Saturday, July 4, 2015

A Tall Drink of Water for Your Face: Laneige Water Bank Serum*

I admit to secretly (well, not so secretly anymore) loving quirky translations of Korean product names: 'Dear My Jelly Lips Talk', 'Downy Cheek', 'Wonder Pore'... I love the name of Laneige's best-selling Water Bank range as well - I don't know, it just conjures images of waterfalls drenching my poor parched face, lol. After my fantastic experience with the Water Sleeping Mask* (reviewed here), I wanted to see if the Laneige Water Bank Serum* ($35 for 60ml at Target) would live up to my high expectations; read on to find out my thoughts!
Similarly to the Sleeping Mask, the Water Bank Serum comes in a pretty cardboard box coveniently printed with an ingredients' list, and the bottle itself is hefty glass with a pump dispenser and a plastic cap. While glass packaging may not be the most travel-friendly, I really like the look of this serum in my medicine cabinet - it may have something to do with my penchant for this bright shade of blue :)
The consistency of this serum is somewhere between a lotion and a gel - it's definitely not too liquidy, which makes it easier to spread the product on the skin without losing half of it between your fingers. The product has a similar floral scent to the Sleeping Mask; it can smell a bit perfumey upon application, but I find that it dissipates quickly on the skin.
Remembering the beautifully lightweight texture of the Water Sleeping Mask, I expected the Water Bank Serum to be completely absorbed into the skin within seconds without any product feel. Both products contain similar ingredients: glycerin, mineral salts, willow bark extract, but in addition, the serum also features meadowfoam seed oil. And while the serum still soaks into my combination skin easily, it's a bit more emollient and slightly tacky on the face after application. It doesn't bother me nor did I find it to be an issue when applying other skincare or foundation over the top, but you do get a feeling of a nourishing layer on the face, and it leaves the skin looking a bit dewy.
As for my results, I do think that the Laneige Water Bank Serum hydrates my face effectively. As soon as I smooth two pumps of it on, my face feels soothed, refreshed, plump and happy. I have noticed a decrease in dehydration lines on my forehead and around my mouth. I don't get any irritation or redness after application; quite the opposite, my face has been looking a lot more even lately. I also haven't noticed any congestion or breakouts since I started using the serum.
I don't know if I'm as impressed with the Water Bank Serum as I was with the Water Sleeping Mask, but that's definitely not because the serum doesn't perform well - it's a good hydrating product for the price, so if you're in the market for a simple, no-fuss hydrator, you can't go wrong here. If you're very oily, I think you may not appreciate the glowy finish of this serum, and I unfortunately can't vouch if it would be enough for the driest of skins, especially considering that it's a product meant to be layered with an emulsion and a moisturizer (I have kept the rest of my routine as is during the product testing to be able to judge it on its own). Which serum do you currently use? What is your favorite hydrating skincare range?

Disclaimer: Products marked with an asterix (*) are  press samples 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!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Project Use Up Those Freakin' Samples: Favorites & Finale

It's the end of my Project Use Up Those Freakin' Samples! Frankly speaking, I'm not only excited to share my progress and final empties' counts with you, but I'm also stoked to at least temporarily get rid of the little foil packets that have been littering my bedside table, vanity, bathroom sink, shower and medicine cabinet for the past two months.
Anyway, here's my progress update for June!
Deluxe samples: 10
I did just a bit better on my minis this month compared to May, and overall I'm seeing a good progress in minimizing my collection of deluxe samples. Previously, I had them stashed away in at least two different spots, but thanks to my Project, I was able to combine them together in one box for easy access (I shared a photo of it on Instagram, so follow me if you haven't already!).
Foil packets: 39
Yay, that's 10 more than last month! I actually thought I was going to have less this month because I slacked a little at the beginning of June, but I really pulled through at the end. These samples come from a lot of different categories: bodycare, haircare, skincare, even make-up (a couple primers and liquid highlighters). I still have a few stragglers that aren't completely empty yet, so expect to see them in my regular empties round-up.
Purged (expired & not interested in trying): 7
By challenging myself to use my samples, I've also realized that I have been hanging on to samples that are either already expired (farewell, REN Glycolactic Radiance Peel - it's in the deluxe sample group shot by error), I'm not interested in trying, or have tried in the past and disliked (the Eve Lom Rescue Mask is too harsh for my skin as it contains both alcohol and camphor, while the immensely popular GlamGlow Youthmud contains polluting polyethylene microbeads - who knew, right? I only realized after having already used one packet, and I thought the performance was nothing to write home about either).
As for my sample favorites, I haven't really discovered anything absolutely mindblowing that I need to run out and purchase right away (thank God! Like I need any more products...), but I would consider buying the Aesop Parsley Seed Cleansing Masque and the Tata Harper Purifying Cleanser in the future; they're both quite pricey, but still in my budget. While I did really enjoy my sample of the glycolic-heavy Murad Active Radiance Serum, at $90, I consider it to be too expensive for an exfoliating treatment. The belief Peat Miracle Revival Eye Cream was fantastic to wear under concealer during the day, the Maison Martin Margiela REPLICA EDT in Beach Walk smelled lovely but was rather short-lived, and speaking of fragrance, I always enjoy the bergamot-scented Living Proof line; while I wouldn't repurchase Prime Style Extender necessarily, I have my beady eye on the Full Thickening Cream.

Overall, over the course of this 2-month Project, I used up 68 foil sachets, 19 minis, and tossed 6 sachets and 1 deluxe sample: that's 94 altogether. I think that's a lot, and I'm very happy to have these samples out of my posession. You may think that with so many samples gone, I don't have any left in my stash, but that's not the case at all; even though I was able to consolidate my sample organization and free up some space, I still have a lot of samples left to get through. Which is why I've decided to now aim at finishing at least 5 samples a month - that sounds doable, right? In July, this should be especially easy for me, as we're headed out of town for the extended 4th of July weekend and I'm intending to take quite a few sachets with me.

This challenge also made me realize how long it takes to use up certain samples: as an example, most of my deluxe minis of eye cream contain 4-5 ml of product, but then a foil sample of the belief Peat Miracle eye cream contained 4ml as well, and lasted me over 3 weeks. Most haircare samples contain between 7 to 10 ml of product; for a hair oil for example, that can constitute up to 1/3 of the full-size bottle. So if you take into consideration those little samples in your stash, it may turn out that yes, you do have a back-up of a serum/ face mask/ hair styling product waiting to be used before needing to purchase a replacement. I'm intending to try and treat all of my samples as an integral part of my stash from now on, and going back to that eye cream example, while I currently don't own any full-sized eye creams, I will not buy another one before most of my deluxe and foil samples of eye cream are done.

I hope this was interesting and maybe inspired you to reach for your samples on a more regular basis; thanks to Emma and Vita for joining in on the fun on Instagram, you guys are the best! If you're still working on your samples, please tag me with #useupthosefreakinsamples, I'd love to see your progress. Thank you for cheering me on, and stay tuned for my new Project Pan Introduction in a couple days!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Easy (on the) Orange: Nature Republic Botanical Shine Lip Tint no. 3

I haven't purchased any make-up this month. Nothing. Nada. So, I'm kind of scraping the bottom of the barrel here for products to talk about - well, more like the bottom of my 'to be reviewed' box, which is where this little guy has been hiding: it's the Nature Republic Botanical Shine Tint in the shade no. 3 ($5-7 for 9.5 g), a coral orange with golden shimmer.
If you're a fan of lip/cheek tints, you know that shimmer in such formulations is a pretty rare occurence, which is why I was interested to see how this would perform on the lips. The packaging is quite standard with a nice doe foot applicator that makes it really easy to trace the outline of your lips and fill everything in evenly. There's a little bit of a fruity floral scent to the product that dissipates quickly after application. The tint came sealed in plastic - this is where the strange dotted lines on the cap come from, I guess the plastic they used for the cap got stained somehow :)
The texture of this tint is quite thin, and it spreads easily and mostly evenly on the lips. To begin with, there is some glossiness to the Botanical Shine Tint, but it dries down to a matte finish; well, what I mean by this is that the colored base is matte, with the golden shimmer sitting on top. I usually dislike shimmer and glitter in lip products, but I was quite surprised at how much I liked the finish of this Nature Republic Tint when it was freshly applied. Unfortunately, the longer I had it on my lips, the more issues I experienced with this product...
Basically, the tint starts balling and gunking up on the lips as soon as it dries down. Any sort of rubbing motion (you know, unusual behavior such as pressing your lips together, or talking, or eating/drinking) causes the product to bunch up together. I tried it a number of different ways, and the same thing happened every single time. This unfortunate property also makes it difficult to layer the product for more opacity, because then it starts balling up pretty much right away.
L-R: Balled up tint after rubbing my lips together, the state of my lips after removing the gunk with a tissue
As for longevity, I found the Botanical Shine Tint to wear much shorter than most stains I've tried so far. After having a light snack (pistachio ice cream with strawberries, nom nom), most of the color and shimmer disappeared from the inside portion of my lips. If you rub off all the balled up gunk that happens while wearing the product, you're left with a subtle warm red tint to your lips - which is quite pretty in terms of the actual shade, but my lips also looked very dried out and puckered even after having worn it for about 15 minutes. If your lips are anything like mine - meaning full, but not very wide - it does nothing to smooth out vertical lip lines or improve the texture of the lips.
L-R: Nature Republic Botanical Shine Tint no. 3, Beaute Liqui-Gel Stain in Flouron, Essence Stay With Me Lipgloss in Candy Bar
Here's a somewhat random shade comparison to give you an idea of shade depth and undertone. I definitely prefer the texture and wear of the Beaute Liqui-Gel Stain in Flouron, and as far as easy to wear orange lip shades, I would absolutely grab for my Chanel Rouge Allure in Conquise over this (not included in the swatches, but here's my review).
Oh, hello! I feel like I haven't seen you in a while :) I'm wearing one freshly applied coat of the Botanical Shine Tint no. 3, the Koh Gen Do Aqua foundation and Hourglass Ambient Blush in Dim Lighting for this look.
Have you tried any Korean lip tints, and if so, what are your favorites? Do you like wearing orange lips in the summer?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Dupe or No Dupe? BornPrettyStore Waterdrop Shape Beauty Blender Regular & Mini*

I love my original Beautyblender. I really do. But you know, it feels absolutely ridiculous to spend $20 on a frikkin' make-up sponge you have to replace regularly. I mean, it's just a sponge, as soft and squishy as it may be. So I've been looking for some decent dupes for a while now, and while I enjoyed using the Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge (reviewed here), with frequent usage it started falling apart on me much faster then the original BB.
So when the BornPrettyStore contacted me to see if I'd be interested in any of their new products, I spotted this cute 'Waterdrop Shape Beauty Blender Expansion with Water Liquid Cream Foundation Sponge'* ($2.19 each, you'll be getting a random color) and thought - heck, why not. Because if it really turns out to be a good dupe... It's precisely $17.76 cheaper than the real deal. That's a BIG DIFFERENCE. The adorable mini version ('Mini Beauty Blender Double In Size When Damp')* is for some reason more expensive than the big guy, but still not exactly a splurge at $2.32 each. Both BornPrettyStore sponges were securely packed, shipped out to me by air mail and delivered very quickly - no problems whatsoever on that account.
I'll try to do my best now to make this comparison review as easy as possible to digest. As you can see in the photo above, the BornPretty Waterdrop Blender is both similar size and shape to the original pink BB (sorry, mine's a bit stained at the bottom) - the end is a bit more pointy and it's more egg-shaped than conical, but that's about it. In the photo below, you can see how much the sponge expands when dampened with water; the first photo on the left shows a dry Beautyblender and a damp BornPretty Blender, the photo on the right shows both sponges when damp. I'd say they both expand to about the same size. The BornPrettyStore Blender is made in China; the Beautyblender is made in the USA. Both leak dye when washed with soap.
Now, the biggest structural difference between the original bb and the potential dupe is the actual material. I've tried to show it in the close-up shot, but the surface of the original pink Beautyblender is more porous, while the dupe is more uniform. There is also a significant and observable difference in the softness of these two sponges: the original is more squishy and bouncy both when dry and wet, while the BornPrettyStore Blender is firmer and more resilient when pressed (the mini is made out of the same material). This results in a different application experience - you can lightly press and stipple the original onto the skin, while the 'dupe' needs stronger pressure for the same effect, which is simply not as pleasant or quick. The end result is about the same in both cases; but in all honestly, I prefer the softness of the Beautyblender.
I think that while the quest a couple years ago for all the companies trying to dupe the original Beautyblender was to find a similar sponge material that expanded when wet, now when that has been mastered, it's more about the actual softness/ texture of the sponge. The RealTechniques sponge turned too soft and floppy with regular use for my tastes. This BornPrettyStore dupe is a bit too firm. Obviously, these are quite minute differences, so I say if you're on a budget or just want to try out a make-up sponge for the first time, the less expensive options are still fabulous; but for me personally, so far I like the original best of all (darn you, expensive tastes!).

Do you use make-up sponges to apply your foundation? Have you tried any of the 'dupes', and if so, which one is your all-time favorite?

Disclaimer:  Items marked with an asterix (*) are press samples I received from the BornPrettyStore 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, June 22, 2015

What's In My Shower

I don't believe I've ever shared my shower routine on the blog; it probably has something to do with the fact that I'm predominantly a bath person, but recently I've started going to the gym and so the need for a post-workout shower has arisen - and at any rate, I use pretty much the same products when I shower as I do when I bathe. Having trudged through this completely superfluous introduction, we can now jump straight to the products I keep in my shower/ bathtub!
Starting with bodycare, I have come to the conclusion that I am not a bar soap person and much prefer the convenience of a shower gel. To that effect, I've been using the Pacifica Sulfate-Free Body Wash in Malibu Lemon Blossom for a better part of this year; even though cost per bottle is quite high compared to drugstore shower gels, I find that it lasts a really long time, and most importantly, it's very gentle and non-drying on the skin. The Kneipp In Shower Body Lotion in Black Currant & Pomegranate is the newest addition to my routine; it was a gift from my brother this past Christmas but I just started using it. I expected it to be something along the lines of Lush Body Conditioners or the Nivea In Shower lotion, but it's actually a shower gel and body lotion in one - or simply put, a moisturizing body cleanser that doesn't lather. I'm really liking the different texture and cassis smell, but I've read online that a tube doesn't last long.
I've talked about the Haus of Gloi Bubbling Scrubs numerous times on the blog - it's still one of my absolute favorite body scrub formulas, and the scent Twice is Nice is a delicious concoction of sugar, butter and coconut. I was curious about the 'Fresh Cream' fragrance of this Philosophy Hand Wash when I spotted it at TJMaxx, but it turned out to be just okay; I use this as a bubble bath, by the way. You can use any type of a foaming product as a bubble bath: a shower gel, hand wash, even shampoo, if you so desire - it's a good tip if you have a backstock of products that you want to use up a bit faster.

Now for my haircare, the MoroccanOil Clarifying Shampoo and the Goldwell Rich Repair hair mask both date back to when I used to work in a hair salon, which marked the peak of my interest in hair products. But ultimately, I'm really not a 'hair person' - I just can't be bothered. So even though both of these are lovely products, I'm working on finishing them up and eliminating clarifying shampoos and hair masks from my routine.
My current shampoo and conditioner combo is by the brand OGX (formerly Organics), which has great sulfate-free options at the drugstore. Since my hair is fine and I'm always looking for ways to increase volume in my strands, I opted for the Biotin & Collagen Shampoo - it cleanses very well without stripping. One tip to remember about sulfate-free shampoos is that they don't foam as much as regular shampoos, which is why I find them more effective when I shampoo twice: first with a small dollop to lift most of the dirt and grease, secondly with a slightly bigger dollop to really lather up and massage the scalp. I follow with the Coconut Water Conditioner, which is good, but I'm not too particular about conditioners - nearly any will do in my book.

Lastly, the pink razor you see in the first photo is by Dorco, which makes fantastic razors and cartridges at less than half the price of Gillette or Schick razors. If shaving is your preferred method of hair removal, I strongly recommend you to check out Dorco's website - I was sick of paying around $25 every time I need a new pack of cartridges for my Venus razor, and now I don't have to (so you know, more money for make-up...?).

And that's it! Let me know if you have any questions about these products, and please comment down below with what is your current favorite shower product. Thank you for reading!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Skin of a K-Pop Star: Laneige BB Cushion SPF50+ Review

Have you already tried a cushion foundation, the newest innovation in the world of face make-up? Well, not THAT new, really - I first heard about them from Kar Yi about a year ago (here's a link to her video review comparing two different cushions), and at that point they had probably been on the Korean market for a while already. Cushion foundations were recently brought over to the American and European markets by way of Lancome's newest base, no doubt influenced by their creative director Lisa Eldrige's frequent travels to Asia. But I personally hadn't tried any, even though my curiosity was certainly piqued; that is, until this Laneige BB Cushion SPF50+ Broad Spectrum Sunscreen* ($30 for 1.05 oz/ 15 g x 2, available at Target in-store and online) landed on my desk a couple weeks ago.
If you haven't heard about foundation cushions, they're basically compacts housing a sponge saturated with a liquid base which come with a round puff/ firm sponge to tap and blend the product into the skin. The Laneige BB Cushion comes in a beautiful, heavy compact with a large mirror, and the sponge with product is protected by a plastic door that can be firmly closed. In the box, you'll also find a refill sponge to put in your compact once the current one runs out - I've heard that this type of base runs out a bit faster than standard liquid or cream foundation, so I think it's great that you have a second one included in the package.
When you first open up the compact, the cushion is sealed to prevent drying out - I'd recommend removing the seal only once you're ready to regularly use the product; I don't think it would fare too well being stored in a drawer between uses for long periods of time. I was also quite surprised at the high quality of the application sponge: it's easy to hold the puff securely by slipping your fingers under the ribbon, and the texture of the side you use to pick up and blend the BB Cushion reminds me of a Beautyblender.
The actual BB cream that saturates the cushion has a very thin, liquidy consistency. It's quite easy to control how much you pick up on the application sponge by varying the amount of pressure you use when pressing down the cushion with a puff. What surprised me the most was how much coverage I was able to easily achieve on my face (medium plus), while retaining the look of absolutely no product on the skin - isn't that what we all dream of in a higher coverage base?
The finish of the BB Cushion is definitely glowy; not by means of any actual shimmer in the product, it's just that the liquid remains quite moist on my skin and doesn't really set a whole lot. I will admit that this is not my personal preference as I have combination skin, and the Laneige BB Cushion ends up feeling a bit tacky on my face, although not heavy by any means. Even when lightly powdered, my face still looked very dewy, reminding me of the finish preferred by most Korean pop stars and actresses.
I could definitely deal with the slight tackiness on the skin of this BB Cushion, since I loved how naturally perfected and healthy my skin looked after application, if it weren't for two things: the shade and the short wear of this foundation. Unfortunately, the lightest shade Light is about two full shades too dark for me; even after self-tanning my face, neck and chest, it still gave me a bit of an identity crisis every time I passed by a mirror - you can see in the photo how hilariously pale and undead my hand looks compared to my BB-cushioned face. I'd estimate the Light shade to be about NC20-25 in MAC terms (I'm about NW10-15, depending on the season).
L-R: Laneige BB Cushion in the shades Light, Medium and Dark, swatched on NW10-15 skin.
As for the wear, it just didn't look pretty on my skin by the end of a long day - contrarily to my expectations, it didn't get too terribly shiny on my T-zone (but then again it was quite shiny all over to begin with), but actually looked a bit cakey and accentuated pores on what I assume are the most dehydrated parts of my face (chin, nasolabial fold). I guess I could have kept fooling myself that in the middle of the summer, the shade would somehow start matching my skin, but the unsatisfactory wear kind of sealed the deal and made me realize it's not the best base for my skin type.
I'm a bit bummed - I really wanted to love this BB Cushion and planned to wear it in the upcoming months; I mean, c'mon, SPF50+ in a combination of chemical and physical sunscreens seems ideal for the summer, am I right? But it's just too much effort to try to make the shade work by self-tanning or bronzing up the rest of my body, or layering the right skincare, primers and setting mists to make it wear nicer on my (clearly dehydrated) skin.
Laneige BB Cushion in Light after 4 hours of wear (lightly powdered through the T-zone, no highlighter)
What are your thoughts on cushion foundations? I'd love to hear your experiences (and recommendations, especially for fair complexions!), and if you haven't tried any, if that's even something that interests you. What is your favorite foundation product with a higher SPF?

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!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Project Make A Dent 2015: Second Progress Update

We're pretty much right at this year's halfway mark, so it's perfect time for my Project Make A Dent Use It or Lose It edition progress update! I'm now 6 months into the challenge of making a concentrated effort to use my selected make-up products on a regular basis, and I'm still going strong! The photo below shows the usage on my items at the starting point of January 7...
And this photo shows how these products look today (here's the first update at 3 months, if you're curious). I'm very happy with my progress so far; I've completely used up half of the products! The first to go was my Urban Decay 24/7 eyeliner in Rockstar, quickly followed by the Make Up For Ever HD Powder mini. The Michael Todd Creme Glace lipgloss in Natural and Revlon Superlustrous Lipgloss in Coral Reef took a while longer (actually, there's still a bit of Coral Reef left in the tube, but the consistency wasn't the same any more), as did the Face Atelier Ultra Foundation in Porcelain; however, as soon as the latter started squirting more product on my clothing and walls than on my fingers, I called it done.
I still have five more products to go, and among those, I made a nice dent in the Chanel Rouge Coco Shine in Monte Carlo and Sephora Nano eyeliner in Nuage, and I hit pan on the Maybelline Color Tattoo in Bad to the Bronze! Again, the Inglot Gel lipstick no. 58 and the Stila Convertible Color in Lillium prove to be the most stubborn, but I make sure to use them as often as I can - I'll be happy just to get some use out of them before tossing them at the end of this challenge.
Like I hinted before, I'm planning to start a separate Project Pan in an attempt to use up even more products lingering in my make-up collection; hopefully I'll be launching that next month, after I finish the Project Use Up Those Freaking Samples. You may be thinking that's a lot of challenges to have going on, but I'm actually weirdly excited about finishing old items from my stash, and not necessarily rushing out to replace them. Claire's recent post on using up the contents of her medicine cabinet really resonated with me, and I'm intending to continue emptying what I already have. Don't get me wrong, I still get swayed by the curiosity to try out new products and sometimes end up purchasing something I didn't exactly need, but I can say that I'm able to manage my impulse buys a lot better these days.
Let me know how you're doing on your stash-reducing journeys; I know that a lot of you are making a similar attempt to streamline your collections, be it through Project Pans, purging or low-buys, even if they're not official and just a personal goal you're trying to achieve. I love hearing about your progress and tips for making the most of what you have!