Thursday, November 26, 2015

A Pillow For Your Under Eyes: Laneige Cushion Concealer SPF30 in Light*

With the increasing popularity of cushion foundations (read my review of Laneige's BB Cushion here), many brands have decided to go all out on the cushion technology, introducing cushion blushers, gel eyeliners, eyeshadows and more. Laneige is definitely on top of that trend with their Cushion Concealer Broad Spectrum SPF 30* ($20 for 2.5 ml at Target), available in Light (which I have here to show you) and Medium.
First off, I have to say that Laneige's Cushion Concealer doesn't actually have a cushion - the applicator is in fact a soft fluffy... ehm, ball, I guess. Or round doe foot. It looks pretty adorable when brand new with its baby pink color. The delivery method of this concealer is a clickety pen, and I absolutely love, love that there's a window on the side of the packaging so you can easily see how much product you have remaining. The concealer with the most similar packaging on the US market right now is the newly released Burberry Cashmere Concealer, while the Maybelline Age Rewind is a similar concept, but it features a sponge on the end and the size of the applicator is much larger. Laneige's doe foot fits perfectly into the curves around your eyes or nose.
The Cushion Concealer boasts SPF 30+ (combination of physical and chemical sunscreen ingredients), which is a rarity, as well as skincare benefits on top of its concealing action: it's supposed to have a hydrating and brightening effect. I was actually expecting the texture of this product to be much thinner, but in fact, it's quite creamy (only slightly thinner than my NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer), and blends easily into the skin. The tone of the Light shade is definitely quite yellow on me, which surprisingly works well not only on areas of redness but also under my eyes (I have a lot of purple tones there, but if your eye area is more olive, this may look too ashy).
I would say the coverage of this concealer is medium, so for me personally it's not really suited for pin-point blemish concealing. It's sufficiently opaque though to disguise the darkness under my eyes or redness around the nose. When blended in, the finish of this concealer is a natural satin, but unfortunately on me, it sometimes exacerbates texture under my eyes, and I find it a bit difficult to layer over my eye cream - it blends out unevenly, especially towards the outer corners. It looks alright when I pat it in with a finger versus blending out with a brush, but I'm not sure if the results warrant babying this product so much; judge for yourselves in my uncomfortable eye close-up.
L-R: Laneige Cushion Concealer in Light, Bobbi Brown Corrector in Porcelain Bisque, NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer in Chantilly
No concealer on the left under eye area, Laneige Cushion Concealer applied on the right.
Overall, I think it's an average concealer - it's just a bit too much effort for me to coax it into behaving the way I would like it to. Looking at the photos of my under eyes with and without concealer, I actually think the two sides don't look all that different, and maybe I'm just not the best judge when it comes to under eye concealers because I don't have huge issues to conceal in that area. If you've been thinking about purchasing Laneige's Cushion Concealer, keep in mind the two major downsides of this product: very limited shade range and the price per ounce - 2.5 ml of product isn't a whole lot (in comparison, NARS Creamy Concealer contains around 6.5 ml, while the Maybelline Age Rewind contains 6ml for $7-8). Have you tried any of the spin-off cushion products? What is your current favorite concealer?

Disclaimer: Item marked with an asterix (*) 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 products featured were purchased with my own monies or provided as free press samples. Thank you for reading!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Minimalist Monday: 3 Years Into My Low Buy and Plans for 2016

I've wanted to discuss something that's recently been on my mind a lot, namely my experiences with doing a make-up low-buy for three years now and my plans for 2016. Before we dive in, there's one thing I'd like to clarify: I'm not trying to advocate any minimalist agenda or forcefully attempt to convince you to change your habits in any way. If you're happy with your stash and your purchases, GREAT - I envy you, and you do you. The reason I'm stating the obvious (to me at least) is that I've recently come across this sentiment that some minimalism-leaning bloggers can come across as a bit militant in their opinions. I have no such intention - this is just a personal blog and I'm coming here to share MY feelings and struggles, and if it inspires someone to change something they've been uncomfortable with anyway, then that makes me really happy; but if not, that's okay too.
Alright, enough of boring disclaimers, let's get to it. Above is the main reason for this post - the contents of my back-up skincare drawer. That's right, it's all back-ups, meaning it's not even all of my skincare; the stuff I'm currently using is in my bathroom cabinet, which I'll show you an update on some other time. In my defense, very few products inside this bin are what I've purchased myself; probably 90% is gifts, gifts with purchase and press samples. But you see the problem, yes? YES?! It's freaking 15 pounds worth of skincare I'm not using, it's just sitting around, waiting for its prime. I don't need or want all that... so what to do?

In my first couple years of beauty obsessing and documenting it on the blog, I had set a loose monthly budget for myself in the amount of $50. It was supposed to include all 'fun' expenditures such as clothing and accessories as well as make-up, skincare, nail polish, you name it. It seemed reasonable at the time, and the amount was something I was comfortable with spending for non-essentials. Looking back on it now, I can honestly say that a beauty budget did NOT work for me. I wasn't very dilligent in tracking my expenses, meaning that I very often went over the $50, but the main problem is that it resulted in a proliferation of cheap thrills in my wardrobe and beauty stash. I'm not saying cheap to be offensive - I'm all for affordable things if they're good quality. Unfortunately, most of what I bought wasn't, and on top of that, I was soon overwhelmed with the amount of clothes and products in my possession.
Enter phase two, which was my beauty low-buy, introduced at the beginning of 2013 as a 'No Back-Ups Challenge' (read the original post here). I decided to give myself an allowance of two make-up products per month, without setting any budget goals, and work hard on using up all my extra products across several categories, mostly skincare. I'm not going to lie - it was VERY difficult at first. For someone used to popping into a drugstore 'just to see what's new', and usually leaving with a couple make-up toys in tow, having to thoroughly think through all my purchases, plan ahead and only get two out of the large pool of everything I fancied was hard. So I did stumble here and there, and definitely at the end of 2013 I had accumulated more than just 24 new make-up products, but I did make a large dent in my back-up stash, and it was a start (here are my thoughts at the end of the year). So I just stuck to the same low buy again in 2014, and added in another stash-reducing challenge via Project Make A Dent and various declutters. This time it went even better than the previous year; I was able to stick to my resolution more, and developped some strategies to help fight lemmings and urges to shop while learning to appreciate what I already had (final post for 2014 can be found here).

Now this year, I do think that my low-buy has really taken hold and taught me a valuable lesson. In 2015, I've been able not only to limit my purchases, but actually change my behavior and thought patterns when it comes to beauty shopping. I think I'll discuss my experience and strategies in more detail in a separate post next month, but I wanted to share my back story with you mostly to show you that in my case, it has truly been a slow evolution towards the ultimate goal of an edited capsule collection that makes me happy and grateful instead of causing anxiety and stress. It's definitely a loosely defined goal, and as such, the particulars of it keeping changing, namely towards even smaller and simpler stash.
But let's get back on track - if I've been such a pro at reducing and editing my stash, why that skincare back-up explosion, I hear you ask? Well, first off, it was actually worse than that in the past *gulp*. On top of that drawer, I had another drawer, and then a lot of products under the bathroom sink. In fact, I even had a hanging organizer on the bathroom door at one point because I had so much extra stuff. The organizer is now gone, and my bathroom cabinet currently houses just haircare and travel items, so this drawer plus what I've dubbed my 'soap box', pictured above, is all that I have left - and it would be much less than that if not for generous friends and PRs. But still, for me, the contents of those two containers are way more than I would like to keep on hand at any given time. Which is why for 2016, I decided to do go full throttle and introduce a complete SKINCARE (for the face AND body) NO BUY. It's like the ultimate challenge for a beauty junkie, am I right?

I think that this time, the challenge won't be so much in fighting lemmings because I feel that I've gotten pretty good at keeping myself in check. However, I may struggle a bit with not purchasing products that are more convenient to use than what I already have on hand for that purpose. For example, I'm not really loving bar soaps as much anymore - I got used to fancy shower gels now, and it's nicer to indulge in a scented body lotion than slather your limbs in a natural plant oil. I realize that in this scenario, many of you would just get rid of the surplus bar soaps & oils and happily purchase your favorites in their stead, but to me it feels wasteful and unnecessary. My other reason for attempting to use and use up these particular products is that they're more eco-friendly and sustainable, as well as less irritating for my sensitive skin. The second issue I'm foreseeing here is that like a true hoarder, I'm slightly worried about not having enough face cleansers or toners to last me an entire year. But you know what, I'm determined to make it work - I could just as well DIY a cleansing oil like Gummy, or try the Oil Cleansing Method again. I'll make do; as long as my skin is happy. If for any reason any of my back-up products turn out to harm my skin, I will pass them along and ultimately purchase a replacement if no more back-ups remain in my queue. Simple as that.

I will definitely document my progress with photos in a year's time, or sooner, if that turns out to be the case (ha! I wish). I would also like to point out that my no buy does not mean I won't be accepting press samples or gifts. While the influx of products for review consideration may seem to hinder my progress, this is a beauty blog after all, and I enjoy trying and reviewing products for you. I also very frequently pass things along to family and friends, and it makes me happy that I can give back and share great products in this way. But enough about me - do you guys have any stash-reducing plans for 2016? Have you ever attempted a beauty no buy? If so, what was your experience like?

Friday, November 20, 2015

No Fuss Skincare Routine: Paula's Choice Hydralight Range Review*

This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Pretty In My Pocket. The products featured were provided free of charge by Paula's Choice for review consideration.

I was beyond excited when Pretty In My Pocket presented me with the opportunity to test out a custom skincare routine from Paula's Choice. Long-time readers of the blog will know that Paula's Choice is a brand that I trust when it comes to effective cruelty, fragrance and dye-free products suitable for sensitive skin and acne, which I've been struggling with most of my life. Paula's Choice also kindly offered me a personal email consultation with one of their skincare experts, but the great thing about their website is that this perk isn't just reserved for bloggers or VIPs - it's free and available for anyone who desires to find the best Paula's products to suit their skin's needs - just call 1-800-831-4088. Paula's Choice also offers 100% Money Back guarantee within 60 days if you're not completely satisfied with any of their products.
During my email exchange with Holly, their fabulous specialist, I was asked about my skin type (normal, dry, oily, combination/dry or combination/oily) and skin concerns (acne, dehydration, hyperpigmentation, fine lines, eczema etc.). I diagnosed myself as combination sensitive, and told Holly I've had problems with some acne spots and clogged pores as well as sun spots and post-acne hyperpigmentation. Taking my feedback into consideration, Holly chose for me the Hydralight Advanced Kit for Normal, Combination and Oily Sensitive Skin ($99 for 5 products), and added in another exfoliator to help with my pores, the RESIST Smoothing Treatment with 5% AHA, as well as their C15 Super Booster to fight my hyperpigmentation. I promptly received all these products on October 20th (yes, exactly a month ago!), emptied my bathroom cabinet of all other skincare bits, and started following my custom routine as shown below. Here's are my thoughts:
1. Hydralight One Step Face Cleanser ($25 for 16 oz): The Hydralight Cleanser is a non-foaming gel geared towards sensitive as well as combination and oily skin types. The two main ingredients are moisturizing glycerin and sodium laureth sulfate, a cleansing agent, as well as repairing niacinamide, soothing allantoin and hydrating sodium hyaluronate. I used this cleanser by applying it onto a damp face, massaging it around in circular motions, and rinsing off or removing with a warm washcloth. Mind you, I did not use it to remove heavy make-up - I always use a separate cleansing oil for that - but I tried it on light make-up one day (just concealer and blush) and it got it off without any trouble. I found the gel texture the most similar to Dermalogica Ultracalming cleanser, if you've ever tried that; but basically, it does feel a little bit like washing your face with just glycerin, which I quite like :)

According to Beautypedia, the second ingredient in this cleanser, sodium laureth sulfate, is a gentle detergent that's suitable even for the most sensitive skins, while sodium lauryl sulfate is the extra harsh, irritating ingtedient we should aim to avoid in our skincare (read more about sulfates on Beautypedia here). I can't verify that - but in the past three years, I've taken to avoiding both ingredients, as well as any foaming face washes just to be on the safe side and try to protect my skin's acid mantle as much as I can. So I'm not entirely sure if I've now become allergic to sodium laureth sulfate or if it was something else in this cleanser, but unfortunately, during the three weeks I've used it day and night, my skin freaked out. It became dry, tight and red, and I developed a lot (and I mean a lot) of clogged pores on my forehead. In the last week of testing the Hydralight routine, I replaced the One Step Cleanser with the Andalou Apricot Probiotic Cleansing Cream, and I've now pretty much got the situation under control. So unfortunately, while I quite enjoyed the Paula's Choice Cleanser to begin with, it turned out not to work for my skin - but your experience may of course vary.
2. Hydralight Toner ($20 for 6.4 oz): The Hydralight Toner is a lightweight liquid meant to normalize combination skin and calm down redness. It contains a lot of botanical antioxidants like green tea extract and grape seed extract, as well as willow herb and allantoin to soothe and sodium hyaluronate and glycerin to hydrate. I've found it to be a very nice refreshing toner, and it became especially important in my routine after the misshap with the cleanser; it made my skin feel a lot more comfortable and soft right away. If I could change one thing about it though, I would repackage it into a spray bottle (well, I actually did that for my own use by decanting a little bit into a travel spray bottle); but that's my preference for all hydrating toners as I dislike rubbing my face with too many cotton pads. I do very much enjoy this toner and will continue to use it in my every day routine.

3. Hydralight Moisture-Infusing Lotion ($28 for 2 oz): The Hydralight Lotion is a light moisturizer meant to soothe sensitive and combination & oily skin, and it's suitable for use around the eyes. The ingredients include emollients such as caprylic/ capric triglycerine, squalane and glycerin, soothing oat kernel extract and a whole skew of antixodiants such as Vitamin E & C as well as superoxide dismutase. I'm always slightly skeptical when trying out new moisturizers as most of them leave me very greasy, but I was pleasantly surprised after using the Hydralight Lotion - it absorbs very quickly and leaves no shine behind, just plump, moisturized, happy skin. Even though I was advised to use this mostly at night, when my skin was feeling particularly dry I would sneak this into my morning routine as well, as I found the Lotion to be more moisturizing and soothing on my skin than the Mineral Complex; it almost has a cooling effect when you massage it into your skin. I give it two thumbs up!
4. Hydralight Shine-Free Daily Mineral Complex SPF 30 ($28 for 2 oz): The Hydralight Mineral Complex is a moisturizing mineral sunscreen (zinc oxide 6%, titanium dioxide 2.32 %) for the daytime, enriched with anti-irritants such as licorice root extract and allantoin. It's a white lotion with a siliconey texture that should be familiar to all physical sunscreen users; mind you, the Mineral Complex is thicker than Japanese/ Korean- inspired liquid sunscreens in shake-up bottles and more like your traditional 'Western' sunscreen. I was very impressed with the blendability of this sunscreen and the matte finish it left on the skin, which lasted through most of the day even on my very oily nose. I do find that it leaves a bit of a white cast especially when you first apply it, like most mineral sunscreens tend to do, but on my fair skin it wasn't very noticeable and didn't interfere with my make-up. Compared to the Paula's Choice RESIST sunscreen I've been using this summer, I think the Hydralight Mineral Complex is marginally heavier in texture, but I'd say I like them both about the same, and find them very effective in terms of UV protection.

5. Skin Perfecting 1% BHA Lotion ($26 for 3.3 oz): My Paula's Choice consultant advised me to use the BHA Lotion in the mornings, or alternating it with the RESIST 5% AHA, discussed below. In the past, I've tried both the BHA Gel and the BHA Liquid in the 2% strength. The 1% BHA Lotion is aimed at more sensitive skin, hence its inclusion in the Hydralight Kit, and claims to unclog pores and mild bumps for normal and slightly dry skin types. I was a bit hesitant to try it as my skin certainly isn't dry, but I found the Lotion to be very lightweight and fast absorbing - on me, it's actually significantly lighter in feel than the viscous BHA Liquid. The Lotion helps to keep my pores clear and even out my skintone, but at the moment, I need to pair it with a slightly heavier moisturizer to help with seasonal dryness.
6. RESIST Daily Smoothing Treatment with 5% AHA ($32 for 1.7 oz): Compared to the 1% BHA Lotion, the RESIST AHA Treatment is a significantly higher price point, but that's because it contains more anti-aging ingredients such as peptides, curcuminoids (antixoidants derived from turmeric) and ceramides. It's recommended for dry skin types, and I did find it to be more comfortable and nourishing on my skin than the 1% BHA Lotion. The Daily Smoothing Treatment is a pale yellow lotion with a silky texture that absorbs nicely into the skin. On the days I had more irritation/ active spots on my forehead, I experienced a little bit of stinging upon application, but that would go away quickly and I haven't noticed any extra redness in my skin because of that. In terms of effectiveness on my face, I think the AHA Treatment and the BHA Lotion were pretty close, but I do marginally prefer the Treatment for now - I'd have to test them both more extensively for a longer period of time to really compare the results though. All in all, I'm quite impressed with the unclogging, brightening and plumping effects of the Daily Smoothing Treatment, and I will continue to reach for it in my everyday routine.

7. RESIST C15 Super Booster ($48 for 0.67 oz): All of the Paula's Choice RESIST Super Boosters are packaged in little glass bottles with a dropper and are meant to be used as add-ons to your regular routine to target specific concerns: the Hyaluronic Acid Booster for dehydration, the Renewal Oil for moisture, the new Retinol one to firm and prevent fine lines, and lastly my C15 to fight hyperpigmentation and dark spots as well as brighten the skin. You can either use them alone, like a serum, or mix them into your moisturizer or lotion. The C15 Super Booster contains 15% of ascorbic acid (according to Beautypedia, the most effective but difficult to stabilize form of Vitamin C) as well as Vitamin E, ferulic acid and octapeptide.
The texture of this product is very liquidy and feels almost like an extremely lightweight oil that sinks into my skin immediately with no residue whatsoever. A lot of Paula's Choice fans have commented on the strange smell of this product, and while I have to agree it's not very pleasant as you're applying it (to me, it smells a bit like mayo?), the scent doesn't linger and doesn't really bother me in the least. If you've been a regular reader of my blog for a while, you know that I really enjoy having a Vitamin C serum in my routine and have tried a lot of different ones in the past. I have to say that the Paula's Choice C15 is definitely in my top three; after four weeks of using it every night, I have noticed an improvement in my freckles/ sun spots, and my post-acne hyperpigmentation marks fade significantly faster. It may seem like the C15 Booster is very expensive for the small amount you're getting in the bottle, but ascorbic acid products need to be used quickly after opening (the C15 Booster has a three month shelf life, according to the packaging), otherwise they start to oxidize and may actually do more harm than good to your skin - so I decided to go ahead and also use the Booster on my hands and chest, which always get the most sun damage. I really like this Booster and would consider repurchasing next time I'm in the market for a Vitamin C product.
Whew, that was a lot of information, wasn't it? I'm sorry if you found this a little wordy, but I like to give you pros and cons about each product I'm reviewing so that it's more helpful when you're making the decision to purchase (or not). As far as my overall thoughts after following this routine exclusively for four weeks, I'm very happy that I got to try these products, because I feel that they taught me more about my own skin. What I specifically mean is that I didn't realize my skin was so prone to dehydration and dryness; I previously thought my skin was more combination/oily, but right now I would say that it's probably leaning more combination/dry. Due to the dryness I've been experiencing by following the Hydralight routine to a T, I broke down after three weeks and reintroduced a very basic hydrating serum (Hada Labo Hyaluronic Acid Lotion) to layer under my moisturizer - and I even think I could amp up the nourishment a little bit more from there by adding in a facial oil at night. By switching out my cleanser and adding in an extra hydrator, my face is already feeling a lot more comfortable, and the bumps on my forehead have started to go away.

So while not all of the products I was recommended worked out for me, I did very much enjoy clearing out my medicine cabinet of all the extraneous bottles to follow this simplified, no fuss routine for a month. I will continue to use all of these products with the exception of the One Step Cleanser, and while I currently have products from other lines to supplement what I lacked in my Paula's Choice regime, I absolutely think I could customize the Hydralight routine further with other Paula's Choice products such as the RESIST Hydrating Cleanser,  Hyaluronic Acid or Renewal Oil Boosters. Paula's Choice continues to be one of my favorite affordable skincare lines, and I'm so glad to have had the opportunity to road test more of their products. Have you ever followed a skincare routine with products from just one brand? What are your favorite Paula's Choice products? If you've been thinking about placing a PC order, don't forget to use my code PRIMPFALL20 for 20% off your purchase and free shipping - and get on that discount now, the code expires Dec 31st 2015!

PS. You can read even more reviews on Paula's Choice as well as hundreds more brands on the Pretty In My Pocket app, which you can download here:

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Quintessential Transforming Lipstick for Fall: Revlon Black Cherry

Yes, this post is pretty much a testament to my ever lasting love towards Revlon Superlustrous Lipstick in Black Cherry ($7.99 for 0.15 oz/ 4.2 g), which I've had in my stash for about three years now (see my previous review here). Every fall, I dig it out again, and marvel at its uncanny ability to transform any other of my lipsticks into that perfect mulberry shade that's eye-catching, but acceptable for everyday wear.
Obviously, on its own and at full strength, Black Cherry is a vampy shade that looks a bit intimidating, especially on my fair skintone. It's also not my absolute favorite formula to wear at full opacity as it can get a bit patchy and uneven. However, paired with another creamy lipstick, it performs very well. It increases the depth of any given shade and adds a purpley plummy tone, which I've been quite partial to lately. It also prolongs the wear of the other lipstick; it stains the lips when worked in really well, and layering lipsticks always makes them last better anyway. I usually put down a thin layer of Black Cherry first, patting it into my lips, and then top with a lighter shade - but I've tried it the other way round too and both work.
L-R: Revlon Black Cherry swatched heavily then blended out, Revlon Black Cherry layered under Inglot no. 58
The idea to write about Black Cherry again came about as a result of boredom and slight dissatisfaction with lipsticks in my Project Make A Dent and Project Pan. The only cold season-appropriate lipstick that I included in my Projects was Inglot Gel Lipstick no. 58, a pinky berry shades. For most of my lipstick-wearing life, I'd loved any and all shades of pink on myself, but lately I'm not really that into them. Enter Revlon Black Cherry, and I'm back to loving the Inglot lippie. I also like layering Black Cherry with Chanel Rouge Coco in Monte Carlo, a warm sheer red, that's also in my Project (that's the combo I'm wearing in the face shot).
If you've been scared of rocking your Revlon Black Cherry or any other deep vampy shade in your stash, I say give it a go layered with another shade of medium depth. It does take minimally more time and effort to use two lipsticks instead of one, but I do think it's worth it. Which lipstick shade have you guys been reaching for lately?

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Capsule Wardrobes: Choosing Your Color Palette

Wait, Monika - so you do have a capsule wardrobe?! Uhm, yes and no. I do in the sense of now owning a smaller, curated set of mix and match pieces I love and wear regularly; well, that + around 10% of my wardrobe I keep waffling over. I don't in the sense of only having a set number of pieces, be it 37 items, a 10 Item Wardrobe, or Project 333. I guess I could count all the articles of clothing I have kept and say that it's my spin on any of the above mentioned ideas, but I don't really want or feel the need to - after all, it's just a number. At any rate, I have made great strides in achieving a more edited closet that's fun and easy to wear in my day to day activities, and I've wanted to share what helped me along the way.

One of the things that terrified me early on in my search for my perfect capsule wardrobe was the idea of editing your clothing according to a chosen color palette. I guess you could absolutely skip this step if you're one of those people who only wear monochromatic clothing (white, grey and/ or black) but if you're anything like me and love ALL the colors, limiting yourself to just a few shades can be a bit of a daunting prospect at first. It's worth it, though - I've found that sticking to one color scheme makes dressing in the morning so much quicker and easier.
Some images from my Color Palette Pinterest Board I used for inspiration during my selection process.
Deciding on a color scheme using the clothes you already own is a bit of a weird, backwards experience. I would compare it to choosing a room decor not by browsing furniture catalogs and comparing paint swatches, but by dusting off some old paint cans you've been storing in your garage instead, or going through your house and collecting pieces of furniture from all different rooms to outfit that one particular space. It's one thing to visualize a brand new collection of items you cherry pick from all the fabulous stores, and another thing entirely to work on the fly with what you already have on hand. It's a challenge - and you know me, I love a challenge ;)

Here's a rough sketch of my color scheme thought process that I arrived at more or less organically while decluttering my closet:
L-R: Free People Masquerade Cuff top (from last year), The LOFT Linen Tee (2013), Hollister Henley (crica 2011), ZARA Velvet Black Leggings (crica 2012), H&M open cardigan (2012), River Island leather jacket (2013)
1. Neutral colors - the bare bones of any capsule. They may be boring, but hell, we all need them. I chose white, various shades of grey and black, simply because that's what I already had the most of in my closet, but I don't think that's your only option. You could do ivory, beige and different shades of brown, especially if warmer shades suit you more. Or something like navy (more on that below), or khaki. You just need some colors that are versatile, and will go well with your favorite attention-grabbing shades. Another element you may want to add for more variety in your neutral staples is the actual fabric and its texture; I find it more interesting to have a mix of plain smooth cotton and jersey, slightly knobby/ rough spun linen and interwoven knits.
L-R: The Loft Linen Tee (2014), handmade sweater knit by my mom, The GAP Shrunken Boyfriend shirt (2012), Michael Kors Selma bag (2013)
2. Pop of complimentary colors. I know, I know, but you love ALL the colors. If you truly think so, take a good look at your discard pile, and maybe see if you can pinpoint some colors that are not so much your favorites anymore. For me that was all shades of pink and purple, oranges and warm coral reds, as well as greens and teals. Not that I don't find these colors beautiful - but I just never felt quite right wearing them, you know? Then, I looked at favorites pieces in my wardrobe, and the colors that immediately stood out to me - and I was sure I wanted my color scheme to include pale blue and burgundy. I know these shades suit my coloring well, and they make me feel comfortable and pretty. Together with those two main colors, I've also kept similar hues belonging to the same color family and having the same temperature/ undertone: cool reds and berry shades for the burgundy, cool-toned indigo/ ultramarine and navy for baby blue.
L-R: Steve Madden boots (2013), Urban Outfitters thermal top (2014), Urban Outfitters jersey scarf (2015), The Loft Long Knit Pencil Skirt in Royal Red (2015), gifted wrap sweater (2005, maybe?)
Alternatively, at this point you could also start researching some outfit combos, maybe centered around a basic piece in a neutral shade that you've already established as part of your color scheme (like a black mini skirt, or dark grey jeans for my color palette). Pin them all into one board first, without analyzing, and once you have about 20 to 30 images, take a look at everything you've gathered and see if there are any similarities there as far as the color scheme. You're basically trying to pinpoint exactly which shades appeal to you the most at the moment, without the internal panicking you may be getting just by looking at your cluttered closet.
Outfit inspiration taken from my Color Palette board.
3. Favorite random/ contrasting color. Now, this part is entirely optional, especially if you've picked out more shades in the previous section, but I think it's a fun addition if you like pairing contrasting colors together. While browsing different images online (not just fashion, also photos of nature or still life), I found myself drawn to the same color combination again and again: cool, light shades of grey and/or blue broken up by a warm, orangey brown/ cognac shades. I've actually had a slight obsession with cognac leather for years now, but something about pairing it with cool-toned colors makes me especially happy. If you too are left with an odd color you love but that doesn't really seem to go with the rest of your scheme, just keep it. Same goes for clothes in strange patterns you're always drawn to, be it plaid, florals or polka dots. Life's more interesting when everything isn't so matchy matchy.
L-R: Cole Haan Chukka booties (2014), The Loft Linen Tee (2013, and yes, it's my favorite), Forever21 top (2013), Target scarf (2012), leather crossbody from Italy (2015)
Now, as for the magic proportion between these shades, I do think it's easiest to own the most pieces in your basic neutral shades. By relying on your staples, you're making the whole mix and match thing a piece of cake. Taking that cake analogy to another level, your basics would be the actual layers of dough, your complimentary colors the filling, and your contrasting color the sprinkles on top. Mmm, cake... Okay, maybe I took it a little too far :)

And that's all, folks. I realize I got a bit verbose here (as I'm wont to do) and maybe made the whole thing sound waaay more complicated than it actually is, but you can make it as simple as step one, choosing neutral colors, step two, choosing your favorite pops of color. I was just trying to show that working out your perfect color palette is basically an extension of a very simple color pairing, like black and red, or brown and yellow, or cream and mauve. You could go hardcore minimalist and only work with two shades, discarding everything else in your closet, but for me personally that's a bit too extreme, and, uhm, boring. Now, tell me - have you ever thought about choosing your clothing according to a specific color palette? Or maybe you find the whole concept too limiting and unnecessary? I would love to know!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Cult Classics: Hourglass Veil Mineral Primer Review

Remember that post where I swore off using make-up primers? Yeah, well, I sorta went back on my word, and yet again fell prey to the typical beauty junkie compulsion of 'MUST TRY ALL TEH THINGZ'. I thought hey, what if I'm missing something, and there's a primer out there that will magically erase all my pores and keep my make-up intact for all eternity? I pinned all my hopes on the cult Hourglass Veil Mineral Primer ($18 for 0.33 oz/ 10ml; by the way, note the volume discrepancy on the outer box). Despite the ridiculous price tag, a lot of beauty bloggers dub it as their must-have and keep purchasing it again and again - so that surely stands for something, right?
I bought the smaller travel size to start with - even though it's less economical in terms of price per ounce than the regular bottle, I was not going to shell out $52 on a primer; I haven't completely lost my mind... yet. I quite like the packaging: it's a sturdy frosted glass bottle with a pump, and I like being able to see how much product I have remaining inside. Now, the claims for this primer are that it's a mineral-based, water-resistant product that 'neutralizes the skin, minimizes shine, and creates a smooth, uniform canvas for flawless makeup application' (from Sephora's website). It's supposed to reduce the appearance of pores and fine lines by 'evenly distributing light' across your skin - quite a similar idea to Hourglass' Ambient Lighting Powders, no?
I was rather surprised by the texture of the Veil; most of the primers I've tried thus far were quite thick gels or creams, with the exception of Laura Mercier's lotiony Foundation Primer, but the Hourglass' version is ever thinner than that - you can see in the photo that it's starting to run when I tilt my hand. The liquidy texture allows me to spread even a small amount evenly across my T-zone, and the primer blends in quite well. The Mineral Primer contains physical sunscreens (4.2 % zinc oxide and 2.45% titanium dioxide), and like most mineral SPFs, it does leave a bit of a white cast on the skin initially, although on my fair skin, I've found that it disappears within a couple minutes and doesn't interfere with foundation application.
To test the performance of the Hourglass Veil, I applied it on half of my face, leaving the other half bare for one day, and another day, applying a Benefit Stay Flawless 15 Hour Primer to compare. In both tests, I've found that the Hourglass primer did indeed minimize the appearance of pores on my nose and inner cheeks. My skin felt soft and smooth, although I didn't find my foundation applied any different on top, and the primer did nothing to soften or conceal my dry patches. As for longevity, I have not found the Hourglass primer to significantly extend the wear of my foundation, or slow down/ prevent my usual oil breakthrough. I paired the Veil with a longwearing, mattifying foundation anyway, so maybe I'd notice a bigger difference with a dewier, more moisturizing formula, but I'm just speculating here.
To be quite honest, I've found that this hyped-up 'miracle' primer is in fact quite similar to... a liquid sunscreen. To me, it has that same runny texture and lightweight siliconey feel as most Japanese and Korean face sunscreens, and it leaves the same finish on the skin, even down to that slight white cast. Compared to the Mentholatum Sunplay SPF50+ sunscreen I reviewed here, it has more of a matte finish and feels lighter on the skin, but the Sunplay is meant to be a moisturizing product, and there's plenty of Korean sunscreen formulas meant for oily and combo skin that I think would perform rather similarly to the Hourglass product at a fraction of the price, giving you better sun protection than just SPF 15.

I'm glad to have gotten the Hourglasss Mineral Primer out of my system, but for me it's definitely not a must-have, and while it does make my skin look more poreless, it's not an essential step in my make-up routine. Now that I've tried it, I think I'll just stick to using my favorite sunscreens in lieu of make-up primers. Have you tried the Hourglass Veil? What is your favorite way of priming your face for make-up application?

Monday, November 9, 2015

Minimalist Monday: My Favorite Minimalist and Decluttering YouTubers

If you're toying with the idea of starting a more minimalist lifestyle and you're anything like me - meaning, full of questions, skeptical and a little cranky/ anxious about change - let me introduce you to seven amazing living and breathing humans who have walked that path before you and worked out all the kinks so that you don't have to. What makes these YouTube channels so special is that they're not just some mythical hero figures preaching about simple living; they're real people with very real lives who have made minimalism work for them, and they show you exactly how they do it. Seriously, how come you're not subscribed already?

Light by Coco
Coco is one of those 'aspirational' minimalists for me; she seems to have the whole thing down pat without any effort - you know, unlike some of us who keep dithering about keeping or donating that one high-waisted skirt for months on end. Subscribe to her channel for tips on traveling light with just a carry on, easy hair and make-up ideas, seasonal capsule collections and lookbooks, as well as practical tips for implementing minimalism into your own life, like dealing with reluctant family members or taking care of your reduced wardrobe to keep it in prime condition. Oh, and have I mentioned that Coco has an incredibly soothing voice, fantastic personal style and a lion's mane of beautiful curls? You know, just FYI.

Melissa Alexandria
Melissa's channel is quite unique in that she has incorporated minimalist (or essentialist, if you've read Greg McKeown's book) ideas into her entire life, including her work life (quit a 9-5 in order to pursue her passions and travel the world), her eating habits, her home, and yes, of course, her closet and make-up stash. She's an incredible source of information and inspiration for anyone interested in going minimalist. Among her videos, you'll find tips on frugal living and budgeting so that you can save your money for chasing after your dreams, tips for shopping for your capsule wardrobe, room tours, and my new favorite series on Inner Minimalism to help you change your thought patterns and work through some roadblocks.

Petite Pear Style
If there's one person who keeps it real, it's Leslie, no doubt. Leslie made the vow to simplify and declutter her life about two years ago, which is also when I first started to be interested in it. I feel a strong affinity with her: we both live in big cities (Leslie - Toronto, me: NYC), we're both beauty fanatics with make-up collections that sometimes feel like they could swallow us whole, we both live in small condo apartments with little storage (because you know, watching a vlogger declutter an entire 'beauty room' is not terribly helpful to someone who could barely fit a vanity table into her bedroom), and we both approach decluttering on a smaller, step-by-step project basis as opposed to burrowing into piles of belongings strewn on the floor for weeks (ekhm ekhm, Marie Kondo).

I also love that Leslie openly talks us through her decluttering process, which is especially helpful if you're convinced everything you own 'sparks joy', and shares her feelings about simplifying, which are not always pretty. Attempting a big declutter can feel very isolating as not many people talk about the negative emotions that tend to accompany it - guilt, regret, doubts, exhaustion. You'll find that Leslie addresses these feelings heads on in a very relatable way. She's also a great resource if you'd like to learn more about capsule wardrobes in general and Project 333 in particular; she offers a good starting point via her seasonal work/ conservative office capsules.

My Green Closet
What is it about minimalist YouTubers and superbly calming demeanors? It's like they've been zen their entire lives. Verena Erin shows a slightly different aspect to minimalist lifestyle as she focuses on eco and sustainable fashion, but she also discusses a lot of practical topics like fabric choice and care, researching clothing pieces for your capsules, as well as green and natural beauty products. I especially like her Project 333 videos; I appreciate that she follows her own style, which is quite a bit different from what we usually associate with minimalist clothing, and that she's not afraid to adapt Project 333 to suit her own needs.

The Daily Connnoisseur - Jennifer L. Scott
You may already know Jennifer if you've read her two popular Madame Chic books; and she has released her third book a couple weeks ago, 'Polish Your Poise with Madame Chic', which I have not read yet as I'm waiting for it to show up at my borough's library. Her books focus on a lot of topics that are close to minimalism, although I don't think Jennifer labels herself as being minimalist. Instead, she discusses her '10 Item Wardrobe' (another variant of a capsule wardrobe), the importance of taking care of one's appearance, cultivating creativity and appreciation for art, housekeeping, entertaining guests and many more.

Her YouTube channel (and blog!) focus on the same themes, and I appreciate Jennifer both for not being afraid to voice her opinions, and for showing us the practical application of the advice she presents in her books. It's one thing to publish a book extolling virtues of a minimalist closet, but it's another thing entirely to actually show your readers what your particular wardrobe consists of, including where everything was purchased from, how you like to style your outfits, what worked in a given season and what didn't. It's an easy starting point if you've been thinking about simplifying your life, but don't quite know how.

Christine Kobzeff (formerly Pink So Foxy)
If you remember Pink So Foxy, you must have been watching YouTube for a looong time. I actually only came across Christine's videos last year when I was researching various decluttering videos, and if you guys think the trend was started by Marie Kondo, just go check out Christine's videos. She's an example of someone who dramatically turned her lifestyle around to match new priorities and objectives. Formerly a 'beauty guru', Christine purged most of her belongings, including an extensive make-up collection and a bursting wardrobe, to pursue a simpler, bohemian-inspired life in Hawaii.

Watching Christine's videos now, you can't stop thinking that she's living the dream, selling handmade jewelry and blogging, traveling around the world, tending to her garden and raising monarch butterflies. If you're in need of some truly relaxing 'follow me around' videos, you should definitely check out her vlogs. Christine is also the queen of DIY, showing various tutorials for making your own drawer dividers, under the sink storage, furniture and much more. I just selfishly wish she posted videos more often!

I haven't been watching Lavendaire for all that long, but I'm really impressed by her thoughtful videos, especially those on practical application of the KonMari method to declutter your home.
I believe Lavi is also an aspiring film maker, so all of her videos, including life advice, travel and tidying are beautifully shot and edited. And she really rocks that lavender hair, people!

I hope you'll find some new interesting channels to watch among my picks - and please let me know who your favorite minimalist YouTubers are, I'm always looking for new videos and clicking through links on my sidebar. Mind you, I haven't really included regular beauty vloggers who just happened to jump on the decluttering bandwagon, even though I also love watching those vids; instead, I wanted to showcase people who have committed to minimalism in a fuller and sustained way. I hope these seven channels help to boost your motivation to further simplify your life; I find them all very inspirational, especially when I waver and start giving in to temptation of bringing more stuff into my life :)