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 »

LUSH Snowman Invasion (Cinders & Snowman/Butterball Bath Bombs) | The Gift Guide: under $15

Monday, December 2, 2013

LUSH Snowman Invasion review Christmas Holiday 2013

The product: LUSH Snowman Invasion gift set

   ↳ Cinders & Snowman Bath Bombs

When you live in a city that gets as cold as Edmonton in the winter, the promise of an almost-too-warm, wonderfully holiday-scented soak is pretty enticing. So, this year, I’m giving baths a chance. It’s something I haven’t done in years, but the boy is a bath addict, and he’s pretty good at making things sound wonderful.

(Case in point: Animal Crossing. I can’t even, you guys.)

Available at just $12.95 CAD (the same price in the US!), LUSH’s Snowman Invasion gift set is a super-easy, grab-and-go gift for the bath addict in your life. This vegan gift set includes LUSH’s limited-edition Cinders and Snowman Bath Bombs, both of which are returning customer favourites from previous LUSH Holiday collections!

LUSH Cinders bath bomb review 2013

Cinders Bath Bomb ($4.95 CAD/90g)

Scented with cinnamon leaf and sweet orange oil, Cinders is a bath addict’s winter dream. Not only is it made to smell like the holidays, but it’s made to sound like them, too: the popping candies will literally pop while they dissolve, mimicking the pops and crackles of a wood fire.

Kind of kitschy, yes, but so cool. 

Unlike a lot of LUSH’s Holiday range, Cinders isn’t part of their permanent range. Instead, it’s a fan favourite from previous years, hydrating with almond oil and fizzing away with a simple blend of sodium bicarbonate, citric acid, and water. I’d kind of have preferred that it didn’t tint the bath water yellow, but for a bit of fun, it makes a great gift.

Sodium Bicarbonate, Citric Acid, Coarse Sea Salt, Popping Candy (Isomalt, Lycasin, Carbon Dioxide), Fragrance, Gardenia Extract, Almond Essential Oil, Sweet Orange Oil, Cinnamon Leaf Oil, Cinnamal, Eugenol, Limonene, FD&C Red No. 4

Note: Cinnamon oil can be an irritant for some. If you’re gifting to someone with very sensitive skin or lots of allergies, you might want to pick a different gift set.

LUSH Snowman bath bomb review 2013

Snowman Bath Bomb ($5.95 CAD/100g alone)

A holiday-shaped version of LUSH’s much-lauded Butterball Bath Bomb, I’m saving Snowman for a day when I can relax for an hour and really enjoy a bath. I have terrifyingly dry skin in the winter, and Snowman/Butterball sounds like the perfect way to combat it: formulated with cocoa butter and scented with vanilla, it promises both relaxation and hydration (two things I think we could all use each December).

Butterball’s vanilla/musk/ylang ylang fragrance was one of LUSH’s first, and I’m looking forward to dropping this low-scent, no-tint bath bomb into my tub this winter.

Also: can we just stop for a second and talk about how absolutely adorable it is?

Sodium Bicarbonate, Citric Acid, Cocoa Butter, Synthetic Musk , Ylang Ylang Oil, Glycerine, Sodium Carbonate, Cream of Tartar, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Lauryl Betaine, Fragrance, FD&C Red No. 4, D&C Red No. 33, D&C Orange No. 4

LUSH bath bomb review Snowman Invasion

Wrapped & ready to go!

Keep reading! »

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! »

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