Friday, April 29, 2016

The Mega Plush Volume'Express Mascara by Maybelline

Disclaimer:  I received this as comp for participating in a consumer study.
The Mega Plush ($7-$8) is Maybelline's first gel-mousse mascara and contains 40% less hard waxes, which should add up to plush lashes that are not stiff or brittle.  I'm actually more excited about another feature - the flexible brush head- and I'll tell you why.

Source:  Maybelline
I've got small eyes and invariably get mascara on the skin closest to the my lash line, which frustrates me to no end.  I realize it's because I'm pressing against my lashes when applying the mascara in order to fully coat them.  The flexible brush gives just enough that I can still fully coat my lashes without having them touch the lid, resulting in less muss, fuss, and frustration for me.
One coat
The formula goes on easily and is clump free, even with two coats.  It's not a show stopper kind of mascara, but I like how it amplifies my lashes while still looking natural.  It also does not smear throughout the day, which is a mega plus with my oily lids and Mobile's super humid climate.  Available in both washable and water-proof formulas, I have the washable and find it easy to remove with my facial oil cleanser.
Two coats (flash)
I do find the brush too big to use for my lower lashes without making a mess, but I use Clinique's Bottom Lash mascara regularly, so that's not a deal breaker for me.  Quite happy with the Mega Plush!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Perfectionist Youth-Infusing Brightening Serum + Concealer by Estee Lauder

Disclaimer:  I purchased this.
Being a fan of  Estee Lauder's concealers, I was intrigued by the eye serum included in the Perfectionist Youth-Infusing Brightening Serum + Concealer ($34), so added it to my March spring beauty haul. Multi-tasking products are great when they work or twice the disappointment when they don't, so let's see where on the spectrum this one fell.
First off, I picked well with the 2W Light Medium (Warm) shade, which is always dicey when shopping blind online. I tend to look at a lot of swatches before purchasing, but there weren't many available on this product so I went more by the shade description.
The serum is supposed to improve the moisture level of under eye skin within 4 weeks while making the skin appear smoother with fewer lines and wrinkles, all while color correcting uneven skin tone and brightening dark areas.  I've been using it for over a month now, and I like it. A lot.  It does brighten my under eye area without emphasizing the fine network of lines I have.  I don't tend to use concealer in this area as I don't have dark circles, but I do like using a lightweight brightener such as this. The serum is meant to be used as the last step of your skincare regimen, and I would like to know what the ingredients are, but that ingredient list is proving elusive.
The other end contains a hydrating cream stick concealer to cover skin imperfections wherever you may have them. You can even use it as a foundation in a pinch, which I discovered on a 3 day work trip last week. The foundation I packed mysteriously disappeared (I still haven't found it), and after a moment of panic I congratulated myself on having brought this new dual-tasking product with me. I prefer it as a spot concealer, but it does sheer out nicely with a damp beauty blender and when set with a translucent powder, performed well as my johnny on the spot foundation.
You get .17 oz of the serum and .19 oz of the concealer, and considering I used the concealer as foundation for 3 days, I may end up finishing both at the same time now. Bottom line, this dual-tasker is a win for me!
Brightening serum

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

April Birchbox: Spring Awakening

Disclaimer:  I purchased this.
April's Birchbox features a botanical floral pattern from Rifle Paper Co.-, and I'm loving that bright chartreuse green.  Growing up, my bedroom decor was dominated by pink and chartreuse green, and that combo still does it for me.  I"m also pretty excited by my box contents this month, so let's take a look!
Burt's Bees was one of the first natural brands I discovered when I was in graduate school at UNC-Chapel Hill.  The brand originated just down the road in Durham, so many shops carried Burt's Bees and I loved the little sample packs that allowed you to try multiple products.
Sweet Violet ($7) is the first tinted balm I've tried from them, and initial impressions are that it's lightly moisturizing with a barely there soft pink tint.  I like balms like this for frequent application during the day, and I'm hoping that this one will keep my lips feeling soft and happy.  Some balms irritate my lips, but this one seems okay.
When I first saw the W3LL PEOPLE Expressionist mascara ($23.50) wand I thought "it looks dry" and I wasn't expecting much.  W3LL, I was wrong.  This is a really nice natural ingredient mascara:  super black, easy to apply, non-clumping, and very natural looking.
No mascara
2 coats of Expressionist on upper lases, 1 on bottom
amika's Un.Done Texture Spray ($24) is designed to give you that tousled, slightly messy look along with a little volume. Considering my hair is thick but fine and can go flat in an instant (factor in Mobile's humidity for flat/frizz/cannot hold a curl), products like this can make a difference.
Un.Done features the mineral zeolite to help build volume and sea buckthorne berry to help strengthen hair, and an exclusive polymer blend to bind the formula to hair without making it feel stiff or sticky.
I sometimes rely on dry shampoo for the same effects, although I can see where the white powdery finish can be a draw back for some.  Un.Done does have a matte finish and feels similar in texture to a dry shampoo to me, so I'm not sure I'd pay $24 for this.  Nice, but not a go to for me.
If you are thinking the derma|e Purifying 2-in-1 Charcoal Mask ($19.50) tube looks a little flat, that would be because I had already used it once before taking these pictures.  I ran on the treadmill one night and thought I'd test out the mask afterwards, considering my pores were probably open wide and ready to be purged after a good sweat.
Scary, I know
The mask dries quickly and does not feel uncomfortably tight, and after 5 minutes instead of just rinsing you are supposed to remoisten and rub your face so that the apricot powder in the formula can help exofliate off all the stuff that has been purged from your pores.  Bottom line, I liked this mask and am pretty impressed with derma|e products in general, but I've got a glut of clay masks to get through at the moment.
I've used Vasanti's BrightenUp! Enzymatic Face Rejuvenator ($34) in the past and remember liking how fine the scrubbing granules were, so I'm happy to have another sample of this on hand.  The value of my April box is about $32 and I'm happy with everything!

Friday, April 15, 2016

February-March Skincare: Scinic and Some Snail Slime

Disclaimer:  I purchased this.
Back in January I picked up the Scinic Memebox ($35), which contains 6 different items:
  • Prelab Toning Peeling Tap ($15):  a highly-concentrated essence that cleanses, moisturizes and exfoliates the skin.   
  • Snail All-in-One Ampoule ($25):  an all-in-one essence formula that contains snail slime filtrate, peptides, and aloe vera extract.
  • Snail Matrix Cream ($13):  a cream designed to aid in the process of skin care renewal with a formula featuring 23% of snail slime filtrate blended with peptides, adenosine and EGF.
  • Peeling Solution Kit ($5):  a 2 step peeling (AHA) and moisturizing kit (whitening ampoule) for glowing skin.
  • Black Dual Mask Aqua White ($3): 2 masks for your T-Zone and V-Zone to relieve dryness with it's Black seed complex with charcoal powder formula.
  • All Day Fine Pore Clay Mask ($15):  Clay mask with 5,000 mg of Amazon Clay blended with Carbonic Acid to effectively absorb sebum and impurities from the skin.     
For February and March I decided to integrate the All-in-One Ampoule and Snail Matrix Cream into my day time skin regimen, so now it's time for a review.  For reference, I've got aging, oily, congested skin that is marked by under the skin bumps caused by sebaceous hyperplasia and hyperpigmentation caused by sun damage.  Now, on to the review!
A little leakage happened in transit
Some background:  I already know I like snail slime as a skin care ingredient, based on my use of the CosRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence (review here).  It contains 96% of snail slime compared to Scinic's 50% snail slime content. However, ampoule's are designed as multi-purpose products, which means a variety of ingredients are in order.  In addition to the snail slime, which is great for sun-damaged skin, the Scinic ampoule also contains botanicals with anti-inflammatory and soothing properties as well as peptides for collagen production.
Look how big this bottle is!  Seriously, I'm only about an inch down after 2 months of usage.  Having said that, I'm not a huge fan of the packaging, which did leak a bit in transit.  I find it somewhat cumbersome removing the top, dipping in the plastic spatula, smearing it on my skin, and then replacing the top. First world problems, I know, but I prefer pump bottles for ease of use and the lower risk of contamination.
This ampoule absorbs easily into my skin, even with a heavy application.  I end up applying it to my face, neck, decollete, and back of my hands because invariably the spatula picks up a fair amount. There is a peachy/floral fragrance that dissipates quickly.  I can't say it's offensive but I don't really care for it and wish companies would quite putting uneccessary fragrance in their products.
I follow up the ampoule with the Scinic Matrix Cream, which contains 23% of snail filtrate, and the cream does have that stringy quality I associate with snail slime. This uber reasonably priced cream has some other interesting ingredients as well:
I was happy and surprised that, given the variety of oils included in the formula, this did not leave my skin overly moisturized or shiny.  Considering I was using this prior to makeup application and I've got oily skin, I'm sufficiently impressed. Neither product caused irritation or breakouts, and my skin felt hydrated and smooth after use.  Considering I was using these during the colder months, I thought they did a good job of moisturizing without feeling heavy.
Overall, both products worked well for me and I think the Scinic Memebox is a great buy (it's still available at Memebox, by the way). I do prefer the CosRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence due to it's ease of use but the Scinic All-in-One Snail Ampoule is good.  Given it's size, I'm going to start using it on my body after showering so that it doesn't go to waste. My skin in general is looking really nice and it's been great identifying ingredients that work well for me, namely manuka honey (see here) and snail slime.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

My Parisian Pastels: All-Over Illuminating Powder Cubes by Lancôme

Disclaimer:  I purchased this.
Lancôme's My Parisian Pastels ($59) is one of my favorite of the spring releases that I've picked up.  A surprise hit, actually, as these were not really on my radar prior to purchasing.  After using them daily for over a month now, I'm sufficiently impressed.
The pretty tin contains 9 shimmer cubes that can be used as eyeshadow, blush, or highlighter wherever you decide to place it.  Spring has seen the release of so many pretty highlighters that I'm a bit overwhelmed, but I'm really enjoying these because of their versatility.
Each cube is housed in their own little plastic cube, complete with individual tops (not shown). While you can swirl your brush across all of them, I've been lifting out my cube of choice to use the individual colors. Even though the cubes are smaller than the size of an average blush, I've not found it hard to pick up color with a brush and make them work as blush toppers and highlighters.
My favorite way to where these are as eye shadow toppers, however, as the softly colored shimmers compliment so many different looks.  The soft gold #2 and nude with pink shift #8 have seen the most use from me, since I've been favoring more nude/neutral eye looks for spring. I've labeled the pics where I remember which shimmer cube I was using. For most of these looks, I used cream eyeshadows as a base with the shimmer cubes on top.
Shimmer Cube #9
Shimmer Cube #8
Shimmer Cube #8
Shimmer Cube #2
Shimmer Cube #2
Quite happy with these, and glad I took the plunge! While $59 is on the higher side, I can see myself using these a lot, so no complaints here.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Yogi Surprise Jewelry Subscription Box: Connecting with Nature

Disclaimer:  I purchased this.
April's Yogi Surprise jewelry subscription box celebrates the transitional season of rebirth and renewal, or what we typically call spring. I'm on the second week of my spring staycation, where I try to get my yard under control while also relaxing and enjoying that brief period of warm days, cool nights, and low humidity before Mobile's hot and humid summer commences.
The Brown Jasper and African turquoise meditation bracelet ($35) is gorgeous with it's mixture of earth tones. I'm not sure about that tassel, but I'll give it a go. Brown Jasper is known as a quintessential Earth stone and is deeply connected to the planet as "home", engendering security, protection, nurturing, and healing (source). It also cleanses the physical and emotional body of toxins and negative thought forms, which seems appropriate for the season of rebirth.  
African Turquoise is actually another form of jasper from Africa that is often dyed to resemble turquoise. It can help open you to new ideas and possibilities and make it easier to incorporate positive changes into your life.  I keep intending to create more calming and stress relieving practices into my life, but I can't say I've done it successfully or consistently yet. I'm going to keep trying, however.
April also saw the first earrings ($18) from Yogi Surprise, and these are some I can definitely see myself wearing. The metal is brass and the stones are red onyx and yellow jade. Together these are supposed to promote stability, strength, and growth towards positive change.
The chocolate offering this month is from Raaka and is a Pink Sea Salt dark chocolate bar ($8) sourced from the Dominican Republic and Bolivia. Chocolate is now being described much like wine, and this one has "sparkling citrus notes with warm hints of berry".
I'm not sure my palette is sophisticated enough to pick up these flavor nuances, but it is a good dark chocolate. I love salt combined with chocolate, so it's a winner for me.
Spiderwort: pretty until it gets out of control
I'll leave you with a few recent pics of nature from my jungle yard. There were a times this week when I was cursing the overgrowth and thorny vines that multiply faster than I can cut them, but I love having a large yard.
Not too happy about the snakes (I see a few each year, usually from a distance), but as long as they leave the dogs and me alone, I'm live and let live. I guess this is a time of rebirth for them as well.
Maggie enjoying the spring weather