REVIEW | NARS Laguna & Hot Sand Duo

As soon as I saw Kathleenlights on Youtube talk about this in her March favorites, I knew I had to get it. And I’m glad I did – it’s become one of my favorite face products ever.

This bronzer/highlighter duo is sold exclusively at Nordstrom and is limited edition, so get it while it’s still there!

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The product comes in the typical NARS compact, so the packaging is already on point. There’s also a decent amount of product. The only issue I have is the pan size is a little too small, especially for the bronzer. But I can’t really complain, since I bought this knowing that the pans would be smaller as a duo.

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The pigmentation is amazing, but the Laguna bronzer was lighter than I thought it would be. Here, it barely shows up on my medium skin tone, but on my face, it’s just enough for a subtle contour. It’s the perfect balance of warm and cool undertones, so it works for me as a natural bronzer/contour shade. If your skin is any darker than mine though, I don’t this bronzer will work for you.

Hot Sand is amazing. The moment I applied it to my face, it became my new favorite highlight. There’s a peachy undertone, which makes it slightly more pink than the usual gold highlight, but still gives a warm glow to the face. A little goes a long way – I use a fan brush to apply this so I don’t accidentally get too heavy-handed. From what I’ve seen, this highlight is only sold in powder form in this duo, or the Hot Sand/Orgasm duo, also a Nordstrom exclusive. It is, however, sold as a liquid illuminator at various locations. I’m definitely planning on picking that up in the future.

Final verdict: 5/5 stars. Out of the two products, Hot Sand is definitely the winner for me. However, I really do enjoy both of these, and I’ve used them almost every day since I purchased them.

 

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BIRCHBOX | APRIL 2016

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Thank goodness. This month’s Birchbox was a far cry from last month’s.

The box itself was beautiful. I’m a big fan of Rifle Paper Co., so just the box itself already made me excited for this month’s goodies. The April Birchbox was a collaboration with Rifle Paper Co., and the first thing I see when I open the box is a 20% off coupon for Rifle Paper Co. Otherwise, there were 5 items in this month’s box:

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  1. Beauty Protector Protect & Detangle (Full-size: 8 oz, $23.50): I’ve actually tried this before when I bought one of the special haircare boxes from Birchbox. I was ambivalent about it then, and I still am. I have extremely long, thick, and coarse hair, so while I do see a difference when I use it, it’s not life-changing. And I’m not the biggest fan of the scent; it smells strongly of cotton candy, and by second day hair, it always makes my hair smell dirtier than it is. I’ll always use it if I receive a sample, but I’d never purchase this on my own.
  2. Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm – Sweet Violet (Full-size, $7): I’ve always been a fan of Burt’s Bees lip balms, so I was happy to get this. I’ve never tried their tinted lip balms before, but I have to say, there’s not much tint. I see the faintest color when I apply it on my lips, but you really have to squint to see it. There was no color when I swatched it on my hand either. It’s a lovely lip balm though, and it does smell amazing – kind of like Starburst.
  3. rms beauty the ultimate makeup remover wipes (Full-size: 20 wipes, $16): I was excited to try these, but I wasn’t really a fan. First of all, I hate coconut and most anything that has coconut or any of its derivatives. Second, because the wipes were oil-based, they were a lot messier than other wipes I’ve used. They also didn’t do the best job of removing my makeup. I think the YesTo Cucumbers Hypoallergenic Facial Wipes (30 wipes, $5.99) or a lot of the Burt’s Bees wipes (my favorite are the Pink Grapefruit, 30 wipes for $5.09) are a lot better – and they’re a fraction of the price.
  4. Vasanti BrightenUp! Enzymatic Face Rejuvenator (Full-size: 4.23 oz, $34): This is a pretty good exfoliator. I just finished my Origins exfoliator that I mentioned in my nighttime skincare routine, so receiving this in my Birchbox was perfect timing. The first time I used it, my face was being extra sensitive, and I felt like sand on my face. Needless to say, I was not excited to try it again. I felt like it deserved another chance though, considering the circumstances, and I’m glad I did. It’s slightly more abrasive to me than the Origins Nature’s Gentle Dermabrasion, but it works just fine when my skin isn’t acting up. From my first experience with this, I’d say to pass on this if you have extremely sensitive skin. And another issue I’d say is the scent. It smells like dish soap, but it’s faint enough that I can ignore it.
  5. W3LL PEOPLE Expressionist Mascara (Full-size: 0.23 oz, $23.50): This. Is. Amazing. It’s probably one of the best mascaras I’ve ever tried. It’s an all-natural mascara, with a synthetic, football-shaped wand, and is definitely a lengthening – but not volumizing – mascara. At first swipe, I wasn’t that impressed, but by the time I finished applying it, my lashes looked pretty amazing. It’s definitely not the mascara for you if you like lots of lash drama, but it’s awesome for natural ‘no-makeup’ days.

Final verdict: Pretty satisfied. I still had one disappointing product and one so-so product, but I’m going to get use out of all everything. I hope May’s box will be as good as, if not better than, this month’s.

SKINCARE ROUTINE | 2016 (Part 2)

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Without further ado, my nighttime skincare routine. I know, it looks like a lot. But I promise, it isn’t as crazy as it looks!

PM Routine:

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  1. Remove Makeup: For my eyes, I’ve only used The Body Shop’s Camomile Gentle Eye Make-up Remover (8.4 fl oz, the price is no longer on the site, but I remember it being under $20, and you can often get it on sale). I have sensitive eyes, and this doesn’t irritate them but still does a good job taking off my eye makeup. Usually, I saturate a cotton pad with the makeup remover, lay it on my eyelid for a bit, wipe off the makeup, and do the same thing to the other eyelid with the other side of the cotton pad. For the rest of my face, I’ve been using the Josie Maran Argan Cleansing Oil (6 fl oz, $32), which I’ve been loving. It takes off all of my makeup while keeping my skin feeling nourished. I plan on trying the Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser (6 fl oz, $18) and the Tatcha Pure One-Step Camellia Cleansing Oil (5.1 fl oz, $48) next, so keep an eye out for those reviews 😉
  2. Clean the Face: The Kiehl’s Blue Herbal Gel Cleanser (8.4 fl oz, $21) is not only a holy grail item, but also a game-changing item for me. Out of everything that I’ve used in skincare, nothing has changed my skin for the better as much as this has. It contains 1.5% salicylic acid, which goes far in helping to fight breakouts. This is the biggest reason why I went from acne prone to breaking out only once in a blue moon. It actually leaves my face feeling clean and refreshed after a long day of makeup wear.
  3. Exfoliate: I love exfoliators, and I use them sometimes up to 5 times a week. The one I currently use the most is Origins Modern Friction Nature’s Gentle Dermabrasion (4.2 fl oz, $39.50). It’s effective, but gentle enough for frequent use.
  4. Tone: For nighttime, I’ve been using the L’Occitane Angelica Face Toner (6.7 fl oz, $24). The L’Occitane one is alcohol-free, has a pleasant, expensive smell, and does a good job of moisturizing and prepping my skin for the rest of my skincare. I’m running out though, so I need to either replace this one or find another good one ASAP 😦
  5. Exfoliate Again: After toner, I use the Paula’s Choice 2% Salicylic Acid BHA Liquid Exfoliant (4 fl oz, $28). It’s a leave-on exfoliant and claims to unclog pores, diminish wrinkles, and improve skin tone. After over 6 months of use, I have to say that it’s done all of that for me. It’s not a product that gives you immediate results, so if you want to give this a try, you have to be patient.
  6. Use a Mask (2-4 times a week): Once a week, I’ll use a clarifying mask. I used to really enjoy Origins’ Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Mask To Clear Pores (3.4 fl oz, $26), which was really effective in clearing pores, but it’s become too intensive and drying for my current skin. Now, I use the Original Skin Retexturizing Mask with Rose Clay (3.4 fl oz, $26), which is similar but less intense. The other 1-3 times a week, I’ll use a moisture mask. Usually, I just throw on a cheap sheet mask that I picked up from the nearby Korean beauty store, and I find that it does the job. Occasionally, I’ll use the Peter Thomas Roth Cucumber Gel Mask (5 fl oz, $52) instead and leave it on overnight.
  7. Apply Serums: On nights that I don’t use a moisture mask, I use a moisturizing serum. I enjoy the Murad Hydro-Dynamic Quenching Essence (1 fl oz, $78), which I first discovered as a Sephora point perk. I plan to purchase a full size after I use up my current Origins Make A Difference Plus+ Rejuvenating Serum (1 fl oz, $43), which does the job, but isn’t as good as the Murad. Almost every night, I’ll use the Ole Henriksen Truth Serum Vitamin C Collagen Booster (1 fl oz, $48). It does what it says it will – my skin has felt more firm and radiant since I started using it. Since I have it, some nights I’ll use the Invigorating Night Treatment (1.7 fl oz, $58) instead, though I don’t like it as much.
  8. Moisturize: I’m not that picky with my moisturizers, but I go for the lightweight ones that still give a good dose of hydration. My current one is the Ole Henriksen Sheer Transformation (1.7 fl oz, $40), and some other ones I’ve used and liked are the Fresh Lotus Youth Preserve Face Cream With Super 7 Complex (1.7 fl oz, $45), the Origins Make A Difference Plus + Rejuvenating Moisturizer (1.7 fl oz, $43), and belif The True Cream Aqua Bomb (1.68 fl oz, $38).
  9. Apply Eye Cream: I’m currently using the Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair Eye Synchronized Complex II (0.5 fl oz, $58). It’s a really rich, moisturizing eye cream, but honestly, I feel like there are other eye creams out there that do the same but for less. Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Eye (0.5 fl oz, $37) is one such eye cream. I plan on trying Ole Henriksen’s Ultimate Lift Eye Gel (1 fl oz, $42), after I finish the Estée Lauder one, so let me know your thoughts if you’ve tried it before!

 

And that concludes my current skincare routine. It’s a little high maintenance, but I feel like it’s worth it. You only have one face your whole lifetime, so you might as well take good care of it. 🙂

SKINCARE ROUTINE | 2016 (Part 1)

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(Note: This post ended up being a whole essay. So I’ve split it into two parts – Intro + AM Routine in Part 1, PM Routine in Part 2.)

It took me the longest time to establish a skincare routine. I’m a lazy girl at heart, so for the longest time, I only did some skincare basics because I had been told it was something I needed to do. I didn’t care if I neglected the routine or wasn’t using a product for my skin type. My nonchalance wasn’t even because I had good skin. In fact, my skin was extremely oily, acne prone, and full of large pores and blackheads, and I had a whole bunch of acne scars leftover from years of popping pimples with unclean hands.

Then one day a couple of years ago, I had the sudden realization that I couldn’t go on like this. I started experimenting with different cleansers, toners, lotions, and eye creams, eventually introducing myself to serums, and I think I’ve found a regimen that works for me. In the process, my skin type has changed (from combination/hella oily to combination/normal/sensitive); or, maybe, my skin was just never in its ideal condition, and now that I’ve been taking care of it, it can finally be its true form. 🙂

I don’t always use the same items, because I still like trying new products in the hopes that I find more products that wow me. So, in a few months, if enough of the products I use have changed, I’ll post an updated routine.

This post will feature my AM routine, which is pretty standard. At night is when I pull out all the stops:

  1. Clean the Face: The Cetaphil DermaControl Oil Control Foam Wash (8 fl oz, $9.89 at Target) is my holy grail morning cleanser. I’ve been using this since high school, and I have yet to find something better than this to wash my face in the morning. The foam is nice and gentle, yet it still leaves my face feeling clean and refreshed, and I do feel that it helps with some oil control. It’s also pretty inexpensive, and sold at a lot of drugstores and on Amazon.
  2. Tone: I’ve been using loofah water, an inexpensive toner that, from what I know, is available only in Asia/on Asian websites. It’s basically water, but it’s good enough as a boost of moisture before I apply my lotion. I just ran out though, so I do plan on trying the raved-about Pixi Glow Tonic (3.4 fl oz, $15) next.
  3. Moisturize: My holy grail for morning moisturizer is the Origins GinZing Energy-Boosting Moisturizer (1.7 fl oz, $27.50). It’s super lightweight and absorbs quickly, but it also does a great job of moisturizing my face. The scent is a faint but pleasant orange scent, and I do feel that using this in the morning makes my face look more radiant. It’s also relatively inexpensive for a high-end moisturizer – another plus.
  4. Apply Eye Cream: Because of Ole Henriksen Ultimate Lift Eye Crème (0.5 fl oz, $42), applying eye cream has become the best part of this routine. Prior to using this, I had really enjoyed the Origins GinZing Refreshing Eye Cream (0.5 fl oz, $30), and while that one is still pretty amazing to me, I love this one just a tad more. It’s incredibly hydrating and soothing, and it helps depuff my eyes. I have the Origins eye cream lined up next, but I’m definitely coming back to this one.

For my PM routine, part 2 of this post will be up in a few days!

HAUL | Sephora VIB Sale Spring 2016

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Sephora’s spring VIB sale is only 15%, compared to the 20% offered in the November sale, so I had planned to get only what I needed. Of course, that didn’t happen, so here’s a haul for y’all.

The sale ends tomorrow (Wednesday, April 13) for VIB & Rouge members and tonight (Tuesday, April 12) for Beauty Insiders, who get 10% off. Get on it if you want to take advantage of the sale!

  1. Sephora Favorites Perfume Sampler ($25): It comes with 7 perfume samples a voucher for a full-size rollerball. It’s a good deal because some of the rollerballs cost more than $25. Unfortunately, when I opened my box, I found that one of the samples was basically empty and a couple of them were only half full. Did anyone else have this issue?
  2. Supergoop! Defense Refresh Setting Mist SPF 50 (3.4 fl oz, $28): This has a nice concept but mixed reviews. Stay tuned for a review.
  3. Fresh Lotus Lovers Skincare Collection ($41, $56 value): You get a bag, 1.7 fl oz Soy Face Cleanser, 1 fl oz  Lotus Youth Preserve Face Cream, and 0.16 fl oz Lotus Youth Preserver Eye Cream.
  4. Tatcha Pure One-Step Camellia Cleansing Oil (0.8 fl oz, $12): A YouTuber was raving about this so I decided to give it a try. The full-size is 5.1 fl oz and $48.
  5. Lancôme CILS BOOSTER XL Super-Enhancing Mascara Base (0.19 oz, $25.50): This really makes a difference in how my mascara looks and applies. The extra step is worth it.
  6. Urban Decay Brow Tamer in Dark Brown (0.15 oz, $20): I’m currently using Benefit’s Gimme Brow (0.10 oz, $24), so I wanted to see how this compared.
  7. Bumble and bumble Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil (3.4 fl oz, $40): I’ve gone through so many samples of this, so I figured it was time to purchase a full-size.
  8. Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion – Original (0.33 oz, $20): For my oily eyelids, this primer works the best.
  9. SEPHORA COLLECTION Bright Future Gel Serum Concealer in 06 Madeleine (0.14 fl oz, $14): I wanted to see how this compared to my current under-eye concealer BareMinerals BARESKIN Complete Coverage Serum Concealer (0.20 fl oz, $20), which does the job, but I feel like could be better.
  10. Forula X Delete All – 5 Finger Nail Polish Remover (5 oz, $15): If this works how it claims to, I’ll never use normal nail polish remover agian.

What did you get during this Sephora VIB sale?

BIRCHBOX | MARCH 2016

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After mulling over whether or not to get a beauty subscription box for way too long, I finally decided to bite the bullet and get one.

Out of all the beauty subscriptions available, Birchbox seemed like the best choice for me. I already use Birchbox to make beauty purchases, and the subscription boxes come with a great perk: for every sample you receive in the monthly box (you get 5 samples, sometimes a bonus), you get 10 Birchbox points. That’s up to 50 (60 with a bonus) points per box, which amounts to $5 (or $6) worth to spend on more goodies on the Birchbox site. Pretty awesome, yeah?

I subscribed pretty late into the month, so I didn’t get the March box until just last week. Opening my mailbox to find it sitting there was like experiencing Christmas in March. The box itself was beautiful; I’m definitely keeping it to store whatever trinkets I have lying around.

This month’s box contained 6 items:

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See next picture for #3.
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I used #3 before I wrote this review, so here’s a photo from the product’s page on Birchbox of what the mask looks like.
  1. Beautiful Nutrition Healthy Hair Diet Shampoo (Full-size: 13.9 fl oz, $16) The shampoo sample was very generous, around the same size as the typical travel-size shampoo. Unfortunately, this product was a miss for me. It claims to revitalize dry or damaged hair, but my hair didn’t feel nourished at all. And usually, one shampoo can last me at the very least 2 days before my hair starts to get gross, but by the afternoon the next day, my hair was already limp and starting to look really grimy – not a good look. The scent wasn’t pleasant either – it smelled like a manufactured citrus scent.
  2. Beautiful Nutrition Healthy Hair Diet Conditioner (Full-size: 13.9 fl oz, $16) The conditioner sample was the same size as the shampoo, and, like the shampoo, was a big miss for me. It’s supposed to revitalize dry, damaged or stressed hair, but it had no effect whatsoever on my hair. I could’ve skipped this conditioner completely and had the same result. The scent was the same as the shampoo.
  3. Benefit Cosmetics POREfessional Instant Wipeout Pore Cleaning Mask (Full-size: 8 masks, $32) The product comes in a little packet; you’re supposed to pop this button on the packet, which releases the serum into the mask, and then put the mask on your problem area for 10 minutes. I was pretty excited for this product, because although my skin has improved a lot over the last couple of years, my pores are still an issue. I’m not sure whether the product really cleaned my pores, but I definitely didn’t see any minimizing action going on. I was also too focused on the feeling that my face was getting burned off. To make things worse, my nose area, where I used the mask, stayed irritated and red for the rest of the night.
  4. Benefit Cosmetics The POREfessional: Matte Rescue Invisible Finish Mattifying Gel (Full-size: 1.6 fl oz, $28) The name of the product makes its purpose pretty self-explantory – it’s a mattifying primer. The sample comes in a one-time use packet, but I always find that I can get at least 2 uses out of these samples. I have to say that I prefer the original POREfessional; it’s a decent primer, but it didn’t really do any mattifying for me.
  5. Cargo Land Down Under Eye Shadow Palette (Full-size: 12 shades, $34) The full-size palette comes in a variety of nudes, with some blues and greens as pops of color. The sample is a nude eyeshadow duo in brown and a cool-toned beige, both matte finishes. This duo actually contains more product per shade than the palette; each shade in the palette is 0.03 oz, while in this duo, both shades are 0.05 oz. I’ve never used Cargo eyeshadows before, and I was pleasantly surprised at how nice they were. They have good pigmentation and blend really well. The only con would be that there is a ridiculous amount of fallout, if that’s something that’s a deal breaker for you. This was most definitely my favorite sample in this box.

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    The brown swatched patchily on my arm, but I had no issue when I used it on my eyelids.
  6. Clarisonic Sonic Radiance AM Skin Illuminating Cleanser (Full-size: 3.4 fl oz, $25) The sample is pretty small (0.14 oz), but you can probably get a week’s worth of AM cleanses in with the amount. As I already use face cleansers I find very effective for me, this was the least exciting sample for me. This one claims to brighten dark spots, even skin tone, and transform dull skin, but as of now, I have yet to see any of these effects. It’s a decent cleanser, very gentle and thus good for sensitive skin. It’s supposed to be used in conjunction with the Clarisonic cleansing brush for the best results. The Clarisonic brush has been too abrasive for my skin, which has been extra sensitive lately, so I haven’t tried that yet.

Final verdict: Pretty disappointing. I only truly enjoyed one of my samples, and 3 of the 6 were complete disappointments. I’m getting the April box next week, so hopefully that one will be better…