Monday, July 21, 2014

Philosophy Full of Promise for Eyes (+ Time in a Bottle)

This post features press samples.

Um, so a year ago, I was approached by the Philosophy PR to test out Full of Promise for Eyes, and lovely woman that she is, she told me to take my time to thoroughly test out the product and familiarize myself with its effects. I don't think that she quite meant for an entire year to pass, and I've been sitting on this review all this time because it's surprisingly difficult to review eye creams. In fact, before Full of Promise, I never really used an eye cream with much regularity.


It's not that the product is life-changing or anything hyperbolic. But life is changing. I've definitely felt effects of aging this past year, in ways that aren't as subtle as they were in previous years. One of the changes is a definite loss of moisture in the body. My eyes were always dry due to daily wear of contact lens, and now my once super oily and supple face suffers from noticeable dryness and dehydration if I don't moisturize diligently. That's where Philosophy stepped in to help.

Restoring Eye Duo for Upper-Lid Lifting and Under-Eye Firming

According to Sephora:

What it is:  A targeted eye treatment duo that helps lift the appearance of the uppereye area and firm the appearance of the undereye area. 

What it is formulated to do:  Full Of Promise™ For Eyes offers a breakthrough two-in-one solution for aging eyes in need of visible lift and firmness. The upper-lid lifting gel helps improve the appearance of droopy upper eyelids for a more youthful, awake look. The undereye firming cream helps replump and firm undereyes while noticeably smoothing the appearance of crepey looking skin. The entire eye area is deeply hydrated, feels supported, looks replenished, and radiates a more rested appearance. 

It is also formulated without parabens and sulfates and has been ophthalmologically tested for safety. Sounds good, right?

I really like the simple and sleek packaging, and there's a cute little picture on either end to tell you which side is which. Personally, I'm partial to heavy glass jars just because they sit more nicely on counter tops and vanities, but the airtight pumps should be a big bonus for those who care to preserve the integrity and performance of the product for as long as possible.

Lower Eye

Upper Eye

The gel for the upper eyes is almost balmy in consistency and instantly feels smooth on the skin without feelings of heaviness or greasiness. I don't have particularly droopy lids yet and wouldn't rely solely on a skin care product to take care of that issue, but for those who are looking for an eye cream that won't melt under makeup, you might find that this balm is just the right texture. I don't find it particularly hydrating, but it almost acts like an eye makeup primer when applied in the morning, without pilling or balling up as some skin care products are prone to.

For me, the real star of Full of Promise for Eyes is the lovely cream for lower eyes. It has a nice fluid texture without being watery or too thick and absorbs nicely into the skin with gentle finger pats. In fact, I liked the feel of this cream so much that I started to apply it on both upper and lower eyes, disregarding the firming aspect of the upper gel almost completely. My normal routine was to apply the upper gel to the upper eyes in the morning and use the lower cream for both upper and lower eyes in the evening. My orbital areas were pretty happy with this treatment, especially throughout the long Canadian winter when I was plagued by odd dry patches. I found half a pump of the lower cream for each eye was more than sufficient, and I was satisfied to see absolutely no sign of those dreaded milia that form due to eye creams sometimes being overly rich. Used daily, I would say that the tube lasted a good 5-6 months.

I was never a believer in eye creams before, and I'm still not really when it comes to claims of being able to tighten and lift sagging flesh. I think that we should treat the skin more gently and keep it well hydrated without using products that are irritating or potentially harmful -- and for that purpose, I find Philosophy's Full of Promise to be a very good eye treatment despite not being able to fulfill its primary claims of lifting and firming. I know that sounds pretty crazy, but it works really nicely as a simple eye cream for plumping and hydration, and I simply do not believe any cream in the world can fight gravity and constant muscular activity which produces emphasized lines. Anyway, this tube is currently used up to the last drop and sitting in my empties bag, and I keep looking at the price tag and considering a purchase. The only reason I haven't immediately replaced it is because I have other press samples to test out and I'm not crazy about the drier texture of the upper eye gel. But if that lower eye cream were to be sold separately -- mine, mine, mine.

CAD$79, 7.5mL/0.25oz per each side. Made in USA. 

Ingredients (upper eye gel): aqua/water/eau, butylene glycol, glycerin, silica, kaolin, bifida ferment lysate, acrylates/c10-30 alkyl acrylate crosspolymer, angelica archangelica root extract, citrus aurantium amara (bitter orange) peel extract, camellia sinensis leaf extract, coffea arabica (coffee) seed extract, pongamia pinnata seed extract, kigelia africana fruit extract, tocopherol, sodium hydroxide, 1,2-hexanediol, acrylates/c12-22 alkyl methacrylate copolymer, lecithin, mica, ascorbyl glucoside, disodium edta, pisum sativum (pea) extract, caprylic/capric triglyceride, adenosine, pentylene glycol, sodium citrate, alcohol, phaeodactylum tricornutum, sodium benzoate, tin oxide, acetic acid, maltodextrin, magnesium aluminum silicate, xanthan gum, lactic acid, peg-8, citric acid, sclerotium gum, sorbic acid, ascorbyl palmitate, ascorbic acid, caprylyl glycol, phenoxyethanol, titanium dioxide (ci 77891).

Ingredients (under eye firming cream): aqua/water/eau, cyclopentasiloxane, butyrospermum  parkii (shea) butter, glycerin, butylene glycol, hydrogenated polyisobutene, glyceryl stearate, behenyl alcohol, ascorbyl glucoside, peg-40 stearate, hydroxyethyl acrylate/sodium acryloyldimethyl taurate copolymer, silica, squalane, dimethiconol, secale cereale (rye) seed extract, hydrolyzed soy flour, kigelia africana fruit extract, aesculus hippocastanum (horse chestnut) seed extract, pongamia pinnata seed extract, tocopherol,  acetic acid, acetyl dipeptide-1 cetyl ester, hexapeptide-11, angelica archangelica root extract, citrus aurantium amara (bitter orange) peel extract, bifida ferment lysate, caprylyl glycol, 1,2-hexanediol, vinyl dimethicone/methicone silsesquioxane crosspolymer, sodium hydroxide, polysorbate 60, glycol distearate, mica, cyclohexasiloxane, sorbitan stearate, lecithin, citric acid, hydrolyzed hyaluronic acid, disodium edta, caprylic/capric triglyceride, adenosine, alcohol, phaeodactylum tricornutum, laureth-3, tin oxide, sodium benzoate, coffea arabica (coffee) seed extract, hydroxyethylcellulose, maltodextrin, magnesium aluminum silicate, lactic acid, peg-8, sclerotium gum, sorbic acid, ascorbyl palmitate, ascorbic acid, xanthan gum, caffeine, phenoxyethanol, titanium dioxide (ci 77891).

Daily Age-Defying Serum

To start, you can read all about it on Sephora, and to end, in greater detail on an excellent blog post by Maggie (Maggie's Makeup). I was sent a small bottle of a pre-mixed lab sample, so I can't speak to its long-term performance. But in general, I quite liked it and was sufficiently intrigued enough to consider a full size purchase. Not wanting to overdo it, I chose to use one small pump to pat all over the face as a serum before moisturizing at night only, and I did feel that the face felt plumper as well as brighter during the times it was used with regularity. Serums were also something I never used much prior to this past year, and these days I'm of the thought that it's a must-have for my skin type in its current condition and age. My general preference for serums is lightweight, water-based formula with plenty of antioxidants, and Time in a Bottle certainly fits the bill.

CAD$79, 40mL/1.3oz. 

Ingredientsaqua/water/eau, dimethicone, alcohol denat., bis-peg-18 methyl ether dimethylsilane, cyclopentasiloxane, peg-8, butylene glycol, polyethylene, glycerin, dimethiconol, methoxy peg-18, camellia sinensis leaf extract, coffea arabica (coffee) seed extract, pongamia pinnata seed extract, angelica archangelica root extract, citrus aurantium amara (bitter orange) peel extract, punica granatum fruit extract, plankton extract, ptfe, bifida ferment lysate, peg-40 hydrogenated castor oil, acrylates/c10-30 alkyl acrylate crosspolymer, hydroxyethyl acrylate/sodium acryloyldimethyl taurate copolymer, squalane, ascorbyl palmitate, silica dimethyl silylate, tocopherol, polysorbate 60, lecithin, sclerotium gum, hydrolyzed soy flour, retinyl palmitate, propylene glycol, caprylyl glycol, micrococcus lysate, bacillus ferment, magnesium aluminum silicate, maltodextrin, trisodium edta, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, disodium edta, sodium phosphate, sodium hydroxide, potassium phosphate, potassium chloride, sorbic acid, adenosine, sodium benzoate, citric acid, parfum/fragrance, 1,2-hexanediol, silica, xanthan gum, ascorbic acid, lactic acid, sodium chloride, alcohol, acetic acid, phenoxyethanol, bht, mica, titanium dioxide (ci 77891).

In Canada, Philosophy skin care products are available at SephoraHudson's Bay and select Shoppers Drug Mart.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Smashbox Be Legendary Lipstick in Fuchsia Flash Matte

Lipsticks are my new donuts, if that makes any sense. I made a rash promise to my loved ones who are worried about my health that I wouldn't buy those cheap packs of dozen donuts for at least two months, which means that my compulsive cravings need a new outlet. Lipsticks are healthier than donuts, right? [insert cheeky emoji here]

Enter Smashbox Be Legendary Lipstick in Fuchsia Flash Matte.

I went for this particular lipstick because (a) I don't own a Smashbox lipstick, (b) I now love matte lipsticks, and (c) I am finally, FINALLY on board with full force fuchsia. (I plan on using fuchsia and magenta as the gateway shades to purples.) I think that Fuchsia Flash Matte is a gorgeous blue pink with a strong violet lean. Other contenders were two MACs: Impassioned (which looked weirdly muted on me) and Pink Pigeon (which was like WHOA bright -- I have to ease into these things at my own pace).

Two swipes on lips.

I was pretty sure that this shade was unique in my lip product stash, and I love it when I'm right. It is by far the bluest lip shade I own. My plan is to skip the whole Radiant Orchid trend and dive right into full-on moody purples for fall/winter. (Past reviews/comparisons: Clarins Pink Fuchsia, Albeit Azalea, Shiseido VI418, L'Oreal Intense Fuchsia.)

The texture of Fuchsia Flash Matte is smooth and soft. It makes for a comfortable wear on the lips despite the matte effect, but the tube is constantly in danger of breaking at the base during warmer season. Mine became wobbly upon the second use and I was supremely annoyed by it. But the colour is so gorgeous that I ground the product firmly back into the tube and now just hope for the best. I was happy to see that the price is reasonable, too. I have my eye on Vivid Violet next.

In Canada, you can find Smashbox at Sephora, Murale and select Shoppers Drug Mart Beauty Boutiques.

CAD$23, 0.1oz/3g. Made in Canada. (Heyyyyy!)

Ingredients: Octyldodecanol, Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, Silica, Tricaprylyl Citrate, Ozokerite, Isononyl Isononanoate, Paraffin, Phenyl Trimethicone, Microcrystalline Wax, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Copernicia Cerifera (Carnauba) Wax, Tocopherol, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Oil, Acrylates Copolymer, Polyethylene Terephthalate, Stearyl Stearoyl Stearate, Flavor (Aroma), Vanillin. [+/- colouring agents]

Friday, July 18, 2014

A Guerlain Summer

I don't normally shop Guerlain, although I will indulge in CHANEL once in a while. I'm not quite sure what it is. Part of it is the intimidating shiny gold packaging that makes my OCD go nuts with visions of grubby fingerprints all over the cases. Another part of it is simply unfamiliarity. But one of my favourite perfumes of all time, Aqua Allergoria Mandarin-Basilic, is from Guerlain. And a perfume on my wish list, Tonka Imperiale, is also Guerlain. So, when Guerlain released a limited edition perfume in celebration of Terracotta bronzer's 30th anniversary, I gave it a quick sniff at the counter and promptly fell in love.

Terracotta le Parfum EDT retails for CAD$80, which I consider a steal given how gorgeous the scent is. I don't usually like heady white florals, but I kind of have a crush on Estee Lauder's Sun Goddess summer collection each year and was thinking about picking up an eau fraiche or body oil. The thing is, EL scents and I just don't mix. It goes all the way back to middle school when I was all into the romance of Beautiful and Pleasures, except they always turned into sour laundry smell on me, and pretty dreams were shot. After testing this year's EL Sun Goddess offerings, again, something smelled a bit off to me. It evoked grandmotherly images rather than sleek and tanned creatures bathing under the sun's warmth. The SAs I spoke to sold it hard, speaking of how limited the quantity of each bottle was, how it sells out so quickly. They were masterfully persuasive, but the sour laundry prevailed.

Speaking of limited and selling out quickly, so did the Terracotta. I was on the lookout for Guerlain's limited edition bronzer/blush palette at first and badgered a Bay associate into letting me look at the collection before it was launched. Unexpectedly, one spray of Terracotta and I was in heaven. It's not even about sleek tanned glamour -- it's the toasty warmth of the sun, beauty of tropical flowers and their luscious scent being carried through the air and lingering in your hair, your skin -- white dresses and happy thoughts and that magic sun flower from Tangled --

What, too much? I don't think so. I'm wearing it right now and basically inhaling myself in pure delight.

But I didn't buy it right away, you see. After yelling at everyone on Twitter about how wonderful it was, I decided that it was too heady and not really my "style" and deemed it unnecessary. And my soul wilted. By the time I decided that I wanted it again, it was sold out from every single Bay counter across the country, in-store and online. I badgered friends in the States, my sister's friends -- anyone, anywhere. I even tried to get Bay associates to sell me the tester, which multiple people told me they couldn't do. And then I met Maryam, the Guerlain counter manager at The Bay Queen Street here in Toronto, who called the Guerlain boutique on Bloor Street and secured a bottle for me. Maryam also invited me to a private VIP Guerlain event at La Societe that evening, where drinks, good times and a "special" Guerlain prize were to be had.

Um, so meet the special prize, you guys.

OMFG, right? I still can't make myself swatch it, much less put it on my face. And let me tell you, it smells almost as amazing as the Terracotta perfume itself. Almost. Can Guerlain throw a party or what? Also, when I purchased the perfume at the Guerlain boutique at Bloor/Avenue, which I've passed by countless times during the last 15 years and never stepped foot into, I met the most amazingly friendly and courteous SAs, was told that my second purchase would be at 15% off and received another gift on site for becoming a new customer. (That gift was a rather bulky makeup bag, but I'm putting it to good use to store my winter foundations in. I'm going to put that 15% discount towards Tonka Imperiale when I'm finally ready to bite the bullet on it.)

I am having a Guerlain summer and enjoying it so very much. Terracotta me, baby. Let's do this again on your next anniversary.

(Sorry I was so late in talking about this. The Terracotta perfume was produced in extremely limited quantity and quickly sold out from counters across Canada. It may still be available at the Guerlain flagship boutique on Bloor Street, but I haven't checked since securing my bottle. A tester was tottering around the Toronto Eaton Centre Shoppers beauty boutique for a long time afterwards, so I would also check with them as well if you're dying to get your hands on a bottle. The good news is the perfume sold so well and garnered so much praise that Guerlain headquarters is thinking about making it a permanent addition. I will add to the internet echo out there: PLEASE, GUERLAIN. At least bring it back every summer! Love, Liz.)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

ESQIDO Mink Lashes in Unforgettable and Oh So Sweet

This post features press samples.

Remember my first time with ESQIDO mink lashes? I trialled the Little Black Lash and liked it so much that I wanted to try a few more from the brand. ESQIDO kindly sent me Unforgettable and Oh So Sweet for review. It being wedding season and all, I think that ESQIDO mink lashes are perfect for everyone, whether you're attending as a guest or the bride herself.

In terms of size, Little Black Lash is the most natural, followed by Unforgettable, and then Oh So Sweet. (You can check out the full chart on ESQIDO's website.) I chose Unforgettable and Oh So Sweet specifically to feature pretty and natural lashes that are wearable but still make an impact. Here they are next to each other:

Unforgettable is a little wispier while Oh So Sweet is more densely packed, but when wearing them, the truth is there isn't a huge variance in the looks. On my small eyes, both create high impact and extra definition.

Oh So Sweet

Naked eyes, with one coat of waterproof mascara on my natural lashes:

Wearing Oh So Sweet:

I trimmed one flare off the outer edge to fit my small eyes, and I absolutely love the result. I've always wanted long, fluttery lashes but unwilling to commit to lash extensions. And truth be told, I accepted my small mismatched eyes a long time ago. But these mink lashes are definitely fun to have around for special occasions.


I didn't bother to trim Unforgettable, thinking that its lighter density would give me a more natural look than Oh So Sweet.

I think that it gives a more cleaner look -- but full of impact on my eyes nonetheless.

Initially, they feel and look like large butterfly wings or something, but only because I don't regularly wear falsies. To the average person on the street or in the grocery aisle who doesn't know me, they probably wouldn't see anything amiss. I'm a little addicted to these lashes now, and sometimes they even make an appearance on no makeup days.

But I am wearing makeup in this instance.

With proper care, these lashes can last up to 25 uses. Unfortunately, I didn't read the care and removal instructions carefully with the Little Black Lash and can tell you that dampening the hair with makeup remover will instantly kill the shape. Now I'm careful to do exactly as the site says, which is to avoid putting mascara and remover on the lashes, applying them as a final step to a look and peeling them off carefully at the end of day and peeling off the glue on the cotton bands. Read all about it here.

Unforgettable retails for $42.99, currently on sale for $36.
Oh So Sweet retails for $45.99, currently on sale for $38.

You can also save an additional 5% with code ELLE for a limited time. I'm going to order Little Black Lash for myself as soon as it comes back in stock.

Which lash do you like best? Will you be trying out ESQIDO mink lashes?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

San Francisco Bay Area: Carmel and Cole Valley

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Previously: Google HQ and Napa Valley.

After the wedding festivities were over, we dedicated one full day to exploring the charming coastal town of Carmel-by-the-Sea and its impeccable beaches. Because we were in-land in Mountain View and automatically chose the fastest route as impatient contemporary life dictates, the majority of the highway viewing did not consist of the fabulous Hwy 1 coastal drive. We got a bit of that two hours later, after a few lulls in the road due to it being a holiday week and everyone heading everywhere. But the drive feels much shorter when you're staring at the ocean. I would advise anyone heading south on a road trip to take the longer Hwy 1 route. I guarantee that your fellow passengers will likely be more cheerful and less "Are we there yet? Are we there yet?" Because as you are going, you are already there.

The only thing any of us knew about Carmel was that actor Clint Eastwood was once the mayor for a term. What I didn't know was how freaking adorable this town is. It reminds me a little of Niagara-on-the-Lake, but with less city council developments and more organic growth. Everything about Carmel is innately charming, which makes a lot of sense once you read about the artistic history of the town. When's the last time you heard of poets having anything to do with city development?

Cutest bus stop EVER.

Along the main roads, there are designer boutiques mixed in with local indie businesses and cafes, making for a lively and eclectic neighbourhood. You would think that it would be difficult to live in a touristy place like this, but the residential streets are peacefully woven in between larger ones, and despite the narrow winding roads and heavy mass of tourists looking for decent parking spots, I didn't hear a single cranky shout or honk. (If you go far enough out of the epicenter, there's free unlimited parking in the residential areas. 10-minute and 2-hour parking spots are diligently monitored by local law enforcement.)

Jealous whale (me) and lucky otter.

I have to stop and give a shout-out to my favourite shop in Carmel. White Rabbit claims to be the purveyor of world's largest Alice in Wonderland collectibles, and while I have my doubts about that, they do carry an extensive range of covetable little things from all around the globe.


Tweedledum and Tweedledee quite forgot their quarrel.

And if you head straight down on Ocean Avenue from Hwy 1, which we did instinctively on foot without mapping, following the breeze...

Ahhhh. Just like the pictures I've been drooling over on other people's social media accounts. It's cold there though. The sun is warm enough that you can strip down and sunbathe, but at the same time, the air is cool to the point that you want to be wrapped in a sweater and avoid the frigid water.

The only people brave enough for the freezing waves were children.

After soaking up the goodness of the beach, we roamed the town again before heading south for a more natural scenery. An impromptu wine-tasting at Scheid is not recommended, despite the price-friendly menu and people-friendly service. Maybe they're good with meals, but what we tasted were weak and watery.

And although I don't even like Coach, 50% off everything in the store is difficult to resist... especially when extra 20% applied on top of the 50% on clearance items. I walked out with a $23 scarf that was originally $118.

To cleanse ourselves of all this debauchery, we moved further south on Hwy 1, stopping at random bluffs to take in the beauty of California coastlines.

We made it as far as Garrapata State Park, still quite a bit of distance from Big Sur. It's wonderfully windy there. I felt wild and free.

On our way back to Moutain View, we decided to eat dinner back at Carmel-by-the-Sea and again chose Il Fornaio for its clean restrooms. (We had stopped there earlier in the day for drinks and saw that the food looked good.)

Pardon me while I conduct a short restaurant review, so that my food pics don't go to waste. :-)

Their complimentary bread was fresh out of the oven and piping hot. And I've never said this about oil and vinaigrette before, but... delicious!

The calamari, on the other hand, was pretty terrible. Not recommended.

I ordered the Cannelloni al Forno which was excellent. (Fresh large pasta tubes filled with free-range rotisserie chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, ricotta, pecorino, smoked mozzarella and organic spinach; topped with b├ęchamel, marinara and mushrooms.)

D had the Linguine Mare Chiaro which was also excellent. (Thin flat pasta with clams, mussels, prawns and scallops; seasoned with tomatoes, crushed red pepper, garlic and Trebbiano wine.)

But my poor sister ended up with a spinach pasta that was overcooked and lukewarm, although the sauce and turkey sausage was quite tasty. To end on a high note, however, the latte I took to go was really good and so large that we asked for an extra empty cup to share.

The next day, we finally went into the city of San Francisco. The morning was spent taking care of individual business, so by the time I went to Reverie Cafe in Cole Valley to meet up with Amy, an old online friend, we had only a handful of hours left and that meant no time for shopping or sightseeing other parts of town. I specifically wanted to hit the beauty counters at department stores but at the same time dreaded going to Union Square. In the end, I decided that exploring a charming neighbourhood with a local was totally worthwhile and that beauty shopping could wait. Amy and I caught up at Reverie and took a stroll down Haight Street to ward off brunch food coma.

Buena Vista Park

Below is Magnolia Gastropub and Brewery where we stopped for a drink after like five minutes of "strolling," LOL. Awesome beers and vibe -- I totally recommend it if you're ever in the Cole Valley area.

My sister joined us at that point and more beers were had. Afterwards, we walked off the alcohol at The Panhandle Park.

Random person doing magical bubble things.

From there, we met up with D and headed east on Oak St. to Divisadero St. Basically, I spent the day wandering from well to well. We found ourselves at Wine Kitchen for dinner and decided to share from the tapas menu.

Corn and burrata-stuffed fried zucchini blossoms with pepper salsa:

Fried mac n cheese sliders, shaved beef, jalapeno sauce, napa cabbage:

Grilled squid, shishitos, cilantro dashi, chickpeas, prosciutto, aioli:

And my favourite! Melts like butter in your mouth. Lamb belly, English pea & almond pesto, roasted radish, saba:

Thus, laden with food and wine, we bid adieu to the Bay Area with sadness at the crack of dawn. Highlights of the trip are of course Napa and Carmel, and I would happily return to San Fransisco to tackle a new neighbourhood with each visit. The people are friendly, views breathtaking, weather fine, and wine flows like water. What's not to like? :-)