Friday, July 31, 2015

L'Occitane Aromachologie Relaxing Body Cream and Relaxing Shower Gel Review | The ideal fix for long work days

Work isn't called work if it doesn't get you down sometimes. The past few months have been intense at work for me. Although I don't have to do much overtime, my work days are usually jam packed with endless meetings, a million questions and a never-ending juggling of priorities. I like to feel busy and productive, but for an introvert, talking to so many people day in, day out, is quite exhausting. When your days are that intense, your nights become precious hours for unwinding. Lately, my weekday wind-down ritual has included these amazing body products from L'Occitane's Aromachologie line.

The Aromachologie line is a collection of bath and beauty products that harness the restorative powers of aromatherapy. The L'Occitane Aromachologie Relaxing Body Cream and Relaxing Shower Gel capture the rebalancing and soothing scents of eucalyptus, thyme, juniper berry, cypress and lemon to relax muscles and ease away tension. In studies conducted by L'Occitane's research team, the combination of these fragrances helped testers concentrate and report lower levels of stress when tasked with mental challenges versus other testers who went without. I found it fascinating reading up on how L'Occitane tested their essential oil formulations. It definitely makes these products feel more convincing!

Aromachologie Relaxing Shower Gel

l'occitane aromachologie relaxing shower gel

What is it: First up, let's talk about the L'Occitane Aromachologie Relaxing Shower Gel. This exfoliating and recharging shower gel contains tiny scrubbing beads (but not microbeads!) to softly scrub away skin impurities and dirt.
What's in it:
  • Water
  • Caprylyl/capryl glucoside - surfactant or cleansing agent
  • Decyl glucoside - a cleanser that's ideal for sensitive skin as it helps lock in moisture without irritation
  • Sodium lauroyl sarcosinate - a cleansing and foaming agent
  • Glycerin - a moisturizer
Other ingredients of note are olive seeds (moisturizing), lemon peel powder (absorbent), thyme oil (antioxidant and antibacterial properties), cypress leaf oil (astringent and healing properties), eucalyptus oil (antibacterial properties and commonly used to destress and relax muscles), juniper berry oil (antiseptic).
Price: $22 for 250 ml
My thoughts: I would say this shower gel is equal parts refreshing and relaxing. When I think of relaxing bath products, lavender and vanilla come to mind, but now I will have to add cypress and juniper berry to the list as the herbal-piney smell of this gel is so soothing to one born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. The Aromachologie Relaxing Shower Gel relaxes you in the same way that diving into a cool pond or walking outside after a rain storm does. After I shower, I feel invigorated and relaxed. Contrary to the ingredients, I didn't find this gel to foam up a lot, but that could be because I apply this with my hands instead of the usual loofah. The Aromachologie Relaxing Shower Gel contains loosely dispersed scrubbing grains that give a super gentle exfoliation. You could probably use this everyday and not ever over-exfoliate your skin. After showering, my skin feels soft and smooth, but really most bath products do that and the real benefit of this one is its recharging fragrance. This would be great for both guys and gals as the cypress makes it quite androgynous, while there's just enough hint of lemon for this to smell clean and citrusy, but not so much that it becomes obnoxious.
Final Verdict: Buy

l'occitane aromachologie relaxing shower gel

Aromachologie Relaxing Body Cream

l'occitane aromachologie relaxing body cream

What it is: Once you've showered up with the Relaxing Shower Gel, then it only makes sense to apply the matching Aromachologie Relaxing Body Cream. This luxurious body cream contains similar scent notes as the shower gel as well as sweet almond oil to moisturize. 
What's in it:
  • Water
  • Glycerin
  • Alcohol - not sure what the purpose is here, but I was surprised this was so high up in the list! 
  • Octyldodecanol - an emollient that helps thicken products and leave skin feeling silky
  • Coco-caprylate/caprate - an emollient
This cream also contains the same essential oils as the shower gel.
Price: $40 for 200 ml
My thoughts: I really love this moisturizer! It feels so rich and the cool apothecary-style packaging also ups the novelty factor. Surprisingly, even though it applies rich, it actually feels very light and almost watery on the skin; it's more like a gel than a thick cream, which makes it ideal for summer. The Relaxing Body Cream has the same heady herbal freshness as the Relaxing Shower Gel, but with a slightly stronger herbal twang to it. Maybe the eucalyptus or thyme is stronger in the cream as this one smelled way more medicinal. As a lover of Vick's Vapor Rub as a kid, I totally did not mind that - bring on the medicinal plant smell!! The only things I disliked about this cream is that I use up jar format creams way too fast, and after this cream absorbs, it leaves a very strange sticky film on the skin that lasts for a couple minutes. Not sure what is up with that, but it was kinda distracting as it didn't feel like your typical lotion tackiness, but more like I'd just slathered myself with a lollipop. If L'Occitane could get rid of that, then this cream would be perfect.
Final Verdict: Buy

l'occitane aromachologie relaxing body cream

Overall thoughts
Both the Aromachologie Relaxing Body Cream and Relaxing Shower Gel are fabulous spa-at-home products that have been a lifesaver for me lately. With their heady mix of eucalyptus, fresh cypress, juniper and lemon oils, these products help me recharge and reset before bedtime.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Summer Lipstick Picks

Guys, I'm so sad. Summer is already half over and even though we've been having a frigging amazing summer weather-wise here in Vancouver, it's still not enough sunshine and blue skies for me. Let's savour it all and make every warm jacket-free night count!

Things that I have yet to check off this summer:
  • liming with a BBQ and friends at the beach
  • watching the annual summer fireworks downtown
  • going to the Asian summer night markets in Richmond
  • drinking copious amounts of fruity summer beers
  • painting my toenails
One thing I have been sure to do is to switch out my winter makeup for lighter summery picks. For me, summer makeup is all about "dat glow" aka "strobing" the crap out of my face and pairing that with a fun, bright lip.

This summer, I'm all about pink lips in all its forms; peach, coral, magentas, baby pinks and regular pinks. If it's in the pink family, then bring it on!

Here are some of my heavy rotation summer lip picks:

Left to right: Clinique Pop Lip Color + Primer in Poppy Pop, Clinique Chubby Stick Intense in Plushest Punch, Annabelle Twistup Lip Crayon in Sorbet, MAC Cremesheen Glass  in Richer, Lusher and The Body Shop Colour Crush Lipstick in Innocent Pink

Clinique Pop Lip Colour + Primer in Poppy Pop (full review): so I know I just said my summer lip picks are all pinks, but this one is the solo outlier as it's actually a vibrant red-orange. Whatever, it's my blog and I can be inconsistent if I want to right? This one is a great red lip alternative during the summer months as an orange-red feels more light-hearted and flirty, whereas a red comes off as much more drama-queen and formal. The priming formula of this lipstick makes it last for hours and the color pigmentation is superb. I would recommend you apply this one to bare lips. If you apply over top of balm, then you'll find the wear time decreases a bit.

Clinique Chubby Stick Intense in Plushest Punch: wow two Clinique lipsticks in one roundup! I can't help it though as this one is another hit for me. Chubby Sticks are so easy to apply and give you true one-swipe color. Plushest Punch is one of those colors that makes a look. All you need is this color and some mascara and you are ready for anything!

Annabelle Twistup Lipstick Crayon in Sorbet (full review): I am always sharing my love for the original TwistUps. Sorbet is my #1 summer color. It literally is the color of fresh watermelons and what says summer more than that? Nuff said!

MAC Cremesheen Glass in Richer, Lusher: this is my newest acquisition out of this group. I picked this up during my last Hawaii trip after falling in love with during an impromptu MAC makeover event that my wedding planner and I went to. Compared to the regular Lip Glasses, the Cremesheen Glass is less sticky and more pigmented. You could wear this solo for a sheer hint of peachy color, but as I love saturated everything, I prefer to top this over a base color, usually Sorbet, or a pinky-nude.

The Body Shop Colour Crush Lipstick in Innocent Pink (full review): this one is perfect for an everyday, apply-with-your-eyes-closed hit of color. The creaminess of the Colour Crush lipsticks moisturizes lips and gives them a healthy sheen. While you might think that would make these too sheer to show up, they do build up nicely and give my lips a very healthy glow. 

These are just some of recent summer faves - now tell me yours!

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Monday, July 27, 2015

The Face Shop Brow Master Eyebrow Kit Review | Upping my brow game

the face shop eyebrow shadow kit

Did you know that The Face Shop is only 12 years old? I didn't and it's so impressive how expansive they've become in such a quick time. I've mainly known this Korean brand for their affordable, gentle and nature-based skincare products, but recently I've been venturing into trying out their makeup lines too, starting with this mini eyebrow kit that I was sent awhile ago to try.

The Face Shop Brow Master Eyebrow Kit is an eyebrow shadow duo that contains all you need for that perfectly lush Korean brow look. Ideally sized for travel, this kit contains 2 complimenting colors that can be mixed together to create a natural look as well as a shadow brush for applying color and a spoolie to brush out and blend.

I got to try out the shade 02 gray brown, which contains a cool toned ash-brown and a medium brown. When it comes to brows, I would decidedly rate my brow game as amateur. I didn't start plucking or grooming my brows until university and I only started using a brow pencil a couple years ago, so it's safe to say I was a little intimidated by this kit! Nevertheless, I've been wanting to progress into brow shadows and gels as they seem to give a much more polished and controlled look than what one can achieve with a pencil. Plus, I just seem to love complicating my makeup unnecessarily. Why use just 1 tool or product when one can use 5? @__@

the face shop eyebrow shadow kit in gray brown

To apply this shadow, I run the end of the slanted brow brush in the shadow pan and then brush it gently through my brows, running it in the direction of my hair growth. I like to point the longer end of the brush downwards; no particular reason why except that it feels right to do it that way and I imagine it lets you draw a longer line. My main brow issues are that my total brow length is very short and while my hairs aren't sparse, they definitely need more definition. I prefer to use the darker tone in this kit first to fill in the bigger gaps of my brows, as well as to extend the outer line of my brows to frame my eye. Then, I'll go over my brows again with the lighter shade to tone it down a bit and to fill in any remaining gaps. Lastly, the spoolie works really well at blending it all out and to brush my brow hairs upwards for even more volume. The end result is nicely defined, but not scary, brows. Although I'm still nowhere near Cara Delevigne/Grumpy Cat amazebrows, for me, this still looks pretty good!

The only things I don't like about this kit is its teeny size and the hardness of the shadows. I would love this kit a lot more if the shadows were a tad softer and more pigmented, but maybe that is a good thing, since that would make it much easier to go overboard.

the face shop eyebrow shadow kit in gray brown
Left to right: cool ash brown, cool medium brown

If you're curious about trying out The Face Shop Brow Master Eyebrow Kit, you're kinda in luck. You see, this kit only comes in 2 shades - gray brown and beige brown, which is a warmer version of gray brown. In most cases, unless you have really blond hairs, then you *should* be good to go. For us Asians, I would recommend going with gray brown in most cases as beige brown looks too warm and light.

Final Verdict: Buy

What's your preferred method for doing your brows: pencil, shadow or gel?

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Friday, July 24, 2015

Annabelle Blushon Blush Review | A possible cheap dupe for Exposed?

While I don't think my blush collection is anywhere close to resembling massive, or even that comprehensive, I think it's still safe to say that I've accumulated 200% more blushes than I had last year. Somehow I keep finding hidden niches in my blush collection that "must" be filled - such is the joy and sickness of being a makeup lover!

One such niche that was aching to be filled was to have a rosy, kinda pink-brown-ish, kinda contour, kinda blush type of tone. You know - one of those blushes you can slap on eyes closed and wear with anything because it literally is like your skin, but better. You know, like an Exposed.

Anyone who is a fan of makeup or a reader of blogs know what I am referring to. Tarte's Amazonian Clay blush in Exposed is one of the most popular blush shades on the market right now. It's renowned for being wearable by just about anyone and literally fool-proof to apply. This is the type of color that is impossible to over-apply, yet is pigmented enough to give your face color and life when all you're feeling is like death.

I wanted it bad people; however, I didn't want to buy it. Call me stupid, but for some reason I didn't want to shell out money to purchase the real deal at Sephora, so I set about finding myself a cheap dupe and after much google searching and agonizing, I think I may have found it.

annabelle blush rose fawn

The Annabelle Blushon blush in Rose Fawn is a dusky rose-pink and offers easy, blendable wear for under $10. Available in drugstores across the country, Rose Fawn was the cheapest Exposed dupe I could find and I love how it's from a Canadian brand too!

The Blushon blushes come in 10 shades, with Rose Fawn falling somewhere in the middle of the color range.

In terms of packaging, the Blushon blush is encased in your standard flip-top and contains 3 g of product. Compared to most blushes though, the pan size is fairly small and not much bigger than a MAC single eyeshadow compact, so you'll have to use your smaller brushes to apply.

annabelle blush in rose fawn

As well, the other annoying bit about this blush, but which also makes it foolproof, is that the pan is very hard so it takes a long while to build up color on your face. You'll want to use your stiffest blush brush for this and then swirl it very generously all along your cheekbones. While with most of my blushes, I have to gingerly tap it, with the Blushon, I literally dig into it with my brush as much as I can. Even doing so, the end result is very sheer and subtle; in fact, the color payoff of this blush is so soft that I couldn't even swatch it for you! Trust me though, that it's there. Like an Hourglass Ambient powder, the finish of Rose Fawn is something that can only be detected in person - and isn't that just the type of natural effect that Exposed is supposed to give?

annabelle blushon blush in rose fawn

For $7.95, I'm glad I got this dupe and would recommend the Annabelle Blushon blushes to anyone. Unfortunately, getting this one only made me want to try the real deal more! Guess who's going to hit up Sephora next VIB sale?

Have you found any good Exposed dupes?

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

First Impressions: Almay Intense i-Color Party Brights Eye Shadow

Everyone who knows me, knows that I don't wear colorful eyeshadow. I am strictly a neutrals kind of girl, who occasionally ventures out into purples. It's not that I don't like bright eyeshadows, or that I don't find them fun to wear (check out my orange eyeshadow look for evidence!). It's just that I find bright eyeshadows tricky to wear - particularly blues and teals!

almay intense party brights eyeshadow

That is why I was so interested to try out the new Almay Intense i-Color Party Brights eyeshadows. This fun line of summery, bright shadow palettes is designed to illuminate your eyes and give you a fresh, fun look. Almay also takes it a step further by making this collection part of their i-Color series, which tailors each palette to a specific eye color. Generally, these kind of palettes focus on complementary colors to your eyes, so the brown eye palette focuses on purples tones, while the green has a gorgeous mix of warm coppers and purples. The blue palette though went the other direction with a mix of a blue colors, and the hazel eye palette features a tropical mix of teal and brown.

Each palette contains 3 different shades, and there are handy instructions on the back as well. I love how Almay seeks to make their products simple and easy for anyone to use, so I was eager to try out the palette I received, which was the one targeted for hazel eyes.

Almay Intense i-Color Party Brights Eye Shadow

The hazel eyes palette contains a highlight, lid and crease color. The highlight is a soft ivory tone, while the crease is a dark, chocolate. The star of this show obviously is the lid color, which is a gorgeous teal. I was immediately drawn to the shimmery teal and knew that was the one I had to try versus the usual boring purple palette assigned to us brown eyed girls.

To use, Almay states that you simply apply the teal to the lid, the ivory to your brow bone, and the brown to the crease, so that's just what I did.

almay party brights eyeshadow

Unfortunately, I have no idea how to apply teal shadows apparently and this is what I ended up with:

Not exactly what I had in mind. When swatched, these shadows had a lovely satin/matte finish and a fairly decent color payoff. When applied to the lids though, the harder texture made it difficult for my brushes to pick up anything, so the colors ended up being very sheer and more shimmery. I also think the instructions on the packaging are definitely more for western eyes, as it did nothing for my hooded Asian eyes. I also found these shadows to crease and fade a lot after a few hours, so I wouldn't wear them again without some sort of primer.

Almay Intense i-Color Party Brights Eye Shadow swatches

Despite these setbacks, I'm not about to give up on that teal! It's just too pretty not to figure out how to use somehow, so now it's off to Pinterest and the blogosphere for inspiration.

Anyone have any tips or tricks for me on how to wear teal eyeshadow?

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Friday, July 17, 2015

Rimmel Provocalips 16 hr Kissproof Lip Colour Review | Colour that can withstand anything... except fried chicken

rimmel provocalips in I'll call you and kiss fatal

I am so happy to be talking today about one of my favourite recent drugstore finds: the Rimmel Provocalips 16 hr Kissproof Lip Colour! That's quite the mouthful of a name, but it also describes these liquid lipsticks perfectly.

The Rimmel Provocalips are a long-wearing, super pigmented liquid lipstick that offers guaranteed transfer-proof color in 10 wearable shades. One end of these lipsticks holds the colour, while the other end houses a clear, moisturizing topcoat. My Provocalips collection consists of I'll Call You, a medium-bright rosy pink and Kiss Fatal, a deep brown plum.

When you first purchase the Provocalips, it can take a little getting used to as the application process requires a bit of patience. The first time I applied these I thought I could slick on the topcoat right away, but to do so will result in disaster! You absolutely have to let the lip color rest for at least a minute or two. If you don't, the color will turn streaky and slide right off with the topcoat. There are no instructions either on the tube telling you to wait, which is a shame. I almost threw mine right out thinking they were a dud until luckily, I checked out reviews online. If you do wait the allotted waiting period, then the color will dry down matte and the topcoat can then be applied to add moisture and a velvety sheen back to your lips.

rimmel provocalips swatches in I'll call you and kiss fatal
Left to right: I'll Call You and Kiss Fatal

Straight out of the tube, the color payoff of the Provocalips can't be beat. We're talking literally one-swipe color! The doe foot applicator is just the right size for my lips and allows me to get a really nice sharp lip line. As the color settles down, you can feel a very slight tightening of the lips. If you have dry or flaky lips, definitely exfoliate beforehand, but be sure to always apply the Provocalips to dry, bare lips, for reasons I'll explain in a bit.

Once set, the color of the Provocalips lasts all day through meals, drinks and whatever else you do during the day. The color doesn't fade, transfer or otherwise degrade whatsoever. By the end of the day, my lips still look just applied, although a tad dry. The Provocalips make the perfect lipstick to wear to events or for busy days when you just want to apply and go, but they're a bit too drying to make them doable for wearing everyday.

rimmel provocalips in I'll call you
Wearing I'll Call You

The only kryptonite for these lipsticks is oil. Whether it's lip balm, cleansing oil, or even just greasy foods, the Provocalips will melt and dissolve away as soon as it touches anything oily. This makes it easy to remove later, but also kinda annoying when wearing this out as you have to avoid foods like salad dressings or anything fried and greasy. It's a small sacrifice though for truly long-lasting color. This is the first liquid lipstick that has worked superbly for me without any issues of streaky application, excessive transferring, or fading and so I now want them all, especially Dare To Pink, a baby pink and Kiss Me You Fool, a bright red!

rimmel provocalips in kiss fatal
Wearing Kiss Fatal

Interested in trying these out? You can purchase the Rimmel Provocalips for around $9 from any drugstore, such as London Drugs, Shoppers Drug Mart and Walmart.

Final Verdict: Buy

What are your favourite long wear lipsticks?

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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Sekkisei Lotion Excellent Review | Harnessing the power of traditional medicine for that youthful look

Sekkisei enriched toner with herbal extracts

Toner is often the neglected child of skincare. Most people misunderstand toners and deem it unnecessary, if they even know what it's really for. It's easy to understand the confusion. Toners don't have the same reputation as moisturizers or sunscreens, where anyone can understand what purpose they're for, but toners are one of those in-between steps that yes, may be optional, but really are so worth the investment.

Toners can be used for a variety of purposes, but generally fall into one of two categories: clarifying/cleansing or moisturizing/enhancing. The former is what Western toners generally fall into and are used for cleaning off leftover residue from the day, minimizing pores, and to restore skin's natural pH balance. Moisturizing/enhancing toners are more popular in Asia, where multi-step moisturizing regimes are very common. It's not uncommon for Asian women to use a variety of moisturizers, serums, emulsions, toners and essences everyday!

Recently I got to try a totally new (to me) brand from Japan which specializes in just this type of moisturizing toner. Sekkisei is a popular Japanese skincare line that is known for their use of herbal extracts to promote a "pure as snow" complexion. The Sekkisei Lotion Excellent is an intensive lotion that is applied after cleansing to rejuvenate skin with its proprietary mix of Chinese and Japanese herbs. The Sekkisei Lotion Excellent claims to drench your skin in moisture and to also fight signs of aging with its brightening compounds and powerful stew of antioxidants, such as Coix seed oil, Japanese spurflower, Bracket fungus, and Angelica extract.

The Guts
Since we're on the topic of ingredients, let's dive right in, shall we? The primary ingredients in this lotion/toner are:
  • Water
  • Alcohol - a common ingredient in Japanese skincare that helps give it that light feeling without drying out skin
  • Glycerin - a humectant
  • PPG-9 diglyceryl ether - an emollient
  • Dipropylene glycol - a penetration enhancer that helps other ingredients soak into skin and also helps give this lotion a slippery texture
Other ingredients of note are: angelica acutiloba root extract (aka toki, in Japanese, used for anti-aging and moisturizing), coix seed extract (aka Job's Tears or Ma-Yuen, helps moisturize skin), ganoderma lucidum stem extract (aka mushroom and acts as an antioxidant) and melothria heterophylla extract (antioxidant).

Price & Packaging
A 200 ml bottle retails for $65 off Kose USA, or for up to $85 from Canadian retailers online. I absolutely adore the packaging of this toner. 200 ml is a super generous size and the gorgeous sapphire blue bottle really stands out on my counter. Although the packaging is plastic, the choice of that rich color paired with its gold rimmed lid makes this lotion look really special.

Sekkisei lotion excellent toner

The screw top lid comes off easily to reveal a small opening. To use, you simply overturn the bottle and shake a few drops into your palm. The opening is perfectly sized to only let out a few drops at a time, ensuring that you never over pour. 

The Sekkisei Lotion Excellent is supposed to provide 3 different benefits to skin: moisture, anti-aging and brightening. After four weeks of use, I'd say this lotion does a solid job at one of those things and inconclusive results on the others.

Sekkisei enriched lotion toner

I prefer to use this lotion in the mornings after my cleanser and before any other products. Using just 3-4 drops, I spread the Lotion Excellent between my palms and then lightly press or slap my hands along my face, concentrating on my cheeks and forehead area. I'll even apply some to my neck if there's anything leftover. 

I absolutely love the light, hydrating feel of this moisturizing toner. My skin instantly feels refreshed, more alive and plumper. You know when you see a plant spring back to life after a good rain? That's how my skin feels. This toner is packed full of emollients and humectants and I can verify that this product is a solid win on that front.

In terms of fighting signs of aging or brightening, I am quite a bit more skeptical. I didn't notice any difference in terms of a lessening of fine lines, or of my hyper-pigmentation. The antioxidants listed in the Sekkisei toner are commonly used in Chinese herbal medicine, but don't seem to be proven as effective anti-aging ingredients just yet when applied topically. I figure though that it doesn't hurt to use this type of product and who knows, maybe the effect will subtly build up over time! My other go-to moisturizing toner from Hadalabo is also supposed to be brightening, but I haven't noticed any effect from that either, so I can't really blame Sekkisei for not following through; however, the Hadalabo is significantly cheaper!

Final Verdict
Ditch - provides a generous dousing of hydration to skin and comes beautifully packaged, but with its brightening and anti-aging benefits unproven, this is a little too pricey for what it does for me to repurchase.

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