Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Loving Lately - May 2015

May has been an absolute blur, very much a blink-and-miss-it month. I turned 28 this month and spent the long weekend celebrating, first with friends and then with family. I also took a quick jaunt to Vancouver, which is so lush and beautiful, it's sometimes hard to believe it's a part of Canada (I consider the vast majority of this country to be dull tundra). It's been a busy few weeks, but I feel like school has calmed down and I'm at peace. Maybe I've just watched the ending of Mad Men too many times. In any case, on to the standout products of May:

A particularly unsexy way to start this post, but I've been a bit caught up in my nails this month for all the wrong reasons. I can't even begin to harp on about the sahara state of my cuticles. I saw this on and marched over to the store to buy it. While this is $48 CAD, I must point out that Deborah Lippman's award-winning The Cure cuticle cream is $29 CAD in itself and a full size of that SKU is in this set, so it kind of sweetens the value a bit. I'm very into the cuticle pusher tool included and the Cuticle Remover works well (I suppose they all do, but believe it or not, I didn't actually *own* cuticle remover before this set!). The Cuticle Oil is a coconut dream, which is awesome because I find apricot oil-based cuticle treatments cloying. The Cure cuticle cream is honestly worth the hype. Its claim to fame is that it contains patented raspberry stem cells. Not sure if that's what I'm hooked on, or if it's all the other good stuff in here (red algae, shea butter, hyaluronate, vitamins A/C/E), or perhaps it's the floral smell... either way, it works fast, absorbs quickly and makes cuticles look picture perfect. Get into it.

I received this bottle of cleanser almost a year ago and it has taken me *this* long to finish it, and I've been using it 1-2 times a day for that entire duration. While I do double-cleanse at night (sometimes starting with a micellar water [like Bioderma Sensibio or Bioderma Hydrabio] or cleansing oil [like L'Oreal Sublime Radiance]), this gel cleanser is always, always my second cleanser for making sure every bit of makeup is off. It's soap-free and pH-matched to skin, which leaves the face comfortable with no tightness or panicked urge to reach for a moisturizer. I repurchased a bottle of this stuff the other day. Testament!

I remember first trying the "universal" colour of this brow pencil a few years ago. While I liked the formula, I couldn't help but feel that dubbing a colour "universal" isn't really accurate for things like brows when it comes to just about anyone. I am really happy that Dior has come out with a darker brown shade to suit anyone with darker hair/features, as the formula is hard enough to not melt off in heat and the precision point is the very best for fine-tuning brows. The skinny spoolie is also key, as it doesn't spread the colour around, just tidily works it through hairs. 

I spent the majority of the month addressing a case of eczema around my eyes (....not a good look), so eye makeup was a no-go unless absolutely necessary (sunglasses came in handy most days). Once it cleared up, I wasn't really in the spirit to try to do anything too fussy or elaborate in the way of eyeliner or shadows, mostly because I just didn't want to deal with a labour-intensive removal process that may cause my skin to flare up. While they aren't pictured, the little applicators that come with this single eyeshadow are actually pretty useful. The sponge/foam one is actually covered in a flocked velvety fabric, which creates a much softer line when pressing this plummy dark brown into the lash line for a bit of relaxed definition. It's an understated shade for daytime, which I feel will be instrumental for quick summer makeup, as it takes maybe 30 seconds to apply this shadow to both eyes. Speedy, simple, effective, which I didn't think I'd subscribe to as a makeup lover, but here I am. 

Honourable Mention: Le Labo Rose 31 toiletries

Let's just say I stockpiled these little bottles of joy while staying at the Fairmont in Vancouver and that the security officer confiscated a few from me because he felt my Ziploc was overflowing. In all seriousness, it's intriguing to see such a niche brand distributed in such a mass-yet-refined way. I can only imagine what people think when they see "rose" on the label and then actually smell it, because it's such a smoky, unisex approach to the most classic floral, with notes of cumin, amber and cedar to make it so modern. 6 by Gee Beauty is the exclusive retailer of Le Labo in Canada, if you're ever interested in exploring this perfume, hair and body care range without hopping the border or visiting a Fairmont hotel. 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Loving Lately - April 2015

The semester finally ended for me on April 17th and it has yet to really hit me that I'm very close to the end of my program; the vast majority of my peers are done for good. I'm super happy for everyone who is done, as it's been a longer road (up to 2 years!) for many of them. Alas, I still have a couple courses to do starting today, wrapping up my degree in July. I've been off the last couple weeks, so my makeup routine has been fairly relaxed/understated. Here are some products that have captivated my attention in the last four weeks.

I initially received this and frowned a bit, thinking it was too light to use on my lips (it is), but then remembered this formula is for lips and cheeks. I swiped Whisper on the apples of my cheeks, diffusing the colour with dabbing motions of a synthetic Sephora Collection brush. I then added a light stroke of Mystic to the hollow of my cheek and blended up gently. These colours are so flattering and crazy easy/fast to apply. Highly recommend this duo for the value if you're at all intrigued by the colours, as this dual-ended pencil is the same price as a single Nudestix pencil ($28 CAD)!

This was a limited edition repromote that I missed out on last time it was out in 2014. It was on my radar for the last month and I finally committed to the buy when the Sephora VIB sale was on. Instead of buying online, I strolled to my nearest Sephora (the Eaton Centre - a bold-faced move that I hoped would be fruitful, because that location is awesome but generally a zoo whenever these sales are on) and commandeered the Laura Mercier wall. I methodically opened each box of this blush bronzer to check out the product's veining. It's worth noting that like most marbled, baked mineral powders, the veining varies from one pan to the next. It's impossible to know what you'll end up with when you order a product like this on line. I managed to find one with a great mix of bronze and pink and have worn it daily since. I apply with a Tweezerman blush brush, applying the bronze shade to the hollows of my cheeks and temples and then dab on the pink shade to the apples of my cheeks. It's a summery look to compensate for the winter that will not die (minus that 20 degree Saturday we had enjoyed last weekend). This product is quite pigmented, so definitely beware if you're super fair - stick to a stippling brush for application if that's the case.

No secret, I'm a lip balm junkie. Aren't we all? I routinely empty my backpack during class to find around 10 lip products on any given day. I'd say it's more so a neverending quest to try'em all instead of find a holy grail product that I can't live without. During the aforementioned Sephora VIB sale, I was looking at the different brands and came across a recent brand addition to the website, Kari Gran. I admittedly have never heard of the brand before (weird, given that I'm downright obsessed with beauty, newness and learning about new brands constantly), so I read the product descriptions of all 3 products currently available from the brand on What caught my eye was the largely organic nature of the ingredients (including organic castor seed oil, sunflower oil, camellia oil, olive oil, calendula oil, vitamin E and peppermint oil), as well as the "whipped" nature of the product. I bought the Tinted version (which really is hardly a thing on pigmented lips, but so what/who cares) and love the texture and cushiony nature of this balm. It isn't at all difficult to pick up on fingertips or spread across lips. That isn't exactly a dig at your usual lip balm in a stick, pot or tin, it's just that much more of a pleasurable experience to apply this stuff. The peppermint version I got isn't too noticeable, so I certainly wouldn't consider it a plus or a minus when it comes to product merit. Oh and it lasts a really long time on lips without being at all sticky. I really do think the term "cushiony" sums up the texture best. It's comfortable, hydrating (thanks to all those wonderful oils) and sure to please if you like a slightly thicker balm without any stick factor. I'd say it's similar to Rodial Glam Balm, but a bit thinner in consistency and less goopy. I know, I know - highly scientific terminology coming into play here.

If the term "peel" make you recoil with fear, chill. Fun fact: to peel is to exfoliate, so if you've ever used an exfoliator before (physical or chemical), you have nothing to really fear here. This two-step chemical exfoliant peel is specifically geared towards aging skin (as the product name denotes), as well as sensitive skin. The first step involves swiping a dropper full of alpha/beta hydroxy acid solution on an included cotton pad across your skin, avoiding the eye area. Wait a few minutes and follow up with a dose of the Youth-extending Night Gel. The idea here is to exfoliate and remove unwanted dead skin in the first step and then replenish skin with hydration and soothing, beneficial ingredients (oat kernel extract, shea butter, ginger extract, bisabolol) in the second step. When learning about this product, the term "exfoliating boot camp" was thrown around and I actually became enamoured with the concept: using a chemical peel for several days (at least 3) in a row to kick-start the skin renewal process. This is probably the one and only time I'll ever commit to a boot camp of any kind in my life, but the results were vibrant, clear and even skin. I've been using this peel a few times a week since and loving it. Sidebar: The night gel smells delightfully similar to Marc Jacobs Cucumber Splash, my scent of choice circa 2007.

As usual, the product name is a mouthful, but it's a great bronzer so who cares! This is a last-minute addition to this post, but I've really been enjoying the ease of this product in terms of application. The texture is a balm-to-powder, but I can't say this gets overly powdery as it sets into the skin. It's just a healthy, semi-matte finish. I have shade 6 aka "Sienne" and it isn't scary to use at all on my NC40-42 skin. This specific colour reminds me of Tom Ford's contouring colour in the Shade & Illuminate palette in #2, which I would do comparison swatches of if I could find the damned thing in my apartment. Life! This stuff does contain silicone, but it doesn't irk my skin the way most "blur" products or silicone-based primers do. Certainly check it out of if you're terrified of bronzer and want something extremely blendable and natural-looking. 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Loving Lately - March 2015

March has been a busy month leading into the homestretch of the semester, which I'm now fully in the midst of. Products I've relied on have been highly functional, straight-forward and unfussy. Let's hop to it.

I rotate through different concealers all the time, but this one has held a spot in my makeup routine quite firmly all month. I'm a fan of UD Naked Skin Foundation, so I'm not surprised I like this concealer (also a fan of the UD Naked Skin Ultra Definition Powder Foundation), as it brings the same natural-looking coverage to the table. I've actually been applying a swipe of this on each section of my skin after a heavy dose of moisturizer and then buffing in with a duo-fibre brush (Real Techniques Stippling Brush) and it's just enough coverage for an everyday look. I have both "Medium-Dark Neutral" and "Medium-Dark Warm" and must note that the neutral shade is noticeably darker than the warm shade. Also, the neutral shade is too pink for my liking, so I don't use it without mixing it with another concealer (usually with a shade or two of NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer that I have that happen to be too yellow in undertone). If you're a person who sticks to spot-concealing with a little bit of powder to set, this is a sound option to explore. The shade range isn't massive, so if you have tricky skin to match, definitely try before committing to the buy. 

Chanel Stylo Eyeshadow in "Caroube" (on counters May 4th) 

Summer beauty collections are trickling in and Chanel's features a bunch of new shades of the Stylo Eyeshadow formula that I believe first launched with the Papillon d'Ete summer collection two years ago. The shades then were more about blues, greens and one killer black shade. This summer collection features five new shades, and Caroube, described as a luminous warm brown, has been my go-to shadow for a few weeks now. The formula is less shimmery than any Illusion d'Ombre shadow I've encountered, and the formula is delightfully cool on the lids when applied. These set fairly quickly, so work fast to blend the shadow in! My way to avoid shadow setting before I've buffed it out with a fluffy synthetic shadow brush is to apply it in smaller sections instead of attacking the whole lid at once. The look is still cohesive, soft and so pretty. 

I was so committed to Armani Brow Maestro (and still really appreciate the formula as a whole!!), but it felt really time-consuming and one day, I just strayed. I actually rediscovered Tom Ford Brow Sculptor in "Taupe" in my stash and immediately started using it again. The colour is delightfully cool-toned and great to run through the front of brows for soft definition. It's not great for precision (even with its handy dandy built-in sharpener), so I use it in conjunction with Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Brow Pen in "Dark". This pen gives me ultimate control with the ability to draw in "hairs" wherever I need'em. I set everything with Maybelline Brow Drama, which is the best darn drugstore brow gel, period. 

After I returned from Dominican, my skin freaked out pretty aggressively, resulting in a cystic breakout on my forehead that I began to refer to as "The Volcano". It never surfaced per se, but it was painful and basically left my forehead deformed. Everything I would normally use (La Roche-Posay's Redermic [R] and Effaclar Duo+) wasn't doing anything for me, so I started freaking out. Then Amanda, the IDI's star skin whisperer, introduced me to this product. Instead of benzoyl peroxide (towel bleacher!) and salicylic acid, this formula contains antibacterial colloidal silver and lactic acid to address skin woes. It works really well and cools off breakouts thanks to a menthol-type ingredient. Glad to have a trusty spot treatment on hand! 

Burberry has been changing Canadian distribution plenty since pulling out of Holts (I heard Tom Ford Beauty snapped up the Burberry counter spaces with the exception of the Vancouver location). The beauty range can be found in Burberry boutiques across Canada aka basically nowhere except Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. I grilled the store associates about increased counter presence in department stores and they said that the range will be carried at Nordstrom (currently only in Calgary's Chinook Centre) as the department store continues to gradually roll out in Canada. Glad to hear this! Also discovered that the brand's full beauty range hit last week. I learned about these lipsticks from the Clarins PR team, but decided to seek them out IRL to try the formula. This shade is one of four signature shades in the new lipstick range, but there are lots of options available. I am apparently never in possession of enough nude-rose-pink lipsticks, so I bought this lipstick. For the price point ($36 CAD), I am super pleased with the formula and can envision myself wearing this embossed bullet down to its base. Your mileage may very, but I find the lipstick formula is super comfortable, lasts a long time without reapplying and the colour is sublime for everyday wear. I appreciate the magnetic packaging, the reflective case (I use the lid as mirror if I ever do reapply) and the hydrating formula (features tea, lavender, rosehip). 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Sunny Destination Travel Essentials

I was fortunate to escape the cold for 7 days this month to scurry off to SamanĂ¡ in Dominican Republic with my boyfriend. Pretty sure the cold snap ended as soon as we left, but the tropical weather in SamanĂ¡ was a welcomed reprieve after the unfathomably cold winter we just endured in Toronto.

As I mentioned in my last post, I planned on packing mostly sunscreens; I wound up only wearing makeup two nights of the entire trip. Here are the products I donned daily to protect against the sun during the day and rehydrate at night.

I like sunscreen oils, which were barely a category up until a couple years ago. Traditionally, oil + sun = human roast, but that's not the case anymore. Last summer, I wrote about L'Oreal's Sublime Sun SPF Oil and how much I adored it, and I think I actually might like this Supergoop! version more. It's a bittersweet discovery though, because I don't even know if it's possible to get it in Canada without paying an arm/leg + duties. Fun fact: I did some digging and can confirm that Supergoop! is reformulating and repackaging to meet the stringent rules we have in Canada regarding sun protection, but will be relaunching in due time this year. On with the review: I find the Supergoop! version dries down much faster than the L'Oreal oil and it just feels like moisturizer, no sunscreen residue or even oily residue at all, since the formula absorbs quickly. The formula is full of antioxidants to fight off free radical damage that sun exposure causes, and meadowfoam hydrates skin beautifully. The 1 oz size was included in last spring's Sephora Sun Safety kit, so it was perfect to take along and try out last week. I'll definitely be stocking up on my next trip to the states. Semi-related sidebar rave-rant: I love Supergoop!'s SPF wipes and curse the day they were discontinued.

Shiseido Wetforce Ultimate Sun Protection Lotion Broad Spectrum SPF 50+ For Face/Body

This sunscreen's technology is remarkable in that it actually improves its ability to protect skin against sun damage when wet aka it works the exact opposite of every traditional sunscreen lotion or spray that's ever graced the marketplace. Negatively charged ions in the formula bond with positively charged ions in the water (such as calcium and magnesium deposits) to then spread the SPF over the skin’s surface, improving its efficacy. I was pretty big on being in the shade, but did hit the water and was sure to liberally apply this sunscreen before doing so. Note: just because efficacy improves with water exposure doesn't mean you should skip out on reapplying!

Having unevenly pigmented lips means sun exposure makes the uneven pigment even more exaggerated. No thanks. Swiped this on repeated throughout the day to avoid shade deepening (SPF 30!) and keep lips moisturized (vitamin E, sunflower extract). Fancier alternative: Fresh Sugar lip balms (which have an SPF of 15), but frankly, they melt like a snow cone in Phoenix when in high temperatures.

Honestly? I picked up a 0.5 oz bottle of this from Sephora, thinking I would use it in my hair while away. I tried it and absolutely hated the results. Luckily, this stuff can also be used on skin so I switched to using it after scrubbing away all the sunscreen and it was awesome. The floral smell is really strong so smell before committing to the purchase, but it didn't overwhelm my senses and the blend of argan, grape and sesame oils was just what my skin wanted. Great size for travel and a little goes a long way.

Airplane Essentials:

I used to fly to Halifax from Toronto or Hamilton throughout undergrad and then between Toronto and New York all the time during post-grad, but my skin was never really bothered. Now I can't seem to get through an hour of flying without digging into my Ziploc of products to apply one thing or another. I flew with zero makeup this time around and while it was a bit disorienting to catch my own reflection on a shiny surface and not entirely recognize my own bare face out and about in broad daylight, it was definitely more conducive to applying and reapplying the following products every hour on the hour to SamanĂ¡ and back.

I've harped on about this product too many times to count on this blog and that's because it is WONDERFUL. My skin has a tendency to flake in the winter and that had reached a breaking point by the time we boarded our flight. When in makeup, I can't really make a point of slathering on a layer of this magical cream every time I would like to, so I took advantage of my makeup-free face and put this stuff on throughout the flight to keep any and all flakes at bay.

This product is an editor favourite and I didn't get the hype at first, and frankly, I'm not even sure that I've seen a major difference in my skin, but man, I felt the difference when it was abnormally warm in the plane cabin and spritzed this refreshing fluid onto my face. It was invigorating and reenergizing in a wonderful way. The formula is full of white tea and licorice extract to fight against signs of aging while pea extract gives skin a flash-firming effect. It was a skin treat, straight-up.

No, one lip balm is never enough. Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin Lipair is cooling and minty, with a lot of oils in the formula (babassu seed oil, avocado oil, jojoba seed oil, coconut oil, and pomegranate seed oil) as well as shea butter, but it still is no match for airplane dryness! I topped off the aforementioned balm with Rodial's thick, semi-goopy (but not necessarily sticky) Glam Balm, which is full of hyaluronic acid, rose wax and vitamin E to really seal moisture in.