Sunday, December 24, 2017

Budget Breakdown: The Cult Beauty Box by Caroline Hirons Volume 3

I'm going to be totally upfront with you all now that I haven't used a majority of the things in the latest Cult Beauty Box curated by Caroline Hirons. Nonetheless, I wanted to get this post up stat because this box is still available here and it is one heck of a steal. I'm not being sponsored in any way and I purchased this all with my own money but I really do think it's a great selection of skincare brands for a great price.

I came across this box on a whim and purchased it with barely any hesitation because I've been using a sample of May Lindstrom's Blue Cocoon and really, really enjoy it. Sidenote, I'm planning to do a post soon on products I've purchased the full size of after loving a sample of it (now you know one of the products that will be mentioned in that post).

I've heard many British bloggers and YouTubers talk about Cult Beauty but I had never ordered from them before. I always get nervous ordering things from overseas because I'm not sure of how the shipping will turn out. I was very pleasantly surprised by how fast my order flew from the U.K. to New York. I placed my order on a Saturday and received my package by Wednesday - it actually would have arrived sooner but I had to change my delivery address since DHL required a signature and so it came a day later. The best part? Shipping was free! Super impressed by Cult Beauty's turn around time.

While I say this box is a really great value, that doesn't mean it's exactly cheap. It retails for £220 (~$293) but the amazing thing for those not living in the EU is that the tax gets removed automatically at checkout. I only paid £183.33 (~$245). Once you look at how much each of the six products retails for, the price is very reasonable. Note that all the products are full size. Let's break down the prices, shall we?

Omorovicza's Moor Cream Cleanser (150ml) - $80
Oskia’s Renaissance Mask (50ml) - $73
DCL’s Multi-Action Penta Peel (50 pads) - $65
NIOD’s Fractionated Eye Contour Concentrate (15ml) - $68
Leahlani’s Champagne Serum (30ml) - $32
May Lindstrom The Blue Cocoon Beauty Balm Concentrate (50ml) - $180

Guys, that's a total of $498! That's a discount of 50% on luxury skincare brands that hardly ever go on sale. It's important to note that these aren't discounted because they're old stock or SKUs that can't sell. These are top skincare brands and, in many cases, star products for the brand. I've seen past Caroline Hirons for Cult Beauty boxes and I've always been impressed with them (but hadn't taken the plunge in the past). I think Caroline did a fantastic job of culling together products for various purposes and I'm so excited to test these out.

Since I haven't tested out most of these goodies, I'll report back in a couple of weeks once I've had a feel for the products. I'm so, so thrilled to have the full size May Lindstrom Blue Cocoon - expect my thoughts on that one sooner in my sample-to-full-size post coming soon!

Have you ever ordered any of the Cult Beauty by Caroline Hirons boxes? Have you tried any of the items in this particular box? Are you tempted to nab a box to try for yourself?

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

My 5 Picks From Hakuhodo's Tokyo Showroom

Guys, I think I deserve a pat on the back for only bringing home five brushes after being surrounded by hundreds of beautiful brushes in Hakuhodo's Tokyo showroom. I have dreamed of visiting a Hakuhodo showroom for a long time - seeing some of the brushes at IMATS in 2014 only made me more excited for the day I'd be able to see the whole line in Japan. If you appreciate handmade Japanese makeup brushes, like the way some appreciate a finely aged wine or a new sports car, you'll know how I feel.

If you don't particularly care about makeup brushes, then my excitement over getting to see Hakuhodo brushes in person is probably lost on you. But if you do love a great blue squirrel or a well crafted goat hair brush, definitely find a free-standing Hakuhodo store. The flagship store is in Kyoto but unfortunately I only had time to visit the Omotesando store in Tokyo. The full address is 3rd fl. Terra Asios Omotesando 5-10-6, Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo, 107-0062. It's pretty much hiding in a nondescript office building - if you're not specifically looking for it, you'll easily miss it.

I really appreciate Hakuhodo as a brush brand because they make brushes that both makeup novices and experts can use at various price points. I would even go so far as to say their basic series goat haired brushes are affordable yet still beautifully made. Many of the Hakuhodo basic series eye brushes are both superior to Mac brushes and much less expensive.

I picked up five basic brushes that I knew I would get a lot of use out of. Also, I picked all of them up in the short handle style. I believe most, if not all, of the brushes come in either short or long handles. I prefer short handles because I like to get really close to the mirror when doing my makeup and they're easier to travel with.

Next time I visit Japan, I will definitely save up to pick up more brushes - the prices are cheaper in Japan compared to the official Hakuhodo U.S. website. Here they are as shown in the above photo from left to right:

B116BkSL - ¥4,700 (~$42) / retails for $59 on U.S. website - This is the priciest brush that I picked up but I have a thing for flat paddle shaped cheek brushes so I couldn't resist. It's a small brush that I like to use for blush and highlight. This brush is made of blue squirrel hair so it's incredibly soft and luxurious on the skin.

B133BkSL - ¥2,500 (~$22) / retails for $32 on U.S. website - I didn't have this brush on my radar at all but while I was in the store I thought it was a unique brush that I didn't have in my collection yet. The hairs are Canadian squirrel and very silky. This actually feels like a synthetic brush in that it has a slight slip to it. This is really lovely for applying shimmery shadows all over the lid.

B004GBkSL (also known as J004GBkSL) - ¥1,600 (~$14) / retails for $20 on U.S. website - This is a basic goat hair eyeshadow shading brush. In the above photo it's second from the left where you can see it's a smidge larger than the Mac 239 which is on the far left.

J5523BkSL - ¥1,500 (~$13) / retails for $19 on U.S. website - Another essential brush and one that probably looks very familiar. This is the Hakuhodo twin to the famed Mac 217 blending brush. Another staple that I'll never be without. In the above photo, Mac's 217 is on the far right and the Hakuhodo brush is next to it. The middle brush is the Chikuhodo T-7. For reference, Mac is now selling their 217 brush for $25 and I believe their brushes are now made in China (I purchased mine years ago when they were still being made in Japan).

G5514BkSL - ¥1,300 (~$11.50) / retails for $17 on U.S. website - I don't have enough pencil brushes in my collection and I really should have picked up two more of this one. It's a a great size to smudge out eyeliner and add depth to the outer corner or lower lash line. It's soft enough not to irritate my eyes at all but firm enough to not flop around.

Two months since picking these up in Tokyo, I'm still smitten with my five picks. I had a wonderful experience at the Tokyo showroom and can't wait to return in the future. If you're thinking of visiting and have any questions, feel free to ask and I'll try to answer them!

Monday, December 11, 2017

High End Tokyo Beauty Haul + Mini Reviews: THREE, RMK & Lunasol

Oof, this post is so belated. It's been sitting in my drafts folder for months now but I figure I'd still share here on the blog in case you don't follow me on Instagram. Compared to my Tokyo drugstore haul, the handful of high end products I picked up in Japan looks pretty controlled. I had planned to pick up a few more things but at the time I didn't really love any eyeshadow palettes or lipsticks - so I passed on those categories entirely. I stuck to buying products I knew I would get use out of and I have absolutely no regrets about that. 

I already posted a review with a before and after on the Shiseido Synchro Skin White Cushion Compact so I won't talk about it again here. For consistency I wanted to make sure I mentioned it because it is eye-wateringly expensive for a cushion foundation. About $50 for both the case and ONE cushion cartridge, to be exact. 

Everything else in this post I purchased at Narita Airport at the duty free boutique. I had a good experience browsing and shopping at Narita duty free - it's just easier not having to go to a separate counter to get your tax refund. 

I was impressed with the selection of THREE products they had at the airport. I think they had pretty much the entire line there. I had been eyeing the THREE Flawless Ethereal Fluid Foundation after reading several positive blogger reviews before going to Japan. It usually goes for ¥5,000 excluding tax but it was selling for ¥4,200 (~$37) at the airport. Not bad for a high end foundation. First off, I love the packaging of this. It's super sleek and the fact that it has a pump is fantastic! This foundation comes in 10 shades and I chose the second lightest. I haven't worn it enough times to do a comprehensive review yet but I tried it out for the first time in my most recent Get Ready With Me video. Once I've had a bit more time to play with this, I'll do a full review with before and after close-ups. 

Though I wasn't really drawn to the eyeshadow palettes (shocker), the blushes were really up my alley. I limited myself to two - one from THREE and one from RMK. 

The THREE Cheeky Chic Blush comes in 12 shades and I purchased 08 Eternal Traveller. I chose this solely based on the fact that I think the satin rose color is a classic but I totally love the name as well! These normally retail for ¥3,000 each (excluding tax) but I paid ¥2,520 (~$22). I think that's a really reasonable price for a luxury blush. I love the very minimal, compact packaging and though it looks super tiny, it's only a bit smaller than a Nars blush (4 grams vs. 4.8 grams). 

I wasn't planning to get anything from RMK but their Ingenious Powder Cheeks in 07 was the perfect soft peach shade - I couldn't resist. I love the frosted, see-through case and, like the THREE blush, it's super small and great for travel. Though you get a little less product (3.4 grams) this was a bit more expensive than the THREE blush at ¥2,600 (~$23). Still not a bad price for a really lovely blush from a reputable department store brand. I've used this blush a lot more than the THREE one so far and I think it's lovely. It's a really light shade but it definitely shows up on my skin and looks very natural. This is perfect for people who don't wear a lot of makeup but want some color on their cheeks. The powder is pressed quite hard into the pan but my natural haired brushes have no problem picking up pigment. 

The final thing I grabbed was the Lunasol Sheer Light Gloss in 02 Cool Beige. I gravitated towards this because I love the look of milky semi-nude pink beige glosses. In the tube, this reminded me of the Laura Mercier Lip Glace in Blush, one of my favorite lipglosses. Suffice to say that they weren't kidding when they called this a sheer gloss. I find this to be more akin to a glossy lip conditioner than the kinds of liquid lipstick-type glosses that are popular in the states. This lunasol gloss feels really nice on the lips; it's not sticky at all and feels moisturizing. But the lasting power is nonexistent so you basically need to reapply every hour. This was ¥2,125 (~$19) so a little pricey for a sheer gloss but I've put this in my daily makeup pouch to ensure I get the most use out of it. 

I'm happy with my Tokyo purchases and I still need some more time to play with a couple of things, namely the foundation, before my verdict is out. I'm kicking myself a little for not spotting the Addiction counter at Narita until I was literally running for my gate (took a little too long eating and sitting around doing nothing at the airport until the last minute). But I guess that just means I have to revisit Japan soon! 

Sunday, December 3, 2017

My Sephora Picks for the Holidays AKA A Huge End of Year Haul

This is what several online orders, a few in-store stops and a few coupon codes from Sephora looks like.... Yeah, I'm not too proud of my spending right now. This collective haul encompasses everything I bought during the 20% off sale until now. Let's just say everything here bumped me into VIB Rouge status. Which, honestly, I don't think is even really worth it but I guess 2018 will tell. 

In my defense (not that I have owe anyone an apology for spending my own money), a lot of the things I picked up were haircare and skincare products that I will use at some point. I only allowed myself one eyeshadow quad (because Tom Ford is too pricey to buy without a sale) and most of the holiday makeup gift sets didn't appeal to me (too much glitter, weird colors, etc.).

I'm typically very low maintenance with my hair care but a few weeks ago I got balayage highlights done and I'm trying to give my locks a little more TLC. The hair kits were generally a good value and as a hair product newbie I love sets that give you a lot of variety. The Sephora Favorites Hair Rescue and Prep & Protect sets will certainly come in handy for travel. At $25 and $24 respectively, these Sephora Favorites kits are a great way to sample several popular products to see which ones, if any, suit your needs best.

The Briogeo line has favorable reviews so I bought two sets with full-size products from the brand to try. Verb is another brand that's new to me and their Ghost line has fantastic reviews so I grabbed the value kit. I like that their shampoo and conditions aren't too pricey so if I like the travel sized ones, I'll get the full size later on.

I admit to having back ups upon back ups of skincare after my Japan haul and a few purchases from The Ordinary and May Lindstrom that I haven't shared on the blog yet. I couldn't resist a few other things to add in my rotation. I tried a sample of the Tata Harper Resurfacing Mask and liked it a lot so I picked up the Glow For It kit - it has a full size of the mask and for $2 more, it includes generous sized minis of their Regenerating Cleanser and Repairative Moisturizer.

Another face mask I knew I liked after using a sample is the Fresh Rose Face Mask. I picked up the trio of masks which include the Umbrian Clay Purifying Mask and Black Tea Instant Perfecting Mask. For some reason the packaging for this trio says it's $57 but on my invoice it says $54 and now Sephora is selling this for $50.... Nonetheless, with the 20% discount I paid around $43 and an ounce of the black tea mask itself retails for $28.

I had to check back on the Sephora website several times to hunt down the Sephora Favorites Beauty Sleep set which is an excellent deal. The set costs $30 but has a value of $92. I already have a small tube of the Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum and enjoy it so I wanted another for travel. I've also really wanted to try the Sunday Riley Luna Sleeping Night Oil and the 5ml size you get in the kit is worth about $18. Everything else was pretty much just a bonus.

Sephora put a bunch of their old Play boxes up for sale so I picked up the version with a mini Sunday Riley Ceramic Slip Cleanser and Christophe Robin Cleansing Purifying Scrub with Sea Salt. I've been curious about the Sunday Riley cleanser for years and this sample alone makes the $10 price of the box worth it. I have a slightly larger mini tub of the Christophe Robin scrub and it doesn't hurt to have tiny tub for travel (retails for about $9). I'm not crazy about the other samples in the box but the two products I was interested in are worth more than what I paid.

I go through spray toners really fast but I love having them around. This time I picked up the Herbivore Jasmine Green Tea Toner which is a new one to me. It has really great reviews for combo-oily, acne-prone skin so I'm hoping for the best.

Last but not least, I picked up my birthday gift in-store and opted for the Caudalie skincare duo. I've used both the Vinoperfect Radiance Serum and Moisturizing Sorbet and they were fine - nothing great but not bad. I wasn't crazy about the Tarte makeup option and knew the blush and liquid lipstick would disappear into the depths of my makeup collection immediately. At least the skincare duo I can use up on a week-long trip.

Before I get into the makeup I bought, there are a few skincare stragglers that got lumped into this photo. The first being a new tube of Shiseido's Full Lash Serum - I always need to have a new back up of this on hand. I think this is probably my 5th tube and I will continue buying this until they stop making it. I haven't been as diligent about using this as I used to be and I can definitely tell the difference - you really need to be consistent about using this to see results.

Right before the 20% off sale I picked up the Bite Beauty Agave Kisses set to try out their famed Agave Lip Mask, Lip Balm and Lip Scrub. I really enjoy the Lip Mask so during the sale I picked up a full sized tube. I have chronically dry lips that are easily irritated so I can never have too many lip salves. It's one of the things I have no trouble finishing. OK, onto the makeup.

I think I did pretty well on the makeup front. The big splurge was my first Tom Ford eyeshadow palette. I chose the shade Nude Dip because everyone that has this seems to love this and I have a soft spot for taupe shimmery shadows. I'll probably do a more comprehensive post on this palette after I've had some time to play around with it.

The Sephora Favorites Prime, Set, Go kit was an excellent value as most of the samples were very generously sized. The mini Laura Mercier powder is 9.3 grams whereas my full size Nars loose powder is 10 grams. The sprays are also 1 oz each which is quite substantial for minis. I can see myself using up pretty much everything in this set.

In one of my earlier orders during the sale I got a sample of the Nars Soft Matte Concealer and fell in love with the formula. It's medium to full coverage while being ultra blendable and natural looking. With my $25 off $50 coupon I picked up a full size of the concealer in Custard. A little goes a long way with this concealer so I'm actually still using the foil sample - surprisingly it hasn't dried out yet and is still going strong.

Brow pencils last me ages and I'm not close to using up my current Benefit Goof Proof Brow Pencil but I wanted to take the opportunity to grab one of the Hourglass Arch Brow Sculpting Pencils. It seems pricey but it contains a lot of product so it actually works out to be quite affordable compared to brow pencils from other high end brands.

I picked up two lip pencil duos: the Nars Velvet Matte Lip Pencils in Damned and Walkyrie (mini size) and Bite Beauty's Lip Pencils in 018 and 024 (full size). The Nars duo was $20 and the Bite duo was $24. The Nars shades are perfect for winter time and the Bite pencil in 018 is a great brown nude shade for my skintone.

I wanted to include some of the deluxe sized freebies that I also picked up. The Bite trio including their Line and Define Lip Primer, Amuse Bouche Lipstick in Sweet Cream and Lip Liner in 068 is one of the better gift with purchases I've seen from Sephora in recent memory. I'm excited to see how the lip primer compares with Colourpop's.

This year's VIB Rouge welcome gift is a mini version of Sephora's PRO Flawless Airbrush #56. The full size retails for $32 and I like how this cute little one looks. Definitely will be packing that with me for my next trip. Honestly, I think Sephora could do a better job with the Rouge welcome gift since you do have to spend $1,000 to access this tier. But I'll take the brush over nothing.

I cashed in 200 points in-store for two mini Dior lipsticks in 999, a matte classic red. I'll let you in on a little tip: I almost always redeem point perks in-store because you don't need to make a purchase to use your points. You can also redeem more than one of the same item whereas you can't do that online. Each of these mini Dior lipsticks is 1.4 grams and the full size is 3.4 grams so altogether my the minis are worth about $29 combined! Talk about maximizing your point potential.

Aaaand that wraps up my collective Sephora haul ahead of the holidays. I don't plan on placing any more Sephora orders until 2018 so here's to hoping I don't get suckered into any promotions before New Year's. Did you buy anything during the sales? Tried any of the products I bought? Love them? Hate them? Let me know in the comments!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Barcelona Photo Diary and Traveling Reflections

It's been over a year since I posted any travel content, aside from the odd "what's in my travel makeup bag" post, but being anywhere other than here is something I think about all the time. This past year I visited five countries for leisure and, out of those, three were places I'd never been before. I already have a Paris trip planned for this upcoming January and it's highly likely I'll be going to Asia again in the first half of 2018. Here I'm not counting the domestic trips I've taken and travel for work.

My point being is that I travel a decent amount and I have a lot I want to talk about with regards to this topic. But the whole "here's what I did in (insert city here)" gets old really fast and, truth be told, when I'm going somewhere for the first time, I'm usually hitting up a lot of the same touristy places you can find in any guide. So today I'm going to try something a little different. This will be a free-flowing reflection about the city I was walking around in just last week, Barcelona.

Back in May I found ~$400 roundtrip flights to Barcelona for Thanksgiving weekend and figured it would be a perfect long weekend trip for me and my Mom. I'm not a fan of turkey and with Christmas so close to Thanksgiving, I didn't feel too bad for missing Thanksgiving dinners with extended family and friends.

Fast forward to August and Barcelona was the target of a series of terrorist attacks which killed over a dozen people. In October, Catalonia declared (constitutionally illegal) independence from Spain and in mid-November 750,000 people protested in the streets of Barcelona. I'm not going to lie - in the weeks leading up to my trip I was looking at the news constantly hoping a major strike or potentially dangerous incident would not occur during the days I was to visit. But that's not how life works and I'm well aware of that.

In the end, there was very little doubt in my mind that we would still go to Barcelona as planned. Living in New York City, taking the subway and walking in densely packed city streets daily, I live everyday knowing that something terrible could happen at any moment. As someone who is probably more paranoid than the average person, that's just naturally how I think. I also reasoned that it would be an interesting time to visit Barcelona given the political tension and with reports of travelers avoiding the region, it would be easier to see the sights.

Thankfully our trip went as smooth as we could have hoped and Barcelona was more beautiful than I'd imagined. Traces of the independence movement were visible on nearly every street. Colorful banners and Catalan flags hung from terraces and stickers exclaiming "democràcia!" were aplenty. There was a kind of beauty to it actually - an energy I can't put my finger on. Coming back from Barcelona I have a new-found interest in learning more about the origins of the clashes between Catalonia and Spain as well as the Spanish Civil War which I had only learned about briefly in high school.

Maybe it's because I'm getting older but this year in particular I've felt current events has had a much stronger presence in my travel observations. When I was in Tokyo in October, I kept looking at everyone's hands to see how many people wore wedding rings, knowing that Japan's marriage rate is in decline and it's a huge source of anxiety for the country. If I had not known about this issue, would I have made that same observation? Probably not.

I guess it can work both ways if you do research on a place or culture before seeing it for yourself. On one hand you can go in having some background context and delve deeper into something you find interesting. Perhaps you can strike up a more meaningful conversation with a local or another visitor. On the flip side, your view might be clouded with preconceived notions and you miss out on a fresh perspective that you would have had without any prior expectations.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on if you plan your travels around current events (whether it's a pull or push factor) and how much all of that influences your observations while you're away. Also, do you avoid certain places due to the possibility of unforeseeable catastrophes like terrorist attacks? I've heard feedback from both sides of the spectrum from people I know in real life so I'm curious to know what you guys think.

Now I'll leave you with a few more photos I took whilst in Barcelona. If you've been before, I'd love to hear what you enjoyed most in the city. If you're planning a visit, feel free to ask me any questions (and I'll try my best to answer)!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Tokyo Drugstore Haul: Skincare, Sheet Masks & Beauty Tools Galore

Happy Friday, guys! I finally have time to sit down and recap the drugstore beauty goods I picked up in Tokyo. I can't believe it's been almost three weeks since I've been back but better late than never, right?

If you're heading to Japan in the near future, I highly recommend having an idea of what you want to pick up or else you'll spend a lot of time browsing the aisles due to the sheer amount of stuff available. Heck, I did a fair amount of research and I still spent a long time walking back and forth the stores like a crazy person. Hopefully this post helps you get an idea of what you can and should buy if you're headed to Japan.

I purchased most of this from Don Quijote (Donki for short) in Akihabara. Don Quijote is a chain store that has every random thing you could want from food to bedding to clothes to toys to, of course, skincare and makeup. I didn't get a chance to visit other Don Quijotes but I have a feeling each one has slightly different stock. I wasn't able to find every drugstore brand I was interested in so I had to stop into other drugstore/personal care stores to check out their stock. The great thing about Don Quixote is that they process the duty free cash back directly at the counter - there's a separate line for duty free customers. If you'll be in Tokyo for a few days, don't stress about finding a particular drugstore to stock up on beauty products. There's no shortage of places to buy these things.

A word about pricing.... I actually can't remember how much each thing cost but it's significantly cheaper than buying online from the U.S. Most of these products can be found on Amazon, eBay or the brands' international sites but you have to be wary of fakes, long shipping times, etc.

Now let's get into the actual haul!

I knew I wanted to get my hands on some Hada Labo whilst I was there. I picked up the Hada Labo Goku-jyun Foaming Face Wash, the Hada Labo Rohto Gokujyn Hyaluronic Acid Lotion and the Hada Labo Rohto Goku-jun Hyaluronic Hydrating Milk. I believe each of these was around $5-6. The acid lotion is probably what the brand is most known for - a very simple, no-frills hydrating essence water.

I also grabbed a tube of the Sana Nameraka Honpo Soy Milk Facial Cleansing Wash which is a classic foaming cleanser. No matter what people say about sulfates, I think I'll always have a soft spot for very fluffy foaming cleansers. They're a staple in Asian skincare regimens and my favorite for second-step cleansing. I think this tube was less than $5.

You can't come back from Asia without sheet masks. Almost every haul video I watched featured the Lululun masks. The idea behind these is that you use one every day so they're sold in resealable packs of seven or 32. I went for the packs of seven since I wasn't sure if I would love these. The pink one is for moisture, blue is for intensive moisture, white is for brightening and the red is for anti-aging. These are really inexpensive at only JP¥400 (about $3.50). I didn't realize Lululun had a U.S. site but they do and you can order all of these here. The prices are about double the Japanese retail price but they're still affordable. I'm planning to do a full review of these once I've had more time to test them.

I got a box of the Kose Clear Turn White Masks which I've seen around a lot but have never tried. I'm dealing with a lot of breakouts and acne scars right now so I'm hoping these will help lighten those spots.

A highly recommended sheet mask was the Minon Amino Moist Face Mask. This is one of the more expensive things I bought. I believe the pack of four masks was JP¥1200. Considering sheet masks go for $6 and up at Sephora and other U.S. retailers, I guess this is still a steal. I'll definitely report back on how I like these.

Finally some miscellaneous skincare bits that I like to buy when I'm in Asia because they're way cheaper. I know some people don't think Biore Pore Strips work but I really believe they help if used sparingly. I read a lot of good things about the DHC Lip Cream so I picked up one of those. It was only JP¥400 I believe. People stock up on sunscreen in Asia and the Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence is super popular. Blotting sheets are unbelievably pricey in the U.S. so I make sure to grab a couple when I'm in Asia. These Shiseido ones were only JP¥380 per pack. The exact same pink and white striped pack is $12 here.

I'm super proud of my ability to resist buying Japanese drugstore makeup. I put some Kate eyeshadows and Canmake blush in my basket and placed it back on the display several times. I have a soft spot for eyeshadows and blushes but I knew I wanted to save up to purchase from some of the higher end brands (that's a post for another day).

I did, however, pick up some tools. The Shiseido 131 brush looked really similar to the $30 one they sell stateside. The 131 brush is apparently limited to Japan and costs JP¥1800, about half of the Shiseido Foundation brush we have here. I haven't used this yet so can't report back on how it fares.

The same exact Shiseido eyelash curler we have here in the U.S. is considered a drugstore product in Japan. Which is flippin' phenomenal since I like this curler a lot. It's only JP¥800 and get this - the replacement rubber pads are only JP¥100! They sell them for $6 here! I think Don Quijote was having a promo on the Shiseido curler so I think I paid even less than the retail price. I also bought the Maquillage eyelash curler because I've seen a lot of other Asian YouTubers use this one. Maquillage is a brand under Shiseido and this curler was a few bucks more. But I'm so glad I picked this up because I actually like it more than the Shiseido one. The curve is more flat and it's easier to reach the root of my lashes.

The one makeup-y thing I bought from Don Quijote was the Isehan Kiss Me Heroine Make Long & Curl Super Waterproof Mascara. Keep in mind I can't read Japanese so I kind of had to guess that this was the waterproof version. But after some cross referencing on Google, it looks like I walked away with the right one.

Last, but certainly not least, I hunted these Tabino Yado Hot Springs Bath Salts down. I find myself getting more into the self-care aspects of beauty beyond just skincare and makeup - baths are a nice way to unwind. The online consensus seems to be that these are awesome so I'm excited to try these out. I know they make a milky version and clear version but I can't read Japanese so... I hope I picked up the milky kind. These were super affordable - I think they were only JP¥480 or something like that.

That pretty much sums up my Tokyo drugstore haul. I'd say it was pretty tame, all things considered. I haven't dug into most of these products so it'll likely be a few weeks until I've formulated my opinions on them. If you're curious about anything in particular, let me know in the comments!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Shiseido Synchro Skin White Cushion Compact: Before and After

If you follow me on Instagram, you'll know I recently came back from a short trip to Tokyo. It was my first time visiting Japan but it definitely won't be my last. I won't lie and say the 13 hour flight was pleasant but once you get there, the food and people make it all worth it. Oh, and the beauty selection is absolutely insane!

Naturally I had prepared a beauty shopping list well in advance because there were a lot of Japanese brands I wanted to try that are either unavailable here completely or very overpriced. One of the things I knew I wanted to get was the Shiseido Synchro Skin White Cushion Compact because the Shiseido Synchro Skin Liquid Foundation is my favorite and most-used foundation. 

Shiseido has two Asia-exclusive cushion compacts, the other being the Synchro Skin Glow Cushion Compact that comes in a black case. I originally intended to pick that one up but the sales associate told me the white cushion had more coverage and was more similar to the foundation I love so much. 

Let me go off-tangent for a second and talk about my experience buying this cushion. I went to Isetan's flagship store in Shinjuku at around 6pm on a Friday with the intention of picking up this cushion and browsing the THREE, Addiction, Suqqu and RMK counters. I was not mentally prepared for the number of people who would be shopping the beauty section but wow, I have never seen so many customers and sales associates in a department store like that. You would have thought they were giving away product! I'm used to going into a half-empty Bloomingdales or Saks and having the testers all to myself.

Nonetheless, I was determined to at least get this cushion because I knew I'd be able to find THREE and Suqqu at Narita the next day when I was flying home (that haul to follow at some point). The sales woman who helped me was very gracious but unfortunately didn't speak much English. They do have Chinese-Japanese translators on hand so I was able to sort of communicate in broken Mandarin with my boyfriend's help. Maybe it was because I went on this shopping trip sans makeup after a long day of sightseeing but the sales associate seemed to really want to help me put some of this foundation on before I purchased it. I don't like getting my makeup done at counters because I find it rather unsanitary (but given how clean everything is in Japan, it might have been different). I noticed a lot of women getting their makeup done at the counter - maybe that's how they usually sell products? I feel like that's gone out of style a bit here in the states.

I would have actually purchased both cushions by Shiseido since they're unavailable in the states. Well, why didn't I? A very simple reason - the price. These are freaking expensive cushions! Shiseido sells the compact and refill completely separately and there's no second refill. It's one refill per pack. The case retails for JP¥ 1,200 (~$10.50) and a single refill is JP¥ 4,300 ($37.80). There was an additional tax of JP¥ 440 - I later received JP¥ 380 back from Isetan's duty free counter minus the JP¥ 60 service fee. All in all I paid about $49 for a 12 gram cushion foundation.... This is the most expensive cushion foundation I have purchased to date because it does not come with a second refill.

Besides the exorbitant price, another negative right off the bat is that this cushion only comes in six shades. That might sound like a lot but it's more like three because half are neutral toned and the others are golden toned - the actual shades are all pretty light. The deepest shade is Golden 4 which isn't dark at all because my shade is Golden 3. 

Now that I've got the bad stuff out of the way, let's talk about the positives. For the price, there better be a lot of positives. The formula contains SPF 40 PA+++ and "smart skin" technology that absorbs excess sebum and diffuses light. It also claims to provide buildable coverage with a weightless, comfortable formula. Surprisingly I couldn't find mention of specific skincare benefits. Given the name I would think this would claim some kind of brightening or whitening effect but I didn't see that to be the case. Given that this cushion's main selling point is the natural coverage it provides, let's see how it performs. 

On the left I have on a little bit of the YSL Touche Eclat Blur Primer and nothing else. On the right I have one layer of the Synchro Skin White Cushion applied with the accompanying cushion puff. You can see that the coverage is certainly good. The redness on my cheeks and around my nose is pretty much gone and my angry acne scars are covered up as well. I've been using my Dior DreamSkin Cushion a lot lately which has very low coverage and this is a very different look upon initial application. The formula is quite matte compared to other cushions I've used but it doesn't look flat or dull. If you have dry patches, you need to moisturize very well before applying this.

The cushion looks more natural once it has some time to meld into the skin. While my nose did get shiny after five hours even after setting with powder, the product didn't break up or cake on my skin. It stayed comfortable to wear throughout the day though I wouldn't say my skin felt more hydrated.

The overall look of this cushion is very similar to the Synchro Skin Liquid Foundation but I like the way the original foundation applies better because it has a more watery texture. I also think the lasting power of the liquid foundation is superior to the cushion. I don't dislike the cushion by any means but for the price and the fact that I can't easily get this even if I loved it, I'll stick to the $45 foundation which gives you more than double the amount of product.

My makeup current obsession is all about fresh, dewy but not shiny skin - almost all my makeup purchases from my trip were base products. Cushions are some of my favorite base products to use because they're so darn easy and I can actually finish them up. I somewhat impulsively purchased a duo pack of the Sulwhasoo Perfecting Cushions (that's four refills in total) when I was at Changi duty free. I haven't tested out that cushion yet but keep an eye out for that in the next couple of weeks!

Are you a fan of cushion foundations? What's the most you're willing to pay for a cushion compact?

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, Guaranà 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!