Sunday, August 30, 2015

NARS Audacious Mascara Review

We all know I’m a huge fan of the Audacious lipsticks which launched in 2014. I love the payoff, the range of flattering colors that range from best-in-class classics to modern brights, and I love the satin texture and presentation.
This year, NARS launches Audacious mascara (September in Singapore). And this formula promises to be all all-rounder that is:
  • non-waterproof but smudge-resistant formula
  • volumizing
  • lengthening
  • lifting/curling
Sounds like every other mascara’s claims? Well I put it to the test.

2 coats NARS Audacious - not the best idea
I’ll say it’s:
  • pretty lasting for me and stiff enough when set to hold curl quite well, which is usually not the case with many non-waterproof mascaras - but my lashes are not super-stubborn so keep this in mind
  • easy to remove with cotton pad and cleansing water - no scrubbing and rubbing
  • non-smudging on me, but then I do not have oily lids so I am p[robably not the absolute best judge; it doesn’t start running the moment it gets wet but be careful not to rub your eyes too hard
  • moderately lengthening; those curved spikes on the wand (see below) that look like the fangs of some carnivorous plant do manage to grab your lashes and coat and separate them well
  • not extremely volumizing for me; I did find that it had a tendency to grab some lashes and coat them thickly, but not others, so you end up with inconsistent volumization
  • sorta clumpy; this doesn’t turn my fringe of lashes into 5 fat stumps - it’s not that sort of clumpy. But it does have a tendency to deposit fatter clumps around the tips of your lashes if you try to build up the product a bit, because the nature of the formula and the wand makes NARS Audacious mascara lengthen faster than it can build thickness around each strand. Maybe I'm just imagining it. You tell me! 
All in all, I would say this is just not a mascara designed for layering (unless you actually like clumpy dramatic lashes). It CAN give you pretty good results in a single coat as you can see above. I think it’s a great mascara if you want length and separation with moderate volume. But if you like to slowly layer, you will need a clean disposable mascara wand to comb out the clumps between coats.

One extra benefit going for this is how black it is and how well it seems to coat every lash. From what I've seen of demos and other reviews, this is a great one for those with paler lashes, who need a mascara that can really coat every strand properly and make everything more visible. Yep - this does that job.
Note: with any mascara that you layer and layer, you might also be more prone to flakiness. Flecks of black crumbling onto your cheeks over the day. I didn’t experience that with Audacious mascara wearing just one coat, so I daresay you’ll be fine if you don’t try to get TOO audacious with it.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Updated Basic Contouring Guide

I don't have chiseled cheeks, but what nature doesn't give you, you can often get with makeup. Within reason. I don't think you should walk around looking like you have 2 brown stripes on your face. So you need to use a very light hand. 

For me to achieve that look above on camera, under bright lights, requires about 20-50% more makeup/pigmentation than you do in real life. So bear that in mind and don't be surprised if your natural looking contouring doesn't show up on camera. I need to do that so you can see where I apply pigments.

I mentioned it before on dayre, but if you want a basic, 5-minute, daily-contour routine, you only need a taupe-toned matte brown or a bronzer that isn't too warm (orange/red/gold). Honestly, who has time to apply 2-3 sculpting colors onto your cheeks each day?

Still I'll show you contouring steps in different degrees of intensity, from:
  1. a simple "tear-drop" contour (which is done more in Asia to achieve a smaller, more oval face with a small jaw)
  2. Western-style chiseled cheeks using the same single taupe shade
  3. Youtube/stage-style reverse contouring using a pale powder to add contrast against the darker contour color
  4. Lower cheek contouring for a more sunken "couture" cheek look
  5. Shimmery highlighter to make the peaks of your cheeks pop to the max


I'm using Sephora's Contour 101 kit, because it pretty much has all the matte sculpting tones you need, from deep contour shades to pale and banana-colored highlight powders. In my opinion, only the right and bottom shades are good as contour colors because they are "cool" enough. One for medium skintones, one for tan skins. The one on the left works more as a bronzer because it's too warm/rosy. 

If you are pale, mix one of the contour shades with the pale highlight colors to soften them out before applying to your cheeks.


Not every brush works the same. What you don't want is to use a typical big soft fluffy powder or blush brush. Those are better for bronzing. Contouring is about precision; applying "shadows" to specific areas, then blending the color out properly so it looks like the shadow is real.

So your brush needs to be quite compact in shape.

One good shape to try is this sort of small tapered pointy brush, like Sigma's F35. You can use the tips to apply contour precisely along the hollows of your cheeks, then angle the brush slightly to its side to buff and blend out the color. But you do need to invest in brush guards, those plastic nets that you use to hold your brush bristles tightly together while your brush dries after a wash. Otherwise, your tapered brush will start splaying and working more like a normal puffy brush.

You can also use a more typical shape, as long the size of the brush head is quite compact and not too large. Like this bent Japonesque brush. This angled handle just makes it easy for you to sweep color down along your cheek hollows as well.

As for highlighting colors, I usually just flip my contour brush around and use the cleaner side to apply pale colors. Honestly, it should be clean enough that you don't need to get a separate brush.

Now if you are quite inexperienced, or tend to be very heavy-handed, you might want to try an ultra-soft brush instead. These are harder to find because most soft brushes have very wide heads. Hakuhodo's G5538 has a narrow metal ferrule and long brush bristles, which means it combines medium precision (your contour powder will not go all over your cheeks) with a very light touch. The bristles are too loose and soft to hold and apply too much pigment.

It pretty much forces you to slowly build up color. (Which a lot of newbies need.)

A special mention of a brush which works for shimmer highlighter application AND nasal contouring: Hakuhodo's small flattened pointed S116 brush. This is ULTRA soft so it doesn't pick up too much product. At the same time, it is small and doesn't splay all over the place, so you can be quite precise and neat when trying to apply shimmer just along the peaks of your cheekbones, or matte contour down the sides of your nose.

A note on nasal contouring:
I don't do nasal contouring. I don't think everyone needs it, and I'd personally look weird if I did it. So I'm not an expert on it by any means and I'm not going to draw a chart here for you. I think it can look quite unnatural in real life on pale to medium-fair girls because unlike your cheekbones, your nose is vertical, which means when you turn and the angle of the light changes, there shouldn't always be a shadow down both sides.
Unless you're an absolute pro at it, keep it restricted to when you're going to be on camera. 
Typically it works better on women of color because they naturally have more variation of skin-tones on their face. If you are relatively fair-skinned and MUST do nasal contouring, look for a very VERY soft small brush, and use a contour color that is only slightly deeper than your skintone. 

 Remember I'm doing it with powders because these are usually easier to work with, but the same shapes apply with cream contouring products.

1. Basic subtle "narrowing".
Just drag your brush from around the outer perimeters of your face down towards the chin. But stop under your chin unless you are trying to shorten or recede a long chin. If you get contouring powder on the tip of your chin, it will make your face look shorter.
You can go up around the edges of your forehead along the border of the hairline as well, if you want to make your forehead look less wide.

This type of shape is more common in East Asia, where most women actually do not do any contouring, and even when they do, only do it so they can get a narrower face.

2. Basic cheek sculpting.
A lot of people just do one stripe along the hollow of their cheeks and think that's all they need.
Actually that can look a bit too fake. 
Try to do an  "E" and bring your contour inwards at the outer corners of your eyes, under your cheekbones, and along your jaws. This ties everything together and looks more like real shadows will look. The shading at the temples and cheek hollows "sandwiches" your cheekbones and brings out the shape better too.

This shape is pretty common in the West, and also among girls who follow Western fashion, bloggers/vloggers and makeup artists in general. There's a preference for the chiseled, hollowed "supermodel" face. The point is to look skinny. Whereas Eastern contouring focuses more on looking child-like and delicate. Pronounced cheekbones and gaunt hollowed cheeks actually make you look older, so if you want to try steps 2 - 4 here, remember you WILL look more mature. AND slightly more masculine actually.
That's the trade-off for looking skinnier.

3. Reverse contouring
An optional step that I would say is more important if you are going to be on camera, is the reverse contour. You do it AFTER regular contouring, by taking a light, often yellow-toned shade, and drawing V's under your eyes to lift that area. People also stroke just under their cheek contouring for maximum contrast against the deep brown.

Girls who want very heavy, exaggerated contrast actually apply a very pale concealer in a V under the eyes and down the cheeks, THEN set with a pale yellow powder. I don't love the look for real life - it's too obvious and fake -  but for the camera, it can look good.

If you are trying to make your nose look higher, you will run a pale powder down the bridge of your nose as well.

4. Jaw/Jowl and lower-cheek contouring.
Sometimes women have slightly more puffy lower cheeks. Also, some women because of aging, excess weight or genetics, will have jowls (the slightly sagging pads of flesh hanging down by the sides of your chin). It can affect even very skinny women.
In those cases you may want to avoid reverse contouring around your jaw. It can exaggerate the look of jowls.  You want to instead take your contouring down lightly from the center of your cheeks down past the sides of your mouth.

If you are extremely thin and gaunt or have an overly-long face, do NOT do this. At some point, you have to exercise good sense.
But if you have pouchy lower cheeks, this can REALLY help reduce the look. Just use a light hand if you don't want to look muddy or (for you ladies in the East) too tan.

IMPORTANT: the contouring there should always be softer than the contouring under your cheekbones. It can look like your face is dirty otherwise. Usually, whatever is left on your brush after contouring your face should be enough to contour beside your mouth.

Step 5: Shimmer.
This is optional and it can be done even if you don't contour. I like to do this every day just to throw a little texture on the skin. This adds a little dewiness along dry areas of the face, and helps your contours to catch the light more. But if you have lines or blemishes/scars around those areas, avoid this.

Tip: For shimmer on the nose, you can still do it if you are not extremely oily. Just make sure you get the CENTER of your nose bridge. Not the tip or too high up, because that can look like grease in real life. 

And voila! Before and after.
Now you're ready to move on to blush.
I always apply blush AFTER contouring. Because applying blush helps soften and blend in the contour a bit more, and you're also less likely to muddy up the color of your blush.

Sorry for the lighting/tone difference in both pics. I tried my best to get the saturation and color balance closer. The camera auto-color correction drives me nuts sometimes. Your ultimate goal is to subtly look like you lost weight, or you have prominent contours. Be brutal with yourself and ask your friends or family if your contouring looks too obvious. Better to find out early so you can correct it.

Artificial light also tends to be more forgiving so you can do a bit more contouring for a dinner party, than in the daytime. Also, remember that by the time your contouring looks good in selfies, it probably is too heavy for real life. #justsayin

Now, one final product mention for light skinned girls who can't do without nose contouring.
Estee Lauder's New Dimension range launches September in Singapore. And in the Shape + Sculpt Eye Kit is a tan shade which is actually pretty darned good for lightly contouring the sides of your nose. This is meant for eye socket contouring, but it works just as well for the nose.
If you can find a single shadow that matches this color, you can use that too, but shadows tend to be too pigmented. This one is quite subtle.

Last 3 Tips for newbies to contouring: 

1. Check your face in natural light or at least white light.Yellow light lies.

2. There's a tendency to keep going and going and not realize when we should stop. If you don't want to do that, apply contouring only on one side of your face/nose, then stop and compare it to the un-contoured side. As the color builds up slowly, we might actually not realize how much we've applied already. Only by comparing it with the "clean" side will you realize when you should stop.

 3. If you've gone overboard, you can actually quite easily go back with a clean brush and some beige powder that matches your skin or is 1 shade lighter. Buff into the brown, and the colors will slowly blend together and lighten slightly. If you've REALLY over-applied, grab a clean buffing brush and just buff and buff over the contoured area. That's less uneven than trying to wipe with tissue or a cotton pad. But honestly if you've gone past the point of no return, it might be faster to just wipe your cheeks down with a wet wipe and start over.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

My Daily Brow Routine

I often get requests from readers and followers asking for brow-shaping tips and about products I use.

Ironically, I am not blessed in the brow department. In fact I have very sparse and patchy brows. My brow routine is very important to me. In fact, that's something I cannot skip if I want to look polished. Don't get me wrong - I'll go to the supermarket without a scrap of makeup on, but on days I need to look at least groomed and polished, I can skip mascara, or blush, or lipstick. But not my brows,

When you look below, you can see why. I do pluck stray hairs but I do NOT trim the length of my brow hairs and I try to pluck as little as I can because they are naturally very sparse. 

I need to shape them and fill them in - BUT I don't want overly filled-in, defined "Sharpie" brows with razor-sharp edges carved out with concealer. Neither do I want the unkempt caterpillars-on-my-face brows we see on runways. I just want something in-between. I want the natural texture of runway brows, with the polished, groomed shape of defined brows.

So I have a pretty specific routine to achieve that. 

And at this point I have to point out that this is just my personal preference. There's no right or wrong, and if you love hairy brows or super-defined brows go right ahead. I guess I'm just past the age where I want my brows to make a louder statement than the rest of my face. I want something subtle and classic that I can look back on 40 years later and not wonder what I was thinking.

Before we start, a few notes on shaping first.

1. I'm not a fan of over-plucking, by virtue of the fact that I don't have that much to pluck anyway. I never pluck along the inner half of my brows. Only stray hairs that stick out on the outer 1/3 of my brow-bone.
I also never pluck ABOVE my brows.

2. Same for the inner corners, I only pluck anything that is ner the center of my face, or noticeably far away from my main brow. As for where your brow should start on the inside, I've stopped recommending that people use that "pencil against the nostril and inner corners of the eye" method.

Everyone's nose is a different width. If you have a very narrow nose and wide-set eyes, you end up with brows that are way too far apart. If you have flared nostrils and close-set eyes, that line is pretty much telling you you should have a uni-brow.

In general, I would try to have my brows start maximum a thin pencil width inwards from the inner corners of the eyes, OR (for those with close-set eyes), in line with the inner corners of your eyes. End of the day, don't alter nature too much. It will look weird.

The "modern brow" shape:

If you ask most fashionistas, they will probably tell you the "It" brow of today is slightly boyish. Meaning - full and slightly straightened. There's usually a smooth gradual taper, mostly thick all the way from the insides to about 2/3 of the way, then after that tapering gently to a point at the ends.

No exaggerated arch and sharp angles. Those look great on drag queens and on camera - not so great in real life. (Although we still see that a lot on Instagram and Youtube.)
One good reason to go with a softer, more casual-looking brow is the fact that it's incredibly aging and severe to have that fierce arched retro brow. It doesn't suit everyone.


1, Filling it in. 
A lightly-pigmented pencil is my top recommendation for something that looks natural. I mentioned it before, but your pencil's main task should be to create the illusion of "shadows" on your skin. Not to paint in your entire brow like a cartoon.
You can use pomades and liquid inks, but they usually don't give you that level of control and the option to slowly build up intensity.
Probably the best tip I can give you when using pencil/powder, etc is - even out the gaps and lighter spots first. You might realize you don't even need to apply brow pencil along your entire brow. Some people just need to cover up some sparse areas. But you won't know if you keep filling everything in like a coloring book.

If your goal is for your brows to look natural, ALWAYS choose a grow-toned pencil. Resist the urge to match your pencil to your hair color exactly. Your pencil creates a shadow on your skin, which a fuller brow has. It's not meant to match your hair color. Leave the color-matching to your brow mascara. 

No matter what color hair you have, the shadows they cast are still grey. My favorite pencil to date is Shu Uemura's Hard Formula 9 in Stone Grey. These are so hard they are almost impossible to over-apply. And the formula forces you to build up color slowly. Some people find the sword-cut pencils hard to work with. If your nibs are breaking on you, you are pressing too hard. REMEMBER - light hair-like strokes! (Best of all, these pencils last about a year each for me if I get them hand-sharpened the traditional way. The service is free at all Shu counters.)

If you DO want to use a colored pencil that matches your hair, just remember that it's more for drama, not for looking natural.

And use light strokes. Most times, pencils are not strong enough to actually draw in defined little strands. The little hair-like strokes are just to prevent you from being too heavy handed and going fiercely back and forth like a kid with a crayon. 
Whatever you do, try - TRY - to resist drawing an outline around your brow and coloring it in.

2. Bulking up

It's a huge trend in Asia to have full bushy brows, thanks to Korean pop-stars and actresses. But SO many girls think swiping on tons of brow powder is going to make them look like a K-star, and that is so far from the truth.

Using too much powder hides hair texture and creates an opaque fuzzy brow. Like you have two strips of black/brown fuzzy felt stuck on your face. To make things worse, many girls wear a bare face with heavy powdered brows. If you don't have very strong features (we are not all Cara Delevingne), all people will see from a distance are those chunky fuzzy brows. 

To subtly beef up your brows and create that very trendy slightly straightened shape that actually suits your face (without going overboard and literally drawing in a straight brow), simply extend your pencil or powder a tiny bit down past the lower edge of your natural brow, right at the hollow of the arch. This creates a "shadow" and a more straight brow without changing your brow shape.

3. Adding texture

After you fill your brows in, especially if you had to fill in quite large areas, it is inevitable that you lose some of the appearance of hair texture. Your brow can look like a solid block of pigment. So the next step is to add the texture back in by highlighting every single strand you have.

I always recommend using a slightly lighter and softer shade of brow mascara than your natural hair. Just because the lighter color softens the heavy look created when you filled it in. This is the way you look like you have full brows, naturally. Just try to use a light hand and get most of the mascara onto your brow hairs, NOT your skin.

In terms of formula, I have heard that Illamasqua has a pretty strong brow gel, but I personally have not tried that, and my preference tends to be Japanese drugstore brow mascaras because they seem to be able to hold hair in place more longer than a lot of the western brands I've tried.

The one I am using right now is K-Palette's Real Lasting Eyebrow Mascara, which is a yellow-blonde and comes with an awkward applicator that usually gets WAY too much product onto my brows. Doesn't match my black hair but don't worry. I'll take care of that in the next step.

4. Grooming

To clean up excess product, redistribute it evenly along the hair strands, AND groom the hairs so they go in a direction you want, have a disposable spoolie or a baby toothbrush handy. 

Just do a few strokes to get your hairs in place and leave it be. If you do happen to overbrush and remove most of the mascara, you can simply apply one more coat and brush a little again.

Now I do NOT like this type of brow brush below. The bristles are packed too close to grip and style your hairs without removing all the mascara, and they are terrible at combing cos all they do is press your brow hairs down against your skin. These work better with brow WAXES. Not with brow mascaras.

And voila! Those are my basic steps and literally what I do every day. Sometimes the products change, but the steps largely remain the same.

And it really isn't all that time-consuming. I pick the products I use based on ease of use, actually. I don't have to spend a lot of time trying to correct, soften and even out my brows because I used a brow pencil that is too dark or too soft. And mascara is pretty easy to coat on and brush out lightly.

For a better look at the before-after, here is a comparison.

People are surprised because it literally looks like I grew a lot of new brow hairs within 5 minutes. That's just shaping it properly, creating the right effect with pencil (remember - add shadow, not color), and then using tinted mascara to emphasize every single tiny strand you have.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Innisfree x Krabag eco-bags

I'm completely obsessed with the limited edition Krabags from Korea that were produced exclusively for Innisfree. I think it might be because the retro floral print looks so Cath Kidston. Ultra shabby-chic!

They're available this month in Singapore, FREE with any purchase of an Innisfree Cushion at SGD$34 (the full case, not just the refill). I'm actually not sure how long they'll be available so if you like the look of these you should go down to an Innisfree store soon.

There are 2 designs and I was sent the pastel aqua one below as part of a press preview, but I LOVED the "vintage-esque" floral print and the quality of these so much that I went and got the other design myself. Never mind that I don't actually need another cushion. And never mind that they were out of the BB formula I wanted. I just like these bags too much.

I never remember to bring reusable bags out even though they're more long-wearing and eco-friendly. Well these are sturdy, comfortable to hold, can be folded or rolled up easily, AND - they look good, so I've not had any trouble remembering to bring mine out to carry groceries or anything that won't fit in my tote. I do not expect anything to come apart at the seams on me - as some cheap dollar-bags from grocery stores were wont to in the past.

Plus they're not hard to throw in the laundry, although I haven't actually tried that cos I'm not sure if they might fade.

When I picked up the white with red floral print, I asked the sales assistant if we could choose the design of the bag we got, and she looked slightly puzzled and said "there's only one design" so I'm assuming you need to go to different stores if you want 2 different designs.

I can't decide which one I like more though. I like both of them equally. They have their charms. On first look, the white and red is prettier, more cheerful. But that soft aqua one really grew on me. It looks more vintage in a way, and I love it.

Whichever you prefer though, they beat the ugly bright green reusable bags you see at the supermarket.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Weekend Smoky Sparkle: Urban Decay Naked Smoky Look

There's a single glitter-infused shade in the Naked Smoky palette by Urban Decay, and the shade is gorgeous (Armor) but weekend is pretty much the only time I would wear it!

You have to be prepared for some fallout when you wear glitter smoky shades, so if you can, try to do your eye makeup first, and the rest after you clean up or you'll have tiny specks of glitter and black on your cheeks, your nose, etc.

The four shades I picked out today were:

  • Main lid shade: Armor - metallic taupe with platinum glitter
  • Socket and wings at outer corners: Smolder - deep prune
  • Lash line: Black Mail - satin charcoal
  • Inner Corners: High - pale champagne beige

I did also use a little of the 2 palest matte shades (Combust and Thirteen) on my browbone just to clean up and serve as contrast against the metallics on the lids.

This is a smoky look, but I didn't smoke the color up too high above the socket. In fact I stopped right at the socket line. I wanted a more elongated catty effect, rather than a full-on rounded smoky eye, so when I was blending I concentrated on sweeping and diffusing the colors outwards from the outer corners instead of upwards.

I did try using the dual-ended blender/smudger brush included with the palette. I love the smudger tip for applying shadows along the upper and lower lash lines.  It's very precise but shaped just right for getting a soft smoky liner look.

The blender tip though, I'm not a huge fan of. Partly because UD's bristles are packed too stiff and not fluffy enough to really diffuse shadows. You CAN still use this to pack and buff on color but you will get tons of fall-out using this shape for that purpose. It's better used clean to blend out edges or to buff two colors together. Which means you might need a separate packer brush to apply shadows onto the lids, before going in with this to blend.

Other products used in this look:

  • Urban Decay 24/7 Pencil in Perversion - applied along the waterline and lash line, but smudged out a little so there is no hard defined line.
  • Eyeko Black Magic mascara
  • Afterglow Blush in Score - peachy-pink blush
  • Urban Decay Sheer Revolution Lipstick in Sheer Liar - rosy beige-brown my-lips-but-better color with a creamy semi-sheer texture

Friday, August 14, 2015

Imedeen Time Perfection 3-Month Trial and Ultrasound Skin Scans

Awhile ago, I started on a 3-month course of Imedeen Time Perfection tablets to see what effect it might have on my skin. I've invested in skincare since I was 20, so I'm really no stranger to spending $400-500 on creams to stave off the aging process. But now that I'm approaching my mid-30s, I'm starting to notice that applying topical products can only do so much, and I've been looking out for ways to supplement my basic skincare routine.

Imedeen is one of the best-known and best-selling anti-aging supplements around, and it's designed to support collagen production and moisture-retention levels in the skin, as well as help fight external aggressors like UV damage, so I suppose it was only a matter of time before I tried it for myself.

Before you begin any skin treatment, remember that skin maintenance and repair is a slow process that takes place over weeks, so any treatment that works from the inside out can take around a month or two to show results, as you slough off old cells and new cells start coming to the surface. If you want to try oral supplements, remember it's like wearing sunblock and applying antioxidants. Be consistent, and be prepared to invest for the long term.

Imedeen Skin Perfecting Formula contains:
  • a proprietary Biomarine Complex with protein and polysaccharides that are necessary to skin repair and regeneration
  • Tomato extract, Vitamin C, zinc, and Grape Seed extract - a "super-soup" of antioxidants and nutrients that support cell-division and protect the skin from environmental damage and free radicals that break down collagen

It's not meant to replace a healthy lifestyle, but if you're like me and you don't always manage to consistently get enough sleep, drink enough water, and eat a very balanced diet (yes - I'm quite terrible), a daily supplement and good skincare can really help to maintain the condition of your skin. And I dislike the taste of liquid oral supplements in general, so taking 2 tablets a day before bed was easier and more ideal for me.

I've also gotten questions from people asking if it is meant to treat acne, and also if it causes acne. The answer is no. Imedeen is an anti-aging supplement which contains marine extracts and plant-based antioxidants. There is currently no scientific evidence I can find that says any of the ingredients it contains will reduce natural sebum production or cause more acne.

My experience:

For me, the objective of taking oral supplements should be to support your body's own processes and stimulate or accelerate regeneration and repair. I've got pretty dry skin which can get a bit sensitive when the cell barrier is compromised (which happens quite often as I test so many skincare products), so one of the things I wanted to see was whether Imedeen actually could help to maintain moisture balance.

Another thing is that I'd just gone for Thermage awhile ago, which boosts collagen production for up to a year or two, so I have to say I wasn't expecting a dramatic difference in terms of collagen levels in my skin, but I did want to see a better condition overall.

After about a month or so of taking the pills, what I did observe was less dryness and less instances of chronic flaking around the tip of my nose. My skin felt more moist overall, after about two months, felt like it was combination/dry instead of just dry all over. I can get away with wearing matte foundations without it being tight and uncomfortable.

I went for an ultrasound skin scan in February before beginning on my course of Imedeen, and it might be hard to understand the graphs above but I'll walk you through it. Both scans were done on my left cheek, which is a typically normal-to-dry area of my face.

Dark, yellow and red areas represent collagen distribution and moisture levels. The more evenly distributed and dense those colored clusters are, the better.

You can see above that in May, the dark clusters on the surface are significantly increased. In February, my collagen levels were already pretty good, but the surface isn't exactly in the best condition. There were several gaps in my skin barrier, so I needed heavy moisturizers to keep my skin balanced, and makeup always faded quickly because of how dry my skin was.

In May, the surface density is noticeably higher. That probably explains why I felt more like I had "normal" skin, and there's more of a natural glow even without applying highlighting primers or powders. Makeup sits better and lasts better now that I'm not quite as dry, and I feel (marginally) less guilty about my late nights and lack of water.

It's still hard for me to get 8 hours of sleep except when I'm ill, and I drink more tea and Diet Coke than water. I know; it's terrible. But 2 pills a day, I can manage!

I do want to remind everyone that Imedeen - and any oral supplement - is a long-term investment and something of a lifestyle commitment, like wearing a proper high-SPF and PA sunblock daily. Do not expect a quick temporary skin-fix although some people do respond better and faster than others. You should be prepared to take it on an ongoing basis as a longer-term investment for your skin.

If you're interested in supplementing your basic skincare routine I suggest starting in your late-20s to early-30s, when your natural repair functions are starting to get sluggish. When you are very young, there might not be a noticeable effect on your skin while it is still functioning at its peak.

If you're the sort to spare no expense on your skin, but don't have the time to fuss with lasers and other procedures, or are too sensitive for retinols and acids, this might would be a good thing to try for a few months to see if your skin responds well to it!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

NARSissist 2015 Matte/Shimmer Eyeshadow Palette

The original NARSissist palette was an instant classic.

The 2015 edition is a sort of "NARSissist-lite" if you compare it to the previous, but the shades are still beautiful and pigmentation is actually more consistently smooth and easy-to-use across all the shades, compared to the original. I was especially impressed by the 4 matte shades, Nassau, Maya Bay, Ithaca, and Dogon. These were incredibly velvety and blendable.

The shimmery shades, oddly enough, felt a touch more chalky in comparison to the mattes, but the colors kinda make up for that. Mandchourie and Bonifacio are gorgeous, and the two dark, sparkly shades, Zagreb and Heraklion, surprised me by not having a ton of fallout. Unlike many of the old-school dark sparkly shadow formulas from several brands, the pretty sparkly glitter doesn't just "disappear" when the shadow is applied onto the skin.

The cherry on top of the cake is the sleek mirrored case. I've really liked the recent limited edition release cases. The signature rubbery matte NARS packaging is beautiful, but they don't always stay beautiful because the polymers start to react with air and break down after awhile, and everyone who's owned any number of NARS products is familiar with how they eventually become sticky and start to hang on to every particle of dirt and grime.

This case will not give you any of those problems. (The mirrored top is a fingerprint magnet in its own right, but at least you can wipe this down!)

If you're not really into all-neutral palettes, or just want something a tiny bit different, this one has a single muted khaki which is gorgeous. I actually consider this a palette for matte lovers, because with the exception of Bonifacio, the rest of the "shimmery" shades aren't really that shimmery at all.

Mandchourie has a very muted low sheen, and Zagreb and Heraklion are pretty much matte shades with sparkles. None of these are anywhere near metallic by any means, so I would treat those 2 as mattes. 

The NARSissist Matte/Shimmer Palette is available now at Sephora ION in Singapore. 

Albion Skin Conditioner Review

Albion has long been one of the top high-end beauty brands in Japan, and even before I'd seen the products myself I'd heard of people passing Albion shopping lists to travelers visiting Tokyo.

This skincare line is based on rigorous scientific research and officially supplies the Japanese Imperial Family, so they've certainly got a prestigious reputation as well as the sales figures to back them up. But I admit I am pretty jaded when it comes to skincare, especially toners. In this day and age when removers are much more effective at removing makeup and rinsing off without residue, the whole "cotton pad and toner" step in skincare routines is outdated and redundant, and meant to dig more cash out of wallets. There are little to no skincare benefits, and in cases of harsh astringent formulas (e.g. exfoliating toners) they are overly harsh on the skin and can cause more skin problems. 

For me, it only makes sense to add that extra step if the product in question is a "treatment water" of sorts, which contains ingredients more concentrated than, or complementary to, the rest of your skincare routine. They should also be gentle and contain enough beneficial ingredients (none of that spring-water nonsense; sorry Evian!) to be used as a misting spray throughout the day to soothe, condition, and protect the skin without disturbing makeup.

Albion's Skin Conditioner (SGD$140) meets all these requirements, happily enough. This product, more fondly known to fans as "Ski-Con", has been the No. 1 seller in Japan since 1974. They sell over a million units per year in Japan alone. Based around Jobs' Tears, the formula is meant to help skin maintain optimum health by regulating cell metabolism and helping to reduce the negative reactions caused by external factors like weather, as well as internal factors like hormonal fluctuations and a poor diet.

This year, they've brought out a limited edition Skin Conditioner Mist in a small spray bottle, which can be tucked in your purse for on-the-go refreshment, which is perfect for me because I find treatment waters more useful on the go. Unlike Caudalie's Beauty Elixir, which has menthol and contains alcohol, this is more suited for dry, sensitive skins. Skin Conditioner has a medicinal-floral scent, which I kinda like because it smells a little like old-school cologne waters my grandparents used to use.

The bad news is, this mist bottle is not for sale. The very good news is - it actually comes free in a limited edition Summer pack with every full-size Skin Conditioner purchase while stocks last. As a nod to the legion of Ski-Con fans, the kit also includes 2 packets of facial cotton and a pack of sheet masks, which you can saturate with Skin Conditioner and place over your face for quick treatment sessions, something loyal users have been doing for decades.

I did take my time trying out the product before typing up this review, so I'm not sure if there are any stocks left right now!

If you use Albion skincare products already, you will be aware of the rather different order in terms of skincare application. Skin Conditioner is supposed to be used as Step 3.
1 - Cleanser
2 - Milk lotion
3 - Skin Conditioner
4 - Serum

Those who have never tried Albion before might find it odd to apply the lotion before "toner" and serum, but Albion's milk lotions are more like preparatory products that help prime and soften the skin to increase product penetration and moisture retention. 

My experience?

Skin Conditioner is extremely light-weight and leaves no residue or scent once it sinks in. It's also extremely good at soothing inflammation and general skin stress, so the product is recommended for acne-prone skins as well. I test many skincare products each week and I often get reactions to some of the harsher ingredients. I do have "SOS products" that I use in these occasions, but I've found placing a cotton pad soaked with Skin Conditioner over the raw, red areas and being able to mist my face every couple of hours - even when I'm out and wearing makeup - really helps subdue any reaction faster.

The most surprising thing was how conditioned and moisturized my skin felt. There's no dewiness or grease but my skin just felt more supple and balanced, even after hours in cold air-conditioned rooms. I was previously a fan of the brand's Exage Moist Rich Serum Mist for hydration, but I have to say this has taken the top spot because it feels lighter on the skin, more soothing, and seems to have a balancing effect that lasts for hours. My guess is I needed the extra soothing, conditioning properties instead of just hydration. 

I probably haven't said this of many treatment waters to date, but I highly recommend anyone with sensitive or reactive skins try this out, regardless of whether you are oily, normal or dry. It's not a cheap buy, but one I feel is worth the investment, if you're in the market for a proper treatment water.