Thursday, January 30, 2014

Skin Rescue Routine

About a month ago, my skin inexplicably started to go crazy, culminating in some of the worst skin I've experienced in recent memory about a couple of weeks ago. I'm not sure if it was a reaction to a foundation or a skin care product, or hormonal, or mainly diet/lifestyle related, but it wasn't pretty. As soon as pimples appeared to be calming down and fading, a whole new crop sprouted. My skin was spotty and angry in a way that was largely foreign to me, with scarring and bumps in various stages of development. I needed urgent skin care intervention. Along with the help of time, here are the products I used every single day to vastly improve and clear up my skin. The results were so encouraging that the same products now comprise my normal evening skin care routine.

l-r: Dove Foaming Make Up Remover, Dove Cleanser & Toner in One, Pixi Glow Tonic, La Roche-Posay Serozinc, Trilogy Very Gentle Moisturising Cream, Sukin Certified Organic Rose Hip Oil

Taking off every scrap and trace of makeup at the end of the day seemed of utmost importance, so I begin with three pumps of Dove Foaming Make Up Remover. This comes out in a cloud of white foam, but applied and worked into the skin, I imagine it's similar in consistency to a cleansing oil that's been emulsified with water. This stings if it gets in the eyes, so it's not ideal to take off eye makeup on the lower lash line, though it's fine for eyeshadow, eyeliner on the upper lash line, and mascara. While the Foaming Make Up Remover takes off mostly everything, to get rid of remnant eye makeup and ensure nothing's left, I double cleanse with Dove Cleanser & Toner in One. That's probably going slightly overboard with the cleansing, but the lather it produces is creamy and rich, and it thoroughly and effectively cleanses my skin without leaving it feeling dry or stripped.

Next, I strictly adhere to Caroline Hirons's recommendation of two toners post-cleansing: one exfoliating and one hydrating. Both products were purchased as a result of her influence (her rave about Pixi Glow Tonic, apparently a cheaper dupe of Biologique Recherche P50 Lotion, here, and rant on La Roche-Posay Serozinc not being available in the UK here). I use two pumps of Pixi Glow Tonic on a Daiso cotton pad all over my face. I like that it seems to calm and balance my skin, while gently exfoliating it and giving it a smoothness and softness. I then follow up with a liberal spritzing of La Roche-Posay Serozinc. I purchased mine from Paris during my holiday last September after succumbing to incredible hype, and originally felt a little underwhelmed. It seemed virtually indistinguishable to my beloved Avene Thermal Spring Water, except with more sodium chloride and zinc sulfate. I'm no chemistry whiz, but from experience this doesn't do much if your skin type is normal and relatively blemish-free. It's designed more to be an astringent toner for oily, problem skin. I find it helps to soothe and hydrate my skin, reduce redness and diminish the appearance of pimples with regular use.

I tried to keep it simple with moisturiser, treatments and serums. I opted for the most "natural" cream in my skin care stash, Trilogy Very Gentle Moisturising Cream. Free of supposed chemical nasties and designed for sensitive skin types, it's not something I'm absolutely in love with, but at least I know it won't break me out or result in an adverse reaction. To boost moisture and add extra nourishment to my cream, I add a few drops of Sukin Rose Hip Oil and mix the cream and rose hip oil together with my palms before smoothing it onto my face. I'm a renewed believer in rose hip oil after using it every night for a couple of weeks straight. Forget other face oils, rose hip oil does the job and does it brilliantly. I'm most impressed at how it genuinely leaves the skin appearing softer, smoother and well-rested the morning after. It seems to target discolouration and scarring and generally improves the texture of the skin. I feel that more than any other product mentioned here, it's been instrumental to bringing my skin back to a much happier state.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Jasmine and Vanilla

Dare I say I'm becoming something of a Lushie? I've genuinely enjoyed almost everything I've tried from Lush and find their products to be of a consistently high standard, which surprised me given the sometimes questionable efficacy of "natural" products. Recently, a lady at work enthusiastically sprayed on a perfume at lunch and after she revealed it to be Lush Lust, I ran to a Lush store later that day and bought the 10ml spritzer of Lust, along with Vanillary. At an affordable $15.50 a piece and packaged in a sleek, travel-friendly cylinder, I was keen to unearth a world of scents previously unknown to me with the purchase of my first two Lush perfumes.

Lush Gorilla Perfume in Lust and Vanillary

This stuff is potent. There's no other way to describe it. One single spritz, held at a distance, lasts hours. People from the other side of the room could probably detect a whiff of Lust after it's first sprayed. This disperses and settles like an atomic bomb leaving a mushroom cloud. Mixed with heat or sweat on the skin, it's even more heady, to the point where it's slightly sickening. Having said that, it's one amazing burst of super charged jasmine. A definite wake up call to the senses. If you like jasmine, you need to at least experience Lust. There are apparently additional notes of rose, ylang ylang, sandalwood and vanilla, but they're all very much in the background. It's often described as "dirty" or "indolic", typical of authentic jasmine. There's a tartness and mustiness there that stops it from being completely sweet and creamy.

Lately, I've been flirting with the idea of adding a vanilla perfume to my collection, either diptyque Eau Duelle or Serge Lutens Un Bois Vanille. Vanillary is a much more accessible way of dabbling in vanilla fragrances without needing to fork out over $100 for the two I've been lusting over. The notes as described by Lush include natural vanilla absolute, jasmine and tonka bean, with hints of sandalwood and burnt caramel. I'm not huge on the opening which is a bit "uriney" as one MakeupAlley user put it (mainly due to the jasmine), but after 10-15 minutes the vanilla body begins to shine through. It becomes more traditionally gourmand with a warmth and spiciness that keeps it interesting. This one, while not distinctly subtle, is nowhere near as long-lasting or strong as Lust. After 30 or so minutes, it's faded and subdued, staying relatively close to the skin.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Perfecting Apricot

Another beauty buy from my trip to London last September came about with the help of an excellent gift with purchase I stumbled upon at House of Fraser. If you purchased any two Clarins products, you could select three deluxe size samples of some of their most popular skin care products. I was running out of my favourite Multi-Active Night Youth Recovery Cream and had been contemplating repurchasing it, but the cheapest price I could find online was around $58 for the 50ml jar. Already having a few products from Clarins that I was interested in buying, I figured why not score free 30ml tubes of Multi-Active Night, HydraQuench Cream and HydraQuench Cream-Mask in the process. While one of the items I had my eye on, the Gentle Exfoliator Brightening Toner, was sadly out of stock, I finally had an excuse to take home the Instant Light Natural Lip Perfector.

Clarins Instant Light Natural Lip Perfector in 02 Apricot Shimmer

I selected Apricot Shimmer (02), though my first choice of a darker pink was out of stock. Admittedly, I was a little taken aback at the price — £17 or around $31. That's a heck of a lot for a lip gloss. The price in the UK is even more expensive than in Australia, where this retails for $26. I definitely wouldn't have purchased it without the incentive of the generous gift with purchase.

The gloss itself is very cushiony and plush, like a smoother, slightly more liquid version of the Korres Lip Butters. It's relatively thick but very moisturising and lightweight on the lips. Apricot Shimmer is on the pale side in that it's lighter than my natural lip colour. It's quite a milky peach that appears relatively pink on my lips, but remains mainly sheer. One of my favourite aspects of it is that it's glossy without having any shimmery particles. You could wear this paired with a darker lipstick or stain (like Revlon Just Bitten Kissable Balm Stain in Honey) to make the darker shade less intense, or over a similar colour (like MAC Shy Girl) for a more "three-dimensional" effect. It does leave the lips looking fuller and more plump and I imagine it'd offer welcome relief for dry, peeling lips.

The sponge tip applicator doesn't bother me as much as I initially thought, though I always squeeze the product out onto my finger and then apply it to my lips. The vanilla scent is an added touch that makes it a pleasure to use. I love the sophisticated, attractive packaging, with the elongated shape, colour-coded exterior and gold cap. It's a high quality balm/gloss hybrid with a refined, comfortable-feeling formula, but at the same time, if you already have a lot of lip glosses and balms, you probably could do without it.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Muted and Hazy

Nails Inc. Porchester Square was high up on my London wishlist during my holiday last September, despite a surprisingly hefty price tag of £11 or just under $20. At that point, I wasn't aware David Jones in Australia stocks Nails Inc. for $19.95 per bottle — more or less the same price as the UK. At least the department store I purchased it from was having a 3 for 2 sale, so I split the cost with my friend who fell in love with the vibrant green Queen Victoria Street. After a century deliberating what second polish to buy along with Porchester Square, in the end I picked Queen Victoria Street as well. Despite taking home two Nails Inc. polishes, really all my excitement was reserved for Porchester Square, a greige polish favoured by blogger heavyweights like Essie Button and Vivanna Does Makeup.

Nails Inc. Porchester Square

I've already featured Porchester Square in my October Monthly Favourites of 2013, but I thought to dedicate an entire post to it anyway. This is one nude polish that's modern, timeless and elegant. It's an understated, sophisticated crème that's easy to turn to when you can't decide exactly what polish to wear, or you simply want a break from glitters, brights or metallics. It's not too busy or loud or garish, but it's not completely dull and boring either. You'll never hate it when it's on your nails.

One of the most fascinating aspects of these greige colours is how they subtly transform depending on the light. At times, it's more of a beige or putty shade like Barry M Hi-Shine Nail Paint in Lychee, other times more mushroom/taupe or concrete grey with a dash of brown, and I love it best when there's hints of lilac and blue coming through. It's a light-to-medium shade which I prefer — any darker and it would lose much of its distinctiveness and be too similar to Essie Chinchilly or Sally Hansen Commander in Chic.

The formula of Porchester Square is close to perfection. It's absolutely buttery and smooth, with complete opacity in one coat (though I painted two for good measure). I can't comment too authoritatively on longevity or chip resistance since I rarely wear my polish longer than a few days, but I remember my friend and I painted a few Nails Inc. colours from testers on our nails in the first week of our holiday. A whole week to two weeks later, the polishes showed minor signs of wear but overall were still going strong. We were impressed to say the least.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

And Chanel Is the Sun

My bronzer phase during winter last year culminated in the purchase of the luxurious Chanel Soleil Tan de Chanel Bronzing Makeup Base. I bought mine from department store BHV Rivoli in Paris last September for around $55 (or €38.50 if I recall correctly), a little bit less than the retail price of $67 in Australia. It was something I'd contemplated picking up for a considerable length of time, mainly from repeatedly seeing it in action in Pixiwoo videos, though Nic definitely seems more enthusiastic about it than Sam. While I thought about buying a cheaper alternative in the form of the more recently released Bourjois Bronzing Primer, in the end, I decided to go straight for what I really wanted.

Chanel Soleil Tan de Chanel Bronzing Makeup Base

Chanel Soleil Tan de Chanel is a whopping 30g of product, the same as most standard foundations. I'm confident the possibility of hitting pan in the next 5 years is slim to none. It comes with a plastic cover which provides added protection from contamination or the product drying out, though the lid alone seems to screw on very securely. It has a sweet, slightly tart, fruity scent, similar to the fragrance of Les Beiges Healthy Glow Sheer Powder but stronger. The main achievement of Soleil Tan de Chanel is the smooth, ultra blendable texture which is almost foolproof to apply and avoids any kind of patchiness or unevenness. I feel the pigmentation is comparable to NARS Laguna in that it's on the softer side which makes it less intimidating and easier to use, but can definitely be built up for a more pronounced effect.

Lisa Eldridge (whom I worship and whose frequency of mentions on this blog now rivals Priceline) has a helpful instructional video on various Chanel bronzing products including Soleil Tan de Chanel. She uses a large kabuki brush, first wiping off most of the product on the back of her hand, and buffs it softly all over her face for a subtle bronzed glow. One of the best uses I've found for this bronzer is using it with a mini Ecotools kabuki brush (from the Bamboo 5 Piece Brush Set) to work the product over foundation that's a smidgen too light for my skin tone (namely Jouer Matte Moisture Tint in Linen). The end result is incredibly natural and undetectable. Not only does it make a foundation previously too pale for me a perfect match, it imparts the complexion with a soft, warm radiance and generally improves the appearance of my skin. I find it also helps to prolong the wear of my foundation as essentially a whole other layer of product on top is sealing it in. It's not greasy, damp or sticky in any way, but dries instantly upon contact with the skin, melding effortlessly into it and leaving a seamless satin finish. I haven't tried it under foundation yet, but I imagine the result would be similar to buffing it over foundation.

l-r: Benefit Hoola, NARS Laguna, Bourjois 14, Chanel Soleil Tan de Chanel, Stila Shade 01, NYX Taupe

Compared with other bronzers I own, Benefit Hoola is closer to taupe, more dark brown and ashy. NARS Laguna is darker, with more prominent golden shimmer, slightly more brown than orange. Bourjois Délice de Soleil in 14 is considerably darker, more brown, a touch more red-toned as well. Stila Sun SPF 15 Bronzing Powder in Shade 01 is about the same lightness/darkness but more orange. NYX Blush in Taupe is not even in the same colour family, it's ashy brown in comparison. The Chanel most closely resembles a cross between the Stila and NARS. It's fairly light and could almost pass for a darker foundation shade rather than a conventional orange/brown bronzer, with subtle gold shimmer that comes alive in the sun but otherwise isn't all that visible. It might be a little too orange for those seeking a more natural-looking contour, but for a sunkissed warmth to the face it's perfect.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Spoon and Balm

RMK is a high end Japanese brand that I haven't heard much about except for a few mentions in Lisa Eldridge's videos. The Eye Balm is the newest addition to their skin care range, designed to be used at night as a treatment product to moisturise and replenish the eye area and combat dehydration and signs of ageing. I always find it difficult to gauge the effectiveness of eye creams as I'm fortunate to not have many issues when it comes to fine lines, darkness, dryness or puffiness. I'm also frequently too lazy to use a separate product for my eye area, preferring instead to slather moisturiser all over and be done with it. But the baobab, argan, olive, jojoba and grape seed oils in the ingredients, unique balm texture and somewhat puzzling inclusion of a flattish metal spatula had me intrigued.

RMK Eye Balm, 'How to massage'

RMK advises to use the applicator to scoop out a rice grain amount and melt the solid balm with the fingers before applying it to the eye area. They provide step-by-step instructions, complete with accompanying illustrations, about how to use the spatula as part of a recommended massage. I did try it once and found it bizarre. I've never thought to place a kitchen utensil over my eye, but that's essentially what it is. The main point seems to be the cool surface of the spoon calms and soothes the eye area and moving the spoon around and targeting the "pressure points" promotes circulation. In the process, any balm that you've freshly applied to your eye area gets partly transferred onto the spoon. It's also a bit unhygienic and bothersome to have to clean or wipe the spoon afterwards each time. There might be some longer term benefits to carrying out a massage routine nightly, but I'll be smearing it on with my fingers and leaving it at that.

The texture is reminiscent of a lip balm or Vaseline (petrolatum is after all, the first ingredient). It's a bit hard and waxy at first, but softens with warmth. It's quite unusual for an eye cream — it's not a traditional, thicker cream like Murad Hydro-Dynamic Ultimate Moisture for Eyes, or a lighter, fresher, more watery serum like Alpha-H Absoluté Eye Complex. It doesn't immediately sink in, but instead sits on top of the skin like a protective, nourishing barrier. I imagine the 12.5g tub lasting a long time given you need only a very small amount with each application. I do think the balm is effective at softening and hydrating the eye area overnight, but for me it's a bit too close to Vaseline mixed with a face oil to justify the elevated price tag.

Ingredients: Petrolatum, Isocetyl Myristate, Paraffin, Isononyl Isononanoate, Microcrystalline Wax, Octyldodecanol, Triethylhexanoin, Hydrogenated Microcrystalline Wax, Ethylene/Propylene Copolymer, Polyethylene, Fragrance (Parfum), Adansonia Digitata Seed Oil, Argania Spinosa Kernel Oil, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Squalane, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Oil, Hydrogenated Polyisobutene, Butylene Glycol, Ethylhexyl Hydroxystearate, Phytosteryl/Behenyl/Octyldodecyl Lauroyl Glutamate, BHT, Beta-Carotene, Tocopherol, Royal Jelly Extract, Vaccinium Myrtillus Leaf Extract, Poria Cocos Extract, Citral, Geraniol, Limonene, Linalool, Iron Oxides (CI 77492)

Disclosure: RMK Eye Balm was sent to me for review. Post contains affiliate links.

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Lipstick Tag

I was recently inspired to do this tag by Jennie May of sailboat. after thoroughly enjoying reading her answers and admiring her gorgeous pictures. Lipstick is probably my ultimate makeup weakness, surpassing even eyeshadow and nail polish. I'm not even going to pretend I don't have a problem.

Not exactly short on options

1. How many lipsticks do you own?
It's shameful to admit, but more than 80 ... not including lip crayons, lip glosses, tinted lip balms or multipurpose cream products that can be used for both cheeks and lips. Let me now hide in a corner.

2. What was the first lipstick you owned?
Do lip balms or glosses count? My first ever lip product was the Passionfruit Lip Smacker when I was in primary school. My dad bought me one from the pharmacy and it started something in me. I remember pestering him for the assurance that once I finished my current one, he'd buy me another in a different flavour. After he relented, I spent the whole night trying to use up as much as I could just so I could move on to the next one. They were just that exciting. A few years later, I progressed to ultra-shimmery, berry-scented glosses from Bonne Bell. But if we're taking purely lipsticks, my first one must've been some kind of mauve/rose colour from MaybellineRevlon or Australis that was fashionable at the time but too dark and completely age-inappropriate.

3. What is your favourite lipstick brand?
MAC, followed closely by Revlon.

4. What is your most worn lipstick?
In terms of being closest to being finished, Revlon Super Lustrous lipstick in Melonade or Revlon Beyond Natural Protective Liptint in Pink Rose.

In the makeup bag

5. What is your favourite finish?
For everyday wear, I'm partial to hydrating, relatively sheer, slightly glossy, very lightweight formulas like MAC Lustre finish lipsticks. Otherwise, for bold and bright colours, I prefer a more matte finish.

6. What was the last lipstick you bought?
Revlon Lip Butters in Juicy Papaya and Pink Lemonade. Because my existing Lip Butter collection of basically every shade they ever produced was lacking.

7. How many lip products do you currently have in your bag?
Six. Not as bad as I thought. Korres Lip Butters in Mango and Jasmine, Lancôme Baume in Love in À La Folie, CherryRevlon Beyond Natural Protective Liptint, a pinky nude Napoleon Perdis lip gloss that was a freebie with November 2013 InStyle magazine and my ever-reliable Maybelline Baby Lips in Relieving Menthol.

Daiso, Target and Officeworks storage

8. What is your favourite red lip colour?
I'm not huge on reds, but definitely the unfortunately discontinued Revlon Matte Lipstick in Strawberry Suede. Liked it so much it was the only lip product I featured in my Best of 2013.

9. How do you store your lipsticks?
I use two drawers of my Keji 4 drawer storage organiser to hold the majority of my lip products. As that isn't enough space for everything, I also have a separate Daiso rectangular box that houses a selection of my favourite and most reached for lipsticks. Along with that, I keep a mini tiered lipstick stand, primarily for my MAC lipsticks.

10. Which lipsticks are you currently lusting after?
At the moment, my lipstick lust has calmed right down. It has to be an utterly extraordinary lipstick for me to bite the bullet and purchase it, given how acutely aware I am of the ridiculous number I already have and barely use. Having said that, I have plenty of temptations. I'm looking forward to eventually welcoming a YSL Rouge Volupté Shine to my collection, possibly 6 Pink in Devotion, 9 Nude in Private, 13 Pink in Paris, 15 Corail Intuitive or 19 Fuchsia in Rage. I've also had my eye on Clinique Chubby Stick Intense in Curviest Caramel for a while. I'm always open to more MAC lipsticks, especially a classic pick like Ruby Woo or Russian Red, though I wish I'd snapped up Betty Bright when I had the chance after seeing it on Shaaanxo. She also has me almost running to my nearest Target to hunt down NYX Black Label Lipstick in India, though it would probably be too pale for me.

Before I forget (like with the last tag), I tag Pam, Ash, Jennifer, Zoë, Emma, Liz, Kelly, Tiffany, Amy, Amanda, Hollie, Coco, Kat, Mishelle, Michelle, Cherie and anyone else who wants to have a go!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Skinny on Eyeko

When it comes to eyeliner, I'm all about felt tip pens. Why bother with fiddly gel eyeliners that you have to apply with a brush, or pencils that perpetually require sharpening. Both have their merits from time to time, but on a daily basis, I prefer the ease, efficiency and convenience of these inky, sharp-tipped markers. I've previously been partial to Bourjois Liner Feutre and didn't mind Revlon ColorStay Liquid Eye Pen, but when my current favourite Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner started to fade, I thought it was finally time to try Eyeko Skinny Liquid Eyeliner. With Jen from From Head to Toe featuring it in her top picks of 2012 and Lisa Eldridge mentioning it as one of her favourite eyeliners of 2013, I hoped I would come to share the same sentiments.

Eyeko Skinny Liquid Eyeliner in Black

The Eyeko Skinny Liquid Eyeliner is a relatively thick and stiff pen which takes some time to adjust to after using my Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner for half a year. The Stila is much lighter in weight, with a finer, thinner tip and generally smaller, more elongated shape. The Eyeko is like a hardened calligraphy brush in comparison.

I don't think I could've anticipated my main dilemma with the Eyeko, which is that it's near impossible to open. I don't know if it's an issue isolated to my one, or it just hasn't been opened enough times to loosen the tightness around the cap, but it's a serious problem. I normally moisturise my face in the mornings after cleansing, and the residual greasiness on my hands from the cream makes using the pen out of the question because I literally can't open it. The outside is too smooth for my fingers to get any grip and the cap feels like it's stuck on. I even had to resort to rubber gloves once for better grip. Invariably, once you finally yank the cap off, there'll be some black ink on your hand/rubber gloves/whatever you used in a desperate attempt to open the darn thing.

The pen can be slightly patchy, especially if you draw over existing lines, and I don't find it absolutely pitch black. It begins to fade, with any patchiness becoming even more pronounced, as the day wears on, but it does take some heavy duty makeup remover to get rid of completely. I have to rub Dove Foaming Make Up Remover over the eye area, concentrating on where I normally draw the flick, for about half a minute for the last remnants to finally disappear. I do like that it dries fairly quickly, the formula isn't overly wet, and the pointy tip allows a degree of precision, but I think I'll be scouting cheaper alternatives or returning to my Stila after this runs out. If I can get the cap off first.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Lush 50% Off Haul

While I skipped the Boxing Day madness (happily spending the day with a friend and one adorable cavoodle instead), I heard about the 50% off sales Lush was having and made it a mission to get myself to one of their stores the next day. Last year, I purchased the Festive Fiesta tin at half price and was only beginning to tentatively explore the brand. This year, with my fondness for Lush having grown considerably, I went all out. I could barely go shopping anywhere else afterwards because the jumbo paper bag I was carrying weighed a tonne and was laughably oversized.

Lush SNAP!! and Getting Ziggy With It gift set contents

I ended up with two gift sets, a 250g bottle of Rose Jam shower gel and a 100g bottle of Snow Fairy. Inside the SNAP!! box, designed to resemble a giant Christmas cracker, was a Christmas Penguin Bubble Bar (100g), Fizzbanger Bath Ballistic, Mr Punch Soap (100g), Cinders Bath Ballistic, Red Fun (100g) and Shoot for the Stars Bath Ballistic. The 9-piece Getting Ziggy With It set included a Lord of Misrule Bath Bomb, Grass Shower Gel (100g), The Olive Branch Shower Gel (100g), Karma Soap (100g), Ponche Shower Gel (100g), Noriko Soap (100g), Gold Fun (100g), Sunnyside Bubble Bar and Dragon's Egg Bath Ballistic.

I think a large part of the appeal of Lush, at least to me, is that it makes bath time fun for adults. Their inventive and playful products can transform something pedestrian and chore-like as washing yourself every day to an enjoyable exercise. I've never tried a Bath Ballistic or Bubble Bar before, but I'm very much looking forward to testing them out one by one once the colder weather rolls around (though that won't be any time soon, since summer's only started here in Australia). Lush shower gels are always delightfully fragrant but never predictable, with creative and varied concoctions to suit every mood and time of day. They're truly a treat to use, lather well and unlike philosophy shower gels, the scent stays close to the skin after you've stepped out of the shower and dried yourself off.

Not entirely sure what Fun is? I was a little perplexed at first at these soft, Play-Doh like bars. I have the red one (with mandarin and orange essential oils) and gold (a special Christmas Fun that shares the same honey toffee fragrance as the Honey I Washed the Kids soap). These "multipurpose, moldable soaps" can be used on the body in the shower, broken off in the bath, or as shampoo. I'm curious to find out how well they'll dissolve or foam under water, given Musings of a Muse didn't rate them too highly. I've surprisingly enjoyed using the juicy blackcurrant Sweetie Pie Shower Jelly in my hair as shampoo, so hopefully Fun turns out to be another unusual but perfectly functional substitute for my regular, boring Pantene.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A Pink Mist

As mentioned in my post on Burberry Sheer Eyeshadow in Pale Barley, a Lip Mist in Camelia Pink (No.207) was included in the gift with purchase that I qualified for after spending over $79 on Burberry at David Jones. I don't have a lot of high end lipsticks because of the crazy number of lipsticks I have from more affordable brands that I find to be just as good in quality, so it was a genuine thrill to be able to welcome a Burberry lipstick to my collection. There's much to admire in the somewhat masculine, architectural packaging with the gunmetal exterior, signature check and nifty magnetic closure. I looked forward to seeing whether a pricier lipstick was really worth the extra dollars.

l-r: Revlon Sweet Tart, Burberry Camelia Pink, Revlon Lollipop, MAC Plumful

Camelia Pink is a sheer but buildable medium hot pink with a distinct fuchsia tone. The colour isn't exactly modern or revolutionary, but you can't go terribly wrong with it either. With 1-2 coats it's fresh and understated, your natural lip colour still visible underneath, but it can be intensified to more of a party/going out lip with several coats. Revlon ColorBurst Lip Butter in Sweet Tart is similar in texture but warmer and more neon. Revlon Lip Butter in Lollipop is significantly darker and more opaque, much more of a true, bold fuchsia. MAC Plumful is darker, more rosy/plummy and overall subdued in colour, not as bright or pink.

What surprised me about the Lip Mist was just how glossy the formula is. It imparts an almost wet-look, lustrous shine to the lips, making them appear hydrated and plump, but not as if covered with a liquid product like a standard gloss. There's the same semi-translucent juiciness as a lollipop that's been sucked on or a slice of coloured jelly. The lipstick itself has a tacky, slightly thick consistency, and there's a bit of resistance as the lipstick bullet tugs against the lips when it's applied. While it doesn't settle into lip lines, it can be a little uneven in terms of pigmentation, particularly after the lips are pressed together to blend the lipstick.

Despite its relative sheerness, isn't what I'd describe as glide-on smooth, creamy and weightless like the Chanel Rouge Coco Shine or Maybelline Color Sensational Color Whisper lipsticks. I definitely get the sensation of something covering the lips, though it's not particularly drying or uncomfortable. One offputting aspect is the smell, which is your traditional 'grandma' lipstick scent, but fortunately it's not too strong.

If it hadn't been included in the gift with purchase, I probably wouldn't have selected Camelia Pink, mainly because I find myself tiring of these bright, blue-based pink/fuchsia shades (I have way too many and I don't particularly love any of them). At least Camelia Pink isn't too cool-toned or vivid, making it a safer pick for a casual wash of glossy colour during the day.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Facing the Fruit

REN is a UK skin care brand that seems to receive a lot of exposure from bloggers, though prior to purchasing the Glycolactic Radiance Renewal Mask from Space.NK during my holiday to London, I'd never tried any of their products. The mask retails for $66 at Mecca Cosmetica but I bought mine for £30 (at the time around $52). It's still one of most expensive skin care products in my possession, but being on vacation made me more open to splurging. The assistant at Space.NK seemed to approve of my purchase when I took the box to the counter, telling me how much she loved the mask and advising me that the trick was to use it on damp skin. I could hardly wait to get home to use it for the first time and find out if the hype was justified.

The REN Glycolactic Radiance Renewal Mask is an exfoliating mask with a load of "bio extracts" including lactic acid from passion fruit, citric acid from lemon, tartaric acid from grape, glycolic acid (6.5%) from pineapple, papain from papaya, omega-7 from sea buckthorn oil and omega-3 from blackcurrant oil. It promises to renew the complexion and improve skin tone and radiance while combating congestion, blackheads and blemishes. Everything you could ask for in a mask, right?

Most reviews I've read describe the texture as akin to marmalade (without the chunky fruity bits) which I would definitely agree with. It even smells exactly like it. I usually squeeze out one full pump onto the back of my hand which expels a generous amount that's more than enough for the whole face. I spritz my clean, bare face lightly with Avene Thermal Spring Water and then apply the mask all over with my fingers. It goes on relatively clear, though the actual colour is a pale orange. After a few minutes, I can feel the mask begin to tingle, though the sensation is nothing too uncomfortable. I normally wait about 10-15 minutes and then wash everything off with my hands and warm water. It's recommended to use the included muslin cloth with warm water to remove the mask but I can never be bothered.

I've used this mask roughly once every couple of weeks since October and I have to say I feel it's a bit overrated. After I've washed it off, my skin does appear more radiant, but almost in a slightly overly scrubbed, greasy way. My cheeks look smoother, more taut and slightly inflamed, but my nose appears a tad oily. While the evidence of having subjected my face to fairly potent exfoliation is clear, I'm not entirely convinced as to the benefits. For one, I don't feel like my skin is positively glowing the morning after or foundation is sitting much better on my face. Maybe I'm just not using it with enough regularity (REN advises weekly use) or my skin is too sensitive to achieve optimal results. I do enjoy using it, the scent and texture are pleasing, the packaging is clean and functional, and while I have exfoliating cleansers, toners and scrubs, it's the only exfoliating mask I own. I just didn't see any marked improvement to my skin, both immediately or after using it for 3 months, that would elicit my strong enthusiasm and encourage me to recommend it to others.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Caviar in the New Year

When the "caviar" nail trend popularised by Ciaté rolled around, I didn't see what the fuss was about. It just looked like hundreds-and-thousands stuck on the nail, branded to seem like some major nail art innovation. Plainly put, I didn't find it particularly attractive. But as usually is the case with all things fashionable (the Céline luggage tote is another example), over time and with repeated exposure, I found myself warming to the idea. At the very least, I was curious to play around with microbeads myself for the sheer novelty factor.

I used Caviar Effect Nail Art in 11 from Italian brand Layla (currently £8.09 on Look Fantastic). The process was a bit daunting at first but I found tutorials available online very useful. First I painted a clear base coat, then one coat of Chi Chi Wednesday, a black polish with gunmetal shimmer. Rather than sprinkling the beads on top of the nail, I opted to pour out the beads into a small container, tilt the container at an angle to increase the depth of the beads, then press my finger, freshly painted with a second coat of polish, into the beads. It was a bit of a challenge to get a perfectly even surface with no bald spots, but there weren't any major mishaps for my first attempt. The only thing I'd suggest is to use a deeper and larger container than I did (I picked out a small, circular ceramic jewellery box) so the tiny beads don't spill over everywhere as you manoeuvre your finger around for maximum bead exposure.

Thankfully, the end result is a bit more intricate evening gown beading than black sesame seeds, though admittedly it looks better from afar than up close, where the perfectionist in me sees the lumps and imperfections. You do end up using a significant portion of the beads in the bottle for both hands, so an accent nail might be a more cost-effective and less fiddly way to wear the trend. What I liked about the Layla beads were the varied sizes, ranging from very small to absolutely tiny, which meant a smoother distribution around the edges of the nail and less room for gaps. It's not the cheapest, quickest or easiest of manicures, but it's a unique and fun take on texture that you can't replicate with nail polish alone.

Disclaimer: Layla Caviar Effect Nail Art was sent to me for review. Post contains affiliate links.
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