Sunday, June 26, 2016

Loving Lately - June 2016

As per usual, no idea where the month has gone, which tends to be the case when summer is fully underway. I spent a chunk of time in the suburbs this past month, so minimalism was the general approach when living out of a weekender bag. I had the joy of taking in a couple Jays games and spent lots of time with family, so all in all, June was a rather dreamy start to the season.

Here are some bits I've been really keen on the last few weeks!:

This fragrance was the first beauty product I purchased when I moved to New York in 2010 and it remains in my collection as a go-to scent for peak summer days when it's really heating up. I say this because it's a classic eau de cologne formulation, zesty as can be thanks to bright notes of neroli, bergamot and mandarin, making it right up any citrus fan's alley. Chanel dubbed this scent a celebration of summer, and I have to agree! It's a serious reprieve from all the stenches of hot weather that waft around in the city, so I appreciate the nose break. The staying power leaves something to be desired (unsurprisingly, as it is a citrus scent!), but I find it lingers longer when sprayed on freshly moisturized limbs (confession: I tend to spritz heavily when wearing light scents like this). I also have enjoyed layering it with a year-round fave, Byredo Mojave Ghost, if I'm in the mood for a citrus-floral combo.

Ok so I wasn't exactly dying over the formula of the original scentless version of this heralded all-purpose salve, but I did get the trio of new flavours when they launched out of curiosity (I fully admit this is what fuels most, if not all, purchases I make, particularly from Glossier). Spoiler alert: they're all pretty good, but the rose one takes the cake. The official description of this product describes the scent as a "sweet rose"; there's a vague sugary note, but it never crosses the line into cloying territory. It somehow remains almost fresh and uplifting instead. This balm has a soft pink tint to it that is essentially undetectable once applied (at least on my lips), but it's still a pretty welcomed addition to my trillion-strong lip balm arsenal. Honourable mention goes to Mint Balmdotcom, which is delightfully refreshing upon application, giving lips a light, tingly sensation for a brief period. Coconut has become a cuticle care staple lately and Cherry remains a cough syrup memory that I don't reach for nearly as often as the rest. Key lesson? Buy less and more selectively.

It's been a while now that brands have launched their own interpretations of gel nail colour ranges, spanning the two-step non-curing nail colour and top coat systems to the at-home light-curing systems that launched a few years back. I've personally been quasi-content with the at-home, non-curing nail systems, even if it meant winding up with a wardrobe of top coats to correspond with each brand (Revlon ColorStay Gel Envy Diamond Top Coat, Sally Hansen Miracle Gel Top Coat, Dior's gel top coat, countless bottles of CND Vinylux top coat....). I appreciate the flexibility to change my nail colour without busting out the foils and hardcore acetone. With the market being somewhat saturated in gel-like nail colour with promises of extended wear time, the launch of Essie Gel Couture seemed almost late. That's what I thought until I tried it and realized it was late since it was being perfected to the absolute core. Essie Gel Couture launched with 45 shades and one top coat, designed to work in tandem to give you up to 14 days of wear. Normally, I'd roll my eyes at such a claim from any product that doesn't require light-curing technology. I am thrilled to eat my own words right now! I gave a vermillion red shade dubbed "Beauty Marked" a whirl and a week later, it was still going strong. I was a bit misbehaved the first time I tried this formulation, giving myself virtually no drying time before making dinner (washing and chopping veggies) and cleaning up thereafter (pots, pans and no gloves in sight!), and the red polish still hung on. Tip wear was inevitable (typing furiously will do that), but no significant chips occurred and the polish stayed relatively glossy through the entire wear time. This stuff is too legit to quit! The bottle is a twisted rendition of the usual Essie bottle, and it's actually more ergonomic than ever, nestling nicely between your index and thumb of the hand you're applying polish to. The brush stem itself is twisted so that the polish doesn't drip off in globs onto your nails, but rather it flows down the stem and onto the brush in a controlled manner. Another new design feature: I have never been a fan of the traditional Essie brush, as it's skinny as hell and I don't have crazy narrow nail beds, so it's never been a brush I've been drawn to. The Essie Gel Couture brush is a wider brush that covers more surface area with fewer strokes, making application so stupidly easy. It's kind of a dream nail colour range. I personally wish Essie would do more shimmers and unusual shades than the more safe, neutral shades (I've never been an Essie Ballet Slippers fan, sue me), but that's just my taste. This new formulation performs incredibly well, and I'm super happy to recommend it over any other gel polish out there. You can find this range on separate displays in drugstores nationwide right now. The shade pictured is called "Touch Up" and it's what I'm currently sporting; it's a subdued mauve-lilac shade. Happy to report it's been on 5 days and I have no chips in sight. Get into it!

Straight up, brows are a big deal to me and that's probably because mine take up a fair amount of time/focus in my everyday makeup routine (even more so for special occasions). I saw Charlotte Tilbury bust out this product in a sponsored Pixiwoo vid a couple months back and was instantly into it. The effect that this stuff gave Nic's brows in the video was natural, defined and polished aka my personal brow objectives. I waited patiently for this stuff to launch, and committed to Legendary Brows in Cara when the product finally rolled out online the week of the 6th. Y'all. This is the brow product of my dreams. I have been a two-product brow person for a while, using a product to fill in (pencil, powder, pomade, you name it) and then following with a brow gel to hold everything in place / feather out my hairs. Legendary Brows is my one-step wonder. First off, the spoolie is tinier than anything I've ever seen in the brow game, and I love it. I don't have massive brows, so the micro wand (smaller than all the tiny-wand wonders I wrote about here) is genius for applying the tinted gel (well, mine was tinted, but there's a clear version available!). Tilbury mentioned in the Pixiwoo vid that her team had to work on creating the perfect amount of suction to leave a manageable amount of gel on the wand, and I think they nailed this aspect of the product. The micro wand really does help you pick up on small hairs that normally are overlooked, which helps create a fuller brow shape without drawing in hairs or using multiple products. This will likely remain in my makeup rotation for a long time to come. I've gone through a couple brow gels lately that have applied like a nightmare (looking at you, NYX and MAC Pro Longwear Brow Set), in globs with no ease, so I am thrilled I tried this kick-ass brow product. It's a must-have for anyone; I don't care how low-key you are, everyone can use a little brow boost.

Y'all know I'm a retinol fan, usually pushing products laced with vitamin A derivatives on anyone who will listen. It's well-documented that I've been raving about La Roche-Posay Redermic [R] for a few years now, but I'm always open to newness. Sunday Riley is hardly a new brand on my radar, as I've been dabbling in cosmetics from the brand for at least 4-5 years now. I first came across the brand as an intern at Bergdorfs and the brand has certainly evolved since, shifting its focus towards skincare and away from colour cosmetics (also apparently in the midst of a site redesign, as there's no functioning official site for Sunday Riley at this time). Over the years, I've tried Juno Oil (both formulations, one for face and one for body), Disrobe Body Lotion and Ceramic Slip Cleanser, all to mixed results. I never felt too compelled to dabble in the brand over the last couple years, but I had a sample of this with a recent Sephora order and fell pretty hard for its skin-perfecting properties. This formula contains trans-retinoic acid ester, which is essentially a mild retinoid that improves the texture and turnover speed of skin. It also contains blue tansy oil and German chamomile to soothe and calm skin (a balancing effect to the retinoid). I used about 4 drops a night for my a whole face and the teensy sample lasted me a few weeks to get a proper sense of how this product performs. I noticed my skin's texture was smoother and clearer, more so than with my previous retinol. There's a reason people are raving about this stuff - it's a high-performance product that can seriously turn around your skin. As usual, try a sample before committing to this crazily priced oil, but it's a winner in my books. 


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Loving Lately - May 2016

This month entailed a jaunt to the west coast and an inordinate amount of time spent out and about, in spite of allergies. Sharing a few pics from our trip because staring solely at beauty products is a touch dull, no?:

Have you ever seen such a gorgeous ball park? I've gotten more and more into sports in the past 8 or so months and the Jays being in town just cemented our intention to hit the Jays-Giants game while in San Fran. The game went into extra innings and the Jays ultimately lost, but getting to spend 5ish hours staring at this view was awesome.

A stunning view that my best friend wakes up to every morning. Suffice it to say, it's a pretty prime spot she has found for herself, which I'm super happy for!

I've included a couple products that were very clutch during our San Francisco visit, as well as some products that have been in high rotation in the last couple weeks. Onto the goods:

I've had this set of travel-friendly reusable containers since the fall and finally decided to put them to use. The design of these soft, squeezable silicone containers is really smart; the bottles have very wide mouths, making them easy to load up with products and switch out one product for another - there won't be remnants hiding in the depths of the container. The actual dispenser has a rubber, no-mess spout akin to something you'd find on a condiment for mess-free dispensing of your favourite products. I filled the two smaller bottles with body wash (Dove Sweet Peony & Cream) and body lotion (Kiehl's Creme de Corps). I know travel-sized products exist for purchase, but if I already own oodles of products that I love, I'd rather spare the environment and opt for reusable bottles if I can. Tip: I haven't done it yet, but I've read these wash up like a dream in the dishwasher if you're swapping out products.

It's no secret that I have dry hair that has no chill. It takes a lot of product to get my hair to mellow out and resemble what I consider calm hair aka what most would consider organized chaos. In any case, I was curious about Dove's latest offering to address dry, curly hair. The key ingredient is buriti oil, which works to soften hair, and naturally, there are silicones at play here - but they work marvellously. This serum left my hair very soft and unbelievably manageable, which is a key claim from the brand, one that I'm happy to report Dove delivers on. I seldom find drugstore hair products that do the trick for my hair, so this was a pretty welcomed win. 

I've been waiting (im)patiently for Supergoop! to relaunch at Sephora Canada, which I was told would happen last year. That clearly didn't happen, but we do have very strict regulations regarding sun protection in Canada, so hats off to any brand that can get on the shelves here. In the meantime, put this SPF serum on your shopping list for your next visit stateside. I wore this under makeup daily while cruising around San Francisco and it kept me free of a sunglass tan (a common thing on my nose, which always gets a bit red after time outside) without any heavy sensation on my skin. The formula is very thin and comfortable to wear, and it's boosted with vitamins E and B5. I noticed my skin's texture has visibly improved with wear of this particular SPF, so that never hurts. 

I wasn't wild about this when I first received it, but I admittedly received two shades that were really dark for me at the time. I tucked them away for when I'd be a bit more tan, and that so happened to be after a few days in California. Even with sunscreen, I had a tiny bit of colour that made one of the shades a great match. My low-key skin days entailed blending a couple dots of this tint into my heavily moisturized skin using a Sigma F80 flat-top buffing brush and spot conceal with a bit of Diorskin Star concealer. I do set this with loose powder (Chanel or Laura Mercier), and it doesn't compromise the velvet finish of the tint. I like the polished finish that this formulation gives skin without looking overly perfected. 

I'm evidently softening my stance on silicones. I suppose it boils down to the feel of the formulation on skin or hair. In this case, I was sucked in by the packaging and then fell hard for the product thereafter. This blurring balm smoothes the appearance of skin while helping control shine. I think this is a great alternative to powder for anyone who is opposed to adding additional texture to skin. I apply this in a patting motion with fingertips (the included applicator is kind of a joke - comically tiny and will undoubtedly become dirty in no time) to my forehead and nose after applying foundation. I believe it can also be used as a primer, but I prefer to use it through my T-zone in the midst of my makeup application. Can we all pause to appreciate the pink and gold compact? A lovely addition to one's handbag or vanity, no doubt.

It's hardly a secret that I'm a Charlotte Tilbury fan and have been for a while. Not only do I appreciate the artistry of Charlotte Tilbury herself and how her brand came to be, but I also really admire how well each product performs, from the pencil liners to the eyeshadows to the concealer pens to the blushes to the powders and - most definitely - the mascaras. CT's Full Fat Lashes was a fave of mine before the brand even launched in Canada; I got my overzealous mitts on it through a cheeky online order to my dear brother's in NYC. I loved the volume, separation and lift that it provided, but I definitely deemed it an everyday mascara, nothing overly geared towards statement-making lashes. Legendary Lashes is apparently targeted towards evening, with a result that's all about length and buildable volume, two claims I can certainly agree with. Upon first stroke into my lashes, the traditional bristle wand (oddly described as "innovative" on the official site - nice try, but no, I don't think there's anything "innovative" about this wand) deposits a lot of product into the lashes without becoming a clumpy nightmare. From there, you can build up lashes to be as full-on as you please. The formula is enriched with tamanu oil and waxes to keep lashes soft and flexible, with no irritation or flaking in my experience. I'd rank this up there with Chanel Volume de Chanel as far as head-turning lashes go. They're right around the same price point, so I suppose it boils down to preference of volume vs length; if length before volume is your cup of tea, this is your best bet. 

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Loving Lately - April 2016

April has been a lotta carting myself to and from my folks' and it wound down with a great little weekend venture to Prince Edward County, the cutest, sleepiest interpretation of wine country I could possibly imagine. 

I spent a beautiful sunny day with 6 of my dear friends walking from one winery to the next (not a small feat, we covered about 20,000 steps that day) and taking in the scenery. Below is a pano snap from the patio steps of the Drake Devonshire, where we brunched before taking off for the vines:

Product-wise, there were some key items that I found myself packing repeatedly every time I was taking off for a couple nights at a time (or pouting if I forgot them), so onto the good stuff! 

How did raspberry extract wind up as "framboos"? A mild bastardization of the French term for raspberries, but onto the product itself. I've had this in my possession for a little over a year, but didn't really get into it until this past month. I'm sure I gave it a very fast trial run last year and cast aside before becoming infatuated with acid-laced everything in the last few months. The price tag on this stuff is so not desirable, but the fact is it works. Now, 12% glycolic acid is no joke, so if your skin is at all sensitive, steer clear, but if you mess with acids or retinols on the reg, this will be a great addition to your p.m. routine to prevent pores from clogging and keep skin in check overall (read: hi, smooth texture and brighter tone). Also: as usual, this is your reminder to wear SPF daily when playing with acids like this one. It doesn't have to be a scorcher out there to get sunburned when walking to and from your daily destinations.

Let's square this away right now - have you ever seen brow tools as adorable as these lil cuties in this Chanel brow palette? Teeny, tiny and surprisingly functional! Upon first use, I deemed the powders a little stiff and the pigmentation felt okay; I looked a little closer and recognized that the formula looked akin to the Chanel La Ligne de Chanel Professional Liner Duo, a wet/dry cake liner. I dampened an angled brush and wet a corner of each powder pan and felt like I'd basically unlocked some sort of marvellous secret to good brows. Yes, really. I would liken the wet application of this brow duo to the effect of a brow pen (along the lines of Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Brow Colour, but less green in undertone). I love the effect of this brow powder when dampened because it's so natural-looking, which is something I felt I'd been struggling with as of late. I feel like I'm going to take a century to use this palette up, so that's certainly a plus when I think about how often I burn through brow products.

I'm not a huge fan of most silicone-based blurring products. This probably stems from my 2005 misadventure of Smashbox Photofinish Primer that usually just left me with a horribly heavy sensation on my skin. I've held most primers at a distance since then, usually relying on sunscreen as a mattifying primer of sorts (Chanel UV Essentiel being my go-to). I received a deluxe sample stick of this product with a Sephora order in March and have been testing it out on occasion after getting past my aversion to silicone-heavy products. What I like about this product is that while this is obviously a silicone-fueled formula, it doesn't feel heavy on the skin. It's really lightweight with oil absorption properties that are helpful through the T-zone. It blurs pores without suffocating skin the way some blurring products can, so I definitely like keeping this stick around for slapdash priming or touch-ups. 

I've been using a half-moon Ecotools brush for setting makeup with loose (Laura Mercier Translucent Powder) or pressed (Rimmel Stay Matte) powder for probably 5 years... until this collection of Featherweight brushes launched at Sephora. This powder brush is massive, reminiscent of Marc Jacobs Beauty's Bronzer Brush #12 in shape and size, but with a marginally friendlier price point. It's incredibly soft on the skin and, like all kickass brushes these days, is 100% synthetic. Washing this beast can be a bit of a concerted effort - when is washing making brushes not? - but it lays down powder beautifully and is a dream for setting makeup, bronzing or blending for a seamless look.

There's been a boatload of hype around this foundation since it launched last fall, but I didn't really explore its potential until recently. The formula is known for being pigmented as hell, with only a dot or two being required for medium to (very!) buildable coverage. After sampling a few shades and getting a feel for the formula, I was impressed with the overall performance. I love that I could add a bit more in areas where I needed it while really sheering it out in areas that I didn't. It's best for combo to oily skin - dry skin needs to be primed to high heaven and/or doused with moisturizer if delving into this foundation, as it can cling to dry patches. Finding a good colour match was a bit of a doozie with the variety of undertones available, but overall, the shade range is geared towards light, medium and medium-deep skintones with a handful of shades for deeper skintones. I find it's best buffed into the skin with a flat-top brush (Sigma F80 is where it's at), but plenty of people love applying this with a beautyblender, so that's always an option for sheering out the coverage. Give it a whirl if you're into switching up how much coverage you want on a regular basis, because this stuff is dope for that exact purpose.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Loving Lately - March 2016

It's spring....ish. It's grey and rainy, but not necessarily cold, so there's the silver lining. Spending lots of time with family this past month meant a pretty low-key routine across the board. I did a pretty substantial switch-up of my skincare routine, stepping away slowly from acid peel pads and towards an acid-laced night cream instead. It's been a bit of a revelation! All in all, I'm fond of the following products and reckon you might be, too.

If it's not apparent by now, I've been on a bit of a cleanser kick lately (exhibit A, exhibit B). This cleanser has been one I've wanted to rave about for a while, but it had yet to launch. Personally, nothing torments me more than learning of a new product but not being able to read up on it more online or check it out in-store, so I held off on blabbing about this cleanser. The texture of this stuff is surprising, because it's almost like honey that's crystallized, you know what I mean? That slightly gritty but still melt-y texture that may give skin a mild exfoliation until the crystals dissolve with the heat of your skin and friction of your hands? Yeah. That's what this stuff is - and it smells divine, like milk and honey, which makes total sense since it contains manuka honey and lactose from goat's milk. In my usual skepticism, I wasn't sure if this cleanser would break down my makeup, but it did a killer job of removing every trace of my full face, so it can be subbed in to either of the two-step cleansing method I use. It left my skin extremely soft and smooth, it smells great and was a real star product through January, February and this skin-frustrating weather fluctuations of March, so it's a solid choice for non-stripping cleanser that actually cleanses. I'm working my way through the tube and would highly contemplate adding it to my basket in the future for a top-up.

Couldn't help but get a little sucked into the hype of Jen Atkin's new haircare range, Ouai (like "oui" pronounced with a French accent - "way"). The line hit Sephora's Canadian website this month and while everything looks appealing in its minimalistic-chic way, I decided to grab the Hair Oil to see how it stacks up to my usual standbys (including the aforementioned Shu Uemura Essence Absolue and Kérastase Perfume Oil). The mid-range price point is somewhat deceiving, meaning it's seemingly more affordable initially than my go-to options I just mentioned (which are $69 and $70 per bottle, respectively), but it's also available in a much smaller size bottle (this bottle is 1.7 oz vs. the 5 oz Shu bottle and 4 oz Kérastase bottle), so you end up paying more per ounce for Ouai -- just a little beauty math heads-up. I'm sure that's hardly accidental, but onto the oil itself. The formula's second ingredient is dimethicone, which probably makes that math I just did sting a little bit more, but it also contains sweet almond oil, jojoba oil, shea butter, sunflower seed oil, ama oil, borage oil, African galanga root extract.... the list goes on. Basically, this is a solid mix of oils, butters and 'cones to smooth hair out and make it crazy soft and I'm here to tell you it works. My hair is coarse, dry and huge in general, particularly unruly in appearance after washing, so I find myself into this as a second-day option to run through my ends and soften my hair overall. I'll definitely get use out of this and really love the gardenia scent, which doesn't last in hair too long, but is definitely pleasant in the moment.

I feel a little bit of giddiness when it comes to drugstore mascara, possibly because the promise of a cheap beauty thrill is so real these days. The formulations are better than ever and simply go to show that you don't have to spend a small fortune to have major impact from your products. I loved the original Voluminous formula, felt Voluminous Butterfly mascara was excellent, was definitely less taken by Voluminous Butterfly Intenza and don't even want to talk about the Voluminous Miss Manga or Manga Rock mascaras, because what were those? I've glazed over Voluminous Superstar, because it was a dual-ended two-step situation, so it seems unfair to throw it into this rundown. Anywho, this mascara offers up some sort of promise of tightlining and lash-defining, which sounds grand. I can't comment on the tightlining claims because I usually tightline with Charlotte Tilbury's Classic Eyeliner Powder Pencil in "Audrey" or Rock'n'Kohl in "Barbarella Brown" before applying mascara. I personally enjoy it because it gives major impact with a few swipes of the unusual brush. I find it visually similar to MAC Studio Sculpt Mascara, which was an interesting experience because MAC Studio Sculpt gave lashes separation, but I found the brush barely deposited product on my lashes. This L'Oréal ditty is much more full-on, and I found the effect on my lashes to be reasonably similar to Chanel Le Volume de Chanel, with slightly less volume and more clean definition. For around the $11 price point, I don't think anyone's mad at that - certainly not me.

I've never been a huge Philosophy Hope In A Jar fan. I've definitely dabbled in the brand offerings before (who among us didn't try out Purity Made Simple at some point, probably ages ago, in conjunction with a Clarisonic?); the 2-step Microdelivery Peel lured me in, but never the moisturizers. This was sitting on my bathroom counter for a really long time before I actually started to use it nightly, but I'm glad the guilt of unused skincare started to drive me mad - this night cream has made a difference in my skin. My skin has not been flaky, irritated or uneven in any way since using this in my nighttime routine. I also like that there was no heavy feeling on the skin after application. Glycolic acid and hyaluronic acid do their thing and my skin looks better as a result. 

Aside from the fact that I'm perpetually chasing down anything that contains camellia oil (see: the entire Shu Uemura Moisture Velvet rangeShu Uemura Essence Absolue, Tatcha Camellia Cleansing Oil), this range as a whole from The Body Shop was well-executed. I love the storytelling aspect of each product and how it reflects the internationally sourced ingredients. The scent of this body cream is not mega intrusive, but it does linger on the skin. I personally love that about this cream, but I'm sure that won't be everyone's cup of tea. That being said, it is anything but cloying - a far cry from The Body Shop's usual fruity or nutty body butter line up. It's worth noting that this is a different texture from the standard body butter fare from the brand, and that this melts into skin with total ease and little to no residue whatsoever, absorbing quickly and leaving soft skin in its wake. Key ingredients at play include camellia oil, shorea seed butter, shea butter and mango seed oil. The price point is fair ($36) for the quantity (a 350 mL tub), so if you're looking to step up your body hydration as we allegedly inch towards warmer weather, give this a shot if you overlooked it when it launched last fall.

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