Thursday, March 31, 2016

Loving Lately - March 2016

It's spring....ish. It's grey and rainy, but not necessarily cold, so there's the silver lining. Spending lots of time with family this past month meant a pretty low-key routine across the board. I did a pretty substantial switch-up of my skincare routine, stepping away slowly from acid peel pads and towards an acid-laced night cream instead. It's been a bit of a revelation! All in all, I'm fond of the following products and reckon you might be, too.

If it's not apparent by now, I've been on a bit of a cleanser kick lately (exhibit A, exhibit B). This cleanser has been one I've wanted to rave about for a while, but it had yet to launch. Personally, nothing torments me more than learning of a new product but not being able to read up on it more online or check it out in-store, so I held off on blabbing about this cleanser. The texture of this stuff is surprising, because it's almost like honey that's crystallized, you know what I mean? That slightly gritty but still melt-y texture that may give skin a mild exfoliation until the crystals dissolve with the heat of your skin and friction of your hands? Yeah. That's what this stuff is - and it smells divine, like milk and honey, which makes total sense since it contains manuka honey and lactose from goat's milk. In my usual skepticism, I wasn't sure if this cleanser would break down my makeup, but it did a killer job of removing every trace of my full face, so it can be subbed in to either of the two-step cleansing method I use. It left my skin extremely soft and smooth, it smells great and was a real star product through January, February and this skin-frustrating weather fluctuations of March, so it's a solid choice for non-stripping cleanser that actually cleanses. I'm working my way through the tube and would highly contemplate adding it to my basket in the future for a top-up.

Couldn't help but get a little sucked into the hype of Jen Atkin's new haircare range, Ouai (like "oui" pronounced with a French accent - "way"). The line hit Sephora's Canadian website this month and while everything looks appealing in its minimalistic-chic way, I decided to grab the Hair Oil to see how it stacks up to my usual standbys (including the aforementioned Shu Uemura Essence Absolue and Kérastase Perfume Oil). The mid-range price point is somewhat deceiving, meaning it's seemingly more affordable initially than my go-to options I just mentioned (which are $69 and $70 per bottle, respectively), but it's also available in a much smaller size bottle (this bottle is 1.7 oz vs. the 5 oz Shu bottle and 4 oz Kérastase bottle), so you end up paying more per ounce for Ouai -- just a little beauty math heads-up. I'm sure that's hardly accidental, but onto the oil itself. The formula's second ingredient is dimethicone, which probably makes that math I just did sting a little bit more, but it also contains sweet almond oil, jojoba oil, shea butter, sunflower seed oil, ama oil, borage oil, African galanga root extract.... the list goes on. Basically, this is a solid mix of oils, butters and 'cones to smooth hair out and make it crazy soft and I'm here to tell you it works. My hair is coarse, dry and huge in general, particularly unruly in appearance after washing, so I find myself into this as a second-day option to run through my ends and soften my hair overall. I'll definitely get use out of this and really love the gardenia scent, which doesn't last in hair too long, but is definitely pleasant in the moment.

I feel a little bit of giddiness when it comes to drugstore mascara, possibly because the promise of a cheap beauty thrill is so real these days. The formulations are better than ever and simply go to show that you don't have to spend a small fortune to have major impact from your products. I loved the original Voluminous formula, felt Voluminous Butterfly mascara was excellent, was definitely less taken by Voluminous Butterfly Intenza and don't even want to talk about the Voluminous Miss Manga or Manga Rock mascaras, because what were those? I've glazed over Voluminous Superstar, because it was a dual-ended two-step situation, so it seems unfair to throw it into this rundown. Anywho, this mascara offers up some sort of promise of tightlining and lash-defining, which sounds grand. I can't comment on the tightlining claims because I usually tightline with Charlotte Tilbury's Classic Eyeliner Powder Pencil in "Audrey" or Rock'n'Kohl in "Barbarella Brown" before applying mascara. I personally enjoy it because it gives major impact with a few swipes of the unusual brush. I find it visually similar to MAC Studio Sculpt Mascara, which was an interesting experience because MAC Studio Sculpt gave lashes separation, but I found the brush barely deposited product on my lashes. This L'Oréal ditty is much more full-on, and I found the effect on my lashes to be reasonably similar to Chanel Le Volume de Chanel, with slightly less volume and more clean definition. For around the $11 price point, I don't think anyone's mad at that - certainly not me.

I've never been a huge Philosophy Hope In A Jar fan. I've definitely dabbled in the brand offerings before (who among us didn't try out Purity Made Simple at some point, probably ages ago, in conjunction with a Clarisonic?); the 2-step Microdelivery Peel lured me in, but never the moisturizers. This was sitting on my bathroom counter for a really long time before I actually started to use it nightly, but I'm glad the guilt of unused skincare started to drive me mad - this night cream has made a difference in my skin. My skin has not been flaky, irritated or uneven in any way since using this in my nighttime routine. I also like that there was no heavy feeling on the skin after application. Glycolic acid and hyaluronic acid do their thing and my skin looks better as a result. 

Aside from the fact that I'm perpetually chasing down anything that contains camellia oil (see: the entire Shu Uemura Moisture Velvet rangeShu Uemura Essence Absolue, Tatcha Camellia Cleansing Oil), this range as a whole from The Body Shop was well-executed. I love the storytelling aspect of each product and how it reflects the internationally sourced ingredients. The scent of this body cream is not mega intrusive, but it does linger on the skin. I personally love that about this cream, but I'm sure that won't be everyone's cup of tea. That being said, it is anything but cloying - a far cry from The Body Shop's usual fruity or nutty body butter line up. It's worth noting that this is a different texture from the standard body butter fare from the brand, and that this melts into skin with total ease and little to no residue whatsoever, absorbing quickly and leaving soft skin in its wake. Key ingredients at play include camellia oil, shorea seed butter, shea butter and mango seed oil. The price point is fair ($36) for the quantity (a 350 mL tub), so if you're looking to step up your body hydration as we allegedly inch towards warmer weather, give this a shot if you overlooked it when it launched last fall.


Saturday, March 19, 2016

Review: Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser

Proper cleansing can often be the gateway to healthy skin. In my experience, majority of the breakouts I've had in my life have been a result of improper cleansing (hormonal breakouts aside, of course), leaving traces of makeup on the skin to then manifest in other forms aka blemishes. That being said, once that dawned on me, double cleansing became a saviour and I suddenly didn't hate cleansing oils at all.

image c/o Glossier
When Glossier launched its Milky Jelly Cleanser, I was obviously intrigued as I tend to be with all of the brand's launches because, like the rest of the range, the inspiration for this cleanser is largely crowd-sourced. Emily Weiss created a post inquiring about what the ITG community's dream cleanser would be and this product is the end result. Nearly 400 comments were left on that post, and I'd say there were some pretty solid ideas of a non-drying, gentle yet effective cleanser that would function like a micellar water in a creamier format. That's basically what has been created and I'm not mad!

Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser contains rose water (a quarter of the water content in the formula was subbed in with this floral eau, so spoiler alert: it has a faint rose smell), skin-soothing allantoin, glycerin, vitamin B5, hyaluronic acid, among other ingredients. The formula is a pH-balanced milky-looking gel texture that doesn't emulsify when combined with water, so the cleansing experience is probably more in line with a cleansing milk than any other cleanser category.

I tested this over the last four weeks in a couple of ways. I should preface this by saying I wear makeup every day not out of necessity, but out of desire because I love the process. I don't always do much with eyes or lips, but a base of some sort (concealer, foundation, whatever appeals to me that day), powder, bronzer, blush, brows and mascara are always in the mix. That being said, I don't use a makeup remover before cleansing because I double cleanse.

First, I tried using Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser it as both steps of my double cleanse, which is not only a surefire way to burn through product quickly, but it also wasn't that effective. Unsurprisingly, I still had faint traces of makeup on my skin when I tested my face after cleansing with a swipe of Bioderma on a cotton pad.

For my second test, I used it as the first step of my double cleanse (following up with either La Roche-Posay Effaclar Cleansing Gel or Vichy Pureté Thermal Fresh Cleansing Gel once I ran out of my LRP cleanser), and the results were fine. I do think that the second cleanser was the workhorse in this process, really picking up the slack where the Milky Jelly Cleanser seemed to fall short.

For my third test, I used Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser as a second step in my double cleanse routine, after traces of L'Oréal Sublime Radiance Sensational Cleansing Oil (a drugstore winner) were washed away. This combination of cleansers was decent!

image c/o Glossier
General sidebar: making an effort to really work any cleanser you use into the skin and massage the hell out of your face to really lift off any makeup or debris is key, so a word to the wise - rushing your cleansing process won't do you any favours. Take at least 30 seconds per cleanser to let the product do its thing.

Ultimately, I think anyone with any skin type (but dry skin especially!) that doesn't have loads of makeup to remove will really rate this cleanser. I prefer to use it as a morning cleanser. [Note: I used to not cleanse in the morning, thinking it was a bit superfluous, but I started experiencing weird pilling with my morning skincare and makeup routine, usually as a result of silicones on the skin from my p.m. skincare products. Something to mull on if you've ever experienced this.] It leaves skin super soft - never even remotely dry or tight - and ready for the rest of your routine.

The user experience is pretty solid over all and the price (US$18) isn't that heinous - just in line with Glossier's cushy mid-range pricing strategy. Sorry fellow Canadians, this stuff is obviously pending cross-border availability at this point in time (shoutout to my NYC-based brother who continues to be my Glossier touchpoint in life). For anyone who does get their paws on a Glossier Phase 1 Set, it's significant to note that the Phase 1 Set now comes equipped with this cleanser swapped out for the soothing face mist, which frankly burns eyes like CRAZY, so good riddance!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Brow Battle Royale: Benefit Gimme Brow, Glossier Boy Brow & Essence Make Me Brow

Few parts of one's makeup routine bring out one's idiosyncrasies like eyebrows do. Some people really don't fuss too much in terms of shape or finishing touches while others will go all out with pencils, powders, pomades and gels for an ultra-groomed look. I personally have a couple sparse spots in my brows (half my left brow waxes and wanes in terms of growth) so I tend to start with a pencil or pen (Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Brow Colour in "Dark" and/or L'Oreal Brow Stylist Definer in "Dark Brunette") and then move on to a gel. My brows aren't that unruly, but they can stray here and there so brow gel is a staple in my makeup routine.

Benefit Gimme Brow (C$30) has been on my radar since it launched and its teensy wand and fibrous formula made it stand out from the run-of-the-mill brow gels that had stiff hold, little to no volumizing properties and unusually large brushes that often glopped on excess gel to the skin surrounding brow hairs. The shade selection is minimal at best (which seems to be the case with most brow gels) and the steep price point has left something to be desired for a product that is obviously quite tiny and can get used up pretty quickly. This product in "Medium/Deep" and do love the precision that the wand offers up since I have those aforementioned areas in my brows where hairs are virtually non-existent to so this helps maximize

When Glossier launched Boy Brow (US$16) back in October, I was curious about how it would stack up to Gimme Brow, primarily because of the visual similarities of the product - teeny tube, teeny wand, precise application. My dear friend Marina was kind enough to send me a tube of Boy Brow in "Black" (Glossier is still working on that whole international shipping bit) this week after Glossier *finally* restocked this sought-after product. According to all the coverage regarding the Glossier Phase 2 Set, Emily Weiss stated that Boy Brow has a 10,000-person strong wait list. At this point, I felt pretty fortunate to get my hands on this brush-on pomade! Thanks again to Marina for sending it my way, because I actually really like this stuff! I think I could probably get away with a lighter colour (3 offered total), but this works totally fine too! The product uses waxes and silicones for a softer approach to the whole brow definition thing. The instructions actually state to "fluff and shape" brows into place, which is pretty apt for how this product performs. It's the most laid-back brow pomade I've come across, especially when I think about how it applies and wears versus Anastasia Dipbrow or Maybelline Brow Pomade Crayon (which I still enjoy, btw). All in all, this stuff looks natural, holds hairs in place without weighing them down or making them look overly slick and the price point is reasonable.

I was perusing the aisles at Shoppers Drug Mart the other day and spotted Essence Make Me Brow (about C$3/US$3), which is touted as a 3-in-1 to address your needs for density, colour and shape. It's also available in 2 shades, so I grabbed "Browny Brows" and gave it a whirl. This stuff is fantastic given the price point. The fibres are definitely more visible on the wand than Benefit Gimme Brow, but it ultimately applies the same as Gimme Brow does. There are many overlapping ingredients between the two, and ultimately Gimme Brow has a longer ingredient list, adding things like panthenol (vitamin B5) and marshmallow root extract into the mix. Truthfully, if you're on a budget or if you find yourself burning through brow products (I know I certainly do, simply because they are a non-negotiable element of my look on a daily basis), this is a sound option.

As illustrated above, Benefit Gimme Brow offers up the lightest pigmentation for brunettes, likely making it the most user-friendly/foolproof. Overall, I'm happy to use any three of these formulas, but Glossier Boy Brow has stolen the show for me since it's such an usual offering of soft hold and definition. This formula allows the wispy, feathery element of my brows to be emphasized, not shellacked down to my face. Low-key, easy to use and unfussy - just as I've come to expect from Glossier. [Sidebar: thoughts on the brand's Milky Jelly Cleanser - been test-driving it for a month - are also coming up shortly!]
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