Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Amoda Tea December 2014 Review

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

Woo hoo! My favourite tea subscription, Amoda Tea, is back after a short hiatus. They've made some changes to the subscription since I last reviewed them. The price has been upped from $12 to $18 a month including shipping. Instead of 3 teas with enough to make 5-7 cups, they now give out 4 teas, each at least 3 cups worth. They also include paper tea filters and a link to a playlist to sip tea to, which I think is cute. This month they also added a small pastry from Sweet Petite, though I don't know if this will be a recurring thing.

The pastry itself was very, very spongey. It was an odd texture I can't quite describe. It was sweet but not very flavourful. I didn't mind it but I probably wouldn't purchase it if I had the choice. 

The packaging on the teas has changed somewhat, with a papery brown instead of a plastic white sticker. The information cards were also paper instead of a nice cardstock like before. I assume the changes are to save a little money where possible to keep the business sustainable. It's not a huge detriment, especially when the tea descriptions and steeping instructions can also be found online.

Ball & Chain by Indie Tea || Oolong
Ingredients: Se Chung oolong, medjool dates, marigolds; all organic
Se Chung oolong simply means that it originates from a certain area of China. There are different varieties of Se Chung, but Amoda tells me that this particular one has a natural sweetness and roasted, nutty flavour. This certainly tastes like oolong, but also very different due to the medjool dates. It adds a nice dimension and I do enjoy this.

Celebration Medley by Sloane Tea || Rooibos
Ingredients: Red rooibos, apple, orange, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, rose
I am always down from some rooibos tea. The apple taste was very distinct in this, and overwhelmed the rest of the flavours. This could just be from luck of the draw -- perhaps there were just too many apple pieces in the scoop I steeped. Not bad if you like apple, though.
Wild Woman by Tay Tea || Black
Ingredients: Ceylon tea, wild blueberries, black currants, hibiscus, elderberries, corn flower petals; all organic
Of all the tea categories, black is my favourite. I also love the addition of blueberries and corn flower to teas. This tea was very aromatic, but the actual taste of berry was subtle. A nice, understated tea, but overall I felt it was a little unforgettable.
Ginger Cream by Aromatica Fine Teas || Black
Ingredients: Assam black tea, vanilla bean, ginger pieces, natural flavour
This really reminds me of my favourite tea I've received from Amoda, Caramel Toffee. I'm not sure why -- Caramel Toffee was a black tea-like oolong with hazelnut and caramel, whereas this... is not anything like that. It's not super sweet as Caramel Toffee is, but gives a sweet and spicy taste. Apparently, this is also the most caffeinated tea of the box. I like this!

Overall, these teas didn't "wow" me, but I'm so happy to have them. I don't really have any great tea vendors in my area, and shipping to Canada can get out of hand, especially when it's for teas I'm not sure I like. I also get bored of teas easily and like a lot of variety. Amoda gives this to me and that's what I wanted. I'm glad this lovely Canadian subscription is back. 

Monday, 29 December 2014

Baroque Cosmetics Pressed Palettes (+blush) Review (Swatches included)

During Black Friday, I went a little indie-crazy. One store I hit on my shopping spree was Baroque Cosmetics, which currently sells vegan & cruelty-free eyeshadows and blushes. Themed collections include those inspired by Studio Ghibli movies, the French Revolution, and Skyrim. There is also a newly-released Kingdom Hearts collection. Along with loose shadows and blushes, Baroque offers small pressed palettes, either custom made or limited edition. The store caught my eye with it's well-designed website and beautiful, vivid colours. I'm a huge sucker for deep, shimmery tones. The obvious historical feel pulled me in as well. I grabbed a custom palette and one limited edition Holiday 2014 palette in "Sparkly".

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Memebox F/W Natural Makeup Review

Box Overview
Box: Memebox (Referral link)
Price: Varies -- typically $23 plus shipping
Ships to: United States, Canada, and over 40 other countries -- check here
What's inside: Korean beauty products. Specifics for each box may be found on their website.

LadyKin Close Up Decuple Shimmering Primer Full Size || Value: $9.90
Beneficial ingredients of note: some plant extracts which may provide antioxidant properties
Detrimental ingredients of note: the same plant ingredients may cause irritation in some, wine extract (halfway through list)
This primer is supposed to be colourless, but was clearly pink on my skin. It was super shimmery, bordering on sparkly, and I can't imagine how this is "natural" in any way, shape, or form. It feels nice enough on the skin but I don't know how I will ever find a way to use it. On me, it's far too pink to be any sort of primer or even highlighter.

Leporem Perfect Whitening Blemish Balm Full Size || Value: $23 (according to card)
Beneficial ingredients of note: N/A
Detrimental ingredients of note: N/A
I didn't open this at all. Almost every single Memebox BB cream I've received to date has been too light for me (NC25ish, Missha #27). Looking at other reviews it seems that this cream is quite light, enough that I can't even bother trying it out. A face three shades lighter than my body =/= natural.

ddung lipstick in DL11 Elegance Beige Full Size || Value: $9.95
Beneficial ingredients of note: N/A
Detrimental ingredients of note: N/A
I was optimistic about this lipstick when I swatched it (see below); it ended up being a nice muted pink instead of a brown nude colour that I absolutely can't pull off. The first time I tried a lip swatch seemed to turn out well, but ever since then the formula has not played nice with me at all. It goes on super patchy and accentuates all of my lip lines. It also smells/tastes strongly of wax. I haven't tried applying this with a lip brush yet, but I can't help but feel any payoff would not be worth my time.

DD'ell Stay Forever Gel Eye Pencil in 04 Espresso Full Size || Value: $14 (according to card)
Beneficial ingredients of note: N/A
Detrimental ingredients of note: N/A
That's more like it! I do have a brown eye pencil, but no gel ones at the moment. This is a nice addition to my collection. It swatched smoothly and while it gives some time to smudge or correct, after it sets it has good staying power. It has just a tiny amount of shimmer to it, but not enough for me to say it's not "natural makeup" looking.

Tony Moly Delight Circle Lens Mascara in 03 Clear Circle Full Size || Value: $2.50
Beneficial ingredients of note:
argan oil, green tea extract
Detrimental ingredients of note
: denatured alcohol (third ingredient, presumably for fast drying)  
Another item actually fitting in with the "natural" theme, this mascara is actually completely clear. I've yet to crack this open, but from what I understand this can be used for various purposes like as an under- or top-coat for other mascaras, to hold a curl without using other mascaras, or as an alternative to eyebrow wax to tame those stray hairs. I'm glad to have something like this just in case.
Mustaev Color Powder Starline Opal Full Size || Value: $22 (according to card)
Beneficial ingredients of note: none
Detrimental ingredients of note: none
There's no way this is $22, and if it is, it can't be worth it. This is a beautiful shimmering, sparkly, almost disco-esque loose powder that can be used on the eyes or as a highlighter... but there's no way such a small jar is $22, right? And regardless, it doesn't belong in a natural makeup box. It's one of my favourite items here, though. My only complaint is that the powder gets absolutely everywhere -- opening the jar almost guarantees that you'll get powder on your fingers. It's also difficult to remove. 

Top to bottom: LadyKin primer, ddung lipstick, DD'ell eye pencil, Mustaev powder
In total, I received an estimated $70 worth of product, more or less. I highly doubt some of the prices Memebox gives on the cards, as they are prone to highly inflating prices both on cards and in their own shop. I will only really get use out of the powder, pencil, and maybe the mascara, and I would only count a few items as fitting the theme of "natural". I have mixed feelings about this box, but I think it's better than some of the other makeup boxes Memebox has released.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Ipsy December 2014 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 a nice rectangular vinyl-like bag, perfect size for a small purse or even as a pencil case for those of us still in school. The ipsy heart tag is thankfully removable. Thanks, ipsy! 

Beauty Without Cruelty AHA 3% Facial Cleanser 60mL/2fl oz || Value: $2.80
Beneficial ingredients of note: aloe leaf juice (second ingredient), geranium rose oil, cucumber extract
Detrimental ingredients of note: sodium C14-16 olefin sulfonate (surfactant) (third ingredient), lavender extract
While I enjoy the fact that Ipsy actually seemed to pick something from my interests, I have never found cleansers with active ingredients to be all that... effective. The only exception being benzoyl peroxide, which to my knowledge can do quite a bit of work within a few minutes. I do not expect a 3% AHA to help much as far as acne reduction, though. My skin really loves aloe so I'm glad it's a large proportion of this cleanser. Paula's Choice tells me that sodium C14-16 olefin sulfonate is a surfactant which may be drying and irritating if used in large amounts, so be careful! I'm happy with my Cerave Foaming Cleanser so I'll be adding this to the swap list.

Swissco Electroplated Eyelash Curler || Value: $5
I've been needing a new eyelash curler for ages. Unfortunately, I just splurged on a very expensive Shu Uemura eyelash curler! This got here before the SU one did, so I've been using it anyway. It's a nice curler compared to my VERY old one, and actually curls my lashes. I did some comparison with the SU curler and there is a difference in how well they curl my stick-straight lashes. Sometimes money does get better quality, I suppose! That's not to say this is a bad curler by any means, especially for the price. It's also my favourite colour! Too bad the purple is already flaking off after only a few days of use. 

tarte deluxe lights, camera, lashes 4-in-1 mascara 3mL/0.10oz || Value: $10
Beneficial ingredients of note: none
Detrimental ingredients of note: alcohol denat (presumably for quick drying)
$10 for a little mascara sample, my goodness. I know tarte is an expensive brand, but seeing the value of little samples really puts it into perspective. At least mascara lasts a long time! I've yet to open this but I've heard really great things about this mascara. I've also heard that the sample size is, for whatever reason, better than the full size! Maybe some small change in formulation to make up for lack of product?


Pixi by Petra Fairy Dust in Brightening Bare (medium nude sheen) Full Size || Value: $15.50
Beneficial ingredients of note: none
Detrimental ingredients of note: none
This is a loose powder with a hard, round, foamy applicator. I found the applicator very difficult to use to pack on colour; I would recommend a brush if you want to get the same opacity in the swatch below. This is a lovely shimmery nude. I only wish the packaging was better. I also wouldn't say it's worth $15, not at all. You can get similar shades for cheaper elsewhere (indies, anyone?) for sure.

NYX Cosmetics Butter Lip Balm in Lady Fingers (mauve) Full Size || Value: $4
Beneficial ingredients of note: mineral oil (first ingredient), shea butter, sunflower seed oil
Detrimental ingredients of note: fragrance (near end of list)

I think the only place that carries NYX around me is Rexall and maybe the newer Target, so I'm always happy to receive NYX items. I'm not sure how most people in the US feel about getting a drugstore item, though. Anyway, ipsy describes this colour as mauve when it's very clearly a sheer hot pink. I did find it suitably moisturizing and it did add noticeable colour to my lips. I would compare the colour and feel to a Tony Moly Bunny Gloss. However, it smelled very strongly of fake cherry, despite the name. This was rather disappointing to me because the Creme Brulee butter gloss I got in a previous ipsy smelled like heaven. 

Top: Fairy Dust, Bottom: Butter Lip Balm
This month I received about $35 in product, though the majority of that comes from the fact that tarte and pixi are incredibly pricey brands. Still, I will use just about everything in this bag and I'm optimistic about ipsy's latest bags -- tarte and NYX are well loved brands and I'm happy to see them more often. I'd say this month was a win for me!

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

7 Possets Perfume Samples Review - Candy Thong, Ergot, Flossing, Huile of Fortune, Mud and Passion, Over the Rhine, Victory

What's this? A non-box review? Dang right it is, and about time! I get all sorts of stuff in the mail to unbox, but rarely do I review non-subscription items. But hey, with my dwindling list of boxes I subscribe to, I may as well provide some reviews on everything else I receive, right?

So what exactly are we looking at here? Lemme tell you: indie perfumes. I've only just gotten into indie companies as of late, and I'm in love. I love supporting small business, and I love the creativity and love each product gets. I'm totally new at both indies and perfumes, so please bare with me! My nose is not experienced at all.

These samples are from Possets Perfume, I think (see below). I picked these up on a thread at Reddit's Indie Makeup and More, a wonderful community!

Let's get to smelling!  All samples are slightly less than a milliliter. These reviews are in order of how I tried them.

Candy Thong by Possets || Full size: $12.50

Vulgar, vulgar, vulgar! I set about making THE most candy, sticky, sweet and irredeemable fragrance in history and I must say I outdid myself. Sweet creamy caramel with lots of butter is put together with a busty musk for staying power and a very very very light tweak of flowers and lemon drops wayyyyy off in the distance so they don't interfere with the dirty stuff going on down here but add a bit of "gravitas" so the whole blend does not fly away. The strange thing is that Candy Thong dries down to a very pretty and classy fragrance after all of the youthful flings and things. Art imitates life here. A very very very good scent!
Initial reaction: Very sweet, like sugar cookie batter. A little deeper and fuller than the kind of thing you can smell a mile away from Bath and Body Works. Sometimes I get a hit of grassiness.
20 minutes later: It's mellowed out. You can still tell it's sweet, but more of the muskiness comes through. The potency of the scent itself also fades.
1 hour later (and one accidental hand wash): I can still smell it, but it's very faint. I only applied a tiny bit so it's my fault for washing my hands. But the scent now distinctly reminds me, of all things, of MUAC's Lactic Acid Peel. I'm not sure how I feel about that. I can't really describe it.
Overall impression: I know this is going to turn off so many people in my life. I love it. Probably won't get much use, but mmm. Sugar.

Ergot by Possets || Full size: N/A, limited edition
Warm wheat scent from the sun, a sparkle of an invading virus (which is a touch of wine in this case) blended with a comforting bakery scent and a bit of sugar frosting.
I'm pretty sure this is from Possets, though the label says BPAL, which to my knowledge would stand for Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab. It is possible that someone decanted (split a personally-bought full size into samples for others) this and mislabeled it. 
Initial reaction: Like incense. What's up with that? A bit fruity. 
45 minutes later: There's the wheat. And mask. Still sort of smells like incense, though?
Later: the smell begins to fade, alternating between wheat and something musky. I asked a friend and they told me it smelled like an inappropriate area. Erm, alright then.
Overall impression: I liked it, and one other person I asked said it didn't smell like nether regions at all, haha. I guess I'll just have to not wear it around that one friend!

Flossing by Possets || Full size: $12.50
A pretty, dear and yet spicy little blend. Flossing is named after the dainty stitching put on many corsets to keep the stays in place. A comforting blend of gingery peppery small vanilla and wood, Flossing is very cheery and is like being the Queen in a Sewing Bee! This is a marvelous everyday perfume which can lift your spirits immensely. Highly recommended as a first Posset for the persnickety or those who want to try Possets but are diffident about it. Characteristics: foody, vanilla, sensous, feminine, scent locket.
Initial reaction: Oh no, is this going to smell like old lady on me?
30 minutes later: Wait, is this Ergot? Smells just like the initial incense of Ergot, but sweeter. Sorta woodsy.
45 minutes later: Less woodsy/musky/incensey, more sweet.
1 hour later: There's the vanilla! I've never smelled a perfume that hits the vanilla note without being overly citrus-y or sweet. Mm.
Much later: I can't stop smelling myself. I smell like vanilla. Please help, people are looking at me
Overall impression: Vanilla. Yes. Please.

Huile of Fortune by Possets || Full size: $12.50
Seven carefully chosen ambers, put right with a bit of sage, a small amount of suave moss, and fern and a bit of vetiver which is handles with a deft and gentle hand. Dry but haunting, unisex and sure to gather you compliments. Very well mannered and suitable for either day or evening. A winner which I have worked very hard on and am quite proud of.
Initial reaction: More incense? What is going on?
10 minutes later: Oh. I see what happened. As it turns out, it seems Huile of Fortune somehow rubbed off on all the other scents prior. All the amber notes, to me, smell like incense.
Later: This scent, as evident by how it's too stubborn to leave the other scents alone, did not budge. It stayed for ages, although it did fade somewhat. I didn't notice any changes after the dry down.
Overall impression: No thank you. Too witchy for me, on top of reminding me of the incense my family uses to mourn. It'd be nice during the fall for other people, just not for me.

Mud and Passion by Possets || Full size: $12.50
Mud and Passion? Of course! This is a very lazy summer scent. This one should remind you of a field out in Mississippi in the heat of the noonday sun in May before it gets so hot and humid that you can't stand yourself anymore. Melon, drying grasses and volatile leaved plants rub up against each other and conjure up that sort of a summer. A little known side of Mississippi which is otherwise famous for deep fried foods, magnolias, and a good deal of river culture. Real nice rendition of the New Old South. Fruity, musky.
Initial reaction: Woah. Jolly Ranchers and dirt. Why does this smell like fake cherries to me?
20 minutes later: The grass and plants are coming out more. I still can't get any sort of melon scent from this, though. It's fruity, but not in a way I like.
Overall impression: Not for me! Nothing else to say, really.

Over the Rhine by Possets || Full size: $12.50
Over-the-Rhine is Possets' first all out oriental spicy mix, a blend of the comfortable and the challenging, the familiar with those things we are hard wired to enjoy. Over-the-Rhine really is a picture of how I view this section of town, and if I can paint it with scent instead of with paint, this is what it would be like. OTR doesn't smell like this, this is the scent portrait of the essence of the place. Characteristics: spicy, warm, unisex, resinous, oriental.
Initial reaction: Oh no. Oh no I don't like this at all. Eugh. Smells like rancid tea and spice.
10 minutes later: Oh my god it smells exactly like every oriental foods store I've ever been to. I don't know how I feel about this. It's so much like home and yet this is the last thing I want to smell like!
45 minutes later:  It smells the same as before. Wow this is weird.
Overall impression: Possets has got oriental spot-on. That's a neutral statement. I always have friends tell me I smell "Asian" (because I am), so I can't wait to show them this -- but I definitely am not going to use this as a signature scent.

Victory by Possets || Full size: $12.50
This is a simple and straightforward fragrance which concentrates on fighting fatigue while keeping you alert and motivated to get to the next level. Thyme and sage, lemongrass and light camphor, a bit of rosemary, and the lightest hint of white sharp amber to keep it all knit together without being dulling.
Initial reaction: Smells like generic department store cologne.
10 minutes later: Wow, this smell really faded. I can't smell it unless I put my wrist right up to my face -- and I put on more than I did with the other scents, too.
Some indeterminate time later: Smells... like clean laundry. Exactly like clean laundry.
Overall impression: Not something I would buy, but I can't complain about smelling like clean laundry. I wish it had just a bit more presence, though. A good unisex scent.

I am overjoyed with the experience of indie perfumes, and I have several coming to me in the future! I hope that my nose gets more experienced over time so that I can provide a better review for you all. I'm not sure if Possets quite works for me -- it seems like my skin just soaks them up within an hour, and although I can still smell them over the course of a day, it is only if I put my wrist right up to my face. Still, it's a good first foray for me into indie perfumes and perfumes in general, and I can't wait to experience more. 

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Memebox Minibox #3 Retro Review

What? Another retro review, from back when I had a horrible camera and a box whose items I'm almost done? You betcha. Here I am with a fabulous Minibox from Memebox from the summer.  These were $15 for a handful of sample and deluxe-sample products. I had no idea what theme it was going to be, and it seems the theme was tea!

Box Overview
Box: Memebox (Referral link)
Price: Varies -- typically $23 plus shipping
Ships to: United States, Canada, and over 40 other countries -- check here
What's inside: Korean beauty products. Specifics for each box may be found on their website.

illi Cleansing Oil and Foam Set 15mL/.5oz each + 3 samples each (2mL/0.6oz?) || Value: about $4 (based on card)
Beneficial ingredients of note: N/A
Detrimental ingredients of note: N/A
I can't seem to find the ingredients for this, though I feel fairly certain that I deemed it suitable for my skin when I read the packaging? Perhaps I'm imagining things. What I do know, though, is that this set is/was one of my most favourite things I've ever received from Memebox. The two little bottles are a fantastic size for traveling and a little goes a long way with these babies. I was able to use the pouches three times each. The bottles I used on vacation. They're still half full; I'm hoarding them for the next time I spend a night away from home. They're very easy to use, clean my make up off nicely, and don't leave my skin feeling tight. Next time I use them I'll try and see if I can find the original box so I can translate the ingredients. This may be HG status if the list is good!

A. True Darjeeling First Anti-Wrinkle Cream 10mL/.34oz || Value: $9.20 (based on card)
Beneficial ingredients of note: black tea leaf water (first ingredient), macadamia oil (third ingredient), black tea leaf extract (halfway through list)
Detrimental ingredients of note: a few plant extracts which could be irritating (rehmannia glutinosa root, eclipta prostrata, japanese mugwort, licorice) (halfway through list), fragrance (last ingredient)
Nothing too offensive about this cream. I don't have wrinkles so I can't say I've seen this have much effect, nor do I feel the need to use it very often. It smells fresh. I appreciate A. True for having its touted active ingredient as the first ingredient, unlike some other companies whose advertised ingredient shows up halfway down the list.

A. True Darjeeling Black Tea First Anti-Wrinkle Essence 2mL/.07oz x 5 || Value: $12.50 (based on card)
Beneficial ingredients of note: black tea leaf water (first ingredient), sodium hyaluronate (first half of list), black tea leaf extract
Detrimental ingredients of note: papaya extract (halfway through list), some plant extracts that may cause irritation (sophora japonica, rehmannia chinensis) (last half of list), fragrance (last ingredient)
Oh! I never actually realized that this was much different than the anti-wrinkle cream. This essence has sodium hyaluronate, a fantastic ingredient which helps replenish the naturally occurring hyaluronic acid in the skin. Papaya extract may or may not help with brightening due to its enzymes, but from what I understand research is limited and there is a chance of irritation.

A. True Real Black Tea True Active Essence 30mL/1oz || Value: $8.50 (according to card)
Beneficial ingredients of note: saccharomyces/xylnum/black tea ferment (first ingredient), niacinamide (fourth ingredient), white tea leaf extract (first half of list), shea butter (halfway through list)
Detrimental ingredients of note: fragrance (last ingredient)
This essence is really, really great. I'm halfway through and I've stopped using it because I'm scared to finish it! It's watery but a little thick at the same time. I find it calms my skin down nicely, gives it a glow, and hydrates my skin. I even notice my redness going down. If only it wasn't (supposedly) $51...! 


Compagnie Colonial Early Grey Superieur Full Size x 2 || Estimated value: $3
Memebox included some tea! Earl Grey is one of my favourite types of tea. This was super cute of them to include. I appreciate that the bags are filled with relatively unbroken tea leaves; it's clear that this is higher quality than most grocery store brands. It tasted good, but no better than any other loose leaf Earl Grey.

This box was $15 and I got over double in value. This is probably my favourite box I've gotten from memebox, even though all the items but one are from the same brand, which is a usual pet peeve of mine. But this box introduced me to two great brands with products I really enjoy, and with a theme I love (tea!). Unfortunately, Memebox no longer sells Miniboxes. This is just a flash back to better days.