Saturday, January 21, 2017

Deborah Lippmann Lipstick in Sexy Back

It's Women's March today. While I have no pink hat, there is a pink lipstick for y'all. I did have a matching hot pink scarf on while I was out and I (was clearly overdressed for this warm day) could feel the heat.
I first heard about Deborah Lippmann Lipstick on Lena's Blog, the finish and formula was totally my kind of thing (moisturizing jelly balm) but I wasn't keen on paying more than 20 dollars for packaging I don't love. Let's face it, after certain price point, it costs more to design and manufacture the packaging than to make the actual lipstick.

A few months later, I ended up spotting the set (with matching nail polish) for 10 bucks at TJMaxx (the one that's a block west of Carneigie Hall)! I didn't need the polish but it was a decent price for toy. 
The tube is a somewhat clunky black tube made with textured light weight plastic, it's highly prone to oil and dusky so mine already look a little yucky after a year. Since the texture is on the soft side, it wobbles a lot and get cut by the interior easily. By the third use, it looked like it was chewed by a dog.

I practically live under a rock when it comes to pop culture/music, but I think all of the Deborah Lippmann lipsticks are named after hit songs (I just needed google to know Justin Timberlake was the singer, I told you I live under a rock). Sexy Back is a bright magenta, with a color and name that's strangely fitting for today.
I am very apprehensive about bright magenta (this one also has some purple pearls, is that an industry standard?) and Sexy Back is not what I like to wear during day time, especially with my paler winter skin tone.  My mouth probably enhanced the purple in it since it looks like a brighter berry pink on Lena. 

The formula of Deborah Lippmann lipstick must be one of my favorite. It's not completely opaque but can be build to a stronger color. The finish is on the jelly side of cream but it doesn't have that white base like many other western brands (Too Faced and YSL). There is a high shine but it doesn't look like oil slick. Of course, it felt incredibly comfortable and moisturizing with the soft, glossy balm formula (scented like vanilla) . It certainly feels like a pricier lipstick (better than the best of drugstore ones), once you ignore the packaging. 

I am really impressed by the formula and have another shade (I bought the coral one first actually, I got a yuuuge backlog to go through) with me. I would love a red one but it's hard to convince myself to pay full price when I got two at a discount. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer Physical Defense Sunscreen SPF 30

I started getting into skincare late last summer (I could no longer get away with I-just-washed-my-face routine) and since it has been a few months since, it's the harvest season (for skincare reviews)!

Through out many years of sunscreen-buying and wearing, I stuck with Japanese brands as they feel light on the face and not a nuisance to use. It only occurred to me last year, when I tried Josie Maran SPF 47 Moisturizer, that I might be allergic to chemical sunscreen. Basically, Josie Maran was the only one that I managed to use for more than 7 days in a row. Prior to that, any sunscreen would either give me teary eyes, terrible break out (La Roche Posay) or small red bumps (almost any other Japanese liquid, cream or gel) when I wear them for more than three days. Instead of slathering on SPF daily, I would only wear them when I am going out/when I decided that the protection is worth the bumps. During winter, I slack off from sunscreen altogether.

No wonder I tan so easily, "no matter how much sunscreen I used" (quoting my stupid ass self here). I was supposed to use it everyday!  Anyway, it feels like growing up in an unhealthy environment, you never realize it until you get out of it. Better now than later, right?
I picked up Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer Physical Defense SPF Sunscreen at Sephora after a very brief testing. I saw that it's an all-physical sunscreen and the pasty formula blended easily into the back of my hand, all without greasy shine or residue. If things work the same way on the face, as they do on my hand, it would make a less shiny alternative (to Josie Maran) that I could use daily.
 It is a Allure Best of Beauty Winner of 2015 (which is less and less relevant nowadays) and had a lot of good press online. Blogger praises usually means zilch to me when the product is provided for (I don't think I have ever wanted to run to the store to buy something after reading such review, no matter how "honest" and "unbiased" the blogger is). The customer reviews on Sephora and Paula Choice are very polarized so it doesn't seems to be a product for everyone.

Well, I certainly wasn't a convert. 
Hipster print on the inside. I wonder does it have gluten intolerance.
Ingredient: 20% Zinc Oxide, Dicaprylyl Carbonate, Glycerin, Pentylene Glycol, Steareth-2, Ceteryl Alcohol, Steareth-21, Sea Water, Algae Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Haematococcus Pluvialis Algal (Astaxanthin) Extract, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Sprout Extract, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Juice Extract, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Sclerocarya Birrea (Marula) Seed Oil, Acetyl Glucosamine, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate, Raspberry Seed Oil/Tocopheryl Succinate Aminopropanediol Esters, Tocopheryl Acetate, Tocopherol, Glycine, Sucrose, Lecithin, Silica, Polyhydroxystearic Acid, Caprylhydroxamic Acid, Disodium EDTA, Triethoxycaprylylsilane, Xanthan Gum, Propanediol, Caprylyl Glycol, Potassium Sorbate, Phenoxyethanol, Mica Carmine (CI 75470), Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Water.

I put bold on ingredients that I don't get. Sea water, literal sea water (or 3.5% saline solution with sea salt)? Sourced from where and why? The Raspberry Seed Oil is claimed as one of the star ingredients that functions as natural sunscreen. Let's give it the benefit of the doubt and assume it actually works. Exactly how much does it help when it's listed after other emollients?
Now to the sunscreen - Drunk Elephant Umbra has a thicker lotion texture that isn't terribly viscous. As you can see in the picture, the Zinc Oxide powder is not finely milled at all (looking like a suspension instead of a well mixed solution): It balls up easily on the face when you rub it the wrong way (swirling is a no go, and watch what you have underneath) and it can be physically irritating as the chunky bit are have a scratchy feel on thinner/more delicate skin. The product doesn't have any added fragrance so it smells like what it's made with: Love, hard work and sweat, mostly sweat.

The first two times I used it on bare face, it hurt and gave me some itch and redness as the oil base gets absorbed, leaving the zinc oxide powder on top. I had it on for a few hours and as soon as I washed it off, my face let out a sigh of relief. Even with all the oil, I find it scratchy, drying and uncomfortable.

Since I don't have a habit of returning items, I put it aside and just used Josie Maran. When winter came, my skincare started to call for layers of lotions and thick cream. While the layers keep my skin happy and moisturized, it also made me look like a grease ball in the morning. The argan oil in Josie Maran (which itself isn't sufficient enough as moisturizer) made everything extra dewy and it takes half a day to fully dry up.

On my way to work, I often found my hair stuck to my face, looking like a catfish. I wasn't going to be a sunscreen slacker again  (I am determined to fade all those marks this time around) so I looked at my huge tube of Drunk Elephant, decided to give it a second chance.
This formula works quite well when my skin is in decent condition (not thinned out or flaky) and with a thick occlusive layer underneath.  As long as I take my time, spreading the sunscreen outward, it doesn't ball up and it leaves a satin finish, enough white cast to brighten my face a bit and it provides some coverage. 

I have read some reviews on Sephora saying the key to even finish is to use a size of pinkie tip, because that's "All you need" NOT...

"A little goes a long way" should never appear next to sunscreen (and contraception). Every morning, I use two big globs and hope for the best. Sometime it balls up, sometime it doesn't. Sometimes it's scratchy, sometime it's not. The drunk elephant has weird temperament indeed. 
 All blended on my wrist. The sheen is mostly from the Mica and it can leave face shimmery (by the end of day when everything else is absorbed).

I don't think Drunk Elephant Umbra is a well formulated product and it's certainly not for every skin type. The SPF is pretty low and even if the ingredients don't cause sensitivity, it can be physically irritating. I managed to use it for 10 straight days and felt that it's just something that can be dealt with, if you already spent money on it. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Anna Sui Lipstick V in 302

Anna Sui is the first highend makeup brand I loved when I was in highschool, as I was deeply attracted to their mysterious, Romantic-Gothic image. I have collected a fair bit of their products and enjoyed their company. Their product can be hit or miss but the design was always easy on the eyes.

Our long-term (4 years was long) relationship ended abruptly in spring 2010, when the brand underwent a revamp, replacing their rosebud lipstick tubes with something that looked like a coffin. Loyalty shouldn't be one-sided, if a once-favorite brand takes a sharp turn and no longers offer the thing I love it for, I see no problem looking elsewhere (Luckily, 2010 was also the year Maybelline and Revlon released a bunch of beautiful shades in wonderful sheer formulas). 

I suppose the coffins (among other things) didn't sell well, Anna Sui Cosmetics has since been through two additional packaging revamps. According to a friend, the brand has also closed quite a few counters in Shanghai, now can be only found in obscure shopping malls. 
Last year(I mean 2015) when I was eyeballs-deep into the Suqqu research. I decided to take a break and get in touch with my old spark. Since I live so closed to Anna Sui's home base, I reckoned I should at least pay a visit to their Soho store (especially I go to Chinatown almost once a week, heh). 

Well, one can't just visit Anna Sui store for the first time and not buy anything. I ended  up with a bunch of toys (their tights, socks and hankies are really well-made), including two lipsticks. 
The newest design is just called Anna Sui lipstick, the range is still categorized by letter (V for Velvet, M for Marble, C for cream and G for Gloss) and a numerics arranged in the same old way. Shades in 200s would be shades of purple, 300s for pinks, 400s for red, 600s for orange etc. 

The box uses the same design as the wall paper of their new store location opened 2015 (which by the way is smaller and further south, just a block from Canal Street). I think it was in the changing room? 
The new (this is 5th generation) Anna Sui lipstick has lots of things going on: Clear geometric cuts that makes it look like ice sculpture, a snowflake top and even the black base has starry relieves. 
The cap is made of high quality plastic that is seamless, giving a crisp and secure clip. The whole thing is quite chubby for a lipstick so it doesn't fit in most lipstick holders. I wasn't sure how I feel about the lipstick (the fact that I didn't want to touch it since last winter should indicate something), full of design elements or fugly?

I think it's a little fugly. 
Well, look at the cool star shaped lipstick! It doesn't go away after one swipe like all other gimmicky brands. Instead, it will stay this way (being a pain in the rear to apply) for many uses to come!
Anna Sui Lipstick V in 302 is a creamy blue pink. The formula has good level of pigments that applies in to an even and thin layers and it features the same rose scent. Nothing has changed when it comes to the formula. Could it be their product development actually knows the rule of "Don't fix it if it's not broken"? Shocking. 
I like the lipstick formula but isn't a fan of the finish. It's indeed smooth but the inclusion of the silver shimmer now gives the color a milky appearance...Urgh, I don't like milky pink (and somehow I have three of them). 

Even though I am not feeling Anna Sui's new packaging, I do like the texture of their lipstick that I am probably more likely to get another Anna Sui (instead of repurchase Bobbi Brown or YSL). The sheer red I wanted was sold out, I should hunt it down when I get the chance. 

Looking at the whole line up and new releases, the brand seems like it's losing its direction and kept on changing in hope that something would work (instead they ended up with another design that's out of whack). I hope something is done so the brand doesn't go down under.

P.S. (When it comes to fashion) I thought Orla Kiely is becoming the new Anna Sui (for retro vibe, geometric pattern with a distinct style), I need to visit their store one day!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Innisfree Cream Mellow Lipstick in 04

I was just talking about price-gouging yesterday and now I am reviewing a drugstore lipstick that I paid double-the- market-price for. As a veteran couponing master, I am still deeply ashamed as I rarely shelled out more than five bucks for my drugstore goodies. 

Life snows on. You gotta take the glamour shot and complain about the said lipstick on your blog (then buy more lipsticks, yup yup). Actually, beside the jacked up price, there isn't much to complain about.
It all started with the /r/Asianbeauty. Around sometime last fall, there were numerous PSA (but I think it was a shill) sort of posts about a new store opening near Koreatown Midtown Manhattan. The store is mostly about sheetmasks so I didn't really give it much thoughts. When I heard that they had a Thanksgiving weekend sale going on, I decide to stop by and pay a visit. Who doesn't like some cute K-skincare items with potential discount?

As soon as I got it, I found out that it's just like any other K-town beauty store: Cute, small and come with exorbitant markup. For many bottled skincare, their sale prices were easily over 40% higher than Amazon while regular price are double the Amazon price.

Luckily when it comes to smaller makeup items, the prices were much more reasonable: Etude House and Innisfree (they literally have three types of single eyeshadow?) are on the same level as ebay so that's where the ball (my wallet) dropped. 
As I picked up some of the eye candies. I also went ahead and grabbed an Innisfree Creammellow Lipstick. 04 (it has a shade name but me and the Korean language are not friends) was the shade that stood out so I added it to my little basket. When I stepped out of the store and looked down at the receipt...

"The heck the lipstick was 18 bucks?" 

And this is how the hero has fallen.

Innisfree Creammellow Lipstick has a relatively simple and minimalist packaging: White textured plastic (hence gummy) with a base indicating the shade.

While it might look a bit unessisarily long when uncapped, I found that the tube has a good ergonomics: The lenth and thickness of the base, combined with the hard lipstick formula, is notably comfortable and convenient to hold and swipe on. 
It's slim and easy to carry (not sure how long does it take to turn gray once goes into my blackhole of a bag) without going to full blown k-beauty kute route. I have tried a lot (really) of lipstick so it wasn't particularly impressive.
Innisfree Creammellow 04 is a reddish orange coral in a semi-sheer cream formula that's balmy, a bit glossy and light weight on the lips. In my lippie repertoire, it's most similar to Kiko Glossy Lip Stylo. This color looks shimmer-free on the lips and in the swatch but there are some miniscule glimmering particle if you stare at the lipstick itself. 

Again if you sniff closely or duckface a lot, there is a light floral candy scent (Kasugai Flower Kiss anybody?) 
I like all things coral so I enjoy wearing this shade. It's nothing unique or special and the color leans more toward garish-bright than it is lit-the-face bright. While the formula isn't actively quenching, it locks in moisture and keeps lips soft when it's not parched up.

Overall. It's a pretty good formula (same quality as Revlon lip butter and Canmake) to play with for a single-digit price. There is no way that I would pay 18 dollars for something like this again and I doubt I would shell out the 9-dollar ebay price and wait weeks for it (airmail from Korea takes a long time to get to me)...

I am going back to Canmake!
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