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.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Skin Care Sale Stock Up

Is it a bit tragic to look forward to a twice-a-year skin care sale? Well then, tragic I am. Back in May when I purchased the Antipodes Anti-Ageing Minis set, I mentioned I was eagerly anticipating Priceline's next 40% off skin care sale, given they now stock brands like Bioderma, NUXE, La-Roche Posay, Avène, Trilogy and Antipodes (all they need to do is include Caudalie in the mix and I'm pretty much set). On Tuesday, July 29, that day finally arrived. I actually had no clue beforehand and a friend I was meeting for lunch told me about it in the morning. I literally made a dash to the nearest Priceline within an hour of hearing the news.

Though I made it to Priceline at about 11am, I was surprised to see all three items I'd jotted down on my list to be completely gone. I wanted to buy the Trilogy Rosapene Night Cream, Sukin Purifying Facial Masque and a backup of my NUXE Rêve de Miel Ultra-Nourishing Lip Balm, but everything was unavailable or sold out at the store I visited. I left empty-handed and a bit peeved.

I checked out another Priceline after work but it was exactly the same story. The sale was only for 2 days, so I contemplated making a trip to the city on Wednesday to survey other stores, but instead asked friends who were in the city to check for me. One managed to find NUXE Rêve de Miel, but had no luck with the other products. That night during the remaining few hours of the sale, I made one last visit to my local Priceline and the irrational side of my brain took over. It was thinking, "CHEAP! GOOD DISCOUNT! 40% OFF, THAT'S BASICALLY HALF PRICE, RIGHT?!" rather than "Was I planning on buying this in the first place?"

The Trilogy night cream I wanted still wasn't there, so I settled for the Balancing Face Lotion. I figured it's a generous size (100ml), making it good value for money and something that would last a long time, it's packaged conveniently and attractively in a heavyish dark frosted bottle with a pump, has quite a few overlapping ingredients with the night cream, and can be used day and night, year-round. I find it similar to Trilogy Vital Moisturising Cream but lighter, more fluid in consistency and less rich, and easier to spread over the face. It absorbs well and doesn't leave the skin feeling heavy or looking shiny. It has a pleasant, relatively subdued, sweet botanical scent that's not cloying or irritating. It's probably more suited to summer use but I've been trialling it the past week during winter here in Australia and I haven't felt it lacking in the hydration department.

I picked up another Antipodes Anti-Ageing Minis set because at $12, the Joyous Protein-Rich Night Replenish Serum (10ml) and Avocado Pear Nourishing Night Cream (15ml) were $6 a piece and I simply could not say no to that. Speaking of a price that can't be refused, I managed to nab one Grown Alchemist Regenerating Night Cream Neuro-Peptide & Violet Leaf Extract for $12. Yes, $12. Considering the cream is retailing on the Myer website currently for $84.95, I think I did well. It was already hugely slashed down to $20, but a further 40% off was entirely welcome. The consistency and colour remind me a bit of cake batter. It's one of those "natural" creams that take a while to be worked into the skin (Yes to Carrots Daily Facial Moisturiser with SPF 15 had the same issue). It leaves the skin slightly tacky to the touch but absorbs fairly well. I don't find it overwhelmingly hydrating and nourishing, nor have I noticed that my skin looks markedly better in the mornings, but we'll see with prolonged use.

Finally, an addition to my list of products for which I have a backup, namely NUXE Rêve de Miel. My existing pot is far from empty, but I use it every evening as an overnight lip treatment. Despite initially finding it odd and somewhat uncomfortable when applied, I've since embraced its thick, paste-like texture and weird exfoliating beads, especially when the result is dry, chapped, flaky lips are kept at bay.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

July Favourites

Another month has flown by in an entirely nondescript fashion. I haven't bought any new makeup in a while (thank goodness), though skin care is another story. Sometimes in the mornings when I'm getting ready, I'm almost grateful for all the quality purchases I made at the height of my makeup obsession, because I simply wouldn't spend the time or money now hunting down the same items. If I've learnt anything during almost three years of buying more makeup than I know what to do with, it's go for the real deal. Had I avoided countless inferior but cheaper "dupes" of the higher end stuff I really wanted, my present collection would be a lot more focused, of an overall higher standard, better loved and utilised, and I would've saved money in the long run.

Morrocanoil Hair Treatment
There's a reason why certain products have cult status. I am so glad that I bought this a couple of years ago based purely on hype and positive reviews, especially since it was generously discounted as well. I now can't imagine doing without it. For someone who is clueless and almost completely disinterested in hair and hair care, it's become an indispensable part of my routine. If you could call washing my hair every couple of nights in the shower with an el cheapo SLS-free shampoo, sloppily drying my locks with a towel, tying up my hair in a bun, sleeping, and running one pump of Morrocanoil through my semi-damp hair the morning after, a "routine". This stuff has essentially replaced both conditioner and a hair treatment/mask. It ensures my hair isn't completely ruined, splitting and dried out despite my neglect. Something about it rescues my hair with minimal effort and gives it texture, smoothness and life when it should have none.

Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentrè
I neglected this moisturiser for a while because I failed to see what the fuss was about. I had such sky high expectations that invariably I'd be disappointed with the reality of what it was: a basic, no frills, functional moisturiser, the only added allure being that it was French and a few famous people/makeup artists recommended it. After I got over the fact it wasn't some all-purpose miracle product, I began to appreciate it on a simpler level. Non-irritating and scentless, it's a good thirst quencher for dry skin in winter and nicely preps the face for foundation, providing a smoother, well hydrated canvas.

Omorovicza Queen of Hungary Mist
I keep going back to this post-cleanse hydrating toner after lengthy stretches of relying on my Avène Thermal Spring Water. Yes, it's pricey and the attractive packaging and fancy name play an undeniable role in my enjoyment of it, but it's also calming, refreshing and adds extra moisture and an instant plumping effect to my skin before I apply any serums and creams. I prefer to spritz three pumps into my hand then press the toner into my skin with my palms rather than misting it all over, as I find this reduces product wastage and ensures even distribution.

Dior Diorskin Poudre Shimmer in Amber Diamond
A classic example of a product I'm thankful to have acquired when I was more of a makeup junkie than I am now. I hunted it down after almost losing hope it'd ever be mine by buying it from Sephora via Tarazz during a $10 bulk shipping promotion which I shared with a friend. Forget theBalm Mary-Lou Manizer or Jemma Kidd Dewy Glow All Over Radiance Crème in Rose Gold, this is the only highlighter I've been reaching for lately. I apply it using my Real Techniques Setting Brush to the tops of my cheekbones, under my browbone and occasionally down the bridge of my nose to add more shape to my face and inject a touch of that highly prized ethereal glow.

NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer in Custard
My skin has been shit for months now, with the remnants of breakouts so numerous they could pass for freckles. This is the best concealer I've used in terms of coverage, lasting power and application. When I can't be bothered applying foundation to my whole face, dabbing this over my spots and redness does the trick. I don't need to fiddle around with brushes as it applies easily with fingers and chucking it in the makeup bag ensures I've packed the tools for on-the-spot correction.

Real Techniques Multi Task Brush
I don't watch makeup tutorials on YouTube with anywhere near as much regularity as I used to, but checking out a couple of Lauren Curtis's videos recently reminded me just how useful observing someone putting on their makeup can be. I noticed Lauren used the Real Techniques Multi Task Brush to apply her foundation over the highly favoured Real Techniques Buffing Brush, traditionally my #1 foundation brush of choice. Tanya Burr has also been giving her Bobbi Brown Face Blender Brush a lot of love, so I was persuaded to make the switch to a rounded, fluffier, softer brush. The result was a revelation. I think a bit of experimentation is required in terms of what foundation works best for what brush, but I've been loving NARS Sheer Glow with the Multi Task Brush. I find that I get less streaking and don't have work as hard blending the foundation into my skin for a seamless, natural-looking but airbrushed finish.
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