Tuesday, May 31, 2011

May 2011 Favourites and Hair Disaster Aftermath

I still enjoy the products featured on the April 2011 Faves post, but a new set of products have been making the rotation lately. For the hair disaster follow-up, scroll down to #7 on the list of products.

1. MAC Paint Pot in Soft Ochre - Used as a shadow base/primer for years before Urban Decay came out with the shadow primer, I actually acquired this product after I tried the UD Primer Potion. I don't know why, but I like to use Soft Ochre under cream shadows and save the UDPP for when I use powder shadows. If you're looking for something to make your shadows more vibrant and to wear longer, I definitely recommend UDPP. However, there's something enjoyable about dipping your finger into a pot and just tapping it on the skin.

2. H2O Shine Mattifying Essence - This product is no longer available, which speaks to how long I've had it for. However, the texture, consistency, colour and smell remain the same, so I'm just going to forget that there's such a thing as expiry until I discern a change. Because? This kind of rocks. The only spot I apply it is on my nose, which is the oiliest nose a nose ever was. Doesn't matter what I put on it and how I set it. Without this baby, my nose looks like it's been dipped in a frying pan within an hour after leaving the house.

3. Clinique Chubby Stick in Whole Lotta Honey - I love tinted balms and very creamy lippies. This product isn't glamorous or trendy, but it's a wonderfully natural lip colour on me and keeps my very chapped lips looking moist without being too shiny. The only reason I'm not going out to grab one in every colour is that I already have a crazy amount of lippies at the moment.

4. Marcelle Eye Make-up Remover Cloths - This came in a skincare package and is a travel size version of the original. I wish Marcelle would just sell the travel size separately as it's super handy to carry around, for those days when your eye makeup just melts in the heat and you'd rather take the whole thing off rather than touch up all day long. My makeup will be fine in an air-conditioned office, but the second I head outside to go to my evening classes, I'm going to want to pull this out and just take off my makeup instead of swiping at my undereye all night as I've been doing tonight.

5. D&G 3 L'Imperatrice - According to Sephora, this "is a confident, charismatic, boundary-shattering blend with a top of rhubarb, kiwi accord, and red currant; a heart of pink cyclamen, watermelon, and jasmine; and a base of musk, sandalwood, and grapefruit wood. The impression channels a successful, compelling character that is neither male, nor female, nor unisex, moving with dynamism to the free, edgy style that marks the D&G fashion empire." Um, no. It's very very femme and is a good mixture of fruity and flowery without being too sweet or overpowering. It's a great spring perfume. It wasn't listed on my perfume inventory because I found it for half the regular price at Winners after I had already published the post. Like I said, spring time is precious short in Toronto, so I've been spraying the heck out of this bottle for the past few weeks.

6. Annabelle Leopard Bronzer in Jungle Belle - Tracy of Beauty Reflections posted a great review of this with a swatch, and I resisted at the time but caved last week. Am I ever glad I did! The mix of all the colours give me a nice flush with just a hint of bronze. It may look more brown than pink if you're extremely fair, but I find that there's enough pink in the pattern to work as a blush/bronzer, saving me the task of applying two different products. Multi-tasking product for the win! (Annabelle is a Canada-only brand, but if you're in the U.S., click here to see how you can order Annabelle products.)

And now, for more hair drama.............!

7. MoroccanOil Intense Curl Cream - I've had this for a while and forgot to include it in the haircare inventories. Even though it specifically says that it's for (very) curly hair and I've been calling my hair wavy all along, I had a gut feeling that this product was going to work magnificently. I used it once while my hair was still long, and unfortunately, it just seemed to weigh down hair without controlling the frizzes or shaping the curls. However, now that my hair is shorter, I gave it another try when I finally had to wash my hair for Sunday's wedding and debut my new curly mop without the aid of salon styling. Here's the result!

There's shine, definition, volume, and movement. You don't get the crunchy feel or wet look of a mousse or gel. This is also second day hair, the morning after the wedding. The shape lasted all through Sunday, Monday and will possibly even today. I'm kind of loving my shorter 'do now that it's easy to manage and the Intense Curl Cream helps to keep it manageable. I love that all I have to do is rake the cream through damp hair and just let the whole thing air dry without lifting a finger afterwards. Also, I don't see anybody else around with this hair. It's not the most flattering cut ever, but I like the feeling of being unique.

8. Chanel Le Vernis in Black Pearl - Because of the hair mishap, I was feeling unsure about how to style myself for the wedding on Sunday. I spent a portion of Saturday night and Sunday morning changing up the dress, shoes, bag and nail colour in every combination possible. Then it hit me that I should just go for the elegance and mystery that Chanel Black Pearl evokes. I loved it the first time - why waste the opportunity to show it off some more?

I should stop here before I run out of favourites to promote the rest of the season. So, which products have you been enjoying this month? Any life changers that I need to know about?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Perfume Sampling 1 of 14: Juliette Has A Gun "Not A Perfume"

Some time ago, I decided to be more venturesome and ordered perfume samples from LuckyScent. I'm happy with the perfumes I have, but once in a while it's fun to test new things without committing to a full bottle or being blasted with sprays by enthusiastic sales associates at the department store. This is when sites like LuckyScent become extremely useful.

I rarely shop online because it's so easy to push a button and start piling things in the online cart. As someone who gets carried away doing that in person, doing so online would be extremely dangerous for me. Also, I simply prefer to look at the product in person. Seeing, touching, smelling and applying the cosmetic allows me to make better decisions all around.

However, certain things are not available in my city and sampling perfume is a rather harmless activity, so I said to myself. I intended to get only 5-7 but ended up with 14 to justify the shipping charge. Here's a list of my samples:

I've never even heard of half the companies and there's only one brand that's actually sold near me, though they don't have this particular perfume. It's the one that I'm going to focus on today, which is Juliette Has a Gun Not a Perfume EDP.

I've long been charmed by the name Juliette Has a Gun and discovered the brand while perfume sniffing at Holt Renfrew. The two that are sold there are Miss Charming and Lady Vengeance. One thing I'm really drawn in by are the names and descriptions of products. In the case of perfumes, the bottle matters quite a bit as well, since designing perfume bottles is an art and an industry in and of itself. How the perfume smells on me is of primary importance, but the hook and bait for my attention is definitely in the name and look of a perfume. While I was definitely interested in Lady Vengeance, I wasn't totally crazy about how it smelled on me back then. When I browsed LuckyScent and realized there were other perfumes in the Juliette line, I had to sample another. Not a Perfume sounded exactly like my kind of perfume, so I checked first at Holts to see if they had added it to their collection since my last sniff visit. No, they had not, so I ordered the sample from Lucky.

The size of the sample is quite small. It's the same size as the samples that are distributed by the mainstream brands in department stores. Each sample costs anywhere from $2.50 to $7 or maybe even $10, depending on how rare and expensive the perfume is. Most of my samples were in the $3-4 zone. This one cost $4.

Hefty price for a tiny vial, one might think. Opinions will vary depending on how much you love perfume and how much you love the joy of exploring that untread territory. I can't call myself a huge perfume lover by any means, and you'll see throughout this sampling series that I lack the proper language to do justice to descriptions of perfumes (relying mostly on the LuckyScent or brand websites). However, I so love trying new products, especially if they're unique and unknown to the people around me.

Here's the description of Not a Perfume from LuckyScent:

Along with today’s minimalist trend, Not a Perfume follows suit and adds extremity, irreverence and conceptual characteristics to deliver a true art form. You have now stepped into a new and elegant form of perfumery. With Not a Perfume you get exactly what you want from the scent: it does not evolve; it is not a composition, but rather a particular fragrance that is very strong & lasting on skin. Just like the white packaging it’s housed in, its makeup is fresh, clean, and clinical. This brand new concept from Romano Ricci is a modern day fragrance that is 100% synthetic and created without allergens.

Not a Perfume is made of 1 single synthetic ingredient – Ambroxan. Ambroxan is a molecular creation that comes from the organic research. Developed by Firmenich in the 1950’s to replace Ambergris, a very rare natural secretion of whales, Ambroxan comes in the form of white crystals. It is usually used as a back note in perfume composition, even if its smell is curiously quite far from its original inspiration. 

I found that the effect of Not a Perfume is extremely similar to one of my all-time faves, All That Matters by Anamor. At the heart of both perfumes is the same nearly indistinguishable musk. Neither smell like anything in particular, so it's really difficult to try to explain when I'm terrible at describing scents in the first place. As far as I can tell, All That Matters seems to be more complex while Not a Perfume lacks layers and notes. Not a Perfume is a simple scent that work with your body chemistry to produce something replicating a sense of comfort and cleanliness. It seems to me that lines such as CLEAN and Leslie Blodgett Perfume Diaries are attempting to produce similar clean and subtle scents, but they fail spectacularly because their perfumes are just too overpowering and not subtle at all. What Not a Perfume and All That Matters accomplish is a subtle art. It's like comparing SpaghettiOs to an authentic Italian pasta dish prepared with the freshest of ingredients.

This isn't exactly a smack down on SpaghettiOs or CLEAN. Sometimes I get a craving for and indulge in stuff like Taco Bell and Kraft Dinner. It is possible to like them all, "high" or "low." What I am saying, however, is that there is a world of a difference, and it's a part of my journey to discover all the differences in between the multitude of products out there.

So, would I buy a full size of Not a Perfume? I think yes. Currently it's about USD$40 cheaper than All That Matters, and I'm not bothered by the difference between the two to spend extra money on All That Matters when Not a Perfume accomplishes what I set out to look for when I found All That Matters. I'm not going to make a purchase any time soon, as I still have half a bottle of All That Matters to work through, but I'm glad that I sampled Not a Perfume and found a slightly cheaper dupe.

Are you into perfume sampling? Do you have a signature scent or shop around like I do? I had a great  experience with LuckyScent and have purchased from them twice now, but I am open to also hearing about other great online perfumeries or retailers. So drop me a comment or a tweet to share your knowledge and expertise!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Hair Disaster: This is what happens when you get lazy and bored and indecisive.

I hate dealing with hair more than any other beauty-related thing. Perhaps the reason I like makeup so much is that it compensates for my lack of hair styling prowess. I'm fond of putting my hair up into a bun and having it out of the way. When I entered my 30s, I decided that I would work on a more professional look and went for regular trims in an effort to fight the lazy bun tactic. There was slight progress, until I returned to school full-time last year -- and there, everything fell apart. 'Cuz... who gives a shizz what you look like as a student? I might have, if there were someone I was trying to impress, but the profs are 100 years old and fellow students are barely out of their teens. I couldn't care less how I looked to them, especially during winter when I had to lug 40 pounds of books through 10 feet of snow.

I let my hair grow for 11 months without a trim and it looked like this:

I haven't had hair this long since I was 25ish. It felt feminine and sexy, but it was also starting to get caught on random corners, people in the subway were sitting on it, I was using tremendous amount of shampoo and conditioner, it took forever to dry... I just could not deal with so much hair. In the summer heat and humidity, it was going to drive me crazy.

So I decided to cut it. Except I didn't know how I should cut it, and to be honest, I couldn't be bothered to care about that, either. I was so lazy and bored that it seemed like a good idea to let someone else make the decision for me. (This is where you exclaim, "OH NO SHE DI'NT!")

The Sassoon Academy was looking for hair models for a special 4-day training during which experienced hair stylists from various places would upgrade their skills with a visiting master stylist from Sassoon. At best I would walk away with a new style for free. At worst I'd have a weird edgy hair cut and go to my regular hair stylist for a touch-up, which I would have done anyway in the first place.

I'll let the pictures tell you how this turned out.

Doesn't seem so bad...

Ummmmmmmm... but it was.

You have to be laughing at this point. I KNOW. What the hell is that?

That, my friends, is the work of a 25-year hair styling veteran + the approval of a master Sassoon stylist.

To be fair, it's a class where they're being experimental and it didn't look this weird when I left the salon. From the front, I dare say that it even looked quite flattering. But I woke up this morning with this hair, had to go to work which is a super conservative office environment, and when I showed my co-workers what had happened, they instantly burst into laughter.

You know where else they laughed? At my regular salon. I hadn't been there in almost a year after being a regular customer four times a year for a few years. My stylist was like, "Where have you been and WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUR HAIR? Hey, [other stylist], come look at what SASSOON did to her hair!"

Unfortunately there was only so much hair to work with at this point, so I went much shorter than I would have liked at the beginning of this horrendous hair journey.

The horror isn't over. Do you see how my hair isn't as shiny or smooth as the second pic? Note that in my first pic, my hair is wavy. That is the natural texture of my hair. There was a lot of fine mist and moisture in the air today and the short layers at the top of my head have become frizzy and scraggly by the time I came home after work. When I wash my hair and air dry, I am going to end up with a curly mullet, or something close to it. Unless I choose to go ultra short, there's nothing to be done with those short layers except to let Mother Nature do her thing and make my hair grow. Maybe I'll go for this look next:

Why mess with a good thing, right? Everyone begged me not to cut my hair. I hate to admit it, but I should have listened. Learn from me, ladies. This is what comes of being lazy and indecisive. It's one thing to be adventurous when you're 20, unemployed and/or hip and edgy enough to pull off strange things. It's another when you're in your 30s, working in a major law firm, struggling to look your age (because I still get asked what I high school I went to, as if I just graduated yesterday), and have to attend a wedding this weekend. Oh, did I leave that out? Yup, my cousin's getting married in a very classy locale this weekend, and now I'm going with the super flattering shorned sheep look. Now I'll have to wear a slinkier dress than I was originally planning to. (Which sucks because that means I have to wear a thong and I despise thongs with the fire of a thousand suns. That's another story.)

I'm amusing myself by using this experience as a funny story to tell, knowing that my hair grows quite quickly and that I'll be going for a follow-up trim before I can blink and snarl, "SASSOON." However, a part of me is a little sad that I won't have some extra hair to whip around in the summer breeze while chillaxing by the lake or gliding around the streets in a maxi dress. So tell me: When was the last time you had a real hair disaster and how did you cope? Leave your tales of woe below and commiserate with me.

Monday, May 23, 2011


I was tagged by Sam of Fashion Polish who is a nail polish genius. Check out her recent post on the creation of a nail polish mimicking the lovely blue of a swimming pool glistening under the sun. Amazing!

Now I have to share ten things about myself and tag some fellow bloggers in return. Ten feels like a bit much, especially because I have talked about myself a lot in the past, so I'm slashing it down to five.

1. I freaking love coffee. Love the smell, the taste, the colour, the hot liquidy goodness that gives me life and joy each morning... ahhh, yes, I'm a bit nuttier than you might have thought I was. At my worst, I drank 7 cups a day. Now in my moderate stage, I keep it to 2-3. On a bad day (all throughout winter) it may shift to 4-5.

2. I have small boobs. During my 20s I diminished from a respectable B for some reason. Maybe I stopped eating some kind of boob-enhancing nutrient?

3. I would do anything for my family. There's a lot of us, and there's a lot of craziness packed into each person, but no matter how difficult things get, I will never abandon them. Today is extra difficult because someone decided not to slap on her hormone patch... but really, if you don't have family, what do you have? I guess I'd have a lot of books and nail polish, but not quite the same.

4. I'm not really a pet person (sort of kind of). I once had a pet frog but that was very short-lived. My aunt tossed the poor thing off the 9th floor balcony and said that it would bounce back. I was in kindergarten but even then I knew better. I then had a puppy but he was forcibly given away by my parents just before my mom gave birth to my youngest sibling. They were afraid the barking was going to interfere with the baby's sleep and I never cared for another pet since. I totally appreciate the cute and the funny and the warmth pets can provide... but I just don't feel the urge to bring in another transitory creature into my life.

5. I like to cook but not bake. There's a lot of room for improvising during cooking. A failed pot roast can easily be turned into a stew. But baking requires more accuracy and there's nothing more infuriating than a dough with the wrong consistency that ultimately has to be tossed due to too much handling. Not so different from working with an uncooperative clay bust.

I now tag the following wonderful and talented ladies:

Caitlin of Beautiful (un)Necessities
Latoya of Beauty Obsessed
Carrie of eyeliner on a cat
Eugenia of Ommorphia Beauty Bar
Tracy of Beauty Reflections

I understand if you're not into awards/tags, but it would be nice to get to know you more aside from your immaculate tastes in beauty products!

Thanks again to Sam for the awards!

Deborah Lippmann "Lady Sings the Blues"

It was rainy most of last week and I was feeling a little blue by Friday. The forecast called for more rain during the weekend so I thought it would be a good time to bring out Deborah Lippmann's Lady Sings the Blues. It's described on the Lippmann website as "silver sparkled blue (glitter)."

Gorgeous, isn't it? Like magic potion in a clear bottle.


At first application, I was actually a little disappointed. The silver sparkles seemed lost in the sea of navy and the effect seemed rather flat and not as multi-dimensional as I had hoped. However, upon full application -- two medium coats gliding on with ease with Seche Vite top coat -- I found myself smiling as the light caught the silver glitter at unexpected moments and turned my fingertips into jewels. This shade is the perfect recreation of glamorous midnight blue sequin gowns.

The weekend actually turned out to be more sunny than rainy, but the nails worked regardless. Here's a glimpse of one outfit that the nails provided a nice finishing touch to.

Do you pick out your nails, makeup or outfit based on weather and mood? What were your unexpected successes?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Makeup Swap

It took me forever to figure out what "MUA" stood for. It's a well-known acronym in the beauty community for two things: make-up artist and MakeupAlley. Once I realized what MakeupAlley was useful for, I tried to navigate my way through it and found it quite overwhelming without any sort of guidance. So I left it alone for a while and eventually forgot about it until a fellow beauty junkie referred me back to the site again.

MakeupAlley is a huge online beauty community, focused on three major things: swapping, reviewing and chatting. I was interested in swapping but didn't know how it worked. A few fellow beauty junkies and I shared newbie Q&As, guidelines and unofficial rules. Then we took the plunge and conducted a few swaps. I participated in three swaps and ended up with some great items while getting rid of things wasting away in my stash. Here's the result:

I'm happiest about finally snagging Bobbi Brown Beach which I've lusted after forever. It seems a lot of people end up trading little things like single shadows and a lippie here and there, which to me is mostly a waste since the cost of mailing a tiny item isn't always worth the shipping charges, especially if you ship priority with a tracking number. However, there is such a thing as "swaplifting" and it is advisable to ship with the speediest and most efficient method, especially when you and the other swapper live in different countries or if there's a trust issue. Unless I'm swapping an item worth $50 or more, I've decided not to swap on MUA unless I'm swapping two or more items, to make the shipping charges worthwhile.

Now, some people are just horrified at the idea of swapping used products while others maintain that it's efficient and reduces waste. I don't see a need to debate about it as everyone has her own opinion. It's up to you to choose your way among the thousands of swappers and their offerings and set boundaries and terms for how you want to negotiate. I definitely don't want to swap an eye shadow that is halfway through the pot or pan - gross. But I'm not a huge germaphobe and don't mind if a nice item has been swatched once or twice. When in doubt, you can also request pictures of the goods and filter through the other person's communication skills to decide whether they're trustworthy or not. Members are also awarded "swap tokens"  as an indication of positive swaps, along with reviews and comments by other MUA members on their swap experiences. Some people do want to swap brand new items, for whatever reasons. It's certainly possible to pick your way among the products for only the most interesting or unique items and determine how badly you want it.

One thing to keep in mind as you swap is to be negotiable and not harp on stuff like a $2 difference in the price of the item. However, it pays to be knowledgeable, about quality and price of products in general as well as shipping charges, rules and custom in your country and the other person's, as sometimes the difference in shipping cost evens out what feels like an uneven deal. There are also rules for who should ship first, which is that newer member of MUA should ship first since they have less positive swap tokens and thus is required to show their trustworthiness first. Obviously in the case of two members who arrived at relatively the same time period, they should send the items simultaneously. I advise everyone to ship with a tracking number and want the person I swap with to do the same.

Despite all the precautions, "swaplifting" does occur. A friend was recently swaplifted by a former MUA member who called herself F. Once F received my friend's items, she deleted her MUA account and disappeared. F had an established MUA account, had been active there for a sufficient period of time and had enough positive swap tokens to seem reliable. My friend is intelligent and careful, but she ignored her gut feeling and followed through with her end of the swap. It turned out that F spent some time building up a positive identity in order to swaplift at least (but probably more than) a dozen other MUA members for a huge number of products. The moral of the story is that if a deal seems to good to be true, you should be more careful than usual, don't be afraid to speak up and ask questions, and put a pause on the transaction if something doesn't feel right. Kind of an online version of what you would do if a pushy sales associate made you feel uncomfortable and tried to sell you things despite your reluctance.

Do you guys swap? Are you on MUA? I would love to swap with fellow trustworthy bloggers! Tweet me or email me if you would like to swap. I'm hoping to build a list of reliable swappers vouched for by the blogging community so that swapping can be a safe and enjoyable experience. Swaplifting makeup is so lame I can't believe the trouble some people go through to do it, but the lamers are out there. What they're doing may not be illegal, but swaplifting is a scam and those who do it should be called out on it. 

Friday, May 20, 2011

Where is your secret stash and what's in it?

Most of us beauty junkies probably have a major secondary stash away from home. Perhaps it's in your car, or at the gym, or at your significant other's place, etc. For me, it's at the office. I recently returned to full-time work after a year of re-living the student life, and one of the first things I did upon my return was to restock my beauty drawer. Yes, I have a beauty drawer at work, and it's the biggest drawer in the desk!

Sure, I could have used the cabinets instead, but I didn't want to risk opening it to look for legitimate business items and end up showing my goods to random co-workers. I have no qualms about showing off my stash here, but in the office where people pretend not only that they woke up looking good but were born perfect, I feel the need to keep the beauty stuff on the down-low.

Because I'm still taking summer courses at the university, sometimes I have very long days that stretch from 8am to 10pm. One of the things as I realize as I get older is that comfort becomes more important than ever. I can't stand it now if I don't have my essentials with me at all times, or if I'm wearing the wrong shoes that pinch my feet a little harder than when I was a sprightlier 20-something. Now I just want to feel clean and refreshed before having to sit in uncomfortable wooden chairs for three-hour lectures.

My secret stash at the office is different from my travel stash. Some items remain the same, like the blotting sheets or the dental floss, but the secret stash is a pared down extension of your real stash at home. In fact, you can live off of this secret stash for a good week or so, if you suddenly can't go home or some kind of emergency arises. Let's take a look at what I recently put in my beauty drawer.

Facial wipes - God bless whoever created this. The last thing I want to do is bend over the office washroom sink for 15 minutes. I use two sheets, both sides, to wipe off makeup as thoroughly as possible.

Travel size toothbrush & toothpaste - I'm thinking of replacing these with full sizes and just carry around the travel sizes.

Blotting sheets - They're never far from me. I have one on my desk at home, one in my purse, one at work. Tissue will do in a pinch, but these always make me feel better for some reason.

Lip balm - Just as much of a must as the blotting sheets.

Travel size glossing mist - Sometimes my hair becomes a wreck during the morning commute due to rain, humidity, and general predisposition to craziness.

Travel size facial cleanser - Okay, so I normally don't want to splash my face in the office washroom, but maybe one day I will want to.

Travel size toner - Toner is a must for me. This grapefruit one also feels refreshing and summery.

Travel size oil-free moisturizer - I'm thinking of replacing this with a tinted moisturizer instead, but who am I kidding? I'll probably end up just stashing both.

Sunscreen - I haven't had to use it yet, but I'm looking forward to the days when I can leave the office a little earlier than usual and soak up the sun for an hour or two before heading in to class.

Travel size makeup setting spray - Not sure that I'm going to be using this all that much, but for the days when I actually want to reapply makeup after washing it off, it might be handy.

Mini eye primer - It's just so small and cute. I feel like it belongs here.

Travel size eye makeup remover - It's just handy all around for those days you have a meltdown and you get raccoon eyes by noon.

Cream blush - I took it out from the travel bag and stashed it at the office. I don't like applying makeup on the go, but this is perfect for touching up at the end of the day without having to break out the damn makeup brushes.

Lip gloss - Amazingly, I only have one in the office stash. Mostly because I'm carrying about 6 or 7 around in my purse at all times. I hate that feeling of wanting to put on a specific thing in the morning, only to realize that you've left it at work.

Cream eye shadow palette - Another handy thing to have around when you want to give your eyes a subtle sheen without using brushes and all that jazz.

Deodorant/anti-perspirant - I got this with the hopes that it would work better as an anti-perspirant. Kind of doesn't work, or if it does, it's for half an hour, tops. Still, it's better than nothing. I don't smell but the wetness drives me crazy during the summer.

Foot spray - I figure it's more useful at the office than at home, since you can't exactly hoist yourself up on the sink counter and start bathing your feet at work.

Travel size perfume - I'd probably carry it around rather than to stash it at work. The office instituted a no perfume policy, but the perfume lovers ignore it. I don't see anyone forcing the men to give up their putrid aftershaves, so I'm not sure why this is targeted at the women only.

Makeup remover filled Q-tips - Just handy dandy whenever, wherever.

Concealer - I brought over the one that I don't use very much. It's there when I need it, and it can just sit there and get old just as it would at home when I don't need it.

Dental floss - Another essential right up there with lip balm and blotting sheets.

Hand lotion - Another essential item.

I didn't mention things like Tide-to-Go, hand sanitizers, cotton pads, q-tips, hair clips, bobby pins and tampons, but believe you me, they're all in the stash. I stopped just short of nail polish, only because I almost always have manicured hands and there's no point. (But I did apply nail polish in the office this one time. A co-worker guarded outside the door while I did it, and he was super impressed when I was done in 5 minutes. Normally I don't like doing things like that at work, but it was an emergency. Anyway.)

I have to keep the office stash controlled, because you just never know when you're going to be forced to throw your things into a banker's box and move down the hall or vacate the building. I would not want to be carrying two boxes home on such a day just because one box was full of beauty products.

So tell me: where is your secret/secondary stash and what's in it?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Nail Polish: Lise Watier Ȋle Déserte

I discovered my new fave summer neutral nail colour. Behold Lise Watier Ȋle Déserte:

Note the tiny microflecks of gold, red and green within the bronze fluid. I'm in love!

Like Fun in the Sun, Ȋle Déserte has a flawless application that goes on smoothly and easily in two thin coats. I was very pleasantly surprised, as pale shimmery metallics usually require at least three. Well done, Lise Watier!

I applied my usual Sally Hansen base coat and Seche Vite top coat, and the polish wear has been going strong all week. There's not a chip or a scratch in sight. I imagine this colour will look gorgeous with glowy tanned skin and all-white summer outfit. It's also much more interesting than the usual yellow-gold tone.

Usually I have to try to coordinate my clothing with whatever nail colour I have on at the moment, but this week I didn't have to worry about clashing. It's been an exhausting week (it's only Wed!) and I don't have the time or energy to do my nails until the weekend, so I'm lucky to have chosen this flatter-everything shade.

For us lucky Canadians, this nail polish can be found for $12 at your nearest Lise Watier counter at your local Shoppers Drug Mart. I'm thinking of getting a back-up for the first time... I love it that much.

What's your summer neutral pick and when was the last time you bought a back-up?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Product Fail: B. Kamins Blemish Gel and T3 Veloce Dryer

I'll be making two returns at Sephora today. One is an anti-acne spot treatment that I picked up on a whim and the other is a hair dryer that I've had my eye on for quite a while.

B. Kamins Blemish Gel 5% 

As you can see, the 5% in the name stands for the amount of benzoyl peroxide. Warm weather makes me break out in the oddest spots -- I'm currently sporting two painful zits right above my upper lip and on the left brow bone. From experience, I know that my skin can take a bit of harshness without becoming sensitive. The saleswoman at Sephora recommended this product and pushed for a sell rather than a sample. I guess I was in a buying mood, which I promised before that I would not do without sampling and testing. I've learned the lesson again, the hard way, again.

B. Kamins redesigned and revamped their packaging this year. Some Sephora locations may carry it while others may not. It is not listed on the Sephora website right now. I haven't tried any B. Kamins products in the past (aside from a mattifying day moisturizer which I own and tried once), so unfortunately I'm unable to conduct a "before/after" comparison of the brand and their quality.

For those who like to peruse the entirety of the box for instructions and ingredients, I took pictures of the box and product which have many many things to say. Scroll down to the end of the pics for what the B. Kamins website has to say about the product versus my personal experience.

Click on the pics to enlarge.

B. Kamins says:

A unique oil-free, color-free benzoyl peroxide gel that helps to control bacterial growth and clear blemishes, blackheads and spots.  This hydrating formula moisturizes as it works to help prevent skin from over drying and becoming flaky.  Ideal for both adolescent and adult acne.

I bolded the parts that failed for me. It did not clear any of my blemishes, blackheads or spots. Also, it was far from hydrating or moisturizing. The saleswoman had warned me that it may be quite drying, which I was excited about (yes, excited) because my skin sometimes does better with harsh products than gentle. What happened was that this blemish gel did dry out the skin without treating the problem. First, the product tends to stay on the surface rather than become absorbed into the skin. Then it dries to a crusty white flaky mess, so it's not as invisible as you might think it is. The flake remains on your skin until you wash your face and I found that there was absolutely no difference in the blemish from Day 1 to Day 7.

My normal-skin sister has also been breaking out lately so we tried this product together for a span of a few weeks, and she also experienced zero change or improvement. At CAD$29, you get a hefty sized product that simply does not do what it promises to do. Back to Sephora it goes.

T3 Veloce Dryer

I've been lusting after a T3 dryer ever since an acquaintance got one a couple of years ago and said it was the greatest thing that ever happened to her hair. She has great hair to begin with, so I didn't see a perceptible difference before/after. But I've been reading the reviews and built up a nice hype in my mind. Unfortunately, at the $200-300 range they're offered at, T3 dryers remained an elusive dream until now. I noticed that Sephora began selling a smaller $99 version and considered making an online order from them for the first time, as I was sure it would not be in the stores in Canada. (Canadians have to purchase $125 worth before Sephora offers free shipping.)

But I was wrong! They were in the stores here after all. There was one left at the Eaton Centre location, so I snatched it up and found myself marching to the cash register in no time.

Previous to this dryer, I've only used the basic Conair dryers as I didn't care much for heat-styling and blow-drying my frizzy ass deviant wavy Asian hair. But the thing is, I hate wet hair. I can't stand my tops being soaked by the wet hair on my back and I hate that wet humid feeling at the back of my neck. So blow-drying is a love/hate thing. It's probably worthwhile for me to invest in a good dryer that will get the job done as speedily and nicely as possible. I thought this would be it.

I like the size and look of this T3 Veloce. It's not as light as I thought it would be but it's not heavy at all. The sleek minimalist silver design also appealed to me. HOWEVER...

...note the placement of the on/off switch.

That's right. It's smack dab on the middle of the handle where your fingers curl around to grasp the dryer.

You can try holding it lower, but that position doesn't support the weight of the end of the dryer and puts a lot of strain on your wrist and fingers to keep the hold.

You can try grasping it higher on the handle, but your fingers are still over the on/off switch.

You can try holding it lower on the handle... but nope, still running into the same problem.

Try rearranging your fingers? Maybe my fingers are too long?? Nope.

I was devastated. I really really wanted to like this and permanently get rid of the hair drying hassles. Here's what Sephora says about the product:

What it is:
An easy-to-use, Tourmaline-infused hair dryer.

What it does:
The T3® Veloce Dryer is the perfect intro into a collection of ground-breaking hair dryers that have led the way in Tourmaline hair care technology. T3 patented technology infuses Tourmaline into the dryer's components which, when heated, emit maximum levels of negative ions and far infrared heat. Heating the hair from the inside out, this lightweight dryer accelerates water evaporation while locking in moisture and sealing the hair cuticle to reduce frizz. The result is a 40% reduction in drying time over conventional dryers and a silky, shiny finish.

What else you need to know:

Only the highest quality, imported Tourmaline gemstones are crushed into fine powder and infused deep into the vital elements of the dryer. Unlike other products that make do with a sprayed coating, the T3® Tourmaline infusion process achieves deeper, longer-lasting results.

I would say it was powerful and speedy enough, though I did not see a huge reduction in the frizz. I also really liked that the price of this was CAD$99 instead of the usual inflated price we get for everything here in Canada though our dollar has been more or less at par with the US for a long time. I've seen Sephora offer products for the standard price at first, then inflate the price later as the brand/item soars in popularity. I figured it was a good time to grab it while there was one remaining. Plus, I read all the reviews and had done my research. And you can't exactly test a hair dryer properly at the store. I had to bring it home and try.

I can't get over the stupid on/off switch issue. Now I see reviews complaining about it, but I can't believe the people who are saying that it's minor and they still like this dryer and think $99 is a great deal for it. I'm sorry, but this is a major design fail. It's the simplest thing. Do not place the on/off switch in the middle of the handle so that your customers have to continually turn the dryer back on in the middle of their hectic morning routine. I pressed this switch about 10 times during one drying routine and it was super annoying. I tried to forgive it and thought the dryer was still quite good... but upon reflection, my conclusion is that T3 had built a solid name for itself and is now out to make a quick buck since not everyone is going out to grab their usual $200-300 offerings. I don't think I'm being overly harsh or critical. If I were to design an appliance, function will be at the top of the list, and the placement of the on/off switch is kind of important. I don't think that takes much thought or consideration. Seems to me that someone in T3 was in a desperate hurry to get this thing built and manufactured.

Back to Sephora you go. $99 is not worth the frustration you will give me each morning.

I think I'm becoming more critical and pickier, which is not a bad thing. I will make a concession for the B. Kamins blemish gel which may work for some but not for others, as it so often is the case with skincare products. But as for the T3 Veloce, I can't get over it. It's like making a door and placing the door knob high up towards the ceiling rather than on the middle. Would you buy a door like that? My mistake was in not opening up the box to actually try holding the dryer and seeing how it feels in my hand. I didn't want to rip open the one box that was left at the store. That's what comes of being too polite. This will be remedied in future excursions.

When was the last time you returned a product and what does it take for you to make the return?