theNotice’s favourite products of 2013 | New Year, New Loves… but here are my favourites from the last one

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Laura Mercier Artist Palette for Eyes 2013

Laura Mercier Artist Palette

First off: sorry again for the radio silence. I had hoped to get a few more posts up before the end of the year (Laura Mercier Artist Palette, Osmia Organics Honey-Myrrh Lip Repair, and Marc Jacobs Showstopper Lip Gel), but, well — you know how it is. I was hardly the only person who got sick this winter, so for all of you who are still battling colds and the flu: I hope you feel better soon! 

(And for all of you who haven’t gotten sick yet: you are the worst. Yes, you. I can’t even believe your gall, coming over here, all — sturdy. And vertical. And lucid; how terribly unfair!)

theNotice’s must-have products of 2013

These are the ones that I reached for again and again in 2013. They weren’t just the ones that I tried, tested, and loved — they were the ones that I used on a regular basis, even when I had other things (prettier, shinier, newer things) that I really should have been testing instead. They’re the apple of my eye, not the cream of the crop — I’ve chosen them based on both quality and how well they fit into my life.

Senna Cosmetics Ultra Last Eyeliner - Ultra Black, Brown

Senna Cosmetics Ultra Last Eyeliners

To start off, the Senna Cosmetics Ultra Last Eyeliner in Ultra Black. I’ve tried a lot of black eyeliners in my time (I think at last count I had over twenty in my stash), but this one really is the best. I push black liner into my upper lashline every morning–it really wakes my face up–and this one has wear time like nobody’s business. It’s not totally bulletproof, but it’s very pigmented, very black, and wears better than any other black pencil eyeliner I’ve ever tried, whether it’s on my waterline, in my lashline, or on the lid.

The other eye product that I can’t live without is the Dejavu Fiberwig Extra Long Mascara — a long-time favourite of mine. It never drops a curl, flakes, or smudges, and removes so easily with warm water. That said, it gives a very natural, lengthening lash, with great separation: if I want more volume, I need to layer it overtop another mascara. (See honourable mentions).

Real Techniques Expert Face Brush

Real Techniques Expert Face Brush

Next up is the Real Techniques Expert Face Brush, which makes blending out cream products both fast and easy. At a crazy-cheap $9 USD, it’s dense and soft, and has completely ousted the Sephora/Shiseido flat-top brush as my favourite brush for foundation or concealer. This is my only “best of 2013″ tool or face product — there isn’t anything else that both I use every single day and adore. (Canucks can order online at Farleyco, with free expedited shipping over $50.)

I don’t have anywhere better in this review to put a fragrance, so: Serge Lutens Chergui, I still adore you. Chergui is such a beauty – amazing for the winter, and sexy in a very cozy way, without using vanilla as a shortcut-to-sexiness crutch. (Ugh, vanilla). loves this; it’s the only scent that he tells me smells “really good,” eyes dilated, every single time I wear it. I’m actually cheating on Serge with Etsy dupes (there’s just something about the warmth and depth of Chergui that makes it seem more appropriate as an oil), but must-have status is applied to both the dupes & the original!

Bobbi Brown Lip Balm SPF 15 review

Bobbi Brown Lip Balm SPF 15 from this very old post, plus buckets of Photoshop. I am equal parts proud and horrified at myself.

Finally, a bit of skincare. I discovered the Mario Badescu Buffering Lotion this year during the worst breakout of my life (I tried sunflower oil and my skin lost it), and haven’t looked back since. It’s amazing at treating cystic acne in particular, and still incredible at treating everything else — whether that means preventing them from coming to a head altogether or encouraging my skin to clean up shop without ever needing to “purge”.

I’m still loving the Bobbi Brown Lip Balm SPF 15, which hydrates my lips like no other, and the Marcelle Essentials Cleansing Milk, which removes makeup & pollutants without drying. They were holy grail products for me last year, and continue to be — with skin as dry as mine, I can’t imagine life without them.

(Okay, that’s a lie. I can imagine it, and it’s horrible. If you have dry skin, you need these.)

The honourable mentions (& best ad) »

Five gift ideas for the woman who has it all | The Gift Guide

Friday, December 20, 2013

For the luxury skincare lover: MIYU Beauty Hydrate Mi Beauty Essence

Founded just this past year by fellow blogger Connie Tai, MIYU Beauty is a new Canadian brand that’s stealing hearts across the blogosphere. I’m having difficulties putting together a review of the line (I live in fear of the glycerine ratios in facial sprays, which do wonders for a few days but always seem to break me out after a week), but I can’t find a single bad thing to say about the aesthetic — or the people behind the brand.

Beautifully housed in luxe-but-lightweight packaging with Ladurée-inspired details, the MIYU facial spray serums (!) are innovation at its best. { buy }

For the green girl: Osmia Organics Sunset Body Oil

Osmia Organics is a company that I was introduced to pretty recently, but I’m completely smitten with their range. Run by a former emergency room doctor who found her calling in all-natural skincare, the entire Osmia line up is exquisitely packaged, all-natural, and beautifully formulated.

While perfumes and skincare can be hard to pick for someone else, though, Osmia’s body oils & soaps are a great way to gift a little luxury without the worry. Sunset, one of Dr. Sarah Villafranco’s newest creations, is a super-sexy (but not at all overpowering) jojoba-based blend that hydrates immediately with absolutely no oiliness left on the skin. { buy }

Osmia Organics Sunset body oil review

Osmia Organics Sunset Body Oil (2 oz)

For the best friend: Je Joue MiMi Soft

Here’s your not-so-fun science fact of the day: did you know that only 25% of women report frequently experiencing orgasms during intercourse? We live in a culture that’s so fixated on sex, and yet — from magazines (five surprising tips on how to please your man!) to porn, sex is all about male pleasure, not female.

In the sprit of the season, consider giving someone the gift of self-love. Let them know that, like leaving the house without your makeup, sex isn’t anything to be ashamed of. And if we get to indulge in a bit of high-end tech while on the road to sexual equality? All the better.

The Je Joue MiMi Soft is small, classy, and discreet, with a soft, comfortable silicone finish (the safest material a vibrator could possibly be made from), a fully waterproof body, and a rechargeable battery. And the charger, you guys. The charger is so cool. It magnetizes onto the up/down buttons and supplies the vibrator with power through science magic, and I won’t be told otherwise. { buy }

If you’d like to see a review for the Je Joue Mimi Soft, click here to count your vote anonymously!

PS: This vibe was sent in by SheVibe.com.

Unlike everything else in this post, the Mimi was sent in by a storefront, not a brand. SheVibe.com is an online store that’s a far cry from the stereotypical blacked-out-windows sex shop in the bad part of town — I chose to work with them specifically because their site features reviews, articles, message boards, and tons of original artwork.

Whether or not you’re looking to purchase a new toy this season, their comics and articles are definitely worth a look!

Annabelle Cherry swatch TwistUp Retractable Lipstick

Annabelle TwistUp in Cherry — from this post

For the lip lover: Annabelle Cosmetics TwistUp Retractable Lip Crayon in Naked or Cherry

These lip crayons may not feel super-luxe when you hold them, but oh my – do they ever pack a punch. With a lush, comfortable formula and way more pigment than any drugstore product has any right to have, Annabelle TwistUps are the perfect choice for a bit of luxury on a budget.

Naked is a stunning satin-matte nude that suits my skintone (and a surprising many others) just perfectly, while Cherry is a drop-dead-gorgeous opulent red. Neither have shimmer, and (excuse my French) are classy as hell on the lips. { buy | review | swatches | win one! }

For the luxury makeup lover: Make Up For Ever Artisan Brushes 

I know I usually put my beloved Cozzette brushes in gift guides, and don’t get me wrong — I still love them. But while the Artisan brush range is just as soft, cruelty-free, and well-made as Cozzette’s S range, Make Up For Ever’s new brushes come with sleek, wood-finish handles and dark metal ferrules that Cozzette’s range just doesn’t have.

I can’t speak for all of Make Up For Ever’s brushes, but the #150 Angled Cheek Brush, #174 Small Concealer Brush, and #304 Lip Brush all get my seal of approval. And, I mean, really — who couldn’t use just one more brush? { buy }

What’s on your wishlist this season?

LUSH Luxury Lush Pud, Candy Mountain, & Melting Snowman | Three wintery bath-time treats for yourself, for others, for stocking stuffers

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Lush Holiday 2013 Christmas bath bomb

The products: LUSH Luxury Lush Pud Bath Bomb, Candy Mountain Bubble Bar, and Melting Snowman Bath Melt

Like Lush’s Snowman Invasion gift set (which contains their Cinders and Snowman Bath Bombs), these three Lush bath treats are cruelty-free, Vegan, and returning favourites from past holiday seasons.

Whether you’re picking up a wintery relaxation aid for yourself, or you’re topping up a gift or filling up a stocking — here are three Lush products that really caught my eye this season. They’re all pretty different from one another, so keep reading to find out which one is best suited to you!

Luxury Lush Pud 200g Holiday 2013

Lush’s 2013 Luxury Lush Pud Bath Bomb

Polka-dot pastels: Luxury Lush Pud ($6.95 CAD/200 g)

Okay, okay, okay. I have to start with the Luxury Lush Pud, because — seriously? This thing is so cute.

Designed with a deep purple base, a white “cap,” and the most mind-blowingly adorable pastel polka dots scattered on its sides, this year’s Lush Pud is infinitely more squee-worthy than the dirty-water coloured, Snowcake-scented Lil Lush Pud of the past. 2013′s version is huge–literally; this bath bomb is a massive 200 grams–and is the brand’s holiday interpretation of the permanent-range Twilight.

I’m less crazy about the grape-coloured bathwater and lavender-benzoin-tonka fragrance blend of the Luxury Lush Pud than I am of its adorable design, but you win some, you lose some, you know? And lavender lovers will totally win some with this one.

LUSH Luxury LUSH Pud ingredients:

Sodium Bicarbonate, Citric Acid, Cream of Tartar, Lauryl Betaine, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Lavender Oil, Benzoin Resinoid, Tonka Absolute, Ylang Ylang Oil, Gardenia Extract, Titanium Dioxide, Coumarin, Linalool, Fragrance, Propylene Glycol, FD&C Blue No. 1, D&C Red No. 33, D&C Violet No. 2, D&C Red No. 30 Aluminum Lake, Candy Holly Leaf (Sugar, Water, Hydrolysed Vegetable Protein, Vegetable Gelatin, Riboflavin, FD&C Blue 1).

Luxury Lush Pud review

Bright, pink, and glaringly sweet: Candy Mountain ($7.45 CAD/100 g)

Scented with the same cavity-inducing sweetness as Lush’s Creamy Candy Bubble Bar and Rock Star soap, Candy Mountain definitely has an audience — it’s just not me.

If you love sugary, cotton candy scents and all things pink, then this bubble bar is definitely, absolutely for you. It tints the water a gentle pink, which is why I wanted to give it a go (most Lush bubble bars have a more startling colour), but the scent is just so sweet. I couldn’t keep it in my room, much less bathe with it, and ended up having to give it to the boy — and as such, I can confirm that the scent definitely lingers on the skin all day long. 

Lush Candy Mountain 2013 review holiday christmas

Lush’s 2013 Candy Mountain Bubble Bar

The bar doesn’t deliver a ton of bubbles, and is definitely a one-bath-per-bar kind of product (unlike, for instance, the Luxury Lush Pud). With a hard shell surrounding a softer centre, the boy found it was hard to get all of Candy Mountain to dissolve under the faucet, and though it was enough for an adorable bubble beard, the bubbles disappeared pretty quickly. That said, the shimmer doesn’t linger on the skin after your bath, and rinses just as easily off of the tub, which is definitely a good thing — it was one of my main concerns for this bubble bar.

If you love pink, sweet scents, and shimmer, or you know someone who does, this is the veritable peak of cotton-candy pink products. For most of us, though? I think it’s a pass.

LUSH Candy Mountain ingredients:

Sodium Bicarbonate, Cream of Tartar, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Lauryl Betaine, Citric Acid, Fragrance, Cornflour, Snowflake Lustre (Potassium Silicate & Titanium Dioxide), Fair Trade Vanilla Absolute, Titanium Dioxide, Polyester-3, Methyl Ionone, D&C Red 28, D&C Red No. 21.

A snowman to steal the show: Melting Snowman ($5.95 CAD/60 g)

Lush Holiday 2013 Christmas bath melt, bubble bar

Lush’s 2013 Melting Snowman Bath Melt

This bath melt, you guys. This is the highlight of the holidays at Lush. 

Made with cocoa butter, shea butter, and almond oil, the Melting Snowman has the most comforting, festive fragrance. It’s so good that I have it lying out on my office dresser, letting it gently scent my room with the perfect cinnamon-clove/orange-lime balance. As lovely as it is, I am loathe to use it, because my office hasn’t smelled this good in ever. It is reputed to leave a ring around the tub, so buyers beware, but personally? I’m considering buying a backup, and then pelting LUSH HQ with letters begging them to make a candle or body butter or room spray of the Melting Snowman scent.

Lush Melting Snowman Bath Melt 2013 review holidays

I wish that Snowman and Melting Snowman came in a set together (psst — Lush, are you listening?), because that set would be awesome. I would buy that set for everyone, no fail, every year. Boyfriend’s mom? Bam. Snowman set. Secret Santa gift exchange? No problem: Snowman set. Prof who taught the best psych course ever, but constantly seems to be on the verge of a mental breakdown? Snowman set.

LUSH Melting Snowman ingredients:

Sodium Bicarbonate, Icing Sugar, Citric Acid, Cocoa Butter, PEG-6 Caprylic/Capric Glycerides & PEG60 Almond Glycerides , Almond Oil, Titanium Dioxide , Shea Butter, Cinnamon Leaf Oil, Patchouli Oil, Benzoin Resinoid, Sweet Orange Oil, Clove Leaf Oil, Lime Oil, Grapefruit Seed Extract, Cinnamal, Coumarin, Eugenol, Limonene, Linalool, Fragrance, Dairy-Free Chocolate Drops (Sugar, Cocoa Liquor, Cocoa Butter, Vanilla), Ginger Stem.

Keep reading! »

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 »

Three gorgeous, out-of-the-box finds for the holiday season | The Gift Guide

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

In a month that epitomizes opulence and indulgence, it isn’t hard to find lust-worthy items to gift for the holidays. Finding something just outside of the mainstream, however, is a different challenge entirely.

Here are three finds that any beauty lover would be pleasantly surprised to receive (but would never see coming).

For the skincare lover: STEAMCREAM ($20 USD)

STEAMCREAM original

STEAMCREAM first landed on my radar two years ago, when Lisa Eldridge declared it a “Lisa Loves” product. The brand is designed around what I find to be a really interesting concept: the cream itself never changes, but the tins are all limited edition (excluding Original and, in the UK, Freedom & Discipline). Steamcream is made to be both a skincare staple and a collector’s item — something I don’t think I’ve ever seen before.

Made with ingredients that are as fresh as possible, Steamcream uses a unique, steam-based process to fuse its ingredients together in a loose emulsion. The idea behind this is that, when applied, the product will sink deep into your skin almost immediately, making it lightweight enough for oily skintypes but hydrating enough for dry ones. (I haven’t yet figured out if this is true, but I’ll keep you updated!)

STEAMCREAM Light from Space - Nelly Makeeva

STEAMCREAM Light from Space & Silent Night

Steamcream can be used on the face, body, hands, and hair, and is handmade in the UK and Japan. It’s both vegan and cruelty-free, and if you see a tin that you love, or that someone you know might love — well, you might want to snap it up now, because there likely won’t ever be a second run. I’m smitten with the Light from Space and Silent Night tins, the latter of which has just the most charming design on its side!

Keep reading! »

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