L'Occitane Almond Velvet Balm Review | Whipped almondy goodness

Just J: L'Occitane Almond Velvet Balm review

Ever since I went on my last Seattle shopping trip where I encountered heaven in a jar (a.k.a the Burt's Bees almond hand cream) I've been obsessed with anything almond scented. To me, that comforting, thick smell of nutty almond epitomizes luxury and relaxation to me. I could smell almond and lemon scented things forever, so when I received the L'Occitane Almond Velvet Balm, I was over the moon. An almond scented body balm? YES PLZZ.

The Product
L'Occitane has been doing almond scented products since forever, so rest assured that they know what they're doing. This whipped body lotion takes a new twist on almonds by capturing the essence of the almond tree for a scent that is a lovely mix of powdery flowers and rich almonds. Besides providing moisture, this lotion is designed to also combat signs of aging: flakiness, saggy skin tone and fine lines.

The Guts
This product primarily contains:
  • Shea butter - derived from the shea nut, this is a powerful moisturizer, antioxidant and natural sunblock
  • Glycerin - a common moisturizer
  • Coco-caprylate - a plant-based emollient
  • Octyldodecyl myristate - an emollient that captures moisture in skin
Other ingredients of note are sweet almond oil, sweet almond seed extract (moisturizing).

Just J: L'Occitane Almond Velvet Balm review

Price & Packaging
A 200 ml jar retails for $62. The price is certainly pricey for a product that you use up as quickly as a body lotion, so I'm not sure I'd repurchase just based on the price alone. Also, since the packaging is in a glass jar, I tend to use it up faster as I can't myself from scooping out large amounts of product versus when I use a pump format. Bet you never thought I'd ever say I preferred a pump format before! In fact, my order of preference for lotion packaging is squeeze tube > pump > jar.  Sadly, I've been using this lotion for about a month or so and I'm already scraping the bottom of the jar!

Effectiveness
My favourite and least favourite thing about this lotion is its whipped, mousse-like texture. It's quite unlike most lotions which lean more watery. With this type of texture though, I found the Almond Velvet Balm a little hard to spread. It also takes a minute to absorb once applied, but that could be due to the fact that I like to spread a good layer on my winter skin. Once applied, my skin feels silky smooth and just slightly tacky. I quite liked this balm and the shea butter in it does a fine job moisturizing, but it's lacking the thickness that I enjoy in a winter lotion. I'd probably relegate this one for summer only when its light texture would be more welcome.

Just J: L'Occitane Almond Velvet Balm review

Level of Almondy-ness
Considering it's called the Almond Velvet Balm, I was expecting pretty high levels of almond scent, but the actual scent is much more flowery than nutty. The Almond Velvet Balm smells just plain pretty and the powderiness makes it smell a tad old-lady, but in a good way, like using an artisanal apothecary product. I've become used to this type of smell from L'Occitane and enjoy it, but if you're used to something more in your face, like lotions from Bath & Body Works, it might be too subtle for you.

Final Verdict
Ditch - as much as I enjoyed this balm and would recommend it for summer, $62 is too much for me to spend on something I use up so fast.



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Avene Spring Preview | An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure

Recently I had the pleasure of previewing and learning about Avene's new products for Spring and Summer. For those unfamiliar with Avene, it is a beauty line inspired by the beautifying effects of the Avene thermal spring which was first discovered in 1736 in France. Avene's Hydrotherapy Centre is renowned for welcoming thousands of visitors per year to partake in its healing waters and now everyone can enjoy their line of skin and body care products. Available in most drugstores, such as Shoppers Drug Mart, Avene is what I would consider a high-end drugstore line.

The theme for the spring/summer releases was on skin protection and repair for adult skin through sun protection and treatment of adult acne - both are big concerns on my radar so I was thrilled to learn more about Avene's approach.

Avene High Protection suncare line
Avene High Protection suncare line

First up, is Avene's High Protection sun care line, which boasts SPF 50+, the highest SPF rating allowed on the market, and certifications by both the Canadian Dermatology Association and the Skin Cancer International Foundation.

The High Protection products contain a unique blend of mineral sunscreen, and Tinosorb M and Tinosorb S chemical sunscreens that boost their products' wear time, efficacy and water resistance. As well, each product contains pre-tocopheryl which helps fight signs of aging, and Avene thermal spring water, to help soothe and protect against inflammation. Each product is formulated for very sensitive skin and can be used by both men and women, as well as children.

Products I received:
  • High Protection spray, which contains SPF 50+, is paraben-free and can be used on both face and body. This spray is perfect for reaching those difficult spots like behind the shoulders and for quick touch-ups on the go. I'm curious whether one could use this as well over makeup for touch-ups during the day, so I'll have to test that out later! It is available as a 200 ml spray for $32.50
  • High Protection lotion, which also contains SPF 50+ and is more of a typical sunscreen. It is available as a 100 ml tube for $29
  • Very High Protection mineral lotion, which contains SPF 50+ and contains 100% mineral sunscreen. It is available as a 100 ml tube for $30. There's also a 50 ml formula just for the face that retails for $28. Since this one is purely made of physical sunblockers, it may leave a whitish cast to skin, but if you're nervous about the longterm effects of chemical sunblocks, or have very sensitive skin, then this is the one for you.
Besides the above, Avene also showed off the Very High Protection tinted compact, which is a tinted mineral sunscreen that offers coverage and protection in one. This one is available for $34 and comes in two shades.

All of the High Protection and Very High Protection products will be available in stores in May 2015.

Avene TriAcneal Expert with Avene Thermal Spring Water spray
Avene TriAcneal Expert with Avene Thermal Spring Water spray

The second half of the Avene presentation focused on the TriAcneal Expert emulsion, which is a treatment focused on fighting blemishes, scarring and signs of aging. Similar to Dermalogica, Avene has branched out into adult acne care with a line of lotions and treatments to meet the specific demands of adult blemishes. According to Avene's research, nearly 40% of adult women are affected with adult acne. Occurring primarily on the lower half of the face, adult acne takes the form of micro cysts and inflammation and often ends in hyperpigmentation. The primary causes include hormones, stress, lack of sleep and poor diet. Reading this info was quite shocking to me as it pretty much summed up exactly what I've been suffering as of late! 

To fight adult acne, Avene has introduced three new ingredients into their arsenal:
  • Diolenyl - is a molecule that basically acts as bait to acne bacteria. When acne bacteria attack it, Diolenlyl releases octane-diol, an antibacterial ingredient that slows bacterial growth, and alpha linolenic acid to reduce inflammation.
  • X-pressin - an ingredient derived from papaya extract, this enzyme unclogs pores and gently exfoliates. Avene touts it as a more effective and less irritating variation of glycolic acid.
  • Retinaldehyde - is a precursor of retinoic acid that stimulates cell renewal, unclogs pores, stimulates collagen and reduces melanin production, which is the main cause of scars.
The TriAcneal Expert emulsion sounds really amazing and like most Avene lotions, it comes packaged in a super hygienic airless pump format, which ensures minimal contamination for maximum longevity. I can't wait to see it work its magic on my blemish scars! 

The TriAcneal Expert emulsion will be available in stores in May 2015 as a 30 ml bottle retailing at $31.50.




Which of these products are you most excited about?




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Lancome Definicils Waterproof Mascara Review | Finally, a non-drying waterproof mascara

Waterproof mascaras sound like a no-brainer product. They won't melt off your lashes or be destroyed by tears or rain, while still providing the curl, volume and length of a regular mascara - perfect in theory, but not always in execution. Sadly, waterproof mascaras can often end up only providing a subset of what they claim to be, while almost always leaving lashes hard and parched of moisture.

Just J: Lancome Definicils Waterproof Mascara Review

The Product
Enter in then Lancôme's Définicils Waterproof Mascara, which Lancôme claims will be that holy grail we've all been searching for. The Définicils formula contains special polymers that utilize the powers of "electrical attrition" to cling to your lash fibers for extra definition and color that won't smear or melt through any weather condition, while its ultra-thin brush is designed with grooved bristles placed in a "hedgehog pattern" that cling and coat every inch of every lash strand.

There's definitely some very elaborate marketing speak going on here, but basically the grain of truth seems to be that it has a very bristly brush and polymers that coat your lashes for definition and volume.

Just J: Lancome Definicils Waterproof Mascara brush close-up
Very hedgehog-y right?

The Guts
Sadly, I couldn't find any ingredient information on this mascara.

Just J: Lancome Definicils Waterproof Mascara Review

Price & Packaging
A single tube retails for around $32 wherever Lancôme is sold, such as at London Drugs and other drugstores. I'm not sure exactly how big this tube is, but it does look significantly smaller than say the Lancôme Grandiose or Hypnôse mascaras which come in a thicker, more curved tube. What's interesting about this mascara's packaging is that it has a thin blue strip near the top of the tube, which kinda threw me off at first because I thought maybe the mascara was blue, but this one only comes in black so far.

Effectiveness
To demonstrate the effects of this mascara, here is my before:

Just J: Lancome Definicils Waterproof Mascara Review - before mascara

and after:

Just J: Lancome Definicils Waterproof Mascara Review - after mascara

As you can see, this mascara works fairly effectively at defining and lengthening my lashes. With an eyelash curl, it gives a good curve to my lashes that lasts most of the day. I got very good definition with this mascara in that it coated and seemed to thicken each lash without causing any clumping - must be all that electrical attrition!

In terms of voluminizing my lashes, this mascara was nothing to write home about. After a couple hours, my lashes started to droop a bit and by the end of the day, depending on the humidity level, I would get very faint smearing under my eyes.

What I was pleasantly surprised about was that this waterproof formula didn't leave my lashes brittle and fragile. I experienced no lash fallout after wearing this daily for a month and my lashes feel as soft as before. The only difference I noticed was that it does take a teeny bit more work to remove this mascara with my cleansing oil. I'd definitely recommend using a cleansing oil over a micellar or normal makeup remover as this stuff really clings to lashes!

Final Verdict
Buy - a great waterproof option for special occasions or if you generally have trouble with regular mascaras. This mascara won't leave your lashes brittle or dry, but if you're craving volume, you may want to layer it over top of a voluminizing formula.



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Lush Shampoo Bars Review | A travel-friendly alternative to your usual bottle

Today's review is a little different as it will be done in part by a new guest blogger! Since I have recently dyed my hair and had heard that these shampoo bars were a bit too cleansing for dyed hair, I thought I'd play it safe and get someone else to review these for me. Thankfully, one of my coworkers, Daimian, stepped up to the plate. Not only is Daimian new to this blog, but he's also a guy! I hope you enjoy his fresh perspective!

Just J: Lush Shampoo Bars Review

The Product
Lush Cosmetics is known for creating unique takes on everyone's bath time favourites. Their iconic face masks, soaps and bath bombs are super popular and with every fresh new product they put out, that popularity has only grown. Although on my radar for a long time, I've only tried a few Lush products and none of the hair care line, even though Mr. Artist is a big fan of the Big Shampoo sea salt shampoo. The Lush Shampoo Bars are a travel-ready, super-concentrated version of their regular shampoos that can be used for up to 80 washes per bar.There are a ton of options available, with each tailored for a specific hair care need:
  • Lullaby - lavender, tonka absolute, ground almonds and soothing oat milk soften hair and exudes a soothing scent before bedtime
  • Honey I Washed My Hair - inspired by the popular soap, this toffee scented shampoo provides shine and life and is made with 5% fair trade honey
  • Jason and the Argan Oil - rose jam and argan oil gives strength and shine to lighter hair tones
  • Braziliant - andiroba and orange oil cleanse and condition
  • Montalbano - a heady mix of Sicilian lemons, olives, and rosemary provide optimal shine and a squeaky clean feel
  • Copperhead - a mild shampoo designed for colored locks that contains coffee and henna to enrich color
Since I typically wash my hair at night, I requested Lullaby for its calming scent and Copperhead as I've always been curious about henna's powers to tint hair auburn.

The Guts
Lullaby primarily contains:
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate - a common cleansing agent found in shampoos. It has been known to cause some people irritation
  • Sodium bicarbonate - a.k.a baking soda, helps to clarify and basically deep-cleanse hair
  • Oak milk - a softening ingredient that also eliminates grease 
  • Ground almonds - a gentle exfoliant
Other ingredients of note (mainly for fragrance) are lavender, neroli, and chamomile.

Copperhead primarily contains:
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate
  • Agar - a thickening agent derived from seaweed
  • Red henna - imparts shine and volume while also gradually tinting hair
  • Cocoa butter - an emollient, gives hair moisture
Other ingredients of note are ground coffee (fragrance), coriander seed oil (moisture), rosemary (antimicrobial, can be irritating) and organic lemon juice (astringent).

Price & Packaging
Most of the Lush Shampoo Bars cost $9.95 for a 55 g bar, but the Copperhead is a little bit more at $11.95 per 55 g. I'm not sure why Copperhead is more, but either way both prices are pretty reasonable considering the number of washes per bar. Each bar comes packaged in a circular shape, which isn't the most convenient if you wanted to pack these away in a regular travel soap container. Lush does sell metal tins that fit these perfectly and are perfect for storing little baubles.

Effectiveness
To use these bars, simply glide a wet bar down your strands about 3-4 times. Then work your hair into a lather before rinsing as per normal.

Daimian's thoughts on Lullaby: 
"I've never used a shampoo bar before and my first experience with the Lullaby Shampoo Bar was very positive. I was most impressed how fast a lather worked up in my hair. From a guys' perspective, it provided a quick and through cleanse. My hair felt streaky clean and soft after. No need for conditioner. The lavender and chamomile oils gave my scalp a very refreshing and soothing feeling. The scent [it] left post wash was very herbal."
Just J: Lush Shampoo Bars Review
Lullaby shampoo bar



Daimian's thoughts on Copperhead: 
"The Copperhead shampoo bar surprisingly left a very smooth and silky finish after the wash. The scent rubs off as very manly, musky and [has a] strong coffee post-wash scent. As with the Lullaby shampoo bar, it lathers up quick and upon rinse provides a moisturized finish. After wash and blow dry the hair feels it has more volume and bounce to it."

Just J: Lush Shampoo Bars Review
Copperhead shampoo bar

Final Verdict
Buy



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Annabelle Lipsies Lip Balms | Lip Smackers for the 21st century?

Growing up, my HG lip balms were the classic Lip Smackers. These delectable balms came in a variety of tasty flavours (my go-to were the tropical packs) and tints and I loved them as they were convenient, cheap and effective. You could always purchase them in huge multi-packs and they were the gateway drug that first got me addicted to that soft, moist feeling that only lip products can provide. Alas, the years pass by and Lip Smackers and I have drifted apart. Sure, I still own a 10 pack somewhere deep in my stash, but it feels a little childish to shop for your lip balms in Toys R' Us?

The Product
In comes Annabelle then with their homage to the Smackers, the Lipsies. The Lipsies lip balms are bigger, come in a variety of flavours and are cutesy in the kind of way that is adult acceptable - kinda like a, hey, I'm cool, you're cool, and it's okay for me to play with kiddie items because I'm doing it ironically! sort of way.

Annabelle Lipsies Lip Balms

The Lipsies come in several flavours that are sure to please any palate. For the fruit lovers, there is lime, strawberry, watermelon, fruit punch, cherry, raspberry, and grapefruit. For those with more of a sweet tooth, there's cotton candy, coco-vanilla, and cupcake. There's even a lychee flavour, which is pretty awesome as I've never seen any lychee flavoured lip balms before!

Price & Packaging
The Lipsies come packaged in a fun, chubby stick format with a retractable dispenser that keeps application easy and cost $4.95 each. The formula is designed to be subtly glossy, non-sticky and sheer. Each stick comes with a clear packaged lid so you can see the color easily and the stick size is large and comparable to the Clinique chubby sticks.

Aroma
I received two flavours to try out: Fruit Punch and Coco-vanilla. The first thing I noticed was these lip balms are quite fragranced, but also tasteless. I kinda wish it was more the other way around as scents are a tricky thing for me. I loved the scent of Fruit Punch, which is reminiscent of tropical Kool-Aid. The scent brings back memories for me of sticky hands and raspberry popsicles; it's the smell of childhood summers where the sun is hot on your back and you spend all afternoon jumping through the sprinklers.

Coco-vanilla on the other hand, did not evoke such good feels from me. I found the scent way too strong and kinda artificial. The smell is like a very saccharine version of vanilla. If you're a fan of candy scented perfumes, then maybe you'd like this, but to my nose, it smelled very immature and obvious. Thankfully, the smell fades quickly once applied.

Annabelle Lipsies Lip Balms swatches
Left to right: Fruit Punch, Coco-vanilla

Color & Wear
Although advertised as sheer tints, I found Fruit Punch to be surprisingly pigmented. You could actually use Fruit Punch as a moisturizing lipstick rather than a balm and this makes it great as a no-brainer option for work or play. Coco-vanilla on the hand is super sheer. If you're wanting a non-tinted option, then this is your pick. It also works great as a glossy topper over lipstick.

Wear time for both flavours is minimal, about 2-3 hours. They left my lips feeling moist, soft and slippery. I couldn't find any ingredients listed anywhere so I'm not sure what moisturizing properties these have, but they certainly didn't dry out my lips.

Final Verdict
Buy - At a very affordable price and a generous size, these lip balms are a solid option to keep lips moist all day.







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Unplugged



Lately I've been craving more and more unplugged time. I'm talking about time away from my computer and ignoring notifications. Does anyone else get really stressed out by the incessant beeping of their phone? Between my various messaging apps, email, work email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and so forth, it all gets a little overwhelming sometimes.

So, I've started to take back a little me time. It doesn't take a lot, but it does take a mindset and a determination to feel that it's "okay" to let go for a bit and just practice mindfulness. I guess that meditation book I kinda/sorta read a couple months ago really did have an effect on me!

To unplug, it can be all about taking small steps. Here are some of the things I've been doing:

  • putting my phone on silent for a couple hours and out of sight
  • forgoing reading blogs in bed right before I sleep and instead keeping a daily one-page journal to document my thoughts, daily to-dos, and musings
  • surrounding myself in comfortable sights, sounds and textures. When I'm comfortable, then I feel more peaceful. This includes wearing fuzzy socks to bed, saving images like the above, and listening to ambient music like this playlist
  • purposely taking the long route and trying to concentrate as hard as I can on my surroundings 

It's amazing, but even these little things make me feel more centered, calmer and refreshed after a long day.

Now I want to hear, what are your thoughts? Do you feel "on" too much? What are your strategies for disconnecting?



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Estee Lauder Spring 2015 Makeup Collection Preview | Warning: *pic heavy*

A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure alongside other bloggers and members of the media to get a sneak peek at the new launches from Estee Lauder for Spring 2015! Although Estee Lauder typically is associated with a more mature audience, I've learned that their products translate well across the age spectrum and it's probably more their exclusive price point that prevents more young fans from discovering this historic brand. Even for me, as I'm slowly becoming habituated to investing more into high-end makeup (the dangerous side-effect of being a beauty blogger!), Estee Lauder is still relatively new territory, so I was eager to learn more.

The preview event was half makeup lesson, half presentation, which was a unique format to learn just how to use the products to their best. All attendees received a full guide with tips and tricks, which I'm excited to share with you in some future posts! For now though, it's all about the eye porn as I present to you photos of everything I got my paws on at the event. Enjoy!


Estee Lauder Spring 2015 Makeup Collection Preview

Above is the newest rendition of Bronze Goddess line. All of the products here are designed to give that fresh, radiant look for summer, but really, who couldn't use a little glow every day of the year?

Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess pressed powder

The Bronze Goddess pressed powder comes in a beautiful tortoise-shell-like case and features a pretty inlay that resembles a seashell. This is one of those products that you want to just keep for looks and never use!

Estee Lauder Spring 2015 Makeup Collection Preview

These unique highlighters can be used all over the face for the sheerest hint of color. While they look beautiful, I do wish they were a little more pigmented.

Estee Lauder Spring 2015 Makeup Collection Preview

On the other hand, I LOVED this all-over stick. This one is quite reminiscent of the NARS Orgasm multi-stick, but lighter and prettier if possible and it gives the most beautiful luminosity to skin.

Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess shimmering body oil spray

The Bronze Goddess Shimmering Body Oil Spray is a light, scented body oil that also provides a subtle shimmer to your skin when sprayed. Use on collarbones, shoulders and decolletage for a sexy glow.

Estee Lauder Spring 2015 Makeup Collection Preview
Plenty of new lip shades to choose from!

Estee Lauder Spring 2015 Makeup Collection Preview

For Spring, Estee Lauder collaborated with French designer Andre Courreges to create this exclusive collection of shadows, highlighters and lip/cheek duos. I'm unfamiliar with Courreges' work, but the resulting collection seems like a big departure from the usual style of Estee Lauder. The packaging and palette of this collection looks very mod with a focus on shimmery or glossy finishes. Not sure I'm a huge fan of this one to be honest.

Estee Lauder Andre Courreges lip and cheek ball
Left to right: Courreges Estee Lauder Iridescent Ball Highlighter, $29Courreges Estee Lauder Lip + Cheek ball, $29

Estee Lauder perfecting loose powder

The Perfecting Loose Powder though has got to be the most exciting part of the collection for me. This powder is seriously amazeballs. Normally I hate loose powders, but this one applies so silky and literally erased all signs of texture on my hand when I swatched it. I could not stop stroking my hand like a creepo for the rest of the event after trying this one!

Aerin Lauder Rose de Grasse perfume

As a huge fan of the Aerin perfumes, I was super excited to smell the new Rose de Grasse parfum. Besides looking beautiful, the Rose de Grasse also smells beautiful. The scent is heavier and more nuanced than the other Aerin perfumes and also more mature as a result. Someone commented that this would make a perfect bridal fragrance and I couldn't agree more. This perfume encapsulates that romantic bridal feeling entirely. I would wear this in a heartbeat if it weren't $185 per bottle!

Estee lauder little black eyelash primer

The new Little Black Primer eyelash primer is one of the first lash primers that is also tinted! Seems like a no-brainer right? The curved wand hugs every lash and this primer can even be worn alone.

Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess Shimmering Nudes Face & Eye palette

Last, but not least, I of course have to finish off with the palettes. Above is pictured the Sephora exclusive Bronze Goddess Shimmering Nudes Face & Eye palette. Think of this one as summer in a palette; it contains a warm peachy bronzer and three shimmering eye shades.

Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess Shimmering Nudes Face & Eye palette

Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess Shimmering Nudes palette

Another palette that has me quite tempted is Bronze Goddess Shimmering Nudes palette. Nude? Shimmering? Eyeshadow palette? You just know I was drooling all over this one. I love the versatility of this one with 2/3 of the palette containing easy-to-wear rose gold shades and then 3 killer metallic shades to transition your look easily from day to night. Do I need another palette in my life? Maybe!

Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess Shimmering Nudes palette

Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess Shimmering Nudes palette



Which of these products are you lusting over?


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Tea Ave | Discover new adventures with Taiwanese Oolong

Just J: Tea Ave review

As an avid book reader, it's only natural that I am also a tea enthusiast. Tea and books go great together and sipping a warm cup with a book is one of my favourite ways to unwind. Growing up, I drank primarily whatever my parents bought, so jasmine, chrysanthemum, green tea and Tetley's were mainstays. It was only after I moved out and my friend circle expanded, that I became exposed to different tea options. Oh and also working for two years a block away from David's Tea helped!

My tea preferences stick close to those roots as I usually prefer crisp, light Asian teas, white teas and anything vanilla or earl grey. You can imagine my excitement then when I was contacted a few months ago by a Canadian start-up importing oolong teas straight from Taiwan!

Tea Ave is a Vancouver based online tea shop started by siblings Jeff and Heidi Chen. Born and raised in Taiwan, the duo came up with the idea of Tea Ave over a shared love (and a few cups) of their beloved drink. Seeing a lack in the market, they decided to start their own online shop focusing on their favourite tea, oolong.

Oolong is a popular Asian tea made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. The leaves are gently shaken and then laid out to dry in the sun before being roasted. The result is an earthy, full-bodied tea that can vary in taste from floral to creamy, or fruity and nutty, depending on where it's grown and how it is processed. Tea Ave further amplifies the tea experience by blending the oolong teas with special ingredients like rose petals and ginger lily to create bold new flavours. Each tea package comes with a description of where it was grown, how it was roasted, steeping instructions and a flavour profile, so you know just how to maximize the experience.

Just J: Tea Ave review
Beautiful packaging! Totally going to reuse this for extra makeup storage

Just J: Tea Ave review samples - rose, osmanthus and jasmine oolong
My Tea Ave samples: Osmanthus, Rose and Cape Jasmine

As part of my introduction to Tea Ave, I got to try three flavours: Rose oolong, Jasmine oolong and Osmanthus oolong.

Rose Oolong
Price: $14.99 for 25g
Profile: "Our Rose Oolong is a flower tea prepared using the ancient method, in which the tea absorbs the flower fragrance during the baking progress, producing a scented tea that’s aromatic and flavorful without using any additives or chemicals. We blend our Alishan Jin Xuan Oolong with fresh Taiwanese roses to create an elegant flower tea that is both full-bodied and mellow, with rose petals lending delicate floral notes to a robust oolong body. Rose Oolong has a floral fragrance and a rich, sweet taste. Smooth and exhilarating. Dare we say a little bit like falling in love."
My take: I loved this tea! It brews to a beautiful light gold color with a strong woodsy aroma and tastes very crisp and clean. Normally I'm not a fan of overly floral teas, but this one had a nice balance of floral and fruity flavours. I think this could even taste good cold! 
rose oolong
Rose oolong tea

Rose oolong tea
Rose oolong tea

Osmanthus Oolong
Price: $14.99 for 25g
Profile: "Our Osmanthus Oolong is prepared using the ancient method, in which the tea absorbs the flower fragrance during the baking progress, producing a scented tea that’s aromatic and flavorful without using any additives or chemicals. The osmanthus flower is a symbol of romance in Taiwanese culture, and Osmanthus Oolong is a traditional wedding tea in Taiwan. With a base of creamy Alishan Jin Xuan Oolong, Osmanthus Oolong is scented with the fragrant osmanthus flower, giving it a floral and fruity flavor. Light and bright, this tea is prized for its mellow, smooth qualities, with a subtle, lingering fruity aftertaste. Romantic indeed."
My take: This one I didn't like as much as the Rose as it had a much stronger, more traditional oolong taste. I also didn't pick up any of the creaminess. The woodsy/earthy aroma was more prevalent with this flavour as well, but not in a bad way. In terms of taste, it reminded me more of what I've come to associate with traditional Chinese teas and it works excellently as a palette cleanser. While I prefer the Rose as a sipping tea for fun, the Osmanthus is more of an everyday tea that I would drink with meals to cut through any fatty or grease aftertaste from food.

osmanthus oolong
Osmanthus oolong tea

Tea Ave osmanthus oolong tea
Osmanthus oolong tea

Jasmine Oolong
Price: $13.75 for 25g
Profile: "Our Jasmine Oolong is prepared using the ancient method, in which the tea absorbs the jasmine flower fragrance during the baking progress, producing a scented tea that’s aromatic and flavorful without using any additives or chemicals. Jasmine Oolong is a pure, cleansing tea. We enjoy a cup in the evening, when we’re winding down for the day. Jasmine Oolong is a flower tea with an inviting floral scent and a clean, strong taste, the flavor of jasmine blossoms overlaying earthy oolong undertones. A delicious tea that will transport you to the high mountains of Taiwan. Get ready to breathe more deeply than you have in a while.
My take: I haven't gotten to try this one yet as I've been savouring the other two, but will update when I have!     I've now tried this and love it! The taste is similar to the Osmanthus, but with more of a deeper floral flavour. It smells very clean and simple. Straightforward, everyday brew.

jasmine oolong
Cape Jasmine oolong tea

Tea Ave cape jasmine oolong tea
Cape Jasmine oolong tea

What struck me as unique about Tea Ave, as opposed to larger brands like Teavana and David's Tea, was that I find the teas from bigger chains very tailored to a Western palette and sometimes way too sweet for my tastes. The oolongs from Tea Ave are very clean, pure and more what I was used to growing up, but with the convenience factor of buying them online as opposed to hunting around the local Asian mall. Also unlike other teas, you can re-brew these up to 4-5 times and the flavour will evolve with each brew. I didn't notice too much of this "flavour evolution" when I tried this, but the cheap side of me really appreciated how much I could maximize the value of each leaf!

Besides tea, Tea Ave also sells tea accessories such as tea pots, cups, mugs, tins and tumblers. Alongside my tea samples, I also received a special aroma cup set. Consisting of a single porcelain cup, an aroma cup and a bamboo tray, the entire set had the minimalist in me swooning.

Tea Ave aroma tea set
Tea aroma set, $34.99

I'd never used an aroma set before so I was pretty stumped what to do with it. Was the second cup for doing shots? Luckily a coworker had a tea enthusiast in the family and he explained to me that the taller cup was for "aroma". To use this set, you must:
  1. Fill both cups with hot water and then empty to cleanse
  2. Pour prepared tea into the aroma cup 
  3. Pour that tea then into the sipping cup
  4. Sniff the lingering aroma from the aroma cup while you enjoy the tea from the drinking cup
  5. Place both cups on the bamboo tray and sit there feeling fancy

Tea Ave aroma tea set
Tea aroma set

I haven't tried this method out yet and I may still use that aroma cup for pouring out shots at another time, but the whole idea is something quite intriguing. I think Tea Ave will be my gateway drug into becoming a full on tea snob!




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Lise Watier Baiser Velours Liquid Lipstick Review | A true matte finish in just one swipe

Just J: Lise Watier Baiser Velours Liquid Lipstick Review

Launched just this past Valentine's Day, Lise Watier has jumped onto the liquid lipstick trend with their new Baiser Velours velvet liquid lipsticks. If you're unfamiliar with the liquid lipstick format, they're fairly self-explanatory: liquid lipsticks offer the rich pigment of a lipstick with the creamy formula and easy wand application of a gloss. Unlike glosses however, they're not always glossy; in fact some are downright matte, and the Lise Watier Baiser Velours are among those.

The Product
Formulated for intense color and a velvet finish, the Baiser Velour lipsticks come in nine super bright shades. They also have a unique doe foot applicator that is slightly tapered for more precise application. Out of the nine shades, I received three to try:
  • Love Kiss - a bright fire-engine red with tinges of orange
  • Passion Kiss - a deep true red
  • Party Kiss - a pink-red that veers almost magenta

The Guts
The primary ingredients in this product are:
  • Cyclopentasiloxane - a silicone that provides a smooth, slippery finish
  • Trimethylsiloxyphenyl dimethicone - a silicone that provides similar effects
  • Neopentyl glycol - an emollient that creates a film over skin
  • Isododecane - makes the product spreadable

Just J: Lise Watier Baiser Velours Liquid Lipstick Review

Price & Packaging
A 6 mL tube retails off the Lise Watier site for $27 each and is also available at drugstores wherever Lise Watier is sold, such as London Drugs. Packaging-wise, these are pretty straightforward, but also luxurious. The bullet gray coloring and satin finish of these tubes feels classy and has a nice weight in the palm. Unfortunately, the packaging also prevents you from really getting a good look at the actual color of the lipstick and the first thing I noticed about these is that the tube and the swatch don't quite match. Two out of three of the shades I received were slightly off: Love Kiss was more orange toned, while Passion Kiss, which I was expecting to be a deep plum, turned out to be the truest red of the bunch for me. Only Party Kiss was the closest in real life to its sticker.

Pigmentation & Texture
Perhaps its the formula with all liquid lipsticks, but I found these to be incredibly thick and pigmented. Now, I love pigmented anything, so I wasn't too put off, but it was definitely a surprise when one is more accustomed to sheer glosses! Trust me when I say not to use your usual slather-it-on motion as you would with normal lip glosses! Instead, dab and brush very carefully on the center of your bottom lip only and then smoosh your lips together to spread the color. This method should be sufficient for most people unless you really love a precise line, in which case I would recommend applying this to your hand and then use a lip brush to apply.

When first applied, these lipsticks feel very creamy on the lips and were seriously awe-inspiring with its color payoff. Just take look a at these swatches - they were done with barely one swipe!

Just J: Lise Watier Baiser Velours Liquid Lipstick swatches
Left to right: Love Kiss, Passion Kiss, Party Kiss

Each of the shades in the Baiser Velour line leans towards seductive femme fatale, so if you're looking for drama, then these lipsticks will leave you quivering. As well, because these shades are so bright, they have the additional effect of also brightening your skin tone. I wore Love Kiss all day at work last week and multiple coworkers commented on my lipstick, with a couple people commenting on how luminous my skin looked! Well, actually one coworker said I looked "pale", but when it's an Asian saying that to an Asian, it actually means "luminous."

Longevity & Wear
These lipsticks take seconds to set so you have to work quickly. Once you do, they dry down to this beautiful velvet finish that lasts all day. This may not be the lipstick you asked for, but it is the lipstick you need for those times when you want to put your lipstick on and just forget about it. The only downside to this matte staying power - dry lips. If you have dry lips, you may want to apply lip balm first, as these lipsticks do emphasize lines and flakes, similar to most matte lip colors.

Just J: Lise Watier Baiser Velours Liquid Lipstick Review
Wearing Passion Kiss

When photographing this post, I was a bad blogger and didn't bother to do a lip swatch of all three shades just because I knew I'd never get the true color on my lips after the first swatch, as these lipsticks leave behind a very persistent stain. Even to wash the swatches off my arm, I had to wash my arm three times and then scratch off the color residue with my nails! Don't worry though; these will come off easier from the lips, so long as you have a good makeup remover. 

Final Verdict
Buy - if you're looking for gorgeous, stay-all-day color, then this is it. These lipsticks give you that beautiful modern bright lip look. Simply apply mascara and some blush and you're set for the day!







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Revlon Photoready Insta-Fix Concealer Review | Stick concealers are back!

Okay maybe stick concealers never quite left, but for me, stick concealers are something I haven't used since high school when I first discovered foundation (and pimples). Sticks are perfect for people who want coverage, without any fuss or additional tools and modern sticks like the Revlon Photoready Insta-Fix Concealer are eons better than the ones from the 90's with new technology that eliminates that tell-take cakiness you used to get in a concealer stick.

Just J: Revlon Photoready Insta-Fix Concealer Review

The Product
New for 2015, the Revlon Photoready Insta-Fix Concealer creates an instant flawless look in an easy to use package. Simply glide the concealer stick over imperfections and blend to get photo ready skin. Special "light-filtering technology" gives skin an airbrushed finish, smoothing out pores and hiding blemishes for light to medium coverage. They also contain SPF 20, which is an awesome bonus!

The Revlon Photoready Insta-Fix Concealer comes in 9 distinct shades, two of which I received to test, but today's review covers 160 Medium Beige.

The Guts
The primary ingredients in this product are:
  • Titanium dioxide - commonly found in sunscreens, this ingredient provides sun protection as well as offers a whitening effect to skin
  • Zinc oxide - similar benefits as titanium dioxide
  • Dimethicone - a silicone that temporarily plumps up fine lines and provides a smooth even skin surface by creating a protective barrier
  • Isohexadecane - an emollient that gives skin a silky feeling

Just J: Revlon Photoready Insta-Fix Concealer Review

Price & Packaging
A single tube retails for around $10-15 depending on where you purchase it and is available in most drugstores. Nothing too interesting with the packaging here - it's your basic run-of-the-mill stick concealer with a clear lid that lets you peek at the color.

Effectivess
My go-to foundation offers fairly light coverage, so I was eager to try out this concealer to boost coverage on blemishes and hyper-pigmentation. The shade Medium Beige is slightly too dark for my skin as you'll see in the swatch, but when blended and topped with powder, it works and I think will be an even better match for my summer skin tone.

Just J: Revlon Photoready Insta-Fix Concealer swatches
Left: unblended | Right: lightly blended

To use, I simply patted the stick directly over my blemishes and then blended it out lightly with my fingers; applied this way, I get very good coverage that eliminates redness around blemishes. Oddly enough, this method doesn't work as well with scars or hyper-pigmentation and with those I have to apply the concealer using more of a regular swiping motion. Either way, the coverage is decent, but only lasts about 4-6 hours, probably due to the concealer getting rubbed away as I touch my face.

Although less cakey than concealers of the past, I still found this concealer to be rather thick and compared to the dewiness of my foundation, the finish was quite matte. When I switched to a more satin-matte foundation, this problem was alleviated. Overall, I think this is a pretty minor issue unless you're applying concealer to large swathes of your face or for under-eye circles where the cakiness will be exacerbated by your delicate eye area. As I was primarily using this around the mouth and chin area, it was fine as-is.

Final Verdict
Buy - a decent, no-fuss option for concealing minor blemishes. Not recommended for use as an under-eye concealer.




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