October 14, 2014

When in the US...

I'm back! I've had a whirlwind 2 weeks traveling back to North America, for a wedding, for family, and for some very unexpected epiphanies. All the simple, spontaneous days throughout our trip was exactly what we needed to clear our minds and our vision.

But the one exception to the simple and the spontaneous was the long-planned, much anticipated Sephora visit. With my wishlist in hand, I marched into the store, swatching and sniffing as fast as I could (can't keep the man waiting!). If I do say so myself, this was one successful, well-behaved Sephora spree. Everything I got was on my preplanned shopping list!

First the makeup. I can't give full reviews for most of the products mentioned here yet, but the one I've immediately fallen in love with is the Kat Von D Tattoo Liquid Liner. It is THE best liquid liner I've used (sorry Lancome Artliner!). Thick, thin, dark, light - it's so flexible, so precise, and does not budge or smudge. Yes the preciseness means you need a bit of practice, but once you do, ladies, it's everything you've wanted in a liner. I also got the Anastasia Brow Wiz, which is so pleasantly easy to use as an eyebrow noob. Mine is the shade "Ebony," a charcoal grey shade that I can lightly use to define my brows but not so much darken them, unless I'm feeling adventurous that day. I love that this can do both with such minimal effort.

In the skincare department, I got the First Aid Beauty Eye Duty Triple Remedy and the Ole Henriksen Lemon Strip Flash Peel. So far so good with the FAB eye cream - the pure ingredients give me peace of mind, and the cool metal applicator has become slightly addictive for mornings. I've yet to try the Ole Henriksen peel, so more to come on that later.

My final Sephora buy was the Elizabeth & James Nirvana "White" Rollerball Perfume. I was originally more intrigued by the "Black" scent, hoping to be one of the cool kids, but in the end I stuck true to my girly, floral roots and opted for "White," a musky peony scent. This was a definite 100% love for me at first sniff. Peonies are my favorite flowers, and the scent even earned the picky boyfriend stamp of approval. Fragrances that I get while traveling always to take me back to memories of the trip, and I know this one will not be an exception.

In addition to the Sephora stuff, I also brought home the MAC Eyeshadow in "Soba" (which I still don't understand why MAC doesn't stock in Hong Kong) and the Milani Baked Blush in "Luminoso." Both have proven to be worth the hype; they deserve full reviews which I will leave for a later day.

Last but not least, I had to pick up a box of Frango mint chocolates, a Chicago classic which has somehow become a family tradition of mine. It's my mom's favorite and brings back fond memories!

September 19, 2014

The Obligatory US Wishlist

It's that time of year again! Back to North America time!

I don't think I've ever felt more deserving of a break - though not a true 100% break, I can't wait to spend some time in cooler, drier weather, cruising along a spacious freeway. And whenever a US trip is around the corner, setting my out-of-office notification, planning out my favorite meals, and coming up with my US beauty wishlist are probably the 3 things that top my to-do list. Some things on my wishlist are merely added out of curiousity - I'm not sure I'll buy them, but I neeeeed to sniff/swatch them, in person, in the US! 

By the way, I actually reference these blog posts while at Sephora, like a grocery list. No, that's not lame at all.

Anyway, here are the items that have been in my mind for the past year, that sadly I've not been able to access here in Hong Kong:

1. Anastasia Brow Wiz
Because I think I finally need to start doing more to my brows, instead of just the lazy swipe of brow gel.
2. Urban Decay 24/7 Eyeliner Pencil in "Zero"
The number one item that's always on my list. I'm bringing back a few more of these for friends and family too - they're that good.
3. Kat Von D Tattoo Liquid Liner
I'm usually a pencil liner girl but recently I've been feeling the need for a precise, intense liquid liner for the cooler months. It's time to practice the flliiiiick!
4. First Aid Beauty Eye Duty Triple Remedy
I've been out of luck with eye creams, but this sounds like a great all-in-one option worth trying. Love the metal tip too.
5. Ole Henriksen Ultimate Lift Eye Gel
This is my second eye cream option - I don't think an eye cream can look more refreshing than this. Just look at that jar! I think it'll all come down to the swatch-and-sniff-match in the Sephora store between FAB and Ole Henriksen to decide which one's going home with me.
6. Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment in "Tulip"
Because you know, I'm addicted to these, even according to Buzzfeed (see #10). This gorgeous hot pink color has still yet to hit shelves in Hong Kong so I'm coming to it instead!
7. Elizabeth and James Nirvana Roll-on
I need to sniff this, just to see what all the hype is about.
8. First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream
Another FAB rave reviewed product - I'm always slightly afraid of trying new face creams but the FAB brand sounds safe and pure enough to try. I would normally stay away from tubs of creams but apart from that, this one's ticking all the right boxes for me.
9. Urban Decay Perversion/Subversion Mascara & Base Duo
Another blogs-made-me-do-it item. If UD's mascaras are as good as the rest of their eye makeup this one should be a winner.
10. Ole Henriksen Lemon Strip Flash Peel
A ttsandra-made-me-do-it product. I've stayed away from peels in the past but this one seems to be a rarely mild yet effective option. Again it'll all come down to the swatch-and-sniff at Sephora!

The bets are on - how many of these do you think I'll end up with at the Sephora cashier? I sincerely hope it's not all 10. Wish me luck!

Anything else that you think I should check out while in the US? :)

September 15, 2014

Current NARS Favorites (and not-so favorites)

I'm not sure how this happened, but my daily makeup routine has recently been very heavily NARS-dominated. So I thought I'd dedicate a full post to everything NARS that I've been using in my daily routine.

My long time NARS favorites are their concealer and brow gel. They've both been daily staples since last year. The NARS Pure Radiant Creamy Concealer (previously reviewed here) gives very good coverage yet doesn't cake up or gather on dry skin. I've been using it mainly under my eyes but it also works well on the occasional blemish too. The shade "Custard" is a perfect match for me - no ashy/greyness at all. NARS Tinted Brow Gel holds everything in place and adds definition - instant perked up brows in seconds!

My new favorites are the eyeshadow primer, pencil eyeliner and blush. The NARS Smudgeproof Eyeshadow Base was an instant win for me. It works better than anything I've tried, helps keep oily eyelids under control, and manages to even set cream shadows. No creasing, no budging. The only eyeshadow that I can't get it to work with is (ironically) the NARS cream shadows - specifically NARS Mykonos Cream Eyeshadow, which is the most gorgeous rose gold, but creases like no other. Still I can't seem to part with it because the shade is just too pretty. I usually swipe a bit of NARS Yamal (Powder) Eyeshadow to set Mykonos, which still only manages to help a little with the creasing. (P.S. I've heard that NARS is discontinuing their cream eyeshadows, so do stock up on your favorites while you can!) The Larger Than Life Long-Wear Eyeliner is the perfect medium black. I reviewed it in detail in my last post. And I've been reaching for the infamous NARS Blush in "Deep Throat" a lot lately (mine is a mini deluxe sample size). I like it much more than "Orgasm," which I find a bit too bright for me. I think "Deep Throat" will make the perfect rosy blush for fall. NARS blushes have very good staying power, again great for long work days.

Last but not least, NARS has also dominated my base makeup lately. I've been a long time fan of the NARS Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer, but just recently tried pairing it with my new NARS Light Reflecting Loose Setting Powder - the exact combo that was used on models at the Creatures of the Wind fashion show at New York Fashion Week last week. These 2 are a natural, radiant, nude-perfect match made in heaven! The powder perfectly sets the tinted moisturizer, and mattifies the radiant base just a tad to tone it down (good oil control, great for oily skin like mine). Together they blur any uneven skin or pores, creating a soft, smooth finish. The powder is also very buildable - I can pile this on and my skin still looks like skin. No powdery cakey mess. This powder is pretty much fool proof in my opinion.

So to conclude, I find the NARS eyeshadows to be "okay," but apart from that I give everything a huge thumbs up!

That was a LOT of NARS talk. Hats off to you if you made it through this whole sea of words!

Now it's your turn... What are your favorite products from NARS?

September 6, 2014

Pencil Liners | Urban Decay vs NARS vs Bourjois

I'll preface by saying that my favorite pencil eyeliner, of all time, has been hands down the Urban Decay 24/7 Eyeliner in Zero. Not Perversion, which is the blackest carbon black, but the regular black Zero. I like my eyeliners to be medium black, so Perversion slightly intimidated me! Zero is the perfect intensity and creaminess; it wears well but isn't a pain to remove. The one complaint I have is that it's not available in Hong Kong :(

So with my last UD eyeliner stock running low, I decided it's time to venture out and give a few hopeful substitutes a try. I spotted the Bourjois Contour Clubbing Waterproof Eyeliner in 54 Ultra Black during a random stroll in Sasa. I know... what a name! It's like the Bourjois team played the association game and threw in every word they can think of relating to black eyeliner. "Contour!" "Waterproof!" "CLUBBING!" But what did appeal to me was how soft and easily the eyeliner swatched. Home with me it went.

At the same time, I had a sample size NARS Larger Than Life Long-Wear Eyeliner in Via Veneto in my stash as well. So for the past 2 weeks, I've been alternating between the two. Coincidentally Hong Kong has been having the hottest summer of the Century (not exaggerating - Observatory statistics here), which definitely meant these eyeliners were put to the extreme test of heat and humidity.

So how did these 2 turn out?

The Bourjois liner was a disappointment. I like soft creamy eyeliners, but this was too soft. It was slightly challenging to create a nice, even, thin line - though I'll say if you're main concern is to avoid tugging on these eyes, you might really enjoy this as it goes on like butter. Another issue I had was that it did not stay on long, at all. Even on top of a primer, I was only left with faint traces of this by the end of the day. 

The NARS liner was the better of the two. It's not the blackest black, nor is it really soft or creamy, but it gives nice precision and applies very closely to the lash line. I find it works decently on the waterline too. But the best thing about this is it truly lives up to its name of being long-wearing. It looks exactly the same all day till the moment I washed it off before bed - something even the UD 24/7 liner can't do. Also, it's a twist up, so no sharpener needed. I had to learn that the hard way after cleverly attempting to sharpen it and wrecking the pencil tip!

Left to right: Bourjois, NARS and Urban Decay swatches

If you like medium black eyeliners, and natural, lightly lined eyes, I'd recommend giving the NARS pencil liner a try. Bourjois is a "no" for me, while both the NARS and UD are both great eyeliners that I'd repurchase. The NARS in comparison is more long-wearing, but the UD one wins in creaminess and shade. I love them both!

What is your favorite pencil eyeliner?

August 24, 2014

New Chanel Les 4 Ombre Quads | Thoughts & Pick

I have roughly 3 posts backlogged, but decided to slot this one in because it's way too exciting to delay - Chanel has launched a line of brand new eyeshadow quads! AHHHhhhhHHhh!!

Chanel makeup is always so tempting - it really is always a treat and never a necessity. I only had 1 Chanel quad before this (in Kaska Beige, which is discontinued), and the powdery and dry formula really did not impress me. But since Chanel new launches have been nothing but amazing lately (their Les Beige powders, cream blushes, new Coco Shine shades... love!), they had my attention this time.

These new quads definitely put Chanel back in the (eyeshadow) game. The 9 new Les 4 Ombres Eyeshadow Quads feature a baked formulation - buttery smooth, soft, and highly blendable. I first swatched the only limited edition quad, Poesie, but the shades seem 1. all quite frosty, and 2. highly dupable. I love a good neutral quad, but the high shimmer in all 4 colors seemed a bit much for me.

Then by chance, the gorgeous Les 4 Ombre Eyeshadow Quad in #204 Tisse Vendome caught my eye. Tisse Vendome contains a gorgeous caramel mid-toned brown, a warmer chocolate brown, a light peachy pink sheen, and the star of the quad - an orange apricot shade on the bottom left, which definitely is a neutral-gal's excuse to justify this purchase. No no, this isn't another neutral quad. There's an orange in it. See? 

And so one late, late Thursday work night, I decided to treat myself to Tisse Vendome. (I did have a glass of wine in me, which probably lessened the pain of paying!)


Compared to Poesie (and #208 Tisse Gabrielle / #218 Tisse Mademoiselle which I also swatched), Tisse Vendome offers more variety in texture - the apricot and light pink shimmers are frosty, much like many of the other quads, while the 2 brown shades are toned-down shimmers that balance out the quad nicely. Because of that, I think Tisse Vendome is probably the most everyday day-time appropriate among all the newly released quads.

As for the intense apricot/orange shimmer, fear not my neutral-loving friends, I promise you it's not that scary to use! I was surprisingly impressed that the shade did not leave me looking puffy-eyed; on the contrary, the peach brightens the face and blends very easily with the light brown in the quad, making it easily wearable for daytime. I also think that the warm, orange undertones of this quad will make it the perfect transition palette into fall (think brown/orange fallen leaves!).

Overall I am very impressed with Tisse Vendome. The texture of these eyeshadows are top notch - buttery smooth, just-right pigmented (sometimes eyeshadows are too pigmented..!), no fallout or powdery mess, and very, very easy to blend. It's an effortless palette that requires minimal work to apply yet creates a dimensional, put together look.

Yes, the price is outrageous, but definitely one to add to your "next-time-I-deserve-a-treat" wishlist (hooray for this being a permanent product)!

What are your thoughts on the new Chanel quads?


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