Saturday, September 29, 2012

September Pickups and Deliveries

Why does it feel like I've been gone for a million years? It has only been a week since the last post, correct? For those who wanted to see me post more frequently, sorry! I've been feeling an ennui of sorts, and I don't schedule posts. I have to sort of feel them before publishing. What can I say? I'm a selfish writer. Translation: Sorry I'm not sorry! ;-)

Anyway, September has disappeared and Canadian Thanksgiving is just around the corner. What? WHAT? It was a busy month and I spent the first half of it hunting down the perfect dark red lips and black pencil eyeliner between work and chores. The result ended up being a mix of high and low, the best of combinations to appease a soul caught in conflict between frugality and frivolity. (O HAI, THAT'S ME.)

Prestige Waterproof Eyeliner in Black


I wanted the ultimate basic black eyeliner: pencil for ease of application and portability, long-lasting without smudging or running on my one very hooded eye and one perfectly creased eye. Prestige is one of those forgotten brands found in the lonely corners of Rexall/Pharma Plus cosmetic aisle. The price is super friendly and the packaging is simple and fuss-free. I was surprised when a couple of people on Twitter suggested that I try their pencils because who knew anyone knew that the brand exists?


As for the pencil itself, I like it but it's not the best. I got it during the first week of the month when it still felt summery and the liner didn't hold up in the heat. But now that the weather is cooler (yesterday so cold in the morning that I wanted to wear gloves), it stays put and is black enough and smudgeable enough and generally good enough that I don't regret the CAD$7 I spent on it. The brand is online, by the way, for those who want to check out more of their offerings. I think the quality and the price are definitely at par, considering that other drugstore brands have hiked up their prices to the point that it's difficult to find anything for less than $10 without sales. When I encounter a drugstore item sitting in the $15-20 zone, I figure it's just better to spend another $5 or so and go for a higher brand. I'm not particularly drawn to Prestige aside from their eyeliners but might give them a second look later on when I need something else.


Dior Poison


I was supposed to return this and keep Orchid, but I lost the receipt. Oh, how fortuitous! Because I love love love it. It's not the most unique purple but it is dark and moody and passionate and I feel it so much. The picture below is of after 7-9 days of wear.


Then, as was inevitable, spontaneous deal-grabbing ensued one day. I was in and out of Sephora "researching" for the best black eyeliner when the sales section caught my eye. Each item was only $5! Totally scored. Had to elbow some woman out of my way during the dig for the Nails Inc. polishes but it was clear she didn't know what she was looking at. Swatch, buy or get out of the way!

Sephora Blotting Papers (x 2)
Nails Inc. in Warwick Way & Belgrave Place

NARS Pure Matte Lipstick in Amsterdam

Denise went to NYC and brought this back for me because the difference in Canadian and American prices for certain brands is completely ridiculous. This beauty for example: USD$25 + 8.875% sales tax vs. CAD$32 + 13% Ontario sales tax. Yeah. Our dollar is either at par or doing better than the Americans and have been in that situation for a while. It's so unfair. The worst offenders are middling brands like Estee Lauder, Tarte and NARS. The price difference for Chanel and Dior aren't as bad or bad at all. Illamasqua has a campaign for fairer cosmetics pricing in Australia and I hope something similar can happen here as well.


Going back to the gorgeous lipstick itself: I AM IN LOVE. This is such a revelation, because I usually abhor matte lips and am scared of intense colours. But I've been very good about keeping my lips balmed and I think they're not as dry as they used to be. I've stopped picking them, too, which helps a lot.


For a matte lipstick, I'm surprised by how smooth it looks and feels on the lips. Left: multiple layers, right: one layer.



I feel like it looks much darker on the lips, and it is just so right for the season and the moment.

Samples

Fruits & Passion Gold Body Butter (new) / Peter Thomas Roth Anti-Aging Cleansing Gel / Benefit Bella Bamba (100 points perk @ Sephora)


Bond No. 9 So New York - Denise and I met up for dinner and after that we spent considerable time at the Bond No. 9 counter where an amazing saleswoman gave us samples for whatever scents we fell in love with. I like So New York but the one I really love is Riverside Drive. The lady said she'd mail the sample of that when the next shipment arrives. I can't buy it right now and hold conflicting feelings about the brand, so I'll try to live on the samples for a while and hope to fall out of love by the end of those.


Speaking of Denise, she knows me too well. More red/dark lippies and nude shadows!


Now that's FOUR dark reddish lippies I've ended up with this month. From left to right: MAC Lipglass in Restless, NARS Amsterdam, MAC Matte Lipstick in Diva, MAC Satin Lipstick in Rebel. While I was on the hunt for vampy fall lips, I received multiple suggestions for MAC Rebel. When I looked at swatches online, I became terrified of the shade, but seeing it person after having worn Amsterdam is a totally different feeling. Thank you, Denise -- you rock!


Random shampoo from friend A.N.


Sometimes A.N. jumps aboard a product love train and never looks back. When she does, she tries to take everyone with her as well and is really generous about it. She gave me a bottle from her bulk order and said it made her hair amazingly shiny and soft -- but she always has perfectly naturally smooth and glossy Asian hair to begin with so I can't see a difference. This is supposed to be super gentle and soothing, and I'm hoping it'll be good for my dry scalp which has been fine all summer but acting up now that it's colder. If it happens to make my hair smoother, bonus points!

So that's my pickups and deliveries for the month of September. I think there was a good mix of well-researched purchases as well as frugal impulse buys. Now I leave you with some swatches of my favourite FOTD products of the month. Can you guess what these are? I'll reveal it soon!


What were some good purchases and bargains for you this month?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Delights in reserve: MAC Venetian Tarnish and Majolica Majorca Blood On

Secret: I have something called a reserve drawer. Because I struggle with more things to be used up than I can keep up with, sometimes I lay new things aside in this drawer until the time feels right to BUST THEM OUT. They remain untouched and unswatched, so that the joy of taking a brand new shadow or lipstick out of the box is exactly the same as immediately opening it after purchase. It's a coping tactic for compulsive shopping habits that I indulged in for so long. The other day, I felt the compulsion come over me stronger than it had in a while and had to resort to digging through the reserve drawer. The move uncovered these two gems.

MAC Metal-X Cream Shadow in Venetian Tarnish


I didn't pay any attention to the Metal-X collection and had no idea what I was missing out on. My wonderful MAC Fairy surprised me with this when we first met in March, and because of all the crap that was going down at the time, I tucked this away in the reserve drawer and didn't think of it for a while.


When I finally pulled this out the other week, I was flabbergasted at the beautiful powder/hybrid texture of this shadow and the amazing pigmentation. This is also the exact kind of gold shade I like - bronzy with a burnished lean that gives it richness and depth beyond a simple shimmery yellow.


It looks amazing on the eyes and instantly dispelled any desire to shop new shadows for a while!


Luckily this product is still available at MAC, so I suggest you check it out if you like the new powdery-yet-not-powder shadow textures. It's not as bouncy as the Electric Cool shadows, but it's definitely not creamy in the traditional sense of the word. The swatch above is the result of one shallow swipe.

Ingredients:


Majolica Majorca Blood On


J sent me this from Singapore as a part of a massive package and half of that ended up in the reserve drawer. I don't know how she knew one of the things I love best is a round pot of bright red product that translates sheerer on the skin, but here we are.


Blood On is a gel-cream lip and cheek tint.


I just sighed in happiness while staring at the unmarked pan of all that smooth redness. It took a while to work up the courage to swatch it but I finally did.


As you can see, it's very sheer and is extremely similar to the effect of Benefit's Benetint. The best part is that it's not liquid and I can skip the messiness of delivery and application. This is a swipe and go product and extremely handy. I'm looking forward to using it to mimic the flush of cold autumn winds on cheek and bitten red lips.

Ingredients:


Huh. I just learned that Majolica Majorca is owned by Shiseido. I think I knew that at some point but forgot.

Anyway, I highly recommend the tactic of keeping a reserve drawer if you're prone to shopping urges like I am and need a little something without actually going out and spending and spending. The reserve is also a good place to stash products that you purchased but aren't sure about - I've fished out many things from there to return eventually. No one knows about this drawer and everyone assumes I stash legit business items in it, which is another part of the delight of having a secret reserve drawer.

Are you like me and keep things in reserve, or do you open all new products right away?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Inventory #13.1 Toners

It's been a while since the last inventory. Here is last year's stash, and below is the current stash of toners.

If this counts as a "stash", that is. PROGRESS!

Caudalie Beauty Elixir (Travel Size) - Received it as a part of a lovely gift package and used it in the summer on makeupless days to "refresh" -- or sometimes purely out of boredom. I'm not sure that it really counts as a toner but it doesn't fit into any other categories.

Simple Soothing Facial Toner (PR Sample) - I'm testing this out right now for a full review and find that it's quite good. One of the main ingredients is witch hazel, which I had been wanting to try as a pure substance. (For the rest of the ingredients, click here.)

The Body Shop Aloe Calming Toner (2 bottles) - My favourite because the calming effect of aloe is good for my acne-prone skin. This must be my fifth bottle now.

* * *

Ever since I discovered The Body Shop Aloe Calming Toner, I stopped shopping around for new ones to try. If a sample falls into my lap, I will pause the regular routine to test it out. But at the moment, my eyes have stopped wandering the store shelves for more enticing options. Toner is one of those controversial products that some deem unnecessary and others deem a must. My opinion? It's both, depending on your skin and the products you use.

If you wear a lot of makeup regularly and use strong cleansers for the removal process, use a toner to wipe away any remaining product traces on your skin before you begin the treatment process with serums and moisturizers. Because I have acne-prone skin, I tend to favour cleansers with salicylic acid in it which can sometimes dry out the skin. On days when I skipped toner, my skin was definitely drier and the corners of my mouth grew patchy and irritated.

If you have fairly normal skin and use gentle cleansers, no harm in skipping toner -- though using the appropriate one wouldn't hurt either.

My toner philosophy is to look for one that has no fragrance and contains the simplest list of ingredients possible. I used to use anti-acne toners and astringents to try to treat my acne issues, but I've decided to treat acne by maintaining a diligent cleansing routine and using topical treatments after removing makeup and thoroughly massaging the skin during the cleansing process. The toner's function, to me, is to remove traces of makeup and cleanser on skin and prep it for further treatment. Looking for a multi-purpose toner resulted in much time and money being wasted. Unless something revolutionary or truly enticing comes along, I won't be paying much attention to toners and stick with my favourites that I know does the job well and is good for my skin.

Do you use a toner? What works well for you and how important is it in your daily routine? 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

2012 Empties Part 8

It's that time again! I really wish we had an empties song. Would really routinize the whole thing even more than it already is, right?!

Again I realize how much crap I manage to stockpile, even now as I do my damnest to not fall for buy-this-much-get-this-for-"free" deals. I always try to finish a few sample/travel sizes each month but still accrue them at an alarming rate and think that they should be saved for traveling. Well, I'm not going anywhere for the rest of 2012 and probably not much in 2013 either. The fall season will be devoted to using up samples and travel size things that are tottering around and creating clutter!


Without further ado, here are my empties:

Rexall Baby Wipes x 80 wipes ($3.99 at Rexall/Pharma Plus) - I may have said this a few times already, but I really prefer the Life Brand Baby Wipes over these. Am trying not to buy wipes anymore now that the weather is cooler and wiping off makeup from the face isn't as urgent without the sweat factor. It's also time to start wearing socks again so there's no need to get wipes for stinky feet either.


Shiseido Cotton Pads x 50 ($5.00 at Sephora) - Holy grail facial cottons. I'm alternating between these and the Rexall cheapies so that I'm not spending all my hard-earned monies on stupid cottons. Yes, these are wonderful and you never want to use anything else again after trying them, but I'd rather spend $5 on more pumpkin spice lattes!


Rexall Cotton Balls x 300 ($1.69 at Rexall) - I use them only to remove nail polish. No problem whatsoever with these. Will continue to buy.

The Face Shop Pomegranate Mask (Gift From J) - The last of my sheet masks. It was all right. Still like the Lemon Mask above all the others I've tried so far.


The Body Shop Spice Vanilla Hand Cream (PR Sample) - I think this is the first time that I've finished a PR sample. I really liked the smell of it in winter but was going through some other moisturizers at the time and forgot about it. I didn't care for the scent in spring/summer but decided it had to be finished and began using it every day at some point in August. I'm sort of on a mission to finish all the body moisturizers and am currently using a Nivea Creme as hand cream at work and an old Sephora body butter as hand cream at home. I like the texture of The Body Shop hand creams though and wouldn't mind trying their regular hand creams later on (available in Almond and Rose).

Molton Brown White Mulberry Fine Liquid Hand Soap (Gift From Long Long Time Ago) - Took it to my family "camping" trip and it turned out to be a good decision because no one else brought soap. The smell reminds me of a more luxurious version of Bath & Body Works' classic White Tea stuff. I don't care for it at all but one of my sisters loved it. My favourite moment of using this was to turn it upside down to get out the last few drops!

L'Occitane Dry Skin Hand Cream (Free Travel Size from L'Occitane) - Apparently the American promotion of this product was to pass it out on the street corners for free like candy, but the Canadian promotion involved liking the brand on Facebook, clicking to the promo page, printing out the coupon and bringing it into a physical shop for redemption of the sample. Normally I'd bitch viciously about it but I FREAKING LOVE THIS HAND CREAM. Almost holy grail material and I've never had a holy grail hand cream before. I may have to try a few more duds to really appreciate this 100%.


Bath & Body Works Warm Vanilla Sugar Triple Moisture Body Cream (USD$12.50/CAD$15-17 at Bath & Body Works) - I have a fondness for the Warm Vanilla Sugar line and their stuff is mostly fine by me. This was a pretty decent body cream and my skin definitely felt smoother with it on than without. But obviously, their regular prices aren't worth it without the BOGO factor. I'll probably go back to it at some point in the future out of nostalgia but not until I've gone through ALL the body creams in this house. Guess it's time for an inventory post!

Fruits & Passion Monoi Smoothing Body Scrub (CAD$24 at Fruits & Passion) - Wasn't crazy about it at first but it was because I didn't realize how it worked. It leaves a layer of oil on the skin after rinsing and you don't need to apply another moisturizing agent on top if you have relatively normal skin. I tried to apply body butters over it and the mixture caused pilling. So the thing to do is: take a normal shower with a cleansing gel or soap, then scrub limbs and hands and feet with this scrub and just gently pat a dry towel over your skin and hop into your pajamas and into bed while smelling like a very elegant tropical vacation that doesn't cause headaches or retching. Out of all the monoi things that I've been exposed lately, the Fruits & Passion line has been the best. Definitely going back for the entire line when I'm done using everything else in about a bazillion years.




Garnier Skin Naturals Pure Unclogging Gel Scrub (On clearance for $2-3 at Rexall/Pharma Plus) - I think this line is still kicking around but in a repackaged form. I can see why. While the scrub worked well (contains 2% salicylic acid) and was only slightly drying if I didn't use a toner after, the product was liquid enough that a lot more of it was dispensed if you gave the tube a hard squeeze. So while I was not trying to empty it quicker on purpose, it was used twice as much and faster due to accidental over-squeezing and spillage. Other than that, I'd buy it again. I think it did well to keep my skin clean against summer sweat and grime. But if you have dry skin, this is not your friend.

MoroccanOil Oil Treatment (Original Formula) ($39.99 + 20% discount at random hair salon) - Holy grail product despite its lack of treatment qualities. Here's why. I have wild, wavy hair that will not be tamed into a glossy mane despite my East Asian heritage. It is only with the aid of MoroccanOil that I can achieve anything close to the straight glossy locks that nature denied me. In the summer I don't bother with blow-drying, but in the fall/winter when a severely straightened hair seems to go well with a pale, well-powdered visage and berry lips? Suddenly I'm blow-drying and straight-ironing every three days without fail. The oil is a fantastic all-in-one anti-frizz and straightener. I don't need any other product after that, other than some hair spray. Plus I love the smell. Would wear it as a perfume if I could. I hear the MoroccanOil Perfume is in the works though details are scant. Anyway, it's a great styling aid but not a great treatment. It's no solution to dry or damaged locks - you need to trim those and protect them from heat and overstyling. Use this to protect before, not to treat after.


Zoya Remove + ($16.99 at Trade Secret) - Nail polish remover that smells like lavender, looks like a pretty violet potion in a cool plastic bottle and removes polish without hassle and damaging the nail? YES, PLEASE. This round of empties is full of holy grail products and this is another. However, it's pretty pricey for some nail polish remover. Consider the no name brands and Sally Hansen at $3.99 for the same size. I've heard of people mixing acetone with glycerin to come up with their own formula dupes and whatnot, but I'm so not DIY like that and have no idea where to even get acetone. Whatever. Using a giant bottle of OPI remover right now and will deal with the repurchase issue when the time arrives. I kept the bottle and refilled it with the OPI since the pump dispenser is so much handier than tilting a bottle upside down and risk spilling it all. Lovely product. Would buy a salon size on discount if I knew where to go!


And finally a FAIL AND TOSS.

Boscia Skincare Essentials Set (Sephora 500 Points Perk) - I was so excited to try this because I'm a huge fan of the Boscia Purifying Gel Cleanser and their blotting linens. A part of me was ready to pledge allegiance to the brand without even trying out the rest of their stuff. Well, it's a good thing I tried this sampler pack because something just did not agree with my skin. I broke out from using the Cleansing Oil, the Daily Hydration and the Eye Treatment. The only thing I thought that was decent was the primer, surprisingly. It's no Hourglass Veil Mineral, but it tucks nicely into my travel makeup bag on rushed mornings and does create a smoother canvas for makeup application and keeps the face matte for a few hours. Out of scientific curiosity, I've passed on the products to my sister to see if she'd have the same results (with crossed fingers that it would not occur) but she's busy finishing up some Clinique stuff first.


TOTAL:


Today's Total
Jumbo: 1
Regular: 8
Travel/Sample: 2
Tossed: 1

2012 Total
Jumbo: 5
Regular: 71
Travel/Sample: 22
Tossed: 10

It just hit me that we're getting close to 2013. WHEN??? HOW??? I could easily hit 100 empties by the end of December. The problem is trying not to add more to the to-be-emptied pile. Shit... my head is still reeling from the 2013 thing. Can't type anymore.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Fall Lippies and One New Addition

My stash hasn't changed at all from last year's stash. And sadly despite the claim, I failed to put a dent in them. BUT TIMES -- THEY ARE A-CHANGIN'.


Instead of hoarding and staring at the accrual, I really want to diligently wear all my pretty makeup and delight in them. As a part of that endeavour, I've even taken swatches and shots which I am usually terrible at.

L-R: Revlon Lip Butter Sugar Plum, Fresh Sugar Plum, NARS Fast Ride, Revlon Colorburst Sienna Sparkle, Revlon Colorburst Bordeaux, LORAC Berry Blender.


There's a distinct pattern. I'm a lipstick SISSY and like them to be bold in theory but sheer in execution. I also like the option of them being buildable in case I ever grow some makeup balls.


I'm less shy with the glosses because they tend to apply in thinner, sheerer layers. But lately I'm feeling antsy and slightly bolder. I actually wore Bordeaux to the office the other day. YES. YES, I DID.


And I'm eagerly waiting to meet up with Denise who kindly picked up NARS Amsterdam for me during her trip to NYC. Canadians, did you know that there's a $7 difference between Canadian and American prices for the NARS Pure Mattes? Ontarians, how pained are we at having to pay 13% sales tax on top of that price difference?? I've been paying better attention to the price of things lately, and for some luxury brands like Chanel, there actually isn't that great of a disparity. For middling brands such as Tarte and NARS though? Soooo overpriced in Canada that I can never pay Canadian pricing for them ever again.


If it weren't for the fact that Amsterdam looked perfectly moody and dramatic on me in a way that I never imagined a matte lipstick can look on my undramatic face, I wouldn't have gone there. (Check out Temptalia's review here and see it on Xiao's gorgeous face here.)

So, this is my solemn promise to continue to branch out with my makeup and to work hard to make a dent in the stash I already have. Who's into autumn lips? What are some of your favourite picks and maybe even new picks?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Weekend In Review

It turned out to be 99% rainy most of the weekend, but I did manage to step out between the showers for some walks and activities. I love the water and find lakes on cloudy days to be starkly beautiful.


Family of ducks running away from me as I moved closer for better shots.

Apparently I still have my maniac arm. (It aches today!)


Sipping tea while listening to the rain fall is such a cozy moment.


A Victorian novel and some soothing music also adds to that cozy feeling.


Evenings were spent playing games. Settlers of Catan is a perennial favourite.


Monopoly Deal for some more sly dealings.


We took A LOT of food up there.



And my hair behaved relatively well, so I didn't bother to wash or style or do anything. (It needs a hair cut badly though.) I also didn't bother to take a shower until five minutes ago! So much for the B&BW Honeysuckle.


I wore OPI's new Every Month is Oktoberfest and it held up pretty well.


Sadly I finished the sample/travel size of L'Occitane Dry Skin Hand Cream. It's on the verge of becoming a holy grail product but I might need to go through another sample of it just to be 100% sure.


And it turned out that I was doing a pretty good job of going through my EOS Lip Balm. Baby sister hardly had a dent in hers while mine's almost finished.


Overall, it was a nice and restful weekend and maybe exactly what I needed before heading into a busy week. On the job front, due to some internal shifts and dealings, I'm able to go back to working full-time five days a week and receiving a full income again. There is still some uncertainty attached to it, however, and it's not something I want to be doing for the rest of my life, so I'm still on the lookout for a better opportunity.


In the meantime, I will do my best to search for beauty in every day surroundings and infuse the mundane with meaning and hope. It's the only way to live -- life is too short to be unhappy all the time. It's difficult to find the balance between striving too hard and being complacent, but the battle rages on!


I'm all set to embrace fall yet again and whatever it has in store. How about you? Are you ready for a new season or a new chapter in your life?