Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Zoya PixieDust Liberty: Deep Sea Bubbles in a Bottle

Zoya's Pixiedust polishes are becoming a great quick mani go-to for me these days. After loving the effect of Destiny, I opted for the deep cerulean shade in the summer Pixiedust collection which was provided by Zoya for consideration. The dark blue reminds me of the ocean and the glittery flecks make the polish quite a stunner. 

The $9 Pixiedust polishes are meant to be worn sans base and top coat which make them a breeze to apply when you're in a hurry. The base of the polish dries matte while the glittery bits create an interesting sandpaper-like texture. 

Liberty took three coats to achieve an opaque look and was easy to remove like Destiny. The blue color did stain my fingers a bit though. This color would suit darker skinned people very well and is a very beach appropriate shade. I don't really dig mid to dark blues on myself personally but others will love this hue.

If you're into fun, glitzy nail polish but don't want to hassle with base and top coats or annoying polish removal, I highly recommend the Zoya Pixiedust polishes.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Asia Travels 2013 Part 1: Kuala Lumpur, Cameron Highlands, and Ipoh, Malaysia

The last time I traveled to Malaysia was six long years ago and I mainly stayed in Kuala Lumpur and visited a few relatives in different parts of the country. This summer, my family and I added a few more stops to our itinerary and were on the road about every two to three days. I will be devoting three blog posts to document my journey throughout Malaysia and Singpore and a fourth post about the few days I spent in Hong Kong before returning to New York. Let's begin!

I have surprisingly few touristy photos of the sights in Kuala Lumpur because I simply don't do many of the touristy things there. A fair portion of my relatives live in the capital so my time is usually spent in their homes. Getting around Kuala Lumpur is difficult without a car because the public transit is poor and taxis can be dangerous and expensive since traffic is a big problem. One of the touristy things I did around KL was climb up the Batu caves for the first time.

While the cave was not incredibly impressive and the steep walk was slightly nauseating given the heat and humidity, the monkeys made the trip worth it. The monkeys who live in the area aren't shy and will take any food offered to them.

One of the best things about Malaysia, and Southeast Asia in general, are the tropical fruits! Mangosteen, longan, rambutan, and more are easily found in stalls along the roads. These kinds of fruits are found in Asian supermarkets in New York City but they're often expensive and not very fresh.

I was surprised by how much people seem to eat outside instead of at home. Food is relatively inexpensive with the exchange rate in mind. A bowl of noodles usually costs about RM5 which is less than $2. Pictured above is dry wonton noodles, yum!

On this trip I visited Cameron Highlands, a popular weekend trip destination for locals, for the first time. The highlands used to be known for being very cool and even chilly due to the elevation and abundance of trees. However, the hills are evidently being developed and the more urban areas are quite an eyesore.

The Boh tea plantation is located in Cameron Highlands and is a nice place to enjoy a cup of the famous tea.

If you fancy a few days rest from the city, a weekend in a hilltop bungalow might just do the trick.

There are various agricultural centers scattered throughout the area growing everything from lettuce to strawberries.

This plantation we visited had a section devoted to cacti and there were many uniquely odd ones to look at. Unfortunately I don't believe you can take home cacti in your luggage....

Next we headed towards Ipoh, the capital of Perak state, where our family friend grew up. He lived in a tiny kampung (village) as a child and a few of his relatives still live in the same houses. We went into one of the houses and the floor was smooth rock, the toilet was in an outhouse and there was no air conditioning! 

Nothing like a bit of durian as a midday snack. This smelly fruit is not for everyone but I personally really like it! It's one of my favorite fruits although I don't get to eat it often.

By night fall we were in Ipoh's city center and our dinner consisted of chicken noodles which are famous there. The hor fun (wide and flat rice noodles) in Malaysia are really good although I find it really difficult to eat hot soup noodles in the heat sometimes.

Nearby there was a pasar malam (night market) selling a variety of counterfeit goods and cheap clothing. I rarely ever make a purchase at these markets but it's nice to walk through them after a heavy meal.

My time in Ipoh was mostly spent with family friends doing normal things (like watching Despicable Me 2!) so I don't have many photos or stories to share. We went to the Kinta Riverfront Walk which I can imagine is a nice spot for a date. If you ever go to Malaysia and pass by Ipoh, make sure to stock up on some Malaysian snacks like kachang puteh and tambun biscuits.

Blogging about all of this now makes everything feel years away although it was only a few weeks ago. Stay tuned for more about my summer travels!

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Warm Weather Go-To: Catrice Defining Blush in Love & Peach

Continuing with the Catrice defining blush reviews comes Love & Peach, one of the more summery shades out of the six permanent shades available. I have already reviewed Rose Royce and Toffee Fairy. Looking back, I realize I probably should have swatched and reviewed all the shades together as the quality is consistently great. But alas, I will write my praises again for this shade.

As a recap, Catrice is a drugstore German brand that is available in the Netherlands at Kruidvat and various other retailers around Europe. I spotted a Catrice display at a Guardian in Singapore so other countries have limited access to the brand as well. Unfortunately for Americans, the brand is not readily available. The packaging for the blushes is a sturdy clear plastic which is reminiscent of Shu Uemura's packaging. The retail price is a bit under €4 for 5 grams of product, which is very reasonable and made it irresistible for me to collect all six shades.

Love & Peach is a bright, matte coral that is perfect for sunkissed skin. Those with lighter complexions may want to use a light hand to achieve a more natural flush. Like all of the other Catrice blushes, Love & Peach is soft, smooth and pigmented without being powdery or crumbly. Love & Peach makes a lovely statement cheek color and I think it's one that many will enjoy in the spring and summer months.

The only downfall of this product, as with all other Catrice products, is the limited availability. If you are able to get your hands on Catrice, I highly recommend the blushes!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Sleek Oh So Special Eyeshadow Palette

Sleek is one of the most popular budget beauty brands from the UK and for good reason. The iDivine eyeshadow palettes feature 12 shadows of varying finishes and the color combinations range from everyday neutrals to wild brights. When I traveled to London a few months ago, I treated myself to a single Sleek eyeshadow palette and went with the Oh So Special version. The Oh So Special palette has neutral everyday shades as well as a few fun pinks that I do not yet own in my collection.

For a relatively inexpensive beauty brand, Sleek has above average packaging. The eyeshadows are housed in a smooth, sturdy black plastic case. The inside cover is a generous, high quality mirror that is helpful for traveling. Each palette retails for £7.99 at Superdrug and other retailers in the UK. I picked up my palette during a three for two offer so I got an even better deal. Sleek products are available to international buyers through their website and each palette is $9.99 which is a good rate. The palettes are made in China. 

Each shade is named but the names are only printed on a flimsy plastic insert. I usually toss out the plastic sleeves that come in palettes because they make it a hassle when you want to grab product. I would prefer the names to be printed on the back of the palette for easy reference.

All of the eyeshadows are very finely milled and well pigmented. The mattes are smooth and show up decently on the skin but the shimmers and metallics definitely steal the show. The shimmery shadows have more of a buttery feel and reflect light really beautifully. This palette is very versatile whether you want a simple, everyday look or a dramatic smokey eye. Gateau, Ribbon and Wrapped Up are the three most unique shades in the palette that make it worth the purchase.

The Sleek Oh So Special palette gets two thumbs up from me as the quality is great for a drugstore find and you get some basic must have shades as well as some that are one of a kind. Have you tried Sleek products? How would you create a look with the Oh So Special palette?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Unexpected Lip Combo Love: Tarte & E.L.F

As I was going through my lip product drawer in the hopes of downsizing my stash, I pulled two lippies that I had never really liked and was almost sure they'd find new homes. But just for kicks, I tried the Tarte LipSurgence Natural Matte Lip Tint in Lucky and E.L.F Luscious Liquid Lipstick in Perfect Pink together. Turns out, they actually make a great lip combination!

My main gripe with the Tarte lip tint was that the matte formula was too drying when worn alone. The pencil made my lips look lifeless and the feeling was uncomfortable. The E.L.F lipgloss was pigmented but often looked goopy upon application. I layered the E.L.F gloss over the lip pencil and then blotted off the extra gloss, leaving my lips with a subtle sheen that was not sticky or thick. The E.L.F gloss is moisturizing so the lip pencil did not irritate my lips. The colors go very well together and meld into the perfect cool toned pink. 

Sometimes a product may seem like a total flop on it's own but when paired with another, it can turn out to be quite nice! What are some unexpected makeup combinations that you've found?

Sunday, July 14, 2013

ARTDECO Beauty Box: An Awesome Customizable Palette

Let's rewind a bit and talk about another purchase from my European travels.... I always do my beauty homework before jetting off somewhere so I knew I had to find some ARTDECO products whilst in Amsterdam. I had seen gorgeous swatches of ARTDECO eyeshadows on Delicate Hummingbird's blog and, of course, wanted some for myself. ARTDECO is readily available in the Netherlands at Douglas stores and I purchased a few pieces within my first month in Europe. Their most well known products are definitely the beauty box compacts and the eyeshadows, blushes, concealers and other products that go in them. 

There are a variety of beauty boxes to choose from that hold a different number of eyeshadows and blushes. I purchased the limited edition Dita Von Teese compact simply because Douglas was doing a 20% off everything promotion and this was the only slightly larger palette in stock. I would have preferred one of the plain palettes and if it were available, I would have purchased the magnum palette. The palettes do not come cheap and the Dita Von Teese size retails for €14 ($18). 

Each eyeshadow pan retails for about €5 and the blushes for €8.50 which definitely add up if you fill up your palette at once. Each eyeshadow pan only contains .02 oz which is less than half of a standard .05 oz eyeshadow (Mac or Urban Decay singles). Considering the amount you get for the price, the beauty boxes are rather expensive.

There are a vast array of shades to choose from and each shade is given a number instead of a proper name. This makes memorizing shades quite difficult. The pans are sold with plastic covers that slip on and off which can be handy if you only have one palette and more pans than can fit at once. There are little stickers on the sides of the pans that denote the shade number but they are quite flimsy and if you switch out your pans often, the stickers will probably fall off quickly. I wish the numbers were imprinted on the actual pans.

The pans have a magnet at the back and secure nicely into the palette, leaving no gaps. The pans are easily removed by applying a bit of pressure to the corners. The magnet is strong enough to ensure products do not rustle around or fall out of the compact but not so strong that makes it hard to remove.

The quality of the eyeshadows and blush I chose are really amazing. The powders are supremely finely milled and buttery to the touch. The pigment is perfect and transfers well to the skin. I went with mostly neutral shimmery shadows because ARTDECO does some stunning duochromes and complex shades. I felt a bit daring and picked up a lilac shadow that looks beautiful paired with the darker taupes in the palette. I went with a matte neutral plum blush because I don't have many blushes like it in my collection.

If ARTDECO was more affordable, the beauty box system would definitely be a nice alternative to the Inglot freedom system. The ability to pick and choose shades from a very large variety appeals to me and if the brand were readily available, I know I'd definitely have an unhealthy amount of beauty boxes in my stash. For those who don't mind purchasing online for slightly inflated prices, Beauty Bay sells ARTDECO.  If you come across this German brand, I would highly recommend checking out their eyeshadows and blushes.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Zoya PixieDust Destiny: An Unexpected Love

Zoya was kind enough to send me a few of their recent collections but they arrived while I was still studying abroad so I only recently was able to test them. Since summer is in full effect, I wanted to try one of the PixieDust Summer 2013 releases first. My eyes gravitated toward Destiny, a lovely bright coral with amazing gold sparkle. 

The innovative PixieDust formula features a matte colored base loaded with sparkles to create a "sugary finish". Zoya advises the polish be used without a base coat or top coat, something I was wary about at first but came to appreciate as it saves time. I needed three coats to achieve an opaque look with Destiny although some people with not so stark nail tips can be covered in two. Once dry, the polish has a bumpy feel that is noticeable but not rough or harsh.

I wasn't expecting to like Destiny and the whole PixieDust idea as much as I do. From online swatches to seeing what competing nail polish makers were putting out, the polishes looked gritty and unattractive. However, in real life, the PixieDust formula catches the light wonderfully and makes it look like I painted my nails with druzy. It looks really unique but is totally wearable for everyday.

The lasting power was so-so as I got minor tip wear on my pointer and middle fingers on the third day after application. Minor chipping on these fingers occurred the next day. Five days later and chipping only affected those two nails on both hands while the rest stayed intact. I was scared that removal would be akin to removing a chunky glitter polish but it wasn't the case at all! The polish came off easily and did not leave any staining.

I was pleasantly surprised by the Zoya PixieDust formula in terms of the finish and feel of the polish. Destiny is a beautiful bright coral shade that will be a summer staple in my collection. Have you tried the textured nail trend?

Monday, July 8, 2013

Paris Beauty Haul: City Pharma and Melvita Goodies!

Before I start blogging about my Asia beauty hauls, I should probably wrap up the things I picked up in Europe. I was excited to visit Paris not only to see the sights but to pay a visit to City Pharma (sad, but true). In recent years, French skincare has become more widely accessible to those of us abroad by way of drugstores and online shops.

But a few cult favorites are only found readily in French pharmacies and the prices for French skincare is cheaper in Paris across the board. I specifically went to City Pharma on Rue Du Four because they are known to have the best prices and a large selection. The place was packed with women grabbing handfuls of skincare. I made a rough list of what I wanted before heading in which made the whole affair much more manageable.

I bought a backup of my favorite dry shampoo, the Klorane Oat Milk Dry Shampoo (€7.90/$10.32 - regularly $18). Phyto is quite pricey in the states so I haven't tried much from the line but the Phyto Soothing Treatment Shampoo (€6.80/$8.89 - regularly $24) looked like a good, gentle shampoo. I couldn't pass up the value pack of two 500ml bottles of Bioderma (€15.90/$20.78 - regularly ~$35 for one 500ml bottle) because just about every beauty blogger on earth has tried and loved this cleansing water. I am beginning to see Bioderma being sold in many boutiques in New York for exorbitant prices so I'm not sure if I would repurchase this if I happen to adore it. Next up, I got two acne treatments: Bioderma Sébium AKN (€8.90/$11.63 - regularly ~$25 online) and Avéne TriAcnéal (€9.30/$12.15 - regularly $60 on Dermstore (official AveneUSA retailer) which are similar to La Roche Posay Effaclar Duo. Lastly from City Pharma I grabbed a special offer duo pack of the Nuxe Rêve de Miel Lip Moisturizing Stick (€5.95/$7.78 - regularly $9 for one) and the Nuxe Rêve de Miel Ultra-Nourishing Lip Balm (€6.90/$9.02 - regularly $19).

There was a Melvita boutique close to my hotel and I popped in to buy a full size of the Melvita Rose Floral Water (€10.90/$14.25 - regularly $22). The store was really beautiful and I was tempted to make a few unnecessary purchases but I held off since I had already gotten so much at City Pharma. The sales associate didn't seem to speak any English but she still threw in three samples for me to try which was really nice.

That wraps up my Paris beauty haulage and the last of the goodies I got from Europe! I spent quite a bit of money but justify it seeing how much I saved compared to the retail price in America. All in all, I saved about  $150 on all of the products which is amazing! Stay tuned for more beauty from abroad hauls featuring Asian products!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Travel Makeup Bag: Oriental Summer

I've arrived in hot and humid Kuala Lumpur and I'm wondering how anyone can stand to wear makeup for an entire day. Here's the makeup I've brought with me to tackle the scorching heat of South East Asia!

I brought a variety of base options to enhance my complexion which has been extra spotty lately. I packed a sample of the Perfekt Skin Perfection Gel in the shade Rich. The gel is pretty much colorless once applied and makes the skin look healthier while minimizing shine and the appearance of pores. It makes my skin feel really smooth and soft as well. For no makeup days, a bit of the gel will improve the look of my skin ever so slightly. The Perricone MD No Foundation Foundation is a nice base layer of sheer tint that I like to wear under concealer and powder for light makeup days. The shade is quite dark and I find that I can only use it when I'm tan. The Revlon Age Defying Concealer is one of my favorite and the shade I have is perfect for my summer skintone. For under eyes I'm still using Benefit's Erase Paste which I now like to apply with a fluffy blending brush in circular motions instead of pressing with my fingers. If I feel like wearing foundation I might want to prime first with the Clarins Instant Smooth Perfecting Touch and then apply Clinique's Moisture Sheer Tint or Bourjois' Healthy Mix Foundation. I decanted a bit of each base into little sample containers because I won't need to use much during my trip.

For cheeks I'm keeping everything super simple. I'm bringing the E.L.F Studio Blush and Bronzing Duo in the original shade. The bronzer suits my skin really well when I have a bit of tan and the shimmers are undetectable once on my skin. While I have also have the full size of TheBalm's Mary LouManizer Highlighter, this cute eyeshadow sized version is better for traveling!

A handful of eye related essentials include the Rimmel Lash Accelerator Endless Mascara which I received from Influenster. The mascara does nothing for my lashes aside from a bit of separation but I just want to use it up. I also have the Essence All Eyes On Me Waterproof Mascara which does little for my upper lashes but lengthens my lower lashes nicely. Again, I just want to use it up. The Eyeko Skinny Liquid Eyeliner is one of my travel favorites because it's no fuss and easy to use. I wanted to bring a bright eyeliner in case I felt like adding some color to my makeup and opted for Cargo's Swimmable Eyeliner in a teal shade. I use The Face Shop's Automatic Eyeliner in Black Brown as my brow pencil. To keep my eye makeup on my lids, I'm bringing E.L.F's Mineral Eyeshadow Primer which is probably the best inexpensive eyeshadow base. Lastly I packed a Physician's Formula Gel Liner in Brown.

I'm keeping it simple for eyeshadow because I'm a neutral girl through and through. Rimmel's Eyeshadow Quad in Smokey Brun is an excellent palette that I can use on the daily. For the easiest hint of shadow, Maybelline's Bad To The Bronze Color Tattoo is a favorite. The Wet n' Wild Vanity Palette also made the cut because I need a matte cream to highlight the browbone and a matte midtone brown to blend in the crease. 

For lips I couldn't narrow down my options so I'm bringing two lipstick-ish products and three glosses. The KIKO Ultra Glossy Stylo in Red Coral is great if you're in the sun a lot because it has SPF 15. The Tarte  LipSurgence Natural Lip Lustre in Dazzled adds a bit of coral tint and glossiness without stickiness. The Too Faced Glamour Gloss in Pillow Talk is one of my favorite glosses and a nice natural, nude shade. The plumping formula has a minty, tingly sensation which will be nice in the heat! The Revlon Super Lustrous Lipgloss in Coral Reef is a favorite of mine for summer. Lastly is the Revlon Colorbust Lipgloss in Strawberry which looks lovely on tanned skin.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Carry-On Beauty Bits For A Long Haul Flight

Two weeks and two days back at home in New York City and I'm off again for a three and a half week family vacation to Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong! This year is the year of traveling for me and I will have spent nearly half of 2013 abroad. 

The worst part of traveling to Asia for me is the flight time. From New York to Hong Kong I will be trapped on a plane for 16 whopping hours. After a two hour stopover, I'm back on the plane for nearly four grueling hours before I land in Kuala Lumpur. So what's in my carry-on TSA approved baggie for the long haul flight...?

Only a few bits and bobs, actually! I'm packing super light for this flight and need just a few basics to tie me over. Everything is sample sized as I always have back stocked samples purposely for traveling! The Avene Micellar Lotion will serve as much gentle cleanser as it makes my skin feel clean and refreshed but not stripped. To tone up my skin I have the Caudalie Beauty Elixir which refreshes and calms. I intend to use this spray throughout my trip to cool down my skin as well. To hydrate my skin while I read, sleep and watch a few in-flight movies, I'll be applying the Avene Soothing Moisture Mask. After a few hours I intend to cleanse again and apply a proper moisturizer instead, the Avene Hydrance Optimale Rich Hydrating Cream. My oily skin would probably fare better with a lighter gel moisturizer but I have none on hand at the moment and the air on the plane is so dry that my skin will probably be parched.

Some miscellaneous products include hair ties and mini clips to keep my locks out of my eyes. Hand sanitizer is a must when traveling and you never know when you might need it. The Ahava Essential Day Moisturizer is supposed to be a moisturizer but I plan on using it as a hand cream instead. If I happen to need a moisturizer, I guess it could be a multitasker. A hand mirror is always nice to have at your disposal when traveling.

Sample sachets are perfect for flying as they take up no space at all and usually include enough product for at least one use. I have a mish mash of fragrance and skincare samples just in case I need a bit of primping during the flight.

How do you pack for long haul flights? What do you do on long journeys to keep yourself occupied? I almost never get any sleep on long flights and hope that I can get at least five hours of shut eye for this journey! What are your tips and tricks to surviving a 20+ hour commute?

Monday, July 1, 2013

Brooklyn Flea: Williamsburg

Having grown up in the borough of Queens my entire life, Brooklyn always seemed very far away and not worth the trouble to trek to. But in recent months I've changed my mind and one of my summer goals is to get to know the hipster borough a little better. Every Sunday Williamsburg hosts a flea market so I hopped on the L train with a few girlfriends and checked out the wares.

The flea market is situated at the edge of Brooklyn and offers a good view of the Manhattan skyline. The forecast was quite dreary yesterday and a hazy overcast hung over the skyscrapers.

First we hit the food stands which offered everything from frozen bananas to Asian fusion pork buns. I opted for a $4 chicken taco and a $3 organic hibiscus tea. The eats are mostly up-scale street food made from organic ingredients and health-conscious twists with a price to match.

Two of my friends split a shrimp and chips as a little snack. It smelled wonderful!

There were probably around fifty or so stands that sold everything from shoes to jewelry to furniture. Many stands sold handcrafted goods which is great if you're looking for a one-of-a-kind treat.

There were some cool vintage knick-knacks. I touched a type-writer for the first time!

If you're into eclectic home-decor, this would be a nice place to browse. You're sure to find pieces that Ikea doesn't offer.

While some of the prices are very pricey (especially the handmade clothing), there were a few inexpensive trinkets that I could afford. I snatched up a unique vintage ring for $5.

The Williamsburg flea market is a fun hang out place if you're in the area and need a quick bite to eat or you have an hour or two to kill. If you're a hardcore thrifter, this is probably not up your alley as the prices are inflated but it's nice for the DIY-impaired and those looking for interesting gifts.