Friday, March 29, 2013

Rocaille Swatches: 5 Favorite Blue Nail Polishes

Blue has been one of my favorite colors since early teenage years when I had my room decorated in a dusky navy with yellow accents. Even though I don't really enjoy it anymore as part of my interior decor, it's still a hue I go for over and over in my clothing and nail polish choices. Since I've now gathered quite a collection of blue nail polishes, I thought what a better time to share!
Going from lightest to darkest, first up I have Essie Bikini So Teeny to show you. This neutral toned baby blue with subtle silver sparkle was part of their Summer 2012 collection and definitely one of the best selling shades from that release. It's a gorgeous pastel blue that looks smashing against a light tan but compliments my pale skin as well. Application is standard 'good Essie' - two coats for opacity with little dragging or streaking.

Next up, a nail polish I've had in my collection for the longest time out of this bunch: China Glaze Secret Peri-wink-le. Apart from stupid name hyphenation, it's a dusky periwinkle cream with a touch of lavender; it swatched truer to color on my nails than it appears in the close-up shot. Secret Peri-wink-le definitely has a denim feel to it but is more understated elegance than cowgirl chic. Great application with 2 coats, however the polish tends to separate quite a bit in the bottle.
For mid-depth blue, Essie Butler Please from their Holiday 2012 collection is a more recent favorite. Conversely to the previous polish, this is a bit more true in the close-up shot than the nail swatch but brighter, almost a lighter ultramarine with a cream finish. Unfortunately, this formula gave me the most trouble on application; it was gloopy, uneven and chipped within a couple days, which rarely happens on my nails. I don't remember it being this thick when I first got it, so I'm not sure why the consistency changed - well, a gorgeous shade nevertheless.
Getting towards the darker spectrum, a drugstore favorite: Revlon Top Speed nail polish in Royal. This is an amazing, deep royal blue with a high-shine, almost jelly finish. Compared to the recently released OPI Eurso Euro, it's a lot more saturated and a touch lighter; compared to OPI Dating A Royal, it's a lot more vibrant (no white mixed in) and it doesn't lean purple. Application was standard 2 coats, although the formula is a bit thicker and needs to be worked quickly.
And lastly, a single (mini) OPI... a metallic sapphire Into The Night from their Amazing Spiderman collection, sadly discontinued shortly thereafter. The coverage on this one is slightly lower with 3 coats necessary for full opacity, however the bright side is the longevity - it wore on me for 6 days with only minimal tip wear. A gorgeous, subtly shimmering summer night sky blue with a hint of purple.
And there you have it! Hopefully this was useful for some like-minded blue polish fanatics; let me know in the comments your favorite shades, I'm always open to recommendations! What is your favorite nail polish color of all time?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

February-March 2013 Empties

Hurray for another round of beauty trash and a little update on my stash reduction! I powered through a lot of deluxe samples these past couple of weeks and (drumroll) even managed to completely finish some make-up products!
Starting with skincare: I used up my Alaffia Rooibos & Shea Antioxidant Facial Toner more info here, and honestly, that's the only product I may consider repurchasing at some point in the future; all the other bits in the photo were just not that great. The Estee Lauder Soft Clean Tender Cream Cleanser was not tender at all on my skin; it seemed so loaded with a floral fragrance that my skin would instantly turn beetroot red on contact, plus it felt heavier that my regular Clarins Cream Cleanser. From the three make-up removers pictured, NARS was the best but still not great enough to warrant a future purchase. The By Terry Creme de Rose smelt absolutely beautiful but the siliconey texture did not agree with my combination skin, and lastly the Lancome Absolue Eye Premium BX was fine (it actually has tiny light pink pearl particles to brighten) but by golly, for $95 it better make my undereye area the best I've seen... which it didn't. And I prefer a lighter, more hydrating texture.
Some fragrance samples: Bvlgari Mon Jasmin Noir (citruses, lily of the valley, jasmin, cedar, patchouli, musk) was umm... not dark enough for me, despite the name a bit too bright and pretty; but then, it's a younger sister to Bvlgari's Jasmin Noir. On the other hand, Thierry Mugler Alien (Indian jasmin, woods, white amber) was a lot more memorable with its strong but cheerful jasmin notes and sensual dry down, and Mr's favorite from the three perfumes. My favorite though was Kenzo Amour (white tea, rice, cherry blossom, frangipani, heliotrope, musk, vanilla, woods, incense), an oriental, warm scent with incredible sillage and lasting power; in fact, I've finished my sample about 3 weeks ago and can still smell it on some of my scarves. The beautiful, smoky, creamy sweetness of Kenzo Amout definitely captured my imagination and I think I will be going back for a full bottle as soon as I finish some of my less-loved perfumes.
Oh hello, make-up empties, how nice to see you! Finally, I'm making some progress in downsizing the make-up stash, and so 3 full size products are biting the dust: a Coastal Scents Flawless Finish Mineral Foundation in Honey Light (replaced by the Laura Mercier Mineral Powder), a Wet'n'Wild Eye Khol in Taupe, which I used for my eyebrows, and lastly Essie nail polish in Hot Coco, which mysteriously dried out on me as was beyond salvaging.
Haircare and hand creams: Alba Botanica Gardenia Hydrating Hair Conditioner, smelt nice but that's about all I can say on the subject, Loma Objective Clarifying Shampoo, sadly discontinued but replaced with MoroccanOil Clarifying Shampoo; I'm not sure yet which one I like better but I think the MoroccanOil is a deeper cleanse. For hand creams, L'Occitane Shea Butter has already been repurchased in the large tube, and Bath & Body Works Shea Cashmere Hand Cream is really nothing like it and I'm not sure who needs shimmer in their hand cream...
Lastly, three lip-themed discards: Lush Sweet Lips Lip Scrub did an okay job of exfoliating the lips but I've found that for me, a damp towel is a whole lot cheaper, faster and less messy; no sugar crystals clinging to the corners of my mouth like a five year old who just had a donut. The Lush Let Them Eat Cake is just far too old now to be safe for use, and the praline-shaped no name lip gloss, a gift from my sisters-in-law, just wasn't something I enjoyed using, even though I really appreciate the sentiment behind the present. Oh, and some things that aren't pictured: two very old Lush bath bombs, Honey Bee and Big Blue (maybe) have finally been used up as well.

Now, for some more stash-reducing magic: I did another big clearout of my make-up drawers with specific recipients in mind; what I mean is that I divided my rarely used items into a couple piles and then packaged them nicely in little pouches and make-up bags, ready to be given to (mostly work) friends. Not to get into too much detail, I approximately gave away 20 various full size make-up products, 7 make-up brushes and 5 deluxe make-up samples.
Now, as for my monthly 2 items allowance: depending on the counting method, I'm either over or short or just right. For some replacements, I got Essie Chinchilly to replace Hot Coco, especially that Chinchilly has just been discontinued and I'd had my eye on it for a long time. For bath treats, I got three bubble thingies from Lush since I'd diligently used up everything in my stash. In terms of new purchases, I got a new high-end lipstick, review coming soon, and a lash serum, something I'd never tried before. So, to make things fair and square, I shall now specify that my allowance is two new items excluding replacements, and still, back-ups can only be bought once the product in question is nearly/completely used up or otherwise disposed of. I think I didn't do too terribly this month; I already have one order planned for April, which I'm going to count as one purchase, and I'm not sure what the second new item will be.

February-March Empties Total: 23 items, including:
9 full size products
8 deluxe size samples
3 one-time use samples/ perfume vials
3 products tossed
32  products given away
Year To Date Amount: 52 full sizes, 21 deluxe samples, 9 one-time use samples.

Overall, I feel a lot happier about the size of my collection now and I'm looking forward to freeing up even more space in the upcoming months. One thing I've observed though is that the entire stash-reducing process is making me a lot more careful and discerning shopper and that not so many items manage to catch my attention. How are you doing on your minimalist resolutions? Have you discovered any new ways to reduce your existing stash as well as new make-up lemmings?

Friday, March 22, 2013

3 Bright Liner Looks

Apparently, March is sponsored by number 3; makes sense, right? (Except, I have a post lined up featuring number 5... and I won't wait till May). Mad ramblings aside, a couple days ago I was feeling particularly guilty for my usual work 'slap-rinse-repeat' make-up routine and decided to call on my bright eyeliner pencils for a little help, and here's the result. It's nothing ground-breaking, really, but I promised to show Laura Mercier Mineral Powder on my face (used as a base, not a setting powder) and I haven't shared any looks in a long time...
Firstly, the turquoise waterline, featuring Urban Decay 24/7 liner in Electric. Honestly, I don't do the whole tightlining thing too often; I wear contact lenses and I keep them on for over 12 hours at a time, so putting anything else in my eye is really not ideal. This was fun though; and the white balance in the photos makes me look less... basemental? Benefit Coralista on the cheeks, Giorgio Armani Rouge d'Armani Sheers in Coral 301 on the lips.
Secondly, the royal blue cat eye, featuring Sephora Collection Nano Eyeliner in Azur Blue no.16. Not my favorite eyeliner pencil formula but a gorgeous color nonetheless. This bright eyeliner on the top lashline is something I do quite a bit, especially with a very fine line of black smushed into the lashes to offset the bold color. NYX Powder Blush in Pinky on the cheeks, can't for the life of me remember what was on my lips... Fresh Sugar Treatment in Rose, maybe? (well that's really helpful...)
Thirdly and lastly, the purple lower lashline, featuring Urban Decay 24/7 liner in Ransom. I don't think that purple under the eye was my greatest idea yet; towards the end of the day, it definitely complimented my white face to make me look like I'd been freshly dug out. I do like that color a lot, though, and a brighter color on the lower lashline is such an easy way to de-yawnify a neutral eye look. Again, Coralista on the cheeks, MAC Jest lipstick lightly dabbed on the lip and topped with a clear gloss.
I'm scratching my head now as to which springtime-appropriate looks to experiment with next. Have you been playing with color recently? Are there any looks you would like to see featured?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Review: Laura Mercier Mineral Powder SPF15

There seems to exist a great divide between foundation wearers: the 'liquid-only' types and the 'mineral-only' types. Personally, I stand above the chasm; I do love both kinds and everything in the murky, shark-infested waters between the two (cream, cream to powder, creamy powder...) but I'll tell you this: most days, it's mineral foundation. Just because it's quick, it's invisible, it doesn't cling to dry patches and it blurrs enlarged pores. What's more to like? Which is why, when my trusty old pot of mineral goodness came to its end last week, I dug into this beauty: Laura Mercier Mineral Powder SPF15 in Tender Rose ($36 for 0.34 oz).
According to the brand, Mineral Powder SPF15 is 'a finely milled powder composed completely of natural elements with 15 active amino acids to promote radiant skin, diminish the look of fine lines and wrinkles'. According to me, it's a buttery smooth illuminating mineral foundation with light to medium buildable coverage; look, it has crushed pearls in it! Compared to other mineral foundations I've tried, Laura Mercier Mineral Powder has a lot less dry and creamier texture that evens out imperfections while giving a rather radiant finish to the skin; matte lovers beware!
On my combination skin, the effect is just my skin but better; the product is nearly invisible on the skin but gives a healthy glow overall. On my T-zone, I do wish sometimes it looked a bit less glowy but I could fix that with some blotting powder if I really wanted. In terms of lasting power, it's on the further end of the spectrum for me, along with other powder foundations, and it doesn't break down or go patchy towards the end of the day. I obviously still need to use a more heavy duty concealer on my spots and hyperpigmentation marks as the coverage is not the highest but I do prefer to do a bit more detail work if it keeps my foundation looking natural and subtle.

In terms of color match, I think Tender Rose is a great match for fair skin with cool/pink undertones. Weirdly, when I was swatching it on my arm, the shade oxidized in the middle to a darker, more orangy color but this does not happen on my face at all - I wonder if maybe rubbing the product in too much caused it to oxidize? I had similar experience when swatching the Everyday Minerals Jojoba Base (far right), another creamy mineral powder, and again it doesn't seem to oxidize when it's actually on my face... Interesting.
L-R: Laura Mercier Tender Rose, Physicians Formula Healthy Wear Powder Foundation in Translucent Light, Everyday Minerals Jojoba Base in Alabaster
Overall, I'm really glad I decided to purchase the Laura Mercier Mineral Powder and I've already worked it into my everyday foundation rotation. The product also works beautifully as a radiant setting powder for more matte/flat foundations, and I do like the more luxurious feel of the packaging, even though it'd be a pain to travel with. Have you tried Laura Mercier Mineral Powder? Are you a 'liquid-only' or 'mineral-only' type?

PS. There will be some colorful liner looks coming very soon to a blog near you featuring Laura Mercier Mineral Powder on mah face, if you'd like to see what it looks like on!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

3 Extra Ways to Condition Your Hair

I'm sure that you've all noticed that as our skin gets drier in the colder months, so does our hair. As we're getting towards the end of winter here, I think our tresses deserve a little TLC to prep it for the spring and so I've decided to share my 3 favorite ways to add extra moisture and nourishment to my hair.
Before I start, I just have to include a little disclaimer: I am by no means a hair expert or even a hair person. But, as some of you may know, I've been working at a salon/beauty supply for about a year now and have picked up some nifty tricks here and there. It also seems that somehow hair products are not the most talked about in the blogosphere and since I get to try quite a few by way of work, I might as well share, right? Right.
1. Hair Mask + Extra Boost: Goldwell Rich Repair 60sec Treatment ($17.95 for 200ml/ 6.7 fl.oz.)+ Enjoy Intensive Reconstructing Spray (~$22 for 300ml/10.1 fl.oz.). I'm sure many of you already use a mask in your haircare routines, and the Goldwell Rich Repair is my favorite; it has hydrolyzed keratin and silk very high up the ingredients list, smells like cherry vanilla and can be just used in place of your regular conditioner - because it's a 60 seconds mask, you don't need to go through the whole 'leave for 15 minutes under a plastic cap' ordeal. It moisturizes and smoothes the hair nicely, and with the addition of Enjoy Intesive Reconstructing Spray (I have the old packaging to show you here; it looks more like the Conditioning Spray bottle below these days) beforehand it provides a lot of protein to rebuild my color-treated hair. The Enjoy I.R.S. is mostly a keratin amino acid spray, which in practical lingo means 'protein that won't overproteinize your hair'. Some forms of protein, like animal protein, has a tendency to push out water molecules out of a hair shaft, leaving it dry and brittle; but the Enjoy spray can be used every time you reach for a hair mask, or even in conjunction with a moisturizing conditioner.

2. Leave-in conditioner/detangler: Enjoy Conditioning Spray ($19 for 300ml/ 10.1 fl.oz). If you now think 'gosh, she really likes those Enjoy products' - yep, I do; I also use their shampoo and conditioner, but that's for another post. Anyway, I like this spray detangler for its unparalleled smoothing properties without weighting down the hair; although on my fine hair, it does need to be used quite sparingly. As with any conditioner, I always recommend applying only from ears down; on chin-length hair, that's basically just your ends. Another nifty thing about this one is that it can be used as a leave-in or rinse-out.
3. Serum/oil: MoroccanOil Treatment ($43 for 100ml/ 3.4 fl.oz). You've probably all heard about this one already but it is worth the hype; it conditions with the antioxidant-rich argan oil and the blend of silicones protects the hair against heat damage, frizz, humidity and even static and can also be applied on both damp and dry hair. A small tip before you buy: take a sniff first, some people can't stand the signature orange blossom scent of this line. For a similar effect from other brands, try the Enjoy Smooth & Shine or better yet, Loma Organics Fortifying Repairative Tonic (formerly Loma Pearatin Fortifying Repairative Serum).

Depending on how dry and damaged your hair is, you could try incorporating just one or all of the above steps to your routine to give it an extra conditioning boost. I usually just go for one of these on the days I wash my hair to keep it healthy and shiny and I want to say my hair is the best it's been in a long time. What do you use to condition your hair? Any products worth checking out?

Disclaimer: The article above features a mixture of products I purchased myself and samples I received as part of my employment. All opinions are 100% honest and my own. Thank you for reading!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Rocaille Swatches: Top 6 Highlighting Eyeshadows

When we were pitching ideas for our signature looks back in December (see how Dani from Call It Beauty interpreted moi here), my fellow Lipstick Bandits focused on highlighted inner corners as one of the key components of my signature make-up, which, honestly, I'd never really given much thought before. There's a lot of truth to it though; I've been dilligently highlighting inner corners of my eyes since high school and taught this eye-brightening trick to many friends since. So, let's take a look at my top 6 highlighting eyeshadows for the inner corner, shall we?
(As a side note, of course you could be using these to highlight under the brows, on the cheekbones, along the Cupid's bow etc. rather than just inner corners; but that's the only feature I tend to highlight on a daily basis. Well... I may be partial to some lip highlighting here and there.)
1. NYX Single Eye Shadow in White Pearl ($4.50 for 0.085 oz). A bit of a staple for me, a white pearl shadow is what I've been using for highlighting as long as I can remember. Three things to remember: firstly, the finish should be more satin than metallic, secondly, use very sparingly and blend well, thirdly and most importantly: this will only work on white people. Like very pale white.

2. Urban Decay Eyeshadow in Virgin ($18 for 0.05 oz). As you can see, this is almost an exact match for my skintone but with more glowy/satin finish, which is why it makes for a perfect understated highlight on my veiny blue eyelid skin.

3. Inglot AMC Shine Eyeshadow No. 142 ($6 for 3.2 g/0.11 oz). A subtle shade with beautiful light pink/peach opalescence, quite similar to Fyrinnae Crimson Ghost but easier to use due to the pressed form. A lit-from-within pink that won't give you the dreaded pink eye effect.

4. MAC Frost Eyeshadow in Ricepaper ($15 for 1.5 g/ 0.05 oz). A classic favorite for more olive/yellow skintones, this light yellow cream with a satin finish works wonders to conceal bluish darkness around my eyes, especially paired with a more warm-toned look. Well, as warm as I can get it on my winter cool skintone!

5. Wet'n'Wild Eyelid Shade from the Walking on Eggshells Trio ($2.99 for 0.12 oz). A delightful, creamy metallic that's borderline too dark depth-wise to be used on my skin right now but can still be pulled off due to the highly reflective quality. Just get it already, you'll thank me later.

6. Inglot Pearl Eyeshadow No. 397 ($6 for 2.7 g/ 0.09 oz). The mother of all inner corner highlights and possibly my most reached for eyeshadow. In the pan, it looks darker than the Wet'n'Wild but actually swatches lighter (which is why it still wins) with the same buttery metallic texture.

Hopefully, this was helpful to some of you rather than just self-indulgent but I do love me a good inner corner highlighting action. As you may observe, matte shades are distinctively absent from this little round-up; I just haven't found any highlighting mattes that would rock my boat yet. What are your favorite highlighting eyeshadows? Any suggestions?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Rocaille Reviews: REN ClearCalm Clay Cleanser

Isn't the title an absolute joy for alliteration fanatics? Linguistic quirks aside, I've purchased the REN ClearCalm 3 Clarifying Clay Cleanser (aaah... see what they did here again?) recently in an attempt to find a Holy Grail morning cleanser for my fickle facial dermis. In the past couple of months, I've been experiencing a lot more hormonal breakouts around my chin area, coupled with an oily nose and forehead as well as annoying, peeling dryness everywhere else. I've also noticed that my face was getting very red and irritated after washing it in the morning with a cream cleanser and wanted to find something a bit more natural and soothing that would leave my skin feeling satiny clean before applying make-up for the day. Overly demanding, moi?
 REN ClearCalm3 Clarifying Clay Cleanser (now, say that fast 3 times) retails at $32 for 5.1 oz/150ml and claims to 'deeply cleanse and purify the skin to leave skin clearer and calmer. The ingredient salicilin gently exfoliates to unclog skin, minimizes the appearance of pore size, and provides antimicrobial and antibacterial properties' (from Sephora's website). The product comes in a signature REN vacuum pump (yay for no preservatives!) with controllable dispensing possibilities. BTW, the photos were taken when the product was still brand new, so no, don't expect your bottle to come all the way full.
The texture of the REN cleanser is that of a slightly more emollient clay mask; with dampened hands, it spreads very easily on a dry face and sets as you massage it in. For myself, I only ever need about 1/3 of a full pump (which is why a controllable dispenser is so important) so I can see the product lasting quite a long time. There is absolutely no foaming action at all. After the cleanser sets, I remove it with a warm flannel but splashing off works just as well. After using, my face feels clean and matte without any residue or dryness. However, I still experience some redness, which I think is down to the essential oil content; also note that this gives the cleanser a very herbaceous, chamomile scent. I don't mind the scent at all but I wish my face tolerated it better... I think a fragrance/essential oil-free cleanser might be my next resort.
As for unclogging and breakout-reducing properties, I don't believe there's anything that can affect hormonal cysts but the rest of my face has been quite clear so far; I usually get some clogged pores on my forehead and they seem to be few and far between now. I've also noticed that my make-up does stay a bit longer and applies better after using the REN ClearCalm cleanser in the morning and my skin looks more satin without feeling tight or dry, which was definitely one of my goals.
So, while not quite Holy Grail, REN ClearCalm 3 Clarifying Cleanser is a great product for combination/oily acne-prone skins that I will continue to enjoy while it lasts but probably won't repurchase. Do you use a separate cleanser in the morning? Which one is your favorite?