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.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Baroque Cosmetics Review: Art Nouveau Blushes, Part 1

Baroque Cosmetics is probably my favourite indie brand. I've ordered twice so far with a third order coming up, and a ton of shadows ready for swatching and review! Andi, the owner, has been nothing but helpful with any concerns I have. She has recently released a new line of blushes, adding to her original five. A perfect time, I thought, to put up this review of the original five!

The blushes are $1.50 for a sample baggie, $8.00 full size, $6.00 for the sample set of the new collection, $35.00 for full sizes of the new collection, $12.00 for the sample set of all ten, and $70 for the full size set of ten.

The original line up of blushes include, in this order from top to bottom: Sonrel Not Sonrel, Such Galle, Mucha Ado About Nothing, I'd Hate Toulouse You, and Klimt Eastwood.

Here's another angle of all five blushes, all in sunlight from my window. The small swatches are packed, small swipes with my finger, whereas underneath I've blended them out to try and imitate what they would look like when worn. As you can see, even when blended out they're still very pigmented. 

Sonrel Not Sonrel: A lovely cool toned pale fuschia.
I got this as a sample in my last review, talking about how much I enjoyed this blush. I thought the cool tones would clash with my semi-warm undertones, but that wasn't the case. It gives me a nice, natural looking flush. It's super blendable and I really like it!

Such Galle: A midtone pink with slight shimmer.
I'm glad this is actually shimmery and not glittery. This is a cute pink, perfect for spring. Again, super easy to blend. I wear this when I want something less flushed than Sonrel Not Sonrel, especially when I'm pairing my blush with lighter colors.

Mucha Ado About Nothing: A soft rose blush with some shimmer.
This blush turns a bit orange on me, but not hugely so. You can see the shimmer in this, but on the face it's not nearly as apparent, giving more of a glow than anything.

I'd Hate Toulouse You: A midtone red with slight shimmer.
Again, this pulls orange on me, but I don't mind too much. I rarely wear red blush to begin with, so this midtone colour works perfectly for me.

Klimt Eastwood: A yellow orange with slight shimmer.
Definitely more yellow than orange, this blush was the only one I found to be a bit patchy during application. It also makes me look sickly thanks to my yellow tones. However, someone on the /r/Indiemakeupandmore subreddit mentioned that Klimt Eastwood works wonderfully as a layer on top of other blushes to change their hue, including the other blushes in Baroque's line. The results were really amazing -- almost like getting twice the amount of blush. I wouldn't personally purchase this one again, but it won't be put to waste, either.

Below are some more pictures at various angles/lighting, to give a better idea of the colours!

Top: Sonrel Not Sonrel; Bottom: Such Galle
Top: Mucha Ado About Nothing; Bottom: I'd Hate Toulouse You
Top: I'd Hate Toulouse You; Bottom: Klimt Eastwood
All in all, I found Baroque's blushes to be super high quality and easy to blend for the most part. They're incredibly pigmented and don't go overboard on the shimmer. The new colours to her line include a true orange, a coral, a magenta pink, and both a cool and warm (!!!) purple. I'm definitely picking them up soon!

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Ipsy January 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 tropical bag couldn't contain all the goodies I got in this month's Ipsy. Immediately I spotted at least two things I couldn't wait to try, so let's jump right in now that I've properly tested every single one of these items!

NYX Cosmetics Butter Lipstick in Hunk Full size || Value: $6.00
I know NYX is a drugstore brand that most Ipsters hate to get, but I love it! It's such a pain to find in Canada now that Target is gone -- the Rexall near me just doesn't have the best selection nor prices. I especially have been lusting after more of NYX's lip products, and getting this purple colour was super exciting, since I'm always on the lookout for more purple. Except... it wasn't purple, but rather a pink toned berry. It was still super pretty but not at all what it looked like in the tube. I found it to glide on easily (like butter, I suppose) and was pretty pigmented, but the formula was a bit slippery ( butter, I suppose). I'm not a huge fan of the curved pointed tips some NYX lipsticks have, they make it more difficult for me to apply. But after a few uses, that won't be an issue. I've actually used my saved up points to get the other two available colours (a nude and a pink) from this month's Ipsy, so you'll be seeing that next month!

Mary Kay At Play Eye Crayon in Teal Me More Full size || Value: $10
Speaking of colours I love, teal is my second favourite colour. And again this colour... was not teal, but more of an icy blue with hardly any green tone to it. It swatched wonderfully and I thought it would be really nice for a frosty sort of winter eye, but was simply patchy on my oily lids regardless of how much I applied or whether it was over primer. It also barely set and moved around on my lid, though I will say it didn't fade if I didn't touch it. Overall I would not recommend this at all and felt it was very poor quality compared to other shadow sticks.

Coolway Glow Oil Treatment 10mL/0.34oz || Value: $3.00
Beneficial ingredients of note: cyclopentasiloxane (conditioner) (first ingredient), seaweed, vitamin E
Detrimental ingredients of note: parfum (last ingredient)
I'm usually happy to recieve hair treatment samples, because at the rate I get them I'll never have to buy one in my life. But I wasn't happy with this. It's a semi-liquid gel that smells sort of plant-like (because of the seaweed, I think) and didn't noticeably improve my post-shower hair at all. Instead I felt like it weighed my hair down unnecessarily. It's such a small size that I'll use it up for the sake of using it up, but I think I'll cut it with another conditioner or an oil of some kind.

skyn ICELAND Hydro Cool Firming Eye Gels Full size x 2 || Value: $7.5
Beneficial ingredients of note: olive oil (third ingredient), jojoba oil, some plant extracts which may perform as antioxidants
Detrimental ingredients of note: plant extracts may irritate some
I was expecting pure hydrogels, but these are pretty strange to me. They're like hydrogel masks, but less sticky, and with a fabric backing. They didn't get cool in the fridge, which saddened me because there's nothing like a nice, cold mask after a long day, especially under the eyes. I put them on for twice the amount of time suggested and they stuck very well and left my undereyes feeling soft. But wow, $3.75 per pair? Heck no! Super not worth the price, especially because the ingredients list leaves much to be desired. Did no one think to put in something to brighten up the undereyes? A tiny bit of niacinamide would have done the job. Frankly, I think skyn's products are really overpriced for what they are.

LANEIGE BB Cushion Sampler 6mL/0.21oz || Value: $14.28
BB cushions are relatively new to Western cosmetics. Essentially, they're a compact with a sponge inside soaked in BB cream (or sometimes a CC cream). They help one use less product and bring their foundation around with them in a convenient, easy to reapply way. Laneige is a Korean brand but is one of the more popular ones in Western industries. You can find their cushions and other products (I hear the sleeping pack is great!) at Target in the US.

This pack came with a cute mini applicator that looks just like their regular puffs. I found it to be very smooth and soft against my skin, and picked up foundation well -- it's far too small to use for my entire face, though. It was very easy to clean and cleaning didn't damage it, so I think if I had a bigger size I might actually use it instead of my trusty sponge or brush.

The other three sections of the package were each of the three shades available for the American market: the frustratingly named light, medium, and dark. Three shades does not a full line up make, cosmetics companies. Anyway, I am lucky enough to be a more mainstream shade (NC20-25ish) so I found that the medium shade fit my face almost perfectly. In the swatch the light shade matches my underarm perfectly, but my face is a bit darker than that. I do have some weird undertones I'm trying to figure out (maybe neutral? pink undertones but yellow skin?) but I didn't have any issues with the medium shade. The formula went on smoothly and felt nice on my skin. I did need to powder it down but for those starting off with drier skin than me, it may leave a nice dewy look. I was able to use the other two shades as a very subtle highlight and contour.

The sponges had quite a bit of product in them. I used these samples for 3 days, keeping them sealed in a ziploc bag. I threw them out more for possibility of contamination than because they ran out of product -- I easily could have used them another two days at least. I'm really pleased I got the chance to try this, because I've really wanted to but didn't want to spend the $34 for a full size in medium only to find it wasn't the right colour. The next time I'm in America I'll definitely be picking one of these cushions up.

I received about $40 of product this month from Ipsy, and paid nearly $19 thanks to the poor Canadian dollar. Getting twice what I paid ain't bad, though. I'm really happy with the lipstick and BB samples, the hair oil will be used as well as the eye masks, and the shadow stick, while poor quality, isn't unusable. I think I'm pleased enough with this month!

Amoda Tea March 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

I can't help but feel a little disappointed in the declining quality of the overall Amoda Tea experience. The tea is still great, don't get me wrong -- but I've noticed the small changes Amoda has made to save on some money, and while I understand that things are difficult for a small company, some changes can really be obvious. In this instance, it's receiving this really tiny piece of printed-on paper with a blank back instead of the usual full-colour printed greeting card. Opening up my box to see this was just a bit underwhelming, in my experience.

But let's get on to the teas, which are the important part.

Organic Black Gold Tips by Treasure Green Tea || Black
Ingredients: Organic Chinese black tea

Black tea is my favourite kind of tea, and these did not disappoint. This tea can be steeped two or three times and is a light, smooth tea that I think would be perfect for anyone getting used to the strength of black teas. It's almost sweet, even. This would probably go well with milk, as Amoda suggests, but I've yet to try it thanks to lactose intolerance. 

Pineapple Sencha by Den's Tea || Green
Ingredients: Sencha green tea, dried pineapple, natural oil
A really cool looking, grassy green tea with pineapple pieces. This smells absolutely amazing and is super strong, almost like sticking your face into a pile of fruity tropical candy. When steeped it retains its scent. The taste is definitely grassier than your typical bagged tea, with a fruity twist. Very smooth and easy to drink, I think this would be great cold and my only regret is that I don't have more of it. I know what I'm ordering from Amoda Tea next time!
Jasmine Mist by Sloane Tea || Jasmine green
Ingredients: Chinese green tea scented with jasmine blossom
This smells precisely like jasmine and tastes like it, too. An understated, simple tea that brings me back to eating phở with the family. I really enjoy this as well. According to the info card I can steep this multiple times, but the bag itself didn't say so. I'm kind of sad I missed the opportunity for more of this!
Ginger Twist by Sloane Tea || Herbal
Ingredients: lemongrass, mint, ginger, ginseng, licorice root, apple, papaya, citrus peel, cornflower petals, natural flavour
Can't win 'em all, right? I hate lemongrass. I was hoping the mint and ginger in this tea would overpower it, but they did not. To me, this is just the epitome of herbal medicine drink. I don't think I will even be able to finish this, unfortunately. I'm not sure if I know anyone who likes lemongrass enough for this, either.

This month was a pretty decent month for me and Amoda, with three teas I really enjoy and one I hate. But the three I do like I legitimately would like to order again, so there was a net gain here. I can see that there are corners being cut for costs and though I can understand them, as a consumer it's a bit sad to see. I definitely hope that Amoda does not have to shut down again like they did last year, because they still have great product, and that's the majority of what matters. I will continue to subscribe to them for as long as I can! 

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Ipsy February 2015 Review

Cutting it close this month, or what? This month, Ipsy sent me a nice synthetic pink bag that feels like decent quality, albeit being a bit small for my needs. Instead of the usual five items, I received six -- one being a hand cream I got by redeeming a few points I had from reviewing items on their website.

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

Hey Honey Take It Off Exfoliating Peel Off Mask 10mL/0.33fl oz || Value: $7
Beneficial ingredients of note: honey extract (fourth ingredient), jojoba oil, lactic acid (third last ingredient), glycolic acid (second last ingredient)
Detrimental ingredients of note: alcohol (third ingredient), fragrance (last ingredient)
I get it, alright? The alcohol is necessary to dry the mask to a point where it is able to be peeled off. Doesn't mean  I'm happy with it! I used this anyway because the sample is so small (2-3 uses, max) and because I've always wanted to try a peel off mask that didn't require mixing and laying it on thick (like modeling cups from Korea). This proved to be much easier compared to a modeling cup in both application and peeling off. However, taking it off was genuinely painful, pulling on my skin far more than it is used to being pulled. It definitely exfoliated my skin, and left it nice and soft. This is partly because the peeling off brought a bunch of skin cells with it, and partly --  I assume -- because of the acids in the mask. The honey and jojoba oil helped offset some of the dryness, but my skin was majorly thirsty after this mask. I followed up with a ton of moisturizing products and I think it'll be okay. Not something I would buy but I don't mind using it for fun -- I love the act of peeling. 

Cargo Cosmetics Mini Lip Gloss in Anguilla 4.5g??? || Value: ??? Less than $16
This product pisses me off. First, the volume is not stated properly -- it's in grams, and mistakenly converts it on the label to 4.5 mL, which is simply untrue given that a full size of this -- as reported on their website and others -- is much less than that, yet the packaging is much larger. As such, I have no idea how much this costs. That doesn't matter though, because this lip gloss is probably one of the worst things I've ever received. I already am not a fan of lip gloss, but I do like some (NYX butter glosses, for example). This is, first and foremost, incredibly patchy. My lips are rather pigmented and with a light colour like this, it looks like I just put a streak of weird sauce on my lips. It also caught every single lip flake I had, even ones I had no idea I had after exfoliation. It smelled vaguely like chemical berry (perhaps strawberry) and just... was so terrible. Would never recommend. The only redeeming factor about this is that it did genuinely moisturize my lips for the short time it was on.

ModelCo BLUSH Cheek Powder in Cosmopolitan Full size? || Value: $22.00?
I really hate it when companies don't list weights/volumes on their websites! I have no idea if this is a full size or not, but if it isn't, I'd be amazed. However, I'm pretty confused about the value, because this is $22 alone on ModelCo's website, but $20 for this and a mini kabuki brush -- and they don't note whether the blush is a sample size or not... hmm. Anyway, I am surprised by the quality of this, given the drugstore-level packaging. It was pigmented enough for a pressed powder, and was incredibly forgiving and easy to blend, while being easily built up. It is a bit chalky in the pan, however, and the lasting power wasn't the best. Still, a nice matte pink.

Rob Scheppy for 'Tini Beauty Eyeshadow in Pearl Fizz Full size || Value: $12.00
An eyeshadow of decent quality, no more or less than some better drugstore brands. This is a pearly off-white which acts as a really great brow highlight and is a decent inner corner colour, too. I think I'll be using this a lot. It is both a pro and a con that this colour is very sheer. I haven't decided if it's due to my skin tone or not.

Top to bottom: Cargo lip gloss, ModelCo blush unblended, blush blended, 'Tini Beauty eyeshadow. All one swipe.

Luxie Beauty Large Angled Face Brush 504 || Value: $16
Didn't shed when I got it, though I haven't put this to use yet. Seems decent quality, but could use some more work on the handle, which doesn't have as much weight to it as I'd like.

Figs & Rouge Hand Cream in Mango Mandarin 20ml / 0.67fl oz || Value: ~$6.30
Beneficial ingredients of note: shea butter (fourth ingredient), cocoa nut butter (halfway through list), algae (last half of list), ginseng root extract (last half of list)
Detrimental ingredients of note: parfum (halfway through list), manderin peel oil (near end of list)
This is what I redeemed my points on. I've actually come to love this hand cream a lot since I received it in October. It's not the most moisturizing but it soaks in so fast that it's become the perfect at-work hand cream, where I need to use my hands too often to allow for lotion to dry. The scent is very strong just as the other one was, and smells wonderfully of mangoes and mandarin (more the typical notes than like the actual fruits). The smell fades quickly enough, perhaps in half an hour after application. I kind of wish I got a few more than these, because when I'm working full time through the summer, it'll be great to have... on hand. (I'm so sorry.)

I don't even know the value of this Ipsy, but I know it's more than what I paid for it. Would I pay for this group of items for $15? That's hard to say. But I'm certainly not super unhappy with this bag. Looking at some of the variations others got, I am a little envious. But I can also see that Ipsy is making a genuine effort to include more well-known and quality brands in their subscription. I was waffling last year on whether or not to cancel my subscription, but at the moment, over the past few months, I think I'm happy continuing.