Annabelle Expandable Mascara Review, Photos, Swatches | Not a gimmick, but a gold mine

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Annabelle Expandable mascara review

The product: Annabelle Cosmetics Expandable Mascara

I mentioned taking sixteen months to review a product a couple of weeks ago (this one!), but I’ve been testing Annabelle Expandable for even longer — yes, really, much to my shame.

I have absolutely no good excuse for why it’s taken me so long to review a product that I’ve had since it was a lab sample in a small, un-labeled black tube, but without further adieu, may I please introduce you to Annabelle Expandable: a drugstore mascara that I’ve loved since the very first time I tried it.

Annabelle Expandable swatches review photos

Annabelle Expandable – short and long wand results, no lash comb

The “gimmick”: What makes the Annabelle Expandable mascara special is that, well, it really is expandable. The wand handle twists at the base, allowing the plastic bristles to expand or contract — not with each bristle getting longer or shorter, but with each bristle getting closer or farther from its neighbour. 

What looks like a gimmick is, in this case, actually really awesome. I love the formula of this mascara, but for those who don’t struggle as much as I do with smudging, this may well be Expandable’s biggest pull. It allows you to have just one mascara that can deliver dramatically different effects: lots of separation and length at the (-) end, or lots of product and volume at the (+) end.

Annabelle expandable short wand

Annabelle Expandable mascara – short wand (separation)

Annabelle expandable long wand

Annabelle Expandable mascara – long wand (volume)

The curl and wear: Like most “wet” mascaras (though Expandable isn’t super wet — it’s just not super dry, either), this mascara drops the curl of my lashes only when I apply it. It’s just enough to give them a bit of a droop, so I tend to apply a quick coat or two of mascara, then “push” the lashes toward my face with my fingertip and hold for a few seconds. This helps the lash to set into a nice curl, and once dry, Expandable holds the curl in place for the rest of the day.

Where Annabelle’s Expandable mascara really excels, though, is in its wear. I get maybe 3-4 hours wear without smudging with your average mascara, but Expandable wears like a champ: I can make it 8 hours without any smudging, and over 10 hours with very minimal smudging. This is the longest-wearing non-tubing mascara that I’ve tried so far, and it comes with a mere $10 price tag.

Annabelle Expandable mascara review swatches

Annabelle Expandable mascara – one light coat short wand, second coat short wand, third coat long wand

Annabelle expandable long wand swatch

Annabelle Expandable mascara – one heavy coat, long wand

The verdict?

Annabelle claims that their Expandable mascara is volumizing, lengthening, anti-clumping, and easy to remove — and you know what? I’d agree with all of these claims.

Expandable is my go-to mascara for both natural, everyday lashes and high-impact volume (it’s outclassed very slightly for photos by Giorgio Armani’s Eyes to Kill mascara, which is gorgeous but not $30 USD worth of gorgeous), and I would absolutely recommend it to a friend. It gives me both better wear and more believable volume than Le Big Show, and I’ll be frank with you: the awesome, unique wand certainly isn’t doing it any harm.

5/5 would-buy-again, Annabelle.

Availability: $10.95 CAD at Annabelle.ca (ships to Canada & the US), or in-store at most major drugstores throughout Canada.

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Giovanni 2chic Brazilian Keratin & Argan Oil Ultra-Sleek Super Potion serum review, in three takes

Monday, March 3, 2014

Giovanni Ultra Sleek Super Potion serum review

The product: Giovanni 2chic Brazilian Keratin & Argan Oil Ultra-Sleek Hair & Body Super Potion

This serum landed on my desk over a year ago, and after writing three variations of this review, I think I’m finally ready to publish a post about it.

I had tried Giovanni’s Keratin & Argan Oil Serum initially as a serum on my long, straight hair, and quite frankly, it was kind of gross. A year after that, I decided it was time to transition this guy’s routine into a silicone-free one (what? He was breaking me out!), and out came this serum for its triumphant, great-for-curly-hair return. And now, upon my third attempt at testing this, I can finally say it’s great for one more thing: soothing a chronically dry scalp. 

Giovanni 2chic keratin argan serum review

The “this makes curly hair so attractive I get light-headed” approach 

You think I’m joking, but seriously, I’m not joking. Giovanni’s Ultra-Sleek serum did nothing for my dry, straight hair except make it feel kind of gross and heavy, but on curly hair, it works wonders. 

M was blessed with the kind of hair all girls want (full, curly, and naturally dark blonde with highlights), but it needs a little prep work, sometimes. It gets fussy if he blow dries it, and poofs a little if there’s nothing in it, but all in all — pretty standout hair.

So I’ve always adored M’s hair, but good lord, the things this serum does to it. He works a tiny amount of the Ultra-Sleek serum into his hair–you really have to work it in there–and suddenly, it’s all curls! definition! glossiness!, like he’s rolled out of bed and onto the gently-tousled centre spread of a naughty glossy magazine. It takes all the guesswork and skill out of styling curly hair, which is something I think we could all use, you know?

(Don’t lie, you totally do. Rolling out of bed with model hair is every girl–and probably guy’s–dream.)

Giovanni berazilian keratin argan oil review - serum potion

Giovanni Argan and Keratin Super Potion serum review

But it’s great on the scalp, too

he Brazillian Keratin & Argan Oil 2chic serum is enriched with all sorts of good-for-your hair ingredients, and it makes for a smooth, hydrating finished product — it’s a rich, thin, nutty-smelling oil. You have to be careful not to use too much, but if worked in well, this is a product that doesn’t need to be re-activated or re-styled day after day.

I have one of those finicky scalps that gets super tight after I shower, no matter how hydrating my shampoo and conditioner are, but gets oily through the day — and, if left unattended, flakes like crazy along the hairline. I thought I had dandruff for years before realizing that the flakes weren’t characteristic of dandruff at all, and that they only appeared around my face… where, coincidentally, my skin also flakes and peels if left un-moisturized.

Long story short: used sparingly while your hair is wet, a little bit of Giovanni Ultra-Sleek massaged into the scalp really helps comfort and hydrate dry patches without adding too much weight to the hair. It’s not a permanent fix, but it’s certainly more hair-friendly than facial moisturizers!

Giovanni ultra-sleek super potion review

The verdict?

It took me sixteen months to review this product, but I couldn’t be happier that I waited. Had I reviewed it promptly, you would have gotten an entirely inaccurate view of the product: I would have told you that, for a serum, it seemed kind of dry-heavy… and kind of gross.

But patience has its rewards, and I can paint you a very different picture of Giovanni’s 2chic Brazilian Keratin & Argan Oil Ultra-Sleek Serum today. It’s amazing for curly hair (especially short curly hair), great for moisturizing the scalp, and touts a nutty scent alongside top-notch packaging. I actually did a double-take when I saw how much this was — I had expected something close to $20, not $8!

While NOT suited for fine hair, this serum has really knocked my socks off. It’s an amazing buy for the price, and despite being formulated entirely from natural and organic ingredients, it outperforms any silicone-based haircare products I’ve tried for dry scalps and thick, curly hair.

Availability: $7.99 USD/$8.99 CAD/£8.99. See the full list of retailers here — it’s very long, so you have absolutely no excuse not to give this a try!

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Osmia Organics Honey-Myrrh Lip Repair review, photos | The one winter lip balm you absolutely need to own

Monday, January 20, 2014

Osmia Organics Lip Repair review comparison Honey-Myrrh

The product: Osmia Organics Honey-Myrrh Lip Repair

Have you met Osmia Organics yet? Until very late last year, I hadn’t — and I wasn’t all that interested in the line. Sure, their packaging was pretty, and everyone else seemed to love them, but niche organic lines seem to be a dime a dozen these days. What’s one from the next one, right?

Wrong. Their range is relatively small, but everything is such a joy to use: naturally-fragranced, packaged in the most beautiful, basic glassware, and run by a small business owner in a mind-blowingly idyllic, dreamy, snowy Colorado nook. I’m a convert, you guys — and this lip balm is a big reason why.

Editor’s note: Win this (and a few of my other Osmia favourites) here!

All natural lip balm review Osmia Organics

Osmia Organics lip balm review natural

Osmia Organics Honey Myrrh Lip Repair review – unbroken surface

The formula: Osmia makes sure to note that this “Lip Repair” isn’t quite the same as your standard lip balm. Formulated with organic manuka honey, myrrh extract, and lanolin, it’s designed to heal dry and cracked lips in a matter of days.

The surface of your new balm needs to be “broken” with the tip of your finger or the back of your fingernail before use (it forms a stiff layer after being poured and cooled, but no product needs to be removed or wasted), which I think is just the coolest thing — as a lip balm addict, anything new and different is always interesting to try. Once broken, the balm is much softer and more emollient, working easily into the lips and forming a comforting layer.

Osmia Honey-Myrrh Lip Repair Review

Osmia Organics Honey Myrrh Lip Repair review – broken/cracked surface

The wear: The Honey-Myrrh Lip Repair isn’t lipgloss-sticky, but it sticks around. While drugstore lip balms like Maybelline Baby Lips & Labello/Nivea have me reaching to re-apply every hour (minimally), Osmia’s Honey-Myrrh Lip Repair lasts from meal to meal, and wears well overnight. Yes, you can really feel it on your lips (it’s a lot tackier than a a tube of Chapstick), but honestly?

For lads & ladies with dry lips, you want your lip balm to stick — that’s what makes it great.

The (impressively short and natural) ingredients list:

Castor Bean Oil, Beeswax, Cupuacu Butter, Lanolin, Manuka Honey, Tamanu Oil, Gmo-Free Vitamine E Oil, Wild Myrrh Co2, and Bergamot FCF Essential Oil.

Osmia Organics review - Honey Myrrh Lip Repair balm

But does it work?: In one, short, succinct word, yes.

While not quite as effective for my lips as Bobbi Brown’s Lip Balm SPF 15 (my go-to overnight lip hydrator and healer), Osmia’s Honey-Myrrh Lip Repair comes a very close second. It wears just a fraction shorter and doesn’t prime lips in the same way, but I think a lot of people will be more comfortable with Osmia’s version. It’s a little less sticky and much more natural, carrying a strong herby/natural scent rather than a strong synthetic one. I love my Bobbi Brown lip balm, but it feels like slapping a chemical salve on my lips — not exactly pleasant.

Of all of the lip balms I’ve ever tried (and I’ve tried a lot), this is my second favourite, falling very close behind the first. It is hands-down the best natural option, and works wonders on very dry, cracked lips! 

Osmia Organics review - Honey-Myrrh Lip Repair

The verdict?

If you’re on the market for a new lip balm, please give Osmia’s a try. It’s a little pricy at $22 USD, but it hydrates and nourishes the lips quickly and beautifully, touting an ingredients list so clean that it’s well worth the cost.

Don’t get me wrong: I wear a ton of non-organic, non-natural products on my lips, but it just feels kind of weird to be doing it overnight. Like, where do nighttime lip balms go? You’re not wiping them off before dinner, but they’re almost always gone by the morning — are they all over your pillowcases? Did they seep into your skin while you slept? Did you eat them by accident while dreaming about cake?

Osmia’s Honey-Myrrh Lip Repair won’t disappear in the dead of night like some sketchy one-night stand, and the most frightening thing in it comes from sheep. I wish it was less strongly scented, but aside from that? Colour me impressed.

Availability: $22 USD/0.28 oz at Osmia Organics. International shipping available!

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Fresh Sugar Kisses Mini Lip Trio review, swatches, photos | A quick, easy, last-minute gift idea

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Fresh Sugar lip balm review

The product: Fresh Sugar Kisses Mini Lip Trio

   ↳ Sugar Petal, Sugar Honey, and Sugar Cherry Tinted Lip Treatment SPF 15

Okay, so: it’s the week before Christmas and you:

a) Get a last-minute invite to a holiday girl’s-night-slash-secret-santa gift exchange,

b) Find out that your distant cousin, twice removed, is going to be at your parents’ this year (and you need a gift for her),

c) Realize that your sister’s gift, while pretty cool, could use an extra dose of awesome.

Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment review

In any of these scenarios, I’m going to go right ahead and recommend that you snag a Fresh Sugar Kisses Mini Lip Trio from Sephora on your way to… wherever it is you’re headed. I’m a sucker for a Fresh lip balm, so this trio of three minis (which comes in a super-easy-to-wrap box) is a pretty no-fail gift idea, as far as I’m concerned.

The shades: The Sugar Kisses Mini Lip Trio contains Sugar Petal, a neutral-pink with a touch of brown, Sugar Honey, a medium-nude with a hint of red (for warmth), and Sugar Cherry, an absolutely gorgeous sheer red. The first two are nice, but Sugar Cherry gives the lips a really lovely, natural-looking, “just bitten” effect — perfect for the winter.

Fresh Sugar Petal lip balm review swatches

Fresh Sugar Petal Tinted Lip Treatment SPF 15

Fresh Sugar Honey lip balm review swatches

Fresh Sugar Honey Tinted Lip Treatment SPF 15

Fresh Sugar Cherry lip balm review swatches

Fresh Sugar Cherry Tinted Lip Treatment SPF 15

The Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment SPF 15 formula: The first thing to note about the Fresh Sugar Lip Treatments is that, while they have a fairly moisturizing formula, they’re very soft and slippery. It makes the balms comfortable, but also prone to sliding around on your lips & smooshing during application.

Despite being formulated with hydrating oils like meadowfoam seed oil, avocado oil, and jojoba, these aren’t the best choice for an actual “lip treatment” (as opposed to a tinted balm). They’re hydrating while worn, but need to be reapplied every two hours or sooner, making them a good choice for daytime wear but not a great one for overnight. The Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment formula has a nice, lemony-sweet scent — sugary without being overpowering and just citrusy enough.

Fresh Sugar Cherry review photos swatches

The tint: Because of the slippery formula, these balms need a minute to sink in. Once they do, however, the colour stops sliding around on my lips, and acts more like a balm with a very light stain. I’ve tried four shades of this balm (Honey, Cherry, and Petal, all featured here, as well as Rose), and all of them deliver exactly the amount of pigment I’d want from a tinted lip balm — more than a Clinique Chubby Stick, less than a lipstick, and definitely enough to give my lips some really natural-looking colour. 

The packaging: Mini sizes of products usually lose out when it comes to packaging, but the great thing about Fresh lip balms is that they don’t. Just as solid, luxe, and well-made as the full-sized versions, mini Fresh Sugar lip balms feature the same coated-metal tube & twist-closure bottom as their full-sized counterparts.

Fresh Sugar Kisses Mini Lip Trio review swatches

The verdict?

I have a no-longer-secret soft spot for Fresh Sugar lip balms, and I think that this set is a worthwhile indulgence. No one needs a 20-something dollar lip balm, but the Sugar lip balms are a really nice treat. The scent is close to lemony biscuits and far from lemon cleaner, and the light tints really do do a great job of adding colour without making it obvious that you’re wearing makeup.

To note, these mini lip balms are 0.08 oz, the same size as last year’s BI birthday gifts. Buying just one full-sized tube is a little cheaper (in listed price, not cost per ounce), but I actually prefer these small(ish) tubes – they’re perfect for throwing into your handbag, and three shades is always more fun than one!

Availability: $28 USD/$32 CAD for the Sugar Kisses Mini Lip Trio (3 x 0.08 oz), or $22.50 USD/$26 CAD for a full-sized tube (0.15 oz).

Additional photos & ingredients »

Clarins Forest Eye Quartet Mineral Palette review, swatches, photos | Clarins Graphic Expression, Fall 2013

Friday, December 13, 2013

Clarins Forest Eye Quartet Mineral Palette review

The products: Clarins Ombre Minérale 4 Couleurs (Eye Quartet Mineral Palette Long-Lasting) in 11 Forest

Like the Clarins Graphic Expression Face & Blush Palette reviewed earlier this week, the Forest eyeshadow quad launched in Clarins’ Graphic Expression Fall 2013 colour collection. A new addition to the permanent range, it’s a little less gift-able than the powder, but no less lovely.

Clarins Forest Eye Quartet swatches review

Clarins Forest Eye Quartet

The formula, texture, and pigmentation: Introduced this August into Clarins’ permanent range, Forest is a beautifully earthy quad. As a sheer eyeshadow/mixed textures lover, I’ve always been a big fan of the Clarins Eye Quartet Mineral Palettes, though they’re not for everyone.

Like the other products in the Eye Quartet range, Forest features three hard-but-smooth eyeshadows that lend very well to seamless blending and medium-intensity looks, while layering well over primer or foiling works well to add colour density. I find the shades to be a little butterier and more pigmented than some of the other Clarins quads (the darkest shade in particular), and love that they all have a different finish.

Clarins Forest Eye Quartet review

Clarins Forest, Graphic Expression swatches review

Swatched L-R: Clarins Eye Quartet Mineral Palette in Forest (4), Clarins Face & Blush Powder in Graphic Expression (wide)

The shades: In the top row Forest features a really interesting, almost dirty khaki with a bit of very fine microshimmer and a very sheer, white-and-gold shimmer (tiny yellow-gold microshimmer and slightly larger white reflects suspended in a transparent base). On the bottom, it features a green-based charcoal with noticeable gold shimmer (it looks black in the pan, but swatches on dry skin as a medium-sheer matte with a greenish cast and gold shimmer interspersed throughout) and a very pretty neutral-brown taupe (frost).

The finishes of this quad, like all Clarins quads, are what really sell me on it: a satin, a glitter, a matte-with-microshimmer, and a frost. Worn together, the textures of the Eye Quartet Mineral Palettes give any natural, demure eye look a really intriguing edge.

Clarins Forest swatches Eye Quartet Mineral Palette review

Swatched L-R: Clarins Eye Quartet in Forest, Clarins Face & Blush Powder in Graphic Expression

Overall, this quad has a warm green vibe to it — something you don’t see a lot of. I think it would be especially lovely on warm olive tones, but it would work really well on beige and neutral skintones, too. It looks a little bit “off” on me (which eyeshadows very rarely do), so I’d say that the only colouring this quad wouldn’t shine on would be cool olive ones (cool pink overtones and light olive undertones).

Clarins Forest eye quartet swatches

Swatched L-R: Clarins Eye Quartet in Forest, Clarins Face & Blush Powder in Graphic Expression

Clarins Eye Quartet Mineral Palette review swatches Forest

The Face & Blush Palette and Eye Quartet Mineral Palette (Ombre Minérale 4 Couleurs) packaging

The verdict?

The Forest quad doesn’t get quite as much of a gold star from me as the Graphic Expression blush/powder, but it’s a very pretty product, too: the same beautiful-but-lightweight gold Clarins packaging, with four wonderful mix-and-match eyeshadow finishes inside.

Forest is a little more pigmented than other Clarins quads, and is a must-have for anyone who wears khakis really well. Unfortunately, that’s one of the few colours that doesn’t work very well at all on my skintone (I photographed a look with it but had to scrap it), but I think it would look like a dream on my sister’s warmer, more olive-toned skin — to each her own, really.

Availability: $42 USD/$42 CAD, and is a new addition to the permanent range.

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