Friday, December 30, 2011

Favourite Products of 2011: Makeup, Nail and Perfume

Scheduled Post: I'm away on vacation until January 4! See here for details.

Though I played with a lot of new makeup this year and liked most of them, only a few seem worthy of devotion right now. Despite being successful in reducing skincare products, I went the opposite way with makeup and accrued more. Perhaps because I had more choices than ever before, it was difficult to stop and enjoy a product to its full potential before I moved on. Nevertheless, certain items stand out right away and I want to share them with you today.

Josie Maran Tinted Moisturizer

So good that it actually displaces the much-lauded Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer in my mind. Refreshingly, it does what the name claims, which is to moisturize and provid a hint of coverage at the same time. Being oily-skinned, I don't need the extra moisture and wouldn't recommend this to those with super oily skin, but it should be nothing short of awesome for the dry-normal skin types out there. The coverage is also excellent for a tinted moisturizer and the shade range seems to run slightly warm in my opinion, which is good for me because Butter is the perfect match to my skin tone.

Laura Mercier Loose Setting Powder

I've been a big fan of Laura Mercier for years but it wasn't until I got sweet-talked into buying this that I realized the awesomeness of a truly beautiful loose setting powder. Click here for the review.

NARS Powder Blush

A gazillion years after everyone has said that it's amazing, I concur. NARS blushes are fabulous. And as an almost-certified blush fiend, I should know. Yet it wasn't until I picked up the Danmari palette that I realized everything good said about NARS Orgasm is true. When applied together with the Hungry Hearts highlighter, something magical happens to my face and my cheekbones start to look almost as good as Rae's or Xiao's. (And by "almost", I mean nowhere near close!)

Dior Vernis Nail Lacquer


The love affair began with Gris Montaigne and continues today as I debate the merits of the upcoming Spring 2012 collection. Dior's formula is near-flawless and the seasonally offered shades are rarely disappointing.


Out of all the nail polish brands I've ever tried, none equals the quality of a-england. The three I tested applied almost by themselves and the complexity of the shades are unrivalled even by designer labels like Chanel and Dior. The full review can be found here. I hear whispers of a new collection to be launched in the new year and look forward to its debut with great excitement!

Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Mandarine-Basilic

I like many perfumes, but this is hands down my favourite of the year. The splash of basil and citrus represent the best of summer time, and sniffing this takes me back to the joy of feeling warm breezes on sun-kissed skin and looking up at clear blue sky with life bursting and buzzing all around. (Yes, I hate winter!)

And that's it for my favourites of the year. Can you believe 2012 is staring at us in the face? I'm going to practice writing 2012 over and over again on a notepad so that I don't revert to 2011 whenever I have to fill in dates next month.

Whether you're out partying or tucked under a blanket in front of the TV, I hope you have a wonderful New Year's Eve and feel joy, satisfaction and contentment as 2011 draws to a close. See you in the new year!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Favourite Products of 2011: Skincare and Hair

Scheduled Post: I'm away on vacation until January 4! See here for details.

The 2010 Favourites Post seems like a thousand years ago, not just one! So many products have passed through my bathroom and vanity since, though a good chunk of last year's faves are still my top picks. This year's picks highlight new, personal discoveries. Most are products that have been around for ages that I only got around to trying this year. Without further ado, they are:

Clarisonic Mia

Initial review posted here; three-month review to be posted mid-March.

REN Radiance Collection

I'm currently using the Glycolactic Skin Renewal Peel Mask as well as the Resurfacing AHA Concentrate. It's primarily the AHA Concentrate that I am in love with, which is reviewed together with the Clarisonic Mia, linked above. The Glycolactic Mask is a replacement for my beloved Juice Beauty Green Apple Peel. I loved the Green Apple Peel and didn't think the Glycolactic Mask was anywhere near as effective. But now that I'm exfoliating daily with the Clarisonic, I think the gentler effect of the REN Mask is the better option for time being. Full review forthcoming.

DDF Glycolic 10% Toning Complex

Reviewed here. This is what got me thinking about the long-term benefits of AHAs versus the traditional anti-acne formulations. I was told by a Sephora SA that this toner is no longer sold in Canada, but I have seen it being carried by various e-retailers and feel hopeful that we will be reunited some day.

Murad Acne Spot Treatment

I've never met a spot treatment that actually works, other than Aveda Outer Peace. I used a good third of the tube without results and realized that I wasn't applying enough product. The instruction states that it must be applied liberally -- and once I started slathering it on affected areas, the spots diminished visibly overnight. I have to stress that this occurs in conjunction with proper skincare routine beginning with thorough yet gentle cleansing of makeup.

The Body Shop Aloe Calming Toner

After the alcohol-laden Clinique toner dried out my face just in time for winter, I turned to this alcohol-free, fragrance-free, paraben-free toner and am now a huge fan. It's the perfect, no-fuss neutralizing agent. It will take care of any cleanser and makeup residue and prep the skin for treatments and moisturizers without doing or adding anything. I much prefer this to the Seaweed Clarifying Toner which is recommended for oily skin like mine. My problem with the Seaweed toner is the strong fragrance factor which adds to the illusion of feeling refreshed rather than contributing to the improvement of skin. Thanks but I'll stick with the Aloe!

Bumble and Bumble Surf Spray

I put this mega-hyped product to the test against four other "beachy hair" products and this was clearly the winner! See the review and test results here. Though DIY surf spray recipes abound, I haven't attempted it yet. For one, this little bottle is so adorable and chic.

Have you tried any of these products? What have been your favourite skin and hair care products of the year?

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas! Let's open the gifts!

Scheduled Post: I'm away on vacation until January 4! See here for details.

There's a running joke in my family that the real Santa is me. At some point over the years, I became the one who went out to get the gifts for everyone as well as the one who cooked the turkey dinners almost exclusively. But the joke really started back in the mid-90s when I forged a letter from Santa to my brother who is the youngest in my family. One year he left a plate of cookies and a glass of milk on the mantle of the fireplace, wholeheartedly believing that Santa would visit. My mom was like, "WTF should we do?" because she never dreamed that an offspring of hers could be so gullible. I just happened to have been into calligraphy at the time (eyeroll at my teenage self) and sat down to fake a stylized letter from Santa. I left the letter (rolled up like a scroll, tied with a ribbon) by the cookies and milk, making sure to drain the glass by half and take visible bites out of the cookies. My dad, who was absolutely clueless about all of this (as usual), came by later when everyone was sleeping and devoured the entire cookies and milk offering. Even I was slightly mystified in the morning, and my brother became the most fervent believer of Santa's existence until we told him the truth a few years later. Now it's tradition to bring this up and laugh at him every single year. Good times!

This year I'm taking a break from the turkey roasting and letter forging, but of course I left presents for my loved ones. We'll just take a peek at the presents of the sort we're usually interested in: beauty products, what else?

For my cousin's daughter:

This is the middle schooler from whom I stole the EOS balm. Yes, this one! And as you can see, she's only getting one of the EOS balms due to my theft of the purple balm. But to compensate for the loss of the other two balms, I've added Cake Snow Woman Velveteen Hand Cream. I'm pretty sure she's not yet allowed to wear perfume or nail polish. And the girl is rather tomboyish still and not really into beauty products as far as I know. But I am here to transition her, whether she's ready or not!

For my youngest sister:

As mentioned, both of my sisters are rather low maintenance beautywise while I became the crazy hoarder. This sister prefers most of her moisturizers unscented, delights in cute things like the EOS balm and likes fresh, uplifting scents that are light and not cloying. I think the Fresh Sugar Rollerball Trio, Cake Unsweet Velveteen Hand Cream and an EOS lip balm make a good package for her.

For the sister I'm visiting:

She made me promise not to get her anything because apparently it's enough that I'm taking a trip to visit her  -- and I'm lugging a lot of stuff sent by her friends and the rest of our family -- but how can I not get her something personal and beauty-related?

Her hair isn't as curly as mine but it's also quite wavy for an East Asian. Her preferred product to tame the frizz and add shape to the waves is Aveda Phomollient Styling Foam. She emptied the original pump container before she left and told me not to throw out the bottle as Aveda sells refills. I don't know what the heck she's using in Manila's humid environment but I get the feeling she'll be glad that I got her a refill.

For my friends J & S who are hosting my stay in Singapore:

This is actually a rhetorical question since we consider white wine to be the equivalent of water and red is always the preferred choice. But I love this card and wish someone would get me a card like this!

For J in particular:

J and I like to exchange beauty gifts and she never veers from the classic and elegant. Before she moved to Singapore, she was interested in getting a red Chanel lipstick. I'm not sure whether she's obtained one since, so to be on the safe side, I'm getting her a Rouge Carat Le Vernis and Brilliant Extreme Glossimer in Nakkar.

For my mom who is impossible to please:

Chanel for everybody! She and my dad are getting a big joint gift from me, but I think she needs something extra that she can whip out in front of her friends and boast about. Unfortunately that's how her cronies roll even though my mom is the most low maintenance person ever when it comes to beauty products. (But to make up for it, she's extremely high maintenance in just about every other way!) Sorry, I didn't want to destroy the wrapping to take pictures but what's in the bag are Chanel Rouge Allure lipstick in #75 and Mat Lumiere Luminous Matte Powder Makeup. My mom is literally a powder foundation + brow pencil + lipstick woman. That's all she uses. She might as well use a really good one while she's at it. If I go Chanel, my mother definitely deserves to as well.

And something extra for everyone:

Ever since Ashley tweeted this picture, I've been obsessed with getting my hands on the LUSH Golden Wonder Bath Bombs. I picked up four and am doling them out to my sisters, Friend J and my sister's friend S who is hosting the Christmas dinner. I used to hate LUSH but now a new dangerous addiction has begun. THANK YOU, ASHLEY! *blame*

What did you get for Christmas? I hope "Santa" has been good to you!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Geez, what isn't in my suitcase: Part 3

Scheduled Post: I'm away on vacation until January 4! See here for details.

Okay, so today I should be in Boracay with my sister. This is Boracay:

(Oh yeah. I'm feeling it. COME AND GET ME, UV RAYS.)

Today I'm deviating from the subject of beauty and want to show you my reading list for the long plane rides. It's been forever since I've had time to read for leisure and even now I should be reading ahead for the winter semester. Still, I'm on vacation. It's time to relax and enjoy the fluff, right?

To be honest, I was too busy (lazy) to research Singapore and don't know very much about it. Time to play catch-up!

I've seen/heard of this a lot and ignored it as fluff reading. (Oh, the irony, being a beauty blogger.) But suddenly now that I'm in vacation mode, I don't have to resent reading about someone else's journey to happiness.

This isn't actually for me but I might read it on the plane if I get bored. My boss is an avid reader and always wants to discuss contemporary novels with me. Unfortunately because of school, I'm usually stuck in the medieval, 1800s, Victorian or modern and am not familiar with contemporary novels. There's something wrong with that and I want to correct it. (As a sidenote, I really want to know what we're going to call the post-post-modern era.)

So... I never read the Harry Potter series. If I watch the movie first, I can never read the books. That's what happened with the first Harry Potter movie/book. My best friend at the time was a huge fan of the books and dragged me to watch the first movie. I couldn't get into the books after that because the details felt repetitive. It's been a long time since and Harry Potter is now a touchstone for many pop culture references. I've given myself the task of catching up on the series over the break, though it's likely that I'll finish only the first book if I'm lucky, given all the other books competing for my attention. Still, I don't want to get kicked out of the Awesome Sisters Club with Eugenia, Tracy and Larie, so I'll do my best to read the whole thing soon!

I read this more than once over ten years ago, but it's one of those landmark works that keep showing up in different courses and now I have to read it again for my modern literature course. I'm debating whether to even take it on the trip or not. Right now I'm leaning toward... not.

Usually I'd also take a stack of magazines with me, but I haven't been in a magazine mood lately. However, that may change when I get to the airport.

What's on your reading list lately? What kind of books are you drawn to?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Geez, what isn't in my suitcase: Part 2

Scheduled Post: I'm away on vacation until January 4! See here for details.

Don't be jealous for I'm not on a beach yet. At this point, I'm probably half-dead from nearly two days of living in planes and airports. But soon, my dears, soon...!

Packing makeup is trickier than packing skincare, because I'm moving from Canadian winter (currently around 0 degrees celcius on average which is considered mild for this time of year) to a location much closer to the equator with high humidity and temperatures close to 40 degrees celcius. The heat is fine and I'm actually looking forward to it. The problem is I don't know what colour my face will be three days from today. I tan relatively quickly and currently am NC 25. It's hard to pick a foundation to take with me when I don't know how dark I'm going to get. If the three days in Boracay goes as I plan, I'll be NC 40 by the time we're done.

Finally I just decided to take whatever was at hand and deal with hypothetical issues later when they become reality. Here's what I'm taking (as of December 17 when I'm drafting this -- hopefully I won't repack again):

Face Makeup

Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer in Nude - I just really like the idea of using this on the flight. You know, when you don't want to look like total crap but don't want to look done up.

MakeupForever Duo Mat Powder Foundation - I swear, I am going to just throw this away at the airport if I don't finish it by the end. One and a half years. It's a good powder but not the best. I am ready to move on!

Fusion Beauty GlowFusion Micro-Tech Intuitive Active Bronzer in "Golden" - Reviewed here. My favourite bronzer. It'll set all the too-pale makeup to right.

Hourglass Veil Mineral Primer - Decanted into a tiny plastic sample jar from Sephora. I'll only use it for special occasions when I'm meeting up with people for dinners and parties and going out on the town.

L'Oreal Visible Lift Smooth Absolute Instant Anti-Aging Makeup - I picked this up when Rexall slashed the price to $10 which is almost half price. It was the attached brush that I actually wanted as well as the fact that 170 Natural Beige is slightly darker than my current skin tone.

And ignore the two concealers in the pic above. I've changed my mind yet again. I'm taking Benefit Boi-ing in "Medium" since it's the heavy duty concealer that will withstand humidity and heat much better than the MUFE HD Invisible Cover.

Eye Makeup

I'm only taking things that don't require brushes. That means cream eye shadows in abundance! I love cream eye shadows. The Revlon palette isn't the greatest in quality but I have like five of them and they need to get some usage. And that's what the mini Urban Decay Primer Potion is for. As for the new L'Oreal Infallible shadow that totally doesn't need a brush? New Year's, baby. I'm going to lay it on thick and people will see my eyelids glow across whatever room we're in. I'm also going to wear falsies and pile on Clinique Lash Power Mascara. For low maintenance days, the sample size of Benefit's R.S.V.P. will suit wonderfully. And I'm not sure that I'm going to wear it in the end but felt like I should take at least one eyeliner. It's MAC Rosemary & Thyme from the To The Beach collection. Then for brows I'm taking the MUFE Pencil in Dark Taupe 4.


I had a thought that if I took only one lippie on this trip, I'd have no choice but to wear only that and really wear it down. Possibly even finish one of the blasted five on the "lippies to finish" list. But knowing me, if I went with only one or two, I'd end up buying ten more during the trip to compensate. So I have to have variety. It's a mix of my go-to neutrals plus some bright, punchy summer shades.

  • MAC Paint Pot in Coral Crepe
  • Joe Fresh Cheek Tint in Peach
  • MAC Cream Colour Base in Seaside
  • NARS Lip Gloss in Wonder
  • Lise Watier Lip Kiss Crayon Gloss in Mango Punch
  • Tarte 24/7 in Wednesday
  • Sephora Lip Gloss in Bronzed Beauty
  • Clinique Sheer Shaper for Lips in 02 Blushy
  • NARS Lip Gloss in Dolce Vita
And C.O. Bigelow Rosebud Salve as the only lip balm. I really want to make a dent in that one and go back to my Smith's Rosebud.


Not sure if I'm going to end up taking all of them, but you can see what the palette is all about. One neutral for every day wear, an orange and pink for that summery goodness, a bright blue to reflect the waters I'll be staring at and a blingy one for New Year's. My regular base coat and top coat are must-haves.

Sally Hansen "Blue Me Away" and Essie "Sand Tropez"

Lippmann "Lara's Theme" and NARS "Schiap"

Chanel "Graphite"

Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Coat and Sally Hansen 4-in-1 which I use as base coat

And the world's smallest nail file + polish remover:


I'm really going minimal here and taking only two. My favourite perfume all summer was Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Mandarine-Basilic EDT and I just refilled the Sephora atomizer with it. It's got just the right mix of fruity citrus and basil. For a change, I'm also taking Clean Provence. I'm not a big fan of the Clean fragrances but Provence is my favourite of the original lot.

Looking this over, I could afford to pare down a lot more but that'd be taking all the fun out of it. Do you take more or less when you go on a 3-week vacay? See, I'd take less if I were staying in one location only, but I'm moving around from place to place like a nomad and each setting is completely different from another. Bah, now I think that I should take some of this out and leave more space for new stuff. I'm just going to publish this now in case I change my mind yet again!

Edit: I did change my mind. You'll see that certain items have been struck out. As of Sunday night, I'm still packing. God.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Geez, what isn't in my suitcase: Part 1

(To get caught up on where I'm going and why, check out this post.) 

Being a person of extremes, my tendency is to either overpack or underpack for trips. It's really difficult to find the middle ground. The good thing is I'm well stocked on samples and travel size goodies. The bad part is that I have too many to choose from! I want to take them all! Isn't that what I've been hoarding these little bottles for all along?!?

But alas, only a few select items can come with me. The rest must continue to languish in my cabinet of travel size and backup items -- why, yes, such a cabinet exists -- and wait for the day I either join a gym or take trips more frequently.

Anyhow, it took several attempts before I got things organized somewhat reasonably. In the end, the things I'm taking are more stuff I want to get rid of rather than stuff I love. The plan is to return to Toronto with as light a bag as possible. (Or bag stuffed with new goodies. God, I'm hopeless.) Here's what made the cut.

Cleanser and Toner - Things I've tried before and know are dependable.

Clarisonic Mia - See my last post. Where I go, it goes. Between this and the netbook, this won.

Treatments and Moisturizers - The AHA Concentrate is like gold. I'm bubble-wrapping it separately.

Bath Stuff - Some gifts from last year -- I don't know this brand at all. I'm only taking it for the hotel stay in Boracay. I won't need bath products while staying with my sister or friends, but trust me: my sister will not have travel size items for us to take.

Shampoo and Conditioner - Same reason as above.

Facial Sunscreen and Surf Spray for Hair - Two things I'm extremely fond of and actually look forward to using. They enhance that summery feeling feeling even more.

Makeup Removers - I usually wouldn't bother with separate eye makeup removers, but I plan on wearing a lot more eye makeup on New Year's Eve. I suppose Friend J has removers I can borrow but never can be too sure.

Wet wipes for... everywhere.

Sunscreen for body - This Aveeno is almost empty from almost daily use over the summer and I hate to see it lying around for no reason. I'm determined to showcase this in the next empties post! As for the Hawaiian Tropic, I found it on clearance for $2! So I bought two: one for the trip, one for the summer.

And some last minute additions. (See what I mean?)

I don't think that I can live without the Purity cleanser.

And this is just in case the DDF moisturizer above is too mattifying. 

Note: This is a scheduled post but I'm still packing. Ahhhh! Items taken out are indicated by the strike out.

Okay, that's it for skin and body stuff! Part 2 (the makeup) will go up in a few days as a scheduled post. I probably won't respond to comments or emails until I get back, but I imagine that there'll be chunks of internet time here and there. And if anything, I'll be popping up on Twitter to say hi, post pics, blab about what terrific food I'm eating or how amazing the sites are. I'll miss chatting with you all and want to wish you in advance a very happy holiday season with all the people and things you love best. Talk to you in 2012, my beauties!