Saturday, 24 March 2018

bb Lipsticks

The list of things that are cuter than mini versions of full-sized products is pretty small. I love tiny things. Which is why I'm always snapping up deluxe sample sizes of lipstick when they're available in codes or other gifts with purchase. Or in at least one case, buy a mini lipstick - MAC started offering some of their classic shades in mini form, which seems like a good idea for a shade you might want but aren't going to need a full tube. Mini lipsticks in general are a great idea, in my humble opinion: as a beauty junkie, I like variety and so product sizes aren't a huge concern for me. Why shouldn't we have different sizes of lipstick, like the different sizes of moisturizer or toner or sunscreen? 

So while I'm resigned to mostly grabbing deluxe sizes with codes, I've had a very good streak lately. In addition to purchasing a mini MAC lipstick in Diva, a matte, I've gotten freebies of Fenty Beauty Matte-moiselle Plush Matte Lipstick in Griselda, Tom Ford lipstick in Indian Rose, and Urban Decay Vice Lipstick in Big Bang. All of which were great for trying the shade, formula,  and seeing a comparable version of the packaging. However, not all of them were great...which is why samples are something I'm trying to take advantage of more often, particularly as I don't have regular access to a variety of stores to swatch things. This way, I'm ultimately saving money and getting to try things, even if they're not always colours I'd choose for myself.

L-R: Tom Ford Indian Rose, MAC Diva, Fenty Griselda, Urban Decay Big Bang

I'd actually already tried Big Bang in a little sample blister, but it was very different in a bullet form. It's described as "bright pink sparkle." That's true. I loosely subscribe to Auxiliary Beauty's Lipstick Taxonomy, so I'm inclined to feel like it's a glitter lipstick, since the shimmer is fairly large. Urban Decay calls it metallized. Okay.

Quibbles about the finish of this lipstick aside, it's very, very pretty. That's the end of my positive thoughts on this. It's gritty and wears off in weird patchy chunks. But it's so pretty! That is not enough to keep a little deluxe lipstick sample. Do not get this, not even with a code. The Vice lipstick range is large, so there are better things in there.

Tom Ford Lipstick in Indian Rose is probably the best mini lipstick I've ever come across. This was a 100 point perk at Sephora this fall, and I nabbed it. I wanted to try Tom Ford lipsticks, but I've heard they go rancid really, really fast, and for someone with a lipstick collection the size of mine, a lipstick that goes off quickly is no good. I've already used mine up a ton, and I can see it being an easy lipstick pan this year.

Indian Rose is a neutral pink, very wearable, office-appropriate colour. It's sheer-ish, and the formula is creamy with a glossier finish on the side of satin. It wears easily and because it's such a sheer neutral, it doesn't look weird as it rubs off. 

It's a very soft formula, and it's fine...but it's just fine. Tom Ford lipsticks run $70. I want to be singing from rooftops about how great it is for that pricetag. It's not, though. It's merely okay. I'll happily wear it. I won't ever buy a Tom Ford lipstick. There are so many amazing formulas - for much less money.

Fenty Beauty Matte-moiselle Plush Matte Lipstick in Griselda was another 100 point perk that I had picked up with my Christmas gift card purchases in January. I also picked up a full size of the Matte-moiselles, Candy Venom, so I can tell you that the formula for these varies between colours. Candy Venom is pigmented, lightweight, opaque and smooth in application. Griselda, a burgundy, is stiff, draggy, and patchy. I could not, for the life of me, get this to apply evenly at all, ever. It's terrible. I hate it. I can't even bring myself to try to pass this on to another person because it's so bad. I definitely couldn't bring myself to wear this for a whole day to test it, so I can't tell you what it looks like over a day. But I think not being willing to do that indicates to you how much I hate this.

Which is especially mystifying because Candy Venom is so good. 

Comparing Griselda to MAC Diva, Diva is the easy winner. Both are burgundies, but Diva is much smoother and more red-toned, which I think is more flattering on me. It's also along the stiff side, but it applies more smoothly and doesn't look patchy if you try to even out the layers. It leaves a really nice dark pink-red stain and wears relatively evenly, for all that burgundy is such a finicky colour. I love the vamp of this colour, though I generally try to avoid being too vampy because it's so easy. But it's certainly a colour that I only really need one of.

2 out of 4 that I actually like, and 1 out of 4 that I would buy (or in this case, buy again). Not a stellar showing for the tiny lipsticks, but again, this was an easy way to try a few things, and explore some formulas. 

Sunday, 11 March 2018

My Current Skincare Routine

It took a really long time, but I started to get into skincare in the last year and even be mildly interested in reading about it. I'm not meticulously checking the pH of my products, nor am I constantly chasing a better thing (I am always chasing a cheaper thing, though). I've gone through variations of my skincare routine over the last few years, trying to get to a place that made me happy, adding and subtracting products and steps. And I am mostly happy, even with the occasional misstep.

A few notes about my skin in its current state:
  • my skin is typically combination-oily, with some dehydration and dryness in the winter
  • my biggest concerns right now are texture and hydration
  • I take birth control (ethinyl estradiol/drospirenone, oral) and get a very mild hormonal breakout once a month
  • I tend to have very persistent post-inflammatory erythema (PIE) and in general, any mark on my skin can be pretty obvious
  • my skin isn't super sensitive, but it can be fussy - I don't react to much, but when I do, I react pretty poorly
  • I have a tendency to pick at my skin and always regret it - I've gotten better but do regress when I'm stressed
These are pictures of my face without makeup from this morning. You can see that I have some PIE from my healing breakout brought on by The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution (which I mentioned on Instagram and have ceased using). I also have some redness around my nose, and am a little dry around my mouth right now.

Before I went on birth control when I was 18, I had moderate acne throughout most of my teens - not bad enough to warrant Accutane, but enough to make me self-conscious. It started to clear up when I was 16-17, but I don't actually know what my skin would look like as an adult without being on the pill. I assume a combination of growing up and using a hormonal medication have changed the state of my skin in the last ~8 years. I don't have perfect skin, but I don't have overly problematic skin, so what this routine does isn't create miracles. I'm fairly consistent with my routine, and can't actually remember a day I haven't done it in the last year. 


  • Wash my face with Glossier Milky Jelly. I've been using it as my morning cleanse for about three months now, after finishing up my favourite Marcelle Comforting Cleansing Milk. Milky Jelly is fine, but it's more expensive, and the Marcelle cleanses + gives a dose of moisture.
  • Put on sunscreen. Currently I'm trying out Biore UV Aqua Rich Whitening Essence SPF 50+ PA++++. It's okay, it works well enough and doesn't interfere with my skin or makeup, It's got a texture like a light moisturizer, but it doesn't feel especially moisturizing. It doesn't leave a cast and has a slightly mattifying finish. I'll be going back to my favourite, Biore UV Perfect Bright Milk SPF 50+ PA++++, which has a slight blurring effect and makes me look...well, brighter.
  • I let my sunscreen absorb for 5-10 minutes before putting on my moisturizer, Formula 10.0.6 Seriously Shine Free Mattifying Oil-Free Moisturizer. This is my favourite skincare find from 2017. It gives me a lightweight dose of moisture, keeps the oil that likes to make my T-zone shiny at bay all day, and works as a great primer. Plus it's $10. 
  • I usually put on a layer of lip balm and let it sink into my lips while I eat breakfast, put the bare minimum effort into styling my hair, do my makeup, and then I wipe it off before putting on lipstick. I've been using Geek Fire lip balm in Mother of Dragons, which is perfectly fine. Not my favourite, but it does the trick.

  • Remove my makeup with Bioderma Hydrabio H20 Micellar Water. I used to use Sensibio, but my mom got me Hydrabio for Christmas 2016 and I like it much better. It's more effective and and yes, hydrating. I don't wear waterproof mascara or eyeliner, so I rest the cotton pad with Hydrobio on my eye for a few seconds and it gets it all off.
  • Wash my face with Formula 10.0.6 Best Face Forward Daily Foaming Cleanser. Every so often I will use NIOD Sanskrit Saponins instead, since it's a very intense clean, and I don't like to use it every day. The Formula 10.0.6 is a good cleanser for the end of the day - it's bright and fruity and leaves my skin feeling clean and not being stripped. I usually rinse off my cleanser in the shower, since I prefer to shower in the evening.
  • Once I get out of the shower, I use Pixi Glow Tonic. I mentioned my brief foray with The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution, which I had hoped would be a much cheaper version of that step in my routine, but obviously not. The Glow Tonic does give me a glow, and is a good, light exfoliator, even if the pH may not be optimal.
  • Every other night, I use The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion. I'm basically using this to see its effects in 20 years, but it also does have the side benefit of helping keep my skin clear and I had no purging, so yay.
  • Once a week, on a night I'm not using my retinoid, I do a stronger acid, CosRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid. It helps deal with some texture and smooths my skin. I let it sink in for about 20 minutes before using the next layer.
  • Next up is Mizon Snail Recovery Gel Cream. I didn't notice the effects of this until I went without. My skin loves snail - it's magic on blemishes, it plumps and hydrates my skin, and it even combats redness. 
  • I've been using The Ordinary Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG on my undereyes for the better part of a year, but honestly I don't know if it's doing much. It's dirt-cheap and a bottle lasts forever and at least two people have told me I look more awake since I've been using it, but I don't have really bad undereye circles or puffiness to combat to begin with. I'm going to finish this one and probably dispense with using it. I bring my moisturizer into my eye area anyway.
  • My last layer is The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA, which is sometimes supplemented with The Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Squalane when I need a boost of extra moisture. I really like NMF: it's not too heavy, but is really moisturizing and doesn't feel too greasy.
  • Night lip balm is currently Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask, which I have a sample pot of. I'm also working through the remainder of my Vaseline Lip Therapy in Cocoa Butter, but my real love is Nuxe Reve de Miel Ultra Nourishing Lip Balm. I'll be going back to that once I finish the others.
I'm pretty The Ordinary-heavy right now, which I expect to change once I work through the backups I've stocked up on while Deciem is imploding. If that continues, I'll be looking for dupes for my staples here. 

The last part of my skincare routine is masks. I like to do masks a few times a week, usually during the week as a self-care/relaxation tool. And also to boost my skincare. My favourite mask is a DIY honey mask, courtesy of Lena of Faceonomics. I mix 3 parts of raw honey, 1 part Formula 10.0.6 Keep Your Cool Skin Calming Gel Mask, and three pumps of CosRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence. I keep it on for at least an hour, and then I see real effects: lots of hydration, lots of smoothing and evening my skintone, and reduction of any breakouts I might have. 

I usually have a few sheet masks around for a treat - I like trying them but have never found any that did anything drastic or different from others I've tried. I also find them a little wasteful so try not to use them regularly - it's a once in a while splurge kind of thing. 

I also keep a couple of clay masks around. Glossier Mega Greens Galaxy Pack is my favourite - it has all the oil-reducing power of a clay mask but doesn't leave my skin tight or dry feeling. I also like Formula 10.0.6 Pores Be Pure Skin Clarifying Mud Mask - it smells really good and is a decent budget clay mask. It also tingles while drying down, so as a believer in "if it stings, it's working," I appreciate that.

Anyway, that's it. It feels like a lot of steps, and my partner likes to occasionally whine about how long it takes (which is not that long and honestly, cleaning my contacts takes longer, so there), but it's a nice few minutes of relaxation and routine. 

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

2018 Reverse Rouge Challenge: January and February

Alternate title: stop buying so much lipstick, you never use up any tubes ever, you delusional nut. 

I was hesitating about recording this on my Instagram or the blog, but I decided to go ahead with it. A few friends and I decided to do a Reverse Rouge challenge: we got the idea from Reddit's Makeup Rehab and decided to try it ourselves this year. It's been a while since I tracked my empties in any meaningful way, but I was curious about how much I could use up this year and what I spent on it (sorta - if I don't remember what I paid for it at the time, I've been using the current retail price). We're all doing it in a slightly different way, and I'm doing the most basic form: simply counting the price totals on items that I've used up. I'm also being vague with what I'm counting as beauty products: basically, if I feel like it belongs when I finish it up, it goes in my basket to tally up at the end of the month. I've not typically counted certain categories in the past, like shampoo or conditioner, but have counted things like hair spray and hair oil (basically hair products make me waffle). Though generally, if it's something I consider a necessity, I'm not including it in my Reverse Rouge, since I would buy and replace it regularly, I don't hoard it, and I don't usually go looking for newer, better versions. 

I'm also doing this to see how many actual makeup items I use up this year. A few already, but nothing earth-shattering. Soon, though. Soon.

And lastly, by doing regular blog posts this year, I can not stockpile garbage in a basket in my bathroom. Which sounded like a great idea for a mega post in December! But then I realized I would hate that, plus it would take forever, plus I would be hoarding GARBAGE. I regularly clean my apartment and rid myself of extraneous possessions, so there's no way I can hold onto a pile of garbage for the whole year without cracking. 

All prices are tracked in Canadian dollars. I've converted where needed.

  • Garnier Fructis Style Hold & Flex hairspray (travel size, 68ml): $1.99
    • This was great to have around for the loads of travel I did in the fall and winter (not anywhere far, just lots of weekend trips and work trips). I ended up using it up when I ran out of my big bottle of hairspray around Christmas. I haven't repurchased but probably will in the future.
  • Lush Charity Pot (50g): $7.95
    • This was okay. Not a huge fan of the pot style for this smaller size. The scent was a bit too strong for my daily wear - couldn't use it at work.
  • Mountain Madness Body Butter in White Amber and Ginger: $12.82
    • This body butter is amazing for winter. Thick, plush, heavily moisturizing,'s amazing. I got this as a gift from friends and have since purchased it in another scent. One of the kind of crappy things is how expensive shipping is to Canada from Mountain Madness, but I've been fortunate to have American friend who will forward it to me, easing the shipping costs. It's definitely a winter lotion for me, though - too much for the summer.
  • Solstice Scents whipped soap in Chocolate Peppermint Bark: $11.49
    • I've had this since Christmas of 2015. Yeah. I don't use whipped soap enough to buy it, so this is the last one, I swear. This is a lovely mint chocolate, which is also a thing that I love but my partner hates, so I can't use it when he's around, out of consideration (he doesn't cook fish when I'm around, so it goes both ways). 
  • Mountain Madness Sugar Scrub Cubes in Huckleberry Lemon: $13.18
    • These smelled amazing. I also loved the cube form of scrub rather than having to scoop out from a jar. The cubes lasted me a lot longer than a standard loose scrub. Again, the shipping cost is prohibitive, so I'll probably be looking for an alternative, when I finish up my other scrubs.
  • Glossier perfume sample in You (3ml): $4.50
    • This really grew on me as I kept wearing it. In fact, I ended up buying the full size. It's a warm scent, not especially sophisticated, but the musk reads as very cozy and perfect for winter on me. 
  • Sephora Collection Purple Clay Mask: $10
    • I got this on a bit of a whim in the fall,and I really liked it. It claims 4 uses, but I got 8-9 out of it, and could have gotten a couple more if I'd been slightly less liberal with application. I do have a small face, but still. This one was supposed to be hydrating and soothing, which it was, for a clay mask. It wasn't nearly as drying as most others. This is a much more cost-effective pamper than a sheet mask, so I'll probably try some of the others in the future.
  • Sephora Collection Pomegranate Eye Mask: $6
    • I got this for Christmas. It smelled nice and was like little sheet masks for the undereye area. I didn't notice any effect, but it was a nice pamper. 
  • The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion: $9.80
    • Love this stuff, have backups, have been wildly unimpressed with Deceim's actions lately. I don't need to look for dupes quite yet because I stocked up when Deciem started going sideways but if things haven't improved over there by the time I need to repurchase, I'll be looking at dupes.
  • The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA (100ml): $7.70
    • Ditto for this. Have plenty of backups right now, love the product, but I'm passing as long as Deciem is imploding.
  • Pixi Glow Tonic: $38
    • I quite liked this but it isn't cheap. I've replaced it with The Ordinary Glycolic Aced Toning Solution...but again with Deciem, so I'll probably be back to Glow Tonic later this year.
  • Formula 10.0.6 Best Face Forward Daily Foaming Cleanser: $8.97
    • My favourite evening cleanser. I take off my makeup with Bioderma Hydrabio, and then cleanse with this. It's cheap and effective, plus it smells good and doesn't irritate my skin. Good stuff, already repurchased.
  • Formula 10.0.6 Keep Your Cool Skin Calming Gel Mask: $9.97
    • I like this as a sleeping pack, but I like it even more when mixed with raw honey and a few pumps of CosRx Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence for a mask. I tried to honey mask with a moisturizer instead and it wasn't as good. I drove to Walmart last night and bought a replacement tube.
  • Biore Bright Milk: $19.23
    • Yes, I know I can get it cheaper. This was just faster. Anyway, this is my favourite sunscreen and I have repurchased it again.
  • Farmacy Honey Potion (9g): $5.77
    • Glad I got this deluxe sample to try this out. It was really nice, but I like my cheapo DIY honey mask better.
  • Bobbi Brown Hydrating Eye Cream (3ml): $13.80
    • I've been trying eye creams via samples, because I feel like I should start using one, but I don't want to pay for them quite yet. I would never pay for this one, since the cost is outrageous, and it's only okay.
  • Yes to Blueberries Age Refresh Cleansing Facial Wipe (1 Wipe): $0.32
    • It was a makeup wipe. It removed makeup. The end.
  • The Ordinary Serum Foundation in 1.0NS: $6.70
    • This was in my favourites for 2017, but it took a sharp left turn in the last month and looked awful on my winter-dry skin. I returned to MUFE Water Blend in defeat. I have a bottle in 1.0P, which is a better match for me anyway, and I'll revisit that in the spring and summer. Also, again, Deciem shenanigans. I knew it was too good to be true.
  • Gosh CC Cream Illuminating Foundation in 01 Porcelain: $8.99
    • I remember paying $8.99 for this, because it was on clearance. This is a bit too dark and warm on me, but not super noticeable. It had a lovely finish, but Gosh is no longer available in Shoppers, so I no longer have access to it easily, and I probably wouldn't buy it again anyway. But would suggest you check it out if you fall in their shade range.
  • Physician's Formula Eye Booster 2-in 1 Lash Boosting Eyeliner + Serum in Deep Brown: $9.99
    • I can tell you I almost certainly paid $9.99 for this since I only buy them when they're on sale at Shoppers. This product has the stupidest name and the worst claims, which is a shame because it's a really nice brush tip liquid liner. It doesn't need to rely on garbage claims. I've been using this for a year and a half and keep buying it. An HG for me.
  • Glossier Boy Brow in Clear: $20
    • I'm still a little grumpy that I like this so much. Far superior to any gel I've used in my brows. My first tube lasted me seven months, so I'm fine with the cost. I'm now on my second tube.
  • Essence Lash Princess False Lash Effect Mascara: $5.99
    • I tried this after it was hyped up on Reddit, and I really like it. I find it works best if I wipe off the brush before using it, which wastes the product, but I chuck my mascara every three months anyway. I've repurchased.
  • Epically Epic lip balm in Vanilla Cola: $4.79
    • Hands down, one of the bets lip balms formulas I have ever tried. I'm trying some other right now, but I will be back to Epically Epic for my trusty living room lip balm (you don't have a balm in every room?).
  • Darling Girl Cosmetics Luscious Lip Balm in Chocolate Vanilla Mint: $4.79
    • Another new lip balm love. I like this one for under lipstick or a quick refresh during the day - it's light but very hydrating.
Total: $242.74

Off to a good start this year!

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Winter Favourites

I posted a low-effort story on Instagram the other night mentioning that I was finally through a wildly busy and stressful month. And oh baby, has it ever. Now that it's done, of course, I feel comfortable enough to let loose all of the emotions I've had about the things that were happening and the pressure I felt, so I'm going to hermit up this weekend and process those feelings. And I'm also going to talk about some of the things that have made me happy during this time, beauty and not.

NCBI Account

Getting in my little health sciences librarian plugs where I can, friends. But honestly, this account has saved my ass multiple times. I primarily use it for my searching in PubMed, but you can use it for other resources in NCBI holdings. I have my account set to save my search history for the last six months, which you can imagine is very lengthy in my case, but even if you aren't such a prolific searcher, this can be useful if you want to refer to old searches.

But it does other things for the average person who might be interested in biomedical research. You can set up search alerts, save citations, modify how your search results appear when you run one (for example, I modified my settings to have 100 results per page, highlight the search terms in each result in pink, automatically show the abstracts and the subject headings), and lots of other nifty stuff. Thank you, NCBI account. You make my life so much easier.

Matt & Nat Percio Diaper Bag in Carbon

No, I'm not having a baby, and I would have a much better way of announcing that should it ever come to pass than talking about a diaper bag on my blog. But I did buy a diaper bag - the exact colour that I bought is no longer available but the bag is still on their site. I have been looking for a work bag for what seems like forever. I have a list of needs:
  • must be large enough to carry my laptop, notebook, planner, lunch, waterbottle, Kindle, contents of my purse, and the 2-3 books that I have out of my library at any given point and are probably overdue
  • must have pockets for all of the above things
  • must be a tote or crossbody bag. I'm not going to wear a backpack to work or when I'm travelling to other sites for meetings when I still look like a teenager if I'm not careful
  • must be a neutral colour. I'm trying to be professional here, dammit
This was very difficult to find. All totes are essentially black holes of doom. In a fit of frustration, I wandered over to Matt & Nat because I have a few other pieces and like them, and started looking through their bags. I don't know what compelled me to click on diaper bags, but I did, and I found it! It had a ton of pockets, a laptop sleeve, came with handles and a crossbody strap if I wanted to use it, and the change pad was removable (it now lives on the top shelf of my coat closet). It was also on sale. I waited for a few weeks to make sure this was it, and then I bit the bullet and ordered it. And the Percio is exactly what I wanted. It doesn't look like a diaper bag, so no one will know. It has all of the pockets needed. I can carry my life/mobile office in it when I go to other sites. 

I texted my best friend to demand to know why she had never told me about the greatness that is a diaper bag (she has a ten month old). She didn't have an answer. Probably the mothers in your life neglected to tell you. So I'll do it for them: there are tons of diaper bags out there that don't look like diaper bags and have all the compartments your heart desires. 

Electric Blanket

I ordered this off Amazon in November after listening to a coworker talk about hers and how awesome it was. I love my apartment, but for all of its charm, it has a few faults: the light switches for every room are bizarrely all in the main room, so I have to leave my bedroom to turn off the light, for example; there are only two closets and they are not very big; and it's the attic of an old farmhouse, so it's a little drafty sometimes and electric heat ain't cheap. Enter the electric blanket. I don't like to crank the heat and close the door to the room I use as a living room because it gets stuffy and I still feel cold. With my electric blanket, I keep the heat at a reasonable level and can be warm with my blanket. It's amazing. Best $40 I have ever spent, seriously. 

Cadbury Creme Egg Cookies

Okay, these actually aren't as good as real Creme Eggs, but they exist and that makes me happy. I love Creme Eggs. They are disgustingly sweet, but they are delicious, and I firmly support this time of year when you can find them more readily. If I could still digest ice cream, I would be over in McDonald's demanding another Creme Egg McFlurry which is both the grossest and greatest thing I have ever eaten. There were Creme Egg snack cakes 5-6 years ago and I ate those too, for all that they weren't that good. They used to sell Creme Egg Twisted chocolate bars at The Bargain Shop in my university town and I was obsessed. Then they were discontinued. Suffice it to say, you can get me to buy anything Creme Egg. I'll probably love it no matter how bad it is.

Coral Leaning Pink Lipsticks

This has been a 6 month+ obsession that's not going away. I want bright corals, leaning heavily in the pink territory. I want all of them. I think that coral pink is one of my most flattering colours - most of them light up my face and while coral pink is a colour that I would normally restrict to wearing in the spring and summer, I've been craving it this winter. I think it's because this has been an especially stormy, gloomy, wild winter so far. The weather has been yo-yoing like mad, and it really does run you down after a while. A bright lipstick is a much needed dash of colour in the winter, when everything is turned a uniform white (which can be cozy but also depressing). 

A post shared by Alison (@collectiondevelopment) on

My newest acquisitions in this colour family, Fenty Matte-moiselle Plush Matte Lipstick in Candy Venom and Chanel Rouge Allure Ink Matte Liquid Lipstick in Sediusant, are the ones that I've been wearing the most (obviously - they're new, shiny, and I want to test them out), but all of them have been getting time in the lipstick rotation. 


I'm not a big hot beverage person. I don't drink coffee at all, I drink hot chocolate only once in a while, and while tea is my main hot beverage, I don't drink it every day. However, in the winter, I find myself having a few more cups in the week. It's cold and I need to warm up. Or I need some caffeine - in the winter, I drive to work when it's dark, I come home when the sun is setting, and I need a kick to keep going. Since I don't drink caffeinated beverages regularly, I don't need much to wake up. The days are starting to get noticeably longer again, so I'll probably taper off my tea drinking, but in the dead of winter, I very much appreciate the stash of tea that I keep at work. I've been drinking a lot of Twinings Irish Breakfast Tea lately, and switching to whatever random herbal or flavoured teas I have kicking around in the afternoon of two tea days.

I'm still a big iced tea person, though I've been trying to cut back and drink more water. It's not water's fault that it's so boring yet so much better for you. 

Spring is coming but I still have a good 2-3 months of winter to slog through, so until then, you'll find me with all of these things in this list. 

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Things I Thought I would Never Use: Too Faced Lip Insurance

I don't do lip liners. I've had two and never bothered with them, so out they went. I thought I might be slightly more amenable to a clear lip liner/primer. I tried Bite's version - it was minty and did nothing, so I never used it. I tried Colourpop's Lippie Primer (I hate cutesy nicknames for things, like lippie or hubby. I also hate ampersands. Not related, but you should know) and it was too thick and sticky and also ineffective. Clearly, these were not things that were working for me. And yet, after these experiences, I still bought Too Faced Lip Insurance in November with the Sephora VIB Rouge $25 off $50 coupon (I also picked up a mini Becca highlighter in Vanilla Quartz and the two together came to exactly $50. It was glorious). Lena of Faceonomics had posted an absolute rave of Lip Insurance on Instagram, and because I trust her very thorough IG reviews on stuff, I decided to try it out. 

I find myself wanting longer wearing lip products these days, but I don't like to wear matte liquid lip products more than once a week, even the more comfortable ones that I have sought out and purchased. I don't like to touch up my lipstick more than once in a work day, usually after lunch. It must be longish wearing and stand up to snacking and drinking tea and water all morning. If it can't, it must wear evenly and not catch on dry bits on my lips. It must be relatively easy to remove midday in my office and put back on. It must not require any finicky tools - if I need to carry a lip brush to reapply, I'm out. Basically, I have a lot of requirements and since I've really only solidified what I want out of my every day, professional makeup in the last year and a half, I still have products that I'd like to wear to work, but don't quite hit all of the marks. And so, I would like to use them up...but since I'm not totally satisfied with them, I don't want to use them.

Enter Too Faced Lip Insurance. The parts that I took out of Lena's comments on it was the fact that extended wear and it slightly mattified the finish of glossier, more slippery lip products. Excellent. 

And...she was right. Lip Insurance is amazing. I've been wearing it 2-3 times a week, usually under lighter, glossier lipsticks that I want to extend the longevity of because I won't have much opportunity to touch them up, or lipsticks that have a more slippery texture than I want. I've come to realize that my Bite Amuse Bouche lipsticks, for example, are lovely and comfortable, and I still like the ones I have...but the texture is too slippery for the bolder colours and my day to day. Lip Insurance fixes that. It does give glossier products more of a satin finish (which is really my preferred finish for lipstick). It helps them wear more evenly and reduces the wear that does happen. I've been wearing it a lot with the more neutral shades in my vast lipstick collection - I try to stick to less bold colours when I'm teaching all day, just because I won't have time to check in the mirror and my biggest fear is smearing something all over my face and not catching it. In my office, I can check whenever I want if for some reason I think I've smudged something. Not so much in the classroom.

Lip Insurance comes in a doefoot container, and goes on clear. It's got a smooth, slightly silicone-y texture in application, but feels more powdery as it sets on your lips. It honestly feels a little drying in a layer by itself. This goes away once I apply the lipstick over top. It's still not hydrating, but it can be comfortably worn. It forms a kind of barrier between lip colour and my lips, keeping my midday lip flakes at bay. 

The downside is that it doesn't make anything feel lightweight. It makes some lipsticks feel thicker and tackier, so if texture if a problem for you when it comes to lip products, I would pass. It is not for those days when you're looking for a lightweight product, nor is it made for already matte products. I wouldn't (and haven't) tried it with a liquid matte product, because I strongly suspect my lips would just fall off if I tried that.

I've swatched it and have compared it with three lipsticks that I often wear with it: Tom Ford lipstick in Indian Rose (halfway through my little deluxe sample bullet, FYI), MAC lipstick (Cremesheen) in Mystical (from the Alluring Aquatics collection), and Bite Amuse Bouche in Flag Red (which is bright, bold, and does not look like the red in the Canadian flag at all). 

The left is Indian Rose, Mystical, and Flag Red over bare skin. The right is over Lip Insurance. But you know, since I'm swatching on my arm, you don't really get a good idea of the difference. You can see how clear the Lip Insurance is, though - I applied a block of it on the right and it's completely invisible.

The top is on bare lips, the bottom is over Too Faced Lip Insurance. You can see here the slight mattifying effect that is has on a lip colour.

Again, top is on bare lips, bottom is over Lip Insurance. This is Mystical, which is the lipstick I find gets the most benefit from Lip Insurance in my collection. It looks richer and more saturated over Lip Insurance, and it doesn't wear off quite as fast as it's prone to do.

I love Flag Red with a matter finish, and it also gives me some comfort for when I'm wearing it, since it's so bright. Top is on bare lips, bottom is over Lip Insurance.

Lip Insurance has weaselled its way into my routine and staple products. I don't use it with everything, nor do I want to, but it's the kind of product that I didn't know I needed. It's simple and easy to use, it does what it's supposed to, and it enhances the lip products I already. Ideally, of course, I would have lip products with only the finish and longevity I prefer, but my tastes change often enough that it's easier to modify with a lip primer. I've never been really interested in Too Faced's offerings, but this is excellent.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

I Tried Veganuary

A couple of months ago I was lamenting about an unhealthy food rut I was stuck in: work was at a very stressful point, I was trying to juggle those demands with working on some research, and I usually drop my meal planning when I feel overwhelmed and start eating whatever's easiest and takeout at least once a week. It doesn't help with the situation and doesn't make me feel great. I managed to pull myself out of it, but I realized I wanted to do a little more than that: I wanted to reboot my eating habits. I decided to try Veganuary as a stepping stone for that: one, I eat a lot of vegan meals anyway since I don't like much meat and am lactose intolerant; two, I wasn't going to have much, if any, food in my apartment once I returned from the holidays; and three, I wanted to see if I could do it. 

Oh She Glows Vegan Peppermint Patty. This is amazing.

A few caveats: 
  • I was late starting. I knew I would be, since I wouldn't be home till January 3rd. I decided I would start then, with a big grocery shop when I got home. Joke's on me, I started on the 6th due to being violently ill when I got home and then a huge storm arrived and getting to and from work was hard enough. So I decided I would still try to do the 31 days, just not totally all in January.
  • I had a couple of blips: One when I went home for a night mid-January - my partner's parents were having a party. And to be perfectly honest, I'm still having a hell of a time trying to get our families to understand lactose intolerance ("Can you eat eggs?" Head, meet desk. Our parents are good and lovely people who are really trying, I know). Explaining Veganuary was not a battle I was up to. I did my best to adhere, but there are a lot of animal products in the average Maritimer's home and they are consumed with every meal. The other was at work: a slice of cake for a coworker's birthday.
  • It is really hard to eat a restricted diet of any kind in rural northern New Brunswick. It's not impossible, and our local grocery stores have made huge leaps in the 2+ years I've been here in terms of variety of foods, alternatives to animal products, and lactose-free dairy products. But it is very frustrating that a lot of vegan recipes require very specific ingredients/spices/sauces/produce that are completely inaccessible here. Shout out to Oh She Glows for having delicious recipes with (mostly) easy to acquire ingredients.
Thug Kitchen 5-Spice Fried Rice. This wasn't my favourite - I feel like it's missing something. Though I had less soy sauce than it called for, so that may have been a factor.

The nice thing about Veganuary is that there was no real change to my grocery bill. This could also be viewed as negative - but again, I live in Canada. Food is far more expensive here than in the United States, and I already eat a diet of mostly vegan and veggie foods at this point, so there was very little change to my weekly shop. Meat and dairy are comparatively quite expensive to the US prices, due to our different regulations, and produce is mainly imported, especially this time of year. Eating more ethically has been something I've taken a growing interest in the last couple of years, but the reality of my current location and living situation means that it's very difficult to do so. Our farmer's market was closed till this weekend, you know? It's winter. Almost everything has fuel costs to get it here. 

Anyway, I found myself mostly enjoying it. Again, I have more vegan cookbooks than non, so I do a lot of vegan cooking as part of my regular diet. I was pretty terrible at taking photos of things I made, but an incomplete list:
  • Apple Pie Overnight Oats (Oh She Glows Everyday)
  • Rosemary Bread (produced by random Googling)
  • Crispy Smashed Potatoes with Avocado Garlic Aioli (Oh She Glows Everyday)
  • Yves vegan meatballs with grape jelly sauce 
  • Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese (Oh She Glows app)
  • Crispy Chocolatey Candy (The Complete Guide to Vegan Substitutions)
  • Immunity Boosting Tomato Sauce with Mushrooms (Oh She Glows)
  • Cheeseless pizza (made the crust in my breadmaker, topped with homemade tomato sauce, mushrooms, tomatoes, chives, spinach, and red peppers)
  • Cornmeal Waffles with Strawberry Syrup (Thug Kitchen)
  • 5 Spice Fried Rice (Thug Kitchen)
  • Vegan Peppermint Patty Slice (Oh She Glows App)
Thug Kitchen Cornmeal Waffles with Strawberry Syrup

When I was making up my first grocery list for the month, I sat down with my cookbooks and picked a couple of recipes I wanted to try out for the week - things that I thought would generally work well with being consumed over a week as leftovers. This was a process that I'd kind of done for a while, but this month is where I really sat down and started doing better meal planning. That's something I'll be taking away from this month: continuing to plan my menus more stringently.

What I found really difficult was life without dairy. I've found lactose-free substitutes for most of the dairy I use - cheese, yogurt, butter, milk, even cream cheese. And while I don't eat very much meat anymore, I still eat a good amount of cheese, like to bake, and enjoy a yogurt. I also did an experiment in trying to figure out where and what I could eat out in my city, and came to the horrifying conclusion that with the exception of a couple of places with one or two dishes, that I really couldn't. Like I said, northern New Brunswick is a difficult place to eat any kind of restricted diet that involves abstaining from any animal products. But I also found myself feeling strangely deprived, like I was shutting myself out from a social experience that I really enjoy. I like food. I like eating new food, I like cooking new dishes, and I like going out to eat at new places or trying the new menu at places I love. Eating plant-based in my current home doesn't satisfy all of that. Additionally, I found myself thinking about what I couldn't eat an awful lot, and as someone who has had a pattern of disordered eating in the past, that's a warning sign for me that what I'm about to do isn't good for my relationship with food.

Oh She Glows Crispy Smashed Potatoes with Avocado Garlic Aioli and Yves vegan meatballs with grape jelly sauce. Wasn't a huge fan of the vegan meatballs, but the potatoes and aioli were incredible.

I also had to skip some of my favourite specials at the hospital cafeteria this month. In the scheme of things, this is not a huge deal, but I like eating at our cafeteria. We have really good food and it's insanely cheap. 

I'm mostly happy with how this went. Obviously, I won't be returning full plant-based eating while I continue to live where I do and while I'm in a headspace that could easily go down an unhealthy path. I also didn't save any money, so there's no real financial incentive - I often see people posting on Reddit or other vegan communities about all the money they're saving now that they don't buy animal products, but that wasn't really a thing for me, and considering we're approaching the time of year where cauliflower can be up to $8 a head, it's only about to get more expensive. All food is expensive here, but produce and in general, non-processed food (which is often animal-based), is especially pricey. I had a professor in undergrad who'd moved up from New York and was horrified at the price of food in rural Nova Scotia, so...

I'd rather do something than nothing. Would it be nice if I could go vegan, since the environmental benefits and health benefits are both of interest to me? Absolutely. But encouraging myself to eat plant-based meals limits the amount of animal products I consume while also not drawing a hard line that allows me the flexibility I need.

And while I'm going to continue eating a lot of plant-based meals, I'll confess I came home and assembled a big pan of macaroni and cheese because I have been dying for one since the beginning of January.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Two Months In: Sephora Fall Sale Recap

The Sephora fall sale is the beauty event of the fall. Or I assume it is, based on the beautysphere devotion to discussing it most of the autumn. I also live in rural New Brunswick so a) my metrics for exciting events are pretty damn low (we're still going nuts over a rare bird) and b) I have no way of actually proving myself wrong. The Sephora fall sale is the biggest coupon discount given in a calendar year there and lots of people will hold onto their wishlists for the moment that they can use that code. A lot of people will point out that brand sites have bigger sales and Sephora's point systems is lame and blah blah blah something about Ulta I don't really care because I'm not American. Sephora is a one-stop shop for lots of mid-range and high-end brands. It makes it easy to snap up a bunch of products from different brands and that is why I will always enjoy the Sephora sales. Most brand websites are a) garbage design; b) are based in the US so will take forever to get here if they even bother to ship to Canada; and c) probably have absurd shipping costs. 

Anyway, I started planning for this at the beginning of October. My birthday always falls near the sale, so I usually set aside some birthday money for the sale, and I also always get to pick up the birthday gift. 

When your holiday/birthday beauty mail comes all at once. I made a @glossier order a couple of weeks ago, and it arrived the same day as my @sephoracanada sale order (my last year as Rouge, thankfully). Lotsa pretty stuff to play with and swatches! From Glossier: Mega Greens Galaxy Pack, Generation G lipstick in Cake, a sample of Glossier You perfume, and a sample of the Milky Jelly Cleanser From Sephora: @hourglasscosmetics Ambient Lighting Blush in Diffused Heat, @kevynaucoin The Celestial Powder Highlighter in Candlelight, @narsissist Liquid Blush in Dolce Vita, @besamecosmetics mini lipstick set, Sephora + Hakuhodo Fan Cheek Brush (Ougi), the @tartecosmetics Birthday Present (Tarteist lip paint in Birthday Suit and Blush in Paaarrty), and samples of @drunkelephantskincare Lala Retro Whipped Cream, Sephora Cleansing Cream in Rose, and This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray) Lip swatches L-R: Cake, Birthday Suit, Besame Red Velvet, Chocolate Kiss, Noir Red, Dusty Rose, Cherry Red Face swatches L-R: Dolce Vita, Diffused Heat, Candlelight, Paaarrty
A post shared by Alison (@collectiondevelopment) on

The haul:
  • the Tarte birthday gift: minis of the Amazonian Clay Blush in Paaarty and Tarteist Lip Paint in Birthday Suit
  • NARS Liquid Blush in Dolce Vita
  • Hourglass Cosmetics Ambient Lighting Blush in Diffused Heat
  • Kevyn Aucoin The Celestial Powder Highlighter in Candlelight
  • Besame mini lipstick set (1930 Noir Red, 1935 Cherry Red, 1946 Red Velvet, 1969 Dusty Rose, 1970 Chocolate Kiss)
  • Sephora + Hakuhodo Fan Cheek Brush (Ougi)

L-R: Tarte Birthday Suit, Tarte Paaarty, Hourglas Diffused Heat, NARS Dolce Vita, Kevyn Aucoin Candlelight, Besame 1930 Noir Red, Besame 1935 Cherry Red, Besame 1946 Red Velvet, Besame 1970 Chocolate Kiss, Besame 1969 Dusty Rose

First things first: the Tarte birthday gift. Having a birthday in November means that by the time I get around to obtaining the birthday gift, it's already been reviewed to death. I'll keep it short and sweet: this is probably my favourite Sephora birthday gift in all of the years that I've been receiving them (since 2011). I've tried the Amazonian Clay blush formula before, so that wasn't new, but Paaarty is a truly flattering neutral blush on me. I feel it lights my face up in a subtle, natural way, even though the name sucks. 

Paaarty on my cheeks.

The Tarteist Lip Paint is a new formula to me. In continuing the 2017 trend where I kept getting liquid lipsticks and liking them, Birthday Suit was a hit. The formula is oddly minty, but lightweight and dries down to an almost powdery feel. It's not too drying, and while Birthday Suit is slightly lighter and warmer than my natural lip colour, it doesn't wash me out or look unflattering. I dig it. 

Birthday Suit. I like it.

Next: NARS Liquid Blush in Dolce Vita. I was really into liquid and cream formula for most of the fall and early winter. If it came in a liquid or cream form, I wanted it. I've really enjoyed my Glossier Cloud Paint in Beam, and was considering ordering another Cloud Paint until I saw Lena of Faceonomics talk about how much she loved the NARS Liquid Blush formula and how it was what she wanted the Cloud Paints to be. I was intrigued, and after much deliberating, I picked Dolce Vita. The vaguely annoying thing about NARS is that they have a bunch of products in a shade called Dolce Vita...and they aren't all the same colour. I have the lipstick in Dolce Vita, which is noticeably not the same colour as the Liquid Blush in Dolce Vita. The blush is described as a matte dusty rose.

The liquid blush is smooth and blendable and lasts all day and even matches my Besame lipstick in 1969 Dusty Rose almost perfectly - but holy hell is it pigmented. This would be a beautiful colour for deeper skintones. For me, I need the tiniest pinprick of product - any more and I end up overdoing it. This has so far led to a lot of product wastage, since I find the pump makes it harder to control how much product comes out of the bottle. It's not ideal. On the other hand, this bottle is 15ml of liquid blush, so I'll probably have plenty long after it goes off, so wasting the product doesn't seem like a huge deal to me right now. The frosted glass bottle is nice anyway, though the stupid cap is that awful black standard NARS plastic that attracts every smudge known to humankind. I tried to clean it off before taking pictures. I was not successful.

Dolce Vita, paired with Besame 1969 Dusty Rose on my lips and Kevyn Aucoin Candelight on my cheekbones.

The other blush I picked up was the Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush in Diffused Heat, which is described as "a vibrant poppy blush combined with Diffused Light for a subtle halo effect." I'm still completely in love with Mood Exposure, which I picked up in the 2016 Sephora fall sale, so I decided I wanted to try out another of the range. I don't love Diffused Heat quite as much as Mood Exposure (probably because Mood Exposure goes with everything ever), but Diffused Heat is still a really incredible blush: finely milled, long lasting, looks absolutely radiant on my skin, and wonderfully flattering. The only thing I wasn't prepared for was the noticeable glitter in the pan. It doesn't seem to be noticeable on my skin, but I was taken aback when I saw it.

Diffused Heat

I haven't been restrained at all when it comes to highlighter acquisition this year, so it was not unexpected that I picked up a highlighter in this sale. What is vaguely unexpected is the subtlety of this one. The Kevyn Aucoin The Celestial Highlighter in Candlelight has been touted as one of the best highlighters for a glowy, natural, look, sans glitter or obvious shimmer. It's just a lovely, natural light on the face. It's a cool enough gold that it blends well into my skin, it's soft and finely milled, and it blends beautifully. 

I am so bad taking pictures of highlighter. I swear it's there. Check the other blush photos for more.

The final thing in my order, and possibly the thing that I was most excited for, is the Besame mini lipstick set. I was blown away by Besame's formula when I got Tango Red a couple years ago, and have wanted to try others, especially since Renee confirmed that the formula was incredibly consistent across the range. But I couldn't decide exactly what I want, and they're also pretty terrible at keeping them in stock on Sephora, so every time I had almost decided, the ones I was looking at were out of stock. This quietly went live on Sephora just before the sale, and I snapped it up. Five mini lipsticks in that great formula? Yes please. Overall, I'm still really happy with it. I have a few contenders for full sizes once I finish the mini tubes. I probably didn't need to have all those reds...but I didn't really need to make this order, either, so...

The one disappointment from this set has been 1930 Noir Red. I've been agonizing over it on Instagram and have come to the conclusion that it doesn't work well on me - it pulls entirely too brown on me, and while the formula is as smooth, pigmented and tenacious as the others, it's not a flattering colour on me. 

1930 Noir Red

When it comes to the pure reds in this set, 1946 Red Velvet and 1935 Cherry Red, I think I like Cherry Red ever so slightly more. Both are wonderful, beautiful, vibrant reds, but the slightly cooler tone of Cherry Red looks more striking on me and dare I say it? Might be my red, the red that looks better than all other reds. Red Velvet is still lovely, however.

1935 Cherry Red

1946 Red Velvet

1970 Chocolate Kiss was the sleeper hit for me. I don't think the reddish brown is as flattering on me as other colours, but I really dig it anyway. It's a really interesting, complex colour, much more so than I expected. This will be a full size purchase when I finish the mini tube (and I'm pretty sure I will!).

1970 Chocolate Kiss

And lastly 1969 Dusty Rose. This one has been getting the most wear time of the set, partially because I love how it pulls to more of a berry on me and also because I find it pairs really well with NARS liquid blush in Dolce Vita. Also a full size purchase in the future - it's flattering, long wearing, fades evenly, and is thus perfect for work, when I pretend that I'm more straight-laced than I am (cat-print and red lipstick forever). 

1969 Dusty Rose

(I keep using the years, FYI, because that's what are on the bottom of the tubes for labels, so I'm trying to imprint the years into my brain alongside the colour. Is it working? Kind of.)

I'm not going to say a ton about the Sephora + Hakuhodo brush, because that collection is two years old and has been on clearance for at least a year. I picked up the wedge powder brush (full price) and the highlighter brush (on clearance) and decided to grab the cheek brush since I could always use another blush brush...or I am lazy and don't want to wash my brushes too much. I liked the other two brushes I got - they're very soft and high quality, so I grabbed this cheek brush and am equally as happy with it. 

Shh, it needs to be washed.

I am overall very pleased with how this purchase went. It's a good reminder that a well-researched splurge is preferable to a bunch of impulse purchases over time, and that this is what I'd rather do. Soooo...April sale planning, here I come!