Thursday, July 31, 2014

Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Concentrate: Overnight Skin Fix

As someone who struggled with chronic acne for many years and who still gets a pimple here and there, I'm amazed whenever I look in the mirror and actually see clear skin. While it's probably due to a combination of growing older, drinking a lot of water and getting at least seven hours of sleep per night, there are a handful of skincare products that I would like to thank as well. The Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Concentrate is a rather popular night time face oil that I love using once or twice a week to give my skin a healthy boost. 

I have a sample vial of this oil but it has lasted me weeks since you only need two to three drops per application and I do not use this everyday. I'm sure drier skinned people could use this as their night time moisturizer daily and I could probably even use this in the winter on a more regular basis. But for my oily skin, I like to use this as a leave-on treatment on days that I want my skin to look extra plump and healthy the morning after.

According to Kiehl's, this product is 99.8% naturally derived and paraben free. The formula is a concoction of various essential oils such as evening primrose and lavender. The scent is a pleasant, light lavender fragrance that calms my mind right before bed which is a nice touch. Although this is an oil, it does not feel greasy or unpleasant on the skin at all. I rub the oil between my palms and pat the tiny bit on my hands onto my face. The oil sinks in immediately and does not leave me shiny. If anything, I look dewy and refreshed. The next morning, my skin looks and feels soothed and moisturized but never oily. This is a great product for oily skins that get dehydrated from environmental factors. 

Since you only need a tiny bit, I reason the $46 price for 1 ounce is worth the money. There are larger sizes available that give you more bang for your buck if you happen to love this product. I read many raves about the Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Concentrate and I'm happy to say i had a positive experience using it as well.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Japanese Cheek Brush Trifecta: Wayne Goss, Chikuhodo, Hakuhodo

If there's one beauty product category I have no regrets paying top dollar for, it would be makeup brushes. Makeup expires and skincare has to be replaced frequently but brushes last a lifetime if they are high quality and well taken care of. My most prized and most reached for trio of face brushes all happen to be Japanese made and suited for the cheeks. 

The Hakuhodo Yachiyo Large Pointed Brush is the most interesting looking brush in my collection by far. I acquired it at IMATS back in April and although I originally intended to use it for blush, it's become my favorite contouring brush. The tapered goat hair is incredibly soft but sturdy enough to hold its shape and not flop around when I'm buffing bronzer into my skin. The cane handle is very light but not flimsy at all. The hair on this brush is very easy to wash and even when I don't wash the bristles right away, there is no staining. 

The Chikuhodo Passion Series PS-2 Cheek Brush is my preferred blush brush at the moment. You can purchase a selection of Chikuhodo brushes from Beautylish. While also made of goat hair, the PS-2 is marginally softer than the Hakuhodo Yachiyo and has slightly more give. After washing, the bristles will fan out a bit so the brush head is more round. The density of this brush makes it perfect for blushes that are not very pigmented. This brush deposits color onto my cheeks effortlessly and feels extremely gentle. The handle of this brush is quite short but I prefer short handled brushes because they are easier to travel with (not sure if I would travel with such precious brushes though) and I can get very close to the mirror. The pink handle is deep enough so it doesn't look too feminine.  

The Wayne Goss #14 Brush is the perfect companion for pigmented powder highlighters. I have been using this daily with theBalm's Mary-Lou Manizer because I always had trouble picking up the teeniest bit of highlight since it is so intense. This brush is tightly bound at the ferrule but the hairs are long so there is a lot of give at the brush tip. The small diameter of the brush makes it great for applying product solely to the tops of my cheekbones. Like the other two brushes, this is also comprised of goat hair. At first I was unsure how practical this brush would be. It honestly does not look as durable as the other two brushes because it is less dense and a few stray hairs splay out after washing. But so far, I have not had any shedding or hair breakage. I also use this brush to apply very pigmented blushes and it works wonderfully for that. 

These three brushes are my top picks when it comes to applying powder bronzer, blush and highlighter. I tend to use synthetic brushes for cream and liquid products because I do not want to risk damaging the natural bristles. 

The thought and craftsmanship that goes into each of these brushes makes each piece a work of art. I am head over heels in love with Japanese artisan crafted brushes because the quality is impeccable for the relatively affordable price. Yes, $30 might seem like a lot for a tool but these will last you years and years and you'd be hard pressed to find better brushes at a similar price point. 

I already have many more brushes from these three brands on my wishlist so you can expect more raves in the future. Squirrel hair is just about the softest brush hair that I have ever felt as Wayne's eye brushes are constructed from blue squirrel. Since I'm covered on the cheek brush front for now, I have quite a few eye and powder brushes I want to try out!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Six Product Face

Blogging hasn't been at the top of my priorities in the last few days and I'm falling off my usual schedule of posting every second or third day. Working seven days a week and trying to make time for friends and family after work doesn't leave much time for photographing, editing and writing.

So it's no surprise that on many mornings I look like a zombie but don't have a whole lot of time or energy to paint on a cat eye or contour my cheekbones. Thus, the beauty of the six product face. With these handful of essentials, I can look awake and confident without having to spend precious time dolling myself up.

Face Primer: I need my makeup to last at least twelve hours and I've found that primer does help. I really like the Laura Geller Spackle Under Makeup Primer because it feels like a gel moisturizer and does not feel like silicone at all.

Concealer: To create the illusion of well rested eyes, I need to brighten with a bit of under eye concealer. I'm still trying to use up a mini of the Benefit Erase Paste which I've had for years. This stuff is potent and a little goes a long, long way so it's definitely worth the money. If I'm in a hurry, I can also use this as a spot concealer for the rest of my face. I tend to conceal around the edges of my nose and mouth to hide redness.

Powder Foundation: Liquid foundation takes too much time to perfect and by using powder foundation with some coverage, I can skip a step since I always have to set my makeup anyway. I've been liking the Laura Geller Balance-n-Brighten Baked Color Correcting Foundation in Medium. It goes on silky smooth and looks very natural on the skin.

Blush: To add a bit of color and definition to my face, I dust on a little blush on the apples of my cheeks. I dug out Cargo's Mendocino Blush which I've had for a very long time but rarely use. The blush is dark enough to bring out my natural flush and a teensy bit of shimmer in the powder gives my cheeks a soft highlight.

Brows: My brows are rather wimpy so brow pencil is a must. I love the Innisfree Eyebrow Pencil because of the slanted edge. It makes extending the tail of my short brows so effortless and easy. I also like the spoolie on the other end of the pencil because I can quickly comb out the lines.

Lashes: A few years ago I would have picked liner over mascara because a cat eye opens up my small eyes so much more than whatever a mascara can do for my lashes. But a quick clamp with an eyelash curler and a few strokes of Maybelline's The Rocket Waterproof Mascara is so much faster. Eyeliner looks a tad funny without mascara while mascara looks alright just by itself.

If I'm going for a bare look, this is what you'd find on my face. What is your minimalist six product face?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Beautylish & SpaceNK Haul: Hourglass, Kevyn Aucoin, Chikuhodo & Wayne Goss

When I saw that Gilt was offering $25 for $50 codes for SpaceNK, I totally forgot about my year-long makeup ban and placed an order for two cheek products I have been eyeing up for months. I totally would have gotten the $50 for $100 code but by I fought myself for several hours over whether or not I should give into my beauty lemmings and the better deal was sold out. I paid for this whole order with a giftcard I had been saving up so technically this was a present.... 

One of the Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blushes is finally mine and I chose the shade Luminous Flush. It's the standard peachy pink blush that looks lovely on everyone that I can really get some use out of. I believe this is my first Hourglass product to make its way into my collection although I have tried some samples of Hourglass bases in the past. In the spirit of trying new things, I plopped the Kevyn Aucoin The Creamy Glow Duo in #4 Sculpting Medium and Candlelight into my virtual basket. I have a bajillion bronzers and highlighters but not too many in cream form. My rationale for this purchase was how convenient it would be to tuck this into my makeup bag for touch-ups between my day job and a fancy evening out. 

The total for both products was originally $63 and $5.58 in tax but after my $50 discount, I paid $14.15 in difference. Also, Gilt had a 20% off code (Welcome20) so I only paid $20 for my $50 voucher. All in all, I only paid $34.15 which is less than the retail price of one Ambient Lighting Blush! Shipping was free and super speedy since the warehouse is in New Jersey. I love that the products come in a sturdy plastic bag which is great for getting through TSA and they also threw in three random sample packets from high end brands I've never tried. I had a great experience ordering from SpaceNK and now am scared I won't be able to look away the next time a deal this good comes by.   

The night before my unnecessary SpaceNK purchase, I went back and forth for an hour or two debating if I should place an order on Beautylish for a Chikuhodo brush. You can see how that debate ended. I love the Wayne Goss #4 Brush I bought from Beautylish at IMATS so I was keen on trying one of the face brushes form his line. I settled on the Wayne Goss #14 Brush and while I usually look to maximize the functionality of expensive brushes, I had a very specific task for this one. I wanted a very fluffy highlighter brush to use with TheBalm's Mary-Lou Manizer, one of my favorite highlights but also one of the most difficult one to apply without looking like a glimmery mess. I also purchased the Chikuhodo Passion Series PS-2 Cheek Brush for blush. I didn't need another blush brush but I was very curious about the quality of Chikuhodo brushes and this one was a reasonable price and one that I could get a lot of use out of. 

Both of the brushes are crafted by Japanese artisans and use natural hair. The hairs are not cut like with most brushes but aligned by hand to achieve impeccable softness and durability. The Wayne Goss #14 Brush is $33 and the Chikuhodo Passion Series PS-2 Cheek Brush is $38. In my view, these are bargain prices for the quality you are getting. I see brushes as investments that will last years and honestly, these are less expensive than many a Mac brush which are honestly inferior. Also, first time Beautylish shoppers get $10 off their order which made this purchase even sweeter! At only about $30 a brush, I am very happy with my newest brush additions. I hope to collect a few more Japanese brushes from Hakuhodo and perhaps a few more eye brushes from Wayne.

Have you tried any of these products before? Have any Japanese brush recommendations? I am looking to add many more Hakuhodo brushes to my collection in the future so I would love to read about your personal favorites!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Holika Holika Heartful Silky Lipstick in Tomato Red

A few weeks ago I wanted to sport a matte red lip for July Fourth festivities and considered buying a new one. For some reason, I almost forgot I had this beauty in my collection gathering dust since I bought it in January. It's another one of those cases where I swatch something and proceed to let it gather dust in a drawer. I liked the Holika Holika Heart Full Glossy Lipstick in Honey Beige but I tihnk I might love the Heartful (spelling inconsistency?) Silky Lipstick in Tomato Red even more! 

The silky lipsticks are a matte finish and have a slightly different casing design than the glossy lipsticks. The size and weight of the cases are the same though and the signature heart lipstick bullets are identical. The scent is the same as the glossy lipsticks and I love it. It's fruity and sweet without being overwhelming.

I bought the glossy and silky lipsticks for ₩8,000 which is a bit less than $8 and there was a 1+1 promotion so I got two for the price of one. This makes each of these less than the price of a regular Revlon, Maybelline or L'Oreal lippie! Urban Outfitters is stepping up their international beauty offerings and actually sells 10 shades of the silky lipsticks for $12 each. It's definitely a marked up price but I don't think it's too expensive and considering the cuteness and quality, I'd jump on these!

The finish of this lipstick is truly matte but not drying at all. I like that they marketed these as silky lipsticks because they do have a very smooth, luxurious feel. The top swatch is one light swipe and you can see on the bottom how three swipes looks. The lipstick bullet has an odd shape but I find the curvy part at the top of the heart is actually nice for defining the edges of the lips. 

This is a true tomato red lipstick and I adore the shade on my yellow toned skin. As you can see, the finish is comfortably matte as my lips don't look parched after application. The formula sets to an almost powdery finish and doesn't migrate outside of lip lines. The staying power is not great and after any meal, I have to reapply on the inside portion of my lips because I'm left with an outer ring of red lipstick on my pout. I reapplied this lipstick probably four or five times throughout the course of a day and I didn't have a problem with dry or peeling lips.

I can't believe I neglected this stunner of a lipstick for so long even when I've been admiring matte red lips on others for the last few weeks. Everyone needs a shade like this to glam up their look once in awhile and I can't find anything to nitpick on besides the average staying power. Skip the drying mattes and look into a Holika Holika Silky Lipstick instead!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

My Take On: The Pursuit of Happiness

Today am I reviving the "My Take On" series which I introduced back in 2012 with posts on how I dealt with body image and acne. It's hard to believe that I haven't done more of these personal heart to heart posts in the last two years. Several readers expressed positive feedback when I wrote about my struggles with physical issues and how they affected my psychological well being. I hope to gain some insight on this issue that takes place mostly on an emotional level.

The last year of high school was when everyone around me started asking me what I wanted to do. The very question is vague and any answer could be interpreted as failure on one front or another. At 17 years old, I was expected to know what field I was to embark on for the rest of my adult life. After fumbling around with terse, half-hearted answers, I probably saw an inspirational quote on Tumblr and came up with the idea that it wouldn't matter what I did as long as I was happy. I can't pinpoint when this happy ideal entered my brain but it took hold and I was intent on proudly telling off my parents' friends who badgered me with questions concerning my future.

It was only until the last few months that I realized how futile the pursuit of happiness is. The human experience is made up of so many more emotions than just "happy". There are various states of happiness from the satisfaction of getting that A+ on a term paper to the sweet relief of being told the tumor was benign. In order to properly feel happy, we need to have a spectrum of emotions. Yes, that means we have to be sad sometimes.

For the majority of my college years I believed that happiness lay in a successful career and hefty sum in the bank. I tired myself out working several jobs which were rewarding in life experiences but also grueling on my mind and body. Having to switch to different modes several times a day and having no time alone took a toll on my mental health. One minute I was exuberant and a few minutes later I could be holding back tears at the slightest imperfection. In one supremely embarrassing episode, I burst out into heaving sobs in front of around 20 coworkers when my lunch went missing from the fridge at my retail job. I hid my negative feelings underneath countless layers of artificial resilience and grit which weakened my emotional stability. Bouncing between joy and melancholy is not healthy and I am almost glad the stolen lunch episode woke me up. I quit the job soon afterwards and gave myself more time to spend mending my personal relationships which I had neglected.

Some days are rough and filled with more doubt than hope but I think we need a bit of self doubt and serious reflection to guide us in a direction that will lead to greater content. I can't say I've completely learned my lesson in terms of not wearing myself too thin for the sake of career advances. At the moment I have a full time internship on weekdays and a part time job that occupies my weekends.

I think I have gotten better at expecting less of others and anticipating the future less than I used to. I want to set myself realistic expectations instead of aiming way over my head and paving a road to additional stressors and unfulfilled dreams. For now, I aim for contentment and snippets of daily gratefulness. What do you think about the happiness ideal? Is it possible to be in a state of perpetual joy? What experiences bring you contentment and what are some of the worries that prevent you from attaining it?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Lush Mint Julips: Tingly Scrubby Goodness

I know, I know. You can easily make your own sugar lip scrub using ingredients in your kitchen. But this is so much easier... and probably better than anything I can concoct. Lush makes three permanent lip scrubs and I was drawn to Mint Julips the most since I tend to like minty lip products. 

Mint Julips is a crumbly scrub that simply exfoliates your lips without being too harsh and abrasive. A little goes a long way so the small jar will last you quite a few months depending on how often you need a scrub. The scrub retails for $9.95 so it is relatively affordable for a high quality lip scrub.

The scent is sweet and peppermint-y and you can't miss the cooling sensation when the sugar particles touch your lips. The sugar granules slough away dry flakes while cold pressed organic jojoba oil nourish your pout. My lips are immediately softer and plumper after using this scrub.

The ingredients are simple and free of animal derived substances so vegans can use this. There are also no preservatives in the formula. The glass packaging has a nice weight to it and feels sturdy. The jar packaging might not be the most sanitary but I guess it would be difficult to dispense this solid scrub any other way. 

I enjoyed this product more than I thought I would when I initially bought it. I love the simplicity of Mint Julips and I actually remember to use this because I enjoy the minty sensation so much. I would highly recommend this to people who wear a lot of lip products because it refreshes your lips and preps them for even application of lipsticks, stains and glosses. Have you tried any of the Lush lip scrubs?

Monday, July 7, 2014

Nature Republic Snail Hydrogel Mask: Good But Not Fantastic

Last week I met up with my good beauty blogger friend Monika of Rocaille Writes and I showed her all the Asian beauty shops in Flushing, Queens. We spent quite a bit of time at Nature Republic as it's one of the biggest Korean beauty stores on Roosevelt Avenue and that night I fished out the Nature Republic Snail Solution 1,000 Hydrogel Mask Sheet I had been saving for months. 

A few years ago, snail became the "it" ingredient in Korean skincare and from Nature Republic's claims, it is supposed to have restorative properties. This mask is very similar to Nature Republic's The First Fermentation Hydrogel Mask as they have the same gel mask base. I really like the fit and texture of the soft gel mask as it feels cooling on the skin and is a nice weekly pick-me-up. The snail mask is about $1 more expensive and costs $5.90. 

There is a very light fragrance that is perfume scented and not herbal or strange. I like the scent and do not find it overwhelming like some Asian skincare products can be. There is 20 grams of serum in the mask and I find that I have enough leftover in the packet after using the mask that I can apply the serum the next night. The mask does not leave a lot of essence on the skin after removal but there is a slight bit of oily feel. It feels like I patted face oil onto my skin after using this sheet mask. It's not necessarily a bad thing but mineral oil is the fifth ingredient on the list so if you are sensitive to it, maybe you should skip this mask.

My skin felt moisturized but not overly so after using the snail mask and while I did not experience any negative effects, I can't praise this product. Similar to the other Nature Republic gel mask I tried, the effects are not noticeable enough to justify the $6 price tag. While the hydrogel masks are more luxurious and comfortable than regular cotton or paper masks, the essence or serum is the effective part that penetrates the skin.

What do you think about snail skincare? How about gel mask sheets?

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Ben Nye Banana Powder: A Good All Arounder

It can be tricky finding a perfect shade and color for my yellow toned Asian skin. A number of my bases are the right shade for me at a given moment but they sometimes lean a bit pink and make me look dull and ashy. To counteract this, I was interested in giving the Ben Nye Banana Powder a try.

Ben Nye is a popular cosmetics brand used mostly by professional makeup artists. Banana powder is popular because it's supposedly what gives Kim Kardashian's undereye that ultra bright look. While I'm not dark as Kim to properly use it as a highlight, the powder is a good all over powder for my skin tone. There are several other powders of the same formula in various shades if you fear 'banana' is too yellow for you.

The packaging for this powder is rather ill-suited for easy application. First off, the loose format is a hassle for those who do their makeup on the go or are prone to clumsiness. Unscrew the narrow top of the plastic bottle and you have a sifter. Word to the wise, when you poke open the sifter holes, only poke half the holes to prevent major leakage. To get the powder onto my brush, I tap some of the product into the tony black topper and swirl my brush as best as I can into it. It's not perfect but it'll do. For a whopping 42 grams of product at $12, i can't really make too much fuss over the packaging.

The powder itself is dry and not particularly smooth. I would describe it as almost gritty. It does not feel irritating during application and glides evenly onto the skin despite the texture. It mattifies the skin and ever so slightly blurs the apperance of fine pores and very minor imperfections. The finish is never cakey and always imperceptible. A light layer of this over a natural base looks like my skin but better.

The Ben Nye Banana Powder is a nice-to-have if you have yellow undertones and combination oily skin. The smallest tub will last anyone ages and it won't break the bank so I recommend this to those looking for a nice setting powder on the lower end of the price spectrum.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Laura Geller: First Impressions and Raves

Laura Geller is not a brand that crosses my mind often when I think about purchasing some new makeup. The packaging is not exciting and not many bloggers or Youtubers tend to talk about the brand either. A few weeks ago I was eyeing the new products tab on Ulta and some Laura Geller kits caught my eye. I didn't make a purchase because I wasn't familiar with the brand and didn't want to regret a rash purchase. It just so happens that in my new part time job I had the opportunity to hear some Laura Geller educators speak and received some best sellers as gratis. In terms of first impressions, I am blown away by the quality of the products which are reasonably priced and wholly underrated. 

Spackle is Laura Geller's primer range and comes in a variety of finishes. I have the regular version which goes on mostly clear. If you look very closely there are some iridescent shimmers but you can't feel them on the skin or see it on the face. This primer is very light and is reminiscent of the Laura Mercier Foundation Primer which a lot of people enjoy. I like that this sinks into the skin and feels almost like skincare rather than a layer of makeup that clogs pores. 

Laura Geller's baked line is stunning and I am coveting more pieces from this collection as I type. I have the Balance-N-Brighten Foundation in Medium and it is a smidgen darker than my current complexion although I think it will be perfect by August. The powder is very smooth and it does not look cakey after buffing several layers onto my skin. Of course the coverage is not as high as a liquid would provide but it evens out my skintone naturally and is very comfortable to wear. I am digging the Blush-N-Brighten in Pink Buttercream as it is the perfect shade of pink for my coloring. The shimmers are very refined and impart a soft focus effect on my cheekbones. The mini I have is a third of the full size but a little goes a long way so this will surely last me ages. Then there's the Baked Marble Eyeshadow Duo in Rome/Milan. On one side you have a champagne marbled with bronze and on the other is a swirl of purple and blue. The lighter shade swatches into a stunning light gold that will work on all skintones and the darker shade actually turns into a flattering lilac.

Just about every beauty company has launched their own version of the chubby lip pencil and I'm honestly not lured in by them anymore. But the Laura Geller Love Me Dew Moisturizing Lip Crayon in Purple Currant might be changing my mind. This smells like my favorite Soap & Glory Sexy Mother Pucker Gloss Stick and moisturizes like it as well. The Laura Geller version is a little more opaque and I love the purply pink shade although I don't often pull of cool tones well. These come in a three pack for only $25 which I have on my wishlist at the moment. 

My words can't do these products justice so you'll have to tune into the video below to see swatches!

Have you tried anything from Laura Geller? What products would you be most interested in testing from the brand?

*The products mentioned in this post were samples provided by Birchbox for job training and are in no way related to this blog. All opinions are 100% my own.