Tuesday, December 16, 2014

How to effectively moisturize in winter

I have a love-hate relationship with winter. I love the crispness in the air, the promise of soft snow, and sticking two sticks on my feet and skidding down a mountain, but I detest the myriad of bodily problems that pop up during the season. We've discussed my nose freezing up (which a few of you identify strongly with), so let's get to another big problem: skin.

Every year in November, if I don't keep up a regular moisturizing regimen, I will inevitably get rashes on various parts of my body. Once, I had to go to a doctor because I was suffering from dry skin even after constantly moisturizing. I wasn't prescribed anything, but I did walk away with valuable tips on how to avoid it happening again.

The best time to moisturize is after getting out of the shower. Your pores will be open from the hot water and thus absorb product better. Pat down (do not rigorously wipe!) your skin so that it's still a little damp, then apply lotion liberally.

Some days I don't have time to moisturize immediately out of the shower, which is when I layer a body oil and lotion later in the day. I've found a few products that work marvelously together and provide me with that elusive 24-hour hydration (no matter what the marketing people say, it's hard to find them). In fact, nowadays I only get rashes if I don't moisturize within a week!

1. Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse Spray ($46 for 3.3 fl oz / 100ml)
I'm on my second bottle of this cult classic. If Nuxe was known for one thing only, it would be their Huile Prodigieuse oil. I like the nutty, gourmand scent, and the oil hydrates skin without leaving it greasy. It also comes in a splash bottle, but I prefer the spray for ease of use and especially to access hard-to-reach areas. That said, while a spritz would be enough for summer or fall, this oil is more of a layering item in winter. I use it as a base before applying my other body creams so they absorb better.

2. Haus of Gloi Aether Pumpkin Butter ($10 for 6 oz / 177ml)
I almost didn't want to share this because it's difficult enough for me to procure as it is. Haus of Gloi is a small vegan business that sells handmade bath and body products, and the Aether Pumpkin Butter is their best selling product. The proprietors describe the scent as "absolute nothingness." The butter itself is lightweight and easy to spread (ha!). Right now, it's out of stock again, but when it's available I usually just purchase in bulk. This is a glorious product, especially at this price point!

3. Tatcha Soothing Silk Body Butter ($46 for 6.8 oz / 200ml)
This product is geared toward people who have sensitive, inflamed, or irritated skin – perfect for a rash-prone individual like me! The indigo extract contains actives that help reduce irritation. The formula is lightly creamy, smells wonderful, and the blue hue disappears into skin upon application, leaving in its wake sighing soft skin. I will always remember it as "the nice stuff."

4. Tata Harper The Royal Treatment Ultimate Antiaging Body Set ($125 for both; 4.1 oz / 125ml each)
I'm on a Tata Harper kick lately. I love discovering products from her brand, because each of them is more decadent than the last. This limited edition set is the definition of indulgence, price and product-wise. The body oil has an intriguing formula – it pumps out of the nozzle as very fluid liquid, but applies like rich, slightly heavy (but not gross and greasy) oil. If you made me describe the scent of the oil, I would say it's nice smelling insect repellant (dear Tata Harper, I'm sorry my nose sucks). The application instructions echoes my doctor's advice: massage generously onto damp skin.

The lotion is much lighter in texture and less distinct in scent. While not entirely necessary, since the body oil is rich enough as it is, I apply the lotion after the oil dries as extra immunity toward the frigid weather. Both products boast a long list of Good Things in its ingredients.

Full disclosure: This entry contains sample products sent by the brand for editorial consideration. This entry also contains affiliate links.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

How to treat dry nostrils in winter

I'm having a Karen Smith (from Mean Girls) moment when I say this, but my nose can always tell when winter is coming. Without fail, one nostril will be caked in blood because of a mysterious cut due to dryness from the cold. I suffered for years without a cure, because I didn't think there was a moisturizer for our nose the way we do for other parts of our body.

BUT I WAS WRONG. And boy, was I glad to be wrong. After hearing about my plight (perhaps also weary of my incessant misery), my boyfriend found an ointment called Boroleum that's now my #1 winter must-have. It allows you to lubricate your nostrils. Something that sounds so negligible has made my winters much more bearable. In fact, the few people I've introduced this to now swear by it.

One side effect to having cake-y nostrils/stuffy nose in cold weather means the area around my nose also gets dried out. For some reason, regular moisturizers can't soothe a constantly irritated nose, but the Tatcha Revitalizing Eye Cream is a godsend. Perhaps it works so well because the intensive moisturizing formula is meant for application on a concentrated area in the first place?

Anyway, if you suffer from similar symptoms, do give these a try. You can purchase Boroleum on Amazon (anything between $4 to $11) or at your local pharmacy, though you may have request it. The Tatcha Revitalizing Eye Cream is available for $135 at tatcha.com.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Face Mist Guide to End All Face Mist Guides

If the key to happy, hydrated skin is a balance of humectants and emollients (translation: this is why you need serum and moisturizer, not just either or), where do mists and toners stand? I've heard it all when it comes to toner: last step in cleansing, the restorer of skin's pH balance, a more effective base for your skincare routine... They're not necessarily fundamental to a skincare routine, but a nice plus to have, like vitamin supplements in a well-rounded diet.

Mists, to me, have become toners-to-go – a quick spritz to save time (and cotton!) while delivering the same effects. They're also great for refreshing your face mid-afternoon, especially in air-conditioner/heater-enabled offices. When I was testing the various sprays in this post, my colleagues never turned down an opportunity for a pick-me-up. Since most face mists are chock full of basically the same hydrating/anti-aging ingredients, the determining factor for which is worthy of your vanity then becomes scent, packaging, price point (you can find face mists from $8 to $80), and personally, nozzle pressure.

Below are a few that are in my current rotation:

1. Aubrey Sparkling Glacier Complexion Mist with Fragonia ($7.98 for 3.4 fl oz / 100ml)
"It smells like a spa," said not one, but two of my co-workers when I gleefully spritzed this over their faces. I readily admit that I am a spoiled beauty consumer, since this is the first time I've seen a mist with an ingredient list filled with good things priced so low. The packaging is standard white with a stick-on label and the pump is basic (uneven spray), but if you're not a stickler for those things, this is absolutely a steal.

2. La Roche-Posay Thermal Spring Water ($12.99 for 5.2 fl oz / 150ml)
The only ingredient in this is, you guessed it, water. This water is purportedly rich in the antioxidant Selenium and is 100% pure natural spring water (bottled in France!). It has no scent. When sprayed, the sensation reminds me of the times I was allowed to stick my head out of the sunroof when my dad drove us through the hilly countryside (humidity levels in Malaysia average 70 to 90%). But, you know, it's just water.

I would say out of all the sprays featured, La Roche-Posay has the best nozzle. You can hold your finger on it and just keep going till the bottle runs dry, unlike the others, which require repeated pumps.

3. Miyu Beauty Hydrate Mi Beauty Essence ($34 for 2.7 fl oz / 80ml)
I've been keeping this face mist/serum at my boyfriend's apartment for over a year. I use it 2-3 times a week and am finally nearing the end. I wrote a more comprehensive review of it last November, but basically this is a hydrating mist with a light rose scent that could be a substitute for a serum (contains sodium hyaluronate) for people with combination/oily skin.

The nozzle spray, however, is not my favorite. It delivers a more concentrated burst of liquid rather than a fine mist over the face if held too close. I have to be sure to hold it 8 inches away from the face for an even spread, but the pressure is not particularly strong so fair amount of product ends up below the chin. To avoid waste, what I like to do with this particular product is spray it into my hands and apply to my face as I would a serum.

4. Caudalie Beauty Elixir ($49 for 3.4 fl oz / 100ml)
The writer in me thinks of the scent as a "hint of mint," though this spray is more like a giant wake up call. I use it exclusively in the morning, when everything I do is in service of me resembling a functional human being in a very short span of time. The spray contains a good number of oils, so it might not be the best for those with oily skin. It is one of Lisa Eldridge's favorite French pharmacy products, 'nuff said.

5. Sulwhasoo Hydro-Aid Lifting Mist ($45 for 3.38 fl oz / 100ml)
If the Aubrey spray smells like spa, this Sulwhasoo one smells like my mother's soup (any association to my mother's cooking, by the way, can only mean good things). Officially, it's a Korean herbal seaweed mist, with two key ingredients purslane and rehmannia that moisturizes and relaxes etc. More importantly, it's a mist that works as it's supposed to and reminds me of my mother's cooking.

I giggle at the fact that its use description on the Neiman Marcus website takes into account the very powerful nozzle ("spray at a 20cm distance"), because it really does deliver concentrated bursts of mist. As an aside, while Sulwhasoo continues its expansion in the US, I applaud its commitment to making its products smell like an Asian kitchen, because all my non-Asian friends and colleagues have strong negative reactions to the scents in Sulwhasoo products. A fact I'm sure they're well aware.

6. Tatcha Dewy Skin Mist ($48 for 1.35 fl oz / 40ml)
I must be on my 5th or 6th bottle of this at this point, yet I still took advantage of their recent Friends & Family sale to procure eventual replacements. For the sake of brevity (ha!), I will link you to my original review and add that one of my favorite uses for this spray is to set makeup. Foundation tends to look dried up on my skin, especially around the edges of my nose, but it takes on a dewy finish with this spray.

If you need a luxury point to justify the price tag, it's housed in a beautiful glass bottle (as are the similarly priced Caudalie and Tata Harper sprays) and features an elegant gold pump that distributes the mist in a wide circumference, so you need less spritzes to cover your whole face.

Tatcha Friends & Family Sale: 20% off all orders at tatcha.com with code FF2014. Valid through December 7.

7. Tata Harper Hydrating Floral Essence ($65 for 1.7 fl oz / 50ml)
When I was a child, my mother cultivated organic wheatgrass in black trays outside my house. They looked like mini golf courses. I thought they looked funny, until I realized that my mother intended our family to consume them raw and unadulterated, though (just slightly) mercifully in juice form. I didn't even get to add honey to the drink. I believe we all revolted after a few weeks, and even my mother had to admit that it tasted vile, even if it was good for us.

Where was I going with this story? One, I am glad that the organic/natural food movement has come a long way since then. They actually know how to make things tasty now. Two, if I wanted to splurge and buy my mother new skincare, Tata Harper would be among the top of that list. After all, it's so natural you can eat it. Lest I be carried away with superficial associations – natural doesn't always mean good – this face spray contains hyaluronic acid (water retention), witch hazel (controls sebum production), rose and lavender (calms skin and smells good), and I'm only skimming the surface of a seriously impressive ingredient list.

Tata Harper Friends & Family Sale: 15% off all orders at tataharperskincare.com with code FF2014. Valid through December 7.

It might interest you to know that it's possible to get over-moisturized skin from just face mist, due to countless spritzes while I wrote this post.

Full disclosure: This entry contains sample products sent by the brand for editorial consideration. This entry also contains affiliate links.

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Gift Guide I Can Vouch For

Have you noticed the extraordinary amount of pressure to shop recently? My inbox (both Messy Wands and personal) has been inundated by brands advertising holiday gifts and paraphernalia, all persistently nudging me to get them before it's "too late." Never mind the fact that it's still one whole month before Christmas! I always find the end of the year rushing toward me too quickly, maybe this is why.

That said, we are days away from Thanksgiving and the anxiety-inducing Black Friday – Racked has listed 150+ sales and counting on this handy page. Clearly, other publications/blogs will be much better resources for you in terms of scoring deals, so I will not attempt to replicate that. Instead, I created this little gift guide of products I've personally used and loved and would recommend to everyone I know. May it be a guide to you when thinking of gifts for the women in your life.

1. Tatcha Deep Hydration Lifting Mask, $28 each / $95 for a box of 4
What sort of praises have I not sung about this mask? If I had to choose one Tatcha product to gift, this spa-in-a-packet would be it. My general philosophy about gift giving is to buy things that others usually won't buy for themselves, and the mask's hefty price point is unfortunately a deterrent to most. However, if anything is well worth the splurge, this is.

Tatcha Friends & Family Sale: 20% off everything at tatcha.com with code FF2014, valid from 11/28-12/8.

2. Rituals Zensation Foaming Shower Gel Sensation, $15
My favorite part of showering is the suds. I remember spending ages in the bathroom as a child, with the door locked, mischievously soaping up every surface and sliding across them with glee. Needless to say, my mother was not amused. Rituals is a new-to-the-US Dutch brand that offers home and body cosmetics with beautiful packaging at a surprisingly low price point. This shower gel transforms into a rich foam when it comes into contact with water. I like it for the clean scent and ease of use, and for allowing me to indulge in my favorite childhood pastime as an adult.

Rituals Black Friday Sale: 50% off select products at rituals.com, valid from 11/28-12/1.

3. Shu Uemura Art of Hair Cleansing Oil Shampoo, $57
I've been clamoring to repurchase this ever since I pumped out the last drop. This shampoo is particularly effective in removing product from hair, and the claim that it doesn't "strip the natural oils" of your scalp is true, since I occasionally skipped conditioning without ill effects. I was devastated to find that the brand no longer offered discounts during Black Friday. Instead, they bundled up complementary products into gift sets. I'm sorely tempted by the Cleansing Oil Gift Set (with shampoo and conditioner and a travel-sized Essence Absolue), but cannot justify it since I've cut down my hair washing to twice a week and still have multiple shampoo/conditioners to go through.

4. Alterna Bamboo Smooth Moisture Masque, $26
I'm always pleasantly surprised when hair treatments (shampoo and conditioner excluded) actually work. Many volumizing/smoothing/repairing treatments I've tried didn't make a difference, but I am happy to report that this Alterna mask bucks the norm. After suffering from severe tangling all week, I applied this mask during my last shower and emerged with hair that was so soft, my hair brush practically slipped through it.

5. L'Occitane 13 Desserts of Provence, $69
Here's an advent calendar that will make the ultimate stocking stuffer (or make it easy for you to stuff those stockings). The 13 products in this gift set reads like a L'Occitane "best hits" list. If nothing, it'll make your next trip very easy to pack for.

L'Occitane Black Friday deal: Receive a free gift of three 10ml hand creams with any purchase at usa.loccitane.com on 11/28.

6. RMS Beauty Glowing Gift Set, $120
I have long held that RMS Beauty is superior to other natural brands when it comes to makeup. While most brands flounder by delivering products with subpar pigmentation, RMS Beauty shocks by serving up bright, nuanced shades. I swatched the whole collection a couple of years ago, but since then they've added a couple of products to their lineup. If you want to try the brand, I think this gift set is an excellent introduction. It features four of their bestsellers: Living Luminizer (one of the best highlighters I own), Un-Cover Up (I am shade #22), Lip2Cheek (Promise and Modest are my favorites) and Cream Eye Shadow. Bonus: you get to customize your own set with the shades you want.

7. Jo Malone Red Roses Scent Surround Diffuser, $85
It's a treat to return home to the scent of Jo Malone Red Roses ("a voluptuous blend of seven of the world's most exquisite roses"). This diffuser is strong enough to perfume my bedroom and then some, for I smell it even from the corridor of my apartment. It's been three months since I placed the reeds in and the bottle is still half full. This six-month investment is one that I'm very willing to make.

8. Maison Francis Kurkdjian Aqua Universalis, $175
When my mother asked me to get her a "nice, light fragrance," I sent her a bottle of Aqua Universalis. I will not assault your imagination with my poor description of scent (objectively, the notes include bergamot and Sicilian lemon, lily of the valley and sweet mock orange, as well as musky wood) but as proof of endorsement, I've been wearing this nonstop for the past six months.

9. Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray, $42
I wish I could spray this on my hair everyday. Without fail, it gives my hair ridiculous volume and life and bounce. And the heavenly smell! It's no wonder that the brains behind Oribe decided to bottle their signature scent into perfume form.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

La Prairie Cellular Swiss Ice Crystal Dry Oil + Cream

Let my reflection be a testament to how shiny the packaging is

Earlier this week, I had an unfortunate reaction to a new face mist I was testing – the entire area under my mouth broke out in hives. I took some Claritin to mitigate the effects and laid off products for a few days so as not to enrage the beast, and it seems to have worked. The red splotches have disappeared, leaving in its wake scaly, itchy dry skin.

This lizard-y feeling is similar to my month-long sunburn from September (not a good year for skin, eh?), so as soon as my skin acted up again, I wasted no time in going the decadent route to speed up healing. The most intense moisturizers I have on my vanity are the La Prairie Cellular Swiss Ice Crystal Dry Oil and Cream. In fact, I take it one step further by combining the two: a dollop of cream with a couple of drops of dry oil adds up to a formidable hydrating duo. When I apply the concoction to my face, I literally sigh with relief.

I actually prefer the cream to the dry oil. The latter feels overly heavy to me, like it's sitting on instead of absorbing into skin. The cream, on the other hand, feels lighter than expected for such an intensive treatment. Both the dry oil and cream have a strong scent – I think of Enchanteur powders when I apply them to my face – which is not ideal, but I continue to use them since they obviously work.

At $300 each, I hesitate to exhort anyone to purchase these, even if they do work wonders for my dry skin. I will say, if your skin always had trouble with winter, maybe venture out to a counter for a sample.

La Prairie Cellular Swiss Ice Crystal Dry Oil and Cream are available at Nordstrom, Bergdorf Goodman, and laprairie.com.

Full disclosure: This entry contains a gift from the brand. This entry also contains affiliate links.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

R29 + Rescue Beauty Lounge: Better Than Boyfriend Jeans

I'm a sucker for baby blues, so when Rescue Beauty Lounge unveiled its latest collaboration with Refinery29, I ordered Better Than Boyfriend Jeans without skipping a beat. It is such a pretty icy blue – it reminds me of Dior Glacier (less blue and more silver, shimmery) which I missed out on years ago. BTBJ is a different polish under varying light. It picks up more blue when indoors, and takes on a glacial quality when under sunlight. I needed three layers to get it to full opacity (apply with a light hand to avoid streaks). I think it'll be beautiful peeking out of gloves when the snow hits.

The only other color I purchased from the collection was another in-between shade, the green/blue called Sunny Skies.

It's a pity that my mind was an auto-mode when I ordered the two shades, because now I'm regretting not getting Pretty Gritty, a purple with fine gold shimmer. I own the original IKB, which is why I didn't spring for All About Yves, though I've heard that the latter has a superior formula. You can enjoy swatches of the rest of the collection at Makeup Withdrawal.

The R29 + Rescue Beauty Lounge collection is exclusively available on rescuebeauty.com. Each polish retails for $20.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Beauty PSA: Shu Uemura VIP Sale

All my purchases have been on hold for the past month because I'm waiting for sale season to start, and Shu Uemura is one of the first to drop. Their VIP sale gives you 25% off everything! That's a little more than their traditional Black Friday offer (20% like most stores).

While I already have everything I want from Shu Uemura, I am sorely tempted to pick up another Kolinsky Brush 11. Even with 25% off it's still a hefty chunk of my paycheck, but that brush is unparalleled in my kit. I have eschewed most of my other brushes in favor of this, because it does the depositing, applying and blending better than anything I own.

The only reason I'm considering buying another (the one I own is pretty much still perfect) is because I currently switch between two apartments, and it would be nice to have one wherever I go.

Decisions! I have to make some...

While I ponder, don't miss out on this once-in-a-year chance! If nothing, you can always stock up on eyelash curlers. Visit shuuemura-usa.com and use code SHUVIP at checkout for the 25% discount.

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