Monday, January 31, 2011

Nail Polish: Dior Gris Montaigne

I'm in love.  Check this out!

With flash.

Without flash in natural light.

Looks great with a $2 H&M ring!

I decided to bypass Chanel's Black Pearl and instead waited eagerly for the Dior Gris items to hit the shelves.  It's the exact shade of creamy smokey grey that I had been searching for.  I mentioned this quest for the grey nail polish in my very early post on China Glaze's "Recycle."  Speaking of CG "Recycle," some believe it's a dupe of "Gris Montaigne."  I did a comparison.  It looks similar in the bottle, but once applied, Gris Montaigne is definitely darker than Recycle.  It's also much darker than Rimmel's "805 Grey Matter" which is a soft dove grey and Revlon's "Silver" which is a pale grey without the shimmer that you think it may contain due to the misleading name.

China Glaze "Recycle" on left; Dior "Gris Montaigne" on right.
I think this last picture shows the most accurate contrast between Recycle and Gris Montaigne.  I found Gris Montaigne's formula to be slightly on the goopy side but it may have been due to the cold affecting the polish because I ended up walking around outside for a long time with this in my bag after the purchase.  It applied okay and dried rather quicker than I thought it would.  It's wearing well (today being the third day) with minimal tip wear.

How do you like the new Dior collection?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Confessional/Haul #3: Cheap Stuff

I was bad again... but not as bad as I could have been.

It was the skincare inventory that did me in.  As I went through the cleansers, toners and moisturizers, I realized that I didn't have a single anti-aging product in my lineup.  I have been noticing lately that my frown lines on the forehead were deeper, the lines around my eyes a bit more prominent... and the spaces between the eyes and the nose?  HOLY COW.  What was happening over there?!

Now whenever I chat about this stuff with girlfriends, they return with, "What lines?  What zit?  I don't see anything!"  And I say exactly the same kind of stuff back to them.  THEY CANNOT BE TRUSTED.  Therefore I blog, to get all this kind of stuff out to a wider audience who might be a bit more objective.  Also, the mirror before me every morning says, "Girl, you're not the resilient young thing you used to be. Let's get real."

So.  Instead of running into Sephora with my arms flailing, throwing down a hundred dollars for the best reviewed luxe brand I can get my grubby hands on, I trudged into Shoppers Drug Mart and found almost immediately what I was looking for.  Behold Boots No. 7 Protect & Perfect Intense Beauty Serum and Boots No. 7 Protect & Perfect Night Cream:

The serum in particular was getting rave reviews from bloggers everywhere: in the UK, the US and finally Canada.  Apparently Shoppers stocks this on a mass scale when it's on sale because they literally go flying off the shelves.  I was impatient and felt like the lines on my face were not far from becoming something like cracks in cement, so I didn't wait for the sale.  I grabbed them at a rather steep price for drug store brands, at CDN$29.99 each.  But considering that what I really wanted was the Korres Quercetin & Oak Antiaging Serum from Sephora which hovers around CDN$80-90, I think I made a fair compromise.

The serum applies super smoothly, almost like a silicone-based primer.  It's kind of amazing how instantly soft and smooth my face feels after I put it on.  The night cream has a similar effect, though I have not tried it on its own.  Now, the particular claim with this Boots No. 7 stuff is that they claim a noticeable improvement or difference within 4 weeks.  I read a lot of reviews from women who said they thought it didn't do anything for them until they hit the 4th week period and suddenly found that their skin was much improved.  I take it with a grain of salt, naturally, but now that I know my face prefers the chemical-filled drugstore products better than the potent natural brands such as Ole Henriksen, I felt it couldn't be so bad and took the plunge with both.

It's been one week with the serum and the night cream, and I do think that there is a visible improvement.  Maybe it simply has to do with the fact that my face wasn't getting enough moisture from the super light gels that I had been using to combat my naturally oily skin.  I can't really explain why this works for me, but I do know that both the serum and the night cream are oil-free and don't make me break out.  I feel better with these products than without.  So, while I can't speak for other skin types, I can say that as a sufferer oily skin in her early 30s concerned with sudden appearance of lines, this stuff kind of rocks.  I'll try to come back to this and post a follow-up after the 4 weeks end.

So that was last week.  Today, which is Friday, which means work day (because I have classes from Mon-Thurs and only go to the office on Fridays), which means boredom, which means frequent coffee breaks, which means window-shopping in the many many stores which line the underground path connecting all the major bank towers together in the financial district (basically we're talking about a large underground mall), it meant that I succumbed to temptation and could not resist when today, in fact, turned out to be the day for a massive sidewalk sale for in the PATH.  O.M.G.

Usually when I try to be good, I turn my eyes away from the window and walk quickly looking directly ahead so as not to be tempted.  You have no idea how those large red SALE signs call to me.  Today was too much.  When salons put out super expensive stuff with signs that say $5 FOR EVERYTHING, I cannot resist.  I snagged this Kevin Murphy Motion Lotion Curl Enhancing Lotion (USD$19.99) and Phyto Universal Elixir Scalp Stimulant (USD$32) for $5 each!  That's crazy, you know!  I have crazy wavy hair for an Asian and suffer from dry scalp in the winter.  I'm fairly low maintenance when it comes to hair despite my love of trying new products, and aside from the Moroccan Hair Oil, almost all my haircare stuff comes from the drugstore.  So I felt I was okay in spending $10 for $52 worth of hair products.

Next and last, the lippies.  Ah, lippies.  I try so hard but I just can't get enough of them.  Lately I'm into sheer lips and looking for extra boost of moisture against the winter cold while I'm at it, so these three were rather appealing.  They were each $2, so again, really awesome deals here and I'm crazy about the NYC Lip Sliders Tinted Lip Balm!  The packaging is cute, the colour subtle (511A Sugar Angel) and the texture very emollient.  I had to stop myself from scooping up the entire line, so I do have some restraint. 

However, I showed less restraint at Bath & Body Works when I scooped up 3 of these Liplicious glosses.  They were in a huge bin marked 75% off, a thousand women were going nuts elbowing each other out of the way, so I guess I got caught up in the moment and grabbed whatever I could!  Now I wish I had just kept it to one.  I do really like it, though.  This "Spring Fling" one smells great and I love the soft sheen of the palest of pink it leaves on my lips.  It's just I don't know if I'll even finish this one, much less three of them.

The last is your good old Bonne Belle Lip Smacker in a revamped 100% Natural Pink Guava formula.  I'm not a huge fan of chapsticks, and I would classify this as a chapstick, so draw your own conclusions.  There is no colour and it's the same white balm with similar texture as most other chapsticks out there.  The smell isn't as sickly sweet as the old Lip Smackers, though, which is nice.  I actually bought this a few months ago when I left the house without a single lip product and I thought the chapping was going to kill me.  (I do get a little dramatic when I feel like I "need" something desperately.)  A revisit to the land of Lip Smackers was nice, if short-lived.  I much prefer my Burt's Bees Pomegranate chapstick to this.

In summary:

Total spent:  $81
Amount saved:  $67

Does this justify my shopping spree?  How do you guys justify your purchases?  Am I compromising the integrity of this blog by indulging from time to time the way I do?  Do spill in the comments below.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Beauty Swap!

I talked about participating in a beauty swap in my renewed resolutions post earlier this month.  The package arrived today, and I felt like a kid in a candystore when I opened up the box.

I don't get to keep everything, of course.  The below is what I hauled from the box.

Close-up view of the Too Faced Caribbean in a Compact (Sun Bunny):

In return for the items I took out, I contributed a whole lot of samples, deluxe samples and full size products that I had either not used or swatched once (cleaned and disinfected).  It's weird - I feel lighter in my mind now that my stash is reduced.  My addiction was starting to become a source of anxiety.

Beauty swaps are such a great way to test new things without spending the money.  Are you part of a swap group or have partaken in a swap before?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Foundation Dilemma Resolved

Back in October, during the early stages of this blog, I conducted an inventory of my foundations and was determined to use everything unexpired to the last drop or give away/throw away the remainder. I threw away the Vincent Longo, used up the MAC Studio Sculpt, and put up the Armani for sale.  Since then, I tried to depend on the Cargo Oil Free Lightweight Liquid Foundation as my daily foundation but found the coverage just a bit too light.  I had to retire the MUFE Mat Velvet for the winter since it's very mattifying and too drying for the cold weather, and TheBalm Time Balm also has to be reserved for the summer since it matched my tan face and not my current paler visage.  I use the MUFE Duo Mat solely as powder, so I was left with a dilemma.

Well, I turned to an old favourite.  For a drugstore foundation, the L'Oreal True Match Super Blendable Foundation is pretty amazing.  It's oil-free, blendable medium coverage, and has a lovely satin finish.  And instead of finding my exact current match, I got one that was a few shades darker (W4) so that I could adjust the intensity of colour as the season progressed.

Then I got sick of mixing foundations on a daily basis and got a refillable pump bottle from Shoppers Drug Mart.  I dumped the remainder of the Cargo into the bottle and added an adequate amount of the L'Oreal True Match.  Then I mixed up the whole thing, first with a popsicle stick, then by tightly closing the bottle and shaking it up.

And now I have my perfect foundation.  If I tan a little some time in the near future (dreaming of a tropical vacay that is unlikely to happen!), I can add the remainder of the darker L'Oreal True Match and continue to make my perfect base.

Do you like to play mix and match?  Have you found a perfect duo (or trio) that worked well?  Share!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Nail Polish: Rimmel Lasting Finish Pro in "Steel Grey"

My manicure of the week.  It was actually last week's as well but I love this colour.

Greyish purples are irresistible to me.  I was checking out some Essie nail polish but decided to scope out the drugstores instead.  I had eyed this polish on the shelf many times before and thought it was very similar to OPI for Sephora's "Metro Chic."  And wouldn't you know it - indeed, it's an excellent dupe.

In person, there's a noticeable difference but it's not by much. Rimmel's "Steel Grey" is warmer and "Metro Chic" is cooler.  I think Rimmel was way off with the name of this polish as I detect more purple and brown than grey.  Anyway, I think it's a decent dupe for "Metro Chic."  I'm not going to do a full comparison of this with the other purples, as I already posted a comparison of the purples in the past.  Recall this:

Metro Chic was the lightest of all the purples.  If you're thinking of a comparison with Essie's "Smokin' Hot", "Smokin' Hot" is much darker and much cooler than both "Steel Grey" and "Metro Chic."

For a $2.99 nail polish (when it's on sale), "Steel Grey" is an excellent alternative for lovers of purplish greyish shades.

This week I also got a new top coat to replace the China Glaze one that was messing up my manicures as it had grown thick and tacky in the bottle.  This Sally Hansen Complete Care claims to act as base coat, ridge filler, nourisher and top coat, but I've used it only as top coat and so far so good.  I also found the Burt's Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream that some people were raving about recently.  Winter is a long and harsh season here, so it's nice to retire at the end of the day and pamper your skin.  I like the refreshing lemon scent and the very soft waxy feel of the product.  It sort of melts into the skin as you work it in.  I'm going to give away the SpaRitual cuticle oil I don't like the smell of and replace it with this.

The nail polish and top coat were on sale at Rexall, which I find to be much cheaper than Shoppers Drug Mart on a regular basis.  As for the Burt's Bees cuticle cream, I found a whole buch of them at Winners for half the price of the ones in the drugstores.  This one goes down as the cheapest splurge in recent history. Feels good!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

7 Things About Me

Lately I've been enjoying Maria/Falsie Love's blog and came across this post that revealed 7 interesting things about her.  Because I can go on forever and ever given the opportunity, I could do "7 things" very easily.
  1. I'm a very extreme person. Either I'm all in or all out. Trying to be moderate and in between is very difficult for me and I have to very consciously think about where I am and how I feel, instead of reacting passionately to something or coldly walking away.  This goes for everything: people, situations, commitments, etc.  With regard to beauty products, I was "all in" and now I'm trying to be moderate.  Very very difficult.
  2. I am not a morning person at all, and winter mornings in particular just about slay me.  I like to sleep for as long as possible as much as possible.  It is unwise to disturb me on a winter morning commute to a distasteful place, such as work, especially if I haven't had my morning caffeine.
  3. Speaking of commuting, once my leg fell in the gap between the subway platform and the train.  You've seen the signs: MIND THE GAP.  I mind the gap all the time, but I jumped into a full train, bounced off someone's back, and my right leg fell in the gap while my left leg was in the train.  Then the door closed on me but it had to be reopened since I was trapped.  I was wearing a miniskirt that day, and as I was laying there in a daze, all I could think was that someone was looking at how the purple underwear totally matched the purple Starbucks travel mug that was still firmly grasped in my right hand.  Story for the ages!
  4. I am 32 years old, and I totally don't feel my age.  When I was 20, I felt 40.  And now I feel 20.  I really sympathize with people going through mid-life crisis.  The world tells you such and such is the system, but you haven't gone through all the steps in synch with everybody else.  But marching to your own rhythm is just so damn satisfying.
  5. Up until halfway through 2010, I was a high heels fiend.  I would spend all day in heels and run around the city in them without having to change.  In September I even took part in a high heel sprint, which I did not win or place anywhere near the top, but I got a swag bag out of it and it was tons of fun.  These days, however, I love my warm flat Stella McCartney for Adidas snow boots more than anything else.
  6. I live in Toronto, Canada, and have not lived anywhere else since my family and I immigrated here in the late 80s.  Lately I've been imagining myself in other places, though, so who knows what may happen in the future?
  7. Despite the stylish image I like to project, I'm a huge geek.  I love the original Star Wars movies, action movies, video games... the nerdy guy stuff.  Sometimes I cringe a little while watching The Big Bang Theory because I realize I understand too many of the hardcore nerd jokes.  I love this scene of James McAvoy on Jimmy Kimmel impersonating Patrick Stewart, because... have you watched Star Trek: Next Generation?  Spot on.  (Oh, and Scottish accents?  Hot.)
Well, hope that tells you a little bit more about me, and I would love to read what 7 things you write up about yourself!  I encourage you to do a post and I will definitely check it out!

Friday, January 21, 2011

What's in my makeup bag?

I try to be low maintenance (mostly out of laziness and for ease of travel) but there are days when I can't help but stuff my makeup bag with tons of "just in case" items.  There was the possibility of drinks at a trendy lounge after dinner plans tonight, so I lugged a heavier than usual bag to work.  This is what's inside:

It's respectable, right?  Not too much but not too little.  Gum, toothbrush, toothpaste, floss.  Blotting sheets and powder foundation.  Cream blush.  Tide-to-go.  Concealer, face cream, lipstick, lip gloss, chapstick, eyeliner.  Glossing spray.  Anti-bacterial gel.  Q-tips filled with eye makeup remover (genius product).

I wasn't going to do a post today, but I was unloading my purse for the night and thought heck why not.  I always love seeing what other people tote around and totally peek inside bathroom cabinets.  What do you guys carry around on a regular basis or for a special occasion?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Renewing My Resolutions

Good morning, beauties!  The sun is shining brightly in Toronto after a blustery snowy day and I feel doubly resolved in my efforts to reduce the amount of products that are stockpiled in my possession.  It's like early spring cleaning.  Recall the mess that was my train case (not including the stuff sitting on my vanity and in bathroom cabinets).

I've been considering different options to accomplish this and I may end up doing a combination of all of them.  I did toss out the really indisputably old stuff that I was hanging on to for some reason, like that ancient Vincent Longo foundation that had become totally separated in the bottle and an Urban Decay eyeliner pencil that was rock hard and crumbled whenever I touched it.  Eww, right?  If you are holding on to things like that, I urge you to find them right now and dispose of them right away.  I felt so much better afterwards.

The next step is getting rid of still good but unwanted things.  This is where things get tricky because (a) they're used, and (b) they're still usable, and (c) I did pay good money for these products.  If I get something, I am going to dip into it at least a handful of times.  I'm a slow learner, and my mind frequently talks itself into justifying purchases that I know aren't the best.  It takes a while for me to realize things like, 'Ohhh, maybe I should have tried a sample first.' or 'Ohhh, I thought it was fine at the store but now it looks weird on me.'  So I'd use the thing for about a week before realizing that it isn't right for me at all.  Or worst yet, that I already own something similar, so I don't really need the other item.

This is where a beauty swap comes in handy.  I'm sure most of you have heard of swaps, and they've been held long enough that I'm now aware of the complications that can arise with holding a swap.  Swaps are practical.  Ideally, everyone walks out a winner because they've traded in something they don't want for something of equal/similar value that they do want.  At worst, you've gotten rid of something you don't need and it doesn't hurt to have someone benefit from your willingness to donate extra products.  But I've heard of people just becoming downright nasty and catty at these things.  Mostly it seems to arise from an inability to determine the exact value of products.  Obviously, greed is at the centre of these disputes, where Person A doesn't want to give up her goods for anything less than what she thinks she deserves in return.  However, Person B thinks a full-size bottle of a drugstore lotion is just as good as a 2/3-full jar of Creme de la Mer.  Or something like that.  Friendships have been destroyed over crap like this, people!

So we take ourselves to the online swapping sites.  Some work and some don't, because it's with a bunch of strangers who don't owe anything to you.  It's an honour system.  Some of the same problems that plague in-peron-swaps also plague these places.

I've decided to take part in a swap with a very small community of fellow product junkies who have made a resolution like I have to reduce the amount of products they own.  We threw in a charitable incentive, which is to donate the remainder of our swaps to a women's shelter, so right away, the goal changes from what we get out of the swap to what we end up giving to one another and to others in need.  It gives a whole new perspective to the swap.  We set up some very strict rules, such as that the products we contribute in the swap must be either brand new or swatched only a few times (which must be cleaned with alcohol and sharpened or whatever).  We are also putting in deluxe samples and samples and have categorized them as such and listed dollar values of each full-size item.  You cannot take something of greater value than what you put in, but you can put in more than what you've taken.  And we want to do this because we know that in the end, someone in need is going to benefit.  I think that this is going to work out excellently.

Another option I was deliberating was a giveaway.  But that actually doesn't appeal to me very much.  I've gone through the trouble to set up a blog and of course I want more readers.  However, I want readers who identify with me and contribute to discussions because they're interested in the topics, not because they're hoping for a freebie.  (To those who read regularly, thank you so much!!!)  I know a lot of blogs do giveaways and I think that's great, but it's just not for me.  At least, not at the moment.  And anyway, giveaway products should be brand new and fun, not my stale old goods!

I've also given away products to family and friends in the past, but it seems most people in my life are fairly minimal in their beauty routines and I'm tired of being known as the crazy beauty addict with control issues.  Admit it, we've all been there.

Freshly resolved for 2011:

1.  I will use up the remainder of my primers, foundations, cleansers and lotions first before purchasing any other.

2.  I will promptly return products that are not right for me, instead of talking myself into believing that they will work.

3.  I will not get suckered into making purchases because the retailer is offering me massive discounts, free shipping, free samples, free products, "limited editions", consumer points, travel points, etc. etc. etc.

4.  I will only buy quality products which I have tested and researched thoroughly, not because the boxes in which they are packaged in is pretty.

Well, there you have it.  I feel so much better already for having set down the rules.  I guess that's just the kind of person I am.  I felt that during the 3-4 months of blogging about my attempts to reduce, I hadn't been making much headway.  Have you made any resolutions to reduce this year?  Or do you proudly luxuriate in the amount of products you own?  Sound off below!  Suggestions and feedback are always more than welcome.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Video Inspiration: Easy Dramatic Eye Makeup

I just love the look created in this video. I've never used The Body Shop makeup before, so this is totally tickling the addict in me that wants to jump head first into the sea of unfamiliar and wonderful beauty products. 

This model looks so cheerful and happy, and the music is uplifting. Something about the video reminds me of spring. Thought I'd share it in lieu of a real post and hope it inspires you as much as it inspired me!

via beautygeeks

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Inventory #14: Face Moisturizers

I decided to sneak in another inventory before I buckle down for a massive reading session tonight.  I was under the impression that I had many more moisturizers but this isn't so bad.  Four full size moisturizers addressing different skincare needs plus two samples.

[Side note: Sorry for the poor lighting in these pics!]

B. Kamins Matte Moisturizer with SPF 15 - I didn't even buy this; Sephora gave it to me as a skincare challenge reward and I was happy to receive a matte moisturizer with SPF 15 since I have oily skin.  I tried it once just to make sure it doesn't irritate my skin and it performed well.  But I haven't used it since that day because I'm working through the other products first.  I'll probably start using this regularly in late spring/early summer.

Just as an aside, I was a little miffed at Sephora for passing out products they were phasing out as "rewards" for their loyal customers.  You can't find this product at Sephora anymore but click on the link above to see the full description of the product at the B. Kamins website.  Recommended for oily/acne-prone skin.

Cetaphil Daily Facial Moisturizer with SPF 15 - This is my winter morning staple.  During warmer seasons it's too heavy, but for the cold drying winter days, this is just right if I use a light application.  Using too much at once seems to clog my pores, resulting in breakouts.  Typically I look for some SPF in my morning moisturizer because layering sunscreen, moisturizer, primer and foundation is (a) way too much work, and (b) my poor sensitive face will probably explode if I wear so many products all at once.  I'm about halfway or two-thirds through this bottle.

Aveda Outer Peace Acne Relief Lotion - I used every single product in this Outer Peace line except for the Cooling Mask.  This Outer Peace line saved my life in the summer.  It does a great job of fighting acne without stripping the skin dry like many other products do.  Aveda is also known for using natural ingredients.  It's pretty pricey, though.  While I'll skid by with cheaper products when my skin is doing okay, I'm willing to go to further lengths when my skin starts acting up.  This entire line is well worth it.

Korres Quercetin & Oak Antiageing Antiwrinkle Day Cream SPF 10 (sample size) - You know what?  This product is all right.  The texture feels weighty and heavier than what I'm normally used to, but my face felt plump and moisturized after I patted it lightly into the skin.  But it feels rather heavy for a day moisturizer so I've used it at night even though it contains SPF which can be irritating to the skin.  I won't buy the full size, but I think it should be fine for the normal/combination skin types out there.

Dermalogica Clean Start Welcome Matte SPF 15 - I got this sample along with the matching cleanser and face mist but those are long gone.  I really like this one and was using it happily when the cold season hit and I had to shelve it for the Cetaphil instead.  I would recommend the entire line for oily/acne-prone skin types.  I think it's marketed for adolescents and teens (assuming that the adults are using the original Dermalogica products) but I had a good experience with this line and might think about getting the full size products this summer to ward off the breakouts.  The samples are from Sephora but the line is not listed on their website.  I have spotted it at certain Sephora locations, though, as well as at random spas and skincare boutiques.  (Basically, wherever Dermalogica is sold.)

Garnier Nutritioniste Moisture Rescue Gel-Cream - I've raved about this several times in the past.  For such a cheap product, it's one of the most effective moisturizers my face has ever had the pleasure of benefiting from.  It's light, smells wonderfully fresh, and actually hydrates my face without irritating it or making it feel heavy and greasy.  Right now I use it as a night cream, but it's great for all times of the day and all year-round.

Here's a look at the interior.

One conclusion I'm drawing from these skincare inventories is that I'm much more high-maintenance when it comes to makeup rather than skincare.  It worked out that way simply because my skin reacts badly to expensive skincare products for some reason.  (Remember how I had to return the entire line of Ole Henriksen products to Sephora?)  Well, lucky me - I get to save some money in this area.  However, I am concerned about the lack of anti-aging products in my skincare routine, but we'll discuss that in depth in the next inventory re: skincare treatments.

So, what are your daily moisturizers or night creams?  Have you found one that is truly effective for you?  What are your thoughts on expensive skincare lines versus drugstore brands?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Inventory #13: Toners

This is a short one as I don't have too many toners.

Marcelle Hydra-C Radiance Tonifying Lotion

I'll give you non-Canadians a closer look at the description since the Marcelle website doesn't feature this toner for some reason.

I really liked this toner, especially after exfoliation or a peel.  I suspect the reason this bottle went so fast is my sister dipped into it as well.  Since I've tried both the cleanser and the toner in this line and both seem pretty effective, now I'm really interested in its moisturizers.  But don't worry, I'll hold off on that until I finish up the current moisturizers.  :) 

Caudalie Grape Water - I use this only during the hottest days of summer when it feels like my super oily face cannot accept even a drop of moisturizer.  This is supposed to be made with 100% grape water and boosts moisture.  It feels refreshing when you mist it over the face, especially if you keep it in the fridge overnight.  I think this container is nearly finished and am not sure if I'll repurchase.  It's one of those  does-no-harm/unsure-if-effective items that simply makes one feel nice and pampered. 

DDF Glycolic 10% Toning Complex - I got this along with the DDF Brightening Cleanser way back when, and I guess I abandoned it at some point when I needed something more soothing on my face.  I'll give this one a dedicated try in the near future.

Nivea Visage Refreshing Toner - Because of my oily skin, I tend to gravitate towards products marketed as "refreshing" or "purifying", and this is another example.  I picked this up after the realization that my face really likes drugstore products.  So far so good - nothing to rave or complain about.  I do like the cheap price tag.

And, of course, I've used this Clinique Acne Solutions toner in the past when I experienced severe breakouts.

I like to use toner to make sure that my makeup is completely removed and also to erase the trace of cleansers from my face before moisturizing.  I never tone in the morning, though, and on a lazy night, this is the step that I skip the most.

Is toner a must-have step in your daily skincare routine?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Nail Polish: MAC "Soiree" (Cham Pale Collection)

Damn the limited edition collections.  Double damn and triple damn!

We all know the struggle.  You've sworn not to get suckered in again by the pretty packaging and masterful advertising.  You've carefully budgeted and set aside a modest monthly sum for your beauty indulgences.  Then MAC releases Cham Pale, Peacocky, Mickey Contractor, and Stylish Yours all in the same season right after the Christmas wallet-emptying.

I'm reaching the point where I'm seriously starting to get pissed off at these limited edition releases.  I know they're fun and blahblahblahblah.  But does anyone agree with me that it's getting to be a bit too much?  If these makeup companies really want to service their customers, why don't they add some of the really popular items to their permanent stock rather than intentionally drive us to madness season after season, month after month?

Despite this frustration, I fell for it again.  Behold MAC Soiree:

It looked amazing in the bottle beside all the other pale and shimmery colours.  Perfect for the new year, I thought, against soft white cashmere and a snowy landscape.

And now that it's on my tips?  I realize that I hate this colour.  I've always despised this rose-gold shade of nail polish because it looks totally granny.  I regret this purchase.  Because of my 3 nail polish per month allowance, I talked myself into thinking that this was a unique shade worth investing in.

I'm sure that it looks amazing on certain skin tones.  I have too much yellow, maybe.  I might recommend this to the porcelain-skinned types out there.  But to the general population at large, I say skip it.

Have you been suckered into purchasing limited edition items lately?  Leave your tales of woe below.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Inventory #12: Facial Cleansers

Here's the long delayed start of my skincare inventories. We begin with facial cleansers.

Don't laugh at me but I have 10 different cleansers, not including special exfoliators and masks.  This is what happens when (a) you're acne-prone and (b) you can't resist a sale or a deal.  The result is (c) you become a beauty junkie/hoarder.

Boscia Purifying Cleansing Gel
Clinique Acne Solutions Cleansing Foam
My skin isn't so bad in the winter but it turns especially sensitive and acne-prone in the summer.  Anyone who struggles with acne can relate to the emotional and psychological torment I've felt by living with pock marks and scars on my face, seemingly without an end in sight.  You've gone to see the dermatologist, dried out your face with prescriptions and Proactiv, and tried applying every single anti-acne treatment that you can afford... to no avail.  I haven't had clear skin since I was 25 or 26, and it took me a long time to realize that wearing a lot of makeup doesn't help the cause.  Cleansing your skin thoroughly but gently at the end of the day is very very very important.

It seems to me that the acne problem actually seems to get better when I don't fuss over my skin too much.  I can't really explain it.  Consider those "lucky" creatures who wash with only water and soap (or sometimes even just water) who never have issues with skincare.  My youngest sister struggled with acne until she turned to unscented Dove soap.  That's all she used.  Dove soap and water.  Within months, her skin had cleared up and to this day she has beautiful clear skin (with only the occasional flare-up).  However, she has gone from oily skin to extremely dry.

I, on the other hand, am frivolous and experimental.  I constantly fall for marketing gimmicks and pretty packaging.  I can't resist trying something new, especially when it's on sale.  That's how I ended up with 10 different cleansers in my bathroom cabinet.  Here's a breakdown of what I've discovered about each of them.

Boscia Purifying Cleansing Gel - I tried a sample from Sephora and was so impressed that I bought the full size even though the price tag versus the bottle size was disconcerting.  I felt that I needed this desperately as it calmed my skin when my face had massive flare-ups in August, just before my sister's wedding for which I was the maid of honour.  I was willing to try anything.  Aveda's Outer Peace Foaming Cleanser was the best anti-acne cleanser I had ever tried, but my face had become immune to it.  Clinique's Acne Solutions Cleansing Foam didn't do anything for me at the time.  In fact, this cleanser is so precious to me that I'm saving it for only the really bad face days, which is not now.  For oily/combination/acne-prone gals, I totally recommend this.

Clinique Acne Solutions Cleansing Foam - Like I said above, this didn't quite work for me.  I don't know what it was.  Maybe it works better if you use the matching trio of cleanser, toner and moisturizer.  I had tried the matching toner before and thought it was effective, which induced me to go for the cleanser as well.  I thought about returning this but decided to keep it as back-up just in case it worked in the future at a different season.  I'm thinking now that I should have returned it after all.  Le sigh.

pHisoderm Gentle Facial Cleanser for Normal-Oily Skin - I picked up this one because it was on a crazy sale.  I had noticed it sitting quietly in the anti-acne section of the drugstore for about $10-$15 a bottle, and when I saw that they were selling two for the price of one, suddenly my faith in the product skyrocketed even without sampling or testing.  Shoppers Drug Mart + Optimum Points + Sale does something crazy to me at times.  (It's gotten better now but last year the craziness was at an all-time high.)  Anyway, I like this cleanser quite a bit, but I abandoned it because whenever the slightest bit of it trickles into my mouth, it tastes HORRIBLE.  I was explaining this to my other sister who also has fairly good skin with minimal attention and she was like, "Then don't eat the cleanser."  Well, not that I mean to eat my soap, it just happens sometimes.  And the experience was so bad that I'm kind of fearful of it now.  Sister is diligently working through the first bottle of Phisoderm but it's going to take a while as it's quite sizeable.  I may just give the second bottle away unless she really wants a challenge and wants to finish all of it. 

RoC Hydra + 3 in 1 Cleansing Moisturizing Tonifying Care - I can't find the exact product on the RoC website but I got three bottles of this for free from a male friend who ordered it by accident with a discount from a friend who worked at Johnson & Johnson.  It's supposed to be a cleanser, toner and moisturizer all in one and claims to remove makeup and clean and tone without the use of water.  Well, I tried it and used a huge amount of it to wipe off the makeup with sponge pads and cotton balls.  Call me conservative but I like using water to wash my face at the end of the day and my oily skin didn't really care too much for the product sitting on top of it.  I gave away the first bottle to the married sister with dry skin (no word on how she liked it).  Two more bottles to be given away.  Recommended for dry skin. 

Garnier Moisture Rescue Fresh Foaming Cleanser - This was also from a sale and it was supposed to be my gym cleanser.  Have I gone to the gym since?  No.  That's going to change in 2011, I swear.  I love its counterpart Gel Cream so much that I have great faith in this cleanser.  [Post to be updated with a mini review when I do try it.]

DDF Brightening Cleanser - I got this at Sephora a few years ago after another exhausting round of battling acne and the result left me dotted with unsightly scars.  The online reviews are favourable, but it's super super drying.  If my oily face finds it drying, I can't imagine how dry it would be on someone else.  The area around my mouth is particularly sensitive and this cleanser left it in a disastrous condition.  Other areas of my face was fine, however, so I sometimes use it by avoiding the mouth area.

Philosophy Purity Made Simple - I've already raved about this cleanser in a previous post, where I declared it a 2010 favourite.  As you can tell by the pic, it's the only one that's visibly on its way to completion.  I'm hoping to receive a free new bottle of it from Sephora as a Skincare Challenge prize, but they're out of stock currently and I'm not sure if they're actually going to follow through with the reward.  In any case, this is suitable for all skin types and I recommend it for those looking particularly for a gentle but effective cleanser.

Marcelle Hydra-C Facial Exfoliating Gel - Another drugstore bargain.  I really like this one.  Sometimes I use it after the Purity cleanser on a particularly makeup heavy day, or sometimes on its own in the morning.  Marcelle is a dermatologist-approved Canadian company that I'm not sure is available in the U.S. (or anywhere outside Canada).  I once went to the crankiest and meanest dermatologist in the world (yes, she lives in Toronto) and although she was mean and cranky, she recommended Marcelle products for both skincare and makeup and I've never had an issue with any of their products.

Clean & Clear Morning Burst Purifying Facial Scrub - Ahhhh, memories of teenage yesteryears.  Who hasn't tried a Clean & Clear product?  Looking at their website now, they have a crazy number of cleansers and I can't find this particular one so I think it's been discontinued.  I guess the most similar thing would be this "Oxygenating Facial Scrub"?  Sorry, I have no idea.  Also a result of a drugstore sale splurge, I keep this one for the mornings when it feels like I need slightly more exfoliation.  I think this is the only cleanser in the stash with those micro buffing beads.  It smells good in the shower and hasn't harmed me yet.

Neutrogena Fresh Foaming Cleanser - I don't know why I still have this.  I hate it and it's been kicking around in my bathroom cabinet for a long time.  I tried to give it away but nobody wanted it.  The reason I don't like it is it never seems to come off the face.  I'm rinsing in the sink forever afterwards and it never makes me feel good or clean.  It also does absolutely nothing for me during breakouts.  I want to like Neutrogena and have bought many of their products in the past, but overall I think the brand has let me down more times than not.  Never again!

Well, there we have it.  Another inventory down and another hard truth to face.  I need to reduce and I won't be buying a new facial cleanser until... oh, maybe 2014.  At least I have plenty to pick from.

What are your facial cleansers and which are your faves?