Monday, January 27, 2014

Let's Talk "Organic"

As a scientist, I'm not a huge fan of blanket labels and new fads (because let's face it, research is an ongoing pursuit of knowledge). I have a lot of pet peeves about certain current lifestyle trends (which I'll try to spare you), but today I want to talk about the word "organic," and its application to beauty products and food.

First, all the disclaimers. I'm only doing some research here, using resources available to me. I'm not an expert and even though I'm a scientist by training, I'm not a cosmetics chemist and I don't work on beauty products or food for a living. Therefore, I'm not doling out any advice, and please don't expect me to do so. I was just very curious about the labels that are being tossed around and plastered on every product, so I went and did what I've been trained to do - look it all up.

"Organic," in the United States, at least, is "a labeling term that indicates that the food or other agricultural product has been produced through approved methods that integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used" (US Dept. of Agriculture site). In the United States, the National Organic Program monitors and regulates all organic crops, livestock, and agricultural products, making sure that they comply with a list of standards that are required to be fulfilled in order for the item to be certified "organic." 

Now, that's just talking about food, and specifically in the US, as, to my knowledge, every country has its own specific standards set. I tried looking for FDA (Food and Drug Administration, in the US) comments about organic skincare, and found this FAQ page. The last question there really hit home with me: just because it's "all-natural" or "organic," (and those terms are not equivalent) doesn't immediately mean it's safer. Many people have food allergies, like nuts, for example; nuts are perfectly natural and can be raised and harvested in organic-compliant methods. (If you're curious about the FDA's regions of authority with regard to cosmetics, see here.)
Before I get started on my confusion about the craze for "all natural" (did you know that most innovative perfume launches coincided with the discovery of a synthetic scent molecule, for example? That's correct. Those iconic perfumes, like Jicky, were only possible because scientists were able to synthetically recreate molecules like vanillin in a lab, eliminating the expense of natural product extraction and harvesting)[1], let's look at the National Organic Program's approach to "cosmetics, body care products, and personal care products" (poster here). It can be "100% organic," which means that the product "must contain (excluding water and salt) only organically produced ingredients. Products may display the USDA Organic Seal and must display the certifying agent’s name and address." Other percentages are possible, though; simply "organic" means that 95% of the product has to meet those requirements, which can be found here.  However, what's interesting is that the remaining 5% must consist of nonagricultural substances or non-organic agricultural products that aren't available as organic items. Meaning, yes, 95% of your "organic" product meets those regulations, but not that 5%.

The last thing on the poster is that the USDA doesn't regulate personal care products and cosmetics that don't claim to be organic, and also that other "private standards" (which can include "eco-friendly, earth-friendly," etc.,) are not regulated by a federal body. Which may or may not mean anything to you, but it's important to know.

So, before you start shaking your fists at me, let me be clear: I'm not suggesting you EMBRACE ALL THE CHEMICALS (even though everything, including dear old water, is technically a "chemical"), but I do caution against blind-embracing everything with a fancy label. Also, you may have noticed that I only used US descriptions and standards in this post. That's because I have no idea who or what governs products in your area of the world, and I don't have enough knowledge to make any sort of assessment there. I encourage you to do your own research, if you're so inclined. And if you find out anything interesting, please share! That's what the community is all about, after all.

[1] Ohloff, G., Pickenhagen, W., Kraft, P. Scent and Chemistry: The Molecular World of Odors. Zurich, Swizterland: Verlag Helvetica Chimica Acta. 2012.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Diptyque Volutes: Stepping Further Outside My Perfume Comfort Zone

I can't get enough of this perfume right now. I don't know if I'll feel the same way in the summer, but I'm almost through my sample and am wringing my hands over the $140.00 for a 2.5 oz bottle (although, seriously? Why don't they offer smaller sizes of the EdP?).

Get a grip, Larie. It's perfume.

But it's a lovely one. Even its name (i.e., volutes de fumée = curls of smoke) is sensual and delicate and sultry. I have samples for both the EdP and EdT, and I like the EdP much better; it's a stronger iris-tobacco-vanilla with a sweeter, spicy drydown. The EdT smells like a citrusy, splashier TF Violet Blonde on me, and I am indifferent to it. This review is for the EdP.

The official description is: "Blond, honeyed Egyptian tobacco transports you to mysterious horizons and far-off shore. Iris strengthens it, spices give it body, and styrax imposes a daring and distinguished leathery note" (Diptyque site), with notes of "Mugwort, pink pepper, Sechuan pepper, saffron, mandarin, immortelle, hay, honey, iris, tobacco, styrax, opoponax, musk" (Luckyscent). I didn't think I'd like a blend that features tobacco (though honestly, I have no idea what actual tobacco smells like), and I'm still undecided on iris (despite owning Prada Infusion d'Iris), but I am typically a fan of styrax and its brethren
Volutes seems to wear differently on me from day to day; it usually opens as a spicy, cherry-esque tobacco scent - I hate cherry fruit notes, but this, I love - that vaguely reminds me of Chinese-style pickled plums or li hing. It's not a spot-on match, as nothing about Volutes is foodie or gourmand, but I'm reminded of those treats. Then it either dissipates in a breath of smoky, tingling styrax-vanilla - like the breath of frost that lingers on your face when you step inside your warm home - or softens into your suede-smooth favorite coat; I enjoy both, especially in this chilly weather. Everything about it is warm and cozy, spiced without being brash or edible or suffocating, and brightened just enough to keep you looking forward to spring.

It's going on the wishlist. I'm reveling in the experience of enjoying a perfume I thought I'd hate - something different from my usual fragrance choices. I think I'd pick this over the vanilla-safe Eau Duelle, and that's saying something.

[I leave you with my one confession: I dislike the jumble of letters that chaotically spell out Diptyque's fragrance names. It makes me twitch.]

Have you tried Volutes? Do you have any other tobacco perfumes to recommend?

Friday, January 24, 2014

Sibu Beauty Nourishing Facial Cream

[Product was provided by PR for review.]

My moisturizer requirements are pretty basic; I just want something that keeps my face, well, moisturized. I'm not prejudiced against a specific form - I'll use whatever suits me and my normal-dry skin. However, it is nice to find a moisturizing cream that also aims to provide additional skincare benefits, like "rejuvenating sun damaged skin" and "preserving healthy skin tone and texture." It's meant for all skin types.

I've been using Sibu Beauty's Nourishing Facial Cream in the mornings, and I quite like it. It comes in a pretty pump that dispenses just enough product each time. The star ingredient is sea buckthorn, a source of Omega 7 fatty acids (macadamia nuts are another source), which "creates the perfect barrier to moisturize, rejuvenate, repair and protect" (Sibu Beauty site). I was pleasantly surprised by Sibu's Omega 7 information page, which lists scientific journal citations for its claims (this isn't to say that everything is "proven," as many health trial studies are inconclusive, but it's nice to see legitimate science being cited). 

Since I've only been giving this a trial run, I can't tell you what the long-term effects might be, but I haven't experienced any breakouts, my skin feels supple to the touch post-application, and I'm not having as many issues with dry patches as I have in previous winters. It has a pleasant, subtle citrus scent and doesn't leave a greasy feel (though honestly, I don't touch my face that much); makeup also applies smoothly over it. I actually also like that it is SPF-free; I always apply a separate sunscreen and I don't really like "skincare beneficial" products that combine sunscreen, because it seems like a conflict of interest and purpose. That is simply my own personal preference, however, and your opinion may be different.

All in all, thumbs up from me. I know it's available on and the Sibu Beauty website, at $20.95 for 1 oz. The line seems simple, and claims to be suitable for all skin types. I'd be interested in hearing from folks with different skin needs about this moisturizer. And I'm also curious about the Hydrating Serum - love me a good serum. I do think I may explore the line further (they even have some nice package deals). They are Fair-Trade, cruelty-free and vegan, and made in the US.

ingredients: Water, Sea Buckthorn Seed Oil, Glycerin (Vegetable), Sodium Levulinate, Sodium Anisate, Polyglyceryl-10 Pentastearate, Behenyl Alcohol, Sodium Steroyl Lactylate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Olive Oil Unsaponifiables, Meadowfoam Seed Oil, Shea Butter, Sea Buckthorn Fruit Oil, Orange Essential Oil, Lemon Essential Oil, Aloe Barbadensis leaf juice powder, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Xanthan Gum, Panthenol, Sodium Phytate

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Thick Olive Winged Liner: Inspired by MAC at Badgley Mischka

[Products marked with a * were gifts from friends.]
MAC for Badgley Mischka, AW13 NYFW.
I've been hunting for inspiration lately. I really liked the bold olive liner in the above photo, and decided to try adapting it for my eye & face shape.
For some reason, I wasn't feeling a bold lip. This is Shu Uemura Bright Orange* blotted down. I also skipped the mint lower lashline on the model. And mascara. Because I'm a lazy pants.

It's not really olive, I guess. Some kinda murky brown-green-gold thing. 
I started with Tarte Gold* to create the overall winged shape. I went over it with Urban Decay pencils in Bourbon and Mildew to transform and darken the color, and then patted a few green and brown shadows from theBalm Shady Lady Vol. 1 palette to set the winged line. A little different from the norm, and kind of fun without looking too crazy. I think it'd be fun to try with a more vibrant shade - like turquoise or kelly green, some kind of jewel tone.

What have you been experimenting with in terms of new looks or products? Winter is so blah. Need to spice it up somehow!

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Replacements

[Products marked * were received as gifts; all other products were purchased by me.]

Sometimes products that worked in the past no longer feel the same, or we've just stumbled upon something different that suits our ever-changing requirements better. Here are some of my newer "replacements;" products that have been incorporated into my daily routines and ousted former favorites. That isn't to say that the older products are terrible; sometimes they were my "gateway" into a new kind of formula, and that's pretty awesome.

I wear facial sunscreen every day - I've gone through tubes and tubes of Clinique's Super City Block, but lately I've been wanting to try out an all-mineral formula. When I went to visit the best friend, she gave me the rest of her bottle of Clarin's UV Plus HP SPF 40* (quite a lot of it's left!) because it didn't suit her in Hawaii's warm climate. It's been good so far - sinks into my skin nicely without remaining greasy, but doesn't dry out my face, either.

I also recently switched from Clinique Lash Power to Clinique High Impact Curling mascara. Lash Power introduced me to the beauty of a tubing mascara, but the High Impact Curling mascara is just...better.
Tarte Gold*, Laura Mercier caviar sticks.

Tarte's chubby liners finally introduced me to the idea of cream shadows as a base for powder eye shadow. With that success, I ventured into using Laura Mercier's popular Caviar Sticks. I prefer the Caviar Sticks now, because they are a bit tackier and work better as a base; they also come in more colors in a permanent range, and the most important thing - they twist up. Tarte's pencils have to be sharpened, and I'm both lazy and forgetful. I've accidentally used a blunt pencil (and felt the wooden part scratching my eyelid) far too many times.
Jason Natural Pure Natural Super-C Toner, Shiseido Ibuki Softening Concentrate.

I also switched toners recently. I went through a bottle of Jason Natural's version (which does have alcohol in it and is a spray); it was okay, but nothing that compelled a review. I decided to try Shiseido's Ibuki Softening Concentrate next. Mum uses all Shiseido (and Roc, I believe) skincare, and her skin is fabulous, so I decided I'd give it a shot.

And lastly: UPGRADE. I bought the massive size of the First Aid Beauty cream (12 oz, $36 at Sephora), because it's so handy. I've gone through 2 tubs and a small tube of the normal size so far, so it's pretty safe to say that I'll have no problem using this up.

How often do you change up the products in your daily line-up? Are you a brand loyalist or do you like to dabble in everything?

Friday, January 17, 2014

Lips: Winter Wardrobe

The winter color palette is often dreamy frosted metallics, or stark, intense colors. It makes for a wide array of seasonal lip shades, but the cold weather usually has me reaching for the most moisturizing products on a daily basis. Don't get me wrong - I love my vamps - but these are the products I'm wearing the most this winter.

Dior Addict Glosses in Bal d'été and Étoilée: Enough said about these, I think - I find them moisturizing, with no offensive scent or taste. The colors are pretty. I like 'em. I wore Bal d'été in the second look of this post. Will try to have swatches of Étoilée later.

Natio Paw Paw Lip Balm*: a gift from the lovely Vita. It's an Australian brand that we can't get here, but the tube is generously sized. I do dislike the tube opening - it's not an applicator, just an opening like any old hand cream - because I have to use my finger to apply. Still, it's a thick, fluid balm that isn't bad for winter.

Osmia Organics Honey-Myrrh Lip Repair: This is hard to dig out of the pot, in all honesty. It has a hard texture that does soften up once it warms up on lips; I also have to use my fingers here and that's not my preference. However, it is a good lip repair product. On freezing mornings when it's dark out and I have to run the McFlufferson outside, I have to smooth some of this on my lips before I go outside. It's also a nice bedtime treatment - my lips are soft and still have remnants of product in the morning (which isn't as gross as it sounds, haha).

Osmia Organics Lip Luster: This is the old version, reviewed here. The new version is lanolin-free and I really want to try one. Comes in more colors now, too. Good for days when I don't want to be all gloss-glammed up, but still want a hint of color and moisture.

Shu Uemura lipstick in Dream Orange*: A gift from Tracy! And ugh, guys, why didn't anyone tell me that Shu lipsticks were so good? Lightweight, non-drying (even a touch moisturizing!) and so, so pretty. Glossy and on the sheer side, this is a pretty, pretty creamsicle orange-peach.

Epic Blend Unflavored lip balm: Another spectacular Tracy gift. Because my preference is for unflavored, unscented lip products, always. And I wasn't convinced about something that looks like chapstick, but guys, I'm converted. This is THE TUBE of lip balm to have at all times. Smooth it on in the AM before lipstick (it's not super shiny, which is nice), wear alone, wear always. I'm converted. And thank you, for the love of puppies, for making unscented-unflavored. I love.

That's a wrap. What lip products have you been reaching for over and over this winter? Let me know. This seems like a lot. But I could always use more.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

50 Random Things About Me

Lily did this tag a while ago, as did Denise, so I thought it might be fun to do - I like learning about my favorite bloggers, so now you get to hear all the things about Larie. Muahahaha.

This is just a list, not ranked in any particular order, and I think they're random.

1. I have one younger brother. We get along pretty well, I think, as we share a sarcastic sense of humor and a love for food. And video games.

(oh my God I don't know if I can think of 50, I'm already stuck at two)

2. I like Japanese colored pens (helloooo, Jetpens) and always have some on hand. Black is boring.
3. I prefer notebooks that are either unruled, or quad ruled.
4. I like to do crossword puzzles. I'm not very good.
Especially good for the plane!
5. I think I can eat anything for breakfast, and a lot of it. I'll eat leftover spaghetti, chicken noodle soup, pizza, meatloaf...yep. S. used to think I was a weirdo, but now he eats pasta for breakfast, too. (Take that, potato).
6. Mum's Korean and I ate a lot of Korean food growing up, so my spice tolerance is through the roof. I like my food spicy, dangnabit.
7. I also like hot things hot and cold things cold. Lukewarm food is gross, man. Especially room temperature coffee.
8. I knit and crochet. I only really started last year, but I'm trying to be ambitious and tackle new techniques every time I start a new project. It's nice to do something with my hands.

9. We're Whovians. No, David Tennant is not my favorite Doctor (ducks and hides). He's kind of emo, no?

(seriously. This is hard. You guys have to do this. So you can see how hard it is. Maybe I should go ask S.)

10. I've loved to read ever since I was a little girl and constantly have at least a dozen books on my Kindle. I read a lot of different genres and while I think I'm prolly some kind of a book snob, I also revel in the trashiest of trash sometimes. *shrugs* Beauty of a Kindle, baby. No one can see what you're reading!
11. I do not, however, finish books that are beyond terrible, or ones that I lose interest in. I know some people have to finish something they started, but I have no problem chucking it. Life is too short for shitty books, dude.
12. Also, I swear a lot. S. calls me a sailor.
13. I am forever forgetting my keys. Ugh.
14. I don't like sports with flying projectiles.
15. So I rock climb, hike, run, dance, train in Muay Thai, and the latest thing: aerial hoop! SO. MUCH. FUN.
16. Even though I'll eat savory foods for breakfast, I do love me a good muffin. Or a scone. My favorites are orange-cranberry, lemon poppyseed, and pumpkin. Blueberry's good, too.

17. I will take pie over cake any day (we had mini pies at our wedding).
18. I love gummy candy. Bears, cola, assorted living creature-shaped item, yep. Gimme.
19. I will not watch any horror films or listen to ghost stories or any of that nonsense. Gives me nightmares. I will read a scary book, though. Seems different somehow. There are still nightmares, though, haha.

(I am on a roll here, guys.)

20. I hate tying my shoes and will opt for zippers or even velcro (yep, I'm three) when I can.
21. I've worn glasses since I was four and contacts since high school.
22. I'm a light sleeper.
23. I love cartoons and animated movies. I think my favorite TV show of all time may be Phineas and Ferb. It's so clever, guys. SO CLEVER.
24. And my favorite movie is Spirited Away. Or maybe Beauty and the Beast. And Howl's Moving Castle. There are a lot of favorites, okay?
25. I never used to like nuts as a kid but I love them now. Pecans are my favorite.
This sweet and spicy pecans from Trader Joe's are amazing. I like them on plain Greek yogurt, too.
26. Still cannot abide them in ice cream, though. I hate random things in my ice cream - no nuts, chewy ribbons of caramel, chocolate (shudders), cherry cookies are all right, I guess. Even if they're chocolate. I do like a lot of different flavors, though, and am always up for trying new ones. I like ice cream. *shrugs*
27. I plan our meals out a week or two in advance using Paprika and Pinterest boards. S. does all the cooking, though.
28. I like most kinds of whiskey, except Scotch. Sorry, it hasn't grown on me yet. I drink them neat, sometimes on ice, but when we go to a new bar/restaurant I always check out their whiskey cocktails first.
29. However, I only started drinking beer last year. It takes getting used to, I feel, and egads is it filling!
30. I love boots. I own a lot of boots.

(20 more? Are you kidding?)
Homemade rosemary bread bowl.
31. I like baking bread.
32. I also like eating it.
33. Actually, I like food in general. I'll try anything once.
34. And I am always, always, ALWAYS up for sushi.
35. I love birds. All birds. Well, except maybe chickens. And SEAGULLS. Ugh. Do not like seagulls.
Ok. Except maybe this guy.
36. I prefer short hair on myself, so this experimentation in long hair is kind of driving me nuts. What do you do with it? It just...hangs there. Send help, guys.
37. I listen to a lot of different kinds of music and am always looking for new artists (some of my favorite blogs: Earmilk, Music Ninja, NPR Music).
38. And always: TURN UP THE BASS.
39. S. and I usually go to bed by 10 PM - 10:30 at the latest, lol. God, we're old.


40. I'm a morning person. I'd rather get up early and do all of my work in the morning.
41. I like making lists. I make a lot of lists (and love Evernote!).
42. I'm kind of a neat freak. I'm not like, spotless or anything, but once too much chaos starts building up in the apartment or our room, I spazz out and just start cleaning. I do try to keep on top of things, but sometimes things get away from me (or are randomly strewn about by my husband, ahem).
43. I'd rather shop online than in store, especially with clothes and shoes. I hate trying stuff on and I hate pushy sales associates. I am pretty sure about my sizing with my favorite brands, and I also choose stores with good return policies (like being able to return things in store) and decent shipping rates (like Nordstrom! So much love for Nordstrom). The exception is shopping with friends. But even still. Trying clothes on is a big time hassle, haha.
44. I wear earrings every day and feel unbalanced if I ever forget to put some on.
A current favorite - gift from @totoroacorn.

45. My favorite fruit is Asian pear.
46. I like root beer.
47. I like traveling and when we're more settled, I want to go somewhere new!
48. I don't own a blow dryer or a curling/straightening iron. I prolly will buy one at some point.
49. I like knee socks.
50. I'm the softie in the house - Dennison comes to me when we're eating because food mysteriously disappears off of my plate and into his mouth. But! I mostly only give him unadulterated fruits and veggies (although they can't have all things, and some of them should be cooked before dogs can eat them, like sweet potato).

I finished! And now you know more than you ever wanted to know, haha! So tell me about you! (It's a good post-filler, *wink wink nudge nudge*).

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Dior Spring 2014: Pastels for Nails (Of Course)

[Purchased by me].
As I said, I'm a fan of Dior's polishes. I like the formulas and the wide brush, and the well-edited collections every season (except holiday - I hate the gold bubble bottle and never buy any) always draw my attention. I ordered three of the spring polishes from Nordstrom, and I'm still thinking about that sparkly matte top coat.


Here's Porcelaine. It's a pastel, so the first coat does go on a bit streaky. Evens out after that, though, and I just did 3 for opacity. I could see getting away with two. Each coat dried really quickly, which was nice. It's not unique or mind-blowing, but I didn't have this color and now I do. *shrugs*I'm a sucker for pastels, what can I say?
With top coat (Butter London Hardwear).

I put one coat of Pampille over two coats of Porcelaine on the ring finger of each hand. It's super pretty - I should have done that with all of them. Next time!
Same as above - not sure why I picked up the Pampille bottle for this.

Here's three coats of Pampille. Yes, it's sheer - it's a milky, subtly shimmery sparkling white thing. It won't be everyone's cup of tea, but I do sometimes have a craving for a "clean slate" shade like this, and this is white without being stark and neon (although sometimes I like that, too). It has more of a pearly purple cast than the mint seen in the bottle, and a purple-green shimmer that I could not catch on camera. I am a little disappointed that it's not as pretty on nails as it is in the bottle. I do think that Pampille makes a pretty top coat, though, especially over Porcelaine or something like Essie Mint Candy Apple.
Three coats Pampille over base coat, with top coat.

Like I said earlier, I like these - but that's because I like Dior's formula and having the pretty bottles all lined up in a row makes me squee. I don't think they're must-haves (although come on, Porcelaine?). I'm going to wear Blossom next, so I'll try to have a review of that up quickly, to help with any decisions you might be mulling over right now. I think whether you want to splurge on Dior polish is a personal decision; they're $24/bottle and these are limited edition.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Shiseido Color Bar Palette Pt II: Review

[Product was purchased by me.]
Shiseido Color Bar palette. You can see that I already used a few shades before I took this photo - sorry. I bought it while I was in Hawaii and I couldn't resist!
Yesterday I posted looks, and here's the actual review.

I've wanted this since promo photos first started coming out last summer. It's the limited edition Color Bar palette for Shiseido's Fall 2013 collection. It's still available in some places (I bought mine from Macy's), so if you are keen on it, pick it up! It's $50.
For reference, this is the size compared to a Shiseido trio.

And to get to the point, I do think it's worth it - for me, anyway. But I've already proclaimed my love for Shiseido shadows. They're soft, don't kick up dust, and there's no fallout because they're not chunky, glittery, or excessively powdery. They stay on my lids (although I do always prep with some kind of creamy base or primer), and many of the shades have a beautiful shimmer/chameleon effect. It's kind of like magic, actually. I like magic.
L-R: Champagne, Soda. Champagne is a shimmery gold, whereas Soda seems peachy-white; it has a purple shift to it, though, which is extraordinarily pretty. These are the "layering" shades.

The idea behind this palette is that you can use the two "transformative" colors (Champagne and Soda) to add dimension to the other seven shades by layering, mixing and matching. The shade names are themed after adult beverages (thus, "Color Bar"), which I kinda like. I kinda like adult beverages. What can I say? It's different, anyway. The palette itself, while cardboard, is sturdier than I expected - it will stand up to being tossed in your makeup or travel bag (and I think this would be excellent for travel, given the range of shades and the possibilities!). It also has a mirror on the lid. Perfect.
L-R: Champagne, Soda, Noisette, Café, Liquorice. Café and Liquorice don't seem to have the same "chameleon" effect as the other three, although I do see some gold shimmers in certain lights.

I swatched these by "families," so to speak: the layering shades together, the "neutrals," and the "colorful." They're mostly shimmery/satiny.
L-R: Ménthe, Cassis, Parfait Amour, Curaçao. All of these have that subtle shimmer characteristic of Shiseido shadows.

If you're looking for "SUPER PIGMENTATION BATMAN," probably you want to look at Sugarpill or Urban Decay or some other brand that does more outrageous shades in multiple finishes. Shiseido is about understatement and subtlety, I think, and that's perfectly fine with me. There's a dash of whimsy here that I kind of love. You can really only layer 2-3 shades before some start to turn muddy (worst offender: Parfait Amour), but that seems reasonable to me. I've already shown you some of the looks I put together; I would use a flat shadow brush for all-over lid placement (like the RT Base Shadow brush) and a denser, shorter brush for specific color placement.

I think this is a good mix of colors and shades, and I'm happy with my purchase. I am, however, pretty enamored with Shiseido's powder shadows, so take that with a grain of salt.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Shiseido Color Bar Palette Pt I: Looks

[Products marked with a * were received as gifts from friends.]

I decided to shake things up a little and show you some looks from the palette first, since a demonstration of use is what helps me decide whether I want a product - and can make it work for me. The more in-depth review will be posted tomorrow.

I think it's a pretty versatile palette. You can use just the neutrals for worksafe looks, just the colors for fun variations, or mix the two for a playful twist on natural looks. I think the possibilities are pretty endless (although maybe we're missing an orange?) and I don't see myself getting bored with this.

For most of the looks, I used Tarte Gold* as a base for the upper lid and Laura Mercier Sandglow as a base for the lower lashline. In some cases, I used the LM Sugar Frost caviar stick instead on the top and bottom. I tried to make these into complete looks with liner (Tarte*, Smashbox or Sephora liquid liner) and mascara (Clinique High Impact Curling Mascara).

First: here's a traditional smokey eye look with the palette. You can see how pink-purple Soda shifts - it's pretty interesting! I actually think I should have used Champagne here, instead, but there you go.
Eyes: Tarte Gold pencil as a base; then Shiseido Color Bar Soda on the inner third, Noisette in the center, Liquorice in the crease. Placement of shadows is the same on the top and bottom lid. Other items used: MAC Brow pencil in Strut,* Tarte liquid liner*, Clinique High Impact Curling Mascara, L'Oreal Magic Nude 310 Light Ivory, Bobbi Brown corrector in Peach, MAC Fresh Honey, MAC Whisper of Gilt, Bite Beauty Fiano lipstick.

Next, a colorful look with Champagne, Ménthe, and Curaçao. Champagne on the inner third, Ménthe in the middleCuraçao at the other edge and crease. Bottom lashline placement mirrors the top. Other makeup: MAC Strut brow pencil, Bobbi Brown corrector in Peach set with Annabelle BB Compact Makeup, MAC Fresh Honey blush, MAC Whisper of Gilt to highlight, Dior Bal d'été gloss.
Peacock colors! I think this is my favorite.

Third, it's time to use the colors that tend to scare me: Cassis and Parfait Amour. I don't use red and purple very often, but I figured, what the hell.
I dug out a bright lipstick for you. Coz why the hell not, right?
And then let's make them wearable! The purple shade was a little muddy here - probably because I'm a pansy and didn't want to make it too purple.
On lips: Shu Uemura Orange Dream* Lipstick. Ack, I love this lipstick so much. (Thanks, Tracy!)

And that's all, because by now you're tired of staring at my face.

So. What do you think so far? They're not super bright or super boring, which is a nice happy medium for me. Stay tuned for the actual review tomorrow.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Go for the Curl: Clinique High Impact Curling Mascara

[Product was purchased by me.]

It's not really advertised as a tubing mascara, but it definitely is. Removal is the same as with Clinique's Lash Power - wash with warm water and the mascara comes off in little wriggling tendrils (I usually do this in the shower). Since I have problems with mascaras smudging (believe me, I've tried a ton, even waterproof - I think the problem is that I have to use a creamy undereye concealer), tubing mascaras are the only ones I'll try nowadays.

It has a curved brush with bristles that aren't poky, thank goodness. It tapers toward the tip so you can get the inner corner lashes, but I find that a lot of product builds up there (even if I try to wipe it all off) so I just angle the brush vertically and get those lashes that way. I do like the curved shape of the brush, though, as it helps get all of my lashes at once. The brush is supposed to "lift" all your lashes up, and I think it does.

I tried it once, for you, without curling my lashes first, just to see how much "lift" can be achieved on its own, and actually, it is noticeable. If you really need to save a step, I think you could get away without pre-curling your lashes. I, however, need as much help as I can get in the lash department, so I typically use my Shiseido curler first. Thankfully, this formula doesn't weigh down my lashes, so they stay curled!

I've always been a "volume" girl when it comes to mascara, but actually, if my lashes are well curled, it still makes a big difference in the overall look, so maybe that's what I've been looking for all this time. Who'da thought?

(Also, as I was editing this post and cropping out eyeballs, etc., I had to sit back and think: this is one weird thing I do. Does anyone else ever have that thought?)

If you have problems with smudging, you might want to try a tubing mascara - and this is my new go-to. Keeps lashes lifted and fluttery, without getting crunchy or flaking off. Super awesome! Plus, at $16.00, it's not too hard on the wallet.

ingredients: water, acrylates cpolymer, kaolin, copernicia cerifera (carnauba) wax, PEG-15 glyceryl stearate, silica, butylene glycol, beeswax, alcohol, hydrogenated rapeseed alcohol, polyvinyl alcohol, bentonite, dimethicone, stearic acid, sucrose distearate, VP/VA copolymer, simmondsia chinensis (jojoba) seed oil, nylon-66 simethicone, aminomethyl propanediol, aminomethyl propanol, xanthan gum, tocopherol, phenoxyethanol, chlorphenesin, sodium dehydroacetate; +/- iron oxides (CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499), titanium dioxide (CI 77891), mananese violet (CI 77742), yellow 5 lake (CI 19140), chromium oxide greens (CI 77288), chromium hydroxide green (CI 77289), carmine (CI 75470), bismuth oxychloride (CI 77163), blue 1 lake (CI 42090), ultramarines (CI 77007)

Sunday, January 5, 2014

L'Oreal Magic Nude Liquid Powder: I (Kind Of) Like It

[Product was purchased by me.]
310 Light Ivory.

Sorry about the title, but sometimes I just want to cut to the chase. Which, in this case, is to say: I have confused feelings about it. Ha. I mean, I think I like it. I do. But it's weird.

I wear the shade 310 Light Ivory, which is the lightest in the range (for reference, I wear NARS Ceylan in Sheer Glow, and Finland in the tinted moisturizer). When I first apply it, it seems shockingly pale, but it warms up after a few minutes and suits me better. I don't experience the oxidizing that Lena speaks of, but I think that may be because my skin is (unfortunately) a touch more dry.
I can't believe I'm showing this. But there it is. With foundation on the left, no foundation on the right. You can see that the left looks a touch paler and a little powdery, but it also disguises pores and smooths out the appearance of my skin. It settles in and looks a bit more like me-colored skin after a few minutes (see below).

It goes on like a liquid but immediately smooths out to a powdery, matte finish - with just a touch of glow. I use my fingers (the recommended method), and that works just fine. The first couple of times I tried it, there were some patches and places that hadn't smoothed out entirely (I'm sloppy, haha), which S. helpfully pointed out to me once I came out of the bathroom. He smoothed them out for me - what a guy, right? Ha.
Wearing the L'Oreal Magic Nude foundation and makeup from an upcoming post. This is a genuine smile, y'all, because we were watching The Golden Girls.

I purchased this on sale, because...I'm not sure why, actually. Mostly because I was curious and I wanted something powdery and light. I took it to HI and actually wore it during @totoroacorn 's wedding. I've never really tried a drugstore foundation before, but I know everyone says this is exactly like Armani's Maestro, so I was expecting something nice. And you know, it is.

It is also one of the weirdest foundations I've ever put on my face. As Lena said, the packaging is annoying (it's just a bottle with a small opening), it has a chemical sunscreen (not my favorite, and SPF 18 is small fries), it's chock full of silicones, and the shade range isn't extensive. It can accentuate dry patches, yes; a spritz of MAC FIX+ can mitigate that effect, but I wouldn't opt for this when my skin is really dry, at the heart of winter.

But, it's affordable and easy to wear. So I like it. I don't - and wouldn't - wear it every day, because excessive silicones tend to break me out after a while, but it's not a bad foundation, overall. It even has a place in the daily tray.

Active Ingredient: Octinoxate 3%; Other Ingredients: Dimethicone, Cyclohexasiloxane, Isododecane, Alcohol Denat., Vinyl Dimethicone/Methicone Silsesquioxane Crosspolymer, Phenyl Trimethicone, Acrylates/Polytrimethylsiloxymethacrylate Copolymer, PEG-10 Dimethicone, Disteardimonium Hectorite, Water, Propylene Carbonate, Disodium Stearoyl Glutamate, Aluminum Hydroxide. May Contain: Titanium Dioxide, Iron Oxides. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Not So Vanilla: Roundup of My Favorite Vanilla Scents

Vanilla, as a fragrance note, is often considered bland and generic, but I think that's because it's seemingly ubiquitous. S. insists that a "perfectly done" vanilla ice cream is the best sweet treat in the entire world, and I'm inclined to agree. It's found in a lot of perfumes, but it's not always the same; sometimes it contributes sweetness, sometimes comfort and warmth, sometimes it just softens the rest of the bouquet.

I used to be a bit abashed about proclaiming my love for vanilla, but there it is - for perfumes, I often like things sweet. What can I say? I know there are many who adore vanilla scents, and many who abhor them, but today I'm going to share my list of vanilla perfumes. I'm not a real perfumista, so this is just a tiny bit of vanilla space, but maybe we'll discover a shared gem?

Most of my favorite vanillas are tempered with something odd - I love the twist of licorice in Jo Malone's breathy Vanilla & Anise, the medicinal benzoin in Prada Candy, the chilled mint in Solstice Scents' Snowshoe PassI'm not really into "frosting" vanilla, or anything that smells directly like food (I prefer to eat my cake rather than smell like one), though I admit that some of my favorites toe the gourmand line. I am not, however a fan of berry/lemon + vanilla; the combination is cloying to me and I have to experiment with cult favorites like Hanae Mori Butterfly (not really a vanilla, but meant to mimic one) very carefully.

Diptyque's Eau Duelle is a recent discovery, and I love it - it's perfectly unassuming and dries down to be what I consider the quintessential vanilla (fluttering through cardamom and tea leaves first); I'm trying to decide whether I want to spend Diptyque money on something so...vanilla, but inevitably I probably do (because dear God the bottle is pretty).

On the other hand, Atelier Cologne's Vanille Insensée is all weird powdery fuzzy rocks to me, a little bit of vanilla and a lot of oakmoss. If you like your vanilla with a healthy dose of gnarled tree, try this one. Actually, ok. It's a dark, cold vanilla scent, where the usual sweet warmth of the note only exists as a hazy smoke. As I write this, it may be growing on me. (Like a tree).

Finally, the surprise of the mix, as I usually shy away from anything "Oriental:" L'Occitane's Vanille & Narcisse. It's uh, flowery. Which is also a little different from my usual vanilla concoctions. It starts with bursts of spicy floral petals, and then dries down into a sweeter, richer vanilla froth. Spicy floral persists here and there, keeping it interesting.

I do admit that I tend toward vanilla in the colder months; I still spritz Jo Malone Vanilla & Anise in the summer, because it's lighter and, er, spritzier. I also think Eau Duelle would be just as pleasant on a warm summer night as it is right now at the tip of January, but I'll have to get back to you on that.

Of course, it wouldn't be a proper round-up without telling you my lemmings. Got any to add?

My vanilla "to-smell" list:
CB I Hate Perfumes 7 Billion Hearts (The Non-Blonde)
Hermés Hermèssence Vanille Galante (Now Smell This)
Laura Mercier Ambre Vanille (mostly because of Appu's review)
Serge Lutens Un Bois Vanille (Olfactoria's review here, another equally yummy review at The Non-Blonde)
Tom Ford Tobacco Vanille (Kafkaesque's review)

For more vanilla: check out Elena's well-done Vanilla series at Perfume Shrine, and Perfume Posse's roundup.

What's your favorite vanilla perfume? Or are you an edgier kinda people? 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The "Daily Tray:" A Morning Time-Saver

[Most products were purchased by me; those marked with a * were gifts from a friend, and ** were received from PR.]


I figured since it's the new year and we're all trying to be organized and get our lives together, I'd share one of my tricks to getting ready in the morning: a daily makeup tray. I bought one of these a while ago - so long ago that I don't even remember where or when or why. BUT. At some point I decided to throw all of my "daily staples" in it, and basically, that's how I operate in the morning. I take this tray and my cup of brushes to the bathroom, slather on some things, and turn to more important matters - like breakfast.

I don't use everything in here every day, but I use 'em most days. Or I alternate. Or whatever. Here's what I've got:

- travel-sized MAC Fix+: Use to spray my face before applying foundation - keeps coverage lighter and thinner and prevents it from caking up.
- NARS Tinted Moisturizer in Finland/ L'Oreal Magic Nude foundation: Don't use these daily, but I usually keep some kind of base in here for days when my skin needs help. I also keep a powder (right now: Annabelle BB Compact Makeup) to set undereye concealer.
- Bobbi Brown corrector in Peach, RMS "Un"Cover-Up in 11: Bobbi Brown is used solely for under eyes; the RMS concealer is used under eyes or on problem areas (I don't use both under eyes at the same time).
- Tarte pencil in Gold*, Laura Mercier Caviar Stick in Sandglow: I've been using shadow sticks as bases for the last few months. Works like a charm and it's so, so easy.
- MAC Whisper of Gilt: my go-to highlighter. I use it daily. It's gold rather than pink or white, so it's easy to use and doesn't look glaringly obvious or strange on my skin.
- Smashbox Limitless liquid liner, Tarte MultiplEye liner*, Sephora Long-Lasting Liner in Glitter Brown: I only use liquid liners. Smashbox's version lasts longer, but the tip is stiff and it's hard to draw thin, precise lines with it. Tarte's is pretty long-lasting and easier to work with, but not as inky black. When I want brown, I opt for Sephora's Glitter Brown. I quite like Sephora's liquid liners - they come in a lot of colors, last, and are budget-friendly.
- Clinique High Impact Curling mascara: Tubing mascara, the only kind I will use now. Not something I use every day, but I like having it handy, just in case.
- Clinique Teddy Bear quad (old version): I keep this in here for the ivory shade, which is a great brow highlight; the matte neutral shades are also nice and occasionally I just want to slap on something easy, so it's a good palette to keep in here.
-tweezers** (Mont Bleu): the only tool I keep in here rather than in the brush cup (curler is in the brush cup). Pretty essential.

The other things I rotate in are blush, bronzer and other eye shadows; I usually switch around some items at night for the next morning. I don't keep a lip product here because I don't always wear lipstick/gloss (usually I wear a balm that's tucked in my purse). Basically, if you have a makeup bag, that serves the same purpose, but I like having everything laid out - I don't have to dig around in a bag, and this is less overwhelming than staring at my entire stash every morning.

What are your tricks and tips for expediting the morning get-ready process? Do you have a daily tray?