Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Ombré Shimmer

I've never heard of the brand PONi Cosmetics, but when I was sent this Unicorn Champagne Highlighting Powder by RY, I was intrigued. I'm still enjoying an extended love affair with highlighter, and the images and feelings I associate with unicorns immediately evoke whimsy, magic, glitter, pastels, enchanted forests and fairytales. Sure, unicorns and makeup might not be an entirely new thing (hello Lime Crime Airborne Unicorn), but still, not a bad starting point, right?

The Unicorn Champagne Highlighting Powder comes in a plastic, rose gold circular compact with a mirror. Retailing for $40, you get 7.14g of product, which is slightly less than a Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector Pressed Highlighter (8g, $64) or theBalm Mary-Lou Manizer (8.5g, $29.95). For me, I've never come remotely close to finishing even half a full size highlighter, so the amount of product doesn't bother me. PONi Cosmetics is Australian owned but the highlighter is made in China.

PONi Cosmetics Unicorn Champagne Highlighting Powder

The colour is a soft peachy gold. It's nothing revolutionary, but I think we've become so spoiled for choice when it comes to highlighter that a product has to be really unique or exceptional in quality to distinguish itself. It is a bit of a drier consistency and not quite as smooth, densely pigmented and creamy as Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector Pressed Highlighter, theBalm Mary-Lou Manizer or even Kat Von D Metal Crush Eyeshadow in Thunderstruck, however it's still a notch above "drugstore" quality, as you'd expect at $40.

Top to bottom: Bottom of the pan, top of the pan

What is meant to be special about this highlighter is that it's an "ombré pressed powder ranging from low shimmer champagne to high shimmer champagne". Rather than the ombré being from light to dark in colour, there's different intensities of shimmer on offer despite the pan itself being entirely uniform in appearance.

I tried experimenting with various areas of the pan to find out how different the highlighter was depending on where you swatched. The results were a little confusing. If I lightly touched the surface, I could see a distinct difference in finish and colour. As you can see from the above swatch, it was more orangey/gold and darker at the top of the pan, and more whitish yet reflective at the bottom of the pan. However, when I tried to swatch the bottom, middle and top of the pan in the same way (one swipe up and down the pan, then swatched directly onto my arm), I couldn't really tell the difference.

Top to bottom: Top, middle, bottom of pan

I mean, can you? The swatch at the top of my wrist might be fractionally darker in colour and more vibrant, and the swatch at the bottom might be slightly paler and more subdued, but the differences are barely discernible.

l-r: Charlotte Tilbury Highlight, theBalm Mary-Lou Manizer, PONi Unicorn Champagne, Becca Champagne Pop

Compared with other popular highlighters, Unicorn Champagne is like a combination of the Highlight shade in Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze & Glow (lighter, more pink-toned), theBalm Mary-Lou Manizer (paler, more yellow-based), and Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector Pressed Highlighter in Champagne Pop (peachier, brighter), in that I see a mix of pink, orange and gold. In colour, it's most similar to Champagne Pop, however not as bright or luminous. That may or may not be a good thing depending on your preferences and the occasion. Longevity is good and the powder lasted on my skin for the majority of the day. I especially enjoyed it applied down the bridge of the nose for a softly luminous but not too exaggerated/clownish effect.

While Unicorn Champagne professes to range from a soft sheen to high shimmer, it's probably a little too unpredictable to perform exactly as expected each time. Despite potential variability in tone and shimmer depending on where you place your brush and how much product you pick up, even at maximum impact, it's not as blindingly in-your-face as Becca Champagne Pop. When using it, I've been targeting the middle of the pan for a happy medium, but if I wanted to ensure a more consistent result, I would just swirl my brush around the whole pan to get an average of colour and glow.

Product was provided to me for review.

Monday, August 14, 2017

More Lotions and Potions

A couple of weeks ago, from 2 to 4 August 2017, Priceline had its 40% off skin care sale. I eagerly wait for this sale to occur every few months so I can stock up on my essentials and try out new products. In the last sale in January this year, I bought Derma E Hydrating Cleanser, Trilogy Rosapene Night Cream, Sukin Purifying Facial Masque, Swisse Manuka Honey Detoxifying Facial Mask and Botani Boost Balancing Moisturiser. The Trilogy and Sukin were repurchases, but everything else was new. I finished the Botani (reviewed here) and have been enjoying and using regularly both the Swisse mask and Derma E cleanser. This time, I purchased Burt's Bees Sensitive Facial Cleanser, Simple Hydrating Cleansing Oil, Egyptian Magic All Purpose Skin Cream, Lucas' Papaw Ointment and a travel size Avene Thermal Spring Water (not pictured). I wanted to repurchase my NUXE Rêve de Miel Ultra-Nourishing Lip Balm which I use as my nightly lip treatment before bed, but apparently Priceline discontinued stocking the brand in their stores, or so I was informed by a sales assistant.

I originally purchased the Burt's Bees Sensitive Cleanser as a gift for a friend, but decided to buy one for myself after I managed to sample it and liked the texture and how it made my skin feel. I favour cream cleansers (especially for a morning cleanse, or if I haven't worn makeup all day) to foaming cleansers, and was getting a little paranoid that the foaming cleansers I've been using were drying out my face. The Burt's Bees is a nice, rich consistency, slightly on the thicker side. I usually squeeze one small blob (around the size of the above picture) into my hand and rub my palms together, then massage the product over my bare face. The instructions say to wet your face beforehand, but I always find that unnecessarily dilutes the product and makes it more watery. You do have to take a tad more time to wash everything off thoroughly, especially if you're using cold water (which I do most of the time), however the end result is skin that's soft and properly cleansed with no oily residue or stripped feeling whatsoever.

I took a punt on Simple Hydrating Cleansing Oil after it was recommended by Ash. I've been loyal to my Palmer's Ultra Gentle Facial Cleansing Oil for a while now (which would have been $9 for a 192ml bottle), but I figured the Simple was the same cost per millilitre ($0.05/ml or $6 for 125ml, at 40% off), and what if it was better? Plus, the bottle is sleek and compact, making it ideal to travel with. I've only used it a couple of times so far, but I've really been liking it. It's probably too early to make any declarations of its definite superiority over the Palmer's, but so far, I love that it leaves the skin feeling super soft, it's very effective at removing stubborn eye makeup (moreso than the Palmer's, which sometimes doesn't get off all my eyeliner and mascara without intense scrubbing motions), and it doesn't irritate my eyes after I've tried to wash it all off but small amounts still adhere to my waterline. I can already see this being a perennial repurchase, especially come sale time.

I have been super curious about Egyptian Magic for the longest time, so when I saw it stocked in my local Priceline, I was genuinely surprised. I debated whether to get the small (59ml) or large (118ml) tub, but in the end, figured I might as well go for the larger size in case I really liked it. It contains six natural ingredients: olive oil, beeswax, honey, bee pollen, royal jelly and bee propolis. You're meant to take a small amount and rub it in your palms, melting it until it forms an oil. So far I've used it mainly as a night cream, though I have tried it as a hand cream. I'm not entirely convinced it's this miracle product. Firstly, it is distinctly oily in texture, so if the idea of going to bed with a greasy face isn't appealing, it might not be for you. When melted, it is more like a dry oil à la NUXE Huile Prodigieuse or Caudalie Divine Oil, as opposed to something more balmy and sticky like Vaseline. In terms of how my skin felt after I woke up, I don't think it was discernibly better than my usual conventional night cream (whether or not combined with a serum or face oil). It also feels like this waxy, oily layer is sitting on top of your skin as a protective barrier, as opposed to a cream which is absorbed and instantly soothes, hydrates and softens. Egyptian Magic does seem to be a case of marketing hype over substance, especially with their website featuring a plethora of celebrity "fans" waxing lyrical about how they swear by it and can't live without it. Somehow I'm not convinced.

Finally, I repurchased Lucas' Papaw Ointment. I grew to love this stuff. At first I thought it was barely better than Vaseline, but now I use it daily. It's a fantastic lip balm, among its many other uses, and it's great value for money being a generous 25g tube. I only just finished my previous tube and it took me years and years. It soothes skin complaints such as insect bites, it can be used as a spot moisturiser for particularly dry/flaky patches or a replacement hand/cuticle cream, and it's an instantly soothing remedy for dry and chapped lips. It's so multipurpose and a good size to pop into the purse. Plus, the trademark red packaging is distinctive and eye-catching.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Glow, Glow and More Glow

I first was introduced to Charlotte Tilbury Instant Look in a Palette in Beauty Glow in Alix's Current Everyday Makeup Routine. Initially, I didn't think much of it, given it seemed like another beautiful but expensive makeup item that was beyond my buying capacity. But as I was lying in bed one night, I recalled how gorgeous it was and googled it out of curiosity. To my surprise, I discovered it for a not too outrageous price on NET-A-PORTER. For whatever reason, it was discounted by 20% and the pound to Australian dollar conversion (minus UK sales tax) ended up being more favourable than the local Australian price ($99) or the USD to AUD equivalent. Even with $10 AUD shipping, I paid all up under $65. Still pricey, but I want nice things okay.

What appealed to me was the fact it's a palette with both eye and cheek products. I only have one other palette that incorporates both eyeshadows and blushes, and that's the Laura Mercier Lingerie Eye & Cheek Palette, but even then that doesn't have a bronzer or highlighter. As the name "Instant Look in a Palette" suggests, everything you need is laid out in front of you, so your whole face can be done (base notwithstanding) in a matter of minutes. Charlotte herself demonstrates the palette in this video, though the model has a medium skin tone (and perfect face, lbr) so I didn't know exactly how the powders would look on a lighter complexion like mine. I just liked the idea of being able to travel with this one palette, especially for special occasions like to a wedding, which might call for a fully made up look.

This is the third iteration of the Instant Look in a Palette, with the first being Natural Beauty and the second Seductive Beauty. I was under the impression the past versions were limited edition and therefore would've sold out ages ago, but Cherie brought to my attention they're still available for purchase on the Australian Charlotte Tilbury website. There's plenty of information on the interwebs comparing all three versions, but briefly, Natural Beauty has more subtle, lighter eyeshadows and pink-toned blushes ("champagne, pink and neutral shades"), Seductive Beauty has more taupe/cool-toned eyeshadows, a warmer, darker contour and more pink-toned highlighter ("pale pink, taupe and chocolate brown shades") and Beauty Glow is more "rose-toned and bronze". I probably preferred the look of the cheek shades in Seductive Beauty, but the eye shades in Beauty Glow.

l-r: Eye Brighten, Eye Enhance, Eye Smoke

l-r: Face Highlight, Face Bronze

l-r: Filmstar Bronze & Glow Highlight, Beauty Glow Face Highlight, Beauty Glow Face Bronze, Filmstar Bronze & Glow Sculpt

l-r: Filmstar Bronze & Glow Highlight, Beauty Glow Face Highlight, Beauty Glow Face Bronze, Filmstar Bronze & Glow Sculpt

I was very curious to compare the Face Bronze and Face Highlight shades to the Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze and Glow palette. I wasn't able to get much information comparing the two prior to my purchase, except for one YouTube video where the reviewer remarked they looked the same. I wouldn't agree with that assessment. The highlight in the Filmstar Bronze & Glow is peachier and slightly darker, whereas the highlight in Beauty Glow is brighter, more champagne, cooler-toned, icier. The sculpt shade in Filmstar Bronze & Glow is darker, cooler, more of a contour powder, whereas the equivalent shade in Beauty Glow is warmer, lighter, more orange in tone — some people have compared it to Benefit Hoola Lite. I have read reviews that the quality of the face powders in the palettes aren't as good as standalone products like Filmstar Bronze & Glow, but I haven't noticed any major difference. Maybe the Beauty Glow highlighter is slightly chunkier and has a tendency to sit on top of the skin a tad more than the one in Filmstar Bronze & Glow, but by and large, they seem like the same formulation.

l-r: Cheek Pop, Cheek Swish

After using this palette for three weeks, I'm kind of on the fence about it. Yes, it is aesthetically beautiful, Italian-made, everything feels expensive and high quality (as it should!). Charlotte Tilbury knows how to sell her products, but at the same time, if they didn't deliver and perform, they wouldn't enjoy the popularity and good word of mouth they do.

My main issue with this palette is the shades. I thought I would love them, since rose gold and bronze is everything I love, but it's a different story when it comes to how they work on my face. First, I don't actually like the colour of the eyeshadows that much. The Eye Brighten is basically useless to me as I don't find any point in priming with a light shimmery powder eyeshadow (I use a dedicated cream eyeshadow for primer), and as an inner corner highlight, I could just use the Face Highlight. The Eye Enhance shade is meant to be the star of the show and a major selling point of the palette, but it doesn't excite me. I'm not talking the quality — the shadows are smooth, blendable, long-lasting and pigmented. I just mean the colour. It's honestly just not unique enough for me to really care. I have so many similar rose gold, coppery shades (e.g. Clinique Chubby Stick Eye Tint in Ample Amber, Benefit Creaseless Cream Shadow in My Two Cents, Holika Holika Jewel Light Marble Cushion Eyes in Orange Cappuccino), some of which are much more metallic and vibrant (e.g. Makeup Geek Grandstand, Colourpop Game Face, Urban Decay Chopper or Trick, Rimmel Eye Shadow Stick By Kate in Rose Gold). The Eye Enhance is actually on the lighter side for my skin tone. I prefer something darker but more neutral in colour as an easy, all-over lid wash, but this is distinctly orange-toned and gives more subtle shading and a glimmering effect. I then have to deepen the look with the matte chocolate brown Eye Smoke shade, but it's almost like that's not dark enough for what I want to achieve. I would have preferred something with more instant definition like Sable or Espresso from the LORAC Pro Palette, or Anastasia Beverly Hills Fudge.

Moving onto the cheek shades. Cheek Pop is your generic shimmery warm pink. The shimmer and pigment are intense, so I need a really soft, floppy brush like Wayne Goss Brush 14 or SUQQU Cheek Brush to apply it. Colour-wise, think NARS Orgasm or a multitude of shades in those little blush pots from Bourjois (if it begins with the word "rose", you're probably on the right track). If I thought Cheek Pop was pigmented, I hadn't seen anything until Cheek Swish. I genuinely do not understand the inclusion of this shade in the palette. It's so dark and brown and metallic. You would only need a minuscule amount and even then, it would have to be blended to death. I appreciate the thought of adding something that wasn't just another ho hum pink blush, but I would have preferred a less intimidating, more "wearable" peachy/nude shade (like Benefit Rockateur or Clinique Cheek Pop in Nude Pop). This is just too much effort to tackle on a daily basis, the fear of creating a muddy, shimmery mess constantly hovering over you. I used it as an eyeshadow and even then, it was uncomfortably dark. I love a daytime soft smoky eye, but this was overboard.

No one found it a little strange that the Cheek Swish shade was magnitudes darker than the Face Bronze shade? Those are going to be some really defined cheeks. While I prefer the Sculpt shade in Filmstar Bronze & Glow to the Face Bronze in Beauty Glow, I like that it's lighter and warmer so there is that point of difference, since there wouldn't be much excitement if they were identical shades. I use the Charlotte Tilbury Powder & Sculpt brush to apply it and it's a perfect pairing. The Face Highlight is probably one of my favourite things about the palette. It alone makes the entire look when everything is used together. Your face looks like it's basking in an ethereal glow, especially when some is placed down the bridge of the nose.

One final thing about the palette is that all the shades except Eye Smoke are shimmery, so you can imagine the overall look it's going to give you. I love to glow as much as the next person, but these aren't subtle in the shimmer stakes, nor are they liquid/cream textures that you might be able to blend more seamlessly into the skin. They're all powders and invariably have to sit on top of the skin, so even with careful blending, it's a lot to have shimmery eyeshadow and shimmery blush and shimmery contour and shimmery highlight. Naturally, your comfort level may vary. Of course you can try to tone things down by prepping and priming the skin well, adjusting the amount of product, maybe opting for a different matte blush or eyeshadows, and spritzing all over with a setting spray/face mist at the end.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

First Experience: Dermalogica

Dermalogica is a brand I've always been keen to explore, so when Facial Co. contacted me about reviewing some of their products, I jumped at the opportunity. I've always considered Dermalogica to enjoy the reputation of being a solid, dependable, almost clinical company that focuses on what goes into their products and how they perform, without the need for fancy packaging or marketing hype. Despite this positive impression, my total exposure to Dermalogica has been limited — mainly a few samples from the Age Smart range that were just so-so, and the memory of using my friend's minty, invigorating face wash after a high school sleepover. Now that I've added the Special Cleansing Gel, Daily Microfoliant and Skin Smoothing Cream to my skin care arsenal, I can form some more concrete opinions.

Special Cleansing Gel

A good cleanser is a rare specimen. I've gone through many, many cleansers and only one or two really stick out as anything I'd repurchase. The rest are largely interchangeable. Generally, I prefer non-foaming cleaners to foaming, but it's hard to steer clear of foaming cleansers given how common they are, and I'm no less picky when it comes to cream, gel or balm cleansers (forget cleansing milks ... bleurgh).

The Special Cleansing Gel is strictly a bare face/morning cleanser only, which makes it less versatile than a cleanser that's also effective at removing makeup (e.g. philosophy Purity Made Simple Facial Cleanser). Not that it purports to remove makeup — I just tried out of curiosity. It could possibly be used as a first cleanse before going in with an oil-based cleanser, but what's the point/who has the time.

I was wary of the inclusion of sodium laureth sulfate (the second ingredient) due to the bad rap it can get, but it's not a factor that deters me entirely. I get that some people might be a bit iffy using something mainly in their shampoo or hand wash on their face, especially on a daily basis.

The gel is clear and when mixed with water, is gently foaming rather than a total bubble bath, which I prefer. It has an inoffensive, subtle botanical scent. When washed off and the face patted dry with a towel, it leaves the skin feeling squeaky clean but not through harsh means. My skin feels slightly dry if I don't moisturise within a few minutes of cleansing, but it's nothing dramatic and pretty much the same story with any cleanser (the feeling post-cleanse is roughly on par with Oskia Renaissance Cleansing Gel, Clarins Gentle Foaming Cleanser and Fresh Soy Face Cleanser).

I still regard Radical Hydrating Cleanser as the best cleanser I've encountered (creamy texture, smells amazing, leaves skin feeling comfortable and balanced), however we are talking a large price difference — $0.53/ml for the Radical compared with $0.22/ml for the Dermalogica based on the 250ml bottle. However, I'd still be inclined to repurchase the Radical over the Dermalogica as I don't think it has any peer, whereas there are cheaper alternatives to the Special Cleansing Gel that will more or less do the same job (e.g. Derma E Hydrating Cleanser, which I've used every morning for a few months now).

Ingredients: Water/Aqua/Eau, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Disodium Lauroamphodiacetate, Sodium Trideceth Sulfate, Hexylene Glycol, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Extract, Melissa Officinalis Leaf Extract, Quillaja Saponaria Bark Extract, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, PPG-5-Ceteth-20, Citric Acid, Sodium Chloride, Phenoxyethanol, Methylparaben, Propylparaben.

Daily Microfoliant

The Daily Microfoliant, a water-activated, rice-based exfoliating powder, is probably Dermalogica's signature product. As far as I'm aware, it's quite unique — I don't really know of any similar products. The instructions state to pour half a teaspoon onto your hand, which I tried my best to eyeball. It honestly felt like I was tipping out salt and pepper onto my hand. The shape of the bottle and dispenser design are truly reminiscent of a seasoning shaker. There's no particular scent, at least not strong enough to leave any impression.

Applied to the face after cleansing, it's fairly gentle for a physical scrub (not coarse and abrasive like Lush Angels on Bare Skin), due to how small the exfoliating particles are. Unexpectedly, the powder foams up when wet palms are rubbed together. You can feel it working its magic, sloughing away dead cells and giving the skin a clean slate upon which to apply serums and moisturisers. It leaves the face feeling immaculately clean and unusually smooth.

You do need to follow with a moisturiser, otherwise the skin can feel a little taut and dry, and even start flaking in places like around the nose. With daily use, I can imagine how effective and transformative this would be for the skin, leading to improvements in texture, visible blackheads, uneven/dull skin tone and oiliness. However, the act of unscrewing the top cap and pouring out the powder into your hands is a bit fiddly, and remembering to exfoliate after cleansing is an extra step in my daily routine I wouldn't otherwise take, so I can also imagine not using it as regularly as I could. I'd be more inclined to use it in the shower to save time, but one has to be super careful to not get any water into the powder, otherwise it's good as gone.

The amount of product in a 75g bottle would last forever, so despite a hefty initial spend of $80, it would pay off in terms of cost per use, especially if you only reach for it a couple of times a week.

Ingredients: Microcrystalline Cellulose, Magnesium Oxide, Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, Sodium Lauroyl Glutamate, Colloidal Oatmeal, Disodium Lauryl Sulfosuccinate, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Starch, Allantoin, Papain, Salicylic Acid, Ginkgo Biloba Leaf Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, PCA, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Populus Tremuloides Bark Extract, Cyclodextrin, Lauryl Methacrylate/Glycol Dimethacrylate Crosspolymer, Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Oil, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Peel Oil, Citric Acid.

Skin Smoothing Cream

After cleansing and exfoliating, we have moisturiser in the form of the Skin Smoothing Cream. Described as a "medium-weight" moisturiser (I guess the sweet spot between a light moisturiser that may not be rich enough and a thicker moisturiser that might be too heavy), it contains lecithin, aloe gel, mallow, cucumber and arnica extracts. There's no SPF and it isn't specifically a day or night cream, so can be used whenever.

It has a moderately strong medicinal smell that I would say is uncommon in a skin care product, given how many are perfumed to make them more palatable and enjoyable to use. It doesn't bother me and may even be beneficial for the skin due to the exclusion of artificial fragrance.

The Skin Smoothing Cream is a unique formulation that has the feel of a balm but is a non-greasy, spreadable, cream consistency. It's not as runny or thin as a lotion, but it's also not oily like certain salves or thicker moisturisers (e.g. Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturising Lotion+, Antipodes Avocado Pear Nourishing Night Cream, Benefit Total Moisture Facial Cream). Probably the most similar moisturiser I've tried to it is Jurlique Arnica Cream.

It feels like I'm applying a moderately thick coat of locked-in moisture that is quickly and thoroughly absorbed into the skin, leaving it smoothed and softened. From the few times I've used it, it's very effective in restoring moisture to the skin and addressing dry patches/flakiness. It has a mattifying effect and dries down completely — almost like a smoothing primer, which works well as a base for makeup and is ideal for the dry/combination skin type the product is targeting.

Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Butylene Glycol, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Ethylhexyl Hydroxystearate, Stearic Acid, PEG-8, Lactamide MEA, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, Dimethicone, Cetearyl Alcohol, Silk Amino Acids, Polysorbate 60, Tocopheryl Acetate, Citrus Aurantium Amara (Bitter Orange) Flower Extract, Cananga Odorata Flower Oil, Camellia Oleifera Leaf Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Allantoin, Panthenol, Glycolipids, Sodium Hyaluronate, Palmitoyl Hydroxypropyltrimonium Amylopectin/Glycerin Crosspolymer, Lecithin, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Extract, Malva Sylvestris (Mallow) Flower/Leaf/Stem Extract, Hedera Helix (Ivy) Leaf/Stem Extract, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract, Sambucus Nigra Flower Extract, Arnica Montana Flower Extract, Parietaria Officinalis Extract, Retinyl Palmitate, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Polyquaternium-10, Cetyl Alcohol, PEG-100 Stearate, Glyceryl Stearate, Aminomethyl Propanol, Disodium EDTA, Carbomer, Sodium Benzoate, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Benzyl Benzoate, Benzyl Salicylate, Linalool.

Products were provided to me for review.
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