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 www.well.ca.)

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 Well.ca 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, well...black. 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.