Sunday, September 17, 2017

Charlotte Tilbury Instant Look In a Palette: Natural Beauty & Seductive Beauty

"This would be so good for travel" - probably my most used justification for unnecessary purchases. Combine that with "limited time promotion" and I'm pretty much sold. Such was the case with the Charlotte Tilbury Instant Look in a Palettes in Natural Beauty and Seductive Beauty. I was interested in these palettes when they released but I couldn't swallow the $75 price tag for each. Well, at $45 a pop, I couldn't help myself.

With three eyeshadows, two blushes, a bronzer and a highlighter, this slim palette has most of your color makeup needs sorted. The inside of the compact also houses a big mirror which is very convenient for travel. I've gotten to the point where I don't bring many options with me on trips so I thought something like this would be perfect.

Though travel was my main reason for getting these palettes, I'm a bit hesitant to throw these in my carry-on because when these were delivered, the bronzer in Natural Beauty was totally smashed. The powders are pretty soft and though the packaging is sturdy, I can see the powders easily smashing if the palette makes impact with something. Not sure if FedEx was a little too rough with my package or what but I just wanted to put that out there. Thankfully, Charlotte Tilbury has amazing customer service and quickly shipped out a new palette to me, which arrived in one piece.

I'm more drawn to the eyeshadows in the Seductive Beauty palette - all three are very wearable and staple shades that everyone should have in their collection. All the shades are shimmery so you would have to pack a couple of extra matte shadows if you wanted a transition shadow for the crease. The Natural Beauty palette has a nice matte mid-tone brown but I wish there was a darker eyeshadow that I could use to set eyeliner.

The eyeshadow pans are 2 grams (.07 oz) which is larger than the standard eyeshadow pan. But they're the same size as the blushes in the palette which I think is a little odd. Your eyelids are obviously smaller than your cheek area. I would have preferred they made the eyeshadow pans smaller in size and included more colors so you could have every shade from lid to brow bone all in one palette.

I haven't really dug into Seductive Beauty much because I've been kind of obsessed with the cheek shades in Natural Beauty. The shades swatch very light on my arm but the powders are very buildable on the cheeks without looking ashy or powdery. The bronzer is a really nice tone for subtle contouring and you can't overdo the color because it's quite light. Meanwhile, the bronzer in Seductive Beauty is a bit odd because it is pretty dark, red-toned and has noticeably more shimmer in it. The highlighter has more of a pink hue rather than the warmth in the highlight in Natural Beauty. I can see myself getting more use out of the eyeshadows and highlighter in Seductive Beauty in the fall and winter but the dark bronzer kind of clashes with the look I have in mind.

The formula of the powders is nice but, honestly, nothing that you need to run out and buy now. That's kind of how I've felt about all the Charlotte Tilbury products I've tried to date. They're nice and I like having them, but they're very pricey and not much better or different than other products I have already. Are these worth $75? No, I don't think so. You're probably better off building a custom palette with Inglot, MUFE, MAC or Makeup Geek refill pans if you want the ease of having eyeshadows and cheek products all in one palette.

I don't mean to knock Charlotte Tilbury because I respect the brand and like their aesthetic. But almost all of the products I've tried from the brand have been just good, not amazing. And for the price, I'm expecting to have my heart stop a little every time I dip my brush into the product. Okay, I'm obviously exaggerating. But you get what I mean. I have a couple of other Charlotte Tilbury things on my "would love to try" list before I rule out the brand as overhyped. Again, don't want to be grumpy about the brand but I just haven't fallen in love with the products as I expected to.

What are your thoughts on Charlotte Tilbury's Instant Look in a Palettes? Or any of her other beauty products? Curious to hear if you have any favorites or if you've also been a little underwhelmed!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Buzzy Body and Haircare: Ouai, Christophe Robin, Yuni & Bum Bum Cream

Maybe it's because I've been having so many no makeup days in recent weeks but I've been more interested in testing body and haircare lately. As comfortable as I am not wearing makeup in public, I certainly feel more confident and put together when I put in the extra effort to get ready. I could rattle off a multitude of reasons why I don't wear makeup everyday but the biggest reason is time; I'd rather get 30 more minutes of sleep on many mornings....

Anyway, that's not the point of today's post. While I might not always feel pretty when I'm makeup-less, I certainly want to feel fresh and I think that's why I've been more experimental with my hair and bodycare. These are a few things I've been using from some quite trendy brands so I thought it'd be timely to give my two cents.

My scalp tends to be on the oily side and even second day hair tends to gross me out. I probably don't look as oily as I feel but that's the problem - I hate feeling icky! I've used a lot of dry shampoos but have never tried one in a foam formulation. I purchased the Ouai Morning After Kit on a whim, mostly for the hair and body oil, but the Ouai Dry Shampoo Foam might have stolen the show. I was skeptical that a foam would soak up oil and kept my fingers crossed that my hair wouldn't feel dirtier after (I think I closely relate foam anything with whipped cream). Well, I have to hand it to Ouai - they did a great job formulating this. It's so easy to use. I just pump out a bit of the foam, smoosh it between my palms and work it into my roots, combing it through my hair with my fingers. It dissipates very quickly and leaves my hair feeling cleaner in seconds. There is no white residue at all and no greasy or sticky feeling in my hair or on my hands. The one slight negative I have with this product is the perfumed scent. It's not a bad smell but it's very, very strong. If you are sensitive to scents, this might be a problem for you.

If you're into the concept of deep cleansing shampoos, you should give the Christophe Robin Cleansing Purifying Scrub with Sea Salt a try. It's extremely pricey for what is essentially salt and a coconut oil in a tub but it's great at "resetting" my hair. I like to use this after a very sweaty workout. As with the Oaui dry shampoo, this has a very strong smell. I'm not good at describing scents but this one reminds me of men's cologne. Not my favorite but it doesn't linger in my hair so I can deal. A little goes a long way - I use about the size of a small strawberry for one wash - so even this small tub will last at least a dozen washes. I bought this travel size tub ($19 for 2.7 oz) from SpaceNK because I had a $10 voucher but I'm not sure if I would buy the 8.3 oz full size one for $53. Certainly a nice-to-have but probably not a must-have.

Now onto bodycare! I had been eyeing the Yuni Shower Sheets a few months back when the brand debuted on Sephora's website and I was working out 3-4 times a week (I've since gotten lazier and not as committed to my workout schedule). The brand appeared on Gilt City for awhile and I was this close to buying a voucher for something like $40 off a $80 order or something but ended up skipping it. Then a few weeks later I needed to hit the $50 shipping minimum on so I added these to my cart. Guys, I totally regret not jumping on the Gilt voucher when I had the chance. These are really, really handy! I always work out after work, never before, and I don't like to deal with the hassle of showering at the gym or studio so these are perfect for me. These individually wrapped body wipes cleanse, refreshe and "naturally deodorize" without the use of alcohol, formaldehyde, petrolatum, sodium lauryl/laureth sulfates, mineral oil, synthetic colors or fragrances, GMOs, PABA, EDTA, or PEGs. The first ingredient is water which is nothing exciting but the second is saccharomyces ferment filtrate. If you're a K-beauty fan, you probably recognize that ingredient because it's found in cult favorite essences such as Missha's Time Revolution First Treatment Essence. The rest of the ingredients in the Yuni Shower Sheets are a blend of various plant oils and extracts (there are some unpronounceable ingredients toward the bottom of the list). These have a mild, natural-smelling scent that I find really does neutralize any B.O. and I feel clean after - no oily residue or stickiness at all. Of course I still have to shower when I get home, but these make it so much easier for me to see friends or just go to dinner after a sweat session. Oh, and I haven't mentioned the price of these. I actually think they're pretty affordable at $15 for 12 sheets, considering the impressive ingredients list. Love these and will definitely be repurchasing when I run out. I'm still bonking myself on the head for not taking advantage of the Gilt deal and stocking up on these!

Last up is a body cream that I swear Sephora has been shoving down our throats via our inboxes and their home page. It's the Sol Janeiro Brazilian Bum Bum Cream and I'm pretty sure it's the name that makes this one so enticing. I picked this up as a 100 point perk just because Sephora is so good at piquing my interest. The marketing behind this product suggests that the star ingredient, GuaranĂ  Seed Extract, "supports natural circulation, boosts energy, and smooths skin" and that it contains five times the caffeine of coffee. Well, you would think this super special seed extract might be the first, second or even third ingredient. Nope, not even 10th. It finally shows up as the 14th ingredient on the list. Everything in front of it is water, synthetic moisturizing agents and fragrance. And oh boy, did they use a lot of fragrance for this. It's a very summery scent - I brought this little tube with me to Miami for July 4th and it fit the atmosphere perfectly. The scent lingers and it also hangs onto clothing so if you shower in the morning, you might like that about this. I feel pretty meh about this cream and definitely won't buy the full size. I wasn't kidding when I said Sephora is pushing hard on this cream. Just when I finished up my 100 point perk, I received another mini in my August Sephora Play Box! My negative review aside, it's not a terrible body cream and I experienced no adverse effects from it. I always appreciate travel sized body creams (hotel lotion samples rarely cut it for me) so this will still come in handy.

Wow, this turned into a rather rambly post for just four pint-sized products! This is what happens when I've stepped away from blogging for too many weeks. Hope these reviews were helpful if you've been thinking about trying any of these products. Let me know if you've used any yourself and what you think. I'm always curious to get some different perspectives!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Why Nordstrom's Gift With Purchases Are Some of the Best

I somewhat impulsively purchased the Nars Bord de Plage palette last month and one of the reasons I did was because Nordstrom had a really great gift with purchase if you spent $75 on beauty. While the offer is now long over (it ended before my package even arrived), Nordstrom does these larger gifts every few months so keep an eye out for the next one! GWP Addict and I Can GWP are great reference blogs for current gifts with purchase. 

Nordstrom's gift with purchase offers are great because the buy-in is not too high - these days $75 will not get you much in the high-end beauty market. Barneys and SpaceNK do really great gifts twice a year (spring and fall) but the buy-in is usually $200 or $250. While you do get more samples from higher end brands, you're also spending a lot more money (that you might not need to spend otherwise). Nordstrom has a really wide selection of beauty products including some mid-tier brands like Mac as well as a lot of prestige brands so you'd be hard pressed not to find something worthy of adding to your basket. 

My one complaint about this gift with purchase is the number of fragrances samples included. But then again I'm not much of a fragrance person so take that for what you will. If you like trying new scents, this would be a plus for you.

I really like that this gift bag included a lot of well known brands as well as an assortment of samples that could be used more than once. Above are the samples I'm most excited to try and the ones I personally think are the best value. I haven't tried any Charlotte Tilbury lipsticks before and this mini of So Marilyn is adorable. I've had a mini tube of the GlamGlow Thirsty Mud Hydrating Treatment before and I love it as an overnight mask - I'll be saving this one for my Asia trip in October. I've been intrigued by Odacite's serums but they're seriously pricey. The full size of the Ac+R Serum Concentrate is only 5ml and $55! I think the Paula's Choice 2% BHA Liquid is quite popular so I'm interested to see how my skin reacts to this. I know Bare Minerals more for their makeup than their skincare but their Vital Power Infusion (weird name for a skincare product) is a pretty decent size. I'm not gonna lie - I know nothing about the Saturday Skin mist other than the fact that this packaging is super cute. 

Overall I'm really happy with what I got in my order. I also was able to choose 3 free foil samples at checkout and opted for Chanel, La Mer and GlamGlow samples. I can't remember the last time Sephora actually sent me the 3 free samples I actually selected. I assume their order volume is just too high and samples go out of stock too quickly but it's still incredibly annoying. Thumbs up to Nordstrom who can deliver on their free samples. I swear I'm not affiliated with Nordstrom (in my dreams) - I just think their beauty department and gift with purchases are on point! 

Are there any gift with purchases that you wait for? Which ones are your favorite?

Thursday, July 27, 2017

What's In My Business Travel Makeup Bag?

I'm not usually one to toot my own horn but I'm pretty pleased with my ability to not overpack makeup for travel. When I was younger I would often bring several options "just in case" I needed something - only to not use half the things I brought. Last week I spent three quick nights in California for a work trip and this is all the makeup I brought with me. Even in this spread, there were a couple of things that could have been left behind at home.

When I pack for travel, I look for products that are small in size that have sturdy, functional packaging. I don't necessarily bring all my favorites but I'll more likely than not pack stuff that I know I like. Long lasting products have a special place in my heart everyday but especially when I'm traveling for work. Knowing that I would be in lots of meetings, I didn't want to test a new foundation that could potentially break out my skin or slip off my face after a few hours.

For my base, I packed a sample of the Hourglass Veil Mineral Primer which I've used before - it's fine but not worth the price for me. Of course I needed my Tarte Colored Clay CC Undereye Corrector, to minimize my dark circles. I decanted a few pumps of my favorite Shiseido Synchro Skin Lasting Liquid Foundation into a small glass jar which used to house a Tata Harper sample. I still love this foundation due to its feather-light finish and natural skin look. The glass packaging makes it hard to travel with so I highly recommend saving the little jars that skincare samples come in (or just use an old contact lens case). I don't love the Innisfree No-Sebum Mineral Powder (it leaves a slight white cast) but it gets the job done and the packaging is ultra compact so I travel with this quite often. To finish off my base, I contour and add warmth to my skin with Benefit's Hoola Bronzer. Pretty much every makeup product is more appealing in miniature so I really adore this teeny Hoola. Clinique's Cheek Pop in Nude Pop is an amazing blush that goes with everything and I don't have to worry about overdoing my blush with this shade. There's shimmer in the blush, but not in a frosty way, so I didn't pack a highlighter.

My Mac customizable eyeshadow quad is one of my go-to travel picks because it's such compact and easy. This time I brought along All That Glitters, Sable, Wedge and Carbonized (LE). After applying Lorac's Behind the Scenes Eye Primer all over my eyelid, I blended Wedge in the crease. Then I apply All That Glitters from the inner corner to the middle of my eyelid and Sable from the middle to the outer portion of my lid. I set my Too Cool For School Dinoplatz Eyeliner in Dark Chocolate with Carbonized eyeshadow and this combo lasted an impressive 14+ hours. I knew there was a good chance I wouldn't have time to bother with powder eyeshadow one day so I packed Chanel's Illusion D'ombre in Mirage which looks really good on it's own all over the lid.

My eyelash combo hasn't changed in years - crimping my lashes with Shiseido's Lash Curler followed by a few coats of L'Oreal's Voluminous Million Lashes Waterproof Mascara. For my brows I brought my handy Pony Effect Brow Definer in Deep Brown (on my very last millimeter of this brow pencil) and the Surratt Expressioniste Brow Pomade.

For lips I had my Dior Baume de Rose for daytime (and lanolin for night time before bed) but I also brought the Clarins Instant Light Natural Lip Perfector in Rosewood Shimmer. I recently rediscovered is one of my favorite nude lipglosses - it's so easy to wear, smells amazing and a single tube lasts forever. I also packed one of my new mini luxury lippies - Tom Ford's Lip Color in Indian Rose. It's a beautiful neutral pink that is very office appropriate but I didn't reach for it during my trip so I definitely could have left the lipstick at home.

My Muji makeup bag is still my travel bag of choice because it makes organizing my makeup incredibly easy. I also love the makeup brush compartment. For once, I brought a couple of my pricey Japanese-made brushes because what's the point of having nice things if I don't use 'em right? I brought my Real Techniques Buffing Brush to spread foundation all over my face and I dabbed the Beauty Blender over everything to ensure my base was all blended and non-cakey. I also brought an It Cosmetics Powder Brush, the Chikuhodo T-4 for bronzer, Wayne Goss 14 brush for blush and a handful of eye brushes.

I actually really enjoy packing for travel (unpacking is a different story) but lately I find that I'm consistently going back to certain makeup products that just get the job done when I don't want to spend a lot of time getting ready. I don't have any travel plans until October (I'll be heading to Asia for two weeks!) and actually quite looking forward to not going anywhere for a few months.

I'm incredibly nosey and love to see what beauty products other people pack for their travels. Are there any makeup products you always travel with? Do you just bring everything in your daily rotation? How many "what if" options do you allow yourself when packing for a short trip?

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Hopping Back on the Subscription Box Bandwagon: Sephora Play July 2017

I used to be obsessed with Birchbox which was undoubtedly the brand that thrust beauty subscription boxes into the limelight. But after awhile, I got tired of getting samples I wasn't using and steered clear of beauty boxes. I recently had a change of heart and subscribed to Sephora's monthly subscription, Sephora Play. I did some "research" prior to subscribing and went back and forth for a few months on if I wanted to commit to spending $10 on samples again. In the end, the pros outweighed the cons for me.

At $10 a month, it's the same price as Birchbox and Ipsy, but the brands sampled are ones you'll find at Sephora. I think Sephora does a really great job at curating brands as they won't work with brands that aren't at a certain prestige level and cut brands that aren't selling well. Birchbox and Ipsy sample some cool stuff but there's also a lot of fluff from brands I've never heard of and, honestly, am not interested in. 

Another reason I was intrigued by Sephora Play was because fragrance samples do not count toward the five deluxe samples you're guaranteed in each box. You also get a cute little drawstring pouch that is different every month. I'm sure I'll eventually have a ton of these drawstring bags but they're nice to travel with and I can always give them away to friends. 

Birchbox's old point system was a huge reason I thought the $10 per box was worth it. You could review your samples and earn back $5 to spend in the shop per box. Since they discontinued that and revamped their point system, it's not as good of a deal. While Sephora doesn't give you cash back to spend, you do get a little card in every Play box which you can redeem for 50 Beauty Insider points with an in-store purchase each month. I love me some samples and always wait for high value 100 point perks so the 50 free points is a nice bonus. 

I travel quite regularly and it's nice to have a stash of travel size products for that as well as my everyday makeup and touch-up pouch and my boyfriend's apartment. Nowadays it's rare that I spend a consecutive week sleeping in one place (it sounds weirder than it actually is) so having minis to take with me is a huge help. 

With all that being said, let's see what I got in my first July box! 

At first glance, all the samples are good sizes - each one can be used more than once. The It Cosmetics Superhero Mascara isn't a bad sample in general but mascara samples are useless to me unless they're waterproof (and even then I always go back to my cheapie L'oreal Million Lashes Waterproof). I'm passing this mascara sample onto a friend. Fingers crossed I won't get a mascara sample every month! 

Sephora released a spoiler for this month's box so we knew every would include a face mask. I was hoping to get the Fresh Rose Mask since I know I really like it but I got the Boscia Charcoal Pore Pudding Mask instead. I already have one of these from a Sephora Favorites kit. It's not my favorite but I also don't dislike it so I'll keep it handy for traveling. 

The one hair care product I received was the Briogeo Rosarco Milk Reparative Leave-In Conditioning Spray which I'm excited about! It's the perfect travel size and it smells quite good. I don't really use conditioning sprays so this will be nice to try. 

The one makeup product is the Bare Minerals Gen Nude Matte Liquid Lipcolor in Swag. While I cringe at the shade name, I actually really wanted to try one of these liquid lipsticks. They're not as drying as others and this shade isn't too nude as to make me look washed out or too crazy as to be unwearable. 

The last deluxe sized sample... I'm not sure what to think about it. Milk Makeup is a relatively new brand to Sephora and I've never tried anything from the brand because the aesthetic doesn't really call out to me. I think it's geared toward more of the "cool kids" crowd. The Milk Makeup Cooling Water is a "hydrating gel stick" which I guess can be used as a moisturizer...? But it's not moisturizing and has no skincare benefits. It's also not a makeup primer. I just don't really see the point in a product like this. If you use this, please enlighten me on how you use it because I really don't know why anyone would buy this. 

Last but not least is a sample of the Atelier Cologne Orange Sanguine fragrance which I passed along to my mom. I'm not a big fragrance person and I've had a couple of samples of this particular scent before. 

All in all, this was an okay box. For $10 I don't feel ripped off as I thought the sample sizes were good. I can definitely get use out of three of the five samples (and hopefully my friend likes the mascara) and two are products I'm quite excited about (the lipcolor and the conditioning spray). The thing that puzzled me most was the Milk Makeup product but I guess it goes along with the summer theme. At least I got to try it out (struggling here to think of a positive for the "cooling water" if you couldn't tell). 

I'm already looking forward to next month's box! Do you subscribe to Sephora Play? Which subscription box do you think has the most value for the money?

Belated April, May, & June 2017 Empties

It's nearly August and I haven't even posted my April, May and June empties. I've been accumulating this clutter for way too long so I'm hashing out this post even though it's 1:30am and I really should be sleeping instead (just flew in from LA so my brain thinks it's earlier than it is). 

On the whole, I found a lot of things I liked in this pile of used-up products. On the SPF front, the Shiseido Future Solution LX SPF 50+ was really good - a nice, nourishing sunscreen that prepped the skin nicely for makeup. For the body, I like using creams and lotions and then topping up with a spray to catch any areas I might have missed. I finished the travel sized Hampton Sun SPF 35 that I got in a SpaceNK gift with purchase up when I was in Tulum and would consider getting the full size. The spray was very fine and it just felt like a more luxurious mist. A sunscreen that missed the mark for me was the Tatcha Silken Pore Perfecting Sunscreen SPF 35*. There's still a bit left in the tube that I can't even bring myself to use because there's nothing about this I like (besides the packaging, because it is undeniably pretty). It just feels like I'm wearing sunscreen when I put this on so I used up most of it as a body sunscreen. I think I'm the only person who was sent this sunscreen and who didn't like it.... The Tatcha Pore Perfecting Water Gel was passed on to me from a blogger friend who found this moisturizer made her skin sticky. I didn't get the sticky feeling but this gel moisturizer didn't stand out to me at all. I also think the gold shimmers very gimmicky and not very practical in terms of seeing real skin benefits.

A skincare product I really did like was the Aromatica Tea Tree Balancing Toner which I purchased from Peach & Lily. I felt that this toner really helped calm my skin and kept it more clear since I regularly get pesky pimples and whiteheads. I just purchased another toner to try but I'd definitely repurchase the Aromatica toner in the future. The Ole Henriksen Pure Truth Youth Activating Oil was another favorite because it made my skin glow every time I used it. I only used it at night a few times a week and every morning after my skin would look so good. The Tata Harper Purifying Mask was a nice sample to try. I liked the mask - just strong enough to feel like my skin was detoxing but not too much stinging to the point of pain - but not sure if I would splurge on the full size. I always somehow end up with travel sizes of the Lancome BiFacil Eye Makeup Remover and Fresh Soy Face Cleansers - both are nice products to travel with though I won't purchase either in the full size because there are better, less pricey options. 

I didn't finish the bottle of Lush Grease Lightning - there's still about half of it left - but it's already expired. This was a repurchase because I like using this on congested pores over a wide area of my face. It's gentle and non-irritating but does seem to help clear up small acne issues. The Malin + Goetz Intensive Hair Conditioner was fine but I'm not sure what is so "intensive" about it. It's way too expensive for what feels like a normal conditioner so I won't be repurchasing.

Out of the skincare things I picked up from the Peach & Lily sample sale last year, the Maycoop White Water Cleanser was my favorite. It's a nice micellar water that removes face makeup well and the pump packaging is really convenient. I think dry skin types would like the Maycoop Raw Moisturizer but it was too heavy for my skin for most of the year. I couldn't tell a difference in my skin at all when I used the Cremorlab Mineral Treatment Essence which was disappointing (my favorite essence water is still the IOPE Bio Essence). The IOPE Moisture Skin Soft Peeling Gel should have been tossed ages ago because it's been sitting in my bathroom cabinet for years.... I just don't find it strong enough to do anything. These days I'm all about acid exfoliants which are just strong enough to make a difference without tearing up my skin. Although the Dr. Lipp Nipple Balm for Lips has a very weird name (they've since changed it to "Miracle Balm") and is totally overpriced, it will hold a special place in my heart because it introduced me to the genius idea of using lanolin as lipbalm. Whereas Dr. Lipp is $16+ for a tiny tube, I purchase essentially the same 100% lanolin in a bigger tube from Target (Lansinoh brand) for a fraction of the price. If you have very finnicky, dry lips, try lanolin!

On the makeup front, I used up a couple of favorites including two tubes of my HG L'oreal Voluminous Million Lashes Waterproof Mascara, the Laneige BB Cushion (this is the Korean version - I still have another compact and refill in the American release when it was sold at Target), and a sample of the MUFE Soothing Face Primer. I also used up a sample of the Urban Decay Naked Skin Color Correcting Fluid in Peach which I really like using under my eyes. I have a bunch of those samples from various Sephora online orders and I have several almost empty tubes lying around. 

I didn't use much of the Mac Select Cover Up Concealer at all even though there's nothing wrong with it. I just don't use a separate concealer from my under eye one anymore because I don't have time to pin-point conceal and I expect my foundation or tinted moisturizer to do a good enough job. This concealer's been sitting in my collection for too long and it's started to separate so into the Back-to-Mac pile it goes. I also didn't fully finish the Benefit Powda Wowza Palette but I hit major pan on Hoola and some pan on Coralista. I named this a disappointing purchase awhile back and it was because I thought these were going to be the best powders ever due to all the internet hype. While I still don't think they're the best bronzer or blushes around, Hoola is an easy bronzer shade for me to wear and Coralista gives a pretty peach glow. The palette's quite old at this point and I have so many other beautiful bronzers and blushes to use so it's time to retire this trio to the bin. The black compact in the corner is the Mizon Correct Combo Pact which has a weird packaging where you push a button and the product comes out of little holes in the plastic. I impulse purchased it for $3 at the Peach & Lily sample sale but never really used it so I've passed it onto a friend. 

It's now past 2:30am and my eyelids are starting to droop. If I glossed over anything that you're curious about in my pile of beauty trash, drop me a comment below!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Highlight & Contour Palette of My Dreams: Nars Bord De Plage

A couple of months ago I swatched the Nars Blanc De Sable highlighter trio palette at Sephora and swooned over the weightless, yet buttery powders with the most beautiful shimmer. But the darker two shades looked to rosy to be highlighters on my skintone so I passed on it. Well, I'm so glad I held off on that purchase because Nars recently unveiled what I consider an even better big sister version of Blanc De Sable: the Bord De Plage palette. While I'm not exactly sold on the name of this palette, I love everything else about it. 

The palette is only $10 more than Blanc De Sable at $59, which I think is very reasonable for the quality and the variety you get. There are two matte bronzers, Laguna and Casino, and four highlighters, Rivage (which was in Blanc De Sable) , Crique, Corniche, and Galet. Each pan contains .12 oz of product so you get .72 oz total. For reference, Charlotte Tilbury's Filmstar Bronze and Glow only contains .56 oz and costs $68. The Nord De Plage palette is manufactured in Italy in case you were wondering. 

The packaging is stunning from the moment you touch the rubberized cardboard box to when you open the sturdy plastic compact. The burnished grunge design isn't really my aesthetic but I still think it looks cool and definitely high-quality. The plastic case is nicely weighted but not too heavy for travel. I like that the case is not rubberized like the usual Nars packaging which can sometimes turn grubby. The palette is sizeable so it's not the best for traveling light but I think it would be reasonable to pack for a two week or longer trip since you have two bronzers and all the highlighting shades you would ever need. The entire inner lid is a really high quality mirror which I really appreciate and it's the reason I would bring this on a trip. Nars has been nailing the design of their palettes lately and Bord De Plage is no exception. 

The powders are so beautiful in direct sunlight. I could barely bring myself to take the first swatch. The minimal embossing on the powders is an elegant touch and makes the palette that much more beautiful. The pans are the perfect size for me because I've taken to using smaller cheek brushes lately. But if you are accustomed to swirling a big fluffy brush into your bronzer or contour, you will have a hard time not getting some highlighter on your brush too.

In terms of shades, this palette is very warm. Though at first glance this shade scheme screams summer to me, the lightest highlight, Rivage, is actually perfect for fair skin tones. The bronzers are quite subtle but buildable so you can dust on a light layer if you're paler. The powders also work as eyeshadows so I'll likely use the darkest highlight, Galet, mostly for that purpose. I think they could have skipped one of the highlighters and added a satin blush color instead to make this an all-in-one palette. But if you want a bunch of warm toned highlighters in one palette, this is perfect. 

The formula of these powders are the gelee type - I believe it's the Nars Dual Intensity formula or something similar. The bronzers are in the new-ish Sun Wash Diffusion Bronzer formulation. Nars says these can be used wet for a more intense shine but I plan on using these dry only. 

I love gelee texture powders because they feel so light on the skin yet pack so much sparkly goodness. The shimmers are very fine and not chunky at all. They blend nicely onto my skin and don't leave a harsh streak of shine. The bronzers aren't as pigmented but I think that's a good thing. Better to build up color rather than spend 10 minutes trying to blend out a harsh stripe. Laguna is the cooler of the two bronzers and it's a really great universal shade - I can see why the regular Laguna bronzer is one of Nars' bestsellers. 

Though Galet will probably be a bit tricky to pull off as a highlight on my skintone, I definitely think it's one of the stunners of the palette. It's a very unique bronzey, almost rose-gold, shade that I'm sure would look amazing on deep skin colors. 

Here you can see all the shades swatched side by side. You can see the subtle tonal differences between the highlighters here. But once they're applied to the face, it's very hard to discern Crique from Corniche. 

Still images can't quite capture the beauty of this palette so I made a GIF to offer a better idea of the incredible shine and glow the highlighters pack. I can't get over how stunning this palette is. It's definitely one of my favorite purchases of this year so far! 

The Nars Bord De Plage palette is currently exclusive to Nordstrom (I ordered mine online) but should be available at other Nars retailers in August. It's also limited edition so definitely try to scoop this up sooner rather than later if it catches your fancy. I have a feeling it won't stay in stock for very long. But maybe people are highlighter-ed out from all the palettes and value sets by now.... I easily resisted the Anastasia Glow Kits and Becca Glow Palettes but I fell straight head over heels for this Nars one. 

What do you think about the Nars Bord De Plage palette? Love it? Hate it? Are you tired of seeing highlight and contour kits? Would love to hear your thoughts on this palette if you bought it also!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

CAP Beauty "The Facial": My Experience & Honest Review

At the ripe age of 24, I decided it was time to get my first facial ever. Despite being quite a skincare product junkie, I've never visited a dermatologist or seen any kind of professional regarding my skin. A big part of the reason I've never done so, besides the often exorbitant price, is because it's hard to find honest, unbiased reviews of facials and spa treatments in general. Being based in New York City, I am within blocks of dozens of beauty hot spots so I thought it would be a good idea to share my experiences with those of you who might be looking for in-depth reviews. 

Keep in mind, this was my first facial experience so perhaps something I thought was odd might be the norm and vice versa. To make things easier to skim and to hopefully maintain some kind of consistency across my reviews, I've broken up my thoughts into sections: price and booking, atmosphere, esthetician, treatment and random things to note. If there's anything I missed, please let me know in the comments!


I had already been thinking about booking a facial for a few weeks when I saw a Gilt City offer for CAP Beauty, a West Village mecca for "natural" beauty and wellness products. I was familiar with CAP Beauty already, having visited the store previously and falling for the aesthetic and vibes, so the price was easier to swallow. The usual cost of "The Facial" is $200 for 60 minutes and $300 for 90 minutes, including gratuity. The Gilt deal was $150 for 60 minutes and I had an additional coupon code so I only paid $120 - quite a good deal in my opinion! "The Facial" is actually CAP Beauty's most inexpensive facial - the others run into the $300-$400+ range. I really appreciate that gratuity is already factored into the price - no awkward guessing how much to tip and no need for cash.

Making the reservation was relatively easy. All I had to do was give CAP Beauty a call, tell them my Gilt voucher number and choose a date and time. You have up to 24 hours before your appointment to reschedule which I think is pretty generous. I had to reschedule once due to a work event and all I had to do was call and choose a new time. CAP Beauty is open until 9pm on Thursdays (6pm on Mondays and 7pm on all other days) so those who don't leave work at 5pm have a chance of booking an appointment too.


The spa and the retail store share the same entrance which is good because you can browse the shelves if you're early for your appointment. The downside is that there isn't really a waiting area and if there happens to be a lot of people in the store at once, totally possible since it's a small space, it can be a little awkward.

The treatment rooms are located in the back area which is separated by a wall. I spotted two treatment rooms but possibly there was a third. Each room was pretty small and over half of the room was taken up by the bed in which you lay on. Though the room was small, I didn't feel claustrophobic or trapped. It was a comforting and cozy space with dim lighting and everything felt clean.

Before my session started, I was given a few minutes to remove my shirt and bra and instructed to lay under the blanket on the bed. I'm not sure if that's usual protocol for a facial but I didn't mind. The bed was curved up where your knees rest and the sheets that go over your body are very snug. After an hour under the sheets of that bed, I was pretty warm but still comfortable. If you have a naturally high internal temperature, you may be a little uncomfortable though.


My esthetician was Crystal and she was bright-eyed, attentive and accommodating. Upon checking in I was given a one page form to fill out regarding my skin concerns, allergies, skincare routine and all that fun stuff so my esthetician would have a bit of background by the time I was laying on the bed. Crystal started off by covering my eyes and examining my skin under a very bright light, noting my dehydration, oily and congested skin issues. Her assessment was 100% accurate so right off the bat I felt like I was in good hands.

While she cleansed my face she asked me a bit more about the products I used and I confessed I haven't been as diligent with my routine as of late and I haven't been eating well either. She gave me a couple of cleansing tips for my skin type and the rest of the session was spent in relative silence.

I wouldn't have minded if Crystal spoke more and chatted with me but it was also nice having some quiet time. My mind wanders a lot so most of the time I was listening to what was going on around me, amused by the sounds of Crystal warming up the products between her hands.

It was really nice that Crystal didn't push products at me at all. In fact, I wish I had spoken up to ask what she was using on my skin at each step. I asked if she could write down all the names of the products she was using and she said she would (which she did) although she mentioned some of the masks she uses aren't available for purchase. I assume they were some sort of concoction of a few different things since I could hear clinking of various bottles and jars.

I asked Crystal how often she recommends people go for a facial and she said about once a month. At the end of the session she gave me two samples of products she used as well as the full list and mentioned that next time I come back we'll reassess and she might add in another serum or retinol. I guess that's a gentle way of encouraging people to book another session, which I like - not too forceful but a nice way to establish a continuing relationship.


Overall, the 60 minutes were very soothing and zen and it was a perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon. The flow of the treatment is pretty much exactly what is described on the website:

"Beginning with a thorough cleanse followed by an exfoliating treatment, stimulating massage, and nourishing mask our Facial revitalizes and strengthens the skin. The core of this treatment, a healthy and heady dose of detoxifying massage, purifies, sculpts and transforms the skin through the magical touch of our brilliant therapists."

Crystal cleansed my skin very thoroughly with an oil cleanser and expertly massaged my skin at several points which was very relaxing. I tend to clench my face a lot so being able to release some of that tension was very much needed. In addition to massaging the face, my neck, shoulders and chest also got some attention. I'm usually a very ticklish person but I didn't feel ticklish at all throughout the session and it was incredibly relaxing. 

To wipe off the cleanser, mask and exfoliating treatment, Crystal wrapped my face in a very warm cloth (I believe it was a new one each time) and essentially cocooned my face. The heat was a little much in the first few seconds but when she unwrapped my face, it felt so refreshing. 

What wasn't included in the website description were the extractions which, for me, took perhaps five to 10 minutes (it was really hard for me to gauge time during this treatment). The extractions were painful at times but totally manageable. I only winced a bit towards the end but Crystal soothed my skin right after with a nice mist and serum. My skin felt normal within minutes. The temporary pain was worth it because the pores on my nose haven't looked this clear in a long time. 


On my initial assessment form I had written that I wanted clean and glowy skin and the end result was exactly that. When I walked out of CAP Beauty my skin was visible radiant but not oily feeling at all. My skin was a little red in some spots from the extractions but not overly so and not sensitive either. I don't think I could have expected anything better so I consider my $120 well spent. Oh, and after my treatment, Crystal had a freshly prepared warm beverage waiting for me. I honestly forgot what she said it was but it reminded me of some kind of healthy hot chocolate without the chocolate if that makes sense. It was interesting and a nice touch since CAP Beauty sells a lot of health supplements (personally I'm a skeptic when it comes to supplements but to each their own). 

I'm very pleased with the outcome of my skin and am definitely intrigued by the line Crystal used on my skin: Marie Veronique. I've never heard about this brand before but upon doing some research, I'm already liking what I see. The price points are, of course, a little high but I think very reasonable for the amount of product you get and the quality of the ingredients. 

After many years of fearing facials, I'm really happy with my first experience at CAP Beauty. It was a lovely hour spent that made me feel pampered and refreshed. I really like the brand's earthy vibes which has just the right mix of bohemian and luxury, without being over the top or pretentious. Crystal is a knowledgable esthetician and she made me feel very comfortable throughout the session, even during the extractions. I'm sure if I did come back every month we would have more fluid conversation. I'm also really excited to have learned about the Marie Veronique skincare line. I have since perused her website and made a couple of mental notes of products I want to incorporate into my routine down the line. If you have $200 flat to treat yourself, by all means this is a place I can get behind. 

I have a few facial spots on my list to visit next, probably not for another few months but on my list nonetheless. If you have any recommendations in the New York City area, please let me know! Do you get regular facials or indulge once in awhile? I'm curious to hear about everyone's professional skin regimen!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

3 Bobbi Brown Eyeshadows for the Perfect Brown Smokey Eye

I've been adding more and more Bobbi Brown makeup into my collection and while I can probably find dupes for a lot of the shades and the formulas are nothing extraordinary, I can totally see the brand's appeal. While the Insta-famous are chasing after the latest limited edition unicorn highlighter, I'm longing for makeup staples that can carry me through a work week and into the weekend without any fuss. No offense to those who are into lavender shimmery cheek products but that's just not my aesthetic.

Anyway, I digress. Bobbi Brown eyeshadows have been on my radar for years but they're $25 a pop and it's hard to justify spending so much on a neutral single shadow when palettes with a dozen shades are often around $50. I recently caved and bought three of her singles because there was a $30 off $80 Gilt deal and a really nice gift with purchase. Bobbi Brown does some great gifts with purchase directly through their site so I recommend signing up for their e-newsletter.

The shades I chose were Rich Brown (matte dark brown), Taupe (matte beige) and Burnt Sugar (metallic golden brown). No surprises - all very neutral, wearable tones of brown. I figured these would all go together but I could also bring Rich Brown and Taupe with me when I travel because they're staple blending shades. I could have easily purchased similar shades from Mac for only $6 per refill pan but alas, I wanted to see what Bobbi Brown had to offer.

While the shadows are pricey for singles, you get a lot of product in each pan. Here's a comparison shot of the shadows next to a Mac single and a Clinique Cheek Pop. Each Bobbi Brown eyeshadow is 3 g (.1 oz) whereas a Mac eyeshadow is half of that and the Cheek Pops are 3.5 g (.12 oz). The single eyeshadows also pop out of their individual cases and Bobbi Brown sells customizable palettes with 3, 4 and 6 wells ($10 each) so you can mix and match your own palette of eyeshadow and blush shades. It's a nice, albeit expensive, option for those who want to make your own sleek palette.

Onto the fun part - the swatches. I am happy with the pigment and texture of all three shades that I purchased. Burnt Sugar is quite a popular shade from the line and I can see why. It's one of those universally flattering shimmery brown shadows that you just can't go wrong with. While it's labeled a metallic finish, which makes me think of a very intense foiled look, Burnt Sugar has a very refined shimmer. It's really lovely and I experienced no fallout when I applied it all over my eyelid. I'm also very pleased with Rich Brown. It has the perfect amount of pigment that enhances the eyes but is a breeze to blend out. No chalky mattes here! Taupe is a great transition shade and I love the tone for the crease or even all over the eye. I found this shade a bit more difficult to blend for some reason compared to the other two which was surprising. But it wasn't anything a few extra seconds of windshield wiper motions with a fluffy blending brush couldn't fix.

I took another photo with flash which captures Burnt Sugar's luminosity a bit better. It's a very pretty shade and one that I think would look nice on pretty much everyone because it leans neither too cool or too warm. I did a very textbook eye look with Taupe blended generously in the crease, Burnt Sugar all over the lid and Rich Brown in the outer corner and I loved how it turned out. You can't mess up with these three shades.

Bobbi Brown does a lot of limited edition eyeshadow palettes with many of their best-selling shades so I would keep an eye out for those if you want to nab these shadows at a better price. Do I wince knowing how much I spent on these given I can probably find close enough dupes already in my possession? Yes. Do I still love these shadows and see myself using them a lot? 100% yes!

If you wear the same makeup look everyday and want functional products that get the job done well without the bells and whistles, Bobbi Brown likely has you covered. What are your favorite products from Bobbi Brown? Any recommendations for what I should try next?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Suncare Hits and Misses Feat. Shiseido & SunBum

I am that friend who is always reminding everyone to pack sunscreen for beach trips and long outdoor weekends. Sunburns not only suck in the few days after when you're as red as a lobster and shedding skin but they increase your risk for skin cancer as well. Unfortunately there seem to be more icky sunscreens than pleasant ones so I have a personal vendetta to find the best lotions, sprays, oils and whatever other forms sun protection comes in.

Shiseido has been a long time brand favorite when it comes to suncare. Their Ultimate Sun Protection Cream in the dark blue packaging was probably the first sunscreen I enjoyed using years ago and helped me incorporate sunscreen into my morning skincare routine. Right now I'm using the Shiseido Urban Environment UV Protection Cream SPF 40 ($33) for my face and I'm really enjoying it. It's easy to spread on the skin and it doesn't leave a major white cast. It does have a bit of glow to it, more so than the aforementioned Ultimate Sun Protection Cream, but it still wears well under makeup. The scent is lightly fragranced and I generally like the scent of Shiseido suncare products, although your preferences might be different. For me this product is definitely a hit!

Admittedly I'm not always great about wearing sunscreen when I'm in a rush in the morning but still want to wear a bit of makeup. That's what led me to purchase the Shiseido Sports BB SPF 50+ ($38). This BB cream is billed to be long wearing and transfer resistant while giving a touch of coverage. I like this tinted sunscreen because I can apply it with my fingers for a streak-free finish and it really does last throughout the day. I usually go makeup-free when I'm working out or outdoors for a long period of time but on days where I want to go a bit more glam, this is perfect. I have the shade medium which is just right for my summer skin tone but unfortunately this only comes in three shades so not everyone will find a match. The downside to this product is that there is a noticeable white cast in flash photography and under fluorescent light this makes me look very gray and just plain odd. Despite these downsides, the reason I purchased this was to mainly wear it outdoors and in natural lighting so for me, this is another hit.

The last Shiseido sunscreen I have in my possession right now is the Ultimate Sun Protection Lotion SPF 50+  for Sensitive Skin and Children ($42). This was gifted to me by PR awhile back when it first launched and I was really excited to try it. I had issues with some of the Shiseido sunscreen lotions in the past because they contained a lot of alcohol in the formula to make the consistency very fluid and lightweight. Thankfully this formulation does not contain alcohol or fragrance so it does not irritate my skin at all. I also found that it protects very well due to the Wetforce technology which is supposed to increase the sunscreen's efficacy when exposed to water or perspiration. Unfortunately this is also where my issue with this product lies. This is so hard to get off your skin! In addition to having a major white cast even in natural lighting, this sunscreen stays put even after an hour in salty beach water followed by a shower. When I wear this sunscreen I can be assured my skin is being protected but it's very visible and just not a flattering look.

Being a long time Shiseido sunscreen user, I'm a bit of a suncare snob. But I'm happy to report that I've found a good and affordable line that I enjoy. If you're not interested in shelling out over $30 for a sunscreen, check out Sun Bum. I bought their Sunscreen Lotion in SPF 30 and SPF 50 ($10 for 3 oz. travel tube) for my Tulum vacation back in April and both were great. I can't really tell a difference between the two honestly so I would suggest getting either. The lotion is lightweight and easy to smooth over my skin. The scent reminds me of a sweet banana bread pudding or something of the sort and I don't find it too cloying. I like this sun lotion because it's really easy to reapply. While it doesn't have the staying power of the Shiseido lotion, I can reapply the Sun Bum ones several times a day without feeling like I have a thick layer of product on me - and there's no awful white cast either. This affordable sunscreen gets a thumbs up from me! I want to try their spray-on formula at some point as well.

I also brought a tube of the Sun Bum Cool Down After Sun Lotion ($8 for 3 oz. travel tube) with me to Tulum as my body lotion. It has a slightly lighter consistency than the sunscreen and it appears to have some kind of very subtle shimmer in the formula, though I don't see mica or any shimmer additive in the ingredients list. The same banana scent is present in this lotion. My boyfriend got a pretty nasty sunburn on our first full day in Tulum and he felt that this lotion helped him feel a little less sore so I guess you can take his word for it. I hope you don't find yourself in that predicament. I personally don't see this after sun as a must have but it's a good summer body lotion so if you like the scent, give it a shot.

I'm heading to Miami for Fourth of July weekend so I'll be using up what's left of the Shiseido lotion and Sun Bum tubes. I  also just bought a travel size of the Supergoop Super Power Sunscreen Mousse to bring with me which I'm pretty pumped about. I've never used a mousse sunscreen before and the reviews for this one are really positive. I'll report back on whether or not I like it and if it's better than traditional lotions and sprays. What are your favorite sunscreens for face and body? Are you forever looking for the latest and greatest in suncare or do you stick to tried and true favorites?

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Lip Mini Swatches: YSL, Chanel, Bobbi Brown, Bite Beauty & More

I was originally planning to title this post "why I no longer purchase lip products" but then I decided not to because it seemed a little click-baity. Over the last year or so I've probably given away or thrown out about a third of my lip products but what I have left is still way more than necessary. I very rarely wear lipstick nowadays, preferring long lasting and natural looking lip stains or tinted balms instead. That's why I haven't done a lip swatch or review post in ages....

I haven't been very tempted to purchase new lippies is because I've accumulated so many minis from recent gift with purchases. One way I do this is by saving up my Sephora Beauty Insider points for the best 100 point perks. The Hourglass Lip Stylo, Bobbi Brown lipstick, Too Faced gloss, Urban Decay lipstick and Bite lipsticks were all point perks from the past few months. The YSL lipstick and Kat Von D liquid lipstick were acquired with Sephora offer codes and the other samples are from other gift with purchases. For someone like me who never uses up full size lip products, this is a great way of seeing which formulas and colors I like (or don't like) without breaking the bank.

Around the time I started wearing makeup, baby pink nude lips were all the rage but now I can't seem to go any lighter than maybe two shades of my natural lip color. I'm currently loving a sheer semi-glossy finish for my lipsticks. The Hourglass Girl Lip Stylo in Peacemaker is a really wearable and comfortable lip color. I tend to associate lip products packaged like chubby lipbalms with the Clinique Chubby Sticks (which I don't like at all) but the Hourglass one is more nourishing and pigmented. The YSL Rouge Pur Couture lipstick range is amazing and I love the shade Le Nu. It's the perfect neutral pink shade that makes my lips look defined yet natural. Bobbi Brown's Sandwash Pink lipstick has less shine than the first two and is a lot more pink and cool toned. It's not my personal favorite but I can see it being a popular pick. The Kat Von D Everlasting liquid lipsticks are one of my favorite matte liquid lipsticks but I'm over the dry matte lip look. I also find it much harder to pull off neutral liquid lipstick colors so Lolita II is a difficult one for me. I had high hopes for the Too Faced Sweet Peach Creamy Peach Oil lip gloss in Pure Peach. The color is really girly and fun and the lip oil marketing factor was intriguing. Unfortunately this lipgloss gives me that horrid white outline where my lips touch which I hate. I also don't like the very strong artificial candy scent. It's a pretty color but this lipgloss isn't worthy of a full size purchase.

I don't wear bright lip colors as much anymore but my heart still beats a little faster when I find an amazing red lipstick. Chanel Rouge Coco lipstick in Arthur is a gorgeous semi-sheer orange red. This is a gorgeous summer lipstick shade and would look fabulous on tanned skin. Bite Beauty knew what they were doing when they reformulated their lipstick range. Their Amuse Bouche lipstick in Gazpacho is one of the most intense, creamy blue-based reds I have. It is divine! It applies like a dream and feels incredible on the lips as well. Bite Beauty's Amuse Bouche lipstick in Beetroot is just as beautiful in terms of formulation and it's a great fall red lipstick because it has a hint of plum. Bobbi Brown's Art Stick liquid lip in English Rose is a really sophisticated and demure shade. Even though it looks shiny in the swatch, you can pat it into the lips for a more natural finish. I really like putting just a little of this on the inner part of the lips and feathering the color outwards with my fingers for a subtle tint. Last but not last is Urban Decay's Vice lipstick in Venom, a bold berry magenta. The formula is nice for one of the most affordable mid-end lipsticks on the market at only $17 but this particular shade is hard for me to wear on a regular basis.

Even though these minis are maybe a third of their regular sized counterparts, I know it'll be ages before I use one up. I love having different options and hope to get into wearing some brighter and bolder lip colors again soon. Do you have to remind yourself to wear lipstick and reapply throughout the day or do you naturally gravitate towards lip colors? Any tips for getting more use out of your lippie stash would be very appreciated!

Friday, June 9, 2017

Synthetic Brush Haul: Sephora X Hakuhodo, MAC and Sigma

When I'm looking at makeup brushes, one of the things I pay very close attention to is the type of hair that is used for the bristles. While I'm all about beautiful natural hair brushes made of goat and squirrel for most of my eyeshadow and cheek powder brushes, I have several (ok, maybe more like a dozen) synthetic brushes that I use regularly. I almost always turn to synthetic brushes to apply liquid foundation, concealer and eyeliner because I usually wash the product off after every single use. While I can go a week or maybe two before washing a blush brush, I can't apply gel eyeliner with a brush that already has caked on liner.

For the last few years I've been caught up buying natural haired brushes and building up my luxury brush collection. But I recently realized I needed to update some of my well-loved synthetic brushes that have seen better days. A couple of well-timed deals ultimately led to these purchases.

Sephora and Hakuhodo's brush collaboration is still on sale so I took the opportunity to acquire two more. I already had the Otsubu Large Teardrop Pointed Powder Brush, which made it to a favorites roundup, and the Kusabi Wedge Sloping Powder Brush which I purchased at the end of 2015 and still use often. This time I picked up the Ougi Fan Cheek Brush and the Kusuriyubi Angled Concealer Brush. Both are currently sold out but the Otsubu and Kusabi are available. I like small cheek brushes so the size of the Ougi was very appealing. The shape is a little odd for blush but time will tell if I get the hang of using it. Both brushes are very soft and well made; I honestly expect no less since they are handmade by Chikuhodo.

Do you guys remember when MAC dominated the brush rolls of every blogger and YouTuber? Those days seem to be long gone as there are so many more brush companies now. The 217 still holds a special place in my heart though mine is looking a little worn after many years of frequent use. I picked up the Mac 159 Brush to use with cream cheek products. It's a duo fiber brush that is pinched so that you have wide flat sides which I like for patting on product. I have a similarly shaped Coastal Scents brush that I still adore and I wanted to have a nice backup for when I haven't had time to wash that brush. I also added the Mac 170 Brush to my cart because my Real Techniques and Zoeva foundation brushes are stained and they just don't perform as well as when I first got them. The Mac 170 generally has pretty good reviews so I think it will do the job fine (if it's a total flop, I'll be sure to update you guys).

Does anyone still use their Sigma brushes? Sigma was one of the first beauty companies I remember that used digital influencers to catapult their brand. Seems that hype didn't last though. I have an eyeliner brush from them that I got as a freebie at IMATS a few years ago which I really like so I decided to get a few more from their sale section. I always need clean eyeliner brushes so I picked up several of the E65 and E05. The E05 is so good for gel eyeliner. If you struggle with gel liner, try this brush! I also picked up their Concealer Blend Kabuki Brush because the tapered shape looked pretty unique. This brush wasn't particular cheap at $23 and it's not as soft as I hoped it would be. So I'm a little disappointed already. I haven't used it yet so don't want to totally dismiss it. I'm thinking it might also make a good cream contour buffing brush.

That's it for my rambly brush haul. I've yet to test out these guys (besides the Sigma E05) but can't wait to use them. Let me know if you've tried any of these and how you like them in the comments!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Dior DreamSkin Perfect Skin Cushion: The $82 Cushion

After hearing major raves about the Dior DreamSkin Perfect Skin Cushion, I wanted to see what all the hype was about for myself. This was no lighthearted purchase because this is is most definitely a luxury-priced cushion. The compact with a refill (two 15 ml cartridges and the casing) is $82. Yes, you read that right! Each individual refill is $42 - you can easily get two cushion refills from other brands at that price point. Given the high price, I obviously had very high expectations for this cushion. 

Dior brands the DreamSkin cushion as "tinted skincare" and claims it will improve the appearance of redness, shine, and pores. While I can't vouch for the skin health benefits this might provide, it does have SPF 50 to give your face a little extra protection. I personally view all tinted face products as more makeup than skincare (because eventually you're going to have to remove it and properly cleanse). 

Packaging-wise, it's a standard cushion compact with plastic casing. The product is made in Korea so I wouldn't be surprised if it was made in the same places as many other brands. The refills for these do not fit into the Laneige compacts (since I get that question quite a lot). This cushion has the same scent as the Dior DreamSkin skincare products, a light floral scent. It's not overpowering and not detectable on my skin after application. As far as I can tell, the applicator puff is the standard kind of puff that comes with every cushion.  

This imparts very light coverage but you can definitely see that it evens out my skin tone and makes my face much brighter and awake. Problem areas like my chin look significantly better and my dark under eyes are diminished. The cushion does not completely erase my redness and you can still see some scars and spots but I don't mind that. I use the shade 020, the second lightest of four total shades and while it's a little on the pink side, it's sheer enough that I don't think the match is too bad.

The DreamSkin Cushion feels weightless on the skin and has surprisingly good lasting power. It doesn't transfer to other surfaces and even after 12 hours it looks pretty good on my combination skin.

My preferred way of applying this is with the included puff because it's so quick. The product blends in seamlessly with just a few pats. For day to day wear, I like to set this with a translucent powder for a natural look. If I want more coverage, this looks really good under a light dusting of the Shiseido Sheer & Perfect Compact Foundation. I've read that other people apply another liquid foundation over this cushion but I haven't felt the need to do that.

I really like this cushion for it's "my skin but better" effect but, alas, the cost is tough to swallow. I don't think this cushion is particularly unique that I need to spend $42 on each refill. I've used this cushion perhaps a dozen times and I already feel like it's starting to run out (but once I flip the sponge, I'm sure I'll be able to get many more applications). If you have the extra cash, are interested in makeup with skincare benefits, and like the no-makeup makeup look, this is worth a look. If you prefer at least medium coverage and don't have $82+ to spend on a product that will last you perhaps two months with daily use, there are other cushions for you.

Have you tried the Dior DreamSkin Cushion? Dior also released a Forever Perfect Cushion in Asia and Europe which has much more coverage and that I'm quite interested in. I have a few international travels planned for later this year so I'll try to scope out that cushion to test out!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

High-End Makeup Declutter: Nars, YSL, Bite, Shiseido

It's been awhile since I poked around my makeup stash looking for unloved products to give away. Since I regularly started doing these declutters and documenting them, it's gotten a lot easier for me to pick out things I never reach for. It took me too long to realize that there's no point in hoarding makeup that doesn't work for me.

A lot of the things from this pile were PR gifts or free samples. Most of these aren't bad products but they just didn't work out for me. Mostly, it's a color issue. Let's go through some of my thought processes.

How often do I wear bright fuchsia lipstick? Pretty much never. How often do I wear glittery purple eyeliner? Almost never. Would I be sad to part with these products? Nope. If I lost this blush would I even notice or care? Not really. Do I have a lot of other stuff that I actually want to use? You bet.

The Nars blush in Oasis is something I bought myself and I've only used it a handful of times. It used to be hard to think about giving away a $30 blush but the shimmers in Oasis and the color just don't flatter me. I know someone else could get a lot more enjoyment out of this blush and I'd rather they have it than let it go to waste just so it can sit with my other Nars compacts. I used to like Nars Albatross a lot and I remember there was a point in time when it was quite popular. I had an E.L.F dupe that I used all the time and funnily enough I used it a lot more than the Nars one. I guess I wanted to "save" the Nars highlighter for special occasions. Now I realize how stupid that way of thinking is. The yellow hues in Albatross aren't to my taste anymore and I have so many more lovely highlighters to choose from now.

As someone who barely wears lipsticks, I think I'll be getting rid of a lot of them in the coming months. Honestly, I could probably give away more than half of what I currently have and not miss them. But let's not get too carried away.

In my next round up, I should go through my eyeshadow stash and pick out what I never reach for anymore. I have a ton of drugstore eyeshadows that I used to collect back in my college days that I've barely touched. I'm not looking forward to confronting that part of my stash but I know I'll feel a lot better after finding those products some new homes (although some probably just need to be chucked into the bin).

Are you decluttering your stash? Do you have an all-in-one-go approach or are you taking it month by month like me? Any tips to share for a recovering makeup hoarder?