Saturday, January 31, 2015

2015 Wardrobe Refresh Goal and Recent Shoe Purchases

At this point I've given up on putting myself on self-imposed makeup diets because I know I can't resist a good beauty deal and, you know, it's "for the blog".... The only effective method that works for curbing my makeup spending is to allocate those funds toward something else. This year, that something else is my wardrobe. I um and ah over classic staples that I know I will wear for years but stop myself short due to the price. I figure if I can cut back on beauty spending and redirect that money towards saving for a beautiful everyday handbag or a stunning pair of earrings, I can both trim my beauty stash and build my ideal closet.

To guide my quality over quantity mentality, I am aiming to limit myself to 15 new wardrobe purchases. This encompasses clothing, bags, shoes and accessories such as scarves and jewelry. For the sake of my sanity, I'm not counting things like socks and bras because those are actual necessities.

With the first month of 2015 already gone, I admit I haven't quite paced myself so well with already four new additions to my wardrobe. The first piece is a faux sherling vest from Zara which I had my eye on for months and was discounted from $100 to $60. The other three purchases are all shoes as I think I'm lacking in the footwear department.

The first two pairs are impractical purchases that you see above. I rarely have a reason to wear skinny heels as I'm always stomping on pavement and running after trains. But I find that when I actually have an event to go to, I'm left with few shoe options to go with the rest of my attire.

The first pair are Zara lace stilettos complete with the pre-requisite ankle straps that I need to keep these from flying off my feet. The classic details and black color mean I can wear these shoes for years without looking dated. I look forward to wearing this pair for events where I don't plan on walking a whole lot because they're not the easiest to walk in. I believe the original price was about $80 or $90 and I picked them on sale for $40.

The next pair are the Sam Edelman Zavier which I found at Saks Off 5th at the Woodbury Commons Outlets. I saw these strappy sandals awhile ago online but I didn't find them practical enough to warrant the $140 original price. They were discounted to $75 at Off 5th and I reasoned these would be a good statement shoe even with a more casual outfit. I was feeling pretty spendy that day so these came home with me. The ankle detailing make these surprisingly comfortable to wear and easy to walk in.

The last pair of shoes is another Saks Off 5th find that literally made my heart stop when I picked them up and inspected the price tag. For about two years I have had the Stuart Weitzman 5050 Boot on my wishlist but didn't know if it was worth the $635 price tag. I even tried them on at Bloomingdales but felt the sole was a bit too flat for comfort. I was skimming the racks at Off Fifth and at the bottom shelf I spotted a folded pair of black leather boots similar in style to the 5050. Somehow I had found the last pair of the Stuart Weitzman Lander Boots in my size (7.5) at the store! The best part was that I scored this pair for $324 (tax not included)!

The Lander is very similar to the 5050 aside from the slight wedge heel which is concealed with smooth black leather. The over the knee look is very flattering and the stretchy back panel is very flattering for thinner calves. It can be a struggle getting these on and off, especially the latter, but it's an issue I'm willing to overlook. I haven't worn these out yet as I'm slightly paranoid about getting the leather scuffed or dirty from salt on the sidewalks. These boots will definitely get a lot of love once all this snow in New York melts.

That's about it for my little shoe update and my wardrobe mission for 2015. Looking forward to doing some outfit posts when the weather is warmer and I'm not scuttling about in a North Face jacket and rather uncomely, but warm, attire. How do you budget when it comes to shopping for clothing and accessories? What investment pieces have been worth the money?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Popsugar Must Have Box: January 2015

This past Christmas I participated in four different secret santa swaps so I had to make four different wish lists. I wished for a Popsugar Must Have Box because I had seen many of the previous boxes and thought the value was phenomenal although the thought of shelling out $40 per month for a subscription box made me think twice. Sure enough, my lovely godsister gifted me the January 2015 box and I'm rather pleased with the contents! Let's go through the box starting with the products I'm most excited about to the ones I'm feeling lukewarm towards.

First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream ($28): The skin on my body is ultra dry in the winter and I develop really awful scabs on my back that are difficult to stave away. I really like the First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads and I've heard good things about this cream so I was expecting miracles. I was surprised the tub seems rather small for $28 though. So far I've used this two nights in a row and the first night my skin stung quite a lot. The stinging subsided after half an hour and there was no reaction afterwards. My skin has not been itchy since I applied this last night so it may be working. Will report back on this in a future empties post....

Manduka eQua Hand Towel ($16): I hope to take some yoga classes with my Mom soon so this will definitely come in handy. I love the aqua blue color and the material is soft and seemingly durable. If you don't do sports, this would make a great face towel.

KeepCup Brew 12-Ounce Reusable Coffee Cup ($26): If I was a coffee-drinker, I'd probably find this item a lot more exciting. I can still use this for tea or hot chocolate though so I can't complain. The pink band is right up my alley and the design of the cup is modern and cute. My only worry is that the topper doesn't seem very secure so I wouldn't throw this my bag for on-the-go mornings.

Skin Jewel Tattoos ($18): I've been eyeing Flash Tattoos since I saw them on people in the summer but I'd only really wear these to a music festival. Flash Tattoos have nicer designs than these Skin Jewels but if I'm only wearing these for a few hours once or twice a year, I can deal with these. I'm hoping I go to a festival this summer so I have a chance to wear these out.

ToGoSpa Eyes ($12.50): I love sheet masks and these eye gel masks look rather promising. At first they came across looking a bit cheap if I'm being completely honest but looking at the ingredients, there really aren't too many additives. I am mildly concerned that these are made in China but that won't stop me from trying these out.

General Mills Nature Valley Protein Granola ($3.68): Is it silly that I was excited to try this? I love getting food bits in subscription boxes so this was a nice surprise. The flavor is Peanut Butter 'N Dark Chocolate which sounds pretty indulgent for breakfast. I tried snacking on this dry and it was pretty hard to process but I think this would go great with milk.

Jack + Lucy Pom Pom Hat ($32): This slouchy beanie is quite cute although the material isn't soft and the yarn is too thin for this to be especially warm. I don't think this is worth anywhere near $32 either. It's cute and I'll wear it but I have other hats that will keep me warmer.

All in all, I at least like every product that was in the January 2015 Popsugar Must Have Box. Even though $40 seems like a lot to spend on a box, keep in mind that every product is full size and the box will always have a retail value of over $40. For me it really comes down to if I like a majority of the products and if I feel they are worth at least $40. I'm not a huge fan of surprises and I like to know what I'm paying for so I'm still hesitant about purchasing the subscription every month. I can definitely see myself buying a box or two when I feel like getting surprised and I think it's a great gift. What do you think of the Popsugar Must Have Boxes?

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Mac Pro Longwear Waterproof Brow Set: Before and After

Eyebrows are having a moment and the spotlight doesn't seem to be fading anytime soon. Unfortunately, I find little joy in doing my eyebrows and it is the chore in my makeup routine. I was looking for a product that could easily fill in the sparse ends of my brows and stay in place all day. I was intrigued by the Mac Pro Longwear Waterproof Brow Set because I had seen positive reviews on it and I wanted a 2-in-1 product to define and hold my brows in place.

It was pretty difficult choosing one of the six shades online but I ended up with Quiet Brunette, the third darkest shade. The 5 gram tube costs $17 which I think is quite reasonable since you don't need a whole lot of product per use. The wand is a small tapered spoolie which makes it easy to comb through the brows and to draw more precise lines. Since I have so little brow hair at the tail of my brow, I use the pointed tip to draw the ends of my brows. The formula is quite pigmented so you have to be careful not to catch too much gel onto your skin. You have a few seconds to wipe away any mistakes before the gel really sets and becomes more difficult to remove. While I don't intend to swim or submerge myself in water to test out the waterproof claim, this is a long lasting product that stays in place all day long. 

Above you can see how much a difference the brow set makes for my sad natural brow hairs. I comb out the hairs at the front a bit and mostly focus on filling in the outer half. The shade I have is definitely more on the warm side which I can get away with due to my dyed hair. I wish the shade was a bit more cool toned and ashy as I think it would look more natural. The shade that is a touch lighter is much more red and the darker shade is too dark.

I personally don't think this is my favorite brow product by itself. I have gotten compliments on my brows when I use this and I think it gives a nice, natural effect from a few feet away. But up close, I'm not a huge fan of the shade. I also need to be careful not to apply too much of this because it can look intense if I get too much gel on my skin.

If you find a shade that is perfect for your skintone and hair color and you have a brow shape that you are happy with, I think you'd enjoy this a lot. If you don't have a structured brow already, you need to experiment with this a bit to get the hang of it. I'm still more comfortable filling in my brows with an angled pencil and combing through with a clear brow gel. What do you think of tinted brow gels? Are you a fan?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Another Leaders Insolution Hit: Coconut Gel Moisturizing Recovery Mask

Leaders Insolution was my favorite skincare discovery last year and continues to be my favorite sheet mask brand. I felt guilty recommending these masks because they can difficult to find outside of Korea but not anymore; Leaders is now available in stateside at Leaders Cosmetics USA! The company reached out to me and offered to send me some products to try and I happily obliged given my positive experience with the brand. I've tried several of their normal treatment masks so I wanted to give one of their Coconut Gel masks a go. The cold winter is stripping my skin of moisture so I thought the Moisturizing Recovery Mask* would be perfect to test out. 

I was interested to try this mask because I've been generally underwhelmed by most gel masks. Others I've tried from other Korean brands either have too little serum or don't seem to have much effect on my skin. From the moment I took this mask out of the packaging, I could tell the gel material was of better quality. The mask is thin and lightweight but very smooth and sturdy so it will not rip while you're arranging it on your face. Gel masks are especially cooling and refreshing so they're perfect for when you have a few minutes to unwind. This mask fit my face very well and was well saturated in essence. I even had enough leftover essence in the packet to use for two more applications. I typically have leftover essence in the mask packaging that I will save for topical application like a moisturizer the following evenings.

The essence of this mask is like a thick serum but it is non greasy and not too sticky. The formula is free of parabens, alcohol, mineral oil and artificial colors. There is a bit of fragrance but it is not overwhelming at all. The full ingredients are clearly labeled on the packaging. The mask stayed moist on my skin for about half an hour before I felt my skin had absorbed most of the product. My skin felt more plump and smooth after masking and was not sticky. This is a great treat for dry and dehydrated skin types. 

I honestly have no negative things to say about the Leaders Insolution Coconut Gel Moisturizing Recovery Mask. I enjoy this mask as much as the others I've used from the brand and will continue purchasing other variants. If you're interested in trying Leaders skincare, now would be a great time to do it because Leaders is offering my readers 30% off their purchase with the code "KARYIXOXO". The code can be used once per customer and expires February 14. I can personally vouch for the Teatree Relaxing, AC-Dressing and Vita Bright masks in addition to this Coconut Gel Moisturizing Recovery one. Let me know if you purchase anything!

* Leaders Cosmetics provided me with this product to review but I had purchased previous masks from the brand with my own money. All opinions are my own and 100% honest.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Back to Basics: Base Makeup for Beginners

I tend to forget that most people don't spend almost a huge chunk of their free time reading blogs, browsing new product releases and watching tutorials like I do. This post can serve as a favorites post for all my beauty aficionado readers and a starter guide for those who seek guidance on how to even their complexion. These are general tips and products that I swear by. Of course everyone has different skin types and preferences so there will always be a bit of trial and error when it comes to beauty products.

If you're starting from owning absolutely no makeup, I'd suggest investing in three great products for a complete face: a concealer, a liquid base such as BB cream, tinted moisturizer or foundation, and a powder. Primer is nice to have but not a must, especially if you're on a budget or you don't want a lengthy getting ready process.

Concealer is used most often under the eyes to hide dark circles, on blemishes or fading scars and areas of acute redness often around the nose and mouth. If you're just starting out, I'd recommend just getting one that is slightly salmon toned because it will counteract the blueness under the eyes but it shouldn't look so stark that it won't blend out evenly on the rest of your face.

I like the Mac Select Cover Up as an undereye and spot concealer because it provides medium coverage and is not drying. My favorite spot concealer from the drugstore is Collection's Lasting Perfection Ultimate Wear Concealer which unfortunately is only available in the U.K. The packaging is rather rubbish because all the words have rubbed off the tube but the concealer itself is very high coverage but easy to blend and long lasting.

If you don't have spots to cover and you simply want something to brighten under the eyes, I highly recommend the Shiseido Sheer Eye Zone Corrector*. Concealers in pen format are super easy to use; just click out a bit of product, swipe a few lines under the eyes and blend with your ring finger.

I am often asked what is the different between foundations, tinted moisturizers and BB creams. To be honest, the difference really depends on the brand and specific product you are comparing. Some foundations are super sheer and have added skincare benefits and sun protection while some BB creams can have quite high coverage while lacking sunscreen. There is no one rule that determines what a liquid base is besides the name of the product. That being said, generally BB creams and tinted moisturizers are more "everyday friendly" as they give less coverage than a traditional foundation. BB creams tend to have an awful shade selection with only one or two shades to choose from.

I really enjoy the Dr. Jart Water Fuse BB Cream because it's very easy to blend and it gives a healthy luminous finish without looking oily. If you have a medium skintone, I'd recommend the Marcelle Golden Glow BB Cream for that same dewy finish. I recommend starting with all over bases with less coverage because you want to avoid looking cakey and very made up. A pea sized amount of BB cream is all you need for your whole face and you can just portion out the drop all around your face, applying more on the areas where you need a bit more coverage. You can go in with your concealer after to build coverage on specific areas. This looks a lot more natural and also feels more comfortable on the skin.

To apply your liquid base you could simply use your fingers if you don't want to spend money on brushes. But in my experience, brushes make a huge difference in application because it smooths the product on better and you end up wasting less product. On the very affordable end of the spectrum, I'd recommend the E.L.F Studio Powder Brush. It's my favorite $3 brush that I've been using for years. The Real Techniques Buffing Brush is good for the price but you have to purchase it in the Core Collection set. If you're willing to spend a bit more, I'd recommend the Sigma F80 which blends liquid products into the skin like a dream. I also like the Beauty Blender for more high coverage bases but you have to wash the sponge after every use to keep it in good condition. Come to think of it, I actually don't have many high end foundation brushes....

To ensure your beautiful base stays in place all day (or for at least a majority of it), invest in a good powder. If you struggle to find a powder that matches your skintone, go with a translucent setting powder. I reach for the Nars Light Reflecting Loose Setting Powder very frequently and even though it seems expensive, you only need the smallest amount for your entire face so this will last you a long time. This white powder disappears onto the skin and blurs pores and imperfections without giving you a ghostly pallor. If you want to add more coverage without layering on more liquid foundations or BB creams, opt for a powder foundation. One of my favorites is the Shiseido Sheer and Perfect Foundation* because it clearly reduces redness and evens out the skin without looking ashy or cakey. I always keep this in my purse to touch up my base.

If you're looking for inexpensive powder brushes, I recommend the Coastal Scents BR-C-S43 and BR-C-S31. Both of these are large, fluffy brushes that won't disturb your liquid makeup as you apply powder. Coastal Scents has sales all the time and you can purchase these brushes for less than $10 each. If you don't want to order online, pop into your local drugstore and pick up some Ecotools brushes. I use my Ecotools Mini Kabuki Brushes all the time and they're great for travel as well. For a luxurious splurge, you can't go wrong with the Make Up For Ever 128 Precision Powder Brush, possibly the softest synthetic brush I own. The MUFE 128 is dense at the base but fluffy at the tip so it lays down the smallest amount of powder gently.

This post turned out to be a lot longer than I had intended it to be. Let me know if these back to basics posts are helpful! What are your base makeup must-haves?

Saturday, January 10, 2015

2015 Beauty Trends I'm Actually Looking Forward To

Since my first post of the new year, things have been pretty quiet around this blog. The main reason for my absence is simply because I've been working a lot and I haven't had time on the weekends to photograph. The other factor is that I've been pondering what posts I want to write and what you all would like to read. I was feeling lost and turned to Twitter to ask for suggestions. My dear blogging friend Kristin of Mad Betty suggested I do a 2015 trend predictions post which was an interesting idea I never had for my blog (even though I've been writing them for the past few weeks for clients at work). Instead of telling you guys about trends you're already well aware of (Marsala, anyone?), I'm going to write about trends that I think will be taking off this year that I am also looking forward to. 

Indie Brands in the Spotlight
This first prediction is more about the beauty industry in general rather than a specific product. In the past few years we've seen a growing number of small beauty companies taking the market by storm. A few named you might be familiar with include Makeup Geek, Fyrinnae, Haus of Gloi and ColourPop. The definition of "indie" might vary but I generally equate indie brands with small companies that have started up within the past five years. Great social media marketing is definitely a factor in helping these fledgling businesses to gain customers and prominent bloggers and Youtubers also amplify the voices of amazing small brands with not much marketing budget. The rise of subscription box services also helps smaller beauty companies to get noticed.

Cleanser Innovations
I used to be all about Asian cleansing oils and foaming cleansers but I'm intrigued by a few relatively new offerings from brands available locally. First Aid Beauty has something called a "Milk Oil Conditioning Cleanser" and a number of powder cleansers are entering the market a la Josie Maran and Peter Thomas Roth. I tried a sample of the Tatcha Rice Enzyme Powder last year and loved the way it made my skin feel so I'm definitely purchasing that once I've gone through all my backup cleansers. I'm very pleased that more Americans seem to be waking up to the idea that makeup wipes aren't the only way to remove makeup.

Sculpt and Shape Subtly 
Contour is still going strong this year but I don't think we'll see harsh lines and edges for long. I'm all for a cool toned shadow under the cheekbones and cleverly placed bronzer on the sides of the nose but I don't tend to do the whole super-white-foundation-under-the-eyes technique. I predict that cream contouring will be big this year as I love my Kevyn Aucoin Creamy Glow Duo and I'm already eyeing the new Becca Lowlight/Highlight Perfecting Palette. Contouring is much more up my alley than just bronzing up my skin since I don't revel in looking tan. Cheekbones, yes. Sun burn, no.

Groomed Yet Natural Brows
Let's all cross our fingers and hope that this year bids adieu to the "Instagram Brow" as Wayne Goss calls them. My natural brows are pretty weak and a dark, structured brow clashes with my other features. Instead of spending ten minutes on the little patches of hair above our eye balls, let's use that time to play with some out-of-the-box eyeshadow colors or try out a new up-do.

The last few days have given me time to think about the future for this space and although I probably won't be posting as much as I used to, I'll still make it a point to update regularly. I hope to get back into doing more lifestyle posts with lots of drool-worthy food pictures. What are you looking forward to for 2015, beauty or life-wise?

Thursday, January 1, 2015

14 Favorites of 2014

Happy 2015 everyone! I'm starting off this blogging year with a positive post, a brief look back at all the amazing beauty finds of 2014. These might not be recent releases but they were new to me and I wanted to share my favorite makeup, skincare, haircare and bodycare finds.

Leaders Insolution Sheet Masks - I bought these Korean mask sheets way back in January when I visited South Korea and fell in love. These are only about $2 per mask sheet but the cotton is luxuriously thick and soft, soaked in a gel serum that does what it says it will. The AC-Dressing mask is particularly great for wind burned skin and evenings when my face feels particularly sensitive.

Juice Beauty Green Apple Peel Sensitive - I've used quite a few exfoliants but this is by far my favorite of the year because of the effective glycolic acid formula which smoothes skin without scratching. I haven't tried most of Juice Beauty's line but I can vouch for this particular product.

Shiseido Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate* - I attended the launch for this product and wasn't expecting it to change my skin the way it did. It isn't described as a serum but you can use it like one. Just add it to your skincare routine between your toner and moisturizer and see more supple skin in a few weeks.

IOPE Bio Essence (not pictured because I finished the bottle and forgot to salvage it for this post) - For those familiar with the SKII Facial Treatment Essence, also known as Miracle Water, this is a less expensive alternative. This literally looks, feels and smells like water but it tones the skin and helps my skin heal faster after battling with a bout of hormonal acne.

TEMPTU Airbrush Makeup System - I finally had a chance to try out the TEMPTU and now know why the term "airbrushed" carries so much weight when it comes to flawless foundation. While I don't use this everyday, I tend to gravitate towards it for special occasions and parties because it looks phenomenal in person and in photographs.

Shiseido Sheer Eye Zone Corrector* - On the opposite end of the spectrum is a fuss-free everyday base product that I can apply with my eyes closed. This concealer gives me just enough coverage under my eyes to hide darkness without ever looking cakey or dry. The applicator is very convenient and this product has inspired me to look into other under eye concealers in pen formats.

Laura Mercier Caviar Sticks - I've had these on my wishlist ever since they were released but always found them a bit too pricey. But if you're needing a one-stop eyeshadow that will stay on all day, I'd recommend investing in one of these. The shimmer on these is beautiful, refined and never gritty. My favorite shades are Moonlight, Rose Gold and Amethyst.

L'oreal Voluminous Waterproof Mascara - I've always vouched for Maybelline waterproof mascaras but this L'oreal one really surprised me. I've had flaking issues with some Maybelline waterproof formulas and the Voluminous gives me curl, separation, length and a bit of volume without the flakes.

Kevyn Aucoin Creamy Glow Duo in Sculpting and Candlelight - If you read my review of this, you'll know that I adore the sculpting bit of this duo and am lukewarm to the candlelight side. The cream contour shade is perfect for carving out cheekbones out of cheek chub while looking completely natural. The highlighter is fine but just not as special. I wish they sold the sculpting shade alone in a cream formula. I have my eye on the Becca cream contour after I finish this up.

Laura Geller Blush-N-Brighten in Pink Buttercream - I don't think I can choose one blush that was my favorite this year just because I have so many. This was the first year I got my hands on some Laura Geller bits and was so blown away by her mineralized products. This blush in particular is a gorgeous pink that looks shimmery in the pan but applies smooth and non-glittery on the cheek.

Urban Decay Makeup Setting Spray - I tried both the De-Slick and All-Nighter sprays from Urban Decay this year and liked both. I like the De-Slick a bit more because I think it controls oil better but bought two big bottles of All-Nighter so I have to use them up first. These sprays really do help my makeup stay on and look more melded to my face... if that makes sense.

Japanese Made Brushes (Hakuhodo, Chikuhodo, Wayne Goss) - I invested in a few japanese brushes this year and couldn't have been happier with them. The softness of the natural fibers, the attention to detail in design and the general way they apply product is unparalleled. I plan on investing more on brushes in the near future.

Number 4 Haircare - I first tried Number 4's Reconstructing Masque in 2013 but it was in 2014 that I really got to understand the line and try out most of the line. In particular, I'm a big fan of all their shampoos (clarifying, volumizing and moisturizing) as well as their Super Comb Prep and Protect. The line is on the higher end of the spectrum but it is also sulfate free, paraben free, gluten free and vegan. A little goes a long way with all their formulas and I think it's worth the money.

Malin + Goetz Deodorant - This is kind of a weird favorite but if you wear deodorant to cover up any body odors, I'd highly recommend this one. I don't sweat all that much unless I'm obviously broiling in the summer sun (which is rare) so I never wore deodorant until 2013 when I was sent one from Secret in an Influenster box. The Secret deodorant smelled pleasantly of fruit but sometimes it was a bit strong. I also noticed that it left a residue that was difficult to wash off in the shower. I read about deodorants and how many contained aluminum which may be linked to hormonal imbalances. So, I stopped using the deodorant but I began to notice that I wasn't smelling as fresh as I used to pre-deodorant. I was introduced to the Malin + Goetz Deodorant, which is aluminum free, and think it's a great odor neutralizer that does not leave any residue. It looks clear in the swivel packaging and you can't even feel that it's on. The tube is huge and will last at least a year with daily use I think.

Those are my 14 favorites of 2014. Kind of funny how I dedicated the most wordage to a deodorant. For 2015, I really hope to use up a lot of the makeup and skincare I already own and have in my back up stash. Even though I was supposed to be on a no-buy for most of this year, that completely failed after the summer. Although I will say I was given quite a lot of product as gratis from my job but still.... I splurged hard especially after I secured a job post graduation. That being said, I do have a lot of brands I want to experience soon and I made a short list of ones I need to tap into in the next few months. Yes, I think my taste is veering into the dangerous luxury end but hey, quality over quantity, right?

Brands I want to explore (more) in 2015 (in alphabetical order):
Burberry Beauty
Chanel Beauty
Charlotte Tillbury
ColourPop Cosmetics
Marc Jacobs Beauty
Makeup Geek
Mineral Makeup (Hello Waffle, Shiro, Meow Cosmetics, GlamourDoll Eyes)
Tom Ford Beauty

What were your favorites of 2014? Any beauty, or personal, resolutions for 2015?