Friday, August 26, 2016

4-Month-Long Project 13 Pan: Finale

At long last, the time has come for the finale of my 2016 Project 13 Pan! I'm wrapping up this challenge a few days early because I have another panning finale coming up, and I wanted to space them apart a little - and truth be told, I'm SO done with the products in this project. But let's not get ahead of ourselves here; if you haven't seen my introduction post and the halfway update, you can do so here and here.
Flat lay of products after 4 months of usage (May - August 2016)
Now, are you ready to see my final progress?
1. MAC Blot Powder in Medium. My initial goal for this Project was to use up what was left of this powder after working on it for 6 months last year in a Project 10 Pan (here). As you can see compared to my last update, I have again made decent progress, but I'm nowhere near finishing the whole compact. Basically, the amount of pan that you see now is the result of 10 months of very regular (probably 5 times a week) usage. I definitely feel a little sick of it after using it for so long, so it's going back in the drawer for now and I may reassess at the end of the year whether I want to keep or get rid of it.
2. The Body Shop Honey Bronzing Powder in 02 Fair. I haven't set a strict goal for this product because already at the start of the Project, I was aware of the fact that it would be impossible for me to use it all up. I was right - obviously - but I'm quite proud of my progress. However, using a bronzer daily has made me realize I'm not a huge fan of bronzing and it's not an essential part of my make-up routine, so I'm getting rid of what's left of this battered bronzer and won't be rushing out to purchase a replacement (I have two more bronzers left in my collection).
3. Buxom Full-on Lip Cream in Cherry Flip (review with swatches). Full success, it's completely used up! While the Full-on lip gloss formula from Buxom is one of my absolute favorites, I won't be purchasing another bright/ more pigmented shade for a while - I just prefer sheer lipsticks or tinted balms for that more subtle pop of color.
4. OPI Nail Lacquer mini in Red Lights Ahead... Where? Even though it looks like there's still about less than a half left in the bottle, this nail polish has now gone completely thick and stringy, AND (that's the kicker, you guys) the brush doesn't reach all the way down the bottle (!!!). On my last mani, I was only able to coax out one coat from it. I enjoyed the shade, but I don't do well with wearing the same color on my nails repeatedly for a few months.
5. Giorgio Armani Rouge d'Armani Sheers in 301 (review with swatches). I was working really hard to get this lipstick all used up but I didn't quite make it; the firmer formula makes the progress pretty slow. However, I only have a little stub left now, and I'll do my best to have it finished by the end of the year.
6. Bite Beauty High Pigment Lip Pencil in Sablé. From the three lip products I included in this Project, this was the easiest one to use up. I really enjoyed this Lip Pencil but I'm glad that I resisted the temptation to get a back-up (a friend kindly offered to sent me hers that she decided to purge), because I'm now more into somewhat deeper mauve shades on the lips - more along the lines of Bite Lip Pencil in Rhubarb that was also included in the same Holiday kit.
7. Pixi Beauty Endless Silky Eye Pen in Black Noir (review with swatches). I used it all up with about a month to spare and after I've moved on to my other shades of the Pixi liners, I definitely think the Black was getting pretty dried out. I liked it, but unfortunately this always smudged when I tightlined with it, and sometimes even on the upper lashline, which is something I don't experience as much with other eyeliner colors from Pixi. I'm now using an old pot of Clinique Gel Eyeliner in Black and so far, I'm liking it much more for both my lashline and waterline.
8. NYX Micro Brow Pencil in Taupe (review with swatches). All finished at the halfway update (here). It's a good product, but I want to try the Hourglass 'Arch' Brow Sculpting Pencil, hoping it'll be quicker to fill my brows with.
9. Laneige Cushion Concealer SPF30 in Light* (review with swatches). To be honest, in the last two months of this Project I just couldn't wait to finally be done with it. This is a light to medium coverage concealer that NEVER sets - but somehow can still look cakey under the eyes at the end of the day. I'm really glad this is leaving my stash now.
10. NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer in Chantilly. In all fairness, I did say in my Intro that I didn't think this concealer would be all used up by the end of the 4 months. I've done some more progress on it but it's still nowhere near finished. I keep going back and forth on what I should do with it now - it's pretty old at this point (over 2 years of pretty much daily use), I don't like it all that much anymore, and I have unused back-ups of concealer in my stash; but on the other hand, the shade matches me really well in the winter and uhm, it was rather expensive. I may just keep it until the end of the year and see if I can use it some more.
11. Bourjois 123 Perfect CC Cream in 31 Ivory (review with swatches).  My goal was to only have 1/4 left in the tube at the end of the Project and I succeeded in doing that - I actually think there's less than that left in it now. I'd like to keep on using the remainder and have this all finished by the end of the year.
12. Hourglass Mineral Veil Primer (review). All used up, including scraping out the last little bits by unscrewing the pump. It was alright as a primer but I wouldn't repurchase it, or another face primer for that matter - at least for a while. Again, not an essential step in my routine and I have one more deluxe sample of another primer left when I occasionally feel like using it.

13. Maybelline Color Tattoo in Just Beige & (bonus) KIKO Eyeshadow Stick no.25 (progress shown on the card above). My goal was to use up half of the Color Tattoo, and I'm estimating that I roughly managed to do that. However, after about a week from my last update, I grew so frustrated with how dry it looked on my lids that I decided to replace it with the KIKO Eyeshadow Stick as my eye base. I'm glad that I did - not only did I like the KIKO so much more, but I also managed to use up more than a half of it. I'll continue reaching for the KIKO stick and I'm hoping to have it all used up within the next couple months.

Overall, I'm evaluating my succes with this Project at 10 out of 13 (counting the two eye bases as one full product used up), or 77%. That's quite alright, I think - I can't see how I could have done any better on it in terms of my committment to using these products, which was probably 99% of the time I wore make-up in the past four months. I actually have a lot more thoughts on panning make-up in general after completing this Project, but I think I'll be writing them all down in a separate post in the very near future, so stay on the lookout for that.

How are you doing on your Project Pans? Have you already switched to a different seasonal (fall) Project? Please link your update posts in the comments, I love looking at your progress!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Masking with Yogurt and Strawberries: Laneige Multiberry Yogurt Repairing Mask* Review

For whatever reason, I've been much more into moisturizing masks than my past favorite clays this year, even now in our stifling hot and humid summer weather. There's just something SO nice about relaxing with a cooling layer of moisture on your face - and if I can remember to pop my mask in the fridge for a bit beforehand (especially my sheet masks!), that takes the experience to a whole new level. What's your current favorite mask type - hydrating creamy ones or purifying clays?
Anyway, today I wanted to show you what I've been using for the past few weeks to soothe and replenish my skin - the Laneige Multiberry Yogurt Repairing Mask* ($25 for 80ml at Target), which is suitable for all skin types and contains the brand's propietory Sogurty (fermented yogurt enzymes) and a Multiberry Complex of raspberries, blueberries, wolfberries, cranberries and strawberries. You may remember I reviewed another product from the Multiberry range a while back; you can find my thoughts on the Laneige Multiberry Yogurt Peeling Gel* here. Laneige claims their Multiberry mask will leave your skin looking softer and healthy, and deliver moisture and antioxidants to repair it.
The packaging is quite similar to their cult Water Sleeping Mask (reviewed here - still a firm favorite) but in light pink instead of blue. You may think the price tag for this mask is a bit steep, especially considering that it's sold at Target, but you do get a very large amount in one jar. The tub comes in a cardboard box listing all the ingredients, and you also get a little plastic spatula to scoop out the mask. Aside from the ingredients highlighted on the front, the Repairing Mask also contains glycerin, shea and cocoa butters (second, third and fourth on the INCI list), as well as squalane, soybean and yeast ferment extracts, niacinamide and meadowfoam seed oil. The suggested application is 5-10 minutes on clean toned face, once or twice a week.
Despite the abundance of extra nourishing plant butters in the formula, I find the texture of Laneige Multiberry Mask to be quite fluffy and easy to spread around on the skin. It has that delicious strawberry yogurt scent but I don't find it too overpowering once I have the mask on my face. I usually leave it for a bit longer than the recommended 10 minutes (more like 15-20) and in that time, the mask sinks pretty well into my skin, so when I rinse it off, there's just a little left and it's very easy to get off.

After removing the mask, my face definitely feels softer - just like promised - and I guess it does look healthier as well, whatever that means. I have a lot less redness and my skin seems plump and glowy. It's not anything different than the result I get from their Water Sleeping Mask, except that I feel like that one is somewhat more hydrating whereas the Multiberry Mask is more moisturizing. They have very different textures as well; their overnight mask is a gel that easily absorbs into the skin (but still leaves a slight residue on top), this wash-off Repairing one is creamy and admittedly a bit heavier. I think both of these masks have their purpose and I like switching between them, but if you wanted to purchase just one, consider how long you would like to keep the mask on and whether your skin is overall dry (in which case I'd get the Multiberry Mask) or just occasionally dehydrated (Water Sleeping Mask).
I have now tried a lot of hydrating and moisturizing products from the Laneige range and I can honestly say they do them very well. I have recently used up my bottle of their Water Bank Serum* (reviewed here) to the very last drop and that was one of the most nourishing serums I've ever tried - so much so that it was perhaps a bit much for my combination skin in the warmer months. I think if your skintype is dry and you're not looking forward to shelling out big bucks for skincare at Sephora, you can't go wrong with these moisturizing products from Laneige; they also offer a Hydration Trial Kit which comes with 6 deluxe samples for a reasonable $29.

I'm curious, do you guys use any moisturizing/ hydrating products from Korean or Japanese brands in your skincare routine? I have to say that I'm an Asian beauty convert when it comes to delivering a big boost of hydration and luminosity to the skin without spending a fortune.

Disclaimer: Product featured in this post is a press sample I received from the brand's PR for review consideration. All links are non-affiliate. All opinions are 100% honest and unbiased, no matter if the product featured was purchased with my own money or provided free of charge. Thank you for reading!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Skin and Body in Pregnancy: My Experience & Products I Use

Excitement levels are running high - I only have six weeks left until my due date! How crazy is that? But before our baby boy arrives, I wanted to write one last pregnancy-related post about my experience of carrying a human bean in my belly for over 9 months. If you're not interested in preggo stuff - please click away now, I may be oversharing some details; I do however think it's important to have an open discussion among women about their different experiences and struggles. Knowledge is power!
Baby bump at 32 weeks; photo by my talented BFF Mariya.
Overall, I am very grateful to have had an easy, comfortable, and healthy pregnancy thus far. If you remember my two other pregnancy updates (announcement here and gender reveal here), right from the very beginning I've been feeling well and suffered very few pregnancy symptoms that can make a preggo's life a living hell. I have not had any nausea whatsoever, in general I have maintained good energy levels, I have been sleeping well (even with the frequent bathroom trips), I haven't had almost any digestive issues or swelling, no cramping or bleeding. I have had the most normal pregnancy imaginable - but not only has my well-being been great, more importantly, as far as all tests and scans go, the baby has also been doing great, growing and developing steadily and swimming energetically from one side of my belly to the other (especially at 3am in the morning ;)

I am stressing all this because I'm sure all women, especially of child-bearing age, have heard pregnancy horror stories left and right, be it from well-meaning family members or anxious friends. Personally, after hearing all these accounts and retellings, it almost seemed to me like it was impossible to feel well and enjoy being pregnant - like things were bound to go downhill at some point or another. I only knew of one friend whose pregnancy experience has been overwhelmingly positive - ONE! If you've been considering having a child (or children) some time in the future but are worried about how your body will handle growing another human; please don't be. There's no way to predict what your personal experience may be, and feeling stressed and anxious over it certainly won't make anything better. I don't think there's any guarantee one way or another - sure, it's good to keep in shape and practice healthy habits beforehand, but as to specific symptoms etc... We really can't know until we get there. I was in fact quite resigned to the fact that I may be feeling awful when pregnant, and I was also worried about being able to conceive due to some medical history I won't bore you with - but all of that stress and anxiety turned out to be completely unfounded and unnecessary. Pregnancy CAN be healthy, enjoyable and happy; let's all try to remember that.
Now in my third trimester, I have definitely started feeling... quite pregnant. As of my last doctor's appointment, I have gained approx. 25 pounds. My family and friends are kind enough to claim that it's all in the bump; I do feel like my belly is rather on the large size, and it protrudes a lot in the front (I like to call it a watermelon). I have gone up between 1-2 bra sizes (larger cup as well as band size) and I think my hips are somewhat bigger as well, but all things considered I think it's not too bad. Because of the size/ weight of the baby bump and joint-loosening hormones coursing through my body, I have been experiencing pain in my left hip/ inner thigh area, which is making walking increasingly challenging - but you know, living in NYC, I still do it anyway - and then silently curse myself for not taking a cab ;)

So far - knock on wood - I have not noticed any stretch marks anywhere on my body. I have not had any stretch marks prior to pregnancy either, but I also realize I may still get them mere weeks before delivery, so I guess we will just have to wait and see. As far as bodycare, I have been using lots of moisturizers on the bump & rump area every single evening after shower, sometimes in the morning as well. I also like to scrub and massage my body quite thoroughly in the shower using lots of body wash and a loofa to get some good blood circulation and exfoliate all those dead skin cells. I haven't personally experienced a lot of dry skin or itchiness, which I understand can be quite common. The eczema on my hands, if anything, has been a bit better than in the past few years.

When it comes to the actual products I've been reaching for, I have not bought a single anti-stretch mark cream or belly balm or any of those other lotions and potions geared specifically towards pregnant women. As far as I know, stretch marks are genetic anyway, and while moisturizing your body can go a long way towards minimizing them/ making them heal faster, there's no proven skincare ingredient to completely prevent them or have them disappear. So I didn't bother paying more just to have a product labelled for pregnancy, and instead have been using lotions I've already had in my stash, as well as my new favorite body oil, the Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse Multi-Usage Dry Oil* ($45 for 100ml/ 3.3 fl. oz spray bottle at us.nuxe.com and Ulta, smaller sizes also available - the Limited Edition bottle in the photo looks full because it's my second one; my husband also uses it as a beard oil). It smells heavenly of sweet tropical florals and absorbs quickly into the skin, sealing in moisture. I have also been using the Prodigieux Shower Oil* ($15 for 200ml/ 6.7 fl. oz, here and here) from the same range, which feels nourishing on the skin and gives excellent slip for shaving. It also makes my skin look very luminous thanks to all the luxurious golden shimmer :) I have tried using coconut oil as well but felt like it was a bit too heavy for me, whereas most regular body lotions are currently too thin/ lightweight. I think for me personally, body butters and oils are the way to go.
I haven't observed any major changes in my hair or nails. My nails have always been strong and they grow fast, and that hasn't changed. My hair also grows quite quickly, and since I haven't dyed it for over two years now, it's all healthy, shiny, sleek virgin hair. I do use good conditioners and leave-in sprays in my hair, but it's now quite long and I do not have any split ends - that's probably a first. In my photos, you may catch a glimpse of my baby bangs; I now have long baby hair growing on both sides of my forehead. I've also noticed a lot less hair on my brush after detangling or styling, but I wouldn't say my hair looks or feels any thicker or fuller than before. That may actually be a good thing - I'm hoping to avoid dramatic hair loss post partum.
As far as the skin on my face - which is probably the most important to the vast majority of women - I'm very happy to say that it improved in pregnancy. Prior to getting pregnant, I have struggled with acne for most of my teenage and adult life. I have noticed quite quickly - within the first couple of months - that I was getting a lot less breakouts and absolutely no cystic acne, which had been my biggest struggle in the past. Overall, my skin is now more even in texture and tone, but I think my sebum production is only slightly diminished - my skin type is still combination. It can get very oily on the T-zone, but we're also currently in the hot & humid summer season here in NYC, so I'm sure that contributes to the oiliness as well. To help with any congestion, I have been quite diligent about using chemical exfoliants on my face twice a day; you can read more about my current skincare routine here.

The only acne/ skin texture I have been somewhat struggling with during pregnancy has been on my chest - and, uhm, belly. I had had congested pores on my chest before getting pregnant as well, but I feel that for the first 4-5 months, it unfortunately got worse. I just tried not to pay too much attention to it, made sure I was washing that area thoroughly every night and extended all of my facial exfoliants all the way down my neck and chest, and after those 5 months, it has pretty much all cleared up - either thanks to my efforts or just a spontaneous shift in hormones. But now that I've been acne-free, I have noticed a different issue - lots of tiny little skin tags all over my mid-section. They're so little that they eventually dry out and get scrubbed off anyway, but they're just... a bit strange and slightly annoying, especially if I mindlessly scratch one by accident. I do hope they go away post-partum :)

In terms of hyperpigmentation or melasma, which are also common concerns in pregnancy, I have not noticed anything out of ordinary. I am quite fair and naturally prone to freckles and hyperpigmenation anyway, so I have been making sure to apply lots of high SPF sunscreen on my face and chest (Mentholatum Sunplay SPF 50+ Super Block PA++++, reviewed here) as well as other exposed areas of my body (Neutrogena Sensitive Skin SPF 60+) any time I go outside, and I try to limit my sun exposure as much as possible. So far, I don't think my existing dark spots have gotten any worse or that I have got a lot of new ones, although I am always somewhat more freckly in the summer - that's just hard to avoid completely with my coloring. Speaking of pigmentation, I do have quite a visible linea negra on my belly, but thankfully it's not super dark - just a tan color, pretty much exactly the shade of my freckles. I'm sure it will fade completely a few months after delivery.

In general, I have not been very particular about avoiding lots of specific ingredients in skincare (or even my food aside from the obvious ones like alcohol or raw meat). Sure, I've put away all of my retinol and salicylic acid products for the time being, but I haven't been scrutinizing INCI lists looking for ingredients some people deem toxic, or irritating to the skin. I pay a lot of attention to ingredients any time I shop for skincare anyway, so I feel like I've done my due diligence regardless of pregnancy. There's lots of fear mongering out there and many pregnant women make the decision to switch to natural/ organic/ green beauty products, believing they're much better for them and safer for the baby. However, reality is a little more complicated than that - especially that the natural beauty market isn't in fact regulated by law in the United States. What I'm saying is - just do your own research.
I think that's about all I wanted to say on this topic - please let me know if you have any questions by leaving me a comment. The gorgeous maternity photos I used to illustrate this post were taken by my talented best friend Mariya, who flew all the way from Seattle to spend a few days with me and give me the much needed female emotional support. Thank you, bae! Big thanks to Claire from the Land of Lorp and Allison from 10am Beauty for listening to my rants on Twitter and giving lots of helpful preggo/mama advice. And lastly, thanks to Nuxe for providing me with ample amounts of Huile Prodigieuse to smear all over my watermelon belly :) Just a few more weeks to go, you guys!!!

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Some of the K-Beauty brands & products you can score at the Peach & Lily Sample Sale.
In completely other news, me and Kar Yi are planning to attend the Peach & Lily 2nd Annual K-Beauty Sample Sale on Wednesday 8/24 at Stollway 250 W 39th St (between 7th & 8th Ave). The sale starts at 8am and goes on until 10pm (or until supplies last) and I thought I'd share this event with you in case you're a fellow Korean Beauty lover. RSVP by emailing events@peachandlily.com - even if you're not quite sure you're coming yet, it doesn't cost anything to get your name on the list. The brands you can grab at up to 80% off include Be The Skin, Cremorlab, May Coop, Mizo, Kicho, Lagom, Shangpree, Dr.Dream, 24/7 and Lady&Skin. Peach & Lily recommend to get there as early as you can, and only carry your funds with you (cash & credit cards accepted) instead of a whole purse (I don't know how doable that will be for me though, lol). If you happen to be there around noon and see a heavily pregnant lady waddling about, please come over and say hello!

Disclaimer: Products marked with an asterix (*) were press samples I received from the brands' PR for review consideration. I purchased everything else myself. All links are non-affiliate. All opinions are 100% honest and unbiased, no matter if the products featured were purchased with my own monies or provided free of charge. Thank you for reading!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Sunsets & Berries: Pacifica Power of Love Eye Shadow Palette* Review

Thanks to my Pan That Palette challenge this year, I have not worn or bought an eye palette other than my theBalm Nude' Tude for the past seven months and some change. A lot of you commented how you couldn't even imagine committing to about a dozen of the same shades for such a long time - and I feel you, because eyeshadow boredom has now become a thing for me, and it's painful. Which is why I was happy and excited to be shaken out of my ennui by this new arrival from Pacifica Beauty, the Power of Love Eye Shadow Palette* ($20 for 0.22 oz, available at pacificabeauty.com, ulta.com and Target).
Power of Love is a compact palette of ten coconut-infused mineral eyeshadows, which the brand describes as 'velvety rich, long lasting, creaseless' and having ' a soft, cream-like finish'. Like all of Pacifica products, they're 100% vegan and cruelty-free. The shadows are housed in a slim, streamlined carboard palette with a clear top so that you can see all the shades easily at a glance. One thing that slightly annoys me about the design is that even though the brand lists the shade names on the back of the outer box, the shadows are not actually named within the palette so I have no idea which name goes with which shade if that makes sense - it's like they wanted to name them but didn't commit to doing so all the way through. Huh.
Now, the shade selection is what got me really excited about playing with this palette. It's a predominantly neutral eyeshadow palette (my personal preference) that contains shadows ranging from light to dark in terms of depth, thus making it easy to create an entire look without having to look for complimentary eyeshadows elsewhere. However, it also features some fun pops of color: a khaki green with golden shimmer, a gorgeous wine shade, and a turquoise with a gold sheen. Those combined with the fun hippy packaging make for a lovely summer eyeshadow palette - just the thing I needed.
Unfortunately, as soon as I started swatching these eyeshadows on my arm, I noticed some issues with the formula. In short: the quality is not consistent. Like, at all. Let me break it down for you, starting from the top row, going left to right:
A light peach, shimmer/ pearl finish. Medium pigmentation but smooth and easy to apply.
A warm bronze, shimmer/ metallic finish. Slightly more pigmented than the peach, again very buttery and easy to pick up on the brush and blend out.
A matte beige brown, sheer to medium pigmentation, smooth and blendable.
A satin khaki green with golden sparkles, very sheer, hard pressed in the pan, difficult to pick up on the brush.
A satin berry with pink undertones, sheer, hard pressed in the pan, difficult to build up. Doesn't even come close to the deep wine shade I was expecting when I looked at it in the pan.
A matte navy with a slight purple lean, sheer to medium pigmentation, soft and smooth but not very buildable.
A pinky mauve with a high shimmer/ metallic finish, pigmented, soft, smooth, creamy, a dream to apply and blend out on the eyes. This is THE stand-out shade of the entire palette.
A satin ivory with pale yellow undertones, very sheer, difficult to pick up on the brush or build up on the eyes.
A satin turquoise with golden sparkles, again very sheer and difficult to work with.
A satin/ pearl cream leaning light pink, sheer but a bit more pigmented and easier to apply than the yellowy ivory.
Sooo... Let's see - how many shades from this palette did I actually count as reasonably pigmented? I believe it's 4 (maaaybeee 5) out of 10. That's not great, you guys. And the ones that I said were sheer - they really ARE sheer. What you see in my arm swatches (bare skin, swatched with a clean finger) is sometimes 7+ swipes of the shadow. Who has time to do this many layers on their eyes for the colors to even show up? On top of that, all the sheer shades are quite hard in the pan and all got hard pan on them just from rubbing my finger across the surface during one swatch session. When it came to applying them to my eyes, I got quite a bit of powder kick-up by digging in my brush so hard just to get something onto my lids. Yeah. Not cool.
That being said, I do think I got some really pretty eye looks out of this palette. My first take, which I intended to be a bit more colorful, turned out to be somewhat sunset-over-the-ocean themed. I used the yellow ivory on the inner corners, light peach on the lid and navy in the outer V, blending it all out with the matte beige brown, which by the way is a perfect transition shade for my fair skin. On the lower lashline, I applied the golden turquoise shade; it pulled a bit more green on me than I would have liked so I added a bright cobalt blue pencil liner to my waterline. It turned out quite pretty - but it did take me much longer to execute because I had to keep layering for intensity, and some shades looked a bit more muddy on my eyes than I would have liked (namely the matte navy and the turquoise).
For my second look, I decided to play with the ever so trendy pinky berry shades. I used the lightest pink in the inner corners, the stunning metallic mauve on the lids, and the satin berry in the outer corner and crease, again blending everything out with the matte beigy brown. I accented the lower lashline with the warm bronze and finished the look with a subtle aubergine wing (Pixi Endless Silky Eye Pen in Deep Purple). I really, really liked how it came together, and actually got a lovely compliment on my eye make-up while wearing it ('Excuse me, but your eye look is absolutely stunning! Are you self-taught or did you go to school for make-up? I would love to learn how to do that!). The longevity on both looks (on top of my usual eye primer) was very good and I didn't notice any fading or creasing throughout the day.

So overall, my feelings on the Pacifica Power of Love Palette are pretty ambiguous. On one hand, I wish the quality (pigmentation and texture) were even - or at least somewhat similar - across all the shades. On the other, the few eyeshadows that do have a good formula are absolutely beautiful and make for a gorgeous look on the eyes. But is it worth it to buy an entire eyeshadow palette for just that one stunning make-up look? I don't think so. I will probably be passing this palette on to a loved one who is still a beginner when it comes to eye make-up; at least with those sheerer shadows, it's more difficult to mess up.

What is the one eyeshadow palette you have been reaching for the most this summer? Have you already jumped on the berry eyeshadow trend? I'm seriously considering picking up MAC Cranberry eyeshadow in the near future.

Disclaimer: Product featured in this post is a press sample I received from the brand's PR for review consideration. All links are non-affiliate. All opinions are 100% honest and unbiased, no matter if the product featured was purchased with my own money or provided free of charge. Thank you for reading!

Friday, August 12, 2016

For the Foodie: August Degustabox* and Homemade Pizza

Time for another Degustabox* unboxing, folks! Honestly, Degustaboxes (together with local produce farmshare boxes) give me a much bigger thrill than beauty subscription boxes ever did in the past - because really, as a hungry preggo with a voracious human bean inside her, getting delivered an awesome box full of ready to eat snacks and ingredients to get creative with is living the dream right now :D I'm sure fellow foodies get me on this.
The size of the actual box is the same as the last one (click here if you want to see what I got!) and again, it was packed to the brim with products neatly tucked into bubble wrap to survive shipping. I received my box about a week ago, so I already had a chance to try out some things and give you mini reviews as well. I got:
ALO Allure Pulp Free (aloe vera, mangosteen and mango juice blend), $1.99 - tasty mango flavor but a bit too sweet
Popchips Ridges snack-sized baggie in the Cheddar & Sour Cream flavor, $1.25 - haven't tried these yet but regular Popchips in the Barbecue flavor are some of my favorite chips to munch on
Goetze's Mini Cow Tales, $3.49 - haven't tried yet but they sound suspiciously similar to a popular Polish candy called krówki, which are sort of like dulce de leche/ soft and chewy caramels...?
White Lily White Grape and Wheat Flour, $5.49 - I've used White Lily Bread flour in the past to bake our sourdough loaf so I was very excited to try this; see below.
Sir Kensington's Chipotle Mayonnaise, $5.99 - haven't tried yet but I can see an awesome BAT (bacon, avocado, tomato sandwich) featuring this mayo in the very near future
Post Honey Bunches of Oats cereal, $2.83 - had it this morning with greek yogurt and berries instead of my regular homemade granola and while I loved the crunch factor, I found it (like 99% of store-bought cereal) to be way too sweet
Oregon Chai Tea Latte instant powder drink mix, $3.99 - tried once so far as an iced drink and again, too sugary for me
Loacker Rose of the Dolomite x 2, $1.76 each - OMG. If there's one thing to take away from August Degustabox, it's these chocolate pralines. They're creamy and chocolatey with a little crunch from hazelnuts and wafer pieces and they're SO GOOD (that's why there's only one pack in the photo, I just couldn't stop eating once I opened the other one I had). If you like Kinder Bueno candy bars, you NEED to try these.
Goya Maria Cookies, $0.99
Vermont Smoke & Cure Mini Meat Sticks, $4.99 for a 6-pack (we got 4) - I believe that as a Polish person, I know most of what there is to know about good sausage and maybe I'm spoilt as a result. I tried one of these 'sticks' and really did NOT like it. Your experience may vary though.
Approx. value of the August box: $33.04 for $19.99/ month

Now for the recipe, or rather what I was inspired to make with a product from my Degustabox. You guessed it - I went right for that bag of flour and set on making the perfect thin crust pizza for one (or, uhm, one and a half? How should I count the baby bean?) from scratch. I rarely eat pizza, and I almost never make it at home, the chief reason being that my husband is not only allergic to garlic but also cow's dairy (meaning, mozzarella, parmesan, asiago... all the delicious pizza cheese). But, Mr is currently away on a work trip, and that coupled with the arrival of this flour in my Degustabox, and a bulb of porcelain neck garlic in my farmshare box, is what I call the perfect opportunity.

I used the dough recipe from The Kitchn (here). My only note here would be that I suspect the grape seed and wheat flour needs a bit more moisture (water) than just plain wheat/ all-purpose, so I'd adjust that next time I'm baking with it. I let the dough rise a bit for about an hour and fifteen minutes, then halved it, used one half right away and popped the other in the fridge to make another fresh pizza the next day.

For my toppings, I made a classic tomato base using canned tomato paste thinned with a bit of water and olive oil, and added crushed garlic, lots of oregano leaf, fresh thyme, a little bit of onion powder and some salt and pepper. I decided on my favorite childhood flavor combo - ham and pineapple (I realize some people are strongly against pineapple on a pizza but I don't care, I love it), and added some onion slivers and corn kernels as well. I sprinkled a fair amount of shredded mozzarella on top and baked for about 15 minutes in a 425 degree oven.
Was it the world's most Instagrammable pizza? Not really. Was it delicious though? Oh, absolutely. The crust came out nice and thin but not too crunchy (it supported the weight of all the toppings but was still easy to bite through) and I really enjoyed my garlicky base with plentiful ham and pineapple pieces. In fact, I cannot wait for lunchtime now just so I can go ahead and make a second pizza with my refrigerated dough from yesterday. Mmmm.

All in all, I'm happy with the products that came in my August Degustabox, but I guess I wish there was a bit less candy/ sugar-heavy food in it. I have a bit of a sweet tooth in general but even more so now that I'm pregnant, and I try to be careful about it, so I know I shouldn't be having any of those Cow Tales or sugary instant chai lattes :/ If you're interested in this food subscription, you can use my referral link (click on the banner below) to get your first box for 50% off, shipping included.


Are you a pizza lover? Do you like making your own at home or do you have a favorite pizzeria where you live? What are your favorite toppings/ flavor combos? Let me know in the comments!

Disclaimer: Product marked with an asterix (*) is a press sample I received from the brand's PR for review consideration. The post contains an affiliate link, which means I'll earn a commission if you decide to sign up to Degustabox after clicking. All opinions are 100% honest and unbiased, no matter if the product featured was purchased with my own money or provided free of charge. Thank you for reading and supporting my blog! 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

A Highlighter for Highlighter Haters: ILIA Beauty Illuminator in Polka Dots & Moonbeams*

Do you remember my rave review of ILIA's Multi-Stick in A Fine Romance (here)? It was one of the only two cheek products I took with me on our Icelandic getaway and I literally COULD NOT put it down for those two weeks - and beyond. So I was very excited to give another of Ilia's 'cheek sticks' a try - it's their cream Illuminator in Polka Dots & Moonbeams* ($34 for 0.15 oz/ 4.5g, available on iliabeauty.com), a shade aimed for fair and light skintones. What's even more exciting is that ILIA Beauty has now made their Sephora debut with their three Illuminators, available both in-store and online (click!), and I'm crossing my fingers to see the full line there in the near future - pretty please? :)
The packaging of Ilia's Illuminator is exactly the same as their Multi-Sticks: a simple burnished metal tube with a chubby bullet inside. One thing worth noting is that when you first get the product, it's important to remember to push the cap all the way down until it clicks securely, because it's very easy to leave the tube half-open and potentially have the product dry out if you're not careful.
All of ILIA Beauty's line features certified organic nourishing ingredients. The Illuminators contain sunflower, castor, sesame seed and avocado plant oils, as well as cocoa and shea butters. The product is fragrance-free but there is a very faint 'natural' scent to it when you put your nose to the tube - I can't smell it though once it's applied on my face.
I find taking color-accurate photos of highlighting products extremely hard, but I tried to do my best here. As you may be able to see, Polka Dots & Moonbeams (btw, first prize for a super adorable shade name) is a pale ivory pearl. While on its own and in the bullet, it looks like it may be leaning warm and slightly yellow, when you look at my comparison swatches you'll notice that this shade is in fact extremely neutral. It has neither pink, peach or white gold undertones but it's not a stark white pearl either - I'm making a terrible job of describing it, am I not? Let's just have the photos speak for themselves then.
In terms of formula and texture, again I find Ilia's Illuminator quite similar in feel and performance to the brand's Multi-Stick. It's a bit of a firm consistency in the tube but it becomes more emollient and easy to pick up with the warmth of your skin. It's definitely on the sheer side when it comes to pigmentation, which can be a good or a bad thing depending on your preferences. If you like the look of a strong, mirrorred, strobed cheek, I would steer you away from this product. However, if you dislike most highlighters because you find them too unnatural and obvious - well hello, meet the product of your dreams :) 99% of the time I firmly belong to the second camp so I absolutely love the natural luminosity Polka Dots & Moonbeams brings to my face. The texture is so soft and easy to blend that I virtually can't tell I have any product on my cheekbones, and thanks to all the lovely plant oils and butters, it leaves a bit of a moisturized sheen on the skin as well. On that note - mind you, the Illuminator doesn't set, so if your skin type is very oily, you may not like this creamy texture.
I have tested Polka Dots & Moonbeams on bare skin, on top of a liquid foundation, on top of a cream blush and under a powder blush and it blended in and sat well on the skin in all four instances. In fact, I find Ilia's stick highlighter easier to work with than Marc Jacobs Glow Stick in Spotlight (reviewed here); the Glow Stick is actually a bit thicker and more emollient and sometimes I find it looks a little funny when combined with powder products. I also like the shade of Polka Dots & Moonbeams better than Spotlight; in my heavy arm swatch, Spotlight looks a lot more yellow/ pale gold on my fair skin with cool undertones, while Ilia's product seems to be the perfect natural match for my coloring.
L-R: Ilia Beauty Illuminator in Polka Dots & Moonbeams, Marc Jacobs Glow Stick in Spotlight

L-R: Ilia Beauty Illuminator in Polka Dots & Moonbeams, Marc Jacobs Glow Stick in Spotlight, Surratt Eyeshadow in Scintillante, Anastasia Beverly Hills Illuminator in Starlight
In these swatches, you can also see that both Marc Jacobs Spotlight stick and Anastasia Beverly Hills (powder) Illuminator in Starlight (reviewed here) are more pigmented and reflective. Surratt Beauty Eyeshadow in Scintillante that I like to use as face highlight is sheerer just like the Polka Dots & Moonbeams, but has this somewhat strange subtle grey cast.
I'm sorry for the weird lighting in my face shot - the day I took this photo was really grey and overcast and I don't think it showcases Polka Dots & Moonbeams to its full potential. However, you can still see how natural this Illuminator looks on the skin - it's definitely not too much for everyday wear. Even if you normally hate how highlighters look on your face (or, as a fellow pale person, find most of them too dark for your coloring), I think you'd be surprised by how much you like the ethereal glow of Ilia's Illuminator - definitely give it a swatch next time you're in Sephora!

Have you incorporated highlighting into your regular make-up routine? What is your favorite texture for a highlighter - liquid, cream or powder? I'd love to know!

Disclaimer: Product featured in this post is a press sample I received from the brand's PR for review consideration. All links are non-affiliate. All opinions are 100% honest and unbiased, no matter if the product featured was purchased with my own money or provided free of charge. Thank you for reading!

Friday, August 5, 2016

4 Months on a Beauty No Buy: Some Thoughts and Tips

August arrived in a blink of an eye and it made me realize that I haven't bought any beauty products for over four months now besides essentials like body wash and a replacement face mask. No other skincare or bodycare, no haircare or nailcare, and absolutely no make-up, which has always been my biggest struggle. I talked more about my limited shopping allowances in my June quaterly progress report (here), but I feel like I have more to share about my experience and since a lot of you seem interested in this topic, here it goes.

Right now, I find a complete no buy much easier to stick to than a low buy. In 2014 and 2015, I (more or less) successfully followed a limited allowance of 2 make-up products per month, and I've kept that goal at the beginning of 2016, buying a few things here and there. However, since my last purchase in March, I haven't been seriously tempted by anything. When that first month of not buying was over, my reaction was 'Cool! Now I can roll over my 'unused' purchases to April!' but then in April, there wasn't really anything I wanted either. Neither there was in May, June and now, July. The longer I keep not buying make-up, the less I want to buy any new make-up. Distinguishing between needs versus wants and shopping my own stash instead became second nature, and new releases would never get more of a reaction from me than 'It sure is pretty to look at, but I already have something similar/ wouldn't use it/ it's nothing special'.

It's definitely very true that the longer you follow a low buy or a no buy, the less tempted and more rational you become in your purchasing habits. But for me, I think a no buy is much less challenging than a low buy because I don't have that (limited - but still!) allowance to look at new things and agonize over which two I would like to buy that month. When I decide not to buy anything without exception, I can't/ don't/ won't occupy myself with researching products and putting them on and off of my shopping list. Since I'm not buying now or in the nearest future, spending mental resources on beauty buys isn't worth it, and instead I'm able to focus my energy on other beauty-related pursuits or even altogether different hobbies. This vastly reduces any lemmings, folks.

Deciding to do a no buy also completely eliminates impulse purchases, or even those purchases that you've been wanting for a while, but ultimately know are not right for you. You're not buying any beauty products, so why even go look at the beauty aisle in your local drugstore or grocery store? You know you won't buy that tempting new palette that just came out, so instead you put it on your wishlist and go experiment with what you own. In my personal experience, 9 times out of 10 I won't even be interested in it anymore in a few months; I either have a comparable product already, find something I'd potentially like better, research more reviews after the hype dies down and realize it's not that amazing after all, or realize it doesn't suit my needs and preferences.

And since this shopping freeze made me focus on my existing stash instead of new purchases when I was feeling inspired by a new to me color combination or technique, I wouldn't recommend doing a Project Pan or Pan That Palette while being on a no buy. If you see a beautiful coppery smokey eye featuring a just released eyeshadow palette but at the same time, you're not allowing yourself to go and play with all the warm shades you already have to recreate it, you'll be feeling like you need that new product right now. But it's so easy to burst the lemming bubble if you sit down at your vanity, admire what you own, and do that eye look - or something very similar - right away. It makes you feel smart, accomplished and excited about make-up all over again, all the more for not having to spend a penny to experience it.

Being on a no buy broke my vicious cycle of playing with a new product for a few weeks only to put it back and not see it again for months, or even years. In the past, I would buy a new product, test it out for the blog and play with it for a little bit, and then either have another new item to try out or feel so guilty about abandoning the rest of my stash - especially older products - that I would make myself put it back and use something else instead. This is a terrible habit of mine for various reasons: a) it shortens my attention span so that I always feel the need for new stimuli, b) it deprives me of experiencing full joy from what I just bought, c) it doesn't give me enough time to truly familiarize myself with the new product, so in case it turns out to be less than ideal in the long run, I can't return it anymore, d) it forces me to use 'just alright' products from my stash instead of what I truly want and what inspires me right now - which in turn usually makes me feel unmotivated and unhappy with what I own, and increases the need to shop for more.

At the moment, I'm not concerned about rebound or going off the deep end once I allow myself to buy. I have a much better grasp now of what make-up I like and what I already have that I really like, and I would rather play with that than run out to get new stuff that may leave me feeling disappointed. Sure, I have a few things on my wishlist - none of which I really need but would be fun to incorporate into my make-up game - but I'm in no rush to purchase them. I have unused gift cards to both Ulta and Sephora, my birthday is coming up in a month, and my husband just left for London - and none of these 'shopping opportunities' make me particularly eager to get new beauty stuff right now. So who knows, maybe this will extend into a 5-month beauty no buy? Or even half of the year? ;) I'll let you know what I decide.

Another reason I would rather wait with purchasing my wishlist items is that I prefer to use up or at least make a final decision to declutter some of my current staples before replacing them. Downsizing my stash, be it by project panning or purging to friends and family, made me visualize my ideal 'inventory' in more detail - the perfect (for me!) balance of having creative variety while being reasonable and not letting products go to waste. When (and if) I finally pull a trigger on a purchase, I want to use and enjoy it right away. No more back-ups, ever - and I'm talking about not just back-ups of the exact same item, but even functional (an unopened under eye concealer) or shade (another mauve lipstick) back-ups of items I already own and use in my make-up routine.

Not buying make-up has also made me more critical towards purchasing things from other categories: clothing, accessories, home and (yes!) baby stuff. I'm happy to say that not allowing myself new beauty products didn't turn me into a fashion victim, even though I had more money in my budget to indulge in those things. With clothes and accessories, since I'm currently pregnant and have finished shopping for my maternity wardrobe a few months ago, I again don't want to buy anything I wouldn't be able to wear right now - or anything I'd only for the next two months. I'm also feeling a little bit... cheap these days. Maybe it's because I started researching things we'll soon need for our baby boy (and even when trying to stay quite minimal it's quite a lot - and it will cost a lot), but buying just about anything right now that isn't absolutely necessary seems superfluous and frivolous. However, I have no qualms over spending that money on good food (be it organic veggies to cook with at home or a nice meal out) or experiences. It's not like I've become some sort of anticonsumerist hermit - I just really question the value of goods we bring into our life.

I think that about sums up my deep thoughts on not buying beauty products these past few months. I will add that while I haven't personally purchased anything, I'm lucky to have received generous PR samples (some make-up, skincare and haircare) that have helped to keep product boredom at bay. Before you all jump at me and scream bloody murder, allow me to say that I have been quite successful in either using those products right away - as I am also working on using up a lot of older back-up products and thus have started to need replacements - or passing them on if they don't suit me - or keeping them by incorporating a 'one in, one out' policy (mostly for make-up products that I can't hope to use up in a reasonable amount of time). Maybe that is cheating; but you get to see some new products on the blog and I get to stick to my non-hoarding goals all the same. So there.

I hope you enjoyed this post and if you have any questions, don't hesitate to reach out. Have you ever been on a no-buy? What was your experience and thought process like? Please share in the comments!