Thursday, May 5, 2016

Volare Makeup Brushes E03 Blending Brush and E05 Flat Brush Review | Affordable natural hair brushes? Sign me up!

volare makeup brushes in E05 and E03

Good friends don't let friends miss out on a good deal and when I read about Volare Cosmetics on Sheila's blog a couple months ago, I was ripe for some good friend enabling.

Based in Vancouver, makeup artist Valensia Ng started Volare Cosmetics in 2015 with a focus on developing the perfect makeup brush. With her professional connections and experience, Ng searched for two years before finding the right partners to develop her brushes. Using all natural hair and Japanese crafting techniques, Volare offers a high-end performance product for surprisingly affordable prices.

Almost all of Volare's face and eye brushes retail for less than $20 with the exception of a couple of the face brushes, which is pretty much unheard of as far as I know. All of the Volare brushes are made with goat hair, except for the E01 Tapered Blending brush which is made of a mix of goat and blue squirrel hair and the F01 Foundation/Cream brush which contains goat hair and synthetic bristles.

After a lot of hemming and hawing, I chose the E03 Blending brush and the E05 Flat brush as my first Volare purchase.

The E03 is described as a "blending brush ideal for blending your eyes makeup to obtain smooth result", but admittedly it was the review on the page comparing it to the MAC 217 that sold me. My MAC 217 brush is my most used brush and I've been wanting a second one for awhile.

The E05 is described as a "flat brush, perfect for placing colors on your eyelids". I have a similarly shaped Sonia Kashuk brush, but this one appealed to me for doing more dramatic makeup looks and layering heavier shimmers.

volare makeup brushes in E05 and E03

The sucky thing about Volare is that the pricing is in USD, so these $16 USD brushes cost closer to $20 each with the exchange, but even with that, they are way more affordable than other brushes. Also, for Canada you have to get over $75 USD to get free shipping. Other than that though, the service was prompt and my brushes arrived in a very nice, sleek black box.

Like my MAC 217 brush, both the E03 and E05 are all white with a light, black ferrule. Some people may not like white bristles as they show up dirt more easily, but I have no preference either way.

Being goat hair, both brushes were extremely soft and were like brushing little clouds across my lids. I experienced zero scratchiness from either of these and I love how fluffy they are.

Compared to the MAC 217, I would say the E03 is quite interchangeable, with the E03 being fluffier and definitely softer. The E03 does a great job at blending out edges and creating a soft gradient, but despite the fluffiness of the E03, I think the 217 is denser, which helps it deposit color better onto lids.

Like the 217, you can use the E03 for all sorts of purposes. This brush is a true workhouse and is great for depositing all-over color, blending, applying highlight, and for defining a soft crease. I usually use just this brush and maybe one other to create my eye looks. If you're Chinese, then you could say this brush is like cooking with a Chinese meat cleaver - it's all you need!

volare makeup brush review

In comparison, the E05 is much more of a specialist. The brush is shorter and denser than the E03, with a distinctly narrow, paint brush-like shape. Thanks to its softness, you can use also use this brush in a variety of ways. I like to use this one to apply shadow along my lower lash line and to define my outer lid and crease. It's a bit too wide to do precise outer corner work, but it's perfect for applying color all over. If you want to pack on the color then this brush is for you. Even though the bristles are so soft, the E03 does a pretty decent job at picking up color from the pan. I haven't tried this one yet with any creams or glitters, but that's next on my list to try!

Overall, the price and quality of these brushes really can't be beat. I was really impressed with how easy they were to work with and their sleek, all-black look. So far, I've been using these everyday and haven't experienced any fallout or splaying of the bristles.

Final Verdict
Buy - affordable, well-crafted natural bristle brushes like these are hard to find, so what are you waiting for!

Never miss out
Subscribe | Twitter | Bloglovin | Pinterest | Instagram

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Girls Tea Date at Adorabelle Tea Room

adorabelle tea salon

One of my favourite ways to spend an afternoon is sipping tea with friends. I love the whole experience of going for high tea: the dressing up, the fancy dishware, the precisely put together miniature bites of food, just everything about it is so elegant and pretty and makes my inner girly-girl go squee!

Last month, Sheila, Angela and I ventured out to Steveston on a bright sunny day to Adorabelle Tea Room. Located in a cozy little old courthouse, Adorabelle is a little hard to find, but so charming inside. The interior is cloaked in pink everything and floral tea cups adorn the walls. There are only a few tables inside, so it's best to book ahead.


Adorabelle offers three types of high tea service: full (adult), senior and child. As well, the full service also offers a "deconstructed" option that is smaller and cheaper. I really appreciated the variety of serving options as I haven't noticed that at many other tea shops and it's a nice touch to accommodate lighter appetites. Of course, since I'm rarely in Steveston at all, I had to go with the full serving option!

For $30, the full tea service includes (and this is based off my memory and photos sorry!):
  • egg salad sandwich on white bread
  • cream cheese and asparagus sandwich on brown bread
  • asiago cheese scone sandwich with smoked salmon mousse
  • some sort of baked cheese biscuit
  • a mini savoury cupcake 
  • two freshly baked scones with cream, jam and honey
  • meringue
  • strawberry with cream
  • poppy seed cookie
  • chocolate cake
  • a pot of loose-leaf tea of your choice
savouries at adorabelle high tea

adorabelle high tea scones

high tea at adorabelle steveston

Adorabelle's tea menu isn't so large that it's overwhelming, but is varied enough that you have plenty to choose from, whatever your taste preference. While Sheila and Angela went for the fruity and crisp passionfruit green tea, I opted for the Paris black tea, which is a creamy mix of caramel, bergamot and currant.

tea date at adorabelle

While not the biggest tea service I've eaten, it was still plenty enough to fill me up. Highlights for me were of course the scones with plenty of cream and honey. I think I could make do with just scones and tea, screw the rest! Tea shops should really offer an option of just that! After the scones, I really enjoyed the asiago cheese scone sandwich. 

adorabelle tea salon

adorabelle tea salon

All in all, the items at Adorabelle aren't super original, but I think it's more the ambiance and location that are the reasons it's worth a visit. It's pretty hard to beat spending an afternoon strolling along the Steveston quay and peeking into the various shops in the village. I can't wait till our next weekend outing!

adorabelle tea date on just j

Never miss out
Subscribe | Twitter | Bloglovin | Pinterest | Instagram

Monday, May 2, 2016

Dermalogica Skin Hydrating Masque Review | A one-step solution to hydrated skin

dermalogica skin hydrating mask review

Even though the weather is starting to warm up, that doesn't mean you can let up on taking care of your skin. Sunshine and dry heat can leave your skin feeling parched, so it's important to keep up a good moisturizing routine. A hydrating mask is one of my favourite ways to replenish my skin and to wind down after a long day. I'll slap on a moisturizing mask a couple times a week and it's done wonders to keep my skin soft and healthy.

Recently, Dermalogica was kind enough to send over one of their staple moisturizing masks for me to try. The Dermalogica Skin Hydrating Masque uses natural botanicals, antioxidants and hyaluronic acid to restore skin's natural moisture balance all within the space of 10 minutes! As long-time readers know, there's rarely a Dermalogica product that I don't enjoy and this review is no exception.

The Guts
The Dermalogica Skin Hydrating Masque is primarily made up of:
  • Water
  • Glycerin - a humectant (moisturizer that draws moisture into skin)
  • Butylene glycol - a moisturizer and solvent that helps other ingredients penetrate skin more easily
  • Squalane - a moisturizer and antioxidant
  • Dimethicone - a lightweight silicone that forms a protective barrier over skin and gives products their silky, spreadable texture
Other interesting ingredients in this masque also include sorbus aucuparia fruit ferment filtrate (moisturizing), epilobium angustifolium flower (moisturizing), sodium hyaluronate aka hyaluronic acid (moisturizing), codium tomentosum extract (an algae with antioxidant properties), tomato seed oil (emollient), cucumber extract (anti-inflammatory), soybean oil (moisturizing), and salicornia herbacea extract (moisturizing).

Price & Packaging
A 75 ml tube costs $58 from Dermalogica (see here to find a location near you). Like all Dermalogica products, the packaging for this mask is straight-forward and comes in an opaque plastic tube. 

To use, simply spread this mask all over your face. Inside the packaging there's a paper pamphlet that explains specific areas to concentrate on if you've had your face mapped by a Dermalogica consultant, but I usually just slather this generously all over my face and mask. What's also really neat about the Skin Hydrating Masque is that you can seriously use this everywhere - even on your eye area! 

After 10-15 minutes, just rinse the masque off or wipe off with a warm damp cloth, then apply your usual creams over top if you want. Dermalogica recommends using this mask a couple times a week, but if you wanted to use it more I don't think you'd have any problems as it's very gentle. I also tried using this overnight as a sleeping mask and had no issues with breakouts. I actually prefer using it this way to really give the mask time to absorb. 

I've heard of other reviews that note that this mask stung and inflamed their skin, which is rather odd as I didn't notice anything inflammatory in the ingredients. This Paula's Choice review did note that it's been reformulated to be gentler than in the past, but just in case, sensitive skin types should patch test first. 

The Skin Hydrating Masque is a clear gel-like texture that comes out milky colored from the tube. It doesn't have any special cooling or tingling properties, nor is it scented, so as far as masks goes, this one is very utilitarian. If you want bells and whistles, then splurge on something else as the Skin Hydrating Masque is strictly all business. After using this mask, my skin feels nicely soft and plump. Fine lines look very slightly reduced too.

I wouldn't say the Skin Hydrating Masque is life-changing, but it does give a temporary perk to the skin and over time will help your skin stay luminous and youthful. I think this would be great to use overnight, or as a quick perk-me-up before you get ready for an event. I'm also curious to use it as a red-eye flight mask when travelling!

Final Verdict
Buy - pricey, but this straightforward mask does what it claims.

*This post contains PR samples

Never miss out
Subscribe | Twitter | Bloglovin | Pinterest | Instagram

Friday, April 29, 2016

Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant Review

Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant Review

When it comes to exfoliators, I've always been firmly in #teamscrub or namely, physical exfoliants. There's just something so satisfying about giving your skin a good, deep-down scrub to get that squeaky-clean feeling, but in the past couple months, I've begun to see the benefits, and results, of using chemical exfoliants.

Unlike physical exfoliators, chemical exfoliators use acid complexes to trigger your skin's natural renewal process to shed dead skin cells. If you have sensitive or oily skin, or hyper-pigmentation, then chemical exfoliants are ideally suited for you.

Last month I started out by trying the Neostrata Securewhite Brightening Serum, which uses alpha hydroxy acids (AHA) and loved my results, so I was curious to see how using beta hydroxy acid (BHA) would differ. The Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant is designed for combo-oily skin, but is gentle enough for all skin types and is focused on improving skin's radiance, tone, and smoothness, while preventing breakouts and blackheads.

Although both AHA and BHA products work similarly, they do differ. According to Paula's Choice, AHA are more suited for dry and sun-damaged skin as they exfoliate primarily on the surface and help increase moisture levels, due to being water-soluble. As BHA are oil-soluble, they therefore are suited best for oilier and more clogged skin as they penetrate deeper into the epidermis; BHA are also great anti-inflammatories, so are ideal for those suffering from redness, rosacea and ultra-sensitivity. As well, another difference between AHA and BHA is in terms of concentrations required as you will need a higher percentage of AHA to get the same effectiveness acquired with BHA. In the end though, if your skin is kind of in the middle spectrum like mine, I don't think it makes much difference whether you use AHA or BHA as the end results will be about the same.

The Guts
The primary ingredients in the Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant are:

  • Water
  • Methylpropanediol - a solvent that helps other ingredients, particularly salicylic acid, penetrate more easily into skin
  • Butylene glycol - very similar purpose as methylpropanediol with some moisturizing abilities
  • Salicylic acid - this is the primary BHA in this product and acts as an exfoliant, an anti-inflammatory with antimicrobial properties, and it also fights hyper-pigmentation
  • Polysorbate 20 - a cleanser and emulsifier

The Packaging
A 118 ml bottle retails for $28 USD off Paula's Choice. Again, definitely pricier than similar toning/exfoliating products, but not unreasonable considering its added benefits and Paula's Choice being a mid-range beauty line. 

The bottle itself is nice and compact, with a small opening at the top for easy dispensing onto a cotton pad.

Although it's marketed as an exfoliant, I've been using this as a night-time cleansing toner after I wash my face. It does a great job at balancing my skin and washing away any leftover makeup and dirt. Unlike with other AHA products I've used, I didn't experience any tingling whatsoever with the Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant and I found it gentle enough to use every night.

I've been using the Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant for almost a month now, and compared to their Resist Weightless Advanced Repairing Toner, I love this one way more. While I thought the former did a better job at controlling oil production, I think the Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant has visibly improved my skin. My face feels significantly softer, especially on my forehead which literally feels like silk! I actually can't stop touching my face and even got Mr. Artist to verify it too the other day, although he wasn't as impressed obviously as I was. I've also noticed that the fine lines on my forehead are reduced and my pores seem clearer. I usually get a couple blemishes around my period, but I haven't had a single dot pop up at all! 

In terms of glow and repairing sun damage, the Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant wins there as well. My skin appears more even and looks glowing even before I apply any makeup. Unfortunately those damn pesky dark spots are still there, so I may have to alternate between using this and the Neostrata serum to knock those down. 

Final Verdict
Buy - a reasonable price and amazing results means this is a must-have for glowing, supremely soft and smooth skin.

*This post contains PR samples

Never miss out
Subscribe | Twitter | Bloglovin | Pinterest | Instagram

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Make Up Forever Pro Sculpting Palette Review | Get your most natural looking face... with the most product

make up forever contour and highlight palette review

Contouring. Bronzing. Correcting. Highlighting. It's all rather confusing and full of gobbley-gook isn't it?

The sculpting trend has been around for years now, yet many of us (myself included) are still a little clueless and simultaneously fascinated by it. When you see someone doing contouring right, then it's pretty damn amazing. Like a painter at work, it is endlessly entertaining to see someone's face literally transform and that's why we see endless products get released to try and make it "simpler" for the lay(wo)man.

The latest iteration of this type of all-in-one kit, is the new Make Up Forever Pro Sculpting 4-in-1 Face Contouring Palette. Available exclusively at Sephora for $54 each, the Pro Sculpting Palette is a four pan palette that contains a satin highlight, a matte bronzer, a shimmery highlight and a complementing blush shade. Each shade is designed to work with the others to give you that perfectly chiseled look.

review of make up forever pro sculpting palette medium

The Pro Sculpting Palette comes in four shades, depending on your skin color: light, medium, tan and dark. From what I can tell, there's not much difference between light and medium, which is what I received, except that the highlight shades and the bronzer in the light palette are slightly more cool-toned. All of the pans are cream based and are designed to be long-lasting, easily blendable and to give a more natural finish than powders. The palette also comes with a super handy sculpting guide that shows you how to use each shade depending on your face shape (I'm an inverted triangle!)

make up forever pro sculpting palette guide

As I mentioned, I selected the medium shade palette to try. By far, the satin highlight and bronze shade outperformed the other two. The satin highlight was definitely my favourite shade in the palette, as it was really easy to work with, blended well with my skin tone and noticeably brightened my face wherever I applied it. My favourite way to work with the satin highlight, is to apply it in a large triangle under my eyes and it works wonders to make me look more awake and fresh!

The bronze shade as well was surprisingly decent. I was scared about using a cream bronzer, but it was actually fairly easy to work with, provided that you have a good damp sponge like a BeautyBlender or a buffing brush (like my new fave, the Sephora Classic Mini Multitasker Brush) to blend out any edges. The bronze shade was a warm brown on my skin with very little orange undertones and although it would apply dark, it blended out to be really subtle. I actually found that I usually needed to apply two layers of the bronzer to get the level of chisel I wanted!

Unfortunately where this palette fell a little flat for me was with the shimmer highlight and the blush. The shimmer highlight is basically the same color as the satin one, but with a bit more of a shimmery finish. This one was just meh for me as it was nowhere near as good as my powder highlights, but it does give a nice, slight dewiness to the skin. You could safely spackle this all over and never overdo it.

As for the blush shade, compared to the Ultra HD blushes (my favourite cream blush!) the blush shade on the Pro Sculpting Palette is sheerer and has a creamier finish, whereas the Ultra HD blush dries down to something slightly more powdery. I think this subtle difference actually effects the wear time on me; even though the Ultra HD doesn't last all day on me either, it lasted longer than the Pro Sculpting Palette blush. It's really a shame as I love the coral pink Make Up Forever chose for this palette; it's a universally flattering shade that's hard to overdo and it has a dewiness like the other pans in the palette that gives you such a pretty glow.

make up forever pro sculpting palette swatches in medium 30
Swatches! Left to right: Highlight, contour, shimmer highlight and blush

Even though half of the palette was so-so, I was still really happy with the texture and pigmentation of the Pro Sculpting Palette and my complaints about the shimmer and blush shade are pretty minor - kind of like squabbling over the differences between a B+ and an A-.

My only other complaint about this palette are about its packaging. I really wish that for $54, that Make Up Forever had invested in cooler, or at least sturdier packaging. The cheap plastic casing for this palette is straight-up drugstore and when I received mine, one of the pans had already popped out of place.

Overall though, I'm still a happy camper and would recommend trying this palette. Once I got the hang of where to place each shade, I was thrilled with the radiance and gentle sculpting it gave me. I looked like me, but better!

make up forever pro scultping palette in medium
Wearing all 4 shades according to the guide's placement

make up forever pro scultping palette in medium review

make up forever pro scultping palette in medium
Love the subtle contour!

Final Verdict
Buy - pricey, but worth it as this is a one-stop shop for all you need if you're seeking subtle contouring and a healthy glow.

*This post contains PR samples

Never miss out
Subscribe | Twitter | Bloglovin | Pinterest | Instagram

Monday, April 25, 2016

A Book Devoured: Magonia Book 1 by Maria Dahvana Headley

It's been awhile since I've "devoured" a book this quickly, but what can I say? I do love a good mythology story and Magonia is one of the most creative stories I've read in awhile.

Inspired by real life historical manuscripts depicting a people who lived in the sky, Magonia follows the story of young Aza Ray Boyle, a teenager with a very unique illness: she is literally drowning in air. All her life, Aza Ray has been poked, prodded and frowned over by doctors who are stumped as to why she has such difficulty breathing. Her only respite from hospital rooms and tests? Her family and her best friend Jason, a slightly manic, but fiercely loyal, boy genius.

On the eve of Aza's 16th birthday, 2 momentous things happen: Jason confesses his feelings for her and Aza dies. Yep. The main character "dies" in the first third of the book BUT only to be reborn as Aza Ray, long-lost daughter of Zal, captain of the Magonian air ship Amina Pennarum. Aboard this ship, Aza Ray learns about her past, the secret world of Magonia and the destiny she was born to. Along the way, she flies with squallwhales, battles deadly assassins, and befriends the Rostrae, a servant class of half-bird, half-human changelings.

Right from page 1, author Maria Dhavana Headley immediately captures your imagination. She does an amazing job at world creating and bringing to life such a fantastical world as Magonia. I loved how she sets her readers' imaginations aflame imagining creatures who are both bird and human, plants that grow in mid-air and huge sailing ships powered by gentle giant bats.

Although sometimes the plot of Magonia can be a little predictable, such as the setting up of the inevitable love triangle (it is technically a YA novel after all), I still found it thoroughly entertaining and the ending left me wanting more. Thankfully the next novel in the series is supposed to come out this fall!

Never miss out
Subscribe | Twitter | Bloglovin | Pinterest | Instagram

Friday, April 22, 2016

How to Wear Bright Lipsticks to Work

how to wear bright lipsticks at work

A lot of us don't have time to put on a full face of makeup everyday, but there's just one thing anyone can do that will really help elevate your office look.

Lipstick is one of those game-changer products that can really help elevate your mood, give you confidence and make you look instantly put together. The only thing is, it can be really tricky to know what colors are, and aren't, work-appropriate. That can lead a lot of us to just sticking to MLBB/nude territory or never going beyond sheer tints, which is simply tragic as there are so many great lipstick colors out there just begging to be worn! Plus, there are even studies out there that suggest that wearing bright red lipstick can actually be good for your career! So what are you waiting for?

Here are some ideas for how to incorporate some fun spring lipstick shades into your routine, no matter what type of office environment you work in:

For the casual, anything goes office: try a bright magenta pink. A deeper pink like this will make your teeth appear brighter and goes great with a tan! If you're looking for a bright magenta, then my suggestion is the shade Eternally Yours Fuschia from Canada's Saint Cosmetics; it's a super-pigmented, matte magenta, which is my fave way to wear a color like this as the matte finish makes it modern and lets you focus on the color instead of the gloss (read my previous review of this lipstick here).

For the conservative office: try a bold red. Now, you'd think red would be the last color you should wear in a conservative environment, but what could be more classic and traditional than red lipstick! Red works all year round and when paired with minimal eyes and light contouring, it looks sophisticated and confident. I'm really in love with raspberry reds right now as they have a warmth to them that makes it more appropriate for spring's youthful feel. My recommendation is the Sonia Kashuk Velvety Matte Lip Crayon in Raspberry Nude!

For the fashion forward office: try a purple. If you work in a creative environment, well then lucky you as you can go as avant-garde with your lipstick choices as you want! Nothing epitomizes "bold lips" more than a purple shade. For spring, a lavender would be fantastic if you're fair-skinned, while darker tones would favour a grape shade better. Sadly, I don't anything too extreme to recommend here, but the Colourpop Lippie Stix in Too Sexy is as bold as I've got right now. It looks scary purple in the tube, but is a very wearable purple-red on (see more swatches of this one here).

For the hectic office: lastly, for those who are always moving between meetings, work sites or otherwise always on-the-go, I'd recommend trying any of the above, but in a long-lasting liquid lipstick formula. My go-to, never-budge lipstick is definitely the Rimmel Provocalips 16 hr Kiss Proof Lip Colour. These puppies will literally not move at all all day, provided you give them 1 minute of your busy day to properly set. They're a cinch to apply and come in a variety of fun bright shades. My fave bright pink is the shade I'll Call You (see swatches of this one here).

work appropriate color lipsticks
Left to right: Rimmel Provocalips 16 HR Kiss Proof Lip Colour in I'll Call You, Sonia Kashuk Velvety Matte Lip Crayon in Raspberry Nude, Colourpop Lippie Stix in Too Sexy, and Saint Cosmetics Eternally Yours Fuschia lipstick

What are your favourite lipstick shades to wear to work?

Never miss out
Subscribe | Twitter | Bloglovin | Pinterest | Instagram