Saturday, August 29, 2015

Going the Simpler Route: Derma e Overnight Peel with Alpha Hydroxy Acids

It's no secret that I love a good chemical exfoliant; starting with acid toners and pads (here's my overview), through exfoliating serums and even masks (another overview here). But even though I like variety, the abundance of bottles in my medicine cabinet was beginning to feel overwhelming, and I started looking for one product to perform a couple different functions.
I've already worked through all of my deep exfoliating masks, and I'm just about done with both the Dr. Wu Mandelic Acid Serum and a deluxe sample of Clark Botanicals Marine Smoothing Cream, a moisturizer containing lots of glycolic acid. To replace all of those, I purchased the Derma e Overnight Peel with Alpha Hydroxy Acids ($15 for 2 fl oz/ 60ml at Vitacost - my referral link for $10 off $30, also available at Ulta).
For whatever reason, I've never tried anything from Derma e, and for a long time, I would confuse them with another natural brand, Reviva Labs. But even though their aesthetic is a bit similar, they're two separate brands with completely different product lines. What drew me to the Derma e Overnight Peel, on top of the excellent price, was the simplicity of its ingredients: 5% glycolic plus lower concentrations of lactic and malic acids at effective pH level of 3 (according to to exfoliate and brighten the skin; glycerin, caprylic triglyceride and jojoba oil to moisturize, vitamin C and green tea for an anti-aging antioxidant boost. No drying alcohol, no scent (dear Beautypedia, the lemon and passionfruit in this product are not 'subtle fragrance' - you guys, do they review actual products over there or just the ingredients' list?!), no parabens for those of you who are sensitive.
The texture of the Overnight Peel is a light lotion that absorbs well into the skin. On top of my Hada Labo Hyaluronic Acid Lotion, it feels a tad sticky on, but since I use this product in my evening skincare routine, I don't really mind. I use one pump for my entire face, and I do experience a bit of a tingle for the first couple minutes, but it's absolutely NOT painful or unbearable, and it subsides quite quickly.

There are two ways I like to use the Overnight Peel: either as a mask I like to leave on for about 15 minutes after exfoliating my face with a gentle manual scrub, or as recommended, as an overnight exfoliant, usually layered with the Hada Labo hydrating lotion underneath or a night-time moisturizer over the top - you could use it alone though, because the formula is nicely moisturizing on its own.

I've been using chemical exfoliants for years now, so I have to say that for a veteran like me, the results from the Derma e Overnight Peel aren't really miraculous or instantaneous, but I do like it. I can definitely see an improvement in the texture of my skin the next day after usage, without any dryness or irritation, which is really important for my reactive, easily dehydrated skin. It doesn't budge any of my blackheads or clogged pores after just one use, but then again, I haven't really found a product which does that - my favorite Dermalogica Gentle Cream Exfoliant would make my pores look smaller, but I think that's more due to its clay-like consistency. After about three weeks of using it once a week, I have noticed that most of the stubborn bumps I've been getting on my forehead recently (I'm guessing they're caused by hot, humid weather and my touching my face too much...) are now completely gone, and that makes me really happy.

I'm enjoying using my bottle of the Overnight Peel with Alpha Hydroxy Acids, but I have a feeling that I'll probably want to try something else once it runs out, as we beauty bloggers tend to do. Have you tried anything from Derma e? What is your current favorite exfoliating treatment?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Cotton Candy Eyes: Catrice Velvet Matt Eyeshadow in 020 Pink Up Girls

Is anyone else as excited as me that Catrice Cosmetics is now available at Ulta in the US? If you've never heard about Catrice, it's a European brand owned by Cosnova, which is an owner of another very inexpensive drugstore brand with stellar products, Essence. To me, Catrice is like a grown-up version of Essence: prettier packaging, better concepts and even higher quality. I'm really happy that Ulta has been expanding their range of affordable international brands; with Sephora's recent customer service fails, Ulta's definitely gaining an edge.
Anyway, back to Catrice Cosmetics: one of the must-haves in the range have always been eyeshadows, and I've been hearing nothing but raves about the matte formula of their singles, so I obviously needed to pick one up 'for research': this is the Velvet Matt Eyeshadow in 020 Pink Up Girls ($4.99 for 0.12 oz/ 3.5 g, available in 6 shades total; punny names also appreciated).
The Velvet Matts come in their classic clear plastic packaging, which I really like for the clean aesthetic and the ability to easily see the color inside. The only thing with this particular shadow is that it's a tad difficult to open; I'd advise not trying to wedge your nails in the little crack but rather pushing it open with the side of your fingers. The eyeshadow itself is domed; that, coupled with the fact that these are made in Italy, makes me think they may be a baked formula.
The tactile feel of this eyeshadow is really unique: it's so incredibly smooth and silky that it resembles one of those siliconey cream-to-powder products. It's like the epitome of buttery eyeshadow - it feels amazing when you pick it up with your finger. I'd say this is a true matte formula, which is actually not that easy to come by, and that for a lighter shade, the pigmentation is very impressive. It's not chalky, it's not patchy, it doesn't look shrivelled and dry on the eyelids; I do think it's the best matte eyeshadow formula I've come across so far at the drugstore - it can rival my Rouge Bunny Rouge mattes.
The shade Pink Up Girls is a true cool, pastel baby pink. I'm not normally one to opt for a light pink eyeshadow (hence the lack of similar shades in my arm swatches), as it can feel a bit too juvenile and girly for me, but I'm in fact quite happy I got this one, because its white base brightens my veiny eyelids very nicely without having to use any shimmer. Stila's Desire (depotted from the In The Moment palette) is the closest shade in my collection, but as you can see, it's clearly a lot peachier and a bit darker.
 I've used Catrice Pink Up Girls all over the lid in this look on top of clear eyeshadow primer (NARS Smudgeproof Eyeshadow Base) so that you could see the level of coverage. Some of my pesky veins are still showing through, but the shade definitely pops even without a colored base - I think that on top of an off-white or ivory base, the color would be even more intensive. I've also tried it on top of a medium shimmery cream eyeshadow (Maybelline Color Tattoo in Bad to the Bronze) and the effect was very pretty - like a bronzy pink with a satin sheen, plus the whole look wore like iron for hours on end.
Yep, I have to agree with everyone who's raved about the Velvet Matt eyeshadows from Catrice - they really are an outstanding formula, especially considering the price. Even though I don't really need any more matte eyeshadows in my stash, I'm considering getting a few more just for the pure pleasure of using them. Have you tried any eyeshadows from Catrice? What are your favorite shades?

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Perfect Cleanse: NUDE Omega Cleansing Jelly Review

As you know from my previous post, I REALLY like a good cleansing balm, especially in the evening. I had managed to work through all of my back-up cleansers a couple weeks ago, and I decided to reward myself with this balmy beauty: the NUDE Perfect Cleanse Omega Cleansing Jelly ($38 for 100ml/ 3.4 fl oz), a gel-to-milk cleanser suitable for use around the eyes.
That last piece of information may seem very 'duh' to you, but you'd be surprised how many oil/balm cleansers perform poorly around the eye area, causing stinging, blurred vision or failing to remove any make-up. Even though the Omega Cleansing Jelly contains both problematic (for me) bitter orange extract and fragrance, it's mild enough not to cause any irritation around my eyes - yay!
I've actually opted to purchase this balm cleanser for several reasons. First, I really liked the sample I received a while back with a Sephora order (see, using up those samples sometimes really does end in happy discoveries), second, I was glad to see the product packaged in a soft squeezy tube as opposed to a fiddly pot with a screw-on lid, third, I like that the ingredients' list is so short and sweet. I could do without the added fragrance, but the slight fruity scent isn't too strong and makes for a more enjoyable experience, I guess. As for the omega acids claims, it's worth noting that all of your good, natural oil-based balms and other skincare products contain omega fatty acids - because all base/ plant oils contain omega acids, just in slightly different proportions. Sunflower oil, which is the main ingredient in the NUDE Omega Cleansing Jelly, is especially rich in Omega-6 and Omega-9.
I use the Omega Cleansing Jelly as my second cleanser on days I'm wearing make-up and/or sunscreen, after having removed those with a cleansing oil, or as my only night-time cleanser on days when I go barefaced. I start with a dry or slightly damp face (which you would have after having removed that first cleanser with a wash cloth), and work a small dollop around - it takes a little work for the balm to melt into more of an oil consistency, but I always spend a bit more time to do that second cleanse, so I don't mind.
Now, the Nude Cleansing Jelly is a bit different than some popular cleansing balms in that it actually emulsifies, thanks to the addition of sucrose palmitate and sucrose laurate in the formulation - meaning, turns into a milk when a bit of water is added. Many folks prefer emulsifying balms/ oils as they're a bit easier to remove, especially if you're just rinsing with water. I always use a wash cloth anyway, so it doesn't really matter to me either way, but I think if you're a balm cleanser neub, the Cleansing Jelly could be a good option for you. In that way, I find it quite similar to the famous Emma Hardie Amazing Face Moringa Cleansing Balm (click!), except with a slightly firmer texture, and obviously much cheaper and easier to get hold of in the US.

All in all, I really like this Omega Cleansing Jelly, and I've been enjoying reaching for it every evening. I don't know if it's the best cleansing balm I've ever tried (well, I'd be hard pressed to choose just one), but it's definitely up there with my other favorites. It doesn't irritate or strip my skin, gets rid of residual make-up, and feels luxurious on the face. If you've been on the fence about it or have been looking for a new oil/balm/milk cleanser, I'd say give it a shot; the price is a bit up there, but you really don't need a lot, so it should last a while. What is your favorite night-time cleanser? Have you tried any other products from NUDE?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

My 5 Basic Principles for Clearer, Happier Skin (with Product Recommendations)

I've already mentioned here and there on the blog that unexpectedly, my skin has been gradually clearing up for about six months now. I've been struggling with acne half of my life, and for all the lotions, potions, elimination diets and frequent trips to the dermatologist, the only thing that has ever worked to dramatically improve my skin were antibiotics; however, as soon as I stopped taking them (as you should after about a year long course), the problem was back with a vengeance, including painful cystic breakouts mostly along the jawline, upper neck and chin.

Yes, one would easily diagnose my acne must have been hormone-related, but hormones are stubborn, complicated buggers. No standard prescriptions worked for me, and as I was not willing to agree to more invasive methods, I pretty much gave up hope and tried to learn to accept the breakouts, oilies, redness and uneven skin texture. What I did focus on instead was improving my skincare routine, which is what I'll be sharing with you today - but while I absolutely believe that incorporating these steps helped to balance and heal my skin, I have to admit that I also think something must have changed inside my body, without any interference from outside factors. I'm 28 now, and I've heard in the past that a lot of women experience skin changes in their late twenties. For many, that change may mean new problems with dryness or the appearance of first fine lines, for me, it has meant significantly clearer and more even skin, and a less oily/ more balanced T-zone.

At any rate - if you're still struggling with acne, these are the five most important and effective changes I've made to my routine for happier skin. I've talked about these on the blog in the past, but I thought it may be more helpful for you to have everything in one place; there's lots of links to other skincare posts in each section, should you need more information. Alrighty then!
1. Cream, Milk, Oil and Balm Cleansers
After about three years of using mostly cream and balm cleansers on my skin, I'm a firm believer in avoiding any and all foaming face washes. I've used both really harsh, sulfate-based ones (in my teens), as well as the more gentle, soap-free options (in my twenties, after I came to my senses), but to be honest, I find both types significantly inferior to just about any cream, balm or oil cleanser I've tried so far. Not only are the foams way more drying, as well as potentially disrupting your skin's acid mantle, they're just not that great at actually cleansing the skin - my face just feels so much better after a nice massage with a creamy/oily/balmy cleanser, properly removed with a warm wash cloth. No squeaking, no tightness, no residue, no irritation; seriously, why would I even want to go back to foaming cleansers?

I try new cream, oil and balm cleansers all the time, but so far, my favorites are the REN Evercalm Gentle Cleansing Milk ($28 for 5.1 fl oz./ 150ml, full review here, currently using), TATCHA One Step Camellia Cleansing Oil ($48 for 150 ml/5.1 fl oz, full review here, used up but haven't repurchased yet because of the higher price), Emma Hardie Amazing Face Moringa Cleansing Balm ($63 for 100ml, full review here, also haven't repurchased due to the price/ availability) and Alaffia Facial Cleanser Antioxidant Rooibos and Shea Butter ($13.95 for 3.4 fl. oz; reviewed here - I used it a very long time ago and kind of forgot about it... it's been repackaged into a tube now).

If you've been thinking about giving cream/ balm cleansers a try but have been hesitant because of the high price tag of the most hyped-up ones, there's a lot of affordable options now from The Body Shop and many natural skincare brands (including Alaffia). I believe it's more important to simply stop using foaming washes rather than worry if you have the absolute best cream/ balm cleanser available on the market. I'm currently trying out a new-to-me inexpensive cream cleanser from Andalou Naturals, look out for my review in a couple weeks' time.
2. Double Cleansing
Oh no, we're not finished with cleansing yet - because a properly cleansed face is the basis of your entire skincare routine. I always double cleanse my face in the evening if I'm wearing sunscreen and/or make-up. Seriously. Even after a thorough massage with your first cleanser (usually an oil or balm for me), you'd be surprised at how much gunk still remains on your face - but then again, those SPFs and foundations aren't meant to be removed easily.

I know there are subtleties here and some will debate which products are more suited for each step of the cleanse, but essentially, the most important part is simply to cleanse twice, and remove the cleanser each time with a warm wash cloth (I always do several passes, rinsing the cloth in-between) - you could use one and the same cream/ oil/ balm cleanser for this. I like to use a basic cleansing oil first, and follow with a more luxurious cream or balm, but again, you don't have to. Just cleanse twice - any time you're wearing make-up or sunscreen.
3. Acid Toning
I couldn't possibly omit the acid tone from this round-up; it's a step I do twice a day, every day, no exception. In short, I think there are three most important factors to a successful acid tone, be it in the form of an AHA/ BHA or even LHA/ PHA toner, or exfoliating pads:
a) gentle but effective formulation (no alcohol, preferrably lower percentage of the acids, sufficiently low pH level),
b) consistency of usage (at least once a day - obviously I'm not talking here about folks who can't tolerate acids on their skin...),
c) following up with hydrating products and SPF during the day (to counteract possible dryness and prevent hyperpigmentation).

I've also mentioned in the past that I like to mix up my acids by rotating a couple different products in the acid toning step and sometimes using exfoliating masks (recent overview here) or an exfoliating serum, but that's not strictly necessary - you could just have one acid product on hand and use it both morning and night or just at night, depending on how your skin handles chemical exfoliation. So far, my favorite products for this step are the First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads ($30 for 60 pads, repurchased multiple times, review included in my overview of acid toners and pads here) and the Pixi Skintreats Glow Tonic ($29 for 250ml/ 8.25 fl oz, full review here).
For my somewhat sensitive skin prone to redness, I definitely prefer frequent chemical exfoliation over manual exfoliation once every couple days. However, if you're not seeing results from your acid toning and/or you've noticed that your serums and moisturizers are not absorbing properly into your skin, try a gentle (no apricot kernels please!) physical scrub once or twice a week - I like to lightly massage my face with a scrub and then follow with a mask for a more effective treatment. My current favorite manual exfoliators are the TATCHA Classic Rice Enzyme Powder ($65 for 60 g/2.1 oz, reviewed here) and the Andalou Naturals Clarifying Lemon Sugar Facial Scrub ($$11.99 for 1.7 oz/ 50 ml, reviewed here).

4. Hydration Sandwich
I briefly spoke about sandwiching hydrating products in my review of the Hada Labo Gokujyun Hyaluronic Acid Lotion, but here's the gist: layering hydrating toners/ essences/ lotions with serums and moisturizers helps to balance your skin, even out its tone and texture, and prevents surface dehydration as well as fine lines/ wrinkles in the future.
Even though in the past, I thought NOT using a moisturizer on my very oily skin could be a good idea (see this old post), I would never try that again - even (or especially) oily and combination skin types need some hydrating, but not necessarily moisturizing, products. I mean fine, you don't want to use a typical creamy moisturizer, especially in the morning when you wear an SPF anyway - go ahead, I have no problems with that. Just make sure you're using a hydrating serum (preferrably, with lots of hyaluronic acid), or, better yet, a hydrating spray toner followed with a serum, and monitor your skin for signs of dryness; you could always add a more nourishing moisturizer or face oil only at night if you don't like heavy layers on your face in the daytime. Your nicely hydrated face will feel and look softer, plumper and more even, your blemishes will heal quicker, and hopefully in due time, your sebum production will subside at least a little bit.

My favorite lightweight hydrating products include the above mentioned Rohto Hada Labo Gokujyun Hyaluronic Acid Lotion ($11- 20 for 5.7 fl. oz/ 170ml, full review here), Reviva Labs Hyaluronic Acid Serum ($22 for 1 0z./30ml, reviewed here) the Bioderma Hydrabio Serum Moisturizing Concentrate (around $20 for 40ml, mentioned here) and Andalou Naturals Probiotic + C Renewal Cream ($19.99 for 1.7 oz/ 50 ml, reviewed here), preceded by various water-based spritzes such as natural hydrosols (rosewater and rock rose/ Cistus flower water are my favorites), thermal spring waters (Vichy, Avene, you name it) or more complex toners like Nature Republic Bee Venom Mist Essence ($19.90 for 3.38 fl. oz/ 100ml, full review here) or the Dermalogica Ultracalming Mist ($34 for 6 fl oz/ 177 ml, reviewed here). Hydrating masks also work a charm when my skin needs an extra boost, my favorites are various Asian sheet masks as well as the Laneige Water Sleeping Mask ($23 for 80ml/ 2.7 fl oz, recently reviewed here) and the Andalou Naturals 1000 Roses Rosewater Mask ($14.95 for 1.7 fl oz, reviewed here).

5. No picking
As a long-standing skin picker, this last point is something I struggle with the most. While I don't really get whiteheads or larger breakouts any more, I still have a lot of blackheads and quite a few clogged pores, and the urge to get them out of my skin is sometimes too strong to resist. I believe that the internal motivation of a picker and the reasoning behind attacking your own face is that you're 'helping' your skin by getting rid of a stubborn clog, and that once removed, it should heal much faster. And yes, sometimes that's true - but please think about all the other times your picking caused the breakout to get much worse, or to spread into more breakouts in the same area, or it scarred badly and you're still bearing the battle marks today.

Do whatever it takes to minimize, and hopefully completely stop, your picking habit - get rid of magnifying mirrors, don't step too close to a mirror, use lower lighting in the bathroom, set a timer for how much time you're spending at the sink, get artificial nails - doesn't matter, just do it. Picking is a bad habit but habits can be changed, even when they're coping mechanisms. Be present and be mindful for your skin, and it will thank you.

Aaand... that's it! Hopefully, this long and wordy post was helpful to you; please let me know if you have any questions and I shall do my best to answer them. We all wish for better skin, and sometimes what works for one person won't do a thing for the next - but if you're looking to change your routine, these may just be some basic ideas worth considering. Now tell me, regardless of your particular skin struggles - be it irritation, dryness, breakouts - what was the single thing you introduced into your routine that has given you the best results? I'd love to know!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Minimalist Monday: Half-Yearly Make-up and Nail Polish Declutter

Using the same make-up products daily through my Make A Dent and Project 10 Pan challenges has really brought home how much I'm actually able to make good use out of what I own. In short: NOT. AT. ALL. And I'm not even talking about completely using stuff up, but simply feeling like I gave that pretty shiny thing I bought the love and attention that it deserves.
Which is why I quickly started to feel overwhelmed again with the size of my make-up and nail polish stash. While I have been purging my collection here and there for the last three years (see my last declutter post here), passing lots of goodies to friends and family and occasionally tossing something in the trash, this time I felt that I needed to be more ruthless, and really ask myself two questions: whether I was going to use the product more than once or twice just to assuage the feeling of guilt, and whether it was a unique shade I didn't already have at least two dupes for in my stash. What emerged from the culling process was a rather sizeable pile of stuff that I thought I'd share with you.
First off, and what you see in the first photo, is a palette full of various depotted eyeshadows and blushes I knew I wasn't using for a while now. The palette itself used to have a foam insert for round pans the size of a MAC shadow (here's what it used to look like), but by removing it, I was able to both cram more inside as well as put together pans of all different sizes and shapes. It now houses MAC (Deep Truth and Solar Force), Inglot (the square satin pale peach, round dark grey and metallic silver), DIY pressed pigments from NYX and Barry M, two Too Faced eyeshadows from the Natural Eye palette, one shadow from Physician's Formula Canyon Classics quad, and two La Femme blushes. By decluttering all these pans from my Z-Palettes, I was also able to go ahead and depot the Stila In The Moment palette (review & swatches here; look who's talking about having too many palettes back in 2012...), pictured above. I usually find that by depotting my less reached for palettes, I'm able to make better use of the individual shadows housed within.
Continuing with the eyes, I decided to pass on most of my bareMinerals 7 Ways to Bare Eyecolor set (review and swatches here); I simply DO NOT reach for loose eyeshadows, even in lovely neutral hues. I also went ahead and included some of my pencil liners in the giveaway pile: Urban Decay 24/7 pencils in Binge and Mildew (swatched here) and a brand new, unopened Milani Liquif'eye in Brown. I simply have other eyeliners that are very near dupes, and while I do manage to use up an entire pencil occasionally, these things do dry out - so no point keeping back-ups in my stash, they're going to be unusable sooner rather than later.
Lancôme Color Design Palette in Coral Crush (swatched and reviewed here), along with the L'Oreal Infallible eyeshadow in Golden Emerald (click!), Lise Watier Tartan Magique Ombre Soufflé and the recently reviewed YSL Touche Eclat Blur Primer were also given the boot. All very decent products, but I just have too much - I still don't really wear green or teal on the eyes, and I chose the Sleek Oh So Special eyeshadow palette over Coral Crush for that warm peachy feel. Since I just recently got a smaller palette (Suqqu Blend Color Eyeshadow in Hanashoubu), I felt it was fair to pass on one quint to someone else to enjoy.
Culling my blushes was probably the most painstaking part of this declutter, and the most time-consuming. I swatched a whole bunch and wore a few on my cheeks for several days to see what my final thoughts would be. In the end, I'm getting rid of Revlon Photoready cream blush in Flushed (click, I own two shade dupes in cream blushes alone), Laura Mercier Lush Nectarine and Laura Geller Boysenberry powder blushes (click, both pull too orange on my skin for my current taste). The Benefit Watt's Up cream highlighting stick never really suited me, so I'm giving it away together with the Clinique Chubby Stick for Eyes in Lavish Lilac (click - sorry, forgot to include it with the eyes stuff - not my favorite formula, I won't be able to even make a dent in it before it completely dries out).
Lastly, lip products. Most of these have been swatched, reviewed in a lukewarm manner and worn maybe once or twice: Nature Republic Botanical Shine Tint (click!), bareMinerals Marvelous Moxie lipstick in Make Your Move (click!), Make Up For Ever Artist Rouge in N9 (click!), Pixi Shea Butter Lip Balm in Ripe Raspberry (click!), Bourjois Color Boost crayon in Red Sunrise (click!, I own too many reds), and an older tube of MAC Viva Glam IV (too frosty for my current preferences). There's also a brand new, unused tube of something MLBB mauvey from a brand I've never heard about that I received in a complimentary GlossyBox, but I'm not all that interested in trying it and would prefer for it to go nice and fresh to someone more appreciative.
Now, nail polish! That was a bit of a messy process. I had my eye on some bottles that I knew I haven't touched in over a year, but before getting rid of anything, I wanted to give them one last chance by way of a quick fingernail swatch, as you can see above. I decided to keep OPI Pamplona Purple (thumb), Zoya Pixie Dust in London (middle, never worn as a full mani - I want to see if I reach for it this fall/winter season) and Revlon's Perplex (pinky). I've decided to toss Wet n'Wild Shield (index, not into metallics anymore, an old bottle) and pass on Revlon's Black with Envy, as well as OPI Lights of Emerald City (both layered on my ring finger, LoEC always bubbles on me!).
I also said goodbye to OPI Kiss Me On My Tulips mini from the Holland Collection (I own a very near dupe from BarryM) and OPI Chicago Champagne Toast (never worn as a full mani in the two years I've owned it). While I was swatching and comparing my polishes, I counted my stash and it turned out that even after various purges and only one polish purchase so far this year, I still own about 70 bottles. Frankly, that's insane, and it's making me a bit sick to my stomach - I mean really, do I need this many?! I don't do nail art, I don't consider myself a collector, I'm not even that much into polish anymore... Just why. I'm seriously contemplating a nail polish no-buy for the foreseeable future.
These are three products from my stash I decided to throw out rather than give away; they were all too old and mostly used up.
The good thing about looking through my nail polish stash was that I also had a chance to do a bit of cleaning - I like to keep the necks of my bottles free of any dried polish residue so that the caps screw on more firmly and prevent the polish inside from drying out. I recommend a good polish remover and something lint-free for this task (meaning, not cotton wool); I used Orly's nail wipes intended for gel manicures.
There you go; I hope my purge pile was at least somewhat interesting for you. All of these products (minus the three tosses mentioned above) have now been divided into a couple pouches with a specific recipient in mind. A quick count reveals that I decluttered 22 single eyeshadows (powder & cream), 1 eyeshadow palette, 3 pencil eyeliners, 6 cheek products (powder & cream), 7 lip products (full size & mini), 1 deluxe sample of face primer and 4 nail polishes (full size & mini). Together with the throw-aways, that's 44 products less in my stash. I would say that's probably equivalent to a 'one in, one out' policy adopted by some, given that I'm allowing myself two make-up products and/or nail polishes a month (that's 24 a year, but doesn't include gifts, gifts with purchase and other freebies - and that stuff adds up quickly).

I suppose my one take away from this process would be not to wait before purging a product you know you don't really love - that way, you benefit from having an edited collection at all times, but also the products you decide to pass on are at their freshest for someone else to enjoy. I usually keep a donation bag in my closet for all the clothes I'm deciding to get rid of, and I'm planning to now have a separate box for my unloved make-up. Have you guys been purging anything lately, or are you over the decluttering trend? I'm secretly waiting for the pendulum to swing the other way and to see people start hoarding again, lol. How are you feeling about the state of your make-up stash?

Saturday, August 15, 2015

My Kind of Nude: Suqqu Creamy Glow Moist Lipstick no.3 Fuyuzakura

Well, I couldn't have just stopped at buying one eyeshadow palette from Suqqu, could I now? I also really, really wanted to try another must-have from the line, the Creamy Glow lipstick in shade no. 3. However, I'm not sure if the counter person got confused or maybe Mr didn't read all of my carefully scribbled description I provided him with prior to his departure, but I ended up with the Creamy Glow MOIST Lipstick in, yes, shade no. 3 - Fuyuzakura (£27.00 for 0.13 oz/ 3.8g) , which I *think* may mean 'winter cherry blossom'.
The tube is made out of shiny black metal and the shape is sleek and somewhat elongated, but not so tall as not to fit in my shallow vanity drawer. The bullet itself is cut at a slanted angle, as with many lipsticks in those slimmer tubes. The Creamy Glow Moist formula claims to 'stay firmly on the lips while keeping them moist and hydrated' and touts to have 'added skincare effects of lip balm'. Due to the word 'moist' in the name, I expected it to be somewhat glossy, moisturizing and more on the sheer side.
And it turned out to be exactly that, in a shade that's luckily my kind of nude - ain't that easy to find a true flattering nude for this pale face, people. What surprised me upon initial application was that the texture of the Creamy Glow Moist is firmer than most of those sheer, balmy lipsticks, and while it glides onto the lips without trouble, the color does seem to hug the lips a bit closer; it's not as slippy as something like Revlon Lip Butters or my beloved Fresh Sugar Tinted Lip Treatments.
No. 3 Fuyuzakura is a beautiful cool pink nude with just a hint of peach. In the bullet, it looks very similar to Maybelline Color Sensational in Warm Me Up or Red Apple Lipstick in Audrey, but in the swatches and on the lips, it's much lighter and seems to have more of a white base - placing it more in the nude rather than 'My Lips But Better' category for my fair skintone. The LE Bite High Pigment Lip Pencil in Sablé, another favorite nude shade, is a bit deeper and peachier.
It is worth mentioning that while the Creamy Glow Moist formula is quite sheer (that's about six layers on my arm), it doesn't benefit from building up too much on the lips. A heavy layer in such a light shade tends to sink into vertical lip lines too much - you can see that a tiny bit in the close-up photo. Fuyuzakura is also pretty much the exact color of my lips; in the full face shot, I kinda look like I'm wearing just clear lip balm - except that the sheer veil of color makes my unevenly pigmented lips appear more perfected. If you're medium to dark, I think this color may be too light on you (I've heard some people describe Bite Sablé as a death nude, and in the swatches, you can clearly see it's darker than Fuyuzakura).
I would say that the Creamy Glow Moist in Fuyuzakura reminds me most of the Shu Uemura Rouge Unlimited Supreme Shine in PK331. The Shu is a cooler baby pink with shimmers and the formula feels a bit softer, but the effect of that glossy whisper of color on the lips is quite similar - so if you're having trouble getting your hands on the Suqqu and you're not sure if the texture would agree with you, I'd recommend checking the Shu Supreme Shine first (even though it's admittedly not that easy to get hold of Shu in the US either).
Lasting power was slightly above average for a sheer glossy lipstick, and it was still comfortable and somewhat hydrating even after teaching a 1.5 hour class - most lipsticks get eaten/ disappear mysteriously from my lips in similar circumstances, so I'm happy about that.
All in all, I'm satisfied with this purchase - probably more so than with the Hanashoubu eyeshadow quad (btw, I'm not wearing Hanashoubu in the face shot; that's the purple shade from the Stila In The Moment eyeshadow palette on my lower lashline). I don't think the Creamy Glow Moist formula is a lipstick to end all sheer lipsticks, but it's still very good, and a joy to use - it's the definition of effortless, barely there lip. Have you tried any of the Suqqu Creamy Glow Moists? What is your favorite glossy lipstick formula?

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Japanese Iris: SUQQU Blend Color Eyeshadow in no.16 Hanashoubu

I've been lemming after SUQQU eyeshadow quads for about two years now, thanks to all the enticing posts by Kate at Drivel About Frivol, Bellyhead at Wondegondigo, Sara at Color Me Loud and Liz at So Lonely in Gorgeous. Alas, they're not easy to come by in the US: you either have to pay extortionate shipping fees to have them delivered from Selfridges in the UK, or swallow the mark-up and order from Ichibankao.
I was pretty reluctant to part with around $70 (¥8800 for a 0.14 oz/ 4.2 g quad on Ichibankao, £45 at Selfridges) and then worry about my parcel being held in customs on top of that, as per Claire's DHL horror story, so when Mr travelled to London recently for a work trip, I had him trek to the Oxford Street Selfridges himself to purchase a quad for me in person. I doubt he was very happy about it, but he was a trooper.
You can tell right from the packaging that Suqqu is a very luxurious brand: the minimalist matte black box, the velvet pouch, the impressive weight of a reflective black compact, opened by pushing a button. There's also a reasonable size mirror inside, and the four eyeshadows are accompanied by a sponge tip and a brush tip applicators.
For my virginal Suqqu purchase, I opted for Blend Color Eyeshadow no. 16 Hanashoubu - my rudimentary research reveals that this means (Japanese) iris, the quad being undoubtedly named after the beautiful neutral purple shade in the bottom left corner (this is called a 'deep color' in Suqqu terminology). From online swatches, Hanashoubu quad seemed like the most cool-toned in the permanent line, and that's my preference for my fair complexion with cool undertones.
However, when I opened the compact and had a little swatchfest with the shadows, it turned out that Hanashoubu isn't all that cool-toned, at least on my skin. The 'Light Color' in the upper left corner is a very pale yellow ivory shimmer, the 'Arrange Color' on the upper right is a satin warm tan shade, the 'Deep Color', a very subtle iris purple shimmer pulls a bit plummy on me, and truly, only the 'Veil Color' on the bottom right is a very pale silvery pink shimmer.
I'll be honest with you: after swatching these shadows and playing with them on my eyes for a couple days, I don't get the 'Suqqu magic'. Sure, they're nice shadows - while both of the lighter shades aren't terribly pigmented (which is expected at least from the pale pink veil shade), the tan and the purple have a bit of punch to them. Yes, the texture is smooth and buttery, although I did experience some issues when blending out the purple shade over NARS Smudgeproof Eyeshadow Base.
I was however under the impression that Suqqu shadows are supposed to be packed full of beautifully understated but complex shimmer. Except... Hanashoubu is not. The darker shades (tan & purple) are more of a satin finish, and the two lighter shades are shimmery, but in a very straightforward way - I can't see any rainbows or multicolor opalescence in them.
For my first look, I applied the pale yellow on the lid (this took several layers to build up the intensity), pale pink in the inner corners, tan brown in the crease and the iris purple on the lower lashline and the very outer corner. I mean... pretty, but not exactly magical.
For the second look, I attempted to use a layering technique championed by the Belly. I applied purple all over the lid and along the lower lashline, and topped it with the pale pink veil shimmer. That gave it some shimmery oomph but also slightly desaturated the depth of that purple - which I guess is not a bad thing for daytime. I blended the purple out with the tan brown shade in the crease, and used the light ivory in my inner corners - that turned out to be more brightening that using the veil shade alone around the tearduct. I liked this look more than the first one, but it still failed to absolutely wow me - for a similar but more dimensional purpley/ plummy eye, I much prefer the look of Rouge Bunny Rouge Delicate Hummingbird on my eyelids.

So yeah, I don't know - Suqqu veterans, what am I missing here? Where's my subtle but mesmerizing shimmer? Is it just a fluke that Hanashoubu isn't terribly complex? Please tell me. Because as of right now, I'm not in love - and I so wished to be :(

PS. Dear US-based readers who shop on Amazon (uhm, everyone, then?), I have an exciting opportunity to share with you: one of my PR contacts is currently looking for anyone interested in trying two best-selling facial serums from InstaNatural: the Age-Defying Skin Clearing Serum with Vit. C and the Hyaluronic Acid Serum. In exchange, you have to be willing to leave an honest review for these serums on Amazon, disclosing you received the product for free. These products already have nearly a 5-star rating, and I thought it'd be cool if we all tried them together and then shared our experiences. It's not a scam - just a cool opportunity requiring minimal effort. If you're interested, please email

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Perfectly Poreless: YSL Touche Éclat Blur Primer and Perfector*

For a person who's always been very ambivalent when it comes to make-up primers, I sure own and try quite a few on a regular basis. I was recently selected to receive the Influenster YSL VoxBox, which contained two new priming products from the YSL Touche Éclat range: the YSL Touche Éclat Blur Primer* ($52 for 1 oz, I was sent a deluxe 10ml sample) and the Touche Éclat Blur Perfector* ($55 for 0.33 oz).
Let's make this short and snappy and start with the Blur Primer*. The product comes in a beautiful clear glass bottle - my mini has a spatula applicator, but I believe the full size comes with a pump. The product itself is a clear, somewhat thick gel with suspended particles of gold microglitter, and a beautiful fresh, fruity fragrance. Yeah, I know what you're thinking - microGLITTER?! Those were my exact thoughts as well: when you spread the primer around on your face, you're left with little glittering specks here and there, and they even peek through any foundation that you layer over the top. Definitely not my idea of an illuminating effect, not unless you want to look like a Cullen (Sorry. I just had to go there).
Other than this drawback, it's a perfectly nice silicone primer. On my combination skin with enlarged pores, it spreads very easily (it thins out more on the skin than something like the Smashbox primer), fills out most of my pores nicely, and makes foundation blending much easier. I don't think it particularly extends the wear of my make-up, but it doesn't make me any more greasy by the end of the day either. Would I pay $52 for a full size? No ma'am, but then again, I'm not a huge fan of face primers and don't use them regularly in my make-up routine.
For me, the more exciting of the two is the YSL Touche Éclat Blur Perfector*, a 'balm to powder' formula which claims to 'soften the skin’s imperfections—creating a transparent yet subtle, rosy-glow effect' (from Sephora's website). Now, this is definitely not as innovative a product as YSL would like you to believe. It's a very similar concept to Mally's Evercolor Poreless Face Defender ($40) or the Covergirl TruMagic The Perfector ($10.50); essentially, a thicker silicone gel in a compact, and it can be used either alone to smooth and mattify the skin, or on top of foundation in lieu of powder to set and mattify the face, as well as throughout the day for touch-ups (here's a slightly creepy diagram explaining this on the back of the YSL box):
The YSL Blur Perfector* packaging is absolutely beautiful: a weighty powder pink and gold compact that comes with a standard high-end velour pouch and a little application sponge embossed with the YSL logo. In certain lights and under very, very close scrutiny, I was able to detect some miniscule opalescent particles in the balm, but I can't see them on my fingers or on my face, and they didn't even show up in the close-up photo.
I'm not lucky enough to be able to use the Blur Perfector on its own instead of foundation, but I tested it both as a foundation primer and to set my make-up instead of powder, and I like it a lot for both of these functions. For both applications, I get a little product on my fingers by swirling them in the compact, and then pat - not blend - onto my skin. It fills most pores and fine lines just as well as the Blur Primer, but looks more matte and feels more lightweight. I do feel that with the Perfector, my foundation doesn't get as shiny on the T-zone throughout the day; and where a little shine comes through, I don't even need to add any more product - I just pat my skin again with my fingers, and once again, it looks fresh, smooth and matte.
I don't see any brightening 'rosy glow' effect on my skin with the Blur Perfector, but I will say that as a mattifier, it trumps regular setting/ blotting powder because it's virtually undetectable on the skin - no cakiness in sight. So it gives a matte finish to the skin (it's so effective that even on my combo skin, I felt the need for a highlighter to bring more dimension to the face), but it still looks quite natural, which I think would make it a great option for drier skintypes. One thing I should mention on the topic of dry skin is that it exaggerates flakiness; you can see that around my nose in the close-up shot below:
In the face photos, I've used the Blur Primer under my foundation (Estee Lauder Double Wear Light) and the Blur Perfector on my T-zone to set the face. All in all, big thumbs up for the Blur Perfector, and somewhat of a half-hearted shrug for the Blur Primer - it's alright, but a bit... generic, if you know what I mean. I also don't really understand why these two products were released in the brightening Touche Éclat range, other than to profit on a cult name - they do not add any significant glow to the skin.
While I was happy to trial these two blurring products and ended up really loving the YSL Blur Perfector, but I have to admit that I remain unconvinced when it comes to primers. I feel that these days, probably 95% of foundations contain silicones anyway, making separate silicone primers a bit redundant - and while I would like to have my pores appear smaller, I don't think this additional step makes such a huge difference when used with an already smoothing/ pore-filling foundation formula. What do you guys think? Do you use primers on a regular basis, or is a step you're happy to skin in your everyday routine?

*Disclaimer: I received the two YSL products featured in this post complimentary for testing purposes from Influenster (anyone can sign up for free here, you don't need a blog or YouTube channel - just social media outlets). 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!