Monday, September 29, 2014

Japan Haul

It's now been one whole week since flying back from Japan but it feels longer somehow. It's amazing how quickly one reverts to their established routine after the novelty, excitement and mental break of a holiday. I had a fantastic time in Japan apart from some disappointments (like having to skip Fuji-Q Highland and being emphatically turned away from a packed yakitori restaurant that we'd made a mission to eat at given it was specifically recommended to me before my trip) and humorous mishaps (like breaking the hotel's transformer twice in successive visits and spending 2.5 hours trying with increased desperation to find a particular izakaya restaurant only to find out it had since closed down and been replaced with an Italian eatery). While Japanese maps and addresses remained a mystery and we mostly stuck to places near a train station, my friend and I still managed to cover quite a bit of ground in two weeks, including separate day trips to Mount Fuji, Tokyo Disneyland, Kyoto and half a day at Hiroshima to see the Peace Memorial Park, as well as extended stays in Tokyo and Osaka. Those that follow me on Instagram may have seen some of the pictures. As always, no holiday is complete without a roundup of the makeup and skin care purchased, so here I present my Japan haul.

Overall, I feel I was definitely more liberal with the purchases compared with Europe last year, but I wanted to focus on items that were exclusive to Japan or not so readily available in Australia. I also was a little overenthusiastic at the duty free shops in Narita Airport just as I was about to fly out. My most extravagant purchase would be a tie between diptyque Volutes EDP and the SUQQU Cheek Brush. After testing out most of the products, I'm most impressed with Chanel Vitalumiere Aqua and the MAC 217 (believe the hype for both). Sadly, not a fan of the Koh Gen Do at all (I wish I'd purchased YSL Le Teint Touche Éclat instead), though buying the completely wrong shade could also be a big factor in my dislike. Melvita Damask Rose Floral Water is similar to the Jurlique Rosewater Balancing Mist in that I find both to be drying on the skin. Addiction eyeshadows vary considerably in terms of colour payoff and smoothness of texture, but Fudge was the standout. Whether it's actually a flattering colour on me is less convincing. I didn't like both of the Asian mascaras I bought, though the Dollywink liquid eyeliner has been a hit. Lush remains excellent and some products like Mask of Magnaminty and Angels on Bare Skin were considerably cheaper in Japan compared with back home (980 yen or just over $10 vs. $16.95).

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Into the New and Old

It's September so long-time readers of my blog may have seen this coming ... I'm about to say goodbye to Sydney for two weeks and fly out for my annual overseas holiday. This is the year I'm finally going to Japan. For better or worse, when I think of Japan, I think of Lost in Translation and the image of Scarlett Johansson gazing pensively over Tokyo from her hotel room window. Everyone I've met that's been to Japan has had nothing but wonderful things to say about it, especially about the people and the food, so I'm anticipating my experience will be no different. While I'm a little bit wary about the general lack of navigational skills my friend and I share, it's all part of the adventure, right?

As always, here's a peek into my makeup bag that I'm bringing with me on the trip. I decided to do away with brushes altogether (for face, eyes and hair, though I do have that eyebrow grooming tool to brush my eyebrow hairs into shape) and stick with cream products that I can apply with my fingers. There's my ever trusty Essence Pas des Copper Eye Soufflé, along with the addition of Rimmel ScandalEyes Shadow Stick in Bad Girl Bronze. Which base to pack was the hardest part, but in the end I settled on Garnier BB Cream Miracle Skin Perfector (Combination to Oily Skin) for its lightweight texture, oil control properties and illuminating finish. It's apparently still fairly humid in Japan in the beginning of September, so I needed something that wasn't too heavy or foundation-like, but that wouldn't melt off my face in hot, muggy weather. If I need some extra skin perfecting, I have my NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer to fall back on. A natural pink cream blush and two lipsticks (one for the everyday in Revlon Juicy Papaya, one for a statement lip in Maybelline Vivid Rose) round up my colour options.

See you when I return!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Antipodes: Hits and Misses

I remember when Antipodes first burst onto the blogging scene a couple of years ago, the hype was tremendous. I first heard about the brand through Essiebutton and soon enough, I was seeing universally positive reviews about their products on countless other blogs. Gradually, the continued exposure brought me to a tipping point where I was finally prepared to fork out some cash. Given the price point of the skin care, the Daily Moisturise Kit I bought at the beginning of last year was the ideal introduction. Since then, I've accumulated far more Antipodes products than expected and I've tried enough of the brand to give a general overview.


Divine Face Oil Organic Avocado Oil & Rosehip
I would definitely recommend a good face oil as an essential part of any skin care routine. This one containing avocado, macadamia, rosehip and jojoba oils, along with vitamin E, is a solid pick. Like most Antipodes products, the attractive packaging is undoubtedly a drawcard, though I find the addition of ylang ylang, sandalwood and jasmine essential oil fragrances to give it a bit of a hippie, musty, ever-so-slightly uriney vibe. I usually mix 2-3 drops with my nighttime moisturiser for additional hydration and nourishment. It helps the skin feel and look softer, smoother and better rested in the morning.

Joyous Protein-Rich Night Replenish Serum
Unlike a face oil that I normally combine with a moisturiser, I tend to use this product on its own over freshly cleansed skin before applying my evening cream. It has a pleasant scent of sweet berries though there is a touch of the exotic as well, which I find hard to pinpoint. It's certainly not artificially saccharine, there's a richness/woodiness to it that evokes images of the ingredients being extracted from raw nature. Maybe that's just me. This is a silky, light, hydrating serum that absorbs well and does an excellent job of combating the drying effects of winter.

Reincarnation Pure Facial Exfoliator
Probably the most surprising 'hit' on my list, in that this is not something I'd willingly buy. It's one of the more expensive items by Antipodes at $42 for 75ml. At that price, I'd rather buy an exfoliating toner or mask. I managed to score this as a freebie with the purchase of the Daily Moisturise Kit, an offer I've never seen repeated since. Though it's an extremely gentle exfoliator with tiny beads that barely feel like anything, I really notice the difference when I use it in that my skin is left polished, softer and more receptive to oils/creams afterwards. The texture is so refined despite clay (kaolin) being the second ingredient, but best of all, the subtle sweet orange and cedarwood scent is absolutely divine. By far my favourite fragrance of any Antipodes product, making it a pleasure to use.


Vanilla Pod Hydrating Day Cream
How I feel about this cream largely depends on the weather and how my foundation is cooperating. It's a rich, skin-plumping cream that's better suited for autumn/winter when the skin is craving a bit more moisture. In the summer, it might be too heavy and a disaster for oily skin. The jar packaging gives it a luxurious feel and the texture of the cream is beautifully smooth and easy to work into the skin, provided you don't use too much. It has a lovely botanical, slightly sweet scent that's not too overpowering, though I don't detect much vanilla.

Avocado Pear Nourishing Night Cream
I was super excited to try this for the first time when I purchased the Anti-Ageing Minis set, given this night cream seemed to be one of the star products of the Antipodes range. While it's an effective duo with the Joyous Protein-Rich Night Replenish Serum, I'm not convinced I'd go out and buy the full size on its own. Firstly, the smell is pretty funky. Once again (like with the Divine Face Oil), it's the essential oil fragrances of sandalwood, ylang ylang and this time, patchouli. Not a fan. If I thought the Vanilla Pod Hydrating Day Cream was on the heavy side, this takes it up a notch or two. It's positively greasy, though that's not so much a problem if I'm slapping it on before going to sleep. I don't think it has as refined a texture as the day cream, and as far as night creams go, I prefer both Clarins Multi-Active Night Youth Recovery Cream and Trilogy Rosapene Night Cream.

Aura Manuka Honey Mask
I wanted to love this more than I do since this seems to be one of the most popular products in the Antipodes range. For me, it's more of a disappointment simply because I had such high expectations. Don't get me wrong, it's undoubtedly pleasant in terms of texture, scent and how it feels when it's applied. It's calming, soothing, cooling, and the skin just drinks it up. The only problem is that it doesn't do anything. I've used it a handful of times and each time after washing it off, I'm quietly hopeful that my patience has paid off. No such luck. It does nothing for blemishes. It does no more in improving my skin's texture and/or boosting moisture levels than my regular routine of washing my face, using an exfoliating toner followed by a hydrating one, and applying my serums/creams on top. Nice, but ineffectual.


Juliet Skin-Brightening Gel Cleanser
The only Antipodes product that for me, has been a dud. I know a couple of blogger friends who are fans, but I just couldn't make this work for me. Maybe my bottle was part of a bad batch (I noticed that the liquid in mine is almost transparent, when in other swatches online it's almost an amber colour), but I found this foaming cleanser to be on the drying side which is a huge no-no. After cleansing with it in the morning and patting my face dry with a cloth, within 1-2 minutes, I'd get that slightly tight, uncomfortable feeling of needing to moisturise ASAP. I also simply disliked the scent (it smelled SALTY to me). The 200ml bottle is ginormous given you need a small amount each time, and considering I'm not using it anymore, it's destined to be thrown out 80% full at some point in the future.


Joyful Hand & Body Cream
I received the full 120ml size with a recent Priceline promotion simply by purchasing any Antipodes product. Given the cream itself retails for $34, it was an offer I simply couldn't turn down. Having tried the tester in store, the scent seems to be basically identical to the Joyous Protein-Rich Night Replenish Serum. I would've preferred if it replicated the Reincarnation Pure Facial Exfoliator, but at least it wasn't the Divine Face Oil or Avocado Pear Nourishing Night Cream. I'm sure the product itself is all the things I'd expect in a good quality cream: easily absorbed, non-greasy, nourishing and hydrating. I just need to use up my existing body and hand creams before I get to it ... which might take a while.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Best & No Worst of NARS

If someone asked me to nominate my favourite brand of makeup, without hesitation I'd say NARS. There really isn't much I've tried from the brand that I've actively disliked or been disappointed by. It has such a strong presence and offering across its product spectrum that even if I were restricted to just one brand for life, I'd be more than content with NARS. Like a dutiful spouse that you rely on day-to-day but don't take the time to express your appreciation for enough, allow me now to spell out my love.

I've always found the main barrier to having an extensive NARS eyeshadow collection to be the cost. I'd rather buy an Urban Decay Naked palette for $60-$80 (sideeyeing online prices for Naked3) than a single eyeshadow (retailing for $45 here in Australia) or duo ($55, cray I know). Hence the only eyeshadows I've tried from the brand have been from the And God Created the Woman Eye Palette which I hunted down with possessed fervour last year. From my limited experience with NARS eyeshadows, their formulas tend to be on the dry, compacted side rather than soft and super pigmented like say, the LORAC Pro Palette. Still, they're solid in colour payoff and apply smoothly and evenly. Major brownie points for how beautifully curated the shades in And God Created the Woman are.

A sample of the Pro-Prime Smudge Proof Eyeshadow Base came with the eyeshadow palette, so I was curious to test out for myself the eye primer favoured by Lisa Eldridge and Ingrid of missglamorazzi. I don't really use primers for my eyeshadow anymore (mainly due to laziness), but this one seems like it would be extremely effective on oily lids. Since my lids are more on the opposite end of the spectrum, Pro-Prime isn't something I reach for very often. I also prefer to use a neutral, light cream eyeshadow for my base rather than a dedicated eye primer.

For years, I'd heard raves about Laguna, but wasn't sure if the hype was justified. After all, how good could a bronzer really be in comparison to the multitude of others out there? Turns out really, really good. Laguna is probably my favourite bronzer, and I have both Chanel Soleil Tan de Chanel and Benefit Hoola. I just can't pinpoint any aspect of it that I'm unhappy with, including the colour, texture, ease of application and effect it gives to the face.

I've not tried too many lip offerings from NARS, but the two Satin Lip Pencils I own (Yu and Biscayne Park) have impressed. While I'm not overly thrilled with the actual shades I picked out (I'm thinking it was potentially a mistake to have passed on Lodhi), the darn good formula makes it hard to complain. Ridiculously pigmented with just one swipe and melt-upon-contact with the lips, the only minor issues I have are that they can feel slightly drying after a while and sharpening is annoying.

NARS Sheer Glow is hands down, my favourite foundation. If your skin is misbehaving and drier than normal, it can sometimes highlight all your flaky areas, but on properly moisturised and exfoliated skin, simply nothing compares in terms of finish, coverage and lasting power/adherence to the skin. This is the only foundation I'm certain I will repurchase when I run out.

The Radiant Creamy Concealer is the newest addition to my NARS family, but I was an instant convert. This does everything you want a good concealer to do: erase blemishes, neutralise areas of redness and generally perfect the canvas of the skin to fake being blessed with good genes. It's a breeze to apply with fingers and the product sticks to the skin and doesn't transfer or fade away within a couple of hours.

Probably what NARS is best known for, and for good reason. I have reviewed each and every blush in my stash: Orgasm, Deep Throat, Sin, Douceur, Enchanted, Luster and Angelika. With the exception of the chunky glitter highlighter Enchanted which I could probably live without, I treasure my mini NARS blush collection. Sure, Sin is at times borderline unwearable for me and Angelika isn't the most flattering on my skin tone, but Orgasm is such a cult classic, Douceur is face sculpting gold, and Luster is a faultlessly concocted bronzer-and-blush-in-one that does it all with next to no effort.

What's next on my NARS wishlist? I feel like I need the Kalahari eyeshadow duo in my life because the left shade which is in the And God Created the Woman palette (despite its somewhat crumbly texture) is living, breathing perfection. I tried the Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Red Square a few months ago and became convinced it was my Revlon Strawberry Suede substitute. I have a feeling the NARS lipstick formula might be a tad drying for me, but Dolce Vita is such a classic, ultra wearable shade that there's not much room to go wrong. And I'm still all about that beautifully highlighted glow. NARS Albatross will graduate from being on my perennial wishlist to being in my actual makeup drawer. One day.