Saturday, October 31, 2015

On My Radar: Deciem Hylamide SubQ Eyes Serum

I've briefly toyed with the idea of scrapping eye cream entirely out of my skincare routine, but truth is, I'm way too chicken to patiently wait for any first signs of aging to start creeping in - if there's something I can do to prevent or at least slow down their unavoidable advance, I'm going to do it. Which is why I sprang for Hylamide SubQ Eyes ($35 for 0.5 fl oz/ 15ml) from Deciem, a new Canadian science-driven skincare brand that has been on my radar for a couple months now, mostly thanks to the raving reviews from my good blogging pals Tracy (Beauty Reflections) and Rae (theNotice).
If you're a regular blog reader, you may have already seen a whole plethora of posts about Deciem products due to the brand's enthusiastic blogger outreach. I personally think that's fantastic; certainly these days I believe bloggers' recommendations much more than any magazine or celebrity endorsements. However, you know how it is sometimes: beauty gurus get sent free stuff and go on raving about it for a couple months, creating enormous amounts of hype, which in turn can be quite misleading for a simple consumer like me. Mind you, throughout the years, I've made up my mind which bloggers I can trust (yes, obviously Rae and Tracy know what they're talking about, and they're not afraid to slash a free PR sample when the product's subpar), but you do wonder if a given 'it' product deserves all the praise. I wanted to see for myself if Hylamide SubQ Eyes really was as wonderful as everyone was making it out to be.
I don't generally discuss my customer service/ shipping experiences, but let me tell you, I was very impressed with Deciem's delivery. I ordered on their website at around noon one day (I also used a coupon code to get 30% off - you can just google to see if there are any floating around right now to save yourself a couple bucks), and I received a shipping confirmation within 15 minutes. My order was actually delivered the very next day, and people, that was their no-minimum free shipping option. I believe the brand's US warehouse operates out of New Jersey so lucky for us New Yorkers, but still. But STILL.

Hylamide SubQ Eyes comes in a cardboard box displaying the key active ingredients AND a full ingredients' list, with the product nestled inside. My bottle came loose inside the box and rattled a bit, but nothing happened to it during shipment. SubQ Eyes, like most Deciem's products, is packaged in a glass bottle with a dropper dispenser. I've read a lot of complaints about this application method from Deciem's customers, but to be perfectly honest, I personally haven't experienced any issues. Deciem has also gone into detail explaining the reasoning behind this packaging choice - you can read it on Caroline Hirons' blog here if you wish.
Now, I can't verify all the science behind SubQ Eyes' advanced ingredients. The serum claims to 'rehydrate the fragile eye area below and above the surface, while targeted technologies visibly improve fine lines, crow's feet, puffiness and dark circles', and do it all with the help of peptides, plant saccharides and retinol. I do know that peptides and retinol are wonderful, clinically-proven anti-aging ingredients, and I know that saccharides act as humectants, attracting moisture to the skin. SubQ Eyes also contains 'Fluorinated Perfluorocarbon Complex', which tightens the under eye area for both immediate and long-term results. Hmm... I'll just have to trust them on this one.

The texture of this eye serum is quite thin and liquidy. I follow Tracy's advice and instead of squeezing the pipette to dispense some product onto my fingertip, I just wait patiently for one drop to drip down. I then press two fingers together and pat under my eyes, blending the remainder onto the brow bone as well. I sometimes experience very mild tingling, which goes away in a couple minutes. Because the product is so thin, it absorbs into the skin very quickly, but it does leave a layer of moisture behind - when I touch the skin under my eyes, I can feel a slight tackiness, and it feels nourished. Deciem formulates their products purposefully to penetrate deep into the skin instead of sitting on its surface, but if you prefer the thicker texture of a cream or balm, I would simply suggest patting a little of your facial moisturizer around your eyes over the SubQ Eyes. For me, it's enough on its own, and I find that my under eye concealer sits well over it during the day and doesn't look dry or cakey.
I've been using SubQ Eyes for a couple weeks now, and to be completely honest, I haven't noticed any dramatic results - but I haven't noticed a dramatic change with any of the eye creams I've used in the past, since I don't have very pronounced lines around my eyes nor any dark circles. What I HAVE noticed compared to other eye creams I've used is that despite its liquidy texture, SubQ Eyes really manages to keep my eye area moisturized and plump - and yes, I think my eyes may even look a bit more lifted. That's pretty much all I'm asking at this point; plus I want those potent anti-aging ingredients to work their magic over time and help me keep wrinkles at bay for as long as possible.

Overall, I'm pretty satisfied with Hylamide SubQ Eyes, and it has definitely left me wanting to try more products from the brand in the near future. I think their Flash-happy website can be a bit hard to navigate and the choice of products, especially serums, seems a little overwhelming at first, but I applaud Deciem for bringing innovative, high quality skincare products at an affordable price point to our market. I can't wait to see what else they have in store for us! Have you tried any products from Deciem? Which ones are your favorite? I'm making a wishlist here :)

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Cult Classics: L'Oreal Telescopic Carbon Black Mascara

The L'Oreal Telescopic was one of the first mascaras I absolutely fell in love with back in the day, long before I started this blog. I remember purchasing it at Sephora in Warsaw (yes, Sephora!) and loving the sleek silver tube. Obviously the Telescopic Carbon Black ($9.99 for 0.27 fl oz) is a different version than what I used to use, but I know that to this day it's a Holy Grail mascara for a lot of people, and I wanted to see if I still loved it too after having tried so many different low and high-end mascaras over the past five years.
I really like the black packaging of the Carbon Black; I actually didn't remember that the tube is shaped like a telescope, but I think it's a very cool design. According to Ulta's website, Telescopic 'features a patented no clump brush that applies the mascara precisely for long, perfectly defined lashes. Removes easily with soap and water.'. It's also fragrance-free and suitable for those with sensitive eyes and contact wearer.
I did remember that my Telescopic used to have a skinny rubber brush with short bristles, but I was still surprised at how tiny the wand on the Carbon Black is. It's so, so narrow! Some rows of bristles are shorter, some a bit longer - I'm guessing the idea is that you could rotate the angle of the brush to either get more volume or definition. My fresh tube has a somewhat wet formula, which is not my preference, but I think it will get drier (and better) with time.
Unfortunately, after the first week of use, I'm not very impressed with Telescopic Carbon Black. As you can hopefully see in the photo of my bare lashes, I have somewhat fine but long and full lashes (meaning, there's quite a lot of them). I usually like 'defining' mascaras, because I need something to comb through and separate my lashes so that they retain their full and fluttery look. However, the brush on the Telescopic Carbon Black clumps them together instead, and the wet formula is also prone to leaving clumps at the ends of my lashes. I think some of that is due to this 'flexible' wand business, which causes the brush to spring back when I'm really trying to wiggle it between the roots of the lashes - that's also where mascaras blobs on my lids come from. I think the combination of a flimsy brush that picks up a lot of the wet formula is not a good recipe for a clump-free mascara.
The mascara dries down a bit stiff and crunchy (again, not my favorite) and while it doesn't flake off throughout the day (as long as you're not trying to comb it through with a lash comb after it dries), it does transfer on my brow bone where my lashes touch the skin there. Contrarily to the marketing blurb, I do not find it particularly easy to remove, even with a cleansing oil. So all in all, while it's certainly not the worst mascara I've ever tried (you know, Benefit They're Real springs to mind here, which is another one that lots of people seem to like), it's sadly no longer a favorite. I'll experiment with layering it together with another mascara and will wait a bit to see if it gets better with age, but I won't repurchase the L'Oreal Telescopic for the third time. Do you also experience that some products you used to love a long time ago aren't all that great anymore? I'd love to know!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Fall Favorites Tag

I find it amusing that I've had three labels here on my blog for years that come together pefectly to make up the name of this tag :) It's been making rounds on YouTube for a couple weeks now, and I had actually been planning to write a general lifestyle post about my current favorites (which are definitely influenced by the seasonal change), so I just decided to do it in this format. Keep reading to find out if I tagged you at the end of the post!
We live in a one bedroom apartment so there isn't a whole lot of space to go all out with seasonal decor, but I put together this little centerpiece with a small pumpkin and some maple leaves I've had for a long time, which I also use as a background for my blog photos.
1. Favorite Candle
Without a doubt and for at least second year running, the Bath and Body Works Marshamallow Fireside. It's just the perfect blend of sweet carmelized marshmallow orbs contrasted with a warm, smokey, woodsy background. I find a lot of BBW candles very overwhelming and get tired of the scent quickly, but this is just delicious. Every. Single. Time.
2. Favorite Lip Color
I've been really enjoying my berry pink Inglot Gel lipstick no. 58 that's in my Project Make A Dent this year. When I picked it out before the Project's beginning, I was already expecting that I'd primarly want to wear it in the fall and winter, and that's exactly what's happened. I sometimes just pat a very thin layer with my finger for that stained look, sometimes wear it full-on, sometimes pair it with a darker lip liner (shown here) or Revlon Back Cherry for a deeper, more vampy look.
3. Favorite Drink
I haven't had a Starbucks latte in over two years, I think, so no PSL for me - I don't rate Starbucks coffee at all. Our rediscovered favorite this season is Adagio's Thai Chai flavored black tea with just a small teaspoon of sugar and soy milk. It's both refreshing and creamy, with lemongrass, ginger and lots of coconut. Both me and the husband often make it in the morning and take it to go in our insulated Klean Kanteen bottles/ thermoses.
4. Favorite Blush
My perennial favorite is NARS Sin, but I've been more focused on rotating through my less used blushes recently and trying to weed out the ones I don't like as much anymore. For a warmer-toned blush, I also really like NYX Powder Blush in Mauve.
5. Favorite Clothing Item
Well, I've obviously dug out my thicker sweaters and scarves now, and even had to pull out my winter coat this past weekend, but one of the newest items in my wardrobe is this little leather crossbody my brother got for me during our Tuscany trip. It's a very simple shape and doesn't fit much (my iPhone 6 Plus barely fits, and I can't carry a wallet, just cash and cards), but I'm a huge fan of the classic feel and the cognac color.
6. Favorite Fall Movie
I don't really rewatch any movies seasonally, but I sure love Hocus Pocus for Halloween, even if it's the most predictable answer on the planet.

7. Favorite Fall TV Show
Okay, you guys are going to laugh, but we recently started watching iZombie on Netflix, and you know what? It's not bad. Sure, the premise is ridiculous and the plot doesn't hold in many spots, but it's actually pretty funny, and I love the realistic attention to detail: in one episode, the main character turns into this hacker/ gamer persona, and her entire apartment is littered with Dorito bags and Sprite cans, which apparently (husband told me) are the proverbial gaming snacks. Other than that, we've also been watching The Voice, although we couldn't stand the frequent commercial breaks on the free version of Hulu anymore, and subscribed for the commercial-free plan - which makes for a MUCH improved viewing experience.

8. Favorite Thanksgiving Food
Being born and raised in Poland, we don't celebrate Thanksgiving. I even tried cooking 'Thanksigving-inspired' food a couple years ago, but since I've actually never participated in a real Thanksgiving feast, I don't know what it's supposed to taste like. I do however have a few dishes in my repertoire that I always make in the fall, like a creamy pumpkin soup with lots of cumin (or any other spicy soup - love hot soups in the cold season!), or the Polish apple pie called szarlotka, with cinnamon, meringue and crumble on top.

9. Favorite Halloween Costume
Again, I'm not into celebrating Halloween at all, it's not a traditional Polish holiday, although it is becoming increasingly popular with how prevalent American culture is all over the world. The one year we dressed up for a Halloween party as a Mad Hatter and Alice (click here for photos), our friends had no clue who we were supposed to be. Big fail. But I'll probably paint my nails a very dark vampy shade and top with some glitter for a festive look!
10. Added in by yours truly: Favorite Perfume
I mean, the question about favorite fall perfume clearly must have been omitted by accident. My last year's cold season favorite was Serge Lutens Ambre Sultan, which I received in the full size for Christmas - and I still love that heavy, warm, jammy oriental. But when we visited Lucca in mid-September, I noticed a cute apothecary shop (Erborista) in one of the city's beautiful squares, and promptly fell in love with Ambraliquida (clearly, I have a thing for amber) from an Italian brand L'Erbolario Lodi. It's a spicy and sweet scent with notes of sandalwood, incense, patchouli, bourbon vanilla and honey. It dries down powdery and musky, and has incredible sillage and lasting power (probably because it's more of a base-note heavy fragrance). It's definitely not for everyone, but I love it, and my dad loved it so much that a couple hours later he decided to buy a bottle for my mom too. I paid about 22 euro for a 1.7 fl oz/ 50 ml EDP, but you can also purchase it in the US for $45 on CyberCucina and The Herbarium, their authorized US retailer.

That's it for my answers, I hope you enjoyed them! I would love to see the following bloggers answer these questions: Tracy at Beauty Reflections, Larie at Eye Heart It, Liz at So Lonely in Gorgeous, and Claire at The Land of Lorp - as well as anyone else who would like to join in! If you decide to post this, please leave me a link to your blog in the comments :)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Snail Flail? Mizon Snail Recovery Gel Cream Review

Are we still feeling scandalized by snail secretions in our skincare? I've actually never been very squeamish about it, but either way, late last year (sic!) I decided to purchase this Snail Recovery Gel Cream ($6-10 for 45ml from Amazon or eBay) from Mizon, a Korean brand famous for its snail extract products. I'd had some good luck with snail sheet masks in the past and was looking for an inexpensive hydration booster to add to my routine, and this seemed to fit the bill.
The Mizon Snail Recovery Gel Cream is actually a difficult product to categorize. It's a multipurpose product containing 74% Snail Secretion Filtrate that can be used as a serum, after sun, sleeping mask, soothing salve for irritated/ blemished skin. It's definitely not a moisturizer; this light, clear gel sinks into the skin almost immediately and doesn't provide much nourishment like a standard Western cream does. If you wanted to incorporate it into your skincare routine, I would use it either instead or together with a serum/ essence, and follow with a moisturizer. Apart from the snail extract, it also contains hyaluronic acid, soothing plant extracts like gotu kola, green tea, lotus and white birch, as well as peptides, allantoin, panthenol and adenosine towards the very end of the ingredients' list.
I've been using the Snail Recovery Gel Cream on and off for months now, and here's what I found. Yes, I do think this airy, fragrance-free gel provides a soothing boost of hydration to the skin - I especially like to use it when my skin is acting up for one reason or another (seasonal dehydration, breakouts, redness and sensitivity, dryness resulting from treatments containing salicylic acid/ retinols), and I either leave it on the skin for the entire day/ night, or rinse off after 20 minutes to an hour. It sinks in very fast and doesn't leave a sticky residue, so even my skincare-hating husband wouldn't mind using it on his face :) I would liken it to an aloe vera gel in terms of its versatility and results, but on my skin, it's even more effective. It would also be a terrific option for anyone who's allergic to aloe vera, which is actually more common that you would think.
All in all, I think it's a handy little product to have in your medicine cabinet, but I don't think it's a miracle worker. I do own other products that are more effective in their respective categories; for example, Laneige Water Sleeping Mask (click!) is a better hydrating overnight mask, or the Hada Labo Hyaluronic Acid Gokujuyn Lotion (click!) is a better hydrating serum/essence than this Snail Gel. However, if you were on a limited budget, wanted to streamline your routine, or looking for a single multipurpose product to pack for travel, the Mizon Snail Recovery Gel Cream is a great option. Have you tried any products with snail filtrate? What is your favorite 'do it all' skincare product?

Monday, October 19, 2015

More Zoeva Brush Reviews: 101 Luxe Face Definer, 102 Silk Finish, 142 Concealer Buffer & 226 Smudger

My first Zoeva brush review (click here for more information on the company, the ordering process and 105, 109, 227, 231 and 317 brushes) is currently one of my most popular posts, so I thought it may be helpful to share my thoughts on four more Zoeva brushes I purchased recently. This year, I've been really focused on sorting through my make-up brush collection and updating some brush types that I reach for frequently, and having had great luck with my first Zoeva order, I decided to get just a few more.
Let's start with 101 Luxe Face Definer Brush ($24, also available in vegan bamboo edition). I actually don't have a similar brush to compare it to, but it's a larger face brush with long natural (I'm assuming goat) bristles that taper down, giving it somewhat of an egg shape. The Face Definer can be used for applying setting powder either to specific areas of the face or all around, but I find it especially useful for bronzing and contouring powders.
101 Luxe Face Definer next to 105 Luxe Highlight for size and shape reference
The brush picks up product easily, either using just the tip or a side of the brush, and blends powders seamlessly on the face. The length of the bristles make it a bit more floppy, which works well for avoiding a harsh contour/ bronzer line; it gives a subtler, more diffused effect than the 109 Face Paint brush from my last order, but it also covers a larger area of the face. The natural bristles feel very soft and plush on the skin (obviously not as soft as Japanese blue squirrel brushes, but hey, let's not get ahead of ourselves here...), and wash well with soap and warm water. To preserve the tapered shape and avoid stray hairs, I dry it overnight in a plastic mesh brush guard.
I ordered the 102 Silk Finish ($15.50, vegan taklon bristles) as a back-up for my beloved Real Techniques Buffing brush (pictured), which is a favorite for applying liquid and cream foundations. However, the Zoeva version turned out to be a little different. The Silk Finish brush is incredibly dense with a domed shape, and works well both for pressing/ stippling the product into the skin as well as blending it out in circular motions. Compared to the Real Techniques, it is much denser and thus less flexible on the skin, which is why I like the Zoeva better for stippling rather than buffing motions (the opposite being true for the RT). The 102 Silk Finish doesn't absorb too much foundation, doesn't leave streaks or brush marks, washes and dries well even without the brush guard.
The 142 Concealer Buffer ($10.50, vegan taklon bristles, also available in the Bamboo Edition) is pretty much a scaled-down version of the 102 Silk Finish. Again, it's very dense and has a domed head, which works well to blend out concealer under the eyes and on other areas of the face without losing coverage. Because the bristles are so dense, the brush can also be used to stipple the product on the skin; I really enjoy using it around my nose and on some larger marks/ blemishes elsewhere on the face. Compared to a standard eye blending brush (even the Real Techniques domed shadow/ crease brush), the bristles on the 142 Concealer Buffer are twice as dense and the ferrule is round, not pinched, which translates into a more opaque application.
Lastly, the 226 Smudger ($9.50, synthetic taklon bristles, also availale in the Bamboo Edition) is your typical brush for applying and smudging out darker shades along the upper and lower lashline. The main difference between the Zoeva Smudger and my other eye smudging brushes is the length of the bristles - the ones on the 226 are much shorter, and the ferrule is wider. This makes this brush a lot firmer, which on one hand, feels a bit stabby on the sensitive skin around the eyes, but on the other, makes blending out even the most pigmented pencils or liners incredibly easy. The tip of this brush is also finer than on my other smudgers (see below, compared to Bdellium Tools 772), so you can get a very precise application.

Again, I'm very satisfied with my purchase, and have been using these brushes nearly every day for the past month. I still think that Zoeva has remarkable quality brushes for a great price, even taking into consideration the gradual price increases and the high shipping costs (at least for North America). I feel that I have now achieved a well-edited, high quality brush stash tailored to my specific needs and preferences, so I'm not intending to purchase more brushes from Zoeva in the immediate future, but if I ever need to replacement, I'll happily order from them again. What is your favorite inexpensive brush brand? What are your go-to brushes for applying foundation and concealer?

Friday, October 16, 2015

Light Base for the Colder Season: L'Occitane Immortelle Precious BB Cream SPF30

As my skin continues to improve, I've gotten more into lighter bases: foudations with lighter coverage, tinted moisturizers, BB creams, the works. Yeah, I know; BB, CC and other alphabet creams are so passé these days. To be honest though, I really don't care how a brand chooses to market their base products - I'll try them anyway, and evaluate according to their performance and my current needs, no matter the name. So that's exactly how I'm going to review this L'Occitane Immortelle Precious BB Cream SPF 30 in the Fair shade ($45 for 1.3 fl oz/ 40ml).
L'Occitane claims that their BB Cream will even out the skintone, soften the signs of stress and fatigue, and protect the skin thanks to the UV filter. I believe the SPF ingredient for this product is Titanium Dioxide, although L'Occitane doesn't provide a full ingredients' list on their website (now, THAT is passé!), so I'm not too sure. It also contains immortelle essential oil, which has anti-aging properties.

First off, I really like the packaging for this BB Cream: it's a slim plastic tube with a tiny nozzle, which makes it very easy to control the amount of product you're squeezing out. Yes, the price point is a bit out there (which I actually find to be true for most L'Occitane products, so I wasn't surprised), but you're also getting about a third more than in a regular foundation (40 vs 30ml).
The Immortelle Precious BB Cream is a light cream that spreads and blends very easily into the skin. It does have a pretty strong sharp floral fragrance - I could definitely do without it. It's also quite a bit different than the herbal scent of other products in the Immortelle skincare range. The coverage is higher than I expected; light to medium, depending on the application. As you can see in my face shot (no concealer, no powder, applied over a pore-minimizing primer used in the T-zone), it definitely evens out my skin and conceals redness, but my freckles, little spots and other marks are still showing through.

This BB Cream definitely has a very glowy finish on the skin. When freshly applied, I absolutely love the effect on my skin; it looks natural and luminous, and doesn't sink into enlarged pores or lines. It also feels moisturizing but non-sticky. Unfortunately, even powdered, it only lasts on my combination skin for about 2-3 hours, at which point it starts getting very shiny, and seems to make my smile lines and pores a lot more obvious. I've even tried mixing it in with a matte long-wearing foundation, but it still caused much faster oil break-through in the T-zone.
L-R: L'Occitane Precious BB Cream in Fair, Revlon Colorstay in Ivory, Guerlain Baby Glow in Light
As for the shade match, this BB Cream comes in only three shades, out of which I have the lightest - Fair. As you can see in the arm swatch, compared to some of my other fair/ light foundations, it's strangely... gray. I realize that the grey tone is similar to the shade range of original Korean BB Creams, but the gray undertone causes my skin to look a bit unnatural (dare I say, corpse-like?) - it's not very obvious when it's blended in, but I don't love it 100%. I think the Fair shade would only work for skintones in the NW10 range (fair with cool/ pink undertones).
All in all, I would say that the L'Occitane Immortelle Precious BB Cream is a nice product, but unfortunately not geared towards my skintype. If your skin is normal to dry, and you're looking for something fuss-free with good sun protection, this should fit the bill, especially in the fall and winter. However, the Immortelle BB could definitely benefit from a wider shade range; as it is, there's only a few select skintones that are able to find a match. Have you tried any make-up products from L'Occitane? What is your favorite base product with lighter coverage?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Plum Jam: Shiseido Lacquer Gloss in RS306

Even though the leaves in New York are still green and firmly attached to their branches, I think we all know it's time to throw some autumnal shades into the make-up mix. I have actually had this sample of Shiseido Lacquer Gloss in RS306 Plum Wine ($25 for 0.25 oz) in my lipgloss drawer since February, but after trying it once, I decided to relegate it to the fall season - so here it is.
Well, the other reason I decided to put it away is that on that after that one application, I was left feeling somewhat disappointed. Why so, Monika? Did it suck so bad? (Yes, I AM prone to one on one conversations in my head). Nope, not at all. It's just that... it was SO pigmented. After a few years of trial and error, I've established that pigmented lip glosses are definitely a no-go for me: get some of that creamy, gooey, sticky pigment on my lips, and in a couple minutes, it'll be everywhere on my face AND in my hair. Just too anxiety-inducing, you know?
But after wearing Shiseido's Lacquer Gloss a few more times, I'm actually willing to negotiate my stance on pigmented glosses. Somehow, Shiseido's gloss just grips the lips a lot better, and doesn't transfer as easily as my other lipglosses. It does feel a little sticky with a couple hours wear, but I don't mind really, and I think it just goes with the territory of a longer-wearing gloss. In terms of texture, the closest comparison would be the Maybelline Color Elixirs (click here for my review): the formula is smooth and a bit more oil-like than a traditional gloss, there's a beautiful translucency to it, so it seems to cushion the lips without pooling into vertical lip lines. There's just a hint of sweet vanilla scent, nothing noticeable. The product blurb says that these Lacquer Glosses feature 'a three-layer structure that refines lip texture, adheres to the lips with vivid color, and coats the lips with all-day moisture', and it doesn't stray too far from the truth.
RS306 Plum Wine, described on Sephora as a rosy violet, is a pinky plum leaning a bit purple - it almost looks like a blueberries and cream type of shade on my lips (YUM). In the heavy arm swatch, you can see tiny glimmers of magenta, but on the lips, the gloss has a cream finish - I can't detect any shimmers with a naked eye.
L-R (both photos): Shiseido Lacquer Gloss in RS306 (one swipe), YSL Rouge Pur Couture in Rose Stiletto no.9, Lancome Color Design in Wine Party
One downside to this gloss is the applicator (or rather the stopper): I get way too much product on the paddle-shaped doe foot when I pull out the wand, and consequently have to be very careful not too smear the product everywhere or have the gloss migrate towards the edges of my mouth. But, provided that I apply just the right amount, tie my hair back and try to be careful with my meals and drinks (is this gloss asking for too much?), I really like the look and performance of the Lacquer Gloss; it's an easy, non-intimidating way of sporting a deeper plum shade for fall.  
Have you tried any Shiseido lip product? What are your favorite lipglosses for the colder season?

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Skincare from InstaNatural Vitamin C Serum Review

Generally speaking, thousands of glowing reviews on any product at any given website make me extremely suspicious. Is it all generated by bots? Is it spam from the company itself? Were people paid hundreds of dollars to type out all these five-star opinions? I don't know, but it sure looks too good to be true. So I was indeed very skeptical when I received this InstaNatural Advanced Formula Vitamin C Serum* ($14.22 for 1 oz/ 30ml on, which boasts 4.5 star rating from over 3,000 reviewers. Crazy, huh?
InstaNatural Vitamin C Serum claims to hydrate the skin, clear up blemishes and even out skintone for younger-looking skin. It contains 20% a stable form of Vitamin C (Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate), hyaluronic acid, ferulic acid, Vitamin E, algae and green tea extracts, as well as lots of plant oils: rosehip oil, seabuckthorn oil, argan oil, jojoba, carrot seed and apricot kernel, all in a liquid base of water and organic aloe vera.

If you've ever used a pure aloe vera gel, the consistency of InstaNatural Vitamin C Serum is pretty much the same. It's a lightweight liquidy gel dispensed from a dropper that absorbs into the skin incredibly fast - faster than any gel serum I've tried in the past, it actually behaves on my skin more like an essence. The serum is a light orange and has a lovely citrus scent from the pink grapefruit essential oil used in the formula; thankfully, the fragrance doesn't irritate my skin.

I've been using it every night for the past three weeks and you know what, I'm actually pretty impressed. While Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, even at such a high percentage, isn't the most effective form of Vitamin C, I have noticed that my freckles, which were getting gradually darker over the course of the summer, are actually quite a bit lighter and less pronounced than before. I have one particularly dark spot under my right eye, and it's definitely lighter now, as are all the different post-acne hyperpigmentation marks I'm constantly trying to eradicate. My skin is overall more even in tone, and I can see and feel that it's better hydrated as well - I haven't had a dry patch anywhere on my face in a really long time.
While I feel that these results aren't anything extraordinary and could be achieved with Vitamin C products from other brands as well, I think it's incredible that you can purchase a serum that's simply jam-packed with incredible ingredients with very few fillers for less than 15 bucks. I've also been testing the InstaNatural Premium Hydration 5% Hyaluronic Acid Serum* ($14.22 for 2 oz/ 60 ml, double the size of the Vitamin C one), and while I don't like it as much and still prefer my Hada Labo Gokujyun Hyaluronic Acid Lotion (which utilizes Hydrolyzed Hylauronic Acid that has smaller molecules and absorbs better into the skin for greater efficacy), again, I think it's a lovely product for the price, and so lightweight that even the oiliest skintypes would enjoy reaching for it.

This just goes to show that good skincare with clinically proven active ingredients doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg, and doesn't have to come from Sephora or a department store. I don't think I'll now start shopping for all of my skincare on Amazon, but I'm surprised at these little gems and would consider trying more products from InstaNatural in the future - I just wish they posted their full ingredients lists more prominently in the product description. Have you ever bought any skincare products from Amazon? Are there any small and relatively unknown skincare brands that you're a fan of?

Disclaimer:  I received the two serums featured in this post complimentary for testing purposes from the brand in exchange for an honest review on All opinions are 100% honest and unbiased, no matter if the products featured were purchased with my own monies or provided as free press samples. Thank you for reading!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

An Unexpected Love: YSL Rouge Pur Couture Lipsticks in no.9 Rose Stiletto and no.19 Fuchsia

I was pretty surprised to be selected for another YSL Beauty VoxBox from Influenster, you guys (here's my invite, in case you've been wanting to take your chances). First off, I didn't absolutely swoon over the Touche Eclat Blur products in my first one, reviewed here, and secondly, I would generally say that I suck at social media. I'm not on Facebook, I don't have Snapchat, I barely Instagram and, well, I tweet, but mostly about my latest blog posts, which probably isn't all that useful for beauty brands. Yet somehow I was chosen to receive these two newly relaunched YSL Rouge Pur Couture Satin Radiance Lipsticks ($36 each for 3.8 g) in no. 9 Rose Stiletto* and no. 19 Fuchsia*, and much to my delight, I've been enjoying them tremendously!
I've tried the YSL Rouge Pur Couture formula in the past - here's my review of a Limited Edition Pink Grenadine shade. I obviously quite like the old formula as it's survived many lipstick declutters, but it's also not one of my absolute favorites; just somewhere in the middle, I guess.
You can see here that the packaging of the Rouge Pur Coutures changed quite a bit; it's still predominantly gold and, uhm, rectangular, but I'd say I like just the pure gold and black of the new tube a bit better. It's also a bit sturdier and more weighty in my hand; just what a luxury lipstick should feel like. I've tried to find some information on whether the formula changed as well, and while nothing I had come upon gave me a definite answer, I do believe these new Rouge Pur Coutures are in fact a different formulation.
Let me start by saying what has NOT changed in the Rouge Pur Couture formula. It's still an emollient and richly pigmented lipstick, meant to dress the lips in one stroke. It also has the exact same YSL lipstick smell, a bit floral and definitely different from their fruity Gloss Voluptes; more along the lines of the Glossy Stains.
In my opinion, the overall feel and performance of these lipsticks have been improved in the revamped range. To me, they seem even creamier and more opaque than the older formula (although it is possible that my older tube has just got a bit more dried out over the couple years I've had it). I believe this trend in many new product releases was started last year by the NARS Audacious line - intense pigment in a comfortable formula that just glides on the lips. However, one downside to many of these super creamy lipsticks (and something often mentioned about the YSL Rouge Voluptes) is that they're too slippery and slidey on the lips, sinking into the lines and outside the contour of your lips.
Luckily, that's not the case at all with the new Rouge Purs - they stay put very well, and even leave behind a bit of a stain. When you first apply the Rouge Purs, they seem to have a standard creamy finish (no shimmer), but in about an hour, they settle more into a satin or even a matte that wears comfortably for another 2-3 hours (that is, until the next meal, which is when I have to reapply). These don't draw attention to my vertical lip lines, and they don't dry out my drier-than-Death-Valley lips, although they're not exactly moisturizing either. For a high pigment, creamy lipstick, they feel surprisingly lightweight on the lips. All in all, big thumbs up for the formula.
L-R (both photos): Maybelline Color Sensational in Warm Me Up, MAC Viva Glam V, YSL Rouge Pur Couture in Rose Stiletto no. 9 (three swipes each)
I will admit that I was a bit worried about how the two shades selected for us would go with my fair skintone, but I'm pretty happy with both no. 9 Rose Stiletto and no. 19 Fuchsia. Rose Stiletto is described as a 'rich berry rose', and I think it's a quite an apt description. On me, it's a warm deep rose veering almost on a wine shade; it has hints of both brown and plum. It's like a less mauvey version of that MLBB that's so popular right now. I've swatched it against some of my darker nudes, but you can see it's a lot darker than that - more in the Bite High Pigment Lip Pencil in Rhubarb territory.
Rose Stiletto is a perfect everyday shade for fall and winter; it doesn't draw too much attention but on my skintone, it's a deeper option than your standard nudes. It feels like a sophisticated, grown-up shade that would work well in a professional environment.
On the other hand, Fuchsia no. 19 is the complete opposite of Rose Stiletto. Described as a 'magenta purple', it's an incredibly bright, attention-grabbing shade. I would say it's more pink than purple, but it definitely leans purple and it's the most cool-toned hot pink in my stash (hopefully you can see that in my photos). I don't see why Influenster chose this particular shade for fall, but in all honestly, if you're a fan of vivid colors, you could wear Fuchsia all year round.
L-R (both photos): Lancome Shine Lover Lipstick in Effortless Pink, Guerlain Rouge Automatique in Shalimar, YSL Rouge Pur Couture in Fuchsia no. 19
I have to admit that I haven't braved wearing Fuchsia outside of the house yet. You can somewhat see it in the face shot, but this shade looks almost neon on me - fun, but not entirely suitable for everyday wear, at least at its full strength. I'll play around with it a little bit and attempt to tame the beast by wearing it more as a stain (which would also make me less nervous about smearing it on my chin - yes, speaking from experience here).
There are currently 41 shades of the YSL Rouge Pur Coutures on the Sephora's website, and while some may be Limited Edition, that's plenty of colors to satisfy even the pickiest lipstick lover. I'm actually quite tempted to swatch a few more options next time I'm near a store, although you know I do NOT need any more lipsticks :) Have you tried these new lipsticks from YSL? What is your favorite opaque lipstick formula?

*Disclaimer: I received the two YSL products featured in this post complimentary for testing purposes from Influenster (anyone can sign up for free here, you don't need a blog or YouTube channel - just social media outlets). All opinions are 100% honest and unbiased, no matter if the products featured were purchased with my own monies or provided as free press samples. Thank you for reading!