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!