Thursday, February 23, 2017

splurge! February 2017

I have been hardcore into skincare lately and that obsession is going to be reflected in this month's splurge! post.  It's just what's appealing to me right now, especially stuff for dry Winter skin.

After spending most of my Christmas money on beauty products (what else is new) I am currently on a no-buy.  That doesn't stop me from looking though.  Or from getting samples.  Lots and lots of samples.  For future reference, you understand.

But yeah, I love to look.  And I love the feeling of pretending I'm going to buy something outrageously expensive.  Is that weird?  Call me shallow, but I revel in the feeling I get standing in the middle of luxe department stores' beauty departments.  Bloomingdales in Chestnut Hill MA was my first love.  Harrod's was crowded and over-whelming, but what an experience.  And Barney's in San Francisco makes me feel simultaneously exclusive and hip.  Do you ever feel like that?  What is your favorite place to splurge (or pretend to splurge)?  Here is what I recommend:

Charlotte Tilbury Magic Night Rescue Cream has it all.  In fact, it is called an "intense firming plumping balm-elixir", and contains time-released retinol.  But not so much retinol that it disturbs my sensitive skin.  Other powerhouse ingredients include:  red algae for repairing damage and protecting from further damage, Olus oil and vitamin E, super peptides, and Winter Daphne Stem Cell Extract for firming.  Sounds incredible, doesn't it?  Its only drawback is what I love most about it, which is the super rich texture.  I feel like the texture may be too much for some, but I can't get enough of that emollient goodness.  It will probably feel like it is just sitting on your skin but believe me, it is actually penetrating and working wonders.  Anyway, I love that feeling.  I would slather real butter on my face at night if it worked.  No matter how rich a cream or oil I use, my skin always wakes up dry, parched and irritated.  Until the CT Magic Night Cream that is.  If you are extremely dry or sensitive or menopausal I think you would really adore this moisturizer.  It's pricey but is a decent size.  I say go to Nordstrom, get a free sample, and try it out for yourself.

$145 for 1.7 oz

The Les Parfums Louis Vuitton collection released last year is scent-sational!   Light and lovely, they are not the knock-you-over-the head-type like many luxury brands are.  Also the history is fascinating.  Until now, LV hasn't released any perfume since right after World War II in 1946.  It took a good five years for Jacques Cavallier Belletrud to come up with these seven beauties, and I am enamored with every single one.  If you are like me, you may want to go for the miniatures set with adorable little 10 ml bottles of all seven fragrances for $290.  Otherwise, the average 3.4 oz bottle sells for $240, and the large 6.8 oz bottle runs $350.  BUT you can bring in your empty bottle and have it refilled for only $130.  Now that's a bargain!
Surprisingly, my favorite of the collection is the Rose des Vents.  I say surprisingly because I have been so bored with rose perfumes lately.  But Rose des Vents is not your average rose.  It's not a classic rose, it's not a dark rose.  It's not even a sophisticated rose.  I would call it a fruity rose.  I really pick up the peach, and iris, and cedar.  And it's probably just my imagination because I don't find these notes listed anywhere, but I think I smell a bit of white floral thrown in.  It's divine!

$240 for 100ml

$33 really isn't all that much money, if say you were going to buy a sweater or an eye cream.  But $33 for an eyelash curler falls into the extravagant category.  Still, the surratt beauty Revelee Lash Curler is worthy of its hefty price tag.  Beauty mavens worldwide love it for several reasons.  #1 No pinching.  This is due to the long but shallow curve.   #2 It actually elongates the lashes.  I'm not quite sure how but it might have something to do with the firm yet bouncy cushion.  #3 Sturdily built.  #4 Fits well for almost every eye shape.  Again because of the long but shallow arc, and also because it opens up really wide.  If your budget can handle it, or if you are all about the lashes, then go for it - you'll love it!


Clarins Extra-Firming Body Lotion.  #ohmygodilovethissomuch  It goes on like a dream:  comforts and moisturizes and smells heavenly.  The only problem with it is that it is so luscious I always end up lavishing it on and thus go through the tube all too quickly.  I believe the lemon thyme extract smell is literally addictive (and I mean "literally" in the true sense of the word here, not in the over-used jargon way of late).  But here is the question you all want to know:  does it really firm the skin?   Yes, it does a bit.  Mostly if you are using it twice a day.  It doesn't get rid of cellulite.  And it works much better if you go to the effort of dry brushing before you shower, then apply the cream afterward to slightly damp skin.  As with your face skincare routine, you need to exfoliate your body's skin in order for products to penetrate better.  But honestly, I am often too lazy to do all that.  I love this cream anyway and enjoy it for its sensualness alone.

$65 for 6.7 oz

La Prairie Cellular Swiss Ice Crystal Dry Oil is insanely expensive but if you are a millionaire it could be worth it.  I got several free samples at Nordstrom and fell head-over-heels.  I didn't even get enough product to see long-term anti-aging benefits but I appreciated the scent, the texture, and the hydration of it so much that I would buy a full bottle if I could.  It is advertised to help with the first signs of aging (lots of antioxidants!), however my already mature skin saw some excellent results from it too.
 I am all about the face oils lately, have been testing out a bunch, and this falls into my top 3 because it is majorly hydrating and very protecting.  At first I thought it was a little too greasy then realized I was using way too much of it.  A little bit goes a long way!  But despite my over-use, it actually absorbed easily.  It is quite fragrant (there is "fragrance" listed half-way down the ingredient list) which some of you may not like, but I enjoy the floral/essential oil scent, and besides it didn't seem to irritate my sensitive skin.  Bottom line:  their "rare and pure seed oils" do the trick!   

$330 for 1 oz

Tom Ford Soleil Blanc Shimmering Body Oil is totally hedonistic.  And sparkly - in the best possible way!  It's a very light weight oil; not much for hydrating but more for creating opulence.  And the smell, wow the smell!  It is infused with the TF Soleil Blanc scent but is smoother and less in your face than the perfume itself.  I prefer it.  And I can't decide which I like better, the sultry sun-kissed gold and platinum leaf specks, or the tuberose/coconut/amber fragrance.  But nevermind, it's a package deal, and the package is magnificent.  It probably looks best over a tan but I also like to rock its summertime vibe in the depths of winter to boost my mood and flagging morale.  Delicioso!

$98 for 3.4 oz

If you want to know what else is worth splurging on check out some of my other favorite splurge! posts:  

all products reviewed were either bought, researched, or sampled by me. And product pictures were stolen from the link's websites. I am not financially compensated for my reviews

Saturday, February 18, 2017

why I have come to love Clinique

It used to be that as an esthetician working with professional grade skincare I looked down upon Clinique.  I am ashamed to admit I was a snob.  Even when working at Sephora years ago I felt there were much more potent and exciting brands to recommend.  Clinique just reminded me of 1980 junior high school and my friend Lisa Adler whose mother bought her the ubiquitous toner, yellow moisturizer, and blush in the marbled green compact.  We didn't take it seriously at the time, and I still hadn't taken Clinique seriously until about a couple years ago.  It turns out I just needed to be brave enough, or open-minded enough, to try.

It started out gradually.  First I bought the Quickliner For Eyes and ended up very impressed.  It was a slow work day at Sephora and I was occupying myself by testing out and swatching random products that were located in my "zone".  This included stuff on the Clinique gondola. The Quickliner came in a gorgeous slate color that was creamy but not too soft or oily.  It drew an easy line that stayed put.  I didn't normally like retractable eyeliners but this one was unusual in that it was able to make a thin enough line.  And the rest is history....I have owned several Quickliners by now, the color choices are awesome.

Way back before the current double-cleansing with oils craze, there was Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm.  That and the REN balm were pretty much the only oily balm options at Sephora.  Of course now TTDO is all you hear about on YouTube.  And with good reason.  This gently melts and dissolves all makeup without stripping your skin or being harsh in any way.  I have never heard of it breaking anyone out either.  It is a revelation to me because I no longer have to tug at my eyes to remove my mascara, and there is no stinging involved either.  Really it's perfect.


Or for a lazy superficial cleanse the Take The Day Off Micellar Cleansing Towelettes For Face & Eye are lovely and very effective.  Definitely in my top 3 favorite wipes of all time.

After these two discoveries, I grew more confident in the brand.  My next purchases were for my increasingly dry skin.  I had been obsessed with finding the perfect hydrating spray, when I heard British beauty guru Sally Hughes mention that during her childbirth labor the constant spritzing of Clinique Moisture Surge Face Spray Thirsty Skin Relief helped keep her going.  That sealed the deal for me!  Now it is, by far and away, my most used moisturizing mist.  Oil-free, alcohol-free, it is loaded with aloe and glycerin.

The other super hydrator I got was the Smart Night Custom Repair Moisturizer - Very Dry.  The technology of this cream is amazing.  While smoothing lines and wrinkles it also attracts just the right amount of moisture that your skin requires that night.  Left to its own devices my skin will wake up in the morning a parched angry red mess, but with this cream I am left plump and smooth and best of all no irritated redness.  I have unsuccessfully tried many night creams but Smart Night seems to do the trick.  It also comes in lighter weight formulas:  dry-combination, and combination-oily.

My most coveted Clinique product these days is their Beyond Perfecting Foundation + Concealer.  I woudn't normally go for a Clinique foundation but I received a free sample of this and for some reason decided to just try it (see samples made me buy it).  I assumed the texture would be too thick and cakey and drying but it turned out smooth and satiny despite its heavy coverage consistency.  I was going to save this for special occasion makeup but in fact I love it so much I use it frequently - no special occasion required.  It's like velvet!  A very flattering velvet.

Last and best of all, Clinique makes some lesser-known perfumes.  Stuff that you can't find at Macy's or Sephora.  They almost fall into the niche category, and you could consider yourself uber cool to own them.  I discovered their Beyond Rose (a down and dirty amber rose) at Harrod's where it was an exclusive a few years back, but now is available in the states online.  I found their Aromatics in Black (dry mysterious jasmine and myrrh) at Saks, and am dying to return to get Aromatics Black Cherry (spicy green floral fruit with amber).  You can read more about these in my post huge perfume haul.

I don't know how, when, or where Clinique got such a bad rap (or really more of an indifferent rap) with us beauty snobs, but I am here to say we were wrong.  Very wrong.  Of course I still wouldn't use their Clarifying Lotions (ie. toners) because they have a lot of alcohol in them, but no brand is perfect.  As a professional, I would also recommend their Age Defence BB Cream Broad Spectrum SPF 30Cheek Pop blush, Bottom Lash Mascara, and the Clinique For Men Non-Streak Face Bronzer (for women to use as well).  Over all, I am excited about Clinique and the direction they are going in.  I believe they are totally worth checking out!

What are your feelings about Clinique?

all products reviewed were either bought, researched, or sampled by me. And product pictures were stolen from the link's websites. I am not financially compensated for my reviews

Monday, February 13, 2017

England vacation haul

I am a huge Anglophile - even my bf is English.  All my favorite beauty YouTubers are British too.  So when we made our yearly holiday trip to visit his family in the UK,  I jumped at the chance to buy everything (well not quite everything) I had seen on my Brit's YouTube channels.  There were a few things I really wanted but didn't buy because of my current budget, such as the gorgeous glowy Guerlain Parure Gold Fluid Radiance Foundation ($71.25) that Pixiwoo used in their video.  I by-passed Sleek MakeUP altogether because they have never appealed to me even though loads of people love their palettes.
And I have to say my biggest enjoyment (and plunder) was going to the famous British drug stores Boots and Superdrug.

Most of all I was dying to try the COlab Dry Shampoo Sheer & Invisible because it was created by the charming Ruth Crilly of A Model Recommends.  I found it at Superdrug and chose the "London" ("classic yet contemporary") scent, although judging by what they had in stock "Paris" seemed to be the most popular.  That was the full size but I also got the travel size of their Extreme Volume formula in "Monaco".  Both scents were fine, nothing too offensive.

The Extreme Volume formula is no joke; it thickens up the hair like nobody's business - awesome for those especially greasy days.  Or back-combing even.  I would have returned to buy a full sized bottle of it but dithered because I worried that it kinda made my hair look dull so I didn't bother.  Still, it was so cheap I probably should have anyway.

The Sheer & Invisible formula was ok.  They claim it leaves no white residue, which is completely true, but it didn't seem to do too much for my hair.  No hardcore shampooing.  No big volume or texture. It wasn't bad per se, good for a light fluff, and besides I'm excited to own a little piece of Ruth Crilly so I'm glad I got it.

I bought a horrible mascara but it was because I was jet lagged and not paying attention.  I meant to buy the Max Factor Velvet Volume False Lash Effect but accidentally grabbed the L'Oreal Volume Million Lashes which you can easily get here in the states.  I tried it when I got home and it sucked so bad I immediately threw it out.  I was pissed!  That's why it isn't even shown in my photo.  A stupid mistake.  Oh well.

My best and biggest surprise is the Boots Tea Tree & Witch Hazel Spot Wand.  This wasn't on my list of goodies to buy but after the long flight and climate change my skin was looking particularly heinous.  I was browsing the aisles looking for anything that might help when I happened upon this.  It turned out to work like a charm - got rid of my pimples and redness almost overnight.  This has a handy double wand, one end for daytime treatment and one end for nighttime treatment and the formula is very gentle.  I should have gone back for a few more to bring stateside.  Kicking myself!

 Bioderma Atoderm Lip Balm was something I heard about on Lily Pebbles YouTube channel.  She was experiencing severely dry and damaged lips and after much trial and error it ended up being the only thing that helped her.  I don't quite find it to be the miracle cure that she did but I love the light silky texture and the ease of applying it in its roll-up tube applicator.  It's kind of addictive, I'd probably buy it again.

During my one cherished day in London (I always wish for more time there) I made a special trip to Charlotte Tilbury's store in Covent Garden.  I was hoping they still sold their limited edition lipstick The Queen* (a quintessential matte red) but alas it was no longer available.  I tried on a couple other lipsticks and when I put on K.I.S.S.I.N.G. Lipstick in Love Bite my friend Tracy and I instantly declared it a "must have".  It is a vibrant juicy red leaning a tad bit on the blue-red side.  Just right for my complexion.  And the creamy formula lasts for hours without bleeding or traveling.  A perfect souvenir.

Even many of the American beauty YouTubers have mentioned the Bourjois Healthy Mix Gel Foundation at some point, so obviously I had to get it.  They described it as being light to maybe medium coverage with a natural look.  And that is true.  But for me, I'd rather use a good tinted moisturizer or CC cream.  It didn't do anything for me but then again I'm kinda into a heavier coverage lately.  I've only used this twice so I am willing to give it another try.  After all, everyone else seems to love it.

P.S.  I just noticed on the Boots website that they seem to have reformulated it, or put out a new version.  Maybe I'm not the only one who wasn't wowed by the original formula.

Of course I had to get a perfume and Floris seemed the obvious choice.  I do love the very British Jo Malone but that is readily available in the states.  Floris, however, is harder to come by.  It is a traditional British perfume house established in 1730 and the perfume I chose, Edwardian Bouquet, was actually created in 1901.  Edwardian Bouquet is an earthy spicy floral, kind of powdery, kind of regal.  It is green hyacinth with a sandalwood base.  Many royals and celebrities wear/have worn Floris and this is the second time I bought that brand when in the UK.

So, what British brands have you heard about or tried?  What should I get next year on my annual jaunt?

* When I went to create the Charlotte Tilbury link I noticed that this was available again on their website.   I might buy it but it's not the same as getting "The Queen" actually in England.

all products reviewed were either bought, researched, or sampled by me. And product pictures were stolen from the link's websites. I am not financially compensated for my reviews

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

January beauty favorites 2017

January and February are always rough for me as far as feeling inspired and motivated.  Thus this post is overdue because I'd much rather be hibernating like a bear.  I've been fantasizing about the "good old days" when people supposedly rose with the sun and went to bed when it got dark.  It just seems so much more natural that way, and in sync with things, but how did they get anything done?  And did they in fact really do that?  Maybe the farmers....

But I am not a farmer.  I am a beauty blogger living in an urban environment, with a crippling reliance on electricity and the internet.  So after binge-watching skincare queen Caroline Hirons YouTube videos I am finally feeling a modicum of inspiration (if you are passionate, or even just curious about skincare, you really need to check her out.  She's a "cheeky" Brit on youtube** and blog).
And just to clarify, I wasn't un-inspired about these products, it was only the writing bit that had me procrastinating.  The products themselves I LOVE!

In January I ended up buying a lot of Pixi Beauty skincare and fell hard for their Hydrating Milky Serum.   I really like their Glow Tonic glycolic toner, Glow Mist setting spray, Rose Oil Blend, and the new Caroline Hirons Double Cleanse, but to me the Milky Serum was the most amazing.  My skin had been beyond dry this Winter and nothing was helping until I bought all the new Pixi gear, however it became clear the serum was the heavy-hitter.  I tried the serum by itself first and saw some results right away, then after a few days of accumulation my skin was dramatically different.  If you haven't tried Pixi skincare you should, the price isn't too high and the products are apparently very effective.  My Target is usually sold out of a lot of their stuff so I just order online from their website.

Now that I have raved on and on about Pixi Beauty I want to rave about my mirror.  The Sanheshun 7X Magnifying Lighted Travel Mirror, Locking Suction Mount, battery Operated, Square has been my best beauty investment of 2016.  I often take it for granted so kept forgetting to put it in my favorites in 2016, but will mentioning it now.  It is a 5.2 X 5.2 inch mirror that I attached to my mirrored medicine cabinet in the bathroom.  Despite its title I don't travel with it, it stays put in my bathroom and I use it many, many times a day.  I use it to monitor my skin's hydration levels, make sure my foundation has gone on seamlessly, and apply most of my makeup using it, only double-checking it in my big mirror.  I love a constant check in throughout the day.  And for some weird reason I also like to watch myself brush my teeth up close in it.  When I bought this mirror I had no idea it would make such an impact in my life but now I can't imagine not having it.  I find it to be the perfect amount of magnifcation;  any less wouldn't be enough and any more would be too much for doing my makeup.  I got it on Amazon, who are now out of stock, perhaps permanently.  As of 2/7/2017 Walmart and ebay are currently, temporarily, out of it so my link is to Quality Beauty Supplies who I know nothing about except that they do have it in stock right now. 

My favorite impulse buy last month was the Sol de Janeiro Lip Balm Brazilian Kiss Cupuaccu Lip Butter.  I tossed it in my basket while waiting in line at Sephora without even checking the price (you know their treacherous check out aisle lined with goodies designed to do exactly that).  It was almost a dumb move because it turned out to be quite expensive ($18), but I ended up loving it so much it wasn't a regret.  Also it's a big fat .21 oz twist-up tube which almost justifies the price (Burt's Bees, Chapstick etc. run about .15 oz).  Sol de Janiero is a Brazilian brand that took the world by storm with their famous Bum Bum Cream (details in my November favorites), and this lip balm is turning out to be just as addictive.  It is all natural and the main ingredients are Cupuaccu Butter, Acai, Coconut Oil, Sunflower Oil, and Beeswax.  It has a faint almost bakery scent and feels like really silky actual butter on your lips.  I keep it right next to my laptop and apply throughout the day.  Of course it is very hydrating too!

Another lip product I am loving is the Tarte Lip Facial Lip Scrub.  Tarte released this months ago, in the Summer I think, and it swiftly sold out everywhere, never to return.  Or so we thought.  But recently, like magic, it reappeared in my local Sephora and I snapped it up.  I had been kicking myself for not buying it the first time round so am very relieved to finally have a go at it.  In fact I better return and buy a few more just in case, because I absolutely adore it.  For me, it is the best lip scrub I have ever tried.  No lie. I like the chubby pencil format that is hydrating as well as exfoliating.  The minute scrubby grains aren't harsh at all (the exact right consistency) and are contained in a creamy, slightly sticky lip balm that tastes sweet.  I hope Tarte manages to keep it on the market on a permanent basis because I am recommending it to absolutely everyone.

Flower Beauty, Drew Barrymore's brainchild at Walmart, recently released some terrific new makeup.  I bought the Flower Pots Powder Blush in Sweet Pea and the Shimmer & Strobe Highlighting Palette.  Don't make the mistake I made though of assuming all Walmart stores carry the Flower Beauty brand.  I drove a half hour to go to the BIG Walmart, assuming that of course they would have the new releases, and was pissed when I got there because they didn't have any Flower products at all.  I ended up ordering my goodies on line and paying shipping.  Hmph.  But anyway it was fine because I ended up loving them.  The packaging on all the new stuff is so so pretty!

The blush looks like a smaller version of the Milani Rose Powder Blush, in other words a beautiful embossed rose.  It is a velvety texture with very good pigment and it lasted most of the day on me.  The color Sweet Pea is a muted dusty pink that looked natural and flattering if I applied it lightly; pretty bold and more bright if I applied it heavily.

The highlighting palette is on the powdery side but blended into my skin quite well.  It is just a teeny bit sparkly (not glitter, not chunky!) which may or may not be your thing.  I liked that it was easy to go for a kinda subtle look with this, but you could build it up even more if you prefer.  The palette contains three different colors of highlighter:  a true gold, a soft pink, and a light champagne.  They seemed to wear almost as long as most highlighters do on me.  Certainly for the price point they are great.  And fun!

What are your favorites so far for the new year?

** Her "Empties" videos are so much fun!

all products reviewed were either bought, researched, or sampled by me. And product pictures were stolen from the link's websites. I am not financially compensated for my reviews