September Birchbox (CA) review & unboxing! | Davines Sea Salt Spray, Japonesque Eye Shadow, 100% Pure Eye Cream, and more

Saturday, October 3, 2015

September 2015 Birchbox review

The product: Birchbox (Canada), September 2015 box

I’ve always been wary of monthly subscription boxes. I mean, I’ve tried one or two in the past, but subscription boxes tend to be full of silicone-y products that I can’t try and creamy eyeliners that just wouldn’t work for me.

But when I was asked to try the September Birchbox, I had to say yes. It’s the company’s five-year anniversary, and I’m on the site all the time – it’s chock-full of reviews, funny product descriptions, and (most importantly) ingredients lists! I figured I was probably long overdue to try an actual box.

Birchbox unboxing review canada september 2015

The overall box: September is customer appreciation month at Birchbox, so my box came with the usual five products (actually, it came with six by mistake; there was a double of the Japonesque eyeshadow) plus a 20% off code for the store.

For $14.95 including shipping, the contents of this year’s September box really impressed me. The box itself was just gorgeous (I’m using it to store stuff now!) and it contained a sheet mask, a full-sized eyeshadow, a VERY generous haircare sample, and two “regular” samples. I did the math for comparison’s sake, and compared to the full-sizes based on ounces, the samples in this box are valued at $44.20.

Tocca Giulietta scrub review, 100 percent pure coffee bean eye cream

The products: Honestly, the most important factor in all of this was luck. I happened upon a box that was perfect for me, so I got to use all five of the silicone-free, paraben-free goodies — and two of them, again, just so happened to be products that I’ve been meaning to try for a while anyways.

(My mom always tells me that I’ve got horseshoes up my butt, which I can assure you, I absolutely do NOT. That sounds dangerous and also horrifically painful.)

  • 100% Pure Organic Coffee Bean Caffeine Eye Cream ($26 CAD full-sized) – I had a hell of a time opening this one (it still had that little bud-thingy that needed to be cut off), but it smells JUST like sugary breakfast cereal! It’s smooth and rich, and definitely best for vanilla-lovers.
  • BioRepublic Skincare Aloe Rescue Revitalizing Sheet Mask ($21 CAD for 3) – I’m not really a sheet mask girl, but if I was, this would have been the perfect mask for me! It’s a fiber mask (so it’s all ready to go), and it’s perfect for dry, sensitive skin like mine.

Davines This is a Sea Salt Spray review

  • Davines This is a Sea Salt Spray ($30 CAD full-sized) – Okay, so I maybe actually squealed a little bit when I saw this in my box. The sample itself is practically full-sized, and I’ve been meaning to buy a salt spray for months. Now, I won’t have to: the This is a Sea Salt Spray, which smells deliciously like vanilla and coconut, gives my hair lots of texture and body and makes it feel lush and full. 
  • Japonesque Velvet Touch Eye Shadow in Shade 02 ($12 CAD; this is full-size) – This was the other product that I really wanted to try! It’s a light green/gold with a soft metallic finish, but honestly, I’m glad I didn’t spend $12 on it alone — it’s smooth and blendable, but definitely on the sheer side.
  • TOCCA Esfoliante da Corpo in Giulietta ($38 CAD full-sized) – Am I going to get heckled if I admit to not really “getting” the TOCCA line? All of the scents seem so watered-down and dated to me, and while I love the packaging… I need a little more punch. Giulietta smells, to my nose, kind of like generic green apple hand soap in a mid-range restaurant, but I do really like the scrub itself — it’s a lovely, gritty sugar scrub that leaves my skin feeling soft and moisturized.

Japonesque 02 eyeshadow review

The verdict?

With a box whose contents change on a monthly basis, there’s no way that I can tell you that you’re going to love the Birchbox every month. What I can tell you is this: I was really happy with my box, and it contained only full-sized products and deluxe samples — nothing that you could just pick up a sample of at Sephora.

I found two products that I loved, two products that I’m glad I got to try (so that I could learn that they’re not really for me), and one product that I’m still looking forward to trying, which… I mean, isn’t that kind of the whole point of a sampling subscription? To get to try a bunch of stuff that you’re interested in without spending a lot of money, and find some loves and losses along the way?

Availability: $14.95 CAD shipping/month. I would love if you used my friend referral (I’d get “Birchbox points,” but no actual $$), but it’s up to you!

Hylamide SubQ Serum, Hand Chemistry Hyaluronic Concentrate & Body Mist review | 3 high-tech ways to get your daily dose of hyaluronic acid

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Deciem Hylamide Hand Chemistry review

The products: Deciem Hylamide SubQ Anti-Age Advanced Serum; Hand Chemistry Hyaluronic Concentrate and Hyaluronic Body Mist

Every brand has a Thing. You know: that one big company identifier; that product that really puts a brand on the map. A first-on-the-scene eye primer, a founder with a knack for creating Hollywood-worthy brows, a line of high-pigment products with explicit names–you get my gist. (How many of those did you get right?)

For Deciem, that thing is creating super-sciencey products and, when applicable, loading them up with top-of-the-line hyaluronic acid. Here are three of their best hyaluronic products to check out!

Hylamide SubQ anti-age review

Hylamide SubQ Anti-Age Advanced Serum ($38 CAD)

The science: The Hylamide line focuses on “controlled depth of penetration” via varying molecular sizes/multiple weights of hyaluronic acid, which then settle to hydrate different layers of the skin: larger molecules for topical hydration and smaller molecules to sneak into your dermis and hydrate deep down.

The SubQ Anti-Age is also meant to minimize lines, wrinkles, and textural damage, so it’s loaded with stuff like:

  • Copper Lysinate/Prolinate (to stimulate collagen production),
  • Nonapeptide-3 Retino-Complex (to deliver anti-ageing results without the irritation typically seen with retinol products),
  • Saccharideisomerate (to improve skin texture and barrier function)

…Along with five forms of hyaluronic acid.

Deciem hyaluronic acid review lg

The results: Surprisingly enough, I really like the Hylamide SubQ Anti-Age–despite the fact that I’m not showing signs of ageing just yet. It’s fantastically priced (at $38 CAD, it’s by far the most affordable serum that I own), and it’s very much a “nothing” product: it feels like heavy water, and it disappears on the skin.

As for the effects? With twice-daily use, I feel like my skin is a little more moisturized all ’round, but it did take a couple of weeks before I saw a difference. On my other half older half, however, I see an immediate difference. He applies five or six drops without any additional moisturizer (he has combination skin), and after just a couple of uses, there’s a slight but definite reduction of fine lines. 

Hylamide SubQ Anti-Age serum review

At under $40, honestly, you can’t lose. The Hylamide SubQ is an awesome hydration booster for my dry skin, an awesome serum/moisturizer for my partner’s fine lines, and an awesome anti-ageing serum for Edmonton’s friendliest beauty blogger over 45.

(Who is Edmonton’s friendliest beauty blogger under 45, you ask? That would be me. I will aggressively friend at you until you bleed.)

↳ Get it at: Deciem/Hylamide with FREE worldwide shipping!

The Hylamide SubQ Anti-Ageing Advanced Serum ingredients:

Aqua, Glycerin, Ethoxydiglycol, Hydrolyzed Yeast Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Pentylene Glycol, Tamarindus Indica Seed Gum, Pseudoalteromonas Ferment Extract, Hydrolyzed Sodium Hyaluronate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Polyacrylatecrosspolymer-6, Trisodiumethylenediamine Disuccinate, Lactobacillus/Eriodictyoncalifornicum Ferment Extract, Saccharideisomerate, Copperlysinate/Prolinate, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-38, Myristoyl Nonapeptide-3, Ahnfeltia Concinna Extract, Ethylhexylglycerin, Methylglucoside Phosphate, Cetylhydroxyethylcellulose, Hydroxypropylcyclodextrin, Polyglucuronic Acid, Hexylene Glycol, Salicylic Acid, Lecithin, Phospholipids, Caprylyl Glycol, Sodium Hydroxide, Citric Acid, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Sodium Citrate, Chlorphenesin, Phenoxyethanol, Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate. 

Hand Chemistry hyaluronic gel review

Hand Chemistry Hyaluronic Concentrate ($30 CAD)

Dry skin doesn’t stop at the neck, however–especially not in climates like mine. So, for those with dry skin on their bodies, Deciem has a couple cool (and affordable!) hyaluronic options in their Hand Chemistry line, too.

The science: The gel-format Hyaluronic Concentrate is formulated with three types/weights of ultra-pure hyaluronic acid, plus complexes derived from mushrooms, tamarind, and red marine algae that help promote epidermal water retention and increase skin elasticity.

But what makes the Hyaluronic Concentrate really cool isn’t the science–it’s the fact that it comes in a whopping 8 ounce pump bottle. 

Hand Chemistry Hyaluronic Concentrate review

The results: I always used to wish that I could apply my Indeed Labs Hydraluron to my body, but at around $30 per ounce, it seemed like a pipe dream.

But no longer. The Hand Chemistry Hyaluronic Concentrate is eight times the size at the same price, and while it’s designed for use on the hands and body, it’s not all that different from Hydraluron. I mean, okay, so the formulas are totally different, but the textures? Eerily similar. The Indeed Labs version feels a little cushier compared to the Hand Chemistry’s barely-there stickiness, but I can (and have!) used both on my face with identical results. 

Keep reading! »

Maybelline ColorBlur Cream Matte Pencil lipstick review, swatches, photos

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Maybelline ColorBlur I Like to Mauve It review swatches photos

The product: Maybelline ColorBlur by LipStudio Cream Matte Pencil & Smudger

↳ in 10 Fast & Fuchsia, 25 Cherry Cherry Bang Bang, 35 Plum Please, 40 My-My Magenta, and 50 I Like to Mauve It

This summer, Maybelline launched a new take on the matte lip that caught my eye immediately: their ColorBlur pencils, which, while perhaps not singular in formula, are entirely unique in execution. 

Maybelline Color Blur Lip Color review swatches

The concept & packaging: The ColorBlur Cream Matte Pencils are twist-up matte lip pencils packaged in thin, matte packaging (which feels surprisingly chic for the drugstore).

On one end is a tapered lip pencil; on the other, a dual-sided, asymmetrical silicone smudger that does a delivers a softly or sharply defined lip without getting a single fingertip dirty. The smudger comfortably creates a “softly blurred look” by blending the pencil from the centre of the lip outwards, and is not anything like the sad little smudging ends you sometimes see on eyeliners — you know the ones.

Maybelline Color Blur photos swatches review

Maybelline ColorBlur silicone smudger

Maybelline Color Blur I Like to Mauve It review swatches

Maybelline ColorBlur Cream Matte Pencils (L-R) in I Like to Mauve It, My-My Magenta, Plum Please, Cherry Cherry Bang Bang, and Fast & Fuchsia

The shades: There are ten ColorBlur shades currently available, and I got to try five of them. First, two gorgeous pinks: 10 Fast & Fuchsia, a vivid coral pink, and 40 My-My Magenta, an intense, blue-based pink. Next, 50 I Like to Mauve Ita pretty MLBB lip colour that I’ve been getting a lot of wear out of — it’s been living in my purse for weeks.

Finally, there’s the orange-red 25 Cherry Cherry Bang Bang, and 35 Plum Please, a dark plum/red… but more about that in a minute.

Maybelline Color Blur My My Magenta review swatches photos

 Maybelline ColorBlur Matte Lip Pencil swatches in 10 Fast & Fuchsia, 25 Cherry Cherry Bang Bang, 35 Plum Please, 40 My-My Magenta, and 50 I Like to Mauve It

The formula: The ColorBlur formula is vivid, super-smooth, and easy to work with, but after an hour or two (like with all mattes, and many non-matte lipsticks), I do find it to be too drying for me.

However, the formula applies very evenly, without catching on lines or migrating when I press my lips together. The exception to this rule is no. 35 Plum Please, which catches on everything — you can even see it in the swatch. But don’t fret! There’s a fix to this problem.

Maybelline Color Blur Cherry Cherry Bang Bang review swatches

 Maybelline ColorBlur swatches in Fast & Fuchsia, Cherry Cherry Bang Bang, Plum Please, My-My Magenta, and I Like to Mauve It Maybelline Fast and Fuchsia ColorBlur review  swatches

 Maybelline ColorBlur Cream Matte Lip Pencils, from top to bottom: Fast & Fuchsia, Cherry Cherry Bang Bang, Plum Please, My-My Magenta, and I Like to Mauve It

The ColorBlur secret: For some reason, the ColorBlur pencils play very, very nicely with petroleum-based moisturizers. It makes them comfortable, softly glossy, and in the case of Plum Please, both even and absolutely gorgeous. 

I couldn’t get quite the same results with lip balm as I could using German Nivea Creme, which seemed to disturb the formula just enough to make it forgiving and hydrating while leaving the colour vivid and opaque. (For a still-matte finish, I bet they would work brilliantly with a silicone-based mattifying moisturizer, too!)

Maybelline Color Blur Plum Please swatches

Maybelline ColorBlur in Plum, Please swatched (L) and swatched with Nivea overtop (R)

I snapped a quick shot of Plum Please before and after the Nivea (above), as well as a full-face shot of how gloriously it pairs with Nivea. My apologies for the graininess; in my excitement, I took these photos late at night!

Also wearing: Annabelle EyeInk2 MistakeProof Eyeliner in Black ($10.95 CAD), Clinique Chubby Lash Fattening Mascara in 04 Massive Midnight ($17 USD/$25 CAD — I am obsessed with this mascara right now!!), Lise Watier Ombre Velours Suprême in Pêche Velours and Rose Thé Velours ($25 CAD); Senna Matte Eye Color in Sphinx and Intrigue to contour ($18 USD), applied with the Make Up For Ever 150 Precision Blush Brush ($40 USD/$46 CAD — I swear, this brush gives the most killer cheekbones).

Maybelline Color Blur Plum Please FOTD swatches makeup look review

Wearing Maybelline ColorBlur in Plum, Please with Nivea overtop — I was surprised by how much I loved this lip!

The verdict?

From the one-of-a-kind smudger to the super-smooth formula, I’ve really enjoyed using the Maybelline ColorBlur lip pencils. They’re not flawless (I wish they were more hydrating), but all matte pencils are at least a little bit drying, and Maybelline totally nailed the colour range with these.

My opinion? Unless you have really dry lips, the ColorBlur lip pencils are definitely worth checking out — if not for the forgiving formula and great colour range, then for the fact that they’re so unique.

Availability: $11.99 CAD at drugstores and mass market retailers. Available online (US) at Ulta & Amazon.

Keep reading! »

The Body Shop Virgin Mojito collection review, photos

Friday, August 28, 2015

The Body Shop Virgin Mojito collection review

The products: The Body Shop Virgin Mojito collection ($9 CAD-$22 CAD)

When I was fifteen, surgery was a cakewalk. Sleep it off in the hospital, grab a burger on the way home, ready for a road trip by Friday. But at 23, and when you find out after the operation that you might not be able to eat normally for up to six weeks? I’m going nuts over here. Telling a Chen she can’t eat is like telling a dog it can’t pee on things. Eating is where I get all of my joy. 

So, I mean, I’ve been hitting the mojitos pretty hard to help cope. Virgin skincare mojitos, that is. (I don’t want to find out what happens when you mix rum with open wounds and morphine.)

The Body Shop Virgin Mojito Shower Gel review photos

The scent: I was told that you either love or hate The Body Shop’s new Virgin Mojito scent, but I mean… I love it; my boyfriend loves it; Julie from Swatch and Review and her boyfriend love it; Zoë from Writing Whimsy and Steph from Fun Size Beauty both totally love it.

It’s summery and fresh, and smells like taking a sip of a delicious wall of lime with just a hint of mint and that tart bite of citrus peel. (It’s totally 100% deserving of the cheeky little “NOT FOOD!” labelling.)

The Body Shop Virgin Mojito Body Scrub review photos

In the shower

The Body Shop has offered up two ways for you to get your mojito on in the shower this summer: the Virgin Mojito Shower Gel ($9 CAD) and the Virgin Mojito Body Scrub ($22 CAD).

I’m still trying to figure out if the beads in the mojito body scrub are regular beads or micro beads (the latter of which end up in lakes and rivers, basically just hangin’ out and killin’ fishes), but I have to admit defeat, here: I’m not eco-knowledgeable enough to tell the difference, and I need some help to figure out if I can indulge or if I need to pitch this! 

I’m hoping for the former–didn’t The Body Shop swear off micro beads a few years ago?–because that jelly-like texture looks like waaaay too much fun not to use. 

The Body Shop Virgin Mojito Shower Gel review

On the other hand, I’ve been guiltlessly indulging in the Virgin Mojito Shower Gel pretty heavily. The Body Shop’s Shower Gels are possibly my favourite product from the brand — they just always smell so good, and at $9 CAD (or less; a bunch of them are on for $5 right now), they’re so cheap.

I love being able to get a Body Shop scent fix at a price tag that I don’t have to think about (I mean, it’s not exactly Byredo, but is far from drugstore stuff). This tall glass of deliciousness is no exception!

The Body Shop Virgin Mojito Body Butter review photos

After the shower

Coming out of the shower, you have three options: The Body Shop Virgin Mojito Body Butter ($20 CAD), a classic that has too many ‘cones for me to touch (I used to adore these), the Virgin Mojito Body Splash ($20 CAD), which is delightfully splishy-splashy but honestly kind of a pain to apply (splashes, man. We should have left them behind in the ’90s), and the Virgin Mojito Body Sorbet ($15 CAD).

The Body Shop Virgin Mojito Body Splash review photos

The Body Sorbets are a product that I’m split on. On one hand, they’re $15 (sometimes even less!), and they all, without a doubt, smell awesome. But on the other, they’re just not hydrating — like, even when I get other people to use them, they don’t find them to do a thing. And they pill up like a bad primer if you try to make them hydrate more by applying extra.

The Body Shop Virgin Mojito review

Buuut (and there’s always a but) they’re $15. And silicone-free. And I guarantee you, they are the only tasty-smelling ‘cone-free body lotions that you’re going to be able to find for that price — believe me, I’ve looked.

So, you know. I hate them… and also, I own three. (This was, for interest’s sake, the only one of the three that was a press sample. I bought the other two with my own money and darn it, I was happy to.)

The Body Shop Virgin Mojito Body Sorbet review photos

The verdict?

Out of all of the limited edition collections that The Body Shop has come out with recently, the Virgin Mojito one has been, by far, my favourite. I love the delicious, limey fragrance (it’s so summery!) and I’m quite happy with the product offerings.

My recommendation? Get the shower gel for sure. Then, if you can use silicones, buy the Body Butter. But for those who can’t… get the Body Sorbet instead. You’ll probably hate me for it, but at the same time, you’re totally not going to regret it in the least.

Availability: $9 CAD & up at and The Body Shop stores. Limited edition.

Keep reading! »

Unusual beauty finds | The Edit

Monday, August 24, 2015

The beauty world has been coming out with some pretty cool new innovations this year, so for the newest instalment of The Edit, I’ve selected nine products that have something different about them. They’re mostly skincare (what? I’ve been on a skincare kick this month), but don’t let that fool you: there’s some really nifty stuff coming out of the makeup department, too!

Image HTML map generator

click the links!

Beauty Essences

Beauty essences are far from new (they’ve been popular in Korea and the rest of Asia for years), but they’ve been tricky to get ahold of here in North America until just recently. I picked out two for this edit: a classic, the Cremorlab Mineral Treatment Essence ($42 USD), which is now easily accessible outside of Asia thanks to Peach and Lily (get a $10 off code here!); and a personal favourite, the Canadian-made MIYU Beauty Hydrate Mi Beauty Essence ($34 CAD), which touts all the benefits of a traditional beauty essence but applies conveniently as a spray.

Mask On, Mask Off 

I also picked out two cool masks for this feature: one for oily skin, and one for dry. Clinique’s new Pore Refining Solutions Mask ($27 CAD) is one of three masks that the brand is putting out this fall, and targets problem skin with its charcoal-based formula — its muddy-charcoal texture looks super cool coming out of the tube.

On the total opposite end of the spectrum is Odacité’s Hydration Masque ($55 CAD; sample size pictured), which is bright white and is a great choice for dry skin. And, still working off of K-beauty trends, it makes an awesome sleeping mask for those inclined!

!NIOD Copper Amino Isolate, Odacite Hydration Masque

Make-Up Shake-Up 

I love a newfangled makeup product, so I picked out the Shu Uemura Laque Supreme ($35 CAD) and the Annabelle EyeInk2 Mistake-Proof Eyeliner ($10.95 CAD) for this feature. I reviewed the Shu just last week, and have been playing around with the Annabelle — the formula hasn’t been working out for my oily lids, but I love the long, thin, reversible (!!) felt-tip applicator and the built-in double-ended touch-up pen!

Cutting-Edge Technologies 

And, finally, the coolest of the coolest. NIOD (by Deciem) has a new Copper Amino Isolate Serum 1.00% ($60 CAD) available this fall, and it packs a major anti-ageing punch — most brands only bother to put a 0.01 to 0.10% concentration into their products, which doesn’t give you the same effects.

Also from Deciem is a range of drinkables from FOUNTAIN, including this bioavailable hyaluronic acid supplement, The Hyaluronic Molecule ($38 CAD). And, from Estee Lauder, something that’s (also!) altogether new: the New Dimensions Expert Liquid Tape ($70 USD), which creates a thin, flexible layer over the skin that tightens over the course of ten minutes to literally lift and smooth the area!

What’s the coolest beauty product you’ve tried this year?

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