Sunday, July 26, 2015

One Out, One In: Body Wash, Eye Makeup Remover, Acid Treatment

Two things that many take for granted: internet and air conditioning. I don't have either at home right now and life feels very strange, as if I've gone backwards in time to 1959 when apparently this house was built. Installing central air means tearing all the walls down and spending at least $50k, so it's likely that the house will just be rebuilt from scratch by whomever the next owners might be.

Anyway. This is to say that aromatic cold showers have become incredibly important this season.

OUT: Fruit & Passions Monoi Shower Oil - I bought it on sale before the stores got taken over by The Face Shop, and it looks like the older F&P series are completely discontinued/repackaged from the looks of their online shop. The texture and concept is comparable to L'Occitane Almond Oil which I also really liked, and I'm a sucker for monoi. I would have repurchased if it was still available. Oh, well.

IN: Caudalie Fleur de Vigne Shower Gel - I waffled terribly about spending $15 on a shower gel but figured that since I had been cruising on free press samples for a few years, it was okay to get the lemming out of the system. I also don't live with my siblings anymore so we're not sharing giant industrial-sized bath products, either. I think my shower gels are going to stay fancy from now on, because this one is TEH AWESOME. My body is slightly on the dry side but this soap-free gel keeps it feeling soft and comfortable even when I skip moisturizer. The smell of Fleur de Vigne is just okay -- kind of fresh but very subtle; my jam has always been the slightly muskier Thé de Vigne. Get it (or them) from Sephora, Murale or Caudalie Canada.

OUT: Lancome Bi-Facil Double Action makeup Remover - It was my holy grail and picked it up when I got into a momentary panic about stretching out my eye area too much with subpar removers and creating lines/wrinkles. I can be so silly sometimes. Anyway, at CAD$36 it obviously costs too much to keep using regularly, so I'll only get them on sale or with points or at warehouse sales from now on.

IN: Shiseido Instant Eye & Lip Makeup Remover - I picked this up for $12 at Winners and know from countless swatch sessions at makeup counters that it works amazingly well. I've yet to use it on waterproof eye makeup as I haven't been wearing too much makeup the past couple of weeks, but I hope for good results.

OUT: Skyn Iceland Nordic Skin Peel - I used this to replace the much-lauded but ineffective FAB Radiance Pads and found that while good, it performed rather erratically on my skin. Most days it cleared everything but a few random days gave me lumps and bumps. The pads stayed well-saturated through half a year down to the last cotton and I used them on neck and chest on days when face felt finicky. (Skyn Iceland pulled out of Sephora Canada a few years ago but you can still find them at Murale and random independent boutiques.)

IN: Peter Thomas Roth Gylcolic Acid 10% Toning Complex - I risked limbs and life to grab this bottle during Sephora November VIB Sale and would do so again. I think it's well on its way to becoming my holy grail facial treatment/chemical exfoliator. I don't think of it as a toner at all but rather as a treatment before hydrating serum or moisturizer. The 150mL bottle is sure to last longer than might be recommended, and now that I've discovered ultra-soft and cheap cotton pads from MUJI (better than Shiseido!), I plan on using this until my face grows tired of it. I use it every other night in the summer and maybe just a couple of times a week during winter and wake up with diminished spots and clearer face. (Sephora Canada has a new page for this now but is awaiting shipment.) As for the PTR Un-Wrinkle Peel Pads, I grabbed it during yet another Winners run and haven't cracked it open yet. I think the toner gives me the better value overall so I probably wouldn't buy the Un-Wrinkle for regular price, but it seems like a good thing to have on hand for travel, etc. We shall see.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

2015 Summer Favourites - Part 1

Is there anything better than a cool summer evening? It's still July so you don't fear the summer fading into autumnal chill, white sundresses and scandalously short shorts are A-okay, and you have the luxury of choosing to drink something warm or eating gelato at the same time.

I've actually been having a stressful week, but tonight I escaped to my favourite cafe to borrow their Wi-fi, sip Earl Grey tea and see if a post would pour out during the brief respite. I think even the short walk through cool breezes helped, so... boom. A post born out of bergamot-scented water and hours spent wrestling with internet service providers, home insurers and dissenting parents.

I've lived enough summers to understand by now that makeup-wearing will be scant during the hotter days, aromatic facial mists are a must, and the quality of facial sunscreens pretty much dictates the quality of my week. (Because, seriously -- how pissed off does that new zit make you? Despite best efforts, I grew a giant one under my chin last night.) I finally ran out of my Neutrogenan Water-Light (see the last OOOI post) and was going to rely on the Shiseido WetForce but... wow, its water-repelling powers are truly great and I don't really want the equivalent of a saran wrap in skin care form plastered over my face on a daily basis. Save that baby for the beach. After seesawing back and forth on an Optimum Points extra redemption day, I caved and picked up La Roche-Posay Anthelios Ultra-Light SPF60 for face in the cute new repackaged form. The texture is silky and refined, and it doesn't feel heavy on oily skin. I also caved to the full-size bottle of Caudalie Beauty Elixir which beauty folks either exalt or deride, depending on -- oh, I don't know; fuck me if I know what the criteria is. I like the slightly bitter herby scent, find its fine mist refreshing and love that my skin glows after a few spritzes. I've finished two small bottles in the past (always in the summer) and know that the full bottle can only improve my life and mood this season as well. And as much as I still love Mandarine-Basilic, Guerlain Herba Fresca is the one I reach for in the evening as an olfactory extension of a pleasant day filled with the scent of fresh, sweet herbs and cut grass.

What products are new and precious in your summer routine?

PS. The cafe is now playing this song. Ghost of young Taylor Swift, no?

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

My Piss Poor Concealing Game

I might have to turn in my beauty blogger badge soon because... concealers? Yawn. My aim with makeup isn't perfection, although there are times when I sorta wanna try. I rely on a good foundation to even out skin tone in one go, and I am fortunate to not sport intense under-eye circles (although I have noted that they have darkened ever so slightly as of late, but nothing to really worry about). Lately I've been applying less foundation, too. I still need it over both cheeks, nose and chin, but I completely skip the forehead now as well as the edges of face so that there's no need to blend product into hairlines or down the neck. I feel like it's the edges that really give away the fact that you're wearing makeup.

And, anyway, it's easy to go overboard with concealers because once you start zeroing in on all the tiny imperfections, it's halfway to Kardashian territory by the time you look up and blink into a masked reflection. So I try to keep the concealer dabs to only the most essential. And I really only needed one product rather than two, but I got excited when Target Canada debuted (sob!) and had to pick up the Sonia Kashuk.

I've had theBalm Time Balm Concealer in Medium for longer than I'd like to admit. Prior to that, I was using the same concealer in Light-Medium and ditched it because it was too pale. Sonia Kashuk Hidden Agenda Concealer Palette in 07 Light contains three shades and a setting powder, and I was so sure at the time of purchase that all thee shades were different from theBalm Time Balm. But as you can see in the swatches below, shade #2 from the SK palette is quite similar to theBalm although it's not an exact match.

I use the shades as follows:
  • SK #1 - Never, as it's too light.
  • SK #2 - Great for undereye, as the peach tone cancels out some bluey shadows.
  • SK #3 - Around the nose to eliminate redness. 
  • Mix of #2 and #3 for severe imperfections on the rest of the face as they crop up from time to time.
  • TheBalm Time Balm Medium - Mostly for undereye but also sometimes around the nose and anywhere else I feel like. 
  • SK Powder - Though it looks pale on the arm swatch, it doesn't turn the face ghostly or chalky. It has decent setting abilities and oil control. 

The texture of the SK concealers and theBalm Time Balm are very similar, both being creamy and emollient which makes them ideal for undereye rather than on oily spots over the rest of the face. They're about medium strength in coverage when it comes to concealers -- not as industrial as Benefit boi-ing or MUFE Full Cover -- with enough translucency when blended to showcase the skin beneath. This makes me both happy and annoyed, because while I want to look as natural as possible, it's not so great when the dark marks aren't completely covered.

Or is it?

Well, part of the whole "natural looking" aspect has to do with leaving the natural components alone. And any concealer that is going to be full strength industrial is going to have to be an exact match to the skin or else it will leave tell-tale marks even worse than the spots to be eliminated. I'm trying to remain relaxed about such "flaws" as I grow older. Despite picking on myself over here about how terribly scarred my cheeks are and such, in real life, people have always complimented my skin and said that it looked "flawless." And yet it wasn't enough for the longest time. I needed EXTRA flawlesss! Nowadays I just say thanks with a smile and tell them what foundation I'm using. I love the looks on some people's faces when I say it's a $2 Almay. (One Shoppers SA: "No way! It looks high-end!")

Do you use concealers? What are some of your faves?

Friday, July 10, 2015

Fighting Off Them Stubborn Lemmings - Summer 2015 Edition

I should be scrubbing the bath tub right now but why labour when there's a blog post to be written??!

I was at a mall today to buy a birthday gift, so naturally I poked my head into Sephora, The Bay and MAC as usual. To be honest, though, I was really there to check out the new MAC x Giambattista Valli limited edition lipstick collection which I had been waiting months for, ever since news broke in winter. Although I've failed to keep up with the fashion world ever since taking up beauty blogging, a part of me just goes insane at the idea of mid-level makeup brand/haute couture collaborations. 'There's no way you could ever own GV couture except through this,' the devil on my left shoulder said snidely as I scrolled endless images of the MAC x GV hauls filling Instagram. The devil disguised as an angel on my right shoulder concurred: 'MUST. BUY. ALL.'

MAC x Giambattista Valli Lipstick Collection, 2015 Limited Edition

I gamely marched to the MAC store, knowing that this particular sleepy location wasn't about to sell out anytime soon. And to my immense relief, I really didn't feel like throwing $100 at some lipsticks that were eerily close to some of the shades that I had been weeding out for LIPSTICK SURVIVOR. What I really wanted them for was the pretty packaging, designer label and hoarding. Now, I am all for hoarding if you can afford to do so and cultivate beautiful collections. No judgment if you bought them all. I think they were produced to be purchased all together, anyway. Bianca (the palest shade to the left) is an unwearable colour unless you're albino, but it's basically the equivalent of a fluffy couture princess gown in lipstick form, so how do you leave it out as you check out with all the others?!

Seeing the colours in person and swatching them completely brought me back to earth and to the fact that I have an entire bin full of lipsticks at home wasting away for want of wear. And as I walked away, there was a sense of peace rather than the usual waffling and lingering longing. The biggest part of my dilemma as a self-styled "reductionista" and beauty blogger has been the nagging tendency to hoard/collect versus use/wear. I'm an archivist at heart, and both collecting and hunting to collect is something I do with great energy and zeal. Unfortunately, this talent has been squandered on a rather expensive hobby, and I was hoping to gradually ease myself out of it, but the beauty world has one heck of a death grip and I am in no shape to resist.

Lately, though, there is a slight relaxation of that grip. It didn't happen just on its own; it happened as I experimented with more colours and brands and realized that the world wasn't going to end if I didn't obtain the newest Chanel or the extremely rare and limited edition nail polish. Obviously my brain knew that already, but old habits nurtured for DECADES are hard, hard, hard to break.

Summer 2015 Temptations
Basically, the visual of a future shopping list that's occupying my head space.

The gradual relaxing also happened as I turned my attention to other activities like reading and cooking. I'm not drawing a hasty conclusion that I won't fall for some other LE item in the future or go gaga over a Chanel collection yet to come (Fall 2015 is looking good but I need to see in person). I guess that through this post, I'm simply trying to note that my desire for new acquisition isn't as manic as it once was. I'm still very much in love with beauty and makeup and daily semi-artistic experiments, but I'm willing to narrow my list down to seasonal needs and wait for sales and good timing.

For example, the wish list/shopping list above are all things I can wait for or resist with a shrug of the shoulders. I want them, yes, but not now NOW NOW. I think that the Clinique Cola Pop Blush, despite the stupid name, will make a lovely fall blush, and the Becca Ombre Nudes Eye Palette, while boring, will be something useful to have on hand throughout an equally boring winter season. I'm willing to let the wildly popular Becca Champagne Pop (aka Becca x Jaclyn Hill, YouTube wonder) slide by because Moonstone and Opal are good enough for my skin tone and I will never finish the mini Tarte highlighter I've been scraping for the past two years. And while the Aveda Rosemary Mint Soap smells wonderful for summer, as does the L'Occitane Zest Lime Shea Butter, $20+ for a soap and yet another scented body butter I won't get around to finishing is something I can probably live without. (Probably!) I'll eventually cave to the Lancome Energie de Vie Recharging Lotion but that can definitely wait for the annual Sephora November VIB sale while I finish up other skin care products in rotation. And as you can see, I'm not even looking at lip products. I'm still feeling lukewarm on liquid lip products and currently swimming in lipsticks.

To conclude, it means the imminent return of LIPSTICK SURVIVOR!!! ............. and at some point between drafting and publishing, I have also managed to clean the tub and am now kicking back with a beer and looking at recipes for blueberry cake and cheddar scallion scones to make this weekend. GO, ME. Back pats and hand shakes all around for everyone else who is doing well on balancing their beauty game. And if you're not doing so well, come over for some beer and carbs and we can talk about your recent purchases and lemmings anyway. ;-)

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

For Oily and Acne-Prone Skin: La Roche-Posay Effaclar

This post features press samples.

I received this set from the Canadian PR for LRP a year ago, so the review is long overdue. I don't feel obligated to write it for the PR; rather, I want to clarify for interested readers what the products are and how they might be helpful for fighting summer grease and skin woes. I point you to the LRP website for press info and ingredient lists as I'd like to keep the post short and to the point. If you're from the US, Europe or Asia, individual products available from the company may vary, but I believe the core series and products are either the same or very similar. Last year LRP told me that they're working on offering their broader range that's available in Europe to the Canadian audience, and I'm still waiting eagerly for that to happen.

Anyway. It's July, and hot weather unfortunately may mean more frequent breakouts and skin woes. I always have at least one anti-acne treatment on hand, and today I'm sporting a handsome breakout on the left side of my chin that no concealer can disguise. A few years ago, I wrote a glowing review about the positive effects of Effaclar Duo which I happily repurchased at least 4-5 times afterwards. I've actually finished the tube in the picture below and had to repurchase yet again.

The Effaclar system specifically targets oily and acne-prone skin. LRP added a few more products to the Effaclar series recently, and they also reformulated Effaclar Duo to Effaclar Duo[+] to make the formula more gentle and soothing.

Effaclar Purifying Foaming Gel - A foaming cleanser. Like... super foamy. I don't use foaming cleansers and prefer gentler gel-cream formulas that rinse away easier. This one isn't stripping but it did take a lot more time and effort to rinse off. As for its effect on acne-prone skin, it might be worth pairing with the other products in the range if you have very oily skin or large areas of breakouts. This is a great cleanser to use with sonic tools like the Clarisonic if you rely on such tools. (I heartily recommend this combination if your skin requires frequent physical exfoliation and isn't particularly sensitive.)

Effaclar K - Anti-acne treatment lotion/serum; not a moisturizer. LRP recommends this for those who suffer from adult acne, as opposed to teenage acne. Unfortunately this had zero effect on my skin which has major delusions about its apparent age. It didn't feel drying or have any negative effect; it simply didn't produce any discernible results.

Effaclar Duo[+] - Anti-acne treatment lotion/serum; not a moisturizer unless you're very oily. I finished the entire tube and can attest to the fact that the [+] version (which is the one you'll now find in the drugstores) is definitely more gentle on the skin but just as effective as the old version at eradicating spots. The reformulation, pumped full of niacinamide, was a great idea and well-executed, because plenty of people told me that the original Duo was drying and harsh on their skin. I have since picked up a tube of the original Duo from a L'Oreal warehouse sale and can really feel the difference between the two variations when it comes to hydration. (Fun fact: Effaclar Duo[+] is the same all around the world with the exception of the US version which has a slightly higher percentage of salicylic acid.)

I've also tried a small sample of Effaclar Mat which is a mattifying oil-free moisturizer but it felt way too drying and my face hated it. (I'm guessing that I should have used Effaclar H instead. Oy, these names.) Obviously, your mileage may vary. But if you've never tried anything from this series before, go for the Duo[+] and either use it as a spot treatment or an all-over face treatment. Because I had such a good experience with the Duo, I figured everything else from the Effaclar line was going to work, but skin is a funny thing and there's no predicting how it will react to different products.

In Canada, you can easily find LRP at Shoppers and Rexall, and it's worth testing out the little boxed sample sets that they sell sometimes, usually around $5-15. Or just ask a rep for some samples, after getting their advice on which products might be more appropriate. In the US, LRP can be harder to find but most of the range is available at where they often seem to have sales.