Friday, 30 August 2013

Summer Roundup #2: The Perfect Facial Sunscreen, Coola Cucumber

Hi, everyone! Time for the second installment of my Summer Roundup series. Today's post features a facial sunscreen that my oily skin has been totally loving during this warm weather, Coola Mineral Cucumber Matte Finish Sunscreen SPF30. This was another amazing find from Jacob & Sebastian here in Toronto and has really been indispensable during the hot, humid summer we've been having.

Before I get into what I love about this one, let me explain why it's been such a thrill to find a facial sunscreen that suits my skin. Having a combination/oily, sensitive, acne-prone complexion, most sunscreens have been quick to irritate and break me out and many leave my skin a greasy, shiny mess. Truly, finding a facial SPF that doesn't turn my face into a disaster has been quite the task. And Coola ended my quest!

In case you haven't heard of the brand (which I hadn't, until I saw it in Jacob & Sebastian and read about it on Into the Gloss), let me tell you a bit about it. Coola offers a wide range of facial and body sunscreens that are organic certified, cruelty-free, recyclable, vegan and free of preservatives. They work to use sustainable, locally-sourced, vitamin-rich ingredients that will nourish and protect even the most finicky of skin. They aim to incorporate a luxurious experience in their eco-friendly products, an aesthetic that is definitely felt with their Cucumber Matte Finish Mineral Sunscreen!

Here's the brand's description of what the formula has to offer:

Essentially, it promises to be an antioxidant-rich mineral sunscreen offering UVA/UVB protection and a matte, line-smoothing finish. It's also packed with beneficial oils, organic shea butter, and vitamin C to help moisturize, brighten, and nourish. It's also 70% certified organic, which is pretty impressive!

The active sunscreen ingredients in this formula are Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide, which act as a physical form of sunblock. Many posit that these are much healthier for the skin than chemical sunscreens such as avobenzone.

And a shot of the directions and full ingredient list (click on image to see in full size):

As you saw in the first shot, the product comes in a cheery blue opaque tube with a built-in pump dispenser:

Unlike other light-weight, matte sunscreens, Coola Cucumber is a medium-to-thick cream (rather than a runny watery consistency). When turned sideways on my hand it does not drip or run:

When massaged in it thins out significantly, melting easily into the skin. It leaves a definite white cast at first...

... but when fully blended it becomes totally invisible. It leaves a subtle, lovely glow to the skin, while feeling incredibly light. The texture is smooth and velvety, with no trace of oiliness, despite the rich ingredients. It feels slightly powdery, but does not leave the skin dry or patchy, like some other matte-finish products might.

Overall, I'm smitten with this product because:
  • It provides broad spectrum, high SPF sun protection with safe mineral ingredients and physical sunblock
  • The texture is smooth and velvety, making it an ideal makeup base. I don't need to use primer afterwards!
  • Really keeps my skin matte throughout the day (which is huge for a sunscreen!) without drying or irritating the skin
  • Hasn't caused nasty cystic breakouts like other facial sunscreens have
  • Aside from the sunscreen, it's also full of skin-friendly ingredients working their nourishing, anti-aging wonders!
  • It's organic, eco-friendly, and cruelty-free, which are all huge pluses in my books!

Overall, I'm so happy to have found this little gem of a sunscreen this summer! It's kept my oily complexion in check and shielded my sensitive skin for the scorching sun. Can't ask for much more! I've definitely been tempted to try some of the ever-popular matte-finish sunscreens from brands like Clarins and Kiehl's, but I'm much happier to support a smaller, more environmentally conscious, animal-friendly brand instead :)

Have you ever heard of Coola? What are some of your favourite facial sunscreens for summertime?

Have a fantastic weekend! :)

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Summer Roundup #1: My Favourite Summer Fragrance, Kenzo Madly

Hi, everyone! With August dying down, I thought I'd feature a series of posts about my favourite beauty goodies from over the summer. Those few, spectacular products that have helped me beat the heat (or at least helped me look and smell good despite it!).

Today's first installment spotlights a gorgeous fragrance that I purchased a few months ago and have been absolutely loving! I've found Kenzo Madly to be the ideal warm-weather scent as it is light, fruity, and a little bit flirty.

Described as a "fruity floral fragrance", Madly has top notes of pear and lychee, middle notes of heliotrope and jasmine, and a base of cedar and musk. A combination that is right up my alley! While I'm never a fan of fragrances that are completely floral or singularly fruity, I'm a sucker for scents that present a mix of fresh, floral, and earthy tones.

The most noticeable elements of the fragrance are the pear, lychee, and jasmine, which make it incredibly bright and cheerful. It reminds me of a summery fruit punch! Beyond that, the cedar and musk undertones give it a refined, sophisticated finish that prevents the fragrance from seeming too young or one-dimensional.

The scent itself lasts quite well on the skin, especially given that it is a lighter fragrance. It doesn't linger quite as strongly as more pronounced, spicier scents would, but it's definitely still noticeable hours after applying.

Before I even tested the scent, I was drawn to the beautiful ad campaign:

Promotional Photo
The stunning model (with her vibrant lipstick!), bold colours, and butterfly motif definitely caught my attention, so I was really happy to receive a sample of it from Sephora shortly after its release. Clearly, I fell head over heels for it, so I picked up a full-sized bottle. And trust me, this isn't something I do often at all- it's been years since I purchased a new perfume!

And let's talk about the bottle for a second. Isn't is a thing of beauty?!

As you can see, it's a transparent teardrop-shaped glass bottle (including a clear cap) with bright pink hues near the base. The design is rounded and slightly twisted, with textured sides. I find it to be feminine, elegant, playful, and a touch futuristic.

The box it came in was also quite lovely, mirroring the vibrant hues and butterfly motif of the ad campaign:

The back of the box features the word "Madly" written in numerous languages, in a particularly whimsical font:

And the side of the box carries on the playful butterfly pattern:

Overall, I have been totally smitten with this fragrance! I wear it a few times per week, which is saying a lot since I'm typically pretty lazy with applying perfume. Although this is generally a Spring/Summer sort of scent, I can see myself wearing it occasionally throughout the Fall and Winter as well, particularly on days when I need a scent-induced pick-me-up. It always brings a smile to my face!

Does Kenzo Madly sound like a fragrance you would enjoy? Have any of you tried it? What are some of your favourite scents of the summer?

Thanks for reading! xo

Monday, 26 August 2013

Look of the Day: Deliciously Rich

Happy Monday, everyone! Though I'm still grasping at the fading warmth and freedom of summer, a large part of me can't wait for Fall. It's my favourite time of year in terms of weather, atmosphere, and -of course- new makeup collections! As the weather cools, makeup shades tend to get more rich, saturated, and sultry. I'm definitely on board with that! Ever since my recent NARS makeover, I've been drawn to the look of a soft, smokey eye. Makeup that makes a statement, but is still appropriate to wear during the day. 

When I got to peek at MAC's new Fall 2013 collection, Indulge, one of the shades that stood out to me most was their new Fluidline gel eyeliner in Deliciously Rich. Described by MAC as a "shimmering dirty taupe", it is a shimmery brown shade with a cool base and warm gold shimmer. Quite unique in my books! While it received quite the poor review on Temptalia for its intended use as an eyeliner (citing that it was quite sheer and patchy), I had a hunch that it might work brilliantly as a sheer cream shadow. Upon swatching it in-store last week, I was further convinced! 

MAC Deliciously Rich Fluidline worn as an cream eye shadow

So for this look, I applied Deliciously Rich all over my lid and blended out, concentrating the colour on the crease and outer corner of the eye. It was rather sheer and slightly uneven, but I thought it made for the perfect wash of smokey colour! Really the ideal shade and formula for that effortless smokey look. And it stayed in place all day with very minimal shimmer fall-out, so I was quite pleased!

I wanted Deliciously Rich to be the focus of the look, so I used minimal products to complement it. To bring light to the eye, I added MAC Ricepaper Eye Shadow to the brow bone and inner corners. To balance the subtle smokiness, I used my trusty Revlon ColourStay Liquid Eye Pen in Blackest Black to create a subdued cat eye shape and finished things off with two coats of Clinique High Impact Mascara in Black

I chose to accent the rest of the face with soft, pinky tones rather than opting for the nude shades that so often are paired with a smokey eye. I work the ultra-pretty Laura Mercier Powder Blush in Rose Petal and my much-worn Chanel Rouge Coco Shine Lipstick in Aventure. To finish things off, I applied Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder in Dim Light (yes, I caved and bought it) on my cheek bones, the bridge of my nose, and other high points on the face as a highlight. It really adds such a lovely, natural glow!

Here's another peek at the look, followed by a full breakdown of what I used:

The Breakdown:

Foundation Primer: Laura Mercier Oil-Free Foundation Primer
Foundation: Revlon ColourStay Liquid Foundation (Combo/Oily formula) in Sand Beige
Concealers: BeneFit Fake-Up in Light (under eyes) and MAC Select Cover-Up in NC20 (on blemishes)
Powder: MAC Blot Powder in Medium
Bronzer: Hard Candy So Baked Bronzer in Hula Hula

Highligher: Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder in Dim Light
Blush: Laura Mercier Powder Blush in Rose Petal

Brows: Anastasia Brow Powder Duo in Ash Blonde/Taupe and Anastasia Tinted Brow Gel in Caramel
Eye Primer: Urban Decay Primer Potion in Original
Eye Shadow: MAC Fluidline in Deliciously Rich (used as an eye shadow from upper lash line to crease), MAC Eye Shadow in Mulch (lightly in crease) and Ricepaper (on brow bone and inner corners of the eye)

Eyeliner: Revlon ColourStay Liquid Eye Pen in Blackest Black (on upper lash line) and NYX Wonder Pencil in Light (on lower waterline)
Mascara: Clinique High Impact Mascara in Black 

Lipstick: Chanel Rouge Coco Shine in Aventure

And a few more shots of the look:

And that's it! Overall, I'm really happy I ignored the poor reviews for Deliciously Rich, as it works wonderfully as a sheer cream eye shadow! Though I can see why this would not be pigmented enough to work as a liner if you want something bold, as a shadow it provides the perfect amount of coverage and really lasts all day!

Though I'm not ready to say goodbye to summer just yet, I am excited that I've been able to dip my makeup brushes into some of Fall's newest and prettiest hues.

Have you tried anything from MAC's new Indulge collection? Do you ever use Fluidlines as eye shadows? What  makeup items are you most excited for this Fall?

Thanks for reading! :)

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Veracious Product Review: Armani Maestro Fusion Makeup

Hi, everyone! Time for a product review that's been months in the making! I sampled Giorgio Armani's newest foundation offering, Maestro Fusion Makeup back in the Spring and have been procrastinating at publishing my thoughts for some time. I'm not exactly sure why this article kept getting put on the back burner, but perhaps it's because I feel so ambivalent about it. Is it possible to love and hate a product at the same time? Read on, and hopefully I can make my mixed feelings clear...

Promotional Photo

Armani describes Maestro as an easy to apply formula that smooths on effortlessly to cover imperfections. I touts "an ultra-fine oil-pigment suspension that perfects the complexion, instantly igniting skin's natural luminosity". A particularly unique feature of the formula is that it is oil-based and is completely water- and powder-free. While you would expect an incredibly oily feel based on this description, Armani promises that it is a slow-evaporating dry oil texture that feels like skin and lasts for hours. 

To quote the Armani site, Maestro has "an  unforgettable and unique texture created by patented Fusion Technology. The Fusion makeup technology delivers the thinnest color film that blends perfectly and corrects skin imperfections without buildup. It’s not a foundation, it’s a complexion perfector. A whole new generation of make-up that feels incredible, looks invisible and makes skin appear luminous every time. Anyone can wear it!!!” (from Definitely a lot of claims to live up to!

It comes in a sleek glass bottle with a pipette/dropper inside to dispense the product. I'm a sucker for anything with a dropper (can't explain why!) and this would definitely look lovely on my vanity table.

Here are some swatches of Maestro in Shade #3 on my inner arm (MAC NC15-20 skin tone) at various levels of intensity and blending:

Armani Maestro Foundation #3 (L-R) applied heavily, blended partially, blended almost fully on my NC15-20 skin tone.

And now for a full breakdown of my (ambivalent, amorous, cranky) impressions!

Colour match: The sales associate at Sephora matched me to shade #3. I would describe it as a fair-to-light, neutral-to-warm toned shade with beige and subtle yellow undertones. It really was a fantastic match for my NC15-20 skin!

Texture: T
his is where Maestro is unlike anything else I've tried. The consistency is quite runny and liquid, but when you blend it into your skin it feels more like a dry oil than a watery substance. Despite the sensation of oil in the formula, it really does feel weightless on the skin when blended. 

Application: This is the realm that vexes me the most about this foundation. Armani recommends (as did the sales associate at Sephora) that you apply Maestro with fingers, due to the oil base and how quickly it sets on the skin. So fingers it was! The first layer smoothed over the skin effortlessly (as promised) but the end result was very sheer. Because it promised to be buildable, I quickly applied a second layer of foundation. Upon doing this, Maestro became quite cakey and patchy on my skin. It looked terrible! This happened both times I tried it out. It looked so bad that I came very close to washing it off and trying something else. But instead I persisted, taking extra time to blend it into the skin. With this added effort the finish was ultimately lovely, but without it my faced looked very uneven.

Coverage: As described above, one layer of the foundation leaves quite a sheer finish. Lovely and natural-looking, but barely there. It can be built up to a moderate coverage, but it takes some extra elbow grease!

Finish: I'd describe the finish as natural and semi-matte. It doesn't look flat, but I wouldn't describe it as dewy either. Looks like real, luminous skin!

Wear: After all of my efforts to apply this, I was really hoping that it lasted on my oily skin- and I wasn't disappointed. Topped with setting powder, this remained natural looking, even, and nearly shine-free on my skin for about 8 hours. Not an easy feat, as the majority of the foundations I've tried turn into a shiny mess after 4 hours or so.

Verdict: It's evoked in me the ultimate love-hate relationship. The end result with this foundation can be incredibly lovely (great finish, coverage, and wear-time), but the amount of effort it took for me to achieve my desired effect was beyond the amount of strife I'd normally like to dedicate to applying my base. Not writing it off, but remaining skeptical.

Here are some 'Before' and 'After' shots to give you a better view of how Armani Maestro #3 works on my skin.

First, me completely makeup-free:

And me wearing Maestro #3 only:

And here I am wearing Maestro in the context of a completed makeup look:

And that's it! As you can see, Maestro does look quite lovely on the skin and can offer moderate coverage when a couple layers are applied. So it is definitely a buildable foundation that can be worn super sheer or more  heavily, but the work it takes to build up the coverage is pretty intense!

So overall, if you are looking for an ultra-sheer finish, this foundation should be simple to use and right up your alley. If you are looking for more coverage, Maestro will deliver, but you'll have to put in a bit of work! Not effortless, but worth the work if you  have a bit of extra time and patience.

Finally writing this review has inspired me to grab another sample of this from Sephora and give it another go. Since I'm never aiming for a super sheer finish, I really have to figure out if I can master layering this in a simpler, more hassle-free way. I'm hoping practice will make perfect, as the ultimate result is a lovely moderate coverage that still manages to look quite natural and flattering. Will keep you posted!

Phew! That's been a super long review. I guess that's what happens when a product evokes such adoration and contempt! ;) Have any of you tried Armani Maestro Fusion Makeup? What are your thoughts on the unique formula?

Thanks for reading! xo

Monday, 19 August 2013

NARS Makeover at Holt Renfrew: Smokey Eye and Subtle Berry Lip

Hey, everybody! Last Friday I had the chance to attend a beauty event at the NARS counter at Holt Renfrew. NARS is one of my favourite brands, so I jumped at the opportunity! Who doesn't want a little pampering and beautification after a long week of work? :)

I didn't bring my camera to the event, but I was so happy with the end result that I snapped a bunch of shots after I got home:

The look that the makeup artist created for me was all about healthy, glowing skin, a smokey eye, and sheer berry lips. After treating my skin with a few of NARS' moisturizing, brightening skin care products (my face really felt heavenly! See full list of products used below), she started crafting a bold, yet wearable smokey eye look. 

The star of this look was the versatile Voulez Vous Cheek & Eye Palette (exclusive to Holt Renfrew, the Bay, and Nordstrom, I believe). It features 4 shades of eye shadow (Molokai, Antananarivo, Rangoun, and Lhasa) that coordinate perfectly for a not so typical shimmery, neutral smokey eye. She amped things up by applying Soft Touch Shaow Pencil in Aigle Noir along the upper lash line and in the crease and not being shy with the black eyeliner, both liquid and pencil. She finished things off with two coats of lengthening mascara and voila! A perfect subtle smokey eye.

Here's a close-up of the finished eye look:

To contrast the bolder eye, the makeup artist opted for fresh, glowy skin. She used Sheer Glow Foundation in Deauville topped with pressed powder and warmed up with NARS' famous bronzer, Laguna. For blush, she swept Deep Throat (my favourite blush ever, also featured in the Voulez Vous palette) on the apples of my cheeks, blended upward and highlighted my cheekbones with the dreamy, ethereal Albatross Highlighting Blush.

For the lips, she pulled out the Baiser de Feu Lip Set, which contains three perfect rich, berry shades for fall. We decided to keep the texture sheer, so she applied Sheer Lipstick in Damage (a rosy raspberry shade that leaves a glaze of colour on the lips) and topped it with a shimmery, sheer mulberry gloss, Larger Than Life Lip Gloss in Como. Then the look was complete!

Here are a couple more shots of the final look, followed by a full breakdown of what the NARS makeup artist used to create it :

Skin Care
Makeup Removing Water
Multi-Action Hydrating Toner
Total Replenishing Eye Cream
Luminous Moisture Cream
Optimal Brightening Concentrate

Oil-Free Pro Prime Pore Refining Primer
Sheer Glow in Deauville
Stick Concealer (unsure which shade)
Pressed Powder (unsure which shade)
Bronzing Powder in Laguna
Powder Blush in Deep Throat
Highlighting Blush in Albatross

Brow Perfector in Salzbourg
Smudge-Proof Eye Shadow Base
Mix of Shadows from the Voulez Vous Palette
Soft Touch Shadow Pencil in Aigle Noir
Eyeliner Stylo in Carpates
Larger Than Life Long-Wear Eyeliner in Via Veneto (waterlines)
Larger Than Life Lengthening Mascara in Black

Sheer Lipstick in Damage
Larger Than Life Lip Gloss in Como

Overall, I was super pleased with how my makeover turned out! Being a cosmetics fiend myself, I can be a bit of a control freak when it comes to other people doing my makeup. Although I always enjoy being pampered, chatting with the makeup artist, and trying out new goodies, I often find myself wincing, thinking "this isn't how I  would do it". But in this case, my inner control freak could totally relax. She did an incredible job! This is a look that I'm definitely going to emulate next time I have a night out :)

Have any of you been to fun makeup events lately? Favourite NARS products at the moment?

Thanks for reading! :)

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Nail of the Day: In the Lapiz of Luxury

Happy weekend, everyone! It's that time again- another Nail of the Day! Today I'm featuring a super popular Nail Lacquer by Essie, which is absolutely perfect for Spring and Summer! Plus, it was a birthday gift from my little sister, which makes it extra special :)

Lapiz of Luxury is a sheer, shimmer-free polish that leaves a glossy, reflective finish. Essie calls the shade a "dreamy ocean blue". A lovely description, for sure, but I find it to be a bit more complex than that. In some lighting, it looks like a cheery sky blue, in others it has stronger indigo-lavender tones to it. There is no actual duochrome type of effect; it just really seems to be quite the chameleon!

As with all Essie polishes, it comes in a sturdy glass bottle with the logo etched into two sides and written in white on the others, with the shade name labelled on the top of the cap:

I applied 2 coats of the polish to create the result photographed here. I think it was the perfect amount to reach my desired colour intensity, while still maintaining the unique, slightly sheer finish.

Here are a few more shots of it, to get a sense of how it looks slightly different in various lighting:

Overall, I'm in love with the shade and feel it'll be one I reach for often. The formula, however, leaves a bit to be desired in that it chips rather quickly. Within a couple days I had some minor, but noticeable chips that were annoying to say the least! Especially since I had used a base and top coat along with it.

So this may not be the best polish if you want something durable that lasts, but I feel that the shade is pretty and unique enough to make it totally worth adding to your collection :)

Have any of you tried Lapiz of Luxury? Any other favourite Essie Nail Lacquers?

Have a great weekend! xo