Friday, April 17, 2015

Sephora and Surratt Blush PSA

I don't usually post this sort of thing but people seem pretty desperate to get their hands on a Surratt Artistique Blush. I don't blame you.

Although they appear to be sold out online at Sephora, I noticed a shade here and there popping up as they became available. Unfortunately they will literally disappear from your cart if you take too long to check out, but it is possible to get one. I know this because I snagged the shade Parfait (Coral) when it reappeared this morning. Just be patient... and good luck!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

HOLY GRAIL STATUS ACHIEVED: Surratt Beauty Artistique Blush (Ponceau)

I rarely type out the term "holy grail," but here we are at last. (I first caved reluctantly to "lemmings" and then "hauls." This makes me a proper old school #bblogger now.) Four years of intense blush preoccupation, countless brands and formulas, and many clown cheek jokes later, I have arrived at the glory that is Surratt Beauty. Previously available only at Barneys NY in the States, the brand recently landed at Sephora online and began to sell out quickly. I snatched up a blush in the shade called Ponceau in case everything sold out before the Love Notes Sale began (good call, yay me) with plans to acquire more in the future if it proved to be nice.

Um, "nice" doesn't begin to cover it. Admittedly the tininess of the product took me aback but its amazing colour, texture and sleek, streamlined design won me over upon first swatch.

The case is razor thin and the blush slides out in either direction with ease. Surratt has two customizable palettes that can be filled with both their blushes and eye shadows, which is super convenient. Once the sale began, I ordered the small palette and two eye shadows to compile a full set. I'm too much of a magpie to commit right now, but a beauty-related thought occupying my mind for months has been to rely more on refillable makeup brands. It's kind of a moot point given how slowly I go through a piece of makeup, but it's something worth thinking about when I'm ready for a lifestyle change.

Ponceau is simply described as "poppy" on Sephora, and recently I've begun to pay heed to these seemingly mismatched colour labels. Upon initial glance, Ponceau looked to me like a slightly reddened coral -- almost peachy, like the infamous NARS Orgasm. Like the shades I've been gunning for lately, it has a shifty quality and wavers from warm to cool depending on what it's compared to (and presumably different skin tones). But wouldn't you know it -- once applied on the cheek, poppy is a fit description after all.

I don't know much about Troy Surratt and Surratt Beauty, but I do know that the brand was inspired by Japanese technologies. Being a fan of Shiseido and Shu Uemura makeup, I found the texture of Ponceau similar to their eye shadows -- vibrant without being overly pigmented (which can lose layerability and subtlety), sort of a soft and almost squishy texture that still allows brushes to pick up colour easily, blending like a dream (as Lily recently said, all blushes must blend themselves) -- it's just kind of a perfect blush all around. I can't ask for more from a single piece of product that seems to have been designed with quality as its main selling point. It's especially refreshing to imagine so in an age when prestige brands churn out product after product, collection after collection, in a systematic whirlwind practice spearheaded by snazzy marketing campaigns first, followed by steadily rising prices and questionable results.

Let's not kid ourselves though. Surratt isn't cheap at CAD$35 per shade. But it's not as expensive as you might think either. Somehow, the brand has managed to pack 0.14oz/4g of product into a super slim and shallow pan. A MAC Mineralize Blush packs 0.11oz/3.5g (old version shown, CAD$32) while an Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush contains 0.15oz/4.2g (CAD$41). You don't even need to divide the cost per gram to see that the price is not only competitive but almost a bargain given its prestige status and stellar quality. True, it doesn't come with a travel-ready pan, but the original case is sturdy enough that it can easily be wrapped for safety and toted around if necessary.

Surratt Ponceau with MAC Gleeful and Hourglass Diffused Heat (aka Bacon Blush)

I'm starting to rave, so let's wrap this up. Below are some shades that I instantly thought were similar to Ponceau. Only the large heart patches in the Physicians Formula Happy Booster (Warm) comes close but the hearts seem warmer and more brown to me while Ponceau never loses its vibrancy. Next to NARS Orgasm which I initially thought might be a dupe, Ponceau is again brighter. It's a completely different beast compared to the Guerlain Meteorites Blush, so I won't even attempt articulating the divide.

Surratt Ponceau with NARS Orgasm, Guerlain Angelic Radiance, Physicians Formula 


Heavily applied (bottom) vs. sheered out (top).

Comparison swatches with the blushes shown above. I also threw in the recently reviewed Bobbi Brown Brightening Brick in Coral. No dice.

In short, Surratt is a welcome addition, and I look forward to testing out more of the brand's offering in due course. How about those brushes, eh? Many items are currently sold out on Sephora due to the sale, but I'm posting this review with the hope that stock will be replenished soon. (They had to know these were going to the first to go, no?)

What say you to Surratt?

CAD$35, 0.14oz/4g. Made in Japan. Available at Sephora, Barneys (US), Liberty (UK) and Net-A-Porter (coming soon).

Ingredients: Talc, Methyl Methacrylate Crosspolymer, Dimethicone, Diisostearyl Malate, Boron Nitride, Trimethylolpropane Triethylhexanoate, Synthetic Fluorphlogopite, Petrolatum, Sorbitan Sesquiisostearate, Aluminum Distearate, Ethylparaben, Methylparaben, Tocopherol (+/-) Mica (Ci 77019), Titanium Dioxide (Ci 77891), Iron Oxides (Ci 77491, Ci 77492, Ci 77499), Red 30 (Ci 73360), Yellow 5 Lake (Ci 19140), Red 28 Lake (Ci 45410), Red 7 Lake (Ci 15850), Ultramarines (Ci 77007), Ferric Ammonium Ferrocyanide (Ci 77510), Silica, Aluminum Hydroxide, Blue 1 Lake (Ci 42090).

Monday, April 13, 2015

Rave Review! MARULA Cleansing Lotion, Facial Lotion and Facial Oil

I get to test out some pretty excellent skin care products thanks to generous PRs, but the beauty junkie in me sometimes wants to branch out and choose a new regimen like a regular shopper. A handful of visits to Winners in the past few months yielded a brilliant crop: MARULA skin care for 1/3 to 1/4 of retail price. They were all sealed and seemingly in good condition, so I scooped them up one at a time and decided to try the set while the weather was relatively cool, sneaking it in a month before starting the VICHY ProEVEN treatments. MARULA never would have caught my eye were it not for the fact that the brand is sold at Sephora for horrifying prices. While the sale is going on, I figured it was best to put out some info on the products in case anyone was curious.

MARULA Cleansing Lotion

It's confusingly called a "cleansing lotion" because it's a cleanser with the consistency and texture of a lotion. (It's sort of a thing nowadays -- cleansing conditioners, cleansing oils, etc.) It's not all that different from some of the gentle, non-foaming cleansers that you may have encountered from any number of brands. I like to apply it dry to the face to remove makeup, and it removes foundations and BB creams like a champ in one go. There's no need to double cleanse (which I need to do with oil removers like Shu Uemura because they make me break out), and it's super easy to rinse off the cleansing lotion with lukewarm water. It doesn't leave a residue at all but somehow leaves the face feeling soft and hydrated. It's freaking amazing, but the bottle is really small and currently costs CAD$45.60. It was recently repackaged to a more convenient and less glamorous tube (same amount of product though), which I appreciate because the pump squirts out such a tiny amount that I have to use about five pumps worth per use. So worth it if you have the budget, but it's definitely a splurge given how much product you'll go through on a daily basis.

Ingredients: Aloe Vera Leaf Juice, Decyl Glucoside, Sodium Cocoyl Glutamate, Marula Seed Oil, Glycerin, Cocoglucoside, Coconut Alcohol, Xylitylglucoside, Anhydroxylitol, Xylitol, Bilberry Fruit/Leaf Extract, Sugar Cane Extract, Sugar Maple Extract, Orange Fruit Extract, Lemon Fruit Extract, Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate, Hydrolyzed Lupine Seed Extract, Sorbitan Sesquicaprylate, Cetyl Esters, Beta Glucan, Orange Peel Oil, Lavender Flower Oil, Blood Orange Peel Oil, Mandarin Red Peel Oil, Rosemary Leaf Oil, Cedar Wood Oil, Rosemary Leaf Extract, Sunflower Seed Oil, Xanthan Gum, Sclerotium Gum, Dehydroacetic Acid, Sodium Phytate, Benzyl Alcohol, Water, Potassium Sorbate.

MARULA Facial Lotion

I hate to keep raving but the Facial Lotion is also a miracle in a bottle. It's a thin, lightweight lotion that absorbs instantly into skin, making it feel soft and well-moisturized despite the thinness of texture. Even without the aid of a hydrating serum, the lotion is enough for my face to feel comfortable all day long. It doesn't sit on top of skin with a residue nor feel tacky or greasy. Unlike the cleansing lotion, this lotion just requires one or two pumps, so while the CAD$81.60 price tag seems absolutely ridiculous, it will last quite a long time. I have never used a lotion that felt so light and effective before, and I've used a lot of lotions in my time. Originally hailing from the oily skin clan, I spent most of my life looking for good quality lightweight lotions. This is the best I've used by far, and that is something I rarely say, if ever. Sorry for creating expensive lemmings but the truth cannot be denied! I can keep silent no longer.

Ingredients: Aloe Vera Leaf Juice, Marula Seed Oil, Cetearyl Olivate, Sorbitan Olivate, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Xylitylglucoside, Anhydroxylitol, Xylitol, Glycerin, Lactobacillus Ferment, Isoamyl Laurate, Shea Nut Butter, Phaseolus Radiatus Meristem Cell Culture Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate, Lactic Acid, Arginine, Diglycerin, Pinus Pinaster, Amorphophallus Konjac Root Powder, Bisabolol, Neroli Flower Oil, Lavender Flower Oil, Mandarin Red Peel Oil, Rosemary Leaf Oil, Orange Peel Oil, Rosemary Leaf Extract, Sunflower Seed Oil, P-Anisic Acid.

MARULA Facial Oil

Take a wild guess how pleased I am with this facial oil? 'Please, stop,' I hear your wallets groan. Luckily, the oil is sold in three different sizes, starting at 0.23oz vial for CAD$19, 1oz for CAD$72 and 1.69oz for CAD$98. I don't know about you, but I'm always terrified of overdoing it with oils, so I eke out a tiny amount which is usually sufficient for covering the entire face. I have doubts about whether I can finish this bottle but that's not the point. If you like a good facial oil, this one is worth trying. It's about as light as a facial oil can get, and I find that it feels nourishing and decadent on my face without breaking it out. Is it the best oil I've ever tried though? In terms of how radiant it makes the face looks, I don't think that it's as good as the NUDE ProGenius, but large bottles of both are close to $100 so that's not much help there. The Sephora copy on Marula Facial Oil states that it has a matte finish and can be used as a primer, but I personally don't like to use oils during daytime, especially if I'm going to be out in the sun, so I can't attest to whether it works well used in that manner. What I can tell you is that the Facial Lotion is so good that I rarely have to bust out the Facial Oil. But when I do use the Facial Oil, skin is just as happy.

Ingredients: 99% Marula Oil, 1% Essential Oil Fragrance Blend (Linalool, Limonene).

Here are "swatches" of all three products. You can see how thin and runny the oil is -- not thick and viscous at all. Torontonian shoppers may still be able to find a stray bottle at random Winners locations (I saw them in four different stores scattered across the city), and there's always Sephora and their damn sale. US shoppers can get 15% off the first purchase from by signing up for their newsletters, and the site points to for UK shoppers. Fare thee well, monthly budgets!

Anyone else tried MARULA? What's your favourite facial oil?

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Sephora Sale Wish List

People are calling this sale "Chic Week" but I think Sephora staff are calling it "Love Notes"? Ehhhh, whatever. Just gimme the sale.

Usually I'm torn when a Sephora sale looms because the wish list tends to be divided between necessary replenishment vs. frivolous desires. Well, we have at last arrived at a moment in time when I have absolutely zero need for anything in the realm of beauty and grooming. I even have backup toothpastes at the ready, and it could very well be that the world will run out of clean water before I run out of shampoos and shower gels. All this makes any future shopping expeditions difficult to justify, but I want to take this moment to work out some thoughts on my longings for these items and maybe even talk myself out of purchasing them. Oh, the drama, the headache.

Sephora VIB Spring 2015 Wish List

NARS Dual-Intensity Blush  - They're mesmerizing to look at but highly impractical to apply -- or so I thought until I read Jaa's review about the benefits of using it wet. Goddammit. The likelihood of me using it in that manner is probably never though, so I should throw that $52 at something more useful or amazingly limited edition wow wow. (VERDICT: PASS.)

Josie Maran Coconut Watercolor Cheek Gelee in Coral Oasis - It's an unabashed orange and therefore I must have it. I have this notion that the bright jelly tint will look ever so fetching against summer bronzed skin. (VERDICT: STILL TORN.)

YSL Gloss Volupte - I'm not overly picky about glosses unless they smell funny. For a while I was hating on shiny finishes and managed to reduce my lip gloss stash down to almost nothing. But an easy swipe & go lip product seems to be just the thing for warmer seasons. Or I just need an excuse to own something YSL. Gah. Never mind. I picked up MAC Barbecue instead. (And I really like it!)

Surratt Beauty - As soon as the brand debuted on Sephora online, I ordered a blush in the shade Ponceau in case it sold out before the sale began. Good move, Liz, I tell myself every single day since. The texture is sublime, and it's one of those bright but still elegant shades that blends well on naked and foundationed cheeks. So, you know, I need another shade plus the customizable palette. If you're a Surratt newbie like me, Belly's blog is a great resource. I'm dreaming of owning Surratt brushes some day -- they're made from unicorn hair or something and cost a fortune. Monika has a post on it as well. (VERDICT: WAIT FOR NOVEMBER VIB SALE. Hope I've won the lotto by then.)

Atelier Cologne Mandarine Glaciale - I've already spoken of this particular lemming. The price per size definitely makes it hard to justify, even with the sale. Plus, I already own a mandarin-focused scent. (VERDICT: PASS. And get a Serge Lutens instead? Oy.)

Tarte Showstopper Clay Palette - I'm not a big fan of the brand but once in a while something will catch my eye. Every summer they release a variation of this circular disc palette and every year I'm tempted. The colours in this one look particularly usable. (VERDICT: CURRENTLY IN ONLINE SHOPPING CART!)

Overpriced Bumble & Bumble hair stuff - Unfortunately, this time I'm a fan. Surf Spray in particular is my summer go-to, so a shinier less crunchy version is irresistible. I like both Thickening Dryspun and Cityswept Finish as well, from shameless numerous testings at Sephora. How much do I care about hair though? Well, I'm about to get my annual hair chop and will probably care for the next few months at least. (VERDICT: TORN.)

The sale starts on April 12, 2015 for VIB Rouges (15% off with code ROUGELOVE), April 16 for VIBs and April 17 for BIs. I think there are different end dates for each level of membership, and the discount for BIs are only 10%. Anyone else remember when sales used to be 20% off for VIBs? Man, those were the days. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Philosophy Micro Exfoliating Triple-Acid Brightening Peel

This post features a press sample.

Spoiler: I love this stuff.

The Philosophy Micro Exfoliating Triple-Acid Brightening Peel is a weekly treatment that resurfaces the skin with mandelic acid (AHA) while brightening with phytic acid (antioxidant/skin-lightening agent) and azelaic acid (anti-acne). Its claims are to provide "advanced brightening and anti-aging benefits" -- you know, the usual stuff. Dissolve dead skin, bring out clarity, yada yada. Although I get along pretty well with Philosophy products (Purity Made Simple and Miracle Worker cleansers, most recently), I didn't have any huge expectations for the Triple-Acid Peel. The first time I thought it was just okay, but after using it for the second time, there was a noticeable difference. And by noticeable difference I mean smooth, glowing skin that made me think I might have to throw away all my foundations and forgo makeup.

Yeah, I'm raving, but it's just one of those things you have to see in person to believe. I don't think the triple-acid formula will work on everyone. Those with more sensitive or delicate skin might not be able to deal, but years of messing around with skin care confirms that my skin loves AHAs and prefers being pampered by exfoliating acids above all else. For me, there was no irritation, stinging or sensitivity at all. I finished this pack of 12 pre-saturated pads months ago after a year of hoarding, spacing out each pad carefully to maximize its effects for as long as possible. They were reserved for nights before some important events or when I wanted to be bare-faced for a full week. The best result emerged the day after, and the glow gradually lessens throughout subsequent days, but I'd say that the general effects last for 4-5 days at least.

Each pad is individually wrapped and much bigger than the FAB Radiance Pads which a lot of people rave about but I thought was lackluster. I used both sides to swipe over my entire face and neck, avoiding the eye area and taking it down to the decollete. These should only be used at night just before bed, after toning and before moisturizing, and while sunscreen is a must on daily basis anyway, it's critical when using skin-brightening treatments of any kind (self-tanners, too, I might add, and basically anything that alters the appearance of your skin's surface).

Anyway, the reason I hoarded them is that they're expensive at CAD$88 per box, which works out to $7.33 a week for three months if used regularly as prescribed. I suppose those who take part in expensive weekly sheet mask rituals will find the price comparable, but I wish Philosophy would produce this in a smaller box of 4 or 8 pads so that people can test it out without having to fork over more than $90 in one shot. Or, hey, sell them in singles, too. I'd be more inclined to purchase them that way. (If you meet a nice Sephora SA, they may give you a pad or two as sample.)

Seeing as how Sephora Chic Week is coming up this month (10-15% off sale), I'm putting this on my wish list and calculating my budget. I have a few similar products that are doing the job well for time being, but I do have to say that my skin has never been better than when Philosophy Micro Exfoliating Triple-Acid Brightening Peels were in play. I'm thankful for having been able to try them out in full, but this is a pricey skin care regimen that I can't afford to keep up at all times. Makes a great treat for those special days though. And it's so darn easy.

CAD$88 for a pack of 12 pads. Made in USA. Available at Sephora, Hudson's Bay and select Shoppers Beauty Boutiques.

Ingredients: Water/Aqua/Eau, Sd Alcohol 40b (Alcohol Denat.), Glycereth-7 Trimethyl Ether, Niacinamide, Mandelic Acid, Peg-8/Smdi Copolymer, Triethanolamine, Azelaic Acid, Phytic Acid, Bisabolol.