Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Like many beauty lovers, I hoard a huge stash of samples that seem to multiply on their own. Let's face it: we love the idea of freebies, even in tiny vials and one-time-use packets. At the least, we can test the sample to see if there's an allergic reaction. At best, it will open our eyes to a new product or brand we never would have given a second thought to otherwise.

The range of samples include hair and skin care products, makeup, and perfume. (Oh god, the amount of perfume samples I own and never reviewed.)

The challenge for myself is this:

30 days
minimum of 30 samples

Starting tomorrow, I'll be reviewing each sample in a short post every day for the month. (Or 2-3 samples in one post a few times a week, depending on how life goes. Right now life is pretty boring, which is why I'm blogging almost every day.) Anything that I don't like gets tossed, sold or given away. Anything remotely suspiciously close to being expired goes to garbage. And anything I fall in love with gets a glowing review on here. By December, I'll have cleared out a lot of physical and mental clutter. I've had this blog for two years (yay, anniversary) and there hasn't been much progress. I'm stretching the Reductionista act for another year, and then we'll have to reassess the entire endeavour. Until then, you'll see declutter projects like these crop up now and then.

Check back tomorrow for Sample #1!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

What's in my makeup bag?

It's been a while since my last "what's in my makeup bag" post. First, the bag switched. This is the first makeup bag that I've ever spent money on, and it was only $5 from H&M. I got it in spring when ORANGE was all the rage, and the colour just perked me up. Because there are so many free makeup bags accrued at home from GWPs (gifts with purchases), I never felt the need to buy a bag before. But none of them were the size, design or colour I wanted. It's a small thing, but I was tired of putting up with things I didn't care for, just because they were free. It was a good change to make.

Non-makeup content: Perfume atomizer (filled with Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Mandarine-Basilic in spring/summer, Caudalie The des Vignes in fall/winter); mini x-acto knife (lifelong handy habit); Tylenol container filled with half Tylenol, half other pills and vitamins as needed.

Makeup Content:

SilkyGirl BB Powder Foundation (reviewed here) - Already hit pan on my second compact. It turns out that my sister loves it too, so there's only two more new compacts left between us, presumably one each. She is renouncing the Laura Mercier and Shiseido powder foundations that she used to love and is relying on this also. I'm going to switch to liquid foundation for winter and come back to this in spring/summer when I get extra sweaty and oily again. But this is so super handy. I've taken up the habit of just applying primer on my face and dipping into this for coverage during the 1-hour subway ride to work. (Apparently I don't care to impress anyone at my bus stop. Heh.)

By Terry Velvet Cream Blush in Peach Nude - I might actually hit pan on this. HIT PAN ON BLUSH - O THE ANTICIPATION!!! While I like the idea of cream blush, I find that too many are sticky and dewy on the face. This one goes on velvety smooth and immediately sets to a powder finish. It blends impeccably and seamlessly and I might cry when it runs out since it's not available in Canada anymore.

Annabelle Blush On in #32 Pronto - It's my new favourite (see mini review here). I don't have a travel blush brush to pack in the bag, so I haven't really been carrying it around... but it's on the list of things to get/do.

MAC Electric Cool Shadow in Superwatt - Reviewed here. I just love the spongey powdery texture of this shadow. The shimmer looks fantastic on the lid and it's easy to tote around as well as to pat on to the lid without a brush. LOVE.

MUFE Aqua Cream in #15 Taupe - I've really been digging into this pot recently (like, literally) and didn't like it in the past because it sets so quickly that it's hard to blend out. Lately I've been packing this on the lids on days when I wear glasses because a lot of eye makeup looks strangely sexier behind the lens. This is a brownish taupe that looks almost bronze rather than a cool taupe, and I like to apply a wash of it over the lid and add a double layer of it on the outer corners of my hooded eyes and blend with black pencil eyeliner, which produces a unique shimmery dark shade that I should probably devote a separate post to.

MUFE Eyebrow Pencil in #4 Dark Taupe - The shade is a warmer brown than my natural hair, but the next darkest in #5 was way too dark and overpowers my face (that was a few years ago, though - I may need to reassess). I plan on trying out the Aqua Brows eventually, but until then, this pencil works well. I finally conquered my brows and lowered the arch so that the brows are straighter and more symmetrical. It's mind-boggling to me that I stopped doing my brows for a period of 2-3 years, because now I have to fill in my brows every morning with this pencil.

Prestige Waterproof Eyeliner in Black - For CAD$7, it does a decent job. Now that I've spent a few months with it, I find that while it does stay put well for 8-9 hours during cool seasons and does resist removal, it manages to smudge ever so slightly by the 10th hour and will give you the full-blown raccoon eyes by the 12th. Still, it's the easiest liner to apply while in a hurry. Reviewed here.

Lancome Hypnose Star Mascara in Noir Midnight - I mentioned this mascara in a recent post and the love is going strong. If you can spend CAD$33 on a mascara, BUY IT. The smaller tip is perfect for getting into the lashes at the inner and outer corner and the formula is flawless. Sooty black lashes in seconds!

Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment in Plum - I was "saving" this for some stupid reason and decided it was time to start working it down to an empty tube.

See? Progress!

I tend to switch lippies around on a regular basis and try not to carry more than 2-3 in the bag. Pictured are my recent faves: Revlon Lip Butter in Candy Apple, Revlon Colorburst Gloss in Bordeaux and NARS Pure Matte in Amsterdam.

And there you have it. Everything fits nicely into the bag and it's not too heavy or disorganized. Not shown are hand creams, lip balms, blotting sheets and floss and things like that, which are carried in separate pockets of my purses or kept in drawers at work and home.

I've been wondering lately that, as a makeup minimalist when it comes to actually wearing makeup, whether it's possible for me to get rid of the rest of my permanent collection and just live on these for the next year or two. And the immediate and consistent answer is always no. No, no, no. Although I may not wear everything all the time, I love having some choices to make and experimenting from time to time as inspiration hits. As always, I drift between "too much" and "too little" without drawing a hard line anywhere. More on that later.

How have your makeup travel bag changed over the years?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Favourite Blush(es) Part 3: Tarina Tarantino Dollskin Cheek Palette

I'm sorry that I sat on this review for so long, because Tarino Tarantino is clearing out of Sephora and all products are discounted to 40% off regular price. It makes this cheek palette an amazing steal at CAD$33, if you can still find it in the stores. (As of yesterday morning, the palette is no longer available on, so you must head to the nearest physical store and rummage in person.) This does not mean that the brand is going out of business, but if you were planning to make a TT purchase, now is the time. Tarina Tarantino cosmetics will eventually be available at its own site at (Right now it's just jewellery and accessories.)

I bought this palette almost a year ago, just before Christmas, and it's one of the best purchases I've ever made to date. It's the perfect solution for a supposed reductionista/blush fiend: four blushers in one to save time and hassle in the morning. This palette basically sits on my dresser all year long because each colour is so darn wearable and the difference between the four shades, though seemingly slight, provides enough variance that I am never bored with it.

The quality of each blush and the packaging is excellent. Sturdy and weighty but not too heavy. Each pan is perfectly sized at 0.12 oz/3.5g. I would have trouble ever hitting pan on blush bigger than that, and I would have trouble dipping brushes into pans smaller than that.

The four shades are as follows:
  • Feather (upper left) - shimmery peach
  • Parasol (upper right) - shimmery pink/peach
  • Carved Rose (lower left) - cool vivid pink
  • Candy Cameo (lower right) - shimmery pink 


Although three out of the four shades are described as "shimmery", only Candy Cameo contains large flecks of visible shimmer. Carved Rose is the only true matte and Feather and Parasol, while shimmery in swatches, do not appear to be so in the pans nor on the cheeks upon application.

Feather and Parasol are the warmer shades in the palette. Feather is a subtle neutral peach, which makes me reach for it quite often as it feels complementary to my yellower skin tone with olive undertone. Parasol is a pinky peach coral and just as friendly to my skin tone, and I really enjoyed using it in the summer when CORAL EVERYTHING is all the rage.

I tend to use Feather the most out of the four shades because it's the most subtle and easiest to build up, which makes it an excellent every day shade for school and work.

Carved Rose and Candy Cameo are the cool-toned pink beauties.

For a long time I held an aversion to pink and avoided it in all forms. I've come to embrace it as a necessary blush shade to enliven a neutral face or add luminosity to a wan complexion. Neither of these two are "Barbie" or "bubblegum" pinks that they first appear to be. Carved Rose is slightly dusky with a plummish undertone and Candy Cameo looks like a very pink lavender in certain lights.

I have to admit, the almost chunky shimmer in Candy Cameo makes me reach for it the least, but I still like to apply it on very rare and odd day that I need some extra sparkle. Carved Rose is a shade that I'm starting to really warm up to.

Even at regular price, the Dollskin Cheek Palette was an amazing deal and I consider it a staple in my collection. I think it's time to start creating more blush palettes, because when it comes to blush and shadow, the more the merrier...within reason, if you believe in it. ;-)

So, are you running out to grab a Dollskin palette now?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Last of the Fall Foliage

Like many people, my mood takes a nosedive every October. By November, I'm usually a huge mess. But I've been fighting the downward spiral and trying to appreciate the beauty of the fleeting season, soaking in whatever I can to make it through the five months of Canadian winter that is looming on the horizon. I think every Canadian will agree with me that we really need a holiday in November, right?? Remembrance Day does not count.

I tried to take advantage of good weather days and go for short walks around the neighbourhood after work (to be honest, I have no energy for long walks). It's raining constantly now and it makes me feel better to look at what once was.





I love nutcrackers. (Picture taken at The Bay)

Hope everyone is enjoying their weekend. And to those under Hurricane Sandy warnings, be safe!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

October Pickups and Deliveries

It's not quite end of the month yet but we're nearly there, and I cannot possibly "pick up" anything more -- so here's the regularly scheduled Pickups & Delivery post a little bit early. :-)

Cheap Thrills

Annabelle Blush On #32 - I think that this is the shade called "Golden Bronze" on their website, but I can't be sure as there's only a shade number on the back of the pan. [Annabelle confirms #32 is actually called "Pronto."] In any case, these were on sale for $5.99 and I picked up three -- two to send as presents and one for me. Because of the darker lips and eyes I've been attempting lately, a low-key earthy neutral blush seemed like the thing to have. It's a lot like MAC Equilibrium in that it provides fantastic contouring rather than a flush, but it's all that's needed on a face that has a lot of other things going on and I freaking love it. Best cheap purchase ever!

Smashbox Blush "Layer" - Found in a clearance bin at Shoppers for $10. I'm powerless against blushes and nail polish on a good day. This shade sits rather interestingly between wine and copper, which totally doesn't show in this photo at all, but it looks like a "fall blush" and has great pigmentation, applies smoothly and basically makes me sing for joy.

Tarina Tarantino Jewel Shadow Palette "Lovely" - The brand is clearing out from Sephora and everything is marked down 40% in Canada. I've swatched TT shadows multiple times and was impressed with their buttery smooth textures and fault-proof pigmentation. I tend to wear a lot more eye makeup in fall/winter and realized I didn't have a black shadow, so the Lovely quad came home with me at CAD$23 rather than the regularly priced CAD$38. If you can, try to get your hands on one of these quads or the Dollskin Cheek Palette (which I have and love to death) while supplies last -- such a great bargain!

The #Fails

Tweezerman Studio Collection Steel Slant Tweezer - I've declared multiple times that I would never spend more than $20 on a tweezer. But the one I had for a thousand years went missing, my brows were monstrous because I hadn't touched them for like THREE MONTHS -- so I went to Sephora and madness took over like usual, and I decided to test the famous Tweezerman. And while it's pretty good, but it's still just a tweezer. Fortunately I found my old one again and happily returned the Tweezerman and got back my CAD$26.

Voluspa Burmese Rosewood Candle (CAD$22 CAD$18) - I needed new candles for the fall/winter season and wanted to avoid Bath & Body Works and their one bazillion cliched offerings. I love browsing the Lifestyle section at Indigo and of course Voluspa candles on sale meant I was going to indulge. And folks, this is why I don't shop online very much. I need to physically touch, taste or smell the product. Based on the description on the Indigo website, I was compelled to buy it... but sadly, I don't love it enough to perfume my room with it for two seasons. SAD FACE.

Soap and Paper Factory Patch NYC Fedora Candle (CAD$40 CAD$17.50) - Again from Indigo but no longer available on their website. Look, it's so cute! Unfortunately the combination of citrus, nutmeg, vetiver and patchouli didn't agree with me. I took a few sniffs and knew it had to go to someone who would appreciate it properly. It's now sitting in the home of a real New Yorker. And I'm kind of drooling over the Owl candle offered by the company on their adorable website. OWLS!

Nail Polish

Deborah Lippmann Naked - Reviewed here. Love!

a-England Lancelot - Reviewed here. Love!

OPI Skyfall Collection - From left to right: Tomorrow Never Dies, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, The World Is Not Enough, and Live and Let Die. I went to my favourite Trade Secrets at Yonge/Bloor and they were just unpacking the shipments and stocking the shelves. Because they weren't very organized at the time, I was able to scoop up two bottles for $12.99 and ended up getting four instead of two like planned. (OPI in Canada at regular price is $10-12 per bottle, so it was basically a BOGO situation.) The reds and golds didn't interest me at all, but these four shades are completely unique to my personal nail polish collection and I have no regrets. Check out swatches of the complete collection at Ommorphia Beauty Bar here and here.


theBalm Nude 'tude (CAD$35) - I've been holding back from purchasing eye shadows and really felt a lack of cohesion and basic neutrals in my stash. Lately my eyes have been roaming from one beautiful (and expensive) palette after another, so I took the opportunity to satisfy a craving that I know wasn't going to go away and to be economical at the same time. Enter theBalm and their great affordable version of the Urban Decay Naked Palette. This was my latest purchase and I had a momentary sense of guilt over spending a bit more than I had intended to for the month. But honestly, this palette has been so handy and is such great quality that I haven't given the guilt any more room in my life.

Free Samples

Lancome Hypnose Star Mascara "Noir Midnight" - NEW HOLY GRAIL MASCARA. Except that it's CAD$33 which is out of my range for a product like mascara. I'll have to keep my eyes peeled for samples. Although it's not waterproof, it doesn't smear or smudge from 9am-9pm and instantly provides intense black sooty coverage, volume and length. Oh, man. I want to go out and buy it already.

First Aid Beauty Face Cleanser - The brand finally made it to Canadian Sephoras and I'm excited to try out their products for the upcoming winter season.

Stila & Clarins Foundation Samples - I don't have a single liquid foundation that matches my skin right now. ON THE HUNT.

Primer Samples: Hourglass Veil Mineral (I ran out of my full size bottle), Hourglass No. 28 Primer Serum (been meaning to test this forever!) and Laura Mercier Original Foundation Primer. I basically got these to help out at a low maintenance wedding last week and decided I'd use up the rest since the bridesmaids never wear makeup regularly.

True Religion Love Hope Denim EDP - From the True Religion (yes, the denim company) website: "That certain air about her, something you can't quite put your finger on but is incredibly irresistible. The essence of that aura gets bottled and is available to you in the Love Hope Denim women's fragrance. A wild concoction of fruity and floral notes are delicately sweetened with caramel and Madagascar vanilla for an alluring scent." The initial whiff just gave me a lot of alcohol, but the drydown is not bad, though the scent remains fairly generic. There's something nice and toasty anchoring the florals which I like.

Lise Watier Neiges EDT - From the Lise Watier website: "What makes an award-winning fragrance? Well, it should be fresh. Breezy. And deliciously alluring. Its light, sunny, exhilarating overtones should blend perfectly with its dark, sensuous, musky undertones. Oh yes, and it should definitely send out shivers of pure delight! Our award-winning Eau de Toilette Neiges perfectly captures the exquisite magic and purity of winter with a unique bouquet of white hyacinth, lily of the valley, Christmas rose, night-blooming jasmine, magnolia and orange blossom. Go ahead. Discover Neige Eau de Toilette Spray and put all the candles and the icing back on enticing!" That's a lot of words for a bland and passable white perfume. There's absolutely nothing dark or sensuous about Neiges. Like a lot of badly made EDTs are prone to do, it's also a flyaway scent that disappears in 10 minutes.

Loose Button Luxe Advent Calendar (PR Sample) - I was surprised to receive this since I was pretty clear that I wasn't going to be reviewing any more beauty boxes for a while, but it certainly makes for a welcome change from the usual monthly/quarterly boxes that are out there. Apparently this is sold out now despite going for a whopping CAD$99, but it's on par with the other sample boxes such as the ones Sephora provides. I'd still never pay that much for samples, but these are a combination of regular to generous sized high-end brands owned by L'Oreal including Shu Uemura, Armani, Lancome and YSL. Makes a fantastic and impressive looking gift. My mom grabbed the YSL eyeliner right away when I showed her this, and it's a really lovely intense black for those who like the blackest of black pencil liners. For detailed photos and list of what's in the box, check out the lovely Rae's review on theNotice. For more information on Loose Button and Luxe Box, see

So, I've spent about $150 this month (gifts don't count) which is too much. 'Tis a dangerous season for makeup lovers. I'll definitely be working to shave it down again in future months, but it's nice to have full-time pay again and I couldn't help myself after a long period of painful scrimping. I don't regret having had a blog sale back in late spring, but I find myself missing some of the items that I parted with. There's a post brewing in my head about the nature of collecting, as a sort of part two of this post I wrote a long time ago.

Next month on Beauty Reductionista: November is going to be SAMPLE MONTH. It's time to plow through all the tiny bits and things that have been tucked away and either toss or give away or sell. I'm looking forward to starting January 2013 with a clean slate.

What did you pick up in October?