Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Merry Christmas! I'm taking a break.

Merry Christmas to all of you who are celebrating! I hope your holiday season is filled with joy and wonder and you get to spend it with your loved ones. The three of us wish you all the best from the bottom of our hearts :)
Coincidentally, spending this special time with the family is the reason I've decided to take a little break from blogging. I have lots and lots of new amazing products I'd like to tell you about and other beauty-related thoughts to share, but I won't lie to you - I just can't do this right now. While I may have thought that 2 months would be enough to pull my shit together with baby Julian on board, that has simply proven not to be the case. Sleep deprivation has hit me pretty hard and I can barely muster enough presence of mind to make myself a cuppa most days (wait, did I put the kettle on? Oh, I did - an hour ago. Well then... Have I already put sugar in this tea? Oh, seems like I did - more than once...), much less be able to take precious time out of my day to pour words onto the page.

I'm definitely not complaining though - while some days are rather challenging, spending time with my little one is infinitely rewarding and I wouldn't have it any other way. I just need to focus on what's essential in my life right now, which is taking care of my family - and myself. I love this beauty blogging business to bits, but helping the boy grow and showing him this strange new world is my topmost priority at the moment.

I shall return in the New Year - not really sure when exactly, but that's just how it's going to be for a while now, taking one day at a time. I'm hoping to post little life updates and snippets on Instagram/ Twitter in the meantime if you're interested. Thank you, dear readers, for another beautiful year together, and I will see in you in 2017! How crazy is that, huh?

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Luminous Nude Cheeks: Surratt Artistique Blush in La Rosée du Soir

Time for blogging is rather sparse these days, but I had to come on here to show you the newest member of my blush stash, the Surratt Artistique Blush in La Rosée du Soir ($32 for 0.14 oz/ 4g). After trying the Surratt pressed powder 'slurry' formula via his eyeshadow in Scintillante (reviewed here), I was really interested in trying a blush from the line, and I was finally enabled to do so by the Sephora VIB rewards card - even though I really do not need any more blushes in my life.
In the same manner as his eyeshadows, the Artistique blushes come in single resin pans which can be glued into a Surratt custom palette, available separately. For the time being, I'm too cheap to actually spring for that beautiful compact and just use the pans as is - luckily they're more substantial than a regular metal pan and also come with a sliding plastic lid to help protect the powder inside. The shade name is printed on the back label, which is also a sticker you'd use to secure the pans in the palette.

Well, since my window for blogging isn't very long at the moment, let me keep this post brief and just say that I really, really like the formula of this Surratt blush. It's just as pillowy soft as my Scintillante eyeshadow and applies like a beautiful glowy cloud of color to the cheeks. I feel like La Rosée du Soir certainly isn't the most pigmented blush formula out there, but that's my preference - I find opaque blushes very difficult to work with on my fair skintone.
The texture is creamy and blendable and looks natural on the skin; there's no trace of powderiness (is that a word? Don't think so...) once applied. The subtle luminous finish is also incredibly believable. I would compare it to one of my HG blush formulas, the Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blushes - it's the same amount of ethereal glow without obvious shimmer or, God forbid, glitter. However, I may even like the formula of the Surratt blush better, because it feels less dry than the Hourglass both on the skin and in the pan.

L-R: Surratt La Rosee du Soir, Hourglass Mood Exposure, NARS Douceur, KIKO Trio Blush in no. 1 Natural Rose
I know what you're going to say - La Rosée du Soir isn't a terribly unique shade. In fact, I have an almost exact dupe in my stash already. But the finish and tactile feel of the Surratt blush is unique enough for me to warrant keeping it, and this nudey rose color family is my favorite at the moment, so I don't mind having several to choose from. I've swatched it here against three other similar blushes to give you an idea of the shade if you're planning to order sight unseen. I've seen La Rosée du Soir described as a nude pink (Sephora says it's a rosy nude) but I would keep in mind that this shade pulls rather warm, especially on a fair skin tone. I would even say it looks a bit more like a nude muted peach on me; it's definitely warmer than NARS Douceur and less rosy than something like KIKO Shade Fusion Trio Blush in Natural Rose (here).
So while this purchase was definitely superfluous for my collection, I'm really pleased with Surratt La Rosée du Soir, and I would gladly buy more shades from the newly expanded range. It's also worth mentioning that yes, the brand's Cheek Brush (reviewed here) works exceptionally well for picking up and blending their blush formula. Have you tried any of the powder products from Surratt Beauty? What is your favorite everyday 'goes with everything' nude blush?

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Customized Lashes: Pacifica Beauty Dream Big Mascara* Review

Have you ever tried one of those customizable mascara wands? You know - like those brushes that are actually two in one - a large one for volume, and a small one for definition - or a newer version, where you twist the top of the cap to change the length of the wand and the distance between the bristles. While I'd always been curious about this type of mascara, I've actually never pulled the trigger to try it, fearing it would be more of a gimmick than a useful feature. So I was quite skeptical yet interested when I was given a chance to test the new Pacifica Beauty Dream Big Lash Extending 7 in 1 Mascara in the shade Black Magic* ($16 for 0.25 oz).
Right of the bat, let's choose to ignore the '7 in 1' claim. Pacifica is basically trying to convey this mascara will change your make-up life: on top of volumizing, lengthening and lifting up your lashes, the Dream Big mascara contains a conditioning lash serum. There are two settings you can use for the wand - the 'Length' setting elongates the brush and moves the bristles more further apart, whereas the 'Volume' setting shortens the wand and makes the bristles more dense.
Left: Wand at the Volume setting, right: Length setting
I'll get right to the heart of this review: I quite like this Dream Big mascara, despite my initial wariness. HOWEVER. Frankly speaking, I don't see any difference in terms of look or performance on my lashes between the Length and Volume settings. In both cases, the result of applying two coats of this mascara is pretty much the same: nicely separated lashes with a bit of extra volume and length. If you like va-va-voom lashes, this is not a mascara for you. It definitely gives more of a natural daytime look, and if your lashes are already pretty good or you dislike to see product on your lashes, I'd say to give it a try. But if you're hoping for a more dramatic effect, I think the Dream Big would leave you disappointed.
Top: bare uncurled lashes, bottom: two coats of Pacifica Dream Big Mascara
The formula itself is perhaps a bit on the wetter side, and I tend to get a glob of product on the tip of the wand every time I open up the tube. But thanks to the rubber bristles, it doesn't clump up on the lashes too much unless I really rush my application. The mascara also wears well throughout the day; I don't get the dreadful smudging under my browbone but I've noticed it can sometimes flake a little bit, especially if I happen to touch my eye area by accident.
All in all, if you're looking for a natural - both in terms of effect and ingredients' list - mascara, the Dream Big from Pacifica is a great option. Like all Pacifica's products, it's also vegan and cruelty-free. Green beauty addicts, what is your favorite brand for mascara? From what I understand, mascara is a more difficult product to get right if you want something with clean ingredients, so I'd love to hear some recommendations from you!

Disclaimer: Product featured in this post is a press sample I received from the brand's PR for review consideration. All links are non-affiliate. All opinions are 100% honest and unbiased, no matter if the product featured was purchased with my own money or provided free of charge. Thank you for reading!

Monday, December 5, 2016

What's In My Daily Make-up Bag: Mom of a Newborn Edition

I can't believe my tiny baby bean is 2 months old already! It's really fascinating to watch how Julian changes right before our eyes - and while those fast changes can be quite challenging to adjust to, we're constantly being rewarded by his toothless smiles and new skills. But focusing all the attention on our very, very small gentleman often entails forgoing a lot of my own needs; so to practice a little bit of self-love and increase my well-being, I've been trying to put a little bit of make-up on most days, and I thought I'd share some current 'busy mom' favorites.
These are the products I've decided to pull out for the ultimate quick, easy and rather minimal make-up routine. I've opted to arrange them in the order of priorities; if I don't have time for anything else (Julian suddenly waking up from a nap or some other unexpected occurence), I only apply a fine layer of BB cream (Missha Perfect Cover BB, reviewed here) all over my face with my fingers and call it done. I've actually taken to storing my base product of choice in the bathroom cabinet (separately from the rest of my make-up, which I keep at my vanity in the bedroom) and I'll usually apply it right after my serum instead of a moisturizer; however, this may not work all that well in a few weeks when the weather turns a lot drier and colder.
If my timing is right though, I'm able to go for a few more steps; I keep all of those products in a little make-up bag (they call it a Multi Pouch) from a Korean brand Pour Vous. My next order of business is concealer; these days I mostly use it to conceal dark under eye circles and skip trying to spot conceal any little marks or blemishes, which thankfully have become quite rare. I'm doing my best to use up what's left of my NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer in Chantilly; I feel like it's a lot drier now and I dislike how crepey it looks under the eyes. I'll then set my T-zone with a little bit of powder; I'm quite surprised actually by how much I like the bareMinerals Mineral Veil loose powder (just finished my deluxe sample, which is why it's not in the photo).
Next up are my brows: I reach for either my Holy Grail Shu Uemura Seal Brown pencil (reviewed here), or a new product in my stash, the Essence Make Me Brow in Browny Brows. It's basically a much, much less expensive version of the Benefit Gimme Brow, which I wasn't a great fan of (mentioned it here); however, maybe because I went for a darker shade this time, I don't hate the Essence gel, and it definitely has a leg up over the Shu brow pencil in terms of speed of application.

Then, if I'm running out of time or will to play with more steps, I'll just do a quick swipe of powder blush - I've gone back to my Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush Palette, which is still love - and then dab a bit of a lip product on. I've been wearing sheer lip glosses in nudey pink or mauve shades a lot more than lipsticks, maybe because I feel like they're a bit kinder on dry lips and don't make me look overly made up when paired with the rest of my barely there face. I have a couple favorites I've been rotating; in fact, I keep my lip glosses in a couple different locations (vanity table, purse, stroller, next to where I feed the little dude) so that I remember to apply or, if I'm lucky, even reapply throughout the day. Both Maybelline Color Elixir in Caramel Infused (reviewed here) and the Buxom Lip Cream in Dolly (here) are old stand bys, but I've also been happy with a new addition to my stash, the Aveda Nourish-mint Rehydrating Lip Shine in Chuparosa* (available here) from their F/W 2016 collection.
Some swatches; L-R: Benefit No Pressure, Pixi Deep Plum, Aveda Chuparosa, Maybelline Caramel Infused
For whatever reason, making up my eyes is the lowest on my priorities list (well I guess I know the reason - I'm too tired and lazy to spend extra time removing eye make-up at the end of the day...). If nothing else, I'll do either a little bit of mascara (currently switching between the L'Oreal Voluminous*, reviewed here, or Pacifica Dream Big*, here), or tightline with Pixi Endless Silky Eye Pen in Deep Plum (here), or both. Now, if I'm really going for it, I'll even do a little something something on the eyelids, usually in the form of Benefit's Creaseless Cream shadow in No Pressure (reviewed here), and the same pencil eyeliner along the lashline. And then if by some miracle baby boy is still not up yet and I'm feeling super indulgent, I may even play with some powder eyeshadows. But in all honesty, that's not a part of my regular routine but rather a rare treat these days, so no point in telling you about it :)

There you have it; here's what I try to do to make myself feel more human between feeding, changing diapers and rocking little prince to sleep. Speaking of - I better wrap this post up, someone just woke up hangry :) What's the most important step in your basic make-up routine that you don't want to do without?

Disclaimer: Products marked with an asterix (*) are press samples I received from the brands' PR for review. I purchased all the other products myself. All links are non-affiliate. All opinions are 100% honest and unbiased, no matter if the products featured were purchased with my own monies or provided free of charge. Thank you for reading!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Black & Gold: Clio Gelpresso Waterproof Liner in Golden Black no. 7

Believe it or not, but for a while this year, I didn't have a single black eyeliner pencil in my stash. While I used to consider black an absolute essential, I actually don't find a huge difference on the eyes between black or any other darker eyeliner shade, be it navy, plum or deep green. However, when I found these Clio Gelpresso Waterproof Pencil Gel Liners ($15 for ) on a deep discount at a sample sale, I couldn't resist picking up the shade Golden Black no. 7, a creamy black shot through with black microglitters.
Clio's Gelpresso Liners are close to cult classic status for many K-beauty lovers, so I was curious to see how they compared to my favorite Pixi Endless Silky Eyeliner Pens (reviewed here) or even Urban Decay eyeliners. The first major difference is the packaging: Clio's pencils are retractable and come with a built-in sharpener at the end. In theory, I'd consider this to be an improvement (because uhm, LAZY), but in practice, I kinda miss that freshly sharpened tip to my pencil liner; yes, you can make the tip a bit finer by using the provided sharpener, but it's not as precise.
I believe there are multiple shades in this range, including neutral and bold shades, in both cream and shimmer/ microglitter finishes. The black base of the shade Golden Black isn't quite as deep and inky as my Marc Jacobs Highliner in Blacquer, especially when smudged or blended out, but I don't really mind that.
In terms of texture and wear, after about a month of use, I have to say this Gelpresso Liner hasn't surpassed the Pixi liners or Marc Jacobs Blacquer for me. For whatever reason, it's just not as smooth and creamy as the other two formulas; it drags and skips just a little bit on the lashline. On my upper lashline, it wears well throughout the day, but for tightlining, it transfers down and smudges at the outer corners within a couple hours (which the Pixi and MJ do as well, but at least feel softer to line with).
I've also tested how well the Gelpresso in Golden Black could withstand vigorous removal with a cotton square soaked in micellar water, and as you can see below, it faded A LOT more compared to the Marc Jacobs Blacquer. It also seems to wear off more when rubbed with a finger, so that's something to consider if you tend to rub your eyes accidentally throughout the day.
For me, while I do find the quality of the Clio Gelpresso in Golden Black to be quite decent, it's definitely not my favorite gel eyeliner pencil I've ever tried. If you like the convenience of a retractable pencil and you can find these on sale somewhere, I think they're a nice option, but I wouldn't go out of my way to seek them out in the future. I would also be interested to see whether the cream (no shimmer or glitter) finish pencils in this range perhaps feel a bit creamier and smoother; in my experience, pencils with microglitter tend to have a somewhat drier texture. Have you tried any of the Clio Gelpressos? What is your favorite black eyeliner pencil?

Monday, November 21, 2016

Aveda Fall 2016 Fōklôr Make-up Collection: Single Eye Colors* and Eye Definers* Review & Swatches

Even though I haven't been wearing a lot of eye make-up lately, I was instantly inspired by the eyeshadows in the Aveda's Fall/ Winter 2016 Foklor Make-up Collection to try some new color combinations on my eyes. The Fōklôr Collection was designed with two eye looks in mind: Sage Smoke, using the Petal Essence Single Eye Colors* in 981 Balsam and 980 Dusted Sage, and Risør Rose with Eye Colors in 982 Chia and 983 Rose Quartz ($15 for a single pan).
I've actually never tried any make-up products from Aveda or even heard much about them in the blogosphere, so I was even more interested to test out the contents of the PR package I was sent. First of all, I was plesantly surprised to see that Aveda's Single Eye Colors are available in pan form - I pretty much depot all of my singles into a free form palette anyway, so to me, single pans without a compact are the most convenient.
Let's start with the Risør Rose color scheme. Chia no. 982 is a very dark brown aubergine shade with a matte finish. In the pan, it looks more like a satin, but it applied matte both in my arm swatch and on the eyes. Out of the four eyeshadows I tested, I was the least impressed with the formula of Chia. The texture is quite stiff and dry and overall, I find this shadow poorly pigmented. I couldn't achieve any depth of color on the eyes even despite multiple layers, and I felt like what I did manage to apply faded significantly throughout the day (tested on top of Too Faced Shadow Insurance).
Rose Quartz no. 983 fared a bit better, although I would also classify it as a rather lightly pigmented shadow. It's a warm rose shade with gold and orange shimmer/ microglitter particles, which gives it somewhat of a rose gold feel on the eyes. Again, the texture wasn't very creamy and I had to press my brush quite hard into the pan to get enough powder on the bristles.
I had much better experience with the two eyeshadows from the Sage Smoke colorway. Balsam no. 981 is a cool-toned dark emerald green with a matte finish. In my heavy arm swatch (applied with a finger), this shadow looks very uneven and patchy, but I found that it applied quite well on the eyes, although again, it's not the darkest, most pigmented green out there. The formula is still quite dry but softer and easier to pick up from the pan.
I was possibly the most excited to try Dusted Sage no. 980. The name of this shadow is spot-on: it is indeed a muted, silvery light sage with a satin or a lightly pearlized finish. However, I was a bit underwhelmed with this eyeshadow's performance: again, it's very lightly pigmented and also quite hard and dry in the pan, which makes it difficult to build it up on the eyes. On my cool-toned skin, it also surprisingly turned a bit more warm than I expected; I couldn't see much of that silvery sheen.
I also received two shades of Petal Essence Eye Definers* ($17 each for 0.04 oz/1.14 g) included in the Fōklôr Collection: Gypsum Gold no. 981 and Slate Shimmer no. 980. Gypsum Gold is a warm gold (pearl/ metallic finish), while Slate Shimmer is a deep charcoal with silver shimmer. In terms of formula, Aveda's Eye Definers seem to be the more standard khol formula for an eye pencil; they're quite firm and don't glide on nearly as easily as the gel-like formulas (e.g. Urban Decay or Pixi) I usually go for. This formula also doesn't really set, although I didn't have issues with either Gypsum Gold or Slate Shimmer migrating throughout the day.
Again, I wish both of these eye pencils were a bit more pigmented; I had to go over my lines several times for the colors to show up properly. I used Gypsum Gold to brighten inner corners of my eyes in combination with the two shadows from the Risor Rose look; however, the overall effect was so sheer and subtle that it didn't even register properly on my camera. I had better luck with Slate Shimmer, which I used in my interpretation of the Sage Smoke look below; I applied a very fine line along my upper lashline and to tightline. I don't think you can really see the silver shimmer all that much but I used it very sparingly - it would show up if I drew a thicker line or blended it out with a brush.
I had a lot of fun playing with eye products included in Aveda's Fall/ Winter 2016 collection, but I have to say I wasn't overly impressed with their performance. I understand that not all eyeshadows have to be deeply pigmented and a lot of make-up wearers prefer sheerer washes of color, but even so I found the dry and hard texture quite difficult to work with. I also prefer the newer gel-like eyeliner pencils to the khol formula, although if you like khols, I think these are a nice option and I love the subtle silver sparkle in the Slate Shimmer shade.
In the photo above, I'm wearing Dusted Sage all over the mobile lid with Balsam in the outer corner; I blended out the crease with Velvet Revolver from Too Faced for a more seamless transition. Like I mentioned earlier, I applied the Eye Definer in Slate Shimmer in a fine line along my upper lashline. On the rest of my face, I'm wearing Clinique Cheek Pop in Heather Pop on the cheeks and Aveda's Nourish-mint Rehydrating Lip Glaze in Pink Lupine* on the lips together with NYX Lip Liner in Nude Suede Shoes. For the base, I used Missha Perfect Cover BB Cream set with bareMinerals Mineral Veil, and NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer in Chantilly under the eyes, and defined my brows with Shu Uemura Hard Pencil in Seal Brown.

What eyeshadow shades have been inspiring you lately? Are you all about the warm neutral trend, or do you wear bolder color accents?

Disclaimer: Products featured in this post are press samples I received from the brand's PR for review consideration. All links are non-affiliate. All opinions are 100% honest and unbiased, no matter if the product featured was purchased with my own money or provided free of charge. Thank you for reading! 

Friday, November 18, 2016

Cheap Thrills: Essence Lipliner in Satin Mauve

When was the last time you bought a make-up product at the drugstore for less than $2? I feel like the days of finding awesome deals at the drugstore are coming to an end, and there's just a few brands left that offer truly inexpensive products that work well. Fortunately, one of these brands is Essence, and when I felt the itch to experiment with lining my lips again, I decided to take my two bucks and invest in their Lipliner in Satin Mauve ($1.99 for 0.035 oz, I bought mine at Ulta).
Just for the sake of comparison, at the same time I also ordered the NYX Slide On Lip Pencil, which costs $7.99. Eight dollars for a drugstore lip liner is getting up there, am I right? Anyway, back to the Essence Satin Mauve. This pencil looks like the most classic, old-school lip liner in the world - it has the standard wood casing (don't you just love the smell of these?) and it's definitely NOT one of the newer generation 'gel' pencil formulas; just your typical firm pencil that takes a bit more work to apply to the lips.
In terms of texture and pigmentation, it's not as good as the NYX Slide On, especially when you're swatching one next to the other on the back of your hand. The Essence Lip Liner is not as smooth or creamy and it doesn't just glide on the lips with the slightest pressure. HOWEVER. In terms of actual performance and feel on the lips, I really like it. While it may look a bit patchy in the heavy arm swatch, I find it applies evenly on the lips, and feels a lot thinner and more lightweight than the NYX; in fact, I can't even tell I have it on. The finish is completely matte so yes, it will exaggerate all your vertical lip lines, but I don't think it's uncomfortable or drying in itself. In terms of wear, I also feel like it transfers less and lasts better than the NYX.
L-R: Essence Lipliner in Satin Mauve, NYX Slide On in Nude Suede Shoes, Maybelline Color Sensational Lipstick in Warm Me Up, BITE High Pigment Lip Pencil in Rhubarb
In terms of the shade, Satin Mauve is - finally! - a true mauve shade on my fair skintone with cool undertones. There's a lot of purple to this shade and it even pulls a little grey, which seems to be right in line with the current lip color trends. I was hoping it would be a bit lighter in depth but on me, it's more of a My Lips But Better (Darker) than a nude shade. When I use it to lightly line the lips, it works well even when paired with a lighter nude lipstick, as long as it's more of a cool undertone as well.
Overall, I'm pretty happy with this extremely inexpensive find - I mean seriously, it was two bucks. It actually makes me wish I bought two of the Essence Lipliners instead of that $8 NYX one. I would definitely recommend it if you're looking for a cheap lip liner to play with, and the shade Satin Mauve would be a great way to try out that 'purpley mauve with a hint of grey' lip trend without spending $20 for a liquid lipstick. What is your favorite inexpensive product at the drugstore - do you usually go for Wet n'Wild or something from Essence and/or Catrice?

Monday, November 14, 2016

Neal's Yard Organic x Deliciously Ella: Rose, Lime & Cucumber Facial Wash* and Moisturizer* Reviews

Remember that White Tea Facial Spray from NYR Organic that I liked so much (here)? I'd never tried any other skincare from the brand but that my experience definitely piqued my interest, so when I was sent Neal's Yard's newest collaboration with Deliciously Ella, I was eager to give it a try. I'll be the first to admit here that I had no idea who Deliciously Ella was - turns out she's a UK plant-based food blogger, entrepreneur and healthy lifestyle advocate, and since her values align so much with what NYR is all about, it makes a lot of sense why they would come together for this project.
Two products suitable for all skin types were born out of this collaboration: the Rose, Lime & Cucumber Facial Wash* ($25 for 3.38 fl oz/ 100ml) and the Rose, Lime & Cucumber Facial Moisturizer* ($40 for 3.38 fl oz/100 ml). Both are packaged in beautiful limited edition boxes adorned with drawings of roses, cucumber and lime slices, while the product is housed in NYR's signature blue glass bottles with a pump mechanism. I was a bit surprised to see that both products are the same volume; I feel like most people would use more of the face wash than the moisturizer and brands usually cater to that, but I guess it doesn't really make a huge difference in the long run.
As you would expect, a big selling point for these Deliciously Ella face products is their refreshing rose, lime and cucumber scent. Unfortunately, I have to say that for me, the combination of these three notes isn't the most pleasant, and I've actually had a similar experience before with the Fresh Soy and Lotus ranges, which I believe are rose & cucumber scented. There's something about cucumber and rose together - maybe the leafy aspect of rose geranium essential oil, which both products contain - that makes me smell dill pickles, and it's a bit hard to ignore that connotation once it sinks in. My husband, who's roadtesting the Facial Wash with me, said the fragrance reminded him of weeds. Either way and regardless of the pickles, I do believe you're going to smell a very earthy, herbal type of rose cucumber scent and not a zesty and floral rose, so bear that in mind if fragrance is your priority.
Let's start with the Facial Wash, shall we? It's a clear foaming gel containing Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate and Coco-Glucoside as the main cleansing agents, but there are also some nice nourishing ingredients like glycerin, cucumber water and some plant oils like pumpkin, coconut and avocado. The brand claims this cleanser will remove dirt, daily grime and make-up, and that it is formulated with anti-oxidant blueberries and acai.
As you may know, I'm not a big fan of foaming face cleansers, and the Rose, Lime & Cucumber Facial Wash hasn't really changed my perspective. While I do find it quite gentle on the skin but effective at removing last traces of make-up (after using a separate remover first) or to cleanse the face first thing in the morning, I also find it makes my face feel just a little too tight and dry after use. I still prefer to reach for my milk or balm cleansers, but if you like a foaming wash, I think this works very well - there's a nice soft lather with very little product and it rinses off very easily. I would recommend it more for oily, combination and normal skin types as I think it may leave dry skin types feeling a bit parched after use.
I've had better luck though with NYR's Rose, Lime & Cucumber Facial Moisturizer. It's absolutely chock-full of lovely plant oils such as coconut, baobab, avocado, sunflower and pumpkin oils, as well as moisturizing cocoa butter and glycerin. Similarly to the Facial Wash, it also contains cucumber water and the anti-oxidant blueberry and acai oils. The brand describes it as a light and gentle moisturizer to leave your skin feeling soft, supple and glowing.
The texture of this Moisturizer isn't very thick - definitely more of a lotion than a cream. I find that it spreads easily on the face but I wouldn't call it lightweight; at least on my combination skin and in the humid summer weather, I can definitely still feel a thin layer of the moisturizer on my face once it's fully blended in. For that reason, I currently prefer to use it at night, but I can see myself switching it to daytime use once cooler weather sets in. I don't actually mind that slight 'product feel' on my face in the least; my skin doesn't feel heavy or sticky, just nicely moisturized and nourished, similar to the result I achieve from using facial oils. I've been trialling the Rose, Lime & Cucumber Moisturizer for about 4 weeks now and it's been keeping my face feeling soft, comfortable and yes, I would say quite glowy. I find it to be a straightforward, effective moisturizer and I would recommend it most to combination and normal skin types; may be too much for those who are truly oily but not rich enough for the dry-skinned.

All in all, while I'm not completely head over heels over these two Rose, Lime and Cucumber products from Neal's Yard, I think they're very decent products and I can see how they'd be great building blocks for someone looking for a simple but effective skincare routine. As a skincare fanatic, my routine is anything but simple, but there are times when I wish I could do it all with just cleansing and moisturizing my face (uhm, like maybe when taking care of a newborn? I'll get back to you on this ;).

Disclaimer: Products featured in this post are press samples I received from the brand's PR for review consideration. All links are non-affiliate. All opinions are 100% honest and unbiased, no matter if the product featured was purchased with my own money or provided free of charge. Thank you for reading!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Make-up Inventory: What Would Be My Ideal Lipstick Collection?

When I first heard about counting all the make-up products in one's possession across different categories - in short, doing a make-up inventory - my first reaction was a major cringe. At the time, even with the mindset of wanting to only keep products I loved and was using, I just didn't see the point of inventories, other than a form of self-punishment for buying too much make-up that wasn't all going to be finished before expiring.
However, I've recently started looking at it a little bit differently. I still don't understand all that counting just for the sake of knowing the number (unless you're trying for a shock tactic to scare you off any more shopping) but I can see how listing and describing what you already own can give you a better understanding of your collection and hopefully help curate it according to your tastes and needs. This has led me straight to thinking about what I would like to see included in that ideal, well-rounded stash: which color families, undertones, finishes, product types. I've been doing a lot of panning and decluttering these past two years and my end goal would be to achieve that ideal edited stash tailored exactly to my personal preferences - my capsule collection. And since I'm a big lipstick junkie, why not start with the lip stash and talk you through my thought process?

I used to think it would be impossible to narrow down my lipstick collection to some arbitrary number. Last year, I owned two acrylic lipstick organizers for storing 24 lipsticks each. They were never full to capacity - hold your horses - but I do think I must have owned at least 40 lipsticks when my stash was at its largest. And that's counting only standard lipstick bullets; I also had a separate little drawer for my lipglosses, lip crayons and lip liners. Out of those I've had the most of those fat lip crayons/ pencils, and thankfully just a few (5 or so) of glosses and liners.

I reached a big milestone last year when I was able to get rid of one of those lipstick organizers. That was mostly due to doing several declutters rather than using things up, although I have mostly finished 4 lipsticks, 3 glosses and 1 crayon as well. Earlier this year, another big change I introduced to my make-up storage was emptying out my small lip drawer (shown in this vanity tour post) and consolidating all lip product storage is one space, using the remaining lipstick organizer for shorter, stubbier tubes of products and a longer box right next to it for longer tubes of lip gloss or pencils. It was the result of a lightbulb moment - I'm simply not into layering my lip products. I only ever wear a lipstick, or a gloss, or a lip crayon. And since I have multiple color choices across all three, how would I ever know if I had shade or functional dupes (products serving the same purpose) if they weren't all kept together? The separate storage was effectively causing me to reach for the glosses and crayons a lot less even though I had some lovely products in there that I wanted to wear more often. So this is what my current lip product storage looks like in my large vanity drawer, and I'm a lot happier with it.
I have started talking about functional dupes of products quite often in the past few months, and discussing my ideal lip product stash is the perfect place to elaborate on the concept. You know how the online blogosphere is obessed with finding cheaper drugstore dupes for high-end or limited edition products? Usually what is meant here is finding a product in a very similar or sometimes even identical shade - and while I don't wholeheartedly believe in duping because there are other factors than just shade to consider when making a purchase, I find the idea of a 'dupe' very helpful when trying to edit down one's stash. Because while colors, textures or finishes may be very different across all your different lip products, you would usually wear one or the other to suit a particular make-up look, a particular occasion, or a particular season. Obviously your individual decision process may be different, but I believe that's how most of us do it, and given these selection criteria, one could categorize their lipstick collection according to several factors: not just shade but even more importantly, function - or purpose. Do you wear only nudes and My Lips But Better (MLBB) shades to work or school? Do you wear corals or bright pinks only in the summer? Or maybe you like sheer finishes for daytime and fuller pigment lipsticks only for going out and/or weekends? Then there's your function for these product categories, and you can make your keep vs. get rid of choices for all of the lipsticks in that category, often regardless of the fact how similar or different the colors may look swatched on the back of your hand. I hope this theory makes some sense to you - but if it doesn't, here's how I applied these principles to my actual lip stash.

First, I took out all of my products and thought about which ones I wear the most and least often, which ones I like for specific seasons, and which ones I love to pull out for special events. I also reflected how my color preferences have changed somewhat throughout the years, and which of my products that used to wear constantly were not getting enough love in more recent times. I've actually kept these reflections in the back of my mind for a couple weeks, going back and re-evaluating, until I reached some conclusions about what I would realistically wear and want out of my existing collection. Some things I realized: I definitely prefer lipsticks or lip crayons over glosses, I like moisturizing lip products so matte finishes tend to be tricky, I currently like nudes and MLBBs for everyday because I tend to play up my eyes, and I'm not a big fan of classic red lipsticks.

I then looked at my stash, which is organized roughly according to color family, and thought about how many products I would be satisfied with per their respective function. For nudes and neutrals, which I wear often, I own 4 lipsticks - in different shades and formulas - and one lip gloss. I'm quite happy with that number, although I do think I don't need a nude gloss; pale shades in sheer formulas tend to wash me out too much, so once I use mine up (or simply decide to toss it), I won't be buying anything to replace it.

I reach for my MLBB shades even more frequently than the nudes, and I currently own 4 lipsticks, 2 lip crayons, 3 glosses (one unopened) and 2 lip liners in that category. I do think I have some overlap here in terms of similar enough shades and formulas, and would prefer to own a few less (maybe 3 lipsticks and 1 crayon? Just 2 lip glosses instead of 3?), but at the same time I'm not particularly motivated to get rid of anything at the moment. I'll try to rotate my wear of products in this category as much as I can within the next few months and at the end, re-evaluate again - maybe I'll finish some, maybe I'll pass some on to friends and family.

Now for my trouble area: brighter lip products in hot pink, fuschia, peach and coral shades. While I used to use them very frequently, I just haven't been inspired to wear them much this or last year. In the past, I would usually reach for them more in the summer months, and sometimes wear a bolder pink in the colder season. But right now,  I've come to the conclusion that I don't need or want to have a lot of variety here, and having just a few would suit me perfectly.

However, this realization is clearly not reflected in the state of my stash: I currently own 3 full-size bright pink lipsticks, 2 unopened (and slightly more muted/ easier to wear) pink lipstick minis, 2 reddish corals and one bright coral lip gloss. I also own two completely oddball bold shades: 1 sheer purple lipstick and 1 matte bright orange lip crayon. Uhm... surely that's too many for my needs. But for whatever reason, I'm having a hard time getting rid of any of them: they're mostly all high-end and fantastic formulas, and what if my preferences change again and I go back to wearing them a few times a week? I kinda feel like I should get rid of at least one, and some days I'm close to putting it in the declutter box, while other days I try it on and I can't find anything wrong with it. But in the future, I will not be purchasing any more bright shades without reducing what I already own in a significant way.

Moving on to reds and darker vampy shades, while I don't wear them daily - because hello, high maintenance - I still absolutely love, love these shades and will pull them out whenever I get a chance, meaning weekend and evening wear, or sometimes casually in the fall and winter. I don't like classic reds on me all that much and I've pretty much decluttered all of them at this point, but I enjoy the two slightly darker red options I have left. In addition to these 2 reds (1 lipstick and 1 crayon), I own 2 vampy wine lipsticks, and 1 bright berry lip crayon. I don't feel like this is excessive in any way, and I'm happy with what I have; even though I realize these products will probably never get completely finished, they will all be worn and loved quite regularly anyway.

That's it - that's my full lip product inventory and my reflections on what I would like my collection to look like going forward. At the moment of writing, I own 18 lipsticks (including three minis), 5 lip crayons (including 4 minis), 5 lip glosses (1 mini) and 3 lip liners (I didn't know where to include my clear one). However, it's a very fluid number - I feel like most of this year, it's been changing every few weeks both due to decluttering a few items here and there and adding in new PR samples or free Gift With Purchase minis (so far I have decluttered the two lipsticks I purchased myself this year). Overall I strive not to inflate my stash even more, so if I decide to keep something new, something older in my stash will usually have to go into the giveaway box; you know, trying to keep some balance in here :)

I don't think I want to put an ideal inventory number to my lipstick collection at this point, but I do know that I don't want to have any more lip products in my stash at any given time than what I already have, and if possible, I would like to reduce even further - especially when it comes to my MLBBs and brights. (Okay, so I've now gone and put that one sheer fuschia pink I was debating over in the giveaway pile, and swatched two of the unopened minis against my other shades. One of them turned out to be a rose pink MLBB very similar to what I already have, so it's also going. Are you proud of me? So I guess now I own 'only' 16 lipsticks ;). I don't really see any gaps in my stash either, but I would like to try a liquid lipstick in a cooler mauve MLBB shade this year, so that's something I've put on my wishlist for the Sephora November VIB sale. I'm also very nearly out of my clear lip liner and have recently tossed two old lip pencils in a red and a wine shade, and I would like to own one transparent lip liner in my collection for bolder shades of lipstick - so that's going on the list as well.

There you have it; I hope looking at what I own and my thought process with regards to my ideal lipstick stash was somewhat helpful and maybe inspired you to look through your own collection as well. I have not mentioned actual product brands and names here because I wanted this post to be more of a general reflection than a 'look what I have', but if you're interested in the specific products I currently own, let me know and I'll show you everything. What are your feelings on doing make-up inventories and working towards achieving goal numbers for certain products? Is this something that you're already doing to maintain a curated stash or do you think it's completely unnecessary? How would you go about creating your ideal lipstick collection?

Friday, November 4, 2016

Cult Classics: L'Oreal Voluminous Original Mascara in Blackest Black*

Bad beauty blogger strikes again: would you believe I'd never tried the cult L'Oreal Voluminous Original Volume Building Mascara* ($5.50 - 8.50 for 0.28 oz) before? My first lash love from L'Oreal was the Telescopic, but when I repurchased it more recently, it turned out to be a bit of a fail (review here). After that, I wasn't too tempted to try another L'Oreal mascara, even though the brand releases at least a few new iterations every year. However, I was recently sent the original Voluminous and since it's a HG product for a lot beauty bloggers and gurus out there, I was very curious to give it a try.
In general, I increasingly believe that mascaras are a rather personal thing - what one person expects in terms of result may be the worst nightmare for the next. My lashes aren't in their best condition currently: they're fine, they're not very dark, they're not as long and full as they used to be, so I feel like I need help across all departments. Mascara also has a tendency to transfer onto my browbone easily, so that's another thing I like to watch out for. When it comes to my preferred mascara look, I like long, full but soft and well defined lashes - anything that fails to separate is usually a no-go, regardless of how voluminous it may look.
The Original Voluminous (I have the shade Blackest Black) comes in a very simple dark grey tube with a gold cap. The brush also looks like the most old school, standard, run of the mill wire bristles at the first glance; but when I first pulled the wand out of the tube, I was surprised how fluffy it looked. I tried hard to show that in the photo by angling the wand - hopefully you can see that this brush has lots and lots of rather short bristles. I've had mascaras with this general type of wand before, but the bristles were usually spaced farther apart and/or longer. The tip on the Voluminous tapers down a bit and usually gets rather clumped up with product when you pull the wand out, so I always clean it off on the neck of the tube and only use it to add drama to the outer corners of my eyes.
My expectation for the Voluminous was that this would be an 'extreme drama' type of mascara - meaning that it would absolutely load the lashes with mascara at the barest swipe of the wand, and that it probably wouldn't separate them. Well, I was wrong - it's nothing like that. The stopper very effectively cleans the brush off the excess mascara (with the exception of the very tip) and that combined with dense rows of shorter bristles allows you to control the end result very well.
I hope that you can see this from my slightly creepy eye close-ups, but one coat of L'Oreal Voluminous gives very natural, soft, pretty lashes. It gives plenty of fullness at the roots while at the same time, leaves pretty much no clumps at the ends, meaning that it doesn't really look like you're wearing mascara at all. Every single lash is defined, volumized and lengthened, and the wand fans them out nicely (I haven't used a lash curler for these photos).
At two coats, my lashes start to look a bit more dramatic, but still not overloaded with product or over the top for daytime - two coats is actually my perfect balance. The lashes are even thicker but still not clumpy, and there's a little bit more length there as well. Now when it comes to wear time of this mascara, so far I haven't noticed any issues - I do see however that it can take a few minutes for the Voluminous to dry completely on my lashes, so looking up right after application or trying to mess with your eye make-up is not the greatest idea. But once it dries, it stays on well the entire day without smudging, transfering or crumbling under the eyes. My lashes also remain quite flexible and soft to the touch - not dry and crunchy like with some other formulas - and the mascara is quite easy to remove at the end of the day, it just melts off nicely with an oil-based make-up remover.

I don't think there's anything else I can say about L'Oreal Voluminous Original - I really love it. I haven't liked a mascara as much as this one in a really long time, and now I want to go around yelling 'Why did nobody tell me sooner?!', except they all did, didn't they ;) I can see myself repurchasing this formula over and over again in the future when I just want something that works really, really well for my lashes. Have you ever tried the Original Voluminous? What is your Holy Grail mascara at the drugstore?

Disclaimer: Product marked with an asterix (*) is a sample I received for free from BzzAgent for testing purposes. All links are non-affiliate. All opinions are 100% honest and unbiased, no matter if the products featured were purchased with my own monies or provided free of charge. Thank you for reading!

Monday, October 31, 2016

Multi-Benefit Korean Beauty: 24/7 Touch Up Skin-Perfecting Cream* Review

How often does it happen to you guys that you see a beauty product and have no idea about its purpose or function? As a seasoned beauty fanatic, I pride myself on being well-versed in the world of make-up and skincare, yet Korean beauty products sometimes still baffle me - like this 24/7 Touch Up Skin-Perfecting Cream* ($22 for 0.61 fl oz/ 18ml, available here) I received to try from the US-based K-beauty retailer Peach & Lily.
If you've never heard about Peach and Lily, they carry a curated selection of mostly Korean skincare from popular brands such as Mizon or May Coop, but they also specialize in bringing new and exciting K-beauty launches to the US. I have previously never heard about the brand 24/7 so it was interesting to read that they focus on releasing make-up products with skincare benefits. When I first opened the box of the Touch Up Skin-Perfecting Cream, I thought it was a concealer; but it's actually a subtle shimmer cream that can be applied as a highlighter on the cheeks, dewy make-up primer or used throughout the day to bring more glow to the face. The Touch Up Cream contains castor oil, glycerin and adenosine to provide anti-ageing benefits for your skin.
The Cream is packaged in a simple squeeze tube with a small opening at the nozzle, which is great because you certainly don't need a lot of product to achieve a glowy result; I also find that the amount of product you get in a tube is great value for money. Now, the first thing I noticed about this product is the scent: unfortunately, it smells very strongly of something akin to baby powder, and at least on me, the fragrance really lingers on the skin after application. A lot of Korean products have these strong fragrances, so I guess it was to be expected, but I could certainly use without it in this product or at least I wish it was not as tenacious.
The texture of this highlighting cream also took me by surprise. It is quite thick, and very, very rich and creamy. I'm not sure why Peach & Lily descibe it as lightweight on their website, because to me, it's the exact opposite: it's viscous and dare I say, quite oily on the skin. Even when applied in the tiniest amount possible on top of my cheekbones, it leaves behind a glow that's due more to its glossy finish and not any visible sparkle or shimmer in the product. It does contain a very subtle, refined pearly sheen, but honestly what I notice more is the wet effect of the product sitting on top of the skin. Throughout the day, it doesn't set and remains tacky on the face, and unfortunately gathers a bit in my fine lines - I've also tested it as a brightener layered under concealer on my under eye area, and it caused creasing there as well. Mind you, the skin on my cheeks is normal, and I would say my under eyes are a bit dry and dehydrated... so I'm not sure how dry your skin would have to be for this product to absorb more into the skin. Needless to say, I have not tested it on my entire face as a primer - that would just be a catastrophe waiting to happen.
I speculate that my somewhat negative feelings towards the formulation of this 24/7 Skin-Perfecting Cream may stem from cultural differences between the West and the East. Yes, I like to highlight my face in strategic areas, and yes, I sometimes like my base to look extra glowy - but I absolutely prefer something that sets on the skin and doesn't move throughout the day. Who knows, maybe in Korea they like their mul-gwang so much they don't mind a wet gloss to their cheeks - or maybe it would work better if your skin were in need of some serious boost of moisture. For me, I guess I'll stick to my powders and thinner textured highlighting sticks. Do you prefer to enhance your glow with liquids and creams or powder highlighters? Would you wear a 'wet' highlighter on your cheeks?

Disclaimer: Product featured in this post is a press sample I received from the brand's PR for review consideration. All links are non-affiliate. All opinions are 100% honest and unbiased, no matter if the product featured was purchased with my own money or provided free of charge. Thank you for reading!