Monday, July 6, 2015

The Meh List 2: The Banished and Tossed

I swear, I'll go back to gushing over pretty things at some point, but for now, we have a bunch of "meh" products to discuss.

The Meh List: Just Okay, Not Great

I picked up a bunch of sunscreens at the L'Oreal warehouse sale back in early spring and opened this particular tube just today. It promises a "lightweight texture," and "silky sheer" even forms a part of the product name, and yet I find that it's more of a cream and far from light or sheer. I don't mind a bit of weight in body products as my limbs can use the extra moisture, but the thing that completely ruins this sunscreen for me is the terrible pseudo citrus scent. WHY, L'OREAL? WHY? It doesn't linger for long but is cloying and awful during the application process. Beware, sensitive noses!

I've been trying to warm up to Burberry Bright Coral ever since my review back in March and find that I dislike the texture and performance more and more with each wear. It sits so badly on top of the lips and emphasizes feathering and texture that other lipsticks have no issues smoothing over. It's a beautiful colour but I freaking give up. Life is too short for bad lipsticks, even if it's a pretty Burberry.

I had about 1/3 of that MUFE HD Powder left and decided the struggle was not only too real but just insanely stupid and an utter waste of time as the powder set nothing and had zero mattifying powers. If you're obsessed with staring at the size of your pores (I pretend they don't exist), you might want to check it out for the blurring effect, but otherwise, much regret on my part for struggling to finish a freebie from Sephora out of stubbornness and pride. I tossed it a few weeks ago and peace has returneth to the makeup routine.

A handful of duds from Dove (all press samples). Well, the hair stuff are debatable but the spray anti-perspirant is definitely a miss. I expect one thing and one thing only from anti-perspirants: keep my pits DRY to the point that armpit hairs begin to resemble cacti. This one has an incredibly powerful faux-cucumber smell that stays with you the entire day, overpowering everything any time that you dare to lift your arms. It also failed to keep me dry in 25-30C temperature and my shirt was soaked within 15 minutes. There is no way this is dependable when real summer weather carries us into higher temperatures.

As for the new Vitality Rejuvenated line for aging hair, maybe I jumped on it prematurely because I started finding some random white hairs in the middle of my head with increasing frequency in the past two years. (Instead of dying the white hairs black, I'm thinking of bleaching a mid-section and just going full-on Rogue/Stacy London at this point.) Maybe the line is good for an entire head full of grey, I don't know. But on my hair, the Silk Creme did absolutely nothing (hair didn't feel softer, it has no smoothing effect) while the shampoo and conditioner felt no different from their regular line-up. I quite like their hydrating and oil-infused hair care, so I'll be sticking to those instead of these in the future.

Essence, overlord of cheap cosmetics. Will be sticking to their blushes only (if they're not made in China) as they are rather excellent; everything else has been a total miss so far.

And finally, Surratt eye shadows were a bitter disappointment. After declaring their blushes my Holy Grail (I now have Ponceau, Parfair, Rougeur and Se Pomponner and only want La Vie En Rose to complete the collection), I decided to try out their shadows too and found that the texture was quite thin, with colour payoff only so-so and poor lasting power. The one on the right is Noir Le Plus Noir described as a "deep black matte" -- ummm, no, it's not that deep and it's SHIMMERY, not matte. And the one on the left is Brun Noir, just a simple brown black. I kept Brun Noir just because I do like the cool-toned brown and like to pat that over eyeliner, but Noir Le Plus Noir and the small customizable palette were returned to Sephora because the palette was also not as sturdy as I thought that it would be. I don't mind keeping the blushes and Brun Noir in their original cases.

And now, a badly needed popsicle break before dinner prep. 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

One Out, One In: Cleansers, Essences, Sunscreens

Well, despite the moaning and groaning about products and reviews, life goes on. And I'm still excited to drain a bottle to the final drop and pull out something new to replace it with. (Notice I didn't say "run out to buy" because... STILL SO MUCH STUFF, MAN.)

Cleansers - See my previous post for my new take on them. I guess after having tried a few expensive ones, my curiosity is satiated and I am content with good old Neutrogena. This one is awesome at removing makeup. I apply it to the skin dry, add a little water to massage, then rinse away. This is the one I would recommend to anyone on a budget, anyone with dry or sensitive skin, anyone who likes a clean face. That's all.

Oh, and the giant bottle of Shu cleansing oil is about 3/5 depleted. At first I thought it was amazing until I noticed small breakouts after not double-cleansing to take the oil all off. So I now use it to clean makeup brushes, even though I was once horrified to find out people used something that expensive on tools. Lucky for me, this particular bottle was a gift.

Essences/Softeners - That blurry category that migrated over from Asia and now filling the shelves everywhere. (Congratulations to VICHY for putting out the first one in Canadian drugstores with the revamped Aqualia Thermal line! Ya beat everyone to it.) I bought this travel-sized Lancome from Sephora where the Energie de Vie line is exclusively sold (nope, it is not at The Bay or Holts -- I checked). This mini bottle came with a small jar of matching cream which I was not impressed by. But I fell in love with the "recharge daily lotion" as Lancome calls this one, because (a) the invigorating herby scent reminded me of cool and breezy San Francisco where I used it everyday, (b) worked almost as well as the VICHY Aqualia Thermal Serum which I adore, and (c) I've sort of been looking for an excuse to return to loving Lancome since it was the brand I cut my beauty teeth on. Not quite there yet because the Canadian markup is ridiculous, but then again, our dollar is rather pitiful at the moment. Anyway, I would like to rush out and get the full size Lancome but $60 for it seems a waste when I have GIANT BAGS OF SAMPLES SAMPLES SAMPLES to go through. My mom lugged these Lirikos samples back from Korea and I'm going to bust open every single fucking sachet. (Lirikos ranks somewhere in the top handful of the AmorePacific family tree where AP reigns supreme, followed by Sulhwasoo. There are like a bazillion brands beneath in this hierarchy.)

Sunscreens - I'm going to do a post on it eventually, because summer is here, and sun protection is critical. I discovered Neutrogena Water-Light back in 2011 as an alternative to Hourglass Veil Mineral Primer, and ever since then, I've been repurchasing it every year without fail. This year it started to sting my eyes terribly (water-light in texture; not waterproof) so I give the eyes a wide berth and don't go below the eyebrows or above the cheeks with it. To replace it with, I have the new Shiseido WetForce Water-Resistant 50+ for Face/Body. It's a whopping CAD$49 but it also has the highest amount of zinc oxide I have seen in a sunscreen so far (16.4%) and the claim is that it works even better to protect the skin when the product encounters water. HUH. I've been sampling it in small squirts to make sure that my face won't break out, and because it's so expensive, I decided to use cheaper sunscreens for the body and save this for the face/neck/decolletage. The "wet force" aspect remains to be seen.

In case you think I went crazed for sunscreen and bought it: nope, I am lucky in products is all. I was randomly selected by Glow Magazine to try out a whack of stuff for their summer issue and report back with a sentence per item on my experience. I was bemused to find that they declined to print any of my comments. Maybe because of the lack of exclamation points?

The only item I disliked from this bundle was the new Nivea Q10 serum. It smelled so terrible -- like the worst and strongest synthetic fragrance ever -- that I couldn't bear to put it on my face. Strangely enough, the body lotion was tolerable.

What's new in your life lately?

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Phased Out (i.e. Stuff I Don't Use Anymore)

Lately I'm looking for new topics to blog about, without veering off straight into non-beauty sectors, ne'er to return. I have about 20 posts in the draft folder, mostly consisting of abandoned product reviews that I just don't have the heart and energy to continue with right now, because I've become tired of reading and writing about never-ending tide of products, products and OH BOY more products!

I'm still interested in makeup and beauty, and I still appreciate a good review when I think that I might want to buy something. But something has changed, and I'm searching to pinpoint and articulate it -- and to ultimately take actions to reflect those changes. I can't quite figure it out, because I still like to keep an eye out for new launches and I still read new blog posts popping up on subscription feeds. It's not that I'm stressed about keeping up or feeling sorry. That's not it at all.

Bear with me as I struggle through these thoughts and feelings. I just wanted to explain why there aren't as many posts lately and perhaps prepare for a future shift in topics and themes.

To start, I want to do the opposite of what typically happens: talk about products that I don't use. The post isn't for the sake of being contrary; I've been building this list for a while, noting my own habits and changing preferences, and resisting bowing to commonly upheld beauty adages.

I no longer use or will no longer buy:

Expensive Cleansing Oils/Balms - I have three favourite cream/gel cleansers from the drugstore that work perfectly well to remove makeup and leave my face feeling clean without feeling stripped. (Neutrogena, Marcelle, CeraVe.) Right now I use a giant bottle of Shu Uemura oil mostly to clean makeup sponges and brushes with, and while I like the $70 Chanel gel-oil makeup remover, I find myself feeling uncomfortable with the price tag even though I didn't pay for this one myself. I've used cheaper oils that did the job just as well although they didn't come with the same sense of refinement, but what matters at the end of the day is a clean face and happy skin. I'm no longer tempted by expensive face cleansers. (Gotta save that money for the exciting serums and peels!)

Disposable Makeup Removing Wipes - I stopped buying these a few years ago and that was a good decision I have managed to actually stick to. They are extremely handy but they also make me lazy and produce unnecessary waste. Our city-issued garbage can is the smallest size and I'm working to reduce household waste as much as possible. 

Micellar Waters - I've mentioned this many times. They're kind of "neither here nor there" to me and unnecessary in my routine.

Old School Toners - This is a new removal. I used to be a strong advocate of astringent or gentle toners, depending on skin type. But I haven't noticed any change in my skin after I phased them out, so now I save on not only not buying toners but also cotton pads. (Hydrating serums and essences have taken their place instead.)

Sheet Masks... and maybe all masks - This one is hard because sheet masks are so fun, but they're essentially just sheets soaked in excessive amount of serum and I'd rather have a bottle of nice serum instead. I've also never tried a face mask that provides long-term positive effects, and I'm starting to think most of them are just bunk.

Primers (without sunscreen) - There was a time when oil-controlling primers ruled my life. I've substituted sunscreen in their place, and while my T-zone remains slick and shiny as ever, I don't miss primers at all. I'd rather have sun protection and stave off burns and wrinkles.

Lip Scrubs - Never got into them and never will.

Anything containing Polyethylene Microbeads - I've been on a mini-crusade on Twitter about this and communicating with brands and PRs about when they'll be eliminated from the market. Each company has a different target, with most offering 2018 as the year to stop manufacturing. I'm going to write a full post about this later, but all those Clean & Clear scrubbers with the cute colourful beads? BAD, BAD, BAD for the environment. Don't buy them. It's not just C&C though; almost everything out there on the shelves right now that talks about scrubbing and exfoliating contains these tiny plastic beads that are not biodegradable and end up contaminating oceans and being ingested by wildlife. Embarrassingly, in the past I've even promoted products that contain polyethylene microbeads because POLYETHYLENE was too difficult for me to remember. Now I always check the ingredient list. In Canada, they seem to have been eliminated from many toothpaste and hand soaps, but they are EVERYWHERE in the beauty aisle and in Sephora. It's not just the drugstores; all the top-tier brands use them as well. My stance is that the companies who created and profited from the microbeads should not only recall the products but assist in the clean-up of local waters and provide safe methods of disposal for products containing them. I have a bag full of two Clarins body scrubs and four VICHY Normaderm Tri-Activ that have nowhere to go because there isn't a viable solution here yet. And no, throwing them into the trash is not an option. Lately I've also noticed a lot of them are put on clearance sales because some brands are actively discontinuing and reformulating the products now. Don't buy those either; wait for the new stuff.

Makeup Made in China - This is my most recent decision, and it has nothing to do with fashion or perception of prestige. There are just way too many horror stories coming out of Chinese factories, of exploited workers, disasters and health issues. It's nearly impossible to avoid goods from China, and for a long time I had to think about whether boycotting was the right choice or not. While I haven't personally banned other things made in China yet, I'm choosing to abstain from buying beauty products originating from there. This means avoidance of brands like ELF, Wet n Wild, Real Techniques and NYX almost entirely, and a lot of filtering of Essence and other cheap brands. There's a cost to cheapness, and I don't know what the solution is. I just know that I don't need a lipstick or bronzer brush that badly.

With the exception of the microbeads, this is a list of what is suitable to me personally and not at all a commentary on how anyone else should conduct their beauty routines and shopping expeditions. I don't judge anyone based on how wealthy they are or not, and we each have different skin type needs and daily life routines. If I lived with contaminated waters, hell yeah, I'm going to need micellar solutions. I might not care if my neighbours think it's vain. My choices. I guess what I am trying to convey with this list is that choices have been made as awareness grew. It's tough to navigate a complicated world with limited knowledge and budget, but when undeniable truth stares me in the face -- literally ON the face sometimes -- I've been actively choosing one direction or product over another and finding a sense of peace where it was formerly occupied by intense longing to keep up with the Joneses or whomever. I simultaneously care and don't care as much nowadays. Where I've placed those cares is what has changed, and they will continue to change.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Perfume Sample Diary

I'm feeling painfully uninspired blog and beauty wise this week, so I point you to a personal project that I've been diarizing on Instagram and Pinterest. My interest in discovering new perfumes peak and wane unexpectedly, and I don't always want to blog about everything that I discover. Sometimes I just give a perfume a cursory whiff and move on to the next thing. But the archivist in me wants to record even this non-event, at least to prevent future accidental repurchases of the same disdained perfume samples. (This has happened multiple times before, thanks to poor memory and LuckyScent's dazzling descriptions.) These days I'm not as preoccupied with the amount of samples I own so much as not knowing what I possess. To make quick work of it, I conduct a mini review on Instagram and pin the picture of the sampled perfume on Pinterest as a visual reminder of all that my nose has experienced.

Follow Liz's board Perfume Sample Diary on Pinterest.

I started by calling it #dailyperfumesample which is inaccurate and unfortunate. I'm terrible at keeping up daily projects and there are days when I just want to enjoy the smell of clean skin post-showers or revel in the aftermath of a particularly delicious kimchi stew. And to call the posts on Instagram a "mini review" is sometimes being generous. But I'm enjoying the process without the pressure of having to spin out a hundred metaphors for what we typically deem "proper reviews" and I do it spontaneously as I please, which is the best part. These posts aren't very popular on Instagram where pictures of pretty makeup rule, but sometimes they begin interesting discussions with people all around the globe who love beauty beyond sight.

As someone who is perpetually haunted by relentless instinct to hoard, this exercise has been freeing and fun. If I hate a perfume, I zip it up right away in a baggie to pass on to someone else, and it's no longer taking up physical and mental space. Rarely will I like a perfume enough to finish the sample (a typical spray sample vial lasts me 4-5 days), so I'm not in immediately danger of rushing off to acquire full size bottles. It's also now much easier to ignore the marketing hype and crowd acclaims for certain notables when I know first-hand how much I enjoy or detest that particular scent. (Guerlain Shalimar EDP was a shocking disappointment. But oh, hello Eau de Lingerie/Cashmere.) It's also just plain fun to test the nose and continue to pinpoint what I'm attracted to and repelled by.

What's your latest perfume discovery? I have about 300 more samples to wade through.

Monday, June 15, 2015

SEPHORA COLLECTION Craig & Karl Felt Eyeliner Set

I go back and forth on eyelining because I have very asymmetrical eyes. It's not simply that one looks bigger than the other or has more folds or whatever. They are entirely differently shaped, so trying to even out bold eyeliner can take up a good chunk of my morning. Which is why I often skip the entire process, opting to focus on lips and complexion. But once in a while, I'll catch the eyeliner bug and become determined to master the skill. The easiest to manipulate is pencil but that frequently smudges without a lot of careful blending and setting. The effect of a pencil is also much softer, but sometimes you just want a nice, clean, dramatic effect. So... liquids it is. Hrm.

I've never heard of Craig & Karl before, but the cheerfully designed set of their Sephora collaborated eyeliners is eye-catching and a decent value at CAD$49 and a better value at USD$39. A good felt tip eyeliner at the drugstore now costs more than $10 here anyway, so a set of five in all the colours that I wanted showing up in a timely fashion seemed to be a sign from the makeup deities to go ahead and experiment all summer long. I mean, how often do you see a white liquid eyeliner in a set?

I usually don't care for the cute design of the tins and boxes that the products come packaged in because they end up be being discarded or neglected, but the metal tin in this case is definitely reusable and actually makes a nice box for makeup, product samples or stationery.

The pens themselves are no-fuss, with a simple cap and no weird twisty mechanics. The cute designs are just a bonus. In fact, I really like the whole "back-to-school" feel of this set.

Now, although not an expert in the world of liquid lining, I am a particular consumer when it comes to the felt tip applicator. I don't like formulas that take too long to dry or bleed excessively into the flesh beyond the drawn lines. I like the felt tip to be firm and not too soft, but not so hard that I can't change directions or curve the tip. This set fits the bill.


The shades are simply called black, brown, white, blue and green. I do wish that the blue and green were brighter, but their understated tones make them all the more wearable without having to worry about turning into #clownwhorefacehorrorshow after too many flicks.

In short, I like them a lot and have a lot of fun using different shades on different days, trying to keep my hand steady and drawing straight lines like I'm back in kindergarten. There's good flow of ink, never too much or too little, and once they set, they stay put until I remove them easily with oil or gel facial cleansers or a bi-phase eye makeup remover. (You can try with micellar water but that takes ten times longer.) The formula isn't waterproof, but it remains intact through splashes so long as you don't rub.

I'm starting to realize that there are some decent products in the SEPHORA COLLECTION line. Their Canadian pricing is awkwardly set and the branding/packaging turns me off somewhat, but maybe there are more treasures to be found. Anything that you recommend?

CAD$49/USD$39 for 5 pens (0.55mL/0.019 fl oz each). Available exclusively at Sephora. Made in Japan.


BlackWater, Ammonium Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer, Butylene Glycol, CI 77266 (Black 2), Alcohol, Beheneth-30, Phenoxyethanol, Acrylates/Octylacrylamide Copolymer, Methylparaben, Polyglyceryl-3 Disiloxane Dimethicone, Propylparaben, Sodium Hydroxide, Disodium EDTA, Sodium Benzoate. 

BrownWater, CI 77491 (Iron Oxides), Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer, Butylene Glycol, CI 77510 (Ferric Ammonium Ferrocyanide), Beheneth-30, Sodium Polyaspartate, Phenoxyethanol, CI 77492 (Iron Oxides), Methylparaben, Tromethamine, Propylparaben, Sodium Dehydroacetate, Disodium EDTA, CI 77266 (Black 2), Alcohol, Acrylates/Octylacrylamide Copolymer, Sodium Hydroxide, Xanthan Gum, Sodium Benzoate. 

WhiteWater, CI 77891 (Titanium Dioxide), Acrylates Copolymer, Butylene Glycol, Alcohol, Beheneth-30, 1,2-Hexanediol, Sodium Polyaspartate, Aluminum Hydroxide, Acrylates/Octylacrylamide Copolymer, Phenoxyethanol, Pentylene Glycol, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Sodium Hydroxide, Sodium Dehydroacetate, Sodium Benzoate. 

BlueWater, CI 77510 (Ferric Ammonium Ferrocyanide), Ethylhexyl Acrylate/Methyl Methacrylate Copolymer, Butylene Glycol, Ammonium Acrylates/Methyl Styrene/Styrene Copolymer, Beheneth-30, Sodium Polyaspartate, Aminomethyl Propanol, Phenoxyethanol, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Disodium EDTA. 

GreenWater, CI 77891 (Titanium Dioxide), Acrylates Copolymer, CI 77492 (Iron Oxides), Butylene Glycol, CI 77510 (Ferric Ammonium Ferrocyanide), Beheneth-30, Sodium Polyaspartate, Alcohol, Phenoxyethanol, Pentylene Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Caprylyl Glycol, 1.2-Hexanediol, Disodium EDTA, Sodium Dehydroacetate, Sodium Hydroxide.