September 19, 2016

Tarte Double Duty Beauty Eye & Cheek Palette - Classic Courage

Purchased from
Affiliate link used in this post.

Tarte has a huuuuuuuuge lineup of products, and as a Canadian, there was an entire subset of products I had no access to: the Double Duty line, which is so far exclusive to Ulta and

At least that's what I thought, until I realized that 1) the Tarte website ships to Canada, and 2) it does so for free, and with no extra fees or duties, with orders of 75$. Though I was tempted to go nuts, I restrained myself to those products that I couldn't get otherwise. (And also took advantage of a discount code.)

One of these items is the Double Duty Beauty Eye & Cheek Palette "Classic Courage" (36$CAD).

Tarte Double Duty Beauty Eye & Cheek Palette - Classic Courage

Tarte Double Duty Beauty Eye & Cheek Palette

Tarte Double Duty Beauty Eye & Cheek Palette

I was impressed right when I took it out of the packaging - it has a nice amount of heft, and looks and feels like I'm getting my money's worth. It has a magnetic closure to keep it tidy if you're traveling, as well as a decently sized mirror. While it does stay open, it teeters since both the top and bottom are equally weighted, so you'll still have to hold it or prop it up. It also smells very distinctly of vanilla, so be aware of that if you're sensitive to scents. For me, the smell doesn't linger on the face, but it is very noticeable every time I open the palette.
If you're a neutrals fanatic like I am, this palette is pure catnip. The website describes this as having "warm, neutral tones", but I think it might pull more more or less warm depending on your underlying tones. On me it's squarely neutral. There are five eyeshadows, two mattes and three shimmers, as well as a nearly full-size Amazonian Clay blush.

Tarte Double Duty Beauty Eye & Cheek Palette - Classic Courage

Tarte Double Duty Beauty Eye & Cheek Palette - Classic Courage swatches
Rise and Shine, Rosy Outlook, Lucky Penny, Smile On, Trailblazer, Courage

Tarte Double Duty Beauty Eye & Cheek Palette - Classic Courage swatches
Rise and Shine, Rosy Outlook, Lucky Penny, Smile On, Trailblazer, Courage

All of the eyeshadows kick up a fair bit of  powder when I dip my brushes into them, but I don't get any fallout during application.

Rise and Shine: an ivory-leaning beige matte, the texture is very smooth and silky, and it blends easily into the skin without looking chalky. The pigmentation is softer.

Rosy Outlook: a light rose shimmer, this has a more "wet" reflective quality than the other two shimmers, and looks more ethereal when applied. Slightly flaky when I dip my finger into the pan, but that doesn't translate into application. Very bendable, and can sheer out to a much paler version of itself, so it can work as both a lid color when packed on, or a highlight when used lightly.

Lucky Penny: a muted, rose-gold with strong taupe undertones. It's the smoothest and creamiest of all the shimmers, though only marginally more so than Smile On. It blends perfectly, and has lovely pigmentation.

Smile On: a neutral brown shimmer, with essentially the same texture and pigmentation qualities as Lucky Penny.

Trailblazer: a neutral chocolate brown matte, with a somewhat drier, slightly less silky texture than Rose and Shine. It blends out without a problem, with good pigmentation.

Courage: a pretty nude rose blush, very much in the same tonal family as Exposed. The powder is soft and smooth and silky, and it blends seamlessly into the skin, but the colour intensity is fairly muted, so I doubt it would show up very well on skin that's darker than medium.

One thing to note as well: the formula of the blush is not the same as the regular blushes, but seems more similar to that used in the holiday palettes. I have several of those holiday palettes and this seems comparable.

In terms of value, this contains five eyeshadows of 1 gram each - so 5 grams in total - and one blush at 5.4 grams, for a cost of 36$.  In comparison, one regular Amazonian Clay blush is 5.6 grams, and 35$. So basically for the approximate cost of one Tarte blush, you're getting a blush and five eyeshadows. I think that's a really decent price, for the performance and quality.

For the look below, I kept it simple: Lucky Penny on the lid and lower lash line, Smile On in the outer corner and on the outer third of lower lash line, Rosy Outlook in the inner corner, Trailblazer lightly through the crease, Rise & Shine on the brow bone and to blend out the the crease.

I also applied Courage blush to my cheeks. (It's a shade that could also be mixed lightly with Trailblazer for a softer transition.)

Tarte Double Duty Beauty Eye & Cheek Palette

If you're curious about my experience as a Canadian ordering from the Tarte website, I offered a review and some general first impression in this video:

August 02, 2016

Kat Von D Serpentina Palette - Review, Swatches, Face of the Day

Purchased at Sephora.
Contains an affiliate link.

The Serpentina Palette from Kat Von D is a classic case of "I want to love you."

Kat Von D Serpentina Palette - Review, Swatches

Kat Von D Serpentina Palette - Review, Swatches

Kat Von D Serpentina Palette - Review, Swatches

Kat Von D Serpentina Palette - Review, Swatches
Swatched on clean, un-primed but moisturized skin.

Without a doubt, it's s stunner. Kat Von D's branding is unique and instantly recognizable, and yet it also clearly evokes the theme of Ancient Egypt. If I'm to nitpick anything, it's the bulkiness of the packaging, especially in comparison to her other palettes. I get that it was done to accommodate the pigment jar, but I wish they'd thought of a more elegant solution - especially since that jar also means that the palette is best stored flat, or risk having gold pigment get everywhere.

The shades are stunning, as well - brilliant jewel tones and murky, glittery earth tones. One could quibble about the lack of transition shades, but that's a lazy criticism. Chances are, if you're buying a palette with this kind colour range, you're not the type of beauty junkie with a dearth of browns and taupes and camels in your collections.

They look good. Really, really good. I just wish they were as easy to apply.

Kat Von D Serpentina Palette - Review, Swatches

Kat Von D Serpentina Palette - Review, Swatches

Kat Von D Serpentina Palette - Review, Swatches

Bloodmilk is the one I was most concerned about. I knew going in that vegan eyeshadow formulations could be especially challenged by red tones, but this one hit it out of the park. Over a primer, the colour packs on true to pan, and blends out without a hitch. And it looks GOOD. I always think of red as the kind of shade that best suits blue or green eyes (and an otherwise youthful countenance), but there's something about this particular shade that doesn't make me look a couple of decades too old to be indulging in all-nighters.

Medusa and Ankh have the kind of micro glitter that makes the eyeshadow feel a bit gritty, and difficult to blend out. Medusa is the smoother of the two, with a dirty gold base colour that is just beautiful. I wish they were a satin (or metallic) formulation.

Queen and Hieroglyph, on the other hand, are smooth, creamy, densely pigmented and very easy to work with. Hieroglyph has a slightly flakier texture, but I didn't find it to impact application.

Kat Von D Serpentina Palette - Review, Swatches

Kat Von D Serpentina Palette - Review, Swatches

Kat Von D Serpentina Palette - Review, Swatches

Nile is the biggest disappointment. An incredible rich blue in the pan, it has a dense but crumbly texture when swatched, and applied choppily, with heavy fallout. It's a serious pain to blend out as well.

Scarab has a similar texture and application to Queen and Hieroglyph, and is a stunning colour to boot.

Venom has a texture similar to Bloodmilk, but doesn't build up as well. Like many purples (especially mattes), it tends to look dusty and faded on the lid. As a crease shade, though, it's workable.

Prophet is my second favourite shade from the palette - a rich old gold with a hint of green, that can be used as a glimmer wash all over the lid when applied dry, or as a burnished metallic highlight when applied damp.

Kat Von D Serpentina Palette - Review, Swatches

These are the two looks I was able to create using this palette.

Here I used Nile and Scarab on the lid and lower lash line, with a halo and inner corner highlight courtesy of Prophet. I also used the cooler tones from the Shade + Light Eye Contour Palette for the crease, lash line blending and transition.

Kat Von D Serpentina Palette - Look

For the warmer look, I used Bloodmilk in the crease, Ankh on the lash line, Queen in the outer corner, Hieroglyph through the middle and Prophet in the inner corner, mirrored in the lash line. Again I pulled the warmer tones from Shade + Light for the transition and blending out. 

Kat Von D Serpentina Palette Look

I think the end results are pretty and surprisingly wearable, but the blue look especially was a challenge. For 57$ CAD, I want a palette that's not only beautiful, but a dream to work with - and this is not that.

That said, I'm loath to return it, because, for some reason, it still speaks to me.

And now that I think of it, maybe being gorgeous but demanding is somehow perfectly appropriate for a palette that so strongly evokes the spirit of Elizabeth Taylor's Cleopatra. ;)

May 05, 2016

Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Complete Coverage Concealer

Press sample.
Affiliate links.

Urban Decay tends to do color very well, but I've never been particularly drawn to their skin range. After trying out the Naked Skin Weightless Complete Coverage Concealers, I will have to revisit my assumptions.

The packaging here is of the "sleek, modern, California bronze" variety, as opposed to the "thwack someone over the head with it" bulk that UD can sometimes indulge in. Really attractive.

Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Complete Coverage Concealer
Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Complete Coverage Concealer
Dark Neutral, Medium Dark Warm, Medium Neutral, Light Warm

Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Complete Coverage Concealer
Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Complete Coverage Concealer
Dark Neutral, Medium Dark Warm, Medium Neutral, Light Warm

The range of shades here is good: eleven in total, from very pale to deep, with a nice mix of cool and warm undertones. Even with that selection, you might find yourself needing to mix two, which is what I ended up doing, as the right depth didn't match up with the right undertone.  Definitely worth poking around with the testers and maybe getting some samples to try out.

Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Complete Coverage Concealer
Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Complete Coverage Concealer
Dark Neutral, Medium Dark Warm, Medium Neutral, Light Warm

Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Complete Coverage Concealer
Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Complete Coverage Concealer
Dark Neutral, Medium Dark Warm, Medium Neutral, Light Warm

Texture-wise, these feel somewhat unusual. They have a very lightweight feel, almost like those dry-oil based foundations, yet they still feel creamy and somehow dense when applied. The end result is remarkably good coverage for an application that feels imperceptible. I didn't notice particular light-reflective qualities, but it was certainly flattering to the under-eye area.

They also set down rather quickly, and I personally had the best application when I went over with the point of a beauty blender, as it sometimes looked strangely streaky when applied with a brush, even over a relatively small area like the under-eye.

Oh, and proper skin prep is a must. These wear very well, with no unusual creasing and little fading away, but I found it could emphasize texture - so dryness, fine lines, healing acne marks. I personally prefer it for my undereye area, but I'm careful to not extend it into areas where fine lines are an issue. (I've also seen some reviews term this hydrating, and I just can't agree. This really wouldn't be my first pick if you really struggle with either texture or patches of dry skin.)

Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Complete Coverage Concealer
Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Complete Coverage Concealer
Dark Neutral, Medium Dark Warm, Medium Neutral, Light Warm

I dragooned one of my best friends in for some swatches, to give you a comparison on my skin (which is light with olive/yellow undertones) and hers (which is medium-deep, with rosy/warm undertones).

Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Complete Coverage Concealer
Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Complete Coverage Concealer
Dark Neutral, Medium Dark Warm, Medium Neutral, Light Warm

Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Complete Coverage Concealer
Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Complete Coverage Concealer
Dark Neutral, Medium Dark Warm, Medium Neutral, Light Warm
All in all, I think this one lives up to the overlong but completely accurate name - it is indeed a very lightweight yet high coverage concealer, with a strong range of shade options, though you may end up having to mix anyway, just to get your perfect undertone and depth. Not the best for dry or textured skin, but excellent for the under-eye area.  

February 04, 2016

Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab Perfume Review - Crimson Peak Collection

Purchased items and press samples.

Things I'm a big fan of, in no particular order:

The horror and romance genres.
Tom Hiddleston.

So when Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab came out with their Crimson Peak limited edition series, I may have had a fangasm.

(By the by, if you saw the movie and loved it for the insane, luxurious, bombastic love letter to Gothic Romance that it was, please treat yourself to this excellent review from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. You will not regret it. Trust.)

If you're not familiar with Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab (aka BPAL), the short version is: they're awesome. Like, crazy, crazy awesome. They have an immense catalogue of perfumes, inspired by botany, literaturefilmgamingworld travelmythologyfairy tales, the esoteric arts, comic books. It's a gothic, exuberant, whimsical magpie type of perfume house, with all kinds of nooks hiding collections of scents you can't even imagine.

A few extra pluses:

1) The perfumes are oil-based, so a good alternative if you're sensitive to alcohol or the fixatives used in commercial fragrances.
2) They're concentrated, so a little goes a long way. (And the 5ml bottles are super travel friendly.)
3) They're naturally-based, so they morph a lot depending on your individual skin chemistry, making for a really individual perfume experience. (The review section of their fan forum is really helpful for parsing out what may or may not work for you.)
4) They're cruelty-free and, aside from the ones containing honey, vegan.
5) They actually take IP laws seriously, so when they do collaborations, it's with the express permission of original creators. (I see you, Firefly nail polishes on Etsy.)
6) They're always doing fragrances for charity.

If you haven't given them a try, I can't recommend them enough. (And if you've seen my perfume collection on Instagram, you know I'm not just blowing smoke.)

Now let's look at (part of) the Crimson Peak collection. ;)

Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab - Crimson Peak perfume review

I made my order as soon as these were up on the site, and then a few more showed up, courtesy of BPAL. At this point I've been testing them for over a month (giving natural perfumes a few weeks to settle is best, I've found), and I would say that, based on the ones I've tried, this collection could rank with some of the best they've ever done. The perfumes are not just well-constructed, beautiful, and very suited to the elements of the film they aim to portray, they cover a variety of olfactory tastes. (Side note: if you forced me to choose among my babies, the tiny 2006 Demon In My View tribute to Poe is probably the collection to beat.)

There are 26 perfumes in all, and limited edition, with only 400 bottles for each scent. Five of the perfumes are direct character tributes (Thomas Sharpe is, not unexpectedly, already sold out), while the rest evoke either places, objects or themes from the film.

First up, the character scents.

Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab - Crimson Peak perfume review Alan McMichael

Alan McMichael
My deepest concern has always been for you. If you are happy, I am happy. 
Bay rum and sandalwood.

Ok. Here's the thing. Sometimes the descriptions are incredibly evocative. And sometimes they give you no idea of what's coming. I read "bay rum and sandalwood" and though "meh, man cologne."

And no. SO MUCH NO. This is dreamy, delicious man-smell. At first I get something that reminds me of Christmas, a hint of bayberries and spice, and then an incredibly smooth, creamy, gentle musk note, cushioned by the softest sandalwood. As it dries, the spiciness mellows out, and this becomes the perfect cozy sweater equivalent of a scent. I think this would be perfect for a man that prefers a scent that invites a partner to snuggle close. Wearing it myself, I find it incredibly comforting. 

(Picture snuggling close to Charlie Hunnam. Possibly he's wearing a super soft, white sweater. There may be an adorable puppy at your feet.Yup. That's this perfume.)

Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab - Crimson Peak perfume review Edith Cushing

Edith Cushing
Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind.
Pearlescent vanilla musk with white sandalwood, grey amber, white patchouli, ambrette seed, and oudh.

This opens up with very clean, somewhere between freshly washed skin and the smell of silk. Even though they're generally considered base notes, I'm getting the white patchouli and the grey amber here. For the first half hour it's not as feminine as I expected, definitely sharper (much like the character).

The vanilla comes out as it warms up on the skin, turning the scent softer and and sweeter, and settling over the resins. The dry down is a lightly powdered, sweet, feminine musk. Very pretty and wearable.

Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab - Crimson Peak perfume review Mother Ghost

Mother Ghost
Love transcending time, space, and death.
A cold, sheer white musk gleaming with black orchid, benzoin, labdanum, and blackened amber, and embraced by white rose, tea leaf, and vanilla flower.

This is in the same family as Edith Cushing (not surprisingly), but deeper, more gentle, and more mature. The opening notes don't have that clean sharpness - I get the very feminine, very proper notes of the tea leaf and the white rose, rounded out by the sweet orchid scent of the vanilla flower. The coldness of the musk is really more of a lightness rather than a bracing chill, and keeps the other notes airy instead of potentially cloying. (And really, could that capture the concept of a protective but incorporeal mama any better?)

The dry down is a rich, sweet resin, the benzoin bringing out a powdered vanilla note. This is the kind of dry down that keeps the "BPAL is my crack" meme going, since I end up huffing my wrist repeatedly through the day.

Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab - Crimson Peak  perfume review Lucille Thomas Sharpe

Lucille Sharpe
Love makes monsters of us all.
Faded red roses and a glimmer of garnet with black lily, ylang ylang, smoky plum musk, and black amber.

What Mother Ghost is to Edith Cushing, Lucille Sharpe is to Mother Ghost. Right out the gate this is sexy and smoky. It's that outdated and decadent red victorian dress from the movie, done in perfume form. The rose and lily are old-fashioned, rich florals, and the ylang ylang punches up the sweetness without going into the usual bubblegum territory. If you don't love florals, this probably is not for you, as it pretty much rolls around in the stuff. As it lives on the skin, the plum musk comes out, adding a faint note of fruit and a counterpoint of brightness to the florals, until the whole thing settles on a bed of rich, slightly spicy, decadent amber.

Thomas Sharpe
Give in to temptation.
Black amber darkens a pale fougère.

This is it: The Smell Of The Hiddles.

The opening is classic men's cologne: a bright bit of something a little citrusy and the sharp astringency of lavender. This is my least favourite part, as I loathe the smell of lavender, which unfortunately smells both sour and cloying to my nose. Fortunately those notes drop down fairly quickly, and what's left behind is the slightly more masculine version of the base from Lucille Sharpe: a faintly herbaceous coolness layered over sweet, dark incense.

It's also an olfactory mirror image to Alan McMichael in many ways: dark and decadent where the other is warm and comforting, sharp and cool where the other is sweet and spicy. Very appropriate to the character, whose proper, genteel British exterior masks something much more sinister. (In my head, this also works as a Loki perfume. Because, well, Loki. Everything always comes back to Loki.)

Overall, I'm really impressed with how all the character scents evoke their namesakes, and with how they play off each other thematically.

Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab - Crimson Peak perfume review Black Moths

Black Moths
A flutter in the darkness.
Wild plum and blackcurrant with aged black patchouli, vetiver, red rose petal, tonka absolute, and opoponax.

Heady, resinous and uncompromising from the outset, this is in no way a discreet perfume. The opening notes are heavy dark fruits and roses made murky and vaguely menacing by the vetiver and patchouli. If you like older, vintage perfumes, you will recognize this perfume at ten paces. It's the one that'll send all the sugary designer pop star eau de toilettes screaming over the hill.

I'm not usually a fan of vetiver, but here it provides a smoky, balsamic earthiness to the blend (instead of the acrid note I usually get from it). It almost reads a tiny bit like leather. The saturated fruit and rose top notes mesh into that smokiness, and this is the part that's almost off-putting for me - a bit too much smoke and earth, not enough sweet for my liking. As it dries the vanillic tonka and incense notes of the opoponax come through, rounding it out a bit, but still retaining a certain austere quality. Personally, I love the punch of the opening and the restrained dry down but whether you love the whole will depend on how much you like that middle bite.

Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab - Crimson Peak perfume review

The red of an open artery, the red of congealing blood, the red of a scarlet tomb. A house that breathes, that bleeds, and remembers.
Burgundy musk, bitter clove, crushed saffron, red sandalwood, and red oudh.

This one was a total impulse, and it. Is. AWESOME. Do not wear around people who don't adore sandalwood and red musk, because it'll be in their face the entire time. (But if they favour those notes, they'll love it. I wore it to supper, and an Iraqi friend immediately leaned in after hugging me, and commented how much it reminded him of home.) Crimson is rich, spicy, incense-y (think nag champa), and since it's largely constructed from base notes, it doesn't morph so much as it gets deeper, warmer, and sexier over time.

Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab - Crimson Peak perfume review

Crimson Peak
A house like this, in time can become a living thing with timber for bones and windows for eyes. Snow marbled with blood-red clay, frozen over the scent of decayed wood.

The namesake perfume of the collection, with one of those description that is both evocative and unpromising for someone with my scent preferences.

Resolutely trying it out, the first notes I pick out are pine, and that faintly metallic tinge of ozone. It always amazes me how accurately BPAL manages to capture the essence of something as intangible as "snow". Some of my favourite perfumes from them feature this snow note, but Crimson Peak doesn't do it for me in the same way. It's all cool air and winter pines and under that a faint earth note, an odd sort of dustiness. It delivers on what's promised in the description - I can close my eyes and imagine I'm standing in that ancient mansion, winter winds curling in through the broken wood of the roof. As a perfume, it's honestly a bit of a challenge for me to wear for the first hour. As it dries, however, the coolness drops away, the ozone fades, and wood and dust seems to heat up. I catch a whiff of it later on, and I'm shocked at how wearable it is, just golden woods and sweet, warm skin musk.

Not a crowd-pleaser, but if you enjoy the mutable and the complex, this is an interesting one to try.

Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab - Crimson Peak perfume reviewThe Manuscript

The Manuscript
A leather-bound manuscript, ink barely dry. A Gothic ghost tale, personified. 
Leather and paper and splotches of ink, with a hint of ghostly chill.

As I mention in the review for Crimson Peak, one of the things BPAL excels at is capturing a "real world" smell in perfume form, but then tweaking it just enough to still be wearable, and not just an olfactory conceit (*cough Demeter *cough*).

When I tried this one right out of the delivery box, my reaction was NOPE. NOPENOPENOPE. It smelled sharp and sour and chemically and "how is this perfume??" and I scrubbed it off almost immediately. I knew I had to try it at least one more time before reviewing, so I begrudgingly took it out of the box and applied it to my left wrist (the one least likely to be near my face throughout the day).

And then I had to eat crow. Because this's the smell of books, you guys. When I was in college, I spent a lot of time in the McGill Birks Reading Room, which is a quaint little library attached to Religious Studies department. It has old tables and some even older books, and a hushed, reverential atmosphere that has as much to do with the fragile, well-worn pages of the physical books as the subject matter contained therein.

This is the smell. The slightly dry sweetness of old paper (lignin, if you're curious), the sharp balsamic note of india ink (art geeks, y'all know), and the soft, fragile leather of old, cracked covers.

It's maybe an odd one to wear, I'll grant you, but over the hours it fades into something so intensely comforting and wonderful - at least if you're a book-lover. At the end I huff my wrist the way I do my favourite old novels, sticking my nose right in the middle to get that sweet, dusty, memory-laden scent.


If I had to pick my favourites, they would be:

Alan McMichael, because it just makes me feel so happy. Mother Ghost, because when you find the BPAL Crack, you get a litre bottle of it. And The Manuscript, because my other addiction is books. :)

January 28, 2016

Andalou Naturals - Revitalizing Lash + Lid Makeup Remover, Blossom + Leaf Toning Refresher

Purchased items.

I suffered through terrible acne as a teenager, and have had fussy skin since then, so I don't tend to experiment a lot with my skincare, but I do like to try new versions of the kinds of products that work for me overall. 

Two categories that I'm especially into are 1) oil cleansers and 2) hydrating toners. 

My skin just doesn't tolerate foaming-type cleansers very well, getting drier, more fragile-feeling and more prone to breakouts the more consistently I use them. Oil cleansers, especially the kind that rinse off, are a better bet, though they're obviously not all created equal. Some tend to make me break out (sweet almond oil, you luscious-smelling bastard), and some have an overly aggressive emulsification that doesn't just rinse off the oil in the product, but my skin's natural oils as well (hello, Bride of the Mummy).

As for hydrating toners, I think they're just the most versatile product. Skin feeling pretty balanced? A spritz in the morning layered with a light oil on drier spots is enough to keep my skin fresh without adding the weight of a moisturizer. Need more help? Mix some more drops of facial oil with a spray of toner in the palm of my hand to make a light emulsion, and press into the skin for a beautiful, healthy glow. Skin looking like a vanilla pound cake after applying foundation? A few passes of toning spray and I look like a human being again. A toner loaded with skin-loving ingredients is my slinky black shirt - I can make it work for me in almost every circumstance.

So since I'm trying to find more "green" and "natural" ways of doings things in my life (while still making the grade in terms of being evidence-based), I decided to try a couple of those options from the brand Andalou Naturals. (This isn't a brand I was familiar with until recently, but I came across them on

Andalou Naturals - Revitalizing Lash + Lid Makeup Remover, Blossom + Leaf Toning Refresher

Andalou Naturals - Revitalizing Lash + Lid Makeup Remover, Blossom + Leaf Toning Refresher

The formulations sounded interesting, though the fruit stem cell thing is a bit of nonsense.

This is the claim the brand makes:

"Fruit Stem Cell Science® renews skin at the cellular level. Award-winning Malus Domestica (Apple) and Solar Vitis (Grape) Stem Cells provide ‘universal’ cells to energize skin cell function for enhanced immunity, longevity and vitality. Fruit Stem Cell Science® accelerates the skin’s own ability to repair and replenish health cells effectively replacing older, weak and damaged cells. These universal cells become activated skin cells and elasticity and resilience are restored."

Eh. Fruit stem cells sound like a perfect blend of green and science-y, but stem cells can't survive in a cosmetic formulation to do anything like what's being claimed here. It's possible that eventually stem cells will be used in skincare applications, but the research isn't there yet.

If you're inclined, you can read more about their claims here, but personally I give it all a big ole side-eye.

That said, they are full of other nice, effective things, including antioxidants and skin-soothing and skin-repairing ingredients.

Revitalizing Lash + Lid Makeup Remover: Aloe Barbadensis Juice*, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Oil*, Glyceryl Stearate, Fruit Stem Cells (Malus Domestsica, Solar Vitis) and BioActive 8 Berry Complex*, Cetyl Alcohol, Glyceryl Cocoate, Biotin, Hyaluronic Acid, Ginkgo Biloba Extract*, Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizinate (Licorice) Extract*, Rosa Canina (Rosehip) Oil*, Phenethyl Alcohol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Aspalathus Linearis (Rooibos), Hibiscus Sabdariffa and Camellia Sinensis (White Tea) Extracts*^ Non-GMO verified *Organic ^Fair Trade

Normally I wouldn't be too fussed about "fancy" ingredients in a cleanser (since the potential benefits are shortchanged by the length of time the product remains on your skin), but this is the kind of cleanser that gets massaged in for a while, so I'm willing to give them a bit more weight.

Jojoba is nice oil for facial application, as it's usually kind to reactive skin and the texture feels fairly luxurious in a formulation. Biotin is in here to supposedly boost your lashes, but I don't see it doing much of anything in this kind of application. The plant extracts in here are anti-irritants (liquorice) and antioxidants, and the rose hip oil is a nicely nourishing oil as well.

This is marketed specifically as a product for removing eye makeup, and they recommend applying it to dry skin, massaging lightly and wiping away with a cotton pad. Used this way, I found it only moderately effective. It got most makeup off, but didn't make much of a dent in my Marc Jacobs eyeliner, for example. I found it was a better when I added in a bit of water to emulsify, but only marginally. As such, I wouldn't recommend it to be used primarily as an eye makeup remover, especially if you tend to wear heavier, more waterproof makeup.

That said, I found it really lovely to use as either a second all-over facial cleanse in the evening, or as my morning cleanse, when I didn't have to worry about removing a ton of gunk. I found it left my skin fresh and soft, and not feeling stripped. I'm considering it as a replacement for my currently-used Clarins Extra-Comfort Cleansing Cream, which is unfortunately not cruelty-free.

Lash + Lid Makeup Remover, massaged in.
From top to bottom: Le Metier and Kat Von D liquid liners, Marc Jacobs eyeliner, Urban Decay eyeliner. 

Wiped away.
From top to bottom: Le Metier and Kat Von D liquid liners, Marc Jacobs eyeliner, Urban Decay eyeliner. 

Blossom + Leaf Toning Refresher: Aloe Barbadensis Juice*, Panthenol (Pro-Vitamin B5), Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Lauric Acid, Fruit Stem Cells (Malus Domestsica, Solar Vitis) and BioActive 8 Berry Complex*, Resveratrol, Ubiquinone (CoQ10), Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate (Vitamin C), Aspalathus Linearis (Rooibos), Hibiscus Sabdariffa and Camellia Sinensis (White Tea) Extracts*^, Phenethyl Alcohol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Citrus Aurantium (Petitgrain) and Geranium Maculatum Oils* Non-GMO verified *Organic ^Fair Trade

I'm on the fence about glycerin in my toners - sometimes I like the extra boost of hydration, and the extra glow it gives when used over makeup, sometimes I can't stand the sticky feeling it leaves behind. This formulation omits it, and instead gets some hydration benefits from panthenol. It also includes lauric acid, which comes from coconut oil and actually has anti-inflammatory and anti-acne benefits, as well as great antioxidants in the form of Vitamin C, Resvetratrol and CoQ10, and the aforementioned plant extracts. It also does contain Petigrain and Geranium essential oils, which may have some anti-bacterial benefits in the amounts present, but for me mainly serve to give the mist a delightful herbal scent. If you're sensitive to fragrance, do be aware that these may be an issue.

I really like this toner. I love how my skin feels after using it, and I find the scent more pleasing than the Caudalie one everyone seems to adore. If I were to nitpick, I would suggest making the nozzle deliver a finer spray for the purposes of setting makeup. (It's not like it's spitting at me, but it could optimally be a finer, more diffused mist.) Since I don't assume that's how most people would use it though, it's a teeny tiny quibble.

Overall, I'm pleased with my foray into Andalou Naturals, and will likely try more. Especially if runs any more discount codes. (They're are 17.95$ CAD each, at regular price.)

January 21, 2016

Kat Von D Shade & Light Eye Contour Palette

Purchased at Sephora.
Affiliate links.

I love seeing women succeed, and Kat Von D has been killing it these last few years. Her brand started out smelling of a vanity project, but she's really made it into a stand-out, with an aesthetic that is both authentic and distinctive.

I'm not much into contouring, so the first iteration of the Shade & Light palette passed me by. I was much more enthralled with the Eye Contour version - even though I already had the Viseart 01, the OG of matte neutral palettes.

Kat Von D Shade & Light Eye Contour Palette

Kat Von D Shade & Light Eye Contour Palette

The packaging strikes a great balance between practical sleekness and gothic whimsy and I very much appreciate the shades being named both on the exterior box and on the back of the palette itself.

Random aside - from some of the pictures Kat has posted on her Instagram, I got the feeling that she was into some version of the occult. Usually the name choices in her brand reference music, art and literature, but this palette is definitely magickal in tone.

(Specifically, some of the shade names are those of demons listed in the Ars Goetia, one of the books in the Lesser Key of Solomon , while others are the names of archangels in Talmudic lore. Very fitting for something named "shade and light", and Kat gets a fistbump for working in references to a freaking 17th century grimoire. )

Kat Von D Shade & Light Eye Contour Palette occult
Three Books of Occult Philosophy by Henry C. Agrippa
The Key to Solomon's Key by Lon Milo DuQuette

The palette itself is laid out in a user-friendly manner, with three functional "quads" - one more neutral, one cooler, one warmer. Each has a larger pan of a light base shade, a medium contour (or transition) colour, a dark defining colour, and a pale highlight colour. 

You can mix and match across the board, but the way the shades are arranged makes the palette very accessible for a makeup newbie trying to build a cohesive eye look. 

They very nicely include a guide on how to do all that:

There's also a very convenient mirror in the lid, something that's sometimes lacking in cardboard-style slimline palettes, and a magnetic closure.

Kat Von D Shade & Light Eye Contour Palette

Kat Von D Shade & Light Eye Contour Palette

The shades are matte, with the three palest having an incredibly subtle satin finish, barely perceptible as a sheen once applied.

Mattes are some of the trickiest formulations to nail. Pigmentation aside, the real secret is getting the texture right. Too soft, and they can blend away too easily, or be hard to layer with other eyeshadows. Too firm, and they can be difficult to lay down and build up.

These strike a near-perfect balance between smooth and dense. I had no issues getting these eyeshadows to do what I wanted them to do. Haze out a soft transition? Easy. Build up a serious smokey eye? No problem. Deepen a crease with perfect accuracy, or soften the edge of a winged eyeliner? Done and done.

If, like me, you were just "meh" about the face contour palette, you might be pleased to know that Lazarus (the grey brown transition colour) is aces for shading out some faux cheekbones.

Laetus - looks more yellow cream in the pan, but actually applies as a bone colour. Probably has the firmest and driest texture in the palette, and one of the sheerer applications. It's great, however, for dusting all over the lid after a primer or cream base to given an even base, especially if you're of a similar colouring to me. If you're deeper, it'll probably be underwhelming.

Samael - a neutral brown mid-tone, a true workhorse shade.

Solas - a deeper version of Samuel, wonderful for sculpting out the crease and the outer corner.

Lucius - a beige-tone off-white, I especially like this for giving a bit of lift to the eyebrow arch without adding shimmer.

Lazarus - a greyed-out, pale brown. Another workhorse shade, which on lighter complexions works beautifully as a face contour.

Saleos - a deeper, cool-toned brown, excellent for sculpting in those shadows. If you have dark hair but have a hard time finding an ashy eyebrow powder, this might work for you as well.

Shax - it's, Nothing much to say, except that it's very easy to work with. I love it for going over my wing liner to lock it in and keep it matte, and unlike some black eyeshadows, the formula doesn't smudge or drop down debris.

Liberatus - ever so slightly off-white, no chalkiness. I'm pretty "meh" on these kind of colours, so I mostly just wish it was shimmery, but it does what it does.

Ludwin - a hybrid of soft terra-cotta and melon, this is a shade I didn't realize I was missing in my eyeshadow wardrobe. It's perfect for saving a smokey eye that has gone all drab and tired looking, and I like to use it as my softest, most hazed out transition colour to build up an eye look. (When I'm fancy like that.)

Succubus - a muted brick with a bit of burgundy, this shade is especially stunning with blue and green eyes. Like Ludwin, a little of this smudged in the crease perks up a neutral eye look.

Sutry - a deep chocolate brown, a rich and lovely alternative to black.

Latinus - a warm creamy white, this one has the most sheen visible, as well as the richest pigmentation of all the highlighter shades. It's my favourite for that purpose, though it also looks very nice as a base all over the lid, brightening without being stark.

All in all, a very practical and beautiful palette. If Michelangelo was a) alive, b) really into contour, he'd have a field day using this thing to sculpt some faces. If I were to tweak it for my own personal liking, I would have given the highlight shades just a touch more sheen, but YMMV.