Thursday, April 30, 2015

Spring Interlude: Brooklyn Botanic Garden

It's been a long, long winter in New York City; and while I eagerly await first signs of warmer weather every spring, I feel that this year especially I'm craving the sight of delicate blooms and verdant branches. So when the weather turned much more pleasant this week, I decided to go see whether Japanese cherry trees were already blossoming in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and I took my DSLR with me.
I couldn't help feeling a little disappointed when it turned out that the beautiful Cherry Walk was not yet in bloom. I brought my current book with me and imagined lounging in the shade of the trees with pink petals showering down in the gentle breeze, but that was sadly not to be the case; also because the Garden was rather crowded on the free admission Tuesday, and finding a peaceful spot would have been quite challenging.
I soon however forgot all about my disappointment, because in fact many cherry trees were in bloom in other parts of the Garden, as well as magnificent magnolias, fragile violets, fragrant narcissi and hyacinths, bright tulips and many more spring-time flowers I can't name.
Blooming cherry and apple trees hold a lot of precious memories for me. Every year in the springtime, when my family drove from Warsaw to Łódź to visit my grandparents, we passed Łowicz on the way, which is the heart of the main fruit bearing region in Poland. We would leisurely drive by the orchards bathed in white and pastel pink, and point out the most beautiful trees to each other, looking forward to warm sunny days and summer holidays.
My parents now have their own garden at the back of the house, and every year they cross their fingers and hope that the overnight ground frost doesn't destroy the delicate buds on the magnolia tree. And you know what? Fortunately, this year it didn't, and their magnolia has more blooms than ever; they showed me the pink tree when we talked on Skype last week. Usually, spring comes to New York City a lot earlier than to Warsaw, but this year it seems that we're on about the same schedule, as magnolias are also in full bloom at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.
My mom loves taking close-up photos of various flowers and plants, and when I saw the amazing variety of tulips at the Graden, I just couldn't help myself. How striking is this dark purple tulip with the hints of indigo blue at the very center?
I hope you enjoyed taking a stroll through the Garden with me, especially if you're currently stuck behind a desk as you're reading this, or the weather in your part of the world is cold and dreary - maybe this little glimpse of sunshine and greenery cheered you up a little bit. We'll be back to regularly scheduled beauty programming shortly :)

Monday, April 27, 2015

Minimalist Monday: Into the Heart of Darkness

Belying this extremely dramatic post title, this is just a simple update on how I've been doing in my minimalist explorations in the past month or so. In short: we've moved, we've unpacked, we're enjoying the new apartment and neighborhood. Despite my anxiety over the size of the kitchen and closets in NYC rentals, our new place actually has a bigger kitchen than we've had previously, and a small walk-in closet in the bedroom - it's the first time I've ever had one at my disposal! Granted, it's currently mostly taken up by sports equipment of various shape and purpose, but still really, really fantastic to contain miscellaneous clutter.

So, maybe I shouldn't have panicked about all our stuff, and started getting rid of things because I was worried about being able to fit into the new space (I most definitely shouldn't have - for that specific reason). But you know what? I'm still really, really glad that I did all that decluttering; I can honestly say that I haven't missed a single thing I discarded. What's more, I've actually been decluttering after the move as well - maybe not on such a grand scale as before, but a little here and there every week, and I believe that it continues to make a big difference to our home and my stress levels.

Since that first post, I've made a concentrated effort to familiarize myself with the principles of minimalism, and most importantly, the practical application of those principles in everyday life. I've now read quite a few minimalist and simple living books and subscribed to a couple of minimalist channels on YouTube, and I feel that I'm much better informed than I was even a month ago. When I started my big pre-move purge, I was under the impression that being a minimalist entailed a very strict set of rules, like 'You can only own an X number of clothing items', 'Your skincare routine can't be more than three products', 'Your living space needs to be clean, simple and mostly bare' - and it just didn't seem to fit my lifestyle. But in truth, none of the resources I've turned to advocated any such rules at all - because minimalism isn't a set of rules to follow, it's a mindset, a shift in perspective.

The minimalist mindset is about having MORE of what you love, and none of the things that you don't - and it doesn't just encompass material possesions. Many of the books I've read, in addition to giving tips on purging your closets and streamlining your bathrooom, discussed subjects such as work planning and organization, personal commitments, goal achievement, or even healthy diets. It seems that you can apply the concepts of minimalism to just about any area of your life, to help bring into focus what matters most to you, and stop worrying about the things you don't care about.

Which brings me nicely to the reason for the dramatic title: in order to develop that minimalist point of view, one needs to decide what it is exactly that matters most to them, what they love the most. I don't know about you guys, but it's been proving quite difficult for me - I'm a bit prone to over-analyzing things anyway, but since the beginning of my minimalist experiment, it seems that I'm starting to question anything and everything.

How many pairs of socks does a person need to function comfortably? Could I get away with just one cocktail dress for all my formal occasions? How many different snacks should I keep in the cupboard before I stop remembering what's actually in there? Could I own just one pair of casual sandals, since summer season is so short here? Would it feel better not to have any back-up toiletries under the bathroom sink? What are my daily priorities? What have I been neglecting and what have I been overindulging in? Which unnecessary activities are taking precious time out of my day, which things would I like to spend more time on?

To be honest, it's been a bit exhausting trying to figure out all these things for myself; trying to find a balance between what is too much and what's not enough in each area of my life. Which is mostly why I've been feeling a bit uninspired to blog lately - well, that, and the fact that I haven't actually been trying very many new products lately. So if you have any beauty-related post requests, I'd be forever grateful if you cared to type them down below; I have lots of minimalist post ideas floating around, but I understand that it's not everyone's cup of tea, so I'd prefer to space that content out a bit for you guys.

But in general, I feel that I'm moving in the right direction, and it's been good to do a bit of soul-searching and gain some introspective insight about myself, my preferences, priorities, passions. In terms of material stuff, I've found that I get overwhelmed very easily by the size of my wardrobe, and as I'm donating more and more of my clothing, I'm happier about what I have and the outfits I put together from what's left. There are some gaps in my closet, but I've also been trying not to go out and purchase a lot of new things all at once - just a couple things each month, again, so that I'm more mindful about my possesions. It's also becoming easier now to get rid of things I really don't like: a weird pink mug (I don't like pink!), an ugly glass sculpture I once got as a gift, a type of candy I never eat, an ill-fitting bra. It really does feel so much better to only surround yourself with things that are beautiful, or at least useful.

How are you guys doing with your spring cleaning or general decluttering? I was talking to Kar Yi the other day about the minimalist books I've been reading, and she remarked that minimalism has now become a trend and everyone is 'purging'. I however believe that yes, while everyone seems to be getting rid of their old unwanted stuff, that's where it ends for most people - it's not at all about changing one's point of view and habits, and few people are trying to make a lasting change in their lives. What do you guys think?

Friday, April 24, 2015

Cult Classics: Pixi Beauty Glow Tonic Review

For about past year and a half, I've been religious about using an acid exfoliant in the form of a liquid (toner) or saturated pads twice a day. You may remember that First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads made it into my 2014 Best Beauty Buys, and I still use and love them; I do think however that your skin can get used to a given acid combination, and it's important to switch things around a bit to keep seeing the result. Which is why I purchased the immensely popular Pixi Glow Tonic ($29 for 250ml/ 8.25 fl oz) when I spotted it on BOGO sale late last year.
There's not much to say about the actual product: it's incredibly simple, both in packaging design and the ingredients (low concentration of glycolic acid - 5% in an aloe vera and witch hazel base). Belly, who recommended the Glow Tonic to me, thinks the scent is a bit botanical, but it really reminds me of generic toiletries one finds in a hotel bathroom - not unpleasant though. Partially because of the added fragrance, Beautypedia gave the Glow Tonic a really low rating, reasoning that it wasn't gentle or suitable for sensitive skin, and while your personal mileage may vary, I've found the opposite to be true on my easily irritated skin. The consistency is liquid like water, and like water, it aborbs immediately with absolutely no greasy or sticky residue, which has been an issue for me with Paula's Choice BHA liquid exfoliant and the Peter Thomas Roth Un-Wrinkle Pads (reviewed here).

I've been using my bottle for about a month now, and I'm very happy with the results (btw, it seems that a bottle this size should last me about 6 months). First of all, I get absolutely no irritation, stinging or redness whatsoever when using the Glow Tonic - I don't want to have well exfoliated face at the expense of angry skin or a rash. In fact, it's so gentle and refreshing that I love using it in the mornings, especially after a gym session - it just feels like my face is being cleansed and soothed at the same time.

However, sometimes the problem with extra gentle exfoliants is that they don't actually do anything, am I right? That's fortunately not the case with the Glow Tonic. I have noticed less overall congestion and breakouts recently, and at the same time, I have a lot less surface dehydration (dry flakes and lines). This translates to a more even, glowy complexion that's also prepped well for make-up application.
You know what guys, there haven't been many times in my life when I could have said this, but I'm currently pretty happy with my skin. If you're a long-time reader, you know that I've been struggling with acne and excessive oilies for years now - we're talking close to 15 years. But since the beginning of this year, my skin has been gradually improving, and I think gentle daily exfoliation is one of the bigger contributing factors. Let me know if you'd be interested in a separate post discussing things that helped the clarity of my skin - I realize a lot of you also struggle with pesky breakouts, clogged pores, uneven texture AND dry flakes all the same time. Maybe some of the things I've been trying would be helpful to you as well.

What do you use to exfoliate your skin? Do you prefer gentle exfoliants used more often, or something stronger once a week? I actually do both; use my Pixi Glow Tonic in the morning and the First Aid Beauty Pads in the evening, but once a week, I dig out an exfoliating mask and follow it up with Dr. Wu Mandelic Acid Serum, reviewed here. Let me know if you have any product recommendations, I'm always on the lookout for a good chemical exfoliant!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Grey Pearl Dupe? Kiko Long Lasting Eyeshadow Stick no. 25

Oh, my never ending obsession with cream eyeshadow sticks - I don't even know myself what I'm looking for anymore, because I've sure already found more than enough stellar formulas. But somehow I felt compelled to get a Kiko Milano Long Lasting Stick 8 Hour No Transfer Eyeshadow ($12 for 1.64g/ 0.05 oz) in the shade number 25, one of the most popular products from the brand. At the time of purchase at the Kiko store in Queens, my thinking was that 25 seemed very similar to one of my all-time favorite eyeshadow crayons, the Laura Mercier Caviar Stick in Grey Pearl, reviewed here, but at less than half the price. So... is it all that similar?
Shade-wise, no. Formula-wise, it comes pretty close. Starting with the packaging, the Laura Mercier and Kiko twist-up pencils are nearly identical; the plastic on the Kiko's stick is more of a matte finish and feels maybe a touch less expensive, but that's about it. The texture of the Kiko's cream eyeshadow is very smooth and creamy, although compared to Laura Mercier's Grey Pearl, it seems a bit thicker, but just as easy to blend out. The level of pigmentation and staying power on my oily lids (both pencils are waterproof) are about the same. Mind you, not all Laura Mercier's Caviar Sticks share the same texture; for example, the shade Sugar Frost is more glittery and less opaque than my Grey Pearl - also, from what I remember swatching at the Kiko store, there was some textural variation between these Long Lasting Sticks as well.
As for the shade, it turns out that no. 25 and Grey Pearl are actually quite a bit different; which is a good thing for me personally, because I'm a bit tired of purchasing the same shades over and over again. No. 25 is a more matte/ subtle satin finish than Grey Pearl, which almost has a slight duochrome shift of silvery grey over a light taupe base. In my close-up photo of Kiko's no. 25, you can see that this shade isn't pure matte either, but on the eyes, you can barely see any shimmer.
L-R: Kiko Long Lasting Stick no. 25, Laura Mercier Caviar Stick in Grey Pearl.
Kiko's no. 25 is actually much more a true grey shade than Laura Mercier's Grey Pearl, and it's also significantly lighter in depth. In practice, when worn on the eyes, Kiko's eyeshadow pretty much matches my fair skintone. I wasn't expecting that result at all when I purchased this shade, but I'm not mad at it - I have a lot of veins and sometimes redness on my eyelids, and a staple neutralizing base is always welcome in my stash. In the photo below, I'm wearing no. 25 on the lid, blended out with Rouge Bunny Rouge Sweet Dust Seriema in the crease, and the light blue shade from Shiseido's Static trio in the inner corners of my eyes. While the undertone of no. 25 is more cool and suits these cooler eyeshadow looks well, I think it should work with lots of neutral eyeshadows in my collection as well.
I'd definitely recommend you to check out these Kiko Eyeshadow Sticks when you get the chance; although I have noticed that Kiko's retail prices in USD are slightly higher than the equivalent in Euros or pounds. I may look into these again when I travel to Italy later this year; after all, when in Rome...

Have you tried any make-up from Kiko Milano? What are your favorite products?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Drugstore Skincare: Freeman Feeling Beautiful Facial Masks Review

Admittedly, beauty bloggers are a bit crazy about their facial masks; we love hoarding different ones in our 'mask wardrobes', and we love all the luxe offerings from high-end brands. But at the end of the day, some masks don't need to be expensive to be effective; for example, the main ingredient of a staple oil-absorbing clay mask is, after all, just pure clay - a very cheap ingredient. Which is why I was excited to try five different drugstore facial masks from Freeman Feeling Beautiful* ($1.37 each for a 15ml sachet at Walmart, $3.25 - $4.29 for a 6 fl. oz/ 150ml full size tube).
Let's start with the basic Avocado & Oatmeal Clay Mask*, which is aimed at normal and combination skin and claims to deep clean and purify the pores. I use a clay mask at least once a week to help with excessive sebum production and enlarged pores on my T-zone, and I haven't quite found my favorite yet, so I was excited to try the Freeman version.
This is a very smooth and creamy clay mask in a fun mint green color (perfect for scaring the husband) with a distinct clean scent, I can't quite put my finger on what it is exactly. It's incredibly easy to spread on the skin, and to my surprise, rinsed clean with no effort whatsoever - which is something I find to be a problem with most clay masks. It does tighten a little as it dries, but not nearly as bad as something like the Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay. As for the results, I did notice that my skin was mattified and the pores appeared slightly smaller after usage, but unfortunately I had a bit redness here and there; not bad, but maybe one of the ingredients doesn't quite agree with my sensitive skin.
Going with the purifying theme, let's talk about the Charcoal & Black Sugar Polishing Mask*. I was expecting this one to be similar to the Origins Clear Improvement Charcoal mask but with more exfoliating action, however I found the Freeman mask to be more of a sugar scrub with a bit of added charcoal. The sugar crystals are quite large, which makes getting the mask out of the sachet and spreading it on the face a bit difficult, but in the end, I was pleased with the results. As per instructions, I first let it sit for about 10 minutes, and then very gently massaged it on the skin in circular motions. After rinsing, my skin looked refreshed, smoother and a bit brighter, and actually felt nicely hydrated. In also really liked the scent of this mask; a fresh, sweet citrus.
I really enjoy observing how Korean beauty trends make their way to the Western markets, and this Facial Sleeping Mask with Honeydew and Chamomile* is a prime example of such process. The popular Korean 'sleeping packs' are basically overnight masks, and are most often meant to soothe and hydrate the skin while you're sleeping - like a supercharged night moisturizer. The Freeman Sleeping Mask did exactly that; I was skeptical to put it on as it contains some heavy/comedogenic ingredients like shea butter and coconut oil, but I woke up with a clear, even and hydrated complexion. I also really enjoyed the light texture; much thinner and more readily absorbed than most overnight masks I've tried so far. My only gripe was the strong melon scent - I quite dislike fruity scents and heavily fragranced skincare in general, and I felt like this one really lingered on my skin.
Another Korean-inspired find is this Coffee & Chai Energizing Paper Eye Mask*; soothing eye patches are very common among Korean skincare brands. This sheet mask looks more like Zorro's disguise when you put it on, which Tracy so keenly observed when I posted a photo of me wearing it on Instagram a couple days ago (here!). I was fighting a stubborn migraine that day (April showers are definitely not my friend), and this mask felt like heaven around my eyes: cooling, soothing and hydrating. It wasn't as satured in essence as the Asian sheet masks I've been using, which is something I also found with another paper mask from Freeman, the Hydrating Paper Mask with Blue Agave, reviewed here. The Energizing Eye Mask didn't give me any noticeable results after I removed it, but I really enjoyed the experience of wearing it on my achy face.
Last but not least, we have the Cucumber Peel-Off Mask*. I'm pretty sure any girl who grew up in the 90s and early 00s must have used a cucumber-scented peel-off mask at some point; I remember mine was from Avon and I used it to death, hoping it would help with my teen acne (it didn't really). However, I generally no longer like peel-off masks, and the Freeman Cucumber mask was unfortunately no exception. The main ingredients are Polyvinyl Alcohol and SD Alcohol - not exactly fantastic for your skin, and the fumes sting the eyes a bit. On the plus side, it didn't actually irritate my skin, and it was very easy to peel-off, unlike a Boscia mask I've tried recently. If you're a fan of peel-off masks, this definitely gives you the satisfaction similar to picking peeling, sunburnt skin *shudders*.

Let's recap: my favorites were the Facial Sleeping Mask and the Charcoal and Black Sugar Mask Scrub, with the Cucumber Peel-Off being my least favorite. Overall, I was impressed with the quality of these masks for the price; the ingredients lists on these are pretty clean, with lots of active compounds and soothing botanicals. For me, the amount in the one-use sachets is actually enough for 2-3 applications (I store mine in the fridge after opening, sealed with a clip).  I wish the Avocado & Oatmeal Clay mask worked a bit better on my skin, but the brand has more clay masks in the range, so I may try a different one to see if it's any better on me.

Have you tried any of these Freeman Feeling Beautiful masks? Or have you found any other masks at the drugstore that rock your socks off?

Disclaimer:  The items marked with an asterix (*) are press samples I received in an Influenster VoxBox. All links are non-affiliate. 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!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Korean Beauty Subscription: Beauteque April 2015 BB Bag Contents

I have a soft spot for Korean beauty products - so when I was asked if I'd like to feature the new Beauteque BB Bag*, a monthly subscription service featuring 7-8 full sized products from popular Asian brands, there was much excite and eager anticipation for the parcel to arrive. Which it promptly did, right on Easter Monday, so I'm kind of treating the bag as my suprise gift from the Easter bunny :)
The theme of the April BB Bag is Mad for Plaid - but to be honest, the plaid make-up bag most of the products came in (there were so many one came packaged separately in bubble wrap) is where the theme ended. The BB Bag also comes with a card showing all the products and their pricing, as well as usage suggestions; very handy given that some of the products have little to no English on the labels. Here's everything I received - I haven't had a chance to actually use any of these products yet, but I'll follow up if any clear favorites emerge through the testing process.
The Beauteque Bag came with two Magic Garden Series Sheet Masks from Hanaka, a brand previously unknown to me - from what I can see online, it's a Taiwanese skincare brand with cute packaging and lots of active ingredients. There's a Rose mask with Tranexamic Acid to brighten and hydrate, and a Marigold Vitamin A mask to purify pores and increase cell turnover. These are priced at $4 (judging from eBay pricing, $4 each). I love trying new sheet masks, so I'm looking forward to using these.

I also got the Holika Holika S-Body Maker Jiggling Patch (somehow the name brings to mind my jiggly belly fat... not particularly enticing), which Beauteque explains as a firming treatment with carbonated bubbles. Sounds like a lot of fun, but let's be honest - it's not going to budge that bacon pouch I have as a mid section. I'm trying the gym in our building for that. On that note... would it get rid of sore (lack of) muscles? Now that's a thought.
There was one more product from Hanaka, the Camellia Powder Wash ($11). It's one of those fizzy cleansing powders which foam up when mixed with water that have become all the rage this year among Western brands like Nude Skincare or Josie Maran. I appreciate that Beauteque is bringing such a trendy item to their subscription, although for me personally, it'd be difficult to find something better than the luxurious TATCHA Rice Enzyme Powder. But, back to Hanaka: there are seven individually wrapped packets in the box, and the card advises to use one packet a day for a week for flawless complexion. I'm a bit skeptical after spotting SLS as one of the ingredients, so I'd probably end up using these on my shoulders and chest.
The sight of this lilac Macaron Lip Balm from It's SKIN ($9) brought a huge smile to my face; I received the grape scent, but I believe there were other options to choose from. It's SKIN is a Korean skincare brand with products ranging from affordable, like this cutesy lip bam, to more luxe both in packaging and price.
I was excited to see this Hydra-Full Solution Water Volume Aqua Gel Cream ($12 for 45ml) from Mizon in the April BB Bag. Mizon is a Korean brand best known for their Snail excretion line; by the way, a lot of Mizon's products are available in the US at Urban Outfitters, both in store and online - although the pricing is significantly higher than Amazon, eBay or dedicated Asian beauty etailers. The Aqua Gel Cream is a lightweight moisturizer with Alaskan glacial waters, and that sounds perfect to use in the daytime during the hot New York summer.
Lastly, I was thrilled to find this Holika Holika Canola Honey Sleeping Pack ($19 for 90ml) in my package. Holika Holika has three versions of these Honey Sleeping Packs, or overnight masks, if you will: Canola to moisturize the skin, Blueberry to combat blemishes, and Acerola to stimulate collagen production. This freakin' adorable glass jar boasts '40% canola honey', as per Holika Holika's own website - sounds suspicious, but the second ingredient is honey extract and the third is rapeseed extract, which has emollient and antioxidant properties and is a rich source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids (fantastic stuff for your skin and body). I'm definitely looking forward to introducing this product into my routine in lieu of a night-time moisturizer one or two times a week.

The final item, which I'm continously puzzled by, was a razor, priced at $8. I mean, it's a cute aqua color and comes with an extra cartridge, but it still looks like a very inexpensive razor. I'll use it... but I'm not excited. I generally experience very low excitement levels over shaving my legs and underarms - but maybe I should try dropping a silk scarf to glide down my calf after shaving, as shown in commercials. Pfffft.
Now, for my overall thoughts: I definitely enjoyed the contents of this bag, valued at $70. The Beauteque BB Bag, available at, has four subscription options: month to month, priced at $24 per bag/month, prepaid 3 months (same price), prepaid 6 months at $23 a month, and a full year for $22 a month. The bags are shipped out starting on the 15th of each month, and if you subscribe after the 5th of a given month, you'll be receiving the next month's bag (so if you wanted to subscribe now, you'd be receiving the May BB Bag). The cool thing is that each month on the 15th, you'll be sent a survey where you can choose from a couple of options regarding the products in your bag, like a lipstick shade or lotion fragrance.

Do I think it's worth it? If you like trying out various Korean beauty products both from more popular and lesser known brands, I think it's a good value for money. While the April BB Bag turned out to be very skincare-heavy, Beauteque says the subscription also includes make-up, fashion and lifestyle products (I wish there was one make-up item in the April bag!). The obvious comparison would be with the Memeboxes, but I've never personally tried those - and I've heard the service is actually no longer available in the US due to problems with shipping from Korea. I believe that BB Bags are better priced compared to Memeboxes, and shipped from the US, so there are no issues such as long delivery times and mysteriously vanished parcels. Would I order a BB Bag myself? Yes, I think I would - it would probably be too many products for me to get a bag every month, but it'd be fun to get a bag once in a while. You can also shop their sister site,, for specific Korean products if you dislike the random element of these subscription services - they have free US shipping over $35.

Have you discovered any new interesting Korean beauty products recently? Or do you prefer to navigate the safer waters of Western brands?

*Disclaimer: The item marked with an asterix (*) is a press sample I received from Beauteque for review consideration. All links are non-affiliate, however I've been asked to include a referral link so that if you guys happen to use it, I may have some more products from Beauteque to show you in the future. 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!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Blush Fiends Unite: Addicted to Blush Tag

While I may not have been officially induced into the #blushfiend society, it is no secret that I love blush. Yes, I used to be one of those sadly unaware people who didn't see the point of wearing blush ('I already have redness in my face, I don't need any more!'), but once I tried my first pot of Bourjois Rouge, there was no turning back - so when Emma graciously tagged me for the 'Addicted to Blush' round-up, it took me a mere, hmm... 6 weeks, to come up with my answers (I have excuses if you want to hear them. No? I thought so).
1. What color blush suits you the most?
I believe we all know the answer to this one - peachy pinks. I have the most peachy pink blushes in my collection, and I always have at least one on regular rotation. I think the balance between the warmth of the peach and the brightness of pink perks up my skin without making it look too made-up or bringing out too much of the redness I struggle with. Peachy pink blushes are also so cheery to look at in the pan!
2. Pressed, cream or loose blush?
Definitely pressed powder (see the line-up of powder blush compacts in my happy place... I mean, my blush drawer). While the skin on my cheeks is normal and doesn't eat up cream blush too bad, I still struggle with finding formulas that feel lightweight on. And loose blush... No. That's just asking for trouble.
3. Favorite shimmery blush?
NARS Sin. I thought long and hard about this one, and realized I don't actually own very many shimmery blushes; I do have a lot of satins, but I have to be careful with obvious shimmer in cheek products, as it tends to draw attention to textural issues (bumps and scars). Somehow, NARS Sin is quite forgiving in that department, and it has a beautiful balance of cooler plum tones and warm golden sheen.
4. Favorite matte blush?
Again, not very many purely matte blushes in my stash, but here are three formulas I enjoy a whole lot: Inglot Blusher no. 72 (please note that these come in a variety of finishes, some shades have quite a bit of sparkle), the Laura Geller Blush-n-Brighten in Boysenberry (again, some of the blushes in this range are highly shimmery, some are matte; why so confusing?!), and the recently reviewed Catrice Defining Blush in Rose Royce (I have no idea what the finish is on the other shades in the range - sorry!).
5. Favorite cream blush?
This award has to go to the Canmake Cream Cheek blushes in the clear finish, reviewed and swatched here. The beauty of this tag is that it has reminded me of some abandoned blush favorites - I forgot how much I love these as I've been focusing on putting a dent in my Stila Convertible Color, and need to pull them back out for spring and summer. If you still haven't tried these, do yourself a favor and order one on evil Bay.
6. Favorite drugstore blush?
Hmm, my blush stash has veered a bit more into the high-end territory over the past couple of years, but I still enjoy wearing my collection of five NYX Powder Blushes. However, having recently tried the Catrice Defining Blush, I have to say I love the formulation of the latter a bit more, though then again it's difficult to judge based on just one shade. I shall rectify that next time I'm in Europe.
7. Favorite high-end blush?
Thus far, the Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blushes (I have the LE palette with three shades, but I'm assuming the singles are just as good). The pigmentation is fantastic and the luminous finish brings beautiful dimension to the cheeks. However, I have to say I haven't ventured into the really high-end end (lol) of the blush universe and I'm intending to change that this year, so we'll see if a new favorite formula shall emerge in the next couple of months.
8. Favorite bright blush?
How bright are we talking? I do have some eye-searing shades in my stash, but to be honest, they're quite hard to apply properly on my fair skin. I do however find these Josie Maran Coconut Watercolor Cheek Gelees in Pink Escape and Red Getaway very easy to pull off, because despite being scary/awesomely bright and juicy in the pots, they sheer out quite a bit and give off just a flush of color on the cheeks.

9. Biggest blush disappointment/ regret?
I don't have any of these anymore to show you because I've given them all away to friends and family, but both Benefit Coralista and theBalm Hot Mama! blushes were ultimately disappointing on me. Not only did they have the kind of shimmer that emphasized pores on me, but the shades were just way too warm/orange and clashed with the cool undertone of my skin. I've never tried NARS Orgasm, but I'm sure this one would be a fail too. Funny how these three are often touted as the perfect blushes for all skintones - not so much for me.
10. Best blush packaging?
I really enjoy minimalist make-up packaging, and I think Laura Mercier's Second Skin blush packaging is pretty perfect: cute, small, equipped with a mirror inside and the option to depot into a palette. I dislike bulky designer compacts because I don't really have the space to store them, and they're a pain to travel with, even though the elaborate cases look beautiful and luxurious.

11. What's on your blush wish list?
I haven't been tempted by a lot of blushes recently, but I've always had it in the back of my mind that one day, I would really like to try the grand dame of powder blushes, Chanel Joues Contraste - and see, Emma's raving about them too! I don't have a specific shade in mind quite yet but I'm thinking I may swatch them at the counter soon and pick one up as a treat for my name day in May. I've also heard great things about Armani Cheek Fabric Blushes (and I love their packaging too!) and Clinique Cheek Pops - the newly released shades are especially enticing.

12. Number 1 Holy Grail blush?
Whyyy do you torment me sooo?! How am I supposed to pick a favorite between all my babies? I really don't know - I think if I had a clear Holy Grail, I wouldn't be buying so much blush :) However, some of my top favorites would definitely include Laura Mercier's Lotus Pink, NYX Angel, and, and, and... uhm, maybe bareMinerals READY Blush in The One? All of these are really good.

Well, this has been difficult - but fun! Thank you for tagging me, Emma; and now I guess it's my turn to tag a few fellow #blushfiends. I'd love to see Claire's, Belly's and Kar Yi's answers - show us the dark depths of your blush stash!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Lip & Cheek... Oil? Josie Maran Argan Infinity Cream Color Duo

So, that YSL Tint-in-Oil everyone's been raving about? Seems like Josie Maran was there first with her Argan Infinity Lip and Cheek Creamy Oils ($18 for 15ml/ 0.5 fl oz or $16 for 2 x 5ml/ 0.16 fl oz); my best friend is a big fan of these and she recently gifted me the Infinitely Argan Lip & Cheek Cream Color Duo, which comes with minis of the shades Timeless Coral and Everlasting Honey.
I'd actually tried a colorless version of this product shortly before receiving these (mentioned in my January Favorites), and loved it especially as a cuticle treatment, so I was curious to see how this texture would work on the lips and cheeks. The 'Creamy Oil' formula is basically a balm that melts into an oil with the warmth of your skin, and these little tubes contain a lot of natural moisturizing oils and waxes: castor oil, argan oil, rapeseed oil copolymer, as well as beeswax, mimosa and sunflower waxes. I was curious so I checked whether my clear Argan Infinity Cream Intensive Creamy Oil had a similar ingredients list since the texture is nearly identical to the tinted version, but it's actually quite a bit different: there's even more nourishing oils as well as shea and mango butter in that one.
I was surprised by how pigmented these are; sure, they're not fully opaque, but for my cheeks, I only need the smallest dab to get a burst of color. Timeless Coral is a hot pink coral on my fair skin, while Everlasting Honey is a more subdued reddish rose. Both look very pretty on and should suit a variety of skintones; Timeless Coral is a bit more brightening, Everlasting Honey a bit more nude. These have a delicious orange creamsicle scent from orange and tangerine peel essential oils, and for some reason, actually taste sweet when you're wearing them on your lips.
Timeless Coral, Everlasting Honey in full sunlight (see the clear oil on the sides of the second swatch?)
I've been testing these on and off for at least a month now, and my overall feelings are still a bit conflicted. You guys, I'm just not completely sure how I feel about actual oil texture on my cheeks and lips. These Creamy Oils feel like blending a lipgloss over your cheeks. While they're easy to apply evenly and last pretty well on them apples, they definitely remain glossy and tacky throughout the day - so I imagine if you wiped your face on a scarf/shirt or rested your cheek on something, most of the color would rub off. My other gripe with the formula is that sometimes, especially if you haven't used these for a while, they tend to separate into clear oil and concentrated color in the tube. My tube of Timeless Coral also has weird little balls here and there when I squeeze it out.
Wearing Timeless Coral on lips and cheeks.
For the lips, I really enjoy the juicy, glossy look they give my pout when I first apply the product. However, they don't last at all - I think most of the oil gets absorbed into my lips, but drinking or eating anything absolutely obliterates any traces I may have had left. The texture of the oil is quite thin, so they don't glide over or conceal any flakes or dry patches. I'm sure this formula is moisturizing for my skin; except, maybe not enough for my lips, and as for the cheeks... I don't know if I actually want any additional moisture in my blush? But man, are they glowy. Can you see that?
Wearing Everlasting Honey on lips and cheeks.
I still do enjoy using my little duo; I think they're fantastic for a natural, luminous look, especially in the winter months when your skin may benefit from some extra nourishment and glow. I would recommend trying them on the cheeks if you have a dry skintype and powder blushes and/or highlighters tend to look a bit cakey on your skin. However, for me, I need to apply the glow a bit more judiciously, and probably file these away during the hot and humid New York summer.

Have you tried any of the new 'oil' make-up formulas? What is your favorite Josie Maran product?