Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Meow Cosmetics Update, and 100th Post!

Hello, all!

An update to my Meow Cosmetics situation, posted about first here, can be found over at Indie Makeup and More on Reddit -- click here. This post was made shortly after my previous post, and I refrained from updating on this blog as I prefer it not to be cluttered with negativity! Please head over there if you would like to read the e-mail exchange between me and Meow Cosmetics. To put it shortly, Meow did not agree that the foundation did not match the sample I had received prior. For various reasons beyond that (outlined in the Reddit post), I no longer support Meow Cosmetics as a business and will no longer review or purchase their products. However, I still stand by my opinions on their products, both good and bad.

On the positive side, this is my 100th post! I've had this blog for over a year now. Thank you to anyone who has kept up with my posts. I sincerely appreciate it. <3

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Baroque Cosmetics Always With Me Collection Review + Swatches

 Back with another Baroque Cosmetics review, yes I am! This time, it's the Always With Me collection, inspired by Spirited Away. I'm a sucker for Miyazaki stuff (and yes, an upcoming review for Baroque's Howl's Moving Castle-inspired collection, A Heart's a Heavy Burden, is coming up soon!)

This collection contains 8 shadows and can be purchased as a set for $10 sample size, $44 full size. Individual shadows cost $1.50 sample size, $6 full size. It mostly focuses on cool-toned colours in the green-blue spectrum. Unfortunately I found the blue-greens really difficult to capture on camera, and they ended up less vibrant than I found them to be in real life.

I feel like these shadows do not perform well without primer. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it's something to keep in mind. I did not test these on a sticky base -- all swatches are on Urban Decay Primer Potion (on the left; right is bare skin). The shadows are all finely milled and I did not find them particularly patchy to apply.

On to the swatches! Remember, you can click the photos to get a zoom in.    

Top: Smells Like Human Spirit, Bottom: Herbal Bath Soak
Ugh, super washed out pictures, I apologize! I'm still getting the hang of this "photography" thing. 

Smells Like Human Spirit: A lime green with red glitter.
This green is more vibrant than Baroque's swatch suggests! The red glitter is noticeable but you've got to focus to notice that it's red. I would say the colour is fairly true to what it appears like in the jar. If you're comparing this to other Baroque shadows, it is much different from the other light green colour, Wizard's Apprentice, which is slightly more matte and definitely more pistachio in colour.

Herbal Bath Soak: A medium tea green blue with a slight gold shimmer.
The description of this shadow is spot on. This is a lovely soft colour that's shimmery without being frosty. The shimmer gives a lovely sheen. 

Top: Dragon, Bottom: Ocean Railway
Dragon: A minty green blue.
I really love this colour. It's a great representation of the character in question, even though it isn't exactly a colour he wears, you know? I would say the colour is similar to Baroque's swatch
 but more shimmery. Unfortunately, this didn't fare well on bare skin at all.

Ocean Railway: A bright blue with green glitter.
Very glittery. This colour does a great shift from darker blue to lighter blue depending on the angle you view it at. If you blend too much, all the blue disappears and you get left with a glitter bomb. Definitely use primer with this if you want it to stay on your face! I think it would be super amazing over a sticky base.

I think the greens and blues for this collection are all unique from each other enough that they individually make a good contribution to the overall collection. Here's some more views! You can really see the glitter in Ocean Railway here: 

Alright, on to the next four shades!

Top: Bathhouse, Bottom: Give Me Sen!
 These photographed much better, I think.

Bathhouse: A bright red with gold glitter.
Not much to say about this, as it's just as advertised! I did find it pretty accurate to Baroque's swatch, if not a bit more rich in colour.

Give Me Sen!: A dusty purple with a satin finish.
Completely accurate to Baroque's swatch. I think this would be a great staple for anyone who uses a lot of purple. I love the finish.

I lost my second picture for this one!

Confetti Candy: White with red, gold and green sparks! (note hard to capture on camera)
Hard to capture on camera is right. Let me assure you that this pure white colour absolutely has tons of red, gold, and green sparks, and it is noticeable! A perfect representation of confetti candy. I probably wouldn't recommend this as an inner corner highlight; it really is a huge, delicious glitter bomb (yet without being overly offensive!). A surprising favourite of mine from this collection.

Boiler Room: A blackened bronze.
This picture makes Boiler Room look much more boring than it is, although I still wouldn't recommend it to any seasoned shadow collector. It has a lovely bronze sheen to it and despite my swatch (and Baroque's), it does have some shimmer to it. Works best over primer but it's one of the few shadows in this collection that could fare well on bare skin, too.

Overall, I think this collection does an amazing job of representing its source material. My significant other was able to pick out some of the characters despite not having seen the movie in years! My favourite shades from this collection are Dragon and Confetti Candy. If I had to, I would pass on Bathhouse and Boiler Room. If you're a blue&green fanatic, consider this collection! If you're looking for more matte shades (I know some of the website swatches almost look that way), do pass on this. All of the shades except Give Me Sen! were shimmery, metallic, or glittery. 

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Voyageur Soap and Candle Review

Voyageur Soap and Candle is a Canadian (Surrey, BC) company that stocks all sorts of supplies for all your soap-making, candle-making, and DIY needs. I ordered from them quite a while ago but dawdled on posting about my order here. But then -- this is all about what I receive in the mail, right? It doesn't all have to be about strictly make up or subscription boxes! 

I found Voyageur's website to be relatively easy to navigate but there are quite a few different categories which you can look through, some only accessible by certain other pages. They do, however, have a search function, which is quite handy. Because they focus so much on soaps and candles, it can be easy to click away if you're more interested in, say, cosmetics or skin care. But don't leave yet! Voyageur has a ton of stuff. From all sorts of different containers for product, to oils, to powdered ingredients and preservatives, it's worth it to take a look through their catalogue.

Another concern is shipping. Voyageur does not automatically calculate shipping at check out, instead charging after they have figured how much it would actually cost. This seems a little sketchy, right? However, you can use Paypal for added security and they have a wonderful customer service team. You can add in the comments to be e-mailed about shipping charges before any costs are incurred. When I did this, I had a reply within 24 hours. I even had a lovely back and forth and got information on how much more I could add to more order without raising the shipping price. All responses were prompt and informative. I paid $12 for shipping, which is pretty steep, but not if you've had experience with Canada Post (ugh).

Everything came packaged in a box filled with paper and bubble wrap. As you can see, the different product types were packaged separately in different bags. I got quite a few things...

Left to right: Neem Oil, Coconut Oil - Fractionated, Optiphen Plus Preservative
Neem oil has antibacterial, antifungal, and antiseptic qualities. It's not the most moisturizing (though it is a bit) nor is it cosmetically elegant. In fact, it smells a lot like rotten peanut sauce. And no, the smell does not go away. It also, as you can see in the picture, has a high melting point, and will go solid when out at anything lower than room temperature, like my mailbox. Dunking it under some warm water helped melt it easily. I've used this as a spot treatment and I'm super impressed. It helped a cyst go away in days! However, it does cause my spots to be a bit painful as they are purged.

Fractionated coconut oil is that which has been "fractionated by steam distillation to contain only the medium chain triglycerides, which gives this oil an indefinite shelf life and its gentle, light, moisturizing properties that won't clog pores", according to Voyageur. It's a super light, liquid at room temperature, moisturizing oil. I didn't get this for my skin, though -- it's often used to press eyeshadows, which is my intended use. I still don't have pans, so I've yet to try it out.

Optiphen Plus Preservative is a preservative with a broad range of applications, though it works best in products of pH < 6.0. I've been thinking about tinkering with more DIY stuff, so I got a bit of this. You only need a bit, so this will last me ages. 

Rosehip oil is a light, almost scentless oil that has many fatty acids as well as provitamin A (not retinol A, as stated by Voyageur). I've used this as a cleanser as well as under my moisturizer. I like it but it isn't a miracle product.

Evening primrose oil is supposed to be great for eczema (source), and I've heard anecdotes on its use for cystic acne. I get one or two cysts every month from my cycle so that's why I got this. Because I've already cracked open the neem oil I've yet to use this, though! I should be able to use this for oil cleansing or moisturizing, as well.

I also got a perfume rollerball and a ton of 5mL styrene jars. The rollerball was made of thick and sturdy glass with a plastic rollerball and cap. The jar itself was great quality and it kind of made the plastic components seem very cheap in comparison. It worked fine, though. The jars are high quality with tight fitting lids. My only complaint is that the bottoms are not perfectly flat (though not super concave, either). So when I depot my samples into them, I have to put the labels on the top. Not a huge deal.

Voyageur carries a ton of powdered ingredients, including silk peptide, L-acsorbic acid, and what I got, green tea extract. I was maybe a bit too quick to pull the trigger on this, because this is a huge package. I added just a bit into my gel moisturizer (currently: Olay Fresh Effects Dew Over) and it turned the entire thing a gross brown-green colour, like the powder itself! It also had the weird side effect of making it super watery. I can't say for sure if I've seen a difference in using it. However, I have noticed that the green tint is actually perfect for cutting out the redness in my skin, much like a green-based makeup primer. Potential antioxidant activity + covering up redness? Yes, please. Now if only I knew what to do with the other 56 grams...

Finally, I picked up some pH testing strips. These are rudimentary ones that just change into one colour that you then compare to their legend, instead of the four different colours for more accurate readings. But I'm not super picky about my products' pH as long as they're in the right range for effectiveness (if they contain active ingredients) and below 6.0 (to keep my skin barrier nice and acidic).

I compared the prices of some popular DIY items to another company that sells this sort of stuff, Garden of Wisdom. As of writing:
  • 1 fl oz of Evening Primrose is $0.10 cheaper from Voyageur 
  • A 1oz amber bottle with dropper is $0.58 cheaper from Voyageur
  • 4 fl oz of Fractionated Coconut Oil is $1.60 cheaper from Voyageur
  • 2 fl oz of Neem oil is $5.15 cheaper from Voyageur
  • 2 oz of Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C) is $11.95 cheaper from Voyageur
So, would I recommend Voyageur? Of course! I found their customer service to be top notch and super helpful. Their prices are great, their product is good quality, and they're a Canadian business. I will definitely be ordering from them again whenever my DIY bug hits.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Aromaleigh Ephemera January to April 2015 Review

Box: Ephemera by Aromaleigh
Price: $15/month, plus shipping
Ships to: North America & others, see here
What’s inside: Various cosmetics centered around a theme, plus samples and a treat

Ephemera is a rather new indie subscription box that started in January of this year. Aromaleigh is well known for their eyeshadows and other products. I quickly jumped in on the chance to subscribe to my first indie box, especially as I had never ordered from Aromaleigh before.

To make a long story short: this is a lovely subscription box. The packaging is phenomenal, the quality of the products is good, and the themes are solid. I highly recommend trying this box out if you can snag a coveted slot, if you are vying for some more loose eyeshadows, rouges, and the like in your life.

However, I have ended my subscription as of receiving my April box for two reasons. Firstly, the exchange rate in Canada along with the $8 shipping fee brought the monthly cost of this subscription to nearly $30 a month. That is what most would call a mid-to-high cost for a cosmetics subscription, and ends up being almost equal the value of the box contents without the luxury of choosing what I'd like. Secondly, I realize that I simply cannot finish a full size or even a halfling of loose eyeshadow. What I've gotten from this box in four months is more than I'll be able to use in a few years, I'd bet.

Without further adieu, on to the swatches for this 4-month review! This will be photo heavy, so click the cut below! I'll let the swatches do the talking, for the most part. As always, eyeshadow swatches are half Urban Decay Primer Potion, half bare skin.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Amoda Tea April 2015 Review

Box: Amoda Tea
Price: $18/month, including shipping
Ships to: North America
What’s inside: 4 different teas (~3 cups each), tea filters

As always, Amoda Tea is a lovely Canadian company that provides tea each month! Packaging has improved since last month, where I got a sad little 2x2 paper intro card on what appeared to be printer paper. This card is made of a nicer feeling paper (not quite card stock, but perfectly acceptable) and explains that this month, all teas are from Camellia Sinensis -- no, not the tea plant, the teahouse. Another Canadian tea company? Count me in.

Perlses of Antilles || Green rooibos
Ingredients: green rooibos, apple pieces, banana pieces, pineapple pieces, grated coconut; all organic
Super fragrant in the bag, this tea unfortunately loses (in my opinion) to its green rooibos, which is far too mild in flavour to enhance the interesting addition of banana pieces. It doesn't taste grassy, nor like tannins -- just vaguely tea-like and apple-ish. I'd skip this.

Nilgiri Coonoor || Black
Ingredients: Indian black tea
This was grown in Southern India, and produces a smooth, soft, and floral tea that would be great for anyone looking for a lighter black tea. I like this (let's face it, I like most black teas) -- but it wasn't quite as good for me, you know? I think this would be perfect for someone else but something about it just doesn't make it the greatest black tea in my life.

Choco Shou || Pu-erh
Ingredients: pu-erh tea, natural chocolate, vanilla flavour
Pu'er, pu-er, pu-erh, or any other spelling thereof, is an interesting sort of tea that is supposed to get better as it ages. I still have my 2013 pu-erh from my Amoda Tea box last year, in January 2014. I'll be opening that up soon! This tea I've already tried, because I figure the chocolate really shouldn't be stored for too long. It was super aromatic -- like a turkish coffee, or a baked chocolate good. This smell didn't come across as much in the taste, but it was still nice. It tasted like a hint of chocolate and a hint of vanilla in a tea that didn't quite taste black, but was unique all on its own. I wouldn't buy this again but it was a treat to try.

One Night in Rio || Black
Ingredients: Indian black tea, grated coconut, pineapple chunks
I'm really loving all the tropical-type teas Amoda has been sending out. I've learned that I have a real hankering for pineapple in tea, as evidenced by how much I loved the Pineapple Sencha from last month. This tea is very fragrant and has resemblance to a pina colada, for obvious reasons. Unfortunately the taste doesn't quite come through as the smell does. I'm so-so on this and I wouldn't personally purchase again.

All in all this month's box was a miss for me. I'll finish all of these teas but I didn't fall in love with any of them. My favourite was the Choco Shou and my least was the Perlses of Antilles.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Meow Cosmetics Review: Foundation, Primer, & Two Eyeshadows + Comparison to Other Foundations!

UPDATE: To read about my interaction with Meow Cosmetics' customer service, click here to see my post on Indie Makeup and More on Reddit.

Meow Cosmetics is a longtime indie business specializing in mineral makeup, especially well-known for their huge range of foundation shades. They have just about anything you could think of -- hundreds of eyeshadows, blushes, bronzers, primers, and powders. They even sell containers and brushes, although those are made by another company.

Some time ago I went ahead and got a ton of samples from Meow to figure out what shade of their foundation fit me best. I settled on Naughty Mau (did I mention that most of their product names are cat-based?), a medium warm shade. I umm-ed and ah-ed and finally broke down to order said shade in their "Munchkin" size -- an impressive 25g (0.88oz) jar (6-8g/0.2-0.3oz net weight). Their full size is a whopping 85g/3oz (22-30g/0.8-1.06oz net weight)! I picked the medium coverage option, Pampered Puss. I also got two samples of the same shade in their high-coverage formula, Flawless Feline. For the sake of trying something new, I also got their mineral primer, the long-winded "Primp & Preen Premiere Puss Primer Powder" -- say that five times fast! It's in the combination skin formula.

The Munchkin foundation is $14.75 for this formula; the low coverage and high coverage formulas are two dollars less and more, respectively. Sample sizes are $1.00 across the board. The full size primer was $14.25.

All the products came in a cute leopard print bag and two free eyeshadow samples were thrown in.

This review will be picture heavy, so click below if you'd like to read more!

Ipsy April 2015 Review

Box: Ipsy (Referral link)
Price: $10/month, $110/year; $4.95 shipping to Canada
Ships to: North America
What’s inside: Various beauty product samples and full size products, very roughly personalized

This month's bag is sort of a woven fabric, with a lined inside. It's bigger than most bags Ipsy sent out and I really thank them for it, since the past few days I've had to do my entire face outside of my home and I needed a bigger bag to hold my essentials. 

Fit eyeshadow, Carnation Pink blush (pigmented swipe, then blended out)
Pandora's Makeup Box Carnation Pink Blush Full size || Value: $14
I know a lot of people are going to hate getting this single pan, but I kind of like it! I don't have a magnetic palette yet, but one is on my list. I can't wait to depot a bunch of my things into it, including this. It's a very sizable amount of blush, especially considering that it's super pigmented. Seriously, I can't believe how intense the colour comes through with the lightest tap of my brush. This makes it difficult because I found it a bit harder to blend than other blushes I own. Not something I'd buy but nothing I won't use, either.

theBalm Cosmetics NUDE Dude Eyeshadow Single in Fit 1g/0.035oz || Value: ~$3
theBalm is a brand I've heard about a lot but I've never been able to find it easily where I am. I think the packaging just edges over the line between tacky and clever, though the whole sexualization of it really creeps me out sometimes. What's with all these PG13 names for makeup, these days (I'm especially looking at you, Urban Decay)? Anyway, this shadow is a "shimmering copper". I have a huge fondness for anything in the metallic brown/bronze/gold/copper spectrum so of course I'm glad to get this. Yet I found the quality "meh" for such a hyped brand. This 100% needs a primer (here, I used UDPP). The colour is pretty but not super unique, either. It was, however, easy to apply and blend. 

Essence Lash Princess Volume Mascara Full size || Value: $4.99
Mascara is something I refuse to open unless I need it, because of how quickly it goes dry. From the pictures I've seen online, it looks like this has some major lengthening properties, but... in my opinion, it looks pretty clumpy. Some pictures are just bordering the line of "spider lash". Maybe paired with another mascara (or a really good spooling through), this will be good!

Ziaja Goat's Milk Day Cream 10.35ml/0.35fl oz || Value: $2.67
Beneficial ingredients of note: shea butter, soybean oil ferment, olive oil, goat milk extract
Detrimental ingredients of note: fragrance, limonene (second last ingredient)
I have so many face creams now! This little sample is perfect for small trips away. I'm fairly impressed with the ingredients list but it is pretty long and therefore this cream has a higher likelihood of irritating or breaking someone out. I've not used goat's milk on my face before (though I have used snail, bird's nest, and donkey's milk!), so I wonder if this will make much of a difference.

Jor'el Parker Femina Fragrance 8.8ml/1.7oz || Value: $9.68
Notes: Meyer Lemon, White Grapefruit, Satsuma Mandarin, Summer Forsythia, Pink Plumeria, Wild Verbena, Tahitian Vanilla, Sensual Musk.
As soon as I tried this rollerball on my wrist, I immediately noted it's similarity to another fragrance I own (and enjoy), Hello by Harvey Prince, which I received from my (now cancelled) Beauty Box 5, in May. And what do you know... the notes are exactly the same. Oh, and if you want to purchase Femina, you'll be directed to this page on Harvey Prince's website. I can't complain about getting a scent I enjoy (and I'm almost done with my last sample, and can't wait to use an easier rollerball container), but wow, Harvey Prince. That's sneaky. I'd hate to be the one who accidentally purchases both.

Top: Pops 1 swipe, Pops 3 swipes, Little Susie 1 swipe, Little Susie 3 swipes
NYX Cosmetics Butter Lipsticks in Pops and Little Susie Full size
I enjoyed the lipstick I recieved in the shade Hunk from last month, so with some extra points I nabbed these! Unfortunately, my lip infection (since confirmed to be a fungal infection! Cause unknown) has returned and I've not been able to use these on my lips. I would assume they work as well as or better than Hunk, which is a more saturated and darker colour. Pops is a nice nude colour which might be MLBB (my lips but better) on me, whereas Little Susie is a bright, cheery pink.

I got just about $35 worth of product here, but the vast majority was made up by the full sized blush, so I would say I didn't get as much value as I'd like. Recently I've had some really spectacular months with Ipsy but this wasn't really one of them. Oh well, can't win them all.