Sunday, January 17, 2016

Beauty Favorites and Fails: December 2015 to January 2016 (Product Reviews incl. Korean Beauty)

 This month, my skin has been rather challenging. I've noticed new under-eye wrinkles that weren't there before, and also been having some more pimples (around my chin and jawline) than usual. I am not sure whether to attribute these things to being almost 51 now, and the hormonal challenges happening, or if adding several new things, like different face oils, Retin-A, and BHA to my routine have caused some upset. Aside from these challenges though, I have enjoyed some wonderful new products and of course, experienced some big time loser products. Let start with the good news:
Favorites of the Month


1. Happiness is ..... Real Art Moisture Cleansing Oil from Etude House! Oh how I love this oil cleanser!!! There are not superlatives enough in the world to describe my affection for it. First off, the light lemon scent is so lovely and soothing. I looked forward to using it every night, and found it very calming. The oil feels so good on my skin, and is great in removing all make-up, and giving enough slip for a gentle facial massage. Then when you add water to your face, it emulsifies perfectly and removes completely, leaving a soft and clean skin. Not to mention, the packaging is cute and the pump works really well. That is another thing I'm finding with Korean beauty products: the pumps on the containers always work great, which is so different from the American products, where 50% of the time, the pump is broken (I'm looking at you, Body Shop Grapefruit Shower Gel!). Also, this product did not sting my eyes, clog pores or cause breakouts. Love!

2. L'Oreal Voluminous Million Lashes Excess Mascara in Blackest Black. I really enjoyed this mascara. I think it lived up to its claims of volumizing lashes without big clumps. It was nice and wet and very black. I had no trouble with flaking, and it stays high-powered until I took it off at night. No fading during the day, or the need for reapplication. Note that I do use all mascaras with the Estee Lauder Little Black Primer now, because I have a big problem with mascara transferring under my eyes, due to the shape of my eyes/face. The wand on this mascara is good: big and fluffy but not so much that I poked myself or couldn't reach smaller lashes. I would definitely buy this mascara again, after I use up all the others in my stash.

3. Kings and Queens Chinese Princess Jasmine Shower Gel. If you like prettily scented shower gels that don't dry out your skin, and with a scent that stays with you for a few hours, then I can definitely recommend this one. I love the scent, and the way it left my skin feeling. I also love the packaging in the pretty pink bottle. Only downsides: the lid breaks easily, and this brand is hard to find in the U.S. I originally bought it at Target, but they stopped carrying it, so now I have to get it ordered from Europe, because it is made by Korres. Still, I think it's worth it for the lovely scent. A perennial favorite! (Postscript: This might be discontinued! Oh No!)

4. Rimmel Lash Accelerator Mascara. Although it probably can't live up to its claims to make your lashes grow, because it's not a medical product, this is a very nice mascara. It was nice and black and it did lengthen and volumize my lashes. I used this on my natural make-up or light make-up days, because it wasn't as volumizing as the other mascara I was using (see above). But it did seem to moisturize and condition my lashes, which I enjoyed. I experienced no flaking, clumping, or irritation. I would definitely buy this again. 

5. Pixi Glow Tonic toner. I think this really did work to make my skin look glowy, because when I visited my aunts in Florida, they remarked on my glowing skin. This toner has a nice moisturizing feeling, a pretty, girly, light fragrance, cute and efficient packaging, and is readily available at Target. It is a little higher priced than the typical Target product at $29 for 3.4 fl oz, but it seems to have a good complement of ingredients, like Witch Hazel, Aloe, Glycolic Acid, and Biotin, and there is no alcohol, so it is not drying. After using up my current toners that I am trying out, I will definitely purchase this one again.
Some okay products I tried.

Good, Nice, but Not Sure if  I Will Buy Again

1. Olay Regenerist Regenerating Serum Fragrance Free. I liked this serum, mostly for the consistency, which is more like a light lotion, than a gooey gel or a liquid. It was very easy to apply and it didn't cause any irritation. But did it change my skin for the positive at all? I don't know. It has good ingredients like niacinamide, peptides, and silicone for a silky texture, but I'm not sure I saw any difference in my skin from using it. I can probably do better.

2. Redken Diamond Oil High Shine Gel Conditioner. This is a very lightweight conditioner. It did add some shine to my hair, and it did detangle it, but it doesn't work as well to keep it soft and easy to style (i.e. manageable) as some of the other conditioners I am currently using, so although it is not a "fail," I would not bother purchasing this again.

3. Etude House Collagen Moistfull Emulsion. Again, nothing wrong with this product: the smell is faint and delicate, the texture is nice, it didn't irritate my skin. But, it's not a must-have product for me. This is a very light lotion, so it did not deliver the moisture that I need on my skin, which is mostly dry, except for my T-zone. The website describes it as "rich" but I would disagree, and say it is very light hydration. Also, the bottle and cap design make it very hard to get the product out. You have to hold it upside down and tap it out, and it comes out slowly. Annoying!

4. The Body Shop Moisture White Shiso Foaming Facial Wash. I really enjoyed using this cleanser, but it is in my "just okay" pile because, contrary to what it says on the bottle, it did dry out my under-eye area. If your skin doesn't have dry patches, though, you might love this. The packaging is really nice in that it dispenses easily, and keeps the product from exposure to light, moisture and air. The foam is really soft and soothing to put on your face, and the scent is very mild. It felt very mild in general, with the licorice extract and the glycerin, but still did a good job in cleansing. I used this as my second step in my evening double-cleanse.

5. MAC Lightful C Marine-Bright Formula Softening Lotion. This is called a lotion but it's actually a toner. It has a watery consistency that make it easy to apply and spread with a cotton pad. I liked this, but again, not sure if I saw any difference on my skin while using it. It had no fragrance, that I could detect, did not irritate or cause redness, and it felt like a good final step in my cleansing routine, to make sure every last trace of dirt and make-up was removed. Aside from that though, it didn't seem particularly "Wow" and I feel like the Pixi toner was better.
Products I disliked.

Ugly Fails

1. Sephora Sheet Masks (including the Rose Eye Mask, the Lingzhi Mask, and  Lotus Mask). Wow, were these ever bad! Maybe I am so disappointed because my expectations were so high? I had heard that these were really popular and sold out frequently, and their packaging, though simple, was really appealing, arranged in the store in a rainbow of colors. But all of these failed me. I still have a few more that I've purchased to try, including the favorite Pearl variety, but so far, so bad. The Rose eye mask had an odd shape, like a checkmark, that didn't fit well under the curve of my eyes, and had a chilling sensation, rather than soothing. There was no noticeable scent, but after removal - horrors! - my under-eye area was reddened and saggier looking. It was wet, but not moisturized. The Lingzhi mask had a yucky smell, but it fit well. After removal, my face was flushed, which at my age, with broken capillaries galore, is not a good thing. Maybe if you are very young and very pale, you would appreciate a pink glow, but I do not. Also, any moisture was absorbed very quickly after removal of the mask, and I wasn't looking any more youthful. The smell, however, lingered. And the Lotus mask had a lingering, "off" odor as well. The fit was bad on my face: I had to cut it across the bridge of the nose to make it lay flat, but it did leave my face looking moisturized. All in all, these masks had very mediocre results, and were unpleasant to use.

2. S.W. Basics of Brooklyn Exfoliant. This is a product I picked up at Target from a line of beauty products that was new to me. They are all natural with simple ingredients. I love the concept, and the ingredients are only organic oat flour, organic almond flour and sea salt. So conceivably, you could eat this stuff. Unfortunately, it didn't do much for me as a beauty product. I followed the directions of wetting a small amount and rubbing it on my face, but it just kind of clumped up and dropped off into the sink in gobs. I also tried mixing it with a cleanser, but in the end, just decided it wasn't doing much for me, but make a big mess. I am going to throw it out in the garden, knowing it will decompose naturally. At least that part is nice! Also, you could just make this yourself at home, and save yourself a lot of money, because this was NOT cheap, at $24 for 3 oz.

3. SkinFood Rose Essence Soft Cream Blusher. I received this as part of a gift set from Beautique, during their Black Friday sale. I love the pretty, retro, feminine packaging with the nice mirror, and the soft rose scent that smells like a child's perfume. The color is also pretty: a delicate, girly pink. However, the formulation of this did not work for me. It is a very soft cream, but when you apply it to your cheeks, it is matte and opaque, unless you rub it in. When you rub it in, it virtually disappears from your skin, except to settle into any fine lines or large pores you may have. So either way, rubbed in or not, it is not flattering on the skin. Really bummed about this one because I wanted to love it, and I'm trying to think of some way to keep it and make it work, but I'm at a loss. I wish I knew a little girl who likes to play with make-up, because it would be nice for playing dress-up.

4. L'Oreal Magic Lumi Highlighter. This is a cream highlighter that comes in a wand and looks like a concealer. It claims to lighten dark circles, but I found it was too transparent to achieve that. The packaging is attractive with a slim, gold metallic wand. It looks a lot like the YSL Touche Eclat concealer. However, the twist mechanism that oozes the product up onto the attached brush is messy and frequently dispenses too much product. This stuff has a blech chemical odor. It is very pinky in tone, and there is a subtle sparkle to it, but it doesn't compare to the wonderful Hourglass Ambient highlighters in quality, or the glow that it adds to your face. For me, there were not enough pluses to warrant keeping it in my collection, especially since the odor made it unpleasant for me to use.

5. It's a 10 Miracle Leave-In Product. No miracles here. I got this deluxe sample free as a gift with purchase from Ulta, and am very glad I didn't actually buy it. It is a light spray in conditioner that did detangle my hair, however, it didn't add any shine, bounce, repair damaged hair, or prevent breakage, as it claims to do. And my hair needed washing after day two instead of day three, like usual. And, no, I didn't apply too much. It was just kind of gunky in my hair.

That's it for this month's beauty round-up of favorites and fails. I hope this was helpful to you. Please leave a comment with your recent favs and fails. xo