Wednesday, December 31, 2014

November and December 2014 Empties

Ah, it's time for the final empties recap of 2014. How crazy! Another year has gone by and I have the empty bottles and jars to show for it. This pile of empties seems a lot bigger than previous roundups and I'm excited to publish this post so I can recycle and chuck away these bits from my room. 

Nuxe Reve de Miel Hand Cream (sample) -  I found to be just OK in terms of formula but it was way too strongly scented.

CeraVe Moisturizing Cream - Another one of these bites the dust and I know I will repurchase it because it is one of the few moisturizers that soothes my dry, ashy skin without feeling too heavy or greasy.

Lancome Comforting Creamy Foaming Cleanser (gift with purchase) - I used this as a body wash instead of a face cleanser because it was very heavily scented. The scent wasn't bad but I didn't feel that it was hydrating nor particularly gentle. I like Lancome's makeup offerings but their skincare doesn't interest me.

Kneipp Lavender Herbal Bath (sample) - I don't often take baths because showers are much easier and efficient but this was a joy to use right before bed time. The lavander scent was noticeable without being overly cloying and the oil produced a light froth in the bath as well. The only downside was the bright blue dye which stained hands if you touched the oil directly by accident.

Klorane Dry Shampoo (sample) - I kept this little guy at work to refresh my hair if I was going out later in the evening. I've used multiple bottles of this dry shampoo and it will always be a favorite staple because it blends out without leaving a white cast in my hair and makes my hair feel much cleaner and more voluminous.

Loreal Total Repair 5 Damage-Erasing Balm - You can't really see this tub in the above photo but you can get a better view of it in the first picture in this post. My friend included this hair mask in my Christmas present last year and I was pleasantly surprised by it. Even though it's from the drugstore, it works incredibly well at softening my hair without making it feel greasy or slippery. I will look into trying out other Loreal hair masks in the future.

Number 4 Volumizing Shampoo, Clarifying Shampoo, Moisturizing Shampoo and Reconstructing Masque (samples) - Can you believe these little bottles of shampoos lasted me for the past few months with consistent use? I adore all the Number 4 hair care products I have tried so far and I've tested most of the brand's offerings already. All the shampoos do what they claim and two quarter sized drops are all you need for long hair. The brand is also sulfate free, paraben free, gluten free and vegan.

Oribe Shampoo and Conditioner for Brilliance and Shine (samples) - I don't keep all my packet samples to show for empties posts but I try to save the ones that stood out to me. I used about three quarters of each of these packets for one shower and my hair was so clean yet soft and manageable.

Davines Oi All In One Milk (sample) - I use this leave-in hair treatment like I would a hair oil and like the lightweight, non-silicone feel. It is meant to protect the hair from damage although my long locks had so many split ends that I don't think anything could have repaired them. I just got a major hair cut yesterday so now I'm sporting something like a long bob. I know, I'm so late to the lob party but my hair was so damaged that it really needed a major chop and I wasn't feeling a real bob again.

Avene Eau Thermale (sample) - Yes, this is water. But it's the misting mechanism that wins me over on this particular can of water. The mist is super fine and so nice for refreshing tired, dehydrated skin.

Avene Micellar Water (sample) - When I first tried cleansing waters, I didn't like most of them because they either smelled weird, didn't do an effective enough job of cleansing or left a tacky feeling on my skin. I'm happy to report that along with Bioderma, this is one of my favorite cleansing waters. I used this only when I wore light base makeup and didn't want to use a cleansing oil or balm.

Avene Hydrance Optimale Rich Hydrating Cream (sample) - I thought this would be similar to the La Roche Posay moisturizers but this wasn't as good. It felt heavier on the skin and didn't absorb as easily. I used this on days when my skin felt very dehydrated as a night cream.

Avene Triacneal - I really enjoyed this acne treatment because it was gentle yet effective. This is like the La Roche Posay Effaclar Duo but it worked better for me. I bought this in Paris and it's not readily available in the states for a comparable price so I won't be able to repurchase this until I travel to Europe again....

Marcelle Eye Makeup Remover - I never met a duophase eye makeup remover I didn't like and this is no exception. This does the trick and doesn't cost a pretty penny. Marcelle is easily accessible for Canadians but Americans can get this through Birchbox.

Biore UV Perfect Milk Sunscreen - This bottle fooled me in terms of how long it lasted. I thought it would be easy to use up but no, it took my many many months. I really liked this in the beginning because it is a lightweight, watery sunscreen that blends into the skin effortlessly. But towards the end I got pretty tired of it for some reason. I even slathered this on my neck and arms when I was in Hawaii in an attempt to use more of it up but it persisted until the end.

Shiseido Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate* - I'll tell you now that this serum made it into my top products of 2014 post which will see soon. This serum smoothed my skin and calmed it. It doesn't really add moisture or lessen the marks of hyper pigmentation but it definitely makes my skin feel nicer. I think it refines the texture of my skin while still being gentle and non-fussy. It has a pleasant scent and an easily absorbed formula that never feels tacky.

SKII Facial Treatment Clear Lotion (sample) - I used this as a toner and found that it seemed to help my skin more than the super popular Facial Treatment Essence. I don't think this is a necessary component to my skincare routine and just not worth the cost.

IOPE Bio Essence - When I finish the SKII Facial Treatment Essence, I will go back to the IOPE Bio Essence. It's much less expensive (although still pricey) and it works pretty much the same. I'm going to stop using any "treatment toners" for a few months to see how my skin reacts and if it takes a turn for the worse, I'll gladly repurchase this again.

Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Concentrate (sample) - I've read both good and bad reviews of this oil but I personally had fantastic results every time I used this on my skin. I used this small sample in the evenings that my skin felt like it needed a boost and every morning after my skin was always more plump and soft. I only used about two drops per application so this sample lasted me ages.

Juice Beauty Green Apple Peel for Sensitive Skin (sample) - I really enjoy this glycolic acid peel for taking off dead skin cells and smoothing my complexion. This version is meant for sensitive skin but I can definitely feel the heated tingle from the acid so I would recommend patch testing this before slathering this all over if you have sensitive skin.

Clarins UV Plus HP Sunscreen (sample) - I had used up a full sized one of these before and while it was OK, it wasn't my favorite sunscreen by far. It can feel greasy at times and for the price, I'd recommend the Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Cream over this. Maybe if you have dry skin, you'd prefer the Clarins.

Innisfree Jeju Volcanic Liquid Nose Pack - I have about half of this tube left but I'm chucking it because this was such an utter disappointment. This is a mask is similar to the Boscia Luminizing Black Mask (which I also didn't like) but it was so weak that it did nothing to draw out impurities.

Make Up For Ever Mist and Fix (sample) - I was recommended this by an acquaintance after I had mentioned I liked the Urban Decay Setting Spray. While this was an alright setting spray, the spritzing nozzle doesn't dispense as fine of a mist as the Urban Decay one. I prefer the Urban Decay setting spray over this one mostly due to the packaging.

Soft Lips Lipbalm in Vanilla - I go through these regularly although I have quite a few lipbalms on rotation at the moment. I'll always go back to Soft Lips because they're a great drugstore lipbalm with SPF.

Lancome Hypnose Drama Mascara (sample) - I liked the curved wand on this mascara but the formula was a bit too wet and it globbed onto my lashes. If this had a drier, waterproof formula, this could be a winner for me.

Maybelline One By One Waterproof Mascara (sample) - I remembered I had liked this mascara in the past but while it still gives decent separation and curl, I found it to flake quite a bit. Having to check for bits of smeared mascara on my face every few hours was not fun.

Marcelle Twist Up Mascara - This mascara is really cool because you can twist the cap to change the design of the wand. I preferred it when the wand was squished together to give more volume. But the formula was too wet and clumpy.

Buxom Insider Eyeliner in Chocolate Citrine - I received this eyeliner in a set for my birthday years ago and I've turned to it many times since then. I like bringing this retractable liner on trips and the formula was creamy yet long lasting. I had a bit of this left and was trying to use it up but the liner snapped from the base and the product fell out and was rendered an empty.

Rimmel Stay Matte Powder - It's embarrassing to admit but this is the first powder I ever bought. That means this is probably about five years old..... I used this a lot and managed to get quite a lot of pan to show but I think it's about time this gets sent to the dump. For a drugstore powder, this is a good one. It mattifies without looking overly powdery or dry when used lightly. However the matte finish doesn't last long throughout the day. The packaging is awful as the cap comes off too easily.

Benefit Erase Paste (sample) - This concealer took SO LONG to use up but I'm so proud to have stuck to it. I used this mostly under my eyes because the salmon color countered dark circles wonderfully. I really enjoyed this concealer but will not repurchase as I have many others to use up and others on my wishlist to try.

Lioele Beyond the Solution BB Cream (sample) - I liked this BB cream but not as much as the Lioele Water Drop BB Cream. The two are similar but the Water Drop version is a touch more hydrating as its name would suggest. If you have a light complexion and are looking for a true Korean BB Cream, the Lioele ones are a solid choice.

Folle de Joie Eau de Parfum (sample) - I'm not big on fragrances but I can say with certainty that I like Joie's fragrance. This floral scent is fresh and feminine without being sweet. It lingers for the whole day to the point where it can sometimes give me a headache but pretty much all fragrances do that.

In 2014 I've definitely become more strict with myself when looking for old products to toss and unloved products to give away to friends. These two Mac lipsticks no longer have their vanilla scent and it's time to retire them to the Back to Mac section. On the left is the Sheen Supreme Lipstick in Bare Again, a lovely MLBB shade that I enjoyed for awhile. The formula is creamy and comfortable but sometimes it settles into lip lines and looks very unflattering. On the left is my first Mac purchase ever, the limited edition Viva Glam Gaga 2. Back then I was into the whole nude lip thing but I didn't have many places to wear this that it wouldn't look completely odd. The tones are too brown for my complexion.

A few other lipsticks that I had high hopes for but ultimately no longer suit my fancy that I will pass onto friends. On the far left is Bourjois Rouge Edition Lipstick in Corail en Vogue, a light tangerine that I imagined would look coral on my lips. Unfortunately it looks more like a peachy nude that clashes with my skintone. I don't find I can rock a nude lip anymore. Then there's Makeup Store's Lipstick in Summer. This is a bold coral red with a hint of pink flashback that is really interesting but the formula doesn't sit well on my lips and the color looks very strange on me. I can imagine this being beautiful on some other people but for me, just no. Revlon's Colorburst Lipsticks in Soft Nude and Peach are also finding better homes. At one point, Soft Nude was one of my favorite lipsticks (back when my makeup collection was much smaller and I was in love with nude lippies). It's still a nice lipstick but I hardly wear nude lips anymore. Peach never looked right on me. It looks like a lovely color in the tube and swatched on my hand but it doesn't translate right on my lips.

I depotted NYX's Jumbo Eye Pencils in Cottage Cheese, Yogurt and Iced Mocha ages ago because I thought they'd be handier in pots than in pencil form since I didn't have a sharpener wide enough at the time. Shortly after depotting these, I realized I liked these way better in pencil form. I hardly reached for these after I depotted them. Surprisingly, these creams have not dried out at all and are still really pretty. I just have too many cream shadows that I would rather use to keep these sitting around.

If you read even half of this post, I applaud you. My fingers are now exhausted from typing and I'm glad that I finished this recap before the new year. What products did you finish this year that you were especially happy with?

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Rambly Recap of My Weekend in D.C.

Last year I did a lot of international traveling and I realized there is so much more to explore within the United States. With a full time job, it's quite difficult to leave for a few weeks at a time so I have to be more mindful about trip planning. This past weekend I decided to drive down with my parents and boyfriend to nearby Washington D.C. to visit a city I haven't been to since I was in elementary school. From the beginning of the year, I've had plans to visit D.C. to see some of the monuments I missed when I was earlier.

We started our trip around 11AM in New York and made a pit stop at a Delaware restaurant named Crabby Dick's that we had eaten at years ago. Unfortunately there were no broiled crab dishes as they're not in season but we had a delicious late lunch nonetheless. If you're road tripping along the East Coast in the summer, I'd recommend stopping by.

We arrived in D.C. in the early evening which gave me enough time to shower and apply some makeup before dinner. We stayed at the Mandarin Oriental because my Dad works at the New York location and we could get a very reasonable rate. Otherwise, I don't think I'd be able to afford the rooms anytime in the near future.... The rooms were very comfortable and the bathroom was definitely my favorite part. The deep soaking tub was so lovely at the end of a long day of walking.

It took about half an hour of walking to get to the downtown area where we had dinner at Cedar, a recommendation from Monika. The food was decent but I think my expectations were higher than what was delivered. I had the duck dish, pictured above, which was rather forgettable. The scallop appetizer was tasty but I don't think I've ever met a scallop that I didn't enjoy eating. I also tried the interesting lobster white chocolate soup out of curiosity more than anything. It tastes like how you would expect a sweet seafood soup to taste and I wouldn't get it again. The food took awhile to prepare and the dinner stretched out for longer than I thought was needed. The prices are comparable to New York City restaurants such as Locanda Verde and Nomad but the atmosphere, service and quality of the food is noticeably better at Locanda Verde and Nomad. Cedar wasn't bad, just not good enough to warrant a second trip. Just my two cents.

The next morning we set out early for the National Arboretum. Winter isn't the best time to visit a garden but the bonsai exhibit was alive and well. One of the best things about D.C. is that almost all the attractions are free so if you don't like what you see, you aren't obligated to stay long. The National Arboretum is a peaceful place to take a long stroll on a sunny day if you're in the area.

The most striking thing you'll see at the National Arboretum are the National Capitol Columns, retired columns from the Capitol before a renovation. From afar the columns look very out of place in the middle of a grassy clearing. I imagine this area gets much more busy during the spring and summer.

Next up we drove to the Library of Congress which is the largest library in the world. I had failed to realize that there are actually three different buildings that make up the Library of Congress and wandered into one of the less aesthetically impressive ones first. The one that most visitors go to is the Jefferson building which is more like a museum rather than a library. The area with Thomas Jefferson's original books is worthy of a look.

The ornate library transports you to another era and an entirely different America. The Main Reading Room is beautifully ornate and although I believe only researchers are allowed into the actual room, you can view it from the third floor balcony. After walking about the library we had worked up an appetite and found a busy pizza place called We, The Pizza. I had a slice of white pizza and another with sausage and peppers which I thoroughly enjoyed. I just looked up the Yelp reviews and I see a lot of mixed feelings. Usually I rely on Yelp for food recommendations but I disagree with the Yelp reviews this time around. If you fancy an inexpensive, quick and tasty bite, try out We, The Pizza.

The skies were very clear and the weather was mild that day so we did a lot of outdoor walking that day. We drove to Arlington National Cemetery in nearby Virginia. There were a lot of visitors and the fresh holiday wreaths lent a lighter air to these somber grounds. Rows upon rows of pale rock stretch out as far as your eyes can see and remind us of the less celebratory parts of American history. At the top of the hill, you can go inside Arlington House, the old home of George Washington and later, Robert E. Lee. In all honesty I had never heard of Arlington House nor the connection between George Washington and Robert E. Lee but the quick five minute introduction by the park ranger was fascinating. Even if you don't make it out here to look at the house, just look up the story online.

By nightfall we found ourselves at the feet of Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial, one of the most iconic monuments in D.C. The white statue almost seemed to glow against the darkness and looking out from the steps you get a perfect view of the Washington Monument and its pale reflection in the Reflection Pool.

Our last stop was the White House and the National Christmas Tree. I saw the White House years ago when i was a child but both last time and this, we hadn't made plans to take a tour. The building looks surprisingly small from the outside although I think that has to do with how far away the gates are. The Christmas trees draw quite a crowd and the smaller trees change colors and patterns. Each tree had a little sign indicating which state it represented so I assume there were 50 small trees in total. That night my feet were incredibly tired from walking the entire day. Washington D.C. streets are incredibly long and wide so be prepared with good walking shoes if you plan to visit.

The next morning we headed to see Chinatown which turned out to more like China street. I'm consistently disappointed by the Asian food and culture in other cities outside of Asia. Get ready for some rambling because I just need to vent my frustration about this experience. There are only a handful of Chinese eateries in downtown D.C. and we ended up at Chinatown Express, a dingy place with supposedly rave reviews from the Washington Post. Let me be frank and tell you that this was the worst Chinese meal I have ever eaten in my life. The menu proudly boasts of homemade dumplings but they arrived looking shriveled and broken. The innards consisted of nothing more than two gray pieces of shrimp. The dumpling skin had a brown bottom, indicating the cook had plopped them into the oil before it was hot enough. The xiao long bao, also known as soup dumplings, were equally as disgusting. They were gray, tasteless and worse looking than what you can get in the frozen aisle of a Chinese supermarket. The cabbage lining the bamboo steaming tray looked like it was five days old. I had the duck over rice which was somewhat edible but there was more fat than meat in my serving. I cannot emphasize enough how bad this experience was. The most shocking thing was that there were a good amount of people in the restaurant and they have three stars on Yelp. I don't understand how scores of reviewers compliment the food and especially the dumplings. They must be fake reviews or these people have never eaten a dumpling in their life. I don't tend to write Yelp reviews but I'm honestly tempted to start by writing a scathing review of this sorry excuse for a Chinese restaurant. Afterwards we went next door to pick up some Chinese bread in case we got hungry later in the day. The buns were standard and decent but the price was double the price of what you'd find in New York. Do yourself a favor and skip Chinese food while you're in D.C.

For the rest of the afternoon we walked through about half of the National Zoo because I wanted to see the giant pandas. I have mixed feelings about zoos but felt that the opportunity to see a panda was one I should not miss. Luckily, one of the pandas, I'm not sure which, was outside despite the dreary weather. I noticed a lot of the animals looked incredibly dejected and bored. The panda sat very still, hunched down, and went inside from time to time. The gorillas were a very sorry bunch and I felt guilty observing them. The bison had a pitifully small enclosure, especially considering their size and the great plains that they naturally dwell in. Only the otters looked like an active bunch. I could be totally wrong and attributing feelings to these animals that aren't there but I didn't leave the zoo with a good sentiment.

To end our last evening in town, we drove to Georgetown which I read was a nice neighborhood. I was surprised to see a cute town by the water that reminded me of a cleaner, more rustic version of Soho with it's many shops. I had planned to have dinner at Filomena, an Italian restaurant with more than 30 years under its belt, but the wait time was about three hours. Clearly it's a popular place that I'll have to try next time around. Instead we walked about until we stumbled upon Rialto, another Italian restaurant that seemed passible given our hunger at the time. For about $25 you get a soup or salad, a pasta or pizza and a dessert. Quite a good value and the food was pretty tasty. I had housemade fettuccine with clams and white wine sauce. The sauce tasted more of olive oil than white wine which is my only minor compliant. Overall, a good value although the decor of the restaurant was some new age glamour theme that was a bit gaudy, if not interesting.

My weekend was quite eventful and oh so tiring as well. I definitely could have squeezed in a few more museums and monuments to the second day but my feet were pretty tired and this trip was meant to be relaxing as well as educational. Happy to report that I think this weekend did the trick and I'm looking forward to wrapping up 2014 with some tranquility at home. Have you been to Washington D.C.? What are your favorite sights in the city?

Friday, December 26, 2014

Travel Skincare and Essentials: Three Nights in D.C.

I've been itching to get away from New York City for awhile now and I'm fortunate enough to have the days between Christmas Day and New Years Day off. Right now I'm in the nation's capital with my parents and boyfriend for the weekend. I've been collecting a lot of beauty samples, especially in the skincare arena, and can't wait to give them a test run. This may seem like overkill for a relatively short trip but packing is one of my favorite ways to get excited about traveling and these samples have to get used up somehow. Those of you who have been reading for awhile might recognize my beloved Muji travel wash bag. I use my Muji travel cases all the time and they look brand new. 

For cleansing I'm keeping it relatively simple. I almost always have a sample bottle of Lancome's Bi-Facil Eye Makeup Remover which always removes my eye makeup effectively. I'm bringing a sample of the Tatcha Camellia Cleansing Oil which I've used a few times and liked. It's probably not a cleansing oil I would repurchase as it's on the thicker end of the consistency spectrum and it's quite pricey but this sample has lasted me a surprising number of uses. To make sure my skin is thoroughly cleansed, I'll follow up with the Ole Henriksen African Red Tea Foaming Cleanser. I've read many positive reviews about this cleanser and it's gentle enough for morning and night time use. I purchased this sample along with the Ole Henriksen The Clean Truth Cleansing Cloths for $10 during Sephora's Black Friday offer. I'm usually not a fan of cleansing towelettes because I don't think they remove makeup effectively enough but many Youtubers swear by these. I've used them twice so far to take off makeup and they seem decent enough. The wipes are not soaked in liquid but the formula is hydrating and feels almost like a light serum.

Since we're only away for three nights I really narrowed it down to the basics. I bought a travel sized bottle of the Kiehl's Ultra Facial Toner during Black Friday because they had a great sample offer. This toner is alcohol free and quite nice for balancing the skin and retaining moisture. I would contemplate getting the full size once I run out of all the other toners in my back up stash. Since the weather is dry, I packed the Dr. Jart Ceramidin Cream. This fuss-free moisturizer is rich without feeling heavy or oily. It is great for morning and night and layers well under makeup. For sunscreen, I'm testing out a mini of the Shiseido Urban Environment Sun Protection Cream SPF 40. I really like the regular Ultimate Sun Protection Cream by Shiseido so I have high hopes for this as well. Since the Sunday Riley eye cream I use normally is quite bulky, I brought a deluxe sample of the Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Eye Cream. I still have a few sample sachets from Korea so I randomly popped in a serum sample from The Face Shop in case I feel the need for extra moisture. For lipbalm, I have an itty bitty Dr. Lipp Nipple Balm for Lips. The name is a bit strange but I know a lot of Birchboxers love this stuff. After using it for the first time a few days ago, I can definitely see the hype!

We're staying at the Mandarin Oriental so I knew there was going to be a lovely bathroom and soaking tub. Thus, I brought a little vial of Kneipp Lavendar Herbal Bath Oil. The hotel provides Soames and Gilchrist amenities which I don't find too special so I brought my own samples of R+Co Moon Shine Shampoo and Conditioner and Oribe Shampoo and Conditioner for Brilliance and Shine. I just tried the Oribe duo tonight and my hair feels really clean yet not dry at all. In case my bangs are very unruly or I feel like attempting a bun, I brought a tiny Bumble and Bumble Thickening Hairspray. A super mini Living Proof Satin Hair Serum also made it's way into my travel bag because it's so small and I like putting something in my hair after washing it and before blow drying or air drying. The Living Proof serum sample has a locking pump which I found incredibly cute for some reason.

Finally we have some essentials which aren't too exciting but I guess should be mentioned to make this post a little more authentic. I have The Body Shop Cotton Pads tucked into a separate pouch to keep them clean. For body lotion I brought a sample of the Antica Farmacista Prosecco Body Lotion which honestly isn't moisturizing enough for this season but the scent is quite nice. To keep my hair out of my face I have a Asian velcro hair clip thingy. They might not look very smart but they do a great job at holding up my bangs without messing up my hair. I have small hair clips and hair ties in my makeup bag. Lastly I have contact solution, contacts in a contact case and extra contacts in case I rip or lose my contacts. I always try to bring extra contacts when I travel, even if it's a short trip, in the event something happens to the single pair I'm currently using. Given my awful vision, I can never be too sure. 

I was a lot more excited to pack skincare and essentials for this trip rather than makeup because I tend to bring the same few makeup items whenever I travel. Do you look forward to packing for travel or do you dread the thought of picking only a handful of products? Stay tuned for an upcoming D.C. travel post!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Five Ways to Get Glam for the Holidays

I thought about doing a holiday inspired makeup tutorial but thought it would be repetitive and a bit dull since my standard holiday look consists of sparkly champagne eyes and red lips. Instead, I thought I'd pick out some of my favorite makeup pieces that I'll definitely be gravitating towards in the next few days and focus on the five elements of getting glam for this time of year. 

Nothing says Christmas more than a bright red lip. I love the L'Oreal Shine Caresse Lipgloss in Endless Red for a long lasting, glossy red lip. If you plan on eating a very filling and somewhat messy meal, I'd highly recommend a staining lip product like the Shine Caresse glosses. I only recently acquired the Chanel Rouge Coco Shine Lipstick in Bohème a few weeks ago but I already know it will be a handbag staple when I want to look a bit more festive. Bohème is a a sheer, but buildable, pink red that feels very comfortable on the lips. If you seek a classic red lipstick, try the Marcelle Rouge Xpression Lipstick in Amour. It's only $12 so it won't break the bank and the formula is creamy without being too slippery. 

I'm always a fan of sparkle when it comes to eye makeup. For a more subtle but multidimensional shimmer, I like the Kate Shiny Eyes Trio in BR-1. Kate is a Japanese drugstore brand and if you're familiar with Asian eyeshadows, they're often sparkle city. The golden tan shade looks lovely all over the eyelid and popping a bit of the glittery peach on the inner corner of the eye gives a very youthful look. For a more metallic finish, I would opt for the KIKO Water Eyeshadow in Champagne. This single shadow is ultra pigmented and is lovely when used sparingly to highlight the inner corner or middle of the lid. I reach for Mac's Pigment in Gold Mode at least a few times each December because it's the perfect slightly peachy champagne gold. I also have a mini vial of this pigment from a holiday set so I don't think I'll ever get to using the full size jar.... It's just really pretty to look at. 

To emphasize the eyes, add a pair of false lashes to accentuate the flirty shape of your eyes. I recently reviewed the Esqido 'Unforgettable' Mink Lashes and was pretty disappointed since the hairs were falling off after two uses. Esqido told me to contact them after I mentioned my disappointment on Twitter and they offered to send me the 'Oh So Sweet' lashes. The brand new 'Oh So Sweet' lashes are above and the 'Unforgettable' pair is below. I'm going to give these guys another try and hope they hold up a bit better. They look great in the packaging and on the eyes and are very appropriate for more dressy occasions. Even if you don't want to spend so much on false lashes, you can get good falsies from the drugstore to instantly glam up your makeup.  

I told you I liked shimmer so a lovely highlight is a must for me when it comes to holiday makeup. A good highlighter enhances the skin to make it seem more healthy and radiant without emphasizing pores or flakiness. On the far left I have theBalm's Mary-Lou Manizer, a favorite of many given it's intense pigmentation. In the middle is a baby tube of Benefit's Watt's Up, pretty much my favorite cream highlighter. It looks very natural and I don't have to be scared of over applying it. A rather special highlighter that I always find myself going back to sooner or later is Nars' Blush in Albatross. It looks like a strange off-white in the pan but when sheered out on the skin, Albatross is a white gold with a hint of shimmer. It never looks glittery or fake and looks lovely on the cheekbones.

If you're not feeling the bold makeup and you want to keep it super simple, painting your nails in glittery shades of red, gold and green is an easy way to get into the beauty spirit. From left to right I have Zoya's Chyna, Kerry and Rikki. I have no patience for intricate nail art so I douse my fingertips in glitter and call it a day.

How do you get ready for the holidays? Do you opt for extravagant looks to dazzle or would you rather go with a less done-up and cozier feel?

Friday, December 19, 2014

My Scheming L-Ascorbic Acid & Ellagic Acid Brightening Double Lifting Mask

The name of this face mask is so long I didn't feel the need to add more descriptive adjectives to the title of this review. I've been slowly trying to go through my sheet mask stash and using up the ones I have already before restocking on tried and true favorites. My Scheming is a Taiwanese sheet mask brand that is quite popular and I've had good experiences from other variations I've tried in the past. The L-Ascorbic Acid & Ellagic Acid Brightening Double Lifting Mask "brightens dull skin, leaving your skin fair and transparent" and also claims to help retain moisture. 

Before getting into the formula, I want to talk about the interesting shape of the mask itself. You can see on the front of the packaging that there are ear holes and a neck flap. The neck flap makes sense since neck skin is prone to aging but I can simply pat excess essence onto the area instead of struggling to get the awkward neck piece to stay on. The ear holes are really ridiculous and a waste of effort because the mask isn't wide enough for the hooks to reach behind my ears. I wouldn't want face mask serum to get behind my ears anyway.... The design of the mask tries too hard to be unique and falls flat. The cotton of the mask is not particularly soft and is rather stiff. It holds essence decently and does not dry out too quickly.

The serum is light and non-sticky with a very light scent which reminds me of tea. There is a decent amount of serum in the packet so I have enough to pat into the skin the next evening (I tend to do this with most sheet masks). The formula does not sting my skin whatsoever and absorbs easily into the skin. There is no film or feeling of something sitting on my face after using this which is very nice. I wouldn't say this is a particularly hydrating face mask. It calms my skin and makes my face feel smooth to the touch. I didn't find any noticeable brightening effects which was mildly disappointing. 

This isn't a bad mask by any means but not one that does anything particularly great. A pack of five of these masks goes for a little more than $7 on Sasa so it's a very affordable mask. The design of the sheet mask is gimmicky and not sensible but the formulation is nice for those with normal to oily skin, especially in the summer. I think this would be ideal to use in warmer weather due to the fresh-face feel it delivers without any trace of stickiness. 

What are your favorite sheet masks? Any great hydrating masks to recommend? I can see the bottom of my sheet mask stash so I'm definitely looking into purchasing some new brightening and hydrating masks soon!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Coastal Scents Revealed 2 Sampler: Burgundy Toned Neutral Shadows

Ever since the first Urban Decay Naked Palette launched, we've seen endless dupes that try to mimic the neutral eyeshadow palette. As someone who rarely deviates from beiges, browns and taupes, I'm not complaining. Coastal Scents came out with the Revealed and Revealed 2 Palettes that are reminiscent of the first and third Urban Decay palettes. The Coastal Scents palettes contain 20 shades each and retail for roughly $20. I've seen the price drop as low as $10 during 50% off sales so this is definitely an affordable offering if you're looking for a neutral shadow palette. A month or two ago, I chose the adorable Revealed 2 sampler from the Birchbox Soho Build Your Own Birchbox station to see how these shadows would compare.

This is one of those cases where the swatches speak for themselves. The sampler contains two matte and two shimmery shades. In the full size palette, I believe six of the shades are matte. All four shades in the sampler are buttery smooth and pigmented. I had no problem getting pigmentation on the back of my hand. The darker shade took about three light swipes but that's a good thing since there isn't really a midtone matte brown to blend with. I'd rather be able to build up the color than have difficulty sheering it out once it's on my eyelid. The shimmery brownie taupe is my favorite shadow from this sampler but the matte cream shade really surprised me by its silky, rich texture.

I really like this little quad but wish the packaging was more sturdy or they could have at least made it so the pans could be easily depotted. The full size palette is very thin and made of hard cardboard. It's not super flimsy but not very substantial either. For the price I can't really complain but I personally am restraining myself from purchasing the full size palette. These palettes would make a great gift for those who are starting with makeup and need a lot of neutrals to start with. The price is good and the quality is definitely on par with some more mainstream brands.

What do you think about the Coastal Scents eyeshadows? Have you tried the Revealed palettes? What's your favorite neutral eyeshadow palette?

Friday, December 12, 2014

Sephora Give Me More Lip: A Birthday Gift to Myself

Today is my 22nd birthday. Normally I would have scheduled a post but today I am writing this right before posting because I'm bundled up in my bedroom, off from work due to a bad cough and headache. What a way to spend a birthday. To cheer myself up, I'll be talking about the Sephora Give Me More Lip Ultimate Lip Sampler, a gift I bought myself last week when Sephora had their $15 off $50 giftcard event. Over the last few weeks I've watched half a dozen swatch and review videos and read countless blog posts about this set, going back and forth over whether or not I wanted to buy this. In the end, I decided life is short and while I don't need anymore lip products, it was an opportunity too good to pass up. The set is sold out on the Sephora website but I saw a bunch of these in-store last week so you might be able to find it at your local store. 

The set comes with an assortment of 17 lipsticks, lipglosses, lip pencils and lip balms. The brands range from luxury, Hourglass and Laura Mercier, to the Sephora brand. I really wanted this set for the variety of brands I have never tried and realistically, I never finish lip products so minis are a great way to test out formulas without having to invest in a full size. I already have the Sephora Collection Rouge Infusion Stain from a 100 point perk and the Bite Beauty Luminous Creme Lipstick in Palomino so those will be passed onto a friend. Still, 15 lip products that I've never tried before for $59 isn't a bad deal!

These four are the ones I'm most intrigued about trying. All of these are liquid lipstick formulas and are supposed to deliver intense color payoff. The Hourglass Opaque Rouge in Icon seems to be very popular amongst the Youtube community and the Kat Von D Everlasting Liquid Lipstick in Outlaw is definitely a show stopper. The OCC Liptar in Black Dahlia is not a shade I would wear regularly but it'll be fun to experiment with it. I've heard a lot of good things about the Too Faced Melted Liquified Lipsticks and the Fuchsia shade is very fun and girly.

These are my picks for most natural and wearable shades in the kit. I'm happy there are quite a lot of everyday lippies that I can throw in my handbag and reapply throughout the day. I've had the Fresh Sugar Tinted Lip Balms before and loved them but the Berry shade is new to me. I have multiples of the Tarte LipSurgence Lip Tints and I'm glad they included the Moody shade as it's much darker than the others I have in my collection already and sans shimmer. I love the packaging of the mini Too Faced La Creme Lipstick in Naked Dolly. I only hope the shade is not too nude to the point but I'm sure it will look fine under gloss. The Laura Mercier Lipgloss in Blush looks like a fantastic everyday lipgloss. I will say the scent is rather unappealing to me though. The Bare Minerals Marvelous Moxie Lipstick in Speak Your Mind is a great neutral pink that looks like it would suit many skin tones. I haven't heard stellar reviews for the Benefit Hydrating Lipbalms because they're way too pricey for what they are and the itty bitty sample of Posiebalm is quite disappointing. I have the tube rolled all the way up and as you can see, there's barely any product.

Here I lined up all the lipsticks to show you exactly how much product you get in the tubes. I've had minis before in the past and for me, things last a lot longer than you would expect. The Tarte Power Pigment in Flush is actually a full size which retails for $24. The Laura Mercier Creme Smooth Lip Colour in Red Amour (fourth from the left in the above picture) is actually a really generous 2.5 grams which is about two thirds the size of a full tube. Again, let's point out how pathetic Benefit Posiebalm looks....

You'll notice that I didn't do any swatches and that's because I'm stashing these minis away for after I finish up something lip-related in my collection. I have so many lipsticks and lipglosses that are opened and unloved so I need to get started with using them up. I will allow myself to try the Hourglass and Kat Von D liquid lipsticks because they look like really fun Christmas colors. As for everything else, I need declutter a bit before delving into new makeup. I guess this gives me incentive to stick to using a few things from my collection!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Winter Bodycare: Lotion, Butter and Oil

Not too long ago, I used to loathe putting on body moisturizer after a shower. It felt time consuming when all I wanted to do was slip into some comfortable PJs and go on with my evening. Unfortunately I suffer from incredibly dry skin on my body for most of the year, especially from fall to early spring. If I don't slather on lotion, my skin develops scabs that scar and itch. It's pretty awful and I've had to find some body lotions I liked enough to encourage me to actually use them on a daily basis. Here I've got three different formulations and price points for every preference and budget.

The CeraVe Moisturizing Cream is a complete life savior for me and I was recommended it by Monika. I've already finished a tub of this cream months ago and just bought a new one and am almost out again. This is easily found at your local drugstore and costs about $16. It's a bit pricey for a drugstore cream but worth every penny and I try to stock up when they go on offer.

Second up is The Body Shop's Vanilla Brulee Body Butter, a seasonal offering which I'm pretty sure is limited edition. I generally like the body butters from The Body Shop but some of the scents are too strong and artificial. Vanilla Brulee is very mild and not overly sweet to the point where I smell like I bathed in cake batter. The butter is moisturizing without being greasy or heavy.

The Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse, or better known in English as the Multi-Purpose Dry Oil, is a lovely treat for special evenings and extra stressful days. I had used up a baby sample of this body, hair and face oil and really enjoyed the lightweight, easily absorbed consistency and the fragrant but not overpowering scent. I mostly use this as a body oil and I'll take whatever is left over on my hands and run it through my hair. This is the least moisturizing of the lot but it doesn't feel sticky or oily at all and sinks into the skin nicely. I have to say the $45 price tag for this bottle is rather hefty and I admit I received this full size from work as gratis. If you're looking to treat someone you love this holiday season, pop this guy into a gift basket with some other relaxing treats and I'm sure the recipient will be extra chuffed.

How do you protect your skin from cold, dry weather? What formula do you prefer: lotion, butter or oil?

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Joining Project Make a Dent: The Beginning

After my last two posts on rather high-end beauty bits, it seems appropriate to share this post of more humble beauty bobs that I've been using very often in the last week or so in an attempt to make some space in my overflowing collection. I've been seeing Project Make a Dent make its way around the blogosphere and many bloggers I respect and admire have been attempting this feat of culling their clutter and actually finishing products. I have embarked on Project X Pans and self-imposed challenges in the past and have all but failed. Hopefully this time it'll be different....

I chose a handful of products that I want to use up but by no means is this the lot of products I am allowed to use for the foreseeable future. I'll just be focusing on trying to use these makeup items whenever I wear makeup. I chose the Maybelline Dream Fresh BB Cream for this challenge because I think I only have about a fourth of the bottle left since I used it a lot when I was studying abroad. It shouldn't take too long for me to finish up this base even though I haven't reached for it in ages due to the poor longevity and oil control. I tend to mix this BB cream with others in my collection to extend the wear time. I dusted off my Benefit Powda Wowza Palette which includes Hoola, Coralista and Bella Bamba. I still stick to my original review from three years ago when I declared these powders overrated and too powdery. But I've come to like Hoola as a contour and Coralista is a pretty color when you want a very subtle blush. I've made a noticeable dip in Hoola but you can't really see from the photo. I've had the Korres Lip Butter in Jasmine for way longer than I'd like to admit but the product still smells the same and doesn't irritate my lips. I've been using it almost every morning as a lip balm and I've come to find that it looks really nice under bold pink lipsticks and glosses because it tones down the brightness considerably. Hopefuly I can finish the lip butter before it goes bad. I have a Mac Blacktrack Fluidline waiting to be opened so I'm determined to use up what's left of my Physician's Formula Gel Liner in Black. These come in trios but I gave away the other two shimmery shades in this set months ago.

I've been using these shades in my Z-Palette very regularly because they're easy neutrals and to be honest, I have some Rouge Bunny Rouge eyeshadows coming in soon and I need space in my Z-Palette to store them.... The blush is Rimmel's Santa Rose which is one of my all time favorite drugstore blushes. It looks so boring in the pan but on the cheeks it is the perfect pink that doesn't look too warm or cool. The eyeshadows are mostly a mish mash of Wet n' Wild shadows which I've always appreciated. The three matte shades have been coming in handy and for some reason I only liked the midtone brown after I depotted it. The purple in the corner is from a Too Faced palette and the burgundy above the dark brown is by Revlon.

Sometimes I feel silly trying so hard to use drugstore products when I have many other pricier items waiting for my attention. Hopefully I can continue to mostly use these products on a daily basis and wittle away until I see some pan. How do you focus on using up specific makeup products? Have you considered doing a Project 10 Pan or Project Make a Dent?

Monday, December 1, 2014

First Chanel Beauty Purchases: Joues Contraste Blush and Rouge Coco Shine Lipstick

I officially feel like a big girl beauty blogger. For a long time I've been lemming some Chanel beauty for every superficial reason in the book and because I was just simply curious about how this luxury brand would perform. For years I've seen swatches and raves of everything from the Rouge Cocos to the famed Vitalumiere Aqua and held myself back because I thought it was a little too luxurious for my student coffers. Well, I've been officially done with school for half a year already so I think a mini Chanel splurge is appropriate. Here are my initial thoughts on my first Chanel beauty picks!

After going back and forth for awhile and asking my Twitter beauty buddies for recommendations, I was intent on getting a blush and lipstick. I wanted a very natural blush color that I could get a lot of use out of and Joues Contraste Powder Blush in 99 Rose Pétale fit the bill perfectly. The blush is a midtoned nude pink with very fine shimmers. For a lipstick, I wanted a very comfortable formula with a pop of color but nothing too pigmented that I wouldn't be able to wear regularly. I swatched the Rouge Coco Shine Lipstick in Bohème and knew I had to have it. 

Let's talk a bit about the blush first. The packaging is absolutely divine and I love the classic double C logo. I'm not a fan of most logos (ahem, the Gucci beauty packaging is horrid in my opinion) but I love the Chanel C's. The black plastic case very lightweight but seemingly sturdy with a nice sized mirror. The felt case with the Chanel logo once again is nice to have as well. The blush has a rose scent that is very noticeable but not too cloying for my taste. The brush that comes in the case is quite rubbish to be frank so I would have preferred to have a bigger pan of blush if they had just done without the brush altogether.

Here is a rather ruddy swatch of Rose Pétale on my arm. The powder is very soft and smooth to the touch and just a light tap with yield even color. The shimmers are very fine and don't come across as glittery or sparkly at all. I have yet to wear this on my cheeks but am confident it will look very flattering on many skin tones. 

I have worn the Rouge Coco Shine Lipstick in Bohème a couple of times and am utterly in love with this lipstick. The consistency, the color and the finish are all beautiful and exactly what I was looking for in my first Chanel lipstick. This lipstick has a jelly-like shine and quality to it that makes my lips feel and look ultra-hydrated and plump. The color is buildable so I can have a very sheer wash of color or a more true strawberry red lip. The texture feels like a lipbalm to me and it fades evenly without ever drying out my lips. The lipstick itself looks exquisite and I love the sleek black and gold casing. 

After years of waiting and a few days of playing, my impression of Chanel makeup is overwhelmingly positive for the time being. The absolutely adore the lipstick and look forward to purchasing more of the Rouge Coco Shines in the future. The blush is also very nice although I have to wear it a few times before deciding if I should collect more since they are quite pricey. I'm definitely interested in trying Chanel bases as well as their eye makeup offerings. I also have my eyes set on expanding my collection to include other luxury brands like Burberry, Tom Ford, Giorgio Armani and YSL.... Oh, such is the never satisfied life of a beauty addict. Tell me, what are your picks from Chanel's beauty lineup?