Empties: June to August 2018

Posted on September 07, 2018 under Empties

Yay, empties! True to form, I never threw out the very dirty One Direction fragrance set box I’ve been housing my empties in for years even though I totally said I was going to. So today I am clearing out that dirty box to make room for more stuff to make it even more dirty.

Skincare

Vichy Idéal Soleil Ultra-Fluid SPF50: I really liked this. It’s a solid lightweight facial sunscreen that does its job. It’s about $25, which is kind of expensive, but I can also duck into my local drugstore and buy it, so convenience wins. (I do want to try the much-lauded Bioré sunscreen, but it’s not readily-available and I don’t know if I want to commit to such a complicated relationship with an essential step of my routine.)

La Roche-Posay Anthelios XL SPF60 Lotion: I did not care for this. I mean, it protected me from the sun pretty well, but it also pilled on my skin if I sweat. And, the thing is, in summer, when I am most likely to take the time to apply body sunscreen, it is hot. And when it is hot, I sweat. So… yeah. Good thing I got this as gratis, because I’d have been annoyed to spend thirty bucks on this.

La Roche-Posay Respectissime Waterproof Eye Makeup Remover: I have lost count of how many of these I’ve used up. You know the drill – as effective as Lancôme Bi-Facil (and without the cloying fragrance), half the price. (Actually, I’m using up a bottle of Bi-Facil that someone gave me right now, and I think the LRP is a bit better.)

Biotherm Homme Aquapower Eye De-Puffer: I got this as gratis at a Biotherm training and I kept it for myself because I know zero men who would use an eye cream, let alone appreciate an expensive one. This is definitely not worth $31, but I did really enjoy its light gel texture and cooling sensation first thing in the morning.

The Ordinary Advanced Retinoid 2%: This product has been called the Granactive Retinoid for like 95 years now, so that shows you how long I’ve had this. Anyway, I really, really liked it and have actually ordered a new one. I remember when this product first came out and I was blown away that you could buy any type of vitamin A derivative for under $40, let alone its price of $9.80. And it’s truly both gentle and effective.

The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5: This is maybe my fourth or fifth bottle of this. It’s a great, super cheap hydrating serum. Currently I’m using The Ordinary’s Marine Hyaluronics, which is basically the same thing but with a thin, watery texture and none of the stickiness of the 2%. (The texture never bothered me, anyway, so I don’t have a strong preference between the two.)

Lancôme Absolue Night Precious Cells Recovery Night Cream: Do you think I would ever in a million years tell you guys that a $205 night cream is in any way worth it? No I would not. And I will not. This is a thick, nourishing moisturizer. I will save $170 and keep buying my Origins overnight mask. (Obviously, I received this product as gratis.)

Nuxe Rêve de Miel Ultra-Nourishing Lip Balm: This is just one of those indulgences that I don’t feel bad about anymore. As my mom said to me one day while on vacation, “Thank you for introducing me to this overpriced bougie bullshit.” But, truly, is $17 too much to ask for months of hydrated lips? I don’t think so. (One pot of this usually lasts me about 8-10 months, so I really can’t complain.)

Vaseline Lip Therapy – Aloe: I thought the taste of this was gross. It was also kind of slippery and not that effective.

Nivea Hydro Care Lip Balm: This is still my favourite standard stick lip balm. It’s effective and it layers nicely under lipstick.

Haircare

One lone product in this category today, and though it’s a boring (and standard) one, it’s also a milestone. I truly could not tell you how many tubes of John Frieda Sheer Blonde Tone Correcting Shampoo I went through over my four-year stint as a blonde. However, those days are (almost) over. I’ve almost grown my hair out enough to hack off the last of the blonde, so I’m now trying to find a haircare routine that works for my natural, non-blonde, non-bleach-damaged hair. This is the last tube of purple shampoo I’ll use for the foreseeable future, though it’s certainly a good option within that category.

Makeup

Random unmarked loose powder: There is truly nothing identifying about this packaging. I don’t know what it is. It was a good loose powder. To replace it I bought the Marcelle one, which is huge and will legit last me a decade. (This little tub lasted about three years.)

NIOD Photography Foundation, Opacity 12% (sample): This is very much not a foundation, but rather a liquid illuminator. It’s super pretty under makeup. It’s also $30, so… you know. (I will say, out of all the illuminating primers I’ve tried I do like this one the best. Although I’m a primer skeptic so take that potentially faint praise as you will.)

Maybelline Master Conceal Camoflage Concealer in Fair: I don’t think this product ever really caught on in the wider beauty world, but I liked it pretty well for both blemishes and under the eyes. Honestly, there’s still a lot of product in this tube, which is probably because it’s an outrageously generous 12mL/0.4 fl oz. (That’s 40% of a standard foundation size.) But it is very old, and its time on is up.

Essence Lash and Brow Gel: Yes, this crusty tube once contained clear brow gel. I don’t know why I keep buying this product when I’m feeling too cheap for L’Oréal – it truly has almost no effect. Yes, L’Oréal is audacious for charging $15.99 for a clear brow gel, but it’s also really good. I think it’s time to just accept that (and stock up when it’s on sale).

L’Oréal Paradise Extatic Mascara: I hate to be a Negative Nancy, but this much-lauded mascara (which, in case it wasn’t obvious, is the UK version of Lash Paradise) didn’t do much for me. I mean, it wasn’t awful. I thought it was decent as I was using it. But as soon as I switched back to Clarins Truly Waterproof, I was like, “Oh yeah, this mascara is it.” L’Oréal is not.

Quo Blending Sponge: This was my favourite Beauty Blender dupe for years and years and years, but I think they’ve reformulated them. The one pictured was great, as always, but the one I bought to replace it is a lot denser and soaks up so much product. So now the one good product Quo made also sucks.

Nail Care

Quo 100% Acetone: I used this up over many years. I don’t know why I bought it or even why I didn’t just take the $3 loss instead of stubbornly deciding to use it up. I will not buy 100% acetone ever again.

Quickies Nail Varnish Remover Pads: I honestly bought these because I was like £1 off Superdrug’s free shipping threshold. They’re not very good pads; it takes a lot of elbow grease to get anything off.

Sally Hansen Miracle Gel Top Coat: I have used up many, many bottles of this top coat (over all brands of nail polish) over the past four years. I’m trying out one of Sally’s other top coats right now, but I always seem to go back to this one.

Miscellaneous

Here are some items which are not empty but which are now unusable.

Rimmel Stay Matte Powder: The lid for this powder shattered in my move from Glasgow to Toronto, which is fine because I never use pressed powder. Anyway, this remains one of the most poorly-packaged products ever to torment this sacred Earth.

Sally Hansen Hard As Nails in White On: A leakage caused this bottle to fuse shut; I could probably get into it if I tried, but it’s pretty old and it’ll only cost me like $4 to replace.

Sally Hansen Miracle Gel in All Chalked Up: This nail polish became gloopy and unusable super quickly, which is honestly a huge bummer because 1) I absolutely adore the colour, and 2) it’s been discontinued so I can’t replace it. Maybe this is what will finally make me buy nail polish thinner.

… and that is everything I used up over the summer!

My AM and PM skincare routine, winter 2018

Posted on February 06, 2018 under Lists

It’s been quite some time since I shared what skincare I’m using, so I thought I’d do a bit of a skincare update. I’m still working my way through the backlog of gratis from my days working in cosmetics; as a result, there are some items in this post that aren’t utter favourites. But I think lukewarm to negative reviews are very useful, so why not include them?

As always, my skin is normal to dry, leaning dryer at this time of year. (Actually, most of my face has settled down from the transition in seasons – it’s only my nose that is still parched.) I usually only break out hormonally, and I do have fairly persistent hyperpigmentation which follows blemishes long after they die. I focus on hydration and acid toning in my skincare. I probably do my full skincare routine about 95% of the time. I never go to bed without washing my face and slapping on some night cream or an oil, but I can’t think of the last time I skipped a step – maybe in somewhere in the Christmas madness.

Here’s what my skin looks like without makeup. These pictures were taken at the end of January, when I was recovering from a stress breakout. (80% healed now, I’d say.)

I sometimes have closed comedones on my forehead and I get the occasionally random zit there, but it’s usually clear. It’s hard to tell in this picture but at this time a rare blemish was in the final stages of healing.

It can be hard to tell the difference between freckles and hyperpigmentation, but there are a few healing blemishes around the centre of my face here, which is rare for me. The ones on the left side of my chin are more standard – I always have either an active breakout or hyperpigmentation there. Despite the fact that my most recent breakout was larger than normal, this is pretty much the best my skin will be: by the time the hyperpigmentation starts to fade, a new zit will find a home on my face. Skincare really helps mitigate the length and scope of my breakouts, but, like 99% of people on this planet, my skin will never be totally blemish-free.

By the way, usually my zits aren’t too bad, but I do have the really bad habit of picking them, and sometimes they’re monsters to begin with, and the combination sometimes results in disasters.

I also occasionally have a bit of blotchy redness at the bottom of my cheeks. This tends to be more pronounced in hotter weather, so it’s not very noticeable right now at all. I don’t generally have very sensitive skin, but some skincare also exacerbates this redness.

Finally, I think it’s essential to note that, while skincare is a really great tool to address various concerns, a lot of “good skin” is genetic. I’ve never had particularly problematic skin; even at the peak of my teenage breakouts (age 14-15) I was doing okay. I hope it’s obvious that I’m not saying this to brag, just to be realistic about the results my skincare routine can actually achieve.

Gratis received through work will be marked with an asterisk, as always.

AM Routine

In the morning, I like to keep things pretty simple – I prefer not to rush through my morning routine but also like to maximize on my sleep, so there’s a delicate balancing act! If my face feels quite dry I don’t bother washing it; if not, I use a light cream or gel cleanser. Currently I’m using the Avène 3-in-1 makeup remover*, which does an okay job at gentle cleansing but which I do find leaves a sticky residue if I don’t wash it off vigilantly. My favourite cleanser for this purpose is the Marcelle Ultra Gentle Cleansing Gel. It’s gentle but efficient and doesn’t strip the skin or leave a residue. And it’s only $12.95! I’ll go back to it when I finish the Avène.

Unlike every other surface of my body, my undereyes are not horribly dry, so in the morning I’ve been really enjoying the Biotherm Homme Aquapower Eye Depuffer*. It’s a light, cooling gel that is perfect first thing in the morning when I’m trying to do my makeup despite the fact that it’s pitch black.

Lately I’ve been starting my skincare with The Ordinary EUK 134 0.1%, which is an antioxidant with an oily texture. I love using antioxidants if I’m going outside – living in a city I’m exposed to lots of free radicals in the forms of pollution, car exhaust, etc. For this time of year the oily texture of the EUK has been working quite well for me, but I’m not sure if I’ll love it so much in the summer. I find it layers well under other products but I’ll have to see if it’s too heavy in the warmer months, when my skin is pretty much normal.

For moisturizer I’ve been using La Roche-Posay Toleriane Ultra*. I’m a longtime fan of LRP’s Toleriane Riche, which is a thicker cream great for dry, sensitive skin. However, Toleriane Ultra is thinner and layers better with other skincare and makeup. It isn’t as fluid as some moisturizers and does deliver enough hydration for my day-to-day needs – it helps that I pack on a lot of hydration in my nighttime routine so that I can use lighter products under my makeup.

Sunscreen is Vichy Ideal Soleil SPF50* – I find this one and the LRP Anthelios fluid basically interchangeable. Both are lightweight, non-greasy facial sunscreens that layer well. When I run out, I’m interested in trying some Japanese sunscreens since I hear great things about them and they seem to be a bit more cost-effective than Vichy or LRP.

And that’s it for my morning routine – I don’t use actives or do too much product layering.

PM Routine

My nighttime skincare routine is one of my favourite rituals, and washing my face is the best part. There’s something so satisfying about taking off broken down, hours-old makeup. I always really like the way my skin looks when I’m freshly-cleansed, too. My cleansing routine could be described as “extra”, but I like to be really thorough and make sure my face is spotless. I’ve been a devoted user of oil cleansers for about five years now; I find they’re great at breaking down makeup, and they do my dry skin a big favour. Currently I’m using the Biotherm Total Renew Oil Cleanser*. It has a very pleasant texture – not greasy, and without any residue. Though it’s effective and nice to use, I think it’s too expensive for what it is. The Body Shop Camomile Silky Cleansing Oil is half the price (and as we all know The Body Shop constantly has deals) and I like that it emulsifies more.

I find that no cleanser ever gets all my makeup off, even if my skin looks bare to the naked eye. I always do a second pass with a gentle gel cleanser, so the Avène cleanser comes into play here. On no-makeup days (which are pretty frequent, actually; I’m only on campus three days a week and don’t normally put on makeup to run errands) I just use the Avène cleanser.

I will always love the La Roche-Posay Respectissime Waterproof Eye Makeup Remover, which gets absolutely everything off without any tugging or rubbing. It’s as good as Lancôme Bi-Facil and half the price.

I follow all of that up with some micellar water; these days I’m using La Roche-Posay Ultra Micellar Water*. This one and Bioderma Sensibio are tied for my favourite. I know most people use micellar water as a first step to remove makeup, but I prefer to use it at the very end. When using an oil-based eye makeup remover it’s essential to remove the residue to avoid milia, and a micellar solution helps balance the pH of the skin prior to acid steps.

Which, of course, brings me to the second-best part of my skincare routine. I use a chemical exfoliant every day; I know that’s too much for a lot of people, but my skin tolerates it well. Generally, I get on best with AHAs. Right now I’m using the Vichy Idealia Peeling*, which is glycolic acid. It’s great, but now that we have The Ordinary there’s no reason to spend $40 on an AHA. I’ve gone through an entire bottle of The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA 2%, which my skin really liked. I’ve also tried The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution, which is cheap as chips and just as effective as the expensive stuff. Occasionally I use The Ordinary Advanced Retinoid 2% (now discontinued) instead of an acid. I always leave my acids on my face for 20-30 minutes before moving on to other steps, because acids require a specific pH to work properly and layering other products negates the effects.

For my eyes, I’ve been layering The Ordinary Caffeine Solution 5% + ECGC and Bioderma Sensibio Eye*. As I’ve mentioned, I’m not convinced that the Caffeine Solution actually does anything for dark circles, but I’ll use it up since it’s not like it hurts. The Bioderma eye cream is a very thin gel-cream hybrid that adds a little moisture and not much else. It’s nothing special, really.

To give my skin the moisture it needs, I use The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 as a serum step. This is my fourth bottle; it’s so inexpensive and it really does make a huge difference in my skin. My night cream these days is Origins Drink Up Intensive Overnight Mask, which is an incredibly rich cream that I swear by in the winter. This is my second winter using it and I haven’t had any nose flakes since before I discovered it. About once a week, if my skin is especially dry, I use The Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Squalane. Of all the oils I’ve tried I like squalane the best – it delivers moisture but isn’t too greasy. It’s also nice on my arms and legs and on the fried, burnt ends of my hair. (Just kidding, I haven’t bleached my hair in 11 months and it’s so much healthier!)

My final step is always Nuxe Rêve de Miel Lip Balm, which truly is the most nourishing, effective lip treatment I’ve found. It does have a pretty thick, waxy texture, so it’s a nighttime-exclusive kind of product for me.

And… that is it! I would guess that this is a pretty extensive routine compared to the average, but it doesn’t take me all that long and it addresses all my skin concerns. I hate being away from all my skincare products – that’s the worst part about travelling for me. Anyway – there’s a (far too detailed) breakdown of what I’m currently using.

Packing Light for Prague

Posted on November 25, 2017 under Life

My last few trips I did not bother to pack light makeup-wise, either because I didn’t have to or because I felt I needed options. This weekend, however, I’m going to Prague for purely touristy reasons, and I thought this would be the perfect time to exercise some restraint. As with all my European weekend trips, I pack entirely in one small school-sized backpack, so I really need to streamline my makeup to make room. I thought I would share my very minimal makeup bag today.

I can easily fill a liquids bag with skincare, but I know that when I’m walking around all day and sleeping in a hostel dorm room at night my desire to keep up with a complex skincare routine is zero. So my liquids bag – which is from Muji, by the way – reflects a back-to-basics approach.

The skincare steps I cannot do without are cleansing and moisturizing. The Caudalie Vino Perfect Serum from this year’s Sephora birthday gift will help boost the La Roche-Posay Toleriane Ultra moisturizer to keep my skin nice and hydrated. I’ve never had issues with dry undereyes until the past month or so, so I decided to bring the Biotherm Homme Eye Depuffer (which, by the way, is a nice gel eye cream even if you’re not a man). I got a sample of the Aussie 3 Minute Miracle Reconstructor which I’ve been saving for travel, since obviously my poor dead hair requires a lot of moisture. I don’t have any travel-sized shampoo right now, so I’ll have to pick one up at the airport.

The IT Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC+ Cream is such an easy, fuss-free foundation that it was a no-brainer when it came to choosing which base product to pack. The packaging is also incredibly travel-friendly. For concealer, Maybelline Master Conceal works under the eyes and on blemishes.

I can’t be without Milani Eyeshadow Primer, and Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner is a staple for me as well. The Lancôme Hypnôse Drama mascara mini is convenient for travel, and I like the mascara as well. (Lancôme mascaras are so hit and miss to me, but this one is a hit.) Finally, a fresh tube of Essence Lash and Brow Mascara to keep my brow hairs in place.

And then the rest of my makeup easily fits in one small bag, which is a point of pride when I am prone to overpacking.

For the cheeks, Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush in Mood Exposure goes with everything and is a perennial travel staple for me. This is the most beautiful flattering blush colour in the world despite how “meh” it appears in the pan. I’m not sure if I’ll bother with highlighter, but I figured I’d give myself the option. Glossier Haloscope in Quartz is easy to apply without brushes and it gives a very natural effect, so I thought it would be perfect for travel.

Urban Decay Naked Basics is probably the most boring travel palette choice in the world, but it’s small, practically indestructible, and foolproof. I decided to add an eyebrow pencil into my repertoire mainly for travel purposes, so I don’t have to mess around with a brush and pomade when I’m on the go. The Annabelle Skinny Brow Liner in Universal Taupe is one of many ABH Brow Wiz dupes, and it works for me.

Forgive me for being extra and packing two lip balms. Overnight, my lips need the heavy-duty power of Nuxe Rêve de Miel, but during the day I prefer something a little lighter like Vaseline Lip Therapy. In an uncharacteristic move, I am committing to a single lip liner – Rimmel Exaggerate Lip Liner in Enchantment – and a single lipstick – YSL Rouge Volupté in #17. I love moisturizing lip products when I’m travelling, and the soft berry shade of #17 makes it a perfect candidate for this trip. I usually like to pair the Rouge Voluptés with a liner underneath to increase the staying power a bit, so I’ll likely just wear this combination together each day.

I tend to really overpack brushes, but this time I cut it down to the essentials: Magic Collection Oval Brush, ColourPop Blush Brush, ColourPop Blending Brush, ELF Crease Brush, ELF Eyeshadow C Brush, ELF Eye Contour Brush, ELF Small Smudge Brush, Elf Spoolie. Wow, I do really like ELF brushes, don’t I?

(By the way, I definitely washed that foundation brush after I took this picture!)

In case you were wondering about cleansing, I did buy a pack of makeup wipes from Superdrug. I hardly ever use wipes, but I just think washing my face with an actual cleanser while travelling is more hassle than it’s worth. My skin is pretty resilient, so I think it’ll survive. I love using actives on my skin, but I know that I can get away with just makeup wipes and moisturizer for three nights. It’ll make my life easier!

Anyway, I’m off this evening with my nice light makeup bag. I’ve wanted to go Prague for years, so I’m really excited that I could finally make it happen.