Saturday, August 31, 2013

July and August 2013 Empties

It feels like ages since I last cranked out an empties post but it's only been about two months. I've got a bunch of finished products to share my thoughts on, as well as some well-used products that have past their expiration date. Let's get on with the mini reviews!

First I have a few body care products to share. The Elemis Sp@home Tranquil Touch Creamy Body Wash was one of the items I picked out for free from my Apothica sponsorship. I had high expectations since the brand is highly raved about but while the product was lovely, the scent was incredibly masculine and not pleasant for me. Next up is Lush Ponche Shower Gel, a limited edition product that I got from the Winter Wishes gift set during Christmas. It was my first time trying a shower gel from Lush and while the bright orange color was fun, the scent was not a winner (but not bad). The Origins Starting Over Moisturizer was being given out a few Earth Days ago if you traded in an empty product container. The face moisturizer is a bit too heavy for my oily skin so I used it as a body lotion. It did the trick and had a nice scent but I cannot really comment on its usefulness as a facial product.

Moving onto haircare, I finished a bunch of mini trial sizes. I finished the Klorane Dry Shampoo which made it to a favorites post last year. I really enjoy this dry shampoo as it gets the job done well and has a decent scent. I already picked up a back up of this while I was in Paris (it's much cheaper there!). I used up a mini size of the Rituals Brilliant Bliss Shampoo which smells amazing (everything I've tried from the Dutch brand smells fantastic!) and does a fine job of cleansing my hair. I used up the Bumble and Bumble Thickening Shampoo and Conditioner mostly while I was on vacation and they were decent but nothing special. The shampoo does not foam up a whole lot while the conditioner is not thick enough for my liking. Bumble and Bumble Prep is one of the haircare products I've actually really enjoyed using and I feel that it does make a difference in the texture of my hair. It's a nice product to use in the warmer months when hair oils feel a bit too nourishing. 

As usual, skincare empties comprises a large part of the post. I used up most of the DDF Brightening Cleanser before leaving for Amsterdam but only completed this Birchbox sample when I returned. The cleanser has poor foaming capabilities yet seemed to sting a tiny bit with use. I did not enjoy using it and will not be purchasing it. The Nuxe Cleansing Water is just as effective as the typical cleansing water at removing makeup but it is heavily fragranced. The Avene Cleansing Water is much better and one of my favorite cleansing waters (along with Bioderma). The Avene Gentle Toner was a stand-in toner when I ran out of witch hazel in Amsterdam. It was decent but I'm not sure if I would use it again. The Caudalie Beauty Elixir is well known amongst beauty bloggers as a refreshing toner and makeup refresher. The packaging is incredibly luxe and the scent reminds me of a fancy french spa. But the formula is alcohol heavy and the price tag is not friendly enough to warrant an immediate repurchase. The Origins Clear Improvement Mask is one of the best clay masks I have ever used and I will likely repurchase this product in the future. When I'm breaking out, I throw this mask on and my skin heals up quicker. The Biore Cleansing Oil Makeup Wipes are Asia exclusive and I picked these up in Malaysia when I was running low on makeup remover. These wipes effectively remove makeup and do not leave an oily residue on the skin. I would recommend these if you usually use makeup wipes but I personally don't like to use wipes as I don't think they're as effective as cleansing waters or oils. Another pack of Clean & Clear Oil Absorbing Sheets have bit the dust! They're my favorite kind of blotting sheets and I think I'll be using them for the rest of my life....

Here are a few more skincare goodies that I've finished. The Avene Hydrance Light and UV Riche SPF 20 were both very nice sample moisturizers that conveniently fit into my travel pouches. Both moisturizers were non irritating and quite suitable for my oily combination skin. The UV Riche version would be great for those looking for a sunscreen in their moisturizer. I finished the Origins Super Spot Remover which was great at calming and obliterating angry cystic pimples. While the tube is very small, a little goes a long way and is worth the money if large spots are a problem for you. I would repurchase this acne medication but I have some other spot treatments to use up first. The Mario Badescu Special Cucumber Lotion is not good or bad in my books. I don't really get on well with the skincare products from the brand so I would not recommend it. The Clarins Super Restorative Total Eye Concentrate was a teeny tiny sample from the Clarins It Kit set but it lasted a pretty long time since you only need a bit. The eye cream is light yet nicely moisturizing and sinks into the skin very quickly. I just checked the price of the full size and it's a whopping $82 for .53 ounces so I probably won't be rushing out to get this.

I have a handful of "finished" makeup products but truthfully most of these are just old products that have past their expiration period. The Perricone MD No Foundation Foundation is too dark for me to wear most of the year so I only used it as a light base on some summer days when I wanted a bit of coverage. I feel that it's overpriced and I decided to toss it when the consistency became lumpy and separated. The Clinique Moisture Sheer Tint (now discontinued) was another one of my summer makeup products because the neutral shade matched my tanned skin tone. It's one of the oldest bases in my collection and I think it started to break me out so I decided to toss it. It's a pretty nice, natural base but not something I would repurchase because I want to try other things. The Revlon Age Defying Concealer (also discontinued) is one of my favorite drugstore concealers but unfortunately not sold anymore. The shade medium is good for my summer skin tone and for a creamy liquid concealer, it had very good coverage. I loved using this concealer for spot concealing when I didn't want to wear any other base makeup. Unfortunately I think the formula went a bit off and caused me to break out a bit. The ModelCo Fibre Lashxtend Mascara was a Birchbox sample and while I didn't fancy it for my eyelashes, it worked nicely at adding volume to my brows. The Essence Get Big! Lashes Waterproof Mascara was one of the cheapest mascaras in Amsterdam so I picked it up with not many expectations. It turns out that it's one of the better volumizing and curling mascaras I have used (although not better than the waterproof Maybelline ones). Finally I'm tossing an Ole Henriksen Fresh Lips SPF 15 Lip Balm because it's past the expiration date and I don't really fancy using a gloss lip balm. I prefer solid lip balms so my hair never gets stuck on my moisturized lips!

I'm so glad that I can finally throw out (and recycle) a bunch of this junk because I'm tired of having a massive pile of stuff hanging around my room. I'm also glad that I could finally throw out some expired makeup and make room for newer products. Personally it's a bit hard seeing makeup go when it's not completely used up but it has to be done. Do you regularly toss out old makeup or do you try to salvage what you can?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

UK Beauty Bargain: MUA Trio Eyeshadow in Innocence

From my experience, Americans have it really good when it comes to finding affordable, decent quality makeup. We have brands like Wet n Wild, E.L.F and NYX that crank out inexpensive makeup products so that almost anyone can play with blush or a new lip color without breaking the bank. Whilst traveling I observed that beauty products, even those found at the drugstore, were more expensive than something you could get in the states. In the United Kingdom the price of mascara can climb upwards of £8! But luckily for the Brits, MUA has some gems that are well worth the price tag.

MUA is easily found at Superdrug locations in the UK and offers everything from BB cream to nail polish for as little as £1. I selected a few interesting bits to add to my stash after seeing raves from many a Youtube guru. One of the products I chose was the Trio Eyeshadow in Innocence which retails for only £2.50 ($3.89).

Innocence is a seemingly neutral trio of shadows but has a hint of green in the mix which makes things more interesting. All of the shadows are shimmery, pigmented and smooth. The top most shade is a lovely greenish beige that looks great all over the lid. The middle shadow is a reflective off white that makes a bold inner corner highlight. The bottom most shade is akin to Mac's Club as it has the green and red duochrome factor.

If you're in the UK and looking for pigmented eyeshadows on a budget, MUA is a nice place to start. The quality is spot on and makes this trio worth much more than it costs. What are your favorite budget makeup brands?

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Asia Travels 2013 Part 4: Hong Kong

It's hard to believe that a month ago I was in Hong Kong living all of these moments that I am now trying to recall so that I can write this post. Having grown up watching TVB (a Hong Kong broadcasting channel), Hong Kong has always been one of the top places I've wanted to visit. The city exceeded my expectations from the food to the ease of getting around and I wish I had spent more than four days there.

My first meal consisted of wonton mein (the wontons are hidden under the noodles) from Mak's Noodle. The portions were incredibly tiny and the small bowl was more like a snack than a meal. The noodles were very fine yet firm and were scrumptious compared to the bland Cathay Pacific airplane food. But the noodles had a distinct gan sui (lye water) flavor that I didn't particularly like. The noodles were good but nothing too memorable. But in general, Hong Kong had really good food and I'd probably have come home at least five pounds heavier if I had stayed for a month.

Dare I say that the crowds in Hong Kong are more chaotic than in New York City? I swear the city gets more lively after the sun sets.

Food vendors selling curry fish balls to pig intestines are easy to find in the city center. I'm usually not a huge fan of Hong Kong gai daan jai (egg waffles) (Dutch poffertjes hold a special place in my heart) but my friend bought some in Mongkok and they were delicious! Hands down, the best Hong Kong style egg waffles I have ever eaten!

I love how certain areas are extremely high tech and modern while a few streets away you can find mom and pop shops that have a very rustic feel to them. A lot of people were crowding around this bakery so I bought a few things for the next morning's breakfast.

We wandered around somewhat aimlessly in the Mongkok area and found a street lined with pet stores. Every other store had puppies and kittens in the window displays and there were quite a few interesting pet fish shops as well. I'm not one to endorse buying dogs and cats (adoption's the way to go!) but it was an unexpected surprise.

The city is bustling with energy late in the evening. I could definitely see myself living in Hong Kong for a bit just to envelope myself in a different city and culture.

As much as I loved the city life, Hong Kong has some interesting cultural attractions as well. My family and I took the metro to Lantau Island where we took a cable car up to the Po Lin Monastery. The weather was dreary on every single day that we were in Hong Kong but at least there weren't any typhoons. The wind and rain made the cable car ride a little more interesting to say the least.

I've seen the Big Buddha many times in TVB dramas and made it a priority of things I had to see in real life. This is the largest bronze Buddha statue in the world and it's worth seeing even if you're not religious. The road from the cable car drop off to the Buddha is lined with cute souvenir shops and other touristy attractions.

At the monastery you can make a donation to enter the Buddha which also entitles you to a vegetarian lunch. I'm not a big fan of Buddhist vegetarian food but the dou fu fa (tofu pudding) was nice and smooth.

On our last full day we took a ferry to Cheung Chau, an island with fresh seafood, temples and beaches.

We ate a restaurant where you buy the live seafood at the market across the street and bring it back for the chef to cook. We had our fair share of everything from shrimp to fish to crab. After a while I gave up on taking pictures of every dish because I was too busy eating and enjoying my meal (what a bad blogger!).

This was definitely one of my favorite meals of the entire trip because I love seafood! One of the more interesting things we ate was lai liew ha (literally: peeing shrimp) which is apparently called mantis shrimp to Westerners. The exotic, alien-looking critters were a pain to open because the shells were hard and jagged at the tips but weren't as flavorful as I was expecting. I think I would have preferred if these were fried with some kind of crunchy topping.

We had many more meals that were delicious but I don't want to make you guys drool too much at your computer table. I admit I neglected to take photographs of some of the best dishes we ate simply because I was tired of holding my camera throughout dinner. I also felt bad for making others wait to eat so I could get photos of pristine plates of untouched food. So there are my sad excuses for the lack of photos for you foodies.

To make up for the lack of food related photos, I hope you guys are cat lovers like me because I want to introduce you to Cream Goh (Brother Cream). This adorable kitty is a permanent resident of a magazine stand and hangs out so that tourists and locals alike can take photos of him. While I'm not sure Cream enjoys languishing about the book stand with cameras and phones shoved in his face all day, he's a cute guy. Cream is apparently really famous in Hong Kong and he graces the postcards and posters that his owner, the magazine shop keeper, has for sale.

Cream's girlfriend cat also resides at the magazine stand although I don't think she's as popular as her male counterpart. You can find the two cats in the Tsim Sha Tsui area. 

Looking back at the photos I took in Hong Kong makes me wish I was back there. There's so much to see there and I barely scratched the surface of the amazing food, shopping and sightseeing opportunities. I would highly recommend Hong Kong as travel destination and I can't wait to have the opportunity to visit again! 

This wraps up my Asia Travels 2013 series and it's bittersweet when I realize that this is the last overseas trip for this year. I wonder where my next travels will take me next!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Zoya Solange: A Gold Fit For a Queen

If you've been reading my blog for the past couple of weeks, you'll be familiar with the Zoya PixieDust nail polishes which I've been raving about. Zoya sent me the PixieDust Summer collection to test out and Solange is one of the most eye catching shades out of the bunch. The PixieDust polishes have a matte base color and glittery pieces suspended in the formula, resulting in a gem-like finish. The PixieDust polishes are designed to go straight on the nail without base or top coats which means a faster mani. At $9 a pop, the PixieDust polishes are a fun way to add some texture and sparkle into your life at a midrange price. 

Solange is simply stunning and I think it would look fabulous in the summer and also around the holidays. When I wear Solange, my nails instantly add drama and a diva factor to my look. The formula was very opaque and two coats could tie you over easily. I highly enjoyed wearing this shade although it only lasted three days before chipping. The PixieDust polishes chip faster on me than other Zoya nail polishes which is a shame.

If you're thinking about trying some Zoya polishes, now is a great time to jump on that because from now until the 25th, polishes are buy one get one free with the code SCHOOL. Check out the details on Zoya's blog HERE. Have you tried the PixieDust polishes by Zoya? What are some of your favorite shades?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Asia Beauty Haul Pt. 2: Korean Cosmetics - Innisfree, Holika Holika, Etude House, Lioele

Looking back at my haulage during my Asia travels, I can safely say I didn't go overboard with my beauty spending. I was extremely excited to be able to visit a few Korean cosmetics stores in Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong but surprisingly didn't purchase a whole lot. For one thing, my suitcase couldn't hold all that much and the prices were about the same as if I ordered online from Korea. Without too much blabbering, here's what I've added to my stash!

From Innisfree I chose one of their cult favorite products, the Jeju Volcanic Pore Clay Mask. I was almost out of the Origins Clear Improvement Mask and figured I might as well try something new (empties post to come at the end of he month!). I'm also running low on my The Face Shop White Mud Nose Pack so I opted for the Innisfree Jeju Volcanic Liquid Nose Pack which I'm thinking is pretty much the same thing. I purchased these items at the Innisfree store in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong and got a few free samples including the Soybean Energy Essence, Jeju Volcanic Pore Pack and a Rice Sheet Mask (not pictured). 

At Holika Holika in Malaysia, I picked up the Peach Girl BB Cream which was 70% and the 3 Seconds Starter Vita Complex because it was buy one get one free (my Mom chose the 3 Seconds Start Collagen). The Holika Holika Smooth Skin Egg Soaps were also buy one get one free so I chose the Regular and Charcoal versions. The egg soaps are solid cleansing bars for your face which will be nifty to use. 

Etude House was probably the store I was most excited to visit but was disappointed by. I went to the location at Berjaya Times Square in Malaysia and the store was all kinds of cute but the sales assistants were pushy and unfriendly. The prices were also marked up and I paid about $10 for each of the things I purchased. I gravitated towards the lip and cheek makeup products and must have been feeling really orange that day. I chose the Color Pop Shine Tint in Sunny Pop, the Water Color Blusher in Apricot and the All Over Color in Orange Choux.

Lastly is Lioele which I spotted in Colourmix in Hong Kong. I picked up the BB Cream Set which contains the Beyond the Solution BB Cream, Blooming Shimmer Pearl Base, Fresh Sun Screen, and Water Drop BB. I've wanted to try Lioele products, their BB Creams in particular, for quite a long time so I'm excited to give these a go. I also picked up their Auto Eyebrow Pencil because it's angled shape looks quite unique.

Check out the video below for some swatches and first thoughts!

So I didn't do too bad, right? Stay tuned for the third part of my haul which will include miscellaneous beauty products such as lashes and beauty tools!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Fortnight Face #2: Tangerines and Cream

It's the middle of August which means the first round of my Fortnight Face series has come to a close. Surprisingly it was quite easy sticking to the products I picked out and I definitely made a dent in some of the products. For the next fortnight I thought I would keep the colors in the warm family once again since it's the last stretch of summer. I have a few interviews to go to so I need my neutrals but for casual days I want to incorporate fun pops of bright orange into my look.

For the eyes I'm keeping things really basic with my staple Maybelline Chai Latte Quad. I've had this in my collection for about three years and have used it tons but can barely see a dip in any of the pans! Chai Latte is most definitely a work horse eyeshadow palette from the drugstore. To add some dimension I'm incorporating my new Kate Shiny Eyes Palette in BR-1. For liner I'm keeping things simple with the Physician's Formula Gel Liner in Black since I've been using the one in brown for the past two weeks.

For the cheeks I chose a variety of products that I want to get more use out of. The Wet n' Wild Ultimate Minerals Bronzer in Amber Glow has been in my collection for quite some time but it's never really seen any love. It's a lovely shade for my skin towards the end of summer because it acts as a blush and bronzer in one. While it looks shimmery swatched, it doesn't have any glittery or shimmery bits once applied and appears as a healthy sheen. For bronzer I opted for theBalm's Bahama Mama because I honestly never use it. It's a good quality product that needs some time on my vanity. I can't wait to try out the Etude House Sweet Recipe Cupcake All Over Color in Orange Choux (Korean cosmetics haul will be posted soon!) on my cheeks. I can imagine it looking really cute yet natural. Lastly I included the E.L.F Studio Blush in Gotta Glow which I used to reach for quite often when I first purchased it. The golden reflects in the highlighter should meld well with the orange cream cheek color.

For the lips I went with nudes and show-stopping orange shades. Revlon's Colorburst Lip Butter in Créme Brulée is a sheer nude that doesn't make me look too ghostly this time of year and works well with Too Faced's Glamour Gloss in Pillow Talk over top. I pulled Catrice's Ultimate Color Lipstick in Oh Juicy! because I've shamefully never even swatched this beautiful orange lipstick. I also wanted a bright gloss so I chose the L'Oreal Shine Caresse Lipgloss in Coral Tattoo which can go over the Catrice lipstick or look good all alone.

The Fortnight Face series not only helps me use up some products but to really develop a love for the really special products. It also makes getting ready in the morning a whole lot quicker! Would you ever try a Fortnight Face challenge? What products have you been loving for summer?

Monday, August 12, 2013

Nars Gina: The Overlooked Blush

Ever since I discovered the beauty world, Nars was a frontrunner in terms of best blush brands. I'm sure you've all heard of 'Orgasm' and 'Deep Throat', which always garner funny looks when talked about in public. Despite the giggle factor of the cheeky names, Nars truly makes some great blushes. Gina is a pretty-in-the-pan but seemingly nothing amazing peachy orange that seems to get passed up for one of the other Nars blushes but it's becoming one of my favorites.

Nars blushes retail for a whopping $29 now (I remember back in the day they were a few bucks less) and contain .16 ounces or 4.8 grams. The packaging is the typical black rubbery material that we've come to expect from Nars. A lot of people dislike the packaging because it can get grimy over time but I personally really like it. It's weighty and feels nice in the hands. It won't slip and if you take care of your products, the case should look halfway decent. The inside of the compact is a mirror which makes application on the go very easy.

Gina is a beautiful muted orange blush that looks fantastic once applied. It looked a bit dull in the pan and almost a bit too orange at first but I quickly changed my mind once I had it on my cheeks. It gives a soft look due to the matte finish and the finely milled texture makes it blend seamlessly. 

I'm so glad I picked this blush to use in my first Fortnight Face but I'm not sure I'll be able to put it down once these two weeks are over. This is one of my favorite makeup products at the moment and one of my best picks from Nars. How many Nars blushes have you tried? Are you a fan?

*I received this blush free of charge due to my sponsorship with I chose the product myself and am not affiliated with Nars whatsoever (if only...). All opinions are my own.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Asia Travels 2013 Part 3: Singapore

Singapore was next on our Asia itinerary and we only spent one night in the country to visit my aunt and some other relatives who live in the area. I've been two Singapore twice already so we didn't have to do much sightseeing. Just looking at skyscrapers reminds me of home!

If you look closely, you can see the famous Singaporean Merlion. I saw it up close years ago so my family and I didn't feel the need to see it again.

None of my family members who live in Singapore have a car so we took the MRT everywhere. Unlike Malaysia, Singapore has a really comprehensive public transportation system. The subways in Singapore and Hong Kong are really similar, but you'll see that in my next post. All of the signs on the MRT are labeled in four languages: English, Chinese, Hindi and Malay. I thought that was really considerate and helpful.

Away from the city center, you come across blocks upon blocks of high rise apartments. I've lived in apartments almost my whole life but never above the third floor. I have a slight fear of heights so I'm not sure what I would do if I had to live above the twentieth floor of a building. Everyone puts out their laundry to dry from sticks in the windows. Knowing my clumsy self, my laundry would be scattered on the ground the next morning if I had to dry clothes like this.

Singaporean food is pretty much the same as Malaysian food. There's a heavy Chinese undertone with some hints of Malay and Indian. From the way the locals talk, it seems they favor food from Malaysia more.

We ate dinner at an open air food court kind of place which many hawker shops to choose from. The food was nothing to rave home about but I definitely left with a full tummy.

We had some satay to share between ten of us. Satay is pretty much a Malaysian kebab and we usually eat the chicken variety.

I was craving dumplings so we got massive pork and chive pan fried ones. They weren't half bad!

We also got some Taiwanese oyster pancakes which had a really fishy taste. I personally like the fishy taste but not many people do. These were incredibly salty though and hard to eat a lot without rice. We had many more dishes including congee and spring rolls but I was too busy eating to snap pictures of everything.

Singapore is quite small but I think it's worth a visit if you're traveling Southeast Asia. It's a lot cleaner and safer than Malaysia. It's also a lot more modern and definitely more suited for city people. There are loads of shopping centers and a wider selection of beauty products compared to Malaysia. This trip reminded me of how much more at ease I feel in an urban area which makes Singapore a decent place to live in my book.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Clinique Chubby Stick in Mega Melon: The "Meh" Balm Stick

The Clinique Chubby Sticks are one of the most popular lip balm sticks and probably kicked off the whole balm lipstick trend as almost every major beauty brand has its own version now. I claimed a mini chubby stick in Mega Melon with 100 Sephora beauty insider points hoping to fall in love with the convenient lippie. Sadly, Mega Melon left a bit to be desired.

The full size stick contains .1 ounces and costs $16 which places it at the midrange mark in terms of lip products. There are 16 shades in the range which is plenty to choose from. Not to mention there are eight additional shades from the Chubby Stick Intense range. Mega Melon is a warm coral red with golden shimmer. The shade is nice for everyday wear and pairs best with warm toned eyes and lips. This could be a summer staple product...

...except for one flaw: it's lack of moisture. Clinique claims their chubby sticks are "a super-nourishing tinted lip balm" but I disagree. Mega Melon skips and drags on my bare lips and feels a bit gritty from the shimmers. My lips do not feel nourished or particularly healthy. If Clinique did not make such moisturizing claims, I may have forgiven the product but it simply doesn't deliver what it says it should. To make this product glide on, I first have to apply lip balm liberally. Then the balm stick is wearable and more comfortable.

If you don't mind slathering on some lip balm prior to applying this and you're head over heels for one of the many shades to choose from, you might be a fan of the Clinique Chubby Sticks. I, on the other hand, will skip the Clinique balm stick offerings. Instead of these drying sticks, might I recommend the Soap & Glory Sexy Mother Pucker Gloss Sticks? What are your favorite glossy balm sticks?