make-up & pretty things review #1

As previously mentioned, this post is dedicated to reviewing beauty products (sorry dudes if this bores you). When I started compiling my stash of products to review, I realized there were a lot more items that I wanted to talk about than I initially thought. So to prevent from boring you all with lots and lots of text, I figured it would be better to concentrate on no more than 10 items per review, and aim for 1 review every week or two. I’ll also make a note now that I’m no make-up guru, and everything I review are based on my personal experiences and my personal opinions.

Let me start off with a bit of background info. I only really developed an interest in make-up back in September, when I turned 26 realizing I was getting older (not old haha) and should probably brush up on my make-up skills in case I ever wanted the option to create a different look for a night out or a special event. Since my everyday look is pretty basic (eye liner, concealer, blush and occasionally lip gloss), I wanted to figure out what other looks work on me and, perhaps more importantly, what looks don’t work on me.

With that said though, I was never a stranger to make-up. In fact, I was exposed to make-up very early in life because of my dancing background. I started wearing make-up when I began performing at the age of 3, and was putting on my own make-up by the time I was 9. Even though I only wore it for performances, I knew then that I was never going to enjoy the feeling of having make-up plastered all over my face. That is why to this day, I very rarely wear foundation on my face.

One of my biggest problems is I can’t wear a lot of eye makeup. I’ve played with different coloured eyeshadows in the past, but colour just never seemed to work on me. I eventually learned that having big eyes was my problem. Unlike most people who wear eye make-up to draw attention to their eyes, I can’t wear a lot of eye make-up because anything in excess would accentuate my eyes too much. Through trial and error, I’ve discovered that a bit of eye liner, concealer, natural colour eye shadows and some blush is good enough. With some mascara and lipstick to finish the job, that’s it for my makeup routine.

This is so you understand why my makeup reviews are on simple products and natural colours. Not everything works on everyone, and just because certain colours worked on one person it doesn’t necessarily mean it will work on another. With that said, the products that I review here are based on what works for me and should only serve as your reference. Go out there and try things out. See what works for you and remember…sometimes, less is more.

My first “investment” was in these Sigma Makeup Brushes. I had seen a lot of good reviews for these brushes so I ordered the Naughty in Black Travel Kit to try them out. I picked this set because it had the most eye brushes that I wanted. It came with 7 brushes + a bonus F50 brush (not shown in above picture).

Sigma brushes are known to be most comparable to the quality of MAC brushes, except they are a fraction of the price. About 7-8 years ago, I bought the MAC 150 Large Powder Brush for $40 (or was it $50, I don’t remember). Here we have the most expensive Sigma brush for $19. Quite a difference eh?

Quality wise, they are really good for what you’re paying for. They are really soft and feel very nice on the face. Depending on the type of brush, they do come in natural and synthetic bristles. I actually prefer the Sigma brushes because I think they are slightly smaller than MAC brushes, which is great considering I have a small face. For anyone who wants a more in-depth review of the Sigma brushes, I am going to do another review on them later on. So stay tuned…

When you have good brushes, you need to take good care of them by cleaning them regularly. One of the important steps in brush cleaning is actually drying them properly. For this purpose, I found this nifty little gadget online called The Brush Guard. It is a flexible tube that is used to hold the bristles of the brush together when it dries. You insert the handle of the brush through one end of the tube and then pull it through to cover the hairs of the brush. In doing so, it keeps the hairs together so the brush retains its proper shape. Thus, it prolongs the life of the brush.

Before I physically saw the brush guards, I thought they were going to be of light foamy texture (like the protector thingys you sometimes see on pears at the supermarket). When I received my actual brush guards in the mail though, I was pleasantly surprised by how durable they were. They almost looked like they were made with fishing wire. That makes stretching them out to fit around the handle a little bit more difficult, but it definitely holds better. I really like the fact that the ends are glued or burned together so the “wires” don’t come apart easily.

The brush guards come in 4 different sizes. Shown above are the brush guards from the variety pack. From left to right, you have a large one (for powder/kabuki brushes), 2 medium ones (for foundation brushes), 2 small ones (for blush brushes), and 1 extra small one (for eye liner/shadow brushes). Besides the variety pack, you can also get packages with specific size brush guards. I picked up a package of each except for the large ones since I don’t own very many big brushes.

Price: Each package is US $5.50 + $2 shipping per order (to Canada).
Where to Buy: Online @ thebrushguard.com

One of my favourites from this batch of products is the Travalo, a mess-free and travel friendly atomizer. Instead of carrying a whole bottle of perfume/cologne with you everywhere you go, atomizers let you take out small amounts of perfumed liquid. Back in the day, I used to use the Issey Miyake L’Eau d’Issey Refillable Travel Spray, or “the bullet” as I used to call it. Buying the refills got really expensive, which is why I’ve stopped using L’Eau d’Issey.

I’ve also tried the atomizers from Sephora, but they leaked and were difficult to fill without a mess. This is exactly why I love the Travalo. At the bottom of the pocket-sized spray bottle is a pumping gadget. All you need to do to fill the Travalo is take your fragrance bottle, remove the nozzle, insert the little tube into the bottom of the Travalo and start pumping.

On the side of the bottle is a contents window that lets you see how much fragrance you have left inside it. This is also useful for when you are filling it so you know how far along you are. The little container holds about 50 sprays which, for someone like me who uses it only on occasion, can last a few months. When you’re done you can easily refill it again.

Price: Mine were $12.99 each.
Where to Buy: I got mine at Shoppers Drug Mart. The ones with the beauty boutiques should have them on circular displays where impulse items are featured.

When it comes to coverage for under the eyes, Yves Saint Laurent’s Touche Éclat is by far one of the best, most popular and highly reviewed products. But at close to $50 a pop, concealing those under-eye dark circles can get very expensive so I tend to reserve mine for special occasions. For regular daily use, the Maybelline Instant Age Rewind Double Face Perfector is a very good alternative. It’s the cheapest concealer I’ve used, but it’s also one of the best. Its fluid-like texture makes it easy to blend into the skin without making it look cakey, while providing good coverage at the same time.

Price: Anywhere from $9.99 to $14.99, depending on where you buy it from.
Where to Buy: Shoppers Drug Mart, Rex-all, Wal-mart or any supermarket that sells make-up.

In the last 8 months or so, I’ve developed quite the obsession for lipsticks and have tried a plethora of them. I have found that certain brands and colours work better for me. Tried and tested, here are my top 3 favourite drugstore lipsticks:

Rimmel Lasting Finish Intense Wear Lipstick in Airy Fairy ($4 – $7)
A lovely pinky mauve that compliments my skintone. It glides on very smoothly and doesn’t dry out my lips. I like that I can wear this with or without lipgloss on top. The packaging is simple but nice in its dark purple tube. My only problem is the cap falls off easily, but it might just be the one I happen to have. I bought 3 backups of this one so we’ll see what happens when I get to them.

Maybelline Moisture Extreme Lipstick in Sugar Plum Ice ($4 – $7)
This is by far my most used lipstick. As the name suggests, it is extremely moisturizing. Although it is fairly close to my natural lip colour, it provides a very nice glossy finish which is great because I don’t have to bother with a lipgloss on top of it. It goes with almost anything and I pretty much wear it everywhere.

Revlon ColorBurst™ Lipstick in Soft Nude ($7.99 – $11.99)
This is one of the best nude lipsticks I’ve found for my skin tone. I love it for its creamy formula because it doesn’t dry out my lips. I like to wear one layer of it with a peachy pink lip gloss on top. Since it is quite pigmented, one layer is enough for me. Overdoing it with a nude lipstick like this one will make you look ill. I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE the matte black packaging with the quilted detailing on every other side of the lipstick. It’s so chic! I wish every lipstick came like this.

Where to Buy: All 3 of these brands can be purchased at Shoppers Drug Mart, Rex-all, Wal-mart or any supermarket that sells make-up.

First of all, I’m not a fan of the packaging of this lipstick. Don’t like the wild animal print and I’m not crazy about the gold casing with the florescent pink. It’s also light in weight compared to all my other lipsticks so it takes a bit of getting used to. Now besides all that, the Victoria’s Secret Love Me Wild Limited Edition Lipstick in Instinct is a great lipstick.

It is possibly the creamiest lipstick I’ve ever used, which means it feels really nice on the lips. The colour works for me too. I think of it as a combination of Airy Fairy and Sugar Plum Ice. It’s not super pigmented, but it does give a bit of a frosty finish.

The only real downside to this lipstick is the price. At $18, it is 50 cents more expensive than a MAC lipstick. For me, it’s easier to justify paying for a MAC lipstick than one from VS at that price. However, I did use my $10 gift card for mine so I only paid $8 instead. (I did go back later with a 2nd $10 gift card to buy a backup of this lipstick.)

Where to Buy: Victoria’s Secret

favourite products for this winter

I’ve been meaning to do more posts with product reviews, so here’s a quick review of 8 products that I’ve started to use in the last few months. If you’re familiar with my reviews, you’ll know that I only write about things that I enjoy or like; I don’t like wasting time on reviewing things I don’t like. Since we’re in the middle of winter and it’s a pretty “dry” time of year, I’m recommending some moisturizing products that your skin may appreciate. Enjoy!

Philosophy Purity Cleanser ( $12 – 52 )

I first heard about the Philosophy Purity Cleanser through one of the popular Youtube beauty gurus, Holly Ann-AeRee, when she mentioned the ease of use of this product. My cleansing routine at the end of the night was so lengthy and none of the many cleansers I had tried previously worked well for me, so I decided to give this one a try. Sure enough, it worked like magic. The amount that’s equivalent to the size of a nickel is enough to take off all make-up (I don’t even need to spend money on face wipes anymore!). It leaves the face feeling clean and baby soft. I am happy to say my search for the perfect cleanser is now over.

They come in different size bottles, with the bigger bottles being more expensive. You do get more product for your money when you buy the bigger bottles, but I would recommend getting a small bottle to try first.

Where to Buy: Sephora – in-store and online.

Aveeno Skin Brightening Daily Scrub ( $10 – $14 )

It was actually my friend Anna who recommended this product to me. I’ve never used any other face scrubs besides my H2O Plus scrubs, so I was hesitant on trying this one at first. But once I used it, I fell in love instantly. Not only is it a light enough scrub for everyday use, it has a great formula that leaves the face slightly moisturized. Most scrubs will leave your skin feeling a bit dry or in need of a moisturizer. This one, though, is perfect as is. It’s great for those nights when you don’t have a lot of time and just want to give your face a quick treatment before you hit the sack.

Where to Buy: Local drugstores and supermarkets. If you can find a Rexall near you, they will probably be the cheapest when they have Aveeno sales (I got mine for $9.99). Loblaws and Superstore prices are comparable when they have sales too ($10.99). Shoppers Drug Mart is the most expensive of them all, although they are the most convenient with stores everywhere.

H2O Plus Face Oasis™ Dual-Action Exfoliating Cleanser ( $30 )

This one is a fairly new H2O Plus product, and I only discovered it a couple months ago when I picked it up randomly during the annual 20% off member sale. I like that it works well as cleanser and it also works well as an exfoliator. The fact that they are together in one product means you get to save time.

The difference between this exfoliating cleanser and the scrub mentioned previously is the Aveeno one leaves the face feeling nice afterward. This one feels a little bit more dry, so I tend to use it only on days when I haven’t had any product on my face. The first two products are the ones I use regularly on my work days.

Where to Buy: H2O Plus store at Eaton Center or order online. Not sure if The Bay at Eaton Center still carries H2O Plus products.

Aquafina Hydrating Lip Balm Trio ( $4.95 )

When it comes to lip balms, they are definitely no stranger to me. I have tried SO MANY of them in the past; cheap ones, expensive ones, drugstore ones, cosmetic brand name ones. None of them have ever worked on my frequently chapped lips. However, I had never tried a lip balm made by a water brand before my friend Anna recommended these Aquafina ones to me back in October. I am now in love with them.

I know lip balms are a personal thing; not all brands work on everyone, but at $4.95 for a package of 3 + a bonus tube of lip oil I`d recommend at least giving these a try. They contain jojoba oil, almond oil, and vitamin E.

Where to Buy: I have only been able to find them at Walmart. They are usually with the impulse items near the cashiers, hanging above the gums and chocolates.

Olay Ultra Moisture Body Wash ( $4.99 )

I found this lovely product totally by fluke when I picked it up at Shoppers (along with the In-Shower Lotion, as mentioned below) just to bring my total to $50. Since I was about $8 away from getting a $10 coupon, I figured I’d give these two Olay products a try for cheap. I was quite surprised at how much I liked it because it was indeed ultra moisturizing. I’ve been using mainly H2O Plus bath products, as well as body wash from Bath & Body works. In comparison, I’d say the Olay Ultra Moisture is the most moisturizing of the one’s I’ve tried. I like that even if I don’t use a lotion after I come out from the shower, my body still feels nice and smooth the next morning.

Where to Buy: Local drugstores and supermarkets. Only get it at Shoppers if they have it on sale for $3.99 or $4.99, otherwise they are charging too much at regular price.

Olay Ultra Moisture In-Shower Lotion ( $4.99 )

Absolutely LOVE this product. I was skeptical at first about the in-shower aspect of it, but once I tried it I was hooked. The best thing about this in-shower lotion is it works just like a lotion or body cream that you would use after you get out of the shower, except you use it IN the shower while you’re nice and warm. I find that I get lazy and don’t like to put on body lotions during the winter because it’s so cold once I get out of the shower, but this in-shower lotion solves that problem completely. I just put it on after I use my body wash, do a quick rinse, and then I’m done! An extra minute in the shower can keep my body moisturized for a good 16-20 hours. Not bad :)

Where to Buy: Selected drugstores. This one is a little bit harder to find. Seems like not every Shoppers carries it, but you will find it at some. Same with Rexall. I did not see it at Walmart when I was last in one.

Thymes Moonflower Hand Cream ( $18.95 )

This is the last of Anna’s recommendations. I only tried it once last week, but I couldn’t resist myself from getting it even at 21 bucks a pop after taxes. It’s a fairly nice hand cream because it’s not too light and not too thick. More importantly, it doesn’t leave your hands feeling greasy. But as far as hand creams go, I would choose the McBlooms one for $18 over this one because it offers twice as much product for the same amount of money. So why would I recommend the Thymes Moonflower Hand Cream? Well, I’ve only got one reason. The scent.

As described on the back, you “envelop your hands in deeply hydrating cream enriched with shea butter and vitamin E, while luxurious notes of cinnamon, sugared quince, myrtle leaves and smooth cognac lightly linger with the mysterious fragrance of twilight.” I honestly don’t know what twilight smells like, but if that is it then it sure smells gooooooood.

Where to Buy: The only place I`ve seen it at (to date) is at Teatro Verde. They have two locations, one in Yorkville and one at Bayview Village. There is a listing on the Thymes website for all the locations that carry Thymes products. You can also order directly from their website.

McBlooms Extremely Rich Cream ( $18 )

This is hands down the best hand cream I have ever used, and I`ve been using it for about 7 years now. It is THE solution for any one whose hands get extremely dry in the winter. Not only does it do a great job at moisturizing because it is extremely rich (as its name suggests), it also absorbs into the skin very quickly without leaving your hands feeling greasy. Those two points are the most important to me when it comes to choosing hand creams. In addition, this cream is unscented, which is great for guys who don`t want hand creams that make them smell girly.

Where to Buy: I have always bought mine at Chapters because it is the most convenient place for me to get them. McBlooms does have an online shop now if you want to have it shipped to you, though I am uncertain about their shipping charges.

25% off this thursday @ ~h2o+

Just wanted to do a quick update because H2O Plus will be having their annual 25% off sale this coming Thursday. Thought I would recommend a few products to you guys in case any of you were interested in trying their skin care.

I’ve been using H2O Plus for about 7 years and I pretty much swear by it. Marketed as sea-derived skin care, H2O Plus products are full of sea minerals, marine botanicals and plant extracts. I like the formulas for a lot of their products because it’s light, feels good on the skin and it does the job well. I can’t say that their products will work for everybody because I’ve never really had problems with my skin. But if you have normal skin like I do and just want to maintain it, this is a good brand for you.

H2O Plus is a bit more expensive than what you normally find in drugstores, but some of their products (though not all) are well worth the money. For me, skin care is one of the things I would never cheap out on. I have tried MANY of the H2O Plus products over the years and, through trial and error, have discovered some of their best products. Below is a brief review of some of the H2O Plus products I highly recommend.

Face Oasis™ Hydrating Lotion SPF 30
Formally known as the Face Oasis Plus Hydrating Fluid SPF 15, it’s my all-time favourite moisturizer. For a couple years, it was discontinued in Canada and I had to stock up on it while in New York and Hong Kong. When it finally returned to Canada, it was re-marketed with SPF 30. I love it because it is SO light and the skin absorbs it very quickly. It’s very difficult finding a moisturizer with SPF that isn’t thick and sticky. This one definitely comes out on top and I use it daily in the morning.

Face Oasis™ Cleansing Water
I use this every morning when I wash my face. It’s a good oil-free cleanser that’s refreshing. Personally, I wouldn’t use it to remove make-up because I feel like it’s too light to thoroughly clean the make-up from your face (maybe it’s psychological) and it doesn’t foam very well. However, it’s good for when your face is a bit oily and you want to give it a good wash to clear it up. It’s also great for cleaning make-up brushes and body sponges.

Sea Mineral Scrub
Absolutely LOVE this scrub. I haven’t tried a lot of different scrubs, but the ones I have tried were gritty and they’d hurt my face. This one is gentle enough to use almost every day (although due to lack of time I usually only use it 2-3 times a week). After massaging it throughout the face and then rinsing it off, you will instantly feel the difference. Highly highly recommend this one.

Night Oasis™ Oxygenating Rejuvenator
This one’s a good moisturizer for the night. Like all the other H2O Plus products, it’s light and feels great on. The skin absorbs it very quickly so you don’t have to put your face on your pillow with your face feeling all sticky (like you’re going to get moisturizer all over your pillowcase).

Spa Sea Marine Body Scrub
A fairly good scrub to exfoliate dry skin. Unlike the following product I’m going to talk about, this one needs to be followed up with the Exfoliating Marine Body Butter (which I think might be discontinued) or the moisturizer of your choice. Otherwise, you’ll come out of the shower feeling a bit like the moisture has been sucked out of your body. It does exfoliate well though.

Spa Sea Salt Skin Smoother
Another one of my LOVES. Everyone should try this. It is THE BEST thing your skin will ever experience. The sea salts do a great job at exfoliating your skin and the oil that the sea salts sit in the container with gives you the perfect finish. You won’t even need to follow up with a moisturizer. This one’s best used once or twice a week.

Spa Sea Salt Hydrating Body Butter
A good hydrating moisturizer for the body. It’s may seem thick at first but once you rub it in, the skin absorbs it quickly. I like to use this product to hydrate my skin on days when I don’t use a scrub. In the winter, I like to use this after using the Sea Salt Skin Smoother to help with the dry skin.

sometimes i like to feel pretty

My body is thoroughly exhausted and every single inch of me is aching. But besides that, I’m feeling GREAT! It’s unusual for me to be saying that; I’m almost always stressed or worrying. This week has been really good though. I think it has something to do with the change in work environment. I’ve very quickly adapted to the new store and I’m enjoying it a lot. Perhaps I should give credit to a book I read and highly recommended years ago called Who Moved My Cheese.

Or maybe it’s the big windows and the high ceilings. I find that watching the sun light up the city right in the core of downtown Toronto gives me a really nice feeling inside and it starts my day off right. I’m eating a bit more regularly now too! Even though my days at work are often physically draining, I find that I always leave work feeling happy. And that’s exactly how I like it.

It seems I’ve been spending my days either working or sleeping at home. Occasionally I’ll meet up with a friend or two, but squeezing in that “me” time is also really important. I like to pamper myself to relax, so I usually do my nails with a cup of tea next to me. Recently, my friend Anna recommended this nail polish to me and ever since I tried it I’ve been IN LOVE with it. It’s the Sally Hansen Complete Salon Manicure collection. The brush is wonderful and helps the polish glide on smoothly. It dries quickly and has a nice shiny finish. At $8.99, it’s a bit cheaper than some of the other ones I’ve used in the past (i.e. OPI, Chanel, MAC, essie). Shoppers had them on sale this week for $4.99 so I picked up the 3 shown in the picture below. From left to right: Raisin the Bar (320), Shell We Dance? (160), and Purple Pulse (470).

So my eventful week of MUSIC is arriving very soon. It kicks off on Saturday with my friend’s gig at the Hard Rock Cafe. You may remember him from a previous post of mine. Paul goes by the alias, The Identity Crisis. If any of you are going to be downtown on Saturday night, swing by and check him out! He’s quite the entertainer! hahaha