Is Olaplex worth it?

Posted on May 17, 2017 under Reviews

Olaplex review

I’ve been blonde again for two months now, after a two-month flirtation with red. The red was never quite right: it took much better to my roots than to my bleached lengths, so I had a vibrant auburn that faded into a slightly watery brownish-red. And I just don’t like myself as a redhead; as soon as I went back to blonde I felt like myself again.

Of course, being blonde involves a lot of damage to the hair. This time around, my hair had had enough. For weeks I smothered it in every deep conditioner and hair mask known to man, I soaked it in argan oil, I force-fed it enough protein to keep an army going – and still it was dry, brittle, and hideous.

Olaplex has been getting a lot of hype in the beauty community for awhile now. Despite seeming on the surface like a perfect candidate for the treatments, I’ve been ignoring it since I heard about it because the price tag isn’t exactly negligible. But with my extremely damaged hair, I had to go for the big guns. I had to drop 30 bucks on a 100mL bottle of Olaplex 3.

In case you haven’t heard of Olaplex, it’s a 3-step system that helps to actually repair the damaged and weakened bonds in your hair. Step 1 and 2 are salon-grade: Step 1 would be mixed into any chemical treatments (such as bleach or toner) and step 2 would be applied afterwards. Step 3 is a diluted version of step 2 and is meant to be used at home, between salon treatments. Since I do my own hair colour and since Step 1 and Step 2 are only available to professionals, I only use Step 3.

Step 3 is not a conditioner; it doesn’t add any extra moisture to your hair. You’d apply it after shampooing, leave it on your head for at least 10 minutes, and then rinse it out and finish with conditioner or a hair mask. Personally I’ve had the best results using it as an overnight mask and washing it out in the morning. I’m not a daily hair-washer, so this feels like a bit of a chore to me, but it’s only once a week so it’s not too bad. Plus, in a time crunch, I’ve found that I can go about my day without washing the Olaplex out, though my hair gets oily faster.

So, is Olaplex worth it? Well, having used Olaplex 3 weekly since the end of March, I’m going to have to go with yes. When I first went back to blonde my hair was as damaged as I’d ever seen it. Usually after I chemically process it, it’ll be pretty dry for a bit, but I can always nurse it back to health with hair masks. However, nothing was cutting it this time – no matter how many hair masks I used or how much oil I applied, it was still crunchy, straw-like, and almost impossible to brush through. I had to wear it up or in braids every day to hide the damage. In fact, let me show you how gross it was:

Before Olaplex

Before Olaplex

This was after applying a generous helping of argan oil, and you can still see how dull and dead it looks.

With my first Olaplex treatment, I left it in for 20 minutes and washed it out, then followed up with conditioner. My hair felt better afterwards, but not significantly so. However, each time I’ve used it subsequently I’ve applied it from roots to tips, brushed it through to evenly distribute the product, waited about 20 minutes, and applied another (smaller) amount, then kept it in overnight. That’s where I started seeing results. Here’s my hair after my initial short treatment and two overnight ones:

After 2 Olaplex treatments

After 2 Olaplex treatments

I still think it appears damaged, though it’s obviously a significant improvement which I attribute entirely to Olaplex.

And here it is yesterday, six treatments in:

After 6 Olaplex treatments

After 6 Olaplex treatments

You can clearly see how improved it is. It also feels so much healthier and stronger. Not only is it smooth to the touch, when wet it’s not as elastic-y as it used to be. After I bleached it again in mid-March, every time it was wet it was stringy and stretchy. Now it has regular wet hair texture. Obviously, between the last set of pictures and this one I took off several inches, and a lot of the most damaged parts were cut out. But Olaplex has certainly improved the health of my hair by a significant amount. (By the way, I did go a slightly darker blonde, but the difference in colour is mostly due to lighting!)

I think that with Olaplex there does come a point of diminished return – that is, you can only get your hair so healthy, especially when it’s hair that has sustained three years of DIY bleach damage. My hair is not in the same condition that it was pre-bleach, and I don’t know that it ever will be. But Olaplex has restored a lot of health to my hair, and it looks and feels much better than it has in about two years, which is when I first started to experience noticeable effects of bleach damage. I’ll continue to use it because it certainly can’t hurt; though I don’t think I’ll continue to see massive improvements in the wellbeing of my hair at this point, it’ll be good for maintenance at the very least.

Now, $30 for 100mL (3.4 fl oz) does seem steep. For some reason I’m happy to spend $50 on a foundation, but any hair product that costs more than $10 is a stretch for me. This is silly; if I’m going to chemically process my hair to the extreme I should be willing to put some money into its care and maintenance. And when you break it down, Olaplex 3 treatments are weekly, so it’s not like I’m going to go through this little bottle in a month. Is it still pricey for how much product you get? Yes, of course. But is it worth it to repair traumatized hair? I think so. The fact is, being platinum blonde long-term requires special care. I keep saying I’m going to stop being blonde soon as it’s so bad for my hair, but perhaps Olaplex will allow me to continue on this path for awhile yet…

Empties: March to May 2017

Posted on May 12, 2017 under Empties

I seriously need to figure out a place to store my empties box that’s out of sight, because it’s kind of a bummer walking into my room to see a box of literal useless garbage.

I’ve included a category for samples once again here, but I’ll put deluxe-sized samples (that I got to use for awhile and form a real opinion on) in their respective categories.

As always, I’ll clearly indicate which products I received for free through work as well as any PR samples.


Origins Drink Up Intensive Overnight Mask: This got me through the winter very nicely. I think the price ($32 CAD for 100mL) is pretty fair too. I bought this back in November and just finished it up on Monday, so it lasted quite awhile. Moving into warmer weather I’ll use a less intense night cream, but I’d certainly consider repurchasing once the cold weather sets in again.

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Riche Daily Soothing Nourishing Cream: I’ve gone through three tubes of this stuff now. It’s my favourite winter daytime moisturizer: it’s thick and nourishing but still sits well under makeup. I don’t have very reactive skin, but I do like that this product contains very few ingredients. I have a lot of specialized skincare products so I like a no frills moisturizer that I can layer with actives.

Clarins Daily Energizer Cream Gel: This was a sample. I had high hopes for this lightweight, gel texture moisturizer, but I found that it made whatever makeup I put on top of it pill. That’s a no-go!

Life Brand Tightening Facial Sheet Mask: You guys, I am so dedicated to the empties cause that I did this face mask in Montreal and put it in a Ziploc baggie to transport back to Toronto to put into my empties box. This was an unremarkable sheet mask which was probably not worth the effort. It did make my skin feel very soft and nourished, but I didn’t notice any tightening effect. Also IT DID NOT FIT MY FACE AT ALL:

Anyway, worth $1.67 for the sheer fun of doing face masks with your friends.

La Roche-Posay Hydraphase Intense Serum: I got this through work. I’m a huge fan of La Roche-Posay skincare, but this serum missed the mark for me. I didn’t find it particularly hydrating at all and much prefer the Vichy Aqualia Thermale serum. At this point, though, I’ll forego both and stick with the next product.

The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5: I repurchased a new bottle of this stuff the day it ran out. The guy at the Deciem store was like, “Have you used this product before?” and I was like “Yes and I cannot live one day without it.” This works great as a hydrating serum pre-moisturizer, and for $6.80 CAD I don’t feel bad using it liberally morning and night.

The Ordinary 100% Cold-Pressed Moroccan Argan Oil: So, more than a year ago I learned from an episode of Dragon’s Den that all argan oil comes from Morocco and Algeria. The vast majority of the work harvesting and processing argan oil is done by Berber women in this region. The Moroccan government has actually helped established women-run co-ops to produce argan oil. Amazingly, Berber women have exclusive rights to selling and producing it. So buying argan oil is a great way to support a woman-run industry! That spiel out of the way, I loved this product for my hair and body. It was a bit too heavy for my face. The 30mL bottle is not the most cost-effective way to go for a body moisturizer (even at $6.80), however. I’m currently trying out The Ordinary’s squalane on my face and hair, so I’ll have to see how that goes before I decide which one I want to repurchase.

NeoStrata Purifying Solution – 8% Glycolic Acid: This was my first true foray into the world of glycolic acid toners, and I enjoyed it. I have another bottle on the go but I think I’ll try something else when I run out of it. I did really like it and often recommend it to customers who want something a bit higher than the Pixi Glow Tonic (which is 5% glycolic), but I like to switch things up and I’m not such a huge fan of alcohol being so high up in the ingredients list on this one.

Arbonne Lip Intelligence Lip Treatment*: I did like this lip balm a lot, but at $46 I would never repurchase it. I can’t help but assume that the high cost is due to the fact that Arbonne is a multi-level marketing business. When I accepted press samples from Arbonne a year and a half ago, I wasn’t aware that it was an MLM and going forward I definitely won’t support any MLMs on my blog or in real life.


Matrix SoColor Hair Dye in 6W Light Brown: I had a very ill-fated attempt at dyeing my hair brown over the red. (I mean, it wasn’t a disaster, it just didn’t show up at all. Even on my virgin roots it just went auburn…) Anyway, that whole debacle taught me that I should be blonde until it kills me.

Wella Color Charm T-18 Lightest Ash Blonde Toner: Speaking of blonde, the colour has always been a DIY project. When I went back to blonde, it was super brassy and my usual Manic Panic toner concoction didn’t cut it. I went back to Wella T-18, which I did NOT have a horrible reaction to this time. I’ll still save this for special occasions since I don’t want to push it, but it just is the best toner for ashy, white blonde hair. And trust me, I’ve tried a lot.

StriVectin Hair All Smooth Shampoo: I got this in a little set at a StriVectin training. It was very handy for travel, which is how I used it up, but it’s nothing special. I’m not going to direct my customers to it when I can sell them John Frieda or Marc Anthony for half the price.

Briogeo Don’t Despair, Repair! Deep Conditioning Mask: You know, I have been so desperate for anything that will keep my hair on my head that if this stuff was miraculous I would have shelled out the frankly ridiculous $46 CAD for the full tub. I think this was worth the 100 points I spent on it at Sephora, as it was a perfectly serviceable hair mask which kept my nasty dead hair in fairly good condition. The 30mL sample size also lasted me probably about 10 uses, and it was great to travel with. However, for forty-six goddamn dollars it had better be doing something amazing, because $46 is a fairly significant chunk which I could be using to pay my telephone bills and automo-bills. (Actually, I don’t have any automo-bills because I don’t have a car and can barely drive!) I’d probably spend points on samples of this for travel purposes, but I’ll just keep buying hair masks at the drugstore which all basically do the same thing for like $35 less. Also, the one thing that actually rescued my hair from the depths of bleach-destroyed hell after I went back to blonde was Olaplex.

Bath & Body

Calgon Hawaiian Ginger Shea Sugar Scrub and Body Wash: The scent of this was nice, but I definitely will not repurchase because I don’t think it was too effective as a scrub. When I bought it I didn’t realize it was more of a sugar scrub suspended in a body wash, and I feel like it’s too liquidy to really grip the skin well. My mom unearthed yet another tube of the Freeman’s pomegranate scrub which I love, so I’ll be going back to that.

Old Spice Champion Deodorant: So, I bought this stick on sale for $3.99 back in September 2013 and I JUST used it up now. Men’s deodorant is SO GOOD! I also prefer the scent of this to, like, cucumber or baby powder. I did purchase another stick of Old Spice, but this time I switched it up and went with Bearglove. By the way, I buy the gel version.

Makeup & Nails

Witchcraft Be Strong: The best treatment for my peeling nails. I’m on my third bottle!

NARS Pro-Prime Smudgeproof Eyeshadow Base: My dudes, I have waxed poetic about this eyeshadow primer for a long time, but our love affair is over. They must have reformulated it – my first tube lasted me two and a half years and could get me through absolutely anything and this tube lasted a year and got me through maybe 7 hours. I picked up the Milani eyeshadow primer and that shit is so good and less than a third of the price.

Rimmel Lasting Finish by Kate Moss Lipstick in 08: The last time I finished a lipstick was two years ago, and I had to make a real effort to use this one up. This rosy neutral with a hint of brown was a go-to everyday shade for me for awhile, but I wore it constantly for 6 weeks and so now I am glad it’s gone. It’s definitely a flattering shade on me, but it’s not very exciting – yet every time I wore it to work I got so many questions on it. I once sold four tubes in one day just because people asked what it was. I won’t repurchase because my Buxom liner in Hush Hush* is basically the same colour.

Look how dead this lipstick is!!!!

Burberry Fresh Glow Luminous Fluid Base: I swear I’m always spending my Sephora points on shit I’m not that excited about, and yet I always seem to have Sephora points. And no, it’s not because I spend so much at Sephora, because I really don’t. I’m a Shoppers loyalist. Anyway, I ended up using this sample up by mixing it into foundation. I thought that gave a very nice, glowy look, but the full size is $54, and, like… no.

Foil Samples

NARSskin Total Replenishing Eye Cream: This was a very thick eye cream which would be a nice nighttime treatment for those with dry undereyes. My undereyes don’t really need much (a thin gel formula is fine), so this was a bit too much for me, and the full size is $68 hahahahaha are you kidding me NARS.

StriVectin LABS Silver Peel-Off Purifier: I kind of don’t think this really did anything! Maybe it’s just that it has more of a cumulative effect, though? It did look cool on my face, at least, but that’s not enough to make me spend $72 on the full size.

The Ab Crew Caffeine Shampoo: I got this as a sample at the Deciem store. I didn’t really like this one at all – the texture was a strange sticky gel which I don’t feel was very effective on my thick hair. I also think it’s hard to assess the efficacy of caffeine on my hair with only one use. Anyway, I don’t need my hair to “wake up” (whatever that means), I need it to not be crunchy/on the verge of death.

Hylamide HA Blur: This is billed as a “finisher”, but it can also be used as a primer. I didn’t find it did anything as a primer, but maybe I should have used it mixed in with my foundation or overtop it. MEH.

The Chemistry Brand HA3 Hand Hydrator: Another Deciem sample! It was a nice enough hand cream, but I don’t really use hand cream since my hands are like the only part of my body that aren’t dry and don’t typically need any added moisture. It smelled nice, though!

Normally I space these posts out very sporadically, but I can pretty much guarantee that the next one will be sometime in August before I move. See ya then!

Review: The Ordinary Colours Serum Foundation

Posted on May 08, 2017 under Reviews

I’ve been using and enjoying The Ordinary’s inexpensive, no frills skincare since last year, so when I saw that they were launching two foundations for practically pennies I found it hard to resist despite the fact that I don’t really need more foundation. They’ve been backlogged with orders for both the Serum Foundation and the Coverage Foundation, but I happened to pop into the Deciem store on Queen Street a few weeks back to find a fully-stocked selection of both. After some excited swatching, I finally settled on a bottle of the Serum Foundation in the shade 1.1N. My friend Katie, who was visiting, picked up a bottle too when I told her that the product cost a mere $6.70 CAD. (For reference, in Canadian drugstores L’Oreal, Maybelline, and Revlon all have foundations which cost $20 and up, so something that’s well under $10 is truly incredible.)

The shade range of the Serum Foundation seems to be pretty extensive. There are 21 shades with multiple undertones represented. From what I can glean from their colour chart, there do seem to be more extensive, nuanced options for light to medium skintones than for dark skintones, but the range does go quite deep.

I really appreciate the naming system for this foundation. Though I can get behind an interesting or clever product name, for foundation I prefer something descriptive and relative. I don’t know if “true beige” is darker or lighter than “shell beige” or “neutral beige”, nor do I know what the undertones of those shades are. However, I know that 1.1N is neutral and lighter than 2.1Y. The foundations are divided into three base numbers, 1 (for light), 2 (medium) and 3 (dark) and contain a letter or letters which indicate undertone. Many brands don’t denote undertone in their shade names, and when they do you’d be lucky to have a neutral option in addition to warm and cool. The Serum Foundation comes with a whopping six undertones: Neutral, Pink, Yellow, Red, Neutral Silver, and Yellow Gold. I’m not sure how this will play out for olive skin.

I chose the shade 1.1N, which is “fair neutral”. I would say that it leans a bit yellow, which I’ve found I like in a foundation. I am honestly amazing at matching myself to foundation based on the back of my hand; this is a great match for me. There are three shades in the 1.0 range for those fairer than me. As someone who is quite fair, I don’t always have the luxury of choice in undertones, so I appreciate that there are quite a few fair shade options with different undertones. I do wish that this luxury was afforded to the deeper tones. There’s quite a subtle gradiation from the lightest to more medium shades, with larger jumps between the darker shades. Dark skin comes in many variations and this should be represented in shade ranges.

Swatches for shade reference! L-R: The Ordinary Serum Foundation in 1.1N, Make Up For Ever Ultra HD in Y215 (my current best shade match), Make Up For Ever Ultra HD in R210 (my old shade), NARS All Day Luminous Weightless Foundation in Siberia, and Maybelline Fit Me Matte and Poreless in 110 (my fairest foundation). The underside of my arm is fairer than my face so these swatches might look a bit dark/orange. I also underexposed the picture so you could see them a bit better.

In terms of packaging, I have no major complaints. It isn’t the most beautiful packaging, but it’s functional and frankly much more attractive than plenty of drugstore offerings. And, really, when you’re paying $6.70 for a foundation, I don’t think you can complain if the packaging isn’t exquisitely beautiful. The foundation comes in a matte plastic bottle, which, while not as luxurious as NARS’ frosted glass, is extremely travel-friendly. The bottle is small and, unlike most foundations on the market, doesn’t try to convince you that it contains more product than it does. Compared to all the other foundations I have, this one is the least bulkily-packaged, though all four bottles in the image above contain 30mL/1 fl oz of product.

It also has a pump, which I think we can all appreciate. Now that we know that a brand can put out a foundation with a pump for $6.70, can we just agree that there is NO EXCUSE for any foundation to NOT have a pump in this day and age? I will say that the pump is pretty crude; it’s hard to press it down only halfway. The best you can do is to press it lightly, at which point a bit splutters out, and just keep doing this until you have the approximate amount you want. It’s that technique or just suck it up and go for a full pump. There’s also no cap, which does cut down on the travel-friendliness of the product. Also, the matte black stains with product a bit; you can wipe it down but there will always be remnants of foundation on the bottle. I don’t really mind this, personally, but some people might be sticklers for having clean products.

As you would expect, the Serum Foundation has a very light, fluid texture. It’s very spreadable, so you don’t much to cover your whole face. One pump is enough to cover my entire face and build up a second layer where I need it, which is generally on my chin and along my jawline. Lately I’ve come to realize that describing coverage is difficult, since we all have different needs. I’ve seen some people referring to this foundation as akin to a tinted moisturizer, but I think you can get low medium coverage out of it. That said, with the exception of a few hormonal zits and the ensuing post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, I don’t have much to cover, so I may not be the best judge of coverage level.

No makeup. I’ve prepped with moisturizer.

With one pump of The Ordinary Serum Foundation, applied in two thin layers.

Here are some closer before-and-after shots:

You can see an obvious evenness to my skin, but the foundation doesn’t fully cover my freckles/zits/hyperpigmentation.

I have normal to dry skin which right now is more on the dry side due to the change of seasons. I find the Serum Foundation easy to work with, and it clings only minimally to the underside of my nose which is undetectable under regular life conditions. My forehead is another problem zone when it comes to foundations that are too drying, and I didn’t experience any issues blending it across my forehead with a brush, a damp sponge, or my fingers. The finish is natural, but more on the dewy side than matte.

The Serum Foundation is not super long-lasting. I wore this on an uncharacteristically hot day at the end of April, and it did look pretty heavy when mixed with my sweat. But under regular weather conditions I don’t find that it cakes up; it just doesn’t wear for a terribly long time. I’d put this around the 4-hour mark before it starts to wear off my nose (which every foundation does, to be fair) and look shiny. This won’t be one I wear for my long retail workdays!

Here it is after about nine and a half hours of wear, which included a full 8-hour day in retail:

Obviously, ignore the evening lighting – despite this you can see that it’s fairly shiny. I’d probably want to blot this one and powder halfway through my day, which I don’t always have a chance to do when I’m working.

A close-up:

Based on how this performs on my skin, I’d wager that the oily-skinned among us won’t love this. Personally I see this as a casual foundation, one I’d pull out when I don’t want to do a full face of makeup and don’t need it to last a terribly long time. It’s like… a hungover brunch with friends product, I would say.

I’ve very recently gotten into cocktailing my foundations, and the Serum Foundation works great for this purpose. Half a pump of this with one pump of NARS All Day Luminous Weightless is perfection. I love the finish and longevity of ADLW, but it’s finnicky to make work on my dry skin. The Serum Foundation makes it apply much more smoothly but keeps the essential properties of ADLW that I enjoy. It’s also nice enough with MUFE Ultra HD, although I don’t find Ultra HD hard to work with so I don’t really feel the need to mix it, generally.

I think the Serum Foundation is a solid first foundation outing from The Ordinary. Neither packaging nor product are perfect, but I’ve been really enjoying it over the past few weeks and it’s nice to have an easy, lightweight option for everyday wear. I’ll be out of cosmetics retail in a few months and I won’t have such a need for fuller coverage, longer-wearing foundations, and I can see this one having a lot more use in my return to student life. If you’re on the dryer side and prefer a lightweight, lighter coverage foundation, this one might be worth a few bucks.

The Ordinary Serum Foundation can be ordered on the Deciem website (though they do have a backlog of orders!) or picked up at any of the standalone Deciem stores. Maybe. I’ve heard all the Toronto stores are sold out currently, so you might have to be tenacious.