Sunday, July 29, 2012

Review: Clarins Ever Matte Foundation SPF 15

My long quest for a perfect match foundation have reached a great destination. Ladies, I present to you my all time favorite foundation: the Clarins Ever Matte Foundation SPF 15 ($32 for 1.01 oz). Click here to see this foundation in action.
The foundation has a refreshing cucumber scent that isn't overwhelming and fades soon after applied. It's housed in a solid yet squeezable plastic tube. I really love how light weight and sleek it feels on my hand. Perfect for travel or on the go touch up.

The shade reviewed here is 108 Sand since I want to match my facial skin, which usually will match shade 110 Honey, to my neck skin. Shade 110 Honey matches other foundations I've used (reviewed here). 
Clarins Ever Matte smoothes out my skin, reduces pore size giving my complexion a natural tighten look. If you're familiar with ultra-smooth finish of BB cream, you can imagine the similar finish of Clarins Ever Matte yet not as heavy looking.

The foundation feels weightless and dries in a matte natural finish. I don't look like wearing foundation at all and I don't feel like that either! It's buildable from sheer to medium to full coverage to accommodate your preferences. It looks completely like my second skin even with full coverage that cover most of my blemishes. No matter how sheer I apply the foundation, it stays put for 10 hours without a primer or a settling powder. I have combination skin, only my T-zone looks shiny at the end of the day.

What I love the most about Clarins Ever Matte is it doesn't oxidize into pink (like Chanel Mat Lumiere), yellow tan (like Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk) or orange (like Dior Skin Nude), even when being layering on top of a sunscreen. I've looked long and hard for a foundation that owns this trait. And this alone is the winner for me. My skin, though combination, is notorious for turning foundations into one shade darker and changing their colors.

Sheer Coverage, you still can see the veins

Full coverage, no veins 
Now, if you live in the regions of dry weather or have dry skin, Clarins Ever Matte might be a bit flaky. I could still wear it during the cooler months in Houston. All I did was to moisturize my skin well before applying the foundation.

Bottom line. The best foundations I've ever tested. Hands down. If you haven't tried Clarins Ever Matte, I urge you to do so next time you visit a Clarins counter. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Body Shop Haul

Happy Friday everyone!

I'd like to share The Body Shop goodies that just arrived a few days ago.

The "reasonable" motivation of the haul (in other words, the excuse)

  1. My Phylosophy hair conditioner completely ran out. Plus, Phylosophy discontinued it. I need a new hair conditioner.
  2. I wanted to try The Body Shop brow and liner kit. 
  3. I'm gradually replacing all of our hair and body care with organic products. So everything but the eyebrow powder don't contain paraben, silicon, colorant and sulfate.
  4. The Body Shop site went 40% off that day.

Here we go

  • Aloe Gentle Exfoliator. 
  • Spa wisdom Africa ximenia and salt body scrub. 
  • Shower gels for earth lovers in Cucumber & Mint and Apricot & Basil. Both smells really nice without overwhelming. 
  • Rainforest shine conditioner. 
  • Rainforest volume shampoo (smallest size).
  • Brow and liner kit in dark brown and black. 

I'm excited about each and everyone of the items. My highest hope lies on the shampoo and the aloe exfoliator. I only pick the smallest size of the shampoo to try out. Hopefully, it will cleanse my hair thoroughly.

Have you tried out any of those products? Any recent haul to share?

Have a great weekend!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Guest post - Zoya Pippa

My lovely friend from grad school Huidong was kind enough to write a guest post for my blog. I really love her Zoya yellow nail polish so I asked her to share some thoughts about it. 

Zoya Pippa is a beautiful fresh yellow. It's bright and fun without being neon and in-your-face. The texture is creamy yet streaky. Pippa is rather sheer but becomes opaque after 2 coats. Huidong feels that Pippa goes on smoothly. It's very easy to apply but chips quickly. It would be a great color on your toes too. Imagine your tan toes with a pop of bright yellow on a white sand beach next to the blue ocean. 

Two coats

Zoya Pippa in action. Here, Huidong paired her fresh yellow nails with a green summer skirt. I think it's lovely.

Big hugs to Huidong! She was unbelievably patient with my request. She swatched Pippa several times between conferences, seminars and her own research schedule. As a result, yellow on left hand and black on right hand :)

What is our favorite nail colors for the summer? Mine is definetely baby blue

Summer beauty essentials

Happy Monday everyone! While typing this line, I can't believe I'm feeling happy on Monday. A mental note to mention this at my yoga class.

As we're rolling half way through Houston hot summer, I thought it'd be fun to share some of my must-have beauty products in the summer.

Kiehl's Super Fluid SPF 50+Kiehl's Avocado Eyecream; Tom's natural deodorant 

Clarins Ever Matte Skin Balancing Foundation (review is coming soon); Dior Healthy Glow Powder in Aurora

Edward Bess All Over Seduction in Sunlight and Afterglow Irreplaceable!!

Bobbi Brown Long wear Gel eyeliner in Espresso; Giorgio Armani Eyesto Kill Pulp Fuction #4

Dolce and Gabbana Shine Lipstick in Soiree; Guerlain Rouge G Serie Noir Orange Euphorique

Blue nail polishes

And this adorable Paul and Joe makeup bag (a gift with purchase last summer)

What products do you swear by for the summer? 

Hope everyone's having a great summer. 


Friday, July 20, 2012

How I budget my high-end beauty purchases

Happy Friday everyone!

The following tips serve as my general shopping guideline. I then mix and match the tactics to maximize the saving. In the next post, I'll share with you my favorite places to shop for specific brands:)

1. Get on the mailing list and/or sign up for free membership
The retailers send you information on promotions, product updates, tips, tutorials, events, etc... through email. You can plan your purchase months in advance. The biggest sale event of the year are their Friends and Family Sale. It tend to take place during the holiday season.

Last year, giant beauty brands like YSL, Giorgio Armani, Lancome, Bobbi Brown, Clarins, Too Faced, Stila, Benefits, Smashbox had 20% Off Friends and Family Sale.

My personal pick is Sephora. When you join their Beauty Insider program (for free), you may get up-to 5 sale events through out the year . For every dollar you spend you get 1 point in your beauty bank. When your bank has 350 points, you become a very important beauty insider VIB. You get delux sample when you have 100 points and 500 points in your beauty banks.

Bloomingdale's started their loyalist program that give you 2 points for every dollar you spend on Beauty and Fragrance. You'll get a $25 coupon on any item in the store when you have 5000 points. It's long way to go, but Bloomie carry Chanel!

  • Great saving if you have a particular favorite. Many brands/retailers rewards their members with delux samples, free shipping, discounts from time to time.
  • Usually save 20-30% of the retail price (most brands shoot for 20% off) for Friends and Family Sale.
  • Retailers like Sephora, Ulta, carry diverse mechandise, you have discount on all brands (Sephora and or select brands (Ulta) rather than a single brand. 

  • You need to love enough number of items from the brand in order to qualify for the sale 

2. Last call
Many brands liquidate part of the line to refresh with new products. The last-call prices are considerable lower than the full price. I love last-call items from YSL, Smashbox, Lorac, Stila,.

  • Always discounted price
  • You might find products that you have waited to save up or don't love enough to buy at full price.

  • Need to act quickly
  • Tend to not offer the most popular shades so you need to look hard

3. Discount retailers
There are a number of whole sale or discount companies on the market. I've tried 3 of them. They're all authentic but the quality is either a hit or miss.

For example, ACW, Haute Look, Strawberrynet (freeshiping worldwide), Izzysbeautyshoppe

  • Always discount price
  • Ship worldwide

  • Some products are already opened and slightly used.
  • The quality aren't good sometimes. I threw away a whole bottle of Dior Skin Nude from ACW because it dried out too much to be blendable. 

4. Online Cash back 
Some online rebates give you cash back if you shop through them using their affiliated links. I personally have Ebates account but Mr Rebates is a similar company. Ebates sends you a check at the end of the quarter or you can have them deposit directly into your paypal account.

  • Always get back certain amount of money you spend. This can add up quite a bit.

  • You have to wait until the end of the quarter.
  • Not everything you want is available online.

5. Tax free from out-of-state retailers 
Note: if you buy in store, that store might charge you shipping free.
High tax rate can be painful on huge orders. I remembered IMATS LA. Pasadena tax rate was nearly 10%. I didn't save as much even after discount.

  • Tax free

  • Sometimes the return fee if unsatisfied overwhelms the tax. You might want to make sure you like the purchase. 

6. Free shipping and/or free return
Most retailers waive your shipping free for $50 purchase. Some ship free all the time (Nordstrom, Derstore, Strawberrynet, ASOS).

  • You can save quite a bit if you are an online shopaholic. Imagine paying $6-$10 extra for each shipment.

  • The mental factor "I need to stock up for free shipping" might urge you to spend more than you need. Be "wise" and "disciplined"! (thinking about my own problems now...)

7. Gift with purchase 
Lancome, Clinique, Estee Lauder and Clarins are among many brands that give good GWP at a reasonable minimum purchase. Many times, I find the GWPs well worth the saving

  • You can try delux samples or sometime full size of popular products
  • Most GWP include a good makeup bag. I never have to buy makeup bags

  • You might overspend just to get the gift.

8. Duty free
Those of us who travel internationally, especially who transit in Asia, can find a whole shopping mall there or shop aboard. The brands carried there are the most popular in the market like Chanel, Dior, Guerlain, Shiseido, Shu Uemura, Bobbi Brown, Cle de Peau, YSL, Givenchy, Clinique. Some brands design exclusive products or value sets for duty-free shops. When I shop at duty-free, I stick with my absolutely needed list and try to only browse through gift section.

  • No tax
  • You can find duty-free exclusive products, Asian/European exclusive or limited editions that were no longer available in your country.

  • Between flights, sleep deprivation, dehydration, no tax combined with a weakness for makeup can lure you into splurges that you may (or may not) regret later. I'm just saying:)

9. The extreme
Completely avoid shopping malls, beauty sections at drugstores, and browsing through beauty blogs or retailer websites. If you're a makeup junkie, you know what I'm talking about :). We beauty addicts are much easier to be intrigued :D.

Now, if you combine several tactics, you can save more. For instant, I never pay for shipping, I'd rather wait and be patient until my shopping cart fills up to the minimum require purchase. Another choice is to buy through retailer like Nordstrom who always waive the shipping. But again, you can weight pros and cons of different perks to make decision.  

How do you budget your beauty purchases? I love to learn more and more ways to save :)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Look: Meet Doan - Part 2 Modern glamour

I'd like to share the second look I did for my friend Doan. Again, I want to keep the makeup simple like the first look, focus on her lips this time to bring out the modern glamour inside. 

The center of this look is her full red lips. To keep the look modern, I skipped lipliner and lip gloss. I applied three thin layer of Laura Mercier Cherrywood with a lip brush (blotted between layers) on top of EOS lip balm. I used Guerlain Place Vendome's golden taupe on the entire lids, then define her eyes with the highlighter shade and the dark shade in the palette. To finish the look, I applied a thin line of Urban Decay 24/7 Zero following her lash line, no wing out. 


In action...

Laura Mercier Translucent Setting Powder
YSL Touche Eclat 08
NARS Orgasm blush

Urban Decay Primer Potion in Original

Urban Decay 24/7 Eyeliner in Zero

Laura Mercier Satin Lipstick in Cherrywood

I hope you enjoy Doan's lovely spirit as much as I do.


Review: Tarte on the go blush/bronzer set

I had my eyes set on Tarte Amazonian Clay blushes for a while but never felt intrigued enough to actually purchase one. So when I saw this cute little set blush/bronzer at Ulta, I jumped to the opportunity. It contains a mini Dollface blush (0.11 oz) and a mini bronzer in Park Ave Princess (0.11 oz) ($15). They both have the same case as the full size version minus the mirror which I don't think it's a real loss. You can easily slide them in your makeup bag to touch up or travel.
 The design also resembles the full-size version.
The mini Dollface blush is a baby pink that mimics the blushing you have after a nice jog. It's one of those universal pinks that flatters all skintone. If you are fair, use a lighter hand.

The mini Park Ave Princess bronzer looks shimmery light caramel on my arms but it shows up rather sheer on my cheeks. It requires quite a build-up on my medium skintone.

Before purchasing this duo, I tested the full-size versions. The major different between them are the texture. This mini duo is noticeably drier than the full-size. And probably because of that, they both don't stay put pass 4 hours.

I love how handy (and adorable!) this duo is. You can hardly overdo these colors and the packaging is sleek. For price and the quantity you get, it's not a bad deal at all. Will I purchase this mini version again? No. I'd rather have a neutral blush that substitutes a bronzer and a wearable pink blush.

Here are some swatches....


Outdoors, direct sunlight
Bottom line. Nice set for travel! if you can stuff one more blush in neutral color into your makeup bag, I would recommend you go with the blush. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Look: Meet Doan - Part 1 Young and Fresh

I'm so excited to introduce my friend Doan. She loves sport, food, traveling and photography, which is why she's helping me out with my make-over series. She's naturally gorgeous, fresh and dynamic, and very photogenic. So I opted to focus on her skin and brows and keep the makeup simple and understated. 

For the everyday look, I wanted glowy cheeks and soft pink lips. I also used plum eyeshadows to enhance her brown eyes and a silvery mauve (of the same quint) to brighten up the lower lashlines. 

Here is her gorgeous smile....

A close up
Photo by Doan (she was posing "innocent" for this particular look :))

Chanel Mat Lumiere 4.0 Beige
Laura Mercier Translucent Setting Powder
YSL Touche Eclat 08
Bobbi Brown Corrector in Peach
Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector in Opal
NARS Orgasm blush

Urban Decay Primer Potion in Original
Dior 5-color eyeshadow in Stylish Move (all shades but the pearl white)
Dior Show Extase mascara
Guerlain Ecrin 6-color eyeshadow in Place Vendome (the dark grey to define the brows)

Edward Bess Berry Chic pink gloss in the palette

Next time, we'll see her in a different style. I hope you enjoy this mini make-over. Thanks so much for reading!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Quick look

My friends and I had a girl's makeup/hangout the other day. I can't wait to share the looks I did on my friends. A special thank you to Doan and Jessica for their incredible patience. Also, I thought I'd post a picture of the look I wore that day. It's my husband's favorite and mine too, simple, easy and natural for everyday.
Photo by Doan

Clarins Ever Matte Foundation 108
Laura Mercier Translucent Setting Powder for T-zone
YSL Touche Eclat 08
Edward Bess All Over Seduction in Sunlight
Dior Bronzer in Aurora (as blush)

Urban Decay Primer Potion in Original
Dior 5-color eyeshadow in Beige Massai (all shades except the rusty color)
Bobbi Brown long-wear gel eyeliner in Espresso
Giorgio Armani Eyes to Kill Stretch mascara (sample)
Shu Uemura eyelash curler

Dolce & Gabbana shine lipstick in Soiree

Have a great week!

Review: Boots No. 7 Quick Thinking 4 in 1 Wipes - Makeup Remover

Boots No 7 Quick Thinking 4 in 1 make-up remover ($6.99 for 30 wipes) is one my favorite products from the brand. It's oil-free. I've tried several wipes including Netrogena's. They remove all the makeup but leaving my face oily. I had to cleanse my face again with a cleanser like Philosophy Purity or Fresh Soy Face Cleanser. But No 7 Quick Thinking doesn't require this extra step, making it truly a on-the-go quick and thorough makeup remover. I usually remove my makeup in the car on the way back from work to yoga class. One wipe totally accomplish the mission. My skin feels a bit tight afterward but moisturized.
I also love the packaging. It's not overly cumbersome or heavy yet still very convenient. The lid closes tightly, preventing any evaporation. The wipes won't dry out before you use them up though sparingly. I much prefer this to Neutrogena's.

Bottom line. I highly recommend Quick Thinking for travel or when you're in hurry. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

From the sale rack

I don't make the purchases based on the discount percentage but the actual price of the items and my budget. I try to evaluate the quality and the priority ranking on my to-buy list then whether they're worth the price. Here are a few recent great finds.

LOFT tee-sweater. After extra 50% discount, I paid about $17.50. I love wear a white camisole under neath. I think this combination looks effortlessly chic yet relaxing. You can definitely play it up a little with a black or grey camisole or tank. I love to pair this sweater with white or dark denim ankle length pants and gold jewelries.

LOFT hoodies lounge wear ($4.88 compared to $34.50) for my yoga class or just walking outside when it gets a little chilly at night. Since most items that make it to the final sale rack tend to be too large for me, I was trilled to find this hoodies in my size and my favorite color beige. $4.88!

Steve Madden speedy bag from TJMaxx in khaki taupe ($39.99 compared to $79.99 on I was looking for this type of bag for ever. I love it! It doesn't overwhelm my petite frame. It's taupe! It goes with many of my outfits. You can wear it on your arm or cross your body hence it's very convenient for grocery, hang out, dinner or work.  The (fake) leather is light-weight without looking cheap so you can dress it up or down. It comes with a ribbon that does look cheap though. I removed the ribbon and saved it for an on-going craft project. Again, I think this quality deserves this price. I didn't see the TJMaxx's price at first so I thought $79.99 was ridiculous and I would only buy it if it was half off. And it was! My happiest purchase at TJMaxx ever.

Steve Madden flats from TJMaxx ($29.99). They're not the most comfortable flats in the world but they do their job. I had always wanted a pair like these when I was in high school. A dream came true:)

Glass containers from Marshalls (set of four large and set of eight small containers, $7.99 each). The lids close tightly and the containers are in perfect size for lunch box. Both the hubby and I bring lunch to work so they work perfect for us. I also use them to store left-over. Love them so much!

That's it! I've never good luck with either clothes or beauty products at the discounted retailer but do hope someday I will find something.

Where do you shop for great sale items? What is your happiest purchases? Do you shop for beauty products at TJMaxx, Marshalls or Ross? If yes then how was the quality turn out?

Thank you for reading and have a great week!
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