Friday, April 17, 2015

L'Oreal Paris Smooth Intense Haircare Line Review + Giveaway

When it comes to hair, the grass is truly always greener on the other side. Those with curly hair want straight locks and us straight-haired gals want luscious curls. I dream of the day when I can achieve effortless beachy waves, but until then I try to make do with what I've got, which is stick straight, fine hair. When I was gifted the new L'oreal Paris Smooth Intense haircare line, at first I was a little skeptical. What use would I have for products that fight frizz and promise to give you sleek, shiny hair? I already have super straight hair! Well, I'm happy to admit, I was wrong.

The Smooth Intense line is a range of cleansing, conditioning and treatment hair products that harness the powers of Oleo-keratin to give you 72 hours of "ultra-polished frizz control." The strategy that L'oreal has taken with this line is similar to Korean skincare regimes: more is more. That means not only a straightening shampoo and conditioner, but also two types of balms that come before and after washing to help the ingredients penetrate even further for longer lasting results.

While my hair has been drier after dying it a couple months ago, I don't think it's quite ready for this intense a regime, so I opted to test out only the conditioner and one of the balms - the shampoo and the other balm I am opting to giveaway! Details on that at the end of this post :)

Smooth Intense Conditioner

L'Oreal Paris Smooth Intense Haircare Line Review

The Product: The Smooth Intense Conditioner aims to tame and soften hair when used alongside the Smooth Intense Shampoo. To use, apply after shampooing and leave in for 1-3 minutes, then rinse.

The Guts:
  • Cetearyl alcohol - gives thickness to a product and acts as an emulsifier
  • Mineral oil - lubricant and emollient that has anti-static properties
  • Behentrimonium chloride - fights frizz and conditions hair. Could be irritating if used at high concentrations.
  • Fragrance
This conditioner also contains argan oil (conditioner) and arginine (antioxidant).

Price & Packaging: A huge 385 ml bottle costs around $5 US via L'Oreal, so prices may vary, depending on your drugstore. The bottle is a squeeze tube, which I love, but the cap is rather odd. For whatever reason, my cap has a leak somewhere that causes water to be trapped inside the cap in a mystery void that exists between the exterior and the inside contents. The conditioner isn't affected in any way, but it's very irritating to me to see all this water inside that I can't get out and I can't stop thinking about whether it's going to start molding in there!

Effectiveness: This conditioner is going to take forever for me to use as I only need a small dab to coat my hair in silkiness. The Smooth Intense Conditioner is super rich and creamy, but thankfully doesn't leave my hair feeling weighed down. As a consequence of this richness, it takes a while to rinse it out, but the end result is silky soft, shiny hair. This is the perfect conditioner if you have damaged or dry hair that needs an extra dose of moisture.

Final Verdict: Buy

Smooth Intense Straight Perfecting Balm

L'Oreal Paris Smooth Intense Haircare Line Review

The Product: The Smooth Intense Straight Perfecting Balm is an after wash hair treatment that helps seal in moisture and protects it from heat damage. To use, apply to towel-dried hair before blow-drying or heat styling.

The Guts:
  • Amodimethicone - a silicone that moisturizes hair and gives it a silky, shiny sheen
  • Cetearyl alcohol
  • Trideceth-5 - a surfactant and cleanser
  • Polyquaternium-37 - prevents static and enhances volume
This balm also contains arginine and glutamic acid (humectant and anti-static).

Price & Packaging: A 150 ml tube costs around $7 US via L'Oreal. You only need up to a dime-sized amount and for my shoulder-length hair, I use even less than that, so the cost per use of this balm is super low.

Effectiveness: I've been using switching between my usual heat protectant cream and this balm for the past month and it's giving my usual cream a run for its money! The Smooth Intense Straight Perfecting Balm has a strong fragrance to it, but it's a pleasant one. I can't quite put my finger on what the fragrance is exactly, but it's that type of "salon hair product" smell. To use, I rub this balm between my palms and then spread it from root to tip. A little goes a long way and I do notice that my hair looks sleeker and with less little baby hairs sticking up than usual. It's hard to tell whether a product prevents heat damage or not, but it's certainly not causing any, so I guess that's good? I prefer using a balm like this over a heat protectant spray as it feels like I'm really applying something whereas a spray is mostly evaporated drops; however, the fact that you can only use this on damp hair does limit its usefulness. Also, unlike my regular blow-dry cream, it doesn't shorten my drying time. Overall, I like this product, but I don't see it as a necessary one.

Final Verdict: Ditch

Do you want to try out this line? I'm giving away a full sized bottle of the Smooth Intense Shampoo and the Smooth Intense Straight Booster to one lucky reader! Giveaway is open only to Canadian readers as I'll be shipping these out myself. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Burberry Beauty Counter at Richmond Centre | *photo heavy*

Thanks to Vancouver's high concentration of rich, luxury-loving Asians, we've been blessed with an influx in recent years of luxury fashion and beauty brands. Recently, I got to have a private sneak peek at the latest addition to the Vancouver beauty scene with the brand new Burberry Beauty counter at Richmond Centre.

Designed to feel like a mini "store within a store," the Burberry Beauty counter is like a chic oasis of British style. The entire space is decked out in Burberry's signature plaid and framed by glossy brass-toned finishings. Shoppers can easily try out a variety of products, as the counter features sleek slide-out panels that let you get up close and personal, while the foundation area contains a wide variety of shades so everyone can get shade matched.

While there, I got to chat with Patricia Bensimon, Burberry's national trainer, about all the new releases. She emphasized how Burberry Beauty is all for classic, effortless beauty and even demonstrated some of her makeup tips on me. You totally get that vibe of timelessness and quality with every Burberry product. The textures, the pigmentation and the packaging are so spot on. There are so many gorgeous things to play with here and as someone new to Burberry makeup, I felt like the proverbial kid in a candy shop!

Burberry beauty at Richmond Centre

Burberry beauty at Richmond Centre

lip glosses and nail polishes at Burberry beauty at Richmond Centre

Burberry kisses lipsticks at Burberry beauty at Richmond Centre

Burberry beauty at Richmond Centre

complete eye palette at Burberry beauty at Richmond Centre

Burberry light glow blush at Burberry beauty at Richmond Centre

Burberry beauty at Richmond Centre

Burberry fresh glow foundation at Burberry beauty at Richmond Centre

burberry fresh glow luminous fluid base Burberry beauty at Richmond Centre

Swatches of Fresh Glow primers

burberry cheek tints at Burberry beauty at Richmond Centre

burberry lip glosses at Burberry beauty at Richmond Centre

My fave lipstick swatches. Left to right: No. 207 Camelia Pink, No. 37 Pink Peony and No. 302 Peony Rose

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

My "No Makeup" Makeup Look Featuring the Make Up For Ever Pro Sculpting Duo

Have you ever seen those bullshit Instagrams of people doing the #nomakeup look? Yes, I say bullshit because I suspect 98% of those people to have either photoshopped the hell out of their photos or they are wearing makeup that is designed to fool you into thinking they just woke up like that. Well bullshit. Bullshit I say! Unless you really are that #blessed, odds are you need a little help like the rest of us to have flawless skin and gorgeous features. Don't fret though in case you think you'll need to do a 20 step routine to achieve that. Assuming that you have a good skincare regime already, then all you need are a few key products to highlight all of your natural features!

Here's a look that fits the bill for a "no makeup" face that I did this past weekend when going out for lunch with a friend:

Just J: My "No Makeup" Makeup Look Featuring the Makeup Forever Pro Sculpting Duo

To create this look, I used

  • Maybelline Eye Studio Color Tattoo cream eye shadow in Barely Beige
  • Urban Decay Naked 1 Basics shadow palette
  • Lise Watier Feline Eyeliner HD in brown
  • MAC Veluxe Brow Liner in Deep Brunette
  • Lancome Definicils Waterproof mascara in black
First, I applied a moisturizing primer to give me a smooth base and subtle radiance. If you don't have a similar product, you could use a an all over highlight powder, like the Hourglass Ambient powders after you apply your foundation. Next, I applied foundation wherever I had redness or discoloration such as around my nose, chin and cheek areas. Even after just using a sample of the Dior Nude Air, I think I'm in love. It has this really unique dry oil texture that sits so light on your skin. It's truly one of the closest I've ever come to having a "skin-like" foundation! 

After that, I used a cream beige shadow that is just a shade or two darker than my eyelid color to prime and shade my eyes subtly. You want to give your eyes some definition and depth, but without being obvious. This is my first Color Tattoo shade and I can see why everyone raves about them. Barely Beige is a gorgeous tawny brown that has a slight satin sheen to it. I then used the white highlight shade from the Urban Decay Naked 1 Basics palette on my brow bone, inner corner and center of my lid to add some extra highlight that helps awaken the eyes. Then I lined my lash line with a subtle brown liner; as always, this Lise Watier liquid eyeliner is my favourite way to do a "naked" liner look.

My "No Makeup" Makeup Look Featuring the Make Up For Ever Pro Sculpting Duo
So glad I got my brows threaded just before this!

Since this look is all about subtle highlighting and face framing, filling in your brows is essential. With such a minimal eye, I like to fill my brows in a little darker than normal. 

Next, give some color to your face with blush and/or bronzer. Normally I opt for blush, but this day I thought I'd try out my new contour kit, the Pro Sculpting Duo from Make Up For Ever. This sleek palette contains a bronzy contour shade and a pearlescent highlight that can be used on your face and which also doubles as an eye shadow! I'll have a full review on this product later, but here I'm using the contour in the hollow of my cheeks and along my hairline and jawline. Then I used the highlight across the top of my cheekbones, down my nose, the center of my forehead and the arch of my brows.

My "No Makeup" Makeup Look Featuring the Make Up For Ever Pro Sculpting Duo

Last, but not least, is the lips. To moisturize, I slathered on some lip balm and then topped this with a rose toned lip gloss for shine and MLBB color.

My "No Makeup" Makeup Look Featuring the Make Up For Ever Pro Sculpting Duo

And that's it - 10 products and just 7 steps! What do you think: would you try out this look?

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Monday, April 13, 2015

Paul & Joe Moisturizing Foundation Primer N and Eye Color Trio Review | Makeup that makes you go squee!

Paul & Joe Moisturizing Foundation Primer N and Eye Color Trio Review
Left to right: Paul & Joe Eye Color Trio in Boitier palette and the Moisturizing Foundation Primer N

The difference between a product that works well and one that works well, but makes you go "I NEED this always in my life!" is probably due to the packaging. Don't deny it. We women are vain creatures and us Libras especially so because we are easily swayed by beautiful, luxurious things.  At some point in your life I'm sure all of us have squealed or at the very least gasped when we saw something pretty and just had to have it.

New and exclusive to Shoppers Drug Mart, Paul & Joe is a French beauty and fashion brand known for their quality products and unabashedly feminine packaging that make women everywhere go squee. I actually thought this brand was Japanese as I'd mainly heard of them through Asian blogs and because of the Japanese writing on the packaging, but Paul & Joe was actually founded by Parisian Sophie Mechaly, who began the brand as a menswear line in the 90's. While the fashion lines have struggled, Paul & Joe's beauty line has thrived with a niche following and now they are available across Canada!

What's awesome about Paul & Joe is that many of the palettes are customizable as you purchase your shadow and blush colors as pans and then you purchase the palette containers separately, which allows you take advantage of the many cute and lovely palette patterns Paul & Joe has to offer. Besides their great packaging, Paul & Joe is well-known for their cheerful, shimmery shadow colors as well as their light, luminous foundations that give you that perfect, youthful look. Recently I was offered the chance to try out a couple of products myself: the Moisturizing Foundation Primer N in 03 Creme and the Eye Color Trio in Night Cafe.

Moisturizing Foundation Primer N

Paul & Joe Moisturizing Foundation Primer N
Moisturizing Foundation Primer N in shade 03 Creme

The Product: The Moisturizing Foundation Primer N is a tinted primer designed to provide a smooth base for longer lasting makeup. It also contains teeny tiny gold pearl particles that give your skin a luminous glow. The Moisturizing Foundation Primer N is available in three shades: 01 Dragee for light to medium skin tones, 02 Miel for darker skin tones and 03 Creme which I suppose contains a higher level of shimmer to create a porcelain look. Although 02 is supposed to be for darker skin tones, it doesn't look very dark to me based on the online photos and it also leans very orange, whereas the 01 Dragee appears to have more of a pink undertone. 03 Creme, the shade I received, is a pearly white and would probably be suitable for most skin tones.

The Guts:
  • Butylene glycol - a common ingredient in makeup that provides a slippery texture
  • Glycerin - a moisturizer
  • Dipropylene glycol - provides a slippery texture and helps products absorb easier. A possible irritant
  • Ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate - a sunscreen ingredient that's more commonly known as octinoxate. Although some studies have claimed that these types of chemical sunscreens could be cancerous, results are still not definitive when it comes to normal sunscreen use.
Other ingredients of note here are white lily root extract (moisturizing), apricot juice (emollient), jojoba seed oil (emollient) and Sodium acetylated hyaluronate (humectant). This primer does contain parabens for those not into those.

Price & Packaging: A 30 ml bottle costs $40.70 off BeautyBay and $40 at Shoppers. I'm not sure what the price is at Shoppers, but likely similar. The bottle is very cute and while not made of super luxurious materials, it still manages to have a chic look. The topper is removable to reveal a pump dispenser. 

Paul & Joe Moisturizing Foundation Primer N swatch
Moisturizing Foundation Primer N in shade 03 Creme

Effectiveness: To use, simply apply a single pump of this primer to your face after your moisturizer and sunscreen, and before your foundation. I always have a tricky time finding primers I like as they either leave me super shiny, or feel like a thick mask. This primer however felt super light and more like a moisturizer than anything. A single pump was enough to cover my entire face. It applies clear and absorbs quickly, but leaves a slight tackiness behind, which I believe helps your makeup adhere better. The slight opalescent tint helps to even out any redness and imparted a super subtle, inner glow to my skin; in fact, this primer kinda reminds me a bit of a liquid version of an Hourglass Ambient powder! I'm not sure about whether it helped my makeup last any longer than normal, but it did help with application and gives a nice moisture boost. I don't think this is a must-have product, but if your skin is feeling rough or dull, this is a great lifesaver.

Final Verdict: Buy

Eye Color Trio

Paul & Joe Eye Color Trio in Night Cafe
Eye Color Trio in Night Cafe

The Product: The Eye Color Trio is well, a trio of eye shadows, available in 8 different configurations. The one I received is the Night Cafe trio, which is a mix of a sparkly white highlight, a shimmery gold lid shade and a shimmery black crease shade. Besides being colorful, these trios also help moisturize your eyes, thanks to white lily extract, jojoba, and sodium hyaluronate.

Paul & Joe Eye Color Trio in Night Cafe
Eye Color Trio in Night Cafe

Price & Packaging: a single trio costs $42.50 via BeautyBay  vs. $32 at Shoppers. (again, not sure the comparable Shoppers price). The price certainly is very steep considering that this palette is quite small! In fact, it's probably smaller than most drugstore shadow trios and you don't even get a case to put it in. The separate Boitier palette costs $8 at Shoppers $11 depending on where you buy it, so altogether this palette is $40 $53

Paul & Joe Eye Color Trio in Night Cafe

Effectiveness: Considering the price, I am pretty disappointed with this trio. Even when not considering the price, I'm not sure I would purchase this particular trio myself. From what I've heard, Japanese eye shadows lean more towards being shimmery and sparkly and these ones definitely are like that. Each shade is very sparkly and shimmery, with very sheer color payoff. The pigmentation I would say is on par to a drugstore eye shadow, and with such a sparkly texture, that's not necessarily a bad thing as otherwise you would just get glitter overload. This trio is more suitable for daytime as the sheerness allows you to get a pretty, all over, but not over the top, sparkly eye that draws light to your face. Of the three shades, I like the gold one the best as it makes for a lovely base color. The white is a bit too frosty for my taste, so I use it very sparingly on my brow bone. The black makes for a pretty outer corner or soft, smudgy liner shade, but contact lens wearers beware as there is a bit of fallout. Besides Night Cafe, other trios I think would be fun to try are Tree Shade Walkway, a lovely mix of browns and greens for spring; and Breakfast in Bed, which is a mix of warm nudes.

Paul & Joe Eye Color Trio in Night Cafe
Eye Color Trio in Night Cafe heavily swatched

Final Verdict: Ditch

Are you curious to try Paul & Joe?

*Updated Apr. 14 for Shoppers pricing

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Thursday, April 9, 2015

Saje A Night For You Event Recap | #SajeRobson

#SajeRobson event

A couple weeks ago I was lucky enough to attend my first Saje event at their downtown Robson location, alongside a ton of media and blogger guests. It was the proverbial dark and stormy night when I arrived and immediately upon entering, I was hit with a welcoming wave of scented oils, which blasted away the chilliness of outside. Hosted by NKPR, the event was to celebrate and to promote all of Saje's new releases and fan favourites. Guests mingled and noshed on delicate appies and wines while staff circulated the room answering questions and providing recommendations. Usually I would be all up in the food and drink with everyone else, but for that night, I was on a mission to shop as Saje was offering a 30% discount to all guests!

Saje Arrive Revived aromatherapy spray
So curious about this jet lag spray! It can be used anytime you need a quick recharge of moisture on tired or stressed out skin

Saje, is a Vancouver based company specializing in aromatherapy and natural beauty products. They're probably most famous for their nebulizers, which are small devices that act like a humidifier, but which also clear the air of dust and allergens. The best part is, that each nebulizer can be used with any of Saje's diffuser blends and essential oils, which means an infinite number of combinations to scent your room and house! Saje also sells a variety of other bath and beauty products, perfumes and energizing teas, but #sorrynotsorry it was all about the oils for me, as I figured that was really their star product and also because Saje was gifting each guest with a nebulizer of their choice!

Saje aromaom deluxe nebulizer
The AromaOm Deluxe nebulizer

Saje sells a variety of nebulizers in various shapes and sizes, but they all generally operate the same. I think most people, like myself, opted to be greedy and went for the top of the line model, which is the AromaOm Deluxe. This nebulizer comes in black and white and features a ceramic outer casing, which can be removed. The AromaOm Deluxe contains controls for low/high output, run time (up to 3 hours or continuous) and to toggle through various light displays. I've been using mine every night since I received it and absolutely love it. My room smells fresher than ever and the scents are subtle yet noticeable!

Saje tea tumbler

Saje pocket pharmacy
The Pocket Pharmacy - review coming soon!

Once I had selected the nebulizer of my choice, it was time to choose oils to fill it with. I believe I literally stood in front of the diffuser and essential oil wall for an hour just sniffing each bottle and then sniffing them again as I kept forgetting what I had smelled before. Each of the diffuser blends and essential oils can be used for various purposes, with some being energizing, or soothing, or even... seductive. After much deliberation I settled on Liquid Sunshine, a strong citrusy blend, pure lemon oil (I'm obsessed with lemon scented things), and bergamot oil. As well, I also received in my swag bag, a set of the Pocket Pharmacy rollerballs, which is a set of therapeutic oils and the Happiness mini diffuser blend collection.

Diffuser blend wall at Saje
So many blends! A Libra's nightmare

Each the oils I received at the event are formulated for specific purposes:
  • Liquid sunshine - a mix of bergamot, grapefruit, orange, lime and mandarin for optimism and cheer
  • Lemon essential oil - for uplifting moods, and its antibacterial properties help combat colds, acne and insect bites
  • Bergamot essential oil - soothes and calms the mind and can also ease respiratory ailments
  • Refresh - uplift spirits with the refreshing smell of peppermint
  • Citrus dreams - orange, grapefruit and neroli to energize
  • Cloud nine - star anise, lavender, geranium, ylang ylang and sandalwood to soothe and elevate
Saje Happiness diffuser blend collection

Saje Happiness diffuser blend collection

While I'm quite skeptical of the topical benefits of essential oils, I do believe a little in the powers of aromatherapy. It just makes sense that good smells elevate your mood and each of these certainly do. At first I was a bit worried that the scents I chose would work too well and leave me unable to sleep at night, but the fragrance is subtle enough that it just relaxes me and doesn't keep me awake. I usually turn on my nebulizer for 2 hours on high and it's enough to gently scent my bedroom and eliminate the dog odor that comes from Ecko's bed. 

Saje diffuser blends and essential oils

I think it's safe to say that Saje has made me addicted to essential oils! They're much easier to clean up than candles and with the nebulizer, they have the added benefit of providing clean air for your home. 

For Canadians, Saje has stores across Canada, but you can also purchase their products online.

If you've tried Saje before, let me know your recommendations! I'm eager to try more!

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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Clinique Beyond Perfecting Foundation + Concealer Review | My first foray into full coverage makeup

While I encourage all women to find their own definition of beauty, it would be silly of me not to say that the conventional beauty that we see everywhere doesn't have an influence on us or myself. I'm definitely influenced by what I see, in particular the ideals set for by Asian beauty spreads where the girls seem to be on a whole other level of otherworldly perfection. As someone into makeup, it's hard to stand firm to body image independence and also gush over the next pretty release. Case in point, the new Clinique Beyond Perfecting Foundation + Concealer. As someone who wears only light coverage foundation, this would be my first venture into full coverage foundation and I was definitely worried that the look of flawless perfection that it claims to provide would be too seductive to resist! So was it? Read on to find out!

Clinique Beyond Perfecting Foundation + Concealer Review

The Product
The Clinique Beyond Perfecting Foundation + Concealer is a two-in-one foundation and concealer that provides full coverage for 12 hours, regardless of sweat or humidity. Its oil-free formula helps conceal imperfections while still allowing skin to breath and is designed for dry to combination skin.

The Clinique Beyond Perfecting Foundation + Concealer comes in 20 shades ranging from a pinky-ivory, to a warm molasses brown. If you've even glanced at any of the reviews online, selecting the correct shade is very tricky, even more so than normal. Clinique states that due to its highly pigmented formula, the shades will typically appear darker when first applied and then will change to blend into skin as it dries down. I'd definitely recommend swatching these in-store first before purchasing as at first I thought I would be somewhere in the mid-range with Golden Neutral, but I settled upon the second lightest shade, Creamwhip!

Clinique Beyond Perfecting Foundation + Concealer Review

The Guts
The primary ingredients in this foundation are:
  • Isostearyl neopentanoate - an emollient that also acts as a stabilizer and binder that helps the foundation keep its structural integrity and uniform pigmentation
  • Dimethicone - a silicone that gives this foundation a silky, light texture and also acts as an emollient by creating a protective layer over skin
  • Isohexadecane - acts as a thickener and provides a silky texture to the foundation
  • Trimethylsiloxysilicate - performs similar functions as the previous ingredients.
Other ingredients of note are Sodium Hyaluronate (moisturizing) and Hydrolyzed soy protein (antioxidant).

Price & Packaging
A 30 ml bottle retails for $34 and is available at Sephora and wherever Clinique is sold. The Beyond Perfecting's heavy glass bottle feels weighty and luxurious in the palm and is slim enough to be easily packed away for travel. What's really unique about this foundation though is the brush. Lately, brands have been really innovating with their foundation brushes and the Clinique Beyond Perfecting Foundation + Concealer is no exception. The brush is long with a bristly doe-foot applicator. At the tip of the brush, is a little well that contains a tiny reservoir of product. To use, simply dab and swipe the foundation directly onto your face using the wand, then blend away. Typically, since I really wanted that full coverage feeling, I may dip my wand twice to fully cover my face.

Clinique Beyond Perfecting Foundation + Concealer Review

Lately, I've been wearing more foundation in an effort to even out and conceal hyper-pigmentation and acne scars. Here is my before face:

Clinique Beyond Perfecting Foundation + Concealer Review

and my after once I applied the Clinique Beyond Perfecting Foundation + Concealer to my cheeks, nose, under-eye and chin area:

Clinique Beyond Perfecting Foundation + Concealer Review

I'm simply in love with the silky, velvety feeling that this foundation gives my face. It literally erases away any scars or unevenness, giving me a perfectly even base upon which to apply the rest of my makeup. I was expecting this foundation to feel heavy and cakey, but it actually felt utterly weightless and once set, it didn't seem to budge all day. After a few hours, I do get a little bit of shine as per normal, but it was manageable. The foundation didn't oxidize at all and there was no caking either. 

In terms of concealing, it does a great job at covering up dark circles, redness and hyper-pigmentation, but only provided around 90% coverage of the acne scars around my mouth. I found I had to apply a second layer of foundation to really cover that area. 

The biggest mistake I made with this foundation was not using the right brush. Initially, I used my normal go-to, which is the Bobbi Brown Foundation Brush, but I found that the stiff bristles weren't a good fit for the creamy thickness of the Clinique. Sadly, my Bobbi Brown only swirled this foundation around and caused it to sit in a thick layer on my skin. Using my fingers didn't improve things much either. Within a week, this foundation caused me to break out like mad. Luckily, I'd already ordered a replacement brush - the Urban Decay Good Karma Optical Blurring Brush. This brush is AMAZING with this foundation. Its thick, dense head gently and thoroughly buffs this foundation into my skin and it spreads it wonderfully so that I don't need a lot to get maximum results. Best $26 ever.

Even though I'd now figured out (painfully) how to properly wear this foundation and I'm absolutely in love with the finish, I think it's safe to say that this won't be my regular foundation moving forward. Something in me objects to putting such heavy makeup on my face everyday. As lightweight as this one is, it still contains a lot of silicones, which I believe block your skin from breathing and could trap in dirt. I also believe that the more makeup you wear, the more your skin becomes dependent on it. Your makeup becomes a crutch to hide behind, instead of a way to bring out your natural beauty more. Sadly, I've decided to be strong and keep this on my shelf as my go-to for dates, parties, and events, and keep my light foundation and BB's in my regular rotation.

Final Verdict
Buy - a painful learning process to shade match and to find the right application tools, but once you find these things, then say hello to the most flawless skin you'll ever have!

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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Clarisonic Sonic Radiance Brightening Solution Review | A dark spot revolution?

A couple months ago I introduced you to the new Sonic Radiance Brightening Solution from Clarisonic. This revolutionary line consists of a unique bristle brush, serum, and two cleansers all designed to work together for one purpose: to produce luminous skin and to fight hyper-pigmentation. As it takes time to truly see the effects of brightening products, I started testing the entire line back in January and now am finally here to provide you with my results!

Clarisonic Sonic Radiance Brighening Solution Review

The Product
As I have a lot to say about this line, I'll just be lazy here and quote the description I wrote previously:

Consisting of a special rendition of the Aria cleansing brush alongside an exclusive Radiance brush head, day cleanser, serum and night cleanser, the Sonic Radiance Brightening Solution is designed to prevent and eliminate hyper-pigmentation. 
As we age, melanin deposits in our skin react to elements like sun damage and acne by creating excess melanin. Normally, melanin helps to protect our skin, but when produced in excess, it surfaces onto the skin as ugly dark spots and uneven skin tone. This type of damage takes years to develop, so it's key to start a prevention program as early as possible. Wearing sunscreen and limiting sun exposure helps, but for those of us who didn't listen very closely to this (*raises hand*), repair is the only solution.
Every product in the Clarisonic Sonic Radiance Brightening Solution is designed to combat hyper-pigmentation. The two cleansers are specially formulated with a mix of powerful antioxidants and glycolic acid to prevent future dark spots, while the special Radiance brush head exfoliates away existing ones. With regular use, after just one week 37% of testers felt improvement in their skin's texture. After 12 weeks, over 86% of testers saw a difference in their skin in terms of radiance, smoothness and texture - pretty impressive results!

To test the full effects of the Sonic Radiance line, I followed the instructions closely, which were to use the Aria brush twice daily, with the Brightening Solution Illuminating Cleanser in the morning and the Brightening Solution Renewing Peel Wash in the evening, as well as the Brightening Solution Brightening Activator Serum twice daily. As well, I also had to use the Aria at medium speed in the morning and at high speed at night. My poor face was to be exfoliated like never before!

The Guts
The primary ingredients in the Brightening Solution Brightening Activator Serum are:
  • Glycerin - a common moisturizer
  • Isocetyl Stearate - acts as a lubricant
  • Caprylic/Capric triglyceride - an emollient derived from coconut oil
  • Butylene glycol - a common lubricant
This serum also contains 0.5% Ellagic acid (inhibits melanin growth) and 0.5% Phenylethyl rescorcinol (lightens dark spots).

The primary ingredients in the Brightening Solution Illuminating Cleanser are:
  • Sodium cocoyl glycinate - a mild cleanser
  • Coco-betaine - a foaming agent and cleanser
  • Glycerin 
  • Sodium chloride - aka salt! Has a variety of purposes in beauty products, but in this case, it's likely used as a thickening agent or for its exfoliating properties
This cleanser also includes Salicylic acid (fights blemishes), licorice root extract (skin lightener), peppermint leaf extract (anti-inflammatory), and gingko biloba leaf extract (brightens skin).

The primary ingredients in the Brightening Solution Renewing Peel Wash are:
  • Coco-betaine
  • Propylene glycol - a humectant (helps retain moisture in skin). Some studies warn that it could be an irritant.
  • Peg-120 Methyl glucose dioleate - a cleanser
  • Sorbitol - another humectant commonly found in gel cleansers
This cleanser also contains Sodium laureth sulfate (cleanser), Salicylic acid, 0.2% LHA (exfoliating for skin renewal), 3.5% Glycolic acid (skin brightener).

Price & Packaging

You can purchase each of these products separately or as part of a package. As a package, the Sonic Radiance Solution costs $265 and includes the two cleansers, the serum, a Sonic Radiance brush head, the Aria brush and a charging stand. Individually, this breaks down to:
  • Aria brush with included brush head = $230
  • Brightening Solution Renewing Peel Wash = $31
  • Brightening Solution Illuminating Cleanser = $31
  • Brightening Solution Brightening Activator Serum = $81
for a total savings of $109!! 

Each of the cleansers comes packaged as a tube, which makes it very easy to use and are 3.4 oz each. The serum comes as a simple pump bottle and is 0.98 oz. The packaging of each product is very straightforward, but I do wish they were transparent so I could see how much I have left. With pumps especially it's hard to tell when you're close to finishing until the pump runs out.

The Aria brush comes with a cord charger and charging stand. While the charging stand looks neat, I found it really annoying to use as you have to loop the charging cord through the bottom of the stand so you can stand the Aria up and charge it simultaneously. Too much work!

Here is the baseline that I started with going in. I have mild hyper-pigmentation sprinkled across my cheeks, particularly on my left side. As well, I have some acne scarring around my mouth and chin area. 

Clarisonic Sonic Radiance Brighening Solution: before starting
Right side of the face: light hyper-pigmentation across the cheekbones, scarring around the corners of mouth and chin

Clarisonic Sonic Radiance Brighening Solution: before starting
Left side of the face: hyper-pigmentation across cheeks, light scarring on chin

After just one week, Clarisonic claims that 37% of testers saw a change in their skin's texture and radiance, however I didn't notice until probably after my first month. My first impression was actually that I was quite surprised by how soft the Sonic Radiance brush head was. I'd only used the Sensitive brush head before, which is the default brush that comes with all the Clarisonic systems. The Sonic Radiance brush head feels much softer, though not as soft as the Delicate brush. 

Clarisonic Sonic Radiance Brighening brush

Clarisonic Sonic Radiance Brighening brush

As instructed, I used the Aria on medium speed in the mornings and high speed at night. Both speeds provide ample exfoliation, with high leaving my skin feeling tingly, but not tender or raw, thanks to the softness of the Sonic Radiance bristles. What quickly became my pet peeve with this system though was having to switch the speed setting each time I used it. When your hands are wet and slippery, it's very difficult to slide the speed button up and down, wasting precious seconds between cycles. As the Clarisonc runs on a timer, with 20 seconds for your forehead, 20 for the nose and chin and 10 per cheek, I found that I would sometimes use up 10 seconds just trying to switch my speed setting! This left me feeling irritated at shafting my forehead from getting its allotted cleaning time. If I could change anything, I would make it possible to change the speed setting before turning on the brush. Eventually, I got so fed up with it that I just kept the brush on medium all the time.

As for the cleansers and serums, I'll outline my thoughts on those in order of use. 

Clarisonic Sonic Radiance Brighening solution review
Left to right: serum, morning cleanser, night cleanser

The Brightening Solution Illuminating Cleanser is a milky cleanser that is very watery and silky in texture. It spreads easily and foams slightly. If you're a fan of foaming cleansers, this one won't foam enough for you, but foam is not super good for your skin anyways, so I didn't miss it. I found this cleanser to be a gentle morning cleanser that is mild enough to not strip your skin of moisture, but was able to softly wash away any residue or dirt accumulated overnight. It did leave my face tingling a teeny bit, perhaps from the salicylic acid, so if you're extra-sensitive, you may want to patch test first.

The Brightening Solution Brightening Activator Serum is a creamy, milky serum that feels more like a moisturizer than a serum. It spread easily and absorbed quickly, leaving no residue behind except for a very slight tackiness. It's also unscented, which is nice. I didn't really notice any "refreshing" or plumping action going on as I've experienced with other serums, so for $81 this one felt a little "meh" to me. 

Lastly, the Brightening Solution Renewing Peel Wash is a thick, almost squishy, gel cleanser. I call this cleanser squishy because the gel is so thick, it almost feels more solid than liquid. This cleanser is not the most spreadable cleanser around, but once it touches wet skin, it almost dissolves and becomes very creamy and foamy. It does a decent job at cleansing, but I feel like you'd need to ensure use of a good cleansing water or oil beforehand if you wear a lot of makeup. Post-cleanse, my skin didn't feel tight or dry and I just needed a light toner to reset my skin for moisturizing. 

After around 2.5 months of daily use, I have to say that the results are... okay. My skin does appear brighter, but I didn't notice any significant difference in the coloration of my dark spots. The biggest changes that I've noticed is that my skin is a little less oily and that it also became more sensitive.

During the last couple months, I've had persistent blemishes around my mouth and chin area with a major breakout a a few weeks ago. This could have been due to other products that I was trying out and stress, but I believe a contributing factor was also over-exfoliation. While using the Clarisonic, I was also using my regular exfoliating scrubs a couple times a week. After reading online how over-exfoliating can damage and irritate the skin, making it prone to breakouts, I immediately cut out all use of the Clarisonic and anything exfoliating for a week and a half. Immediately, my skin seemed to calm down and my blemishes finally disappeared; however, they did leave behind some pretty bad scars. Slowly, I incorporated back in the Clarisonic and now use it once a day, on the lowest speed setting, and am using a clay mask instead of a scrub when I want a deep clean.

Clarisonic Sonic Radiance Brighening solution: after
After: minimal change in hyper-pigmentation and additional scarring due to increased skin sensitivity

Final Verdict
Buy - the Aria brush and Sonic Radiance brush head. In general, I'm a fan of the Clarisonic system. It offers a fabulous deep clean and prevents breakouts, if used correctly for your skin. The daily exfoliation it offers as well also improves your skin's radiance and leaves it feeling smooth. I've already bought 2 replacement brush heads!

Ditch - I am not a fan however, of the rest of the Sonic Radiance products as I have yet to notice any significant lightening of old or new dark spots and scars. Despite the solid ingredients list, I personally am not a fan of Clarisonic products. For whatever reason, I feel very "meh" about their effectiveness and for the price point, they didn't have any wow factor for me. As well, the instructions for this system were overly harsh for my skin and contributed to breakouts, which left me in a worse off state than before I started!

TL;DR version
  • Sonic Radiance brush head feels softer than the Sensitive brush and deep cleans
  • The Brightening Solution Illuminating Cleanser is a decent morning cleanser that feels nice and creamy while not stripping skin of moisture
  • After 2.5 months of use, my skin felt softer and brighter
  • Following the instructions could irritate your skin to the point of breakouts!
  • The Aria speed setting button is really stiff to use
  • The brightening effects of the entire system are very subtle and didn't change my hyper-pigmentation
  • Over-exfoliating proved damaging to my skin

Have you tried the Clarisonic Sonic Radiance Brightening Solution? What were your thoughts?

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