Monday, March 31, 2008

Eyelining for babies.

There isn't a single kohl pencil or gel liner in my entire makeup collection, and there hasn't been for years. My Cover Girl Line Exact dried out a couple of weeks ago, but even when it was still oozing ink, I hardly used it. I keep promising myself to get either a Bobbi Brown Long-Wear gel eyeliner or a Mac Fluidline, and I think this is the year that it may happen. But a little bit of liner goes a long way -- when applied correctly, it makes one's eyes look more awake and defined. Lacking proper liner, I use a liner brush and dark shadow to wedge in short strokes a thin line as close as possible to my lashes.

The effect is very subtle, but it's there. Behold, my lineless left eye (and forgive my scraggly brows, a trim is overdue):

A touch of neutral shimmer eyeshadow from my Bobbi Brown Stonewashed Nudes palette, and a teensy bit of black shadow liner from my Mac Smoke Signals palette, I'm ready to go stuff my face with the best Mexican food in town:

The entire lining process took about ten minutes which may seem like quite a lot, but I didn't want to clean up mistakes (more time wasted, increased blood pressure). Besides, I'd saved enough time by only applying one eyeshadow wash. I wet my eyeliner brush, dipped it in black eyeshadow, blotted it on a piece of tissue to minimize fallout, and drew a line in short strokes from the outer corner towards my tear duct. So, lining isn't all that difficult, and nobody has any reason to skip the liner with this technique. As for me, it's time to graduate to big girl liners.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

As Simple As ABC

I was squirting a generous amount of toner from my regular Dermalogica one when it gave out one last little puff weakly.

The usual choice would be to just make a purchase online on Strawberrynet. A couple of clicks and I'd have the bottle shipped out to me pronto. But, with Jen and I both working, chances are, I'd get carded by Mr. Postie. Then, I'd have to get Jen to pick it up from the post office.

Too much of a hassle in my mind.

So I did what any slacker beauty junkie would do!

I stepped into Priceline and grabbed a bottle from the Simple range. Simple Soothing Toner. I've always used their facial wipes to remove makeup and have had no reactions whatsoever to their products. I love it that their products are fragrance- and colour- free. Not to mention, it's alcohol-free as well!

Image from

In my books, a toner is a toner. It's meant as a mediating product between the cleanser and the serum/moisturizer. Something to prep the skin, or rather, warn the skin of the heavy duty moisturizer it's about to receive. So, really, in my books, I don't think I need something expensive. I've tried multiple toners before. I've pinched my mom's Dior Whitening and hydrating toner. It made my skin very soft but as with most Dior products, it's heavily-scented. I've been using my Dermalogica Multi-Active Toner for years and well, it's a toner. How wrong can you get?

Which was why I'm pretty happy with my 8 bucks toner from Simple. It's a Simple so I don't think one can go very wrong with using their products.

Trawling through beauty forums and blogs, I've noticed it's very rare that a beauty junkie actually claims a reaction towards Simple products.

I'm still spending quite a fair bit on serums and moisturizers because these really do make a difference. Having been on the Simple toner for about 3 weeks now, I don't see my skin going any worse than when I was on the Dermalogica, so it's safe to say that it's a pretty good toner.

For something that's claimed to be fragrance-free, I find the smell quite unpleasant. However, thankfully, being a toner, you hardly notice it after you slap on the serum, the moisturizer and the sunscreen. And, by the time I walk out of the house, Kelly Caleche is wafting up, tingling my nose very prettily.

Being in the cold and dry climate, I find that I need to use quite a fair bit to ensure my skin is still pretty moist before I massage my serum over. It doesn't have to be that way but I find that my skin is softer and smoother if it's still moist before the serum goes on. Just a hint of moisture and not dripping wet.

Simple products can be found in almost any drugstore (Priceline, Terry White, Guardian, Watsons) and departmental stores. As its name suggest, it's simple, it's affordable but most of all, it does what it promises-nothing more, nothing less.

NB: Make no mistake about it. I don't believe toners are meant to remove the last traces of your cleanser or makeup. Water should remove the last traces of your cleanser and makeup should be removed thoroughly and properly with a good makeup remover.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Can you do without makeup?

March 27 was National No Make-Up Day in the United Kingdom (and also Stylish Sister of Shryh's birthday. Send her belated birthday presents of designer bags and the next It accessory!). Now, humans sleep a third of their life away; I will spend another third prowling the aisles of drugstores, swatching lipgloss shades on the back of my hands, stalking limited edition makeup and scrutinizing FOTDs posted to one of the thirty-nine beauty forums I belong to. Yet I don't wear that much makeup. I schlump around at home with a bare and shiny face, but I absolutely cannot leave the house without pencilled-in eyebrows, mascara-ed lashes and a smidgen of gloss at the very least. Do you think you can go without makeup... on a work day?

Almonds in the bath.

I believe in keeping two sets of bath products -- one consisting of your typical drugstore brands like Pantene, Johnson & Johnson, Olay, and another set purchased at boutiques that promise to transport you to Provence or Somerset with a single whiff of their body milk. The latter is bound to be significantly pricier, but a rough day at the office is better washed away with soap delicately fragranced with moonflowers fertilized with the laughter of babies and harvested by silver-winged fairies than say, an antibacterial invigorating body wash. Fairy labour is expensive, but you get what you pay for, you know what I'm saying?

No fairies were harmed in the making of these bath products.

My premium bath product of choice these days is L'Occitane's renowned almond shower oil. Don't let the words "shower oil" put you off -- the oil lathers beautifully when water is added, whether or not you use a shower puff. It also moisturizes better than a foaming body wash and prevents tight, itchy post-shower skin. I've been able to get away without using a body lotion after using the almond shower oil, though of course I wouldn't recommend this if you live in a harsh, dry climate. I also purchased a cheap ginger almond oatmeal exfoliant bar from Trader Joe's to supplement the shower oil; at US$22 for a 250ml bottle, the shower oil would ruin me financially if I used it everyday. I like my ginger almond oatmeal exfoliant bar, but its exfoliating properties are laughable. Only a sprinkling of oatmeal went into the bar and fifty odd pieces of oatmeal in a hefty slab does not a satisfying scrub make.

And yes, I am fond of the faintly floral, milky sweet scent of almonds. I love almond flavoured foods like marzipan, nougat, baklava and almond milk tea, but NOT the almond cookies that get passed around during Chinese New Year like an unwanted nephew. They taste nothing like almonds and everything like sawdust, which is what every other Chinese New Year cookie tastes like. I swear the cookie-baking aunties use the same recipe but attempt to fool us by shaping the dough differently. Cookie-baking aunties, I am ON TO YOU.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Guerlain LE Eyeshadow Palette Fleur de Feu

Heart... fluttering... Cannot... breathe...
Image from

Hooooly smokes, but Guerlain's Fleur de Feu (Fire Flower, I think) limited edition eyeshadow palette is making me go weak in the knees. Designed by Herve van der Straeten, the man who brought Guerlain into the 21st century with his product designs, the palette takes inspiration from a South African flower that "mocks the surrounding land ravaged by fire [...] the ideal metaphor for casting off winter's gloom." Oooookay. But apart from the melodramatic copy, what's not to like about the pink and grey shadows encased in a black gold (swoon!) compact? Nothing, I tell you, NOTHING.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Macho, macho man: Man Glaze nail polish

Mr. g33kchic once showed up at a lunch date I'd scheduled with him and g33kchic boldly sporting black nail polish. This was in Mid Valley, mind you, one of the most crowded and bafflingly popular malls in Kuala Lumpur. I was duly impressed, and even more convinced that g33kchic had chosen the right mate for herself. When I came across Man Glaze nail polish, I was reminded immediately of his chutzpah and confidence (as well as his infinite well of patience as he followed g33kchic and I from one cosmetic counter to another on more than one occasion!). The polish is a matte finish formula and only comes in two shades -- Harum Scarum (black) and Jailhouse Rock (grey). I like brushed steel and the idea of matte polish, but I'm not sure if I want my nails to look resemble mini non-stick frying pans. As for the packaging, it's clear that it isn't the Essie crowd they're after. Man Glaze is like, so hard core since they sell for US$6.66 per bottle. Rock on, dudes! Whoooooooooooooo! *makes devil horns*

Monday, March 24, 2008

Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Hand Cream

Image from

When our housekeeper went home for a month-long vacation in January, my mother and I divided the housework among ourselves. Other women deal with this situation by covering their furniture with plastic or making their family members wear slippers inside the home, but for Mother of Shryh, it was business as usual. Business as usual meant the house gets dusted, vacuumed and mopped every morning without exception. I came away from the experience with a greater respect for my mother's housekeeping and a calloused right hand. I knew my hands were going to suffer, and I tried to keep rough skin at bay by moisturizing them several times a day with an old staple -- a L'Occitane Shea Butter hand cream. It was no match for work-roughened hands (although it made them smell great) so I decided to just let my hands heal in time.

It is March, however, and the callouses have outstayed their welcome. In desperation, I picked up a tube of Aquaphor ointment at Target, hazily remembering an online discussion of its wonderful dry-skin banishing properties, and squeezed a dollop onto my palms the second I got into the car. I massaged it into my skin and my dry cuticles, only to realize in seconds what a mistake that was -- the ointment coated my hand with a greasy petroleum-jelly film. As it wasn't a moisturizer, it sat on my skin like an oil slick and refused to be absorbed.

I'm having much better luck with the Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Hand Cream, which was purchased only two days ago. The initial application caused a brief panic when I noticed that the thick cream was nearly the same consistency as the Aquaphor. The cream was not immediately absorbed into my skin and left a thin whitish film all over my hands. To my great relief, the whitish cast soon disappeared and the difference it made was felt immediately. For the first time in months my hands felt smooth and touchable. The cream softened the dry, flaky skin on my right palm and I felt like I was wearing silk gloves, a sensation which persisted even after I washed my hands. I have tried several hand creams before and while they were excellent moisturizers, Neutrogena's Norwegian Formula Hand Cream is the first to make me believe that my hands are actually being protected.

At less than US$5.00, Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Hand Cream is an affordable yet effective hand cream that I cannot recommend highly enough. If you have dry, chapped skin, look no further and get a tube at your nearest drugstore like Walgreens, Guardian's or Watson's.

Friday, March 21, 2008

MAC Cosmetics Heatherette Collection

Trust a former Club Kid to know makeup. While Heatherette's alley-punk aesthetics never once appealed to me, I must say that their makeup collection for MAC is wonderfully balanced: the coral, pink and nude lips colours are wearable but unsubtle while the eyeshadow trios succeed in being bold and unassuming at the same time. It strikes me as a rather suggestive collection, a collision between the makeup bags of a sixties sex kitten and an eighties disco diva.

I love the paint-by-numbers graphic. Whee! Photo from

The collection comes in limited edition (but of course) hot pink cases with a holographic foil decal of the Heatherette logo. Items of note include the Dual Edge Eye Pencil which has a glitter pencil and a regular kohl on either end in unboring combinations (I like Black Funk/Pop Blue, a black and turquoise glitter), and the nail polish in $$$$$, a shiny, bling-y metallic silver foil. The collection also contains the usual suspects of limited edition lipsticks, lipglasses and eyeshadows, and the loveliest shade I've seen so far is the lipstick in Lollipop Loving, described as a "clean mid-tone coral with subtle green gold iridescence". Specktra members have a Heatherette swatch thread going, so you can go ahead and check it out for yourself.

Over all, I think this is a stronger collection than Alexander McQueen for MAC, the narrow scope of which left me cold. Then again, McQueen as a designer blows Traver Rains and Richie Rich out of the water, though the comparison is quite unfair. The better the clothes, the suckier the makeup collection? Maybe Behaz Sarafpour, Peter Som and Thakoon Panichgul were wise to limit themselves to a single lipstick.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Rescue Beauty nail polish in Stormy.

I am not a pink girly-girl for the most part and revelled in last season's deep nail colours, especially black and navy. Warmer weather demands lighter shades, however, so I'll use grey polishes ike this creamy cement shade from Rescue Beauty as I make the transition into summer:

Conversely, g33kchic is using a wonderful metallic steel grey from Kit Cosmetics to transition into fall in Melbourne. This just goes to show how versatile this shade is, unlike black. :) Rescue Beauty polishes are Toulene, Formaldehyde and DBP-free, three cancer-causing chemicals that are found in many nail polishes. They are available for purchase online for US$18 each.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Lancome Pout-a-Porter Colour Fever Shine lipstick in Pixel Pink.

I like to think before I make a purchase. I think and I think and I think, then I return to the store to contemplate the product in person, decide against it and go home to think some more. My resolve eventually collapses under the weight of my lofty thoughts which impels my body to go forth and buy the damn thing already. This often means whatever I coveted would be sold out. So, I've never been fond of shopping really. It's way too cerebral to be therapeutic or enjoyable for me.

Sometimes, just sometimes, I learn my lesson. So when I found myself in a Lancome boutique and the limited edition Colour Fever Shine lipstick in Pixel Pink was available, I suppressed my natural instincts and bought one immediately. It was the fourth and final lipstick from Lancome's Pout-a-Porter series -- a collaboration between makeup artist Gucci Westman and several fashion designers she worked with. I didn't really care for the chalky pink Proenza Pink, but I was really sore about missing P.S. Kiss, which is frankly more to my taste than Pixel Pink. As for the first PaP lipstick, Behnaz Red, lipstick wasn't even on my makeup radar then.

So, the cardboard box is different...

But enough with the regrets! What about Pixel Pink? Briefly speaking, Pixel Pink was sighted on the runways during Thakoon's Spring 2008 show, and the sheer raspberry shade is intended to complement warm, sun-kissed skin. (See video for Thakoon's inspiration for his collection) The lipstick strikes me more as a mid blue-toned pink which was closer to my MAC Electro-Lush lipglass than anything berry-hued in my stash.

Look, I've eaten many raspberries...

... and this is NOT a raspberry colour.

Like other Color Fever Shine lipsticks, Pixel Pink goes on like a gloss lipstick -- slick, shiny and weightless. As my lips are pretty pigmented to begin with, Pixel Pink wasn't the most dramatic colour to grace them. It took on a darker, slightly bruised magenta hue on my lips, though it's likely that the colour isn't being shown off to its best advantage since I lack a tan. Unlike Thakoon's inspiration, I'm a girl who quit her day job to hibernate in a cave.

I wouldn't fret too much about not being able to get a tube, especially if you already own a pink, "your lips but better" lipstick. If you want to collect it, it's still available on the Lancome USA website but you'd better hurry if you don't want to fork out a hundred bucks for it three months later on eBay.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Cover Girl LineExact liquid liner

I think Amy Winehouse has done more for the eyeliner than anyone else in the twenty-first century:

How I choose to remember her. Sigh.

I've frequently wondered about the brand and type of eyeliner this talented young chanteuse uses to create her iconic look. I believe it's created using liquid or gel liner, but definitely not kohl, but given how she's such a mess right now, I wouldn't be surprised if they were drawn on with a permanent marker. I don't see how she can get up every morning (or evening...) and draw those exaggerated but symmetrical wings on with a steady hand.

There is only one Amy Winehouse, however, so while I love and applaud her for standing out in a sea of bottle blond mermaid artistes, there are ways of wearing cat's eye-liner there are just as dramatic but less Bride of Frankenstein-y such as Pat McGrath's version for Louis Vuitton's Fall 2007 collection. The look was created with a liquid liner McGrath had developed for Cover Girl called LineExact, which actually resembles a felt-tip pen:

Sharpie, or eyeliner?

Maybe both.

As one would expect of a pen liner, the LineExact is simple to use - the ink is evenly distributed (remember to shake it first) which makes drawing a continuous line easier than usual, and the fine tip allows you to control the thickness of the line with greater precision. Mistakes are easily erased with a dampened Q-tip as the liner is not waterproof. If you like to blend and smudge your eyeliner, LineExact is not the liner for you as the smudgeproof formula dries within seconds of application.

My complaint is that the liner "feathers" a little upon application, although I have been unable to determine whether that is due to the formula or the texture of my eyelids. A single tube doesn't last for long either - I purchased mine last December and used it very sparingly, but when I tried it on the back of my hand this morning, it had dried out. Otherwise, this is an ideal product for a liquid liner novice to practise winging out her eyeliner and a safe, non-irritating option for drawing whiskers or zebra stripes on faces.

Cover Girl LineExact Liquid Liner comes in four shades - very black, smoke, brown and brown black - and retails for about US$6.50 in drug stores.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Chanel Sublimage Essential Regenerating Eye Cream

I knew I needed to start being more religious about eye cream when I realized that all the runway models and most of the American Idol contenders were younger than I. In the dawn of my twenties, I dressed my eye area with Clinique's All About Eyes, an unobtrusive gel-cream which I never replaced after the wee tub was scraped clean. Years of wearing shimmery/glittery shadows and scowling at people (not necessarily at the same time) have taken a toll, and my eyelids have begun to crinkle ever so slightly. Only a few weeks ago, after sharing a light-hearted moment with Mother of Shryh, said mother leaned in and peered into my face.

"Daughter of mine, you are getting old," she pronounced with great solemnity, tracing in the air the lines around my eyes with her fingers as I tried to bat them away.

"I know," I replied petulantly. "Which is why I am using the Chanel Sublimage Essential Regenerating Eye Cream."

I bought the Chanel Sublimage eye cream because of the excitement this little jar generated among beauty junkies and I wanted to see if it deserved the encomium. I would never buy the mother product -- the face cream -- as it would have been too heavy and rich for my exasperating combination and acne-prone skin, but I figured I need all the lushness of a Sublimage product for my eyes. I've used it for about five months now and am thrilled to see the bottom of my jar.

The Chanel Sublimage Eye Cream isn't cheap -- it retails for about USD$175, and I bought mine for what seemed like a song (okay, USD$140) at an airport duty free shop. For that price, you get a satisfyingly hefty glass jar with a metallic dark khaki top which instantly adds a touch of glamour to your bathroom counter. It comes with a little scoop to minimize contamination -- I've lost mine, but I wash my hands thoroughly before dipping my fingers into the jar. The texture of the eye cream is rich but non-greasy. I'm very prone to getting milia beads on my undereye area and I'm pleased to report that it was never a problem with this eye cream. The cream is easily absorbed, leaving the eye area soft and hydrated, and the comforting, slightly vanilla-y scent completes the experience.

But at that price, one would expect the Chanel Sublimage Eye Cream to wildly outperform other lesser-pedigreed eye creams, right? Unfortunately, no. This eye cream professes to target wrinkles, fine lines, the loss of firmness and moisture depletion of the skin. It certainly moisturized my eye area and plumped out several fine lines, but that was the most I got out of it. I'm not displeased or dissatisfied with this cream in the slightest -- when my ship comes home, I'll be happy to have a jar permanently on my marble counter next to the solid gold faucets. Until then, there is a slew of cost-conscious eye creams for me to explore which will do the job and hopefully, keep Mother of Shryh away.