Sunday, February 27, 2011

Inventory #19: Lip Balms & Chapsticks

There used to be this great blog called Chaptastic that reviewed every single chapstick available to the blogger(s).  I followed it long before I ever contemplated starting a beauty blog, despite not being a fan of chapsticks.  It was just so cute and well-organized that I found myself revisiting it regularly.  I'm sad that they have disbanded since.

Well, much like the last few posts, I was under the impression that I had a lot more lip balms and chapsticks than I actually do.  I'm starting to feel a bit better about my stash of products... but I'm going to regret saying that when I finally get to hair care products.  (Eeeeek!)

What do I look for in a lip balm or chapstick?  In order of priority:

1.  Moisturizing power and fast absorption - That is key, right?
2.  Texture, colour, and smell - I prefer the product not be too sticky or greasy but sometimes those are the best.  The scent must be pleasing or at the least unoffending.  I prefer a slight tinge of pink because white balms that apply thick make me look dead (and if the pink is visible enough, I don't need an additional lip product on days I'm in a rush).
3.  Transportability and affordability - They're going to be carried everywhere so the less clunkier the better.
4.  Packaging and aesthetics - As always, the pretty tends to sucker me in.  But not if it's a huge hassle to open the lid or I'm afraid of damaging the pretty package by carrying it around.

From my collection, I would say that Burt's Bees Replenishing Lip Balm with Pomegranate Oil comes closest to fulfilling the criteria listed. 

Before this, I didn't own anything remotely chapstick-like for years and years.  Being the extremist that I am, I jumped from Vaseline to Bonne Belle Lip Smackers to Laura Mercier balms (which, by the way, is fabulous if tiny and expensive).  I'm not crazy about the waxy feel and pasty look of the original Burt's Bees balm, so this Pomegranate Oil seemed like a good compromise between all the products I've ever tried.  This is my third tube and I still love it despite a guy once telling me how much he hates the smell of it.  Too bad, buddy.

I also have the Acai Berry balm somewhere; it goes missing at least once a month and turns up again when I least expect to find it.  I don't like the Acai Berry scent, look, or feel as much as the Pomegranate but I bought it on one of those desperate days when I forgot to carry a balm with me.

As for the Rosebud salves, I posted a comparison review back in December.  Despite the low number of comments, it's one of the most viewed posts on my blog (according to Blogger statistics).  I still stand by Smith's Rosebud Salve as the superior product between the two.

I mentioned the Bonne Belle Lip Smacker and N.Y.C. Lip Sliders Tinted Lip Balm when I purchased them back in January.  I've had a month to try them out so here's a quick review:

N.Y.C. Lip Sliders - It's rather sticky but because of its stickiness, it will stay put and at least form a barrier of moisture on your lips against outside elements.  It doesn't absorb and moisturize as well as true balms like the rosebud salves do, but it's super cute and adds a nice natural tint and gloss to the lips.  You really can't complain when it's only $2 on sale.  There was about 5-6 shades in the drugstores and mine is called "Sugar Angel."  You would think the slide tin lid would get annoying after a while but I'm actually fine with it.  In fact, it's slightly easier to open than the rounded rosebud tins.  Sometimes I just carry this in my bag and no other lippies.

Bonne Belle Lip Smacker 100% Natural Pink Guava - Yarrrrrrgh!  It's doing that stupid thing where the product won't twist back down into the tube properly.  You would think that AFTER ALL THESE YEARS, they would have figured out a solution to this very common issue.  This automatically gets a permanent dismissal from me.  The inconvenience is hard to deal with.  It's not all that great of a balm, anyway.  It has the white pasty look that I don't like, though it doesn't make my lips look dead.  The smell of guava is faint and on the sweet side.  I was hopeful for a Bonne Belle reunion when I bought it but I see now that there is no going back.  Bonne Belle remains a part of fond memories of junior/middle school days, along with training bras, New Kids on the Block, and playground crushes.  See ya later.

Vasanti Conquer 3-in-1 Stick - I am completely new to Vasanti.  No clue what it's about.  I scooped this up when the drugstore carrying it had a promotional discount on all lip products.  I haven't had a chance to try it yet, so I'll give this one an update at some point in the future.  In the meantime, read the description that suckered me in: 

Lip treatment, Lip Erase and Natural Shine Gloss…all in one stick!! Wear as a clear Lip balm to moisturize, alone or on top of any liptick for a non-sticky brilliant shine or use at the end of the day to wipe away any lip colour effortlessly.

Sounds great, right???  I love that it looks like a lipstick.  The packaging is pretty slick and I like the emolient look of the product with the slightest hint of pink.  The price listed is US$15 but I got it for about Cdn$10.  Slightly more than I would normally pay for a balm, but it's nowhere near the Laura Mercier range.

[Edit:  Just tried and it's a winner!  Feels great right away and has an amazing glide and soothing effect.]

What are your fave lip balms?  Do you prefer them high or low or in between?  Have you tried and liked any of these?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Inventory #18: Hand Lotions

Hand lotions and lip balms: you will never find me without either of them, no matter where in the world I am.  I'm not very particular about what goes on my hands so long as there is something.  As soon as my hand touches water, I'm rummaging in my bag for a moisturizer. 

Before I rounded up my stash, I was sure I had more than six hand lotions.  In reality, I just dig into my tubs of body butters or whatever is most conveniently placed.  So it feels like I have hand lotions everywhere when I really don't.  Someone asked me the other day how I keep my hands soft in the winter and my answer is to just keep moisturizing.  Carry a travel size lotion with you and pull it out as often as needed.

I prefer my hand lotions unscented, believe it or not.  I ended up with the perfumed lotions (SJP's Covet and Nanette Lepore's Shanghai Butterfly) because of the boxed sets they came in, not because I really wanted them.  Once I spray the perfume, I don't feel the need to add more scent by using the hand lotions.  I've had these two stashed away somewhere and forgot about them until today.  The Nanette Lepore is almost finished, so I'll be looking forward to getting rid of that.  I don't like perfumed lotions because the scent tends to be overwhelming while the quality of the product always lean towards being watery and inadequate.

(I just tried Covet and realized it's a body lotion, not a hand lotion.  Bah, whatever.)

This Yves Rocher hand cream is a gift I received for participating in a high heels sprint in September (I didn't win, and all the participants got a gift bag).  I put this recently in the bathroom next to the soap so that I don't forget to apply it.  It has no scent and is a decent hand cream.  Not bad but nothing to rave about.  Yves Rocher is the one store I never feel compelled to walk into, for some reason.  There are a lot of locations (though they seem to be reduced lately) and there is one right by my house.  Maybe because the store is always mostly empty and I fear that the saleswomen will jump all over me.  Maybe I'll brave it the next time.

And what collection isn't complete without some Bath & Body Works?  I picked up these three from the post-holidays clearance sale.  It was something ludicrously cheap and I didn't have a portable hand lotion on me that day and felt lost.  My fave is the Warm Vanilla Sugar, which I just love especially in the winter.  In fact, I love it so much that I have the entire line of it in shower gel, body cream, shampoo, etc.  You'll see later in the future inventories.  I was going to just get all three in the Warm Vanilla Sugar but decided variety was nice.  Except I'm not sure if I like Coconut Verbena all that much right now, but perhaps I'll learn to love it in the summer.  And Lemon is always a nice pick-me-up at moments when you don't feel very energetic.

Now, these are anti-bacterial hand lotions, which I find aren't very moisturizing.  But they're nice when you're on the go and don't feel like doing the two-step: slapping on Purell and then moisturizing.  I like pulling it out while I'm on the subway, after I've touched a lot of poles, door handles, rails, etc. 

Oops, almost forgot.  I keep this giant Herbacin Hand & Nail Balm on my desk at the office.  I've tried all the different Herbacin hand care stuff and really like the brand.  They're unscented, have just the right amount of lubrication and absorption, and is affordable.  To me, Herbacin is much better than Neutrogena and Vaseline handcare products.  I was going to include Aveeno in that list but it's been a while since I've used an Aveeno hand cream, so I'm not sure right now.

Well, that was brief, but as I said earlier, I just use any old body cream on my hands and especially like using body butters instead of a "hand lotion."  What do you use on your hands?  Are you diligent about keeping your hands soft and smooth?  Do you splurge on handcare products or skimp like me?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Confessional/Haul #4: Joe Fresh Cheek Tints

Yesterday afternoon I suffered a case of cabin fever, went out for a long walk, ended up at Loblaws (a Canadian grocery chain) and found myself at the cash register holding handfuls of Coffee Crisps and these adorable Joe Fresh cheek tints.  I swiped two, in Peach and Cherry, with the rationalization that I don't own a truly peach or red-red blush.  And it's true, I don't (not counting the tiny sample size Benetint).  At Cdn$4 each, they were a steal.

I was never really tempted by Joe Fresh before.  The three things that drew me immediately were the nail polish, cheek tints, and eye shadows.  The nail polish are quite small and at $4 each, I had no problem bypassing them.  I was more tempted by the shadows, but somehow I found restraint and managed to put down the pack that had somehow made its way into my palm.

Then I discovered the cheek tints, and hello -- I was in love!  Look at how adorable they are.

Joe Fresh Cheek Tint in "Cherry"

Joe Fresh Cheek Tint in "Peach"
Sorry, used some before I took the photos!

"Peach" seemed more peachy under the store lights and turned out closer to neutral pink at home.  "Cherry" is a vibrant sheer red which I absolutely adore.  They are nice and compact, don't smell artificial, apply and blend nicely, and stay put all day long.  For the Canadian gals who are looking for an affordable cream blush/cheek tint, I highly highly recommend these.  I can't believe it took me so long to get on board with these.

Cherry (top) and Peach (bottom) before blending
Cherry (top) and Peach (bottom) blended

I wore Peach all day yesterday and am wearing Cherry today.  I'll be wearing Cherry again to work tomorrow.  I'm so glad I found these before I became tempted by the new YSL cream blush.  These are also serious contenders against the much more expensive and popular NARS The Multiple.  I love mine in "Maui" but why wouldn't I pay $40 less for equally stunning visual results?

Have you tried Joe Fresh cosmetics before?  What are your cheapy-find success stories?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Inventory #17: Perfumes

11 full size bottles and then some.  I was under the impression that I was very picky about perfumes, but guess not!  I tried to pick out a "signature scent" in my early/mid 20s and chose Givenchy's "Very Irresistible" (the original) despite its dumb name.  I got suckered in because the super beautiful Liv Tyler was promoting it, and more importantly, I thought it showcased just the right blend of youth and maturity that I was seeking at the time.  I enjoyed it very much for about two years and the 90% finished bottle is still kicking around the house somewhere, but it and I are through now.  I am a terrible perfume philanderer and quite shameless about it.  Forget this signature scent business.  I like scents according to moods, seasons, stage of life... why have just one when you can have a dozen?  This is the one area in which I can't reduce.

I always do three test runs before committing to a full bottle.  There are ways to re-use unwanted makeup, but there's nothing to be done about a smell you can't stand.  I learn this the hard way on the subway every day when someone with a horrible perfume/cologne is standing too close.  Only the protection of your own scent helps.

I'm not very good at describing fragrances, though I love to sniff and spray.  Forgive me the lazy routine this once and please click on the links provided for a full description of fragrances and ingredients.  Here goes!

1.  Tocca "Stella" - Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous.  Love the bottle, love the scent.  I dug deep for this one last year and never regretted it.  I like to wear this all year round, and when I run out, I'm going to get another bottle.  Such an elegant mix of fruity and floral.  It's one of those scents that transport you mentally to a different time and place.

2.  Susanne Lang "Cashmere" - As you scroll through the list, you will realize that I tend to pick clean or floral fragrances.  This is as warm and spicy as I will get, but at 50% off the regular price, it couldn't be resisted.  It's also difficult to find Susanne Lang perfumes offline, so I was very lucky to come across the boutique that, unfortunately, was closing up shop and clearing out a whole bunch of items.  I have to admit that I don't wear it too often, but I tried it the other day in anticipation of this post and decided that I need to get more familiar with this before winter ends, as it is most definitely not a warm weather perfume.

3.  Guerlain "Aqua Allegoria Mandarine-Basilic" - I was actively on the hunt for something with basil last summer and finally settled on this.  A few years ago, Marc Jacobs had a Basil splash spray which I regretted not getting, but this may be even better.  It's the perfect summer time fragrance due to its lightness in both scent and intensity.  The smell of basil instantaneously cheers me up.  But it's a mix of blood orange and basil, so you don't just smell like the herb.  Genius!

4.   SJP "Covet" - I hated "Lovely" so "Covet" was a nice surprise when it was first released.  I didn't think it was spectacular enough to pay the full price for it, so I scooped this up later when it showed up in a boxed set for only $20 at Winners.  Now I see that it's discontinued.  Weirdly, I started to hate it a little bit the second time I wore it, but after laying it aside for a few months, I decided that I liked it again after the third try.  I don't have an official link for it since it's discontinued, but this blog has a great review and description.

5.  Philosophy "Pure Grace" - I went crazy over this one when I discovered it 4-5 years ago.  I not only bought the perfume but the shower gel, body lotion, body scrub and the travel size perfume as well.  Yup, it is that good.  I wanted something that smelled clean without reminding me of detergents or harsh soap.  You'll note that it's described as a floral but there's something so clean and fresh about this despite its floral properties that I couldn't help but fall in love with it.

 6.  Stella McCartney "Stella" - If you're looking for a rose scent that isn't "old lady", this would be it.  There's something about this scent that reminds me of the word "active."  Maybe it's because I associate Stella McCartney with designing for Adidas, but I always think of this as an "active rose" perfume.  Spraying it on makes me want to go out and get stuff done.

7.  Hanae Mori "Butterfly" - This is one of the most elegant and feminine scents you will ever come across.  It has a very strange description: somehow strawberry and almond come together to produce a very vanilla-like smell.  I didn't read any description of it at first and picked it out based on how it smelled on me, so I was shocked when the ingredients didn't list vanilla.  It's sweet but not overwhelmingly so.  Somehow it's warm and subtle and elegant, for both young and old.  I'd repurchase this also when I run out.

8.  Nanette Lepore "Shanghai Butterfly" - I don't think this one was very popular and is still kicking around at Winners despite its current bargain basement price.  Mostly because people don't recognize the name, I think.  I was a huge fan of the original pink Nanette Lepore perfume as well as Nanette Lepore clothing, so I gave this a try.  It's a great summer fragrance, as it's light and fresh and airy.  It's really difficult to find a proper description of it online, though.  Have a look here.  I like it and the bottle is humongous, but I'm not heartbroken that it's now discontinued.

9.  Anamor "All That Matters" - This is the most unique of my perfumes.  I got into niche perfumes for a while and was reading about all sorts of interesting fragrances that you would not come across in department stores, when I came across a category of perfumes called "skin scents."  The concept behind this is that it's not so much a fragrance as an aura that surrounds you.  I was intrigued enough based upon this description alone to order it straight away without even sampling and testing first.  That is the very site from which I ordered this and that is close to the price that I paid (yup, kind of crazy - it's gone up a little since).  And let me tell you: it's worth every penny and that description is not a lie.  It literally doesn't smell like anything but smells so good at the same time.  It's fascinating how it works.

10.  Stella McCartney "Stella Nude" - Since I was a big fan of the original Stella, I had to try this as soon as it debuted a couple of years ago.  It's very much of a bedroom scent, if you're into florals.  I kind of wish I bought the linen spray and candle, as it makes for a great room fragrance.  I have to be in a very particular mood to wear this as a perfume.  It is a kind of quiet scent but not as subtle as Hanae Mori or All That Matters, which is why I don't wear it as often.

11.  Nanette Lepore "Nanette Lepore" - I'd use the word "whimsical" to describe this particular floral.  This was my second "signature scent" after the Very Irresistible phase, but I tired of it quickly as it seemed a bit too young by the time I entered my late 20s.  I no longer spray it on myself, but once in a while I sniff the bottle and smile to myself as it brings back memories of my more impetuous days.

12-15.  Miniatures:  I bought the Stella solid perfume and travel size Pure Grace because I love them very much and wanted to touch up throughout a long day.  The Covet and Shanghai Butterfly rollerballs came in the boxed sets with the full sizes and hand lotions.

 17-19.  CLEAN (Original, Provence, Simply Soap) - To be honest, I'm not sure what the difference between these three are and whether I actually like them.  They smell way too much like laundry detergent and sharp soap.  At one point I was sure that Provence was my fave between the three but I no longer know or care.  I might give these away.

20-23.  LAVANILA Mini Roller Set (Vanilla Lavender, Pure Vanilla, Vanilla Coconut, Vanilla Grapefruit) - I think you get the idea; it's vanilla paired with every other scent imaginable.  I used to love the smell of vanilla in middle school (Vanilla Fields, anyone?) but found it to be sickly sweet in perfumes.  Until LAVANILA came along.  They're still very much on the sweet side but not at all in that disgusting overwhelming way.  I think my fave between the four of these is Vanilla Coconut.  It reminds me of a long overdue tropical vacay I need to go on.

Refillable atomizers from Sephora filled with Gucci "Envy Me", Hanae Mori "Butterfly", Stella McCartney "Stella", and Guerlain "Mandarine-Basil".  I hate it when my faves don't come in travel size, and I refuse to carry around a gigantic bottle of perfume in my purse.  I've already talked about these except for Envy Me.  That was my second or third "signature scent" but it coincided with the Nanette Lepore.  I believe that was the beginning of my perfume whoring.

I feel content with this collection and actually don't feel guilty for having more perfume than I probably need.  Smell is such a funny thing and has such a powerful impact on how I feel that appeasing it is better than denying.  I'm not running out to buy a new perfume any time soon, but I might not stop myself the next time I come across a fragrance my nose finds appealing.

Do you have a fave/signature scent, or are you a perfume philanderer like me?  What kind of scents are you attracted to?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Inventory #16: Makeup Removers

I almost forgot this category.  Here's what I currently have:

1.  Olay Daily Facials Express Wet Cleansing Cloths (repeat purchase) - I use this on lazy nights.  They occur with less frequency as I become more responsible about skincare, but they're great to have on stand-by... because we all have "those nights."  You know what I mean.  It takes two sheets to remove makeup visibly, using both the back and front sides of each sheet.  I like this brand of wipe in particular because there is no disturbing scent, no rough texture on the cloth, and just the right amount of wetness.  I don't like the cloths that are dripping or too dry.  Be warned, though: despite using multiple sheets to wipe off your makeup, your face still isn't clean enough.  I thought that it was, but when I used toner after this one night, I discovered that there are traces of makeup deep in your pores that you just can't get to without liquid (i.e. water).  It really made me realize how important it is to completely remove your makeup, at the end of the day, diligently at the sink, EVERY.SINGLE.NIGHT.  Also, I have used this to remove eye makeup (including waterproof formulas), and while it works, there was very slight stinging when the wet cloth got too close and I'd rather not use it for that purpose again if I can help it.

2.  Marcelle Eye Make-up Remover Cloths (used once) - I got this as part of a boxed set of Marcelle skincare products, including the cleanser which I wrote about here and with a lotion which I gave to my sister.  I don't have much to say about this except that it's very convenient and will be awesome to pack for travel.  The sheets are quite small, slightly less than the size of your open hand, and it took 2-3 sheets to remove stubborn waterproof mascara.  When it comes to removing mascara, I prefer to have soaking wet cotton to really break down the makeup to prevent excess rubbing, so this eye makeup remover cloth is just something I'll keep for a "just in case" kind of day.

3.  Bourjois Paris Express Eye Makeup Remover - I picked this up when my previous eye makeup remover ran out, just because I was really happy to see Bourjois make a return to Canada.  Bourjois is one of those brands that unfortunately got phased out of Sephora about 4-5 years ago.  It's sold at Shoppers Drug Mart now and price remains within the mid-range.  This makeup remover was about $20 and I am sad to report that it's not worth the money.  It's another one of those duo-liquid removers, in which the oily blue substance floats above the clear watery one, like Lancome's famous Bi-Facil Double Action.  The hype about the Lancome is 100% deserved, but I can't make myself pay the expensive price for it (and Lancome seems to be getting more and more expensive as the years go by).  After playing around with Neutrogena and L'Oreal removers, I thought this deserved a try.  And it's not a bad makeup remover, but I liked the cheaper L'Oreal Gentle Waterproof Eye Makeup Remover better.  Yes, the Bourjois is much larger at 200ml instead of L'Oreal's 125ml, but while the L'Oreal did feel slightly greasier, the makeup came off much faster and easier and I would cleanse my face immediately afterwards anyway, so the grease factor hardly mattered.  I'll finish the bottle since I already have it, but I will not be purchasing this one again.

Before shaking
After shaking

4.  Makeup Forever Sens'Eyes Sensitive Waterproof Eye Cleanser (sample size) - This is a sample size that came in the Smoky Lash Kit which I got last year because I thought it was such a bargain.  The remover is great but I personally prefer liquid over the cream/gel texture.  My friend raves about this cleanser and I got the full size at one point but ended up giving a half finished bottle to her as I couldn't get used to the non-liquid texture.  I keep the sample size on my vanity and dip a Q-tip in to quickly fix eye makeup errors in the morning.  I also find the full size bottle to be on the small side at 100ml and at close to $30 per bottle, the value just isn't worth it to me.  But the reviews are excellent and I have nothing against the product itself.

5.  Bare Escentuals On the Spot (second purchase) - The concept for this product is genius and I don't understand why it hasn't been copied by other companies yet.  It's basically Q-tips filled with makeup remover in the stem.  Break off the cotton tip with the blue line on one end and the remover within the stem filters down into the cotton tip at the other end.  Very cool and very handy for travel and disaster eye makeup moments in the morning.  Personally I think there's too much liquid in the stem and it's a pity that you can't control the amount of remover that flows into the tip as it becomes completely soaking wet and will drip into your eyes if you aren't careful.  If you're going to use it, have a box of tissue right next to it as well.  With the slightest of modification, this could become a must-have product.  I liked it enough to buy it a second time but I rarely use it.  However it's nice knowing that it's there when I need it.

Did you notice every single one of these products have blue either in the product or in the packaging?  I guess the easy answer is that I must psychologically associate the colour blue with cleanliness.  Ha, the things I learn by blogging!

What are your fave products for removing makeup?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Nail Polish: Revlon Top Speed "Sheer Cotton"

I haven't worn a Revlon nail polish since middle school or early high school.  I noticed that lately Revlon has been releasing some pretty spring colours and picked up "Sheer Cotton" since I don't have very many classic pale shades.

The finished look is decent but it took four layers to achieve opacity.  I also apply base coat and top coat, so six layers in total is just too much.  I know pale colours always require more attention than dark, but I'll pass on Revlon from now on.  The formula just seemed so watery and I don't know that it dried faster than any other nail polish.  I much prefer Rimmel when it comes to drugstore nail polish.