Friday, May 19, 2017

Why I Continue Beauty Blogging As A Hobby

I have noticed in the past few months that a lot of my favorite blogger friends decided to say goodbye to their beauty blogs. Some of them have concluded it just wasn't fun anymore, some preferred to devote their finite free time to other pursuits, some are still writing but have changed their focus from make-up and skincare. I, too have been wondering whether it's worthwhile to keep on trucking, given how sporadic my posting is now with baby Julian on board. I figured maybe I'll share my reflections about beauty blogging as a hobby in this day and age, mostly because I'd love to hear your thoughts too. So here goes.

There's a vast difference these days between professional (as in, earning revenue: be it from ads, affiliate links or sponsored posts) and personal blogs. Obviously there's a lot of grey area - many personal blogs do make a little bit of money on the side as a bonus perk to a beloved hobby, and before anyone gets their feathers ruffled, I personally have absolutely no problem in that and have myself earned a little from writing a couple sponsored posts in the past. To me it boils down to this - are you actively motivated to blog because you're counting on that revenue to pay or contribute to your bills? If so, in my mind you are indeed a professional blogger. And you may try to convince me otherwise, but I strongly believe that most professional bloggers are going to blog differently from someone who does it just for fun. I'm not saying your blogging job can't also be a passion - I belive it is for most professional bloggers - but you're not going to write in the same way when you need the money to buy your groceries versus when you're doing it just to enjoy. It has nothing to do with honesty, disclosure etc.; it's just a matter of perspective.

If you were to ask me for advice on starting a beauty blog today, I would tell you not to do it. Or I guess, scratch that, I'd ask you a question in return - what are your expectations? What are you hoping to gain from beauty blogging? Do you want exposure, an audience, growth, free products or sponsorship deals? Then probably YouTube would be a better bet, albeit bear in mind that it's going to be VERY difficult as the beauty guru market is oversaturated as it is. Do you just want to start and see how it goes, hoping to get noticed? You'll probably end up deeply disappointed. Or lastly, do you enjoy pouring words onto the (web)page, and would like to meet like-minded beauty enthusiasts? Then yes, please, go for it. I truly think this is the only reason any of us blogging hobbists are still here today.

With one caveat though. I may be wrong, but compared to when I first started Rocaille Writes, I do see much less of a community in the beauty blogosphere these days. Like I mentioned in the opening paragraph, SO MANY of us have already left the scene. I've also noticed a significant decline in commenting, and I'd be the first to blame - these days I just don't have the time to leave comments. We also don't do tags or collabs anymore. And it may be just me, but we stopped having these lengthy conversations on Twitter; I'm in fact seriously considering deleting my Twitter app, and I hardly ever check it from my desktop. The only social media outlet that still remains is Instagram, and I love our little community there, but at the same time I don't think Instagram can replace beauty blogs entirely, even now with the option of uploading multiple photos. Because while Instagram can provide all the visual content, I still think beauty blogs are primarily verbal, and it's always the writer's voice that drives me to certain blogs and not the others.

As for still feeling passionate about beauty 8 years after I clicked 'Publish' on my first post, yes, I continue to enjoy trying out and experimenting with new products. However, I often feel very ambivalent about reviewing certain brands or products. The main reason is that I don't want to be a 'beauty influencer': that is, I don't want to influence you to shop for products you don't need. I would like to think that maybe if you're already contemplating a well thought-out purchase, then my review of a product can help you make an informed decision, but I am aware that oftentimes, sharing my favorite products will entice you to spend unnecessarily in some way, and it is a form of promoting the consumerist mindset.

Secondly, the number of products I would like to share with you seems to be growing smaller and smaller. Mostly because I'm purchasing a lot less than I used to, and secondly because I'm feeling quite burnt out on reviewing PR samples (which I receive very rarely anyway). It often has nothing to do with the actual products sent for review and everything with the communication between myself and the PR company. I don't even want to say how many times my emails have gone unanswered, packages with samples ended up never being sent, how many times I was dropped by a brand for no reason - except maybe actually sharing my honest opinion, and a positive one at that? In many instances, my relationship with the PR has made me avoid a certain brand, regardless of the quality of the products. It just leaves a bad taste in your mouth, you know?

At the end of the day though, Rocaille Writes is here to stay. Primarily because for me, beauty blogging is therapeutic, and without it, I'm just a stay-at home sleep-deprived mom with stacks of dirty dishes and mounds of unwashed laundry. Hmm, maybe that came out wrong: I'm happy to be one. But I want and I need this one small creative thing for myself that is keeping a beauty blog, and I refuse to let it go. Like I said in the past in this post, Rocaille Writes may not be about reviewing the latest limited edition collection in a snap, but I have so much more than that to say. If only the days were longer, you guys!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

A Month in Lipstick #2: Keep or Declutter

Did I put a 'Week in Lipstick' in the last post's title? Ha. HA. I wish. Yeah, it turns out that a MONTH is more along the lines of how much time I need to make up my mind about 5 lip products. At this rate, it will probably take me the rest of the year to go through my entire collection. Oh well.

1. Marc Jacobs Le Marc Lip Crème Lipstick in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (from Sephora 2016 Birthday Gift). DECLUTTER. Okay, so it's not that I don't like this lipstick - it's beautifully creamy and pigmented, but I do have a shade very, very similar to this (YSL Rouge Pur in Rose Stiletto, here) and I just don't wear colors like that often enough to justify keeping both. On me, this is a medium to deep pink rose shade, and for my current preferences, it's a bit much for casual day wear. I wouldn't be opposed to trying a different shade from this line though - you know, in the hypothetical future where I find myself needing another lipstick. Gah.
2. Red Apple Lipstick Gluten-Free Lipstick in Audrey* (originallly reviewed here). KEEP. I still really like both this formula and the shade - a brightening neutral pink, but I will admit that every time I wear Audrey, I'm bothered by the scent/taste. It's kinda like this soapy, old-school perfumey lipstick smell that doesn't want to go away. I'll hang on to Audrey for now, mostly because I enjoy how glossy and moisturizing the formula is, but I'll see if I get any decent wear out of it this year.
3. Givenchy Le Rouge in Rose Taffetas (reviewed here). KEEP. This isn't a very color-accurate lip swatch - sorry for that - mostly because the day was overcast and I'm also wearing it here just lightly dabbed on the lips, otherwise it's quite a bright peachy pink shade. So while I'm not hugely into bright lips at the moment, I love love love this formula. It's such an incredibly comfortable and line-smoothing satin that I WILL find a way to wear this lipstick.
4. BITE High Pigment Lip Pencil in Winterberry. KEEP. Winterberry strongly reminds me of Revlon Cherries in the Snow, which I was trying to finish in 2015, or that Inglot Gel Lipstick no. 58, which was part of my Project Make A Dent in 2016. I still think this deep berry/ reddish pink is very flattering on my fair complexion, but I don't know, I'm a bit burnt out on this kind of shade - could that possibly be related to the fact that I was using it on the regular for two years in the row? Hmmm. Keeping it for the fall/ winter season.
5. Revlon Colorburst Matte Balm in Audacious (reviewed here). DECLUTTER. I had such a hard time letting go of this one, but the strongest indicator that it belongs in the outgoing pile was the fact that I have kept it in my daily make-up tray for about 2 months and haven't felt inclined to wear it out even once. It's such a fun white-based neon orange shade - one of the very few orangey shades that look good on me - but I find it too difficult to wear. I guess I'm just not that audacious, you know? (Terrible pun - I'm sorry.) Also, when I was lip-swatching it for this post, I just couldn't get it to apply evenly on the lips, which you can kind of see in the close-up photo. Time to say goodbye.

Two more lip products exiting my stash this time round; not too bad, if I dare say so myself. I imagine that from this point onward, it's going to be increasingly difficult to declutter products, because my lip stash is already quite paired down compared to what it was a few years back. We shall see though - I find going through all of my products, rediscovering old favorites and experimenting with mixing shades quite enjoyable anyway. What lip colors have you been wearing recently?

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Recent Skincare Empties and Mini Reviews

Alright, here it goes: I'm tired of typing up long empties posts. Sigh. At the same time, I do think they're helpful and yes, it does often happen that my opinion on a product changes by the time I reach the bottom of the packaging - so it'd be nice to give you a little update on my past reviews. Therefore I've decided to continue posting facial skincare empties and to skip the rest, meaning bodycare and haircare. I generally spend the most on products for my face, so I have a feeling that skincare empties will be the most interesting to you as well.
The Body Shop Camomile Silky Cleansing Oil. I don't have a separate review for this on the blog, but I've been using it since October/ November of last year and have just now used it up completely. The pros: it removes most of my make-up, it's affordable (obviously when scored on a 40% off sale) and it doesn't contain mineral oil. The cons: it doesn't rinse clean (but doesn't leave a residue when removed with a warm wash cloth) and the packaging leaks, leaving oil rings everywhere. All in all: I may repurchase at some point, but I've recently tried a sample of the Clinique Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm, and even though the Clinique one is pricier, I thought its effectiveness would be worth the extra expense.

TATCHA Luminous Deep Hydration Eye Serum* (previously mentioned here). I did like this eye serum from Tatcha for daytime, but I wouldn't purchase another one myself. The main reason is that I don't have nearly $100 to drop on a daytime eye cream - I'm saying daytime because I don't think it's moisturizing enough for me for overnight. The other reason is the packaging: unfortunately, the lovely gold accent on the tube starts flaking off pretty quickly, leaving random specks of glitter on my face, and the soft squishy tube actually cracked on me from squeezing. Also... do I really need a separate eye cream for the day? I'd prefer to use just one really good product day and night, you know?

Nuxe Reve de Miel Nourishing Lip Balm. This was my second jar (that I bought myself) and I have another one I received from PR waiting in the wings. Still the best overnight lip balm I have found so far and the closest I've come to a Holy Grail.

Paula's Choice Resist Daily Smoothing Treatment with 5% AHA* (originally reviewed here). My thoughts still stand - this was my second bottle of this product and I enjoyed it just as much as the first. I'm using a different chemical exfoliant from Paula at the moment, and I honestly miss the 5% AHA. I think I really noticed a difference in the overall brightness, tone and clarity of my skin.

Paula's Choice CLEAR Extra Strength Anti-Redness Exfoliating Solution 2% BHA (separate review here). It's a decent product, but to be honest, by the end of the bottle I was definitely ready to move onto something else. I don't know - maybe the longer I used it, the less of a result I could see? All in all, I preferred the Daily Smoothing Treatment with 5% AHA.

One Love Organics Brand New Day Microderma Scrub and Masque (deluxe sample). I moved onto this enzyme powder exfoliant after finally using up my jar of TATCHA Classic Rice Enzyme Powder*.  While the One Love Organics scrub did the job, I do like the TATCHA one more, but I think I've found the fairest of them all - the Amore Pacific Treatment Enzyme Peel, which I purchased a deluxe sample of in the last Sephora Beauty Insider sale (the mini was part of a set).

Neal's Yard Remedies Deliciously Ella Rose, Lime & Cucumber Moisturizer* (reviewed here). I felt a little ambivalent about this moisturizer when I first started using it, but it actually really grew on me. Yes, it's pretty basic - but for whatever reason, it was just right for my skin: moisturizing without feeling heavy. I used it every night until the last drop, and now that I've replaced it with a face oil, I miss it.

Laneige Brightening Sparkling Water Foam Cleanser*. Oooh, a foaming cleanser, quelle horreur. In all honesty, my husband mainly used it up, with just a little bit of help from me. In short, it wasn't our favorite. Mr thought the foam texture was a gimmick to get one to finish the product faster and have to repurchase more frequently, while for me it just felt like washing my face with a shaving foam. It also felt a little too drying - no surprises there. It's probably my least favorite product I've tried from Laneige.
My skincare routine does look a bit different these days as a result of finishing so many products and replacing them with other bits I've already had squirrelled away in my back-up stash, so I'm probably due for an update (last routine can be found here). Have you already revamped your skincare for spring and summer? So far, I've mostly just added sunscreen... 

Disclaimer: Products marked with an asterix (*) were 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 product featured was purchased with my own money or provided free of charge. Thank you for reading!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

A Week in Lipstick #1: Keep or Declutter

Wait, how could I possibly have more lip products to declutter? Surely I can't have all that much left after taking stock and envisioning what my ideal lipstick collection would be, as discussed in this post. Except that I do; I still seem to have some lip products in my stash that I've never worn - those mostly join the troops via gifts with purchase - or older products I haven't worn in months and need to reassess.
I find that it's a completely different beast to look through your lip stash and decide what you want to part ways with just by what you remember about the products you're looking at, versus actually pulling out those items and wearing them again for a day or two. If you're anything like me, when I look at my lip products all neatly lined up in the acrylic container, I immediately think 'Nooo, there's no way I can declutter any of my pretties!'. However, once these pretty bullets get applied and reapplied to the lips, I often notice that in fact there is a valid reason why I rarely reach for a given product - be it because of the shade, finish, fragrance/ taste or texture.

So I've decided to go through my lipstick collection with a fine tooth comb again by wearing everything for a full day and then deciding whether it stays or goes - very much like PetitePearStyle in her Keep or Donate series (here). I slowly go through all of my make-up stash anyway by using a monthly make-up basket, but because I switch out my products quite infrequently, it would take me a long time before I got to every lip product I own - and then I'd probably omit these 'special occasion' shades since my basket (in reality, a drawer in a desk organizer - I'll show it to you some other time) consists of casual everyday wear type of products. Anyway, without further ado, here are swatches of what I wore recently and my final thoughts:

I'm attempting to wear brighter colors for spring 🌈 but when I tried on this @essencemakeup Stay With Me #lipgloss in Candy Bar 🍭this morning, I immediately thought NOPE 👎 . It looks more neon on the lips than in this photo and I almost can't believe I used to love this shade. The gloss is about 2 years old now so I think it's time to part ways 👋 I'm also in the process of going through all my lip products and reevaluating what I want to keep. I gravitate towards more neutral shades these days (with the exception of some reds and berries) and I don't want to have a lot of brights 'just in case'. Let me know if you want to see what I end up #decluttering. #bbloggers #lipswatch #brightlips #wakeupandmakeup #essencecosmetics #drugstoremakeup #springmakeup #ultabeauty #corallips #shopmystash #makeupdeclutter
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Essence Stay With Me Long Wearing Lip Gloss in Candy Bar (also swatched here): DECLUTTER.
This is the product that spurred this declutter on, which I also shared on Instagram - and had many of you express interest in seeing the rest of the purging process. Like I said in my IG post, I used to really enjoy wearing this very bright coral shade, but now I find that it's just way too much and I feel overly made-up when I wear it. It's also 3 years old at this point, so I've just decided to toss it.
Fresh Sugar Shine Lip Treatment in Rose (deluxe sample; I reviewed the Clear shade here): KEEP.
I still really like this gloss formula from Fresh - it feels almost more like a lip oil than an actual gloss, and like the Sugar lip balms, it's very nourishing. Rose is a sheer warm rosy red on me; it's nothing spectacular but it brings some life and definition to my lips. One thing I dislike about these Lip Shine minis is that the stopper pulls too much of the product of the wand, making me dip in at least 5 times to coat my lips, and who has time for that? And once you take the stopper out, the tube usually becomes too messy to carry the product around. Still, I'm keeping it and intend to try and use it up this year; I've just noticed that Sephora now only carries one shade of this product, so it's probably being discontinued :(
LORAC Alter Ego Lip Gloss in Goddess (deluxe sample from a GWP): DECLUTTER.
Goddess is this super trendy muted cool mauve shade with an almost greyish undertone, and since I really like cool-toned mauves, I was excited to try it. Aaand... big fat NOPE. Unfortunately, this shade makes me look quite ill, and I don't need additional help in that direction with how zombie-like I look nowadays (pale winter skin + lack of sleep). Yes, it could be a statement lip if that's your thing, but for a strange but wonderful purple lip, I'd prefer to wear Pacifica Beach Goth (reviewed here). On the plus side, I found this gloss to have a nice even pigmentation, comfortable texture and pleasant vanilla scent, so I would consider purchasing a different shade. Goddess is going though.
SUQQU Creamy Glow Moist Lipstick in no. 3 Fuyuzakura (reviewed here): KEEP.
I still really enjoy this luxury lipstick, both because of the shade and the onctuous formula that feels nourishing on the lips. I would probably purchase another shade if SUQQU was more easily available to me (and less expensive), but as it is, I'm intending to use Fuyuzakura down to the smallest nub and enjoy it as much as I can in the process.
bareMinerals Pop of Passion Lip Oil-Balm in Pink Passion (deluxe sample from a GWP): DECLUTTER.
In fact, the lip swatch you're seeing here is only half Pink Passion and half Fresh Sugar Tinted Lip Treatment in Tulip (reviewed here). You probably were not able to tell right away though because these hot pinks are near exact dupes. However, the textures of these two products are completely different: where the Fresh Sugar is soft and thick, the bareMinerals is thin and waxy. Pink Passion also somehow migrates towards the outside of my lips right after application (which you can somewhat see in the photo). I have no need or want for two hot pink tinted lip balms in my stash, so I'm giving away the formula I like a lot less.

That's it for this round; I've decided to only include five products in this post because truthfully, I usually don't wear make-up every single day of the week, but even if I do, I usually repeat a shade or two at least once. I hope this was interesting to read - I'm getting more and more ruthless in downsizing my make-up collection, you guys. I think once you catch the decluttering bug, it's hard to stop scrutinizing your possessions (unless you did an exceptionally thorough job the first time round and haven't added anything new since). Have you given away or trashed any lip poducts recently?

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Drugstore Acid Tone: Nip + Fab Exfoliate Glycolic Fix Night Pads Extreme

I love trying out new products (hence this blog, duh) and I keep purchasing new things even when I know I've already found a favorite in a given category. Case in point: I love the First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads (reviewed here), and I've repurchased them multiple times. But then I heard some buzz about these Nip + Fab Exfoliate Glycolic Fix Night Pads Extreme ($14.99 for 60 pads at Ulta), and I immediately thought 'Fabulous! These could be a dupe for the FAB pads at half the price!'. Uhm, yeah. So I bought them. Because I'm also cheap.
Needless to say, they're not a dupe, neither in terms of ingredients or performed function in my skincare routine (and speaking of dupes where it comes to skincare is tenuous at best, to be honest). But let me back up a little: the Nip + Fab exfoliating pads contain 5% glycolic acid and an undisclosed concentration of mandelic, salicylic and lactic acids; I'm guessing not very much since they're towards the end of the INCI list. The pads also contain glycerin, niacinamide and panthenol, and they're alcohol-free. They're not however fragrance-free; there's a prominent lemon scent which strongly reminds me of floor/ bathroom cleaner - that's probably my biggest gripe with the product.
The directions specify to use these pads 2-3 times a week at night, or just once a week if your skin is sensitive. I use these every night; 5% glycolic isn't actually very high (same as Pixi's Glow Tonic, for example, which is my second favorite - reviewed here), and I don't find these pads to be overexfoliating. They do however seem to be 'stronger' than the First Aid Beauty Pads - on my skin, Nip + Fab tingle a lot more, and I'd say they keep my complexion a bit clearer (but also a touch drier) than the more expensive pads. I can definitely see the difference in the texture of my skin when I use these, and I think they're effective at keeping pores a bit tighter and minimizing breakouts.
HOWEVER. That's not exactly what I was using my First Aid Beauty Pads for. I always liked to use the FAB pads in the mornings to give my skin a little exfoliating boost and help with the absorption of other products layered on top, overall providing a nice glowy canvas for make-up application. The Nip + Fab pads leave my skin a bit too red to be used in the mornings, be it due to AHA/BHA concentration, added fragrance or the rougher texture of the pad itself. Soo... for me personally, the Nip + Fab Night Pads Extreme definitely are NOT replacing the FAB pads in my routine, and I am going back to the more expensive option once I finish my tub.

As for trying to save some pennies (or being cheap, lol): that didn't work out all that great either. I actually cut my FAB pads in half, therefore paying $30 for 120 applications. With the Nip + Fab pads, they don't have enough solution to be cut and used over the whole face, working out to be $14.99 for 60 appplications, so pretty much the same cost per use as my favorite pads. Lesson learnt, folks - I'm not going to try to mess with a firm favorite. I've now tried A LOT of different AHA/BHA products, both drugstore and high-end, and I usually go right back to the FAB pads for my morning acid tone (I'm still more adventurous with the night time routine though). I hope this review was helpful and please let me know what your tried and true exfoliating product is!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Casual Red: ILIA Tinted Lip Conditioner in Bang Bang*

Oh, hai - I'm that beauty blogger you used to follow who all of a sudden kinda disappeared off the face of the Internet. But seriously, I know I said I'd like to start posting more a few posts back, and then couldn't get my sh*t together for the entire month of March, but hey - life's not easy with very little sleep. Anyway, I'm not here to talk about THAT; instead, I've wanted to show you my favorite red as of late.
You may remember I was quite a fan of ILIA Beauty Lipsticks that I first tried last year, and after that discovery, my interest was piqued and I couldn't wait to get my hands on one of the brand's cult products, the Tinted Lip Conditioner* ($26 for 0.14 oz/ 4g, available on Ilia's website here, as well as at Sephora). I asked my lovely PR person for the shade Bang Bang, hoping for a brightening red suitable for everyday wear, and I wasn't disappointed.
In terms of formula of the ILIA's Tinted Lip Conditioner, I would actually refer you to my review of their Lipsticks (here). That's right - I don't find that there's major difference in texture between the two. The Lip Conditioner is a rather firm lip product, very unlike my other favorite sheer lip formula, the Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment (here's my review of the shade Tulip in case you're curious). Ilia's tinted balm is waxier and feels a lot thinner on the lips than the Fresh, so if you find that the latter is too slippery for your liking, you'd be much happier with Ilia's Lip Conditioner.
I was also quite surprised at the level of pigmentation in Ilia's 'sheer' formula - maybe it's down to the shade, but I found Bang Bang to be nearly as opaque as Ilia's Lipstick range. You will get a more translucent look with one of two layers of both the Tinted Lip Conditioner AND the Lipstick; I've built up several layers of both products in my arm swatch, and you can see that the Lipstick is more pigmented, but you could also keep on going with the Tinted Lip Conditioner for near full opacity. That's exactly what the brand intended though so no complaints here - just know that if you're picking one of the brighter shades in the Tinted Lip Conditioner range, you won't get a 'barely there' tint but rather a nice pop of color.
L-R: Ilia Tinted Lip Conditioner in Bang Bang, Aveda Nourish-Mint Lip Gloss in Chuparosa, Ilia Lipstick in Lucy's Party
Bang Bang is a neutral classic red - on my cool-toned skin it reads rather warm, but I think it still suits my coloring, and would be a great choice for nearly all skintones. I actually love experimenting with mixing and layering Bang Bang with other lip products; I loved doing a gradient lip with the above-mentioned Fresh Sugar balm in Tulip, and I also think it looks great mixed in with my other favorite from Ilia, the Multi-Stick in Fine Romance (reviewed here).
There you go - I hope you enjoyed this little review of another product from Ilia's range. In case you were not aware, Sephora US now carries a few more Ilia products, including my beloved Multi-Sticks, as well as most of their lip range: regular Lipsticks, the Tinted Lip Conditioners, AND Lipstick Crayons. All of these products can be found here (non-affiliate link). I'm myself very tempted to purchase At Last, a dusty rose in the Multi-Stick formula, during the spring sale event :) What have you got on your wishlists at the moment? I'd love to know!

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

Monday, February 13, 2017

Do I Need It? Cremorlab Mineral Treatment Essence Review

The Cremorlab Mineral Treatment Essence ($42 for 270ml/ 9.1 oz on Peach & Lily, or ~$35 on Amazon) is a prime example of a product that sucked me in purely by its beautiful packaging. I spotted it at the Peach & Lily K-Beauty sample sale last summer and even though I'd never heard about the brand let alone this specific product, I thought it just looked too beautiful to pass up, and one can always incorporate an essence into their skincare routine, right?
Uhm, on that note. How do you guys feel about essences, the curious in-between a toner and a serum? Do you love them and always remember to apply for an extra boost of hydration, or do you find them completely superfluous and not worth the time? Because I can't make up my mind, and the Mineral Treatment Essence has only served to confuse me further.
As you can see, this beautifully designed bottle houses a clear liquid that's just a hair thicker than plain water in consistency - I forgot to show you but once you unscrew the cap, there's just a small hole at the top for dispensing the essence. The instructions advise you to either pour a little bit out into the palm of your hand and pat directly onto the face (which is what I prefer), or to use a cotton square and wipe like you would with a regular toner.

This Cremorlab essence does contain mostly water - according to the brand's marketing, their proprietory T.E.N. thermal water - as well as several flower waters/ hydrosols (rose, chamomile, lily and cornflower), a ferment extract (akin to the cult SK-II Essence, reviewed here), niacinamide and glycerin. There's no added fragrance although I think there's a very faint scent from the niacinamide, which to me smells a bit like nicotin - not my favorite but I've always liked the effect of this active ingredient on my skin. Cremorlab claims their Essence will hydrate, brighten and smooth your skin's texture.
Do I think the Mineral Treatment Essence actually works? Yes, I do - but the results are not very noticeable. Overall, I would say my face feels softer and smoother, and a bit more even-toned. However, is the effect worth paying over $40 for and in my particular situation (tired new mom), worth spending an extra minute or two to complete my skincare routine? I'm not so sure. Here's the thing - I don't think I can consistently stick to a routine with the added step of an essence between my toner and a serum. What I can do is replace a toner with an essence - which is how I'm using the Cremorlab Essence currently - but in all honesty, I do prefer the speed and convenience of using a spray toner. I wouldn't replace a serum with an essence though; I believe I get better results in terms of hydration or other concerns (hyperpigmentation, breakouts, what have you) from a serum than an essence such as this one. I also haven't noticed the essence working to boost the performance of my serums; I don't see any 'deeper penetration' of ingredients or anything of the sort, and while you can notice better absorption, that's also true for most regular toners (applying any serum on damp skin).
All in all, I think the Cremorlab Mineral Treatment Essence is a good product, but I'm not planning to repurchase it, or any other essence for that measure. Once my bottle runs out, I'll just go back to using a spray toner, because of, erm, mostly laziness, I guess. How many steps/ products are there in your skincare routine? Do you prefer to do the basic cleanse/tone/moisturize or do you go full throttle K-beauty with its 10+ steps?

Saturday, February 4, 2017

2016 Skincare No Buy and Make-up Low Buy Finale

Tsk tsk, I know - so very late of me to be posting the finale of my 2016 Skincare No Buy and Make-up Low Buy (click here for the Introduction post) in February of 2017. Nonetheless, given how much you guys enjoyed my updates on this project I embarked on last year, I thought I'd share one last post on how I was doing the final quarter of 2016, and my overall experience and thoughts on this volontary beauty shopping ban I subjected myself to.

In short, I didn't REALLY follow my skincare no buy and make-up low buy anymore from October til December of last year. I wasn't really beauty shopping a lot either, given that about 98% of my energies were focused on the tiny human who joined our family. To be completely honest, I couldn't really be bothered anymore to follow my strict self-imposed rules. So yeah, sometimes when I was slumped on the couch during one of Julian's naps and I needed a little pick me up, I'd go online beauty shopping - mostly at Ulta to be precise. I somehow managed to hit Platinum status there, but in my defence, a lot of the things I buy from there were for my husband or gifts for other family members, so I don't feel too guilty about that.

While I'm not going to hunt down every purchase and list it in this post (not just because I'm lazy - I also think that would be boring for you guys), here are some of the make-up things I bought that I can recall right now: 3 MLBB mauvey lipsticks, one cream finish and two mattes, because that's what I've been wanting to wear the most, one liquid pen eyeliner (as I had none in my collection and wanted to wear one again) and one waterline pencil liner (not satisfied with the longevity of the ones I own), one brow pencil I've had on my wishlist for over a year (so now I own 3 brow products total), one blush and a holiday set from Laura Geller including a blush (not sure how I feel about it, may give it away), a lipgloss and a face primer. I also purchased a liquid lipstick and a new foundation, but returned both - I'm now resigned to the fact that matte liquid lipsticks make my lips look dry and shrivelled up, and the foundation was a wrong shade and I thought made me look too oily in the T-zone halfway throughout the day. Looking at this list, definitely most of what I bought wasn't necessary, and I certainly surpassed my allowance of two products a month. But you bet it was fun and I am in fact using and enjoying my new pretties - the ones I felt iffy about went back immediately. Isn't that the whole point?

The other aspect I wanted to touch on is free gifts with purchase, which I somehow scored quite a lot of in 2016. I'll come clean with you - I really, really enjoy hunting down coupon codes or buying during retailers' special events to get freebies. So even if I'm not placing orders for myself or only purchasing replacements, I'll usually still receive extra products to add to my collection.  What can I say? I know it's a loop hole and if the GWP doesn't contain items I was going to buy anyway, there's no sense in striving to get one - so I do try to only go for the ones I'm genuinely interested in trying. Sometimes I will still receive something that I don't care for, or that doesn't work out when I do test it, and on such occasions I simply pass on the product, be it full size or deluxe sample, to someone else who may get more enjoyment out of it. The same applies to PR samples I'm occasionally sent for review.

In terms of skincare, I purchased two affordable products: a new cleansing balm (my current cleansing oil is half used up already) and exfoliating pads, which I'm already using as I managed to finish some other acid toners from my stash. I could have postponed these purchases until a bit later, say beginning of 2017, but I was placing an order for something else and wanted to get to free shipping (or a GWP, in all honesty), so that's what I opted to do. Again, I don't feel too guilty about breaking my no-buy: sure, I didn't absolutely need those products right away, but I am using or will shortly be using what I bought, so it's not a big deal really.
Back-up drawer as of last update, September 2016
Back-up drawer in January 2017
Throughout the last quarter of 2016, I did continue using up my back-up skincare as well as giving away products I realized I wouldn't use, and as a result I believe that my back-up drawer is looking much better - I even have some space in it now should the need arise to store a new purchase or a PR sample. My husband has also been using more skincare, so I have his help in getting through at least some categories of products, like face wash and facial oils.

Overall, I have to admit that I haven't had huge success with my limited shopping allowances in the last months of 2016 if you look at the number of products I purchased. However, I don't actually care about that and weirdly enough, I do feel succesful about this year-long project. The main reason is that I believe my mentality towards beauty shopping has in fact changed for good. Yes, I still love buying and trying out new make-up and skincare, but I don't go crazy purchasing every new release and most certainly I've stopped buying products which are not relevant to my preferences or lifestyle. I buy products that I enjoy and use consistently. Do I buy too many? Definitely - it's not like anyone NEEDS to own as many lipsticks or blushes as I do. I like having them though, and that's okay.

This is also how I feel about going on low buys or no buys in the future: I think I'm ready to move away from doing structured projects and instead just continue working on keeping a healthy balance between shopping and using what I already own. In the skincare category, I still want to continue using up my back-ups and ensure I'm not purchasing extra products that are not needed at the time. In terms of make-up, I do want to give myself leeway to get something I'm interested in if I believe I'm going to be able to enjoy it right away, but at the same time, I'd like to give some love and attention to the beautiful products already in my stash. If I happen upon something in my collection I don't like anymore, I will pass it on or throw it away with a clear conscience, but I don't really care about 'ideal numbers' or inventoring my make-up - as long as I enjoy everything I own, even if it's a lipstick I only wear a few times a year, I'm completely fine with 'having more than I need'.

I will also be working on actually using up some make-up products from my stash - and not just mascara - and I'll be documenting my progress on Instagram if you're curious to see it. Last year I managed to use up 23 make-up products (both full size and minis, which I counted as half of a product, so 2 make-up minis = 1 full empty), but I think this year I'm not going to have as much time to wear a full face, so I'm going to set my goal at 17 (17 in 2017, get it? Not an original idea by the way but I don't know who started these '16 in 2016' and other challenges so I'm sorry but can't give credit). Who knows, maybe I'll surprise myself and use up even more. Knowing myself, I know these products will mostly be of the cream and liquid variety and not pressed or loose powders, so for my eyeshadows, blushes and bronzers I would like to see some pan occasionally, but not at the expense of forcing myself to use one and the same product for months if I don't feel like it.

Whoa, now that was a long and rambly post to get through, wasn't it? I felt however that I needed to get some closure on this Skincare No Buy & Make-up Low Buy challenge, and wanted to share my current thoughts on the spending bans and panning projects (more ramblings on make-up panning can be found here, and my opinion still stands). Were you satisfied with the results of your limited spending projects in 2016? What are your plans going forward?

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Not My Kind of Red: NARS Velvet Lip Glide in Le Palace

How 'bout I distract you from this dark and dreadful time we seem to be going through with some make-up? I was really excited to score this deluxe mini of the NARS Velvet Lip Glide ($26 for 0.2 oz/ ~6 ml) with a Sephora order late last year. I've heard really good things about this new formula, including adjectives such as 'unique', 'weightless' and 'long-lasting', and I'm all about innovation when it comes to beauty products. Also, how beautiful is this simple yet elegant packaging?
However, having acquainted myself with my Lip Glide over several days of wear, I'm a little confused. First of all, shouldn't the shade be called Le Palais? (Uhm, seems like Le Palace is a famous hotel/ night club in Paris, so probably the brand didn't just mean any palace. Okay then). But joking aside, I feel very conflicted over this lip product. Is it a gloss? Is it a liquid lipstick? Is it a stain?

The texture of this product is quite slippery and feels silicone-y on the lips - a little bit like a 'dry oil' or one of those dimethicone-heavy face primers, if you will. The brand promises a 'semi-matte' finish', but to be honest, I see quite a bit of shine on my lips, especially right after application, but then it dries down to more of a satin as the time goes on. It seems that you can vary the finish depending on the amount of product you choose to put on: one fine layer is a satin, a thicker coat or two layers look quite glossy. The overall formulation quite reminds me of Fyrinnae Lip Lusters, which are not a new product by any means - I reviewed two shades of those (Shangri-La and Visual Kei, here) back in 2012. There's a pleasant sweet vanilla scent to the NARS Lip Glide but luckily no taste.

I would agree that the Velvet Lip Glide feels quite weightless on my lips, which you'd expect from something with a rather thin formula. Unfortunately, as the day goes on, it feels neither comfortable nor hydrating. If anything, my lips feel a lot drier than with just about any standard bullet lipstick, and having looked at the ingredients' list, I'm not surprised - kaolin clay is the second ingredient. You know, clay as in stuff you put on your face to help with oily T-zone and to tighten pores. Am I the only one confused by that?
To top it all off, I don't find my Velvet Lip Glide to be any more long-lasting than just about any cream finish lipstick in my collection. Sure, once it wears off (which it does very quickly on cups and tissues and so on), there is a bit of a stain left behind, but that's also true for my other lip products in red and deeper shades. But overall, my biggest gripe with this formula is the fact that it feathers and bleeds outside my lip lines, even when I use the smallest amount of the product.
L-R: NARS Velvet Lip Glide in Le Palace, NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Cruella, ILIA Beauty Lipstick in Lucy's Party
The shade Le Palace is described as a 'deep cherry red'. I can't say I agree with that description - to me, cherry red suggests a cool-toned red a la Revlon's 'Cherries in the Snow', while Le Palace is decidedly warm and even pulls a little orange on my fair skin with cool undertones. I'd describe it more as a 'paprika red'. It's not really a very deep red either; don't expect a vampy look out of this Lip Glide. While Le Palace doesn't do anything for me, I think it'd be a flattering hue on skin with yellow or olive undertones.
L-R: NARS Le Palace (one dip of the wand into the tube), NARS Cruella, ILIA Lucy's Party
There you go; can't say I'm too smitten with this new release from NARS, and Le Palace has now been placed in my give-away make-up pile. Have you tried the Velvet Lip Glides? What did you think?

PS. Thank you for all the caring, wonderful comments on my last personal update post and an even bigger thank you for those who shared their stories with me - I feel very grateful to have such amazing readers as you. To those of you who seemed very worried and urged me to see a doctor: like I said, I do already feel much better but should it get worse again, I will of course talk to my health practitioner. Also, look who was trying to help me take photos for this post - you're welcome ;)

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Keep calm and blog on.

Long time no post, dear readers! I'm hesitating to write this update; however, I've always been striving to share with you exactly what's on my mind, in the hopes it may be at least a little useful for someone. This is probably the most difficult thing I've ever written, but also maybe the most necessary. So, here goes - if you're interested in just my beauty reviews, this post is not it - so check back soon for regular service.

Life's been a bit difficult for me these past few months. I know you guys are probably thinking 'Duuh! You've just had a baby!', but I'm not really talking difficult as in 'have no time for anything - feeling tired' kinda way. Before Julian was born, I'd been expecting that and I *think* I'd been mentally prepared, but what I hadn't been prepared for was feeling utterly lost and not like myself. Call it what you will - mood swings, baby blues (I'd hesitate to call it postpartum depression since I don't think it got as severe as to be diagnosed as such), existential crisis - the point is, I've been really struggling lately.

There were days and now thankfully just episodes during the day when I feel unexplicably sad, and worried about the baby, and somehow empty inside, like a hollow husk of a person I used to be. I can't wait until the day is finally over because it seems like such an ordeal to get through, and I'm so frustrated and angry at myself for even thinking it. At the same time, I dread the night time, because if he - and I - keep waking up again and again and again, I know that the next day is going to be even harder. You know how other mothers say - "Oh my gosh, time flies, they grow up too quickly!", and here I am, thinking "No, not at all, the days drag on without end, I can't wait for this to be over - but will it ever be over? Will I ever feel normal again?'.

Before you all write it in the comments, I AM incredibly grateful to have Julian in my life - a beautiful, happy, healthy baby - but at the same time, I feel broken and undeserving of such a blessing. Every little challenge I face with him makes me think I'm a bad mother, and he'll suffer because of my stupidity or lack of insight. Reasonably, I KNOW these are ridiculous thoughts but oftentimes I cannot help thinking them, and I am so mad at myself that I can't just snap out of them.

The reason I've decided to write about my state of mind is because I think that we women don't talk about the postpartum recovery process enough. We gush about the cuteness of our babies and brag about having our figures back while glazing over the more challenging facets. Obviously, we don't all struggle this much as new mothers, but some of us do, and I believe it's important to acknowledge it so that we don't feel so insane - and alone.

I was fortunate enough to have a very easy pregnancy and a standard, safe delivery, but now, at 4 months postpartum, I'm still not completely well - both mentally and physically. The ailing hip/ groin area I was experiencing towards the end of my pregnancy has not gone away, and it's since been joined by a backache. My hair is falling out so much I decided to chop it all off. I'm not just 'not sleeping enough' - at the lowest point when Julian was waking nearly every hour at night I was so sleep deprived I didn't even feel human anymore. I still feel weak and sluggish, and there's absolutely no way I feel up to working out to shed those extra pounds or to 'get my body back' - at the moment, I couldn't care less to be honest, and heading out for daily strolls is about all I can manage right now.

Well, enough of the pity party; I just wanted to say that the going's been rough, but I do see the light at the end of the tunnel. We've been sleeping better lately, and I think that maybe my hormones are becoming more balanced, and I'm starting to feel like myself again. I've also been taking more magnesium and it seems to be helping. The point of all this rambling is that I feel that I'd like to start blogging again. Writing is still my passion and I think it's something I need to do for myself, now maybe more than ever before in my life. However, I do realize it's not going to be easy, mostly due to time constraints - I'm not going to lie though, I know there will be days when even if I do have the time, I just won't have enough energy to write. And I think that's okay too.

To sum it all up, I'm back - sort of. I'll do my best to post, but I'm not going to be posting as often as I used to in the past. The reviews may get shorter and not as thorough. Photos may not be as plentiful. At times I may even not make any sense, and I apologize in advance. But carry on I shall, and carry on I will. Thank you for sticking with me, friends - I'm clicking 'Publish' before I chicken out.