Sunday, December 21, 2014

TOCCA Margaux

Fragrance for me is an added protection against environment and elements. Ever felt that your personal space has been invaded by the unsavoury perfume of a stranger who managed to drift too close? The right perfume on me acts almost as a talisman against such evils. It moves easily with my body chemistry as temperature and temper fluctuates but without flying away or overwhelming my senses. Even as my nose adjusts to the perfume's continual presence, catching a tendril of scent throughout the day always results in a pleased inward smile. TOCCA Margaux does just that throughout fall and winter.

Top Notes: Blood Orange, Bergamot Blossom, Cassis, Green Gardenia
Middle Notes: Black Jasmine, Ambery Violet, Cashmere Woods
Bottom Notes: Warm Musk, Benzoin, Vanilla, Heliotrope

Straight from the bottle, it's all vanilla, amber and musk swirled in a glorious haze. The first spritz deposits the floral and fruitier essences that makes Margaux friendly and approachable, but the richness of the middle and base notes soon make their presence known. There's some fun and flirt in Margaux but she isn't to be trifled with. The sweet musk will grab you by the collar and not let go until you proclaim allegiance. Flowery-woodsy warmth clings tenaciously to fabric, but I love burying my face greedily into a cashmere scarf scented with Margaux and luxuriating in the excess.

Margaux is what I would call a gateway scent to serious musks and woodsy florals. There's something rather young and impetuous about it, but I like that it's not humourless and completely serious. Margaux pairs well with furry accessories and sparkly nail polish.

CAD$82/USD$68, 50mL/1.7oz eau de parfum spray. Available at Sephora, Tocca Beauty and Anthropologie

(Also available as a 0.15oz spray vial in Tocca Meet The Girls Fragrance Collection (Sephora, Tocca BeautyAnthropologie) and as a 0.5 mini bottle at Anthropologie.) 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Winter Hand Cream Options from CeraVe, NUXE and MoroccanOil

I don't have eczema or any extreme skin conditions, but my hands do get drier in winter like most people's do. That's why I'm a firm believer in dry hand prevention, something that I've been trying to teach my sisters for years without success. They claim it's too much trouble to constantly reapply something that's just washed away again on hourly basis. I say just keep slathering and don't you dare stop. Hand creams don't just protect against harsh winds and cold rain/snow -- they protect against all that frequent hand-washing we do indoors. So long as I apply any one of these three hand creams immediately after washing, I'm good. If I skip moisturizing after two washes, unsightly dryness becomes visible along cuticles and nail beds. Then the picking and peeling begins and soon spirals into something that isn't easily fixed with just regular hand creams. Life has enough struggles as it is; I don't need to live with scaly hands, too.

* = press sample

Nuxe Reve de Miel Hand and Nail Cream, CAD$6.99 for 30mL - It's the hand cream version of the internationally famous potted lip balm which I still haven't tried. (The stick balm was just okay.) Because it's so ridiculously tiny, I was reluctant to shell out for it, but the other hand creams featured in this post ended up being too big to tote around in small purses. Well, I basically made up an excuse to try it. And I like it a lot, and I wish it were a permanent item (not sure if it's seasonal). The honeyed orange blossom scent is lovely and the texture, while light, manages to moisturize without feeling thin and insubstantial. Read more about it on Nuxe, and excuse me while I order the bigger size ($17 for 75mL) from Hudson's Bay. You can find the small tubes scattered throughout Canadian drugstores.

*CeraVe Therapeutic Hand Cream (For Normal to Dry Skin), CAD$13.99 - I really liked their no-nonsense face/body products and equally appreciate this non-irritating, water-resistant, non-sensitizing, alcohol and fragrance-free hand cream. I expected the cream to be thick and heavy but it's actually more like a lotion and doesn't take long to sink into the skin. For those who find something like Glysomed too heavy or greasy, this is a nice alternative. It looks like isn't updated with a page on the hand cream yet but they do have printable coupon that can be used in Canadian stores for any of their products. I'm pondering a return to their Hydrating Cleanser for winter.

MoroccanOil Precious Care Hand Cream, CAD$30 for 125mL - I'm a long-time fan of the original hair oil and was thrilled when MO released a line of body care products. Then wept because $$$. A local hair salon put this on sale, so I managed to snag it for around $20, and then I wept again because it smells nothing like the hair oil as was promised. A quick look at the MO website tells me that the hand cream actually comes in two fragrances: Fragrance Originale and Fleur d'Oranger. Based on the fresh, surprisingly unisex green and citrusy smell, it looks like I picked up an older unlabelled tube of Fleur d'Oranger. While I remain disappointed with the scent, I have no complaint with the silky smooth quality of the cream. I'd repurchase in a heart beat and pick the correct scent next time.

All three hand creams lean closer to light and silky in texture which is nice for daytime when you don't have a thousand spare minutes to devote to hand care. Personally, I'm not adverse to thicker creams like good old Nivea and L'Occitane Shea, but I know not everyone is a fan of the greasier buttery options. I've already gifted the CeraVe Hand Cream to my sensitive-nosed mom and will continue to impress upon my sisters the importance of dry hand prevention.

Just keep slathering!

Monday, December 15, 2014

MAC Viva Glam Rihanna 2 Lipstick: Strangely Beautiful

I haven't had a lipstick this strange since MAC Spanish Fly all those years ago. (Yep, I wore that at some point just before THE BROWN took over my life for the next decade.) Makes sense that the next strange beauty would be from MAC also.

I didn't mean to fall for MAC Viva Glam Rihanna 2 Lipstick, but once I saw it in the store, I was a goner. Between the slick matte red tube and the bizarrely taupey-frosty lipstick within, I thought that it was just stunning. Despite knowing that I wouldn't be able to get a huge mileage out of such an unusual lipstick shade, I was about to cave to it when luckily Denise and I met up and she gifted me with a fresh tube during our semi-annual hoard swap.

It's one of those shifty shades that appear bronzed and brown under warm indoor lighting and cool and silvery-taupey under others.

One might look at this and wonder, 'Why? Why would you want that on your lips?'

To that I say, "Because you just fucking do."

Elsewhere on the internet, it's also described as a cool mauve. It appears quite brown on Christine of Temptalia but is much ashier and cool-toned on me. Because of its frost finish, the texture isn't the smoothest, but the colour builds to full opacity and I find a special allure in its uniqueness. (Also: throw on a pair of ESQIDO lashes and suddenly everything and anything works.)

It takes a bit of artistry to try to "make it work" and I'm resisting the strong impulse to state it's going to be beautiful on darker skin tones but be careful if you're pale, blahbittyblah. If you like it, find a way to work it into your life. That's what we do with unruly pets and unexpected friends, right?

It was sold out earlier online at MAC but now appears to be back in stock. In MAC stores, I spotted the display near the cash registers alongside the red Viva Glam Rihanna shade. For those in US, it's still available at Nordstrom. And FYI, every cent of the CAD$19/USD$16 Viva Glam Lipstick selling price goes toward helping women, men and children living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. Pro discounts and Back 2 MAC do not apply to Viva Glam Lipsticks and I applaud MAC for never compromising on their commitment to this particular cause.

What was the last unusual makeup you were drawn to? Care to share why?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

In-Store Murale Haul and Shopping Experience

Here's my crazy haul from the Toronto Murale located in Shops at Don Mills during the extra bonus points redemption weekend. It has been many years since I've reached the number of Optimum Points needed to redeem the maximum amount, and it's the first time I've shopped it at a Murale. I'll show you the goods first and then talk at the end about the in-store shopping experience.

First up, the glorious Guerlain Meteorite Pearls. At last, the legendary "ballz" are mine. I was aiming for the holiday limited edition version because of the pretty gold tin with the red puff, but of course that was sold out by the time I got to Murale. After swatching half of the Guerlain counter, I decided not to be picky and got a Meteorite tin from the regular lineup: shade 03 Teint Dore in the reformulated/repackaged version. I'm happy with it so far -- no broken ballz or weird sparkles on the face.

After a cursory glance at the limited number of NARS products in the store, I spent the majority of my time at the Bobbi Brown counter for some reason and ended up with a backup of my new favourite Lip Balm and a Creamy Matte Lip Color in Razzberry (after it was discovered that Crushed Plum as one magazine depicted it was completely different from what it is in actuality). The formula is ~dreamy~ and I would have picked up more shades had they been interesting enough, but I have A LOT of lipsticks right now and couldn't fathom picking up another at that point. But I totally recommend it if you have the space in your stash. They are silky smooth and not at all drying.

I spent a long time debating over whether to indulge in BB's skin care or not and went with base makeup instead because I'm dying to tackle some pre-existing skin care hoard first. So the Bobbi Brown Skin Foundation Stick and Skin Weightless Powder Foundation (both in #4 Natural) came home with me. Both are really good matches for my current skin tone, and while neither are oil-controlling, they have beautiful texture with skin-like finish. More to come as I keep playing with them.

Then, because I spent more than $100 on Bobbi Brown (even though I was spending points and not actual money), I was eligible for their in-store gift with purchase which consisted of a sample size Smokey Eye Mascara in Black, sample size Extra Repair Moisture Cream and a full size Pot Rouge for Lips and Cheeks in #20 Raspberry. It's a pretty sweet GWP but there's a minor issue with the Pot Rouge which was supposed to be the best part: although the pot remains pristine and untouched, there's a sticker on the back that says "Tester." Yeeeah, not acceptable, is it? I haven't decided if I want to call the store and complain. I have a dozen phone calls to make on my list of things to do and they're all much more important than makeup. Yet I don't think it's right for customers who actually pay to be going home with testers as their gifts. (Fine, I'll call them.)

Moving on...  Obviously because I don't need any more makeup ever again -- but I still totally do -- I did some hovering over Caudalie because they had a couple of things that Sephora doesn't carry for whatever reason, like the Thé des Vignes Shower Gel. The perfume version of Thé des Vignes is my go-to fragrance, so I'm excited for it in any incarnation. And then I flapped about the Chanel counter, pondering all sorts of foolishness until the sight of the Le Blanc Oil-Gel Makeup Remover intrigued me enough that I recalculated the contents of my basket to make room for it. (Currently using a giant bottle of Shu Uemura cleansing oil that's starting to feel tiresome.)

Aaaaaand that's CAD$300 worth of products, just like that. Horrifying, isn't it?

As for the shopping experience, it wasn't bad but not as great as I expected. As iterated in my last post, there's only one Murale in Toronto, and it happens to be on the east side of the city where I rarely explore. To me, the appeal in making the hour-long trip is that it offers Optimum Points rewards for shopping Chanel, YSL, Bobbi Brown, NARS, Guerlain, Caudalie, Shiseido, Smashbox, Eve Lom, etc, etc. They happen to be missing Dior which I think is odd -- I mean, they might as well make room for it if they want Murale to be THE beauty shopping destination and maybe add Armani too while they're at it. I know that the regular Shoppers Boutiques have become really nice (especially the Eaton Centre location) but they divide the number of prestige brands throughout the locations so you can't find all the brands in one spot. So the fact that Murale is missing some of the key players while stocking tired old Estee Lauder, Clinique, Bioderma and Nuxe which can easily be found everywhere else is annoying.

Also annoying to me personally is their department store style setup, which is to have a brand representative at each counter manning the goods. If a particular rep wasn't on duty, the counter went to hell and no one could find anything. (The lady at Bobbi Brown was an absolute star but everything went to pieces when her shift ended.) If a rep was available, sometimes he was busy pulling customers from other areas of the store and attempting hard sells of only his own brand. For example, I was busy examining Caudalie when that rep decided to lead me halfway across the floor to recommend something I was absolutely going to love -- and it turned out I didn't care for the item at all, and I was super irritated because HELLO, sweating under my winter coat while carrying a full basket around. Then apparently Shiseido lady was tired of being bored, so she attempted to engage me in looking at some shadow trios and I had to tell her half a dozen times that I already owned a lot of those and sorry but good bye?!?

I was also underwhelmed by the truncated NARS selection and the lack of updates to the YSL counter. They did have the holiday items which was good but were missing the new Heart of Light Blushes that had been out everywhere else for a while now. In fact, a lot of YSL stock were missing and I got tired of rummaging the drawers for missing shades and such, so YSL became a total pass although I'm starting to become a big fan of the brand in the most dangerous of ways.

Check-out was smooth, with a helpful cashier who patiently put up with my multiple recalculations of the basket total, and a rotunda of travel-sized items alluringly set up nearby to assist if you were about ten dollars short of the desired total. The store was busy and I didn't feel rushed or snubbed. Overall, Murale is a bizarre mixed bag and could use some sprucing up in general. I'd definitely shop there more frequently if I didn't have to spend an hour trekking across the city to get there, so it's nice that they have an online shop (although, as I've said in my review of said website, that not all the brands are available on it). But for the most part, I'll be sticking with shopping at my local Shoppers Beauty Boutique or the one at the Eaton Centre where I can easily mess around with testers and also fill my basket with regular drugstore products as well in the non-Beauty Boutique sections of the stores.

And now I'm pretty much all shopped out for 2014, at least for beauty products anyway. Any last hauls for you? How do you like the Murale in your city?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

2014 Empties Part 4

It's the last empties post of the year! If I remind you that we have two weeks until Christmas and three weeks until 2015, will you freak out? (Please don't freak out. Sit down and have a cup of tea with me -- I'm having plain old orange pekoe. Or... would you prefer wine? Okay, let's have wine.)

I was just about to go out for a much-needed walk when sprinkles foiled my plan. So I retreated indoors again and decided to wrap up this post at last because tomorrow is recycling day and the bag needs to go.

* = press sample

Ivory 2-in-1 Hair & Body Wash (Refreshing Scent) - I picked this up for summer to speed up the shower routine and it was an excellent call. When it's so hot that you're forced to take twice a day showers, speedy squeaky clean is the way to go. As a body wash, it's great. As a shampoo, it's just okay -- dry hairs will want to stay away or add a deep conditioning step. But I've definitely used worse shampoos than this. Definitely a repurchase for next summer.

Dove Oxygen Moisture Conditioner* and Dove Pure Care Dry Oil Shampoo* - Both previously reviewed. I remain a fan of the Oxygen Moisture line, and I grew to like the Pure Care Dry Oil Shampoo better over time. I'd pick up the OM line for sure.

L'Oreal Sublime Radiance Sensational Cleansing Oil - Reviewed. It's really, really good as far as cleansing oils go, and it's excellent considering cost and budget. I'm using something else right now but will reconsider buying this again if I'm not too busy experimenting with other products.

VICHY Purete Thermale Micellar Solution* and Avene Eau Thermale Micellar Lotion - I like to use biphase waterproof makeup removers to take off eye makeup and oil cleansers or balms for face makeup, so micellar waters have little use in my routine. I like having a bottle around to clean up a makeup application gone awry or to remove arm swatches, and frankly they're all the same to me. These two, Bioderma Sensibio, L'Oreal -- I'll just pick up whichever one gives me the best deal.

VICHY Eau Thermale Spa Water (regular size and mini)*, Avene Eau Thermale Spring Water (mini), La Roche-Posay Eau Thermale Spring Water (mini)* - Honestly, they all feel the same. Cooling and refreshing in the summer, great for re-hydrating a parched face -- but ultimately a little frivolous even for a beauty junkie like me. I like having them around but can't say that I'd actually purchase full size bottles. Maybe a mini here and there in the summer.

Innisfree "It's Real Green Tea" Mask - Love it. Want more. I found a shop in North York that sells some Innisfree but they didn't have this particular sheet mask. Sadly this is the last of the stash my mom brought from Korea.

Philosophy Hope in a Jar Night (Sephora points perk) - I liked it so much that I have the full size jar now. I usually prefer moisturizers to simply moisturize without treating, but this retexturizing cream helps me wake up with a plump, glowing complexion the next morning. Full review to come.

Boscia Cool Blue Hydration Essence (sample) - The bottle is so cute that I wanted the sample to work just so I'd have an excuse to indulge in the full size. But of course it does nothing for my face.

Laura Mercier Smooth Finish Flawless Fluide Foundation (sample) - As everyone knows by now, the new Flawless Fluide series have replaced my former holy grail foundation, Oil-Free Supreme. Sephora's colour match chart says I should now be Macadamia but counter-swatching led me to bring home a sample of Dusk. It has great coverage and wonderfully smooth application, but the reason I loved the old Oil-Free Supreme so much was its bouncy and creamy texture that made my pock-marked skin appear fuller and glowy. The Flawless Fluide has a flatter appearance and is great at evening out discolouration on already smooth skin. If you have surface texturization, there may be issues.

Up & Up 100% Acetone - This Target staple is only a buck or two, and now that I don't indulge in too many manicures, it's a speedy and efficient way to take off nail polish. If you have dry, brittle nails, obviously look for a gentler formula. I'll stick to this for the most part with an occasional stray into salon or prestige brands.

The Body Shop Peppermint Cooling Foot Spray - You know how it's impossible to go to sleep when your feet is hot? This makes for good temporary relief but what is with the sickly sweet smell on top of the minty freshness? Blech.

LUSH Herbalism - Reviewed. No more LUSH masks for me.

Urban Rituelle Beachcomber Frangipani - It was a gift from the lovely Su and I enjoyed every spritz of its fresh and sweet scent.

Cotton pads from The Face Shop, Joe Fresh and Yves Rocher - I'm now finally over the Shiseido cotton love. I prefer quilted pads with stitched edges that won't leave any fluff behind, and the Joe Fresh and Yves Rocher cotton rounds are cheap and do the job well. The Yves Rocher lady said to me upon checkout that it was "the greatest cotton pad in the world" at which I smothered a laugh. It's fine but c'mon. As for The Face Shop cottons, they're thin and become too drippy to use on the face but are perfect for cutting up to remove nail polish.

Good bye to some old makeup that are nearly finished and not worth the time and effort to actually finish. But look -- a completely finished cream blush!

By Terry Blush Veloute in #2 Peach Nude - The first and only blush I ever hit pan on. Longtime readers are right tired of seeing this on the blog, I know. But this is the last time I'll ever mention it again, because not only did I finish it but it's now discontinued all over the world. I didn't finish this just out of stubbornness but actually really liked it. More By Terry adventures await in an economically stable future.

Voluspa Laguna Candle - Good spring/summer scent; nondescript and pleasant. I'd buy it again on sale.

True Grace Jasmine Tea Candle - It really smells like jasmine tea and I loved it until I got sick of it. I love tea scents but they start to overwhelm to the point that I just have to cut them off. But I still love them. Does that make any sense?