Thursday, February 26, 2015

Review: Anastasia | Brow Wiz Pencil "Dark Brown"

Undoubtedly the queen of eyebrows in the blogsosphere, the Anastasia Beverly Hills brand made waves with one single pencil, the Brow Wiz long before the rise of the ombre, #instagrambrow. Still one of her best selling products, this automatic twist up brow pencil aims to create natural flawless brows whether you're filling in or drawing in. After years of lemming this, I finally have it in my hands thanks to the Sephora Favourites gift set this past year!

Brand: Anastasia
Product: Brow Wiz Automatic Brow Pencil in "Dark Brown"
Colours: 9 shades in total
Size: 0.08grams
Price: $27CAD
Availability: Sephora (online & in stores), Anastasia online
Would I repurchase: Probably.

Now you may recall my somewhat disillusioned experience with the brand's Dipbrow Pomade (see review here) from a few weeks back so I approached this pencil with a mixture of apprehension, excitement and a smidgen of hope. I do not have very dark or many much brow hairs so any extra help will look like makeup (that I have already accepted) but of course the goal is still to look as natural as possible.

Brow Wiz is packaged as a super slim dual sided twist up pencil with the lead on one end and a spoolie on the other for blending and smoothing any unruly hairs. It has a good blend of waxy and creamy texture to draw easily on the skin without much effort and the fine tip makes it possible to mimic the look of thin brow hairs while also allowing for quick overall coverage. 

In comparison to my favourite Dior Browstyler (reviewed here), this deposits significantly more colour per stroke but isn't too waxy so you need not worry about gluing your brow hairs together into an unsightly clump. It certainly offers more flexibility for various brow looks from natural to super defined whereas it's much hard to build texture with the Dior.

While photographing the Brow Wiz, it might be worth noting that it's actually made in Korea which has me thinking if there may be other similar Korean branded (and less expensive) brow products available but that's to be another post for another time.

Anastasia currently offers 9 shades (via Sephora) for this pencil which ranges from a light ash blonde down to a sooty ebony in tones of warm, neutral and cool; an impressive array for almost all hair colours. Since mine was part of a Sephora Favourites Kit and came prepackaged with other products, the colour I have is Dark Brown (formerly Brunette) which is suggested for medium brown to black hair. It's a little tricky to capture on camera but compared to my other brow products this appears to run fairly neutral and even just a tinge ashy.

In the before and after photos (below) you can see that Brow Wiz builds a substantial brow look while still remaining fairly soft yet with some textural qualities that looks more natural than the Dipbrow on me. I did not apply any other brow products and simply filled in my brow shape, gave the front a quick smudge with my fingertip, groomed the hairs slightly with the spoolie and then went back to sharpen the top and bottom edges the pencil for a clean line.

With a bit of practice, I've been really happy with how this turns out and for days when I want to tote around a single product that will function in multiple makeup looks (say I'm traveling or on the go) this works perfectly. Now granted, I do have to pay more attention to what I'm drawing when using this (as opposed to the Dior where I can literally put it on haphazardly and get away with it) it's just a much better colour match for my current hair. Plus, I do love the way I can build some slight texture while I'm at it and it doesn't look or feel heavy. Lasting power is great this time of the year and it even handles a splash of water or two but I'll have to take it through a summer run to really tell you how bulletproof this is.

A really easy to use, versatile and travel friendly brow pencil, the Anastasia Brow Wiz is certainly a must try at least once for all the brow challenged people out there. The texture is great to work with and gives you the option of going light or heavy depending on your mood. More importantly, it's not too waxy which means no more hairs getting stuck together and it's easily blendable with your finger or the attached spoolie brush into a softer look. It's a much better everyday product than the Dipbrow in my opinion and certainly more forgiving for those who just have fewer brow hairs to begin with. I am actually looking forward to trying out their duo-toned powder for the brows (as it creates an even more diffused look) so more of that to come!

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INGREDIENTS: Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Hydrogenated Coco-Glycerides, Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil/Hydrogenated Huile Végétale, Zinc Stearate, Stearic Acid, Copernicia Cerifera (Carnauba) Wax, Polyglyceryl-2 Triisostearate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Caprylyl Glycol, Phenoxyethanol, Hexylene Glycol. May Contain: Mica, Titanium Dioxide (Ci 77891), Iron Oxides (Ci 77491, Ci 77492, Ci 77499), Ferric Ferrocyanide (Ci 77510). 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Review: KISS | Gel Fantasy Press-On Nails

If there's one beauty thing I've always wished I could get away with, it's long pretty girly nails. In reality mine are less than impressive and are prone to peeling and breaking. Having dabbled in fake nails during my teenage years I had previously come to the conclusion that I was just too clumsy to make it work with glue (never mind the tedious soaking removal process) but then along came a box during the holidays that answered my girly dreams.

Brand: KISS Nails
Product: Gel Fantasy Nails*
Variations: 10 Styles (via KISS Website)
Price (msrp): $10.99CAD
Availability: Drugstores nationwide (especially Pharmasave, Jean Coutu, Lawtons)
Would I (re)purchase: Yes!

As one of the leading brands for false nails, I'm sure you're no stranger to the KISS brand and neither was I but they have recently updated with a new range of gel style nails. These Gel Fantasy sets come with 24 various sized nails, a cuticle stick, mini nail file, mega adhesive tabs and a small vial of nail glue for your choosing.

As far as I could find, there seems to be around 10 designs available ranging from single colour finishes to fun glitter sets but all have a glossy gel shine finish. If you've been keep up with me on Instagram, you would have seen me flaunt these (holiday limited edition) oval french glitter tips in Rock Candy. It's the perfect mix of elegance and glam while the shape lengthens my fingers to make them look slender and more feminine. Frankly, I couldn't stop gushing about them and waving my hands around obnoxiously at everyone (ha!).

Now since nail glue and I haven't made up, I decided to use the included glue tabs to put them on and was thoroughly surprised with their strong and comfortable hold. Each box comes with various sized thick jelly like stickers (which do need to be trimmed for best fit) that correspond to the number size imprinted on the under side of each nail. Because the sticker shapes are standardized, it will not be a perfect complete fit but I was able to get a strong hold that covered 90-95% of my natural nails. There was no extra time spent waiting for the nails to stick, I simply trimmed the tabs, pressed it on and they were good to go!

I particularly liked the thicker glue tabs as they seem to ease any bubbling (when air bubbles get under the nail) and provide a comfortable fit. Putting these through house hold chores, dish washing, showers and other daily activities they held on strong and I didn't notice any lifting at the edges even after 4 days of wear at which point I took them off as I needed to get back to regular life which did not sit well with precious long nails. Removing them was a simple peeling process but I highly recommend you take your time and have the cuticle stick on hand to help you wedge the edges a little at a time as the sticker tabs are still mighty strong after a few days. 

The only downside of these nails, as with most standardized things is the slightly off fit at the cuticle. As you can see in the close up photos, not all of the nails fit the curve of my cuticle perfectly and it doesn't make it any easier that a few of my fingers have difference cuticle curvatures than others. Personally I doubt I can really fool anyone into thinking these are my real nails but I would certainly recommend these for a fun date, party or even a weekend getaway and know that these will stay on and look beautiful.

If you are a part-time princess or someone who has a hard time growing out their nails, these KISS Gel Fantasy Nails are absolutely something worth considering for a quick glam transformation. The designs and finish on these are truly beautiful and I was impressed with strong hold and long lasting wear of the nail stickers. And while I only wore mine for 4 days, I have no doubt the stickers could have gotten me through a week and if you're careful when peeling them off you may even be able to save the nails for another glue on session. Low commitment and high on style, you'll definitely be seeing these on me again!

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Monday, February 23, 2015

Review: Revlon | Ultra HD Lipstick

Drugstore lipstick just got a whole lot high tech. If you recall my preview post from December's Relvon beauty preview event (update yourself here if you missed it), I meet some of the prettiest lipstick to come around town in a long time. They were bold, colourful and best yet, drugstore. Now that I've had a couple of weeks to wear these out and about, let's talk about the Revlon Ultra HD Lipsticks.

Brand: Revlon
Product: Ultra HD (gel) Lipstick*
Colour Selection: 20 Shades
Size: 3grams
Price (mrsp): $11.49CAD
Availability: Drugstores nationwide
Would I (re)purchase: Undecided.

With 20 blossoming shades (fun fact: they are all named after flowers), the lure of these Ultra HD lipsticks is its gel based formula over the traditional wax based formulations. According to Revlon, this means more saturated pigmentation, a smoother application and a weightless feel.

The basic design and size is similar to their popular Lip Butters but these are capped in a clear top instead of frosted. Now as much as I adore that I can see exactly what colour I am reaching for, the lipstick does not completely twist down inside the tube when it's new and I have smushed every single one of these inside the cap when trying to close it. Note the (twisted up) full length of the bullet as well, which only holds 3 grams of lipstick, a tad smaller than the average tube. These are also very scented with a prominent sweet vanilla/mango like perfume and while I like that just fine, you may or may not.

With all the descriptives out of the way, I do feel that the gel formulation is very likeable and the main draw for me was how it sat smoothly over my (wrinkly) lips and filled in every line and corner perfectly yet without any bleeding that's usually associated with very creamy products. Not many lipsticks can get that right.

L-R | Poppy, Hydrangea, Primrose

Of the colours I've tested, pigmentation seems to be medium yet buildable and each swipe gave perfectly even coverage. I did notice that any shades with a fine shimmer (such as Hydrangea) did feel slightly drier during application versus the cream finishes. And while these do not provide any continuous hydration, they do look very lush with a beautiful sheen when photographed. Just look at Primose that I am wearing in the photo below!

Lasting power ranges from 3-4 hours and most of the brighter colours do leave a lasting stain even after the colour has worn off so it is a nice options if you are planning to wear a bright lip for a long day about town.

I think it's worthwhile to pick up at least one of the pretty colours in the Revlon Ultra HD Lipstick collection to try on as the gel formulation does make a difference to the beautiful saturation and the lush way they look in photographs. These aren't the best for dry lips but on the other hand they provide great colour without highlighting lip lines or wrinkly lips. I do wish they were a bit more hydrating so they fall short of being a perfect lipstick in my opinion. However with such a wearable colour selection, I will probably pick up another shade or two.


Friday, February 20, 2015

Haul: Drugstore Beauty & Happy Lunar New Year!

It's been a while since I hit up the drugstores but I have to say there's nothing like a good sashay down the drugstore beauty aisle especially when there's a sale! I'm usually the type who will circle the sale items on my weekly flyer and bring them to the store but sometimes it's nice to have an unexpected run in with some new products.

Of this latest haul, my favourite things I've used so far has to be the Sonia Kashuk hair brush which has been on my to-buy list for months but it really wasn't until Target was ready to pull out that I panicked and made a run for it to the store. (Tell me I'm not the only one who does this.) To top that off, I'm pretty thrilled to also find a drugstore dry shampoo that I love enough to go out and repurchase especially since I have quite a few PR sent dry shampoos to test out but this COLAB version is just too good not to have. 

Made any new discoveries in the drugstore lately?
Let me know in the comments!


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Review: Aveeno | Fresh Essentials Skincare

If you follow me on my skincare routine updates, you'll know that my life is usually a crazy mix of some hard to find Asian and western products (I'm peckish, what can I say). But today's post is all about getting back to basics at the drugstore. Aveeno is a brand I've been familiar with since I was a teenager rummaging through the skincare aisle looking for something for my young yet temperamental skin. Fresh Essentials is the latest addition to the Aveeno facial range and is aimed at fighting the signs of everyday urban aggressors like stress, pollution and dullness.

The key ingredient Active Naturals ingredient here is Southernwood extract:

These formulas help fortify and moisturize your skin. AVEENO® scientists utilize an extract of the southernwood plant that contains a natural combination of sugars and polyphenols. ACTIVE NATURALS® Southernwood formulas provide antioxidant activity to help restore the skin’s moisture barrier for fresher and healthier-looking skin.

$12.99 CAD | 145ml | Would I (re)purchase: No
Oil Free, Hypoallergenic, Non-Comedogenic, Soap-Free
First on the list is the Daily Exfoliating Scrub which contains a mix of natural luffa and coconut pulp to help rid skin of pore clogging and skin dulling debris. Meant to be used daily, it has a sweet scent (that runs through the entire skincare range) and translucent gloppy texture straight out of the tube and is actually a non-foaming, soap free product. I recommend using this on very wet skin and spreading this between your palms before applying it to the face as I found it to be hard to distribute evenly. Since it only contained the tiniest of exfoliating beads, the exfoliation was very mild and for someone who's used to a good hard rub down (Clarisonic, walnut scrubs, micro-exfoliants), I found this entirely too gentle to be of much effect on myself. As well, it just doesn't seem to rinse completely clean and I had to use my washcloth for a truly satisfying feeling. For a little more zing, I'd recommend the Aveeno Daily Brightening Scrub instead.

Ingredients | Water, Glycerin, Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, Polyethylene, Glyceryl Stearate, Lauryl Glucoside, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Caprylyl Glycol, Fragrance, Sodium Hydroxide, Cetearyl Olivate, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Wax, Luffa Cylindrica Fruit, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Fruit, Chlorphenesin, Sorbitan Olivate, Citric Acid, Tetrasodium Edta, Caprylhydroxamic Acid, Butylene Glycol, Artemisia Abrotanum Flower/Leaf/Stem Extract, Hydrolyzed Caesalpinia Spinosa Gum, Caesalpinia Spinosa Gum.

Homosalate (12%), Octisalate (5%), Avobenzone (3%), Oxybenzone (3%), Octocrylene (1.7%)
$19.99CAD | 74ml | Would I (re)purchase: No
Oil-Free, Hypoallergenic, Non-comedogenic.
For the trek through the urban jungle, the Daily Nourishing Moisturizer with SPF30 comes out as quite a thick cream but absorbs easily into the skin with a lightly hydrated feeling and a slight sheen on the skin. With quite a combination of chemical sunscreen ingredients, this has a slight sunscreen scent beneath the added sweet fragrance of the moisturizer but doesn't seem to leave any noticeable white cast on the skin and does spread smoothly. For a product with SPF30 this feels quite light!

However because I am easily reactive to a certain chemical sunscreen in here, this is the only product I actually did not try on myself for fear of a breakout that I'll have to deal with later. It seems pretty likeable from it's texture but unfortunately I can't vouch for its true effectiveness. This is going straight to family who doesn't have fussy skin.

Ingredients | Water, Octyldodecyl Neopentanoate, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Cetyl Alcohol, Candelilla/Jojoba/Rice Bran Polyglyceryl-3 Esters, Potassium Cetyl Phosphate, Phenoxyethanol, Silica, Glyceryl Stearate, Hydrolyzed Caesalpinia Spinosa Gum, Fragrance, Chlorphenesin, Magnesium Aluminum Silicate, Microcrystalline Cellulose, Cellulose Gum, Sodium Pca, Urea, Cetyl Hydroxyethylcellulose, Cetearyl Alcohol, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Artemisia Abrotanum Flower/Leaf/Stem Extract, Disodium Edta, Panthenol, Tocopheryl Acetate, Retinyl Palmitate, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Ethylhexylglycerin, Caesalpinia Spinosa Gum, Polyquaternium-51, Trehalose, Sodium Hyaluronate, Tocopherol, Sodium Hydroxide, Citirc Acid.

$19.99CAD | 49ml | Would I (re)purchase: Possibly.
Oil-Free, Hypoallergenic, Non-comedogenic.
Meant to deeply moisturize, nourish and help support your skin's nightly repairing process the Hydrating Night Cream contains quite a complex cocktail of natural ingredients and vitamins such as mango seed butter, rice bran and vitamin E. It has a creamy consistency in the jar but spreads much out much thinner on the skin than it appears at first glance. It has the same sweet fragrance as the rest of the line but seems more pronounced and lingers for quite a while so sensitive noses beware.

Switching this into my nightly bedtime routine, I found this to be quite a likeable product for its comfortable texture and the smooth and refreshed aftereffects. My skin always looks well rested the next morning! However, being someone who loves the full blown lush effect, this cream wasn't quite enough for my liking but it was perfect with a bit of hydrating serum underneath. Remember that just slathering on more of this doesn't make it any more moisturizing and will just leave you with a bit of excess film on you skin the morning after. This is better suited for those with normal to slightly dry skin or slightly oily skin.

Ingredients | Water, Octyldodecyl Neopentanoate, Dicaprylyl Carbonate, Glycerin, Candelilla/Jojoba/Rice Bran-Polyglyceryl-3 Esters, Butylene Glycol, Behenyl Alcohol, Mangifera Indica (Mango) Seed Butter, Vinyl Dimethicone/Methicone Silsesquioxane Crosspolymer, Potassium Cetyl Phosphate, Glyceryl Stearate, Phenoxyethanol, Cetearyl Alcohol, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Fragrance, Hydrolyzed Caesalpinia Spinosa Gum, Magnesium Aluminum Silicate, Microcrystalline Cellulose, Cellulose Gum, Chlorphenesin, Cetyl Hydroxyethylcellulose, Sodium Pca, Urea Artemisia Abrotanum Flower/Leaf/Stem Extract, Disodium Edta, Panthenol, Tocopheryl Acetate, Retinyl Palmitate, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Ethylhexylglycerin, Caesalpinia Spinosa Gum, Polyquaternium-51, Trehalose, Sodium Hyaluronate, Sodium Hydroxide, Citric Acid, Tocopherol.

I found the Aveeno Fresh Essentials line to be a bit of a hit and miss but there are a few things worth revisiting such as the Hydrating Night Cream and the Daily Moisturizer (for those who can handle the SPF concoction). With the well developed range of products that Aveeno already has, I'm not sure if the entire set was really a necessary edition to their great pre-existing products and personally would probably have rather seen some of these as add-ons instead. None the less, if you are looking for a simple, skin friendly, non-fussy range without the need for special any treatment properties then this is might be something to check out (just avoid the scrub) but do remember that Aveeno products falls onto the pricier side of the drugstore shelf. 

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Saturday, February 14, 2015

Review: TokyoMilk | La Vie La Mort No.90 Perfume

Sometimes what you love is not really what you were seeking at all.

With Sephora stepping up its fragrance range, I've been spending the past few months pouring over their drool worthy selection of new niche perfumes. One that immediately caught my eye was the strangely seductive packaging of  TokyoMilk, a range by designer Margot Elena, which evokes a sense of feminine mystery. The lacquered black bottle in a classic shape is highlighted by Margot's evident love for topography. On the shelf it stood out from the rows of shiny, extravagant designs.

Brand: TokyoMilk
Product: No.90 La Vie La Mort (Dark Collection)
Notes: White Tuberose, Cardamom, Hibiscus Leaf, Jasmine
Size: 47ml
Price: $44CAD
Availability: Sephora (online & in stores)
Would I repurchase: Yes!

Having had a quick browse online, I headed into Sephora determined that Love Potion (dark vanilla, orchid, white tea, sandalwood) was the one but instead found it disappointingly unappealing. I reached out for a random bottle next to it to give the line a second chance and that was it.

La Vie La Mort is part of the TokyoMilk's Dark Collection, a series which the designer created in order to express a more sultry, dark, sophistication. Composed of seemingly unusual scents, the Dark Collection beckons the wearer to find their own individual identity within the range.

I left that day with the scent of this on my arm and couldn't get it out of my head the entire day. La Vie La Mort literally translates from French into "to live, to die" and has notes of white tuberose, cardamom, hibiscus leaf and jasmine. The first spritz is a halo of warm tuberose with a slightly sweet and creamy base. Hints of jasmine floats in and out but the fragrance itself is predominately tuberose.

I love how it wears closely to the skin and isn't a scent that overwhelms those around you even if you get a little too excited with this in the morning. And while I wouldn't categorize this as sexy per say, there is something richly seductive about it that makes you want to lean in and bury your face in it over and over again. In fact I am perfectly guilty of spraying this not only on myself by also in my closet and onto little slips of paper to line my scent my drawers.

For those who love complex scents, this may not be the one for you as the dry down is just a softer whisper of the initial opening and there really isn't much development on my skin though some people have said it grows spicier with notes of cardamom and hibiscus becoming more prominent. On the other hand, La Vie La Mort never turns synthetic or cloying as some florals tend to do and perfectly consistent every time I wear spray it or re-spray it throughout the day.

Lasting power is a little weak for my taste and trails off into almost nothing by the 3rd hour or so.

Whether you're just venturing into the world of niche perfumes or you are well acquainted with this realm, I think for its unique aesthetic, a bottle of Tokyo Milk is a must have in your fragrance collection. La Vie La Mort in particular is both office appropriate yet will take you well into evening, perhaps wearing a dark velvet off the shoulder dress. A true, beautiful tuberose at a great price. And while I don't find it quite interesting enough to be a signature fragrance, I can certainly see myself purchasing another bottle when this is done.