Monday, May 30, 2016

My Current Evening Skincare Routine

Compared to my morning skincare routine, evenings are always a bit more complex, mostly because I like switching products around and I also aim for a face mask about 2 times a week. Originally, I intended to include the three different face masks I rotate through in this post, but now I'm thinking I may discuss them separately, mostly because they're all new products that I haven't reviewed on the blog before - so keep your eyes peeled for that!

Again, my skin type profile: I'm combination, sensitive as well as acne and dehydration-prone. I'm also currently 21 weeks pregnant.
I wear make-up and sunscreen most days, so I always do a first cleanse to get the bulk of those products off with an oil cleanser. I'm still using the Shu Uemura Anti/Oxi Skin Refining Cleansing Oil (mentioned here) - I think I've been using it for about a year and a half now and I'm only now coming to the end of this giant bottle. It's a decent product, but I definitely wouldn't pay the full price now that there are so many cleansing oils to choose from even at the drugstore.

I then second cleanse my face using the same cleanser as in the morning, the NUDE Omega Cleansing Jelly (reviewed here). About 3 times a week, I also like to manually exfoliate my face using the TATCHA Classic Rice Enzyme Powder* (click!); before getting pregnant, I found my stronger salicylic acid-based toners to be sufficiently exfoliating on their own, but now that I'm using gentler AHAs, I like the added boost from a physical scrub like the TATCHA. Also, to be perfectly honest, I sometimes skip the NUDE cleansing balm and go straight to the TATCHA powder after using my cleansing oil - I find that the TATCHA has some impressive cleansing properties as well.
Now that my face is all clean and fresh, I like spritzing it with my rock rose (Cistus) hydrosol again, either before or after applying the Nuxe Nuxuriance Ultra Eye & Lip Contour* (recently reviewed here) to my eye and lip areas. I then proceed by smoothing two pumps of Paula's Choice Resist Daily Smoothing Treatment 5% AHA* (featured here) over my face and a little bit on the neck and chest. I've been using this product every night for about 6 months now and I've come to really appreciate it for how gentle (non-drying) but effective it is - also, I'm still on my first bottle, so even though the price seems a bit higher compared to Paula's other exfoliants, it lasts significantly longer than her liquids for example. I found that the AHA treatment helps to keep my skin clearer and smoother, on top of the more long-term anti-aging and hyperpigmentation-fighting benefits.
I do all of these steps in my bathroom, and then I give my skin at least a 20-minute break before completing my routine with the products I keep at my bedside in a little basket. I go one of two ways here: I either apply a thin layer of my favorite Laneige Water Sleeping Mask* (reviewed here) if I feel like my skin just needs some lightweight hydration, or I layer a serum first - I've just started using the new TATCHA Luminous Overnight Memory Serum Concentrate*, so no thoughts on it quite yet - and then press in about 3 drops of TATCHA Gold Camellia Beauty Oil* (reviewed here) over the top. This is my second bottle of the TATCHA oil and it remains one of my favorite facial oils I've tried to date. The very last step of my evening routine is to apply a generous amount of Nuxe Reve de Miel Ultra Nourishing Lip Balm to my lips and a nice blob of hand cream - my favorite is the Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Fragrance-Free (I'm maybe on my third tube now...? Seriously, every time I try a new hand cream now, I just end up going straight back to the Neutrogena).
As you can see, my routine is a bit heavy on the TATCHA at the moment, and my sensitive and somewhat drier than usual skin is loving it - but man, it's going to be painful to repurchase these beautiful but pricey products. Stay on the lookout for my mask wardrobe post and the review of the TATCHA Overnight serum. What are your tried and true evening skincare routine workhorses?
Disclaimer: Products marked with an asterix (*) were press samples I received from the brands' PR for review consideration. I purchased all the other products myself. All links are non-affiliate. All opinions are 100% honest and unbiased, no matter if the product featured were purchased with my own money or provided free of charge. Thank you for reading! 

Friday, May 27, 2016

Shop My Stash: All That Warm Brown, Coppery, Peachy, Orange Eyeshadow Goodness

Warm brown eyeshadows of varying depth and finish are all the rage this year - just look at the palettes that have come out in the past 6 months or so, be it from mainstream or more indie brands. In the past, I tended to shy away from very warm tones on my eyes, because I find them to be rather tricky on very fair, cool-toned complexions. While a metallic copper halo smokey eye looks smashing on someone with a medium/ tan skintone, on me it looks like I'm suffering through a stye or a case of rabid rabbit eyes - I'm sure you know what I mean if you're a fellow pale girl.

However, I've recently been feeling swept up by all the orange/ peach eyeshadow hype; I think it's partially the weather finally warming up, but mostly overdosing on ALL THE TAUPE in the past 2-3 years. I have nevertheless promised myself not to purchase another neutral eyeshadow palette, even if it features some new-to-me shades (as discussed in detail in this post) - and while I'm still allowing myself to pick up a single eyeshadow or two where I think it may benefit my collection, I decided first to shop my stash and see what I already own in the general category of warm neutral shades. I actually really enjoy pulling out all my freeform magnetic and premade palettes on a day off and getting busy swatching and rearranging them into new color combinations, so I thought I'd take you along for the ride; maybe you too will be inspired to browse through your collection and rediscover some forgotten eyeshadow gems.
I first started by selecting some of my favorite warm metallic shades that have remained in my stash after various declutters. I've mostly focused on single/ depotted pans from my Z-Palettes for this post, which means that I do in fact own more of this shade category but the eyeshadows are scattered throughout my premade palettes (you know, the ones I haven't subjected to fire + a sharp tool yet). I've also pulled some lighter warm shades I would use as an all over lid shade, and finally some dark warm browns for the outer corner/ lash line. All swatches were done with a finger on bare skin and photographed in indirect natural light - also, let me know if you prefer the shadow names as a caption under the photo or in the actual photo, like today. Let's start by the lightest warm shimmery shades, and medium matte transition/ crease/ blending shades:
Ah, MAC All That Glitters, that old chestnut. I was actually intending to declutter this shade as it tends to pull rather warm and peachy on me, but it's perfect in this subset, isn't it? Stila Spontaneous, from the In The Moment palette (reviewed here) is one of those shades that I tend to forget about easily, even though it's a beautiful color with a stellar formula, possibly the best one out of the whole palette. Too Faced Honey Pot from the Natural Eyes palette is the only true gold remaining in my stash - if you own the original Urban Decay Naked, Half Baked is nearly identical.

Inglot Matte 337 is one of two matte medium browns in my stash, and despite the appearance in the pan, it pulls almost peachy on the skin. TheBalm Sultry from the Nude'Tude palette is slightly deeper and more yellow. I threw in Catrice's blush in Rose Royce (reviewed here) to show that you really don't need the Limited Edition Too Faced Perfect Peach palette, if you're still lusting after one - I'm sure most of us have a matte or satin peach blush in our collection that can be easily worn as eyeshadow in the crease to warm up the look.
Now, those medium depth shimmery/ metallic shades are what I consider the eptiome of warm neutrals. I've roughly divided mine into two groups: the upper row in the photo above (and the first three in the arm swatch) are all more yellow/ orange toned, the bottom row all pull more red/ pinky peach. If you still own the LE Wet n'Wild The Gilded Age trio (shown here), all the shades in there are right on trend, especially the Eyelid and Crease Shades (the latter is shown in the next grouping). BareMinerals Truffle from LE The Finer Things palette (reviewed here) is another save from my declutter box; it's a gorgeous cognac/ chestnut shade that I'd like to incorporate into more looks. Lastly, the bronzy shade from LE Visee Bitter Brown quad (featured here) is the most neutral and sheerest of the bunch, so probably the most effortless to wear for my personal preferences.
Now, as for these pinky coppers, I actually find them easier to wear on myself than the previous three. The Eyelid shade from LE Wet n'Wild Dancing In the Clouds Trio (shown here) is a stunning penny copper with silver microglitters. Too Faced Push Up is my favorite shade out of the entire Natural Eyes palette; if you don't own that, I believe Urban Decay Toasted or MAC Sable are quite similar. Lastly, Fyrinnae Witchy Woodland Creatures may appear quite neutral compared to these other shades, but it does have a strong pink lean that warms up any eyeshadow look.
Dark warm browns - I only own satins and low shimmer finishes - is my smallest subset, and something I may potentially look into expanding in the future. I would mostly use these shades in the outer corner or very sparingly into the crease, or to smoke out a lashline. Look how gorgeous these are in a concentrated arm swatch!
BareMinerals Fate from the Truth quad (reviewed here) appears quite neutral or even cool-toned in the pan, but on my skin it definitely pulls very warm - yet another bM shade I forgot about, but it's going to be perfect for those warm neutral looks. Stila Whim from the In The Moment palette is a stunning chocolatey shades with almost burgundy shimmers, but the formula is a bit dry and not terribly pigmented. Now, another shade from that LE Wet n'Wild The Gilded Age trio; this one is the most shimmery of the bunch, again with those beautiful dark red shimmers. And lastly, the dark brown shade from Visee Bitter Browns - I'd say this one is more neutral than warm-toned, but I wanted to remind myself what it looked like when swatched.
And here's what my small Z-Palette looks like after this swatch session. I still use my theBalm Nude'Tude that I'm trying to pan this year every time I wear eye make-up, but I like to keep the small Z-Palette on hand to have more variety in my looks - I tend to rotate the shadows in it every couple of months or so. The only additional shades inside that haven't been discussed today are Too Faced Heaven, a matte ivory, as well as Velvet Revolver and Sexpresso from the Natural Eyes palette.

I hope you enjoyed this edition of Shop My Stash - I need to do these posts more often, it's a lot of fun to go play with my collection! What eyeshadow shades have you been reaching for recently? Do you arrange them in your Z-Palettes or reach for singles and specific palettes?

Monday, May 23, 2016

Conquering Those Fine Lines: Nuxe Nuxuriance Ultra Eye & Lip Contour

A few months ago, I went into a local beauty salon to get my haircut, and as I was sitting in the chair, I got talking with the owner, who turned out to be an esthetician. She peered critically at my face (you bet it made me feel very uncomfortable) and pronounced my skin to look 'very young', with the exception of my under eye area, which she said was beginning to show first signs of aging, mainely in the form of dryness and fine lines toward the outer corners of my eyes. She obviously proceeded by attempting to talk me into buying a miracle cream she was selling - which I obviously disregarded - but it got me thinking that maybe my eyes needed some extra TLC to look plump and smooth again.

As you may remember, I'd been using Deciem SubQ Eyes Serum (reviewed here), which is a lightweight gel containing retinol - I discontinued using that after I found out I was pregnant, and was again on the lookout for a good nourishing eye cream. Even though I liked using the SubQ, I still felt like it wasn't quite moisturizing for my dry under eyes. And then a beautiful parcel from Nuxe landed on my doorstep, and inside I found this emerald gem: the new Nuxe Nuxuriance Ultra Anti-Ageing Eye & Lip Contour* ($49 for 0.5 fl oz/ 15 ml, available on Nuxe's website here. Also, great news - Nuxe's products are now available on, and currently they're all on sale to boot!).
Nuxe claims their new eye cream 'acts on wrinkles, slackening of the skin, dark spots, puffiness and dark circles' with actives from saffron and bougainvillea. It contains at least 94.6% of natural origin ingredients, including sunflower oil, glycerin, urea, caffeine and hyaluronic acid. It's also paraben-free, and features a 'special scent for the delicate skin around the eyes and lips'.
As may be expected from a product containing saffron, this eye cream is slightly yellow-tinted, and has a bit of a thicker cream texture that nevertheless absorbs quickly and easily into the skin with little to no tackiness left behind. The Nuxuriance Eye & Lip Contour is packaged in a very convenient airless pump - Nuxe recommends using a full pump for both eyes and lips, but I find that half that amount is sufficient for my personal use.
I've been using this eye cream for over three weeks now, and here's what I've noticed so far. The Nuxuriance Ultra definitely hydrates and moisturizes my eye and lip areas very well, so that immediately after application I notice a lot less texture and crepiness. This is especially cool to see on my lips, which (like I've said numerous times in the past) have a lot vertical lines that can deepen significantly when the skin is dry or dehydrated. Mind you, the Eye & Lip Contour is definitely not enough as a lip moisturizer on its own, but paired overnight with Nuxe Reve de Miel lip balm in a pot, it's a match made in heaven.
But, back to the eyes - I have not observed any improvement in the darkness of my under eyes as of yet, although mine is more due to veins and the thinness of the skin there than lack of sleep or any other temporary factors. I do think my eyes are a bit less puffy, but all in all, I find the best improvement in the fine lines towards the outer corners of my eyes. They seem to have relaxed a bit and are a lot less noticeable, especially during the day when I wear concealer on top (although I mostly use the Nuxe eye cream at night, and the TATCHA Deep Hydration Firming Eye Serum during the day).

Overall, I'm very pleased with Nuxuriance Ultra Eye & Lip Contour. It's a great moisturizing eye cream that satisfies my need for some extra anti-aging action for the fragile skin under my eyes and the eternally dry and dehydrated skin of my lips. I don't think the price point is too out there either; unfortunately, eye creams tend to be pretty pricey, and now that I'm nearing the big 30, I don't feel like I can skimp very much in that skincare category. Do you use anti-aging products around your eyes? What is your favorite eye cream?

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 were purchased with my own money or provided free of charge. Thank you for reading!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

I'm Never Buying Another Eyeshadow Palette Again.

How's that for a click-baity post title, my dear readers? But hear me out, I think I'm onto something here. I will freely admit that I'm a neutral eyeshadow palette lover. After getting my greedy little paws on the Urban Decay Naked palette all those years ago, I fell down the rabbit hole of finding THE PERFECT neutral eyeshadow palette. There's just something about palettes as a make-up item that ticks all the right boxes for me: the packaging and design is often beautiful and well thought-out, they're wearable and practical for every day, they have variety for creating different looks, they often contain Limited Edition 'unique' shades, and the value for money is hard to beat. What's not to love?

I did manage to contain my initial purchasing craze quite a bit in the past year and a half, but still. In this wishlist post back in 2014, I talked about lemming after the Naked Basics palette, which in the end I did manage to resist, but instead purchased a Physicians Formula matte quad in Canyon Classics (here) - all because I was convinced I needed more basic mattes to compliment my neutral eye looks. Last year, I bought bareMinerals READY 8.0 palette in The Posh Neutrals (here), because somehow bareMinerals' pressed eyeshadows became 'my thing'. And then I also got Makeup Revolution's Death By Chocolate large neutral palette (here), because I didn't own any of the original Too Faced Chocolate Bars and thought that this drugstore version suited my color preferences much better.

ANYWAY - right now, I own 4 premade eyeshadow palettes (the two mentioned above + discontinued Stila E! On The Red Carpet and the currently panned theBalm Nude'Tude), and 3 larger magnetic palettes (two Z-Palettes, one old MAC 15 Pan) filled with singles and depots from other premade eyeshadow palettes I used to own. I also have one small Z-Palette and just a couple quads and quints. It doesn't seem like an excessive amount for a palette junkie like me (especially when you compare it to my Eyeshadow Palette Collection post from 2014), and I can honestly say that one of my reasons for embarking on Pan That Palette 2016 challenge was to get as much use out of my Nude'Tude as possible within a year, and then promptly replace it with a shiny brand new palette. But now, I don't think that's gonna happen.
After using theBalm Nude'Tude almost daily for 4.5 months, I have a lot of thoughts and feels about eyeshadows in general and palettes in particular. Even though I've been blogging about beauty for 7 years now and have always loved wearing eyeshadow, I don't think I have ever had such a clear understanding of what works for me and what doesn't. You may remember me saying at the last Pan That Palette update (here) that I wasn't happy with how three of the darkest shades (marked with an 'X' in the photo above) - Sophisticated, Silly and Sleek - would all end up looking the same shade of muddy charcoal once blended out on my eyes. In a palette with 5 dark shades (which I wear as either outer corner or lash line definition colors), I'm down to just 2 that I enjoy working with: Sexy mostly in the outer corner, Serious to line the eyes.
Clockwise from top: Too Faced Sexpresso (from the old Natural Eye palette), Stila Captivate from the d/c In The Moment palette, theBalm Serious, theBalm Sleek, bareMinerals Apropos from The Truth quad, Inglot Matte 326.
That discovery was quite interesting to me, because to the naked eye, Sophisticated, Silly and Sleek are all very different in the pan. That in turn got me thinking how I'm rarely very excited about any of those dark browns (or greys, or khakis, or plums...) in any of my neutral palettes, and I was hard pressed to come up with a favorite outer corner shade from the top of my head. I sat down at my vanity and laid out all my larger palettes, and decided to swatch some - not all - of those dark matte (or semi matte) shades to compare.
L-R: theBalm Sleek, theBalm Serious, Inglot Matte 326, Too Faced Sexpresso, Stila Captivate, bareMinerals Apropos. Stila Captivate was the driest, least pigmented and most fall-out prone, and I've decided to declutter it.
And SURPRISE SURPRISE: they're almost all the same. Even if they appear quite dissimilar in the pan, or even in my heavy, packed on swatch, once blended out on the eyes, they're virtually identical. But you know, maybe I could just ignore all the dark defining shades in the different eyeshadow palettes on the market, and instead concentrate on those shadows that I use a lot more - let's say, matte highlighting shades. Everyone agrees they're an absolute staple and a must-have in a well-balanced palette, am I right? Back to swatchy swatching, then.
Counterclockwise from the top: bareMinerals Five Star (from d/c The Finer Things palette), Too Faced Heaven (from the old Natural Eye palette), matte ivory from Physicians' Formula Canyon Classics quad, bareMinerals Seredipitous from The Truth quad, Stila Cinema (from d/c E! On The Red Carpet), Stila Desire (from d/c In The Moment palette).
So yeah, okay, they're not all the same - with the exception of Too Faced Heaven and the lightest shade from Physicians' Formula Canyon Classics quad, which clearly are dupes. But again - once I blend them out on my eyes, the end result is pretty much the same. And before you guys say that matte off-white shades and matte dark browns don't make a palette, that often constitutes half of the shades provided. And I could easily continue this exercise with matte transition/ crease shades (except I'd have to split my comparison into cool, neutral and warm-toned; idea for another post, perhaps?) AS WELL AS any of the shimmery lid shades. Champagne, taupe, gold, bronze - you name it, I already have it (as evidenced in this and this swatch post, for example).
L-R: bareMinerals Five Star, Too Faced Heaven, Physicians' Formula Canyon Classics, bareMinerals Serendipitous, Stila Cinema, Stila Desire. All swatched better with a finger than a brush, the Stila shade from In The Moment palette was again the worst formula - but I'm keeping it for now.
I guess you could always decide to simply collect these neutral eyeshadow palettes as pretty toys to take out once in a while and admire, but that's not the reason why I personally love and use make-up. Or you could just treat every palette as a completely separate being, without worrying about overlap between them and having multiple dupes of basic shades. But I value variety - I don't want to feel like I just spent my hard-earned money on the same thing all over again. And AGAIN.

I don't think I'll ever go back to purchasing those premade palettes; as you can see, I usually end up ripping them apart anyway, giving away shadows I don't like or have plenty of dupes for and keeping the remaining depots in my freeform magnetic palettes. With the amount of eyeshadow I own, I hardly see how a just-released neutral palette can possibly bring anything new to my collection.

Let's consider two eyeshadow palettes I've been lemming for a while: the Kat Von D Shade and Light Eye palette and the Tarte Tartelette in Bloom. As demonstrated above, I don't need any more matte highlighting or defining shades - that's already about 50-70% (depending on their actual depth on my fair skintone) of those palettes proven superfluous. Now for the lid/ medium depth shadows in between, I was mostly excited about playing with a matte warm rusty peach transition shade, and a rich reddish chocolate brown for the outer corner. A quick search on Temptalia, and I could easily get those two new-to-me shades of eyeshadow via MAC's single pans in Soft Brown, and maybe Swiss Chocolate. Or something from Makeup Geek. Or Inglot. Or Anastasia Beverly Hills.

But in the meantime, armed with my newly flexed swatchy critical analysis skill, I'm actually going to sit down and fish out some shades from my existing palettes that may fill that lemming before blindly ordering two more shadows for my already brimming collection. Like with my three most recent palette purchases - I actually already owned similar shades in other palettes in my stash. I had had dupes for all the four shades in PF Canyon Classics, and dupes for about 70% of the bareMinerals Posh Neutrals and Makeup Revolution Death by Chocolate. And judging by how quickly I'm able to use an entire pan up, that's enough eyeshadow for another decade. It really is.

So that's what I've been recently pondering about. I'm not actually vowing to never purchase another eyeshadow palette - some shadows get old and may need to be replaced eventually, or I may find myself a neutrals-only girl no longer and lusting after some colorful blues and greens. But for the foreseeable future, I'm not going to buy another palette, or most likely even a trio, quad or a quint. What is your opinion on neutral eyeshadow palettes? Is it something you love and will always be drawn to, or do you find them boring and repetitive? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Face of The Day feat. Products from My Project Pan

I always attempt to pick the products for my Project Pans (newest Intro here) not only according to season, but also so that they'll compliment each other and create a whole make-up look for me without effort. I keep them all in a little tray (really, a box lid) in my vanity drawer, so in a way, they consitute my seasonal 'make-up basket'. I thought I'd show you what most of these items look like paired together in a daytime, spring/ summer Face of The Day.
 For the base, I used the Hourglass Mineral Veil Primer SPF 15 (click here for my review) on my T-zone (middle of forehead, nose and sides of the nose, a tiny bit on the chin) and followed with a light layer of Bourjois 123 Perfect CC Cream in Ivory (click!) all over, blended in with a damp Beautyblender. I think I like the Beautyblender the best for applying this foundation, followed by fingers - it has a bit more coverage than the Koh Gen Do Aqua, a foundation I was using previously, and the damp sponge helps to sheer it out for a more natural look and better shade match. I concealed under the eyes and on blemishes with a mix of Laneige Cushion Concealer in Light (click!) and NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer in Chantilly.

I set my T-zone sparingly with the MAC Blot Powder in Medium, and you can see that the overall effect on the skin is quite matte, and remains so for about 7 hours. I've noticed that depending on the face moisturizer I'm using for the day, I can change the finish a little bit; Nuxe Creme Fraiche de Beaute gives me more glow, but the Paula's Choice Hydralight sunscreen (both discussed in my recent Morning Skincare Routine post here) mattifies my face almost completely. I'm not such a fan of that flat matte look on my face anymore, but it's nice not to worry about make-up sliding off my nose in the middle of the day. I warm up my face using The Body Shop Honey Bronzer in Fair on the backs of the cheeks, temples and around hair line, and on my neck - again, to help with the foundation shade match. My neck is so pale, you guys. The blush I was using that day was Canmake Cream Cheeks in CL03 Clear Orange (click!).
I then lightly fill in my brows with the NYX Micro Brow pencil in Taupe (reviewed here), and prime my eyes with Maybelline Color Tattoo in Just Beige (LE). I actually quite like this Color Tattoo for an eyeshadow primer; the yellow tint conceals my pinky purple veins, and lid shades pop a little more on top. It also has the effect of toning down the shimmer in some eyeshadows, which I happen to like right now; for example, I was using Stand-offish from my theBalm Nude'Tude palette (which is in my Pan That Palette 2016 project), and it's usually a very metallic finish - as you can see, I managed to tone it down a bit. I also used Sexy, a matte plum, in my outer corner, and blended the crease out with a warm medium matte brown, Sultry. I used a combination of two lightest shades in the palette, Sassy and Snobby, to highlight my inner corners and tops of my cheeks.

To finish off my look, I tightlined with the Pixi Endless Silky Eye Pen in Black Noir (click!) and applied a generous coat of Givenchy Phenomen'Eyes in Deep Black to my lashes (recently reviewed here). On my lips, I'm wearing Buxom Full-on Lip Cream in Cherry Flip (click!); it's a perfect warm coral red to perk up the whole face. It also pairs nicely with OPI Red Lights Ahead... Where? on my nails.

There you go - I really enjoy this combination of shades. I used to be a 'cool-toned eyeshadows only' type of girl, but I've grown to love the warm mattes from the Nude'Tude palette, and I think they go very well with lightly bronzed skin and a juicy lip. What's your go-to look at the moment? Do you keep a weekly/ monthly make-up basket, or reach for something different every day?

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Original Torture Ball: Givenchy Phenomen'Eyes Mascara Review

Do you guys remember the golden days when the 'torture ball' mascara wands were all the rage? I even recall some drugstore brands jumping on the bandwagon, and then companies moved on to incorporating that little spiky ball into a classic mascara brush design, like the Benefit They're Real or IT Cosmetics Hello Lashes. Anyway, back to the present - I have a review of the cult classic torture ball for you today, the Givenchy Phenomen'Eyes Mascara in Deep Black ($32 for the full size, I have a deluxe sample).
Judging from my experience with Benefit They're Real, I was a little apprehensive of the Givenchy's Phenomen'Eyes. The 'iconic spherical brush' (lol) is slightly larger than I expected, and comes out of the tube coated in a generous amount of mascara; however, like with nearly every other mascara on the market, most of the product is concentrated on the very tip of the brush, and there's not that much on the sides.

I think Phenomen'Eyes is definitely one of those mascara wands that you need to get a good feel for before you start enjoying it. At first, I found the ball design quite frustrating and difficult to use, but after two weeks of use, it's gotten easier. However, I still have some qualms about this shape - for one, it takes me more time to evenly coat my lashes in mascara than with a traditional brush, because I need to work in sections as opposed to the whole lash line all at once. Secondly, I have yet to avoid smearing some mascara onto my lid in the process - which again, takes additional time to remove.
Now for the good aspects of the ball shape: it does allow me to control the amount of mascara more easily, and it helps to direct and fan out lashes exactly how I want. It also works really well on the lower lashes, defining every single one without clumps (provided that you don't overload your brush). Overall, I find this formula quite volumizing and defining, but not very lenghtening - and I could use some length at the moment as my lashes are currently in their shorter, growing phase. The shade is indeed a deep, rich black, and the mascara doesn't flake throughout the day; although on my almond eye shape, it does transfer quite a bit under the brow bone in a relatively short amount of time (which is always a struggle for me).
Top: bare uncurled lashes, bottom: two layers of Givenchy Phenomen'Eyes
I can definitely understand why this mascara reached a cult status back in the day and I'm glad to have tried it, but to be honest, I wouldn't shell out for a full size tube. It's a perfectly decent mascara, but for me personally, traditional wands are much easier and quicker to use. I also don't find the Phenomen'Eyes to be any better at reaching those longer outer corner lashes; I still have trouble getting every single one without smearing mascara all over my eye, just like with any other mascara brush. Have you ever tried any of those torture ball mascaras? What were your thoughts?

Monday, May 9, 2016

My Current Morning Skincare Routine

I don't often talk routines on the blog; in fact, I can't remember the last time I shared my skincare regimen with you. However, I do think it's helpful to see how I mix and match between all the different products I review for you guys, and which ones I like enough to actually reach for on the daily.
Before we dive in, let's talk briefly about my skin: I have a sensitive combination skin type that's both acne- and dehydration-prone. My main concerns are keeping my skin clear, preventing and fighting hyperpigmentation from past breakouts and sun damage, as well as hydration and anti-aging. Hmm, is that too much to ask from a skincare routine? Maaybee. One important detail is that I'm currently 18 weeks along with our first baby, so everything I use has to be gentle and safe for pregnancy.
Now that we have this out of the way, here are the products I use every morning. I always start by cleansing my face with the NUDE Omega Cleansing Jelly (reviewed in detail here). I still like this product, but probably won't repurchase once my tube runs out - which will probably happen soon-ish - because I find the consistency just a tad too thick and difficult to spread around. I apply a dab of the jelly (cleansing balm, really) to a dry face and then remove with a warm, damp washcloth; I make sure to do several passes with the washcloth to really get everything off.
Next, I always always apply an acid toner; I'm currently rotating between the Pixi Beauty Glow Tonic (on my second bottle, review here) and the Clarins Gentle Exfoliator Brightening Toner (click). I usually do the Pixi most days, and only reach for the Clarins about twice a week for a bit of a change. Both of these acid toners contain glycolic acid (AHA), but the Clarins has also a very low percentage of salicylic acid (BHA); some health practitioners discourage the use of salicylic acid in pregnancy, but my doctor (and other sources) thinks it's not a concern at 1% and below. If I had to choose one, I prefer the Pixi and think it's by far a better value for money, but I do enjoy my Clarins - it almost feels a bit more clarifying than the Pixi. I follow this chemical exfoliation step with a quick spritz of a hydrosol; I'm using the rock rose (Cistus) one at the moment.
I then apply a small dab of TATCHA Luminous Deep Hydration Firming Eye Serum* under both eyes, luxuriating in the cooling sensation from the porcelain applicator (I also mentioned this eye cream in my March Favorites post here), followed by a thin layer of InstaNatural Advanced Formula Vitamin C Serum* (review here) all over the face. I thought I wasn't seeing any further improvement from my Vitamin C products (I was using the Paula's Choice C20 Booster* before the Insta Natural one), but I was recently looking at my face shots from last year and my freckles and hyperpigmentation spots are without a doubt much lighter and less noticeable - so thumbs up for that.
Lastly, I seal all that hydration in with a good moisturizer; I either use the Nuxe Crème Fraîche de Beauté Moisturizer Cream for Normal and Sensitive Skin* (click!) on days I'm staying indoors and/or using make-up with SPF on top, or the Paula's Choice Hydralight Daily Mineral Complex SPF 30* (reviewed here). The Nuxe is by far more nourishing and moisturizing - I don't really think Paula's Hydralight sunscreen has enough moisturizing properties even for my combination skin, but paired with a good serum, it works - and helps to keep the T-zone oilies away for longer.

There you have it - that's wasn't too complicated and wordy, am I right? Well, we still have the evening routine to go through, which is a bit less straightforward; I never said I was low maintenance ;) What do you currently use in your morning skincare routine? Any products you just can't live without?

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

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Project 13 Pan 2016 Introduction

Even before the end of my last Project 10 Pan, I was busy plotting the products for my next 4-month installment. I had had quite a few products in my mind for a while: all-time favorites that weren't getting enough love, older products that I wanted to use up before they expired, items from categories I want to downsize in my collection. And as I was pulling those things and setting them aside, it just worked out that I had 13 of them altogether. 13 is such a weird number - I very seriously contemplated adding 2 more just to make it more 'even' - but then I thought, what the heck, it's going to be 13 and that's that. Wanna see?
Let's go through each product and my goals for it in more detail:
1. MAC Blot Powder in Medium. This is a roll-over product from my 2015 Project 10 Pan (here) and the oldest powder in my collection. As you can see, I have a decent amount of pan showing, and my goal is to use the remainder up and back to MAC the compact. It's a very decent mattifying powder, but the truth is, I'm maybe not such a fan of a completely flat matte finish on the face anymore. I would like to replace it with a natural finish loose setting powder in the future.
2. The Body Shop Honey Bronzing Powder in 02 Fair. Again, a decent amount of pan already, and the oldest bronzer in my stash. The ideal would be to use it up completely, but I'm not sure if I use enough bronzer in one application to go through it completely in 4 months - so I guess my goal is to use as much as I can, and at the end of the Project (August 31st), I'll be saying goodbye.
3. Buxom Full-on Lip Cream in Cherry Flip (review with swatches). Buxom Lip Creams are possibly my all-time favorite lip gloss formula, and Cherry Flip is a beautiful shade for this time of the year. As you can see, I have 2/3 of the tube left to go, and I want to finish the remainder.
4. OPI Nail Lacquer mini in Red Lights Ahead... Where?. Following the fiasco with a full-sized nail polish in my last Project, I'm now going to try to use up this mini - there's actually already quite a bit of usage on this, and the shape of the bottle tapers down, so I don't think there's more than 10 applications left here. I love this shade of warm coral red for the spring and summer.

5. Giorgio Armani Rouge d'Armani Sheers in 301 (review with swatches). Your eyes are not deceiving you, it really is a neon orange shade - albeit very sheer, so it looks more like a fresh peach on my cool-toned mauvey lips. It's a very comfortable glossy formula that can be applied without a mirror, and I'm looking forward to sporting this fun shade in the upcoming warmer months; my goal is to use it up completely.
6. Bite Beauty High Pigment Lip Pencil in Sablé. This was part of a kit of four minis Bite released two Holidays ago, and arguably, Sablé is my favorite shade of nude EVAR. It's a perfect brightening pinky peach that just goes with everything, and even though this was a limited edition shade, it's my new policy to wear and use up favorite products even if they can't be replaced easily. I don't think I should have any trouble finishing it all up in four months.
7. Pixi Beauty Endless Silky Eye Pen in Black Noir (review with swatches). I wear a pencil eyeliner almost every day, either on the top lashline or in my waterline, so I'm confident I'll be able to use up completely what's remaining of this basic shade. I have noticed this pencil is getting a bit dried out (the 'lead' is pulling away from the edges), but it's still creamy and a pleasure to use.
8. NYX Micro Brow Pencil in Taupe (review with swatches). This pencil is one of the two brow products in my stash and technically I'm in no hurry to reduce there, but I would like to try one of those fatter, angled brow pencils in the future, so it'd be nice to get this one used up beforehand. This pencil is so skinny that I don't think I'm going to have any problems finishing it off.
 9. Laneige Cushion Concealer SPF30 in Light* (review with swatches). The shade Light is a bit dark on me, but I've come to appreciate this lightweight concealer for its comfortable, non-cakey formula and redness-cancelling properties. There's actually very little product in the packaging and it's nearly half used-up already, so I just want to work through the remainder and replace it with a more brightening concealer for under the eyes in the future.
10. NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer in Chantilly. I know what you're going to say - Monika, are you crazy, two concealers in one Project?! However, I believe it's doable to finish them both, because I can either mix the two together or use them on different areas of the face. I've been using the NARS Chantilly for over two years now, primarily for spot concealing, and I'm just now beginning to see some clear areas in the tube. I'm pretty sure there is still a LOT of concealer left in there anyway, but it's been open and well loved for a long time now, so I think either way it's nearing the end of its life; I just want to get as much of my money's worth out if it as possible before throwing it away.
11. Bourjois 123 Perfect CC Cream in 31 Ivory (review with swatches). The shade 31 is about half a shade too dark for me, which makes it easier to try and use up in a spring/ summer Project. As you may be able to see, I have about 3/4 of the tube left, and my goal is to use up a further half (so that I would only have 1/4 left by the end). I still really enjoy this CC cream, but foundation is one of the categories I would like to downsize, and this is one of the older bases in my stash.
12. Hourglass Mineral Veil Primer (review). Again, I currently only own face primer minis so it's not really an area I need to downsize, but this SPF 15 primer expires in two months and it would be great to use it all up before that.
13. Maybelline Color Tattoo in Just Beige. After failing to use up a Color Tattoo in Bad to the Bronze during a whole 12 months of Project Make A Dent last year, I'm under no illusion that I can work through Just Beige in a third of that time span. However, this shade has been getting more and more dried out (which is why I had to heat it up in a microwave and mix with a toothpick), and I would just like to get some more use out of it (let's say, use up a half of the jar?) before I have to toss it out.
I have a pretty good feeling about this challenge; I think I've set more realistic goals compared to my last Project Pan, and these products are easier to track progress on, which is always more motivating than just trudging through with no end in sight. Just as a reminder, I'm also continuing to pan theBalm Nude'Tude eyeshadow palette for my Pan That Palette 2016, but I'll be posting updates on that separately from this Project. On Monday, which was the first day I was using the products I selected for this challenge, I was actually stupidly excited to do my make-up, and I thought it turned out amazing - quite silly what project-panning can do to a woman's enjoyment of her own make-up stash. Have you started any new Projects recently? If so, please let me know in the comments, I love following everyone's progress!

Monday, May 2, 2016

1st Project 10 Pan of 2016 Finale!

Drumroll please - my first Project 10 Pan of the year (intro post here) has now officially drawn to a close! Can you tell how excited I am? Funnily enough, in April (my fourth month of doing this Project), I started feeling less bored by using the same products day in and day out and was again just enjoying them for their quality and dependability. Anyway... onto my progress!
Above is a flat lay photo from my last update two months ago, at the halfway mark (read my update post here). I had some good progress at that point but was feeling a bit anxious about a couple of products, especially the Stila eyeliner and the Koh Gen Do foundation, which I barely made a dent in despite using it every time I wore make-up. And here are my products at the end of the Project:
Woohoo - 3 products completely used up out of 10 and goals hit on another 4! Let's discuss all the items in detail:

1. Koh Gen Do Aqua Foundation in PK-1: My goal was to use half of the bottle, and I got so incredibly close that I'm counting this as an achievement; especially considering the amount of usage I had these past two months compared to January-February. I still really love this base; I can just count on it to match my skintone exactly and look fresh and natural on the skin. My favorite method of application to get the most coverage was to stipple it on with a buffer brush (I use the Real Techniques one).
 2. Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder in Diffused Light: So my progress on this product has remained rather slow, despite very frequent usage, but I think you can definitely see a larger dip now where I was concentrating my brush. I really enjoy this finishing powder, but I'm now ready to retire it to a drawer and start using something else on the daily.
3. Stila Smudge Stick Waterproof Eyeliner in Bluefin: Completely used up! If you follow my yearly make-up empties count on Instagram, you may have seen that I finished this eyeliner about two weeks ago, which made me super happy. I definitely noticed that the last week or two of usage, Bluefin got very dry and even flaky, but I managed to use it up by applying it with an angled brush mostly to tightline. In my experience, eyeliner pencils with microglitter dry out much faster than regular cream/ matte finish.
4. NARS Smudgeproof Eyeshadow Base: Done and dusted! It's my favorite eye primer I've tried so far, but this thing is definitely dead now; I used as much as I was able to get out. There's still product at the very bottom of the tube where the wand doesn't reach it, but even if I had one of those handy dandy spatulas to dig it out, it's too dried out now anyway. It's okay - I definitely got my money's worth out of it.
5. NYX Powder Blush in Taupe: That's quite some pan, am I right? What happened (as you can kind of see in the close-up as well) is that I actually hit pan on this contouring powder four times in different areas. For whatever reason, the grid pattern on the powder is much harder pressed and thus more difficult to wear down than the areas in between. The grid lines were actually so hard that they crumbled and flaked off between the areas of clear pan. Anyway; at this point, I'm considering this item well used and ready to leave my collection. I've actually had this product since 2009, and even though I loved it at first, it's no longer a favorite and I'm just not comfortable keeping it around any longer.
6. Clarins Instant Light Lip Perfector in Rose Shimmer: My initial goal was to use this gloss up completely, but I think that was completely unrealistic given the volume of the tube. However, I did make good progress (and finally figured out a way of tracking it: the upper line is from middle of March, the bottom is from two days ago. The tube is also slimmer now from squeezing). My favorite way of using this Lip Perfector is actually more of a balm than a gloss as I have trouble layering it on top of lipsticks due to the super creamy and slippy formula. If anything, it works better applied in a thin layer under another product - exactly like prepping your lips with a balm. I'll try to make more progress on it before the end of the year but we shall see, I have a lot of lip products to go through.
7. Revlon Lip Butter in Berry Smoothie: Finished! I wore this lip color probably about 90% of the time, and especially at work. I used up another shade (Peach Parfait) last year, and I think these (now discontinued) Lip Butters are relatively quick to get through. I'm glad to have another lipstick out of my stash, especially that I have other similar shades of pink I can replace Berry Smoothie with.
8. Revlon Superlustrous Lipstick in Cherries in the Snow: There's been steady progress on this bright fuschia red but in all honesty, there was no way I was going to finish even my remaining half of the tube in the span of four months, unless I was wearing it every day. I think from now on, I will no longer be including very bright or vampy lip colors in my panning projects. Yes, having those vivid shades in my projects this time around as well as last year (in my Project Make A Dent 2015) did push me out of my comfort zone a little bit and empowered me to wear a bright lip without a special occasion, but the thing is, I want to enjoy all the different shades of brights and vamps in my stash and swap them out according to my mood, not be forced to wear the same one for months on end. If that means I'll never be getting completely through those bright colors and some will just expire, I'm okay with that - as long as I'm liking and somewhat regularly using all the ones remaining in my collection.
9. Zoya Nail Polish in Jem: I'm calling this nail polish the one fail of my Project Pan. I used it one more time for a pedi since the last update, so I don't think you can even see any more progress. I don't think I'm capable of using the same shade of varnish often enough to see significant progress, unless it's a mini bottle (like in my last year's Project Pan). Lesson learnt for future panning challenges.
Progress after two months of usage, at the beginning of March.
10. theBalm Nude'Tude Eyeshadow Palette: I'm very happy with my progress - I hit pan on three eyeshadows! I also have more significant dips in nearly all the other shades, with some exceptions. I've come to the conclusion that I actually dislike quite a few of the darker shades in this palette, as they all come out the same shade of muddy grey charcoal once blended out on the eyes; I'm talking Sophisticated, Silly and Sleek in particular. I won't be focusing on these three from now on.
Progress after four months of usage.
I'm planning to separate my Pan That Palette challenge from my Project Pans going forward, so you'll see my bimonthly updates in separate posts. My goal for the next two months is to concentrate on the lighter shades from the bottom row, especially Snobby, Stand-offish and Schitzo.
Angled view of my most used shadows from the palette to show the depth of the pans.
I'm satisfied with the results of this project; I consider 7 out of 10 challenging products a good achievement. I have already selected and started using products for my next four-month Project Pan, so be on the look out for the introduction post in a couple days. How are your projects going? Do you have any significant make-up empties to report?