Tuesday, April 26, 2016

More Recent Bag Rescuing at Dr. Bags!

Not makeup, but bags today! 
I wrote last year about trying out Dr. Bags, a specialty designer bag restoration company with pro cleaning, coloring and coating services for premium leather goods. Besides bags, they also restore and recolor shoes, wallets, watch straps, you name it.

I tend to use my bags to death. I'm not the sort to be especially careful or ladylike with my belongings. They are subjected to a good amount of sun, rain, humidity, and tossing around. And that's just the outside. They also frequently suffer from makeup and pen stains - generally everything you do NOT want on an expensive bag. Needless to say, they don't tend to stay pristine looking very long, and I need restoration on a regular basis if I intend to use them for the longer term.

I recently went to get a black Fendi 3Jour restored because I'd used it for about a couple of months and ended up with one or two scuff marks. Very annoying because the marks showed an ashy white on a black surface. I.e. they look incredibly obvious. 

I thought maybe it was just some dirt that got into the leather grain and tried to use damp cloth, wet wipes, hand lotion (you name it) to try and get the marks out.

Black Fendi medium 3Jour, before restoration.

Well, that wasn't the smartest thing to do as I ended up making things ten times worse.

The men in my life got involved. My husband tried his hand at it, and so did my dad. Polishing cloths, leather polish, leather sprays, even a baby toothbrush and baby soap were brought in. Nothing worked. So I figured it was time to call Dr. Bags before we totally destroyed the thing.

I've used their services before so I kinda know what they can do, but I was still pretty surprised when I collected my bag. They'd pretty much removed everything but the worst scuff mark right around the center of the bag in the cleaning/restoring process, without even having to go through the hassle and cost of a recoloring. 

The bag looks almost new. Amazing.

And here it is looking all fresh and spiffy, none the worse for wear. Although I have made a mental note to be more gentle with it from now on...

The other bag I needed major restoration for was a vintage Louis Vuitton satchel that belongs to mom. I swear this bag is probably about 25 years old if not older
It is actually a gorgeous Épi leather satchel in the classic Kenyan Fawn color. Absolutely fashionable right now, if not for the fact that it was discolored, fuzzed all around the edges, and badly stained from mold

If you've owned a few LVs you'll know they don't do well in humid countries. They get moldy and start "rotting" and disintegrating quite easily, especially if you don't air them once in a while. This one not only looked a little worse for wear, but the inside was all sticky and mottled with dark patches from mold.

There was a lot of head-shaking and tongue-clucking from the people at Dr Bags when they looked it over. I was so certain they'd met their match LOL.

But I have to say they did it again. My jaw dropped a little when they pulled it out in-store after the restoration. Honestly, it looks pretty much new from the outside now.

The leather is gleaming and the color is so much more vibrant now. I never even thought it could look so much brighter. (More Kenyan Fawn than a strange dull orange Cacao.) The hardware of course is gleaming like new.

And the most amazing thing is the dark mold stains on the inside flap are missing. I'm pretty amazed. 

Even the inner lining has minimal stains left. (And there were big black patches all over when I brought it in.)

You know what this means?
Mom is not going to get it back for awhile cos I'm borrowing it. The beautiful thing about fashion is that every few decades, if you can wait long enough and keep them in good condition, things that have gone out of fashion come right back into fashion.

Like this gorgeous compact satchel. And if you have old bags or second-hand ones sitting around, don't throw them out until you check how much it would cost to restore them. A bit of good restoration might be all you need to pull it out of the closet.

P.S. I have more information on approximate costings in my previous post on Dr Bags, but prices can vary depending on condition and size of your bag, so if you need a consultation check out their site (<-click here) and contact them for a more accurate quotation.

And if you're restoring something, I HIGHLY recommend you get it coated/waterproofed as well. I'm not being paid to say this - it's just my 2 cents. It's much cheaper and easier to prevent damage than to try and repair it later after it's ruined.

Even if the team at Dr Bags seems to be able to work a little magic.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Aromatherapy Associates Bath and Shower Oils: An Overview

Cult spa brand Aromatherapy Associates is available online from this year on Sephora web-stores in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Australia, and New Zealand.

A selection of the brand's award winning bestsellers like the bath & shower oils, candles and skincare products can be purchased online, and if you're looking for the full range, you can stop by places like the Fullerton Spa to browse and experience them first-hand before making your purchase. 

I had the pleasure of trying 10 of their award winning Bath & Shower Oils via the Miniature Bath & Shower Oil Collection box recently, so here's an overview of the products, and a few of my personal faves.

The Miniature box (SGD$101) is a perfect starter kit for those new to Aromatherapy Associates, or new to aromatherapy in general. It contains 10 x 3ml of trial-size Aromatherapy Associates' oil blends, and each has a different usage purpose. What you do is tip a capful (in this case a 3ml bottle) into a hot bath, or massage it over your body before a shower.
  1. Deep Relax - vetiver, camomile and sandalwood to promote tranquility and restful sleep
  2. Light Relax - lavender, ylang ylang and petitgrain to promote light relaxation
  3. De-Stress Mindfrankincense, petitgrain, wild camomile and rosemary to clarify, focus and organise your thoughts
  4. De-Stress Musclerosemary, black pepper, lavender and ginger to warm and relax tight, sore muscles
  5. Revive Morning grapefruit, rosemary and juniper to invigorate and awaken
  6. Revive Eveninggeranium, ylang ylang, patchouli and sandalwood to re-energize and boost confidence
  7. Support Breatheeucalyptus, pine, tea tree and peppermint to decongest the sinus and clear the head
  8. Support Lavender & Peppermint - lavender and peppermint to comfort and soothe the skin
  9. Support Equilibriumgeranium, rose and frankincense to nurture and lift your spirit
  10. Inner Strength - clary sage, frankincense and cardamom to boost positivism and strength

I was having fun exploring these one by one depending on how I was feeling. I don't have a bathtub, sadly, and I usually don't have time to lie in a tub for 40 minutes anyway. My preferred way to use these oils is to lightly dab them onto pulse points (inside the crook of the elbow, behind the ear, and massage gently.

The 3 that I found myself gravitating to more than the rest turned out to be Relax Light, Revive Morning, and Revive Evening. I love smelling the zingy tartness of Revive Morning first thing in the morning while I do my makeup and get ready for the day. And in the evenings after work, I'm not quite ready for deep relaxation so I go for Revive Evening for a little bit of an extra boost, or Relax Light to sooth myself.

I was at the Fullerton Spa for a bit of a pampering session recently, and the experience is a bit more prescriptive and customized there. 

First off, I went through a detailed consultation to understand how I was feeling on that particular day. Then based on the areas I seem to be needing the most "help", a few oils were selected for me to sniff. This was when I learnt that unlike perfumes, it's not always about choosing the scent that is most "pleasant".

After narrowing down to 2-3 options based on how you are feeling, you let your body tell you what it needs most, by checking which oil stands out and smells the strongest to you out of those options. (And believe me, the oils that stand out differ from day to day depending on how you're feeling.)

It being the middle of a stressful week, I ended up picking (no surprises) De-Stress Mind without seeing the bottle or knowing what it was for. And after a 30-minute aromatherapy and massage session with the herbal, citrus-resin scent of De-Stress Mind, I felt deeply relaxed but also nicely clear-headed.

I've yet to try a bottle as a pre-shower massage; I kinda wanted to savor them all, you know? But I'll probably pick a bottle (maybe Support Equilibrium) and do so soon. And that's one thing I really like about having 10 trial bottles in a set. You get to check out the full range and find out which ones really fit with your lifestyle and day-to-day needs, instead of deciding based on which notes sound the nicest. Your first thoughts and impressions sometimes do turn out to be wrong.

This box also makes a great gift for someone to explore the line without having to play guessing games with a $117 full-size bottle that you aren't sure they would like.

If you're looking for smaller gift options or something portable for yourself when you travel, check out the Perfect Partners duo ($49) or - my personal pick - the Relax and Revive Rollerball Duo ($48). Unlike concentrated perfume oils from brands like Le Labo, Dior, or Black Phoenix Alchemy Labs, these are bath and body blends, so the scents will dissipate in about 20-30 minutes as the essential oils absorb and evaporate. So you don't really need to worry about smelling like a walking spa. But I still wouldn't apply just before entering the lift because it smells quite strong for the first 5-10 minutes.

Aromatherapy Associates Bath & Shower Oils are made from high-quality natural oils and obviously blended for use on the body directly, but feel free to add a couple of drops to a tea-light burner (over some water) if you want.

I do also find it worthwhile mentioning Inner Strength, which is a little more "special" than most. Aromatherapy Associates founder Geraldine Howard is a cancer patient, and formulated Inner Strength during the most stressful and trying period of her illness. Besides helping her through the difficult time, 10% of proceeds from this spicy cardamom, clary sage and frankincense oil goes to the Defence Against Cancer Foundation, which is researching a new cancer vaccine treatment.

This oil starts out bracing, pungent and strong but slowly mellows out to a comforting and delicately sweet scent that reminds me of sugared chai tea...

If you know of someone in need of a little mental, physical and spiritual boost, this is a gift that does double-duty. Inner Strength Bath & Shower oil is not currently available on Sephora.sg, so you need to visit one of the spas to buy a bottle or a rollerball, but if you'd rather order online Sephora does sell a luxury soy candle in this scent.

I'm also curious about their facial oils (obviously) so that might be the thing to check out next!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Hourglass returns to Singapore

After a few years of absence (during which the brand pretty much reinvented face powders and went from an obscure niche name to a cult brand), Hourglass is finally back in Sephora Singapore.

And they are back with a vengeance. 
You can now find all the best-sellers, from the classic Veil Mineral Primer to the must-try Ambient Lighting Powders which put the brand on the map. 

Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powders and Palette

There is a lot of hype, so my top 3 priority picks for you to check out are:
  1. Ambient Lighting Powders - the hype is real. These ultra-fine, ultra-silky powders give a soft-focus perfected luminosity without emphasizing pores or looking metallic. There are two finishes, matte vs slightly pearlescent. I like both equally. (Check out Diffused Light for a great under-eye brightening powder.)
  2. Ambient Strobe Lighting Powders - yes, I love my Becca Shimmering Skin Perfectors, but not everyone wants a high-sheen metallic look. The Hourglas Strobe powders have a knack of creating a subtler, polished, emanating-from-within, 8-glasses-of-water, 8-hours-of-sleep, 8-weeks-of-facial-and-juicing glow.
  3. Immaculate Liquid Powder Foundation - it's time for a return to a proper matte foundation with great coverage. This formula contains clay to absorb oil, and is perfect for hot humid weather. If you have normal to slightly-dry skin, you can skip the powder.

Hourglass Ambient Strobe Lighting Powders

Hourglass Immaculate Liquid Powder Foundation

Three other worthy mentions include:
  • Veil Mineral Primer
  • Ambient Lighting Blushes
  • 1.5 Mechanical Gel Eyeliner
These honorable mentions are good, but two are relatively new to me.

I feel primers tend to be as personal as mascaras; whether something works well on you or not depends what foundation and skincare you wear, so what I find fantastic may not work as well for you, and vice versa. I will just say if you're looking for a matte primer, this is worth trying.

As for the marbled blushes, they are gorgeous and silky, and I know a lot of people will buy at least one just to check out. They just aren't as game-changing as the other original Ambient Lighting powders. (Just my personal opinion - they might rock your world.)

One other cultish item which is still quite new to me is the 1.5mm Mechanical Gel Eyeliner. I'm one of those lazy people who will use pencils to create flicks, so I can get a gel-liner effect without having to wash a brush, and this just makes the job much easier. I'm still testing it out so I can't say how long-wearing it is compared to others but if you have some extra budget this is something to check out as well.

Hourglass VEIL Mineral Primer

I personally feel Hourglass consistently excels at face/skin products - especially face powders (powder, blush, bronzer, highlighter), so if you have to pick only one item this is where you should probably look.

Hourglass Modernist Eye palettes

You can stop by Sephora.sg from today onwards to check out the line (and enjoy free shipping over S$40 within Singapore) or stop by some of the stores to swatch and play first. I kinda suspect the bestsellers will go out of stock pretty quickly during the "launch rush", so you might need to move fast.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Tom Ford Eye Color Quad in Honeymoon

A number of Tom Ford's original Eye Color Quads were replaced earlier this year with some newer quads. Sad because two of my faves - Lavender Lust and Cognac Sable - were discontinued. But at the same time happy because they did add a number of gorgeous new palettes.

Of course, since these new palettes just launched a couple of months, you might want to give the counter a call before you go down because the first batch was sold out (enthusiastic fans called up to reserve stock) even before they hit the shelves.

One of those which got the most attention was Honeymoon, a burnished gold and wine palette which has the same gossamer texture as the ever-popular Nude Dip palette. 

The shades are decidedly Autumnal - gold, bronze, wine, and burgundy, like falling leaves and ambery booze. And even though it looks a little dramatic in the pan, the colors are actually pretty wearable and work nicely with the natural tones of skin. 

I would expect this quad works for all skin tones from tan to very pale, although you should take care to even out your skin tone and hide any discolorations, excess redness and dark circles, etc if you are very pale. If you have a very deep skin tone, you might get more of a warm shimmer rather than obvious color, but this palette will not ever look chalky because the pigments are so translucent.

The only criticism of the palettes with this iridescent texture is the complete lack of matte shades, so if you have a lot of fine lines around your eye area, you might want to keep the shadows to the lid area or else choose a different palette, as the pearl pigments will catch and magnify uneven texture and lines.

Below's a tutorial to recreate this simple look!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Natasha Denona 28 Palette Swatches and Overview

Natasha Denona is one of the new "It" brand among makeup afficionados, and one of their hero products is the 28 pan shadow palettes, which come in just 2 variations - Green-Brown, and Purple-Blue.

These are pricey - let's get that out of the way - each palette is US$239 - which may be a little too much to splash out at one shot if you're not sure about the quality and the type of shades that you're getting. But if you're building up your collection or you just love colors and variety in general, the fact is you're paying a little over $8 per shade, and with 2.5g of product per pan (a typical MAC pan has 1.5g) it's actually really good value for money if you will use a majority of the shades.

Otherwise, the purpose for my post is also for you to take note of individual colors that perform well and that you might especially like, because Natasha Denona shadows are available in singles, as well as 5-pan and 10-pan palettes, although you won't get each color at the same price of course.

Each palette is not plastic, but made of a sturdy padded magnetized "foam" that does absorb a bit of shock and reduces the chances of your shadows shattering during transportation. The bad thing about this is they are also quite a lot heavier than typical plastic palettes, if you're having to carry a lot of things around in your kit.

Quality and Pigmentation

For the most part, the shades are great quality. Highly-pigmented and smooth. But this also means fallout, which is normal for most brands.

I can't say all the shades are equally good though. Natasha Denona shadows are talc-based, so similar to other brands with talc-based formulas (think Morphe, etc) the metallics and pearls are outstanding; and the mattes tend to be a bit more inconsistent.

In the Green-Brown palettes, I would say the bulk of the shades are fair to great. There is maybe one matte shade (64V Shell) which is patchy and poorer in quality than the rest. But for the most part, you can use any one of the shades and be pretty confident it will perform well. As for the Purple-Blue palette, it's a lot less consistent. Several of the mattes (70P Cool Plum, 28V Electric Violet, 82V Nina's Orchid, and 24V Aubergine) are quite patchy and not as easy to work with if you want to build up intense color on the lids with these.


I have to say in terms of the color composition and choices, Purple-Blue is hands-down the winner for me. There are a lot more unique and wonderfully beautiful shades, including some incredible duochromes, and if you are going to be paying $239 for one premium palette, I wouldn't suggest going for the more "normal" Green-Brown since it's probably easier to find some comparable shades in other palettes and lines.

Then again if you want reliable quality and plenty of daily wearable options in one palette and don't already own lots of neutrals and warm tones, then Green-Brown would make sense for you, since there are a few more patchy, unpigmented "duds" in Purple-Blue, sadly. Still, I don't regret getting it because there are a lot more of the pretty shades.

And even with the Purple-Blue palette, there are a good number of neutral shades for you to "complete your look", if you don't want just purple and blue all over. Neither palette has a black, which I am fine with, because that's one of those utilitarian shades that I'd rather buy and restock separately in most cases.

For the looks below, I used several shades to try and test as many different shades and finishes as possible.

Green-Brown Look:

  • 64V Shell as transition shade in socket
  • 90V Sand storm in outer half of socket for warmth and dimension
  • 78M Umber in outer corners for depth
  • 14M Antique Olive in center of lid and along lower lash line
  • Mix of 86P Golden Aquamarine and 16M Emerald Green in inner corners for a cool-green contrast
  • 20M True Gold down the center of the lids for a pop of sparkle and shine on top of the Antique Olive shade
  • I also used a charcoal grey pencil as liner, and 15M Bottle Green just on top of the liner in outer corners of my eyes for some depth

Eye look done using the Green-Brown 28 Palette

    Purple-Blue Look:
    • I applied navy blue pencil along the upper and lower lashes first, then applied shadows over top for a subtler, more pearlescent liner effect.
    • 80M Piggy over inner half of lids
    • 11V Steel Blue blended softly into socket line for subtle shading
    • 05M Calypso Blue over outer half of lids (this gorgeous duochrome shade also "transforms" the look of the pencil and the matte socket shading beneath)
    • 11M Metallic Steel Blue over the pencil to bring out more blue in the liner
    • 04M Chromatic for a metallic platinum sparkle down the center of the lids
    • 52M Golden Beige over entire brow bone area for a golden-peach contrast to the cool-toned look

    Eye look done using the Purple-Blue 28 palette


    These are definitely worth checking out if you're a makeup fanatic.This is a great new line to try, and while the formulas aren't earth-shattering in any sense, it IS pretty good value.

    If you're just starting out however, I might suggest going with cheaper lines just to stretch your dollars a bit before you commit to something as pricey as these. And you know yourself - if you're likely to use the same 4-5 colors daily and don't often veer out of your comfort zone, then it's really not worth buying a large palette anyway.

    I will probably get more daily use out of the Green-Brown palette as a whole but there are some shades that are so great in the Purple-Blue palette that I would say it's still worth checking out if you're more of a cool-toned gal.

    I do definitely recommend checking out some individual shades like 05M Calypso Blue, 01V Navy, 60M Golden Rose, and a whole range of the other metallics in this palette, if you don't want to get all 28 including the patchier shades. But just do your calculation, cos if you're getting a fair number of single shades, it might add up to the same amount as (or more than) the 28 palette, in which case you might as well just get the whole palette, duds and all.