Empties: October to December 2016

Posted on December 02, 2016 under Empties

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I would have liked to post this closer to the end of the year, but this is all I have prepared for publication so we’ll have to hope I don’t finish anything else up in December. (I know I can just add it to my next empties post, but I like the idea of confining my 2016 garbage to 2016, you know?)

Skincare

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Marina Miracle Sweet and Creamy Oil Cleanser (press sample): I loved this cleanser. It was extremely effective but very hydrating. I loved that it was a creamy texture but emulsified to a more oil-like state. This was one of my top products of 2015 and I loved it until the bitter end. If you’re into natural products and supporting small businesses, I’d highly recommend this Norwegian brand. (They ship worldwide!)

The Body Shop Camomile Silky Cleansing Oil: This is an old standby; I’m on my third bottle of it now. Although there are three different oil cleansers featured in this post, I do get use out of a good gel cleanser too – but this oil one is my go-to in the cooler months when my skin is determined to expel all moisture.

A-Derma Exomega Cleansing Oil: I received this product at an A-Derma training and I do like it. It’s a thinner, runnier oil than The Body Shop one. I used it as an in-shower face oil so it’s hard to compare its efficacy to the Camomile Silky Cleansing Oil (which I used to melt off my makeup), but I did enjoy using it. I have another bottle that I’ll use up as well.

Vichy Aqualia Thermale Dynamic Hydration Power Serum: I really liked this. It sinks in fast and did make a noticeable difference when it comes to keeping my skin hydrated. I’m using a La Roche-Posay serum right now and I 100% prefer the Vichy.

No7 Beautiful Skin Night Cream: I got this hoping it would replace my Boots Botanics Replenishing Night Cream, but it wasn’t the same at all. There was nothing truly wrong with it, it just wasn’t anything special. It did a pretty good job of hydrating overnight, but it never sunk in fully. Now I’m using a combination of oils and my Origins Drink Up! Overnight Moisture Mask and that’s suiting me a lot better.

Bath and Body

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L’Occitane Almond Shower Oil: I LOVE this stuff and I still have a litre and a half of backups to get through. I feel slightly bougie buying expensive oil to use in the shower, but it seriously makes my skin so soft and smooth. This has completely replaced shaving cream for me. I can’t praise it enough – it even made it into my 2015 favourites!

L’Occitane Supple Skin Almond Oil: This sample came with a gift set of the Shower Oil that my friend got me for Christmas last year. The small sample lasted me quite a long time when I started using it because a little goes a long way. I love a good body oil for my arms and legs, and this stuff was great. The full size is too expensive for my budget, but I’d totally use a sample up again!

The Body Shop Coconut Body Butter: A winter standby! You can fully expect to see more of these in future empties posts because I go through them super quickly. I used this one up just a few weeks ago and you can already see the bottom of the tub of my replacement.

Haircare

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Light Blue Shade Original Shampoo: I started using this in May and I’ve already gone through 2 half-litre bottles. (Well, I share them with my mom, but I use way more than she does because I have a lot more hair.) It’s just the best purple shampoo. Of course, I’ve already cracked open a new bottle.

Marc Anthony Hydrating Coconut Oil and Shea Butter Deep Nourishing Conditioning Treatment: I use a deep conditioner every time I wash my ultra-damaged hair, but this is my once-a-week, heavy duty option. The coconut oil helps restore the protein in my damaged hair, and always leaves it especially soft and smooth. It’s kind of annoying that you can only buy this product in the little packets, but one packet lasts me several months so it’s not the end of the world.

Makeup

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L’Oréal True Match Super Blendable Concealer in C1-2-3: This had a slightly salmon tone that made it great for my undereyes – it cancelled out darkness without feeling thick and heavy. Ultimately I moved on to my NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer, but I’d totally go back to the L’Oréal as a budget option.

Make Up For Ever Ultra HD Foundation in R210: I really did enjoy this foundation and included it in my summer favourites. I liked that it had a thin, lightweight texture and medium coverage. In the end, when comparing it to my Charlotte Tilbury Magic Foundation and NARS All Day Luminous Weightless Foundation, it’s just not as long-lasting, which is something I look for as a retail worker. This foundation may be a repurchase when I’m a student again and not putting my face through so much exertion, because I liked it otherwise.

Miscellaneous

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Sally Hansen Maximum Strength Polish Remover: This was a nail polish remover. It removed my nail polish. Yay!

And that, my friends, is all of the garbage I have been holding onto for the past few months. Stay tuned to find out what garbage 2017 will bring!

Top 15 products of 2015

Posted on December 20, 2015 under Favourites

You guys are probably bracing yourselves for a flood of these posts, so let’s skip the lengthy introduction and get right into it. These products were not necessarily launched in 2015, but I discovered each of them this year.

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LORAC Pro palette

I may just be the last person on earth to discover this palette – but timing notwithstanding, I’m glad I did. From the moment it came into my possession this summer, I’ve scarcely put it down. I firmly believe that it’s the perfect neutral palette – every shade is pigmented and blendable, there’s an even mixture of mattes and shimmers, and there are the standard neutral colours and a few interesting ones. Without a doubt if I could only have one palette it would be this one. My only complaint is that LORAC is so hard to get ahold of in Canada!

MAC 217 brush

I know there are people who don’t think this brush lives up to its hype, but clearly I’m not one of them. I didn’t realize how inadequate the blending brush I had was until this one came into my life this summer. I feel like a good blending brush is one of the most important makeup tools a person can have in their arsenal, and this is the best one I’ve used so far.

Lancôme Hypnôse mascara

I hate when absurdly-priced products are actually good, don’t you? I’m viscerally opposed to paying Sephora prices for mascara; there are good options at the drugstore, samples are aplenty, and I cannot make myself pay $30+ for something that’s supposed to be thrown out after three months. I got this as a gift from my wonderful friend Kristin, and it really is as good as everyone says. You may know from previous mascara reviews that mascara does not excite me; I rarely hate them and I rarely love them. So for this to wow me really means something. It builds volume and length effortlessly and is not the least bit clumpy. It also doesn’t flake or smudge under my eyes at all. Basically, it’s totally worth the hype. Would I pay full price for it? No. Would I spend Shoppers Optimum points to get it again? Yes. Definitely.

Clarins Waterproof Eye Pencil

Black eye pencils are obviously a staple in most people’s makeup routines, but it can be difficult to find the right one. I’ve struggled to find one that was opaque, soft, smooth, and that actually stayed put. This one is perfect for tightlining as it absolutely does not transfer onto my lower waterline at all, and it takes forever to fade. The texture is perfect – it glides on comfortably and doesn’t scratch my delicate eyes. And it is truly a rich, opaque black. All in all, this is seriously the perfect black pencil.

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NARS Satin Lip Pencil in Cruella

Have you ever tried an oft-talked-about beauty product and thought, “Yep, I get it now”? That was my experience with this lip product. Obviously, most of us North American beauty lovers are now in possession of a mini of it thanks to the Sephora birthday gift – and can I just say, what a great birthday gift it is! 2013 and 2014’s offerings didn’t do much for me, but this one was legitimately great. There is nothing I don’t love about Cruella. The colour is dramatic and beautiful; it glides on so smoothly (and accurately, thanks to the shape of the pencil); it lasts forever. The moment I put it on my lips I thought Where have you been all my life?

Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blushes

I was not a fan of the much-hyped Ambient Lighting Powders, but the blushes are worth every penny of their $41 CAD price tag. Never have I encountered such soft, blendable, long-lasting blushes with the perfect level of pigmentation and the slightly glow-y effect afforded by the swirls of ALPs throughout the pan. I just wish they’d bring out more shades! (Since taking this picture I’ve added another one to my collection, which means there’s only one colour left that I really want. Please expand the line, Hourglass!!!)

Topshop Glow Highlighter in Polished

This is the most-loved highlighter in my collection; it works so well with my fair, cool skin and is simply gorgeous on its own. It’s pearlescent and ethereal and I will never stop loving it. A makeup product hasn’t excited me this much in ages.

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Boots Botanics Replenishing Night Cream

I purchased this night cream for only £4 – bargain! However, even at its full price of £8, it’s hardly prohibitively expensive. I reviewed it positively about six weeks into using it, and having finished the tub I can say that I would absolutely repurchase it if I could get it here in Canada! My face always felt soft, smooth, supple, and healthy in the mornings when I was using this, which is no small feat considering I’m chronically dry. The smell was also divine. If I make it back to the UK I will be popping into Boots posthaste to get another tub of this!

Vichy Aqualia Thermal Serum

This serum made such a huge difference when used under my night cream. Whereas most people seem to suffer from oiliness in their T-zone, my nose is absolutely parched and flaky year-round. This serum has been extremely effective at combatting this particular problem, but it’s still a lightweight texture that sinks in instantly. I absolutely adore it and will most likely repurchase it when I run out.

Marina Miracle Sweet & Creamy Oil Cleanser*

I adore this cleanser. I adore that although it contains oils it’s a creamy texture, meaning it’s not as messy to use as a regular oil. I adore how well it gets my makeup off. I adore that it washes off easily without leaving an oily film on my skin. I adore how supple and hydrated it makes my skin. I adore the smell. It’s the best cleanser I’ve ever used, and I do not say that lightly!

Arbonne Intelligence Lip Treatment*

This is another product that I did not want to like on the basis of its price ($46 CAD), but I really do love it. For such a lightweight, unobtrusive texture, it does a great job at keeping my perpetually chapped lips looking and feeling reasonable. It’s effective on its own during the day, and at night I like to seal it in with a layer of Vaseline to trap all that moisture. I always wake up with the softest lips!

La Roche-Posay Lipikar Baume AP+*

I was sceptical about this product’s ability to perform well enough to do something about my KP-ravaged arms and legs considering its thin texture. And while it does sink in quickly and doesn’t leave a greasy or sticky cast, somehow it manages to do to my legs what almost no other body product has.

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Avène High Protection Spray SPF 50+

This sunscreen is the perfect product for a) lazy people who hate spending more than 20 seconds applying sunscreen to their bodies, b) people who hate the greasy feeling most sunscreens leave, or c) all of the above. This sunscreen is singlehandedly responsible for my skin getting not a lick of sun this summer.

L’Occitane Almond Oil

If it looks like I haven’t touched this bottle, it’s because I haven’t! I’ve already used up a mini, and I finally treated myself to a full size bottle the other day. I feel a bit silly dropping $24 on almond oil, but it is that good. I use it to shave my legs, and despite it being on my skin for only a fleeting moment before being washed off, I swear my legs feel amazing straight out of the shower. And you only need the tiniest bit, so $24 CAD goes a long, long way. This is one of those products that is undeniably an indulgence – but it’s one of my favourite indulgences ever.

Ice Cream Dry-T hair mask

You guys are probably sick of me talking about how damaged my hair is. I’m stubborn and continue bleaching my roots every few months, and one day my hair will all fall out of my head at once, but that day is being delayed by this hair mask. My hair actually, miraculously, feels smooth, soft, and alive when I use this (which is every time I wash my hair, because otherwise I can’t run a brush through it). It’s nothing short of a miracle. And at only $10 for a 500mL tub, I don’t even feel bad buying it.

2015 was a great year in terms of beauty discoveries – I found some fun things as well as some things that have become can’t-live-without-it, would-follow-it-into-hell staples in my beauty stash. Not too bad!

I’m working non-stop this month (ah, retail in December), so I’m not sure if I’ll have another post for you guys before 2016. In the event that this is my last post of 2015, I hope your holidays are relaxing and fun and your new year brings you only good things!

Natural Norwegian skincare with Marina Miracle

Posted on December 13, 2015 under Reviews

This post features press samples, but all opinions remain my own.

If the YouTubers I watch are any indication, Scandinavian skincare (and everything else) is all the rage these days. I’ll admit, after visiting Iceland and Denmark this spring, I definitely get the fascination with Nordic countries – but I’ve never tried any Scandinavian skincare. I currently have a rather substantial backlog of skincare products I’m trying to get to in a timely manner – but when Marina Engervik, owner and CEO of Marina Miracle, asked if I wanted to try out some products from her line, I couldn’t resist. The Scandi allure was just too strong!

Marina sent along three products (and a lovely handwritten note!) that she thought would best address the skincare concerns I told her about. I don’t have hugely problematic skin, but as I told Marina, I am on the dry side and deal with dullness and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Marina sent me the Sweet & Creamy Oil Cleanser*, Herbal Face Oil*, and Argan Night Serum*.

Sweet & Creamy Oil Cleanser*

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I’m a huge fan of oil cleansers, and actually purchased my second bottle of The Body Shop Camomile Silky Cleansing Oil about a week prior to receiving these products. I would say that the name “Creamy Oil Cleanser” is quite apt here – when I pump some of this product out, it’s a thin, lotion-y texture – not very oily at all. However, when massaged into damp skin, it emulsifies just like an oil. When I wash it off, my skin feels comfortably clean (not tight) and has no oily residue. It does a great job at getting all my makeup off. I always double cleanse with an oil and then a micellar solution when I’m wearing face makeup, but after using this cleanser I don’t see any remnants of my foundation on a micellar-soaked cotton pad.

This oil cleanser gets off eye makeup efficiently and fully, including waterproof eyeliner and mascara. I personally prefer to use a separate eye makeup remover as I don’t like the feeling of a heavy oil on my eyes, but for those of you who want one product that will do it all, the Sweet & Creamy Oil Cleanser* excels. I would go so far as to say that I may even like it better than my beloved Body Shop Silky Camomile Oil Cleanser – though it is more expensive, ounce for ounce.

My one reservation with this product is that it does contain coconut oil, which has a moderate comedogenic rating and can cause some people to break out – especially people who are more acne-prone. Personally, I have not had issues using small concentrations of coconut oil on my face, but it’s something to keep in mind!

Herbal Face Oil and Argan Night Serum

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These are both fairly thick oils that do not sink in quickly. The Argan Night Serum* is especially rich, so on nights when I used it I didn’t use a night cream on top of it. I also wouldn’t use the Herbal Face Oil* under makeup unless I had at least half an hour to let it sink in. I will say that although I could feel the serum on my face for about half an hour after applying it, when I ran a finger across my face my finger did not come away with any of the product on it.

Whether I applied the Argan Night Serum* or the Herbal Face Oil* at night, I always woke up with soft and plump-feeling skin – which is not always a guarantee for me, especially in the colder months. These oils might not be appropriate for someone with oilier skin – or even for me in the summer – but for someone on the drier side, they work beautifully. I often get flaking around the sides of my nose, and I haven’t dealt with that at all since using these Marina Miracle products.

I ended up really liking both of these oils, though they are on the heavy side. During this testing period I used at least one of them every day, but from now on I will probably save them for use 2-3 times a week. I feel that they are potent enough that their effects will carry over across a few days, and I can supplement with a regular moisturizer.

And now for some before and after pictures. You’ll notice that I struggle with a bit of dullness, some redness at the bottom of my cheeks, a few zits, and post-inflammatory hyperpigementation. I usually get zits on my chin and my cheekbones, and while they go away fairly fast, the hyperpigmentation lasts forever. When I took the before pictures, I was dealing with the remnant of a cystic zit that refused to die.

I haven’t edited these photos at all, even to adjust for colour balance, contrast, etc. I’m also not wearing makeup in any (obviously).

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The left side of my face.

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The right side of my face.

And some close-ups, for those of you who are into the gory details:

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I suppose I can’t say with absolute certainty that the hyperpigmentation wouldn’t have faded over the course of nearly a month, anyway. But as someone who has had PIH last for up to half a year, I’m pretty pleased with this. I also feel like my skin is generally a bit brighter and more even – and is it just me, or am I even less red at the bottoms of my cheeks?!

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The packaging on Marina Miracle products is really beautiful – it’s durable, heavy green glass. It’s not extremely travel-friendly for obvious reasons (though the size of the oils is certainly convenient), but for when I’m staying in one place I think the packaging is beautiful. The boxes they come in are also really pretty, with an elaborate tree motif. I held onto these forever so I could photograph them for this post because they’re so pretty, but I suppose now I can recycle them. (I’m not normally an outer packaging hoarder!)

You’ve probably concluded by now that I have been quite impressed with Marina Miracle – or at least the three products I got to test. Personally, I would say the Sweet & Creamy Oil Cleanser* is my absolute favourite of the bunch – it does an amazing job at getting makeup off without stripping my skin and it’s a daily use product for me. I do like both of the oils, but they’re more of a special occasion thing for me – and probably not suitable for all skin types. When I run out of the cleanser, I will seriously considering repurchasing – it’s that good. I’ll have to see how the oils fit into my routine now that I’m not using them daily, but if I’m still seeing results I’d definitely consider picking up at least one of them again.

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Such a sweet note that Marina included! I love little touches like this – it really gives me a good first impression of a brand that reaches out to me.

A note about the term “natural”: it is not regulated, and thus is not hugely meaningful when it comes to cosmetics. Also, there are harmful, poisonous, and downright bad-for-you things found in nature, so “natural” isn’t necessarily an indicator of how good an ingredient is for you.

The Sweet & Creamy Oil Cleanser* retails for $41 USD/$56.29 CAD for 110 mL/3.7 fl oz. That means it’s $0.37 USD/$0.51 CAD per mL, or $11.08 USD/$15.21 CAD per mL.

The Argan Night Serum* retails for $59 USD/$81 CAD for 25mL/0.85 fl oz. That means it’s $2.36 USD/$3.24 CAD per mL, or $69.41 USD/$95.29 CAD per oz.

The Herbal Face Oil* retails for $42 USD/$57.68 CAD for 25mL/0.85 fl oz. That means it’s $1.68 USD/$2.31 CAD per mL, or $49.41 USD/$67.86 CAD per fl oz.

If you’re interested in both the Night Serum and Face Oil, you can purchase them in a package for $90 USD/$123.60 CAD, which brings it down to $1.80 USD/$2.47 CAD per mL, or $52.94 USD/$72.70 CAD per fl oz.

Marina Miracle has recently launched their worldwide shop, which means all of you lovely people can browse their products and place an order if you’re so inclined!