Friday, July 31, 2015

Japanese Skincare Cult Classic: Rohto Hada Labo Gokujyun Hyaluronic Acid Lotion

I realize it's the middle of a hot and humid summer, but for whatever reason, my skin's been getting a lot drier lately - which I guess means I'm now closer to a combination/normal skin type. I am very prone to surface dehydration, and I'd been looking for ways to amp up the water levels in my skin without overhauling my entire skincare routine. Enter Rohto Hada Labo Gokujyun Hyaluronic Acid Lotion Moist ($11- 20 for 5.7 fl. oz/ 170ml on Amazon and, a cult Japanese hydration booster that's somewhere between a toner and a serum.
I ordered mine on Amazon from a US-based seller, and it was delivered within days. The entire packaging label is in Japanese, including the ingredients' list, but Hada Labo has its own American website, so here it is:

Ingredients : Water, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Disodium Succinate, Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid, Hydroxyethycellulose, Methylparaben, PPG-10 Methyl Glucose Ether, Sodium Acetylated Hyaluronate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Succinic Acid
In a nutshell, it's a very simple essence with glycerin and three types of hyaluronic acid, a moisture-retaining, barrier-repairing, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory ingredient. Sodium Hyaluronate, which is often used in skincare products, has lower molecular weight than regular hyaluronic acid, making it easier for the skin to asborb - which is also why Hada Labo also uses Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid (non-engineered HA has bigger molecules which don't penetrate the skin as well as hydrolyzed HA) and Sodium Acetylated Hyaluronate (better absorption and water holding capacity).
Hada Labo advises that the Lotion may be used twice a day, alone as a moisturizer or in combination with their other moisturizing skincare (the serum, lotion and cream). I've been using it in place of my hydrating spray toner, or in addition to the toner; so that the order of my basic routine is as follows: cleanser + acid toner/ exfoliating pads + (spray toner) + Hada Labo Gokujyun Lotion + serum + moisturizer/ spf. You'd think that's a lot of layers, and that's right; but I feel that this routine allows me to create something akin to a 'moisture sandwich', without adding in extra bulk via something like a heavy moisturizer - that's especially important in the daytime, when I don't need a greasy film over my face.
The Gokyjyun Lotion is a clear, scent-free liquid that's a little more viscous than water. The bottle has an easy flip top and a small opening that lets you pour exactly the right amount without wasting anything. The amount in the photo is how much I need for my entire face and neck: I pour some into my palm, spread it over two hands and press/pat into the skin. It absorbs quickly, although it doesn't feel like it has disappeared into thin air: there's definitely a layer of moisture left. However, what I like the most about this product is that it seems to make subsequent layers of skincare sink in much better into my skin; it really does feel like it's binding everything together.

Since I started using the Hada Labo Gokujyun Lotion, my skin is not only more hydrated, but also calmer, more even and my fine lines seem a bit plumped up. I think this is the best 'bang for your buck' hydrating products I've ever tried, and it seems that a bottle should last me ages judging from current usage. If you've never tried this lotion, I urge you to give it a try - it's fantastic. Do you use a lotion or essence step in your skincare routine? What is your favorite product with hyaluronic acid?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Drugstore MLBB: Maybelline Color Elixir in Caramel Infused

One side effect of only allowing myself to buy two make-up products a month is that I rarely shop the drugstore these days. But I recently decided to remedy the situation and bought quite a few inexpensive things (oops, more than two...) that I'd had my eye on for a long time. One of those products is the Maybelline Color Elixir in the shade Caramel Infused ($6.99-8.99 for 0.17 fl oz), a balm-gloss-lipstick hybrid that came highly recommended from my pal Larie at the Eye Heart It blog.
Btw, am I the only one to think that 9 bucks for a drugstore lip product is a bit steep? It's like the only time you can get a good bargain at the drugstore now is when you shop the sales - and not even the Buy 1 Get 1 50% off, but more like the 40% off that only happen a few times a year. ANYWAY. For a more affordable product, I find the packaging of the Maybelline Color Elixirs really pretty; a bit reminiscent of the Dior Addict Fluid Sticks, and I like the fat, shorter tube. The applicator is also one of those newer generation bent fluffy doe foots (doe feet?) that pick up just the right amount of product and perfectly hug the lips.
If you're sensitive to fragrance, these do have a scent; sort of an artificial sweet vanilla with maybe a touch of floral. I don't find it very strong though, and I can't really smell it at all after application. Now, my favorite thing about this Maybelline Color Elixir is the texture: it's like a thicker, balmy, cushiony gloss that's absolutely non-sticky on the lips. It applies evenly, gliding over vertical lip lines and dry flakes. It really does feel like a liquid lip balm with enough pigmentation so that you don't need to layer it over lipstick. Yes, the color and glossy shine wears away after a couple hours and doesn't last through eating (or drinking), but I honestly don't mind - it's just so, so comfortable on my dry lips.
I was a bit hesitant to order a shade with the word 'caramel' in the name, fearing this would be way too brown on my cool-toned complexion, but Caramel Infused turned out to be the perfect My Lips But Better shade. It's a lot more pink than the color of the tube would suggest, and in fact, it almost perfectly matches the shade of Maybelline Color Sensational Lipstick in Warm Me Up. As you can see in my arm swatches, MAC Viva Glam V is lighter and more peachy (plus, it has gold shimmer while Caramel Infused is a cream finish), Buxom Lip Polish in Dolly is sheerer and has more of a cool mauve undertone.
L-R: Maybelline Color Elixir in Caramel Infused, Maybelline Color Sensational Lipstick in Warm Me Up, MAC Viva Glam V, Buxom Lip Polish in Dolly. Swatched in the same order below.
Overall, I'm super happy with this purchase - thank you Larie for the recommendation! Speaking of bloggers' recommendations, I've noticed lately that I no longer buy products as soon as they come out or even after the first barrage of posts from the big beauty gurus (who are usually sent the items for review), waiting instead to see if any of my favorite bloggers try them out themselves, and then waiting even a little longer to see if they continue using the product via their Face of the Day posts or updates on Instagram. I just really don't care anymore about buying and trying every single new release out there; instead, I want to have a smaller collection of truly the best formulas available on the market.
How do you decide which new product to bring into your make-up stash? Have you tried any of these balm-gloss-lipstick hybrids? Which one's your favorite?

Saturday, July 25, 2015

In My Skincare Stash: Overview of Brightening and Exfoliating Masks and Peels

While attempting to use up my considerable stash of samples and minis via my Project the past two months, I've realized I had a lot of nice deluxe samples of masks and peels that were all aimed at brightening the skin. As a fair-skinned person, I struggle with hyperpigmentation all the time: freckles, age spots, post-inflammatory marks from acne and mosquito bites (yeah, that's a new one even for me) - you name it, I've got it. Which is why I've been enjoying treating my skin to a more intense exfoliating session about once a week, and these masks are perfect for a quick at-home treatment.
Starting with an old favorite, and the only full-sized product in this overview: the Dermalogica Gentle Cream Exfoliant ($41 for 2.5 fl. oz - they hiked up the price by at least $5 since the last time I bought it!), which I've talked about a couple times in the past, now sadly all used up and gone from my medicine cabinet. This is a fantastic option for combination and oily skintypes, as it both exfoliates with fruit enzymes, salicylic and lactic acid, but also helps to absorb the oil and minimize the appearance of pores with diatomaceous earth, which gives it a clay-like consistency. There aren't many products that give me immediate, visible results every time I reach for them, but this Gentle Cream Exfoliant really was one of those. If your skin is very sensitive, I'd definitely ask for a sample first, because it's not really that gentle - on my somewhat reactive skin, I'd get a tingle, but no irritation and little redness after application. I'm considering a repurchase.
Speaking of clay-like textures, I had high hopes for this Boscia Bright White Mask ($38 for 2.8 oz), which contains titanium dioxide as well as bentonite and kaolin clays, but it doesn't work for me at all. First off, my bad for not realizing this is a peel-off mask, which is a type I generally dislike partly because of the high alcohol content. It also took me a good 10 minutes to try and peel this mask off, at which point I gave up and just took it off with a warm washcloth. More importantly though, I could not see any brightening effect on my skin at all, and looking at the ingredients' list, I'm really not sure how this is supposed to brighten - there are some plant extracts and peptides in there, but with sporadic usage, I don't know how you'd be able to observe any significant results. I'd give it a pass.
The Elemental Herbology Facial Glow Radiance Peel ($66 for 1.7 fl oz; full size comes in a glass jar) is the only mask in this line-up that uses a combination of manual (jojoba beads) and chemical (mostly papaya enzyme but also glycolic, malic and lactic acids in a low percentage) exfoliants. Radiance Peel also contains vitamins A, C and E, manuka honey and nourishing oils like macadamia, olive and argan. I personally could do without the exfoliating beads, but otherwise, it's a lovely mask I'd recommend for normal to dry skintypes, as the creamy formulation seems to have an added moisturizing effect on the skin. The directions say to leave it on for 4 minutes, but I found that to be too short of a time to notice a result in my skin, so I'd leave it on for 10-15 minutes instead. I also think this one would be good to try if you're particularly sensitive, as I didn't get much of a tingle but still saw improvement in the texture and softness of my skin.
Jumping from one of the gentler options to something more hardcore, I found the Murad Intensive-C Radiance Peel ($55 for 1.7 oz) to be too much for my skin. This creamy mask contains glycolic acid, vitamin C and hyaluronic acid, and while I love all of these ingredients, the Intensive-C mask burned my face like nobody's business - the sensation was actually quite similar to the mentholated tingling you'd get from lip plumpers. Yes, I saw noticeable improvement in the texture and clarity of my skin, but using this mask just wasn't pleasant. I'd recommend it to most skintypes with no sensitivity whatsoever, and preferrably after patch-testing a sample. You've been warned.
The popular REN Glycol Lactic Radiance Renewal Mask ($55 for 1.7 oz) also relies primarily on glycolic acid in combination with lactic acid and fruit enzymes (papain from papaya and bromelain from pineapple fruit extracts) in a moisturizing base of grape seed, cranberry seed, and seabuckthorn berry oils. I'll be honest with you - while I think this is a nice exfoliating mask that smells and looks like orange marmalade, I don't know why so many people rave about it over these other options I'm discussing today. My main problem was that this mask went off very quickly after I first opened my sample, becoming separated, grainy and very weird-smelling. I've also found a lot of citrus essential oils in the ingredients' list (bergamot fruit water, orange, mandarin, tangerine and grapefruit oils) and unfortunately, I'm allergic - although fortunately, I didn't come up in a big rash the few times I used it. Why do brightening products always have to smell like oranges, I ask you?
Lastly, we have another natural option: the Enzyme Peel Mask with Vitamin C and Papaya from The Organic Pharmacy ($79 for 40ml). This gel mask contains lactobionic acid (a Polyhydroxy acid, also known as PHA, which some studies have proven to be less irritating but as effective as glycolic acid thanks to its reduced absorption due to larger molecular structure), lactic and salicylic acids, both papaya and pineapple enzymes, and hyaluronic acid. It's a lovely product - slightly tingly on the face but not irritating, and I can definitely see an improvement in the texture, tone and hydration of my skin after usage. This is the first product I've ever tried from The Organic Pharmacy, and I have to say the experience has got me a lot more interested in their skincare range; although sadly, the products are without a doubt on the pricey side.
Speaking of prices, all of the masks I've reviewed for you today seem rather expensive to me now that I'm looking at it. I don't know if my tolerance for prices has shifted recently or what it is, but I don't feel okay spending over $50 on an exfoliating mask - to my knowledge, glycolic and salicylic acids as well as fruit enzymes are not expensive ingredients, so I'm not sure why all of these need to be so pricey. While I loved my Dermalogica Gentle Cream Exfoliant, I'm considering giving a cheaper option a try, and I've been looking at the derma-e Evenly Radiant Overnight Peel with AHAs (glycolic, lactic and malic), which retails for $15-18.75, or the Andalou Naturals Pumpkin Honey Glycolic Mask, which is $11-15, depending where you buy it. If you've tried one of those, please let me know!

Do you use exfoliating masks or peels on a regular basis? What is your favorite weekly exfoliating treatment?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Beauty Empties: 2nd Quarter of 2015

I guess when even I start dreading my empties bag, it's a sure sign that I've kept it full for far too long. I've decided to post this empties round-up a bit later than the actual end of the second quarter due to my other stash-reducing projects' updates, so I feel like I've finished some of these products eons ago and no longer remember much about them...
 Let's start with make-up this time - I think it's the most interesting, so if you don't care about my other beauty trash, you can just scan through this part and be done reading (see how I like to make it easy for you? ;).
Products I disliked and wouldn't repurchase: Too Faced Melted Lipstick in Melted Peony (review here; it's not empty, I just hate it and decided to get rid of it), Ulta Make-up Sponge, Dr Brandt Pores No More primer (thick and silicone-laded), Heroine Make Volume and Curl Mascara (review here)
Products I enjoyed, but I'm trying out other things: Graftobian HD Glamour Creme Foundation in Buff and Aurora (here's my review - obviously not completely used up, but old and I don't really enjoy wearing it anymore), Skindinavia Make-up Finishing Spray (it was alright, but I'm not sure I absolutely need a setting spray in my make-up routine), Rouge Bunny Rouge Sea of Clouds Highlighting Liquid sample (fantastic for fair skin as it's basically a white pearl shade), Make Up Forever Smokey Extravagant Mascara, Urban Decay 24/7 eyeliner in Whiskey, Real Techniques Miracle Complexion sponge (reviewed here - mine didn't last as long as I expected, and I think I prefer the original Beautyblender).
Products I would repurchase (but am probably trying out other things too):  Laura Geller GlamLASH mascara, OPI Original Nail Envy, INM Out The Door Topcoat
Would you say skincare is the next most interesting category of empties after make-up?
Products I disliked and wouldn't repurchase: The Face Shop Hydra Gel Mask in Vita B (not really a gel sheet mask like the Tatcha, more like a sheet of rubber if that makes sense?), Orientana Moisturizer for Combination Skin (a more natural Polish skincare brand, but this cream was incredibly fragranced and the texture quite greasy on the skin)
Products I enjoyed, but I'm trying out other things: The Saem sheet mask and Freeman Coffee & Chai Eye Mask* (reviewed here), Murad Rapid Age Spot and Pigment Lightening Serum (featured here; worked really well for the first couple of months then no more improvement), Murad Intensive-C Radiance Peel (will be featured shortly - stay tuned), Osmia Organics Facial Calibration Serum* (a facial oil, really), Kiehl's Creamy Eye Treatment with Avocado (weird texture that wouldn't always absorb but decent moisturizer), Peter Thomas Roth Un-Wrinkle Peel Pads (featured here, prefer the First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads), Avebio Immortelle Flower Water (scent a bit too strong, prefer other hydrosols), Canmake Easy and Fast Make Gel (moisturizer with spf), Badger Cocoa Butter Lip Balm
Products I would repurchase (but am probably trying out other things too): Nothing, really :(
In terms of fragrance empties, I have a bit of a sad story to share. As you can see, the full size bottle of discontinued Givenchy Fleur d'Interdit is definitely not empty. I was given this fragrance by a family friend when I was maybe 12 or 13, making this fragrance at least 16 years old. Yes, the scent has gone sour - probably a while back, actually. I remember I loved this thing to death when I first got it (my first adult perfume! SO SOPHISTICATED), but my mum told me I was too young to wear it, and that I should save it for later on. Yeah, boy, did I save it for later on - except now it's unusable. The rest are samples, among which I enjoyed Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Teazzura and Tocca Simone the most - both summery fragrances and it's been hot hot hot over here. I also realized I really dislike apple notes in perfume *gives Tocca Giulietta and Marc Jacobs Daisy a stink eye*.
I seem to have been the most prolific (or greedy...?) in the bodycare department.
Products I disliked and wouldn't repurchase: Crystal Body Deodorant Stick (this made me MORE smelly, if that's even possible), Secret Invisible Solid Antiperspirant (I've come to the conclusion that I dislike invisible solids and prefer clear gels - I'm actually using one by Secret right now and it's really good!), Kiehl's Creme de Corps Soy Milk & Honey Body Polish (not completely gone, but I realized it contains polluting plastic microbeads)
Products I enjoyed, but I'm trying out other things: L'Occitane Shea Butter Hand Cream (I think it's too expensive and not sufficiently moisturizing for my severely dry hands), Ulta Vanilla Sugar Body Wash (used as a bubble bath), Philosophy Fresh Cream Hand Wash (also used as a bubble bath - lovely scent, but $$$), Green Pharmacy Bath Oil in the Clove & Mandarin Orange scent (another Polish brand aspiring to be natural - this was more like a foaming gel oil for the bath, and at about $3.50, I really enjoyed it), Kneipp Lavender Bath Oil*, Rose hand cream from Bulgaria (gift from my mom).
Products I would repurchase (but am probably trying out other things too): The Body Shop Body Butter in the Vanilla Brulee scent (I think these can't be beat for a nourishing body moisturizer, and the price isn't too bad when you catch them on sale), Camille Beckman Lemongrass & Grapefruit Hand Cream* (came in a Glossybox and turned out to be fabulous, but I probably wouldn't go out of my way to order from their website just for this hand cream), Aura Cacia Meditating Cedarwood Mineral Bath and Orange & Patchouli Foaming Bath (not the cheapest bath products, but less expensive and more natural than Lush, that's for sure! I have a couple more sachets on hand already).
Do you guys get excited over haircare products? Because I don't really - I'm okay with most shampoos and conditioners, and I guess my only must-have now that I have longer hair is a good spray detangler. Any recommendations?
Products I disliked and wouldn't repurchase: Suave Keratin Infusion Dry Shampoo (despite being touted as the best drugstore dry shampoo by many beauty gurus, I found it to be less effective than Batiste and the smell so strong my husband could smell it in another room).
Products I enjoyed, but I'm trying out other things: Nioxin Scalp Treatment (well, Mr was the primary user, but he stopped with one application left in the bottle and I finished it - it was alright?), TIGI Catwalk Sea Salt Spray (worked well but the scent was a bit too strong).
Products I would repurchase (but am probably trying out other things too): Batiste Dry Shampoo in the Tropical scent (already repurchased; I've decided not to experiment with dry shampoos anymore and just stick to Batiste as my favorite), Living Proof No Frizz Nourishing Styling Cream (lovely, but I'd like to try their Full Thickening Cream for my fine hair).
Woohoo, we made it! I mentioned last time that I would also like to discuss my 'Use it Up' goals in these posts, so here goes. As far as my previous goal to use up more foil samples and various minis, I did really well in my Use Up Those Freakin' Samples challenge, and I'm trying to stay on top of things by using up at least five samples a month. I also haven't purchased any beauty product back-ups, and I'm still working on further reducing my stash of skincare, haircare, bodycare, fragrance, you name it. The slowest area to move out of my collection is obviously make-up, and while I did buy some new things to play with, I've also parted with some and started a new Project Pan to use up as many products as I can - I guess that's my focus for the next couple of months.

How are you guys doing on the empties front? I feel that next quarter I may have a lot to share as a lot of things seem to be running out at the same time - I still have replacements at the ready so no need to repurchase, but I'm trying to make room for some Sephora sale shopping in November :)

Disclaimer: Products marked with an asterix (*) are press samples I received from the brand's PR for review consideration. 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!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Fresh Sugar Lip Care: Lip Treatment SPF 15 & Advanced Therapy, Lip Shine and Lip Polish Reviews

I've been hooked on Fresh Sugar Tinted Lip Treatments since I first tried them back in 2011; their buttery, highly emollient, moisturizing texture combined with a yummy lemon vanilla scent makes them one of my favorite everyday lip products. While I do think they're very pricey for what they are, luckily Sephora is pretty generous with including the Fresh Sugar Lip Care range in various little sample pouches or as coupon codes with an online order - which is how I've managed to accumulate four different products in the range. Shall we take a look?
I think the Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment SPF 15 ($22.50 for 0.15 oz, both in the clear and tinted versions; here's my review and swatches of the Tulip shade) is the best known product in this range via Sephora's Beauty Insider Birthday Gift a couple years back. I really like this lip balm, either on its own (especially in harsh weather conditions) or in a thin layer under a lipstick. However, Claire recently pointed out that the chemical sunscreen ingredient in these balms is oxybenzone, which is highly controversial due to its toxicity in larger doses - and let's be honest, in a lip balm, you really are ingesting the stuff. On Sephora's website, the sunscreen composition for this balm is avobenzone and octinoxate, so I'm thinking the formula must have been updated at some point; mine still have the oxybenzone though :(
If you'd rather skip the whole sunscreen debacle, the Sugar Advanced Therapy Lip Treatment ($25 for 0.15 oz) may be something worth looking into. Frankly speaking, I can't detect much difference in texture or performance between Advanced Therapy and the regular Lip Treatment, but if you compare both ingredients' lists, they do vary slightly, the most significant diference being the inclusion of cocoa butter and hyaluronic acid in the former (Advanced Therapy claims to have age-delaying properties from 'hyaluronic spheres'). However, sodium hyaluronate is towards the very end of the INCI list, suggesting there's a very, very small amount of it in the product, so I'd say the claims are rather far-fetched. I've been using Advanced Therapy on my lips before bedtime, and I do think it keeps my lips moisturized throughout the night, but I don't think it's as effective as my all-time favorite night time lip balm, the Nuxe Reve de Miel - which at $19 for 0.52 oz, is also significantly cheaper per ounce than the Fresh balm.
I was however pleasantly surprised by the Fresh Sugar Shine Lip Treatment ($18.50 for 0.2 oz, I have the Clear shade). What I thought would be just a mediocre lip gloss designed to increase the profits from the popular Sugar range turned out to be a lovely liquid lip oil type of product. The Sugar Shine actually seems to contain more hyaluronic acid than the Advanced Therapy balm, in addition to cocoa, mango and cupuaƧu butters. I don't know if it necessarily keeps my lips moisturized for 6 hours as it claims to do, but because of its thicker, viscous but unsticky texture, it cushions my lips in a protective layer, and helps to disguise dry flakes and vertical lip lines. One gripe I have with my mini size is that the stopper takes off too much product from the wand, so I have to dip back two or three times to coat my lips - I don't know if that's an issue with the full size as well. I would consider purchasing the Shine Lip Treatment in the future, maybe in a fun bright shade like Cherry or Berry.
Lastly, we have the Fresh Sugar Lip Polish ($22.50 for 0.6 oz), a (you guessed it!) brown sugar lip scrub enriched with shea butter, meadowfoam & grape seed oils and Vitamin E. I don't have huge experience with lip scrubs apart from Lush and I've said in the past that I think them a somewhat superfluous concept, but I think the Fresh version is a really solid product: scrubby enough to get rid of the flakes but in a more emollient base that provides a good slip and a moisturizing layer on the lips afterwards. So if you like lip scrubs, I would definitely recommend giving this one a go - it's definitely superior to Lush Mint Julips that I had in the past, but it's also a lot pricier.
Are you a fan of Fresh Sugar lip products? Beauty fanatics seem to be somewhat divided in this respect - I know many of you enjoy the range as much as I do, but it seems a lot of folks dislike that heavy, slippy texture in a lip balm. What is your current go-to lip conditioning product?

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Mixed Feels: Products I Don't Know What To Think About

I've never featured any of these five products in any of my posts - the simple reason being that I really don't know what to think about them. Mind you, this is different from a non-disputable case of shitty products I regret buying; none of these are bad, really. They're just... not here nor there, maybe? As a long-time blogger, I usually have lots of clear-cut opinions about every beauty product I try, but these five give me very mixed feels:
1. First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream. I'm a huge fan of FAB Radiance Pads, but their cult extra-moisturizing Ultra Repair Cream doesn't really do it for me. You may be surprised why, as a combination-skinned gal, would I even have this in my stash, but I was actually hoping to use it on my eczema-ridden hands. But nope, it does very very little to moisturize my severly dry, flaking and cracking fingers, and even as a regular hand cream, it's just alright. Is there something I'm not getting about this, you guys?
2. LORAC Front of the Line Pro Liquid Eye Liner in Black ($23 for 0.02 fl oz). I'm not a massive liquid eyeliner user, usually prefering the convenience of a pencil, but I can appreciate the precision of a good pen. This LORAC liner seems to gather a lot of great reviews, having both beautiful pigmentation and a tiny brush (not felt!) tip. However, I can't make it work - I dislike its shiny/vinyl finish on the skin, and whenever I need to go over my line to thicken or even it out, it seems to really drag on itself, making it time-consuming and unpleasant to apply. I'll use it up, but I won't repurchase.
3. Estee Lauder Double Wear Stay-in-Place Flawless Wear Concealer in Light ($24 for 0.24 oz, I have a mini that came in a set). This is a really weird one: sometimes I really like how it works on my skin, sometimes I hate it. The big pros of this concealer are its longevity (really stays put, and I would even call it water-resistant) and how well it covers discoloration and redness. The cons are the finish on the skin (dry, accentuates lines and flakes) and not enough coverage to be used for spot-concealing. It's definitely not my favorite, but perfectly matches the foundation I'm currently trying to use up, the Estee Lauder Double Wear Light in Intensity 1.
4. Benefit Gimme Brow Volumizing Fiber Gel in Light to Medium ($24 for 0.10 oz). Are you shocked? I know this is a must-have for a lot of people, but for me it just didn't hit the mark. I bought it hoping to use it on its own on lazy make-up days, but I dislike how my brows look with it on: the shade is too ashy, making my brows look like they're greying (I guess that's my fault for choosing the wrong color), the texture is quite crispy, but most importantly, it just doesn't give me the definition I was looking for. I have quite good brows naturally, but there's just a couple of sparse areas that I like to fill in to give them a better shape, and for that purpose, using a good eyebrow pencil is undoubtedly superior to this gel. I can wear it paired with my Shu pencil - but that's more, not less effort on my part when getting ready in the morning. On a different note, I think I'm done with Benefit products for a while; I just can't stand their marketing strategy and constant hype. From what they say about their own products, you'd think it was the second coming of Jesus - but from my own experience, the products are mostly overpriced and mediocre. So. You won't see much of Benefit on this blog any time soon. I've had enough.
4. Shu Uemura Anti/Oxi Skin Refining Cleansing Oil ($77 for 450ml, mine is in LE Mika for Shu packaging). Shu's oils are like the big daddy of cleansing oils on the Western beauty market, but I think in this day and age, we can all do better than splurge nearly 80 bucks on a bottle of predominantly mineral oil. Does it remove my make-up? Yes, but not all of my mascara, and it always clouds my vision - so I think after I'm done with this giant and awesomely designed bottle, I'll switch to something like The Body Shop Camomile Cleansing Oil, or an Asian drugstore oil.

Have you tried any of these products? If so, what were your thoughts? Have you been using any products recently that gave you very mixed feels?

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Subtlest Sheen: Makeup Revolution Vivid Baked Highlighter in Radiant Lights

Highlighting seems to be a big trend right now, what with the rising popularity of 'strobing' (is strobing the new contouring? Lol) or the release of BECCA's Champagne Pop. As much as I have absolutely zero interest in both of those things, I have to say that I've been enjoying highlighting a lot more than I used to, mostly because my skin's been getting more even-textured and less oily than it was even a year ago.
I've been ogling many powder highlighters online for months, and I particularly had my eye on baked powder compacts from a very affordable UK brand Makeup Revolution, known for duping many of the high-end brands. I actually first heard about these Vivid Baked Highlighter Powders from Polish YouTubers, and had a beautiful pale lavender shade called Pink Lights on a wishlist for my mom to pick up for me online. But recently, when Makeup Revolution became available at, I hopped over there and, in the absence of Pink Lights, chose Radiant Lights (now $6 for 0.375 oz, weirdly enough, two weeks ago I paid $6.99) instead, which is an icy pink shade. Ulta has it described as a 'unique lilac perfect for fair to medium skintones', so I'm thinking this is Pink Lights after all but the name's been changed in the US for some reason.
I have to admit that the packaging disappointed me a little right from the start; it just feels like a very lightweight, cheap and not very durable plastic, the rose gold lettering starting to disappear already. But the actual raised design of the powder, reminiscent of sand dunes and MAC Extra Dimension products, looks quite beautiful indeed, and suggestive of a much more expensive product.
From all the raves on Polish YouTube, I had quite high expectations for the texture and performance of this Baked Highlighter. I find that drugstore highlighting products often suffer from two major problems: either they're chock-full of actual glitter particles, or the particles are so subtle/ inexistent that they don't show up on the skin at all. But Makeup Revolution has got it exactly right: the shimmer in Radiant Lights is smooth and refined, but packs enough power to illuminate even the dullest of complexions.
The actual texture in the pan is quite firm and not at all powdery, but my brush picks up product very easily, and I don't need to either tap my brush off or build it up in layers to achieve a beautiful finish on the face. You'll hopefully be able to see it in my close-up arm swatches, but the level of glow of this Vivid Baked Highlighter is the most comparable to my beloved (and much pricier) Laura Mercier Matte Radiance Baked Powder in Highlight 01. I would say the main difference is that the Makeup Revolution has a bit of a harder texture in the pan (Matte Radiance can kick up quite a bit of powder) and maybe feels a bit less creamy - but if you've been lemming after Laura Mercier's but couldn't stomach the price tag, the Vivid Baked Highlighter seems to be an excellent alternative (not a dupe, mind you - Highlight 01 and Radiant Lights are two very different shades).
As for the actual shade Radiant Lights, it's a very cool pink with a silver opalescence, and as such I think it would be best suited to fair and light skintones with a cool or neutral undertone. Compared to other highlighters in my stash, it's the most similar to Benefit High Beam, although I think it shows up subtler on the skin, which I personally prefer. FYI, despite synonymous name and similar look in the pan, the shade Radiant Lights is nothing like Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder in Luminous. In the swatches on my arm, Makeup Revolution Radiant Lights looks like nothing, but on the face it performs very well indeed - see that gorgeous glow on top of my cheekbone? I've also used it on my browbone and inner corners of the eyes, and it's just as stunning in that role.
L-R: Makeup Revolution Vivid Baked Highlighter in Radiant Lights, Benefit High Beam, Laura Mercier Matte Radiance 01, Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder in Luminous
All in all, I'm very pleased with this new addition to my highlighter rotation, and because the packaging is less bulky and the price easier to swallow, I can easily see Makeup Revolution Radiant Lights becoming a staple in my travel make-up bag. It compliments my skintone well (which is not that easy to find for us fair folk!), doesn't exacerbate my pores and is easy to work with, making it damn near perfect in my book. As for longevity, this baked powder wears all day on my face (I have normal skin type on my cheeks for reference).
Have you tried anything from Makeup Revolution already? What is your current favorite highlighter on your skintone?

Friday, July 10, 2015

A Cure for Nail Ennui: Glossique Deco Nail Wraps*

I've been so bored with my nails lately that I've been going a couple weeks before redoing my manicure. I don't know if that's a side effect of not buying any nail polishes (but I don't even want any new shades - I like what I have!) or just being very lazy, but here it is: a nail ennui, weltschmerz, lassitude, whatever you want to call it, has officially settled in.
Which is why I was doubly excited to be shaken out of my blahs by an email from a reader and a fellow Polish expat in the US (Hi Magda!), who recently started a nail wrap company called Glossique. I'm sure what I experience must be common to most bloggers and writers at large, but whenever I hear from a reader I get this fluttery feeling, equal parts joy and surprise. Yeah, after six years of beauty blogging, I'm still quite surprised that actual living breathing humans read my blog, and that sometimes they are kind enough to drop me a line to say they enjoy my writing, or to ask for advice. You guys, please write me more often - it's the ultimate blogging reward.
Glossique Cotton Candy* (left) and Purr-fect* (right) Nail Wraps in Regular

ANYWAY. Magda very generously offered to send me a couple of Glossique's wrap designs to try out, and review for you if I cared enough to share. I do care - it's very important for me personally to support the Polish community, and I think most of us like to support small businesses and women entrepreneurs. Glossique's site bursts with over 150 different patterns ranging from simple to whimsical, neutral to bright, abstract or designed around a theme. One sheet of Glossique Nail Wraps contains 19 stickers, which equals 3 manicures or pedicures, and retails for $13 on their website (free shipping on orders $50+). I chose four that I liked (although it was VERY difficult to make a decision, they are all so cute!), and Magda sent them to me in two sizes: petite to fit my fingernails, and regular to fit the toes.
Glossique Fly Away Nail Wrap in Petite*
For my first time application, I decided to go for Cherry Dots* - it just seems like the perfect summer mani, and I like that it comes with an accent in a different color. I'll be honest with you, despite clear instructions, it wasn't easy for me to apply the wraps evenly. It even says on the instruction card: 'As with anything new, there is a learning curve'. Like, no kidding. I more or less got the hang of it by the fourth nail, and my right hand, which I did after the left, turned out much better - which is why it's the one in the close-up shots :)
What I struggled with the most was getting the right size for each nail (I really dislike having gaps on the sides), and then getting the sticker to apply smoothly - I got lots of little air bubbles/ ridges on the sides and at the tip. I'm a bit of a perfectionist, and that annoyed me enough to want to reapply the especially uneven nails. One of my nails is especially ridged because of eczema, and on that one, the sticker just wouldn't lay nicely - I tried three times, and it still looked like, well, a badly applied sticker. I also had some trouble filing away the excess; these wraps are much thicker than another brand I've tried in the past, and my crystal nail file wouldn't cut through these easily. I was also provided with the Glossique Nail Scissors for trimming the wraps (in the photo), which are very sharp and worked great, but I still found it necessary to file for a more seamless edge.
The application difficulties aside, I think Cherry Dots look beautiful on the nails. I wish the accent sticker was a bit wider as to fit my ring finger, but even on the pinky it looks rather cute, if I may say so myself. I found that the wear on the Glossique wraps really depended on how well I applied them to each nail in the first place; if I had a bit of an uneven edge at the cuticle, it would just get bigger as the days went on, resulting in the sticker lifting slightly from the nail. None of these came off completely though when I wore them for 6 days - I actually found them a bit challenging to remove. After taking the stickers off, my nails unfortunately seemed a bit worse for wear with some nails peeling slightly, but it was nothing a good buff and base coat couldn't fix.
I think these wraps are a really fun option to wear once in a while, but I don't believe they can completely replace nail polish for me. I'm sure that if I had more practice with the wraps, they would be quicker to apply than polish, but I will say that I found the first application to be a bit of a challenge, and my nails were a bit damaged by wear, making them more of a 'once in a while' treat.  Do you enjoy wearing nail wraps, or are you a nail polish-only type of gal?

Disclaimer: Products marked with an asterix (*) are  press samples I received from the brand's PR for review consideration. 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, and thank you to Magda for kindly sending these to me to try!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Project 10 Pan 2015 Intro: All Make-up & Nail Polish

I've been thinking about this Project 10 Pan Introduction post for months now, and finally the time has come to reveal my products. As you probably know, I'm still continuing my Project Make A Dent, which is a yearly challenge, but since five of the products selected for it have already been finished, I decided to go ahead and start another panning project. I hope it's not too boring and/or confusing for you; if you're not so much into that type of content, please feel free to skip it in the future; for my part, I'll be doing my best to space these posts out with reviews or what have you to keep things interesting :)
Without further ado, here are my products: it's all make-up and nail polish! Starting with the face, we have Estee Lauder Double Wear Light Stay in Place Make-up in Intensity 1 (I'm estimating there's between 1/3 and 1/4 of the tube left) and Revlon Colorstay Foundation for Combination/Oily Skin in Ivory (1/2 of the bottle left). These two give me a range of shades to work with, as well as different levels of coverage. To set my base, I've chosen the MAC Pressed Blot Powder in Medium Dark.

For the eyes, I've only added in my Pixi Endless Silky Eye Pen in Copper Glow (click here for a review and swatches). The reason there aren't more eye and no cheek products included is that I want to keep this Project quite realistic; from doing my Projects Make A Dent, I know that it takes me absolutely ages to use up eyeshadow, blush or bronzer. I'm actually really counting on completely finishing my selected products and thus moving them out of my collection.
For the lips, I've opted for a variety of choices: the Elf Mineral Lipstick in Rosy Raisin (click!), a sheer nude, the Revlon Lip Butter in Peach Parfait (lip-swatched here), a shimmery pinky peach, the Covergirl Jumbo Gloss Balm in Watermelon Twist (click!), a lightweight but bright pink, and the Buxom Full On Lip Polish in Dolly (click!), a neutral mauvey gloss to pair with all of these or wear on its own.
I've marked my progress with a sharpie on the more liquidy products for future reference.
I've also never attempted to use up an entire bottle of nail polish before, so I'm starting slow by adding in these two mini Orly Nail Lacquers in Gumdrop, a mint green, and Rage, a metallic rose gold. Both have about 2/3 of the bottle left.

I'm quite excited about this new Project, and I'm looking forward to playing with these products on a regular basis - well, I've had a head start on some of these after finishing items from my Project Make A Dent, so I know a few of these should go pretty quickly and hopefully motivate me to keep going. I haven't quite decided how often I should update you on my progress; I'm giving myself till the end of this year to complete this challenge, so let me know your preferences on the frequency of updates.

Are you doing a Project Pan this year? If so, please link your posts in the comments, I'd love to follow your progress and cheer you on!