Friday, July 29, 2016

Eyeshadow Dupes: Swatching Shimmery & Metallic Light Pinks, White Golds & Champagne

As you may remember, I have been trying to use up my theBalm Nude' Tude eyeshadow palette as part of a Project Pan That Palette since January of this year (see my latest update here). However, that doesn't mean that I have completely neglected the rest of my stash; while I don't really wear any other shadows than those in the Nude' Tude, the Project has really driven home why I shouldn't be buying any more eyeshadow palettes: I have way too many neutral shades in my stash already, as illustrated in my 'I'm Never Buying Another Eyeshadow Palette Again' ramble here. As an extension of that post, I've been busy playing around with my other shade families and trying to weed out dupes and inferior formulas, and the photos below are the result.
I KNOW. Before you judge me, go sift through your own stash ;)
I have pretty much decided to end my Pan That Palette at the end of August; my baby boy is due to arrive in early October and I'd like to have one month in between to experiment with the rest of my eyeshadow stash. Because of that decision, I have been thinking about what I want to do with the Nude' Tude once I finish the Project, and I've come to the conclusion that there are a few shades in it that I'd like to keep by depotting them into a magnetic palette. The rest will just be tossed in the trash unfortunately - I don't want to pass on half-used or unused but subpar shadows to any of my friends and family. As I was contemplating which shades to depot, I decided to have a quick look at the rest of my eyeshadow collection to see if I had any similar shades already in my Z-Palettes. And then it hit me. DO I EVER.

I was specifically looking for dupes/ comparable shades to theBalm Stand-offish, thus far my most used eyeshadow out of the entire palette, but for more variety, I've also included shimmery (or metallic/ frost/ pearl finish, whatever you want to call it) light pinks and white golds/ ivory shades. To be honest, this is not even the entirety of my stash - I have more shades I could include in both single pans/ depot form as well as other eyeshadow palettes. But anyway, here's what I found:
Sorry, the L-R order isn't the same as my arm swatches for this group: Inglot 397, Stila Academy, Inglot AMC Shine 142
Out of the light pinks, I don't think any of these are actually dupes. Stila Academy has more of a cool undertone than Inglot 397, which is somewhere between a warm light pink and a champagne/ peach. Inglot AMC Shine 142 isn't as soft or pigmented as the other two, but has both a subtle glowing pink duochrome (it wouldn't show up in the photos no matter the angle) and some sparse silver microglitters.
L-R: Fyrinnae Nijiro, RBR Unforgettable Oriole, Marc Jacobs The Ingenue Trio (leftmost shade)
In the white gold/ shimmery ivory color family, I own two shades that are incredibly close but still not complete dupes: Fyrinnae Nijiro has a blue & pink micro sparkle to it under artificial lights where Rouge Bunny Rouge Unforgettable Oriole is more of a typical pearl finish. The Marc Jacobs far left shade from The Ingenue trio (reviewed here) is the odd one out: both darker and more of a satin than metallic finish.
L-R: Too Faced Silk Teddy, theBalm Stand-offish (at the top), Stila Kitten, Wet n'Wild Browbone shade from The Gilded Age trio, MAC All That Glitters
However, I had the most luck (alas) finding dupes in the champagne/ light peach category. Maybe because those shades are the most universally flattering, but I feel like they feature in a lot of palettes, both drugstore and high-end. Let's consider the cult classic Stila Kitten - yes, it's an incredibly soft, smooth, buttery, pigmented shadow. However, as you can hopefully see in my photos, I have two other shades in my stash that are pretty much the same: theBalm Stand-offish and an Eyebrow shade from a LE Wet n'Wild trio called The Gilded Age. Out of these three, I'd say that Kitten still has the best formula; theBalm and Wet n'Wild can be just a tad too powdery/ flakey, but it's nit-picking here. If you have one, you don't need the other two.
Too Faced Silk Teddy (from the Natural Eyes palette) is lighter and more pink than theBalm Stand-offish, Stila Kitten and the Wet n'Wild shadows - I probably could have included it in my light pink grouping. MAC All That Glitters is significantly darker and less metallic than the other four shadows; on me, it's fine as an all over the lid shade, but too dark to be used as a highlight in the inner corners.

As you can see from my little experiment, I definitely do NOT need to depot that Stand-offish shade from my Nude' Tude palette. However, I'm thinking now that maybe I will hold on to it after all, and instead pass on the Wet n'Wild The Gilded Age shade - not because the formula is inferior (they really are the same, you guys), but because I'd rather pass on a lightly used dupe to a loved one and keep half-used Stand-offish, which is also a smaller pan and thus more efficient to store, as a back-up to my favorite Stila Kitten. Not that I really need a back-up... but it's hard to stop hoarding eyeshadows after all these years of collecting. Which one(s) would you give away?
I hope you enjoyed this installment of Shop/ Swatch My Stash. Please let me know if there's a particular group of products or shades you would like to see next: maybe my pinky/ mauve My Lips But Better lipsticks, or my vast collection of taupe eyeshadows, or my bright/ colorful shades. What dupes have you discovered in your stash recently?

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Blueberry Stained Lips: Pacifica Devocean Natural Lipstick in Beach Goth*

Growing up, I always loved the summer season in my mom's kitchen, because it meant all kinds of delicious lunch pairings of pasta/ dumplings + fresh fruit: pierogi with blackberries, knedle with strawberries or plums (which I made a few weeks ago and bragged about on Instagram here), and then possibly my absolute favorite, łazanki (small pasta squares) toppped with wild (low bush) blueberry sauce and lots of whipped sweat cream. I would devour that dish in minutes and then lick the plate clean, giving myself a purple mouth that remained stained for the rest of the day. This is exactly what Pacifica's Devocean Natural Lipstick* ($10 for 0.07 oz/ 2g, available at as well as Ulta and other green beauty retailers) in the shade Beach Goth reminds me of - those strange blueberry lips of summer.
(By the way, don't you find the name Beach Goth a little amusing? Just imagine that poor goth girl clad all in black being absolutely miserable and sweating her eyeliner off on a sandy ocean shore. Or maybe I just have a twisted sense of humor :)

Pacifica Beauty describes their Devocean lipstick range as 'highly pigmented color [that] glides on smoothly, will not feather and lasts for hours'. Devocean lipsticks contain coconut oil, shea butter, jojoba esters and vitamin E, and like all Pacifica products, are vegan, cruelty-free and gluten-free. The lipstick is packaged in a lightweight slim plastic tube with the color of the outer box loosely corresponding to the shade inside, and a label on the bottom of the tube specifying the shade name (thank goodness!). I quite enjoy Pacifica's design aesthetics: colorful, whimsical, somewhat bohemian - it definitely stands out from other brands. The lipstick has a beautiful sweet coconut scent when being applied to the lips, but it doesn't linger for very long afterwards.
Beach Goth is definitely not for the faint of heart - I mean, what did you expect with a name like this? It's PURPELH. I was admittedly a little intimidated when I first opened the tube but game to try it out anyway. As I expected, it swatches a lot different from what it looks like in the tube: what looks like an intense dark purple in the tube applies more like a wash of cool purple with a mauve undertone. The finish is a jelly/cream (crelly?), no shimmer whatsoever.
L-R: Pacifica Devocean Lipstick in Beach Goth, Lancome Color Design in Wine Party, Revlon Superlustrous in Black Cherry
The texture of the Devocean lipstick is very creamy but thin; in fact, despite Pacifica's product description, I would say the pigmentation and formula in between a lipstick and nicely tinted balm. In terms of feel, it's definitely not as thick and onctous as standard cream finish lipsticks (say, Revlon Superlustrous or YSL Rouge Purs) and instead reminds me of something like Guerlain Rouge Automatiques. It feels hydrating and comfortable on the lips but it's prone to wearing off easily on teacups and the like and would require frequent reapplication to retain the intensity of color. I can live with that though - can you see how full and luscious it looks on my lips? You can still see vertical lip lines but they're softened and there's no product gathering in there. The lips look smooth, even and natural, not like they're covered in a thick layer of product.
In general, I really enjoy somewhat sheerer lipstick textures, so it's no surprise that I really enjoy my new Devocean lipstick. However, the shade Beach Goth - like that blueberry stain of my childhood - is a combination of strange and wonderful on me. My fair cool-toned coloring makes it difficult for me to wear neutral/ cool purple blushes and lipsticks without looking bruised/ chilled to the bone but Beach Goth somehow walks the line without pushing me too much into the undead territory. I have nothing like it in my stash, and it takes some guts to wear it outside the house - but makes me feel cool and a bit different. I also really like Beach Goth in smaller doses, lightly patted on or layered with another warmer lipstick, lip liner and/ or gloss.
If you're looking for a moisturizing, lightweight lipstick, I think you'd love the Pacifica Devocean range - and if your skintone is warmer than mine (or you simply like unusual shades), you'd certainly look killer in that Beach Goth purple. For a more classically flattering color choice, I'm also eyeing the MLBB Tenderness or peachy pink XOX shades. What is your experience with natural lipstick lines? What is your favorite sheer lipstick/ tinted balm formula?

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!

Friday, July 22, 2016

My Nail Polish Collection and One Last Declutter

Uhm, well, at least I *think* it's the last declutter for a long while... I've been itching to further edit down my nail polish stash for weeks and thought it would be fun to share my purging process with you. I personally enjoy watching others downsize their beauty collections, but more than the actual products, I'm always really interested in how exactly we determine what to keep versus what to let go of, and I'll attempt to illustrate in this post what my decision process looked like this time.

Before we dive right in, here's a little back story on my nail polish collection. In college (when I still lived in Poland), I used to have about 5 bottles at any given time - sometimes I would toss a shade when I noticed its quality had deteriorated, sometimes I would buy a new one when something caught my eye at the drugstore, but overall, I only did my nails occasionally and nail polish wasn't something I was very drawn to. Fast forward to when I graduated/ moved to Washington state and became an avid beauty blog reader (and a blogger myself) and surprise surprise, my stash started growing - I'd pick up a color every few weeks at the drugstore because it seemed like an innocent treat, and everything looked new and exciting - so why not try it out for myself? My nail polish amassing ways peaked when I started working in beauty retail; not only was it important to present myself well by always having an impeccable manicure, but the store I worked at also carried a wide selection of OPI, Essie and China Glaze along with all of their Limited Edition collections. I bought A LOT of bottles myself in the 1.5 years I worked there, but also received a good number as gratis.

But ever since I quit that job and we moved to New York City, my passion for nail polish has been on the decline. In late 2013 and early 2014, I still polished my nails pretty regularly, and even thought about trying out some more nail art; but in the end, I proved too lazy for it. I would buy a few new shades here and there but already felt my stash had grown too large and overwhelming. Now, through all of 2015 and the first half of 2016, I purchased exactly ONE new nail polish. I gave a lot away though - last year I passed on 4 to various family members, tossed 2 older ones and used 2 up (can you tell it was still difficult for me to let go of my pretties?) and had roughly 68 bottles remaining, in April I gave away 15 to my coworkers (Instagram photo above), leaving me with about 53 bottles - that is, until yesterday.

I wanted this declutter to be a lot more thorough this time and my loose goal was to whittle the stash down to the point where it could all fit in one Birchbox lid; even though I haven't been subscribed to the service for over 3 years now, I still use their boxes to organize my beauty stash. I don't know why I pictured exactly that amount in my mind - it just seemed like that would give me the most variety without becoming overwhelming or holding on to shades that were alright, but not my favorite. You can see in the first photo in the beginning of my post what I started out with: 2 Birchbox lids in the front (but one of them holding only my 'manicure kit': files, tools, thinner, base and top coats) and 4 manufacturers' boxes for 6 bottles each in the back of the drawer.
The 'Before' photo of my stash.
I started by dividing my stash into color families so I could both see how many I had in each group, and also be able to compare and contrast shades more easily. I took photos of each grouping and also swatched them all (one coat only) on some sticky tape against a white background - I realize this is not an ideal representation of how those shades would look on my actual hands but it was enough to jog my memory, and much less time consuming than applying everything to my nails.
L-R: OPI Alpine Snow, OPI Ski Slope Sweetie, Essie Urban Jungle, OPI Don't Burst My Bubble, OPI I Theodora You
Let's start with my palest shades of white, ivory, pale pink and nude. I decided to give away OPI Alpine Snow and I Theodora You - the former I only ever used for nail art when I needed a pure white, and the latter just wasn't super great on my skintone, on top of needing at least three coats to look decent. Decluttered 2 out 5.
L-R: OPI Pedal Faster, Suzi!, Zoya Julie, Zoya Megan, Essie Chinchilly
Pink & purple pastels and grey neutrals. Out of this group, I didn't part with any bottles, even though I've never worn OPI Pedal Faster, Suzi! - maybe because I was focused on I Theodora You instead ;) I wear the other three regularly. Decluttered 0/4.
L-R: Essie Absolutely Shore, Zoya Neely, Essie Bikini So Teeny, China Glaze Secret Peri-wink-le, OPI You're Such a Budapest
Pastel greens and blues - some of my all-time favorite shades to wear. However, as you may be able to see, Essie Absolutely Shore and Zoya Neely are so close that there's no excuse in keeping both; there's no way I'm going to need a 'back-up' in the next 5 years. I opted to keep the Essie because Zoya was a touch darker and more muted. Which was the same reason I parted with China Glaze Secret Peri-wink-le; it's not really a pastel on me, more of a light denim blue, and I prefer both Essie Bikini So Teeny and OPI You're Such a Budapest to it. Decluttered 2/5.
L-R: Essie In the Cabana, Essie Butler Please, Revlon Royal, OPI Into The Night
Darker blues. I'm currently sporting Essie In The Cabana on my toes after not wearing it for over a year, and I love it so much that there's no way I could part with it - just need to remember to wear it more often. However, both Essie Butler Please and OPI Into The Night haven't been worn in 2 or 3 years and I don't think I want to wear them now; Revlon Royal is quite close to Butler Please anyway, but somehow more visually striking. Decluttered 2/4.
L-R: Essie Cute As A Button, Essie Off The Shoulder, Essie Pink Grenadine, China Glaze That's Shore Bright, OPI Pamplona Purple
Bright pinks and purples. I believe I used to own a lot more coral pinks in the past, but somehow Essie Cute As a Button is the only one remaining now after various culls, and I'm not letting it go now - it's always beautiful for a summer pedi. However, Essie Off The Shoulder is just a bit too pink for me and I never reach for it. As for China Glaze That's Shore Bright, it's one of those colors that I love to admire in the bottle, but it's just not 'me', and I don't think I've worn it more than twice. As for OPI Pamplona Purple, I have still never worn it, but I think it's more because I was distracted by other shades and not because I dislike the shade. Decluttered 2/5.
L-R: Essie Head Mistress, OPI Lost on Lombard, China Glaze Merry Berry, Orly Star Spangled
Reds. Now, this is an embarrassing category. I've never ever worn Essie Head Mistress nor China Glaze Merry Berry. Why? Because every time I wanted a classic red - which is usually around the holidays - I would reach for Orly Star Spangled instead, which as result has only half a bottle remaining and is now thick and gloopy. I finally trashed the Orly and am now left with a brighter cool-toned red (Head Mistress), darker berry red (Merry Berry) and a strange, muted, slightly brown cream red I absolutely love in the autumn (Lost on Lombard). Decluttered 1/4.
L-R: Zoya Toni, Zoya Jem, Zoya Payton, Revlon Perplex, OPI Muir Muir On The Wall, China Glaze Naughty and Nice.
Vampy purples, wines, burgundies. First of all, I had no idea I have so many in this color family - but then I love me a dark manicure in the fall and winter. I knew right away two of these had to go: Revlon Perplex because I haven't worn it in more than 3 years (looks muddy and grey on my skintone), and Zoya Jem because I've worn it too much thanks to the splendid idea of including it in a Project Pan. Yes, you can be overexposed to a certain shade, and yes, you can burn yourself out on it even if it used to be one of your favorites. My current opinion is that I will never try to pan another nail polish ever again, especially if it's a nearly full 0.5 fl. oz. Decluttered 2/6.
Misfits and metallics. Here I also knew right away what needed to go: OPI Just Spotted the Lizard because I haven't worn it more than once and don't intend to in the foreseeable future, and the Wibo peachy orange - it has too much orange and too little white for my skintone and I'm never completely in love when I wear it. Decluttered 2/5.
Maybelline Precious Pearl, China Glaze Champagne Kisses, OPI The Living Daylights, China Glaze Mrs Claus, OPI
Glitters. I used to own many more, but have steadily been getting rid of them in the past few years; not because I don't love looking at them in the bottle, but because I never wear them, mostly dreading the removal process. I think I've worn Mrs. Claus two Christmases ago, and that's about it for how often I now wear these. My two least favorite were chosen to go, but I think that at the end of the year, I'll have to let go of Mrs. Claus as well - I only have about half a bottle left and what used to be a mix of red and silver glitters now appears to be just one mass of light pink. Huh. Decluttered 2/5.
The last group is my base and top coats and other treatments. I didn't think I was keeping too many unnecessary things on hand, but still decluttered the OPI Chip Skip (never use it, don't see the need for it - you could just clean your nails with a remover before you start), a Trind nail balsam thingy, and some old argan oil cuticle concoction. I will soon be tossing out the mostly used-up bottle of China Glaze top coat; see how red it's gotten? But I'm working through a coral red now so I'll use it a few more times and then call it done.
Here are all of my nail polishes swatched (in the same order & color families as photographed above), with the 'X's marking the bottles that are leaving my stash. Overall, I've decluttered 15 nail polishes and 2 nail treatments. This is actually not more than my polish declutter earlier this year, but I feel that this round was a lot more difficult because I enjoyed nearly all of these shades at some point, and found them all very pretty to look at. But realistically, was I actually using them? No.
And here is my 'After' photo. As you may be able to see, I haven't quite reached my goal - I did manage to get rid of all the boxes in the back, but my actual nail polish colors spill out a bit from one Birchbox lid to the next, which used to house just the treatments and tools. That's okay though; they all fit easily in there anyway, and I can see all of my stash at a glance. I currently own 29 nail polishes, compared to about 70 last August.

Do I ever regret owning as many as 100 bottles at some point in the past? Not especially. For me personally, I think those couple of years of collecting nail polish (or beauty products in general) were very important in exploring the beautiful variety and richness of shades, and then in turn figuring out what I liked and what suited me best. If I've never experimented, I wouldn't have had so much fun in discovering my individual preferences. However, I am now content and confident to follow my taste exactly and don't need to hold on to my 'experimenting tools' any longer. Plus, I'm pretty sure my family, friends and coworkers were all very happy recipients of my rejects :)

I hope that you enjoyed this very lengthy post and thanks for sticking with me to the very end. I would love to learn more about your decluttering process if you care to share, and especially what you personally consider to be 'ideal size' for a nail polish stash. Please let me know in the comments!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Inexpensive Finds: Andalou Naturals Pumpkin Honey Glycolic Mask Review

Exfoliating masks are a staple in my skincare routine; I may skip the purifying clay ones, I may even go without a moisturizing one... but I just have to treat my face to some deeper chemical exfoliation at least once a week, and I see the biggest difference in my skin out of all mask varieties when I do. I've been trialing a lot of more expensive masks of this kind last year (here's my round-up post) but didn't love any one of those enough to shell out the big bucks, and when it came to purchasing a replacement for my regime, I opted for something a lot less expensive: the Andalou Naturals Pumpkin Honey Glycolic Mask ($14.99 for 50g; I purchased mine on Vitacost for $11.99).
You may remember that in general, I've had great luck with Andalou Naturals products so far: some of my favorites from the brand include the Apricot Probiotic Cleansing Milk (reviewed here), the 1000 Roses Floral Toner (here) and the Probiotic + C Renewal Cream (here). I would happily repurchase all of these products in the future, and they've set the bar pretty high in terms of my expectations of the brand.

The Brightening Pumpkin Honey Glycolic Mask claims to 'gently dissolve and lift away dull surface cells, exfoliating and resurfacing for even tone and smooth texture', and includes a whole host of delicious natural ingredients. The key chemical/enzymatic exfoliants in the formula are pumpkin puree, pineapple juice and glycolic acid, supported by nourishing antioxidants and humectants such as sunflower and meadowfoam oils, aloe vera, glycerin and hyaluronic acid (Sodium Hyaluronate), manuka honey, rooibos extract and Vitamins C & E. Ingredients lists like this one are why I get so excited about Andalou products - there are no fillers, no mysterious chemicals, no questionable bullshit (well, I do have a gripe with their stem cell claims - but I just ignore that, I don't think they're harmful to the skin or anything), just beautiful, yummy naturals I want on my face ASAP.
The mask comes in a sturdy plastic jar (there's a clear lid inside to prevent spills in shipment); nothing fancy but practical enough, and for once I don't think a tube would be a great improvement for this product. As you can see in my close-up photos, the Pumpkin Honey Glycolic Mask looks, feels and smells exactly like pumpkin puree; it's quite dense but creamy and easily spreadable on the skin, with tiny brown specks here and there - I'm not sure, but those may be from the cinnamon, nutmeg and clove powders included in the formula. Are you thinking pumpkin pie yet? You betcha.

The instructions state to apply evenly avoiding eye and lip areas, leave on for 10 minutes and rinse with cool water; quite standard for any mask of this type I've used in the past. But let me tell you guys: this shiz is INTENSE. I have never used an exfoliating mask that had as much tingle - or, you know, burn - as the Andalou Pumpkin Mask. As soon as the orange puree touches my face, my face starts feeling really hot and quite uncomfortable, and continues to do so for another 3 minutes or so, after which the tingling subsides and eventually goes away completely.
The first time I experienced it I was convinced my face was going to melt off, and that I must have an allergic reaction to the product or something. However, once I rinsed the mask off, my face wasn't red or irritated in the least - actually less so than from other exfoliating treatments. Huh. The experience also reminded me of getting a professional facial once; I remember the aesthetician used an exfoliating pumpkin mask from another line and it felt exactly the same on my face as the Andalou one - so I'm thinking that maybe pumpkin enzyme masks are meant to be this intense, and as long as my skin doesn't seem angry afterwards, it's all good. You just need a decent 'tingle tolerance' to use them :)

But most importantly, is the uncomfortable tingle really worth it? Yes, I believe so. I've been using this mask once a week for the past month or so, and after application, my skin looks exactly like Andalou claimed it would: smooth, even, more plump and luminous. Any blackheads or large pores on my T-zone seem cleaned out and slightly diminished, and my face feels baby soft to the touch. I follow up with a good hydrating serum and a moisturizer, and the next morning I admire my refreshed complexion in the mirror (no, really).
All in all, the Pumpkin Honey Glycolic Mask is another hit from Andalou Naturals in my book. In the future, I would like to see if their Berry Fruit Enzyme Mask for Dry & Sensitive Skin is just as effective but maybe without the intense tingle, but for now I'm happy with my pumpkin pie mask. Have you found any inexpensive skincare treasures recently? What is your favorite exfoliating treatment? I'd love to know!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Summer in NYC: My Handbag Beauty Essentials

Most of my life, summer was always the season I looked forward to - I mean, what's not to love, summer holidays, sunshine, abundance of fruit, bright colors... But ever since we moved to New York City nearly three years ago now, summer has become the season I absolutely dread. The stifling heat and humidity just make it so hard to enjoy my usual summer pasttimes, and maybe because of the added challenge of pregnancy this year, I'm doing all I can to make it through the next two months. However, I'm not alone in the struggle - I've taken to toting a few beauty essentials around with me that make my summer life in the city a lot easier. Let's have a look.
The bag I'm carrying currently is a simple tote from Ralph Laurent I got a few years ago at TJMaxx; I quite like the structured style and I can organize everything inside really well thanks to numerous pockets. I usually keep my beauty essentials corraled into a small make-up bag like the one in the photo, although more frequently used things end up thrown into the large zippered pocket.
If you've ever ridden on the New York subway, you know exactly how important it is to carry a good hand sanitizer with you. Now, I'm not a germophobe by any stretch of the imagination, but something about those turnstiles and poles makes me feel really dirty. I've been using plenty of Neal's Yard Remedies Organic Defence Hand Spray* ($10.50 for 1.69 fl. oz, available at here) to combat the inner cringe and I love the refreshing scent of its essential oil blend. I've never used a spray hand sanitizer before but I find it easier and more economical than a typical gel. Big thumbs up. After hand washing, I always follow up with a bit of hand cream to make my dry hands feel more comfortable; I'm currently using this deluxe sample of Bliss Grapefruit + Aloe Body Butter ($29 for full size 6.7 oz).
Even with an effective primer and setting powder, my T-zone can get a little oily after a few hours - more often than not, it's a combination of oil and sweat to be perfectly honest. I generally don't carry a mattifying powder with me (because I don't like faffing around with brushes or puffs, plus piling more powder onto oily skin seems wrong somehow) but I do reach for blotting tissues - these Palladio Oil Absorbing Rice Paper Tissues with Rice Powder ($3.99 for 40ct) are nice and large but I would prefer something without powder once I'm done with this packet.

Once I'm done getting rid of the oily shine, I sometimes like to freshen up with a face mist; I've used Eau Thermale Avene Spring Water ($9 for 1.76 oz/ 50g) in the past but I'm currently enjoying another NYR product, the White Tea Facial Mist* ($19 for 1.52 fl. oz, currently on sale for $14.25 here). I was a bit skeptical of this product because aside from some lovely ingredients like antioxidant white tea, aloe vera, glycerin and marigold flower extract, it also contains a lot of alcohol denat., and I try to avoid that ingredient in my skincare. However, I've found that in a facial spray used over my make-up, I don't actually mind it in the least - and if you look at ingredients lists for most setting sprays, alcohol is usually very prominent. The mist on the Neal's Yard product is delicate and even, and I'm a big fan of the lavender & geranium scent; I definitely prefer it to the cult Caudalie Beauty Elixir, which I reviewed here. The White Tea Facial Mist leaves my face feeling soothed, fresh and more luminous.
I also always have a few lip products floating around in my bag; I've been more into neutral mauve lips recently and you are probably tired of me waxing lyrical about these Buxom Full-On Lip Creams ($19 for 0.14 oz, reviewed here and here), but what can I say? I really love this lip gloss formula. Dolly is a great My Lips But Better shade and its minty tingle feels nice and cool on the lips in the summer heat. Maybelline Color Elixir in Caramel Infused ($6.99-8.99 for 0.17 fl oz, here) is another great option that feels balmy and nourishing on, and the shade is just a bit deeper and warmer than Buxom's Dolly.
Other non-beauty things I like to carry around with me include my Klean Kanteen insulated bottle filled with water, as well as some nuts; I like the convenience of a small packet of these Orchard Valley ones I received in my June Degustabox* (shown here), but I usually buy larger bags - I've been munching on these Now Foods Roasted Sea Salt Cashews a lot. If I'm out and about for longer, I also like to take some seasonal fruit with me; lately it's either some peaches or cherries. I find fresh fruit + nuts to be my ideal snack in between meals, and packing those to go helps me avoid unhealthy impulse buys when hunger strikes unexpectedly.

That's about it - as you can see, I don't actually carry around a lot of beauty products; to be honest, I'm just not one for frequent touch-ups. And you know, that helps to carve out more space in my bag for snacks, or a good book :) I hope you enjoyed this peek into my purse and let me know what your summer handbag essentials are - I'd love to know what you like to always have on hand!

Disclaimer: Products marked with an asterix (*) were press samples I received from the brands' PR for review consideration. I purchased all 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!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

No More Dry Skin: TATCHA Overnight Memory Serum Concentrate*

I mentioned in my Evening Skincare Routine post (here) that I've been using a new product from TATCHA's Luminous range for a while now - the Overnight Memory Serum Concentrate* ($110 for 50ml/ 1.7 fl. oz), so it's high time to give you my thoughts on it.
The Overnight Memory Serum claims to 'restore hydration, refine texture and visibly plump fine lines' thanks to Okinawa Red Algae and 7 botanical extracts. It also contains quite a few plant oils (squalane from olive oil, rice germ and camellia), as well as glycerin and royal jelly. The serum can also be used in a fine layer to add extra glow during the day; Tatcha says this is the ultra-concentrated version of their cult Dewy Skin Mist, and recommends using one to two spoonfuls per application.
Why the golden spoon, I hear you ask - isn't that a bit gimmicky? While it certainly adds to the luxurious appeal of the heavy glass jar, it's actually very useful to scoop out product as Tatcha's newest serum has a very interesting texture: it is in fact a jelly. The serum wobbles amusingly in the pot when shaken, which really reminds me of panna cotta, but curiously once you scoop out a little, the surface evens itself out within a couple minutes. The jelly turns to watery gel when picked up with your fingers, and spreads easily and evenly on the face. I appreciate the novelty factor of this packaging and texture, but to be honest, I think it does take more time and effort than just pumping a blob from a bottle, so there's that.
The serum has a faint herbal scent that dissipates quickly, and is suitable for all skin types, including sensitive skins. I have been applying it most nights for the past three months, and here's what I think: this is another damn good product from Tatcha (see my reviews of their One Step Camellia Cleansing Oil & Rice Enzyme Polish here, as well as Camellia Beauty Oil and Nourishing Lip Balm here. Oh, and I also really like their Deep Hydration Firming Eye Serum). I'm sorry - at this price point I wish I could tell you to save your money - but it really is effective and makes a noticeable difference in my skin. In simplest terms, I haven't had any dry patches or flakes on my face since I started using the Overnight Memory Serum. None. I used to always, always have a few flakes around my nose but those are completely gone now, and I can't remember the last time I had to worry about dry, crusty skin on my face.
So in terms of hydration and moisturization, Tatcha's serum wins in spades. Because my skin is now so hydrated, it also looks more plump and glowy overall - but if you were hoping for a brightening effect as in reduced hyperpigmentation, I don't think this serum really targets those issues. My other miniscule gripe with this product is that now that we've entered the hot and humid months, it's actually a bit too moisturizing; it doesn't absorb all the way into my skin leaving a bit of a tacky layer, even when used in a small amount and without a moisturizer over the top, and in the morning my skin is quite oily. It hasn't however caused any breakouts or clogging - it's just that I don't really enjoy the feel of  heavy layers on my face in this damn heat, which is also why I don't use a facial oil in the summer. Personally, for my combination skin, Tatcha's Overnight Memory Serum Concentrate is a godsend in the winter, but a bit OTT in the summer.

I'd say that if your skin is oily, I'd skip the Memory Serum altogether and maybe go for something like their just released Pore Perfecting Water Gel Moisturizer (I haven't tried it myself though - just pointing out there are other products in the range geared towards combo and oily skin). If your skin type is combination/ normal but seasonally dehydrated, or dry - by all means, get yourself a jar and watch your flaky skin disappear. While the price point is quite high, one jar should last you a really long time - mine doesn't even look like it's been used. What is your favorite hydrating serum for night time? Do you prefer jar packaging or a pump bottle?

TATCHA Overnight Memory Serum Concentrate is available on here (complimentary shipping and returns in the US as well as a deluxe sample gift on your first order) as well as at Sephora, Barneys and QVC.

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!

Friday, July 8, 2016

Beauty Empties: 2nd Quarter of 2016

The bag of beauty trash is overflowing again, so here we go! To be honest, when I do my empties posts quarterly, I get quite overwhelmed with the number of products and dread having to type them all up - but then again, I still personally love empties posts and videos from others, so I continue doing them as well. Let's start with my skincare - I made a lot of progress!
Products I disliked and wouldn't repurchase: Peter Thomas Roth Rose Stem Cell Mask (reviewed here), First Aid Beauty Facial Cleanser, Paula's Choice Hydralight Toner* (reviewed here but when used over a longer period of time, it started irritating my skin)
Products I enjoyed, but I'm trying out other things: Shu Uemura Anti Oxi Cleansing Oil (reviewed here - I said I was on the fence about this product and now I still think it's overpriced, but I've tried some other oil-based make-up removers from my back-up stash recently and they don't even come close in efficacy to the Shu), Insta Naturals Vitamin C Serum* (reviewed here), Eau Thermale Avene, Dermalogica Skin Hydrating Booster, Paula's Choice Hydralight Moisture-Infusing Lotion* (reviewed here), Josie Maran 100% Argan Oil (would rather buy a cheaper argan oil)
Products I would repurchase (but am probably trying out other things too):  Pixi Glow Tonic (reviewed here), Paula's Choice RESIST 5% AHA Smoothing Treatment* (reviewed here - I have a back-up already)
I've also finished quite a lot of make-up products in the past three months, mostly thanks to my Project 10 Pan. If you like seeing make-up empties from me more regularly, make sure to follow me on Instagram where I'm counting up all of them to see how many I can go through within a year.
Products I disliked and wouldn't repurchase: L'Oreal Telescopic Carbon Black Mascara (reviewed here)
Products I enjoyed, but I'm trying out other things: Givenchy Phenomen'Eyes Mascara (reviewed here), Guerlain Maxi Lash Mascara (here), Stila Waterproof Eyeliner in Bluefin, Revlon Lip Butter in Berry Smoothie (discontinued), Jane Iredale Lip Plumper in Tokyo (deluxe sample), NailTek Hydration III base coat (reviewed here)
Products I would repurchase (but am probably trying out other things too): Marc Jacobs Velvet Noir Major Volume Mascara* (reviewed here), NARS Smudgeproof Eyeshadow Base (so far, my HG eyeshadow primer), Fresh Sugar Shine Lip Treatment (reviewed here - I have another deluxe sample in the shade Rose waiting to be used)
I've also made considerable progress on my fragrance collection, and I'm getting very close to hitting my inventory goal for perfumes - yay! Mind you, I've been working for over two years on the two full-size bottles in the photo.
Products I disliked and wouldn't repurchase: Givenchy Dahlia Divin perfume sample
Products I enjoyed, but I'm trying out other things: Victoria's Secret Dream Angels Heavenly Fragrance Mist, Prada Candy EDP, Annick Goutal Petite Cherie perfume sample
Products I would repurchase (but am probably trying out other things too): Thierry Mugler Angel deluxe mini.
Bodycare empties are somewhat modest this month; but aside from that one soap box in the photo, I used up three more bar soaps but as they came unwrapped/ packaged in just a bit of paper, I didn't want to clutter the picture.
Products I disliked and wouldn't repurchase: Derma E Vitamin E Intensive Therapy Hand Creme (for the price and ambitious claims, it did very little to moisturize my dry, eczema-ridden hands)
Products I enjoyed, but I'm trying out other things: Bulgarian rose soap (gift from my mom), Purell Hand Sanitizer, L'Occitane mini hand creams in the Almond and Peony scents (my favorite is the original Shea and I would purchase a small size of that one to keep in my purse)
Products I would repurchase (but am probably trying out other things too): Suave Essentials Almond Verbena Body Wash (the cheapest shower gel I could find in a local RiteAid, but I ended up really liking it - it may have some harsh ingredients but surprisingly I didn't find it to be particularly drying).
Haircare - look at all these deluxe samples/ travel sizes exiting my stash! Pretty much all of these were really good.
Products I disliked and wouldn't repurchase: None.
Products I enjoyed, but I'm trying out other things: Redken Diamond Oil, 12 Benefits Leave-in Hair Treatment*, Pacifica Super Kale Juiced-up Shampoo* and Conditioner* (good but I wasn't a fan of the minty herbal scent)
Products I would repurchase (but am probably trying out other things too): Aveda Air Control Hairspray* (reviewed here), Pacifica Hairvana Leave-On Detangling Conditioner* (reviewed here), Batiste Dry Shampoo Travel Size in the Cherry fragrance
Sheet and one-time (more like 5 times) use masks.
Products I disliked and wouldn't repurchase: DHC under eye patches (did absolutely nothing to hydrate my eye area)
Products I enjoyed, but I'm trying out other things: Murad Pomegranate Exfoliating Mask (discontinued - and the full size actually came in maybe 5 of these foil packets), Freeman Pumpkin Peeling Mask (reviewed here - when I had the genius idea to use the remainder up on my chest and shoulders, it left my skin red and burning... So that's a no, I guess. Discontinued anyway), Freeman Brightening Facial Paper Mask (not much essence, didn't notice any results from one use).
Products I would repurchase (but am probably trying out other things too): Leaders Insolution Moisturizing Recovery Mask (the second Leaders mask I've tried and I liked both very much - would purchase another from the brand especially that it's now available at Ulta).
Lastly, half-used and barely used tosses; all of these products either ostensibly went bad or are now too old for me to use comfortably.
Products I disliked and wouldn't repurchase: Bobbi Brown High Shimmer Gloss in Bellini deluxe sample (pretty shade but I dislike glitter in lip products)
Products I enjoyed, but I'm trying out other things: NYX Powder Blush in Taupe (from my Project 10 Pan), Revlon Superlustrous Lipstick in Cherries in the Snow (fantastic drugstore lipstick but I have a similar shade in my stash, and currently would also rather use a red shade with a matte finish), Mountain Rose Herbs Hazelnut Oil (gone rancid - I shouldn't be purchasing any plant/ carrier oils in such large bottles), Paula's Choice C15 Booster sample, Maybelline LE Color Sensational Lipstick in First Class Fuschia (smells off, haven't been in a mood for a bright pinky coral in months).
Products I would repurchase (but am probably trying out other things too): None.

I think that was quite a lot of products, especially in the make-up, skincare and fragrance categories. Using up my products and not repurchasing much is definitely helping to bring me closer to my goal of a smaller, manageable beauty stash. Have you finished any difficult products recently?

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 or they were gifted to me by friends and family. 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!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Summer Proof Mascara: Shiseido Full Lash Volume Review

Summer heat and humidity is already upon us here in New York, which creates the perfect conditions to test the wear of a make-up product. Having recently finished off my sample tubes of mascara, I dug this one out of my stash: the Shiseido Full Lash Volume Mascara in Black ($25 for 8ml/ 0.29 oz). I haven't had great luck with Asian mascara in the past (click here for my review of Heroine Make Volume & Curl) but they do often wear much longer than the ones from Western brands, so I thought now would be the perfect time to give the Shiseido a try.
The mascara is packaged in an interesting 'twisted' tube, which reminds me of the Frank Gehry building in Lower Manhattan. It's quite sleek and not too bulky, something I really appreciate in make-up packaging in general. The brush itself has a curved shape with lots of short natural bristles all the way around; nothing innovative but very functional nonetheless.

Shiseido's Full Lash Volume promises 'flexible' volume (whatever that means) with a natural-looking curl and soft, touchable finish. It also claims to separate lashes for a 'stunning fan effect' with no clumps. All of those things sound great to me, but does the product actually deliver?
Well, yes and no. The formula of this mascara is a bit on the wet side right when you open the packaging, but now that I've been using it for about three weeks, it has definitely dried out to a significant degree. The brush is designed very well to separate lashes from roots to tips, but as the time goes by, I have noticed more and more clumping. I would say the volume I get from this mascara is quite good, but nothing dramatic - I usually have to build it up in two coats, and really concentrate the tip of the brush, which has more mascara on it than the rest of the brush, on my outer lashes to get any product there.
I don't find that the curved shape of this brush gives my lashes any more curl - if anything, I think they look a bit less curled than they usually do, maybe because of the wetness of the formula? Another downside is that I don't think it actually fans out lashes very well; they seem to all go in one direction instead. However, where this mascara absolutely excels for me is the wear. As you may remember, my perpetual struggle with mascara is getting transfer onto my browbone, and I have had absolutely no smearing there. I also haven't noticed any flakes or fading throughout the day. I would have thought this mascara was waterproof if it weren't for the fact that it's also very easy to remove at the end of the day with just about any make-up remover/ facial cleanser.
Top: bare uncurled lashes, bottom: after 2 coats of Shiseido Full Lash Volume
All in all, I really enjoy not having to worry about flaking or smudging when I wear this mascara, although I have used other mascaras in the past that have given my lashes a fuller, longer and more dramatic look. While it's not my Holy Grail, I may revisit it next summer if I don't find anything better with similar longevity. Have you tried any mascaras from Shiseido? What is your favorite mascara to wear in the summertime?