Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant Review

Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant Review

When it comes to exfoliators, I've always been firmly in #teamscrub or namely, physical exfoliants. There's just something so satisfying about giving your skin a good, deep-down scrub to get that squeaky-clean feeling, but in the past couple months, I've begun to see the benefits, and results, of using chemical exfoliants.

Unlike physical exfoliators, chemical exfoliators use acid complexes to trigger your skin's natural renewal process to shed dead skin cells. If you have sensitive or oily skin, or hyper-pigmentation, then chemical exfoliants are ideally suited for you.

Last month I started out by trying the Neostrata Securewhite Brightening Serum, which uses alpha hydroxy acids (AHA) and loved my results, so I was curious to see how using beta hydroxy acid (BHA) would differ. The Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant is designed for combo-oily skin, but is gentle enough for all skin types and is focused on improving skin's radiance, tone, and smoothness, while preventing breakouts and blackheads.

Although both AHA and BHA products work similarly, they do differ. According to Paula's Choice, AHA are more suited for dry and sun-damaged skin as they exfoliate primarily on the surface and help increase moisture levels, due to being water-soluble. As BHA are oil-soluble, they therefore are suited best for oilier and more clogged skin as they penetrate deeper into the epidermis; BHA are also great anti-inflammatories, so are ideal for those suffering from redness, rosacea and ultra-sensitivity. As well, another difference between AHA and BHA is in terms of concentrations required as you will need a higher percentage of AHA to get the same effectiveness acquired with BHA. In the end though, if your skin is kind of in the middle spectrum like mine, I don't think it makes much difference whether you use AHA or BHA as the end results will be about the same.

The Guts
The primary ingredients in the Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant are:

  • Water
  • Methylpropanediol - a solvent that helps other ingredients, particularly salicylic acid, penetrate more easily into skin
  • Butylene glycol - very similar purpose as methylpropanediol with some moisturizing abilities
  • Salicylic acid - this is the primary BHA in this product and acts as an exfoliant, an anti-inflammatory with antimicrobial properties, and it also fights hyper-pigmentation
  • Polysorbate 20 - a cleanser and emulsifier

The Packaging
A 118 ml bottle retails for $28 USD off Paula's Choice. Again, definitely pricier than similar toning/exfoliating products, but not unreasonable considering its added benefits and Paula's Choice being a mid-range beauty line. 

The bottle itself is nice and compact, with a small opening at the top for easy dispensing onto a cotton pad.

Although it's marketed as an exfoliant, I've been using this as a night-time cleansing toner after I wash my face. It does a great job at balancing my skin and washing away any leftover makeup and dirt. Unlike with other AHA products I've used, I didn't experience any tingling whatsoever with the Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant and I found it gentle enough to use every night.

I've been using the Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant for almost a month now, and compared to their Resist Weightless Advanced Repairing Toner, I love this one way more. While I thought the former did a better job at controlling oil production, I think the Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant has visibly improved my skin. My face feels significantly softer, especially on my forehead which literally feels like silk! I actually can't stop touching my face and even got Mr. Artist to verify it too the other day, although he wasn't as impressed obviously as I was. I've also noticed that the fine lines on my forehead are reduced and my pores seem clearer. I usually get a couple blemishes around my period, but I haven't had a single dot pop up at all! 

In terms of glow and repairing sun damage, the Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant wins there as well. My skin appears more even and looks glowing even before I apply any makeup. Unfortunately those damn pesky dark spots are still there, so I may have to alternate between using this and the Neostrata serum to knock those down. 

Final Verdict
Buy - a reasonable price and amazing results means this is a must-have for glowing, supremely soft and smooth skin.

*This post contains PR samples

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Make Up Forever Pro Sculpting Palette Review | Get your most natural looking face... with the most product

make up forever contour and highlight palette review

Contouring. Bronzing. Correcting. Highlighting. It's all rather confusing and full of gobbley-gook isn't it?

The sculpting trend has been around for years now, yet many of us (myself included) are still a little clueless and simultaneously fascinated by it. When you see someone doing contouring right, then it's pretty damn amazing. Like a painter at work, it is endlessly entertaining to see someone's face literally transform and that's why we see endless products get released to try and make it "simpler" for the lay(wo)man.

The latest iteration of this type of all-in-one kit, is the new Make Up Forever Pro Sculpting 4-in-1 Face Contouring Palette. Available exclusively at Sephora for $54 each, the Pro Sculpting Palette is a four pan palette that contains a satin highlight, a matte bronzer, a shimmery highlight and a complementing blush shade. Each shade is designed to work with the others to give you that perfectly chiseled look.

review of make up forever pro sculpting palette medium

The Pro Sculpting Palette comes in four shades, depending on your skin color: light, medium, tan and dark. From what I can tell, there's not much difference between light and medium, which is what I received, except that the highlight shades and the bronzer in the light palette are slightly more cool-toned. All of the pans are cream based and are designed to be long-lasting, easily blendable and to give a more natural finish than powders. The palette also comes with a super handy sculpting guide that shows you how to use each shade depending on your face shape (I'm an inverted triangle!)

make up forever pro sculpting palette guide

As I mentioned, I selected the medium shade palette to try. By far, the satin highlight and bronze shade outperformed the other two. The satin highlight was definitely my favourite shade in the palette, as it was really easy to work with, blended well with my skin tone and noticeably brightened my face wherever I applied it. My favourite way to work with the satin highlight, is to apply it in a large triangle under my eyes and it works wonders to make me look more awake and fresh!

The bronze shade as well was surprisingly decent. I was scared about using a cream bronzer, but it was actually fairly easy to work with, provided that you have a good damp sponge like a BeautyBlender or a buffing brush (like my new fave, the Sephora Classic Mini Multitasker Brush) to blend out any edges. The bronze shade was a warm brown on my skin with very little orange undertones and although it would apply dark, it blended out to be really subtle. I actually found that I usually needed to apply two layers of the bronzer to get the level of chisel I wanted!

Unfortunately where this palette fell a little flat for me was with the shimmer highlight and the blush. The shimmer highlight is basically the same color as the satin one, but with a bit more of a shimmery finish. This one was just meh for me as it was nowhere near as good as my powder highlights, but it does give a nice, slight dewiness to the skin. You could safely spackle this all over and never overdo it.

As for the blush shade, compared to the Ultra HD blushes (my favourite cream blush!) the blush shade on the Pro Sculpting Palette is sheerer and has a creamier finish, whereas the Ultra HD blush dries down to something slightly more powdery. I think this subtle difference actually effects the wear time on me; even though the Ultra HD doesn't last all day on me either, it lasted longer than the Pro Sculpting Palette blush. It's really a shame as I love the coral pink Make Up Forever chose for this palette; it's a universally flattering shade that's hard to overdo and it has a dewiness like the other pans in the palette that gives you such a pretty glow.

make up forever pro sculpting palette swatches in medium 30
Swatches! Left to right: Highlight, contour, shimmer highlight and blush

Even though half of the palette was so-so, I was still really happy with the texture and pigmentation of the Pro Sculpting Palette and my complaints about the shimmer and blush shade are pretty minor - kind of like squabbling over the differences between a B+ and an A-.

My only other complaint about this palette are about its packaging. I really wish that for $54, that Make Up Forever had invested in cooler, or at least sturdier packaging. The cheap plastic casing for this palette is straight-up drugstore and when I received mine, one of the pans had already popped out of place.

Overall though, I'm still a happy camper and would recommend trying this palette. Once I got the hang of where to place each shade, I was thrilled with the radiance and gentle sculpting it gave me. I looked like me, but better!

make up forever pro scultping palette in medium
Wearing all 4 shades according to the guide's placement

make up forever pro scultping palette in medium review

make up forever pro scultping palette in medium
Love the subtle contour!

Final Verdict
Buy - pricey, but worth it as this is a one-stop shop for all you need if you're seeking subtle contouring and a healthy glow.

*This post contains PR samples

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A Book Devoured: Magonia Book 1 by Maria Dahvana Headley

It's been awhile since I've "devoured" a book this quickly, but what can I say? I do love a good mythology story and Magonia is one of the most creative stories I've read in awhile.

Inspired by real life historical manuscripts depicting a people who lived in the sky, Magonia follows the story of young Aza Ray Boyle, a teenager with a very unique illness: she is literally drowning in air. All her life, Aza Ray has been poked, prodded and frowned over by doctors who are stumped as to why she has such difficulty breathing. Her only respite from hospital rooms and tests? Her family and her best friend Jason, a slightly manic, but fiercely loyal, boy genius.

On the eve of Aza's 16th birthday, 2 momentous things happen: Jason confesses his feelings for her and Aza dies. Yep. The main character "dies" in the first third of the book BUT only to be reborn as Aza Ray, long-lost daughter of Zal, captain of the Magonian air ship Amina Pennarum. Aboard this ship, Aza Ray learns about her past, the secret world of Magonia and the destiny she was born to. Along the way, she flies with squallwhales, battles deadly assassins, and befriends the Rostrae, a servant class of half-bird, half-human changelings.

Right from page 1, author Maria Dhavana Headley immediately captures your imagination. She does an amazing job at world creating and bringing to life such a fantastical world as Magonia. I loved how she sets her readers' imaginations aflame imagining creatures who are both bird and human, plants that grow in mid-air and huge sailing ships powered by gentle giant bats.

Although sometimes the plot of Magonia can be a little predictable, such as the setting up of the inevitable love triangle (it is technically a YA novel after all), I still found it thoroughly entertaining and the ending left me wanting more. Thankfully the next novel in the series is supposed to come out this fall!

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How to Wear Bright Lipsticks to Work

how to wear bright lipsticks at work

A lot of us don't have time to put on a full face of makeup everyday, but there's just one thing anyone can do that will really help elevate your office look.

Lipstick is one of those game-changer products that can really help elevate your mood, give you confidence and make you look instantly put together. The only thing is, it can be really tricky to know what colors are, and aren't, work-appropriate. That can lead a lot of us to just sticking to MLBB/nude territory or never going beyond sheer tints, which is simply tragic as there are so many great lipstick colors out there just begging to be worn! Plus, there are even studies out there that suggest that wearing bright red lipstick can actually be good for your career! So what are you waiting for?

Here are some ideas for how to incorporate some fun spring lipstick shades into your routine, no matter what type of office environment you work in:

For the casual, anything goes office: try a bright magenta pink. A deeper pink like this will make your teeth appear brighter and goes great with a tan! If you're looking for a bright magenta, then my suggestion is the shade Eternally Yours Fuschia from Canada's Saint Cosmetics; it's a super-pigmented, matte magenta, which is my fave way to wear a color like this as the matte finish makes it modern and lets you focus on the color instead of the gloss (read my previous review of this lipstick here).

For the conservative office: try a bold red. Now, you'd think red would be the last color you should wear in a conservative environment, but what could be more classic and traditional than red lipstick! Red works all year round and when paired with minimal eyes and light contouring, it looks sophisticated and confident. I'm really in love with raspberry reds right now as they have a warmth to them that makes it more appropriate for spring's youthful feel. My recommendation is the Sonia Kashuk Velvety Matte Lip Crayon in Raspberry Nude!

For the fashion forward office: try a purple. If you work in a creative environment, well then lucky you as you can go as avant-garde with your lipstick choices as you want! Nothing epitomizes "bold lips" more than a purple shade. For spring, a lavender would be fantastic if you're fair-skinned, while darker tones would favour a grape shade better. Sadly, I don't anything too extreme to recommend here, but the Colourpop Lippie Stix in Too Sexy is as bold as I've got right now. It looks scary purple in the tube, but is a very wearable purple-red on (see more swatches of this one here).

For the hectic office: lastly, for those who are always moving between meetings, work sites or otherwise always on-the-go, I'd recommend trying any of the above, but in a long-lasting liquid lipstick formula. My go-to, never-budge lipstick is definitely the Rimmel Provocalips 16 hr Kiss Proof Lip Colour. These puppies will literally not move at all all day, provided you give them 1 minute of your busy day to properly set. They're a cinch to apply and come in a variety of fun bright shades. My fave bright pink is the shade I'll Call You (see swatches of this one here).

work appropriate color lipsticks
Left to right: Rimmel Provocalips 16 HR Kiss Proof Lip Colour in I'll Call You, Sonia Kashuk Velvety Matte Lip Crayon in Raspberry Nude, Colourpop Lippie Stix in Too Sexy, and Saint Cosmetics Eternally Yours Fuschia lipstick

What are your favourite lipstick shades to wear to work?

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Nuxe Prodigieux Shower Oil Review | A luxurious shower experience

nuxe shower oil body wash

Body washes aren't the most exciting things to write about, but when they are as good as the Nuxe Prodigieux Shower Oil then well, that's a different story! Nuxe is quickly becoming one of my favourite beauty brands as every product I've tried of theirs has always been such great quality. With a focus on natural ingredients and an affordable price point, Nuxe is the perfect line for someone who wants a touch of luxury in their everyday routine.

New this spring, the Nuxe Prodigieux Shower Oil is of course, inspired by the famous multi-purpose oil of the same name and offers a lighter version for those who are more on-the-go. This sulfate-free cleanser is a body wash/moisturizing oil with a sweet almond oil base and contains teeny tiny gold micro-shimmers.

The Guts
Composed of 91.9% natural ingredients, this body wash is made up primarily of:

  • Water
  • Sodium lauroyl sarcosinate - a foaming cleanser
  • Coco-glucoside - a coconut-derived cleanser
  • Glycerin - a moisturizer
  • Cocamidopropyl betaine - a cleanser

Price & Packaging
A 200 ml tube costs $16 and is available at Murale, Shoppers Drug Mart, and Hudson's Bay

Although $16 isn't too pricey, it's obviously more than a bar of soap and arguably won't last you as long, but I don't think that's the point. The biggest arguments to use the Nuxe Prodigieux Shower Oil is for its scent and its moisturizing properties. This is the perfect product for someone who wants a bubble bath experience, but who is too lazy to actually run a bath, aka me. I'm too impatient to wait around for a bath and once I do all the work to get it ready, I'm bored after 5 minutes! A nice long shower though is just my speed. 

The Nuxe Prodigieux Shower Oil smells absolutely amazing and instantly relaxes me after a long day. If you're a fan of the Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse Oil then you'll love this body wash as it smells exactly the same, with its heady mix of luxurious nutty smells like macadamia, olive, sweet almond and hazelnut, paired with gentle touches of orange flower, magnolia and vanilla.

The texture of the Nuxe Prodigieux Shower Oil is a little thicker than most body washes and comes out as a golden gel that foams easily and spreads well over skin. Post-rinse, my skin felt nicely hydrated and soft. If you're really in a hurry and you don't have dry skin, you could probably even skip lotion! I tried doing this a couple days at a time just to test and didn't experience any flaking or any noticeable difference in my skin, but long-term I'd still recommend using a body lotion.

Final Verdict
Buy - an affordable way for shower lovers to get all the relaxing benefits of the famous Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse Oil in half the time. 

* This post features PR samples

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How to relax and look fresh faced when you feel anything but

Products to help you when you're stressed

The last couple weeks at work have been super busy for me, which means late hours, early mornings and days filled with people coming at me 8 hours straight. It's not a good sign when you start your actual work at 5pm and then you dream about work at night! Anyways, to keep me from not looking like death, I've been reaching for each of these products on the regular. Some help me relax and get a good night's sleep (the #1 best way to look fresh-faced) while others help me fake it until the weekend.

Products to help you relax

  1. The Happily Ever Ava sugar scrub in Lemon Vanilla is heaven in a jar. This all natural, handmade scrub contains exfoliating sugar and mango butter, shea butter and aloe butter to help you feel velvety smooth, but it's the incredible scent of this scrub that really helps me relax. I swear it smells just like lemon meringue pie! You'll want to just right into bed after using this one. Read my full review here.
  2. During the day, I rely heavily on my Saje aromatherapy oils in Stress Release and Peppermint Halo to keep me going. In the mornings and whenever I feel anxious, I love to slather Stress Release all over and let its soothing lavender, orange, chamomile and sage oils ease away my tension. Sure, I might smell weird to my coworkers, but screw it, I think an odd smelling coworker is better than a grouchy one! If I start to feel a tension headache coming on, then I immediately apply some Peppermint Halo to where it hurts and it just squashes that headache right away. Peppermint Halo contains oils of peppermint, eucalytus, rosemary and lavender and it has an immediate chilling sensation that works wonders. Read my full review of these and other Saje rescue oils here.

Products to help you look fresh-faced
  1. Stress and dry office air can leave you looking parched. Couple that with copious amounts of caffeine and your skin can start looking sallow and dehydrated. That's where the Clinique Moisture Surge Overnight Mask comes in. This wonder mask is a sleeping mask, meaning you just slather it on and call it a night, then wake up with silky, plump skin. 
  2. To fake looking awake and chipper, nothing helps like a good color corrector. I've recently jumped onto the color correcting bandwagon and have been using the lavender and peach shades of my NYX Color Correcting palette everyday! To brighten up my complexion, I've been generously smoothing the lavender shade across my cheeks and the center of my forehead, then applying the peach shade under my eyes. Lavender works wonders to cancel out yellowness and makes my skin appear fairer and more luminous, while peach counteracts dark under-eye circles. Read my full review of this palette here.
  3. Then to up the brightness even more, I layer my Burberry Fresh Glow foundation over top. This sheer-coverage, slightly watery foundation buffs into my skin so easily and is so light it feels like I'm wearing nothing at all. Lately I'd been feeling a bit over glowy foundations and craving a more matte look, but my work stress has gotten me fully back into the glow camp. GLOW ON LADIES! NEVER ENOUGH! Read my previous review of this foundation here.
  4. Finally, to really finish off that dewy, just moisturized look, I've been finishing things off with my L'Occitane Pivoine Sublime Skin Perfecting Mist. This light hydrating mist gives skin a dose of moisture while also setting makeup. It also helps powder products melt into skin. Read my full review here.

What products do you use to look more awake?

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Nuxe Bio Beaute Rebalancing Cleansing Gel and Face Cream Review

nuxe bio beaute rebalancing skincare review

As the weather warms, I've been prepping for the change in seasons by switching up my skincare from hydrating to more oil controlling products, such as the Rebalancing line by Nuxe's Bio Beaute.

If you've never used Bio Beaute before, they're a child line of Nuxe, a mid-end French skincare line specializing in natural extracts. Their Rebalancing line, which debuted last year, focuses on helping combination skin types get clearer, refreshed skin with the power of cranberry extract. Loaded with natural salicylic acid, cranberry extract can over time help skin renew itself to reveal a more youthful and radiant look.

The two products I was sent over to try from the Rebalancing line were the Rebalancing Cleansing Gel and the Rebalancing Face Cream. Although I'd classify my skin as more normal-dry than combo, I found this line to be gentle enough to not strip my skin, and it acted as a great daily chemical exfoliant, due both products containing salicylic acid. While using these, I forgoed my usual twice weekly scrub and just kept to masking if my skin felt like it needed some unclogging.

nuxe bio beaute rebalancing cleansing gel

Rebalancing Cleansing Gel 
Price: $22 for 200 ml
What it is: The Rebalancing Cleansing Gel is designed to help combination skin by eliminating breakouts with cranberry extract and to reduce excess sebum production. What's also really cool, is that this cleanser is EcoCert certified and is biodegradable!
What's in it:
  • Water
  • Coco-glucoside - derived from coconut oil, this mild surfactant helps wash away dirt and oil
  • Babassuamidopropyl betaine - a surfactant
  • Glycerin - a humectant
  • Caprylyl/capryl glucoside - a surfactant
This cleanser also contain salicylic acid (exfoliant), aloe vera juice (moisturizing), cranberry extract (antioxidant) and hyaluronic acid (moisturizing).
My take: Since my skin isn't super oily, I've opted to only use this cleanser at night, where it does an effective job at cleansing off makeup, dirt and oil. When paired with a cleansing oil, this cleanser is enough to pass my toner test i.e. I don't see any residue leftover after washing. The Rebalancing Cleansing Gel has a really pleasant, light, fruity scent and rinses away easily, without leaving my face feeling tight or dry. Although it's a gel, the Rebalancing Cleansing Gel doesn't foam up at all and only reaches a milky consistency, so if you're used to tons of foam, that's something to get used to. Since cleansers remain on the skin the least amount of time of any product, it's hard to say whether it had any effect on brightening or improving my skin's texture, but I can say that I haven't had any breakouts since using this. I have noticed though, that my skin feels a tad bit drier; I have a couple of persistent flakes around my nose and the edges of my cheeks, near my hairline, have noticeable dryness - whether this is just due to the cleanser though is hard to say.
Final Verdict: Buy

nuxe bio beaute rebalancing cream review

Rebalancing Face Cream
Price: $31 for 40 ml
What it is: Consisting of 99% natural ingredients, this multi-purpose cream is designed to combat excess oil, prevent blackheads, clear up blemishes, minimize pores and moisturize. 
What's in it:
  • Rose flower water - soothes skin and acts as a mild astringent
  • Water
  • Dicaprylyl ether - an emollient (seals in moisture)
  • Glycerin - a humectant (draws in moisture)
  • Hexyldecanol - an emollient
This face cream also contains coconut oil, sweet almond protein (moisturizing), salicylic acid, cranberry fruit extract, aloe vera and apple fruit extract (antioxidant).
My take: The Rebalancing Face Cream can be used both morning and night. It feels very lightweight, yet is deeply hydrating. The Rebalancing Face Cream makes an excellent day cream as it absorbs quickly and doesn't leave your skin feeling super sticky. For whatever reason though, it doesn't seem to react well with my sunscreen, causing it to peel off in little crumbs, so I had to stop using this during the day and only at night. As a night cream, I think it's suitable if your skin isn't super dry and during the warmer months when you want something a little lighter, but it's a little light for me, so I've been pairing it with my Clinique Turnaround Revitalizing Treatment Oil
Final Verdict: Buy

Overall I had good experiences with both the Rebalancing Face Cream and the Rebalancing Cleansing Gel. Although designed for combination skin types, I found it gentle enough for my normal skin. The Rebalancing Cleansing Gel was an effective night-time cleanser, while the Rebalancing Face Cream is a great daytime option. If you're too lazy to remember to exfoliate regularly, using products like these is an easy way to amp up your skin's natural renewal process. 

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Clinique Pep-Start Eye Cream Review | Not as good as a full 8 hours, but not bad either

Clinique pep-start eye cream

It's been awhile since I've reviewed a Clinique skincare product. With all their great makeup options, I'd almost forgotten that skincare is actually their main focus, so it was nice to take it back to that with this new eye cream, the Pep-Start Eye Cream.

This brightening and hydrating eye cream contains peptides and a mix of natural extracts to give you the illusion of having slept like a baby, instead of the reality, which is reading blogs and Youtube till 2am! The Pep-Start cream is lightweight so it's suitable for use both morning and night and comes with a pretty neat applicator, which I'll get more into in just a sec...

The Guts
The primary ingredients in this product are:
  • Water
  • Glycerin - a humectant (draws moisture into skin)
  • Butylene glycol - helps other ingredients penetrate skin more easily and gives products a slippery texture
  • Shea butter - a wonder moisturizer that helps skin repair itself and is an antioxidant
  • Squalane - a proven moisturizer and antioxidant
Other interesting ingredients in this eye cream include Magnolia Officinalis Bark Extract (moisturizing), St. Paul's Wort (moisturizing), algae extract (antioxidant), molasses extract (moisturizing), Sapindus Mukurossi fruit extract (moisturizing), and caffeine (antioxidant).

Price & Packaging
A single tube costs about $31 from Sephora and contains about 15 ml of product, which is standard for eye creams. What's really cool about the Pep-Start cream is its packaging. This little tube is opaque and contains a large spherical topper. To dispense product, you have to push the ball up until it snaps and then squeeze cream out. The idea is that you apply the cream using the ball top as a cooling eye massage to reduce swelling and dark circles. In most products I've seen with this feature, they usually feature a metallic or even gold ball and the coolness of the metal is much more effective than the Pep-Start's plastic sphere. Also, the plastic sphere kinda drags on the delicate eye area so it may even be counter-productive! It's a nice idea, but I wish Clinique had splurged a bit and used an actually effective applicator instead of this half-way measure.

Clinique pep start eye cream review

My preferred method of applying the Pep-Start cream is with my fingertips. The Pep-Start eye cream feels really light and refreshing, with a watery texture that makes it easy to spread around the eye. Although I usually prefer richer eye creams, I found the Pep-Start eye cream to be surprisingly hydrating. My eye area stayed nicely soft and moist for most of the day and I didn't notice any extreme creasing with my concealer.

Unfortunately, I didn't notice any lessening of the fine lines under my eyes, but most eye creams don't do that for me; nor did I notice any brightening. Another thing I have to note as well, which was also really weird, was that this cream made my eyes sting like a mother f*cker when I would put my contacts in. I have no idea why, but whenever I would apply it and then put my contacts in, my eyes would sting so much and water like crazy. When I applied after putting my contacts in, I felt fine! I've never had this reaction before with any product so contact wearers beware.

Despite that awful side-effect, I would still recommend trying this cream, especially if you're just getting into eye creams and want something that absorbs quickly and doesn't feel too sticky.

Final Verdict
Buy - this eye cream provides ample moisture while not breaking the bank.

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Roger & Gallet x Cadeaux Bakery Event | A perfect French morning in Vancouver

roger & gallet with cadeaux bakery vancouver

When it comes to being chic and elegant, it always seems like the French are a step ahead of everyone else. They just seem to know how to live a little better than the rest of us, doesn't it? I mainly get my dose of French style through experiencing French beauty products, such as the morning I joined French perfumery and skincare brand, Roger & Gallet at their Vancouver boutique inside The Hudson's Bay downtown for a morning brunch and presentation.

Alongside a slew of fellow bloggers and media, I nibbled on scones and sparkling water while learning more about the history of this long-running perfume house. Roger & Gallet was founded in 1862 by merchant Charles Armand Roger and banker Charles Martial Gallet after the duo purchased the fragrance business of Jean Marie Farina, who at the time was well-known for their fragrances. From these mercantile beginnings, Roger & Gallet have grown into an exclusive line of French fragrances, soaps, hand creams, and bath products.

roger & gallet boutique in vancouver

If you haven't yet seen it, then you have to visit the bright and beautiful Roger & Gallet boutique in the Granville location of The Bay. Simultaneously cozy, yet spacious, the Roger & Gallet in-store boutique contains displays of all their products. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to browse fully as the event soon started after I arrived.

In an example of truly serendipitous collaborations, Roger & Gallet had partnered with local French bakery, Cadeaux to host the event. Everyone received a super pretty box  filled with Roger & Gallet goodies and a mini-cookie set complete with 3 pipettes of icing from Cadeaux! We also got to try a set of goodies specially prepared by Cadeaux to evoke the feeling of Roger & Gallet's fragrances:

roger & gallet with cadeaux bakery vancouver
  • A white chocolate fig and bourbon truffle to evoke the Fleur de Fig fragrance
  • A bittersweet chocolate cake with rose essence butter cream
  • A jasmine osmanthus cream tart with fresh mandarin and grapefruit to evoke the Fleur d'osmanthus scent
  • A pate de choux filled with lychee, pomegranate mousse and fresh pomegranate seeds to evoke the freshness of the Gingembre rouge scent
roger & gallet at the bay vancouver

Everything of course was amazingly presented and tasted divine. Diet be damned, these beauties were so rich and too pretty not to taste! 

Once safely home, I later tried piping my own buttercream cookies... to very little success. Piping is a lot harder than it looks! Whatev, it's all the same in the stomach right? 

roger & gallet hand creams
Left to right: Roger & Gallet hand creams in Gingembre Rouge, Rose and Fleur de Figuier
Rose was the lightest cream of the three. Each cream had a light, fresh scent. 

roger & gallet fragrance waters
Left to right: Roger & Gallet Fragrant Water Sprays in Fleur de Figeur and Gingembre Rouge
I loved Fleur de Figeur as it's a mix of fruit and floral notes, while Gingembre Rouge has a deeper floral note to it that feels very womanly

roger & gallet at the bay vancouver
Everything was so gorgeously packaged! 

roger & gallet at the bay vancouver
My Roger & Gallet cookie kit! The buttercream was so delicious, I wanted to pipe it straight into my mouth

Have you tried Roger & Gallet yet? 
Let me know your thoughts!

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Introducing: Here&Now Botanical Skincare

here&now all natural skincare review

Although I tend to cringe at the reputation the West Coast has of being filled with nature-loving hippie types, I do have to say that Vancouver does have its fair share of all-natural beauty brands - Saje, Escents, Eminence Organics... these are just a few of the more well-known brands all headquartered in Vancouver and now there are many boutique brands as well repping Vancouver's lifestyle and commitment to green beauty.

Recently I was fortunate enough to discover Here&Now Botanicals and to learn more about their approach to skincare. Handcrafted in small batches, Here&Now's philosophy is that scent is a powerful influence on the human experience and that all beauty products should be based in this understanding. Using only the best therapeutic grade essential oils, minerals and botanicals, Here&Now's products will gently restore skin to its natural balance and their entire line of cleansers, essential oils, aromatherapy blends, balms, and deodorants are all made to be good for you and good on the environment (that means no parabens, sulphates, palm oil, petroleum, phthalates, and mineral oil).

In order to learn more about Here&Now's products, I was sent three items to try: the Wash Gentle facial cleanser, the Dream aromatherapy oil and All Natural lip balm.

here & now aromatherapy wash cleanser review

Wash Gentle Facial Cleanser
Price: $22 for 120 ml
What it is: A gentle moisturizing cleanser that can be used on all skin types.
What's in it:
  • Water
  • Ginseng extract - an antioxidant
  • Calendula oil - an emollient (seals in moisture)
  • Aloe vera - an antioxidant and moisturizer
  • Nettle leaf extract - moisturizer and soothing ingredient
The Wash Gentle Facial Cleanser is filled with natural extracts and oils, such as horsetail extract, marshmallow extract, hemp seed oil, seaweed extract, sweet almond oil, lavender, cypress, tea tree and rose oils. Mixed all together, this cleanser has plenty of antioxidants, moisturizers and also the oils help to bust up dirt and makeup.
My take: The presence of some potential irritating oils like lavender oil, makes me wonder if those with really sensitive skins can use this, but I didn't experience any irritation whatsoever with this cleanser. I found the Wash cleanser to be truly effective both morning and night. In the mornings, its refreshing, slightly herbal scent helped refresh my skin for the day without stripping it of much-needed moisture, while at night it was strong enough to cleanse away all the dirt and impurities leftover from my cleansing oil. 

If you're new to natural cleansers, then it will take you some getting used to this one as it doesn't foam much at all and it has a very natural, herbal/floral scent that's quite different from the usual artificial scents you find in the drugstore. I personally love this kind of scent, so I found it really relaxing and the soft, milky foam the Wash cleanser produced was easy to work with and rinsed away cleanly.

Final Verdict: Buy

here&now aromatherapy oil

Dream Aromatherapy Oil
Price: $15
What it is: a soothing roll-on aromatherapy oil designed to bathe you in a heavenly scent that will ease your troubles (like the first time I wrote this post out and then Blogger didn't save my draft!!!!)
What's in it:
  • Sunflower seed oil
  • Jasmine oil
  • Lavender oil
My take: I've been into aromatherapy oils ever since I discovered Saje last year and I've even dabbled at creating my own jasmine and lavender blend before, but whereas my attempts just fell flat, the Dream aromatherapy oil was pure heaven. Jasmine is one of my favourite scents, while lavender is decidedly not, yet somehow Here&Now have blended the two into a perfect harmony. I love to roll this on all my pulse points (along the hairline, behind the ears, wrists and decolletage) to literally surround myself in its relaxing aroma. I even enjoy wearing this one as a daily perfume! Don't worry though - this isn't so strong that you'll get sleepy behind the wheel!
Final Verdict: Buy

here & now all natural lip balm

All Natural Lip Balm
Price: $5
What it is: An alternative to petroleum based balms, these balms contain all natural ingredients and come in 5 flavours: Safety Third, Chai Latte, Mint, Focus and Sassafras.
What's in it: Each balm has slightly different ingredients, but they all primarily consist of a cocoa seed, pot marigold and beeswax base (all are emollients), castor seed oil (emollient), green tea leaf oil (antioxidant), coconut oil (emollient) and various fragrances. The one I received was Safety Third and was scented with bergamot, lemon and tea tree oils.
My take: Out of all the Here&Now products I received, I liked the All Natural Lip Balms the least. Maybe there is something in their ingredients that doesn't agree with my skin (though I generally don't react to things) but this balm just causes my lips to peel like a mutha f*cker! It just drove me mad having rough scaleies all the time and I had to do some major exfoliating. Over time, this reaction lessened, but I still found that I had to reapply this balm more often than others as my lips just absorbed it within minutes, yet still not feel any softer than before. As well, this balm is also very slippery and glossy, which makes it not suitable as a moisturizing base under lipsticks.
Final Verdict: Ditch

Overall, I was primarily positive about my experience with Here&Now. I love the simple, apothecary style packaging and their commitment to using environmentally friendly ingredients. I'm definitely interested in trying more of their aromatherapy oils, especially Sassfras and Uplift

You can purchase Here&Now products via their website, or at various boutique beauty shops in Vancouver and Toronto.

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Recreating: Pony's Aqueous Orange Makeup FOTD

Everyone loves a good makeup tutorial, but just how easy are they to recreate in real life? I thought I'd test this out when I came across this tutorial by the famous Korean beauty Youtuber Pony.

If you've never heard of Pony, then you need to check out her channel! She is a genius when it comes to makeup and just watching how she applies her base products has really inspired me to change how I apply my own foundation and base. She is already gorgeous even without makeup, but it's how she transforms herself with just a few products (and a large wig wardrobe) that really makes her fascinating to watch.

With spring approaching here in Vancouver, I felt it was time to bust out my warmer, brighter colors and this orange focused tutorial is such a great one to emulate. I love the warmth orange lends to my skintone and it's surprisingly natural as well!

To get the original look, check out Pony's tutorial below:

As I didn't have all the same products as she does, I modified this look a bit according to what I had on hand.

Pony aqueous orange fotd

Products I used:
  • Paul & Joe Moisturizing Primer Foundation in N (review)
  • Guerlain Meteorite Baby Glow foundation in Light (review)
  • Make Up Forever Pro Sculpting palette in 30
  • Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder in Dim Light
  • Tarte emphasEyes Amazonian Clay Waterproof Brow Mousse in Rich Brown
  • Maybelline Leather Color Tattoo in Creamy Beige
  • Tarte Tartelette shadow palette
  • Aerin Cool Gel Eyeliner pencil in Essential Brown (review)
  • Shu Uemura (not sure the shade, but it's the brightest orange!)
  • Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Siren
To achieve Pony's dewy skin, I wanted to make sure I had a really well moisturized base, which my Paul & Joe Moisturizing Primer Foundation is perfect for. Then to up the glow, I applied my Baby Glow foundation all over. I have the same NYX Color Correcting palette as she does, so that was easy to do, although I would normally apply the green underneath my foundation instead of after. 

As I didn't have an orange blush handy, I opted to use the coral blush shade from my MUFE Pro Sculpting palette and then dabbed on some of the shimmery highlight shade from the palette as well on my cheekbones. I'll have a full review of this palette in a couple weeks, but the short answer is that this palette is so easy to use, even for contouring noobs like me! The blush color here does fade a lot though, so you can easily be generous with your application and not worry about clown-face.

orange eyeshadow makeup look

The eyes I pretty much followed the same as Pony, but I opted to skip the liquid liner part and went for a smudgy pencil wing instead as I wanted something more soft and wearable. I also upped the orange factor, by applying my orange Shu Uemura single shadow lightly above my crease. I think next time I might skip the darker mid-tone brown and just keep to a creamy beige base with the orange as this was getting more smoky than I'd intended.

Last but not least, the lips here are the real stars of the show! I think orange lips are having a comeback with me for this season!

how to wear orange lipstick

FOTD featuring orange

What do you think of this makeup look? Would you try it yourself?

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Canadian Beauty Blogger Love Part 4: E is for exfoliation and F is for fragrance

Welcome back for part 4 of a blogging project of mine where I'm working my way through the Canadian Beauty Bloggers network directory in search of awesome new bloggers to follow. In this series I'll share some of my new and old favourites in hopes that you too can gain a new appreciation for all that our community has to offer! 

Kicking things off is Ella Pretty! I love Zeba's awesome photography and entertaining mix of fashion and beauty. The unifying theme of everything on her blog? It must be pretty! Zeba offers some great styling tips as well, including a recent post on how to restore a vintage purse, which had me itching to go out and condition all my bags asap! 

Image: Ella Pretty

Next is a blogger I've been reading for a long time, Stephanie of theFantasia. Stephanie's blog offers great reviews and advice on anything from lipsticks to travel - and she travels a lot! I do a lot of vicarious living through her posts on her travel to far-off places like Abu Dhabi and wearing luxurious Guerlain meteorite powders, of which she has multiples!

Image: theFantasia

Last, but definitely not least, is another one of my favourite bloggers, Stephanie of Fun Size Beauty! I discovered Steph's blog through working together on the CBB and she seems like the sweetest person ever. Her blog is full of fun makeup looks, mind-blowing nail art as well as goofy gifs, so how can you not love her? I'm also curious to see who would be smaller IRL?!?

Image: Fun Size Beauty

That's it for this round of my CBB series! Be sure to check us out online and read past installments of this series!

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A Book Devoured: Sorcerer to the Crown - Book 1 of The Sorcerer Royal Trilogy by Zen Cho

One of my life fantasies is to be successful career woman/author, but since I've never been able to get past a chapter into any of my story ideas (damn video games!) then I'll have to settle for now with reading and admiring the works of others who are literally living the dream.

A recent example of this is lawyer/author Zen Cho and her debut novel, Sorcerer to the Crown. The first of a trilogy, Sorcerer to the Crown takes place in an alternate version of what sounds like Victorian England where magic is as commonplace as Earl Grey. Of course, only the elites can truly call themselves magicians and so it's not surprising that many are deeply offended and downright mutinous when the last Sorcerer Royal passes his staff onto his adopted freed slave son, Zacharias Wythe - especially when said passing occurs in mysterious circumstances. Couple that with the fact that England's magic reserves are in steep decline and poor Zacharias has his work cut out for him! His mission is clear: to restore England's prominence as a magical nation, whilst fending off assassinations by his peers and oh, did I mention that he is also planning a revolution within the Society of Unnatural Philosophers to actually allow women to study magic?

As the first novel in a series, Sorcerer to the Crown spends a lot of time setting up and introducing main characters and if read in that light, it is an entertaining and easy read. I really enjoyed the unique premise and setting of this novel, with its fantasy-meets-Jane Austen schtick; in fact, I think it would lend itself to a really fun steam punk anime as there are mentions of shape-shifting fairies, wizard battles and Pokemon-style familiars!

Unfortunately, I do wish the characters were a little less one-dimensional, particularly given the characters' circumstances. As a black man at the head of an elite society, Zacharias is subject to slander, snide comments and constant doubt of his capability, yet he rises above it all with class and patience - on the flip side, as a reader that kinda makes you infuriated as he just never lets loose or is open to anyone about his personal thoughts. Th other main protagonist, Prunella Gentleman is your typical spunky orphan, but she too also has a very interesting backstory as a biracial woman who is determined to make something of herself. Perhaps because of this interesting material, I thought Cho would provide more of a nuanced take on how these two characters deal with these very relevant modern experiences, but besides the general aura of "ugh, racism and sexism is so bad!" I felt the depth of these characters a little lacking, at least in this first part of the trilogy.

Where Cho does fare better, is at immersing the reader into the world she has created. I love it when books just throw you into a universe and leave it up to you to discover how bits and pieces of it work and there's plenty of rich mysteries to unfold in this one. I can't wait for the next installment to come out so I can learn more about the Fairy Court and what Prunella and Zacharias have to fight next!

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Neostrata Securewhite Brightening Serum Review | An introduction to AHA products

neostrata securewhite brightening serum

In the past year, I've had the pleasure to being introduced to a number of great Canadian beauty and skincare brands. You wouldn't know it when perusing your local drugstore, but there are a lot of fantastic Canadian brands out there! One such that I've recently been introduced to is Neostrata.

As one of Canada's first "cosmeceutical" skincare lines, Neostrata firmly places itself in the category of scientific based products that pride themselves on efficacy and affordability. Known primarily for their focus on AHA, Neostrata is a big proponent of the use of glycolic acids to reveal more radiant, youthful skin.

I'm fairly new to using alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA) in my skincare and if you are too, then here is a quick primer.

How Alpha-Hydroxy Acids Work
AHA work as chemical exfoliants, that trigger your skin to begin its natural renewal process. As we age, that renewal process slows, resulting in thicker, duller skin. AHA speed this process up so that our bodies naturally shed old skin cells. The same results can be achieved with physical exfoliants, but chemical ones are less prone to damage your skin and are a good alternative for those with dry, or sensitive skin conditions. With continued use, AHA can help your skin look more even, with less fine lines and wrinkles and can even balance your skin so it's neither excessively dry or oily.

There are several types of AHA commonly used in skincare: lactic acid, citric acid, malic acid, tartaric acid and glycolic acid. Neostrata's AHA of choice is glycolic acid, which is derived from sugar cane. The type of AHA you use doesn't seem to be too important, but what is key is the concentration. Neostrata offers a variety of concentrations, ranging from 2-10%, but never start out at 10% right away as it can take time for your skin to get used to an AHA regime.

Also, while using an AHA product, you should avoid over-exfoliating as your skin is already being exfoliated by the AHA and you could cause breakouts and inflammation if you exfoliate too much (something I've done before!). Also, a major side-effect of AHA is that it makes your skin more sensitive to the sun - kinda ironic considering it also helps repair sun damage!

As I'm now in my 30's *shudder* I've been interested in the possibilities of what AHA could do for me, so I was excited to try the Neostrata Securewhite Brightening Serum. This gentle serum can be used both day and night and is designed to rapidly reduce dark spots. In clinical studies, the Neostrata Securewhite Brightening Serum resulted in a 52% reduction in dark spots and a 42% increase in skin luminosity in just 2 weeks!!

The Guts
The Neostrata Securewhite Brightening Serum is primarily made up of:
  • Water
  • Glycerin - a humectant (draws moisture to skin)
  • Vigna aconitifolia seed extract aka moth bean - a natural form of retinol that helps refine skin's texture and reduces signs of aging
  • Sodium citrate - helps to balance the pH of your skin and acts as an antioxidant
  • Sucrose dilaurate - an emulsifier
  • Polysorbate 20 - a surfactant (cleanser) and emulsifier
Other ingredients of note include hydroxyphenoxy propionic acid (fights hyper-pigmentation), pisum sativum aka pea extract (antioxidant), and acetyl glycyl beta-alanine (fights hyper-pigmentation).

neostrata securewhite serum review

Price & Packaging
A single 30 ml bottle costs $48.99 and can be found in drugstores like London Drugs. The opaque bottle looks quite clinical, which fits Neostrata's clean and simple branding and the lid is removable to reveal a pump underneath. 

Since I was a bit wary of experiencing any tingling from introducing acids into my routine (as I experienced recently with Paula's Choice) I opted to start off my trial of the Securewhite Brightening Serum by using a single pump of serum once a day, although the instructions say to use this twice a day.  

The Securewhite Brightening Serum is fairly watery and of a translucent white color. It spreads easily across the face and dries down matte. Although glycerin is the second ingredient, I didn't find this serum to be particularly hydrating, so I've been using a hydrating toner beforehand. 

Now, that 2 week claim by Neostrata is pretty ballsy to make for anything, so I was pretty skeptical to say the least, but I was pleasantly surprised by the Securewhite Brightening Serum. After just a couple of weeks, I really did notice a difference in my skin, and not to exaggerate, but it's actually hard for me to remember when my skin has looked this good! My face is super clear and just seems to have a slight glow to it. My skin even feels softer and looks less textured, if that even makes sense. I wouldn't say that my dark spots are 52% reduced, but my spots have been there a long time so maybe it's going to take a long time to get rid of them completely, but between this serum and my HG Avene Triacneal solution, I'm feeling pretty good about myself!

Final Verdict
Buy - if you're over 25 and you want a little pick-me-up for your skin, then you need this brightening serum! 

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