Saturday, June 20, 2015

Priceline Skin Care Gift Bag 2015

It's that time again for Priceline's annual skin care gift bag. I skipped last year's after the 2012 and 2013 bag, but this year's is undoubtedly the best one yet. The minimum spend has climbed over the years (from $50 to $60 and now $69 this year), but I don't care since Priceline has really stepped up its game with the brands it stocks. We're talking Antipodes, Avene, Bioderma, La Roche-Posay, NUXE, Uriage. So much French pharmacy goodness and mid-range brands that previously were the domain of department stores or specialty chemists. Though the absolute last thing I needed was to spend $72 on more skin care (pretty sure I'm still trying to get through stuff from 2013's bag), the sheer amount of freebies this year, a lot of which is surprisingly decent, won me over. Behold the excess.

To qualify for the bag, I bought Avene Soothing Moisture Mask (a 5ml sample I previously used convinced me I needed it in my life), La Roche-Posay Toleriane Riche (tried it once on my hand a while ago, seemed rich and super hydrating, a potential winter saviour) and Nivea Sun Light Feel Every Day Sun Lotion SPF30 (needed a sunscreen as my La Roche-Posay Anthelios XL Fluide Extrême SPF 50+ is close to expiring, though I've only just realised this is marketed as a body moisturiser rather than for face). Those three items still left me $1 short, so I chucked in a small tub of Nivea Soft, despite recently buying one from Woolies. Oh well, it's a cheap staple and seemed more useful than a face mask sachet or mini Palmer's Cocoa Butter Formula Body Lotion.

As with previous years, the goods come in a free tote bag. This year they tried to do some kind of perforated pleather light blue with a contrasting bright green interior. Not the most beautiful thing I've seen, but it does the job of holding an enormity of free stuff and seems sturdy enough.

So what's inside this thing? Prepare to scroll. Some items will vary depending on luck of the draw:

  • Swisspers Makeup Pads (pack of 80, the bag could also contain 400 cotton tips instead)
  • Innoxa Organic Brightening Eye Crème
  • Neutrogena Deep Clean Facial Cleanser
  • Burt's Bees Tinted Lip Balm in Red Dahlia (you can also potentially get Rose, Pink Blossom or Hibiscus)
  • Lanolips Lip Ointment with Colour SPF15 in Rose
  • Nivea Lip Butter Unscented (or the bag could contain the Vanilla & Macadamia one)
  • La Roche-Posay Cicaplast (7.5ml sample)
  • Rosken Intensive Moisture Hand Cream
  • Zinke Stick in Red (you can also potentially get Pink, Purple, Blue, Yellow, Green, Orange or White)
  • Garnier Miracle Skin Cream (5ml sample)
  • Antipodes Vanilla Pod Hydrating Day Cream (5ml sachet sample)
  • Antipodes Apostle Skin Brightening & Tone Correcting Serum (10ml mini bottle)
  • Bondi Sands Reusable Self Tanning Mitt
  • LeTan Fast Tan Instant Foaming Mousse in Dark Bronze
  • Jergens Original Beauty Lotion Dry Skin Moisturiser (or the Daily Moisture Dry Skin Moisturiser)
  • Sukin Detoxifying Clay Masque (50ml)
  • Pure Paw Paw Ointment in Watermelon (you can also potentially get other flavours)
  • Thursday Plantation Tea Tree and Witch Hazel Toner (or you could get the Nurture Oil)
  • Bioré Pore Unclogging Scrub (or the 4-in-1 Revitalising Cleanser or Warming Anti-Blackhead Cleanser)
  • Dr Lewinn's Multi Moisture Balm
  • Formula 10.0.6 Keep Me Clean Clarifying Facial Wipes (or the Wipe Your Face Off Wipes)
  • Swisspers Rosehip Rejuvenating Facial Cleansing Wipes (or your bag could contain the Original, Pomegranate, White Tea or Mango)
  • Palmer's Shea Butter Formula (or the Aloe, Coconut or Smoothing varieties)
  • Avène Thermal Spring Water (50ml can)
  • Bioderma Hydrabio Sérum (15ml sample, or you could get a NUXE Huile Prodigieuse sample)
  • L'Oréal Revitalift Magic Blur
  • Rosehip by Essano Nourishing Hand Crème
  • Montagne Jeunesse Blemish Mud Mask (6g sample)

Amazingly, if that wasn't enough, the bag also contains separate vouchers to claim an additional 4 full size products in store (Garnier Miracle Skin Cream, Innoxa Renew Anti-Ageing Exfoliator or Renew Triple Action Gel Wash or Super Sensitive Creme Cleansing Milk, Physiogel Calming Relief Cream, and ModelCo Gel Cleanser or Cleansing Foam or Cream Cleanser), but good luck getting those. I went to 5 Priceline stores and only managed to claim one of them, an Innoxa Cleansing Milk.

Apparently you're getting $400 worth of skin care with this bag. Even if that was overvalued (which it probably is), no one would call it ungenerous.

A rundown of my take on the goodies. There are items that I will likely immediately give away to friends/family (the body lotions for one, as well as the foaming cleansers/scrubs, hand creams and some of the lip balms). I recently bought a multipack of Simple wipes, so with the Swisspers and Formula 10.0.6 ones, I'm more than set for makeup wipes for the foreseeable future. I've always wanted to try the Lanolips lip balms, but the Rose colour is a bit light for my liking. Looks like a pale nudeish pink. I'm not a fan of the Nivea Lip Butters and am still trying to get through the two I bought a while ago, Vanilla & Macadamia, and Caramel Cream. I'll probably never use the Zinke Stick. I've never self-tanned before, so at least the LeTan with the Bondi Sands mitt are there should curiosity ever overcome me.

Some of the most exciting items unfortunately are small samples (Bioderma serum, La Roche-Posay Cicaplast, Garnier Miracle Skin Cream), but I can't complain too much. The Antipodes Apostle serum is a 10ml mini as opposed to the 30ml full size, but it should still last me a good while (plus it's adorable and great for travel). I'm interested to try the new Sukin mask (love the Purifying Masque they do, so expecting good things), L'Oréal Revitalift Magic Blur and Dr Lewinn's Multi Moisture Balm (skin needs all the hydration help it can get). The Burt's Bees tinted lip balm in Red Dahlia isn't a terribly exciting colour, but sensible and universal. I always need small cans of my life staple Avene Thermal Spring Water for on the go, so the one included saves me from going out and buying a can for at least a few months.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

High End Cleansing

I remember when I found it horrifying to spend $34 on a face mask. Fast forward two years, and I'm at the point where the prospect of shelling out $52 for a cleanser isn't overly ludicrous. I mean, it's still an unbelievable amount to pay for something that washes off my face after 2 minutes, but I'm able to bite the bullet through seemingly rational justifications. Firstly, I do find it hard to find an affordable (primarily morning) cleanser I genuinely like that doesn't dry out my skin. On a cost-per-use basis, I know a 120ml tube will last me at least several months, so $52 spread over that time doesn't seem too bad. Especially since I barely blink an eye spending the same amount on stuffing my face.

I'd just run out of my small tube of Alpha-H Balancing Cleanser from the Anti Ageing Discovery Collection and was keen to try something new. Enter Radical Hydrating Cleanser. I'd heard it mentioned before on Amelia Liana and I Covet Thee, but browsing the Mecca Cosmetica website late at night and reading all the glowing reviews was what finally persuaded me. It seemed to tick all the boxes: non-foaming, not a cleansing milk (shudder), not a clay (too catered to oily/combo skin), not a clear gel but not a watery, "natural" cream cleanser (somewhere in between), something that would nourish and hydrate the skin rather than leave it feeling dry and stripped, and a product that could actually remove makeup. The latter was more a hope than a requirement, since it's surprising how many cleansers simply are unable to get rid of makeup properly, especially ones that purport to be gentle and kind to the skin.

Ingredients: Aqua (Water), Isododecane, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Glyceryl Stearate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Potassium Palmitoyl Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Euterpe Oleracea Fruit Extract, Coffea Arabica (Coffee) Seed Extract, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Extract, Niacinamide, Camellia Sinensis Leaf, Carica Papaya (Papaya) Fruit, Mangifera Indica (Mango) Fruit, Citrus Reticulata (Tangerine) Peel Oil, Phenoxyethanol, Cetyl Alcohol, Squalane, Triethanolamine, Allantoin, Propylene Glycol, Carbomer, Disodium Edta, Ethylhexylglycerin, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Pca, Sodium Benzoate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Ascorbic Acid, Xanthan Gum, Lecithin, Tocopherol, Limonene, Linalool

I've been using the Radical Hydrating Cleanser almost daily for three weeks now, and I've been thoroughly enjoying it. The scent reminds me so much of Antipodes Aura Manuka Honey Mask oddly enough, with a bit of Antipodes Reincarnation Pure Facial Exfoliator. A refined, subtle, sweet orange, botanical scent. I use a larger than pea-size dollop every morning (maybe 60% of a Malteser ball?) and work it into my skin in sections, eventually massaging my whole face with it. The routine of it all is therapeutic and it feels instantly soothing and nourishing in my bleary-eyed, just awakened state. Washed off, my skin feels balanced, gently cleansed (goodbye skin care gunk from the night before and morning eye poo), and most importantly, not stripped or irritated or dried out in any way. There's no residue left either, which can sometimes occur with a richer cleanser loaded with oils like Emma Hardie Moringa Cleansing Balm (love the stuff, but it gets into the eyes and I always need to ensure I wash it off thoroughly).

I did try the Radical once for makeup removal, and it fared better than expected. It dissolved most of my face paint, though mascara needed a bit more attention and could've used the help of a micellar water first. I'd say in terms of makeup removal effectiveness, it's on par with something like the Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish, though probably a step up as the majority of my eye makeup was removed more easily with the Radical. However, given I need to use 2-3 times more than the amount I use in the mornings, it wouldn't be my makeup remover of choice (I'm on my second bottle of DHC Deep Cleansing Oil for that).

Overall, despite the steep cost, I'm happy with the Radical Hydrating Cleanser. I'll continue to use it in the mornings until it runs out, which I don't foresee happening any time soon given I use a modest amount each time and I don't intend to waste it. When it runs out (or perhaps before, let's be real, most likely before), I'll probably finally buy the Oskia Renaissance Cleansing Gel I've been meaning to try for years. Unless I happen to discover a non-foaming, hydrating cleanser that does everything the Radical does but for a fraction of the price. I tried Sukin Cream Cleanser and it was only okay, I tried Moreish Euphoria Cream Cleanser and it covered my face in welts. Antipodes Juliet Skin-Brightening Gel Cleanser was too drying for me. Cetaphil is too boring. If anyone knows what could fit the bill, I'm all ears.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Playing Favourites

Did anything cement my status as a 21st century beauty consumer more than the purchase of this Jaclyn Hill Favorites Palette by Morphe Brushes? I'm not a rabid follower of the big "YouTube gurus", but when someone has two million subscribers, it's hard to deny their success and influence. These YouTube stars really are the new category of celebrity in the social media age. I wasn't falling over myself to secure this palette (it immediately sold out when it was first released in January this year), but I figured it was fate when I randomly woke up in the middle of the night EXACTLY when the palette was scheduled to be restocked. Presale began at 10am California time, which was 3am for me in Sydney. I wasn't crazy enough to set my alarm for that time, but I figured if I woke up later and it was still available, I'd order. But for whatever reason, I naturally abruptly woke up 3 minutes after 3am. I took that as a sign.

I'd never heard of Morphe Brushes except from YouTube, but as far as I know, they're a relatively affordable American makeup brush and cosmetics company. You can buy everything on their website and they ship internationally, though they do have one physical store in Burbank, California. Information about the origin of their products was hard to find on their website, but their eyeshadows are made in China, as I suspect are the rest of their products. I personally don't mind makeup being made in China, though I know not everyone will share that view. A lot of cheaper eyeshadows with decent/good pigmentation are made in China, like Wet n Wild, Sleek and MUA. I was expecting this palette from Morphe to be comparable to those brands, and I was pleasantly surprised to find it's a step up.

First things first, the price. The 28-pan palette was $27.99 USD and I used Jaclyn Hill's affiliate code for 10% off (bringing it to $25.19 USD). The real killer was the shipping. Like my experience with my ColourPop order, shipping was almost as expensive as the product. In this case, $20.45 USD, or 81% of the cost of the palette. Ludicrous. All up, the palette cost me $62.53. Considering I get 28 colours, I figured I could live with $2.23 per shadow, especially since the shadows on their own are $2.29 USD each. I did have a hiccup ordering with my credit card and had to resort to PayPal, but things worked out in the end.

The palette assembles Jaclyn Hill's purported favourite shades from the Morphe individual eyeshadow range. While the palette was limited edition and won't be restocked again, each 1.5g shadow can be purchased alone, though it'll be a more costly exercise and a bunch of them are currently sold out on their website. Morphe also does several premade 35-pan eyeshadow palettes, but the shades aren't individually labelled and apparently the quality of these palettes is inferior to the individual shadows.

(Source: Morphe Brushes)

It took me forever to search and compile the names of the shadows when only the number was provided on the Morphe website, but it seemed like a worthwhile exercise for ease of reference. What's most impressed me with this palette has been the uniformity of pigmentation. I'm pleased to say there wasn't a single dud. The ultimate test of a good cheaper eyeshadow comes down to how the mattes perform. Anyone can do a shimmery or metallic shade with high colour payoff. The mattes here however, were smooth, not powdery or chalky, pigmented, and easy to blend. In general, the texture of these shadows are probably the best I've encountered for the price point, especially because fall out is kept to a minimum. I would still recommend wearing a primer or cream shadow underneath these shadows to increase their vibrancy and wear time. They could probably hold up fine on their own, but I did notice some fading during the day.

In terms of the colours, sadly the highlight shades weren't for me (Pearl and Glisten are too light and whitish, so I'm left with Pink Moscato, which I occasionally mix with a bit of Lustrous). A lot of the warm brown/orangey shades (Caffè Macchiato, Spice, Dazzling) recall the Too Faced Semi-Sweet Palette. A few of the matte shadows, particularly the mid-tone browns, are also very similar (Toasted Hazelnut, Crème Brulee, Nuts For You), but they're such staple shades that it doesn't hurt to have 3 of them. Having said that, I would've preferred if they swapped one of them for a darker brown similar to Deep Cocoa. The only matte in the palette with comparable darkness is Secretive, but that's a vampy reddish burgundy that can be at odds with a more neutral look. I'm glad however, there isn't a black in there, because ... boringggg.

My favourite and most used shades in the palette are Caffè Macchiato, Spice, Golden Glory, Marbleized, Dazzling, Caramelized, Deep Cocoa, Burlesque and Secretive. Predictably, they're mainly the warm browns/bronzes. Still, I love the inclusion of pops of colour in the form of jewel-tone hues, summery brights, and whimsical shade-shifting pastels. It's what makes the palette so appealing to me, because it offers something different while still catering to all your neutral needs.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

May Favourites

May, like any other month, was more of the same old. At least for yours truly. My dad, on the other hand, embarked on 3 week solo trip around Italy jam-packed with tourist activity, fortunately managing to make it back home in one piece. While he was gone, I spent some more one-on-one time with my mum, including a super indulgent high tea buffet at the Swissotel for her birthday. In terms of beauty, May has been all about returning to my first love: perfumes. Favourites-wise, it's been a successful month with lots of products I'm genuinely excited to have discovered or put to good use.

Serge Lutens Un bois vanille
To describe this merely as a vanilla perfume as I've done in the past doesn't do it justice. It's so much more than that, and it was only this month when that finally clicked in my mind. This is actually a busy, complex fragrance with A LOT of notes. According to Fragrantica, sandalwood, black liquorice, coconut milk, beeswax, bitter almond, musk, vanilla, benzoin, guaiac wood and tonka bean. I don't know if my nose detects all of that, but I do get whiffs or bursts of certain ingredients coming to the fore when I'm smelling it. There's almost a risk of too much going on, but it's too well-blended to be overwhelming or dissonant. There's an unpredictability and depth about it that keeps things interesting, but overall, this potent, full-bodied, somewhat spicy/smoky but lusciously sweet concoction is simply addictive. The lasting power is phenomenal and it's one of few perfumes I can easily smell on myself after I've applied it.

Cacharel Amor Amor
ZOMG. I discovered Amor Amor only this month and it's like I've been living under a rock all this time. Bit of trivia ... the nose behind Serge Lutens Un bois vanille, Christopher Sheldrake, named Amor Amor as one of his favourite perfumes. If that's not a ringing endorsement, I don't know what is. This stuff is strong and very, very sweet. At first when I sprayed it on my wrist, I dismissed it as some generic, slightly chemical, overly sugary, youth-oriented frag that I'd quickly forget. How wrong I was. This developed and blossomed on my skin in a way that commanded my attention and soon, my wrist was glued to my nose. Someone on Fragrantica described it as smelling like an orange creamsicle and I'd have to agree. Fruity, sweet, creamy, edible, romantic, comforting. Call me utterly hooked.

Essie Cocktail Bling
Star polish of the month. You know it's a hit when it's on both my toes and fingers. Cocktail Bling is up there with Nails Inc. Porchester Square and OPI Tickle My France-y if we're talking unassuming, easy to wear, effortlessly cool neutrals. Eva Chen describes it as one of very few shades she repeats and it's not hard to see why.

First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream + Garden of Wisdom Argan Oil
Obsessing over this combo for my skin, day and night. Nothing else works as effectively in combating the winter dry spells. I wasn't a huge fan of the FAB on its own, and I'd completely forgotten I even had the Garden of Wisdom argan oil, but together, they're magic. As odd as it sounds, I find my skin responds really well to no-frills moisturiser mixed with a straightforward, one ingredient face oil. I was using rosehip oil (or rosehip oil with avocado oil) for a while, but I'm convinced argan oil is it for me. Nicest texture (not overly greasy or thick), largely scentless, great absorption, and noticeable, fast results. It's my favourite oil and I'll probably repurchase the Josie Maran travel size when I run out of the Garden of Wisdom.

Max Factor Creme Puff Blush in Lovely Pink + Real Techniques Blush Brush
These Creme Puff Blushes from Max Factor do remind me a lot of Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blushes, though they're not as long lasting. Still, I've been enjoying the sweet, girly, warm pink flush Lovely Pink gives. It's pink without being too earthy/ruddy or cool-toned. Texture-wise, it's smooth and soft but not powdery. The pigmentation is easy to work with as it's not too strong, but still gives good colour payoff. It leaves a glow to the skin due to the shimmer content, but it's not pore-emphasising or OTT. I've swatched it in a previous haul post here.

I've been relying heavily on my Real Techniques Blush Brush this month to apply Lovely Pink (and basically all my blushes). The fluffiness and large size is ideal to diffuse pigment and ensure a well-blended, natural-looking flush. It's so soft on the skin and the tapered shape helps to sculpt my cheeks when placing the colour. I love that I can also dab the round tip into my blush to concentrate the colour on the apples of my cheeks. In a way, I've always overlooked the Blush Brush for applying my blush, favouring other brushes like the Ecotools by Alicia Silverstone Blush Brush, or more recently, the Zoeva Luxe Sheer Cheek, but I've truly rediscovered it in May and realise the error of my ways.

Wet n Wild MegaLast Lip Color in Bare It All
I've finally managed to buy this darn lipstick, despite wanting it for more than 2 years after seeing it on clothesencounters in one of her tutorials. I tried to live without it, even going as far as attempting to replicate the colour by combining BYS Longwear Lipstick in Beautifully Bare with Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Ginger Rose. Now it's here, I wish I hadn't resisted for so long. The colour is spot on for me as a not too pale, reddish brown nude. A true "my lips but better" shade. The lip swatch doesn't even do it justice as it's coming off a bit too brown. The pigmentation is incredible and it's not especially drying for a fully matte lipstick. I also love that it's extremely versatile. Wear it lightly patted onto the lips for a barely there, fresh-looking stain, or built up to full opacity for a bolder, more done up look.

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