Australia Beauty Haul

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved to travel. Even when my parents asked what my brother and I wanted for Christmas, he would ask for things, I would ask for a trip. Not so well loved? Makeup. This is something new for me that I’ve really picked up on in the last few years. Which is why I find it so cool that now when I travel, makeup and skincare have become integral.

That’s not to say that I only travel for the sake of makeup. In fact, my motivation to travel is much grander – I aim to learn what others derive happiness from. By seeing how people live around the world in happiness and (mostly) peace, one can discover how to find that peace inside yourself. Not to mention that travelling isolates you, in a very very good way. So often we associate our identity with something that ties us down – our work, our school, our home city. When you travel you learn who you are outside of these stagnant place-holders. You become self-sufficient to the point where who you are is a reflection of your internal strengths and visions, not what you come from. It is independent of all constraints and rather a freer version of yourself.

All to say that I travel for many reasons. However I just use makeup and skincare as a way to explore when I travel. Not only do I get to try new products that might become a favourite in my routine, but I also get to rummage around in cute shops and random pharmacies, often introducing me to corners of a city I might not otherwise see.

So without further ado, the products I fell in love with in Australia:

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  • Mecca Cosmetica: brushes, To Save Face Supersunscreen (not shown)
  • The Seeke: Rose Elixir, Rose and French Pink Clay Mask
  • C Lab & Co: Coffee Scrub with Coconut
  • Lipstick Queen: Velvet Rope lipstick in Star System

A fairly small “haul” (can it even be called a haul?) because of the limited space in my suitcase. That being said I was very selective this trip and chose products specifically because of quality and things I really wanted to try, regardless of price or popularity. These are products that I knew were worth the extra space in my suitcase.

1) Mecca Cosmetica: brushes, To Save Face Supersunscreen (not shown)

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A superstore that I didn’t know I needed until I discovered it, I instantly fell in love. Mecca Cosmetica stocks lots of brands that I can easily get in Canada, so I immediately found a shop staff and asked to be shown the Australian products. Thankfully they have their own line of products so that was pretty easy. I did try a few other products on the road, including false eyelashes (not a fan) and some primers (verdict still out).

My favourite take home however was their To Save Face Supersunscreen. With a whooping SPF of 50+, we’re looking at real sun protection here. Honestly sunscreen is something I never used to wear until I got into medicine. Then between dermatology and plastic surgery, I realized how important it was for cosmetic as well as health reasons to apply sunscreen daily. The only problem was finding one for my face that was easy to apply, non-oily, and good under makeup. Enter this sunscreen. Initially it was very light, so I was skeptical about putting it under makeup because it was almost a gel it was so soothing. This made me thing it wouldn’t be mattifying. Once I actually applied it, I realized that like a good gel, it was very moisturizing and dewy without actually sitting on your face. Instantly I felt it absorb… and I melted (pun intended) for this sunscreen. Next came a layer of makeup and like I had hoped, it went overtop of the sunscreen perfectly. The next day I bought three bottles to stock up on!

The other products I got were actually more tools: a limited edition set of tools. As you can see from the picture above, they’re sort of a rose gold, but deep enough and mature enough to almost be bronze in colour. They have a hefty round base that feels solid and expensive. The bristles are synthetic but really quite soft, and the design and shape of the specific brushes feel perfect for their intended use – the only downside I can find is that there were no fan brushes!

2) The Seeke: Rose Elixir, Rose and French Pink Clay Mask

The Seeke is a brand I discovered in the oddest of places – a museum. I’m not talking a beauty museum, as cool as that would be. I’m talking an art exhibit – specifically the Van Gogh 4 Seasons exhibit at The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) in Melbourne. It was a stunning exhibit that focused on the four seasons Van Gogh so very much loved.

IMG_1058The exhibit was full of beautiful colours and paintings that were so classically Van Gogh – including the famous self-portrait he did. I was also so excited to see how much his spring and summer paintings were influenced by Monet. So needless to say I was in an artistic point of view. That must be why The Seeke products stood out to me when I found them in the NGV shop – they were instantly the kind of skincare products that you proudly display on your nightstand like the work of art that they are.

It is the simplicity of the packaging that really stood out to me – the white label, classy black font, and sturdy glass bottles that everything comes in… it fits in perfectly with my style. So many times when I find products that I really like I end up wanting to decant them just so I can get a consistent #esthetic across my products. I generally go for a white theme with some black accents – think Nars, Chanel etc.

Of course the product packaging is only the first piece – you can see in my reviews that I generally discuss this, but of course the real products and materials are what matter. Quality not appearance right? Which is odd for a blogger to say given how much appearance matters sometimes. But I want to be sure that my blog is about substance with style.

Back to The Seeke products. The first product I bought was the Rose Elixir. It is a camellia and argan oil mix with a few more oils and, very pretty, some real rosebuds inside. I’ve started really getting into oils lately. With my dry skin and dry ends of my hair (thanks blonde ombre), I’ve tried to hydrate with some oils, namely Nuxe and this Seeke product. I’ve been so impressed to discover how many ways you can use oil mixes like this! From rubbing it on dry skin, to applying to the ends of the hair, to using it as a makeup remover, it is so incredibly versatile.

My favourite use and the main reason I bought this oil? To mix with the Detoxify Clay Mask. This is the other product I bought, an “Australian ivory clay & pink French Argiletz clay”. Mixed together it makes for a really nice exfoliator and I love that I can see the products and the ingredients I’m using together. I’m a big fan of customization (including lipsticks) and so it was really great to find these two products that I can really easily blend to make softer or more exfoliating as needed.

3) C Lab & Co: Coffee Scrub with Coconut

Speaking of exfoliation, I’ve really wanted to get a body scrub lately. I bought two, one being the Herbivore Coco Rose Scrub and the other being this C Lab & Co Coffee Scrub with Coconut. The goal has been to start softening my skin with the combination of exfoliation and oils, but also to really work on those pesky ingrown and bumps that some of us *lucky* ones get.

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First thoughts? I’m really not a fan of this product to be totally honest. I mean the promises are pretty amazing – targeting cellulite (I imagine cause of the coffee), and stretch marks? I’m in! But so far the results have been less than impressive.

I know I bought a travel pack, because, well I’ve been travelling around New York and thought this slim pack would be easier to travel with, which is actually true. That being said the packaging is so hard to close again, and I’m constantly ending up with the scrub in my toiletry bag and on my hands. Of course, like I said, its not just about the packaging. But even the product really didn’t do anything for me. The application is easy, you just scrub it on to wet skin so I do it while I’m pausing the shower for a hair mask. You scrub it in, let it sit, and rinse off. The smell is divine. But thats where it ends. The exfoliation is fine but leaves a really thick greasy texture to the skin. Its like the oil sits right on the skin – not absorbing, not nurturing, just sitting there. If anything, it makes my ingrown worse and zero improvement on those promises it made.

4) Lipstick Queen: Velvet Rope lipstick in Star System

Is this an example of saving the best for last? Very possibly. Lipstick Queen is a brand I had never heard of before and given how much I love lipstick, that is a really exciting thing to find. I recently found out it is carried in some US stores but I’ve yet to see it in Canada so you’ll have to forgive my level of excitement over this. Their Velvet Rope collection is even more excitement-worthy. I mean just look at the beautiful art-deco style gold casing that this lipstick comes in!

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You’ll also immediately see that “Star System” is the most perfect colour. Its a pinky nude that is flattering on so many people. I came home from Australia and raved about it, and next thing I knew I had friends trying it out for themselves. This stuff is like Sisterhood of the Travelling Lipstick, it literally flatters everyone. My beautiful fair blonde-hair blue-eyed friend could pull it off just as much as me with my olive complexion and dark looks.  Miracle worker? It might be. Thats saying nothing of the great staying power and soft but semi-matte texture. If theres one thing you buy when you go to Australia, make this it!

Clarins Hydra-Essential Review

The Hydra-Essential has been really nice on my skin despite my pickiness. Will it ever fully replace my current moisturizer routine? Thats to be determined…

I have to say, I am a stickler for my favourite beauty products. Ever since I was a baby, I had sensitive skin (sorry mum). As a result, I’m usually really careful with the products I put on my skin and especially my face. I say especially my face because I have a great combination of dry/oily, with a tendency to break-out at any change in my routine. It probably doesn’t help that I wear makeup most days! So generally, I stick with my Chanel Hydra Beauty Hydration Protection Radiance to moisturize after I clean my face every evening, and before I do my makeup in the morning.

Enter the Clarins Hydra-Essential moisturizer. Maybe its the fact that the name sounds eerily similar to my Chanel product (Hydra??) but I was ready and willing to give this product a try when I got it in my Influenster VoxBox. Apologies in advance for the low-quality pictures, I applied this moisturizer at night and decided to review it in the dim-lighting…

UNBOXING: The product arrived with a trial-sized 15mL bottle of the Hydra-Essential, and a product card. The box that the product arrived in is simple and classic, almost medical in its cleanliness. It has a few lines about why this product was created (to “restore radiance and comfort in any environmental condition”), indication for use (normal to dry skin) as well as ingredients and the usual product details. I like that this was made in France, with an 18 month shelf life. The box also comes with a little information packet with more about the inspiration (something about a succulent leaf retaining water?), all in multiple languages.

BOTTLE: The bottle itself is in the most gorgeous shade of blue, evoking memories of my last trip to Greece…I’m sold on the colour thats for sure. Again, it is a simple and clean design, with instructions about a morning and/or evening routine.

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THE PRODUCT: Now to the good stuff! Just like how I’m particular about the products I put on my skin, I am also very particular about the texture of my moisturizers. When I first squeezed out the Hydra- Essential it was a nice thick product that held its form. I was almost worried about the thickness, thinking it might be heavy. Upon application though, the product spread evenly. I used the amount in the below picture for my face and had just a little bit left over, so it has pretty reasonable distribution. On my face, it felt surprisingly light given my initial impression, but still substantial enough to feel like I was getting a good product that could actually moisturize my skin. There was a slightly tacky feel to it, which didn’t quite go away – almost a sheer residue, so I would have preferred it to absorb a bit more. This makes me think it would be best for an evening routine when it has more time to soak in, but not under makeup in the morning.

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VERDICT? I have to say, I am a new user to Clarins. Do I like it? Overall yes, it feels like a high quality product, with good moisturizing properties. I wouldn’t use it in my day time routine and I would like it a bit less heavy. However, so far it has been really nice on my skin despite my pickiness. Will it ever fully replace my current moisturizer routine? Thats to be determined, but for now it will definitely be added into the mix.

#HydraEssentiel2017

 

Bite Beauty Lip Lab Toronto

This review is for the Toronto Bite Lip Lab on Queen St. W.

For those who don’t know, the Bite Lip Lab is a shop/experience like no other, and I will be writing my review about their Bespoke Lip package. The package includes a sample of their agave lip mask, and two custom made lipsticks of any colour of your design, with your initial monogrammed and in any mix of scents and textures.

Finding the store was a little bit difficult because the street numbers do not line up. Not to mention the store front is a bit inconspicuous – it is a black small front, with red lips all over the windows.

Once you get inside, there is a long bar down the middle with customers on one side and lip artists on the other. On the customer side there are rows of lipsticks available to swatch and try out, and a card cabinet with all of Bite’s colours. On the artist side is a beautiful brick wall with a big quote on it, and bottles of colours that inspire your custom lipstick creations. In the back is the lab, which is separated by a clear glass wall so you can watch lipstick being made.

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When we arrived we were greeted by one of the male staff, who took our jackets, got us seated, and got us glasses of water. Another female staff member came along and offered us wine and champagne, at the cost of $7 a glass. Not too bad, and nice to have some bubbly while working away on making your custom lipstick.

I will say that while the male staff member who helped us was friendly, welcoming, and even complimented my outfit, the female staff member was a bit stand-offish. I found that she almost didn’t seem to want to be there or to help us – despite the fact that we had booked a month in advance, so it was no surprise that she had customers to help.

On to the actual process. The first thing was that we were given the Bite lip scrub to exfoliate our lips and in my case remove my prior lipstick that I had on. Following that we were given some of the agave lip mask – if you’ve never use it before, it is the most gorgeous moisturizing lip mask I have ever used. And most brilliantly, a little bit goes a long way.

Once our lips were prepped and ready we started the colour mixing process. I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted in mind – two different shades of pink, so I find pinks hard to match to my skin tone (NW20 with some red undertones). The first color I went for was a nude pink, almost mauve since I have a darker complexion. Once more the girl who I worked with didn’t seem pleased that I was so decisive about the colours I wanted, because I had her mix the colours a few times to get it right – though is that not the point of bespoke lipstick?

Anyways, the process begins by telling the artist what colour you’re interested in, and they go ahead and start making something that approximates your idea. Then  you get a little brush to paint it onto half of your lips, so that you can see the colour in person. The idea of only doing half of your lips is that when you adjust the colour, you can paint the newest colour on the other half of your lips to compare the two shades. The whole time the lip artists is writing down the formula they use so you can go back to a colour if you change your mind or want to compare again.

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Like I said, my first nude pink took a few tries to get right but I finally got the perfect colour. My second colour was more of a bright magenta pink – I will wear almost any lip colour but was missing a bright magenta pink from my inventory! This one we were lucky and got on the very first try – we tried a more purple version of it just for fun, but I stuck with the original first mix.

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Once the lip colours are done, you can pick texture and scents. I went for the signature amouse bouche finish on the nude pink and a glossier finish for the magenta. For scents, I chose a light violet for the nude and a warm vanilla coconut for the magenta. In a way I was thinking a lighter floral colour for summer, and a warmer richer colour for winter.

From there, the lip artists mixes everything together and pours it into a mould which they then set on a cold plate to harden. There was another hiccup here as the female lip artists I had put the lip scents in the opposite colours by accident, but then refused to remake them to fix her mistake. It was a bit frustrating that due to her mistake I got a different scent than I wanted in my products… I guess the scent is the least important part though, the colour and then texture were still perfect!

Finally, they take your moulded lipsticks and put it into a lipstick container which they then add your monogrammed initials to. The whole thing gets wrapped up with tissue paper and pretty boxes, and your full size agave lip mask goes in too, all in a pretty little bag – great presentation.

Overall?

–       A unique one of a kind experience

–       Literally unlimited colour choices, plus many scents and textures

–       Great location and building

–       Some staff were a bit hard to work with

–       Mix-up with the scents was frustrating

–       Went home with two beautiful new lip colours!

–       Cost $150 plus $7 each for champagne

More questions? More pictures? Let me know in the comments or replies and I can elaborate on anything from my experience.