Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Ole Henriksen Haul & GWP Value Breakdown

A couple of weeks ago Ole Henriksen was doing a huge gift with purchase event whereby you get a $100 "surprise" gift bag of goodies with a $50 purchase. I would have done this post earlier so you guys could take advantage of the deal but it took over a week for my order to ship and by then the deal had ended. Keep a look out for this type of GWP from Ole Henriksen because I think they do this more than once a year.

I might have said a couple of months ago that I was going to stop falling for these GWP deals and skincare minis in general. But it's really so much easier to pack small sample serums and creams for short trips than having to decant everything. Long story short, I thought it was a great deal and ended up ordering two full size cleansers that I've tried before and liked. I really enjoyed the African Red Tea Foaming Cleanser when I had the 1.5 oz travel size - it smells wonderful and cleanses the skin without leaving it dry. I didn't really see anything else I really wanted to get so I chose the Empower Foaming Milk Cleanser which I had gotten as a foil sample from Sephora last year. So I guess I'm all set on the cleanser front for at least another year (still working on finishing a couple before I open these).

Despite the snail-pace shipping, one huge perk that comes with buying directly on the Ole Henriksen website as opposed to a retailer like Sephora is that you can stack up to three discount codes. So I was able to use the $100 gift code as well as two smaller GWP codes which are still currently active! The codes are OLEMUSTHAVE and WELCOMEGIFT. You can currently stack them with FREESHIP to get those goodies with any purchase.

OLEMUSTHAVE includes a .5 oz Walnut Complexion Scrub, a .25 oz Sheer Transformation and a .25 oz Truth Serum Collagen Booster. WELCOMEGIFT includes a .5 oz Sheer Transformation, .5 oz Pure Truth Melting Cleanser and .25 Truth Serum Collagen Booster.

I paid $60.97 for all of the products pictured above as well as a cute pink makeup bag. Let's break down the retail value of the GWP items to see how much this is worth (in some instances I'm rounding down so the total value will be a conservative estimate).

Truth Serum Collagen Booster (.5 oz, .25 oz X 2) = $48
Sheer Transformation (1 oz, .5 oz, .25 oz) = $38
Invigorating Night Treatment (.5 oz) = $14.10
Pure Truth Youth Activating Oil (.25 oz) = $11.25
Ultimate Lift Eye Gel (.25 oz) = $10.50
Walnut Complexion Scrub (.5 oz X 2) = $9.30
Clean Truth Cleansing Cloths (pack of 10) = $8
Truth Sugar Glow Polishing Mask (.5 oz) = $6
Pure Truth Melting Cleanser (.5 oz) = $4.25
Empower Foaming Milk Cleanser (1 oz) = $3.9

Total: $153+

Not too shabby! I'm most excited to try the Invigorating Night Treatment because it uses a combination of glycolic, lactic and citric acids to chemically exfoliate. The various sizes of Truth Serum and Sheer Transformation will be super handy whether I'm packing for a one-night sleepover or a week-long trip.

Are you guys fans of Ole Henriksen skincare? Do you get lulled into purchases due to GWPs? Does anyone else bring out the paper and pencil to calculate GWP values like I do?

Monday, July 25, 2016

My Top 5: Cheek Brushes

When it comes to makeup brushes, I can be a bit of a snob. I fully admit to being a squirrel hair, Japanese-made brush enthusiast who will spend somewhat mind boggling amounts of money on wands that ultimately just put powder on my face. Some people prefer to spend money getting their nails done every week or on expensive haircuts. I personally would rather have a good selection of excellent makeup brushes so to each their own. I'm listing the retail prices of all the brushes as a reference point in case you're interested in any. Note, I purchased all of these myself although some were bought during promotions which lowered the price. 

Let's start with my most recent brush acquisition: Wayne Goss' The Air-Brush ($35). I'll begin with my one gripe about this brush. It's limited edition and currently sold out. I don't know if they're bringing it back but if they do, I think everyone should have one. It's actually one of the most, if not the most, affordable blue squirrel hair face brushes I've seen. It's incredibly soft and, like all of Wayne's brushes, handcrafted in Japan. My main use for this brush is for blush because the small paddled shape fits perfectly on the apples of my cheeks. With this brush, I don't have to worry about overapplying my blush. It's also thin enough to add some highlight to the tops of my cheekbones if I wanted to multitask. 

My preferred brush for highlighting is the Wayne Goss 15 Brush ($25), a delicate fan brush that adds just enough luminosity to the cheeks without looking frosty. When I'm applying really pigmented powder highlighters like TheBalm's Mary Lou-Manizer or Becca's Champagne Pop, it's easy to go overboard and emphasize pores. This fan brush diffuses the pigment just right and is the perfect size for swishing along the high points of my face. 

When I bought the Chikuhodo Takumi T-4 Cheek Brush ($52), I thought I was going to use it for blush. But the round shape and density didn't really lend itself to being a great blush brush for my needs since I prefer to pat on my blush. What this brush is excellent for is buffing in bronzer. This brush really unlocked my love for bronzer again because it blends in the color so well. The T-4 is large enough to cover the areas I want to warm and deepen quickly but it's not so fluffy as to darken my entire face. The Chikuhodo Takumi brushes are made of Saikoho goat hair which is one of the highest grades of goat hair due to its softness. 

I have a different favorite brush for contouring which is the Surratt Artistique Sculpting Brush ($90). This small angled brush made of squirrel and goat fibers is just the right size to fit in the hollows of my cheeks. I use this brush to apply cool toned contour powders because using a brush like the T-4 would make my complexion too ashy. The angled shape of this brush makes it easy to chisel my way to a slimmer face in no time at all. I love that Surratt is available at Sephora and I recommend holding out until the yearly 20% off sale to add these to your cart. 

To round out my top five cheek brushes, I've chosen an affordable synthetic brush to shake things up a bit. My favorite brush for cream blushes is the Bdellium Tools 954 Duet Fiber Slanted Kabuki Brush ($18). I almost always turn to synthetic brushes when using cream products because the fibers are more durable compared to delicate natural hairs. I really like duo fiber brushes for applying pigmented cream blushes because it minimizes the likelihood of over application. The white fibers pick up the product and the more tightly packed green fibers at the base help blend everything out. The size of this brush is perfect for applying blush as it's not too small or large. I also appreciate the shorter handle which is great for travel and allows me to get up really close to a mirror. 

For those of you who appreciate the beauty of a well-made makeup brush, I hope you enjoyed this read on my top five cheek brushes. If you're just starting to build your brush collection, perhaps this helped you out as well. What are your favorite cheek brushes? Any I should add to my wishlist?

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Multi-Masking with Ole Henriksen's Power Bright

I've been on a skincare kick lately so I was really excited when I qualified for the recent Influenster Ole Henriksen campaign*. I've used Ole Henriksen's popular Truth Serum and a couple of other best sellers so I'm familiar with the brand. When I opened the VoxBox, my eyes gravitated toward the Ole Henriksen Power Bright immediately. It's a three-step scrub, mask and cleanser treatment that's meant to brighten the skin. Pretty much any skincare product with brightening claims pique my interest and I love me a good mask treatment. 

The "system" as Ole Henriksen calls it, is packaged into three little pods. At retail price, six of these will set you back $55 which I think is really pricey since each treatment would be a little over $9. Each pod contained a perfect amount for one full face application which I really appreciate. 

Interestingly, the Truth Sugar Glow Polishing Mask (step 1) and Pure Truth Melting Cleanser (step 3) are sold separately. But it doesn't look like they sell the Truth Vitamin C Treatment (step 2) by itself. So you would need to purchase these pods if you wanted to do the complete three-step treatment.

Starting with the Truth Sugar Glow Polishing Mask, I spread the sugary marmalade all over my face. The mask contains large sugar particles, honey and pomegranate seed powder to polish the skin. I really like the fruity-sweet scent because it wasn't overwhelming or overly artificial. The sticky texture was nice and stayed put on my skin so I didn't have to worry about it dripping off my face. After about 10 minutes I rinsed this off with warm water. The sugar granules gave my skin a gentle exfoliation as the warm water dissolved them into smaller bits. 

Next, I smoothed on the Truth 25% Vitamin C Concentrate on dry skin. This smells and feels like fruity greek yogurt and I love it! This step feels very soothing on the skin. When I went to wash my hands, the cream leaves behind an oily residue which I wasn't expecting. After having this on your face for two to three minutes, you're meant to proceed directly to step 3. 

Without rinsing off step 2, I applied the Pure Truth Melting Cleanser right on top of the concentrate to help activate it. Apparently there's supposed to be a warming sensation to indicate it's working but I did't really feel a tingle even after 10 minutes. 

I've used the Pure Truth Melting Cleanser in the past and I wasn't in love with it as a standalone makeup remover. But in this case, the thinner texture of this cleanser felt nice over top of the Vitamin C Concentrate. 

Along with the pods, you get two Ole Henriksen Complexion Sponges to help remove the mask. These look like dried pieces of weird cardboard in the package but once you run them through water, they puff up. I didn't actually realize there were two sponges in the package until I hydrated the whole thing.... I liked these sponges much more than I thought I would. They made removing the mask super easy since they absorb some of the product whereas if you were using your fingers, you'd be moving the oily mask around your face more.

Even after rinsing and drying my face, I could still feel a bit of oily residue on my skin. This might bother some people but some with dry skin might like it. I didn't really expect to see a major difference in my skin after one use and my hunch was confirmed - this isn't a miracle worker with just one use. Ole Henriksen recommends using this three times a week for best results.

While I enjoyed my little masking session, this treatment is more steps than I'm normally used to and I found myself constantly looking at the directions to make sure I was putting the steps on at the right time. I imagine this would be a fun treat to do with friends at a spa night sleepover. For me, I think I'll stick to my one-and-done masks on a weekly basis.

*This product was provided by Influenster for consideration. All opinions are my own and 100% honest. This post is not sponsored.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

5 Things That Have Been Living On My Vanity

It's been awhile since I shared my makeup favorites with you guys and I just so happen to have a couple of stand-out products I reach for frequently at the moment. One glance at these products and you can tell I've been sticking to really neutral essentials (shocker). Even though it's probably more fun to gawk at the latest eyeshadow palette loaded with bright, bold shades or a new social media celebrity makeup collection, these are the products I'm actually using day to day because they're awesome. 

I'm still enamored with the Shiseido Synchro Skin Lasting Liquid Foundation* because it delivers the perfect amount of coverage while still maintaining a natural, skin-like quality. I reach for this foundation more than I have any other liquid foundation because it's so lightweight and easy to blend. I still use my BB cushions and tinted moisturizers but those offer less coverage and tend to be more dewy. The semi-matte finish of this foundation makes it perfect for the hot and humid weather we've been having.  

I had my doubts about the Kevyn Aucoin Matte Bronzing Veil in Desert Days which I got in my Beautylish Lucky Bag at the beginning of the year. At the time I thought the orange color would never work on me as a bronzer. So I waited and waited until a couple of weeks ago when I had enough of a tan so I wouldn't look like an oompa loompa. Well, lo and behold, this looks pretty freaking awesome on my summer skin as a bronzer! It still looks orange when swatched on my arm but on my face it looks surprisingly natural. It does a great job at adding depth to the outer portions of my face where I apply it without looking distinctly contoured. 

The Clarins Instant Light Natural Lip Perfectors are no stranger to the beauty community and I'm so glad I have two so I can always have one within easy reach. Rosewood Shimmer has a place on my dresser and Rose Shimmer is always tucked into my handbag or makeup pouch. When I don't have a lipbalm handy, these glosses make excellent substitutes. They're really just so easy to swipe on and feel so comfortable.

I believe every makeup-wearing person should have a black eyeliner in their collection. For awhile now I've favored my gel and liquid liners over pencil. But the Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Eye Pencil in Jet has renewed my love for a inky eye pencil. I actually got this pencil in a Sephora gift with purchase trio of Bobbi Brown long-wear eye essentials and didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I do. The pencil is very pigmented and the formula glides along the lashline ultra smoothly without any tugging. You have a bit of time to smudge it so I like to run an angled liner brush across my lashline to extend the liner into a wing. This pencil lives up to its long-wear name because even without primer, it stays on the lid for a whole day with minimal smudging. I even tried not setting this with eyeshadow and the liner stayed intact throughout the day. I never hear anyone talk about this eyeliner but if pencil's your liner type of choice, give this one a go. 

Last, but certainly not least, is one of my newest beauty acquisitions: the limited edition Wayne Goss' The Air-Brush. I impulse purchased this exquisite brush on Beautylish in the wee hours of the night after a long day of work because I just wanted to treat myself. It's not normal for me to purchase a beauty product on a whim likes this. But in this case, I saw that it was a $35 blue squirrel brush made by Wayne Goss so I knew it had to be good. And boy is it fantastic. This is the softest brush I have in my collection and it is the perfect paddle shaped cheek brush I have been looking for. You can use this brush for many things but I love it for adding blush to the apples of my cheeks. Sadly, it's currently sold out and I'm not sure if they're bringing it back. But if they are, I highly recommend you pick one up! 

These products have been my default makeup bits lately and while they may not be the most exciting, they get the job done and done well. Getting back to the basics helps me feel more balanced and less anxious when I only have 10 minutes to get ready in the morning. What have you been loving lately?

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

Friday, July 8, 2016

Summer Skincare Chat: Shiseido, Benton, First Aid Beauty and Lush

It's been disgustingly hot and humid in New York for the past few days so what better time than now to chat about some skincare products I've been using lately to keep my skin in check? This is by no means a full skincare routine (there are just too many things on my vanity at the moment) but I thought these were worth telling you guys about because they've been working pretty well for me. 

The first thing I wanted to mention is actually not something I use on my face but rather my body - the Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Lotion for Sensitive Skin SPF 50+*. I've been a loyal Shiseido sunscreen user for years but this relatively new formulation takes the cake. It's a physical sunscreen free from fragrance, alcohol and parabens. It's also made with Shiseido's WetForce technology which is supposed to provide more sun protection when your skin is wet. The one downside is that this leaves a very white cast on the skin for a few minutes. For me, it's not really an issue I mind since I know I'm getting the sun protection I need and my skin isn't being irritated. 

The white cast is a bit too strong from the Ultimate Sun Protection Lotion to use on my face so for that I rely on the Shiseido Future Solution LX Universal Defense Broad Spectrum SPF 50+*. This anti-aging sunscreen is one of the most expensive sunscreens I've ever used at $90 for 50ml but it lasts a long time and it sits really nicely under makeup. It has a pleasant scent and creamy consistency that feels nourishing but not oily. It's good but not sure if it's $90 good to be frank. 

Even though it's meant to be used in conjunction with another moisturizer, I've been using the Benton Snail Bee High Content Essence as both my morning and nighttime moisturizer. A couple of nights a week I'll substitute this with a hydrating overnight mask to give my skin more moisture but for the most part, this essence has been doing a good job. I got this as part of my Memebox Benton Box (unfortunately no longer available) for a steal but it's only $18 and you can get 20% off your first purchase if you use my referral code. While I haven't noticed my skin become more glowy as some of the other reviewers have, I do think this essence helps fade discoloration very quickly. I had a bad bout of acne recently on both cheeks and this product seems to be responsible for helping my skin bounce back a lot more quickly than usual. That's extremely impressive considering I've used $100+ pigmentation-lightening products in the past that have not worked as quickly. 

To tackle the my congested pores and overall areas of my face with small acne bumps, I've turned to the Lush Grease Lightning Tea Tree Cleanser. It's labeled as a cleanser but it's really more of a spot treatment. I used a sample of it ages ago and liked it but only recently purchased the full size since I needed something more gentle to use on large areas of my face. I still use the Origins Super Spot Remover for large, isolated pimples but it's too strong to use all over so I prefer applying Grease Lightning instead. Grease Lightning is a runny gel texture that's really refreshing and non-irritating. I also really like the fresh, herbal scent. 

A skincare product I go back to over and over are the First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads. I use these after cleansing and before moisturizing in the evening a couple of times per week. These gentle pads with lactic and glycolic acid always make my skin look glowy and healthy the next morning. The First Aid Beauty gift sets are always a good deal because I love this exfoliator and I'm a big fan of their Ultra Repair Cream as a body moisturizer. I purchased the spring gift set on Sephora last month and I'll likely restock with one of their holiday gift sets around November. 

Eye cream is one of those things I use and think that I might not need it since I'm in my early 20s. But then the moment I stop using it, my concealer drags and my eyes just look less perky. Especially since it's already really humid and my skin is excessively producing sebum, I don't want a thick undereye cream - even at night. Thankfully, the Shiseido Ultimune Eye Power Infusing Eye Concentrate* delivers enough hydration to keep my undereyes happy without causing milia or clogged pores. I mostly use this in the evening as I'm still using the Shiseido Bio-Performance Glow Revival Eye Treatment* in the morning. But the Ultimune Eye Concentrate is light enough to use in the morning as well. 

With at least two more months of warm weather, I'm pretty happy with my current rotation of products. I did place an order with Ole Henriksen during their July 4th promotion so I'll have a lot of freebies to test out soon! If I find any gems, I'll be sure to do an updated skincare chat in a couple of months. What skincare have you been using this summer? Any new favorite discoveries?

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

Monday, July 4, 2016

California Roadtrip Views: LA - SLO - SF

Happy 4th of July! I thought it would be fitting to share some photos from last month's trip to California. My boyfriend and I drove from Los Angeles to San Luis Obispo to San Francisco along the coast and I'd definitely recommend everyone drive along Route 1 at least once in their life. I'll keep this post short and let the pictures do most of the talking.

It was our first time in LA and we both enjoyed the city a lot more than we expected to. We stayed at an Airbnb in Hermosa Beach which was fantastic for getting some R&R (note the above photo was taken at Venice Beach). I wish the weather had been warmer so we could have spent more time at the beach. Apparently there's something called "June Gloom" in Southern California which brings cloudy skies and temps in the 70s. Luckily the skies usually cleared up in the afternoon so we still got a chance to soak in some Cali rays.

I'm pretty envious of the fact that Los Angeles residents are so close to nature with their accessible beaches and various hikes. In New York we have to drive at least an hour to get to anything similar. That being said, you really have to drive in this city if you want to get anywhere within a reasonable time (just make sure to avoid traffic on the freeways).

After a few quick days in LA, we drove up Route 1 where we would spend the night in San Luis Obispo. Regularly abbreviated as SLO, the town has been called America's happiest city and is a perfect pit stop if you're driving between LA and SF.

If you're a fan of hiking, there are a lot of beautiful trails to check out in SLO. We only had one night to spend here so we did the easy Lemon Grove Trail before tucking into another adorable Airbnb and chowing down on some California Pizza Kitchen take out.

Sometimes I wonder how well I could adapt to a small city, rural life. Visiting cities that are nestled in nature really make me question the benefits of big city living. If we had more time, we would have definitely stayed another night or two here.

On our one evening in SLO we also went to Morro Strand State Beach to check out the view. The slight haze made the beach look surreal. This was one of the most picturesque spots as the sun was beginning to descend and the lighting was incredible.

The next morning we were making our way north again and we stopped by Morro Strand State Park to get a better view of Morro Rock. The night before we had gone right up to the rock but it's really much more impressive from afar. Also, there are a bunch of cute critters like bunnies and small lizards in the beach vegetation leading into Morro Strand State Park which was a nice surprise!

The beauty of Big Sur is unreal. You just can't take a bad photo here because every inch is stunning in its own way. The water is various shades of brilliant blue and the bright wildflowers pop against the olive and brown vegetation.

McWay Falls is a must-visit if you're driving along the coast. It's accessible through a quick walk through Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. There's technically no beach access so you'll have to enjoy the view from above. But we saw some letters etched into the sand so there are definitely some thrill seekers who have gone off the beaten path to claim this bit of paradise.

For the last stretch along Route 1 going through Monterey, you'll encounter the famous Bixby Bridge. In places like these I'm not sure what I'm more in awe of, the natural beauty that was here long before we were or the feats of engineering and design that have allowed us to transform the land.

Finally after many hours of sightseeing and a couple of miles of traffic, we reached San Francisco. We've both been here before but still did a couple of the touristy things like visiting Twin Peaks and Lombard Street. I was able to reconnect with one of my managers during my intern days who's now based in the Bay Area and my boyfriend visited some of his coworkers who are based in their SF WeWork. All in all, a nice way to ease ourselves back into city life. 

Oh, one last thing we made sure to do was to visit Muir Woods to see the famed redwoods of Northern California. The online reviews weren't lying when they said the parking fills up fast here. But once you get onto the trails, you'll have large swaths of the forest to yourselves with barely anyone else in sight. It's a really special place that I'm so lucky to have seen for myself.

A week spent in California flies by because there is simply so much to do. I'm already thinking about what I want to do the next time I head out to this part of the amazing country I get to call home (probably less beach and more desert next time around). What are your favorite spots in California? Any recommendations on what I should look into next time I'm headed out west?

Friday, July 1, 2016

The Origins of the Cushion Foundation: 3 Things You Probably Didn't Know

When I tried my first cushion foundation over two years ago at the beginning of 2014 after a two week trip to South Korea, I fell head over heels immediately. I knew it was a great concept but I had no idea that it would become the phenomenon it is today. I also would have never expected my Laneige BB cushion review and demo video to exceed 260,000 views on Youtube. Now as every Western brand from L'Oreal to Bobbi Brown releases their version of the cushion foundation, I think it's important to know more about the origins of this Korean beauty innovation.

Last week I was invited to an event held at an Aritaum store in New Jersey to learn more about the development of cushion cosmetics. Those of you who have ever been to South Korea will know Aritaum as the retail chain that sells various Amore Pacific brands from Laneige to IOPE to Sulwhasoo.

If you shop at Sephora or Nordstrom, you might recognize Amore Pacific and Sulwhasoo. Amore Pacific is actually the parent company of over 25 beauty brands like the ones I mentioned above as well as Etude House, Innisfree, Mamonde and Hera. You might liken them to the Estee Lauder of South Korea.

I'm happy to report that Aritaum is steadily making their presence known in the U.S. For those of you have been to Korean enclaves in New York or New Jersey, you may seen The Amore stores. They will be eventually converted into Aritaum branded locations which I'm personally really excited about. Before I ramble on forever about shopping for Asian beauty products in New York City, let me get back on track and share a couple of things I learned at the event from the researchers who created the first BB cushion foundation.

The inspiration for cushion cosmetics came from a stamp ink pad. Ten years ago, Amore Pacific researchers were thinking of new ways to offer sun protection that was more convenient than a tube. While getting a parking stamp, a senior researcher noticed how the ink from the stamp pad didn't leak yet transferred the liquid evenly. From that moment on, the R&D teams at Amore Pacific have been improving on that concept.

TV home shopping saved the cushion foundation from being a failure. When the first cushion foundation was launched in 2008, women didn't know what to do with it. Some thought it looked like a toy or didn't understand how to apply it. Amore Pacific brought the Air Cushion Sunblock, their first cushion release, on to home shopping networks to demonstrate how the product is supposed to be used. The strategy worked and sales of the cushion foundation exploded. Now 75 percent of Korean women have used or are using cushion compacts - which is really crazy considering there must be a segment of women who don't wear makeup at all.

Amore Pacific holds 284 intellectual property rights for their cushions and shows no signs of slowing down when it comes to improving them. When it comes to best selling makeup products in the Western market, there is often very little change over time. Many brands pride themselves in keeping with original formulas and it's not uncommon for there to be severe consumer backlash when they sniff change afoot. That's why I'm extremely impressed by Amore Pacific's commitment to continuously improving on their cushion technology. This isn't a passing foundation fad - cushion makeup is here to stay. I got a sneak preview at one of their latest improvements which you can see in the last photo. The sponge that holds the foundation has a new texture and will be launching later this year. This will prevent the product from sinking to the bottom of the compact and you no longer have to flip the sponge over. I'm stoked for this development because I definitely fall into the camp that flips over the sponge to get every last bit of foundation!

I've always been a fan of cushion foundations, though some are better than others, and I'm really excited to see more options available stateside. It was really great to hear more about the development process for this product because it's something so different than your standard liquid, powder or cream formula. I also want to be clear that this post is in no way sponsored so I hope you aren't put off by my excitement over what Amore Pacific has been working on.

Have you tried cushion makeup? I personally haven't tried any non-Korean brand cushions so I'm slightly curious about how those perform. Let me know which ones are your favorites in the comments!