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! »

L’Occitane Flowers of Love review, photos: Rose Tenderness, Subtle Violet, Passionate Jasmine

Monday, October 21, 2013

L'Occitane Flowers of Love collection shea 2013

The products: L’Occitane Shea “Flowers of Love” collection

   ↳ Shea Hand Cream in Subtle Violet, Lip Balm in Passionate Jasmine, and Ultra Rich Body Cream in Rose Tenderness

This year’s limited edition L’Occitane Shea Flowers of Love collection features three scents created to express love and care, each offered in all three formats reviewed in this post, as well as a collector’s edition of their cult-classic hand cream and a shea butter Solidarity Soap (details at the bottom of this post.)

The collection was created by L’Occitane’s founder, Olivier Baussan, who was inspired by beaded jewels, a token of love in Africa.

A quick “mini-verdict”

I always love the sentiment and charitable work behind L’Occitane’s shea butter collections, but I just wasn’t smitten with the scents in this collection. They’re all a little too sweet and sharp, in a way that feels uncharacteristic of the brand — I’m sure many will love them, but I was a little disappointed in the composition of the fragrances this time around.

L'Occitane lip balm review Passionate Jasmine

Passionate Jasmine Lip Balm ($18 CAD)

Like the Date Bouquet Lip Balm in last year’s Fortune Flowers collection, I’m not totally smitten with Passionate Jasmine, either. It’s scented with a lively floral (I was hoping for a passion fruit-jasmine blend with irrational optimism, so sue me), and contains much less shea butter than the rest of these products: only 10%.

With a formula based mainly on oils (vegetable, castor seed, and sunflower), and thickened with shea, beeswax, and hydrogenated oils, L’Occitane lip balms are a little too greasy for my tastes — they sort of slide around on top of my lips, never providing quite enough hydration. My vote is to skip the lip balms (again, like last year), and spend your money on the other two formulas instead!

L'Occitane shea Hand Cream review Subtle Violet

Subtle Violet Hand Cream ($12 CAD)

While I won’t personally be enjoying this violet-wrapped hand cream (it, like the Ultra Rich Body Cream, contains dimethicone), you can hardly throw a stone without hitting a fan of L’Occitane’s Shea Butter Hand Cream. Formulated with 20% shea butter, it’s designed to be richly hydrating, if a little heavy – a little goes a long way.

The Subtle Violet fragrance of this hand cream has an unexpectedly sweet edge to it, sitting close to the skin and smelling softly of candied violets. The cap, however, is the most notable thing about it: larger than usual and with more pronounced edges (“petals”), it’s exactly what we’ve all been praying to the L’Occitane packaging gods for.

L'Occitane shea ultra rich body cram review Rose Tenderness

Rose Tenderness Ultra Rich Body Cream ($28 CAD)

The Rose Tendress scent was my favourite of these three: soft and sweet, with an unexpectedly zesty edge, I think it’s worth a sniff if you love a really bright rose. I’m always careful when using L’Occitane Ultra Rich Body Creams, as they do contain silicone, but I’ve tested them in the past on my legs — I loved last year’s Mango Flower scent.

With a hydrating formula, the Ultra Rich Body Cream’s fragrances always have great throw and longevity. If you’re looking for a body product that will stay with you for a little while (and definitely hydrate for longer), I’d say give this one a sniff.

But the real star of the collection is… »

Lise Watier Sun Bronzing Powder & Sensationnelle Dry Oil review, swatches, photos | Sun Destination

Friday, August 9, 2013

Lise Watier Sun Destination collection

The products: Lise Watier Sun Destination collection (part two)

This year’s Lise Watier Sun Destination collection (limited edition for Summer 2013) contains four gorgeous products, but I didn’t want to review them all at once — I’m terrible at the entire concept of succinct, as I’m sure you all know by now.

Here’s what I think of as “the pretty half of the collection”: the Sun Bronzing Powder & Sensationnelle Dry Oil. The Illuminating Bronzing Gel is possibly actually prettier once applied than both of these combined, but, well — it’s not not as eye-catching in its packaging as these two are!

Lise Watier Sun Bronzing Powder review swatches

Sun Bronzing Powder, $39

Okay. You guys. You guys.

This is so pretty.

Lise Watier Sun Bronzing Powder review

Lise Watier Sun Bronzing Powder swatches

Lise Watier Sun Bronzing Powder swatches — center, surround, mixed

On a slightly more coherent (and hopefully more eloquent) note, the Sun Bronzing Powder is an enormous bronzer with a really lovely, ethereal glow. It’s large enough to easily grab the two shades–a softly glowing bronze & a luminous gold–separately, as well as to use on your shoulders, chest, arms, and legs.

While you could grab these intricately-pressed shades separately, though, they really do work best paired together. The soft, buttery texture of this bronzer means that they blend beautifully (both with each other and the skin) and deliver a sheer, warm bronze with gold microshimmer.

(If you bought last year’s Havana All Over Baked Bronzer: this one’s more buttery, less orange-red, more sheer, and packaged with a much slimmer profile.)

Talc, Octyldodecyl Stearoyl Stearate, Zinc Stearate, Zea Mays (Corn) Starch, Dimethicone, Phenoxyethanol, Cetyl Dimethicone, Bis-Diglyceryl Polyacyladipate-2, Sorbitan Sesquioleate, Sodium Dehydroacetate, Mica, CI 77891 (Titanium Dioxide), CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499 (Iron Oxides), CI 77288 (Chromium Oxide Greens), CI 77289 (Chromium Hydroxide Green), CI 77742 (Manganese Violet), CI 77007 (Ultramarines), CI 77510 (Ferric Ferrocyanide), CI 75470 (Carmine), CI 42090 (Blue 1 Lake), CI 19140 (Yellow 5 Lake), CI 15850 (Red 6, Red 7 Lake), CI 73360 (Red 30 Lake).

Lise Watier Sun Bronzing Powder

Lise Watier Sun Bronzing Powder swatches — center, surround, mixed

Sensationnelle Dry Oil, $42

As a clear, scented oil, the teardrop-shaped Sensationnelle Dry Oil is perhaps the least exciting Sun Destination product to swatch — but it’s the most universal of the collection, too.

Scented with top notes of orange blossom extract, a heart of tangerine and fleurs solaires, and a base of vanilla and coconut (think big white florals paired with beachy base notes), the Sensationnelle oil is made for use on face, body, and hair. Multi-use and silicone-free, the formula is made in part from six different oils, from sweet almond to cottonseed.

Lise Watier Sensationnelle Dry Oil review

Keep reading! »

Clarins HydraQuench Intensive Serum Bi-Phase review, photos | A weightless summer skin saviour?

Friday, July 5, 2013

Clarins HydraQuench Intensive Serum Bi-Phase

The product: Clarins HydraQuench Intensive Serum Bi-Phase

The formula

Designed to nourish the skin at multiple levels, Clarins’ approach to the HydraQuench serum is one that encompasses the best of both worlds, relying on both plant extracts and synthetics to achieve the best results possible.

Clarins bi-phase hydraquench review serum

With a focus on hyaluronic acid and fair trade, ethically sourced Katafray bark extract from Madagascar, this bi-phase blue liquid works to lock in water at the surface & restore hydration deeper in the dermis. It’s made to be suitable for all skintypes, from dry to oily, and has a very lightweight lipid phase — honestly, with the matte finish and weightless texture, I wouldn’t have thought there were any oils in the formula at all. It can be a little tacky, but isn’t greasy in the least.

To top it all off, the HydraQuench Intensive Serum is fragranced with a fresh, summery scent: not ever a company to do fragrance by halves, Clarins lists a green apple top note, a rose heart, and a woody base.

Clarins HydraQuench Intensive Serum review

My experience with the HydraQuench Serum 

In my own personal experience (the italics are totally necessary, because you have to remember that my skin is weird), I didn’t find the Clarins HydraQuench serum to be, well, intensive enough. However, I happen to have extremely dry skin that isn’t caused by systemic dehydration or over-stripping — it’s the kind of skin that takes well to night moisturizers being used during the day, and doesn’t even blink in the face of a Vaseline or Aquaphor “sealant” on dry winter days.

That said, though, I honestly believe I’m in the minority with this product. Wherever I go (on the internet; I don’t go places in real life), I hear nothing but raves for this serum. It’s a far cry from my personal experience (which is that I like this, and do use it, but it won’t make my dry patches disappear), but I think it’s much closer to the norm.

Clarins Hydra Quench review serum dual-phase

Clarins HydraQuench Intensive Serum Bi-Phase – separated

Where the HydraQuench serum really excels is on combination oily/dehydrated skin. From what I’ve read, the people who really love it (and I mean who really, fanatically, all-out love it) tend to be the ones who find most serums too heavy or greasy, but still really need that boost of hydration.

It makes sense, with the incredibly lightweight formula and non-greasy finish, at least in my head! If you’ve loved (or hated) this one, tell me about it in the comments — I’d love to hear more about your skin type and results.

Clarins Hydra Quench serum mixed

Clarins HydraQuench Intensive Serum Bi-Phase – shaken/mixed

Don’t believe me? Believe Lisa Eldridge. 

Like a lot of the makeup world, I take Lisa Eldridge’s word as gospel. With over two decades of experience, Lisa’s career is something out of a [makeup artistry] fairy tale: not only has she done countless celebrities, covers, and fashion shows, but she’s currently working as the Creative Director of No. 7, creates makeup tutorials for Chanel’s Make-Up Confidential, and writes ELLE UK’s monthly The Beauty Guru column.

When someone with that much experience calls a serum “the best product for hydrating the skin I’ve used in a long time,” well. You kind of have to give it its dues, you know?

(Sources: 1 / 2 / 3)

Clarins HydraQuench Serum dry skin review

The verdict?

I’m very hesitant to give a “verdict” for this one, but in the spirit of review-based beauty blogging: you’ll just have to take it with a grain of salt.

If you have normal to oily skin with dehydrated patches, I honestly think that this will work quite well for you. For extremely dry skin, however, it may not be enough! With its light, non-greasy finish and functional-luxurious packaging, I think the Clarins HydraQuench serum is a pretty darn good bet for anyone who needs an extra boost of weightless moisture in the hot summer months — but not if your skin is stubbornly dry.

Availability: $58 USD/$58 CAD for 1 oz; $70 USD for 1.6 oz.

Keep reading! »

The facial spray-slash-toner that you NEED this spring | L’Occitane Immortelle Brightening Mist review

Friday, April 19, 2013

L'Occitanne facial spray water review

The product: L’Occitane Immortelle Brightening Mist

So, I wrote a fifteen page paper earlier this week on prefrontal cortical damage and its intersection with tactical communications, mostly between the hours of eleven at night on Tuesday and two in the afternoon on Wednesday.

I’m still kind of dazed.

Despite the lack of sleep I’ve been getting this term, though, I think I’ve been presenting a pretty glowy base… but maybe my perpetually-dry skin just has me biased. Either way, L’Occitane’s limited edition facial spray has been high, high up on the list of things I’ve been loving!

Best makeup setting spray - L'Occitane

What it is: Part of L’Occitane’s Immortelle Brightening range, the Brightening Mist is an alcohol-free toner & make-up setting spray. It’s enriched–of course–with floral water from the Immortelle flower, an anti-ageing “golden sun” (Helichrysum arenarium) sourced by L’Occitane from the island of Corsica.

Also formulated with Bellis Perennis (a common European species of daisy), the range is made to increase collagen production, protect against free radicals, and reduce the appearance of pigmentation marks.

Bright blue eyeliner look

A quick snap from this bright blue eyeliner tutorial — glowing skin courtesy of the Immortelle mist!

What makes it great is not the marketing or fancy-schmancy ingredients, however. Nope, it’s something much more simple than that: the packaging. Solidly housed in the Immortelle range’s white, yellow, and blue uniform, this mist is easy to aim, spray, and diffuse – no awkward spluttering in sight.

Decent facial sprays are actually pretty easy to find, but functional, utilitarian packaging – that’s a little harder to come by, if you ask me.

L'Occitanne Immortelle face mist

The verdict?

I hate recommending limited edition skincare, but I have to say — I’m pretty darn pleased with this one. I think the fragrance (floral; a natural and synthetic blend) could be a little lighter, but my dry skin absolutely loves this water-and-glycerine formula!

All in all, I’m not too broken up about the fact that this isn’t in the permanent range. I like it, of course, and I think it does a great job of setting makeup and leaving skin glowing… but I think what I really love about it is the dense, even mist (and pretty-but-simple packaging).

Availability: $20 USD/$22 CAD for 100ml, limited edition.

Additional photos & more »

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