Saturday, November 1, 2014

Dim Light in a Foundation

Koh Gen Do Maifanshi Aqua Foundation SPF25 PA++ is a timely reminder of the importance of not buying a new foundation in a rush and without any prior research. It was my last day in Japan and I had some cash to burn, so when I stumbled across a Koh Gen Do stand at some pharmacy looking shop, I immediately decided to buy one of their foundations. I'd heard of the brand before but didn't really have any detailed concept of their products or ethos, except that their foundations appeared to be well-received by beauty bloggers/vloggers, on the pricier side and not widely available. While there were testers available, it was next to impossible to accurately gauge what my colour match was in the shop, so I opted for the seemingly least problematic shade, 013.

l-r: NARS Sheer Glow in Fiji, Koh Gen Do Aqua Foundation in 013, Make Up For Ever HD Foundation in 118

The main issue I have with Maifanshi Aqua Foundation is entirely my fault: I picked the wrong shade. As you can see in the above swatch, my two other most frequently used foundations, NARS Sheer Glow and Make Up For Ever HD Foundation, are considerably more yellow-toned. I would say that the MUFE is the best match for my skin tone (it has more neutral/beige undertones), while the NARS is close but sometimes too yellow and slightly dark. The Koh Gen Do in comparison, leans pink which is completely at odds with the natural undertone of my skin. Reading reviews after I'd already purchased the foundation, I think I should have picked 213. I did actually try 213 as well as 113 in the shop, but 113 seemed noticeably too light for me (though apparently it's meant to be the same lightness as 013, but just yellow-toned), and 213, although yellow-leaning, seemed a touch too dark.

Wearing NARS Luster blush

The first few times I tried Maifanshi Aqua Foundation, I applied it with my fingers and used at least 1.5-2 pumps, and I wasn't impressed with the result at all. Maybe it was because I'd just stepped off a plane (though I had washed my face and moisturised with a rich cream to prep), but contrary to claims of it being soft-focus and blurring imperfections, it seemed to accentuate every dry patch I had. The colour was also grotesquely off, much to my deep dismay. My face looked like I'd applied a liberal layer of Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder in Dim Light. It was that exact same undesired effect that I complained about when I reviewed Dim Light, in that my whole complexion seemed darker, warmer, more tan and peach/pink-toned. I wanted a foundation that matched my skin colour, gave me good coverage, provided a natural but illuminating finish and that made me look fresher and more alive. This foundation just made me stare in the mirror critically examining what a flop decision I'd made in purchasing it.

The only way I can make Aqua Foundation work is if I apply a very light layer (one pump or less for the whole face) with a fluffy brush like the Real Techniques Multi Task Brush on properly exfoliated/moisturised skin, and then spend time patiently concealing any marks, blemishes or areas of redness with my NARS Creamy Concealer in Custard. This method is a bit of a pain in the ass since I'd much rather have a foundation that already gives me adequate coverage rather than having to go in with a concealer to finish the job, but it's the only way to get around the unwanted pinkness.

The foundation itself has a light, watery texture and is scant on coverage unless built up, which I wouldn't recommend (at least if you're like me and have purchased the wrong shade). Somewhat ironically, a light-handed application gives me a more dewy, softly luminous finish than if I apply the foundation any heavier. Staying power is ordinary (it's definitely considerably faded by the end of the day, especially if not worn with a primer or set with a powder in the morning), and I found nothing of particular note in terms of oil control or how transfer-proof it is.

Another puzzling aspect of this foundation is that I can't seem to find any information about it being SPF25. The Sephora website and other US stockists list it as SPF15 but the packaging seems identical. I don't know if it's some geographical discrepancy or newer formulation, but some clarification on the issue would be helpful.

Overall, I'm not enthused with Koh Gen Do Aqua Foundation despite high expectations (i.e. my brain attributing a general elevated quality standard to any cosmetic product made in Japan). I will continue to use it purely because it was expensive and it seems like a waste to neglect it entirely, and because it's an acceptable daily foundation so long as my skin's behaving and I can bothered to conceal afterwards. The whole experience has reinforced to me that buying the wrong shade foundation is akin to throwing your money in the bin.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

September Favourites

A very late September Favourites. For two weeks I was overseas on holiday, so the products featured here are essentially my top picks from what I packed in my makeup bag and what I bought in Japan.

DHC Deep Cleansing Oil
I've wanted to try this cleansing oil forever but it's not stocked locally and I wasn't tempted enough to order it online. It seemed a little bit cheaper than the various Shu Uemura cleansing oils, so I bought the 200ml bottle to try for just under $30. I don't know how different it is to literally just rubbing olive oil over your face, but it's become my makeup remover of choice to take my face off at the end of the day. I was previously relying on Dove Foaming Make Up Remover which certainly gets rid of everything, but always left me with lingering paranoia that it was too stripping and ultimately detrimental to my skin. The DHC feels a lot more gentle and nourishing. It's silky smooth with a lot of slip, making it relaxing to massage into the skin. You have to concentrate on the eye area and go over it several times to get rid of waterproof mascara, but it dissolves everything eventually. My only complaint is that it does blur the vision when you get it around the eyes. It doesn't sting but just feels uncomfortable to not be able to see properly and have to rinse with water ASAP. When washed off, it leaves the skin feeling comfortably soft and properly cleansed with no oily residue.

LUSH Angels on Bare Skin Cleanser
Another product along with the DHC Deep Cleansing Oil that I'd heard a lot about but hadn't been lured into purchasing until my trip. After I'd bought it, I started to use it every day in the morning to wash my face, following with Melvita Damask Rose floral water and Trilogy Vital Moisturising Cream. This routine agreed with my skin tremendously. LUSH Angels on Bare Skin Cleanser is a bit puzzling at first because it just looks like some compacted gritty stuff in a container. You're meant to dig out a small amount and then mix it with water to form a kind of paste that you rub into your skin, then wash off. Invariably, some of it will fall around the vicinity of the bathroom sink rather than adhere to your face. It seems oddly abrasive to be used on a daily basis, so I definitely didn't do any extra exfoliation (manual or chemical) when I was using this daily in Japan. I now prefer to use this once or twice a week. It will do pretty much nothing in terms of makeup removal, so it's really only a morning-only cleanser unless you don't wear makeup. It appeals to my need for novelty, is pleasingly fragrant and leaves the skin incredibly soft and pampered.

MAC 217 Blending Brush
I've ummmed and ahhhhed over this brush for the absolute longest time given its cult status. Even when I was in the States two years ago, I just couldn't bring myself to spend $24 (pre-tax) on a single eyeshadow brush. I rationalised that was basically the cost of an entire Real Techniques brush set. I certainly wasn't going to hand over $37 to buy one here in Australia. But at Narita Airport, before my flight home, I decided it was time. And honestly, it's one of those purchases where you wonder why you hadn't committed earlier. It picks up just the right amount of product and makes eyeshadow application and placement foolproof. If you're asking yourself whether you need the 217 and haven't taken the plunge, just do it.

Garnier BB Cream Miracle Skin Perfector (Combination to Oily Skin) in Light
This is the one product I've been utterly impressed with during September in a way I hadn't anticipated. I threw it into my makeup bag thinking it would do, but it turned out to be exactly what I was after. It's a breeze to apply with the fingers, provides better-than-expected coverage and gives the complexion an inbuilt radiance that makes it appear instantly fresh and awake. The only negative is that it does transfer a bit and get shiny, especially in heat, but nothing that periodic blotting with a tissue can't fix. This is a great go-to base if you're after something light, fuss-free, natural-looking but with a luminous finish. It doesn't accentuate dry patches and works into the skin easily, so long as you've properly exfoliated and moisturised beforehand.

Rimmel ScandalEyes Shadow Stick in Bad Girl Bronze
Another product that I thought would be merely adequate, but completely outperformed my expectations. This is such a versatile, easy to use cream eyeshadow stick that's ideal for travel. I used it both to slightly smoke out my upper lid after applying a wash of Essence Pas des Copper, as well as to define my lower lash line. On the lower lash line, it honestly did not budge for the whole day and retained its metallic lustre. It's as good as my old favourite Benefit Busy Signal, except more convenient to use since I don't need a brush to apply it.

Benefit They're Real! Mascara
Why did I ever stray. All other mascaras are mere imposters, this is the real deal. With a good session of eyelash curling beforehand and diligent application, this gives me the actual appearance of flirty, voluminous, darkened eyelashes peering out from my monolids. And it's absolute magic on the lower lashes, so long as you're patient and have a steady hand.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Japan Haul

It's now been one whole week since flying back from Japan but it feels longer somehow. It's amazing how quickly one reverts to their established routine after the novelty, excitement and mental break of a holiday. I had a fantastic time in Japan apart from some disappointments (like having to skip Fuji-Q Highland and being emphatically turned away from a packed yakitori restaurant that we'd made a mission to eat at given it was specifically recommended to me before my trip) and humorous mishaps (like breaking the hotel's transformer twice in successive visits and spending 2.5 hours trying with increased desperation to find a particular izakaya restaurant only to find out it had since closed down and been replaced with an Italian eatery). While Japanese maps and addresses remained a mystery and we mostly stuck to places near a train station, my friend and I still managed to cover quite a bit of ground in two weeks, including separate day trips to Mount Fuji, Tokyo Disneyland, Kyoto and half a day at Hiroshima to see the Peace Memorial Park, as well as extended stays in Tokyo and Osaka. Those that follow me on Instagram may have seen some of the pictures. As always, no holiday is complete without a roundup of the makeup and skin care purchased, so here I present my Japan haul.

Overall, I feel I was definitely more liberal with the purchases compared with Europe last year, but I wanted to focus on items that were exclusive to Japan or not so readily available in Australia. I also was a little overenthusiastic at the duty free shops in Narita Airport just as I was about to fly out. My most extravagant purchase would be a tie between diptyque Volutes EDP and the SUQQU Cheek Brush. After testing out most of the products, I'm most impressed with Chanel Vitalumiere Aqua and the MAC 217 (believe the hype for both). Sadly, not a fan of the Koh Gen Do at all (I wish I'd purchased YSL Le Teint Touche Éclat instead), though buying the completely wrong shade could also be a big factor in my dislike. Melvita Damask Rose Floral Water is similar to the Jurlique Rosewater Balancing Mist in that I find both to be drying on the skin. Addiction eyeshadows vary considerably in terms of colour payoff and smoothness of texture, but Fudge was the standout. Whether it's actually a flattering colour on me is less convincing. I didn't like both of the Asian mascaras I bought, though the Dollywink liquid eyeliner has been a hit. Lush remains excellent and some products like Mask of Magnaminty and Angels on Bare Skin were considerably cheaper in Japan compared with back home (980 yen or just over $10 vs. $16.95).

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Into the New and Old

It's September so long-time readers of my blog may have seen this coming ... I'm about to say goodbye to Sydney for two weeks and fly out for my annual overseas holiday. This is the year I'm finally going to Japan. For better or worse, when I think of Japan, I think of Lost in Translation and the image of Scarlett Johansson gazing pensively over Tokyo from her hotel room window. Everyone I've met that's been to Japan has had nothing but wonderful things to say about it, especially about the people and the food, so I'm anticipating my experience will be no different. While I'm a little bit wary about the general lack of navigational skills my friend and I share, it's all part of the adventure, right?

As always, here's a peek into my makeup bag that I'm bringing with me on the trip. I decided to do away with brushes altogether (for face, eyes and hair, though I do have that eyebrow grooming tool to brush my eyebrow hairs into shape) and stick with cream products that I can apply with my fingers. There's my ever trusty Essence Pas des Copper Eye Soufflé, along with the addition of Rimmel ScandalEyes Shadow Stick in Bad Girl Bronze. Which base to pack was the hardest part, but in the end I settled on Garnier BB Cream Miracle Skin Perfector (Combination to Oily Skin) for its lightweight texture, oil control properties and illuminating finish. It's apparently still fairly humid in Japan in the beginning of September, so I needed something that wasn't too heavy or foundation-like, but that wouldn't melt off my face in hot, muggy weather. If I need some extra skin perfecting, I have my NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer to fall back on. A natural pink cream blush and two lipsticks (one for the everyday in Revlon Juicy Papaya, one for a statement lip in Maybelline Vivid Rose) round up my colour options.

See you when I return!