Sunday, February 28, 2016

Feb Ipsy GlamBag review

Look at all the goodies that arrived in my latest Ipsy GlamBag! I greet the sparkly hot pink envelope full of products with excitement every month, I've been really enjoying this beauty subscription.
A photo posted by Monica Ghosh (@point_1) on

This month I was treated to a travel rollerball of Eau So Divine by Jor'el Parker, from one of my top natural beauty brands Harvey Prince, featured previously. Eau So Divine was among my favourites from the samples I ordered online with my last purchase, so I love that I now have a larger, travel-friendly size of this scent. It's light and clean and slightly floral, made with all-natural, cruelty-free ingredients. I've found all their scents to be easy-to-wear and delightful and use their body lotion is excellent, I use it almost every day.
Next to it is a loose mineral shadow pot by Naked Cosmetics, known for their high-quality pigments in their signature interlocked stack format. I received the Single Color mica pigment in the shade Sierra Nevada #5 and I didn't expect such full colour payoff. Used dry, it is a rich dark copper brown and when applied with a moistened brush, it lays down a metallic sheen that is undeniably amazing. Even though I often shy away from loose eyeshadows, I've added this little jewel to my everyday makeup section because I love the shade and intensity, and I appreciate how natural and non-toxic it is as well.
Speaking of non-toxic, I was so thrilled to see another full-sized nail polish from Trust Fund Beauty, this time in the shade I'm Kind of a Big Deal, a vibrant pink shade that makes me hopeful that Spring is about to be sprung. This is currently my favourite brand of nail polish, for everything about it is just a bit better. The bottles are sleek and easy to identify and get open, multiple bottles fit well together for storage. The shaped brush inside the cap makes it easy to achieve a flawless application, and the formula lasts as well if not better than conventional nail polishes full of noxious chemicals. This "seven-free" polish is a welcome addition to my collection and it will be well-loved as the weather improves.

I'm super-thrilled that my GlamBag included a sample of Smashbox's new Photo Finish Primer Oil, precisely the type of product for me. This light facial oil is created to moisturize and comfort skin prior to foundation and should help face makeup stay in place. At first I was dubious that an oil would help products last longer, but so far it's been an unexpected favourite for my still winter-dry skin.
This month's sampling also contained a handy crystal nail file by Margaret Dabbs London. I've been using it lately and find that the edges of my nails seem notably smoother and healthy. I realize that another plus about this file is that it can be disinfected unlike all my other files which would come unglued with the introduction of cleanser and water, and now I'm giving all my old nail files some side-eye.

Once again, I'm happy to say that I am still satisfied with my Ipsy subscription, I'm really glad I finally signed up.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Budget-friendly makeup: Sally Beauty & bargains galore

I'm on a lipliner rampage right now, so this retractable Palladio Herbal Lip Liner in the shade Coffee jumped out at me in the cosmetics section of my local Sally Beauty location. With the magic word 'waterproof' on the package, I knew this would be another well-loved addition to my lipliner collection as soon as I swatched it. It glides onto lips with creamy pigmentation that lasts all day, in another perfect darker-than-nude colour that goes with almost every lip product I've been wearing lately. Combined with the discount I receive thanks to my Sally Beauty Membership Card, this is a fantastic lipliner for under $10.

I'm so happy with my previous Face Secrets makeup brushes that I picked up another, this Angle Blusher Brush. With gorgeously soft hairs, it deposits and blends a sheer wash of colour onto skin, perfect for blushes and bronzers alike. The slightly flattened asymmetrical shape of the brush head delivers product more precisely than big pouffy powder brushes, and it gently shades in the contours of your face without streaks. Every brush I've tried from this line has been excellent, and this one is no exception.

Although I love the makeup section at Sally's, their original specialty is haircare, and the travel section is a great place to find smaller-sized packages of many of their bestsellers. After having incredible results with a similar product by Novex from Brazil that I got in a past Ipsy GlamBag, I opted to test out this version by One N' Only, the Brazilian Tech Keratin Deep Penetrating Conditioning Treatment. It smells like I've just been transported to a beach party in the tropics with a parasol drink in my hand yet the scent isn't overbearing. I rinse it out after 5-10 minutes post-shampoo and my hair's strength and shine has been transformed. At last I've got a really effective conditioner that doesn't weigh my long hair down and keeps it soft and untangled for days. This is currently my favourite hair treatment, Sally Beauty does it again.

I stumbled across these sets of Real Techniques makeup brushes a few days ago at a little drugstore in Port Coquitlam and did not hesitate to buy them, since these premium-quality tools were on sale for $11 off per set. Created by UK sister beauty gurus Pixiwoo, fans and makeup artists know these are some of the best tools on the market, painstakingly designed to be that much better than other brushes. Cheap dupes abound but they pale in comparison to these hardworking beauties. I have no idea what my makeup brush saturation point is, but we're obviously not there yet.

The same little drugstore carries the CoLab haircare line (by lovely UK Youtuber Ruth Crilly from A Model Recommends) and I saw this Dry Shampoo in the scent London Classic available in a small format so I added it to my basket. I always appreciate travel-sized haircare since I get to try something new and it's easily portable for touch-ups on the go. I refuse to pack large, likely still-damp bottles of hair products to heave around in my luggage, to the gym, etc. Plus, if I don't care for the product, I'm not annoyed by having spent too much on a full-sized bottle that I'll never use.

I've taken to curling my hair lately, mostly thanks to a combination of curiosity and boredom. This has given me a reason to test heat styling products, and L'Oréal's Elnett Satin Styling Heat Spray is my top pick. It's so light that it doesn't make my hair greasy, nor does it feel crunchy or full of product. The light floral smell dissipates during styling and doesn't linger or compete with other scents. I've also noticed that when I curl my hair after applying this heat spray, I don't see wisps of product steaming off the hair-wrapped curling iron, and there's no visible coating of residue left behind on the barrel. I still dutifully wipe the barrel with a slightly damp clean cloth once it's cooled before stowing it away, since I don't want my lovely new styling tool to end up like the bottom of a well-seasoned cast iron frying pan.
Physicians Formula bronzers are treasured by fair-skinned beauties, but I'm sorry to say that even the Medium to Dark shade that I bought was still much too light to work as a bronzer on me, no matter that I'm at my lightest shade at this time of year. Too bad, as this is a beauty favourite for many reasons, from a dermatologist-approved brand that offers many bronzing options. Bronzers bring warmth and dimension back to your face after you've evened out your all-over skintone with foundation, concealer and setting powder. If it's not too shimmery or warm, a good bronzer can double as a subtle contour powder on it's own and sets cream contouring products to perfection. Fans say that this bronzer is better than many of the expensive luxury powders that now flood the market, but it definitely is not dark enough for most women of colour.

In a thinly veiled subconscious attempt to force Spring to arrive sooner, I purchased two delightfully optimistic shades of Milani's Color Statement Nail Lacquer and am very pleased with the quality. With a generous brush that applies a decent first coat, two coats is enough for a perfectly opaque manicure (definitely not the case for too many expensive nail polishes, especially in light colours). I even like the packaging of these affordable polishes and appreciate that the tops of the bottles clearly show exactly the shade within. 

I bought the Revlon Colorstay Gel Envy Longwear Nail Enamel pictured below on a whim and have been rocking this shade 460 Hold 'Em for a week with nary a chip in sight. I kind of pssshawed when I read the claims made about this polish but it looks just as fresh now as it did seven days ago when I applied it. The formula is a bit thicker than I'm used to, but it dries in the same time as any other polish and the colour is rich and opaque, so two coats are plenty to achieve the smooth look of salon-manicured gel nails.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Luxury makeup treats: Aucoin, Guerlain, PÜR, Watier & Oribe

The beauty event held this past weekend at Shoppers Drug Mart meant that I when I redeemed 50,000 Optimum Points, it was worth $100 off my purchase instead of the $85 off I would normally receive, so I took the opportunity to splurge on a few high-end items I've been ogling for a while. The utterly gorgeous Guerlain Terracotta Bronzing Powder in the shade 07 Foncé Brunettes pictured above was my main goal when I decided to spend my points, and it is pure bronzing perfection. I tested two shades 07 Foncé Brunettes and 08 Ebony on my foundation-prepped skin and found the darker shade was way too cool and made me look like an extra for Les Miserables with a dirty mud-streaked face. The shade I chose gives a natural healthy glow to my skin as it subtly defines the contours of my face. I am not a fan of glittery bronzers that sparkle in the light, nor do I want my contour to look obvious. Many see this exquisite product as the top bronzing powder on the market, and I admit, I feel a secret thrill whenever I catch sight of this elegant compact full of sunny goodness. The product description states that it's formulated with skincare ingredients which may be why it feels so much creamier and less powdery than other bronzers, and this translates into a flawless wash of warmth on my skin. As retail therapy goes, this buy is a 10 out of 10.

I'm on a PÜR Minerals kick, and I've had my eye on the Eye Polish pots for a few weeks now. I finally decided on the shade Silk, a vibrant metallic light rose gold coloured product that applies like liquid eyeshadow and sets decisively for the long haul. I came back to the display after a swatch from the day before stayed on my hand until I wiped it away with eye makeup remover, so I knew that this was something special. It's blendable when first applied and looks shimmery and bright on the lid. It is meant to be used 3 ways: as an eyeshadow base, on it's own as all-over lid colour, or in conjunction with other eye products either blended in on as a topper. The joy of this eye polish for me is the precise control I have over where the shine goes and there's no glitter particle fallout. On top of the brilliant product, the package contains a beauty tool that I longed for so badly that I would have spent the $30 or so dollars I paid for the shadow just for the applicator. This little silicone-tipped eye shader tool is a miracle worker for glittery shadows that work best with fingers but keeping things sanitary is a higher priority. Unlike brushes, the silicone's surface picks up and slides shadows over the skin so you can pack a serious pop of colour onto your lids with less mess.

After lengthy deliberation, I chose to buy this PÜR Minerals Lip Lure Hydrating Lip Lacquer in the shade Fancy, and I absolutely love it. Creamy and opaque, this dusky mauve tone shows up as a very natural pink shade on my lips. The rich pigmentation is combined with skincare ingredients which makes this lipstick feel so hydrating. The colour wears off nicely and hours after application, my lips still didn't feel completely bare or dry. I know this will be an everyday favourite and it's purse-friendly too.

The Shoppers beauty event had many prominent beauty brands providing samples, demonstrations and complimentary services, so I sat down with Lise Watier MUA Michele and was treated to a fulsome tour of the line's best products. I was able to test-run a full face of makeup and see how it looked in different lights, how it wore through the day and if I had any sensitivity reaction. The one standout for me was this Rouge Fondant Suprême lipstick in the shade Leah, which is the most buttery, delectably mildly fruit-scented lipstick I've ever used. It feels so moisturizing that I forget that it's lipstick and not a thick balm. The shade she suggested was one I would have passed over left to my own devices, but once she put it on my lips I had to agree, it's a beautiful peachy-nude, lovely anytime but especially with fresh spring makeup. I love the crisp little eyeliner wing she drew on me, it made my eyes look wide and open without being overly dramatic. I also fell in love with the Simply Nudes 12-Colour Eyeshadow Palette she used on my eyes and may not be able to resist it much longer...

I've never mentioned it, but one of the most stalwart beauty staples I own is this incredible Sensual Skin Enhancer cream by late makeup genius Kevyn Aucoin in the shade SX08. The first time you try this stuff it might scare you, the coverage is so intense that you'll likely be too heavy-handed. Yet the way this product covers everything and melts into the skin is astonishing. The steep price can be initially off-putting for such a minuscule jar, but devotees know that nothing out there packs a coverage punch like this does and the tiniest bit goes a long way. This is the only face product that I scrape out into my travel palette and it's all I need as foundation, concealer, tinted moisturizer, I just blend and go as needed. I suspect that I also love this because it doesn't dehydrate my skin or highlight dry patches and wrinkles for it's quite dewy and emollient. I appreciate that they have many shades for women of every ethnicity, so finding one that matched me perfectly was easy.

The other decadent beauty favourite by Kevyn Aucoin that has really been worth the money is this Essential Eyeshadow Set #2, which contains five superb shadows that again are so heavily pigmented that they take a little getting used to at first, but once you do, they are pure heaven to apply and blend. The black powder is my favourite to set eyeliners so they look matte and won't smudge or fade. I don't mind periodically spending the extra money to spoil myself with beauty products that still delight long after the thrill of the purchase, and this palette continues to do just that.

Finally, a shout-out to my beloved stylist P. for turning me on to Oribe's Dry Texturizing Spray. Not to be mistaken for an ordinary dry shampoo, the idea here is to mist some of the product into your hair where it's a bit flat, scrunch it up with your fingers and you get instant volume minus the crunchy feeling of hairspray. It smells great and is effective, like everything I've tried from this luxury haircare brand, available in Canada at ritzy salons and beauty retailers.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

My favourite mascara + top Daiso beauty picks

Asian girls are obsessed with lashes, we can't help it. Many of us have sparse short lashes that stick straight down and combined with small hooded lids, applying mascara becomes a logistical challenge that requires rudimentary engineering skills and in extreme cases, mathematics. Isehan Heroine Make Kiss Me Volume & Curl Mascara is my favourite mascara of the moment. Made in Japan, it finds and coats my wee Asian lashes without disturbing the curl, and wears steadfastly all day and night. While difficult to find, if you see it, give it a try. I bought mine at the Aberdeen Centre in Richmond, BC at a small specialty beauty store called MG Cosmetics for about $20, so it costs a bit more than most drugstore mascaras but still much less than luxury brands.

And then it was on to the Daiso. If you're still unfamiliar with this Japanese 100¥ store (the equivalent of our dollar stores), you're missing out. The quality and variety of exceptional products for a buck or two is astounding. I visit the massive 2-floor location at the Aberdeen Centre, but they have stores worldwide with the same products at all locations.

This cute bottle of Makeup Brush Cleaner is a stellar deal, I buy it in multiples so I can share. Utterly effective at removing product and debris from brushes and makeup tools, I use it by pouring a few tablespoons' worth into a tiny dish, quickly dip each water-dampened brush directly into the solution, lather with a textured silicone cleansing pad and then thoroughly rinse and hang upside-down to dry. The formula is great at dissolving even tough products like long-wearing foundation, concealer and indelible lipstick and rinses away much quicker than shampoos and liquid body soaps. I find that my brushes are noticeably free of residue which allows them to perform to their maximum potential, while maintaining the best aseptic environment for my cosmeceutical pursuits.

I've mentioned these face mask paper sheets previously, made of the same water-resistant material that you find in the pre-moistened single sheet masks packages everyone is crazy about. The bonus with these is that you create your own DIY beauty treatment but with fresh ingredients and zero preservatives or chemical additives. You will find endless recipes online for homemade face masks geared to address your particular skin concerns, so just mix one up, apply to your face and then top it off with a moistened sheet mask and relax for about half an hour. You will be amazed at how deeply hydrated your skin will be, since the moisture will have longer to sink in instead of evaporating and possibly taking some of your skin's own moisture along with it (think how licking chapped lips makes them worse). One package of a dozen costs less than a single sheet mask, and nothing beats complete control of what goes onto your face.

This tiny unassuming sifter jar contains the best highlight powder around, for only TWO BUCKS! The tiniest dot of product swirled into the lid is enough for my whole face, so I think there's a lifetime supply in the container. I picked the Pearl White shade and although it's called a 'Nose Highlight Powder', it's perfect on cheekbones, cupid's bows and on eyes. It's sparkly but without big flakes of glitter so it works both as a sheer highlighter when well-diffused with a fluffy brush and gives an intense mirror-like sheen if applied directly with your fingertip. I'll pick up the Pearl Pink shade the next time I'm there, hopefully there will be some in-store.

Daiso carries a healthy selection of false lashes to suit every taste and many eye shapes, from very natural to extra-dramatic, with varying bands and lash lengths so at two dollars per package, it's no big risk to pick a few to try out. I grabbed these subtle everyday lashes to add to my stash, but was much more excited to find this black eyelash glue, also for only $2 CAD.

On my way out, I spotted this face mask that I couldn't resist by the Korean beauty brand Banila Co. Even though I have the DIY sheets above, I still enjoy trying out pre-moistened sheet masks like this one, particularly in the evening when I'm not in a hurry. I liked the sound of Tea Party Moisturizing Earl Grey, and this company is knows for its excellent skincare so I'm looking forward to giving this a try.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Best recent beauty buys: No. 7, Maybelline, NYX & Essence

I've had a few weeks to try the ballyhooed No. 7 Protect & Perfect Advanced Serum, and I've been won over by this unassuming little white tube. The product is not a replacement for moisturizer, but rather a pre-treatment to use beforehand. While I can't say that my fine lines and wrinkles have miraculously disappeared, I can tell you that my face has felt smoother, more deeply hydrated and less flaky dry than it was before I started using it. It has also thankfully made my day moisturizing cream much more effective. I like how it sinks in and absorbs rapidly, especially at night when I don't want to smear skincare products on my pillowcases. These properties are why this is my current favourite base to prepare my face; I find that it does not interfere with how makeup applies to my skin or how long it lasts, unlike richer products that will cause foundations and concealers to slide around and limits wear time considerably. This serum has a loyal following for good reason and I will continue using it morning and night.
Ever on the hunt for my holy grail cleansing wipe, I chose to give these No. 7 Beautiful Skin Quick Thinking Wipes a go. I like the size and texture of the cleansing cloth, and the cleanser itself is effective. The first couple of wipes were a tad dry, but now that I'm a few in to the pack, they're really growing on me. I find them well-soaked in a non-irritating solution that takes the lion's share of a full face of makeup off with ease. Waterproof eyeliner, mascara and lip products dissolve quickly and they're not greasy or perfumed. Bought in conjunction with a brand promotion, these are a great option if you're looking for effective, economical makeup removing wipes. Shoppers Drug Mart carries a decent selection of No. 7 skincare for Canadian beauty lovers to enjoy.

I should listen to my mother more often. She's been telling me how much she likes these Maybelline lipsticks and was she ever right. I settled on the Color Sensation The Buffs lipstick in shade 950 Untainted Spice, and I can't stop wearing it! I'm blown away by the creamy formula that lasts much longer than I expected, with a pleasant mild scent and no flavour. This colour is everything I wanted right now, not too brown or red, I love the way it doesn't look patchy or obvious as it wears off, and my lips feels moisturized for hours. For just a few dollars, I'm even impressed with the look and feel of the tube itself, which is nicer than some lipsticks at double or triple the price. I may be the last person on planet Earth to do so, but I'm so glad I finally stopped overlooking this ubiquitous affordable gem and am now keen on buying a few more of these if I can find shades that appeal to me.

Since I'm lining my lips constantly these days, I realize I want my all lipliners to be retractable so they'll never need sharpening. This lipliner from NYX is one of my current obsessions, the Retractable Lip Crayon in the shade Cocoa. It's a slim waterproof liner that glides a gorgeous shade of red-tinged brown onto my lips and blends beautifully with lipsticks and glosses. It's a perfect colour to define nude lips or to keep darker shades tidily in place for the day. It was the darkest neutral they had at my local London Drugs, and I am so enamored of this little beauty that it has quickly become a beauty staple.

This NYX Liquid Suede Cream Lipstick in Soft Spoken had more than one surprise in store for me. To be clear, this is not a non-transferring, ultra long-lasting liquid lipstick. Instead, it is a mousse-like lipstick that is light and creamy with a velvety shine-free finish that feels nice and wears off subtly; it's great to have a matte nude lipstick that doesn't leave lips dry and flaky. The next surprise was how grey-taupe this shade looks against my neutral/olive-toned skin, not that I mind that in the least either. Paired with any darker lipliner, it creates a neutral gradient look that is subtle but polished and wears well through the day. This shade looks much browner and rosier on lighter skin tones, a lovely addition to any makeup collection. I'm really pleased to see that this top-quality line is now available in Canada at Shoppers Drug Mart, as well as at London Drugs and Save-On Foods locations.

Although technically I had all the black eyeliner pencils that anyone could use in one lifetime, I guess it's really saying something that I felt the need to repurchase this Essence Gel Eye Pencil Waterproof in Black Blaze after my previous one bit the dust (ok, I accidentally sharpened it, it's retractable and the resulting badly-damaged plastic tip became more of a weapon than beauty product, so I chucked it). This blackety-black eyeliner is smoother and lasts longer - even in my waterline - than most other liners, including luxury brands. For just a few bucks, it is one of the best beauty bargains I've found, available in Canada at Shoppers Drug Mart.

I also bought the Essence Eyeliner Pen Waterproof in Deep Black and again this product rivals any high-end liquid eyeliner pen, full stop. Richly pigmented, this is like a marker with a long thin tip that draws a dark line and perfect flick with ease. This liner did not get flaky, smudge or irritate at all and was intact at the end of a long day. Absolutely a must-have along with the Gel Eye Pencil, again at a shockingly low price.

Still with Essence, I got my hands on their new Liquid Lipstick in the shade 06 Make a Statement. This brightly coloured product is a hybrid of lipstick and lipgloss, with opaque pigmentation in a buttery liquid formula. Scent and flavour are frequent deal-breakers for me when it comes to lip products, but the scent was so mild that I scarcely noticed. I love the raspberry-mauve hue this brings to my lips. I've also found it works wonders to tone down too dark/overly vampy and matte lipsticks, diffusing them into a more ombré and wearable look, so this drugstore find is a definite keeper.

Last from Essence I bought a nail polish from the I <3 Trends The Nudes line in 03 I'm Lost In You and I'm again thrilled with the quality of nail polishes this brand keeps creating. This warm dark beige shade is perfect against my skintone, looking neither too orange nor grey and with two nice coats over my fancy base coat and topped with Seche Vite's Fast Dry top coat, Essence nail polishes perform as well or better than most polishes. I'm also a huge fan of their flattened, ergonomically-shaped applicator brush that makes it easier to achieve a salon-perfect manicure. Incredibly, these sell for just a couple bucks and come in a large, ever-changing array of colours, but you should act fast if you see something you like as they do sell out. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

PÜR Minerals & Coastal Scents eye shadow palette swatches

I wanted to present the shadows of these two palettes swatched against my olive/dark tan skin, so you can get an idea of the pigmentation and true colours of these products. I've been using both palettes non-stop this winter since I love the colour payoff and versatility of both. They're unscented, not powdery or chalky and are good enough to wear without eye primer, one of my tests of an eyeshadow's quality. Exceptionally good eye shadows will apply and look great for hours without any help from priming products, so especially on days when I want a natural, subtle look, I ditch the extra step and save my lid primer for more dramatic or glittery eyes and situations that will push the limits of my makeup's endurance.

The PÜR Minerals Soul Mattes palette is my everyday favourite shadow palette and lately I find a way to work at least one of the shades onto my lids no matter what kind of makeup look I'm going for. The fact that this entire palette is matte makes this my top choice when I want to blend, contour and highlight my eyes. I can't get over how creamy and smooth these shadows are, they blend out so well that I can forego eye primer entirely and not even notice. The colours stay fast all day and night and as you can see, they appear true on my skin, never patchy or sheer. Absolutely get your hands on this palette if you can, I bought mine at Shoppers Drug Mart and am ecstatic about it.
PÜR Minerals Soul Mattes palette swatched on dark tan/olive skin

This next set of swatches is my recent haul of Coastal Scents Hot Pots. Several of the shades show up differently on my skin than expected from what I saw online, but I am very pleased with the performance and pigmentation of the shadows I received. I opted for a variety of finishes including matte, satin and shimmer and I am impressed by all three. I took my time when I was choosing these shades, reading many reviews and checking out lots of online swatches before deciding. When it turned out that four of the shades I wanted the most were sold out, I was able to get all of them nonetheless, by ordering the Coastal Scents Brow Set. The added bonus in this strategy is that I now have a spare 4-pan mirrored compact that I can use for my purse or luggage when space and weight are an issue for travel since all these shadows are easily interchangeable between palettes. Coastal Scents run at least two massive sales yearly, I suggest you research the shades you're into and be ready to put your order in as soon as you see the sales are on, or else you'll likely run into many of the best shades being temporarily sold out. While you're there, take a moment to peruse the makeup brushes section, several of my tried and true favourites are from this brand and the prices are unbeatable.
Coastal Scents Hot Pots swatched on dark tan/olive skin