Monday, December 11, 2017

High End Tokyo Beauty Haul + Mini Reviews: THREE, RMK & Lunasol

Oof, this post is so belated. It's been sitting in my drafts folder for months now but I figure I'd still share here on the blog in case you don't follow me on Instagram. Compared to my Tokyo drugstore haul, the handful of high end products I picked up in Japan looks pretty controlled. I had planned to pick up a few more things but at the time I didn't really love any eyeshadow palettes or lipsticks - so I passed on those categories entirely. I stuck to buying products I knew I would get use out of and I have absolutely no regrets about that. 

I already posted a review with a before and after on the Shiseido Synchro Skin White Cushion Compact so I won't talk about it again here. For consistency I wanted to make sure I mentioned it because it is eye-wateringly expensive for a cushion foundation. About $50 for both the case and ONE cushion cartridge, to be exact. 

Everything else in this post I purchased at Narita Airport at the duty free boutique. I had a good experience browsing and shopping at Narita duty free - it's just easier not having to go to a separate counter to get your tax refund. 

I was impressed with the selection of THREE products they had at the airport. I think they had pretty much the entire line there. I had been eyeing the THREE Flawless Ethereal Fluid Foundation after reading several positive blogger reviews before going to Japan. It usually goes for ¥5,000 excluding tax but it was selling for ¥4,200 (~$37) at the airport. Not bad for a high end foundation. First off, I love the packaging of this. It's super sleek and the fact that it has a pump is fantastic! This foundation comes in 10 shades and I chose the second lightest. I haven't worn it enough times to do a comprehensive review yet but I tried it out for the first time in my most recent Get Ready With Me video. Once I've had a bit more time to play with this, I'll do a full review with before and after close-ups. 

Though I wasn't really drawn to the eyeshadow palettes (shocker), the blushes were really up my alley. I limited myself to two - one from THREE and one from RMK. 

The THREE Cheeky Chic Blush comes in 12 shades and I purchased 08 Eternal Traveller. I chose this solely based on the fact that I think the satin rose color is a classic but I totally love the name as well! These normally retail for ¥3,000 each (excluding tax) but I paid ¥2,520 (~$22). I think that's a really reasonable price for a luxury blush. I love the very minimal, compact packaging and though it looks super tiny, it's only a bit smaller than a Nars blush (4 grams vs. 4.8 grams). 

I wasn't planning to get anything from RMK but their Ingenious Powder Cheeks in 07 was the perfect soft peach shade - I couldn't resist. I love the frosted, see-through case and, like the THREE blush, it's super small and great for travel. Though you get a little less product (3.4 grams) this was a bit more expensive than the THREE blush at ¥2,600 (~$23). Still not a bad price for a really lovely blush from a reputable department store brand. I've used this blush a lot more than the THREE one so far and I think it's lovely. It's a really light shade but it definitely shows up on my skin and looks very natural. This is perfect for people who don't wear a lot of makeup but want some color on their cheeks. The powder is pressed quite hard into the pan but my natural haired brushes have no problem picking up pigment. 

The final thing I grabbed was the Lunasol Sheer Light Gloss in 02 Cool Beige. I gravitated towards this because I love the look of milky semi-nude pink beige glosses. In the tube, this reminded me of the Laura Mercier Lip Glace in Blush, one of my favorite lipglosses. Suffice to say that they weren't kidding when they called this a sheer gloss. I find this to be more akin to a glossy lip conditioner than the kinds of liquid lipstick-type glosses that are popular in the states. This lunasol gloss feels really nice on the lips; it's not sticky at all and feels moisturizing. But the lasting power is nonexistent so you basically need to reapply every hour. This was ¥2,125 (~$19) so a little pricey for a sheer gloss but I've put this in my daily makeup pouch to ensure I get the most use out of it. 

I'm happy with my Tokyo purchases and I still need some more time to play with a couple of things, namely the foundation, before my verdict is out. I'm kicking myself a little for not spotting the Addiction counter at Narita until I was literally running for my gate (took a little too long eating and sitting around doing nothing at the airport until the last minute). But I guess that just means I have to revisit Japan soon! 

Sunday, December 3, 2017

My Sephora Picks for the Holidays AKA A Huge End of Year Haul

This is what several online orders, a few in-store stops and a few coupon codes from Sephora looks like.... Yeah, I'm not too proud of my spending right now. This collective haul encompasses everything I bought during the 20% off sale until now. Let's just say everything here bumped me into VIB Rouge status. Which, honestly, I don't think is even really worth it but I guess 2018 will tell. 

In my defense (not that I have owe anyone an apology for spending my own money), a lot of the things I picked up were haircare and skincare products that I will use at some point. I only allowed myself one eyeshadow quad (because Tom Ford is too pricey to buy without a sale) and most of the holiday makeup gift sets didn't appeal to me (too much glitter, weird colors, etc.).

I'm typically very low maintenance with my hair care but a few weeks ago I got balayage highlights done and I'm trying to give my locks a little more TLC. The hair kits were generally a good value and as a hair product newbie I love sets that give you a lot of variety. The Sephora Favorites Hair Rescue and Prep & Protect sets will certainly come in handy for travel. At $25 and $24 respectively, these Sephora Favorites kits are a great way to sample several popular products to see which ones, if any, suit your needs best.

The Briogeo line has favorable reviews so I bought two sets with full-size products from the brand to try. Verb is another brand that's new to me and their Ghost line has fantastic reviews so I grabbed the value kit. I like that their shampoo and conditions aren't too pricey so if I like the travel sized ones, I'll get the full size later on.

I admit to having back ups upon back ups of skincare after my Japan haul and a few purchases from The Ordinary and May Lindstrom that I haven't shared on the blog yet. I couldn't resist a few other things to add in my rotation. I tried a sample of the Tata Harper Resurfacing Mask and liked it a lot so I picked up the Glow For It kit - it has a full size of the mask and for $2 more, it includes generous sized minis of their Regenerating Cleanser and Repairative Moisturizer.

Another face mask I knew I liked after using a sample is the Fresh Rose Face Mask. I picked up the trio of masks which include the Umbrian Clay Purifying Mask and Black Tea Instant Perfecting Mask. For some reason the packaging for this trio says it's $57 but on my invoice it says $54 and now Sephora is selling this for $50.... Nonetheless, with the 20% discount I paid around $43 and an ounce of the black tea mask itself retails for $28.

I had to check back on the Sephora website several times to hunt down the Sephora Favorites Beauty Sleep set which is an excellent deal. The set costs $30 but has a value of $92. I already have a small tube of the Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum and enjoy it so I wanted another for travel. I've also really wanted to try the Sunday Riley Luna Sleeping Night Oil and the 5ml size you get in the kit is worth about $18. Everything else was pretty much just a bonus.

Sephora put a bunch of their old Play boxes up for sale so I picked up the version with a mini Sunday Riley Ceramic Slip Cleanser and Christophe Robin Cleansing Purifying Scrub with Sea Salt. I've been curious about the Sunday Riley cleanser for years and this sample alone makes the $10 price of the box worth it. I have a slightly larger mini tub of the Christophe Robin scrub and it doesn't hurt to have tiny tub for travel (retails for about $9). I'm not crazy about the other samples in the box but the two products I was interested in are worth more than what I paid.

I go through spray toners really fast but I love having them around. This time I picked up the Herbivore Jasmine Green Tea Toner which is a new one to me. It has really great reviews for combo-oily, acne-prone skin so I'm hoping for the best.

Last but not least, I picked up my birthday gift in-store and opted for the Caudalie skincare duo. I've used both the Vinoperfect Radiance Serum and Moisturizing Sorbet and they were fine - nothing great but not bad. I wasn't crazy about the Tarte makeup option and knew the blush and liquid lipstick would disappear into the depths of my makeup collection immediately. At least the skincare duo I can use up on a week-long trip.

Before I get into the makeup I bought, there are a few skincare stragglers that got lumped into this photo. The first being a new tube of Shiseido's Full Lash Serum - I always need to have a new back up of this on hand. I think this is probably my 5th tube and I will continue buying this until they stop making it. I haven't been as diligent about using this as I used to be and I can definitely tell the difference - you really need to be consistent about using this to see results.

Right before the 20% off sale I picked up the Bite Beauty Agave Kisses set to try out their famed Agave Lip Mask, Lip Balm and Lip Scrub. I really enjoy the Lip Mask so during the sale I picked up a full sized tube. I have chronically dry lips that are easily irritated so I can never have too many lip salves. It's one of the things I have no trouble finishing. OK, onto the makeup.

I think I did pretty well on the makeup front. The big splurge was my first Tom Ford eyeshadow palette. I chose the shade Nude Dip because everyone that has this seems to love this and I have a soft spot for taupe shimmery shadows. I'll probably do a more comprehensive post on this palette after I've had some time to play around with it.

The Sephora Favorites Prime, Set, Go kit was an excellent value as most of the samples were very generously sized. The mini Laura Mercier powder is 9.3 grams whereas my full size Nars loose powder is 10 grams. The sprays are also 1 oz each which is quite substantial for minis. I can see myself using up pretty much everything in this set.

In one of my earlier orders during the sale I got a sample of the Nars Soft Matte Concealer and fell in love with the formula. It's medium to full coverage while being ultra blendable and natural looking. With my $25 off $50 coupon I picked up a full size of the concealer in Custard. A little goes a long way with this concealer so I'm actually still using the foil sample - surprisingly it hasn't dried out yet and is still going strong.

Brow pencils last me ages and I'm not close to using up my current Benefit Goof Proof Brow Pencil but I wanted to take the opportunity to grab one of the Hourglass Arch Brow Sculpting Pencils. It seems pricey but it contains a lot of product so it actually works out to be quite affordable compared to brow pencils from other high end brands.

I picked up two lip pencil duos: the Nars Velvet Matte Lip Pencils in Damned and Walkyrie (mini size) and Bite Beauty's Lip Pencils in 018 and 024 (full size). The Nars duo was $20 and the Bite duo was $24. The Nars shades are perfect for winter time and the Bite pencil in 018 is a great brown nude shade for my skintone.

I wanted to include some of the deluxe sized freebies that I also picked up. The Bite trio including their Line and Define Lip Primer, Amuse Bouche Lipstick in Sweet Cream and Lip Liner in 068 is one of the better gift with purchases I've seen from Sephora in recent memory. I'm excited to see how the lip primer compares with Colourpop's.

This year's VIB Rouge welcome gift is a mini version of Sephora's PRO Flawless Airbrush #56. The full size retails for $32 and I like how this cute little one looks. Definitely will be packing that with me for my next trip. Honestly, I think Sephora could do a better job with the Rouge welcome gift since you do have to spend $1,000 to access this tier. But I'll take the brush over nothing.

I cashed in 200 points in-store for two mini Dior lipsticks in 999, a matte classic red. I'll let you in on a little tip: I almost always redeem point perks in-store because you don't need to make a purchase to use your points. You can also redeem more than one of the same item whereas you can't do that online. Each of these mini Dior lipsticks is 1.4 grams and the full size is 3.4 grams so altogether my the minis are worth about $29 combined! Talk about maximizing your point potential.

Aaaand that wraps up my collective Sephora haul ahead of the holidays. I don't plan on placing any more Sephora orders until 2018 so here's to hoping I don't get suckered into any promotions before New Year's. Did you buy anything during the sales? Tried any of the products I bought? Love them? Hate them? Let me know in the comments!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Barcelona Photo Diary and Traveling Reflections

It's been over a year since I posted any travel content, aside from the odd "what's in my travel makeup bag" post, but being anywhere other than here is something I think about all the time. This past year I visited five countries for leisure and, out of those, three were places I'd never been before. I already have a Paris trip planned for this upcoming January and it's highly likely I'll be going to Asia again in the first half of 2018. Here I'm not counting the domestic trips I've taken and travel for work.

My point being is that I travel a decent amount and I have a lot I want to talk about with regards to this topic. But the whole "here's what I did in (insert city here)" gets old really fast and, truth be told, when I'm going somewhere for the first time, I'm usually hitting up a lot of the same touristy places you can find in any guide. So today I'm going to try something a little different. This will be a free-flowing reflection about the city I was walking around in just last week, Barcelona.

Back in May I found ~$400 roundtrip flights to Barcelona for Thanksgiving weekend and figured it would be a perfect long weekend trip for me and my Mom. I'm not a fan of turkey and with Christmas so close to Thanksgiving, I didn't feel too bad for missing Thanksgiving dinners with extended family and friends.

Fast forward to August and Barcelona was the target of a series of terrorist attacks which killed over a dozen people. In October, Catalonia declared (constitutionally illegal) independence from Spain and in mid-November 750,000 people protested in the streets of Barcelona. I'm not going to lie - in the weeks leading up to my trip I was looking at the news constantly hoping a major strike or potentially dangerous incident would not occur during the days I was to visit. But that's not how life works and I'm well aware of that.

In the end, there was very little doubt in my mind that we would still go to Barcelona as planned. Living in New York City, taking the subway and walking in densely packed city streets daily, I live everyday knowing that something terrible could happen at any moment. As someone who is probably more paranoid than the average person, that's just naturally how I think. I also reasoned that it would be an interesting time to visit Barcelona given the political tension and with reports of travelers avoiding the region, it would be easier to see the sights.

Thankfully our trip went as smooth as we could have hoped and Barcelona was more beautiful than I'd imagined. Traces of the independence movement were visible on nearly every street. Colorful banners and Catalan flags hung from terraces and stickers exclaiming "democràcia!" were aplenty. There was a kind of beauty to it actually - an energy I can't put my finger on. Coming back from Barcelona I have a new-found interest in learning more about the origins of the clashes between Catalonia and Spain as well as the Spanish Civil War which I had only learned about briefly in high school.

Maybe it's because I'm getting older but this year in particular I've felt current events has had a much stronger presence in my travel observations. When I was in Tokyo in October, I kept looking at everyone's hands to see how many people wore wedding rings, knowing that Japan's marriage rate is in decline and it's a huge source of anxiety for the country. If I had not known about this issue, would I have made that same observation? Probably not.

I guess it can work both ways if you do research on a place or culture before seeing it for yourself. On one hand you can go in having some background context and delve deeper into something you find interesting. Perhaps you can strike up a more meaningful conversation with a local or another visitor. On the flip side, your view might be clouded with preconceived notions and you miss out on a fresh perspective that you would have had without any prior expectations.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on if you plan your travels around current events (whether it's a pull or push factor) and how much all of that influences your observations while you're away. Also, do you avoid certain places due to the possibility of unforeseeable catastrophes like terrorist attacks? I've heard feedback from both sides of the spectrum from people I know in real life so I'm curious to know what you guys think.

Now I'll leave you with a few more photos I took whilst in Barcelona. If you've been before, I'd love to hear what you enjoyed most in the city. If you're planning a visit, feel free to ask me any questions (and I'll try my best to answer)!