Sunday, August 23, 2015

How to Pack a Minimalistic Travel Makeup Bag

You're out of town for a weekend and you want to look your best but bringing all your makeup just doesn't make sense. I watch a lot of "what's in my travel makeup bag" videos on Youtube and I'm surprised to see how many people travel with full size bottles of foundation and eight blushes for a three day trip. Here a few easy ways to minimize your travel beauty clutter.

I always have samples of everything so I usually bring along a mini base sample. However, contact lens cases are an inexpensive and great option for storing primers, foundations, etc. You can easily measure out a few pumps of product and estimate how much you'll need.

Bring cream products that you can apply with your fingers to minimize the number of brushes you need. I like to bring long lasting stick eyeshadow crayons so I don't need a separate eyelid primer.

In keeping with the idea of minimizing the brushes and tools you need, take liquid eyeliner instead of gel eyeliner or pencil liner which you might need to set or smudge with a brush. Opt for an eyebrow pencil or gel to tame your brows quickly in one step.

Bring a lipstain or liquid lipstick so you don't need a separate lip liner, lipstick and lipgloss. Or just bring a tinted lip balm for a hint of color. I usually like to bring one natural, MLBB shade as well as a bold red or pink.

One of the best ways to make sure you're not overpacking is to find a small pouch and make sure everything you take fits inside. If you're going on a three day trip, you probably don't need two big eyeshadow palettes. Be reasonable and know that your makeup collection will be at home waiting for you to get back.

How much you pack is ultimately up to you, whether you need 10 lipsticks to relax on a beach or you don't wear any makeup at all. I used to be an over-packer but after many adventures, I realize I don't like wearing a lot of makeup when traveling and I often stick to a single look for trips shorter than a week. If you want to simplify your travel makeup packing, I hope these tips helped you. 

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Recent Favorites: August 2015

This summer has been a whirlwind of activity and I haven't had much time at all to experiment with makeup. These are the beauty products that have been firm favorites as of late. There are a few old rediscoveries and as well as some new items that I've never shared on the blog before.

A brand new love is the Alba Botanica Hawaiian Body Scrub which I picked up on a whim from Wegman's while hanging out in Ithaca. This sea salt scrub has a refreshing citrus scent and a blend of lovely oils that linger on the skin after a shower. I prefer body scrubs that leave a moisturizing layer of oil and I'm happy to find an affordable one from the drugstore.

I've been playing around with a few different foundations and tinted moisturizers for my base but for under eye concealer I've been loyal to the Laneige Cushion Concealer*. This click type concealer out performs even my beloved Shiseido Sheer Eye Zone Corrector because it has higher coverage to cancel out darkness under my eyes.

Contouring has been a daily part of my makeup routine even though the newest fad is strobing (a.k.a glorified highlighting). My contour of choice these days is the bronzer from the Sleek Face Form Contouring and Blush Palette in Light. The color is just right for a natural contour with my current summer skin tone and the powder blends out brilliantly.

For eyeshadow I've been relying on the Chanel Illusion D'Ombre in Mirage heavily. It's a shimmery brown cream that applies quite sheer so it's suitable for everyday. On days when I have a few more minutes to get ready, I've been layering the darkest brown shade from the Maybelline Eyestudio Quad in Copper Chic on the outer edges of my eyes and the pearly cream in the inner corner. To counteract all the shimmer, I'll apply a matte brown shadow in my crease which is usually the Wet n' Wild Vanity shadow I raved about here (not pictured in this post).

My lashes have been getting a lot of love in the last few months thanks to the new Shiseido Full Lash Serum*. For a long time I've been intrigued by eyelash growth products but they're often very costly and most of the brands can be rather sketchy. I was stoked when I found out Shiseido was releasing a $35 lash serum and it's no surprise that this is a top seller in Japan. I've been using this lash serum mostly at night for the last two months and it's been great. My lashes have definitely grown in length and overall I look like I have more lashes. You're supposed to use this day and night but I'm a bit lazy in the morning and I'm already seeing good results by using it once a day. I'm pretty sure I'll be buying another tube once I run out of this one.

You can't really tell a huge difference in my bare lashes but once curled and mascara'ed, the lash serum's results are evident. Another product that my lashes love is the L'Oreal Voluminous Butterfly Intenza Waterproof Mascara. I didn't expect to like this mascara because the last one I used was the L'Oreal Voluminous Butterfly Waterproof Mascara (not the Intenza one) and it was very lackluster. The Intenza formula works way better for my lashes. It separates my lashes perfectly, adds length and holds a curl very well. It's definitely one of my top three mascaras right now.

I forgot to include a couple of lip products I've been liking but perhaps I'll do a roundup of those later this month. What have you been enjoying this summer?

*Products marked with an asterisk were provided by PR for consideration. This is not a sponsored post and all opinions are 100% honest.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

A Long Weekend in Upstate New York: Ithaca and Watkins Glen

New York City is great and all but personally, city life can weigh me down and I need a nature retreat every once in awhile. My boyfriend and I drove four hours up to Ithaca for a long weekend last month to escape the urban jungle and fell in love with this part of upstate New York.

We stayed at an airbnb about 15 minutes from downtown Ithaca which was the perfect decision. Our host was an extremely friendly and helpful young woman with three adorable cats and a beautiful home. If you're checking out the area and interested in staying at an airbnb, shoot me an email and I'll link you to the place I stayed at. Downtown Ithaca is approximately 16 square blocks with a few dozen restaurants and eateries, arts and crafts boutiques and even a startup accelerator space. The small town was charming and a breathe of fresh air from cramped city sidewalks.

We had two full days to explore and took advantage of the "gorges" state parks in the area. The first we visited, and our personal favorite, was Watkins Glen State Park. Watkins Glen is actually a neighboring town about an hour away from Ithaca. Who would have known that such natural beauty existed in upstate New York?! As a lifelong New Yorker, I had never heard about these natural landforms and parks until I started doing research on this area.

The primary reason I wanted to visit this area was so I could take a tour of Farm Sanctuary, a nonprofit organization that rescues abused animals and advocates for their humane treatment. I've known about this place for years and have been meaning to go but it's a five hour drive from New York City so it's definitely a weekend commitment.

It was a valuable experience to get up and close personal with many of the animals from turkeys to hogs to cattle. Each individual animal has its own personality and while I admit I'm not going vegan anytime soon, it really makes you think twice when making decisions about consuming animal goods. The farm is tucked in the hills of Watkins Glen and the scenery is simply amazing. I highly recommend visiting Farm Sanctuary if you are in the area. They have two locations in California as well for any West Coast folks.

This wasn't really a foodie adventure but we did have a couple of nice meals. On our first evening, we had a light tapas dinner at Just a Taste in Ithaca. The indoor eating area is small and old-timey and the outdoor seating in the back of the restaurant has a lovely charm to it.

We ordered a couple of plates but the tastiest and most memorable was definitely the cheese stuffed squash blossoms. The menu seems to change according to what ingredients they have on hand but this was a very interesting dish that was perfect in terms of flavor and texture. 

Another fun place to visit if you like food is the weekend farmer's market. There are dozens of stands selling lunch fare, fresh produce and other local goods.

I wasn't especially hungry that afternoon but I had a serving of crispy corn fritters with an aioli dip and shoyu sauce. It was an indulgent lunch but just what I needed to give me energy to tackle two hikes around Ithaca that day.

Buttermilk Falls State Park is a very popular place for people of all ages. The falls here are relatively gentle and over time, pools of various depths have formed. As you can see, people have taken to jumping (illegally) into these pools. We stood and watched for a good 20 minutes before continuing our walk along the path. It looked like a lot of fun but I don't think I'd be able to get my feet off the ground!

We started from the top of Buttermilk Falls State Park and walked down via the gorge trail which ends at a lifeguard supervised natural pool. Then we took the rim trail back up for half the way until we somehow ended up back on the gorge trail.... I'm not the best at navigating hiking trails. 

After catching our breath from Buttermilk Falls, we headed to Taughannock Falls which is supposedly the tallest single-drop waterfall east of the Rockies. If you take the gorge trail at Taughannock Falls State Park, you'll have a leisurely flat walk that is rather pleasant. The trail at Watkin's Glen State Park was definitely the most tiring out of all the three we did but also our personal favorite so totally worth the effort.

In addition to all the hiking and nature-exploring, we also walked around the Cornell University campus since you can't visit Ithaca without stopping by the Ivy League school. We squeezed in a lot of cuddling with the cats we were airbnb-ing with. We could not have asked for a more relaxing (yet physically exhausting) long weekend. After spending a few days in this environment, we're seriously wondering whether the struggles of city life are worth it.

Where are your favorite nature retreats? Do you prefer city life or a quieter area?

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Primers for Under and Over Makeup: YSL Touche Éclat Blur Primer and Blur Perfector

When I first started out using makeup, I thought primers were a waste of time and I didn't see the point in the them. Somewhere along my beauty journey, I found a few great primers that really did extend the wear of my foundations and now I almost always wear a primer underneath my makeup. Thus, I was pretty stoked to find out that I was selected by Influenster to trial the new YSL Touche Éclat Blur Primer* and Blur Perfector*. 

The Touch Éclat Blur Primer is a more traditional primer that you wear under your makeup. It claims to be an illuminating primer that blurs imperfections and boosts the radiance of foundation. As you can see, there are loads of glitter particles suspended in the primer and a few specks will translate onto your face and show up even after you apply foundation. I don't really see an overall illuminating or radiance effect and I don't think the glitter particles do any favors.

The primer does fill in my pores a bit and helps my other makeup go on smoother. My makeup stayed in put for the most part but I did get a bit oily by mid-afternoon so this is not ideal for someone who is looking for an oil-controlling primer. The primer feels like a lightweight silicone gel and has a distinct floral scent that actually smells very genuine. The full size product contains 1 ounce in a beautiful pump bottle and retails for $52. It's definitely a luxurious primer in terms of cost but in terms of results, you can find less expensive alternatives that do the same thing.

I was more intrigued by the Touche Éclat Blur Perfector because I have never used a balm to powder product to set my makeup before. This looks, feels and applies like a solid primer so it was a bit strange to apply something that felt like a primer over my fresh makeup.

I can't gloss over the stunning pale pink and gold compact that holds the equally pretty pink balm. The product comes with a black felt pouch and a flocked cloth applicator which annoyingly doesn't fit into the compact. I wish YSL would have made the case a bit bigger so an applicator could fit inside. This retails for $55 for .33 ounces which is a pretty penny.

The Blur Perfector says it can be used in three ways: as a "complexion perfector" on its own, as a makeup finisher or a mattifying touch-up through the day. On it's own, the product won't impart any coverage so unless you have flawless skin already, this isn't going to do much by itself. Over makeup, this takes down shine without looking dry and the balm leaves a silky finish. Again, there was no discernible illuminating effect although there is some microshimmer in the balm.

Unfortunately, on my oily skin, this didn't last throughout the day and I could feel the makeup sitting on my skin. I still prefer powders to set my makeup and think they're more sanitary. Perhaps this is a product I need more time to get used to but for now, it's something I'll admire more on my vanity rather than one I'd run out to purchase again.

Have you tried the new YSL Touch Éclat primer or perfector? Have you tried a balm setting product before? If so, what's your favorite method of application and do you prefer it over a powder?

*The products mentioned in this post were sent to me by Influenster for review purposes. I am not being compensated for this review and all my thoughts are 100% honest.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Shu Uemura RTW Palette in Warm Brown: Underrated Neutral Eyeshadows

Shu Uemura is a brand I've had on my mental wishlist for years but for one reason or another I never made the leap to purchase something from the Japanese brand. Recently Gilt City had a 30% promotion and I saw this limited edition palette was discounted from $65 to $45. With both discounts combined, I only paid about $32 for six eyeshadows and the palette. 

Shu Uemura eyeshadows are sold individually for $15 each and the empty quad custom cases are $14 so this was a steal too good for me to pass up. 

This palette is limited edition but all of the shades are permanent except the matte cream color. From left to right, the other shades are M dark brown 896, M medium brown 863, ME brown 856, M soft brown 851 and G beige 821. The M signifies matte, ME for metallic and G for glitter. Each shadow is 1 gram, a bit smaller than the standard 1.5 grams. The shadows easily slide out of the side of the compact which I find very helpful in case I want to interchange shadows or blushes. 

Above are swatches of the four middle shadows. All of the shadows are creamy and pigmented. They remind me a lot of Laura Mercier eyeshadows which I love. You can't tell in my swatches but the glittery gold shadow is actually very reflective and sparkly. Usually I shy away from glitter but this one is something special. The gold base is very sheer which allows the sparkles to shine through. It's so beautiful in real life on the eyelids and the best part? No fall out! 

The shadow that made me add this palette to my cart was ME brown 856 which is a well-known taupe amongst taupe eyeshadow lovers. But it's actually the mattes that I have been reaching for frequently. The taupe will be more appropriate in the upcoming fall months but for now the mattes have been a dream to work with and the glitter shade a nice surprise. 

I'm thoroughly pleased with this eyeshadow palette and I'm sad to report it's unavailable for purchase as a set. You can still purchase these shadows individually and I'm certain I will add more Shu Uemura shadows to my collection in the future. I'm amazed not many bloggers and Youtubers talk about Shu Uemura aside from the famed lash curler. These are top notch and deserve a mention! Let me know if you've tried Shu Uemura makeup and what your favorites are!