Thursday, October 20, 2016

Revisited Step: NYX Slide On Lip Liner in Nude Suede Shoes

Remember when I said lip liners were entirely superfluous products in my make-up bag? Yeah, that was 2.5 years ago now, and nearly all of the lip liners shown in that post have since been decluttered. Until a few weeks ago, my lip liner stash consisted of a red and a universal transparent liner, and I found myself hankering after something else - a neutral nude shade to define the contours of my lips for a more perfected everyday look.
What I've been noticing more lately about my lips is that my natural lip line is not very well defined; the pigment of my lips gets sort of fainter and uneven towards the contours of my lips, and on top of that, I have freckles exactly on my lip line (especially top lip) which make it look even more messy. I don't mind it most of the time, especially when I'm wearing a sheer lip (either a gloss or tinted balm) - but when I opt for a more pigmented lipstick in a shade deeper than a very pale nude, the haziness of my lip line becomes very obvious and the overall look is sort of unfinished. I sometimes use concealer around my lips to help with that, but I thought lip liner could be a quicker option with the benefit of prolonging the wear on my lip products and preventing them from bleeding outside my lips.
To cut my long story short, I decided to pull the trigger on NYX Slide On Glide On Waterproof Lip Liner in Nude Suede Shoes ($7.99 for 0.04 oz) after hearing it recommended numerous times by Emily Noel on YouTube. I liked my NYX Slide On eyeliner pencils in the past (reviewed here - those two dried out though and had to be thrown out!), so I thought this product was worth trying out, even though the price is quite up there compared to other drugstore lip liner options.
The NYX Slide On Lip Liner is a simple non retractable pencil that easily sharpens with my Urban Decay Grindhouse. The formula is similar to that of the eye Slide-ons, meaning gel-like, very soft, creamy, smooth and highly pigmented. It's one of those newer generation lip pencils that glide on the lips without tugging, and are easy to blend out before they set. The finish is completely matte, no shimmer whatsoever, and I can't detect any scent to the product. On my lips, it doesn't feel too too drying, but I'd also say it's not entirely budge-proof: it will partially come off on cups or during a meal, but it certainly enhances the wear time of more emollient or glossy products layered over the top.
L-R: NYX Nude Suede Shoes, Maybelline Color Sensational Lipstick in Warm Me Up, Ilia Beauty Lipstick in The Brides, Bite High Pigment Lip Pencil in Sable
Now, is the shade Nude Suede Shoes my perfect natural nude? Uhm, not really - but it's still a lot better than other 'nude' lip liners I've had in the past. On me, it pulls a beigy brown shade that sits somewhere between darker nude and a My Lips But Better in terms of depth. I believe that on people with warmer (and deeper) skintones, it would be that ideal muted pink nude for everyday. As you may be able to tell, with my coloring, NYX Nude Suede Shoes is more of that trendy Kylie Jenner lip - I don't necessarily hate it but it's slightly out of my comfort zone. Compared to my favorite darker nude lipsticks, Nude Suede Shoes is definitely warmer and more brown.
NYX Slide On Lip Liner in Nude Suede Shoes worn all over bare lips on NW15 skintone.
That doesn't disqualify it though as a layering option. Sure, it doesn't pair well with very cool/ mauve nudes and MLBBs in my stash, but it does work with the two lipsticks from the right side of my swatch (ILIA The Brides - sneaky peaky of their Fall 2016 release - and a now completely used up Bite Sable High Pigment Lip Pencil), and a lot of my sheer nude options, especially when used with a lighter hand and softly blended in. It's also a lip liner you could absolutely wear on its own, but as you may be able to see in the mug shot, currently my poor dry lips can't take that matte finish without something creamier/ more emollient layered over the top.

I've also realized why I really have such a love/ hate relationship with lip liners. When I give myself a more defined and filled in lip contour (I'm not talking about over lining here! Just evening out my natural lip line), my lips instantly look A LOT bigger. And I'm not used to seeing myself with such full lips - even without lining they're kinda on the big side, and with the liner, I feel like my face is dominated by those fat pouty lips. I'm guessing you guys are probably rolling your eyes at me right now, but for whatever reason, I haven't been able to fully embrace that look on me (also, some people have commented my lips have gotten even bigger/ more swollen in pregnancy). I don't know though - maybe it's time to just go with it and experiment with playing up my lips instead of the eyes? We shall see.

Back to the NYX Nude Suede Shoes, I think it's a really good drugstore lip liner and I would safely recommend it - just be aware that if your coloring is similar to mine, it's not going to be a real nude on you. I actually picked up another drugstore lip liner in the same order that's a lot more of a cool mauve shade, so I shall experiment (and review) that one next. Do you guys wear lip liners? Is it an indispensible part of your make-up routine or something you only pull out for special occasions?

Monday, October 17, 2016

Welcome to the World, Little Julian Edgar!

If you follow me on Instagram, you may already know that on Monday October 3rd, I had my precious baby boy, Julian Edgar. He was born strong and healthy at 5.55pm and has been nothing but a joy to his whole extended family ever since.
Less than 24 hours old in this photo; he's turning 2 weeks old today!

I'm not planning to share a detailed labor and delivery story - I just think it's quite private and maybe not all of you would appreciate the extra information - but let me just say that I was forunate to have a normal, relatively stress-free birth, although it turned out to be a bit of a slow going; I started having contractions at about 1am so about 16-17 hours altogether. I did opt to have an epidural and I absolutely do not regret it as I believe it helped me keep my strength til the very end. At 2 weeks post-partum, I'm feeling quite well though the recovery process is not without its challenges; but I'm learning to accept my limitations and to be grateful to my body for bringing us our beautiful son without complications.

We're also incredibly blessed to have a very chill baby. Our son eats voraciously and sleeps like a champ (okay, not going to lie - he pees and poops a lot too ;), and so far - knock on wood - we're adapting to life with a newborn without any major issues. That being said, things are going to be a lot slower now on the blogging and social media fronts, as I'm sure you all understand. Prior to Julian's arrival, I have scheduled lots of posts for you to enjoy before I'm back to full - or maybe just half, let's not get too ambitious - speed.

Thank you for all the congrats and well wishes, I really appreciate you sending good vibes our way. Hugs to all of you from our new family of three!

Friday, October 14, 2016

Glotion Trend: Tatcha Pore Perfecting Water Gel* Review

It comes as no surprise to say that I'm a fan of Tatcha skincare ever since I tried two of the original products from the range, the One Step Camellia Cleansing Oil and the Rice Enzyme Powder (here), which I still use in my skincare routine today. So I'm always looking forward to trying out their new releases, and I was especially excited to trial the Tatcha Balanced Pore Perfecting Water Gel Moisturizer* ($68 for 50ml/ 1.7 fl oz, available at and Sephora). My skintype is combination pretty much all year round, but in the summer it tends to get especially oily, so this moisturizing gel seemed like a match made in heaven for my skin.
The Pore Perfecting Water Gel quickly became 'the' skincare product of summer 2016. Wherever I turned, I heard nothing but raves - it was part of Sephora's 'Glotion' campaign, and every self-respecting beauty guru had it and touted it as a firm favorite. It seems to me that within a few months, it already became a cult classic everyone needed in their routine. I received mine a little later - in mid July - and have since been testing it as an integral part of my morning skincare routine.
On that note: I realize it is now October and beauty stories have already turned to nourishing products for the colder season. Yes, it would have been more fitting of me to put up this review in July or August when there was potentially more interest in a lightweight summer moisturizer. However, this is not how I work. I just don't think it's fair to you guys to write a full review of a product - especially when it's skincare, and expensive skincare at that - after just a few weeks of testing. When I trial a new product, I do need to use it consistently for at least a couple months to firmly establish what I think of it and rule out any hasty conclusions. In the case of the Tatcha Water Gel Moisturizer, I have tried it on bare skin, with different toners and serums underneath, and layered with several sunscreens, make-up primers and foundations over the top to fully evaluate its performance. I know there's a constant pressure in the beauty community to be the first to feature a newly released product and I do feel it too - but what's the point if I can't give you my honest and balanced opinion? My personal priority will always be to provide a thorough and detailed review instead of staying abreast of every trend. I hope you understand :)
Okay, rant over - let's get back to the point. Tatcha's Pore Perfecting Water Gel claims to offer 'ultralight, oil-balancing hydration', and 'features Japanese Wild Rose, Leopard Lily and Dokudami extracts to balance and clarify skin, while visibly tightening pores in 28 days'. There's also a fine 23 karat gold dust suspended in the formula, which aims to impart a shine-free glow to the skin. The ingredients list includes lots of lovely botanical extracts (green tea, rice, chamomile, licorice, silk, algae) as well as glycerin, propanediol and squalane from olive oil. The product comes in a sleek pistachio green glass bottle with a hygenic pump dispenser, and the gel itself has a definite herbal scent (maybe the closest to chamomile tea?) that dissipates quickly once on the skin - there's no artifical fragrance in this. One pump is sufficient for my whole face.
The Water Gel is especially recommended for normal, combination to oily skin types or to be used as a primer prior to make-up application. Unfortunately, after testing it in every way I could think of, I have to conclude it just doesn't work for my combination skin. Yes, the texture is a liquidy gel and it seems like it should absorb quickly into the skin - but for me, it just never fully sinks in, no matter how long I wait. Every time I tested it, the Water Gel left an unpleasant sticky residue on my face. It definitely hydrates my skin, but I just can't get over the feel of it on my face, and if I attempt to use it in combination with another hydrating serum underneath or even my regular sunscreen over the top, the end result is way too tacky, heavy and shiny. I also haven't noticed any improvement in the appearance of my pores; if anything, the shiny finish accentuates them under my make-up (there's no glitter or sparkle though so rest assured - I can't see any shimmer particles once I apply it to my face, it's just the actual shiny finish of the gel itself). It also doesn't prolong the wear of my make-up at all - on the contrary, I can see my foundation breaking down on the T-zone faster than with other moisturizers. In comparison, the Tatcha Overnight Memory Serum Concentrate (reviewed here), aimed for evening use and dry & dehydrated skin types, feels less sticky and more comfortable on my skin than the Pore Perfecting Water Gel. Yes, it doesn't really make sense - but such is my personal experience with this product.
I am not saying that the Pore Perfecting Water Gel is a bad moisturizer and you shouldn't give it a try - I'm saying it simply doesn't work for me. Skincare can be weird like that; maybe one of the key ingredients in this product just doesn't mesh well with my skin. But since I haven't really seen any negative - or uhm, even lukewarm - reviews of the Water Gel in the blogosphere, I wanted to add my thoughts into the mix. Have you already tried the Pore Perfecting Water Gel? Have you ever purchased a hyped-up product that just didn't work for your skin?

Disclaimer: Product featured in this post is a press sample I received from the brand's PR for review consideration. All links are non-affiliate. All opinions are 100% honest and unbiased, no matter if the product featured was purchased with my own money or provided free of charge. Thank you for reading! 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Natural Matte: Kat Von D Lock-it Setting Powder* & Setting Powder Brush* Review

This just goes to show what a bad beauty blogger I am - previously to having been sent the new Kat Von D Beauty Lock-it Setting Powder in Translucent* ($30 for 0.67 oz/ 19g) and the accompanying Lock-it Setting Powder Brush* ($38 each), I hadn't owned a loose face powder. I know the beauty sphere is all abuzz with the baking techniques and what not, but yeah... I was not on board of that particular bandwagon.
It's been such a nice change of pace though to once again experiment with setting my face using a loose powder. My loose face powder experience is a little limited - I only used Makeup For Ever HD (disliked) & bareMinerals Mineral Veil (alright) in the past - so I was curious to see how the Kat Von D Lock-it would perform on my combination skin type. The product comes in a generous 19g jar with a screw-on lid and a sifter (how do you like that star-shaped design?); very sturdy and straightforward although I wish there was an option to close the sifter for travel/ storage like in the Laura Mercier loose powders. This powder comes in one universal Translucent shade; in the jar, it looks very fair with a slight yellow undertone, but it is colorless on my fair skin (can't comment how it would perform on deep skintones - best to give it a swatch at Sephora). The product is also vegan, cruelty- and fragrance-free.
 The claims for the Lock-it Setting Powder include a 'smooth, seamless look' thanks to more weightless mica powders used in the formula, 'softly diffused pores' and a 'velvety matte finish'. For setting the entire face, the brand recommends the Lock-it Setting Powder Brush (reviewed below), while for the purpose of under-eye baking or setting, they've created a Precision Powder Brush. When you take a closer look at the INCI list, mica is indeed the first ingredient, followed by talc - beware if you're allergic. The powder also contains corn starch, jojoba esters and soybean oil.
As for the performance of this powder on my face after testing it for over a month, I like it but I'm not entirely in love with it. What I like is that indeed, this powder feels more lightweight and less chalky on my skin than something like the silica-based MUFE HD. I also enjoy the soft matte finish; it's definitely not a dry, flat matte but it still helps to blur the appearance of pores or skin texture. When used lightly with the brand's Setting Powder Brush, it does set and prolong the wear of my foundation but it doesn't completely stop the oilies from coming through a few hours after application (which is more or less standard across all setting/ mattifying powders I've tried to date). And while I can't quite push myself to do a proper heavy 'bake' with the Lock-it powder on my face, I have tried a more low-key version - setting my T-zone and under-eye area by pressing the powder into the skin on a damp Beautyblender. I was quite pleasantly surprised by the results; I expected my face to look cakey but instead I got a smooth, natural-looking velvet finish that managed to diffuse the pores on the center of my face as well as fine lines under my eyes. I've also noticed that I got a lot less shiny throughout the day when I used this method. So I guess low-key baking is my new favorite thing :)
And while a damp Beautyblender seems to give me more impressive results when used with the Lock-it Setting Powder, that is not to say that I don't like the Kat Von D Setting Powder Brush. Quite the opposite in fact; it's a beautiful, high-quality, soft, fluffy powder brush that's fantastic for lightly dusting the face, getting rid of excess product or even blending out a strong blush, bronzer or contour. Like other brushes in the Kat Von D range, it's synthetic with a long, tapered acrylic handle.
The shape of the bristles is a little different than a standard large domed face powder brush; instead, it's more elongated and a little less dense/ more floppy than what you may be used to. It just so happens that I have two other brushes with similar shapes - the Zoeva 101 Luxe Face Definer (reviewed here) is slightly stiffer, more dense and comes to more of a point, while the DUcare Powder Brush from their 10 Piece Essential Travel Collection has shorter bristles and a rounder dome profile. While I enjoy using my Zoeva for bronzer or contour, the Kat Von D Setting Powder Brush definitely feels softer and gentler for setting my whole face, and it picks up just the right amount of powder.

Overall, I like both of these Lock-it Setting products from Kat Von D, and they've become new staples in my everyday make-up bag. I do enjoy the increased versatility that a loose setting powder has to offer in comparison to a regular pressed one (being able to use it as a base under foundation, to lightly set over liquid bases, and to 'low-key bake') but I'll stick to my powder compacts for travel and touch-ups. The brush is a lovely addition to my collection and I'd definitely recommend it if you're looking for high-quality synthetic bristles. Now tell me - do you do the bake? Or only when we're talking about muffins, scones, cookies and cakes?

Disclaimer: Items marked with an asterix (*) are press samples I received from Influenster for testing purposes. All links are non-affiliate. All opinions are 100% honest and unbiased, no matter if the products featured were purchased with my own monies or provided free of charge. Thank you for reading!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Beauty Empties: 3rd Quarter of 2016

I was really dreading spilling out my bag of beauty trash this time around, but actually, it turned out I had quite a few bulkier items and not that many products in total. If you'd like to see what I used up in the past three months and some items I kept repurchasing, keep reading!
Let's start with skincare empties. It seems like I finished nearly all of these months ago because I already have a few more products on their last legs - but I guess those will be featured in the next quarter.
Products I disliked and wouldn't repurchase: None really; all of these did the job.
Products I enjoyed, but I'm trying out other things: Clarins Gentle Exfoliator Brightening Toner (reviewed here), Paula's Choice Hydralight One Step Face Cleanser* & Hydralight Daily Mineral Complex SPF30* (both reviewed here), NUDE Omega Cleansing Jelly (reviewed here)
Products I would repurchase (but am probably trying out other things too): Laneige Water Bank Serum* (reviewed here, would purchase again for the winter), Avebio Rock Rose Hydrosol (Cistus Flower Water).
I finished a lot of make-up this time around as well, thanks to my recent Project 13 Pan. I've included nail care bits in here for lack of a better place to put them.
Products I disliked and wouldn't repurchase: In the end, I wasn't a fan of the Laneige Cushion Concealer, reviewed here, and the China Glaze No Chip Top Coat always took ages to dry.
Products I enjoyed, but I'm trying out other things: BITE Beauty High Pigment Lip Pencil in Sable (LE), Badger Pink Grapefruit Lip Balm, Hourglass Mineral Veil Primer (reviewed here), Pixi Endless Silky Eye Pen in Black Noir (here)
Products I would repurchase (but am probably trying out other things too): Buxom Lip Cream in Cherry Flip (reviewed here), NYX Micro Brow Pencil (here), OPI Nail Lacquer in Red Lights Ahead... Where?
As for bodycare, it looks like all I did was constantly shower and slather myself in body moisturizers - which isn't far from the truth, to be honest, but Mr helped with finishing all the shower gels.
Products I disliked and wouldn't repurchase: The Body Shop Moringa Body Milk (out of the three different body moisturizer formulas I've tried from The Body Shop - milk, lotion and body butter - I like the body butters the best and I'm currently using the Coconut one).
Products I enjoyed, but I'm trying out other things:  Nuxe Reve de Miel Shower Gel, The Body Shop Chocomania Body Lotion
Products I would repurchase (but am probably trying out other things too): Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse (already using another bottle), Suave Body Washes (in an assortment of scents), Secret Gel Antiperspirant.
Not too many products in the haircare department - just the Batiste Dry Shampoo in the Tropical scent (my favorite) and the Maple Holistics Degrease Shampoo, out of which I may repurchase the Batiste, although my current favorite is the Aveda Dry Shampure.
A handful of sheet masks - my absolute favorite out of this bunch is the Soo Ae Donkey Milk Aqua Skin Gel Mask, the least favorite and one I would strongly discourage you from ever picking up is the Freeman Feeling Beautiful Purifying Paper Mask with Starfish - possibly the worst sheet mask I've ever put on my face.
Miscellaneous samples, mostly perfume; out of these, I liked Rouge Bunny Rouge Tenera the best, but I think it's not too far off from my beloved Serge Lutens Ambre Sultan, which lasts longer on my skin. I also quite enjoyed Atelier Silver Iris, but wouldn't pay full price for a bottle.
Now for half-used make-up tosses; The Body Shop Honey Bronzing Powder and the Maybelline Color Tattoo in Just Beige were part of my Project Pan as well and are now quite old and battered to be used. The rest - two very old NYX lip liners in Cherry Red and Purple, Beaute Fluoron Lip Stain and two nail polishes - are also too old to keep around. I wouldn't repurchase any of these products in the near future although I used to love The Body Shop bronzer when it was newer.
And finally, miscellanous skincare and haircare tosses. All of these products are half used-up and most are expired, although I have to say that I disliked the Noxidoxi Detox Cleanser* so much that I couldn't force myself to use up the remaining half even though the product is still good. I wasn't a huge fan of the Paula's Choice Resist BHA 9 and wouldn't recommend it, but I liked the Healthy Sexy Hair Soy Renewal Beach Spray and the Avene Cicalfate Repair Cream (reviewed here), although I have to say I don't reach for either very often and could probably eliminate them from my beauty stash.

I hope you enjoyed this round of my beauty empties and let me know if you have further questions about any of these products. I'm still steadily working through my stash of back-up skincare but I did have to repurchase some bodycare essentials recently, which made me really happy - it's nice not having this huge backlog of products lingering in the cupboards anymore and just being able to pick something up when it's needed. What was your favorite product you've finished recently?

Disclaimer: Products marked with an asterix (*) were press samples I received from the brands' PR for review consideration. I purchased all the other products myself or they were gifted to me by friends and family. All links are non-affiliate. All opinions are 100% honest and unbiased, no matter if the products featured were purchased with my own monies or provided free of charge. Thank you for reading! 

Friday, September 30, 2016

2016 Skincare No Buy and Make-up Low Buy Update #3

These last three months have really flown by and I can't believe that a) I'm mere days away from my due date, b) summer is finally over, c) this is the last update before my final progress check for the end of the year. Do you guys know this quote from Gretchen Rubin that 'the days are short, but the years are short'? This is how I feel. Well, months maybe, not years - not yet.

I think this is going to be an interesting update for you because I have a big fat fail to report on both the skincare and make-up fronts, but you know what? I'm not even feeling very guilty. I guess my perspective on these shopping freeze challenges is changing as the time goes on; while I still believe they're wonderful tools for being more mindful about our purchasing habits, I've found that there comes a time when it's okay to free yourself from the self-imposed rules and just do what you feel is right for you at that particular moment. Hmm... does it sound like I'm excusing myself? Let me elaborate.

In terms of my make-up low buy (two product purchases allowed per month), I haven't purchased anything between April and July - which I gloated about in this post - but then in August, I bought... 6 things. Where they absolutely necessary purchases? No, of course not; it's not like I run out of mascara or some other staple, but they were not accidental impulse purchases either, well maybe with the exception of one thing. Before I go into the actual products, the chief reason I decided to buy these products all in one month instead of spacing them out a bit further is because of the finale of my latest Project Pan at the end of August and the imminent arrival of the baby bean. What I mean by this is I figured September was going to be the last month for me to play with new make-up shades or techniques - before I was ultra focused on only using products from my panning projects, and in October... well, let's just say I won't have a lot of free time on my hands for careful make-up application.

So I was placing an order on Ulta to repurchase some bodycare, and there were also two categories of make-up I really wanted to experiment with: nude or My Lips But Better lip liners and some very warm eyeshadow shades. These were both 'gaps' in my make-up collection, meaning that I didn't already own other things that could serve the same purpose. I ended up purchasing two nudey neutral lip liners - one with a warm and one with a cool undertone - and two NYX eyeshadow singles, one in a matte chestnut brown and one in a shimmery rusty red shade. I'm happy with all of these purchases and I can safely say they're different from everything else I own, but I think the NYX single eyeshadow purchase opened up a bit of a rabbit hole for me, because now I've noticed I don't own any berries, mauves, warm purples or plums in my collection either and I would really like to play with those shades again. I spent a few blissful hours online yesterday browsing all the beautiful single shadows from different brands but in the end, I talked myself out of another purchase and closed the browser tabs. I realized that even if I bought them right then and there, I would probably only have a handful occasions left this year to wear them, and I just bought other things I wanted to bond with, and lastly I would have really, really preferred to see and swatch them in person on the counter.

The last two make-up products that found their way into my shopping bag in August came by way of participating in the K-Beauty Peach & Lily sample sale in New York. Both were $3 each, so I'm sure my decision to get them was spurred by the bargain hunter mentality, but at least one of them I've wanted to try for a while and didn't have a functional dupe in my stash I was already using; after finishing the Pixi pencil eyeliner in Black Noir in my recent Project, I felt somewhat justified purchasing the Clio Gelpresso Eyeliner in Golden Black (matte black with fine gold shimmer). I didn't however need another base product - but I got the Mizon Correct Combo Pact, a sheer liquid foundation in a compact - which at the time seemed like an easy option to quickly get ready in the morning between feeding and shushing a hungry baby. Yeah, I'll let you know how that works out ;) So overall, this was a bit of an indulgent month for make-up purchases (more so in number of items though than actual spending total because everything I purchased was drugstore and/or heavily discounted), but not above my allowance for the entire quarter.

Now if my make-up purchases were kind of indulgent, kind of justified, I don't have a good reason why I purchased quite a few skincare products even though I'm on a complete skincare no buy for the year - well, other than... There was a SALE! I don't know you guys, you just gotta laugh at yourself sometimes. At that same K-Beauty Sample Sale where I purchased my black eyeliner and foundation compact, I also purchased a face cleanser, a spray toner and an essence. Nope, I was not out of, or even nearly out, any of these types of products, but I just wanted to try some new Korean skincare finds and I do feel like I'll be able to crack them open sooner than later after finishing what's currently in my medicine cabinet (I'm in fact already using the essence).

In September, I also placed an order from The Body Shop (again because there was a really good sale: 40% off entire website, high cashback on Ebates, and additional $15 off $50 cash back offer from AmEx) and I got some more necessary bodycare I'm already using, but also their Chamomile Silky Cleansing Oil because my current make-up remover is just way too ineffective, time-consuming and generally annoying. Again, that order wasn't absolutely necessary - I did have other things I could focus on finishing up instead - but I wanted to treat myself to products I knew I preferred, and instead decided to trash/ pass on three things I was unhappy with (which were all gifts/PR samples by the way, so I'm not beating myself up too much over sunk costs - it was not my decision to select them for myself in the first place).
Back-up drawer in June 2016.
So in general, two important lessons learnt: firstly, I am quite susceptible to sales tactics and I love a good deal (something to watch out for in the future), and secondly, I do feel much happier not forcing myself to use up products I dislike just because they're there. Life's too short for awful products, and it defeats the purpose to try to use them when you're devoting precious time to pampering yourself.
Back-up drawer in September 2016.
Last thing I wanted to touch on is the state of my skincare back-up drawer; as you may be able to see, it looks fuller than at the last update, but that's mostly because I condensed my storage space - again. I used to have another more shallow drawer in the same unit dedicated to nail polish storage, but after my last declutter (here) I decided to move the two remaining nail polish boxes into my skincare drawer and use the now empty drawer to store baby bean's blankets and swaddles. So in the space of about a year, I've gone from having a three drawer unit all to myself and my beauty stash, to having one drawer crammed full and the other two for two other members of the family (the third one houses my husband's off season shoes - he has a lot of shoes, you guys). You may have also noticed that the products inside my back-up drawers have mostly changed as well in the space of these past three months, and that's because I'm doing my best to actively finish skincare and move on to using the back-ups, as well as constantly reassessing and passing on things I'm not interested in or that haven't worked out for me.

Okay, I think I've talked your ears off on the topic of my purchasing habits - but I hope this was an enjoyable read and I know many of you visit the blog specifically to see how I'm doing because you're moving towards similar goals. This quarter I definitely gave myself some major leeway to buy and experiment with new things, and maybe I was a bit overindulgent; however I still don't think I've now gone off the deep end. I don't see myself purchasing anything else until the Sephora November sale, and the products I want to purchase then have been on my wishlist for a very long time. Now, how are you doing on your no buys, low buys and practising general consumerist mindfulness? Please share, we're all in this together!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

K-Beauty Cleopatra: Soo Ae Donkey Milk Skin Gel Healing & Aqua Sheet Masks

It finally happened - I worked through all of my back-up stash of sheet masks and actually needed to stock up on some new ones! My friend Kar Yi (look! She just reviewed these as well!) very kindly picked these up for me when the Club Clio store in NYC was doing their 50% off sale; there were lots of sheet masks to choose from but she had previously liked the Soo Ae Freeset Donkey Milk Skin Gel Mask Pack in the Healing variety ($30 for a box of 10 masks) and so she purchased them along with the Aqua variety, and we split the boxes between the two of us. Isn't it great to have a friend who shares your love of all things K-beauty? :)
If, like me, you've never heard about the Soo Ae brand, they're a Korean developer of sheet masks (at least according to their claims) for more than 80% of Korean brands. It seems that Soo Ae is gaining a lot of presence on the US market this year: their masks are available at Walmart and Club Clio stores, as well as online at Target, Memebox & Birchbox. From my understanding, they have several lines of sheet masks (as well as other skincare), and the Donkey Milk is part of the Freeset range. There's also one other Donkey Milk mask version in this range, the Brightening/ Whitening (pink accent color). If you wanted to try just one or two of these masks without committing to the full box of 10, the best price per mask I've found online is at Memebox ($2 each).
My husband actually lol'ed when he saw my box of these masks - 'Donkey milk?! Are you serious?', but it seems that donkey milk is currently one of the trendy ingredients on the K-beauty scene. Purpotedly used by Cleopatra for bathing, donkey milk is rich in vitamins and nutrients as well Omega 6, which help to prevent moisture loss from the skin. I'm not entirely convinced any one ingredient can perform absolute miracles on my face, but it's nice to know that in these Soo Ae Skin Gel Masks, this ingredient isn't just a gimmicky flourish but actually features quite high on the INCI list (the concetration listed states 0.5%). Both the Healing and Aqua variety contain 25ml of essence.
I first tried out the Healing version, aimed at sensitive, damaged and acne-prone skin. I was pleasantly surprised that the mask had a very light, 'skincare' scent as opposed to a strong fragrance that's prevalent in many Korean products. The mask itself is a textured/woven cotton material; I believe the 'gel' part refers to the consistency of the actual essence the sheet is generously soaked in, which is definitely thicker and helps to keep the mask better on the face without it slipping off. The Healing masks also come with a plastic backing to help position the sheet on your face; I found the fit to be a little off for my oval face (the mask is much more of a round shape) but definitely workable.

So far, I've tried this mask twice and both times wore it on the face in the evening for about 15-20 minutes. The sheet felt cooling and soothing on my face and I was happy that there was no dripping of the essence. After removal, I noticed my skin was definitely more plump, hydrated and even in tone (overall a lot less redness). The result wasn't anything spectacular and I didn't notice any change in pore size or healing of blemishes, but I don't expect that from a sheet mask anyway. The next morning (I patted the rest of the gel essence into my skin and left it on overnight), my face still felt very soft and hydrated and my foundation seemed to blend in a bit better. I did notice however that in some areas where not all of the gel have absorbed into my skin, it seemed to leave a bit of a residue that rolled into small clumps where I touched my face. But all in all, I like the performance of this mask, but I still like the Leaders Insolution Coconut Gel masks just a little bit better.
Compared to the Healing variety, I think I liked the Aqua version even better. Surprisingly, the Aqua masks don't have the plastic backing but are made out of the same thick woven material. They're nicely saturated in the same thicker consistency essence and the scent is light and fresh, definitely not overpowering. The mask felt cooling and soothing the whole time I've kept it on my face, and it seemed like the gel essence absorbed quite well into my skin with less residue than the Healing version. When I removed the sheet, my skin looked plump, hydrated and more even, and in the morning it was still glowing and less red/ irritated than normally. I give it two thumbs up.
Overall, I enjoy both of the Soo Ae Donkey Milk sheet masks, but I would repurchase the Aqua over the Healing variety. I do think they're good quality sheet masks and they're easier to keep on the face than most masks from other brands thanks to the thicker gel consistency of the essence. If you're looking for a new brand of sheet masks to try out, I'd definitely give them a go - especially the Aqua. Which sheet masks are you currently using? Anything you'd recommend to your fellow sheet mask fanatics?