Sunday, December 13, 2015

Sunday Sessions: IV

(What is a Sunday Session?)

Er, the last one I did was in September. But it's madness around here, guys. I apologize for not dropping in to catch up with everyone on their own blogs, but hopefully I will get a chance to at least say "hi" and chat with everyone on Twitter during the holiday season!


loving (beauty):
I haven't done a favorites post in years, it feels like, so here's my attempt. I bought the Hourglass palette a couple of months ago, and while I have reservations about the company's marketing practices, I have to say that they do powders damn well. Also, I've been using only cream blushes lately, because they seem so much easier to blend out in a rush, and have concluded that I could probably get rid of all of my powders (except MAC Stratus!). For eyes, I've been playing with color (MJ Siren) occasionally, but otherwise relying on easy neutrals; you know, the YSL palettes are actually quite good - I'm surprised I don't hear more about them. Finally, the Marc Jacobs Blacquer mini was a GWP from a Sephora order, and I really like it. It's definitely waterproof - it rubs off, rather than smears off, and that can be annoying in its own way, but if smearing is your problem - try this bad boy.

Invisible Cities, by Italo Calvino (this translation is by William Weaver). It's a bunch of beautiful vignettes situated as an exchange between Kublai Khan and Marco Polo. I love poetic prose and fantastic realism like this; this is on loan from a friend, and I wish I had more time to appreciate it. Only partially through so far - hoping to finish it soon.

on repeat:
Chris Stapleton: Traveller. I love country music (although I'm less enamored with the generic dudebro trucks-girlsgirlsgirls-SODRUNK aspect *cough Luke Bryan cough*), and this album is good.  He and Justin Timberlake were gold at the CMAs.


One of S.'s aunts passed away last year after a battle with breast cancer. She used to send us Hallmark Keepsake ornaments every year, and I decided to keep collecting them in thankful memory of her. I bought two this year (one is from 2014, since I didn't think to buy one last year), which fall in theme with the rest of our ornaments - we have a lot of cooking/baking ones, dogs, and cartoons...perfectly sums us up, I think. I also like collecting handmade ones from craft fairs, but I love the personalizable aspect of these - and they are classics, aren't they?
The other thing I've been hoarding is Uni-ball Signo pens (0.38 mm). My boss stole one of mine after he saw how fine the point was and how smooth the gel was...and then he bought a ton of his own, ha. You'll be a convert, too! I write a lot as I record notes of things that I learn and that I try at work, and for me, it makes a huge difference to have comfortable, reliable pens.

I hope everyone is staying healthy and happy! Last push toward the end of the year, go go go! Let me know how you're doing. What are your recent reads, favorite albums, holiday traditions?

Monday, November 16, 2015

My Perfume "Wardrobe" Pt II: Everything Else

[Products were purchased by me, or gifts from friends. One was a free Sephora perk. No affiliate links.]

Find Part I: Bottles, here.

Ok, here are travel and mini fragrances (including indie selections, which are often available in smaller sizes). The size of the hoard is a bit embarrassing, to be honest, but I do frequently wear most of these as well (I wear perfume daily, unless I have a headache or otherwise don't feel like it). Links to reviews where applicable. I grouped them by brand where I could, just for some sort of organizational scheme.

Atelier Cologne Orange Sanguine
I have a travel spray (part of a set that S bought me as a gift), and redeemed some Sephora points for a mini splash bottle, because I really like this one. It's not razzle-dazzle amazing, but it has the best genuine orange note that I have come across thus far. It is so real, like you just cut into the peel of the fruit, and the citrus scent crackles to life. The sandalwood and amber woods keep it a bit spicier, rather than sending it down the well-trodden citrus-clean route; this is one of my favorites, actually, and I find it easy to wear.
notes: Blood Orange, Bitter Orange, Jasmine, Geranium, Amber Woods, Tonka Beans, Sandalwood. 

Atelier Cologne Vanille Insensée
I don't really like oak moss, but since I fell in love with Sweet Anthem's Black Queen, this has sort of grown on me. The vanilla-oakmoss combination does still kind of have a spiced, tart caramel-apple tinge (due to the lime + coriander, I imagine) to it, and since Sweet Anthem has sadly shuttered its doors, I will have to wear this to fill the gap. Also, the little blurb is really romantic (on Sephora's site).
notes: Lime, Cedrat, Coriander, Jasmine, Vetiver, Oak Moss, Vanilla, Oak Wood, Amber. 

Atelier Cologne Grand Néroli
This one smells like Fruity Pebbles. Yep, the cereal. That is all. It's a little reminiscent of Orange Sanguine, but it doesn't have the draw of that great, real orange note, and the cereal's weird. I don't wear this that often, but sometimes you wanna smell like childhood, I guess (or I guess I do, ha), so I kept it from the set.
notes: Orange Blossom Flower, Herbs, Musk, Vanilla. 

L'Occitane Verviene EdT
L'Occitane scents don't last very long at me at all (even accounting for the EdT formulations), and this is no exception. Still, I like the fresh, zesty verbena + geranium scent, especially in the summer, and if it were stronger, it'd prolly give me a headache, anyway (verbena sometimes does that to me). This is a 20 mL bottle that I don't think is available any more.
notes: lemon, orange, verbena, petit grain, rose, geranium

L'Occitane Vanille & Narcisse
This is a little splash bottle that I bought as part of a La Collection de Grasse mini 4-bottle set; I've used up 2/4 (Jasmin & Bergamot, Thé Vert & Bigarade), and will not go near the Magnolia & Mûre, so this is the last that I've got. It's a stronger, richer, spicy "floriental," so I don't wear it that often, but I'll have to pull it out again this winter - it does much better for me in cooler weather.
notes: blackcurrant, bergamot, narcissus, gardenia, vanilla, tonka bean
These are all tiny bottles! So much cute. The E&J is a rollerball.

Philosophy Amazing Grace
A simple classic. No frills, just clean musk - slightly floral, mostly clean, spritzy and inoffensive. I have a tiny 0.5 oz bottle because I like it just enough to have on hand.
notes: Bergamot, muguet Blossoms, musk. 

Elizabeth and James Nirvana Black
This was a Sephora perk, and is a rollerball. I don't like Nirvana White at all, but I quite like this one - especially for sexy date nights. Violet is rather mercurial on me, and I don't normally like sandalwood much, either, but this combination is killer - sweet, sexy, sultry. I think this one is more feminine than other similar scents. 
notes: Violet, Sandalwood, Vanilla. 

Jo Malone Vanilla & Anise
A bit of a panic - have they discontinued this? I have the tiniest bottle (part of a gift set), and the tiniest drop left, and I always thought I would buy a full bottle when I finished this, but now I find that it has a much diminished presence in online shops. Eek. It's a great spritzy vanilla, and anise, guys, I love it.
notes: star anise, purple vanilla orchid, vanilla bourbon

Jo Malone Red Roses
A cautionary tale: I overdosed on rose somehow (and this was the only rose perfume I had, ha) and now I cannot wear anything that is predominantly rose. Maybe it's this really green rose combination that turned me off (it can be a bit sour). I don't know. I would hand this off to someone if I knew anyone near me who would take it! It's languishing.
notes: lemon, scarlet velvet rose, honeycomb

The rest of my smaller bottles are from Sweet Anthem (which can no longer be purchased), Solstice Scents, and Haus of Gloi - some of them are perfume oils or solid perfumes, and many were limited edition, so I'll just link previous reviews here.

Haus of Gloi Earl Grey
Solstice Scents Snowshoe Pass (my annual winter favorite)
Sweet Anthem Lizie, Joan, Edith, Lucille, Fox

All right! Scent journey, over. I wish more companies offered smaller sizes (Atelier Colognes is great about that, actually), because those of us with, er, diverse collections don't need to buy big hulking bottles, you know? And, of course, travel sprays are easier to, you know, travel with, so that's always nice. I don't love rollerballs, because the application method does change the scent experience, but I know they do have their fans. What's your favorite mini perfume style - solid, spray, rollerball? Do you prefer full bottles, or do you buy mini versions when you can?

Monday, November 9, 2015

Color Story: Plums and Wine

Er, which could also be a food story, I suppose, but who's judging?

Right, so we're not wearing ALL of these things at once (although I sort of did that here, and the monochromatic look doesn't always turn out too bad).  But I've been so into these sorts of shades lately, in clothing and in makeup.

In the photo above:
Sorry, all the similar colors freaked out my camera. L-R: MAC Stratus, MJ palette last shade, maroon shade in OR316, mauve shade in RD299, MAC Amorous, Maybelline Intoxicated Spice, Etude House Blackberry Jam.

I've been pairing both the mauve shade from RD299 and the wine from OR316 (sometimes over Laura Mercier Amethyst) for a plum eye that's really gorgeous. Or, using the entire RD299 trio and pairing it with a plum stain (Blackberry Jam) or a glossy lip (Intoxicating Spice). I haven't gone really vampy yet this season...but I think I'm getting in the mood, soon.
On eyes: RD 299 + OR316; lips: Intoxicating Spice.

What color family are you loving right now? 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

My Perfume "Wardrobe" Pt I: Bottles

Currently: 7. But I am scheming, scheming...
Ah, these bottles make me so happy. Perfume makes me happy, really - I think it is the perfect blend of science and poetry. And it's creative science. People often assume that creativity has no place in science, and that couldn't be more wrong. How else can you have innovation?

Mini (scientist) rant aside, I thought I'd do something fun and simple: showcase my perfume wardrobe. These are the full-sized bottles. Next is the travel/mini sizes. And that'll be it. I've done full reviews of most of these already, and will link them, so these are just little blurbs in a roundup style. Shall we begin?

YSL Parisienne
I start with this because...I started with this (check out this embarrassing first review). I normally dislike berry notes, but this one works for me. In the summer the patchouli-vinyl is stifling, but in the cooler months the riesling-aromatic is delicious. S also loves it when I wear this, so there is that, and nostalgia, as it is my first perfume and we picked it out together.
notes: vinyl accord, cranberry, blackberry, damask rose, violet, peony, patchouli, vetiver, sandalwood and musk
Serge Lutens Gris Clair
This is the only SL I happen to like, I think (here are the others I've tried). It is aggressively medicinal lavender, with a delicious, smoky vanilla wind-down. I feel sexy when I wear it, in a sort of androgynous way. As if I could pull off a sleek pantsuit, paired with killer heels.
notes: lavender, amber, tonka bean, iris, dry wood, incense

Diptyque Eau Duelle
This is hands down my favorite vanilla, and I'm a vanilla fiend. I love the medicinal quality of this woodsy oriental, and the spiced vanilla drydown is the sexiest thing. Delicious. Cozy as a thick, luxurious scarf, the kind you can bury your face into and breathe in. Equally good in the summer, due to the herbal elements, and I cannot tell you the number of people who have asked what I was wearing and said it smelled amazing.
notes: cardamom, elemi resin, olibanum, bergamot, pink pepper, juniper, saffron, black tea, musk, ambergris and bourbon vanilla

Guerlain Terracotta Le Parfum
This was initially a limited edition release, but it sold so well that it was added to their permanent line. It's a buoyant summer fragrance, creamy and rich. It's all over white florals, with a splash of sunshine and coconut. I love it, although I wear it more in the warmer months, for sure.
notes: bergamot, coconut, tiaré flower, orange blossom, jasmine, ylang ylang, vanilla and musk

L'Artisan Parfumeur La Chasse aux Papillons
This is another white floral, but it's delicate and feminine and would be more representative of a fresh-cheeked spring than a summer beach babe. It's a classic, and one that is easy to wear - it's nearly impossible to overspritz (it's an EdT). I wear this mostly in the spring.
notes: Linden blossom, lemon tree blossom, orange blossom, jasmine, tuberose

Prada Candy
This is the original - I don't like any of the flankers. It's a delicious benzoin vanilla - a resinous, elevated gourmand that I love. This was a gift from S, and it's also one that I wear more frequently in colder weather. It sticks to sweaters and scarves beautifully, and I smell delicious forever.
notes: musk, benzoin, vanilla and caramel

Prada Infusion d'Iris
Actually, I confess that I don't wear this one that often. It becomes too powdery on me, and I was sort of turned off of it by having to interact with a bunch of people who wore it. I would sell it if I knew how to ship it, ha. But it's a well constructed iris, and maybe if I let some time pass I'll be able to wear it again. Still, I think it's overall a little too safe and clean on me.
notes: mandarin neroli, orange blossom, iris, galbanum, lentisk, benzoin, incense, cedarwood, vetiver

And now, the fun part. I told you I was scheming, right? 
Full Bottle Wishlist

Heh. I know, you're all thinking, "We are tired of you banging on about that stupid TF scent, go get it already and shut up."

Noted. BUT, there's more. Admittedly, I haven't smelled three of these, État Libre de Orange Fils de Dieu, L'Artisan Tea for Two, and Prada Infusion d'Amande, but their notes are intriguing (Fils de Dieu: lime, coconut, leather; Tea for Two: Cinnamon, Ginger, Lapsang Souchong, Tobacco; Infusion d'Amande: bitter almond, heliotrope, anise, tonka bean and musk). 

I love anise, lime, tonka bean, tea and tobacco notes.

(I mean, not all together. Probably).

These all sound marvelous and also pretty unique, with no overlap in what I already have, although to be honest, that doesn't really matter too much - scent is so hard to describe and pinpoint. I already have vanillas. I want more vanillas. *shrugs*

Origins Ginger Essence isn't high brow or anything, but that ginger beer scent is amazing and I must have it for next summer - the body oil fragrance doesn't last nearly long enough. Lastly, I had a mini Jo Malone Vanilla & Anise and it's nearly gone; it's an easy, spritzy scent that you can go nuts with, and like I said - anise (although funnily enough, I think licorice is disgusting to eat. Scent and taste are so connected, but I have more of these - I love coffee and coffee flavored food items, but I cannot stand it in perfume).

So, have I got you pumped up for perfume, now? Next time I'll go over my travel sizes, and smaller indie bottles. Prolly the bottom line is that I have a shit ton of perfume, but hey.

So tell me: what is your favorite perfume? How many bottles do you have? What's the last one you purchased, what are you wearing today, and what's on your wishlist? I AM THE PERFUME CREEPER, MUAHAHA.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Fall Favorites Tag

[Products featured were purchased by me. No affiliate links.]

I was just thinking about doing a favorites post (and ultimately deciding, "No, I'm too lazy,") when Monika tagged me for the "Fall Favorites Tag." This one is always my favorite, so I rallied. Because autumn is my favorite season!

1. Favorite fall candle
Er. I haven't bought any yet this year (and I don't even have matches right now, ha) but in previous years I've loved B&BW Marshmallow Fireside. I also really like the Woodwick candles, because they crackle beautifully - really soothing on a calm, quiet night.

2. Favorite fall lip color

I like a vampy lip as much as the next person, but this year I've been really into MLBB shades. Dior Frimousse was reviewed here, and the gloss is Enchanted Rose from a previous Christmas collection...there's probably something similar in the permanent line, though. I find the glosses to be moisturizing, which is ideal for cooler weather (good thing I have five, ha.). The other lip product I've been loving - that is more on trend for the season - is Etude House's Blackberry Jelly Sugar Lip Tint.

3. Favorite fall drink

Sorry, I'm going to adult it up in here. We made these Cider Bourbon Jam Cocktails from How Sweet It Is last year, and they are insanely good. Need a repeat.

4. Favorite blush
Old photo, cheater cheater!

Uh, yeah. I think blush is my least favorite thing to shop for...*ducks*
I mean, all hail the importance of blush; if I forget it, I often look wan. I still have more than any sane person needs, but I rotate through them all pretty regularly. This is YSL Red Agate, a great terra-cotta with a fabulous texture..which I think has also been discontinued...*ducks again*

5. Favorite clothing item
Express Marled Extreme Circle Hem Tunic in Wild Orchid
Express Scuba Leggings
Sole Society Isani Pumps
Uniqlo Soft Woven Long Sleeve Dress in Dark Green
Joan and David Circa boots (old)

Fall fashion is my favorite! BOOTS, BABY, BOOTS. I post outfits on Instagram, under #pestozestolb. I'm no fashion blogger, but I'm trying to have fun and experiment with different looks. (Fun fact: my home is a shoe-free zone. I have to put them on for the photo, then take them off again, haha. #dork)

6. Favorite nail polish

I'm doing this instead of movie, because I can't really think of an autumnal themed movie and I hate scary shit. I apologize because I buy a lot of limited edition polish, but really, it's more about the color inspiration, right? Also, if you really want a banging fall polish post, you should check out Shannon's annual Halloween roundup.

7. Favorite fall TV show
I don't watch a lot of TV - I don't have one right now, actually. I watch football on my phone and my guilty pleasure is The Voice. I've also been watching The Muppets, although I feel like these days Miss Piggy has absolutely zero redeeming qualities...she used to be a little bit more relatable. Still, I have always loved The Muppets, and contrary to popular belief, there were always adult jokes on the show - we just didn't get them when we were kids. Enough already. (There are adult jokes in older Disney movies, too, you know. Watch them again.)

8. Favorite Thanksgiving dish
I. Love. Thanksgiving. Because, well, food. S. and I usually keep it small (and I'll be flying back for the holiday); I think this year we're going to do a sausage stuffing, cranberry sauce, baked sweet potatoes, and some kind of pumpkin dessert. This one, I think.

9. Favorite Halloween costume
I love Thanksgiving, but am completely indifferent to Halloween. I don't even like chocolate, so cheap candy has no appeal for me. Bah, humbug. (What do you mean, wrong season? Grouchiness is for all seasons, thank you very much.) I do have a Jack Skellington beanie, though. That's like, festive, right?

10. Favorite fall perfume

I have been wearing Diptyque Eau Duelle pretty much daily since I bought it this summer, but the Sephora VIB sale is next week and my birthday is next month know what this means: Tom Ford Tobacco Vanille will finally be mine! Swoon, baby. SWOON.

Need more? Tracy did it, too, and Denise, and of course, Monika, who tagged me. And we need MOAR. Lena, Gaelle, Laura, VB, I'm looking at you! And I would love to tag the southern hemisphere ladies, but I'm afraid they'll look at me funny, ha! You could do a spring version...

Thursday, October 29, 2015

For the Sunny Commute: Dr. Dennis Gross Sheer Mineral Sun Spray SPF 50

[Product was purchased by me. No affiliate links.]

Er, I always end up reviewing sunscreen AFTER summer is over.

Because I'm super timely.

But hey, at least you know I used it during its finest hour, right?

The sun here is intense, and I always worry that the sunscreen I put on in the morning (face) is all gone by the time I leave work at the end of the day. So, I purchased this Dr. Dennis Gross Sheer Mineral Sun Spray SPF 50, intending to use it for my face, neck, arms and hands before I drive home (my commute is anywhere from 30 -60 minutes, depending on traffic). I also use it in the mornings on my arms and hands, if I remember.

This is a mineral spray and comes out white. It rubs in easily; hands are greasy for a little bit afterward, but it goes away quickly. I spray my arms and hands, rub it in, and then spray my hands and pat/press it into my face, as instructed (they don't want you to spray yourself in the face, I guess. Based on my idiot experiences with MAC Fix+, this is prolly good advice).
Single spray.

For arms and legs, it's great. The spray distribution is nice, it rubs in easily, and doesn't feel overwhelmingly thick or greasy afterward. Ace, especially when you're just going to work and don't want full on sport sunscreen gunking up your nice clothes. If you're going hiking, I would stick to the Neutrogena or whatever you like for strenuous outdoor activity.

And for the face, though, I think I want something different for touchups, like this Jane Iredale Powder Me Dry Sunscreen SPF 30, that can be applied over makeup. By the end of the day, I don't really care if my makeup gets messed up when I apply sunscreen over it,'d be nice not to have to rub everything on my face. So I guess I have mixed feelings. I like it, but I don't like it. We don't always have to have a final verdict, right?

It's pricey at $42 (4 oz) but does always seem to be out of stock at Sephora, so I guess it is popular. I do like that it is all mineral (12% zinc oxide) (have you read this piece on how chemical sunscreens are affecting our coral reefs?), and that it is a great everyday sunscreen  - aside from the price. I'm not aware of any other product like this out there, though - something all mineral that can be sprayed in non-aerosol form. Do you know of any?

What do you use for sunscreen reapplication during the day?

Full ingredients:
active: zinc oxide 12%
inactive: ascorbic acid, ascorbic palmitate, biotin, camellia sinensis leaf extract, acetyl PEG/PPG-10/1 dimethicone, cyclopentasiloxane, embolic officials fruit extract, glyceryl isostearate, neopentyl glycol diphetanoate, phenoxyethanol, polyhryxoystearic acid, resveratrol, tocopheryl acetate, ubiquinone, water

Sunday, October 25, 2015

MUFE Ultra HD Foundation Stick in Y315 Sand

[Product was purchased by me.]

I've been sitting on this review forever, but Tracy's review inspired me to get off my ass and edit the photos, ha!

I don't typically wear foundation all over my face every day, but I like to get conceal redness along my jawline, and I also wanted something sunscreen-free that I could wear for photo-heavy occasions (like attending weddings). For a while, I was just using concealer (NARS Creamy Concealer), but I thought I'd give a stick foundation a try, because it's easier to travel with (it doesn't need to go in the clear liquids bag for carry-ons).
Shade: Y315.

I don't own any other Makeup Forever base products, and I didn't want to make a trip to the store, but I managed to pick my shade online - hurray! I purchased Y315; for reference, I wear NARS Creamy Concealer in Custard (which is what I used for comparisons in my swatches), Bare Minerals 03 Buttercream, MAC Mineral Concealer in NC20, DiorSkin Nude BB Cream in 02. You can also see foundations I used to wear (and still match, shadewise), here. When I bought it, it was a *touch* too pale, after I got a lot of sun this summer, but it's starting to look better already in the fall.

In direct sunlight.
The selling point of this for me was that it was supposed to work well over dry skin - it's supposed to be lightweight but still moisturizing, and not emphasize dry patches or other big dry skin no-nos.

And I think it does that. But I'm also a little bit confused. Here, I'll show you. I apply it in stripes and then buff it out with a damp Beauty Blender. I've also tried it with a flat top foundation brush, which is nice, but a little heavier in coverage. Below, I've shown the effect with a Beauty Blender. (All photos are in natural light, although I realized that I am wearing physical sunscreen in the photos below).
My skin has been horrible lately, I do not understand. I thought we were through being drama queens, but I guess we didn't leave that in high school, after all. All photos taken in natural light.
Above, I didn't apply it all over, since I wanted to be able to use this as sort of a "as needed" type of base. You can see where there's a nice golden blotch on my face in the last photo, right? I swear I tried to blend it out forever with the Beauty Blender. Didn't quite work out, no? The effect is a little less obvious with a flat topped brush. BUT, this effect is also only obvious in photos. And once I put on blush and bronzer and whatever else, it isn't as bad, either. Later, I also tried pushing it into the skin like I saw in a youtube video, and that seems to help, rather than blobbing.
Same as the photos above, but after bronzer and the rest of the "full face" type stuff - eyes, brows, etc.
And from the front, same thing.
No weird patchiness obvious here, right? Again, I applied the MUFE stick here mostly along the cheeks/jawline, but I wanted to show you the front view.
So, after that experiment, of course, I tried it as a full face foundation - STRIPES ERRYWHERE.
 It's nice, right? Look how nice. Some of my darker pigmentation spots are still visible, but that's ok. It covers up most of the redness along the jawline and it glows.
Did my brows, eye makeup, and blush, and undereye concealer.

And then a full face, all the makeup shot.
Full face afterward. Also, I used powder. Lipstick is Dior Frimousse.
Sorry, I know this is getting long. Texture-wise, I like it. It's light and doesn't drag, although even with a Beauty Blender you are going to get medium-ish coverage; upon close inspection, you can see more of that "foundation" texture (which some people like, and I don't love). It has a great glow and doesn't seem to break down too much on my dry skin, but like Tracy said, if I want it to stay put and locked in for the full day (which I don't always care about), it's good to use a setting powder. If you have oily skin, I think this one is probably going to be a bit too much. But I love its convenience and the finish (who knew foundation sticks could be so nice? I think they've come a long way!) and it gets a thumbs up from me! I do still use it as spot "concealer," because as I showed above, once you finish the rest of your makeup, it's all seamless anyway. And, last thing to note: when I wore it to a wedding, I skipped sunscreen.

I'd be curious to hear how it compares to, say, the TF or Bobbi Brown stick foundations. Anyone know?

Sunday, October 18, 2015

StriVectin Instant Revitalizing Mask - A Radiance Boost

[Product was gifted from StriVectin. Opinions are all my own. No affiliate links.]

I love when I get to do a StriVectin post, because it means science!

(On the flip side, it also means research, so they take me a while).

The new Instant Revitalizing Mask ($62 for 3 fl. oz) is part of their "brighten and perfect" blue line; this is a 15-minute mask that "restores clarity and immediately illuminates the skin." It contains alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) from citrus fruits and other sources, tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate (a fat-soluble form of vitamin C), vitamin E, and other ingredients intended to stimulate skin renewal, like yeast extract and amino acids. It also contains StriVectin's patented NIA-114 molecule (a modified form of vitamin B3 that is fat-soluble rather than water-soluble, and therefore possibly more likely to penetrate skin barriers.)

One of the original papers in Experimental Dermatology (full journal reference at the end of the post) by the scientists who created NIA-114, suggests that the use of myristyl nicotinate in conjunction with retinoids mitigates the negative effects that some people experience with retinoid use, while still providing the benefits. So I can see why it would be included in a mask that is intended to brighten and even skin tone through the use of AHAs, which can also be irritating to skin for some people.

It contains bentonite, which is a white clay, which makes it nice as a purifying + brightening all-in-one mask. I apply a thin layer, and it does dry down by the end; I rinse everything off with warm water. It does tingle, and I wouldn't leave it on too long. I do wonder about these masks that are loaded with a bunch of different agents, because how fast do they work? I don't know. But it is a nice mask - they suggested taking a "before" and "after" selfie, so I did. You kind of have to look hard for the results, but I think it improves over time, as well. Below are photos from the the first time I tried it (and I have had some skin issues for the past few months, dealing with the new weather and everything). The "after" photo, while my skin flaws are still obvious, does look a bit more all-over radiant and less sallow, and everything looks a bit tighter. I did find, though, that if I leave it on a little too long (hey, I'm easily distracted and forgetful), I tend to break out on my forehead directly afterward, so...possibly it's a bit too rich for my picky forehead. Who knows? I would suggest being a bit more vigilant.
Since I finished up my Origins Charcoal Mask, I have been using this once a week and it is a nice boost. Like all of their products, it is on the pricy side, but they also do have scientific publications and patents behind them, so I think it depends on what you are looking for in your skincare.

StriVectin has 20% off and free shipping right now on their site, through October 20, 2015.

Jacobson, M. K., Kim, H., Coyle, W. R., Kim, M., Coyle, D. L., Rizer, R. L. and Jacobson, E. L. (2007), Effect of myristyl nicotinate on retinoic acid therapy for facial photodamage. Experimental Dermatology, 16: 927–935. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0625.2007.00616.x

Friday, October 2, 2015

Collective Sigh of Relief: Revamped Dior Addict in Frimousse

[Product was purchased by me. * was a Sephora GWP, and ** was a gift from the bestie.]

I bought this in Korea, and with the exchange rate, it ended up being *slightly* less than in the US, so  hurray for that. I wanted to buy my mum another lipstick before I left, but I ended up with one for me, know how that goes (I bought a new Dior Addict in Lucky for her).

I don't own a lot of soft, feminine shades, and I decided it could be nice to own one in a comfortable formula. I actually think it's easier to find a budget-friendly red or vampy shade than a "natural" lip color shade, because with lighter colors, it's really easy to tell if the formula is lacking. Frimousse is a delicate peachy pink, with no shimmer (thank goodness).
L-R: Givenchy Le Rouge À Porter 201 Rose Aristocrate*, Dior Frimousse Addict, Laura Mercier Baby Lips**. The Addict is definitely the most comfortable to wear out of the three. I find the Givenchy a little tacky, and LM Baby Lips is more of a traditional creamy lipstick - I included it here for the contrast and color comparison.

I wasn't really worried about the reformulation; lipsticks can stand to be updated every so often, and if it did suck this time, well, I have more than enough lipsticks to last me until it gets reformulated again. It doesn't suck, though, and I like it; it feels a little more moisturizing than the previous iteration (of which I have 2 - Diablotine and Garçonne) - the product seems like it melts onto lips a little more graciously. And I love glossy finishes anyway, but this one has more of a healthy, natural finish than an intended "lipgloss" effect.

I wore Frimousse here, in this olive and peach look, so I am going to cheat and use another photo from that look.
This lipstick is a new fave.
I fall into what I consider the Lena camp when it comes to high-end lipstick - that is, it's worth it to buy a sheer, soft shade if you're going to wear it all the time, and if it's an easy to wear color, then you get to enjoy the formula all the time! That said, the darker shades are just as appealing - I always fall for sheer reds.

For more: See Frimousse (and other shades!) on Lily here (Frimousse is much darker on her).

The only problem I have with the new line is that I can't seem to find any clear breakdown that dictates which shades have which finishes (I don't want one with shimmer; pearl is sometimes okay, but generally, I prefer the glossy, jelly finish Addicts). They retail for $35, and I think if you love the old one, you'll be fine updating with these.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

FOTD: In-Between Days in Olive and Peach

[Products featured were purchased by me, except *, which was a prize in a social media contest.]

I kind of love these last warm days of summer - the in-between days, when I can wear a long-sleeved shirt over brightly colored summer shorts. Don't get me wrong - I love autumn - but every moment can be savored.

I said I was favoring a clean, bright lips-only look lately, but of course, variety is the spice of life and all that, and I got the hankering to try something different. I pulled out my Shiseido Opera trio, to showcase that gorgeous olive.
Old photo - review found here. It looks much more well loved now, ha.

I layered the olive shade in the trio over Laura Mercier Caviar Stick in Khaki (over NARS primer, to really bring out all the glow). I just messily applied Khaki all over the lid, patted it out with a finger, and then patted the olive shade on top. Then I blended it all out with the gold shade in the trio, and applied liquid liner and mascara.

For cheeks, I used Guerlain Sun Shimmer Highlighting Blush in Sunny Pink*, swept a bit of Laura Mercier Rose Rendezvous along cheekbones, forehead, and Cupid's bow, then finished with peachy, barely-there lips with Dior Addict in Frimousse (new formula).
Base: Makeup Forever Ultra HD Foundation Stick in 125, used more as a concealer, and MAC Pro-longwear concealer under eyes (NW25).

The fresh lip color seems summery, but also a great counterpart to more autumnal olive-gold eyes. I love this lipstick, let me tell you.

It's about balance, I suppose (like a long-sleeved top to compensate for shorts). I think my collection is nice and varied and supplies me with the opportunity to change it up, as I like to do. But I've also got some sturdy favorites that help me keep to a more streamlined, go-to approach, if I need that, as well. It's really less about the products themselves and more about what I get out of them, each in their own way. Keeps things fun, while still providing variety (I hope!) for the blog. Eternal in-betweenness, I suppose. What motivates you to blog? Do you enjoy the in-between period of weather, or prefer cut and dry seasons?

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Our Vacation in Korea, Pt I: Good Eats

I promised travel posts, and of course I am going to start with food.

(If you were expecting otherwise - dude, do you even know me?)

S. and I spent ten days in Korea; we stayed with my parents, who are temporarily living overseas for work. They live about an hour south of Seoul (by train). We also stayed in a hotel in Seoul for two nights, but transportation is so easy in Korea, we had no problem making day trips to Seoul by train from my parents' apartment on other days as well.
Clockwise from top left: mum's homemade banchan (side dishes that go with a meal),
patbingsu from a coffee place (finely shaved ice with milk and ice cream, fruit and other toppings),
traditional dduk (rice cake) from a famous place in Jongno near Insadong,
bibimnaengmyun and mulnaengmyun - cold summer noodles, eaten at the top of N Seoul Tower. 

My mother is Korean, so I grew up on a lot of Korean food - my spice tolerance is high. I've also been to Korea several times in the past, so I have a lot of favorites that I was looking forward to eating again. This was S.'s first time there, but he loves Korean food and can cook some of it, which has endeared him to my mother, who has finally despaired of teaching me to cook.

(And not a moment too soon - I'm a baking enthusiast only, thanks.)
Top row, L-R: Samgyetang - each individual serving of soup contains a small boiled whole chicken stuffed with dates, ginseng, rice and garlic; cappuccinos at a beach town - we had some great coffee in Korea, where coffee culture is also big; food at a bunshik, which serves kimbap and dukbokee (and my favorite, radukbokee - ramen noodles in dukbokee), udon and other quick snack type foods.
Middle: Korean convenience stores have the best drinks and ice cream, dude. (Funnily enough, they are all 7-11s and CU now, ha).
Bottom, L-R: Shabu Shabu; Korean fried chicken and pickled turnips (this is the BEST fried chicken, seriously); pillowy honey toast, smothered in caramel and whipped cream...which I ate at least twice while I was there.

The food we ate was a mix of guilty pleasures on the street as well as more typical restaurant offerings. Korea - and Seoul, especially - has a great street food culture; you can't go two steps without running into another ajumma with her cart full of goodies. Drinking culture is also big there, so a lot of places open late (it's common for even coffee shops not to open until noon) and stay open into the wee hours.
Bossam, which gets its own photo because I love it - it's pork, boiled with spices, and served with a bunch of sauces. It is much better than it sounds (boiled pork sounds kind of odd, no?) and I might like it even better than ssamgyupsal...

Incidentally, this is why I said I wasn't bothered with shopping - who has the time? Seriously, I was sad that we had to pass a bunch of carts (selling delicious goodies like hoddeok, squid, kimbap, dukbokee, fruit juices and ices - everything) because I was already full. S. just rolled his eyes as I lamented the lost opportunities all down the street.
A "Mandoo House" - one of the many, many, many vendors at Namdaemun market.

By the way - truck stops in Korea are amazing. They sell all kinds of things (like walnut balls! hot meals!), and the bathrooms are clean. Definitely way better than anything you'd find in the US.
At O'Sulloc teahouse in Invading (the tea is from a plantation on Jeju island).
Which isn't to say that everything there is clean. The streets are pretty garbage free, due to street cleaners and good maintenance, but a lot of restaurants and vendors are hole-in-the-wall type places, and well...they look like hole-in-the-walls.
A green chile burger in the "luxe foodcourt" Gourmet 494, at the bottom of a really high-end department store in Gangnam-do (yes, that Gangnam. That song is a satire, by the way.)

The basement floors of most luxe department stores (Lotte, Galleria) contain massive upscale food courts with all kinds of goodies - a lot of western food and non-traditional Korean options.

When we travel, we like to eat the local fare as much as possible, but part of the experience of another country is also to sample what's popular, trendy or their variations of American food, because they usually put a spin on it - fusion, as it were. So when we visited Gourmet 494 at the bottom of Galleria Apgujeong in Gangnam, we had no qualms about trying a burger and chili cheese fries (also, why isn't white grape soda sold here? I had it as a kid in Korea and have always liked it better than purple Welch's here). The burger was good - moist and juicy and I'm glad we tried it.
Another patbingsu, this time from Sulbing, which is a popular chain that specializes in this dessert. That's another thing - we generally avoid chains in the US, and while I still prefer independent restaurants and shops abroad, sometimes chains are convenient. And I have to admit that I'm sometimes curious to see what is hyped in other countries, so we usually stop by one or two. Plus, this is my mom's favorite place to get patbingsu.

Finally, the cost. I will say that we spent most of our money on food (other than some bigger ticket clothing items, like a nice trench coat and blazer for S.). Food used to be cheaper in Korea, I think, and the bunshiks and street vendors still are - you can get a lot of cheap, hot food for a few thousand won. Restaurants are definitely on par with US prices (although tipping is not customary there). The major difference was actually at specialty places like coffee shops and bakeries - aside from the chains (Paris Baguette, Tous les Jours, etc.), they're quite pricey. I had a lot of great cappuccinos, but they cost around 4000-8000 ₩ (roughly $3.30 - $6.70 at the current exchange rate, which greatly favors the USD); it was usually more toward the 6000 ₩ mark ($5), which is more than a cappuccino at an indie coffee shop here. Some of our greater food splurges were prolly at coffee shops. Also, they don't offer soy, so I just popped a lot of lactase (in general, Korea is not a great place for accommodating alternative diets or allergies. Also, a lot of restaurants and shops are the 2nd floor or higher in buildings with no elevators, so that can be difficult for those with health problems or those who require accommodations).
We were looking for second breakfast, and the sign said "waffle and gelato," which immediately got S.'s attention. I adore that guy. Also, this cream cheese gelato was amazing. Is there anywhere I can get this flavor in the US?
Oh, well. All worth it. We walked a lot in Seoul (an average of 10-15 miles a day, I'd say...or, sorry, 16-24 km, ha), and also did a lot of walking when we visited historical places, like the Korean Folk Village. It all evened out, and eating and enjoying food is definitely part of the experience. We ate other things (my mum delighted in introducing S. to Korean grapes, which are a pain to eat but quite sweet, and soft peaches, which pretty much explode with juice - I won't eat them, because they're a hideous mess, but S. enjoyed them, and mum was so pleased, ha), and I really enjoyed introducing S. to a lot of foods that I grew up on or experienced as a kid. Basically, this is how we vacation: we eat our way through cities. Seoul is a great one for that.
Damn, now I remember that I wanted a sweet potato latte before we left. I was curious!

If you made it through that (and aren't hungry!), I applaud you! I'll try to round up some sightseeing photos for next time, and I do have the other Etude House products to show you. Have a great Friday!