Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Review: Tata Harper Purifying Cleanser


OK, let's get this out of the way. This cleanser is 4.2 fl oz and it costs $62. No, not $26. $62. I agree, it is outrageous. That didn't stop me from buying it and probably won't stop me from repurchasing when I run out. Tata Harper is a new brand to me but I really like what I see so far. Let's start with the packaging. A solid, green GLASS bottle with heft and a smooth pump.  I approve enthusiastically. As for the contents, it's oil-based though not an oil cleanser per se. The texture is more like a gel. It has all sorts of lovely plant extracts, kaolin clay, and fruit enzymes. The directions say to spread it on the skin like a mask and let sit for a minute (letting those enzymes go to work like a mini-treatment). I do this after I have gotten all of my make up off with an oil cleanser. It's wonderful. Rinses off cleanly and makes my skin feel clean and balanced. This is a great cleanser to use before applying a serum or treatment because the fruit enzymes will dissolve any dead surface skin cells, letting the serum penetrate more easily. If you wear make up and sunscreen, this will not be enough to use on its own - you'll want to use an oil cleanser or make up remover to get all that gunk off before you treat your skin to this loveliness. I don't tend to use it everyday, just when I feel my skin could use an extra cleansing boost.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Review: Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant


I received this chemical exfoliant from Nordstrom as a sample with an order recently and have been using the heck out of it. (It is a very generous sample.)  It contains salicyclic acid, green tea, and some other things to enhance its penetration into the skin. I use it every day after I cleanse my face. I just sensed some of you recoiling, but really - it's gentle enough that you can do that. If you feel your face becoming irritated, back off of it for a few days and try a gentler exfoliant, such as lactic acid. Not only will it leave you with fresh, glowing skin because it gets rid of the dead stuff, but it will help your other products work better if you use it in the proper order because of that great ability to help your skincare penetrate deeper into the skin. Here's what I do each morning:


  • Cleanse skin gently - usually just with water - to remove products used the night before
  • Swipe BHA exfoliant all over face with a cotton pad
  • Mist with a comforting toner, just to get a little extra water into the skin and calm down any irritation from the BHA. Lately, I've been enjoying this Mario Badescu mist.
  • After it dries a bit, apply Vitamin C serum.  This is the real reason why you want to use the acids in this order - you want all those delicious antioxidants in your serum to get as deep into your skin as possible.
  • Apply moisturizer.  This summer I've been enjoying Ole Henriksen's Vitamin Plus.
  • Apply sunscreen and make-up.
I will purchase this product after I run out of my sample. Paula's Choice products are pretty affordable, and this one will run me a mere $28 for 4 oz. I like to keep an array of acid exfoliants around and this has very nicely filled my BHA niche.

Just one cautionary note: you really shouldn't be using physical exfoliants on your face anyway, but it is super important not to use them if you are already using a chemical one. So no scrubs, nothing with microbeads, no manually scrubbing at your face, please. Your skin will thank you.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Review: Hermessence Muguet Porcelaine Eau de Toilette



Whenever Hermes comes out with a new Hermessence, I must try it - even when they are not to my taste, they are always well-crafted and sophisticated. I had reservations about this one because it features lily of the valley - and really, pretty much only lily of the valley. That particular note and I don't usually get on. In most formulations, I find it high-pitched and screechy in a way that irritates my nose. Muguet Porcelaine is not that.  It is a fresh, green burst of spring floral that has the same watery florist cooler vibe as Frederic Malle's En Passant. I really enjoy it and find it very refreshing. The downside to this perfume is that it is as fleeting as they come. There is also no evolution - how could there be?  It is gone before you could get anything resembling a drydown. Now, that didn't stop me from buying a small bottle. I'm going to use it up, get it out of my system, and probably not re-purchase. I just couldn't resist a lily of the valley that I could actually wear.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Review: Bvlgari Au The Bleu Eau Parfumee


Au the Bleu is Bvlgari's latest addition to its tea (or the) range, which is a solid, often overlooked range of tea-inspired scents that are all well-crafted and come in a very nice array of products. (I also quite like Au the Blanc). I purchased the travel spray version of Au the Bleu (and how great is it that they offer one of those?), which will run you $25 for 0.34 oz. I have found this scent such a delightful go-to that I think I will soon be purchasing the full-sized bottle because my travel spray is already running low. Au the Bleu is purported to be inspired by oolong. I don't know about that, but I will tell you that it has a cool, misty vibe very much in keeping with the packaging. I smell a soft lavender, green violet, and iris root. It is decidedly floral, but very unassuming. And for such a subdued fragrance, it has surprising sillage - I've gotten several compliments from people several hours after I'd spritzed it. The drydown focuses mainly on the iris and a clean musk, and is just as pleasant as the opening. I would say that if you like Chanel 28 La Pausa, any of the other Bvlgari The scents, or Prada's Infusion d'Iris, this one is definitely worth a sniff. It is also available in body lotion or shower gel, which I am keen to try.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Review: Nordstrom Anniversary Exclusive Charlotte Tilbury 'The Dolce Vita' Instant Look in a Palette


I know - this review will come too late for many of you, as the Nordstrom Anniversary sale has ended and this palette sold out quickly. However, this review is for those who missed out and are kicking themselves. Allow me to make you feel better, my friends - you didn't miss much.

The concept of this palette is great. It contains 3 eyeshadow shades--a base, a crease color, and a highlight - as well as two blush shades, a bronzer, and highlighter. It also comes with a travel size of Legendary Lashes mascara. So, in theory, this is a great workhorse palette if you just need something easy in the morning or want one palette to travel. However, the execution falls flat.



Here are the eyeshadow shades. I liked these the most out of everything. They are soft and buttery and easily blended. The colors are versatile neutrals that should flatter pretty much anyone. My only complaint is that middle shade - it looks like a lovely cool taupe in the pan and then turns weirdly warm when swatched. Still, it was not so warm that my cool complexion couldn't weather it.


And now the face products. We go downhill rapidly here. The palette contains some of the tiniest blush pans I have ever seen outside of sample sizes.  I mean, really, what brush am I supposed to use with these? Certainly not my preferred fluffy Chikuhodo. The colors are good - again, they go for universally flattering with a matte rose and a coral slightly shimmery shade. However, the application was awful and I fully blame the brush I was forced to use because of the ridiculous pan size. The best I could do was an angled synthetic brush and wow did that not work well. The blush applied too densely and in patches. Awful. They would have been FAR better off just picking ONE blush shade to put in this palette and putting it in a pan the same size as the other two face product shades.

I then turned to the bronzer and the highlighter. These are two of Tilbury's more popular products and they were of a size that was possible to work with, thank goodness. I thought they were ok. The bronzer was a tad too dark and warm on me but did have a nice and buttery texture. I liked the highlighter and it is something I would use, except to me it is identical to Wet n Wild's Reserve Your Cabana, which I already own and is far less expensive than this palette was.


Lastly, we have the mascara. It's more of a bonus item than an integral part of the palette; there is no place to contain it within the palette. I liked the way this applied as it gave my lashes good length and volume. It has my favorite kind of applicator, with lots of thick bristles. However, it did not last well at all. I had tons of smudging after just a few hours, which was immensely frustrating to try and deal with at work. I do tend to have smudging problems with quite a few mascaras but this was a bit beyond the pale.

So, I'm committing make-up sacrilege and returning a much sought-after limited edition item. I can't not return it - I would really only use about one half of it, and that is not nearly enough to justify the $78 price.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Review: Guerlain Eau de Beaute Micellar Cleansing Water


Micellar waters have exploded in the US market, and with good reason. They take make-up off with ease and leave no icky residue. They are usually great for sensitive skin and are non-clogging.  Bioderma is the original gold standard but a lot of other brands have come out with their own spin. I couldn't resist trying this Guerlain version because it looked so luxe - or as luxe as a micellar water can look. The packaging is a step up from Bioderma and my other favorite, Koh Gen Do. It feels substantial and it has a nice gold cap with a well-designed pump. The contents of the bottle are less appealing. It is certainly micellar water and it does a good job of removing make-up. However, Guerlain has chosen to add a rather strong fragrance to its water and I don't relish putting it on my face. On top of all that, it's multiple times more expensive than Bioderma - $59 for 200 ml, whereas you can get Bioderma for $17 for 500 ml. I'll use up the bottle I have but this won't be a repurchase.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Review: Becca Backlight Priming Filter



I received a generous sample of Becca's new primer in a recent Sephora Play box and have been testing it thoroughly. This is a pretty good primer for special events. As you can see in the swatch, it has a lot of luminosity. Normally this would be a turn-off for me, but I found it fairly subtle when applied to the whole face and even more subtle once I put foundation on top of it. The overall effect was a slight brightening rather than serious shimmer. Texturally, it feels creamy and smooths on easily. My make-up applied more easily after using this. I did not, however, notice any improvement in wear time, which is one of the main jobs of a primer. For this alone, I probably would not buy it, because while it lasts very well through a dressy evening out, it can't stand up to the rigors of a 12-hour work day.