Saturday, August 31, 2013

Oil and Water

A few items became skin care musts/lusts when I started to pay greater attention to Caroline Hirons: Indeed Labs Hydraluron, Alpha-H Liquid Gold, a hydrating toner (Omorovicza Queen of Hungary Mist), a moisturiser sans mineral oil and a balm cleanser. Specifically, Emma Hardie Amazing Face Moringa Cleansing Balm. A few months ago, I couldn't have contemplated forking out over $50 on something intended to wash my face. I was perfectly content with my Dove Cleanser & Toner in One (still am) or my Bioderma Créaline H20 to get rid of stubborn eye makeup. But the influence of Caroline is strong, and after reading countless clinic posts recommending it, the Emma Hardie Moringa Cleansing Balm was bumped to the top of my must-buy list. When it came back in stock on Feel Unique, I didn't hesitate to add it to my cart.







Ingredients: Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Oil, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Cetearyl Alcohol, PEG-8 Beeswax, PEG-6 Caprylic/Capric Glycerides, PEG-60 Almond Glycerides, Sorbitan Stearate, Palmitic/Stearic Triglycerides, Limonene, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Peel Oil, Silica, Citrus Aurantium Bergamia (Bergamot) Fruit Oil, Glycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Benzyl Alcohol, Citrus Aurantium Amara (Bitter Orange) Flower Oil, Juniperus Virginiana Oil, Aqua (Water), Lecithin, Linalool, Butylene Glycol, Octyldodecyl PCA, Menthyl PCA, Tocopherol, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Crithmum Maritimum Extract, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Jasminum Officinale (Jasmine) Flower Oil, Geraniol, Moringa Pterygosperma Seed Extract, Farnesol, Rosa Damascena Flower Oil, Disodium Phosphate, Citral, Citric Acid, Citronellol


The first thing that struck me about the balm was the chunky, amateur-looking packaging. I mean, is that Times New Roman? It just looked like something a college student could have come up with design-wise. The jar is unnecessary bulky as well, with the actual container holding the product surrounded by a thick wall of plastic, a raised base and padded top, as if to give the illusion of something weightier and more luxurious.

When I opened it up, I noticed that part of the balm had separated and sloped to one side, with liquid oil surrounding the perimeter of the balm. It wasn't one solid mass. I'm not sure whether that's meant to happen, or whether it had melted and then resolidified unevenly in transit.

With those somewhat superficial quibbles, I was still very much excited to try out the balm. The smell wasn't what I was anticipating at all. I'm not sure what I was expecting in all honesty (probably a more fresh, uplifting scent), but it's much richer and more traditionally perfumed. It's extremely fragrant — the smell is as strong as a perfume oil. I'd describe it as the heart of an intense floral bouquet crossed with LUSH Rub Rub Rub Shower Scrub (sea salt, jasmine, mimosa, orange flower). It's a genuine pleasure to use because it's like receiving your own spa treatment at home. The instructions suggest to mix a few drops of water with a bit of the balm in the palm of your hand to create a cream, and then to wipe it off with a hot cleansing cloth. I never do that. I use it in the shower, somewhat unhygienically scooping out way too much with my fingers and applying it directly to my damp face, then washing it all off with water. The amount I use is probably obscene, but I don't care. If I used any less I don't think it'd have the same effect or produce as much enjoyment, so I'd rather be wasteful with the product than skimp on it and barely feel anything.

My only gripe is that if I rub this all over my face, I do find that it does tend to get into my eyes, and the sensation is quite literally akin to having oil in your eyes. Not comfortable. It could be because of the amount that I use, but either way, I can't imagine using this balm to actually remove eye makeup. Not only would it be ineffectual, the balm would also likely irritate the eyes.

As for any noticeable effects on the skin, I've used this a few times, and at the very least, I know it doesn't break me out or inflame my skin (unlike the similarly thick Sanctuary Spa Polishing Hot Cloth Cleanser which always seems to leave it red and slightly dried out). But I can't really attribute using the Emma Hardie to any marked improvements in my skin's condition, possibly because I don't use it with enough regularity, I'm not using it correctly, or a whole suite of other products are doing their bit to keep my skin generally happy. All I know is the balm is a treat to use, is highly aromatic in a relaxing, almost therapeutic way, and doesn't seem to cause my skin any issues. Just keep it out of the eyes and closed tightly on a flat surface.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Diamonds and Dior

Dior Diorskin Poudre Shimmer in Amber Diamond (002). I could've snapped up this famed highlighter from StrawberryNET ages ago, but I rationalised I already had Jemma Kidd Dewy Glow All Over Radiance Crème in Rose Gold and theBalm Mary-Lou Manizer, so I passed. Soon enough, it was sold out and I never saw it make an appearance again. I'd always included it on my wishlist, but given how difficult it was to track down online (except this one semi-dodgy looking website which I didn't want to take a chance on), procuring it was pushed to the back of my mind. When Tarazz recently held a $10 flat rate shipping promotion for purchases from Sephora, I split the cost with a friend and took the opportunity to finally make Amber Diamond mine.









In sunlight

Amber Diamond consists of 5 strips of yellow/peachy/gold shimmer. A couple of the strips are tiny, so it would be a challenge to use them in isolation. I find it a bit unusual to have to select from the different gradations of colour because I'm used to highlighters being just one shade, but I normally just focus around the middle and dab my brush on either side to get a little bit of everything. It's still distinctly shimmery, but the particles are very fine and impart more of a luminous sheen than something more obvious and almost gritty. It's the only highlighter that I don't hate when I take it down the bridge of my nose — it doesn't look strange or unnatural. It's more subtle and glowy than theBalm Mary-Lou Manizer which is stronger but less refined, but it's also more pronounced than the unassuming Jemma Kidd Dewy Glow All Over Radiance Crème in Rose Gold. It's quickly become my preferred go-to highlighter and something I eagerly reach for every day. I definitely like it more than my theBalm, though I'm not sure whether it overtakes the Jemma Kidd as my absolute favourite. There are undoubtedly far cheaper alternatives which give more or less the same effect (such as the Models Prefer highlighter in Glitz & Glamour), but after lusting over Amber Diamond and holding out for as long as I did, my patience has been rewarded and it's lived up to my lofty expectations.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Jocks and Loose Women

I was browsing the David Jones Beauty Book 2013 and what immediately caught my eye was the offer they had for theBalm. If you spend $27.95 on the brand, they'll throw in your choice of ShadyLady Vol. 2 or Vol. 3 eyeshadow palette valued at $49.95. The only product I have from theBalm is the Mary-Lou Manizer, but I've been keen to add the NUDE'Tude palette to the mix. The only problem was I didn't particularly want to fork out $49.95 for it, so I settled with the bare minimum, one of their highly regarded blushes in FratBoy. I did some prior investigation into the difference between ShadyLady Vol. 2 and Vol. 3, and I opted for Vol. 2 as it seemed to have more shades I'd actually wear.




l-r: NARS Deep Throat, theBalm FratBoy, Benefit Sugarbomb, Australis Screen Siren

I've always heard positive things about theBalm blushes, so I didn't mind picking one up even though I already have close dupes of pretty much every single blush they've put out. I decided against Hot Mama (too shimmery, looked very similar to Sleek Rose Gold) and CabanaBoy (I don't think I get along with these deeper, plummier blushes as they tend to make me look bruised and drained, plus I already have NARS Sin, Benefit Dallas and Rimmel Genuine Plum in that colour family), so it was a choice between the pink DownBoy and the peach FratBoy. I've always struggled with certain pink blushes as they end up looking ruddy and unflattering on me (hello Illamasqua Naked Rose), so I decided that FratBoy would suit my yellowish complexion more than DownBoy, which might be better for paler skin.

The packaging calls to mind a more streamlined Benefit, with the same cheerful, flirtatious, vintage vibe and attention to detail. The football field surrounding the mirror is a cute touch that ties in nicely with the name of the blush. It's housed in cardboard which I can't help but feel is a bit cheap, but at the same time it looks well made and is compact and lightweight. FratBoy is your typical warm, medium pinky-peachy-coral shade. There's a minuscule amount of gold shimmer that's barely detectable on the cheeks. It's basically a matte blush on me. The colour is quite deep and heavy even when I apply it lightly, unless I make an effort to really sheer it out and buff away the edges and over the blush to soften it. It has a strong, earthy tone that I'm not convinced looks entirely fresh and 'peppy' on face. It's very similar to NARS Deep Throat (though Deep Throat has the shimmer factor) and Australis Paparazzi Perfect High Definition blush in Screen Siren (which is a touch darker and more red). While very smooth and pigmented, I was expecting more with the lasting power. This only lasted around 4 hours or so and by day's end had more or less completely faded.



l-r: Caught in the Act Courtney, Feisty Felicia, Insane Jane, Bossy Bobbi, Makeout Mary, Just This Once Jamie, Mischievous Marissa, Tempting Tara, Devilish Danielle


ShadyLady Vol. 2 is my first foray into theBalm's eyeshadows, and the swatches speak for themselves. These are by and large soft, buttery shadows with vibrant colour payoff. They're the kind of shadows you could apply and blend with your fingers. No brushes required. The only exceptions are Caught in the Act Courtney and Feisty Felicia, which are much drier, slightly chalky and apply very patchily, requiring several layers to build up pigmentation. Feisty Felicia looks like such an alluring deep eggplant shade with reddish glitter, but it's closer to a straightforward black (and not a good one at that). I thought Caught in the Act Courtney would be a rich, deep bronze, but it's too sheer and dark to sweep all over the lid for a fuss-free daytime smoky eye. 

My two favourite shades (predictably) are the silvery taupe Insane Jane and purplish grey Just This Once Jamie. I find the two look better paired together, as by themselves they're either too grey/cool or warm/violet. I don't see myself getting much use out of the last two highlight shades, and the other three (Bossy Bobbi, Makeout Mary and Mischievous Marissa) are frankly too colourful for me to wear on any regular basis. As pleased as I was with the texture and pigmentation of these shadows, there were two notable exceptions (one of which was particularly disappointing as I was hoping it'd be a standout) and the majority of the other colours simply aren't up my alley. If only the free palette was NUDE'Tude instead.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Royal Treatment

When I bought the Origins Drink Up Intensive Overnight Mask and then tweeted, "Is this the beginning of the end?", the answer was yes. Unequivocally. Since then, I don't care to think about how much money I've spent on skin care. My most indulgent purchase to date has been Omorovicza Queen of Hungary Mist. There should just be a general warning against buying anything from a brand that you can barely pronounce or spell. Omo-what? I love me a good mist, and this seemed to be the crème de la crème of mists. Repeated exposure to it from Caroline Hirons, Vivianna Does Makeup and Liana Beauty gradually swayed me. It transformed from something completely out of the question to something I spontaneously bought from Look Fantastic (the 15% discount helped) after a particularly long, boring day at work.





Ingredients: Aqua (Hungarian Thermal Water), Rosa Damascena Flower Water, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Flower Water, Salvia Officinalis (Sage) Leaf Water, Glycerin, Polysorbate 20, Phenoxyethanol, Disodium EDTA, Pyrus Malus (Apple) Fruit Extract, Saccharomyces (Hungarian Thermal Water) Ferment Extract, Ethylhexylglycerin, Mannitol, Malpighia Punicifolia (Acerola) Fruit Extract, Chlorella Vulgaris/Lupinus Albus Protein Ferment, Pectin, Phospholipids, Yeast Extract



I was on the lookout for a hydrating toner per Caroline Hirons's recommendation to use two toners after cleansing: one to exfoliate and one to put the moisture back in. I'm still undecided about the need for an exfoliating toner (mainly because I'm using Alpha-H Micro Cleanse, Alpha-H Liquid Gold and Trilogy Age Proof Active Enzyme Cleansing Cream with my Olay face brush and I don't want to go overboard with the exfoliation), but a hydrating toner seemed vitally missing from my routine (Avene Thermal Spray doesn't quite cut it since it's basically just water, and La Roche-Posay Serozinc isn't around). I was contemplating the super affordable Sukin Hydrating Mist Toner (simple but effective ingredients), REN Tonic Moisture Mist or Balance Me Skin Bright Hydrating Mist, but in the end, I thought I might as well go straight for what I really wanted. The Omorovicza isn't vastly more expensive on a cost per millilitre basis compared with the Balance Me (£0.33/ml vs. £0.46/ml), especially after the 15% discount I redeemed.

Is this stuff worth it? Not really. I bought it blind, having never seen it or tried it in person, and the first thing that struck me was how different the smell was to what I was expecting. I was anticipating something rose-scented but also a little juicy and fruity, kind of like a cross between Jurlique Rosewater Balancing Mist and if the Origins Drink Up Intensive Overnight Mask was formulated into a spray. But it's more like fragranced sea water that dries down to a mellow apple scent. I don't dislike it, but I don't love it either.

I find the best way to apply it is after cleansing in the evening, spraying two pumps into my palm, rubbing my hands together, then pressing my hands onto my face. I don't like spritzing directly onto the face, as I find that really wasteful (I usually need a ridiculous number of sprays to feel anything). I've been using this consistently for a couple of weeks, and I can't say I've seen any noticeable effect or difference in that time. I feel it's basically the same as my DIY toner of Caudalie Divine Oil and water. It gives the skin slightly more moisture and refines the appearance of skin very subtly after it's used, but I don't see it performing any miracles or being an indispensable product to my routine. Apparently a key ingredient is apple pectin (though it's third last on the list) which "provides long lasting hydration and restores suppleness".

At the end of the day, this toner is a little bit of luxury that's pleasant to use, but hardly a necessity. I like it because of the glamorous, evocative name, the gorgeous packaging and the fact it has no alcohol. I remember reading this clearly biased review on MakeupAlley and having a chuckle, because it sums up any objections to this mist in quite a tongue-in-cheek manner. Yes, it's expensive — I probably wouldn't have purchased at full price — and there are much more affordable alternatives that likely would produce similar results. But wanting it primarily because it seems nice to have is in my eyes still a perfectly valid reason.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

So Many Regrets, So Little Time

It's been nearly a year since my take on a Products I Regret Buying post, so I thought another instalment was well overdue. More blatantly negative than the the mixed sentiments towards the Products I'm on the Fence About, I wouldn't mind giving away or binning any of the selected items this instant. They're disappointing in performance, disgusting to use, easily disposable, downright ugly and smell bad. I'm at a stage where I have to be exceedingly selective when it comes any makeup purchases, because whatever I'm eyeing, I probably already have four things exactly like it at home. That's what makes makeup regrets more acute — in a world of excess, these unloved additions serve as unpleasant reminders of how overindulgence can backfire.



CoverGirl Intense ShadowBlast in Beige Blaze
I bought this on the recommendation of Zoë Foster, and I don't get it. I knew things were wrong from the moment I opened it up and it smelled funky. This isn't a resoundingly bad product, I just wish I hadn't bought it. I had such high hopes seeing that Zoë herself totes it around in her makeup bag, and after a review I read that compared it favourably with Urban Decay Primer Potion in Sin and Eden. But it just doesn't do anything for me. As an eye primer, I have better alternatives (NARS Smudge Proof Eyeshadow Base), as a cream eyeshadow it barely shows up on my lids, as a base for gold/yellow powder eyeshadows, I can use Maybelline Color Tattoo in Bold Gold or just an ordinary primer. Waste of money and space.


Face of Australia Lip Quench SPF30+ in Pink Champagne
This light, blue-based pink looks horrid on me. Every time I get it wrong with a pink lipstick, I can't help but berate myself. I've had enough experience by now to realise what colours I should stay away from, but sometimes logic simply doesn't enter the equation. What distinguishes this particular lipstick from my other pink lipstick failures is the unappealing smell and texture. Like all of the Face of Australia Lip Quench lipsticks (blame it on the SPF or something), it stinks. I can't put my finger on the scent, but it's like melted plastic covered by a strong, synthetic, floral perfume. It's so soft and creamy that not only has it broken off at the base, but you can't apply it straight from the bullet, otherwise the product just sits on top of your lips and looks patchy and uneven. You have to really rub it in with your finger, at which point it loses all vibrancy as a pink and just melds with the natural tone of my lips, making it look even duller and more purple.


Essence Stay All Day Long Lasting Eyeshadow in Coppy Right
I gave Glammy Goes To... to a friend because I simply didn't get on with the colour, but I hoped that Coppy Right would fare better. It doesn't. This is so dry, patchy, lumpy, hard to blend and frosty to the point of looking scaly on my lids. The shade, while an improvement on Glammy Goes To..., is still too cool-toned for me and more or less overtaken by the silvery/white shimmer. There's no reason to have this sitting around when there exists the infinitely superior Maybelline Color Tattoo in Bad to the Bronze.


Top to bottom: Essence Coppy Right, CoverGirl Beige Blaze, Face of Australia Pink Champagne



Revlon PhotoReady Sculpting Blush Palette in Pink Rose
Remember when Sunday Life Magazine pictured Revlon PhotoReady Sculpting Blush Palette among "three of the best blushing beauties", then lost all credibility? I'll let the swatches speak for themselves (each was 3 swipes, by the way). The only passable part of this palette is the highlighter, which is still average at best. Everything is packed with shimmer, with the faintest pigmentation and zero lasting power. It's honestly hard to believe an otherwise solid, occasionally brilliant brand like Revlon released such an emphatic dud.




Daiso False Eyelashes No. 130
When Daiso first rolled into town and I saw rows upon rows of fake eyelashes for a mere $2.80 per pack, I admit I went a little overboard and bought about five pairs. My enthusiasm came to a screeching halt when I actually tried these on. These lashes are perfect ... for that costume drag queen look. They're extremely unnatural and cartoonish, hard to manoeuver, and uncomfortably stiff and spiky. Each of the fake lashes are quite spaced out on the band and flare out in a manner that no human lashes would ever. Cheap and nasty.


Sally Hansen Complete Salon Manicure in Plums the Word & Café Au Lait
I was such a fan of the Complete Salon Manicure polishes I'd bought (Jaded and Commander in Chic), that when Priceline had a buy one, get one free on this range, I immediately set out and bought two more. Sadly, I can't get on board with either of the new shades I purchased. I was trying to eliminate one of them for the sake of not repeating myself, but they're equally grotesque. Café Au Lait is one of the most unflattering neutrals I've ever come across. It's like an opaque skin colour that adds nothing to my nails. I might as well skip polish altogether. It's not dark enough to be called a beige, or light enough to be a sheer or pale nude. It's not so much that it's dull (I could do with a few more conservative, work-appropriate shades), it's just that it's plain ugly. Plums the Word looked like it could be a promising, moody, autumnal pick, but it's the most bizarre, yucky mix of red, brown and purple. It's just so unattractive, it pains me. Both colour choices were complete fails, which is an utter shame because I love the smooth, high shine formula.

Ulta3 New Years Eve
I put New Years Eve, but it's really every single polish from the 2012 glitter collection because they all share the same MASSIVE problem. This polish is simply offensive to me. I can feel it destroying my nasal passages, nails and lungs as I use it. It smells noxious. Like a combination of fresh paint and the stinkiest nail polish remover out there, but sharper, more pungent, more poisonous. The formula is terrible as well — thick, gloopy, impossible to dry. As pretty as these glitters are, the smell and formula make them unfit for sale.

l-r: Café Au Lait, Plums the Word

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Bronzed & Glossed

I mentioned in my current wishlist post I've been going through a bronzer phase, and the absence of cult bronzer NARS Laguna from my collection was beginning to bother me immensely. I was researching the most economical way of procuring it, when I came across the NARS Lose Yourself Blush/Bronzing Powder Duo & Lip Gloss Set on StrawberryNET. Released in the middle of 2011 and retailing for $US49, this Sephora-exclusive set contains a blush/bronzer duo in Angelika/Laguna and mini Angelika lip gloss. The blush in Angelika is the same size as a full size NARS blush (4.8g), and although the bronzer is 4.7g compared with the full size 8g, it's more than enough product for me. The lip gloss was basically an afterthought — an inclusion I could've easily done without but wasn't going to complain about, especially since I've never tried a NARS lip gloss before.











The mini lip gloss in Angelika at 3.7g is just under half the size of a regular gloss. Described as a "cotton candy pink with gold and silver sparkle", Angelika is a bright, blue-toned pink with silver/diamond shimmer that isn't all that noticeable until the gloss is taken off. It has a vivid, bubblegum quality without looking too purplish or fuchsia on my lips. The formula has a tendency to settle into lip lines, but nothing that pressing the lips together to blend the gloss can't solve. It has a somewhat thick texture which makes it opaque and glossy, but it's not uncomfortable to wear or physically sticky on the lips.





l-r: Angelika, Laguna

The Angelika/Laguna duo comes in a compact nearly double the size of a normal blush. Rather than a rectangular pan, the individual blush and bronzer pans have rounded edges. The mirror is a lot larger which means you can actually see most of your entire face with it. The obvious downside to having two products together is that if you only want to use one of them, the other half is forever tagging along, taking up unnecessary space. At the same time, the two do make a natural match, and I very rarely pack powder products or apply them on the go, so it doesn't make a difference to me if it's only going to be kept at home.

l-r: Bourjois Rose de Jaspe, Rimmel Genuine Plum, e.l.f. Pink Passion, NARS Angelika

I remember watching Tanya Burr mentioning NARS Angelika blush in her "Products I Regret Buying" video, which made me a little wary I'd share the same sentiment. Most pink blushes tend to look quite red on me, and Angelika is no exception. There is silver and gold glitter in it, but it's not all that detectable on the cheek. I pulled out three other blushes that I thought would be close to Angelika — while none of them are identical in the swatch, once worn, they pretty much give the same effect (though e.l.f. Pink Passion is a bit paler, brighter and fresher). It's fairly easy to work with as it's not super pigmented, nor does it go on patchy, but it's best sparingly applied and blended well, otherwise it can leave me looking ruddy and sunburnt.

l-r: NARS Laguna, Benefit Hoola, Stila Shade 01, Bourjois 14, Napoleon Perdis Ultimate Contour Palette

The Laguna side of the blush/bronzer duo was 70% of my motivation for buying this set, and thankfully it doesn't disappoint. I think part of its enduring appeal is that it's relatively sheer but very easy to blend. You can use it concentrated across the cheekbones to contour, or more liberally as an all-over bronzer. It can be anything from a barely-there hint of warmth and definition, to a full-on, summery golden tan. My favourite brush to pair with it is the Models Prefer Mystique Angled Blush Brush, as the shape enables me to use it to contour, but it's fluffy enough so that any product and edges are well blended.

Comparing my other bronzers, I don't have anything exactly like Laguna, which is warm, golden, with a subtle gold pearl. Benefit Hoola is dirtier (more taupe), matte, darker. Stila Sun SPF 15 Bronzing Powder in Shade 01 is more of a matte ochre colour, an orange-leaning golden brown that's ultra smooth and soft in texture. I had to scratch my Bourjois Délice de Soleil Bronzing Powder SPF 15 in 14 with a toothpick because the surface had completely sealed off. Even after I managed to release some pigment, it was still chalky and patchy. The colour is too dark for me anyway, a slightly burnt and muddy orange brown. The contour shade in my oft-neglected Napoleon Perdis Ultimate Contour Palette is more a caramel/toffee brown. It's matte, lighter, a tad more red than the others, with a very smooth texture but somewhat powdery.

The entire Lose Yourself set just screams summer to me, especially if all the products are applied together. I'm not a huge lip gloss fan, but I ended up liking the Angelika gloss more than I thought I would, mainly because of the colour and the texture. I wouldn't mind tossing it in my makeup bag over a lipstick for a night out. I'm a little bit underwhelmed with the Angelika blush, though I might get more use out of it when the weather starts heating up. Laguna is an instant hit with me and has motivated me to toss out some of the now vastly inferior options in my bronzer collection.
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