Tuesday, June 28, 2016

MAC Blue Nectar Lipstick Swatches

Nothing as gorgeous as shiny, brand new tubes of lipstick. Especially with colors like these.

MAC's Blue Nectar collection launches soon (5 Aug) in Singapore, and features lots of floral-inspired shades from orchid purple to gladiola fuchsia to hibiscus red. And these are pigmented as heck. I personally can't pull off the ultra pale pastels anymore, but if you have a taste for dramatically pale lips, these give good pay-off.

Courting Seduction and Riot House are crazy pale marshmallow shades that are so far from natural that you really don't have to think about whether they suit pale or dark skins. They "suit no one", so they could suit everybody depending on whether you have the guts for it.

Same for the ultra deep purple, Lust Extract. I would say you need to be careful about building this color up, or it can look patchy because it is so dark. But it's actually a rather nice shade, and more flattering than you might imagine.

As for all the mid-range colors, they are gorgeous.

I think Sweet Venom will give a soft candy mouth to fair girls and actually gives more of a "pastel" themed effect than the paler shades. Try it with colorful purple or green cat-eye liner and matching peachy-beige blush.

As for the corals, reds, and pinks, I can't see these going wrong on most people. Ablaze reminds me of a deeper Viva Glam Nicki I. Not as milky, but still bright, so it's probably easier to pull off without looking that neon effect. Barbeque was a shade in the Toledo collection and a gorgeous vermillion red that would look gorgeous on girls with a yellow undertone.

And those pinks, Intoxica, Breathing Fire, and Invite Intrigue? I love them. The only reason you might want to skip these would be that they are not especially rare shades and probably easy to dupe or find in many other ranges. But in terms of color, smoothness and intensity, these are fab.

I think there are a couple of shades missing in my press bag so I can't swatch the full range, but let me know what you think of these colors and which you're interested in!

Sixteen92 Perfumes

A reader recommended that I check out Sixteen92.com if I loved Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab perfume oils, so I did - and I ended up purchasing quite a number of items from them. And I'm not disappointed!

The collection is not huge. 

They have a General Catalogue of 15 permanent scents, all of which can be purchased in 4 sizes - 2ml sample vials, 6ml vials, 10ml roll-ons in the oil form, and 30ml parfum sprays in alcohol base. And then they have seasonal limited edition collections, which are online while stocks last. They also sell body products and wax melts which I have not tried. 
Summer 2016 scents inspired by the 90s Riot Grrrl movement and rock chicks

Prices are also very reasonable despite the fact that these are mostly, if not all, made with - as far as I can tell - natural essences and absolutes instead of cheaper synthetics. US$20-22 for 10ml roll-ons which, if you are used to paying $17.50-30 for BPALs which are half the size, is very good. 

I buy most of these in 10ml roll-ons even though I actually like the look of the 6ml vials more - just because I am excessive and I don't like to worry about running out too soon. And 10ml will last a long time since you don't need a whole lot to get good scent at all. The fact that they come in black roll-on tubes also means your scents are better protected from light, which can degrade scent molecules.

I've tried quite a number of scents - all in the oil form because I just love those so much better than sprays in general. 
  • They sit closer to the skin, 
  • have a more consistent scent strength throughout the day, and 
  • last longer than many alcohol-based scents, which are either too strong in the beginning, or fade too quickly over the day.

I will say if you are used to BPALs (and the 600+ strong catalogue with as many scent ingredients as the day is long), you might find Sixteen92's smaller range lacks variety. There are recurring notes in many scents, which is completely understandable. Natural absolutes can be shockingly expensive if you've ever studied natural perfumery or purchased ingredients, so it seems reasonable that a new business not start with an inventory of hundreds of different essences.

To their credit, the scents don't smell alike. I think they are all unique and different from one another, and run the gamut from likeably-pretty sweet or floral scents, to more quirky green, woody, smoky, or dark ones.

From the General Catalogue, here are the scents I've tried, which I will review briefly below since they are available permanently.

BLACK SUGAR - Spun brown sugar, red berries, vanilla and tonka bean absolute dance with a sprinkle of dirt, a swirl of cauldron smoke, and a drop of bittersweet cocao absolute.

My thoughts: One of my favorites; try this if you love sweet foody scents or the idea of Aquolina's Pink Sugar. This is Pink Sugar's caramel cotton candy with a sexy, dark, soft smokiness, and without that burnt chemical undertone (I can smell that licorice note in PS and I don't like it). I admit that because I am crazy, I adulterate my vial of Black Sugar with a few extra drops of cacao absolute for an extra bitter chocolate kick. Lasts hours and hours.

GRIMM - Cocao absolute, Tonka bean, tobacco, immortelle, wet forest moss & leaves

My thoughts: Tobacco, tobacco, tobacco with lots of earthy wet vegetation, and a back-note of bitter cocoa. Very masculine, pungent, and dark on first sniff, but this warms up and rounds out on the skin, and the creamier, sweeter cocoa and tonka aspect comes out a little more. Not for the faint of heart. I disliked this at first but found myself going back again and again to sniff it. This is like that abrasive, intriguing bad boy you can't get along with, who ends up charming you in spite of yourself.

HELLEBORETuberose absolute, Sambac Jasmine, oakmoss, tobacco, chilled earth, cocao, black musk

My thoughts: Strange earthy floral. When I saw the name I thought this would be a rose scent. Turns out it is tuberose. With jasmine. Both indolic florals with a pungent, dirty, almost decayed undertone. And I don't mean that in a bad way. I love tuberose and jasmine. I'm just not always sure about tobacco notes. I think it overpowers most blends, and with Grimm, it works with the dark earthy cocoa, immortelle and oakmoss. Here, the whole composition reminds me of flower petals decaying on damp forest floor. That might actually be pretty interesting, but it's not immediately appealing to me, and I need to test it further to see how it develops.

LA LLORONA - Bulgarian and Egyptian rose absolute, pink and white pepper, pink grapefruit, wisteria, cashmere wood, pale amber

My thoughts: I could almost swear I smelt neroli or orange blossom in here, but it's probably just the bright pink grapefruit blended with soft clean flower. This is one of the lighter, "whiter" scents in the Sixteen92 catalogue and one I do reach for once in awhile when I crave something clean but not detergent-like. Very classy but not a heavy, shoulder-pads and Chanel bag floral. Not the longest-lasting scent, which is expected of a soft floral.

LOLITA Crisp apple skins, tart peach candies, rose absolute, sugared violet

My thoughts: This is Sixteen92's bestseller, and I was extremely excited, but it turned out to not be one of my favorites, simply because peach and rose always tend to blend into a note that makes me think of bubblegum. (How two natural notes can combine and turn into artificially flavoring I'll never know.) But that's just me. On it's own, this is a sweet, girly scent that is neither overtly floral nor overtly fruity. Everything meshes into - bright candy. Not for me, but probably fun and yummy for a lot of people.

MELLIFERA Wildflower honey accord (not vegan), violet, sambac jasmine, vanilla infused sugar, sandalwood

My thoughts: One of my favorites. I don't like eating honey, but I LOVE honey and beeswax notes in perfumery. Mellifera has the linear simplicity you'd expect of a honey scent, but it's also got the complexity of wildflower honey. It is sweet, but also a hint of leathery animalic tones, and beautiful woodland notes of flowers and trees. If you don't like the smell of honey you might not like this one. If you are a BPAL fan and you like O but wish it was less musky or syrupy, try Mellifera.

PAPER MOONSoft vanilla musk, benzoin, oakmoss, trailing ivy, peach blossom, rose

My thoughts: Vegetal, green, with an underpinning of sweetness that peeps out from beneath the carpet of green vines. This is very unique, and was previously a limited edition scent which was so popular that it made it into the permanent catalogue. Not one I reach for all the time, but definitely one that is very unique and that I go back to once in while.

SOUTHERN GOTHIC - Mandarin, apple, natural coconut pulp, magnolia grandiflora, sambac jasmine, sweet balsam, white sandalwood

My thoughts: Languid, sleepy, sunny white florals with a tropical bend. It's not a sticky piƱa colada scent; more a hot-weather bloom which is quite refined and non-sugary. Interesting play-off between clean florals and fruits with a gamey thick coconut pulp. This coconut note is not like refreshing coconut water. It's creamier and heavier, like thick coconut milk used often in Asian cooking. Despite this, the scent doesn't go over into foody territory.

WICKED Three vanillas, aged patchouli, almond buttercream 

My thoughts: Another one I disliked at first, but slowly started to crave  in no time. Just because they say three vanillas does not mean there is three times the amount of vanilla as patchouli. If you expect a creamy, gourmand scent, you will be very surprised. And if you are not used to patchouli, this aged stuff might be shocking to your nose. It is deep, earthy, musky and pungent. The almond buttercream is not noticeable on its own, and just adds some body to the vanilla, which is also quite dark. More like smoky resinous vanilla absolute than ice-cream vanilla.

Overall, I'm pretty impressed with what I have. If you want generic scents, there are not that many. Most of these have a lot of personality and may appeal more to adventurous noses. Often, despite the listing of common notes like vanilla, jasmine, cocoa, they do not smell anything like mainstream fragrances containing those notes. This is mainly because natural essences are a LOT more complex than synthetics, and there is also variation between batches depending on harvest. But that's part of the fun for me. You never know exactly what you're going to get.

Service is relatively quick and Claire the owner is very responsive. I've requested to combine multiple orders to save on shipping and she's done it and refunded me the excess money without questions asked. If I have to have a complaint, it would be that the black paper labels on the 10ml roll on vials have a tendency to lift up at the edges, and presentation-wise, it just does not look as great as the 6ml sticker labels.

To see more, have a look at their scent catalogue. I am waiting for an order of a few more of their Summer 2016 scents and will try to review those soon! 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

RMK Cool n' Pop 2016 Summer Collection

RMK's Cool n' Pop 2016 Summer Collection looks like a win from the get-go. 
The marshmallowy eye and cheek colors, the sorbet-tinted lip balms, and the candy-colored mascaras and nautical-themed nail polishes.

Still, on closer look, it does strike me that this is a very quintessentially "Japanese Spring/Summer" collection. 
  • The cheek colors are very soft -  too soft to show up if you have medium to tan skin
  • The powder eyeshadow textures are very fine (and shimmery) - too fine and shimmery to be very strong without a good base
  • The cream shadow sticks pigmented but very pastel - so there is not going to be much definition around the eye area if you don't use shades from outside the collection
  • The tinted balm sticks are gorgeous for an on-the-go hint of color but not all the shades are equally pigmented

Doesn't mean it's a bad collection. If you have very pale coloring (pale hair, eyes, and skin) you will look absolutely gorgeous, which exactly explains the choice of model for the campaign. However if you have dark hair, dark skin and/or dark eyes, the colors can look a bit pastel and chalky, or simply not show up on you.

If you love the look of the collection but you're not sure how you can pull it off with your coloring, here are a few tips.

1. Make sure you have a soft matte grey shadow in your own makeup stash, or you buy the grey cream shadow stick. This is the only shade in the collection that can give you any sort of definition around the eye area, so apply it around the socket line, outer corners of lids, and along the lash line so you can retain some definition and prevent your eye lids (especially if you have typical East Asian features) from looking puffy or flat.

2. Keep the look a bit more wearable by pairing pastels with one of the neutrals like grey/silver/pearl shades in the collection. (The look below was done using shadow stick 02 (pastel blue) 05 (grey), Ingenious Powder Eyes 17 (blue) and 18 (pearl-white)

3. Be aware that if you have very dark eyes like me, colored mascaras can make your lashes "disappear" at a distance. A reason I avoid them usually. I personally feel this sort of look is more flattering for those with lighter eyes or colored lenses. 

General rule of thumb: Whatever is darkest stands out the most and makes everything else around it look "softer" in contrast. Just know that if you don't want your lashes to "fade", never go for mascaras lighter than your eye color.

That said, this tubing mascara formula is fantastic, and if you're just looking to make a statement with funky colorful lashes, or you have light eyes, go for it. It is SO pigmented you can really tint your lashes quickly. And it is so long-wearing even oil remover doesn't break it down. You need warm water to break it down.

And the final look re-interpreted on someone with my coloring!
I did not apply the color the exact way Rumiko did on the model of course. I'm trying to test all the colors I got in one eye look and this is what I ended up with.

I love RMK blushes and face powders in general, but I would skip the shades in this collection if you want visible blush and you are not porcelain pale. Go for other colors in their general collection.

The lip tints I really like formula-wise - they have a subtle minty feel, and aren't too squishy and soft (I hate it when balm sticks break off at the tips during application). Only thing is you need to test on your lips to see what shade is visible. Your lips are rosier than your hand so just because you can see the color on your wrist does not mean it will show up on your lips.

I love shade 05 (the soft red, worn above) because it is the one that is most visible on me. It just gives a soft warm rosy color and creates a healthier effect. I had been initially more excited by the deep berry shade 06, but the color barely showed up on my lips unfortunately. 

If you're just looking for a barely-there lip care product with a small amount of sun protection (SPF16) these are lovely though.

As for the polishes? I tried 2 - EX-48 (cool ash grey) and EX-49 (nautical blue), and they are fantastic. I've used a lot of pale creme greys before, from Revlon to Chanel, and they've always been a touch sheer and streaky until you build up 2-3 coats or even more. EX-48 is so pigmented that you CAN technically go with 1 coat if you are short on time. And I just love the soft greys and the nautical blue shades.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The new SHU UEMURA Anti/Oxi+ Skin Purifier is here!

Shu Uemura has upgraded its original deep-cleansing, anti-pollution Anti/Oxi oil with a newer, more thorough formulation (450ml at SG$125, 150ml at $55).

Anti/Oxi+ contains ingredients like 
  • pollution-clearing moringa seed
  • antioxidant green tea
  • papaya protease for gentle enzymatic removal of pore-clogging dead cells
This new oil cleans the skin and removes makeup in one step, just like all the other Shu Uemura Skin Purifiers, but it also clears microscopic particles of pollution that can penetrate the skin. While we can't do anything about the yearly haze from irresponsible forest-clearing practices in the region (short of migrating), you can try to mitigate some of the havoc it wreaks on your skin. 

Anti/Oxi+ is designed to be able to clear 91% of particles from the skin, even those as small as PM2.5, which is a fraction of the width of a hair strand. Even without the haze, our skin is subjected to daily pollutants in the city, which can affect its radiance and tone.

A few more interesting facts about this oil?
  • It has a newer molecular structure which allows it to be used with wet hands and dry hands
  • It is meant to be eyelash-extension friendly. (I'm not wearing lash extensions so I can't verify that, but it's still rare to find oils that can be used in typically oil-unfriendly situations.)
  • It does not contain mineral oil.
It's rare to find oils that can be used in typically oil-unfriendly situations, so this allows those of you who have typically avoided cleansing oils because of other products in your cleansing routine to fit this in easily.

I can use it as makeup remover, general face cleanser, and also a skin purifying massage oil in one step, and I can use a water-based cleanser to remove eye makeup from my sensitive waterline first, then apply this over my face for a proper cleanse, without worrying about the residual moisture on my eye area.

And just like its predecessors, it removes stubborn waterproof foundations, waxy concealers, and lipsticks in a few gentle rubs.

I've been using Shu's Skin Purifier oils for about 14 years now - since I was in school, and my skin has gone through the whole spectrum of conditions from oily and blemished, to combination, to normal, to dry and sensitive. And now as I’m getting older I’m dealing with more dullness and hyperpigmentation. At every point, there was one formula that I could use.

They are the real pioneer in terms of emulsifying oil cleansers and I have to credit Shu Uemura for opening my eyes and overcoming my resistance to putting oil on my face. After all, oil is the best thing to break down oil, and a good effective oil cleanser made with high-grade oils can clear out oily, waxy residue better than any water-based cleanser. I’ve switched to a couple of cheaper oils on occasion and found they just don’t emulsify and rinse away as easily with water.

Some Usage Tips:
  • The recommended way to use Shu Uemura cleansing oils is as a one-step cleanse to remove makeup and purify the skin, before slowly emulsifying and rinsing everything away with water. This is gentle on the skin and does not strip away too much moisture.
  • But if you can’t get used to using a single cleansing step cleansing my tip is to follow with a wet, hot muslin cloth or face towel for a gentle warming wipe (in a downwards motion) to remove any possible residue and give your skin a final polish. In my experience, this is much more effective at removing any remaining traces compared to typical foam cleansers, and less likely to over-dry your skin surface.
  • I do use Shu Uemura oils to deep-cleanse my cushion compact puffs. I soak up a pump with the sponge and press-press-press to allow the oil to penetrate and break down the makeup. Then I add a little bit of water, massage, a bit more water, massage, until I do a final rinse with a little gentle facial soap. It’s the fastest and most thorough way to remove most icky beige stains, and no – it does not leave my puff greasy at all.

If you're curious to try it yourself or find out more about the new Anti/Oxi+ oil, or any of the other skin purifiers in Shu's stable, visit http://www.shuuemura.com.sg/whats-new/supergreensfortheskin/ to take a look and sign up for a sample!