Monday, September 28, 2015

Chocolate Bar Dupe? Makeup Revolution Death By Chocolate Eyeshadow Palette

Alright - Death by Chocolate Eyeshadow Palette by I Heart Makeup (~ $12.50 for 22g), a sub-brand of Makeup Revolution, is definitely NOT a dupe for any of the Too Faced Chocolate Bar palettes, even though it mimicks the idea, packaging and layout of the shades. But that is precisely why I wanted to try it: while I think Too Faced makes some really lovely eyeshadows, for my personal taste, both Chocolate Bars are way too warm. I just knew I wouldn't use at least half of the shades, so when I saw some recommendations for the Makeup Revolution version on Polish YouTube, I knew the shade selection in Death By Chocolate would tick all the boxes for me.
Let me start by saying that if you're a make-up fanatic like me, Death by Chocolate is by no means a necessary purchase. It sure is pretty and even practical, but if you have a larger collection, you should be able to dupe nearly all of the shades very easily. However, if you're still building your stash, or you're looking for an inexpensive eyeshadow palette for everyday, or would like to have a good travel palette you wouldn't worry too much about being damaged in your suitcase, Death by Chocolate is your friend - and if you're not into cool-leaning shades, there are two other versions that are more warm-toned (Naked Chocolate and I Heart Chocolate), and I assume the quality is probably very similar.

Unlike the Too Faced palettes, these Makeup Revolution spin-offs are housed in sturdy plastic cases. The only two things I dislike about this packaging is the plastic insert with the shade names (c'mon, I thought we all moved on from that!) and the fact that the top with the mirror is a bit heavier than the bottom with all the shades, so when you angle the palette at more than 90 degrees, the mirror just falls flat on the counter - a bit annoying, to be honest. But yes, the mirror is large and good quality, and would absolutely suffice to do your whole face while traveling.
As mentioned, Death By Chocolate follows the same layout as Chocolate Bars, having 14 regular sized shadows and 2 larger pans of highlighting shades. To my eyes, Death by Chocolate is a 'complete palette': you get both a matte and a shimmery highlight, you get at least two matte transition shades (one warm, one cool), you get a whole selection of shimmery lid shades, both warm and cool, and a pigmented matte black to use as a liner or deepen things up. There's also a fun pop of color by way of a beautiful glowy plum purple, one of my favorite shades in the palette.

Really, the array of looks you can achieve with this palette is enormous - from barely there daytime looks to sultry smokeys for a night out. Even though the shades are predominantly cool, there is a few warm options to spice things up. I also appreciate that the palette combines shadows in a few different finishes: we have some mattes, glowy satins and a lot of metallic, high shine shades (look at all these variations of taupe in the bottom row!).
First row swatched, L-R: White Light, Don't Let Go, Break Me Up, Consume Me, All Is Lost
Middle row swatched, L-R: Lick Me (mine broke and had to be repressed), Fool's Gold, One More Bar, Devour Me, Tear the Wrapper, Love You To Death
Bottom row swatched, L-R: Pray For Me, Dipped, Tease Me, Set Me Free, Bring Down Angels
As for the texture and pigmentation of these shadows, overall, I'm very happy with the quality. Sure, some shades could use a bit more pigment (e.g: White Light, the matte ivory highlight, or Devour Me, the matte dark plum), but actually, on the eyes they apply and blend very easily. One important note, as you can see from my arm swatches, a lot of these shades swatch very differently from what they appear to be like in the pan, e.g. Don't Let Go or Pray For Me. As a general rule, I would say these apply better than they swatch; they all have a buttery texture but are quite tightly pressed in the pans, which makes them difficult to pick up with a finger. From my vigorous rubbing for the swatch shots, some shades even developed a bit of hard pan, so I think from now on, I'll be only using brushes with this palette. Throughout the day, all the shadows I've tested wore nicely, although I think my favorite purple lost a bit of its vibrancy by the end of the day
My warm eyeshadow look with Death By Chocolate Palette using Tear the Wrapper on the lid, One More Bar in the outer corner and Bring Down Angels in the inner corner
For now, Death by Chocolate isn't one of the Makeup Revolution palettes carried by Ulta, but I still thought I would review it for you in case you wanted to know about the quality of their shadows or decided to seek this one out on eBay/ order through Makeup Revolution's UK site. I've been really enjoying using this palette ever since I got it three weeks ago, but I think this is my last large eyeshadow palette purchase for a looong while. I just increasingly feel that every time I buy some new shadows, I have almost exact dupes at home already waiting to be used. Have you bought any larger palettes recently? Are you planning to pick up any of the newly released Holiday ones?

Friday, September 25, 2015

Project Make A Dent 2015 Third Progress Update & Project 10 Pan Halfway Update

Another three months have flown by and it's time for my third Project Make A Dent progress update; my last one before the Project's end in late December. I've decided to lump my Project 10 Pan update together with the Project MAD as not to overwhelm you with two very similar posts in quick succession - and truth be told, there isn't any real difference between the two projects aside from terminology. I'm thinking next year, I may just stick to one really big panning project.
Starting with Project Make A Dent, above is what my items looked like in January, when I started the challenge (click!). Just to recap, at the last update in June (click!), I have had already finished five items: Urban Decay 24/7 Eyeliner in Rockstar, Make Up For Ever HD Powder mini, Michael Todd Creme Glace lipgloss in Natural, Revlon Superlustrous Lipgloss in Coral Reef and Face Atelier Ultra Foundation in Porcelain. Since then, I haven't completely used up any more items, but have put noticeable dents in several: the Chanel Rouge Coco Shine in Monte Carlo is very nearly done, and the Maybelline Color Tattoo in Bad to the Bronze as well as Stila Convertible Color in Lillium have even more pan showing. I've worked a bit on the Sephora Nano Eyeliner in Nuage too (I can see a bit of progress there!), but the Inglot Gel Lipstick no. 58 looks pretty much the same to me.
All in all, it's about as much progress as I was expecting to make - I've realized since the beginning that I wouldn't be able to entirely finish some items, but it's enough for me to know that they've had plenty of use.
As for my Project 10 Pan, it's going really, really well. Above is what my products looked like at the beginning of the challenge in July (click!). Since then, I'm counting two products as finished (both have about a week of use left, but I'm counting them in for convenience): the Buxom Full-On Lip Shine in Dolly and the Revlon Lip Butter in Peach Parfait. I'm also very nearly done with three more items: the Estee Lauder Double Wear Light Foundation in Intensity 1 and both of my Orly mini polishes in Gumdrop and Rage. In the close-up shot of my liquids, they actually only look half used up, but the reality is that even with constant thinning, they're getting too thick to apply - I may get one more manicure out of each one, and then they'll be gone.
I can also see lots of progress in the Pixi Endless Silky Eye Pen in Copper Glow as well as some progress in the MAC Blot Powder; the dip in the middle seems to have gotten deeper and I'm hoping to hit pan very soon. There's a little bit of change in the other two lip products, the Covergirl Jumbo Gloss Balm in Watermelon Twist and the Elf Mineral Lipstick in Rosy Raisin, but not a whole lot - I'm hoping to get cracking on those now that the other two are out. The last item, the Revlon Colorstay Foundation for Combination/ Oily Skin, has stayed nearly the same - it's a bit too light for me at the moment (I know! That Tuscan sun, I tell you...), so I'm planning to use it more in the upcoming months.
Overall, I'm still very satisfied with my progress and commitment to these Projects. Sure, I have started to feel bored with some of my products, or have discovered that maybe I wasn't such a fan of the given color/ formula in the first place - or else, that my preferences have just changed. And that's okay - I'll keep those things firmly in mind both for future projects and future make-up purchases. Have are you guys doing with your Projects? Any success stories to report?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Double Cleansing on the Cheap: Andalou Naturals Apricot Probiotic Cleansing Milk

I've been on a green beauty kick lately, focusing on the mid-range brands like Andalou Naturals and Derma e in particular. The gist is that I'm a bit tired of spending big bucks on all the cult skincare favorites, only to realize that while they're nice and luxurious to use, they don't make that much of a difference to my skin, especially when it's already being kept in good condition thanks to my basic skincare principles, discussed in detail here.
So when my REN Evercalm Gentle Cleansing Milk was very nearly used up, I decided not to repurchase another one, despite the fact that my skin really enjoyed it. Instead, I replaced it with the Andalou Naturals Apricot Probiotic Cleansing Milk ($12.95 for 6 fl oz/ 178 ml); one of you has actually recommended this cleanser to me (thank you!), and since I've had good luck with almost all of the Andalou products I've tried (reviews of the 1000 Roses line here, and the Probiotic Renewal Cream + Facial Lemon Sugar Scrub here), I thought that this could be a great inexpensive product to use for the second step of the double cleanse.
The ingredients sound very good to me, but like with all Andalou products, bear in mind that it is fragranced - predictably, the Cleansing Milk smells amazingly of ripe apricots. It's a more natural apricot scent than the Origins Drink Up Overnight Mask, for example, and I definitely prefer it to the Origins - this one has an almost nutty element to it, maybe from all the nourishing natural plant oils (sunflower, apricot, sweet almond, rosehip and borage) used in the formula. The Andalou Cleansing Milk also contains a probiotic complex (mostly oligosaccharides and lactobacillus), as well as a whole skew of antioxidants such as resveratrol, coenzyme Q10, polyphenols and Vitamin E.
The cleanser is packaged in a convenient plastic bottle with a pump, which I greatly appreciate. The Apricot Probiotic Cleansing Milk, contary to the NUDE Omega Cleansing Jelly I've reviewed not too long ago, does not emulsify, which is something to bear in mind if you're used to emulsifying cleansing oils or (gulp!) foaming face washes. Instead, it has a soft creamy texture that spreads very easily on the skin - I would say the consistency is similar to a standard body lotion, or even a light face moisturizer.
I purchased it with the intention to use it either alone in the mornings, or as a second cleanse at night, so personally it doesn't bother me that it's not the greatest make-up remover, especially if you wear waterproof eye make-up. I wouldn't recommend it for that purpose. However, as a basic cleanser meant to cleanse the skin from the remnants of last night's skincare or lingering traces of make-up, it performs very well indeed. It feels soothing and hydrating on, and once removed with a warm wash cloth, doesn't leave a residue. My skin feels refreshed, plump and perfectly clean - I give it a big thumbs up!

All in all, I think the Andalou Naturals Apricot Probiotic Cleansing Milk is very comparable to the REN Evercalm Milk, and while I may prefer the herbal scent of the latter, that's not reason enough to pay more than double the price for the REN version. I also feel like the Andalou is a touch more hydrating than the REN, so I would definitely recommend it if you're struggling with dryness. I'm really happy with this purchase - yet again, Andalou products just don't disappoint. What is your favorite more affordable cleanser? I recently got a mini of the CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser and I'm excited to try that out next :)

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Shopping My Stash: Recently Rediscovered Favorites

To counteract the low from my previous post on all the products I don't want to be using anymore, I thought I'd share some of my recently rediscovered favorites from the depths of my make-up stash. To be honest with you, with both the Project Make A Dent and the Project 10 Pan going on at the same time, I often need to force myself not to completely neglect the rest of my collection. I've been so focused on making some progress in the lip products chosen for these challenges, for example, that I honestly don't remember the last time I wore something else on my lips, unless it was specifically for testing and reviewing on the blog. That's a bit sad - I guess I'm maybe a wee bit too driven to do well in my panning projects, lol.
I still think it's very important to keep rotating the products in your routine, either by means of a weekly/ bi-weekly make-up basket or tray, or just switching them ad hoc out once in a while, or maybe even seasonally, when you want to pull in some specific shades to keep you inspired. It's good to know what you own, and it's good to check once in a while if the products you loved in the past are still favorites - and if it turns out they're not anymore, just pass them on to someone more appreciative.
Anyway, here are a couple things I've been enjoying lately. Since I don't have any bronzers in either of my panning projects, I've been making an effort to switch out between the four I own on a monthly basis, usually in the order of their depth (as my skin gets to its darkest shade - by which I mean about NW15 - by the end of the summer/ early fall). Now that it's September, I've been using theBalm Bahama Mama Bronzing Powder, which is a beautiful matte bronzer, but so dark on my fair skintone that I have to be very careful with how I use it. For that reason, I've paired it with my EcoTools Fan Brush, which gives me a lot of control in terms of placement, as well as a sheerer application. If you have a pretty dark bronzer in your stash that you're scared to use, definitely try applying it with a fan brush; it makes a big difference!
On my cheeks, I've gone back to using Tarte's 12-Hour Amazonian Clay Blush in Dazzled (reviewed here), which is the perfect early fall blush shade with just a hint of plum. I have to say that I'm not absolutely swooned by the Amazonian Clay formula - it's a bit hard in the pan, and requires multiple layers and lots of blending to show up on my cheeks. But once I get it on, it's really beautiful, so I keep reaching for it again and again.
I've also been rotating through my powder eyeshadows regularly (mostly in pre-made palettes and my Z-Palettes), but haven't really been loving anything in particular. One thing I discovered while playing with my eyeshadow pans is that Surratt's Eyeshadow in Scintillante (reviewed and swatched here) makes for a fabulous highlighter on the face as well. Its delicate, refined sheen looks gorgeous on the top of the cheekbones, and it's just the right amount of glow for everyday.
See that giant crack? The other Benefit Creaseless Cream I have in the original packaging doesn't seem to dry out like that - this crack started to appear just a couple months after I've purchased No Pressure :( It's still creamy though.
I also gave my overworked Maybelline Bad to the Bronze Color Tattoo a short rest just before our holiday break, since I knew I would be using it all the time while in Tuscany, and in the meantime, I played around a bit with the Benefit Creaseless Cream Eyeshadow in No Pressure (reviewed here). You know, I do think I slightly prefer the Benefit's cream eyeshadow formula over the Maybelline - it's just softer and easier to blend out. The bronzy taupey shade of No Pressure, even though it looks very similar to Bad to the Bronze at first glance, somehow looks a bit prettier once it's on the eyes; it's a bit smoother (doesn't pick up on the texture of the skin on my lids) and the added gold microglitters give it a bit more interest, either when worn alone or paired with a powder eyeshadow over the top.
For the lips, I've been mostly focusing on all the products in my Projects, but I will tell you this - after my bad run with some lip glosses I've been testing recently, I have an even greater appreciation for my Buxom Full-on Lip Polish (I have the shade Dolly, reviewed here) and the Full-on Lip Cream (Cherry Flip, reviewed here). These are just some damn fine glosses, people. My mini tube of Dolly is very nearly finished *sad face*, and you know what, once I use up Cherry Flip, I will be buying another one of these Buxom glosses, or maybe I'll even get one of the Holiday kits with the different minis (probably next year - I don't think Cherry Flip could be all finished before November).
Wearing all my rediscovered favorites on the face; base is Estee Lauder Double Wear Light, brows Shu Uemura Seal Brown, lashes Mally Beauty Volumizing Mascara.
And that's it! I hope this post inspires you to go digging in your stash :) Which products have you been loving lately? Have you already started to pull out some fall-appropriate shades?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Simpler Living: Products I'd Like to Eliminate From My Routine

In my quest to reduce my beauty stash, I've been using and using up a lot of different products. So many, in fact, that lately I've started to feel a bit bored with my elaborate routine, and I'm over all those special products and treatments cluttering my bathroom and my vanity. If you've been reading Rocaille Writes for a while, you may remember that I wrote a similar post roughly a year and a half ago, but since then, I feel that I have even more products I'd like to add to my list of superfluous beauty stuff - skincare, haircare, make-up, all the works.
Starting with make-up, I've realized not so long ago that I really don't enjoy using liquid eyeliners. I know many of you are gasping in horror right now, but I just don't reach for them - case in point, that Wet n'Wild Mega Liner is all dried up now (why did I even have it in my drawer? Oh, right, I didn't know it had dried out, because I DON'T USE IT), and I kind of have to make myself use the LORAC Front of the Line Pro, reviewed here. I just prefer the convenience of a pencil (and yes, you can make a beautiful cat eye with a pencil liner!), or gel, if I really want that perfectly crisp look.
I'd to like to amend my previoust post here and say that while I'm still not using lip liners or eyelash curlers, I do sometimes reach for a face primer (although I haven't had to buy one in a long time as I keep getting deluxe samples with orders!), and I now use a highlighter (mostly powder) at least a couple times a week - but my skin has also gotten less oily and more even in texture, so they've become more fun to play with. I will however add one more product to my list of unnecessary steps: make-up setting sprays. Personally, the only benefit I get from using one is taking down an overly powdery finish on the face, and for that, I can easily replace it with a hydrating spray toner I already use in my skincare regimen.
In my skincare routine, I'd like to simplify by eliminating a daytime eye cream with SPF (plus, I just really don't like this Clarins SPF30 Sunscreen For Eyes one anymore - so thick and not nearly hydrating enough). I just don't think I need a separate eye cream for the day; I could just be using one eye cream both day and night, and make sure my facial sunscreen is not irritating and suitable to use around the eye area. And while we're on the topic of one cream for both mornings and evenings, I'd like to reduce my stash to just one face moisturizer too. I know that for some this may be unthinkable, and we've been told repeatedly (mostly by skincare companies) how our skin needs more nourishment and active ingredients at night, but I can take care of all the extra nourishment by adding in a face oil, and really, most moisturizers don't even have that many active ingredients compared to serums, which I have a few of to switch around according to my skin's current needs.
I also don't really use spot treatments anymore. To be perfectly honest, they've never worked all that well on my spots anyway, maybe with the exception of benzoyl peroxide treatments, but these too only work on a certain type of spot (usually small, clogged bumps on my forehead). I've also been getting less and less spots in general *fist pump*, so they're just not something I need to keep in my skincare regimen.
And lastly, I think the days of my using the Clarisonic are over. Maybe it's because I now have a much better face cleansing routine (using non-foaming milk/oil/balm cleansers and cleansing twice), I just don't really see the need for a Clarisonic anymore - if I feel like my skin may need a bit of a manual exfoliation, I choose one of my favorite scrubs instead. And, like mentioned above, I don't use foaming face washes anymore, which in my opinion work the best with those sonic brushes. I'll most likely send mine in a care package to my best friend, because I know she's been curious about the Clarisonic - I'm hoping maybe she'll get better use out of it.
For my hair, I'd like to do away with two products taking room in my shower: a clarifying shampoo and a hair mask. I've briefly mentioned in my 'What's In My Shower' post that I'm working on using these up, but never elaborated on the reasons for cutting these things out of my routine. It's very simple - I don't think my hair needs it. I have very fine, straight hair, and I find that a good volumizing shampoo cleans my hair well enough not to need a separate clarifier once in a couple weeks. I also feel like this absolute need for a clarifying shampoo is somewhat of a recent development; it almost seems like a marketing ploy designed to simply sell us more products, no? And at any rate, I've read multiple times that adding baking soda to your normal shampoo makes for a fabulous deep cleansing treatment, so I may try that instead of keeping yet another bottle on the shelf.
As for the hair mask, again - fine, flat hair. I generally don't suffer from very dry hair, maybe with the exception of my ends; but for that, I prefer to use a leave-in conditioner, which has an added benefit of helping to detangle the knots in my strands after I get out of the shower. In the same vein, I don't feel like I need to use hair oils either - the whole routine of doing a hair mask, then applying a little oil, then a detangling spray, then maybe a styling product to add volume... That's way too many steps for someone who isn't really all that into doing her hair. What can I say, it's just boring, and takes too much time as it is, without all the extra steps. However, if I do occasionally find the need to condition my hair a bit more, I'd prefer to just keep one universal plant oil to use everywhere, on my hair, face, and body - be it argan oil, jojoba, camellia, or a mix of a couple different ones.
And since I do already have quite a few of those nice base oils in my stash, I don't really need a cuticle butter either. My cuticles and fingertips in general are usually a dry, flaky mess, thanks to my eczema, but to be honest, I don't reach for my cuticle butter all that often anyway, maybe because I don't like the greasy fingers after applying it - and again, it's just another step I have to remember about. I'm fine with using my one universal oil on my cuticles too, or you know what, a good old lip balm works really well for that purpose too.
 Lastly, I don't want to own any fragrance mists, body splashes or however you want to call them. I just don't really see the point - if I want to smell nice, I'd just much rather reach for a perfume (eau de toilette/ eau de parfum) that will last a couple hours as opposed to this weak mist that will disappear within an hour or two. Even at home, I just can't be bothered to reapply; for now, I lightly use these before I head out to the gym to make myself feel a bit fresher in the morning. But yeah, in general, they're kinda pointless to me.

That's all I could think of right now - I'm sure there will be more products I'd like to add to this list as I continue making my way through my stash and learning to recognize my preferences a bit better. By the way, just to clarify: nearly all of the specific products I used to illustrate this post are GOOD products. Seriously, they do their job very well - which is why I'm not just tossing these things in the trash, but continuing to use them up. I'm just not going to replace them with another product of that type when they're finished - hopefully that makes sense. Also, if you're interested in different perspectives on simplifying beauty routines and what not, Liz has recently shared her list of stuff she doesn't use anymore, and Latoya has written a post about all the products she won't be buying for a while here. Do you guys also have a list of products you don't want to be repurchasing any longer? I'd love to know!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Why So Many Raves? NYX Butter Gloss in Maple Blondie

Yet again, I'm late to the party, but do you guys remember all the raves about the NYX Butter Glosses when they first came out? And then again, when NYX launched their Intense gloss formula earlier this year. Everyone was freaking out over these, buying most of the range and touting it as the best lip gloss in the drugstore. I'd resisted the hype for a long time, but after using up some of the older glosses in my stash, I finally decided to get the NYX Butter Gloss in the shade Maple Blondie ($4.99 for 0.27 oz/ 8 ml). 
The Butter Glosses come in simple slender tubes with the cap reflecting the color of the shade, which comes in handy especially if you have quite a few glosses in your drawer. The tube is shorter than that of NYX Mega Shine glosses. They come with a standard doe foot applicator, as you can see below, but I have to mention that the first time I pulled out the wand, it was all gunked up and covered in gloss, almost like the stopper has malfunctioned or something. I tried to wipe that off, but it's still a bit messy - I'll keep my eye on that for the next couple weeks to see if it happens again, but admittedly I wasn't very happy about it.
 Online, Maple Blondie looked more like a neutral peach to me, but in person, it's quite a bright pinky peach (no shimmer) with quite a bit of a white base, giving the shade a more pastel appearance. I don't really have any similar shades in my stash, but it looks a bit like a cross between Essence Stay With Me Lip Gloss in Candy Bar and the Clarins Lip Perfector in Rose Shimmer.
L-R: NYX Butter Gloss in Maple Blondie, Essence Stay With Me in Candy Bar, Clarins Lip Perfector in Rose Shimmer (one swipe each)
On my mauvey lips, Maple Blondie pulls a bit pinker than in the tube, and right away, you can see the issue with that white/ pastel base - the gloss sinks into and exaggerates vertical lip lines immediately. It also has a tendency to form that disgusting line of gunk where your upper and lower lip meet in the middle of your mouth. Applying very sparingly seems to help that issue a bit, but to me, it's just a sign of a less than ideal formula. As the time goes on, the Butter Gloss starts to feel a bit tacky, and transfers very easily onto any kind of drinking vessel you may be using.
Not sure what I'm missing here, but to me, the Butter Glosses perform very, very similarly to the old Mega Shines, the only real difference being the improved scent (cupcake vanilla versus cherry cough syrup). In fact, I probably prefer the few Mega Shines I still have left in my stash - but then again, maybe I just had bad luck with this shade, and other Butter Glosses don't sink into lip lines as easily. Once more, I'm left feeling underwhelmed and somewhat puzzled by all the hype, which seems to have become a trend for me lately. I guess, all the more reason to stop jumping the bandwagon and start purchasing even less stuff...
By the way, originally, this review was supposed to be all about the bareMinerals Buttercream Lip Gloss in Must-Have Pink (pictured below), which I've had unopened in my stash since January, when I purchased it as part of a (Holiday?) set I got on sale at Ulta. However, as soon as I cracked the tube open for swatches, I noticed that the smell was pretty strange - I still continued with my photos nonetheless, thinking that maybe it was supposed to be like that. NOPE. It's definitely gone off. A new, properly stored, never before opened or touched gloss has gone completely rancid on me. I realize it's just a mini and it wasn't all that expensive, but that makes me pretty pissed. I highly doubt that I will purchase any glosses or lip products in general from bareMinerals range ever again - I should have just stuck to my favorite Buxom Full-On Lip Polishes & Creams, which they also make.
Anyway, back to the NYX Butter Glosses, have you guys tried any of these? Do you agree with the raves? Also, please share any of your 'make-up going bad' stories, I'm hoping this will make me feel a little better; the Buttercream incident wasn't helped by the fact that a couple days later, I also discovered a Fyrinnae Lip Lustre that's gone off in my lip drawer. Have I mentioned that I'm not buying any lip glosses or liquid lipsticks until I finish what I have? Yeah. 'Coz it needs to happen.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Sunscreen Options: Mentholatum Sunplay SPF50+, Shiseido Water in Lip SPF18, Neutrogena Sensitive Skin SPF60+

I've been very diligent in applying sunscreen this season, and as a result, I've been going through my older stash quite quickly and needed to repurchase quite a few SPF products. I realize that summer days are almost over in this hemisphere, but sun protection is very important all year round, so I thought some mini reviews would still be helpful to you, especially for the lesser known Japanese sunscreens I've been trying.
Mentholatum Sunplay Super Block SPF50+ PA++++ ($9.48 for 30g/ 27 ml), which was my choice for sunscreen for the face, came highly recommended from my blogging friend Claire and was also mentioned by Driveller Kate quite a while ago (why don't you blog anymore, Kate? *sniff sniff*). Before I pulled the trigger and ordered a bottle from Amazon, I spent a looong time perusing all the popular options from Japanese and Korean brands, and finally decided to get the Rohto Metholatum Sunplay for three main reasons: a) it's fragrance-free, which is not that easy to find, b) it's alcohol-free, again not very common, especially among Asian formulations, c) it's a combination of physical and chemical sunscreens with the highest PA rating available at this price point. The PA rating, which indicates the level of UVA protection, is especially important to me as I'm a fair-skinned person who freckles very easily, and I would like to prevent future hyperpigmentation issues as much as I can.
The first time I applied the Sunplay Superblock, I was a little terrified. It's a runny, silicony milk which comes in a dinky shaker bottle, and I dotted a generous amount all over my face, just like I would with my Paula's Choice RESIST Super-Light SPF 30. But when I started rubbing it in, it just refused to sink in, leaving me not only very shiny (and that's scary for someone with a combination skin type in the middle of a humid summer!) but also decidedly white. I tried my best not to panic, leaving it alone in hopes it would absorb a little bit (which eventually, it did... a bit), and then finally blending a mattifying foundation over the top, which also helped to take the sheen down a notch. My skin still looked quite glowy, but actually, not in a bad way - just healthy glowy, and the sunscreen felt very lightweight and comfortable on the skin, not tacky or heavy.
Ingredients: Cyclopentasiloxane, water, ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate, zinc oxide, triethylhexanoin, diglycerin, titanium dioxide, methyl methacrylate crosspolymer, trimethylsiloxysilicate, diethylamino hydroxybenzoyl hexyl benzoate, sodium hyaluronate, tocopheryl acetate, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, dipotassium glycyrrhizate, lauryl PEG-9 polydimethylsiloxyethyl dimethicone, hydrate silica, hydrogen dimethicone, polyglyceryl-2 triisostearate, 1,2 hexanediol, aluminum hydroxide, panthenol, vinyl dimthicone/lauryl dimethicone crosspolymer, disodium EDTA
Throughout the day, I checked my face for oil breakthrough quite a few times, and my base still looked fresh and dewy, not greasy. My skin also felt softer and more hydrated (maybe thanks to the hyaluronic acid in the formula); my main problem with the Paula's Choice RESIST sunscreen, especially when paired with a longwearing foundation, is that it tends to look very dry and slightly cakey on my face at the end of the day, and it can be dehydrating when used daily. With the Mentholatum, my face definitely looked fresher and more natural. All in all, I give it a thumbs up for anyone from dry to normal/slightly combination fair to light skin; if you're oily, or your T-zone gets particularly shiny, I would probably skip it in favor of a lighter sunscreen milk, maybe with some alcohol in the formula to help speed up the absorption. On medium and dark skintones, I think it would look too ashy - on my fair self, it tends to lighten my base by about half a shade, which in most cases, is not a bad thing :)
I also took Claire's recommendation to try Shiseido's Water in Lip UV Cut SPF18 PA+ ($4.58 for 3g). Again, I did a lot of research here, and Claire was absolutely right in her Sunscreen Primer post - it's nearly impossible to find a sunscreen for lips that doesn't contain oxybenzone and/or leave a heavy white cast. Whether you want to avoid oxybenzone or not is a personal decision, but either way, the Water in Lip balm is great little find: lightweight, hydrating, not overly glossy - perfect as a base under lipstick or quick touch-ups on the go. It has just a little bit of that mentholated tingle, but it subsides within a couple minutes. I can't vouch for its efficacy as a sunscreen just yet - I guess next year, we shall see if my lip contour freckles get any deeper or, fingers crossed, manage to even fade a bit.
Lastly, I purchased a tube of good ole Neutrogena to use on my body. Instead of opting for their standard Helioplex chemical sunscreen offerings, I chose the Sensitive Skin version with Broad Spectrum SPF 60+ ($11.99 for 3 fl. oz/ 88ml in a squeezy tube with a flip top), which is mineral-based (4.9% Titanium Dioxide, 4.7 % Zinc Oxide) and fragrance-free. And while it may be fragrance-free, it's definitely not scent-free: it has a pretty awful plasticky chemical scent that makes it quite unpleasant to (re)apply. It's also not all that easy to blend into the skin without any white streaks, but compared to the Badger SPF30+ mineral sunscreen I've tried in the past, it's less greasy and dries matte on the skin. I do think it's rather effective in protecting my pasty limbs, maybe because it doesn't just vanish into thin air, I can still feel it on hours later when I need to scrub it off in the shower. I understand that what I just described may sound horrible to many of you, but when you burn as easily as I do, being able to feel a layer of protection on your exposed skin at all times is actually pretty great. I probably wouldn't repurchase, mostly due to the smell, but it's a good effective sunscreen for the time being, and could even be used on the face in a pinch - it contains some glycerin derivatives along with dipotassium glycyrrhizate and pantothenic acid (Vitamin B5), both proven anti-irritants, and it's alcohol-free.

I should also mention that if you're thinking of purchasing any of the Asian sunscreens from sellers overseas (through Amazon or eBay, for example), it's best to plan your purchase at least a month before you run out of your current products, because in general, they do take a while to arrive in the US. Now, tell me - have you discovered any interesting sunscreens lately? What are your favorite options for the face, lips and body?

Monday, September 7, 2015

Minimalist Monday: So You've Decluttered All of Your Stuff... Now What?

Thank you guys so much for your encouraging words on my Minimalist Monday series - I really appreciate that, and your feedback gives me more ideas for future posts! That's exactly how this one was born: in part inspired by your comments, in part the result of my own reflections towards the process of achieving a simpler lifestyle.

The thought that has recurred the most in many of my conversations about purging and minimalism in general, and which has stuck in the back of my mind for the past couple of months, is that 'decluttering is just a trend'. Yes, if you're observing the whole phenomenon from the outside or have just dipped your toes into it by throwing out some old T-shirts, it seems to be exactly that - the Marie Kondo obsession, the whole series of make-up collection declutters on YouTube, popularity of Project Pans, blog sales; everyone is loving it at the moment. Everyone is throwing this out, everyone's reducing, everyone is simplifying... Or are they, really?

Here's what I think really happens to most us during the decluttering process, even with the best of intentions. You've either just finished reading 'The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up' (here's my review, if you're curious about my thoughts), or have watched a bunch of 'beauty gurus' purge and reorganize their closets and make-up drawers - and now you can't wait to start your own 'journey' (yes, that's how it's being called these days; sounds better than 'getting rid of a bunch of crap', doesn't it?). Usually, it goes two ways from there: either you get completely overwhelmed by the task and only manage to tackle a very small space, if that; or, you do actually go through all of your closets, junk drawers, document folders, and yes, make-up collections, and get rid of quite a significant amount of stuff. Which camp are you in, by the way?

I'm firmly in the second camp - I did go slowly and carefully through most of my stuff, and got rid of (threw away/ gave away/ donated) A LOT of things. I would estimate at least 50% of my own clothes, 30% of my make-up stash (over a period of a couple years - I started well before decluttering became a trend), 20% of other things like documents and miscellanous things; this last category had the least amount of progress since it includes things I share with my husband, and he's still not very interested in getting rid of anything. It felt AMAZING - I was on a decluttering high. I could see visible changes to my drawers and cabinets, everything looked cleaner and more organized (look at the pretty rows of my vertically folded clothes! Yes, they still look that way), and I was able to rediscover so many beautiful things I've owned for years but wasn't using because all that other crap was obscuring it from view. It was magical, just like in KonMari's book.

Well, okay - but what do I do now? I feel that this is something that isn't really mentioned in the book at all; Marie simply states that once you go through the total, all encompassing purge, you will never want to go back to your old ways, and your home (and life) will remain clutter-free. But unfortunately, I don't believe it's all that simple.

If you think about how all those things you just got rid of made their way into your home in the first place, they were not just 'junk' to begin with. You bought them because you needed or wanted them, or they were generously given to you as a token of someone's love and caring. No one came in with a shovel and showered your space with trash - that's clearly not the source of the problem.

The heart of the problem is that we're part of a consumerist culture, and we've been brought up associating all kinds of important feelings with physical goods, thinking about them as status symbols, problem solvers, or happiness bearers. Oh, the stuff! Stuff is important. I need more stuff! I believe that if you do not take time to address those feelings, and if you don't try to change your attitude towards stuff, you'll be just facing the same clutter problem again and again over the course of your lifetime (how depressing). There won't be any 'life-changing magic' to your hard work in purging your closet; things will just slowly revert back to where you started.

But changing your attitudes and thought patterns is not easy, and it won't happen overnight. That's the not-so-fun part of attempting a more minimalist lifestyle that's rarely mentioned, much less executed, by all those trend-setters showing us their perfectly decluttered and reorganized spaces. Essentially, if you truly want to change your consumerist ways and lead a simpler lifestyle, you need to acquire MUCH less stuff in the future, on top of continued efforts to downsize what you already have.

This is precisely why I put in place my two make-up products a month allowance two years ago (I'm considering changing it to one product a month next year) and started documenting my empties and doing Projects Make A Dent/ Project Pan. This year, I've also started writing down a list of every make-up item and every piece of clothing/ accessories I buy, along with their prices. So far, I've resisted doing a complete inventory of my make-up/ nail polish/ skincare stash because I think I'll be too overwhelmed with the results, but it's a useful tool, and I may consider doing it at some point in the future.

And while all of these strategies are helpful in keeping me on track of my stuff-reducing goals, it is still not easy - I get tempted, like we all do. I continue to purchase unnecessary things that I'll probably regret later. I don't want you to think I'm some sort of minimalist lifestyle ideal - you should see my bathroom cabinet, or my skincare back-up drawer - and remember those 70 nail polish bottles still remaining in my collection, even after various purges? I'm still a beauty fantatic at heart, and I love trying new products and reviewing them on the blog, even though I know I don't actually NEED them. Simplifying your life is definitely a long process, difficult and mundane at times (you know, like actually trying to use up all those extraneous bottles of stuff instead of just pitching them in the trash...), and finding your personal balance between living with less and living a full life may take months. Or years. I fully recognize that.

What I'm trying to say is that making a lasting change is challenging, and it may not even be for everyone. If a mere thought of getting rid of your things is giving you the heebie-jeebies, or you've finished your declutter and you feel happy with where you are now, then good for you - you certainly don't need me to tell you what to do, you just do you. But if you still feel overwhelmed by what you own, or you feel stuck, not fully content but not knowing where to go next - just give yourself some time to think things through. I've found that my comfort levels keep changing all the time (specifically, I'm comfortable with simplifying more and more stuff in my life; just look how skeptical I was back in February...), and what you deem impossible right now may seem quite effortless in a couple months. Minimalism isn't some sort of trendy race or competition (and if you hail the benefits of your newly decluttered closet just to turn around and haul MORE stuff into your life, then you're clearly missing the point - hint hint, YouTube), and it doesn't help to compare yourself to other people - just do it at your own pace, with your own set of rules.

I do my best to try and enjoy it despite the difficulties - like coming up with new ways of simplifying my life (for example, recently when I needed a new suitcase for international travel, I intentionally bought a smaller one to practice more efficient and minimalist packing - or trying to decide which personal care products in my bathroom I could do without), discovering more books and blogs about minimalist lifestyles, or combining my remaining clothes into new outfits I've never thought of before. I would love to hear your thoughts about your own decluttering/ simplifying/ minimalist experiences, what you struggle with the most and what you find the most helpful - we're all in the same boat! On a different note... Happy 29th Birthday to me! - I'm writing this post early in preparation for our Italy trip, and I'm hoping that as you're reading it, I'm off somewhere basking in the sun between hills of Tuscany, sipping Chianti and enjoying a fabulous gelato :D Thank you for reading!

Friday, September 4, 2015

What's In My Travel Make-up Bag: Two Weeks in Tuscany

We're flying to Italy tonight! I'm choosing to disregard the fact that we still need to haul ourselves to JFK by subway, spend 9 hours on a transatlantic flight, wait another couple hours at Charles de Gaulle in Paris (probably my LEAST favorite airport in the world) and then, at long last, we'll finally reach Florence. In an attempt to dispel some of that Reisefieber, I'll be sharing the contents of my fortnight travel make-up bag with you today.
In the spirit of simplifying and what not, I've tried to only pack a minimum of products that would still allow me a little bit of variety for different occasions. Essentially, our family holiday in Tuscany is going to be very casual: we're staying at an old country house, and we're planning to spend our days lounging, sightseeing, visiting wineries and gorging ourselves on glorious local fare. I also don't want to spend a long time getting ready in the morning and fiddling with my make-up when I could be spending that precious time with the family instead - so I'm aiming for a quick, pulled together look that can take me from roaming between the vineyards to dining at a cosy restaurant in the city.
The bag itself was a gift from a friend but I believe it came from Forever21. It is the perfect size for all my essentials, and it's just a bit padded for extra security. Starting with face products, one category I don't want to skip is my facial SPF, which is why you're seeing both the Paula's Choice Resist SPF 30 and the Bourjois CC Cream SPF 15. The reason I'm putting the sunscreen in my make-up bag is that I've recently taken to mixing it in with my foundation (or CC cream), or applying one after another in quick succession. I feel that this method allows for better blendability, and a more natural look to the skin. I'll be using the Estee Lauder Double Wear Stay-in-Place Concealer on both my under eye area and my blemishes, and setting everything with MAC Pressed Blot Powder in Medium.
For my cheeks, I've actually been going back and forth and considering only taking the Stila Convertible Color in Lillium from my Project Make A Dent. I'm really not sure if I need theBalm Bahama Mama bronzer (I've been a bit ambivalent towards bronzers lately and mostly use them to match my white neck to a darker foundation on my face, but the Bourjois CC Cream is a good match at the moment), or the Canmake Cream Cheeks in Clear Pink Joy, but they're in the bag for now.
On the eyes, I've wanted something fuss-free and neutral, so I went with the Maybelline Bad to the Bronze Color Tattoo (either alone or as an eyeshadow base), Dior quint in Earth Reflections (suitable for both subtle and more smokey looks, and the pale shimmery shades can double as a cheek highlight) and Pixi Beauty Endless Silky Eye Pen in Copper Glow (either to quickly smudge along the lashline, a subtle wing or definition in the waterline). A good, long wearing mascara is also a must, and I've been enjoying my tube of Mally Beauty Volumizing Mascara in Black the past couple of weeks. For my brows, I opted for the NYX Micro Brow Pencil in Taupe - the handy spoolie on the end saves me from packing a separate brush for my brows.
I've been debating over my lip choices for a long time, but in the end went with two lipsticks from my panning projects: Revlon Lip Butter in Peach Parfait for a shimmery peach and Chanel Rouge Coco Shine in Monte Carlo for an easy, sheer red. I also added a tube of Maybelline Color Elixir in Caramel Infused for my MLBB pinky mauve fix.
Lastly, for perfume I'm planning to decant one of my perfume minis into a refillable travel spray - this one is from BornPrettyStore. Fun fact, nearly all of my deluxe samples of perfume are 5 ml, while a regular small sample vial of perfume holds between 1,5 to 2 ml. So I could be just taking three small perfume samples with me (I know for a fact that it's more than enough for a two week trip), but you know, gotta use those minis at some point too.
I hope you enjoyed this quick peek into my current travel make-up bag; here's the last version from winter 2013 if you're curious. I realize that what I consider a more streamlined make-up bag may actually be someone else's entire make-up collection, but come on people, we're all beauty addicts here. If you'd like to see MOAR ideas for packing make-up, here are two helpful posts: one from Kar Yi on space-saving solutions for your travel make-up bag, and another from Larie on packing a carry-on beauty pouch for weekend getaways. Do you travel light make-up wise, or do you like to have options? Do you have any special travel tricks or tips up your sleeve that help you save both time in the morning and space in your suitcase? I'd love to know!