Thursday, December 31, 2015

Favourite (Beauty) Discoveries of 2015

I've been sooo lazy the past week or so. I've been on holiday vacation from work and using the time to begin my transformation into a sloth catch up on manga, watch anime, play video games, and generally goof off after a stressful late November/early December with studying and work.

But! I definitely couldn't end the year without one last post, sharing my favourite beauty product discoveries from this year. (Some of these I've posted about, and some (most) still have reviews in the works.)

Becca Lowlight Sculpting Perfector - this is the contour product against which I compare all other contour shades against. I swatched it here and here, but haven't gotten around to a review for the product itself. The cool-toned taupe brown blends like a dream to instantly gives me crazy sculpted cheekbones without that brown stripe look.

Revlon Colorstay Skinny Liquid Liner in Electric Blue (review) - stunningly bright blue colour with a great formula and application. I have very little visible lid space, but this definitely makes my eyes pop.

Klorane Oat Milk Dry Shampoo - this is one of those products everybody says is great, and they're right. Although it runs out way faster than LUSH No Drought, Klorane seems to keep my hair looking refreshed longer--not to mention it's easier and less messy to apply. Too bad it's a bit pricy at ~$16 (!!!) a can.

Clinique Pretty Easy Liquid Eyelining Pen - is it cheating that I have two eyeliners in this post? It edges out the black Revlon Skinny Liquid Liner because the pen format is more convenient, and it applies just as well as the Revlon, if not better.

Clinique Pretty Easy Brow Palette - another recent-ish release from Clinique that I need to post about. This trio includes brow powder, highlighter, and tinted wax which gives me awesome brow game. There is only one colourway at the moment: the cool tone of the brow powder makes it a great match for most Asians.

Dior Nude Air Serum foundation - stunning, effortless, very natural-looking. My new favourite foundation, and doesn't irritate my skin despite the alcohol content.

LUSH The Kiss Lip Scrub (review) - although I don't love the sprinkles and hearts (they get in the way), this one deserves a mention because it convinced me that lip scrubs are legit. Way better than scrubbing at dead lip flakes with my finger or a cloth, thanks to buffing salt/sugar crystals and hydrating oils. I have chronically dry lips and a good lip scrubbing has been a life-saver right now with the cold weather.

NeoStrata Glycolic Renewal Smoothing Lotion 10% (review) - this is a big one for me. My skin is smoother, more even, and dare I say a little glowy, thanks to the regular use of this AHA lotion. Typically around this time of year, my skin would be a lot more dull and flaky but I have zero flaky patches and haven't in a very long time.

AmorePacific Treatment Enzyme Peel (not pictured, I finished the sample!) - I got a small sample jar of this when Sephora started carrying AmorePacific earlier this year. When I looked up the ingredients, I was skeptical of how effective they would be in a rinse-off scrub. But seriously, it works so well and I still don't get how haha! When I use it, I feel like my skin is brighter and smoother, even though the fine powder-like product doesn't feel like it's doing anything. I love it but I'm still having a hard time justifying $72 for it.

So those are the products I tried and loved in 2015! What did you discover this year that you loved? See you in 2016!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

October Birchbox with PARLOR

Okay from the title you already know I am so behind on posting about this Birchbox, but I decided to take some time to try the products in the box first!

Birchbox is a popular beauty subscription box service, and can you believe this is actually my first one ever? October's box is extra special because it has products from a new hair care brand exclusive to Birchbox, PARLOR by Jeff Chastain.

The box is definitely a keeper, by the way. The pattern reminds me of a cross section of pink agate.

More importantly though, here's what was inside:
  • Egyptian Magic All-Purpose Skin Cream - 7.5 ml jar (~$4.38 value)
  • Eyeko Black Magic Mascara - 4 ml tube (~$14.34 value)
  • Juice Beauty Green Apple Peel Sensitive - 7.5 ml tube (~$5.46 value)
  • PARLOR by Jeff Chastain Moisturizing & Repairing Shampoo - 30 ml tube (~$3.13 value)
  • PARLOR by Jeff Chastain Moisturizing & Repairing Conditioner - 12 ml packet (~$1.28 value)
  • Vasanti Cosmetics All Star 2-in-1 Face and Eye Primer - 5 ml tube (~$8 value)

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

LUSH Joy To The World Gift Set

We are t-minus three days to Christmas Day, and I'm guessing you know someone who is still scrambling to find a last-minute gift or two! Maybe give them a nudge towards LUSH? As mentioned in my beauty gift guide, LUSH gift sets are pretty awesome: there's a huge range to fit budgets big and small, and they're already beautifully pre-wrapped to save time (and frustration, if the gifter's really terrible at wrapping presents.) I got a chance to treat myself to this combination of delight/convenience in the LUSH Joy To The World gift set.

LUSH Joy To The World Gift Set review
Who wouldn't love to see this little box under their tree? I dig the white/gold wrapping, which reads very festive and "holiday" but still pretty and elegant.

LUSH Joy To The World Gift Set review
No separate gift tags necessary! The attached tag already has a "To" and "From", and also describes the goodies inside.

Love and Light is a jojoba oil- and cocoa butter-based hand cream that is bright with the scent of neroli and Brazilian orange oils, as well as orange flower absolute. Snowcake is a LUSH classic; it's a solid soap with a creamy, confectionary scent.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Vichy Aqualia Thermal Extrasensitive

Winter is definitely here--it was snowing yesterday. In Vancouver. This is a time of year when people often notice their skin is more dry and sensitive than usual. As I am definitely one of those people, I was intrigued/excited when I received the new Vichy Aqualia Thermal Extrasensitive. I was also able to ask Vichy's scientific relations and communications lead a few questions about winter skin care, and have posted her answers at the end.

Vichy Aqualia Thermal Extrasensitive review
This new moisturizer from Vichy promises to cater to super sensitive skin by excluding ingredients that can sometimes trigger sensitivity, such as parabens, alcohol, and colourants. (It still contains dimethicone and fragrance though, which I know some of you are also sensitive to.) The airless pump packaging also helps "minimize contamination and preserve [the] formula's purity".

As someone with dry, sometimes-irritated skin, I was pleased to see many of the good-for-skin ingredients that I typically look for, including squalane (second ingredient! emollient and skin-repairing), niacinamide (aka vitamin B3, anti-irritant and skin barrier-enhancing), shea butter (emollient), and sodium hyaluronate (moisturizing). It is also made with Vichy's Thermal Spa Water, which the brand claims is rich in various minerals that soothe and fortify skin.

Vichy Aqualia Thermal Extrasensitive review
Aqualia Thermal Extrasensitive has a texture that is thick but not greasy. I find it a bit heavy even for me (thicker than Clinique Moisture Surge Overnight Mask), and noticed the beginnings of a small pimple the day after I first applied it. After that, I applied it much more sparingly and didn't have any problems.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Nail Art Inspirations: David's Tea 24 Days of Tea

Last month, I gushed over the charming, festive packaging of David's Tea's 24 Days of Tea advent calendar. Penguins! Teal! Pastel mint! Tea! All things I love. I said I would probably end up doing some nail art inspired by the illustrations in the advent calendar, so here are the results!

David's Tea 24 Days of Tea Nail Art
Sometimes I use acrylic paints in nail art--it's honestly way easier and forgiving to use, and much easier to clean out of nail art brushes. For some reason, I was determined this time to use all nail polish, so everything used in this look is nail polish! The other reason why I like using acrylics is to mix colours to create just the right shade I need, but surprisingly all the polishes I used are a dead-on match to the colours in the advent calendar.

David's Tea 24 Days of Tea Nail Art
Polishes used:
  • Essie Going Incognito (dark green: little finger base colour)
  • OPI Alpine Snow (white: stars, branches, penguin's tummy)
  • Orly Luxe (gold: stars, penguin's beak)
  • American Apparel Peacock (teal: base colour)
  • Sally Hansen Insta-Dri Blue-Away (light blue; penguin body, dots)
  • butter London Pillar Box Red (bright red: base colour, penguin's scarf)

As always, I had a lot of fun! I dug up a lot of my older polishes for this, and it made me remember how much I love Essie Going Incognito for its rich, deep green, and butter London Pillar Box Red for its stunning formula and colour.

David's Tea 24 Days of Tea Nail Art
Did you pick up this advent calendar set before it sold out? I mayyyyy have cheated and opened a few early.. I couldn't help it, I really wanted to try Gingerbread Cookie and Cardamom French Toast--and it was worth it because they are both delicious! >:D

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Clinique Pretty Easy Eye Palette: review + swatches

With the holiday season upon us, that means lots of company Christmas parties, family dinners, and friendly get-togethers. Clinique's new launch promises to make things a bit less hectic with a super-portable, 8-pan neutrals palette that can create eye looks for day or night.

Clinique Pretty Easy eyeshadow palette review
Clinique Pretty Easy Eye Palette; Clinique Pretty Easy Brow Palette
Clinique Pretty Easy Eye Palette ($55 CAD) is compact and fits comfortably in my hand. It comes in Clinique's classic mirrored packaging, which is simple and chic but an absolute pain to photograph! :P

Clinique Pretty Easy eyeshadow palette review
The mirror side has a peel-off sticker with suggestions for a "naturally pretty" day look and a "dramatically pretty" evening look.

Clinique Pretty Easy eyeshadow palette review
The palette also comes with two Skinny Stick eyeliners in Slimming Black and Slim Sable. Much better than crappy eyeshadow sponge applicators that nobody uses! They're about 2/3 the size of full-size Skinny Sticks (~$27 value for both eyeliners). I forgot to take swatches of the eyeliners, but they are creamy and smooth, with a super-skinny tip that would work well for tightlining. Slimming Black is a deep, matte black, and Slim Sable is dark, warm brown.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Gift Guide: Men: personal care + extras

A foreword: I struggled a bit with putting together a "gift guide for men" because I didn't want to make a list of gendered suggestions of so-called "man things" like gadgets or gaming or sporty stuff. That's why this guide is shorter and mostly about personal care products that are tailored towards mens' specific skin care needs. Of course, if you are not a man and want to indulge in a fancy shaving brush or cologne marketed towards men, go ahead and do you. (If you don't want to gift your dude grooming stuff, see this post instead for gaming and home goods that anybody can enjoy.)

Christmas holiday gift guide for men
image sources: L'Occitane, Sephora, Nordstrom, Frank & Oak
Cologne is kind of a standard men's gift, I know. But this is one I really like, and is approved by bf too: L'Occitane Cèdre & Oranger Eau de Toilette ($85 CAD). (Side note: should I just call him by his name and new readers just assume it's my partner? Should he get some kind of code name? Mr. Judo perhaps? :P Anyway.) The citrusy and woody scent--owing to the main notes of orange and cedar wood, plus a little pine--is fresh and clean. It's a great everyday fragrance and easy to wear. FYI although it's not available online, I've also seen gift sets in store with the full-sized eau de toilette packaged with matching shaving cream and shower gel.

Fancy up his morning routine with the Balsem Grooming Essentials Kit ($85 CAD). It covers all the basics: moisturizer, shampoo, and shave cream in minimalist packaging, plus a handy dopp bag to keep it all in--perfect for toting along when your guy is staying over for the weekend. If you want to upgrade just one part of his routine, these items as well as hair styling products are available for $24-28 separately. The team at Balsem sent over a few items to try, and so far bf really likes the shaving cream, which he says is much better than his usual drugstore shaving cream.

Want to make his daily shave a luxurious ritual? Check out The Art of Shaving 4 Elements of the Perfect Shave Kit ($170.50 CAD), which has everything (except the razor) to do just that in four steps: pre-shave oil, shaving cream, a badger shaving brush, and after-shave balm. The "Starter Kit" version is cheaper, but the brush looks different--I suspect it's not as good quality as the Pure Badger Shaving Brush available in the kit above, and also sold separately at $85.25 CAD.

Foreo made a special version of their silicone facial brush in the Foreo LUNA For Men ($229 CAD). This man-specific model has "broader silicone touch-points" to tackle the thicker skin men often have. It promises a better shave in addition to leaving skin feeling cleaner and smoother than ever. Foreo LUNA is often thought of as a gentler Clarisonic, and would be a good option even for those with sensitive skin. I bought bf a konjac sponge that he likes a lot, and this would be a super-super-upgrade!

lululemon Kung Fu Pants ($98 CAD), guys. I am being so Vancouver for including this, but hear me out. There is no man or woman alive that doesn't love to throw on a pair of sweatpants once in a while (or always, no judgment here.) But, sweats are not all made alike. Kung Fu Pants are warm, comfy, well-made, and have an awesome name. Bonus: they come in regular and tall lengths, and lululemon does free hemming so that they are just the right length and won't look as sloppy or casual as regular baggy sweatpants. If it helps at all to ease the hurt of buying $100 sweatpants, keep in mind that their products are backed by a quality guarantee of something like two years, so they will take back any items with a quality defect. (Note: please don't be that person and abuse this policy. Abuse of a generous return policy is probably what ruined Sephora returns for the rest of us.)

American Eagle Touchpoint Gloves (~$17 CAD) is such a departure from the price point of the rest of the products in this guide, but would be a neat stocking stuffer. This is one of those gifts that I consider practical but cool: the touchpoint fingertips keep hands from freezing but still allow full use of a phone or tablet--ideal for when he's sitting in his car waiting for it to warm up, or standing in line for the bus in the cold. There are lots of options for touchpoint gloves available, but I picked these because American Eagle is in pretty much every mall in Canada and the US, and I have a pair of the women's version so I can attest that the touchpoint works perfectly. Reviews say the men's gloves run quite big, so if his hands are on the slender side, try the women's instead.

That's all for my gift guide series this Christmas! I hope it helped and gave you a few ideas. What are you getting for the men in your life? (For the record, I got bf a TriggerPoint GRID Foam Roller, as well as some tools and materials to nurture his newfound bracelet-making hobby. I can talk about this freely because he doesn't read my blog LOL.)

2015 Gift Guide:
Home, Gaming, DIY Ideas

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Gift Guide: home, gaming, DIY ideas

With beauty out of the way, let's talk about other fun stuff. Again, this is mostly a giant list of things I personally think are pretty cool, so if you need gift ideas for any tea-loving, gaming, homebodies in your life, you're in the right place!

Tea lovers
Holiday Christmas Gift guide: Tea Lovers
Image sources: David's Tea, Bodum
Of course I'm going to have a whole section dedicated to tea.

David's Tea makes tea so fun and accessible whether you're young, old, new to tea, or a little further along. They have tonnnssss of gift sets right now for all sorts of tea lovers, but I managed to pick out a few favourites: the adorable Penguin Tea Party Nordic Mug ($23 CAD) and the Tea Of The Month kit ($26 CAD), which includes a nice assortment of teas.

To make more than a single serving of tea, I have a Bodum Chambord French Press ($55 CAD for 17oz), well-built and meant for coffee but works great for tea: tea leaves get plenty of room to open up and release flavour, and the mesh filters out even teeny, finicky tea leaves like rooibos. But I just found out about the Bodum Chambord Tea Pot ($40 CAD) and it looks really cool. You get the roominess of the French Press, but with the option to remove the tea leaves when it's done brewing.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Gift Guide: Beauty

Alternate title: "Angela browses the Sephora website and picks out things she would like" LOL.

I'm featuring a lot of gift sets here, because this is the time of year when brands put together tons of cute mini sizes and value gift sets to capture some of your holiday spending. All gift sets (with one exception) mentioned here contain products and sizes well worth the purchase price. I feel like I've covered a fairly broad price range ($12-80 CAD), so I hope this gives you some good gift ideas--either for the makeup lovers in your life, or for yourself!

Christmas holiday gift guide: stocking stuffers under $20
image sources: SephoraScarlet & Julia
Bite Beauty Mix and Mingle Lip Duo ($17 CAD) is a great way to introduce someone to a brand known fantastic lip products, or to add to a fanatic's existing collection! Pictured above is the Pomegranate/Palomino duo. I bought one of these duos for myself last year (Violet/Palomino) and love it; I can throw it in my bag and get double the colour options in one small size.

Have a friend that loves cutesy accessories? Tony Moly Panda's Dream White Hand Cream ($12 CAD) is too adorable for words. Plus, with a formula that includes shea butter as second on the ingredients list (!!!), this hand cream is both super cute and super hydrating. I also love Tony Moly's delicious-smelling fruity hand creams, like this one in Peach ($12 CAD). Vancouverites, you can also find both of these at the Tony Moly store in Aberdeen Centre and the beauty section of H-Mart on Robson.

For something that's a little more elegant, L'Occitane's collection of 30 ml hand creams ($12 CAD) is an easy stocking stuffer choice. The shea butter-based hand creams come in a variety of scents to please anybody, from romantic florals (Pivoine Flora, Cherry Blossom) to bright and fresh (Citrus Verbena).

I often think of gifts as a way to treat people to things they would like, but wouldn't treat themselves to otherwise. Nuxe Rêve de Miel Lip Balm ($17 CAD) is a perfect example of indulgence. With an ingredients list that includes shea butter, beeswax, honey, rosehip seed oil, and sweet almond oil, keeping lips hydrated becomes a little bit more luxurious.

Annabelle TwistUp Lipstick Crayons ($9.95 CAD) are hydrating, come in a wide range of shades and coverages, and have an affordable drugstore pricetag, so what's not to love? They're a great option for the lipstick lover in your life--the reds are absolutely stunning, by the way. Check out my summary post for swatches and recommendations.

LUSH Golden Wonder Bath Bomb ($6.95 CAD) would be a special treat for people that love a nice soak. This holiday-only confection has a secret centre filled with stars, golden lustre, and turquoise colouring (the folks at LUSH Robson call it "mermaid water"!)

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