Thursday, 9 February 2017

Empties Pt. III

It is a shameful fact that the last time I published a blog post was in July of last year, which was also an empties post. I envisioned myself starting a tradition of doing one massive empties post per year, but I am moving into a new apartment with my boyfriend in a matter of days and I couldn't stand the idea of bringing my empties with me. And I'm not sure he fully realizes that I hoard my beauty trash, so I'll ease him into that realization slowly by getting rid of my existing empties...

Even though it has been only around 7 months since my last empties, I think I've accumulated a good amount. I really wanted to focus on using up samples, which has been a reasonable success. It has led to me neglecting some of my full size products, but at least I feel closer to the day when I won't have literally boxes full of samples filling up my closets.

Up first are the makeup empties. This is always the hardest category to use up, but definitely the most rewarding. Here I mostly used up some tried and true favorites, like the Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation (I've now started a new bottle, my fourth or fifth). I used up the Anastasia Brow Wiz in Dark Brown (I've since switched to Granite) and the NARS Pro-Prime Smudge Proof Eyeshadow Base. I've never found anything nearly as good as the NARS eyeshadow primer and I would never be without it. After years of usage, I finished my Le Metier de Beauté Creme Fresh Tint in Ginger Lily. It is such an amazing everyday color, and the formula blends into skin like a dream. I would repurchase but I'm trying to work through some other amazing cream blushes (and I have my eye on buying one of the new Tom Ford cream blush duos). I replaced the pad on my Surrat Relevée Eyelash Curler, and I sadly smashed my Ofra Highlighter in You Dew You before I could even try it.

These skincare empties are another pride and joy (please excuse the terrible photo). I used up so many stellar items I almost don't know where to start! Tata Harper Purifying Cleanser gives me life and I refuse to be without it (I've got two bottles at home right now and will stockpile more during the April Sephora VIB Sale). The same goes for Sunday Riley Good Genes. I've also already bought more of the Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Peel Pads. These ones were all Sephora Point Perks or codes, but I finally broke down and ordered a pack with my own money. They're great when a) I'm too lazy to put on my normal layers of skincare at night; or b) my skin is have a bit of a freakout and needs to be sorted out quickly.  Make Up Artist's Choice 30% Glycolic Peel (the tiny plastic bottle on the left of the photo) is a potent peel. My skin is super resilient, but if yours is more reactive, try their Mandelic Peel instead. The Too Cool for School Egg Cream Mask was fun, but not earth shattering. I enjoyed the small Drunken Elephant C-Firma Day Serum and recently ordered a full size. The Sephora Eye Makeup Remover Wipes are handy, but I probably would never buy them. The other real winner was the Ole Henriksen Truth Sugar Glow Polishing Mask. This little sachet was enough to convine me to get the full size.

Next up are hair items. I used up some shampoo and conditioner samples, along with a couple of full size ones. I tried out the Rahua Volumizing Shampoo and Conditioner, but didn't notice any dramatic results and I probably wouldn't spend the money on a full size. I went through yet another Bumble & Bumble Dry Spun Finish, which is my favorite hair texturizer. I've also gone through a few tubes of the Living Proof Prime Style Extender, which does help my hair hold curl and volume. The Christophe Robin Regenerating Hair Mask with Prickly Pear was underwhelming, as was the Dry Bar Mai Tai Spritzer Sea Salt Spray. These were both deluxe samples and I won't waste my money on the full size items.

Using up perfume samples was a huge goal of mine in 2016. I still have a couple of boxes full of samples, but I'm happy with my progress. Some of the samples reminded me of my love for fragrances I used to have in full size (like Gucci Guilty and YSL Black Opium). I also always love using samples of Thierry Mugler Alien, Giorgio Armani Acqua di Gioia and Lancôme La Vie Est Belle, but I never take the plunge and get a full size. Using samples also reminded me that I have a significant disdain for samples that don't have a spritzer. You know, the ones that have a plastic stick that you are just supposed to rub onto your skin. These are terrible and should be avoided. I'm looking at you La Vanilla and TokyoMilk.

Body-wise, I finally used up my Palmer's Shea Butter. I've been using the Nivea In-Shower Body Milk for Dry Skin and I've been slathering on lotion in an attempt to keep my skin moisturized as the cold air and heating turns me into a lizard person. The Dove Nourishing Body Wash in Sweet Cream and Peony smelled terrible but I forced myself to use it up. I was much happier to use the Too Cool for School Egg Mellow Body Butter (super hydrating and not greasy). I even bought a full size of this! Another highlight was the Body Shop Body Wash in Piñita Colada, which was a sadly limited edition scent. I still have the body butter, but that's almost gone so keep an eye out for it in the next empties post! The Lollia Hand Creme in Wish is a longtime favorite and I go through them oh so quickly. At one point in time Nordstrom sold this brand and even had a bubble bath that I was going to buy, but it has since disappeared from the site. Sad times, but that's what I get for trying to not impulse buy.

This assortment is a general hodgepodge of items I used up, many of which are long time faves. The Bath & Body Works 3-Wick Candles are always a staple (even though I have to stockpile them when I'm back visiting the U.S., since I can't access them here). Secret Clinical Strength Deodorant has been my go-to for years. I suspect I no longer need such a strong antiperspirant, but if it ain't broke... The Formula X Top Coat got too gloopy to use and was never anything special to begin with in my opinion. The Beauty Blender Blotterazzi did n.o.t.h.i.n.g. whatsoever, so I threw it in my empties so it wasn't wasting space in my drawers for the next 10 years. A revelation has been the Tinkle Razors for shaving my face (aka dermaplaning for those prone to embarrassment over admitting they shave their face). I am not a super hairy person, but I have peach fuzz like everyone, especially near my hairline. I don't find that shaving makes the hair grow back thicker or darker, and I often go weeks between touch ups. I do notice it makes my skin feel baby soft and makeup applies oh-so-well after using these razors, though.

Last but not least are a bunch of face cottons and face lotions. I love the Shiseido Cottons, but since I can't buy them where I live, I stick to whatever I can find. For face lotions, the Belif True Cream Aqua Bomb does the trick and I normally stock up whenever Sephora offers them as 100 point samples. Sunday Riley Tidal was a deluxe sample and it truly made my skin appear more radiant. Needless to say, I've bought it in full size. When I'm low on face cream again I think I will splurge and get the Tatcha Indigo Soothing Triple Recovery Cream. At $135, I will certainly be waiting for a sale, but this face cream is truly lovely and does actually soothe the skin!

After I snapped all of these photos, but before writing this post I did also use up another Bath & Body Works Candle in Joy (aka Peppermint Marshmallow) and I used some eye cream samples that got thrown away before I could photograph them.

What items have you used up lately and what would you recommend I try out? I'm always looking for suggestions! Let me know in the comments below. You can also find me on my other social media channels here:

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Sunday, 10 July 2016

One Year of Empties Pt. II

About 10 months ago I posted about my empties from the course of a year here. My intention was to do another empties post after a year, but I have used up a lot of stuff and found myself running out of room to store all of my trash. So, I made the decision to accelerate this post by a couple of months. Thus, in full disclosure, this is more like 10 months of empties. Like last year, I've photographed my items by category. I won't discuss every product, because: boring. And also because a lot are repeats of last year. But I'll hit the highlights.

The category I'm most proud of is skincare. I found a few holy grail items this year and used up a lot of full size products. I've already repurchased the Tata Harper Purifying Cleanser for a third time, and I've also got another Indie Lee Brightening Cleanser, which I love using with my Clarisonic. The Pixi Glow Tonic was another product I really enjoyed, and I can see why it's a cult classic. I will probably repurchase once I use up some other toners. And I literally cannot see myself ever living with Sunday Riley Good Genes. I'm almost done with a second bottle, and have a third on reserve.

The May Coop Raw Sauce was ok, but I don't think it made a big difference to my skin. The Sarah Chapman Skinesis Overnight Facial was another meh product. I loved it when I first got it (maybe around three years ago...don't judge!) but I have since found other oils and serums I much prefer (like Sunday Riley Luna) so I can't see myself repurchasing. I do see myself repurchasing both the Ole Henriksen Truth Serum Vitamin C Collagen Booster and the Tatcha Supple Moisture Rich Silk Cream, although I do want to try the new Tatcha Pore Perfecting Water Gel first.

I worked my way through a lot of hair care samples this year, my favourite being the Bumble & Bumble Surf Shampoo and Conditioner. I worked through another can of the Bumble & Bumble Thickening Dryspun Finish. I bought a travel size of the Dry Bar Triple Sec to compare, but I found that I prefer the Bumble & Bumble for adding texture and volume to my hair. I also stuck with my Living Proof Ph.D. 5-in-1 Styling Treatment, an old fave, and used up a few deluxe samples.

In the shower, I fell in love with the Acure Cell Stimulating Body Wash, which replaced my Neutrogena Pink Grapefruit Body Scrub. I mainly use it to prevent any blemishes on my back. I also love the Nivea In Shower Lotion and the L'Occitane Almond Shower Oil for adding moisture, especially after shaving my legs. Babyfoot is both amazing and disgusting, and I experimented with shaving my face (aka 'microblading) with the Tinkle Razors (bought on Amazon). I didn't have a bad experience with the razors by any means, but I'm on the fence about whether I think the effort is worth it for me!

2016 was the year of the sheet mask for me and basically everyone else on the planet. For the most part I find all sheet masks are pretty much the same. But if I had to pick a favorite from those I used, I would have to go with the Boscia Tsubaki Oil Deep Hydration Hydrogel Mask. For more noticeable results, however, I will be sticking with more traditional masks.

I also worked through a lot of skincare samples, which was a particular goal of mine (along with using up perfume samples, the results of which you will see below). The Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Peels are fantastic for exfoliation and overnight results! The sample of the Belif The True Cream Aqua Bomb prompted me to buy it in full size, which I've almost used up. I also really enjoyed the Korres Greek Yoghurt Foaming Cream Cleanser.  Despite having the word 'foaming' in the title, I don't find that this strips the skin and it works well with the Clarisonic.

These are the results of my effort to use up my many, many perfume samples. This has meant that I have ignored most of my full size perfumes, but I think it has been worth it to work through some of my stash of samples. I have loved Lancôme La Vie Est Belle for years, but still haven't taken the plunge on a full size. The same goes for the Carven Le Parfum. YSL Black Opium is one that I have loved in the past, so I already have a purse size spray bottle, but nonetheless used up the sample. Commodity Moss was interesting, and even though I didn't like it enough to buy, it makes me want to try other Commodity scents. I used up my full size Gucci Guilty in 2015, and this sample reminded me why I love it so much. The only two scents that I disliked so much I didn't use the entire vial are Estée Lauder Modern Muse and Lancôme Trésor. Both were way too heavy and old lady for my taste.

Makeup-wise, my empties are mascara heavy, which is pretty typical given that I have such a large collection that it's hard to use up items. I did finish my Jouer Matte Moisture Tint. I had fallen out of love with this because it was too heavy for my taste, but I found that applying it with a beauty blender sheered it out enough that I fell back in love. I haven't repurchased because I have at least 10 other foundations I'm working on, but perhaps one day I will. Another great achievement was using up by By Terry Baume de Rose. I doubt I will repurchase this (it's $60), but it was very nice to use. I've already almost finished up another Anastasia Brow Wiz in Dark Brown and the same goes for the Clinique Bottom Lash Mascara. As for mascaras, I loved the Tarte Lights, Camera, Splashes and the Too Faced Better Than Sex. I've bought full sizes of both. I hated the Maybelline Lash Sensational and do not understand the hype around this product.

Rounding out the products, I went through a bunch of cotton rounds. I love the Shiseido Cotton, but I can only access that when I take trips back to the U.S. so I generally use whatever I find in my local store. I was thrilled that Bath and Body Works started making their Peppermint Marshmallow candles (now under the name Joy). In terms of lotions, the Lollia Hand Cream in Wish is the best smelling thing ever. I've noticed that Nordstrom is selling a bubble bath in the same scent and I am going to get my hands on that!

Whew! That was a lot of empties and I'm excited to see what I have next year. I'm going to continue to try to work through sample items, as I have an obscene amount! Have you used any of these products? What empties have you used up recently?

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Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Destination: Sofia

Alexander Nevski Cathedral in Sofia
I've lived in the Balkans for almost two years at this point, and it has afforded me the opportunity to travel to a lot of places that are off the so-called beaten path. But since the Balkans seems to be an up-and-coming travel destination, I thought I would start to share with you some of my favourite places in this region of the world. Spoiler alert: my all-time favourite place in the Balkans/the world is the Albanian Riviera and I plan on writing about that soon, but for now...First up is Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria.

For the size of its population, to me Sofia seemed like quite a sprawling city and I was massively impressed with how much green space the city has! There seems to be a park on every corner in this city, which is a feature I personally love. In addition to its many parks, the thing that struck me most about Sofia is the juxtaposition of it's socialist/communist architecture with its many Orthodox Churches. Overall I think it makes for a very interesting city.

Ornate Gates Outside of the Alexander Nevski Cathedral
Being in Eastern Europe, it's of course much, much cheaper than cities in Western Europe. And it's not all that difficult to get to. Already being in the Balkans, I drove to Sofia, but it's easy enough to fly into Sofia, including on low-cost carriers like Easy Jet. For accommodation, we decided to stay right in the city centre at Hotel St George, which was comfortable and clean—and had a great location.

What really made Sofia a great weekend destination were the restaurants & bars, and the many beautiful churches. Here are some of my recommendations:

St Nikolas Russian Church
What to Visit: Alexander Nevski Cathedral is probably the most well-known and iconic location in Sofia. And for good reason: it is one of the most beautiful Orthodox churches I've ever been in. Even if churches aren't your thing, I would say that this one is worth a visit (especially as there is no entrance fee, so you can come and go at your leisure).

St Nikolas Russian Church, featuring Russian-style 'onion dome' architecture, is another beautiful church. It's not far from the Alexander Nevski Cathedral and on a sunny day it offers some benches in a cute garden where you can sit, surrounded by tulips, and people watch as Sofia-ians (Sofi-ites? who knows) walk by.

Statues at the Museum of Socialist Art
If there is one thing I recommend doing while in Sofia, it is to visit the Museum of Socialist Art. It's a little bit outside of the city center, but it's well worth the short jaunt—especially if you are a student of history. The museum features a sculpture garden, a gallery, and a documentary on the Bulgarian socialist experience. It's surreal and a bit bizarre to see the this much socialist/communist art assembled in one place, but it's a truly fascinating experience.

The most beautiful coffee in the world
Where to Eat: For lunch, you should definitely check out Hlebar (the name is a play on хлеб—bread—and бар—aka bar). They have a selection of tasty sandwiches that are made to order (featuring some amazing bread, btw!) and delicious desserts. Try the ginger cake!

For dinner, I really recommend you make a reservation at the Little Things, which is a quirky and cute restaurant located in an old house. The different rooms of the house have been converted into different dining rooms, and the menu at the Little Things is equally eclectic. It's a perfect place to share a bunch of starters and small plates with friends. The food was fresh and flavorful, and was a nice change of pace from traditional Bulgarian cuisine.

Where to Drink: If cocktails are your thing, visiting Raketa Rakia Bar is a must. Although it's advertised as a rakia bar, their drinks selection goes far beyond rakia (a type of brandy that is ubiquitous throughout the Balkans). My personal favorite might have been the absinthe cocktail that featured a side of cotton candy to wash it down. Sugar truly is the way to my heart.

Hopefully this helps give you a little bit of an overview of what Sofia has to offer. Let me know below if you have ever visited—or where your favorite place to visit is!

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Sunday, 24 April 2016

Omorovicza Hydra Melting Cleanser

I must admit that I'm a bit confused by the Omorovicza Hydra Melting Cleanser: it's not a terrible product, but I'm not sure I really like. And I am sure that at $110 I do not think that it is worth the price.

The Hydra Melting Cleanser is marketed as a 'triple-phase cleanser' that 'removes all makeup and impurities'. In the jar it is a gel-like consistency (it reminds me of something like the Belif Aqua Bomb in its appearance, only a bit thicker). It purports to then turn into an oil once in contact with the skin, but on me at least this never happens. So rather than effortlessly rubbing an oil onto my skin to remove makeup, I find myself trying to spread a not-so-viscous gel all over my face. Once you add water to emulsify the gel it does turn into a milk that washes off the skin easily and does seem to remove makeup effectively. But the whole experience is decidedly less than pleasant, and for $110 I want it to feel like baby kittens are rubbing my face with their soft paws.

Ultimately, I much prefer a cleansing oil (such as MAC Cleanse Off Oil, The Body Shop Camomile Silky Cleansing Oil, or Tatcha Camellia Cleansing Oil) to the Hydra Melting Cleanser. But if you are not a fan of cleansing oils and instead prefer balms, perhaps you will have more luck with this one. I can say that it doesn't feel stripping on the skin (great if you are prone to dryness) and doesn't leave a residue on the skin. But for the price, I'd much rather stick with a less expensive option that gets the job done more effectively.

The Omorovicza Hydra Cleansing Balm is available at Sephora for $110. Or you can order it off of some British websites for a lower price—it's around $78 on CultBeauty (the VAT comes off once the item is in your cart and you list a U.S. shipping address, making the price even lower than listed). You'll have to wait longer to get your item, but they do free shipping and often have coupon codes available.

What are your favorite cleansing balms or oils? Let me know below!

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