Cosmetics case MIA :(

I’ve been using the same Coach black leather makeup bag since like 2003, and I LOVED that thing. I got it for a decent price at the factory outlet, and it’s held up well and was the perfect size and dimensions to cram into even my smaller purses. I didn’t love how skinny items like pencils could slip out of the gap above the zipper closure, but it clearly wasn’t *that* destructive an issues since I’ve stuck by that same bag for so long. And now I have to bid it adieu!

I lost both it and an earring somewhere on Amazon’s campus Monday, and security found my earring but has no word on the makeup bag. It contained all my MOST IMPORTANT staples — mascara, concealer, *discontinued* lip balm, *also discontinued* mineral powder concealer, lip stain x2, my favorite comb, an adorable mini of Chanel No. 5 whose bottle I wanted to keep forever… sigh. But let’s focus on the positive — this means I have an excuse to upgrade and overhaul, right? Right!

For a couple years now I’ve been wanting a Stephanie Johnson cosmetics case. I spotted her stuff at a now-closed Bainbridge Island shi-shi spa/boutique, and I was in love because of the zipper pulls. No, seriously, take a close look: they’re two-tone and nicely woven, and the bag is elegantly piped, and — the details are just so clearly high quality. For several years now I’d been thinking I would splurge and get myself one of these, but I could never quite justify the purchase since I always receive so many crappy but free cases from various cosmetics promos.

No longer! Now I think I’m ready to take the plunge. (I will, however, wait until after Christmas just in case, since it’s totally on my list.) The Gidget case seems like a usefulness boost, too — the extra pockets might mean it’s harder to grab something in a hurry, but I think overall I’ll appreciate the ability to organize and perhaps hold a larger amount more efficiently. (God, is that Amazon talking? MUST… OPTIMIZE… LIFE…) Anyway. Gidget’s the bomb, it would seem. Here’s an inside view of the case so you can see what I mean.

However! I totally thought SJ had the “upscale makeup bag” market locked down, when Amazon’s recommendations helpfully directed me to the Apple & Bee line. Adorable and seemingly efficient, and in even better materials than the Stephanie Johnson line. Decisions, decisions. I’ll probably eventually wind up owning at least one of each, but for now I will wait and see what Santa thinks. Perhaps he can poll Mrs. Claus as to which item better holds her array of on-the-go cosmetics selections.

Either way, I’m using this as an opportunity to overhaul some stuff. I think I’m switching back to mineral powder concealers for a while, after using a combo of the above-mentioned PF plus Smashbox HD for a couple years now. They just break me out more, and I’m less and less patient with that, plus I’m wanting to shift back to more natural ingredients. And I’m trying Diorshow Waterproof for my next mascara — I had a *horrid* experience with Blackout, but this seems better and I’ll review either way soon. And I guess I finally have an excuse to dig up the beet powder and rose petal powder I ordered from Mountain Rose Herbs years ago, and look into making my own naturally pigmented lip stains… I will DEFINITELY update about that, regardless of whether it’s a success or failure (& I’m kinda anticipating the latter). Either way, I’m hoping I can continue to look at this as a silver lining for a new beginning, even though I’m still bummed to have lost all my fave staples. Watch my old case turn up after I shell out $100 for a new arsenal!

Dark circle remedies

Okay, to be fair, most of us don't look like Reggie Wayne in eye black.I recently had a reader email me asking about good eye creams to help combat dark under-eye circles. Since the advice I gave her applies to most dark circle sufferers out there, I figured I might as well blog my advice!

Almost 100% of dark circles (especially in lighter complexions) are from other health factors like circulation, nutrition, diet and allergies, and not something that can actually be remedied with skin care. (I know that’s a bummer to hear, but it’s usually true!) If you’re not already a naturopath kind of person, booking an appointment with someone more hippie-minded like a naturopath or allergist can sometimes help you track down the source of stuff like that, since most naturopaths and natural-minded allergy professionals take a more comprehensive look at overall health, as opposed to only examining a target area.

For those of you in the Seattle area, I can also strongly vouch for Paula Zook at the Polyclinic Downtown. I first found Zook because I was sick of seeing derms who were all essentially crusty old men with obvious unsightly skin growths — i.e. not their fault, but they were far more concerned with cancerous biopsies than how to diminish wrinkles or fade acne scars. I set out to find a derm who was also  a *pretty lady* and Zook fit the bill. I think it’s important to be determined, especially if you have a PPO-type health plan that allows you to pick your own specialists. If you’re after dermatology with a somewhat aesthetics-related skew, then find someone you think looks nice with nice skin!

That said, there are also some great makeup tricks for alleviating that dark under-eye appearance. For starters,  Suresh urged me to ALWAYS apply an eye cream under eyes, to help hydrate the skin and plump it up so wrinkles aren’t as noticeable. Then use an illuminating under-eye thing like Smashbox Photo Op or (splurge) YSL Touche Éclat to the area including right up to under the eye — you can use a brush, but I often just do this with my fingers. Only after these touches should you use a normal concealer, and you can keep that one to the lower part of the dark circle so it doesn’t settle into the fine lines closest to your eyes.

Last but not least, I will give you *one* tiny skincare tidbit relating to dark under-eye circles — try an eye cream with caffeine. These don’t work for everyone out there, and I personally haven’t yet found a formulation that I always like. But there is some research showing that caffeine can help stimulate blood flow, so it helps for some milder cases of dark circles or tired-looking eyes. A few to try are 100% Pure,  Best Bath Store and Kiehl’s.

Holy lashes, Batman!

Remember my Great Mascara Review from last year? Yeah, now that I found my Holy Grail Mascara, I thought I was all done with that noise. Well sadly, my HG is starting to bug my eyes lately — might be the lack of humidity now that heaters are going on everywhere — and I think I need to switch to a gentler formula for my overtaxed peepers.  After all, I DO spend all day staring at tiny text in an MMO in a de-humidified office.

Through absolutely no intention or efforts, I have wound up with the following generous sample tubes from Nordies and Sephora over the past few months (left to right), which I figured I might as well review briefly. None of these formulations are waterproof, so I wasn’t surprised that none of these were a huge hit, but what the heck!

One thing is for certain — the tiny, thin brushes from my Clinique Lash Power Mascara and my Smashbox Lash Detailer Mascara are way better for my peepers, so I’ve washed and saved those. Any new HG mascara will likely only be HG when applied with one of these phenomenal brushes!

Sephora Atomic Volume Mascara — Meh. Hard to apply and rubs/flakes off really easily. It was super dry and sticky-like to get on, like the (sealed in a bag) tube was old and dried out. Niiiice.

Peter Thomas Roth Lashes to Die For — Spiky ouchy brush, meh formulation, will still keep brush for use w/ other mascaras but not to be used at base of lashes. Owie!

Lancôme Defincils — Sometimes I like this, but I don’t care for this stuff most days. It goes on very spindly/separatey, without enough volume — as I’ve mentioned before, this looks weird on my superlong and weirdly-pointing lashes. Makes them look lanky, anorexic and confused — bad in both teens and eyelashes, turns out. If I use the superskinny Clinique brush, it looks better, but still not amazing. It does give great separation with few clumps though.

Sephora plain ole mascara — Immediately leaked all over my undereye when I ate spicy food and teared up a tiny bit (no actual crying). Also weird fibrous flakiness. Ew.

Smashbox Lash DNA x2 — Meh, dry formula, and the stupid brush doesn’t allow for precise application so you smear it everywhere. Does separate nicely and get fringe-y when applied w/ Lash Detailer mascara brush (part of Beauty Breakthroughs kit). But for a mascara that isn’t waterproof, this stuff sure is hard to remove! Harder than most waterproof mascaras!

Shiseido Perfect Mascara — Has the same icky glue-like smell as the long-lasting Too Faced Lash Injection, but this stuff also rubs off if you change your shirt. Pass! And what a stuck-up name, haha.

Clinique High Impact Mascara x2 — Meh. This stuff is fine, not phenomenal, just fine. Goes on fine, comes off fine, doesn’t stay amazingly long but then none of these non-waterproof ones do.

Lancôme Hypnose Drama — This stuff is just fine, not amazing. Annoying abnormal brush and slightly dry/clump-inducing formulation. Meh. 

Estée Lauder Sumptuous — This is supposed to be volumizing? It’s one of those length and separation but no volume mascaras that makes my eyes look FREAKY. Great for Halloween though!

Buxom Lashes — This stuff is also with a mean ouchy spiky brush, which makes it mega-hard to apply to the lash base. Applied with a skinny Clinique brush it looks fine, but otherwise, pass. Also, it seems to uncurl my curled lashes quicker than any other formulation!

And home sick on school pictures day, Smashbox Bionic Mascara. Ick. Just as tacky, thick, clumpy, and eye-goober-forming as I remember it.

So yeah, no big winners here, but not a shock given that these were all non-waterproof freebies. Back to the drawing board — curse my sensitive peepers!

PAX Beauty (and beasts)

Every year since like 2006, Seattle’s own Mike and Jerry of Penny Arcade have put on an increasingly massive video game fan convention. This thing started for fans by fans (as opposed to for developers by developers), and the turnout in fantastic. Both literally and figuratively. PLUS, my work is throwing a big party for our game’s expansion launch, so things are OFF THE HOOK for me this weekend.

I always see a lot of cosplay, creative hair and makeup, and crazy clothing at PAX (in addition to more handheld consoles than I ever saw in my two years working at Nintendo). The doors aren’t even open yet, and the geeks have already flooded the site — which is smack between my home and my workplace. Geeks get mad creative with their looks — I mean, how do they get those prosthetic Link ears to stay on? I have enough trouble with false lashes!

I’ll post pics later once I’ve caught a couple amazing fashion or makeup moments! But fow now, allow me to wax geeky on my own PAXed up beauty tricks. Geeky conventions are kind of an excuse to oomph up the goth/punk/nerd/rebel chic, which isn’t my usual look. But I leaned hard on Smashbox’s Heartbreaker liquid liner pen to ensure a nice firm goth-y eye well into tonight’s Wonder Girls concert.

And today seemed like the perfect day to rock my cement gray (“DWS”) Illamasqua nail polish. Slightly edgy and different, plus it matches my gray Aion shirt that I’ll be wearing to help promote the game and show my support!

In closing, check out the vid we made to promote our launch party tonight. Seriously, isn’t this adorable? Even if you’re not a gamer, you have to appreciate the creativity of the in-game dance moves! I cannot WAIT for this show. ^_^

Tinted Moisturizer Roundup

In my desire to be more frugal and less cluttered, plus my pent-up need to sample new products after carefully avoiding changes in my skin routine leading up to the wedding, I have been systematically devouring all my Sephora samples. This particular experiment deals with the many vials of tinted moisturizer I’ve accumulated.

The first I tried was Smashbox Sheer Focus, which was fine but not amazing. Even their paler, more neutral shades still wind up looking really dark and *wrong* on me — I can’t always tell in which direction they’re wrong; I just know I don’t look like myself! This stuff was fine, but simply nothing special on my pale complexion. I do like the SPF though, and it didn’t seem to cause any angry skin reactions (besides slightly clogged pores, but I’m VERY sensitive to dimethicone and similar so that’s to be expected). Weirdly enough, it felt very greasy several minutes after application even though it was oil-free — can’t tell if it made my skin over-produce or what.

Next up was Perfekt Skin, which was perfektly lovely. The (tiny!) sample I had was in Radiant, which is a shade darker than I needed, but it actually went on just fine and wasn’t too dark or obvious around my hairline or brows (always the tells). It feels like a primer — suuuuper silicone-y — and it looks and feels fabulous on its own or under my HD Finish Powder (didn’t try under full foundation).

However, three minor cons: 1) It’s SO EXPENSIVE! Almost $60 for the full-sized tube! 2) Definitely caused some clogged pores, especially on and immediately around my nose. (Again, to be expected w/ me, but still — worse than other tinted moisturizers due to high ‘cone content.) 3) When I checked out the Sephora tester to see about the lighter shade, the pump had totally gross dried-up product in it, so I worry about freshness. The To Go size seems like a better buy if you’re not going to slather this on daily. Oh yeah, I lied: 5) No SPF. :( This stuff was still the big winner though, just in terms of awesome formulation.

Next up was Dr. Perricone No Foundation Foundation. I’d been wanting to try this for ages, even though it seemed too dark when I tested it on my hand. My suspicion was confirmed, as this was just NOT my skin tone. It also went on way sticky and tacky and uneven-feeling, and was obvious in my “tell” spots (brow & hairline). But I like the high SPF! Still, I felt like I needed to GOB it on to get good sun coverage — ew. Not for me.

Last up we have Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer — another one I’ve been dying to try. I had both a couple foil packets and a big sample tube of this stuff, all in Nude, which is the second-lightest shade — but it was too dark for me. However, that didn’t seem to matter as much upon application — it still blended and disappeared nicely, and really wasn’t noticeable on my skin. This stuff is quite pleasant and lives up to the hype, after all! Not wild about the chemical sunscreens, but beggars can’t be choosers — these were all free samples, after all. Laura was a close second based on formulation, but I wish there were smaller tubes out there.

So there you have it! I doubt I’ll buy any of these for regular use, esp. since I can just mix foundation and sunblock/lotion. But I might pick up a Perfekt To Go in Luminous for those big night out kinda moments!

Freebie Fest, Part 2

Wow — Sephora’s recent VIB Swag Bag was quite the freebie for me. Many of the items included are things I’ll actually use*,  which is rare for me with freebies. There was even a replacement for an existing product of mine! It was nice not to have to spend the $50 minimum for free shipping online, too — my local store often runs out of bonuses way early, but not this time.

PLUS, all my wedding skincare remedies qualified me for a free Skincare Challenge full-size product, and they finally had something I wanted — and I’ve been wanting to switch to a different moisturizer anyway as of late. Never seen a philosophy Skincare Challenge reward on their site before, so this was a pleasant surprise.

And lastly, I still have a crazy high number of points to redeem, so I’m due for another freebie soon! But none of the 500-point bonuses have appealed to me lately. Maybe I’ll just wind up stocking up on a zillion different $100-point perks instead…

*Like Phytodefrisant, Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer, Urban Decay Stardust shadow in a purpley color, and a replacement for my trial-size Smashbox Photo-Op Under Eye Brightener that I like to carry in my purse for loooong days (like this one). Quite the bonus bag!

Magic marker stylings

I LOVE this Jolinean (ooh, new beauty term!) look, but I’ve long been intimidated by liquid eye liner, because I simply suck at applying it. My hand is shaky, I guess, and many formulations are unforgiving if you have to go over the same area twice, and being extremely fair means that mistakes show up even more on my complexion. So it’s no wonder this particular makeup type has historically freaked me out!

While I did have more success with gel liners, I’ve recently been more willing to give the liquid stuff a try — thanks entirely to a newer genre of liquid liner applicators. Back in middle school I first discovered some cheap but great stylo-type liquid liners from L’Oréal and Cover Girl, but they got discontinued — so I had to just wait it out until makeup companies put these awesome flexy soft-tip markers for the eye back on the market. But my cat-eye prayers have been heard, and answered!

Smashbox, MAC, NARS and Hourglass all have pen-like liquid liners out now. The only one I’ve tried so far is Smashbox, because it seemed like the most water-resistant formulation when I tried them all out (sans MAC) at a Sephora.

Foundation woes

Ages ago, I had tracked down the Smashbox Complexion Perfection Kit at Nordstrom, which contained an HD-happy foundation in “fair”. Silly, silly me — I never really tried the stuff out, like, full-on foundation style, until this past weekend. And shockingly, like EVERY OTHER FOUNDATION OUT THERE*, it looks hideous and orange and dark on me.


So after applying pancake “Fair” colored orange over my primer on Saturday, I decided to swing by Sephora for an upgrade. Guess what? Too effing busy to help me. Awesome. (Normally I can help myself in a store like that, but this is the ONE area of makeup where I really need someone else’s expertise!) So the gal told me to schedule an official consultation so they would have time set aside for me. But since they were too busy to even do THAT, and since there are other store locations that would be more convenient anyway, I figured I’d hit the Downtown shop for said assistance.

Side note: did you know they’ve now made it completely impossible to actually call any retail Sephora location? Yeah, you can leave a voicemail for the store manager and pray s/he’ll get back to you, but that’s it. Nice CS, guys!

Anywho — I *think* I’ll wind up going with Make Up For Ever’s Invisible Coverage HD foundation. There appear to be a zillion shades, reviews plus product description suggest it looks good in pics, and it seems widely available. But DAMN if it isn’t expensive! I hope it’s worth the dough. And I hope the negative reviews are wrong, yikes!

I’m off to Sephora on my lunch break today to hopefully get some hands-on help, or at the very least schedule a consultation time. Since my trial run with Carina is this Saturday, I really wanted to have the shade picked out so I could bring it along, since I’d rather use stuff I’ve tried out. Guess I’ll a) return to the office with a rainbow of beige streaks along my jawline, heh, and b) wear foundation every day this week to work so I can try the stuff out. This will be interesting, to say the least!

* All foundation shades look orange and dark on me, except the ones that err in a vastly different overkill direction. My very first ever foundation that my mom got me was a MAC heavy coverage one in a color called Alabaster, which was FREAKY pale and made me look scary dead which is hard to do. And my first concealer, from this crappy shop no longer in existence at Southcenter Mall, was pink-toned like my skin but way too dark for me, so it just made me look hung over when I wore it under my eyes. At twelve years old. Why is it SO HARD to find a good shade for pale pink-toned skin? Ack!

Gift With Purchase Extravaganza

As I recently whined on my Twitter Feed, Nordstrom Beauty announced a Smashbox gift with $50 purchase ONE DAY after I had made a $49 Smashbox purchase. (In case you’re wondering, I got the Complexion Perfection Kit to try out as wedding makeup — it’s out of stock in my shade at every other vendor.)

But I cried to their Customer Service people online, and they happily shipped me the gift, separately, for free, no questions asked! (Okay, a few questions like “what was your order number” and “what is your shipping address” — so no annoying questions asked.)

And THEN I saw on Smashbox’s site that they have crazy good Let’s Do Lunch deals twice a week, in which you get a free gift for buying ANYTHING during a certain time period, no minimum purchase required, and free shipping. WTF?! Why aren’t all vendors that awesome? So I stocked up on brush cleaner (which I’ve been needing anyway) and… got a free duo lip gloss, IN ADDITION to a sample of the tinted moisturizer that I ALSO wanted to try out as wedding makeup.

AND THEEEEENN I got one of them automated Sephora emails telling me a product was back in stock — and it was the new TheBalm Lip Stain I’ve been wanting to try out (also as wedding makeup. Sensing a theme here?), which had been out in the color I wanted. And I discovered that ZOMG I now qualify for my first-ever 500 point bonus gift there (currently a Tarte giftapalooza with gloss, 2 mascaras, eyeliner, primer, etc. etc.). Kinda terrifying that I’ve spent enough cumulatively to qualify, but whatevs. And they ALSO have a bunch of samples that I’m totally into right now. SO I think I’m gonna order my wedding lip stuff and stock up on the big freebie there too.

I think, so far this month, I may actually receive more in free product than actual monetary purchases. Guess the entire cosmetics industry figured out it was almost my birthday or something! ^_^

Smashbox Beauty Breakthroughs

I just got this kit from Sephora, and I like it but wish there had been more info available on it (since they didn’t carry it in stores at first). So I figured I’d go ahead and provide some details! Overall, this turned out to be a really good impulse splurge for me, as they are all products I will use in my regular rotation. I just hope they sell the pencil separately at some point!

Waterproof Eye Shadow Palette — The colors are fairly neutral; not my total ideal as I’m into grays, but they’re mostly brown-toned. There is one matte ivory, one champagne shimmer, one medium golden brown-olive shimmer, one plummy shimmer and one dark brown matte. You have to use a really stiff brush to get the product up (and the brush that comes with this set is very tiny with stiff natural hair that is uncomfortable on my sensitive eyelids — but it does the job better than my many softer brushes). I haven’t really noticed them being significantly more long-wearing on my eyelids, but when I applied them to my hand to test they really seemed to stick. I think my eyelids are just kind of oil slicks.

O-Gloss Shimmer — I was worried that ‘shimmer’ would translate to ‘waaaay too opaque/pearlized’ but it does not. It’s a lovely soft shimmer and a nice balmy texture that looks shiny when more product is worn. Doesn’t get all that pink though, but it’s very subtle and good for “no makeup” days.

Lash Detailer Mascara — the brush is great, but the formulation is a little lacking, and the tube is smaller than it seems. But I will likely wash off the brush and use it with other mascaras once this one is used up. It’s easy to wash off and doesn’t smudge too much, but is a bit dry and doesn’t go on all that easily. I could also use more volume in relation to how much it lengthens. But still, it’s a good product. I just prefer waterproof formulations.

Cheek Stain — even though this looks like a really blendable gel-stick, it’s actually just as tricky as the liquid stains in that the color gets deeply deposited right where the bulk of the product first touches your skin. So you have to be kind of crafty to get an even application; it’s not just an easy swipe. Still, I like this packaging and formulation better than other liquid or gel or cream cheek stains I’ve tried, and the color is a nice rosy flush (pretty much identical to Sephora’s Wine Lip & Cheek Stain or Stila’s Pomegranate Crush — a very cool-toned shade IMO).

Poured Photo Op — Never tried the liquid version, but I do really like the silky balm texture of this stuff. On sight it looked like it would be too dark for me, but it almost doesn’t seem to show up at all when I wear it, color-wise. It does make my under eye area look kind of greasy/shiny so I have to do a bit of powder on top sometimes. I think it’s meant for people with really dark circles/saggy-looking eyes, but it does seem to make me look more awake without the weirdness or heaviness of wearing under-eye concealer.

Brow Wax Pencil — LOVE it! Just like what I imagine Givenchy’s Mister Eyebrow is like, but cheaper. :) It’s a lovely, non-messy formulation but I imagine it’ll be gross to sharpen. Worth it though! I stroke it on both brows and then use a mascara spooly brush to shape.