC Cream in Ivory applied to a freshly moisturized bare face, no concealer, no powder. It looks quite glowy but not greasy, cancels out redness well, but some of my freckles, marks and blemishes are still showing through.
Overall, I think that Bourjois 123 Perfect CC Cream is a solid foundation for everyday wear, especially if you can find a good shade match in the very limited shade range. However, it's not absolutely miraculous or anything, so if you can't get hold of Bourjois products easily (like us here in the US), I wouldn't go out of my way to purchase it. I've been enjoying it, but once my tube runs out, I most likely won't repurchase. Have you tried this? Or are you completely over the BB, CC and DD marketing trend?

Friday, March 6, 2015

Asian Skincare Reviews: 5 My Beauty Diary Sheet Masks

I think of My Beauty Diary masks as the grand daddy of the sheet mask trend, especially for us in the Western hemisphere. Sure, there may be newer and better things out on the market these days, but it's still fun to try some of the classics. I have a selection of five different masks to review for you today: Apple Polyphenol, Bird's Nest, Mixed Berry, Bulgarian White Rose and Earl Grey Tea & Macaron.
Obviously, My Beauty Diary makes more varieties than just these 5, and you can either buy them individually or in a pack of 10, which is the more cost-effective option. The prices differ depending on where you purchase and range from just over $1 to $3 per mask. I find that eBay offers the best deals on these Taiwanese masks, but they're also available on Amazon, and I've even found them at Walmart online.
The Apple Polyphenol Mask claims to be brightening, clarifying as well as pore-tightening, and contains aloe vera and lemon, apple & sugar cane extracts. This one came with enough essence for two uses for me personally, so that's always a plus; what I do if I have enough essence left over for second use is I just fold the mask and put it back in the packet, secure the open top with a clip and pop it in the fridge between uses so that it doesn't dry out.

I don't have much to report about this particular variety: it moisturized a little, it brightened a little, it wasn't particularly soothing, which is possibly my favorite result I usually get from these sheet masks. The mask had a pleasant green apple scent, so if you like that, it feels quite refreshing. It was alright, but I wouldn't go out of my way for this variety.
Here's a little trivia for you, if you're quite confused about why you would want some bird's nest on your face. I assume that 'the bird's nest complex' that's supposed to be in this Bird's Nest Sheet Mask is in fact the key ingredient in a popular Chinese delicacy, bird's nest soup. The edible nests used to make the soup are built by little birds called swiftlets, which weave strands of their own saliva to form the nest. I know, you're welcome.

Apart from bird spit, the mask also contains glycerin, a hefty dose of hyaluronic acid, red and brown algae, gotu kola extract, rice and soy protein as well as aloe vera juice. The mask is completely saturated in a runny essence, so much so that I found some of the liquid dripping of my face while the mask is on; there's definitely enough product to be able to use this mask twice. I loved the effect of this one: my skin was noticeably plumper, brighter and more hydrated, and the scent was faintly soapy and pleasant. Big thumbs up!
The Mixed Berry Mask contains extracts of blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and other fruit, as well as brightening arbutin, hyaluronic acid, green tea and squalane. It's aimed at all skintypes but particularly dry. I don't have much to say about this mask - it was just okay. It had that artifical fruity candy scent to it, which I didn't enjoy, and I found that it didn't soothe or moisturize as well as some other varieties. I'd skip this one in the future.
The Bulgarian White Rose Mask claims to be whitening/ brightening as well as soothing and contains Bulgarian rose hydrosol (flower water), licorice and kiwi to help diminish hyperpigmentation, and cucumber and aloe to hydrate the skin. In theory, it sounds ideal for my dehydrated skin with post-inflammatory marks and scars, but in reality, I thought it was just okay. It had a subtle floral scent and less essence than the Bird's Nest variety. It did make my skin feel more hydrated and look more even, but I saw more noticeable results after using the Bird's Nest Mask.
The Earl Grey Tea and Macaron Sheet Mask does not, in fact, smell of macarons, which was somewhat disappointing - but it does have a subtle Earl Grey Tea scent with its refreshing bergamot note; as an avid black tea drinker, this scent was my absolute favorite. This mask is supposed to have an illuminating and clarifying effect, and contains black tea ferment, bergamot essential oil, sugar cane and fruit extracts, and sweet almond protein. The fiber mask is nicely soaked in essence (but drips a bit from the chin) and feels very cooling on the skin.

I left this one on for a bit longer (30 minutes versus 20) and used my fingertips to lightly tap the surface of the mask while it sat on my skin, and I have to say nearly all of the essence absorbed into my skin. When I removed the mask, my face was so much more even in tone that I thought it looked whiter, as weird as this sounds. My pores also seemed a bit tighter. At first, the remaining layer of the essence felt a bit tacky, but it absorbed into a velvety smooth finish in a couple minutes. I really really liked this one! Maybe it wasn't as hydrating as the Bird's Nest, but the brightening effect was amazing.

I hope this review was even remotely helpful for you; My Beauty Diary sheet masks are definitely a good place to start if you're new to Asian masks, and choosing from all the different varieties (Black Pearl! Broccoli! Luffa! Sake Yeast!) is at least half the fun. Have you tried any masks from My Beauty Diary? Which ones are your favorite?

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Succulence of Dew: Rouge Bunny Rouge Sheer Lipstick in Dissolved in Dreams

Even though I'm trying hard to be good and not buy any make-up this month, I still have a lot of new products waiting to be tested and reviewed, so worry not, there's going to be plenty of things to talk about. The Rouge Bunny Rouge Succulence of Dew Sheer Lipstick in Dissolved in Dreams ($24 for 3.8 g) is one of such backburner products; I've had it sitting unopened for... maybe a year and a half.
Since I got it as a gift with purchase with a Beautyhabit order all this time ago, the packaging has been redesigned slightly - it's an all black tube now. This lipstick is a prime example of why I should not make orders based on the free gift: as it turns out, I absolutely did not need it. Lesson learnt; but now that it's in my stash, at least I can churn out some verbiage and photos for your benefit.
Not that it's a bad product; I just don't really care for it personally, for a number of reasons. First, it's not really that sheer, which is what I was hoping for. Secondly, and most importantly, the shade I have, Dissolved in Dreams (008) is a 'shiny watermelon with a silver shimmer'. This short description reveals two big problems: not only do I have watermelon lipsticks up the wazoo, but that silver shimmer? It's LARGE particles of shimmer verging on microglitter. Which I do not appreciate in my lip products.
The formula itself is nothing outstanding, and together with the glittery finish, really reminds me of some of the Revlon Lip Butters, particularly something like Peach Parfait. Despite the fact that the untouched bullet of the Rouge Bunny Rouge looks nearly matte in my close-ups, the lipstick is quite slippy and glossy, and unfortunately tends to gather both in vertical lip lines as well as around dry skin.
It does wear comfortably on the lips and I have to admit that it feels very smooth - no grittiness from those silver shimmer particles. However, it also transfers and wears off very easily, as most sheer lipsticks are wont to do - and then you have to deal with one of the main reasons I dislike glitter in lip products, which is that weird ring of sparkly bits around your mouth that persists long after the color itself has disappeared from your lips. It feels moisturizing while on the lips, but doesn't leave my lips any more hydrated by the end of the day; nor moisturizing nor drying per se.
L-R: Rouge Bunny Rouge Dissolved in Dreams, MAC Viva Glam Cyndi, YSL Pink Grenadine, MAC Jest
And again, how in the world I am able to buy the same shade of lipstick over and over again from all different brands is beyond me. Rouge Bunny Rouge Dissolved in Dreams is the most similar to the discontinued MAC Viva Glam in Cyndi, although the latter is in fact more sheer, less coral and lacks the annoying microglitter. It has a comparable level of warmth to another discontinued shade, YSL Pink Grenadine, but it's a much glossier formula. It's also quite close to one of my newer acquisitions, Guerlain Rouge G in Georgia. And probably another fifty lipsticks in my stash. WHY.
So there you go - I think it pulls a bit coral red on me, but I'm guessing it could pull a bit more pink on someone with a warmer skintone. I haven't quite made my mind up yet if I want to keep it as a back-up to Viva Glam Cyndi, or if I'd prefer to pass it on to someone who may love it more than I do. Have you tried any of the Rouge Bunny Rouge lip products? What are your thoughts?