Posts Tagged review

Nicole by OPI Coca-Cola Collection {review and swatches}

I’m on a roll here, people, let’s just go with it.

Nicole by OPI Coca-Cola collection

I’ve only ever owned one nail polish from Nicole by OPI (I just can’t get past the ugly bottles!), so swatching the Coca-Cola collection was a relatively new experience for me. I’m also not a Coke lover (or even of pop in general, really – rarely drink the stuff) so at first many of the shades didn’t make sense to me, but I eventually got the references. Though most of the shades didn’t call to me, I tried to keep an open mind as I went through them – sometimes you find a gem when you least expect it, especially when it’s shades you might not have chosen otherwise.

Let’s begin with a classic, in all senses of the word.

Nicole by OPI Always a Classic Coca-Cola swatch

Always a Classic Coca-Cola is a richly-hued metallic red, reminiscent of the iconic Coca-Cola can. I like reds like this – strangely, I find metallic reds more wearable than cremes, which I find always look stark on my skintone. The formula was easy-peasy; two thin coats to opacity. As you can see, it IS a thin textured polish as any nail imperfections are noticeable -nothing a bit of top coat wouldn’t probably cure.

Always a Classic Coca-Cola vs Red Pumps at the Nordstrom comparison swatchLeft: Nicole by OPI Always a Classic Coca-Cola; Right: Misa’s Red Pumps at the Nordstrom

The shade reminded me of Misa’s Red Pumps at the Nordstrom, a beauty of a shade that I wear a lot during the holidays. I find Misa’s version, aside from being a bit deeper and cooler in tone, also has more depth – but both are pretty :)

Nicole by OPI DC Lover swatch

DC Lover (Diet Coke) is a silver foil with red glitter that surprised me by being quite pretty when worn. This is a shade I would NEVER choose if given the chance, but there’s something about it that’s kind of ethereal and lovely – the silver is just the right tone for my colouring, and the red flecks make it wholly different and interesting. Obviously, I have nothing like this. It’s a keeper! No issues with the formula or application whatsoever.

Nicole by OPI Zero is My Hero swatch

Zero is My Hero (Coke Zero) is a deep, dark burgundy brown which does a good job at mimicking the color of Coca-Cola itself. I thought I was going to LOVE this shade – rich, mysterious, shapeshifting goodness – but unfortunately it was a dud for me. The multifaceted flash you see in the bottle (below) doesn’t translate on the nail, and it’s depth can really only be seen in direct sunlight. It reminds me of China Glaze’s Midtown Magic, another delicious-looking shade that let me down once worn on the nail. Formula on this one was the only less-than-stellar in the bunch too – three coats were required to achieve opacity.

Nicole by OPI Zero is My Hero

Every Month is Oktoberfest vs Zero is My Hero vs Royal Rajah Ruby swatch comparisonEvery Month is Oktoberfest vs Zero is My Hero vs Royal Rajah Ruby swatch comparisonLeft to right: OPI Every Month is Oktoberfest, Nicole by OPI Zero is My Hero, OPI Royal Rajah Ruby

I had a few polishes I thought might compare – OPI Every Month is Oktoberfest and OPI Royal Rajah Ruby. In the first swatch above they all look somewhat similar, but when you angle them the right way, you can see that ‘Oktoberfest’ has more purple in it’s base, and ‘Ruby’ has more red. Against the two of them, it really looks kind of blah, doesn’t it?

Nicole by OPI Seriously Citrus swatch

Seriously Citrus (Sprite) is a fresh mix of green, blue, and white glitter of varying sizes and tones. Not being a glitter fan, I didn’t love this – but it does look nice layered over other polishes – above I applied one coat over RBL’s Oh Snap! on my ring finger, and the contrast was quite pretty. I just HATE the removal of glitter polish SO. MUCH. This was no exception on that front.

Nicole by OPI In Grape Demand swatch

In Grape Demand (Grape Fanta) was another surprising win for me – I don’t typically fall for midtone polishes like this, particularly purple ones, but recently I decided I *needed* Essie Flowerista from the Spring 2015 collection – only to realize that this is essentially the same color. Another great formula on this one.

Dutch'ya Just Love OPI? vs In Grape Demand vs Neon Violet swatch comparisonLeft to right: OPI Dutch’ya Just Love OPI?, Nicole by OPI In Grape Demand, American Apparel Neon Violet 

The colors I have for comparison are clearly not even close to this shade, proving that I don’t buy colors like this normally.

Nicole by OPI The Look is Orange swatch

The Look is Orange (Orange Fanta) is for once an orange I can get behind! There’s not too much yellow in it to clash horribly with my skintone, and there’s a dash of red to make it even more wearable. This is going to be amazing as a pedi shade. Great formula too! You may have already seen me sporting this one on Instagram:

The Look is Orange vs Meet Me At Sunset vs Magnetic Force swatch comparisonLeft to right: Nicole by OPI The Look is Orange, Essie Meet Me At Sunset, LA Colors Magnetic Force

Here, you can see Essie Meet Me At Sunset is darker and more reddened, while LA Colors Magnetic Force is more coral than full-on orange.

Last year OPI did a Coca-Cola themed collection, which didn’t even hit my radar, but comparing the two collections now, I think Nicole by OPI did a better job – all of the Coke franchise flavours are represented in both collections (plus 3 additional ones in the OPI version), but the shades are more on point with this iteration (in my opinion). The only thing I’m not convinced of is that this is a spring-appropriate collection – but it seems more and more brands are releasing shades that don’t follow a seasonal theme, so what do I know? All I can say is that I’ll be hanging on to a few of these polishes – despite the unattractive bottles!

What do you think of this collection? Do you like Nicole by OPI polishes?

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OPI Infinite Shine {review and swatches}

Delinquent blogger alert – I’ve had these photos done for a month; I have to post about these polishes already! I just received the OPI Brights 2015 collection today so I really need to catch up (I also have OPI Soft Shades 2015 collection and Nicole by OPI Coca Cola collection photos / swatches ready too, sooo…yea. I’m a bit behind).

Today, however, we’re talking about the OPI Infinite Shine polishes, of which I have 3, plus the Primer base coat and Gloss top coat.

OPI Infinite Shine polishes

OPI released the new Infinite Shine formula back in the fall; it’s claim to fame is up to 10 days wear with a hi-def shine similar to gel nail treatments, but without the need of a light, nor the hassle of soaking off the polish. The 3 shades I received are: Maintaining My Sand-ityStaying Neutral and No Stopping Me Now. Let’s look at the swatches first (note that I’m wearing the Primer and Gloss base/top coats in each swatch) and then I’ll get to the formula and wear time.

OPI Maintaining My Sand-ity swatch

Maintaining My Sand-ity is a work-friendly, putty-toned nude that I thought I liked at first, but after wearing for a while found it’s slightly greenish hue made my hands look red. I think on the right skintone this would be a great, chic neutral shade but on me it’s just not entirely flattering. Formula was lovely with two smooth coats for opacity.

OPI Maintaining My Sand-ity comparison swatchLeft to right: OPI Maintaining My Sand-ity, Zoya Cho, OPI Glints of Glinda, OPI Do You Take Lei Away?

OPI Maintaining My Sand-ity comparison swatchLeft to right: OPI Glints of Glinda, Zoya Cho, OPI Maintaining My Sand-ity, OPI Do You Take Lei Away?

I have a few shades that compare with Maintaining My Sand-ity, but they’re either a touch too light (OPI Glints of Glinda [which is also a sheer], Zoya Cho) or a bit more pink (OPI Do You Take Lei Away? – which I prefer over this shade).

OPI Staying Neutral swatch

Staying Neutral is classic greige shade that is much more up my alley. It contrasts with my skintone just enough to make it stand out without being unflattering. Again, formula was stellar – two easy coats are shown above.

IMG_0615Left to right: Essie Master Plan, OPI Staying Neutral, Sally Hansen Commander in Chic

It looks a bit cool-toned in the hand swatch above, but in the comparison swatches, particularly against Essie Master Plan, you can see that it’s actually got a bit of warmth to it so it doesn’t look too stark against the skin. I thought it would be really close to Sally Hansen Commander in Chic, but it’s much lighter, which I actually prefer as well.

OPI No Stopping Me Now swatch

Finally, No Stopping Me Now is a bold orange-red that isn’t quite as searingly bright in the swatch above. It almost has a touch of coral to it as well – truly, a perfect tropical shade. I feel colors like this look good on almost anyone because they’re such a chameleon and can lean one way or another depending on the lighting/skintone/wardrobe etc. Formula, like the other two, was essentially perfect.

OPI No Stopping Me Now comparison swatchLeft to right: Essie Meet Me At Sunset, OPI No Stopping Me Now, Essie Come Here!

Shades like this are SO EFFING HARD TO PHOTOGRAPH. It was impossible for me to clearly photograph the differences in tone between these 3 shades. Essie’s Meet Me At Sunset is more orange (absolutely no coral/pink at all), while Essie Come Here! is decidedly more pink. NOT THAT YOU CAN TELL IN THESE PHOTOS, though. Damn.

So, the long-wear, über-shine claims. I wore Staying Neutral for a full mani, employing the 3 steps by using the Primer (step 1) as my base, followed by 2 coats of color (step 2), topped with a coat of the Gloss (step 3). I had high hopes as a long-wearing glossy mani is hella-appreciated at this stage in my life; unfortunately, my nails chipped within a few days, and I didn’t particularly feel like the glossiness has retained it’s full-power shine. I read a great review of these polishes by Beauty Geeks, in which Karen notes that these polishes still likely require several minutes to ‘cure’ in natural UV light (aka THE SUN) for them to be truly long-wearing. I haven’t had a chance to try this, but I intend to – normally I could care less about long wearing shades as I tend to change my polish frequently, but I could really benefit from not having to worry about chipped nails for a week plus.

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Ultimately, I’m more about the shades than the wear with polishes, so no matter what the case I’d still try more of these shades, especially if they all have formulas like these – smooth, glossy and oh-so-easy to apply.

Is wear time a factor for you when choosing a nail polish? 

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In honour of Earth Day: A skincare trio by affordable (and Canadian!) eco-brand Graydon

So…I’ve been going a little bit skincare crazy since being on maternity leave. Yep. What can I say? I get bored and I need to indulge my beauty habit somehow, and hoards of makeup just doesn’t make sense right now (though I did pick up a few things during the Sephora sale…purchases to be revealed once I receive them all [I made a last minute 3rd order late last night :S]). I actually purchased the products in this post before the ones I wrote about last week; I was trying to get my fix in a more economical way…clearly that didn’t work. But what, ho! – the brand Graydon is a sweet little homegrown eco-conscious brand (based out of T.O.!) that I think deserves some attention, and what better day to do it than on Earth Day?!

Graydon skincare

First, a quick primer. Graydon’s tag line is Clinical Luxury by Nature – quoted as such because: 1) their products contain bioactive ingredients that work to nourish the skin, such as antioxidants, linoleic acids, and vitamins and minerals; 2) they aim to create products that not only work but feel lovely to use and look great on your vanity; and 3) they utilize ‘plant powered’ ingredients and ‘choose to source organic plant based ingredients from Canadian growers and manufacturers such as broccoli and berry seeds oil.’ They do not use any nut-derived ingredients due to the potential of allergies, and do not use any mineral oils, chemicals, parabens, sulfates, artificial dyes or synthetic fragrance. They’re also gluten-free!

Ok, now that you’ve got the background scoop, here we go. I picked up 3 products so I could form a somewhat well-rounded idea of the brand – a facial mist, a moisturizer, and a facial oil. To begin, let’s start with the Face Food Mineral Mist.

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The Face Food Mineral Mist ($29CADis an elemental mineral mist that boosts hydration in the skin via minerals copper, silver and zinc. Copper is purported to help the production of collagen and elastin, while silver is said to kill bacteria and help neutralize the harsh sodium-fluoride in our tap water. The 3rd mineral, zinc, has been noted to decrease inflammation by helping stop bacterial infection which can make one’s face look red and blotchy.

It’s hard to say much about the effectiveness of this mist I’m used to using facial mists with aloe or glycerin, which leave a trace on the skin – but I do appreciate its simplicity. I don’t have a lot of redness which would be the one way I could judge its efficacy, so I just have to trust that this is in fact doing something! If you’re looking for a no-frills mist however, this is a good option.

Ingredients: ionic copper, silver and zinc infused in purified water and nothing else!

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The Super Sensitive Skin Stuff ($29CAD) moisturizer was created for ‘people with skin that reacts to everything’. Though this hasn’t been an issue for me lately, my skin can be finicky at times so I wanted to have an option for when that situation arises. It has a high aloe content so it is very soothing; it has a medium-heavy consistency (likely due to the plethora of oils such as evening primrose, pomegranate seed and rosehip seed) which sinks in fairly well, but which might be a tad heavy for oilier skins. If I have time, I’ll put this on and let it sink in before doing my makeup so I don’t have a problem with greasiness. I actually love the texture for body though, and often apply a touch to my hands as well.

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Ingredients: purified water (aqua), aloe vera juice (aloe barbadenis), cetyl alcohol (coconut product), stearyl alcohol (mixed plant), black currant seed oil (ribes nigrum), evening primrose seed oil (oenothera biennis), pomegranate seed oil (punica granatum), rose hip seed oil (rosa rubiginosa), vegetable glycerin, sodium chloride (mixed plant), vitamin e (mixed tocopherols), grapefruit seed extract (citrus grandis) and nothing else!

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Finally, we have The Serum ($46CAD). Graydon states that ’50 pounds of fresh Canadian berries go into this [serum],’ and the array is what drew me to the product (and actually the brand itself) in the first place. Cold-pressed blueberry, cranberry, and red raspberry seed oils (the latter which contains natural SPF and is also great at combating blemishes) are mega-antioxidant powerhouses, and are high in linoleic acid (which if you recall, my skin favours) and alpha-linolenic acid. A serious source of Vitamin E by the way of tocopherol, as well as Omega-3 and 6 fatty acids, rounds out the blend nicely.

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The color of this oil should tell you just how concentrated and pure it is – it smells faintly of blueberries. The viscosity is a touch thick but not too much so, though the oil spreads much more easy with a damp face. Though the brand suggests mist the skin after application (?), I recommend misting first then applying the oil straight away. Sometimes I will mix the oil with the ‘Skin Stuff’ for a lighter application (though either way, I like to leave it to soak in for a bit before applying makeup). It leaves my skin feeling plump and well-protected. I tend to use this oil in the daytime to take advantage of the natural SPF benefits of the red raspberry seed oil. EDIT: I forgot to mention that this has a pump dispenser that gives you the perfect amount to apply to your face. Droppers are all well and good, but give me a pump that keeps me from over-applying any day of the week! GENIUS.

Ingredients: cold pressed blueberry seed oil (vaccinum myrtillus), cold pressed cranberry seed oil (vaccinium macrocarpon), cold pressed red raspberry seed oil (rubus idaeus), meadowfoam seed oil (limnanthes alba), grapefruit seed extract (citrus grandis) and nothing else!

Overall, my foray into the Graydon brand has been quite fruitful – though the products are quite simple in design, they still feel well thought out and are a nice addition to my routine. I like that they don’t compete with my more aggressive treatment products but rather support them without being too plain. If you’re looking to try some eco-conscious products but don’t want to break the bank, this is an excellent brand with which to start!!

FYI I bought the trio from Clementine Fields.

Have you tried Graydon products? Is your skincare routine more basic or very involved?

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Saving face (literally) with products from Make Up For Ever

Remember my post about the key makeup prodz for new moms?  The implied message was that all you needed was some concealer, bronzer and a subtle lip color and you’re good to go. HA. And another HA I say. While there may only be TIME to apply 3 products, the reality (for me anyway) is that you look so haggard from lack of sleep, and a bit janky from hormone-induced breakouts, that you need a wee bit more than that to look ‘normal.’ Though my skin hasn’t gone completely bat-shit crazy like it did after the miscarriage, I’ve had a few spots crop up that really reflect just how little I’m able to dedicate to self-care these days (my feet, you guys – OMG they are so dry and ragged that putting on socks is like scratching nails down a chalk board!). On top of that, I’m a little – nay, A LOT – sleep-deprived, which does nobody’s skin any favours.

Fact is, I need a little extra help in the makeup department lately. Fortuitously, 2 products have recently crossed my path that have helped do a little ‘damage control’ – Make Up For Ever’s Pro Sculpting Duo in 2 Golden ($45CAD) and their Mist & Fix setting spray ($34CAD).

Make Up For Ever

As contouring has suddenly gone from being an optional step (and viewed somewhat derisively at times), to the current ‘BIG THING’ in makeup, it’s no surprise to see a true makeup artistry brand like Make Up For Ever join the ranks with their own vision of what a contour product should look like. Conveniently including both a contour shade as well as a highlight in the compact (which comes in two shades – 2 Golden for medium-deep to deep skintones, shown below with their 156 Large Flat Blush Brush [$43CAD] ideal for just this purpose; and the lighter 1 Pink Beige for fair to medium skintones), the weightless gel-powder is designed to ‘blends seamlessly for traceless highlighting and contouring.’

MUFE Pro Sculpting Duo

MUFE Pro Sculpting Duo

MUFE Pro Sculpting Duo

I was very excited to try this product, not only to try my hand at contouring (something I’ve never really done), but also because – HELLO, that powder looks beautiful! However, when I dug into the product, I was a bit disappointed, and I’m sure those of you who ‘know’ about contouring can guess why.

The color of the darker powder is too warm to be used as a contour (in my opinion). I tried it, and while it applies soft and subtle – a must, as contouring is supposed to be undetectable – it mostly looks like I used bronzer to sculpt my face, and not like I naturally have covetable cheekbones. To be fair, people have been using bronzer as a contouring product for ages, but I just feel like it should be marketed as such, you know? Nonetheless, it does make for a lovely bronzer, which is how I’ve been wearing and enjoying it.

The highlight shade, on the other hand, is as it should be, and imparts a lovely glow to the high planes of the face. Its a *touch* more frosty than I usually like my highlighting products, but not so much that I haven’t been wearing it often. It’s a particularly flattering warm golden shade on my skin – I just might not use it during the height of the summer sun.

Make Up For Ever Pro Sculpting Duo swatches

Both powders are very smooth with an almost creamy feel, and though I sometimes feel like I need several passes to pick up enough product, this keeps one from overdo-ing either one, an easy mistake to make with these types of products. Overall, though this wasn’t exactly what I expected, I quite like it and have been wearing it frequently to give my skin that extra ‘oomph’ I so desperately need.

After bringing life back to my skin with the Sculpting Duo, the pièce de résistance is the brand’s Mist & Fix setting spray, which helps ‘lock in makeup and keep color fresh.’ I was really pleased to try this product, as I had been contemplating buying MAC’s Fix+ – I really wanted something to set my makeup and give me a bit of a dewy sheen so my makeup would look more natural. I didn’t even realize Make Up For Ever made a similar product (though I should have known!), and all the better that they do!

Make Up For Ever Mist & Fix

The spray is designed to create a ‘sweat-proof, rub-resistant barrier for fresh-looking makeup that lasts up to 12 hours.’ It also helps to increase skin’s hydration and is ‘formulated with a complex to boost oxygenation and deliver a healthy-looking, radiant glow.’ I can’t speak to the 12 hour claim (when I DO wear makeup these days, it’s only for a few hours) nor the oxygenation part (uh, sure?), but I can attest to the awesome glow this gives the skin – that kind of dewy radiance that I’ve been trying to achieve for so long is finally in my grasp! SO happy. The only beef I have with the product is the scent – kind of reminds me of bug spray or something? Not that strong, but it’s a sort of mildly unpleasant chemical smell which is a touch off-putting. But, it does dissipate and doesn’t linger on the skin, so I can live with it. Also, hooray for spray nozzles that work properly (huge pet peeve of….probably everyone, AMIRITE?!) – this mists nice and evenly on the skin.

Make Up For Ever Mist & Fix ingredients

So there you have it – two additional secret weapons I’ve been using to look like an upstanding citizen again. I feel like the days when I venture out of the house has me wearing more products than ever before! At least, the basics…I wear less fun color and more stuff to make the skin itself look better. Ah well, it’s all only temporary…and things change so quickly! Just within the past week Elena has started sleeping for longer stretches at a time (she’s also awake for a bit longer) and more deeply…which means mama gets more sleep too ;) I might be back to wearing bold lippies and fun eyeshadows sooner than I thought!

Make Up For Ever

Do you use bronzer to contour, or a product designated for that purpose? Have you ever used a setting spray? What tricks do you have for looking well-rested?

*Products were provided by the PR company/brand for my unbiased consideration.

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Collective reviews: new skincare goodies!

Though my makeup wearing days have been minimal of late (and when I do wear it, its a quick slap-dash affair – concealer, mascara, blush, gloss), and as such, my makeup buying is next-to-none, I have been indulging in some skincare splurges to keep my beauty habit alive. The benefits are two-fold: having great products to look forward to using means I make the (often challenging) effort to keep good skincare habits; and maintaining a routine means my skin needs less makeup anyway (thankfully!). Last month I stumbled across e-tailer Integrity Botanicals – which has several brands with products on my wishlist – and as I needed replenishment on a few things, I went all in. *I’ve included links below (non-affiliate) to each brand’s website if you’re interested in learning more, as these may be brands you’ve not heard of before!

Organic skincare

Kypris Moonlight Catalyst ($70USD) is a refining and exfoliating serum that is designed to ‘deliver all the cosmetic benefits of retinoid preparations without any harsh chemicals, redness, peeling, or thinning of skin’. It boasts fermented pumpkin enzymes to exfoliate, Hawaiian sea algae and Xylitylglucosides to hydrate, and supercritical extractions of rosehip seed and sea buckthorn to repair irritated or chapped skin.

Kypris Moonlight Catalyst

The evening-only serum is very lightweight and spreads easily over the skin, and is completely non-greasy (though it does leave it a touch tacky). The scent is lightly fruity and pleasant. I apply about a half-dropper full (they recommend 1-2 but I don’t find I need quite that much) all over my face & neck and let it absorb for about 5 minutes before applying a treatment oil on top (Pai’s rosehip oil). Guys, this stuff is GOOD. After using it just once, my skin felt so smooth in the morning, and subsequent uses has helped clear up the bit of hormonal acne I’ve had (likely due to the inclusion of willowback extract, which acts similarly to salicylic acid) and refine the areas where I’ve got scarring from said spots. I am particularly pleased that it contains no essential oils, which I tend to avoid – despite their ‘natural-ness,’ they still have the potential for skin irritation. I am LOVING this product and it will be a definite repurchase for me (very rare)!

Kypris Moonlight Catalyst Kypris Moonlight Catalyst

For the past six months, I’ve been using either plain, organic grapeseed or pumpkin seed oil to remove my makeup, and they’ve worked well, but lately I’ve been feeling like picking up something a little more…interesting. African Botanics Pure Marula Cleansing Oil ($60USD) is an emulsifying cleansing oil (meaning you can just wash it off with water) that gently exfoliates while removing makeup and purifying the skin. Marula oil’s antioxidant properties help cells renew and resist damage, aid in stimulating microcirculation and minimizes redness and irritation.

African Botanicals Pure Marula Cleansing Oil

The cleanser has a thicker viscosity (compared to say, One Love Organics Vitamin B Cleansing Oil), and requires 3-4 pumps to enable you to massage it into the skin. The scent (this DOES contain essential oils, but since its a rinse-off product I’m not as concerned) is a fruity-vanilla blend that is quite nice if not a touch sweet. Though you can just add water to emulsify after massaging it in for 1 minute, I still prefer to remove it with a microfiber cloth, though for traveling and whatnot I do appreciate that this can be rinsed away easily.

As I haven’t been wearing much makeup lately, I haven’t used this too much yet, but from what I’ve seen so far its a nice option for makeup removal/as a first cleanse. I have used it a couple times on its own with no issues, but I’m not sure I would make a habit of it with my clog-prone skin.

African Botanicals Pure Marula Cleansing Oil African Botanicals Pure Marula Cleansing Oil ingredients

I’ve been reading raves about Josh Rosebrook products for a while now, particularly for his Deep Nourishing Shampoo and the Active Enzyme Exfoliator ($60USD), the latter which I added to my online basket at the last minute. I’d been wanting to get an exfoliating mask, as I have a good purifying one (Yüli’s Pure) and a nice hydrating option (Pai Rosehip BioRegenerate Rapid Radiance Mask) and I like a good trifecta.

Josh Rosebrook Active Enzyme Exfoliator

The mask is designed to ‘stimulate skin cell growth; ignite collagen and elastin production; reduce fine lines, age spots and sun damage; tighten, tone and shrink pores; and improve overall radiance.’ Seems like tall claims, but I think any exfoliating product essentially will have these results – thats why exfoliation is so key ;)  Its the method of exfoliation that lured me in – the mask uses both ‘chemical’ (plant, herb and fruit enzymes) and manual (via very finely ground walnut shells) exfoliants to get the job done.

I put this mask on one day when my mom was over and holding the baby (gotta capitalize on those opportunities when you can!) and she said it looked like I wiped the baby’s poop all over my face, hence this post on Instagram:

A diaper change gone wrong, or @joshrosebrook Active Enzyme Exfoliator? ;)

A photo posted by @xbeautyobsessed on

I like this mask – its non-irritating, and you can leave it on from 10 minutes up to an hour – the kind people at Integrity Botanicals suggested 45 mins in a sweet personalized note they left in my package. After I rinsed off my mom said that I was looking pretty glowing, so sounds like it works! The exfoliating effect is gentle but thorough.

I somehow misplaced the box this came in, but here is the ingredient list for reference:

Ingredients: Organic honey, organic vegetable glycerin, organic lecithin, organic herbal extracts of neem leaf, yucca root, sage, stevia leaf, eyebright, coneflower (echinacea), fennel powder, horsetail, bilberry, chickweed, comfrey, slippery elm, peppermint, bladderwrack, lavender flowers, calendula flowers, white willow bark, skullcap, ginkgo leaf, green tea, alfalfa, hawthorne berry, gotu kola, marshmallow root, st. john’s wort, yerba mate, solomon’s seal root, rosemary leaf, papaya enzyme, walnut shells, certified organic xanthan gum, organic essential oils of lemon, cypress, fennel.

Finally, I needed a new facial mist/toner and though I was very tempted to buy yet another bottle of one of Yüli’s Elixirs, I noticed the new MUN No.11 Anarose Toner ($68USD) on the site, and decided to try it instead (same price & size as the Yüli too). It also does not contain essential oils (only a hydrosol and a few extracts), and the overall ingredient list is lovely: rose blossoms to hydrate and soothe; antioxidant-rich prickly pear (opuntia ficus-indica) and goji berry for environmental protection and anti-aging; hyaluronic acid to bind water to skin; and willow bark extract to smooth and refine.

MUN No.11 Anarose Toner

I’m really enjoying this toner – I can actually feel it soothing and softening my skin, and the rose scent is beautiful and calming. I’m also a sucker for anything in a miron bottle. Though my bottle requires the use of a cotton pad to apply, it’s since available with a spray-nozzle attachment, which I would prefer. Definitely a contender against the Yüli!

MUN No.11 Anarose Toner ingredients

I’m super-pleased with all my purchases, and excited to have found a few gems that I’ll actually add to my permanent stock (the Kypris serum and MUN toner are must-haves); I’m also really impressed with Integrity Botanicals as an online retailer and I intend to purchase again from them very soon! I still have a few more products on my list that I plan to buy in the next little while ~wallet backs away screaming~  and I have three products from affordable Canadian eco-brand Graydon to still show you as well (yes, I have gone a bit crazy since being on maternity leave)….so though posts are infrequent, I promise they’ll be worth the wait ;)

Have you come across any standout skincare products lately?

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Swatching ain’t what it used to be: OPI Hawaii Spring 2015 Collection

A day after returning from the hospital with my beautiful baby girl in tow, the new Hawaii-themed spring collection from OPI landed on my doorstep. Equal parts excitement and anxiety flooded me – I mean, HOORAY! for new, fun nail polish to play with; but OHMAGERD how in the EFF am I going to swatch all these with a new babe to look after 24/7?

Basically, you swatch one shade a day until you get through ’em all.

OPI hawaii spring 2015 collection

I must say, once I finished I felt inordinately pleased with myself. NEW MOM, WHAT!?! However, its not perfection – my cuticles and hands are sort of a wreck, leftover from washing my hands 20 times a day in the NICU and then having no time to do damage control once we got home. Meh. Guess I can’t do everything.

Ok, less talky, more showy (time is a luxury, after all!).

OPI do you take lei away swatch

Starting with my favorite from the collection, Do You Take Lei Away? is a ‘creamy nude’ that applies very well for this kind of shade, smooth and even in 2 coats, and is neutral enough (not too warm or cool) that I think it will flatter most skintones.

IMG_0323Left to right: Tom Ford Toasted Sugar, OPI Do You Take Lei Away?, OPI Maintaining My Sand-ity, Essie Jazz

I was unsurprised when I started pulling similar shades to compare against ‘Lei Away’ and discovered the closest match was a much-loved favorite, Essie Jazz. The OPI shade is just a hint more pink and less grey than Jazz and as such it looks a bit better against my skintone. My bottle of Jazz is halfway done (which means its almost finished, in polish terms), so I’m pleased to have a  sort of newer, better version to take it’s place.

OPI that's hula-rious! swatch

‘Pastel mint green’ That’s Hula-rious! is the kind of shade that I love in theory but which doesn’t always compliment my skintone. As is common with pastels, the formula is a bit streaky and needed 3 coats. The swatch above portrays it more vividly than it is – this shade was swatched during a snowstorm (one of many!!) so the natural light is much more dim and I had to overcompensate when taking the photo. The comparison photo below gives a more accurate indication of the shade.

OPI that's hula-rious! swatch comparisonLeft to right: China Glaze Re-fresh Mint, OPI That’s Hula-rious!, butter London Bossy Boots

China Glaze Re-fresh Mint is very similar, but is a smidgen lighter and less green, and the formula for it was atrocious. I far prefer this version.

OPI lost my bikini in molokini swatch

A ‘reef-inspired purple’, Lost My Bikini in Molokini feels like the perfect shade for spring – its vibrant and playful but not too bright. 2 coats were required to achieve opacity; the formula is good but not perfect and needs a tiny bit of attention to avoid streaking. This polish stained my nails a tad when I removed it, so keep that in mind.

OPI lost my bikini in molokinii swatch comparisonLeft: OPI Lost My Bikini in Molokini; Right: Rescue Beauty Lounge Mismas

I thought that RBL’s Mismas would be a close dupe to this color, but in fact it’s a few shades darker. I think I like the lighter tones of the OPI shade actually – I really like wearing colors according to seasons (so sue me) and Mismas doesn’t seem to fit into any of them, in my view.

OPI just lanai-ing around swatch

Described as a dark, creamy mauve, Just Lanai-ing Around is one of those midtone shades that I’m not a fan of – I prefer a strong contrast against my skintone. Personal preferences aside, the formula on this color is excellent and only required 2 easy coats to reach opacity.

OPI just lanai-ing around swatch comparisonLeft to right: OPI No Spain, No Gain, OPI Just Lanai-ing Around, OPI Diva of Geneva

In my mind, ‘Lanai-ing‘ was very similar to OPI No Spain, No Gain (another midtone shade I dislike), but it’s much lighter. OPI Diva of Geneva is a shimmer, of course, and in any case it’s also much darker and richer in tone.

OPI go with the lava flow swatch OPI go with the lava flow swatch

Go With the Lava Flow is a ‘golden red’ that leans coral and has a slight orange flash, which you can see only at the right angle. Normally this type of color isn’t my bag, but looking at these swatches makes me want to give it another go – it’s kind of intriguing, no? It took 3 coats to get the opacity I desired, but the polish applied well with no issues. I don’t have any shades comparable to this.

OPI aloha from opi swatch

Aloha From OPI is a ‘bright creamy coral’ that has just enough pink to keep it from being a true red. It’s been so long since I’ve worn a bright like this, it gets me in the mood for warmer weather! Though its a cream, it applied a touch streaky and I needed 3 coats to even it out to my liking. I don’t find this shade particularly unique, but it’s pretty nonetheless.

OPI hawaii spring 2015 swatch comparisons - Version 2Left: OPI Aloha From OPI; Right: Essie Come Here

A very close dupe for this shade is Essie’s Come Here, a favourite of mine. Essie’s version is ever so slightly more pink, but to me they’re essentially the same. Come Here has it’s own application issues, but I think I’d keep it over Aloha From OPI simply because I like square bottles better ;)

OPI hawaii spring 2015 collection

Halfway through, guys. At this point I was on day 7 and getting better at painting my nails between one feed, and then stealthily putting Elena down long enough to take photos between another. Swatches over showers, oh YEA.

OPI pineapples have peelings too swatch

Pineapples Have Peelings Too is…well, it’s just bizarre, what can I say? A ‘gold shimmer with colorful sparkle,’ when I pulled this shade out for the first time I was like ‘What the…?’  It is NOT pretty, you guys. Whoever thought up this shade was reaching, big time (though the name is perfect, I think). As the gold base is quite sheer, it required 3 coats to build up opacity. Interestingly enough, I actually quite like the base color, and I’m very picky about my golds (if you recall…). But the glitter bits are garish and the base covers over their sparkle to make it all look dull and blah. ME NO LIKEY (does anyone?). Obviously, this is a one-of-a-kind shade.

OPI is mai tai crooked? swatch

Is Mai Tai Crooked?, an ‘orange crème’, is one of those polarizing shades I think. Though it’s base isn’t too yellow, which can go terribly wrong on some people (like myself), it’s still not a flattering color on me. I do love the name though ;) 3 coats are needed to help even out patchiness, though if you were really careful you could probably get away with 2. Patchiness seems to plague most of the cream shades in this collection I find.

OPI is mai tai crooked? swatch comparisonLeft: OPI Is Mai Tai Crooked?; Right: Essie Resort Fling

The comparison above is a perfect example of the small nuances that can make or break a shade on my skintone. Essie Resort Fling is more peach than orange, of course, but the pink-leaning base versus the yellow-leaning one makes all the difference for me.

IMG_0387

Suzy Shops & Island Hops…oh how I love the look of this shade! Described as a ‘light and happy pink,’ I find this color super-flattering on my skintone. But of course, pastel shades often come with issues, and this shade needed 3 coats to even out the patchiness. But I don’t mind TOO much, because PRETTY.

OPI suzi shops & island hops swatch comparison

I must be having a pink moment, because I also love RBL’s Oh Slap!, which is close to ‘Suzy Shops’ though without as much white in the base. I’m tempted to only keep the RBL, but I really love the way the OPI looks so despite it being kind of a PITA to apply, I’ll hang on to it for a while, anyway.

OPI hello hawaii ya? swatch

Hello Hawaii Ya? is a ‘dusky purple’ and the type of color that used to appeal to me, for whatever reason. But though it works with my skintone, it’s kind of drab, and I prefer bright and punchy for spring shades. Surprisingly (or unsurprisingly, for this collection), the formula wasn’t great and I needed 3 coats to smooth out patchiness, which still didn’t fully even things out. I think this color would be lovely on a lighter or darker skintone than mine, but it veers into that ‘midtone’ territory and I have too many other polishes in which to devote my time.

OPI hello hawaii ya? swatch comparisonLeft: OPI Hello Hawaii Ya? Right: OPI Parlez Vous OPI?

I think the reason I thought I’d like this shade is because when I first got my hands on OPI Parlez Vous OPI?, I adored the way it looked on me. But my tastes have changed over the years, and now I find it looks dull and muddy. These are clearly not dupes but they’re definitely distant relatives.

OPI this color's making waves swatch

This Color’s Making Waves should look familiar… This ‘shimmery, lagoon blue’ is a pretty marine shade makes me long for summer in a big way! It’s kind of a pain though, as it needed 4 coats to reach this opacity. It’s quite thin and watery, and as it’s not terribly unique I am less than enamoured by it. I have a very close dupe in…

OPI this color's making waves swatch comparison

Chanel’s Azure. Obviously. For the nitpicky among you, they aren’t exactly the same – Azure has more green in it, and OPI’s version has tiny silver flecks of shimmer running through it to set it apart. Both have a duo chrome flash, but Azure’s is more teal-blue-green, whereas ‘Making Waves’ is more teal-blue-purple. Meh. To me they’re damn near identical, and Azure only requires 2 coats (and, um, it’s Chanel), so it’s the winner in my books!

OPI my gecko does tricks swatch IMG_1934

Finalement. My Gecko Does Tricks. A ‘bright and pearly green’ that has a sort-of orange flash in the right light (as seen in the second photo, which I took with my phone and I previewed on Instagram). I’m not a fan of green polishes generally, which I’ve mentioned on several occasions. Though I probably won’t wear this much if at all (except St. Patty’s Day and maybe Christmas), it kind of grew on me a bit – it isn’t too yellowed (blech)/saturated (due to the shimmer)/dark (and therefore murky) to turn me off, I guess. It’s almost…flattering, if you like greens. It did need 3 coats however, so there’s that.

OPI hawaii spring 2015 collection

Overall, the collection was a mixed bag in terms of formula and shades. Many of the polishes were somewhat subpar in terms of performance and some of the shades weren’t to my taste (that’s just my opinion though!). I did have some favorites though, namely Do You Take Lei Away?, Lost My Bikini in Molokini, Go With the Lava Flow, and Suzi Shops & Island Hops (despite the crappy formula).

The Hawaii Collection by OPI is available now in both nail lacquer and GelColor formulas, at professional salons nationwide as well as ULTA and Nail Polish Canada.

*Product samples were provided for my unbiased consideration.

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3 makeup products every new mom needs

During my pregnancy, I resisted the urge to buy many new makeup items, because I figured I wouldn’t have any time to really wear makeup (for a while, anyway) once the baby was born. I wasn’t wrong – especially while in the hospital I didn’t wear a lick of makeup, and most days I’m lucky if I wash my face more than once. But there are times, like when you have non-familial visitors, or when you actually venture (briefly) out of the house, that you want to look just a bit less worn out and sleep-deprived. In those moments, a handful of makeup items have been helping me boost my lacklustre appearance to semi-normal, with the minimum amount of effort and time (because honestly, when you have any ‘free’ time, you want to spend it catching up on sleep!). The trio I’ve been relying on for this purpose is concealer, bronzer, and lip stain.

new mom makeup

The Clarins Instant Light Concealer in 03 and the Tarte Maracuja Creaseless Concealer in Tan have replaced the two NARS Creamy Concealers I’d finished in January. Both are nice concealers with medium coverage – the Tarte offering is quite tacky and moist, and I find the creamy finish looks youthful and deflects light, helping me makes look less tired; it also is a very good match for my skin. The Clarins version, a lightweight concealer with a second-skin-like quality that’s currently having a HUGE moment in the blogosphere, also brightens the eye area and is suitable for other parts of the face as well (love it around my nose), but the shade is just a hint too light and grey to be perfect for me. I like and use both for similar purposes but they yield slightly different results due to their different formulas. Neither are holy grail as I still can see my dark circles peeking through…but I’m not convinced anything will obliterate them completely, anyway. #pipedream

new mom makeup

I’ve been having an on-off love affair with NARS Laguna Illuminator over the past 6 months – originally when I bought it I thought it the perfect bronzing product for someone who is already…brown (lol), just giving me some illumination with a hint of golden color. But the small specks of glitter in it really turn me off, especially in the summer when the sun is shining. However, in the dead of winter when most days are dreary and grey, this has been a go-to to perk up my skin or warm up any foundations I have that are a touch too light or cast a grey pall over my skin when worn alone. Right now, it’s been a quick way to both give my skin some much-needed color plus add back some radiance – it can be blended with fingers in seconds. If I have a few more minutes to spare, I’ll layer a bit of Too Faced Sun Bunny Bronzing Powder (previous review here) on top for extra color and glow.

new mom makeup

Finally, the last touch to my quick and dirty perk-me-up routine is a bit of lip color, which can be applied on the go at any time, like when you’re trying to manhandle your baby into submission lovingly carrying your wee one around. A lip stain is a good choice if you can’t manage reapplication, though I find a low-maintenance lip product is probably the one item I CAN find the time to slap on here and there, so I always have something (often just balm) handy. YSL’s Glossy Stain in Corail Aquatique is a good option because it leaves color behind even as it wears, and is a soft shade that doesn’t need a mirror to apply.

If I have a full 10 minutes to do my makeup, I’ll throw on some mascara and groom my brows a bit – but the luxury of that much time occurs infrequently. I could never understand before becoming a mother why other mothers never had enough time to do things that take just a few extra minutes, but now I get it; it’s because those ‘few extra minutes’ could be spent, oh I dunno – brushing your teeth, changing your underwear, EATING, daydreaming about sleeping. I’m learning how to do so many things with just one hand, it’s getting quite impressive. I thought I was an excellent multi-tasker before; I am a WORLD CLASS, GRADE-A MULTI-TASKER now!

IMG_0306Gratuitous photo of my sweet little girl

Do you have any time-saving makeup tips? To all the moms out there – how did you manage your time?

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