Sunday, September 25, 2016

Loving Lately - September 2016

Man, where to start? September has been a zoo of a month, with a ton of family time and lots of early mornings/late nights working on projects. We started the month with a long weekend spent working with a splash of family get-togethers for good measure. That was followed by a brief but packed NYC visit for a few days; I walked around 5 miles each day, just exploring the city like I never even did when I lived there. I met up with my dear Marina for a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, mentally reenacting a scene from RHONY all the while.

It was a great visit, even with the absolutely heinous heatwave. We naturally took in a Jays game, knowing they were in town for a series with the Yankees.

Once we returned to Toronto, I wrapped up a digital magazine endeavour I had been working on since July for a fab company called Milni, which connects South Asian couples with wedding vendors of their dreams. Check out the first issue right here:

We've had new additions to the family this summer, two very sweet nieces. I am completely enamoured with how tiny and peaceful and absolutely beautiful these babies are. Here's the latest addition, who was born the morning we flew to NYC. She is a little doll and makes my hands look like that of a giant. I love her to bits.

I also started a new gig that has been a wonderful experience, so it's been an amazing month. Tiring, but super fulfilling! Onto the products that made me feel a little bit more polished and presentable than usual:

This product has been out for a year now, and I've always been drawn to it purely because I wasn't into the finish of Skinperfect, a primer/SPF offering from Dermalogica. I love Hydrablur for exactly why you'd think - it's hydrating and it smoothes the skin's surface out, making skin a now-perfect canvas for makeup. It is loaded with silicones, but it also contains fruit oils and sunflower oil to balance the formulation. There's a "tint" that is released once the product is applied to skin, but it is virtually nonexistent so I imagine this would work on all skin tones without leaving a white cast. It's a real keeper as we move into cooler mornings/evenings, so I'm officially softening my "no primers ever" stance.

Y'all. I love a good makeup brush. Majority of my brushes that I reach for the most are made for the masses; Real Techniques and EcoTools have been in high rotation for years, accented with the occasional high-end brush. I admitted got sucked into the hype of Artis brushes, but the hype is real. This brush is awesome for foundation and concealer without absorbing all your product (glaring at you, BeautyBlender). I'm happy I chose this brush size in particular to pick up, as the larger brushes (Oval 8, Oval 10) all look like they would do a great job of quickly distributing product, but I reckon it'd be a little bit on the messy side. This size allows me to do concealer/correct under my eyes and around my nose with ease, so it's a real multitasker in my experience.

I don't commit to a lip colour for a full day of wear. I usually start with a lip balm, follow up with a lip stick or lip liner (sometimes both) and then as that combo of products wears off, I tend to reapply balm only, not usually feeling inclined to add more colour as the day goes on. I'm simply not a touch-up person; I've never carried a makeup bag in my purse (probably because  my preferred size of purse is usually smaller than most makeup bags out there) and it's simply an unappealing idea. All that being said, this lip colour has made it into my bag for trips to and from the office because I genuinely enjoy wearing it! It's a comfortable, creamy formula, so lasting power is certainly variable based on food/drink consumption, but the colour is a perfect colour for my pigmented lips and it simply livens up my face. Slim packaging is streamlined if you are a fellow small-purses-only person, and the formula doesn't settle into lines. Perfect fall treat.

Do you see that hint of duochrome-y goodness up there? It's a packshot, but there's a sense of sheen and shine in there, no? This peachy-pink-gold cream shadow is really beautiful when swatched. It looks underwhelming in the pot, but once it's on the skin, it comes to life! 

The out-of-focus nature of this shot is with purpose - it best captures the shimmer. The shimmer particles are certainly leaning towards the larger side of the scale, meaning it's definitely a shadow that catches the light, but it can certainly be mellowed out with powder shadows or other cream colours on top. I love wearing this on its own or with winged liner. It's a little on the summery side for some people at this time of the year, but so what/who cares/it's really pretty. Really looking forward to pairing this with Tom Ford's Honeymoon eyeshadow quad, which was my eye obsession earlier this year. I suspect they'll be a match made in heaven. 


Loving Lately - August 2016

Hard to believe August has come and gone, meaning the last days of summer are upon us. It was a markedly less hectic month, with no weddings to attend and only one baby shower in the calendar. What I've been focused on the past month is improving the structure I have in my daily routine, working more gym visits into my schedule, which has been genuinely great. As a person who never prioritized exercise in any stage of my life up until now, it's exciting to not hate the concept of working out. Endorphins are finally a thing in my existence, so that's awesome. As a result, my hair looks like hell majority of the time and makeup is usually kept to brows/lashes until I'm in a post-workout state. If it's late in the day, makeup doesn't happen at all. It's been a shift in habits in more ways than one, but nothing that's bothered me too much. Newness has been minimal this month, but a Manhattan visit is looming just after Labour Day, so I reckon there'll be much to gush about thereafter! In the meantime, here's a few items I've found appealing in this last stretch of summer.

Burberry blushes are the definition of user-friendly in my experience. They are offered up in wearable colours that are usually quite difficult to overdo in application. The one shade of this range I've seen hyped up over and over again is "Earthy", which, as you can imagine, is a taupe shade with a greyish undertone. I have it and basically never reach for it since it's about the same shade depth as my own skin tone, making it a stupidly subtle contour shade, if anything at all. I saw this cute little set on and couldn't resist the allure of miniature products. I'm not a massive Burberry Fresh Glow Luminous Fluid Base fan, which is a liquid illuminating base that they seem to put an obscene amount of marketing behind given how unremarkable its performance is. It's not a bad product, it's just a product that doesn't do much of anything. The size included is that of a deluxe sample, and I've more or less used it up already so let's focus on the lipstick, blush and kabuki brush. The lipstick included is a mini Lip Velvet in "Rosewood" (yes, yet another rosewood addition to my collection), and it actually isn't too light for me, which I consider a huge victory for my pigmented lips. The blush is a midtone pink, a little on the muted side, but still pigmented. I've enjoyed wearing it right on the apples of my cheeks and lightly dusted across my eyelids for a monochrome, slightly-80s look that it quick, easy and pretty. No issues with patchiness and I actually love the floral fragrance of this blush. The mini kabuki is actually decent quality and comes in a tiny velvet case, making it one of the cuter things I've ever owned. No complaints about this purchase, I downright adore it!

Fall is upon is and it's hardly shocking to see yet another season of nude shades, and the worst part is I'm not even sick of it. Armani's Eye Tints are usually a microfine shimmer finish, but this new range of shades are all matte and lovely. The full range is swatched here and gives you a solid idea of the colours and finish. I love #23 Camel Smoke as a wash all over the lid for daytime, as well as #21 Fur Smoke through the crease and buffed out in a rounded shape for evening. The formula does not crease at all, and I don't use an additional primer. In no way have I been exempt from perspiration this summer, especially through my face, so the steadfast nature of this formula is a blessing. What drew me to such moody colours in the middle of the summer? Sabyasachi's Instagram account, of course. The type of look depicted all over that IG account makes me wanna get LASIK ASAP, just to sport dark lids all day, every day. I always feel it's overkill with glasses. *sighs wistfully*

I suppose you could consider this an almost-cheap thrill, since the price point isn't that high by department store brand standards. This tinted lip product occupies the space between a gloss and balm, imparting soft shine, moisture and a bit of colour for a very easy-going product that smells sweet as hell, yet somehow abstains from crossing into cloying territory. I love this colour, which certainly isn't as milky and light as one may think by looking at the tube, and it also goes on semi-sheer, so your natural lip colour can shine through a bit. I have kept this in my purse all summer and it has been so clutch when out and about for a little hydration and low-key, no-mirror-needed application.

Bite is slowly expanding its product roster to go beyond lips...sort of?! This multi-use product can grace eyes, lips and cheeks for an easy monotone look (or, you know, pick and choose which part(s) of your face you sport it on). The formula is creamy enough to blend out and settles down to very on-trend matte finish. This shade is a little pink to sport on lids, so I've mostly been sticking to lips/cheeks, and it's been perfect for a natural flush or slightly defined lips. In usual Bite fashion, the formulation is silicone-free and this range in particular contains 35% amino acid-covered powders plus some sugarcane-derived squalane, so lips/cheeks/lids won't be dried out. Lots to love here!


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Loving Lately - July 2016

July was a whirlwind of weddings, Jays games, a baby shower, early arrival of a new niece and a seemingly endless heatwave, which made wearing makeup a particularly challenging endeavour. As per most beauty fans out there, when summer weather is coming in hot, I actively try to lighten up my routine, but that doesn't really stop whatever makeup I do decide to wear from melting down my face. I rapidly become a slave to Rimmel Stay Matte Powder (which is a long-time favourite), and make a habit of blotting whatever base I choose to commit to for the day before powdering to remove a bit of excess product before sealing everything in. This little trick is a gem I picked up from a Wayne Goss vid ages ago, which actually ties into one of my favourites. On to the goods:

Okay, I'll level with you. I'm pretty sure this brush was limited edition, but if the balance of Wayne Goss' brush range is anywhere near this soft, then they are absolutely worth checking out. Full disclosure: Goss' brush range does use animal hair, so stick to the plethora of synthetic options out there if that's your preference. This particular brush was created with the "buffing" technique in mind, as well as contouring, blush, bronzer and general setting, which Wayne explains in full here. I own a lot of brushes of varying quality, and this is hands down the softest brush I own that gives me the most seamless finish ever when applying blush and bronzer. I have always felt sort of underwhelmed with cheek brushes in my arsenal, feeling as though they applied too much product or didn't blend product effectively without moving my foundation underneath. As Wayne explains, the bristles are not that densely packed, so the chance of disrupting your foundation/concealer while blending your powder products is pretty much nonexistent. This brush was priced at $35 and I'd pay way more for the results that it provides. I believe this brush from the same range is a similar concept, slightly different shape.

Can't say I ever really dove into the cushion craze, especially when most of the Eastern versions were simply way too light in tone and the Western versions were... well, I don't know, they just didn't really strike me as anything particularly special. As a self-proclaimed foundation fanatic, I couldn't believe I'd never tried Lancôme's original Teint Idole Ultra fluid, as it's increasingly raved about. That being said, I can't really comment on this cushion formula versus the original fluid. I can, however, tell you that this stuff has solid coverage and a little goes a very long way (max 2 light-pressure taps on that cushion - for real). I like how skin-like the finish is even though coverage is still very much present. I also don't mind the colour match (420 Bisque roughly translates to my NC42ish summer colour). It holds up to heat decently, to boot! 

While sifting through my various drawers of makeup, I was pretty pumped to find this nearly untouched compact of Armani powder foundation. I never really fell for the Lasting Silk offerings the way I did for the Luminous Silk range, but I figured I'd give this powder a go, and I'm really fond of the smoothing effect of this powder. I've definitely had some skin woes this summer, so it's been great to have a powder that really goes the extra mile to seal concealer in and keep my makeup in tact regardless of the high temperatures. I don't think this one is available in Canada, but it's definitely a worthy purchase when in the US. It gives skin a virtually air-brushed finish, which is gorgeous.

It was only a matter of time before this product launched! I say that largely because it had become damn near impossible to find Maybelline Define-A-Brow in any shade aside from "Medium Brown" over the last year or so. This is not merely a repackaging, as I feel this pencil is a touch waxier than the Define-A-Brow formula, which felt stiffer overall, but any drugstore alternative to Anastasia Brow Wiz is welcome in my makeup bag. The tiny point allows for natural-looking strokes to mimic brow hairs. It's been my go-to for creating a slightly more handsome brow shape [I've been eyeing the beauty looks on the Sabyasachi IG account a little too much lately (this one slays me)]. Love following this pencil up with a clear brow gel for a brushed-up, fanned-out finish. 

Yes, I'm at that point where products launched by bloggers aren't something I rule out instantly (well, maybe not the launches are marred with drama or controversy). I have to tip my hat to Huda for taking a bit of time to create her products and build out her business gradually. I also have to commend any brand that gets picked up by Sephora for distribution - that's no joke in scaleability and it takes a lot to fulfill a PO like that. Down to the brass tacks: this shade, Trophy Wife, is described as "rose wood" (fun note: the corresponding lip pencil from Huda Beauty is described as "the new best-selling rose wood" - that's a little loud, hey?) and I'm usually a sucker for anything described as this colour. In person, there's definitely a terra cotta vibe to the colour, but I'm pleased that this shade wasn't too light for my lips (a common occurrence with liquid lipsticks - they look absolutely absurd against the deeply pigmented outer edge of my mouth) and the formula was crazy comfortable. The colour settled in lines of my lips a bit, but frankly, my lips aren't smooth when my mouth is relaxed, so that's basically inevitable for me with any liquid lip colour. I counteract this with a tiny dab of lip balm on top of the liquid lipstick once it's set and all is well in my beauty world again. I found one layer of this lip colour was ample (two was overkill), and the shades are collectively noted to deepen once applied (says so on the packaging!), which Trophy Wife absolutely did do. It all resulted in a shade that's on trend without being too '90s for my personal taste, and my lips didn't feel like the Sahara after the fact - a winner in my books. I believe the full range of liquid lip colours will reach Sephora doors in October, with a handful of liquid lip colours and lip pencils available online now. 


Sunday, June 26, 2016

Loving Lately - June 2016

As per usual, no idea where the month has gone, which tends to be the case when summer is fully underway. I spent a chunk of time in the suburbs this past month, so minimalism was the general approach when living out of a weekender bag. I had the joy of taking in a couple Jays games and spent lots of time with family, so all in all, June was a rather dreamy start to the season.

Here are some bits I've been really keen on the last few weeks!:

This fragrance was the first beauty product I purchased when I moved to New York in 2010 and it remains in my collection as a go-to scent for peak summer days when it's really heating up. I say this because it's a classic eau de cologne formulation, zesty as can be thanks to bright notes of neroli, bergamot and mandarin, making it right up any citrus fan's alley. Chanel dubbed this scent a celebration of summer, and I have to agree! It's a serious reprieve from all the stenches of hot weather that waft around in the city, so I appreciate the nose break. The staying power leaves something to be desired (unsurprisingly, as it is a citrus scent!), but I find it lingers longer when sprayed on freshly moisturized limbs (confession: I tend to spritz heavily when wearing light scents like this). I also have enjoyed layering it with a year-round fave, Byredo Mojave Ghost, if I'm in the mood for a citrus-floral combo.

Ok so I wasn't exactly dying over the formula of the original scentless version of this heralded all-purpose salve, but I did get the trio of new flavours when they launched out of curiosity (I fully admit this is what fuels most, if not all, purchases I make, particularly from Glossier). Spoiler alert: they're all pretty good, but the rose one takes the cake. The official description of this product describes the scent as a "sweet rose"; there's a vague sugary note, but it never crosses the line into cloying territory. It somehow remains almost fresh and uplifting instead. This balm has a soft pink tint to it that is essentially undetectable once applied (at least on my lips), but it's still a pretty welcomed addition to my trillion-strong lip balm arsenal. Honourable mention goes to Mint Balmdotcom, which is delightfully refreshing upon application, giving lips a light, tingly sensation for a brief period. Coconut has become a cuticle care staple lately and Cherry remains a cough syrup memory that I don't reach for nearly as often as the rest. Key lesson? Buy less and more selectively.

It's been a while now that brands have launched their own interpretations of gel nail colour ranges, spanning the two-step non-curing nail colour and top coat systems to the at-home light-curing systems that launched a few years back. I've personally been quasi-content with the at-home, non-curing nail systems, even if it meant winding up with a wardrobe of top coats to correspond with each brand (Revlon ColorStay Gel Envy Diamond Top Coat, Sally Hansen Miracle Gel Top Coat, Dior's gel top coat, countless bottles of CND Vinylux top coat....). I appreciate the flexibility to change my nail colour without busting out the foils and hardcore acetone. With the market being somewhat saturated in gel-like nail colour with promises of extended wear time, the launch of Essie Gel Couture seemed almost late. That's what I thought until I tried it and realized it was late since it was being perfected to the absolute core. Essie Gel Couture launched with 45 shades and one top coat, designed to work in tandem to give you up to 14 days of wear. Normally, I'd roll my eyes at such a claim from any product that doesn't require light-curing technology. I am thrilled to eat my own words right now! I gave a vermillion red shade dubbed "Beauty Marked" a whirl and a week later, it was still going strong. I was a bit misbehaved the first time I tried this formulation, giving myself virtually no drying time before making dinner (washing and chopping veggies) and cleaning up thereafter (pots, pans and no gloves in sight!), and the red polish still hung on. Tip wear was inevitable (typing furiously will do that), but no significant chips occurred and the polish stayed relatively glossy through the entire wear time. This stuff is too legit to quit! The bottle is a twisted rendition of the usual Essie bottle, and it's actually more ergonomic than ever, nestling nicely between your index and thumb of the hand you're applying polish to. The brush stem itself is twisted so that the polish doesn't drip off in globs onto your nails, but rather it flows down the stem and onto the brush in a controlled manner. Another new design feature: I have never been a fan of the traditional Essie brush, as it's skinny as hell and I don't have crazy narrow nail beds, so it's never been a brush I've been drawn to. The Essie Gel Couture brush is a wider brush that covers more surface area with fewer strokes, making application so stupidly easy. It's kind of a dream nail colour range. I personally wish Essie would do more shimmers and unusual shades than the more safe, neutral shades (I've never been an Essie Ballet Slippers fan, sue me), but that's just my taste. This new formulation performs incredibly well, and I'm super happy to recommend it over any other gel polish out there. You can find this range on separate displays in drugstores nationwide right now. The shade pictured is called "Touch Up" and it's what I'm currently sporting; it's a subdued mauve-lilac shade. Happy to report it's been on 5 days and I have no chips in sight. Get into it!

Straight up, brows are a big deal to me and that's probably because mine take up a fair amount of time/focus in my everyday makeup routine (even more so for special occasions). I saw Charlotte Tilbury bust out this product in a sponsored Pixiwoo vid a couple months back and was instantly into it. The effect that this stuff gave Nic's brows in the video was natural, defined and polished aka my personal brow objectives. I waited patiently for this stuff to launch, and committed to Legendary Brows in Cara when the product finally rolled out online the week of the 6th. Y'all. This is the brow product of my dreams. I have been a two-product brow person for a while, using a product to fill in (pencil, powder, pomade, you name it) and then following with a brow gel to hold everything in place / feather out my hairs. Legendary Brows is my one-step wonder. First off, the spoolie is tinier than anything I've ever seen in the brow game, and I love it. I don't have massive brows, so the micro wand (smaller than all the tiny-wand wonders I wrote about here) is genius for applying the tinted gel (well, mine was tinted, but there's a clear version available!). Tilbury mentioned in the Pixiwoo vid that her team had to work on creating the perfect amount of suction to leave a manageable amount of gel on the wand, and I think they nailed this aspect of the product. The micro wand really does help you pick up on small hairs that normally are overlooked, which helps create a fuller brow shape without drawing in hairs or using multiple products. This will likely remain in my makeup rotation for a long time to come. I've gone through a couple brow gels lately that have applied like a nightmare (looking at you, NYX and MAC Pro Longwear Brow Set), in globs with no ease, so I am thrilled I tried this kick-ass brow product. It's a must-have for anyone; I don't care how low-key you are, everyone can use a little brow boost.

Y'all know I'm a retinol fan, usually pushing products laced with vitamin A derivatives on anyone who will listen. It's well-documented that I've been raving about La Roche-Posay Redermic [R] for a few years now, but I'm always open to newness. Sunday Riley is hardly a new brand on my radar, as I've been dabbling in cosmetics from the brand for at least 4-5 years now. I first came across the brand as an intern at Bergdorfs and the brand has certainly evolved since, shifting its focus towards skincare and away from colour cosmetics (also apparently in the midst of a site redesign, as there's no functioning official site for Sunday Riley at this time). Over the years, I've tried Juno Oil (both formulations, one for face and one for body), Disrobe Body Lotion and Ceramic Slip Cleanser, all to mixed results. I never felt too compelled to dabble in the brand over the last couple years, but I had a sample of this with a recent Sephora order and fell pretty hard for its skin-perfecting properties. This formula contains trans-retinoic acid ester, which is essentially a mild retinoid that improves the texture and turnover speed of skin. It also contains blue tansy oil and German chamomile to soothe and calm skin (a balancing effect to the retinoid). I used about 4 drops a night for my a whole face and the teensy sample lasted me a few weeks to get a proper sense of how this product performs. I noticed my skin's texture was smoother and clearer, more so than with my previous retinol. There's a reason people are raving about this stuff - it's a high-performance product that can seriously turn around your skin. As usual, try a sample before committing to this crazily priced oil, but it's a winner in my books. 

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