Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Asian Skincare Haul: Leaders Insolution, Faith in Face, Dr. Jart+ & Kao Biore

As each year passes and I try out more serums, moisturizers and the lot, I grow more and more convinced that Asian skincare is superior to most American made products. I'm still partial to French skincare and a few British brands are intriguing but the vast majority of my favorites are from East Asian countries. Recently I restocked on a few essentials that I'm excited to test out and tell you more about.

My good friend who now lives in South Korea came home for a few weeks to visit and she helped me stock up on some sheet masks. I loved the Leaders Insolution Tea Tree and Vita Bright Masks that I hauled when I went to South Korea in January so I wanted to try the AC Dressing version as well. This type is ideal for spotty, sensitive skin and I'm hoping it's just as soothing and effective as the other Leaders Insolution masks I have tried. I also requested the Faith in Face hydrogel masks because my friend enjoyed using them. Quite honestly, the cute packaging was what sucked me in. I haven't had tremendously good results from other hydrogel masks so I'm hoping these change my mind.

For Birchbox gratis, I received a few Dr. Jart+ products. Dr. Jart+ is one of the few Korean cosmetics brands that can be easily bought in the states. I have the Pore Minimalist Sheet Mask, Blackhead Master Patch Two-Step Mask to try out as well as minis of the Ceramidin Cream and Liquid. I love the lightweight texture of the Ceramidin Liquid and the size will be perfect to travel with!

Lastly are two essentials that I picked up from YesStyle when they reached out to see if I wanted to try anything from Kao Biore. For those who may not know, Kao Biore is the Asian branch of Biore and I personally find their products to be much better than the Biore products we get in the West. I really liked the Biore Cleansing Oil as well as their Perfect Milk Sunscreen so I chose another makeup remover and sunscreen to try. I always need eye makeup remover so I opted for the Biore Makeup Remover for Eye and Lip*, a dual phase solution in the cutest pink packaging. I also picked the UV Aqua Rich Face Mousse SPF 50+ PA+++* which will be perfect for the winter time when I need a bit more moisture on my skin. 

View the haul video for a closer look at the products!

What are your favorite Asian skincare brands and products? I'm hoping to share my morning and evening skincare routines soon because some Youtube viewers have been requesting it. Let me know in the comments if you would like to see that as well!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Cynthia Rowley Creamy Lip Stain in Sugar: The Best MLBB Stain

This is one of those products I was iffy about and not expecting much from at all. But then I tried it and my mind was blown. That's the short version of how I feel about the Cynthia Rowley Creamy Lip Stain in Sugar*. I picked out this mini when I was building my monthly Birchbox at the brick and mortar shop and if you're in the New York City area, I highly urge you to go down there and add this gem to your box!

In the tube, Sugar looks like a bland pink which leans a bit on the cooler side. From past experiences with cool baby pink lip products, I tend to look very strange in these colors. There are two other shades in full size packaging to choose from, a bright coral and a purple grape. The full size tubes contain .17 ounces of product and retail for $20. Birchbox also sells the entire trio collection for $45, making each stain $15. The packaging is a basic clear plastic tube with gold lettering and the cutest gold polkadot cap. The doefoot applicator is nothing unique but gets an even coating of product on and spreads it out evenly.  

I don't think I have to write anymore because the swatch speaks for itself. The color is perfect. It actually looks more like a rose nude once on my lips instead of a baby pink. The shine factor is natural and it subtly fills out my lips and makes them look hydrated and healthy. The winning aspect of this stain is the texture of it. It feels weightless on the lips and almost has a powdery soft finish. The shine wears away after about an hour or two but the color stays on until I eat a meal. My lips never get dried out from this stain and the product never sinks into dry cracks or picks up flaky bits.

I'm seriously contemplating getting the trio pack of these stains because the formula is nothing like anything I have tried before. Sugar was a pleasant surprise and a handbag staple at the moment. What do you think of lip stains? Have you tried anything from Cynthia Rowley's beauty line?

*As a Birchbox brick and mortar staffer I get to pick out products for a BYOB (Build Your Own Birchbox) every month. All my opinions are 100% honest and Birchbox has no affiliation to my blog. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Aesop Skincare: First Impressions

Skincare fanatics have likely seen Aesop mentioned on many blogs in years past but the hype seems to have subsided recently. After peeking in longingly many times into the University Place and West Broadway free standing stores, I finally allowed myself a more in depth look into the tiny, but welcoming, West Broadway location.

Aesop stores all have an old world apothecary charm. I like to imagine this is what a potions shop in Diagon Alley would look like. I walked in during early evening on Sunday so I had a chance to ask the only sales assistant many questions and get a product demo on my hand. She thoughtfully pulled various samples for my combination-oily, acne-prone skin and provided me with beautifully designed pamphlets with more information. Even the paper bag that held all my goodies serves as a little travel guide to San Francisco. I assume they have various prints that showcase cities from around the world. The aesthetics of the brand are right up my alley, smart and simple with a healthy dose of modern luxury.

The following are my first impressions on the samples I had an opportunity to try.

Fabulous Face Cleanser: This is an olive based face wash that caters to sensitive, combination or dry skin. This would make a nice morning cleanser because it is very gentle and lathers very little. It contains soothing aloe and anti-oxidant green tea. The 3.4 oz bottle of this retails for $31 and the 6.8 oz size is $47, making it quite a splurge cleanser. The chances of me purchasing this in the full size is very slim because it's honestly quite pricey for a cleanser I'm not in love with.

B & Tea Balancing Toner: I can't really say much about this toner because I would need to use this quite a bit before noticing any results. I like that it is alcohol free so there is no irritation. Provitamin B5 (not sure what the difference between a provitamin and a vitamin is) and anti-oxidant green tea are the namesakes for this product. This toner retails for $33 for 3.4 oz or $55 for 6.8 oz. I'm usually very simple with my toners and would rather spend the extra money on serums and targeted treatments so I don't see myself purchasing this product.

Parsley Seed Anti-Oxidant Serum: Moving on to the more exciting products.... This is an aloe based serum that has a thick texture. If you were to blindfold me, I would have thought this was a face oil rather than a serum. When first applied to the skin, my face felt awfully sticky but gently patting the product in helped with absorption. After a few minutes, the serum fully sunk into my skin and my face felt very moisturized but not overly so. This serum can be used as a moisturizer for those with combination oily skin. I could imagine myself using this as a twice-weekly treatment in place of my normal moisturizer. A 3.4 oz bottle retails for $67 which is actually not too expensive considering many high end serums are the same price for much less product.

Chamomile Concentrate Anti-Blemish Masque: Last but not least, this was the product I was most excited to try. I originally had asked to try the popular Parsley Seed Cleansing Masque but the sales assistant recommended me the Chamomile Concentrate instead since I am struggling with some pesky pimples at the moment. This clay mask with tea tree leaf and evening primrose is very light and easy to spread on the skin. It imparts a cooling sensation but nothing minty or drying. While I didn't love the herbal scents of any of the previous three samples, I actually found the scent of this product to be very familiar and calming. A little goes a long way so a very thin layer is enough. This mask dries to be very tight and after about 10 minutes, you'll know it's time to rinse off. A few splashes of warm water and my skin was clean and refreshed. I really enjoyed this sample and am considering purchasing the full 2.4 oz tub for $50 once I finish all my other cleansing masks.

My visit to Aesop was a lovely experience and I cannot wait to find an excuse to revisit the West Broadway location. I had a really pleasant time talking to the girl who was helping me and I now wish I had asked for her name. Have you tried Aesop products before? What do you think of their skincare?

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Marcelle Golden Glow BB Cream: A Lovely Summer Base

When I see a Western brand making a BB Cream, I admit I raise an eyebrow and doubt that it is little more than a tinted moisturizer. But I still have a soft spot for a good base, whether it be BB Cream, foundation or tinted moisturizer. Marcelle, a Chicago-turned-Canada based beauty brand, offers two kinds of BB Creams, a normal one which comes in a few shades and the Golden Glow variety which is a single shade of light bronze goodness. Although the BB marketing on this is a bit gimmicky, it's still a fantastic base which I have been enjoying a lot lately. 

I got a 8 ml sample tube from Birchbox where you can purchase the full size for $27 for a 47 ml tube. This is a bit less expensive than high end foundations and the tube contains more product than the typical 30 ml. I only need a tiny pea sized dollop to do my whole face so a little goes a long way.

The shade is a tan beige that melds into my skin very well. There is a slight shimmer in the formulation which only appears under strong lighting. For the most part, the sparkle is undetectable on my face which is a good thing. I like to dot the cream all over my skin and use a buffing brush to spread out the product evenly. You can also use your fingers to apply which is convenient.

The effect of Marcelle's Golden Glow BB Cream is subtle but noticeable. On the left I have on a clear primer and under eye concealer. On the right is a freshly applied layer of the Golden Glow BB Cream. You can always open my before and after photos in a new window to see my skin imperfections up close! I also do not retouch before and after photos for a fair comparison. Redness on my cheeks and around my nose is minimized and my complexion is more luminous and fresh. The lasting power of this is great; with primer and powder, my makeup stays looking like I just applied it for 10 hours.

Here is a shot of the ingredients list for those who might be curious. Marcelle touts this as an 8-in-1 cream which not only evens out skintone and gives you a glow but also promotes skin regeneration, evens out skin tone and prevents premature aging. I don't see how this product can deliver on skincare claims because many of the ingredients are not skincare related. There is a low concentration of aloe which may be soothing but I think you would need to apply quite a bit to notice the effects. I am curious as to why this does not include sunscreen because that would be a factor in preventing premature aging. On the bright side, this is 100% paraben free, gluten free, fragrance free and non comedogenic.

Inflated claims aside, I really like how the Marcelle Golden Glow BB Cream looks on my skin and think it's a great summer staple for those whose skintone can pull this off. I also have a full size tube of the regular Marcelle BB Cream which I have yet to try out but I'm hoping I like it as much as this version. I am very excited that Marcelle is sold through Birchbox now because I have been curious to try their products for awhile. Have you tried any Marcelle products before?

Monday, August 11, 2014

Kevyn Aucoin Creamy Glow Duo in Sculpting and Candlelight

Kevyn Aucoin is a makeup line I have been interested in for quite some time because it exudes a demure sophistication and has garnered many rave reviews from beauty bloggers I deeply respect. I have been experimenting with the Creamy Glow Duo in Sculpting and Candlelight for a little more than a month now and I'm finally ready to share my thoughts with you. 

First, let's talk about the packaging. The sleek plastic compact is tiny and lightweight, making it the perfect size for your everyday makeup bag. The top of the lid fades from a deep shimmery burgundy to a black-brown which adds a nice touch. To open the compact, simply click the gold bar at the bottom and the top flips up halfway. The top contains a mirror which is nice to have on the go.

The packaging states that there is 4.5 grams of product which is hard to believe considering the compact is so small and a Illamasqua Cream Blusher looks much bigger and is only 4 grams. The Kevyn Aucoin duo retails for $28. This is the only shade in the Creamy Glow Duo line that is for contouring and highlighting. There are a few other shade options but they are all blush shades.

The star of this duo is definitely the contour shade. It is the perfect cool toned brown that naturally defines my cheekbones without looking obvious in the slightest. The product can be pigmented with one generous swipe but blends out easily into an undetectable shadow. It is a pity that the contour portion of this duo is so small. The highlighter is only okay. I don't have anything bad to say about it really but it's nothing special. I wish it were a bit more obvious if anything because it just looks too natural once applied. I like a more dramatic sheen on the tops of my cheekbones so if you're all about the most realistic glow, this will suit you just fine. 

If you're curious to see how this applies on the face, watch the video below. 

I really like the Kevyn Aucoin Creamy Glow Duo in Sculpting and Candlelight because now I've discovered my love for cream contours. I only wish they sold the contour shade separately because I'm not blown away by the highlighter. I also don't understand why the shades do not come in equal sized pans. If anything, I use a lot more bronzer than highlighter in my everyday routine. So while I probably wouldn't repurchase this product, I can actually see myself using this up fairly quickly since it's great for everyday and the compact is rather small. 

Have you tried any bits from Kevyn Aucoin? What do you think of cream contour and highlight products?

Friday, August 8, 2014

Shiseido Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate: Better Skin in a Bottle

Shiseido is a skincare brand I have a few fond favorites from and I personally know women who have used the products for years and have beautiful skin to prove it. Ultimune* is the latest skincare discovery that Shiseido rolled out this month and I already know it will be a hit.

Shiseido partnered up with the Harvard Cutaneous Biology Research Center in 1991 (that's before I was born!) to study the relationship of Langerhans cells on skin health. Langerhans cells detect foreign substances on the skin and trigger your immune system to fight off harmful stimuli such as air pollution, UV rays and stress. This product holds 31 patents worldwide and uses the first technology to improve skin immunity. All scientific claims aside, the Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate surprised me by actually delivering results.

I attended the launch event for this gem a few months ago and before even testing the formula, I loved the packaging. The glass packaging is elegant while being sturdy and the red to white gradient is unique and eye-catching. The packaging is see-through so you know exactly how much you have left which is a major improvement over many other Shiseido products that come in opaque plastic tubes. The pump is perfect and one squirt is all I need for one application. I have the 50ml bottle which retails for $95 and there is also a 30ml bottle available for $65.

Thus far, the Ultimune line consists of only this product. I would equate the Power Infusing Concentrate to a serum because it has a runny texture and provides dramatic results. Shiseido suggests using this in conjunction with your normal serum though as an extra step. Whether you have a super simple cleanse-tone-moisurize routine or an eight step system, you can work this into your morning and evening skincare ritual. 

It is always important to look at ingredients when shopping for skincare and I was dismayed to see that water, denatured alcohol and dimethicone were three out of the four first ingredients. Denatured alcohol and dimethicone can be irritating to the skin and cause negative reactions. Thankfully, I have not experienced sensitivity to this product and honestly, my skin looks and feels a lot better after using this. If you are looking for a "natural" skincare product, Shiseido will not be on your radar.

But ingredients aside, this is a lovely step in my skincare routine that I look forward to. The texture of the product is a very lightweight, watery gel. It absorbs into the skin immediately and calms my skin down when I have redness or dryness. My face feels ever so slightly plumper and softer seconds after patting the formula in. Last but not least, the scent is a beautiful floral scent which I really like.

I honestly wasn't expecting to like the Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate as much as I do. When I first heard about it, I thought it would be suited more for older people who wanted to address aging. It probably is great for more mature skins who want to repair the elasticity and tone of their skin but it's also perfect for those in their 20s and 30s who want to prevent skin damage and premature aging in the first place. It's a luxury product that isn't quite a necessity for everyone but it is a fantastic add-in for skincare fanatics and compared to serums that target specific issues, the price of this isn't bad at all. I was thinking about repurchasing the Shiseido White Lucent Total Brightening Serum (which is much pricier at $125 for 30ml) but now I might just stick with the Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate. What do you think of the science behind this product? Would you be interesting in trying it?

* This product was provided for free by PR for consideration. All thoughts are my own and 100% honest.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Three Hair Must-Haves For The Simple Ones

Hair care is not my forte and I am generally low maintenance with the products I put on my tresses. Less is more and I don't often get very excited over hair products because I'd much rather shell out money for premium skincare or a sparkly eyeshadow. Thanks to my part time job at the Birchbox brick and mortar, I've been learning more about hair and have found a few gems that aren't very well known but deserve a mention on the blog.

I usually wash my hair every two or three days so quite a bit of dry shampoo gets used inbetween washes. The Number 4 Clarifying Shampoo is excellent for a once-a-week deep cleanse to get all the excess product residue out of my hair. All Number 4 products are highly concentrated so a little goes a long way. Number 4 products are also sulfate, gluten and paraben free. More often than not I don't like sulfate free shampoos because the lack of foam makes the formula difficult to spread out and my hair doesn't feel clean afterwards. The trick with the Number 4 Clarifying Shampoo is that it is water activated so you simply add more water to get a decent lather going. Of course it won't foam up as much as a shampoo with sulfates but it's better than no lather at all. The scent is supposed to be "white freesia, golden amber, and warm musk" but it honestly smells like chemicals to me. I know many people love the scent so it all depends on your fragrance preferences.

Another winner is the Number 4 Reconstructing Masque which I had first discovered and fallen in love with last year. My opinion of this mask has not changed; I love the instant softening and smoothing effects but dislike the scent. The scent is exactly the same as the Clarifying Shampoo and when used together, the scent lingers in my hair. But this mask is the most nourishing and effective treatment I have tried so far. Soy protein, shea butter, jojoba seed oil and sunflower oil are the moisturizing ingredients that make this so good. Like the clarifying shampoo, I like to use this once a week.

To round out the trio of hair favorites, I present the Beauty Protector Protect & Detangle. My hair is on the longer side and I am prone to knots and tangles if I even attempt at running a brush through my hair while blow drying. This leave in conditioner makes my hair much more manageable and it also acts as a heat and UV protectant. I really like that this thick creamy product dispenses via a spray because it distributes more evenly onto the hair and I can use less of it to coat every strand of hair. This product is vegan in addition to being free of parabens and sulfates. Oh, and unlike the aforementioned Number 4 products, Beauty Protector products smell nice!

For those of you who are like me and not meticulous about hair care, I would recommend sticking to the basics: cleanse, moisturize and protect. What does your hair care routine consist of? Any recommendations for a basic hair gal like me?

*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. 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Bite Beauty Luminous Crème Lipstick Duo: Mini Must Have

I'm a sucker for minis and travel sets because it allows me to test out a product without committing to an exorbitant price and there is a higher chance I can actually finish something up. I had been eyeing the Bite Beauty lipstick duo in Palomino and Violet for months but reminded myself again and again that I had way too many lipsticks and that I didn't need two bold brights that I would hardly ever wear. Well, after many window shopping trips to Sephora, I couldn't resist and walked out $12 poorer but with two of the most amazing bold lipsticks I have in my collection.

Bite Beauty creates lip products with "natural food-grade ingredients" and the Luminous Crème Lipsticks contain Resveratrol which is an anti-aging anti-oxidant. The first few ingredients in the lipstick are castor seed oil, beeswax, jojoba seed oil and shea butter so the texture is creamy and non-drying. The oil based formula does make these lipsticks prone to softening in warm weather though so you have to be careful about applying these in the summer heat. I ruined the Violet side of the duo because I twisted up the bullet too much and the base came off (I was able to reattach it though). The lipsticks have a pleasant fruity scent which is not overwhelming. This mini duo is quite small so you will use it up quickly if you don't switch up your lip products often. The width is the same as the width of my pinky nail and the height is a tiny bit longer than the end section of my pinky finger.

On the bright side, these lipsticks are so pigmented that you don't need much product to achieve a bold lip color. I mostly got this duo for Palomino, the cool toned red shade. I love this shade and find it surprisingly wearable. I like to dab the product onto my lips and blend it out with a finger to lessen the intensity and shine to get a softer, matte look.

Violet is more out of my comfort zone because it is a vibrant purple-pink shade. Again, I like the dab and blend method for this shade as it makes it more wearable. People with cool toned skin would look especially amazing in Violet. This is probably the most purple I would go in terms of being on the Radiant Orchid bandwagon.

The lasting power of these lipsticks cinches the deal as they are surprisingly long wearing. I applied Palomino at about 7:30 AM a few mornings ago, ate a greasy bacon, egg and cheese sandwich and my lipstick looked vibrant and even at noon! I was sure that my breakfast sandwich would have at least wiped off the color from the inner part of my lips but no, it stayed on. I'm not big on reapplying so I love lip colors that stain and last hours on end.

I am very impressed by the Bite Beauty Luminous Crème Lipsticks and am tempted to stop by the Soho Lip Lab where you can design your own lipstick color and customize everything from the scent to the packaging. Have you tried Bite Beauty? What are your favorite shades from the brand?