Monday, February 13, 2017

Do I Need It? Cremorlab Mineral Treatment Essence Review

The Cremorlab Mineral Treatment Essence ($42 for 270ml/ 9.1 oz on Peach & Lily, or ~$35 on Amazon) is a prime example of a product that sucked me in purely by its beautiful packaging. I spotted it at the Peach & Lily K-Beauty sample sale last summer and even though I'd never heard about the brand let alone this specific product, I thought it just looked too beautiful to pass up, and one can always incorporate an essence into their skincare routine, right?
Uhm, on that note. How do you guys feel about essences, the curious in-between a toner and a serum? Do you love them and always remember to apply for an extra boost of hydration, or do you find them completely superfluous and not worth the time? Because I can't make up my mind, and the Mineral Treatment Essence has only served to confuse me further.
As you can see, this beautifully designed bottle houses a clear liquid that's just a hair thicker than plain water in consistency - I forgot to show you but once you unscrew the cap, there's just a small hole at the top for dispensing the essence. The instructions advise you to either pour a little bit out into the palm of your hand and pat directly onto the face (which is what I prefer), or to use a cotton square and wipe like you would with a regular toner.

This Cremorlab essence does contain mostly water - according to the brand's marketing, their proprietory T.E.N. thermal water - as well as several flower waters/ hydrosols (rose, chamomile, lily and cornflower), a ferment extract (akin to the cult SK-II Essence, reviewed here), niacinamide and glycerin. There's no added fragrance although I think there's a very faint scent from the niacinamide, which to me smells a bit like nicotin - not my favorite but I've always liked the effect of this active ingredient on my skin. Cremorlab claims their Essence will hydrate, brighten and smooth your skin's texture.
Do I think the Mineral Treatment Essence actually works? Yes, I do - but the results are not very noticeable. Overall, I would say my face feels softer and smoother, and a bit more even-toned. However, is the effect worth paying over $40 for and in my particular situation (tired new mom), worth spending an extra minute or two to complete my skincare routine? I'm not so sure. Here's the thing - I don't think I can consistently stick to a routine with the added step of an essence between my toner and a serum. What I can do is replace a toner with an essence - which is how I'm using the Cremorlab Essence currently - but in all honesty, I do prefer the speed and convenience of using a spray toner. I wouldn't replace a serum with an essence though; I believe I get better results in terms of hydration or other concerns (hyperpigmentation, breakouts, what have you) from a serum than an essence such as this one. I also haven't noticed the essence working to boost the performance of my serums; I don't see any 'deeper penetration' of ingredients or anything of the sort, and while you can notice better absorption, that's also true for most regular toners (applying any serum on damp skin).
All in all, I think the Cremorlab Mineral Treatment Essence is a good product, but I'm not planning to repurchase it, or any other essence for that measure. Once my bottle runs out, I'll just go back to using a spray toner, because of, erm, mostly laziness, I guess. How many steps/ products are there in your skincare routine? Do you prefer to do the basic cleanse/tone/moisturize or do you go full throttle K-beauty with its 10+ steps?

Saturday, February 4, 2017

2016 Skincare No Buy and Make-up Low Buy Finale

Tsk tsk, I know - so very late of me to be posting the finale of my 2016 Skincare No Buy and Make-up Low Buy (click here for the Introduction post) in February of 2017. Nonetheless, given how much you guys enjoyed my updates on this project I embarked on last year, I thought I'd share one last post on how I was doing the final quarter of 2016, and my overall experience and thoughts on this volontary beauty shopping ban I subjected myself to.

In short, I didn't REALLY follow my skincare no buy and make-up low buy anymore from October til December of last year. I wasn't really beauty shopping a lot either, given that about 98% of my energies were focused on the tiny human who joined our family. To be completely honest, I couldn't really be bothered anymore to follow my strict self-imposed rules. So yeah, sometimes when I was slumped on the couch during one of Julian's naps and I needed a little pick me up, I'd go online beauty shopping - mostly at Ulta to be precise. I somehow managed to hit Platinum status there, but in my defence, a lot of the things I buy from there were for my husband or gifts for other family members, so I don't feel too guilty about that.

While I'm not going to hunt down every purchase and list it in this post (not just because I'm lazy - I also think that would be boring for you guys), here are some of the make-up things I bought that I can recall right now: 3 MLBB mauvey lipsticks, one cream finish and two mattes, because that's what I've been wanting to wear the most, one liquid pen eyeliner (as I had none in my collection and wanted to wear one again) and one waterline pencil liner (not satisfied with the longevity of the ones I own), one brow pencil I've had on my wishlist for over a year (so now I own 3 brow products total), one blush and a holiday set from Laura Geller including a blush (not sure how I feel about it, may give it away), a lipgloss and a face primer. I also purchased a liquid lipstick and a new foundation, but returned both - I'm now resigned to the fact that matte liquid lipsticks make my lips look dry and shrivelled up, and the foundation was a wrong shade and I thought made me look too oily in the T-zone halfway throughout the day. Looking at this list, definitely most of what I bought wasn't necessary, and I certainly surpassed my allowance of two products a month. But you bet it was fun and I am in fact using and enjoying my new pretties - the ones I felt iffy about went back immediately. Isn't that the whole point?

The other aspect I wanted to touch on is free gifts with purchase, which I somehow scored quite a lot of in 2016. I'll come clean with you - I really, really enjoy hunting down coupon codes or buying during retailers' special events to get freebies. So even if I'm not placing orders for myself or only purchasing replacements, I'll usually still receive extra products to add to my collection.  What can I say? I know it's a loop hole and if the GWP doesn't contain items I was going to buy anyway, there's no sense in striving to get one - so I do try to only go for the ones I'm genuinely interested in trying. Sometimes I will still receive something that I don't care for, or that doesn't work out when I do test it, and on such occasions I simply pass on the product, be it full size or deluxe sample, to someone else who may get more enjoyment out of it. The same applies to PR samples I'm occasionally sent for review.

In terms of skincare, I purchased two affordable products: a new cleansing balm (my current cleansing oil is half used up already) and exfoliating pads, which I'm already using as I managed to finish some other acid toners from my stash. I could have postponed these purchases until a bit later, say beginning of 2017, but I was placing an order for something else and wanted to get to free shipping (or a GWP, in all honesty), so that's what I opted to do. Again, I don't feel too guilty about breaking my no-buy: sure, I didn't absolutely need those products right away, but I am using or will shortly be using what I bought, so it's not a big deal really.
Back-up drawer as of last update, September 2016
Back-up drawer in January 2017
Throughout the last quarter of 2016, I did continue using up my back-up skincare as well as giving away products I realized I wouldn't use, and as a result I believe that my back-up drawer is looking much better - I even have some space in it now should the need arise to store a new purchase or a PR sample. My husband has also been using more skincare, so I have his help in getting through at least some categories of products, like face wash and facial oils.

Overall, I have to admit that I haven't had huge success with my limited shopping allowances in the last months of 2016 if you look at the number of products I purchased. However, I don't actually care about that and weirdly enough, I do feel succesful about this year-long project. The main reason is that I believe my mentality towards beauty shopping has in fact changed for good. Yes, I still love buying and trying out new make-up and skincare, but I don't go crazy purchasing every new release and most certainly I've stopped buying products which are not relevant to my preferences or lifestyle. I buy products that I enjoy and use consistently. Do I buy too many? Definitely - it's not like anyone NEEDS to own as many lipsticks or blushes as I do. I like having them though, and that's okay.

This is also how I feel about going on low buys or no buys in the future: I think I'm ready to move away from doing structured projects and instead just continue working on keeping a healthy balance between shopping and using what I already own. In the skincare category, I still want to continue using up my back-ups and ensure I'm not purchasing extra products that are not needed at the time. In terms of make-up, I do want to give myself leeway to get something I'm interested in if I believe I'm going to be able to enjoy it right away, but at the same time, I'd like to give some love and attention to the beautiful products already in my stash. If I happen upon something in my collection I don't like anymore, I will pass it on or throw it away with a clear conscience, but I don't really care about 'ideal numbers' or inventoring my make-up - as long as I enjoy everything I own, even if it's a lipstick I only wear a few times a year, I'm completely fine with 'having more than I need'.

I will also be working on actually using up some make-up products from my stash - and not just mascara - and I'll be documenting my progress on Instagram if you're curious to see it. Last year I managed to use up 23 make-up products (both full size and minis, which I counted as half of a product, so 2 make-up minis = 1 full empty), but I think this year I'm not going to have as much time to wear a full face, so I'm going to set my goal at 17 (17 in 2017, get it? Not an original idea by the way but I don't know who started these '16 in 2016' and other challenges so I'm sorry but can't give credit). Who knows, maybe I'll surprise myself and use up even more. Knowing myself, I know these products will mostly be of the cream and liquid variety and not pressed or loose powders, so for my eyeshadows, blushes and bronzers I would like to see some pan occasionally, but not at the expense of forcing myself to use one and the same product for months if I don't feel like it.

Whoa, now that was a long and rambly post to get through, wasn't it? I felt however that I needed to get some closure on this Skincare No Buy & Make-up Low Buy challenge, and wanted to share my current thoughts on the spending bans and panning projects (more ramblings on make-up panning can be found here, and my opinion still stands). Were you satisfied with the results of your limited spending projects in 2016? What are your plans going forward?

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Not My Kind of Red: NARS Velvet Lip Glide in Le Palace

How 'bout I distract you from this dark and dreadful time we seem to be going through with some make-up? I was really excited to score this deluxe mini of the NARS Velvet Lip Glide ($26 for 0.2 oz/ ~6 ml) with a Sephora order late last year. I've heard really good things about this new formula, including adjectives such as 'unique', 'weightless' and 'long-lasting', and I'm all about innovation when it comes to beauty products. Also, how beautiful is this simple yet elegant packaging?
However, having acquainted myself with my Lip Glide over several days of wear, I'm a little confused. First of all, shouldn't the shade be called Le Palais? (Uhm, seems like Le Palace is a famous hotel/ night club in Paris, so probably the brand didn't just mean any palace. Okay then). But joking aside, I feel very conflicted over this lip product. Is it a gloss? Is it a liquid lipstick? Is it a stain?

The texture of this product is quite slippery and feels silicone-y on the lips - a little bit like a 'dry oil' or one of those dimethicone-heavy face primers, if you will. The brand promises a 'semi-matte' finish', but to be honest, I see quite a bit of shine on my lips, especially right after application, but then it dries down to more of a satin as the time goes on. It seems that you can vary the finish depending on the amount of product you choose to put on: one fine layer is a satin, a thicker coat or two layers look quite glossy. The overall formulation quite reminds me of Fyrinnae Lip Lusters, which are not a new product by any means - I reviewed two shades of those (Shangri-La and Visual Kei, here) back in 2012. There's a pleasant sweet vanilla scent to the NARS Lip Glide but luckily no taste.

I would agree that the Velvet Lip Glide feels quite weightless on my lips, which you'd expect from something with a rather thin formula. Unfortunately, as the day goes on, it feels neither comfortable nor hydrating. If anything, my lips feel a lot drier than with just about any standard bullet lipstick, and having looked at the ingredients' list, I'm not surprised - kaolin clay is the second ingredient. You know, clay as in stuff you put on your face to help with oily T-zone and to tighten pores. Am I the only one confused by that?
To top it all off, I don't find my Velvet Lip Glide to be any more long-lasting than just about any cream finish lipstick in my collection. Sure, once it wears off (which it does very quickly on cups and tissues and so on), there is a bit of a stain left behind, but that's also true for my other lip products in red and deeper shades. But overall, my biggest gripe with this formula is the fact that it feathers and bleeds outside my lip lines, even when I use the smallest amount of the product.
L-R: NARS Velvet Lip Glide in Le Palace, NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Cruella, ILIA Beauty Lipstick in Lucy's Party
The shade Le Palace is described as a 'deep cherry red'. I can't say I agree with that description - to me, cherry red suggests a cool-toned red a la Revlon's 'Cherries in the Snow', while Le Palace is decidedly warm and even pulls a little orange on my fair skin with cool undertones. I'd describe it more as a 'paprika red'. It's not really a very deep red either; don't expect a vampy look out of this Lip Glide. While Le Palace doesn't do anything for me, I think it'd be a flattering hue on skin with yellow or olive undertones.
L-R: NARS Le Palace (one dip of the wand into the tube), NARS Cruella, ILIA Lucy's Party
There you go; can't say I'm too smitten with this new release from NARS, and Le Palace has now been placed in my give-away make-up pile. Have you tried the Velvet Lip Glides? What did you think?

PS. Thank you for all the caring, wonderful comments on my last personal update post and an even bigger thank you for those who shared their stories with me - I feel very grateful to have such amazing readers as you. To those of you who seemed very worried and urged me to see a doctor: like I said, I do already feel much better but should it get worse again, I will of course talk to my health practitioner. Also, look who was trying to help me take photos for this post - you're welcome ;)

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Keep calm and blog on.

Long time no post, dear readers! I'm hesitating to write this update; however, I've always been striving to share with you exactly what's on my mind, in the hopes it may be at least a little useful for someone. This is probably the most difficult thing I've ever written, but also maybe the most necessary. So, here goes - if you're interested in just my beauty reviews, this post is not it - so check back soon for regular service.

Life's been a bit difficult for me these past few months. I know you guys are probably thinking 'Duuh! You've just had a baby!', but I'm not really talking difficult as in 'have no time for anything - feeling tired' kinda way. Before Julian was born, I'd been expecting that and I *think* I'd been mentally prepared, but what I hadn't been prepared for was feeling utterly lost and not like myself. Call it what you will - mood swings, baby blues (I'd hesitate to call it postpartum depression since I don't think it got as severe as to be diagnosed as such), existential crisis - the point is, I've been really struggling lately.

There were days and now thankfully just episodes during the day when I feel unexplicably sad, and worried about the baby, and somehow empty inside, like a hollow husk of a person I used to be. I can't wait until the day is finally over because it seems like such an ordeal to get through, and I'm so frustrated and angry at myself for even thinking it. At the same time, I dread the night time, because if he - and I - keep waking up again and again and again, I know that the next day is going to be even harder. You know how other mothers say - "Oh my gosh, time flies, they grow up too quickly!", and here I am, thinking "No, not at all, the days drag on without end, I can't wait for this to be over - but will it ever be over? Will I ever feel normal again?'.

Before you all write it in the comments, I AM incredibly grateful to have Julian in my life - a beautiful, happy, healthy baby - but at the same time, I feel broken and undeserving of such a blessing. Every little challenge I face with him makes me think I'm a bad mother, and he'll suffer because of my stupidity or lack of insight. Reasonably, I KNOW these are ridiculous thoughts but oftentimes I cannot help thinking them, and I am so mad at myself that I can't just snap out of them.

The reason I've decided to write about my state of mind is because I think that we women don't talk about the postpartum recovery process enough. We gush about the cuteness of our babies and brag about having our figures back while glazing over the more challenging facets. Obviously, we don't all struggle this much as new mothers, but some of us do, and I believe it's important to acknowledge it so that we don't feel so insane - and alone.

I was fortunate enough to have a very easy pregnancy and a standard, safe delivery, but now, at 4 months postpartum, I'm still not completely well - both mentally and physically. The ailing hip/ groin area I was experiencing towards the end of my pregnancy has not gone away, and it's since been joined by a backache. My hair is falling out so much I decided to chop it all off. I'm not just 'not sleeping enough' - at the lowest point when Julian was waking nearly every hour at night I was so sleep deprived I didn't even feel human anymore. I still feel weak and sluggish, and there's absolutely no way I feel up to working out to shed those extra pounds or to 'get my body back' - at the moment, I couldn't care less to be honest, and heading out for daily strolls is about all I can manage right now.

Well, enough of the pity party; I just wanted to say that the going's been rough, but I do see the light at the end of the tunnel. We've been sleeping better lately, and I think that maybe my hormones are becoming more balanced, and I'm starting to feel like myself again. I've also been taking more magnesium and it seems to be helping. The point of all this rambling is that I feel that I'd like to start blogging again. Writing is still my passion and I think it's something I need to do for myself, now maybe more than ever before in my life. However, I do realize it's not going to be easy, mostly due to time constraints - I'm not going to lie though, I know there will be days when even if I do have the time, I just won't have enough energy to write. And I think that's okay too.

To sum it all up, I'm back - sort of. I'll do my best to post, but I'm not going to be posting as often as I used to in the past. The reviews may get shorter and not as thorough. Photos may not be as plentiful. At times I may even not make any sense, and I apologize in advance. But carry on I shall, and carry on I will. Thank you for sticking with me, friends - I'm clicking 'Publish' before I chicken out.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Merry Christmas! I'm taking a break.

Merry Christmas to all of you who are celebrating! I hope your holiday season is filled with joy and wonder and you get to spend it with your loved ones. The three of us wish you all the best from the bottom of our hearts :)
Coincidentally, spending this special time with the family is the reason I've decided to take a little break from blogging. I have lots and lots of new amazing products I'd like to tell you about and other beauty-related thoughts to share, but I won't lie to you - I just can't do this right now. While I may have thought that 2 months would be enough to pull my shit together with baby Julian on board, that has simply proven not to be the case. Sleep deprivation has hit me pretty hard and I can barely muster enough presence of mind to make myself a cuppa most days (wait, did I put the kettle on? Oh, I did - an hour ago. Well then... Have I already put sugar in this tea? Oh, seems like I did - more than once...), much less be able to take precious time out of my day to pour words onto the page.

I'm definitely not complaining though - while some days are rather challenging, spending time with my little one is infinitely rewarding and I wouldn't have it any other way. I just need to focus on what's essential in my life right now, which is taking care of my family - and myself. I love this beauty blogging business to bits, but helping the boy grow and showing him this strange new world is my topmost priority at the moment.

I shall return in the New Year - not really sure when exactly, but that's just how it's going to be for a while now, taking one day at a time. I'm hoping to post little life updates and snippets on Instagram/ Twitter in the meantime if you're interested. Thank you, dear readers, for another beautiful year together, and I will see in you in 2017! How crazy is that, huh?

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Luminous Nude Cheeks: Surratt Artistique Blush in La Rosée du Soir

Time for blogging is rather sparse these days, but I had to come on here to show you the newest member of my blush stash, the Surratt Artistique Blush in La Rosée du Soir ($32 for 0.14 oz/ 4g). After trying the Surratt pressed powder 'slurry' formula via his eyeshadow in Scintillante (reviewed here), I was really interested in trying a blush from the line, and I was finally enabled to do so by the Sephora VIB rewards card - even though I really do not need any more blushes in my life.
In the same manner as his eyeshadows, the Artistique blushes come in single resin pans which can be glued into a Surratt custom palette, available separately. For the time being, I'm too cheap to actually spring for that beautiful compact and just use the pans as is - luckily they're more substantial than a regular metal pan and also come with a sliding plastic lid to help protect the powder inside. The shade name is printed on the back label, which is also a sticker you'd use to secure the pans in the palette.

Well, since my window for blogging isn't very long at the moment, let me keep this post brief and just say that I really, really like the formula of this Surratt blush. It's just as pillowy soft as my Scintillante eyeshadow and applies like a beautiful glowy cloud of color to the cheeks. I feel like La Rosée du Soir certainly isn't the most pigmented blush formula out there, but that's my preference - I find opaque blushes very difficult to work with on my fair skintone.
The texture is creamy and blendable and looks natural on the skin; there's no trace of powderiness (is that a word? Don't think so...) once applied. The subtle luminous finish is also incredibly believable. I would compare it to one of my HG blush formulas, the Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blushes - it's the same amount of ethereal glow without obvious shimmer or, God forbid, glitter. However, I may even like the formula of the Surratt blush better, because it feels less dry than the Hourglass both on the skin and in the pan.

L-R: Surratt La Rosee du Soir, Hourglass Mood Exposure, NARS Douceur, KIKO Trio Blush in no. 1 Natural Rose
I know what you're going to say - La Rosée du Soir isn't a terribly unique shade. In fact, I have an almost exact dupe in my stash already. But the finish and tactile feel of the Surratt blush is unique enough for me to warrant keeping it, and this nudey rose color family is my favorite at the moment, so I don't mind having several to choose from. I've swatched it here against three other similar blushes to give you an idea of the shade if you're planning to order sight unseen. I've seen La Rosée du Soir described as a nude pink (Sephora says it's a rosy nude) but I would keep in mind that this shade pulls rather warm, especially on a fair skin tone. I would even say it looks a bit more like a nude muted peach on me; it's definitely warmer than NARS Douceur and less rosy than something like KIKO Shade Fusion Trio Blush in Natural Rose (here).
So while this purchase was definitely superfluous for my collection, I'm really pleased with Surratt La Rosée du Soir, and I would gladly buy more shades from the newly expanded range. It's also worth mentioning that yes, the brand's Cheek Brush (reviewed here) works exceptionally well for picking up and blending their blush formula. Have you tried any of the powder products from Surratt Beauty? What is your favorite everyday 'goes with everything' nude blush?

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Customized Lashes: Pacifica Beauty Dream Big Mascara* Review

Have you ever tried one of those customizable mascara wands? You know - like those brushes that are actually two in one - a large one for volume, and a small one for definition - or a newer version, where you twist the top of the cap to change the length of the wand and the distance between the bristles. While I'd always been curious about this type of mascara, I've actually never pulled the trigger to try it, fearing it would be more of a gimmick than a useful feature. So I was quite skeptical yet interested when I was given a chance to test the new Pacifica Beauty Dream Big Lash Extending 7 in 1 Mascara in the shade Black Magic* ($16 for 0.25 oz).
Right of the bat, let's choose to ignore the '7 in 1' claim. Pacifica is basically trying to convey this mascara will change your make-up life: on top of volumizing, lengthening and lifting up your lashes, the Dream Big mascara contains a conditioning lash serum. There are two settings you can use for the wand - the 'Length' setting elongates the brush and moves the bristles more further apart, whereas the 'Volume' setting shortens the wand and makes the bristles more dense.
Left: Wand at the Volume setting, right: Length setting
I'll get right to the heart of this review: I quite like this Dream Big mascara, despite my initial wariness. HOWEVER. Frankly speaking, I don't see any difference in terms of look or performance on my lashes between the Length and Volume settings. In both cases, the result of applying two coats of this mascara is pretty much the same: nicely separated lashes with a bit of extra volume and length. If you like va-va-voom lashes, this is not a mascara for you. It definitely gives more of a natural daytime look, and if your lashes are already pretty good or you dislike to see product on your lashes, I'd say to give it a try. But if you're hoping for a more dramatic effect, I think the Dream Big would leave you disappointed.
Top: bare uncurled lashes, bottom: two coats of Pacifica Dream Big Mascara
The formula itself is perhaps a bit on the wetter side, and I tend to get a glob of product on the tip of the wand every time I open up the tube. But thanks to the rubber bristles, it doesn't clump up on the lashes too much unless I really rush my application. The mascara also wears well throughout the day; I don't get the dreadful smudging under my browbone but I've noticed it can sometimes flake a little bit, especially if I happen to touch my eye area by accident.
All in all, if you're looking for a natural - both in terms of effect and ingredients' list - mascara, the Dream Big from Pacifica is a great option. Like all Pacifica's products, it's also vegan and cruelty-free. Green beauty addicts, what is your favorite brand for mascara? From what I understand, mascara is a more difficult product to get right if you want something with clean ingredients, so I'd love to hear some recommendations from you!

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!