Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Introspection

It's past midnight where I am (happy new year!) but not where most of you are, so I wipe a metaphorical bead of sweat off my forehead for a post written still in time. I don't have a well-edited list of favorites and hesitate to make resolutions, so some candid reflections about the past year shall do.

The best thing to happen to me in 2011 was stumbling upon direction. I've been told once: dreams are not thought out, they are found, which I never understood when I was younger. After all, at seventeen when I was told I had the world in my fingertips, the endless choice felt like I could do everything and nothing at all. What if what I studied in college had nothing to do with what I wanted to do later? I used to be afraid of going into the workforce because I saw a bleak future out of school, thinking of work as the dreary everyday slaving to pay bills. My boyfriend knew what he wanted to pursue since he was five, and while every step of the way for him was one step closer to his dream, I was the blindfolded other half groping for nothing.

If you've been with me from the start, you'll know that I interned at in summer, an experience invaluable in so many ways I can never repay my debt to the lovely team for giving me a chance when no one else did. It was because of those three months that I could conceive of beauty writing as a "real job," and found out just how much I loved doing it. It is also because of Beauty Blitz that I have the internship beyond my wildest dreams lined up for Spring 2012.

During that summer I also shed my hesitant self and started tweeting the beauty gurus I admire (and received replies!), which led me to creating Messy Wands. In September, Messy Wands was nominated for "Best Beauty Voice" at Lucky Magazine's Fashion And Beauty Bloggers (FABB) Conference Awards. A month later, I was offered the opportunity to meet Essie Weingarten. But the best thing about starting Messy Wands is getting to befriend other beauty bloggers, the high point of which was being invited to be a part of a band of bandits.

And then, there's all you lovely readers. Many a comment has made my day, and there have been a lot of days made. For all your comments and support and emails and just being so incredibly nice to me, thank you thank you thank you. I can only hope you've found Messy Wands helpful enough to repay the kindness you've shown to me.

2011 has been a fantastic year. I think it is one I'll look back upon later in life and say, "that's when I got it." For 2012 I'm going to work smarter, laugh harder, and love better.

Happy New Year to all you lovelies! May you find your dream and/or have a dream come true.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Le Métier de Beauté Resort 2011: The Jet Set Nail Lacquers

So um, as a warning, coming back to humid Malaysia means my cuticles are in horrendous disrepair (I'm also suffering from breakouts, but strategic photo cropping ensures you'll never have to look at the horror), but we shall trudge on in the name of beauty reporting! I was battling mosquitos and all manner of wildlife while taking these photos, perhaps they thought I had candy drops on the tips of my fingers. I could certainly be fooled.

The Le Métier de Beauté Resort Collection Jet Set Nail Lacquers consist of a hot pink, a neon yellow, and a fluorescent orange. The keywords we're looking for are "bright" and "bold." They remind me of M&Ms. 

L-R: ShocKEN Pink, Yield to Yellow, Not So Safe Orange

L-R: Yield to Yellow, Not So Safe Orange, ShocKEN Pink

While Yield to Yellow comes in the regular formula, Not So Safe Orange and ShocKEN Pink dry down to a sort of jelly finish. It was my first time encountering the squishy texture and I was positively giddy with delight. In the picture above I painted each nail with two coats and no top coat so you can see the texture of the polish.

The only one I might hesitate to recommend is Yield to Yellow, since the formula is thicker than the other two and a little harder to go on smooth (like most other yellow polishes). In the picture above and you can see that with two coats it is still a little uneven, but with careful application I believe it will be fine.

A little runway inspiration: Thakoon Fall 2011 featured these exact three colors.

Photo credit:

You must also visit Cult of Pretty for her sunset ombré manicure with the pink and orange shades.

The Jet Set Nail Lacquers retail for $18 each and will be exclusively available at Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus in-stores and online in early January 2012. 

The products in this post were provided by the company's PR for consideration only. 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Le Métier de Beauté Resort 2011: Orange Juiced and HibisKiss Sheer Brilliance Lip Glosses

While I was waiting for my taxi to arrive the day of my flight home, I got a knock on the door from a darling postman who brought an unexpected package around. Thinking it was an older purchase, I tore it open and squealed like the little girl I really am when it wasn't. Out came the brightest, happiest colors to combat the oncoming gloom, and in the nick of time too! I would have been too late to give you my thoughts by the time I got back to Boston.

I am talking about the Le Métier de Beauté Resort 2012 Jet Set Collection, another collaboration with Neiman Marcus Fashion Director Ken Downing. Today I'll be featuring the two glosses, Orange Juiced and HibisKiss, and tomorrow we'll look at the neon bright nail lacquers.

Orange Juiced


L-R: Orange Juiced, HibisKiss

First, a note about the Sheer Brilliance Lip Gloss formula. When swatched they look vibrant and opaque, but they don't appear the same on the lips. It works with your lip color to provide a sheer layer of gloss, so do keep in mind that these might look different on you as my lips are quite pigmented. The Sheer Brilliances are scent and taste free, and aren't sticky or tacky. In my experience, they usually last around three hours.

I was struggling with a color description for HibisKiss and remembered Best Things in Beauty calling it a fuchsia red, which is spot on. On my lips it looks like a fuchsia-red-rose. It didn't look the best on me, but I have no doubt this shade will be flattering on a lot of women. 

But oh! I've been wanting to show you Orange Juiced since I tried it on. I mean, who knew an orange gloss would not turn me into a yellow mess. I thought it would pull out all the yellow in my skin and make me look like a lemon, but instead it's a sheer layer of orange that adds some warmth and much needed sparkle to my lips. It's such a quintessential spring shade (and because I'm in the land of perpetual summer I can wear it now and be happy).

Le Métier de Beauté Sheer Brilliance Lip Glosses retail for $32 each and The Jet Set Collection will be exclusively available at Bergdorf's and Neiman Marcus in-stores and online come January 2012. Will you be digging in?

The products in this post were provided by the company's PR for consideration only.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Lipstick Bandits: Festive Red Lip

Nothing like a Lipstick Bandit post to get me back into the groove of writing. I have to admit coming home has been such a treat I haven't been able to muster up the energy to blog. I suppose home brings out the best and worst in me. I become less of a hermit (due to warmer weather), I spend copious amounts of time with my family, but I become such a sloth when enveloped in this warmth. I'm very thankful I spent last summer away from home because Messy Wands wouldn't have been created otherwise.

This post was originally scheduled for before Christmas but most of the Bandits couldn't make it then (I was on the plane!). I do think that a festive red lip, "something red and sparkly," is still relevant now with New Year and Chinese New Year celebrations looming around the corner. 

My weapons of choice are: Tom Ford Cherry Lush, Burberry Nude Gold No. 15, and Chanel Fantasme. When we received this assignment, most of us panicked at the thought of sparkles. I had nothing in my stash that could remotely fit that bill. I went to different makeup artists at counters and asked what I could do. Dustin suggested red glitter (which I decided was too cumbersome for you to replicate, though wouldn't that look awesome?), Shawn whipped out a La Prairie red gloss that looked really sparkly, but I wasn't about to pay that price for something I'd only use once. 

In the end, I bought Fantasme, which I can justify because I've wanted it since the Illusion d'Ombres were introduced to the Chanel lineup. 

Tom Ford Cherry Lush

Burberry Nude Gold No. 15

Chanel Fantasme

L-R: Cherry Lush, Nude Gold No. 15, Fantasme 

For the lip, I painted on Cherry Lush and topped it with Nude Gold No. 15, then dabbed Fantasme onto the center of the lips for the sparkle. As fair warning, I should let you know that I do not know if that is lip safe! 

It's nice to be back! I have some posts lined up for the next few days and an exciting giveaway to announce in a week or two. It's many a blogger's Holy Grail and I'm jumping up and down on my sister's bed (shh don't tell her) at the anticipation of someone receiving it.

I'm about to check out my fellow Lipstick Bandits' interpretations of "sparkle" and I do hope you do the same. No doubt they'll make me want to buy glittery things to add to my collection:

Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy Holidays!

I don't have any photos of Christmas trees so here are two of Bergdorf's holiday windows for cheer. If you happen to be in New York for Christmas don't miss these! They tear it down by the time Boxing Day rolls around:

look at the detail/textures!

Have a wonderful Christmas and happy holidays, everybody! 

Essie Winter 2011: Luxeffects Collection

The Essie Luxeffects Collection is, in my opinion, the most exciting nail collection to hit stores this holiday season. It features five top coats of shimmer, flakies, and chunky glitters guaranteed to spice up any polish already in your collection. These are so. much. fun. If there is only one nail collection you look at this winter, I fervently hope this is it.

L-R: A Cut Above, Set in Stones Shine of the Times, Pure Pearlfiction, As Gold As It Gets

Productivity is all about hitting as many birds as you can with one stone, so I used one of my new Le Metier nail acquisitions as the base color. I'm glad there really is nothing new to add to the conversation in terms of the formula. It's everything you want in a nail polish. The only difference from my usual routine is since Je N'ai Se Quoi has a slightly thicker formula, I left my application at one coat instead of two. 

Je N'ai Se Quoi

Size comparison. Incidentally, Jaded Love (bottom) is an exact dupe for Je N'ai Se Quoi

Je N'ai Se Quoi

Now, the stars of this post. Please ignore the atrocity that is my ring finger and the injured pinky! I botched up my application on the ring finger and was in the process of fixing it, and I... fell down and scraped my pinky while I was coming out of the subway. Um, concentrate on the sparklies!

Set in Stones

Set in Stones

A Cut Above

Set in Stones and A Cut Above are top coats containing different-sized chunks of glitter. These are designed well in that the glitter spreads out evenly in one coat. In retrospect, the blue-green base is perhaps not the best to show off A Cut Above, but I hope you get a sense of how it performs on the nail. A friend of mine tried these on and worried that they made her look like a twelve year old. While I personally don't think so, I can see why she would be worried about wearing it to work.

Pure Pearlfiction

Pure Pearlfiction

As Gold As It Gets

Pure Pearlfiction and As Gold As It Gets are my runner-up favorites of the collection. After all, you know my love of layering! These two polishes are like silver and gold snowflakes, featuring tiny bits of shimmer to add some very interesting dimensions to your base color.

Shine of the Times

Shine of the Times

Shine of the Times is my favorite of the collection, featuring a top coat of copper/gold flakies! Again, the blue-green base is not the best to show this off but I can't stress how great they look, not to mention super fun! Shine of the Times was my first experience with flakies and I have to admit, I might be hooked. I need more of these.

Essie nail polishes retail for $8 at physical retailers, but you can get them at a lower price from select e-tailers. I bought all five of mine as a set from Amazon.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Winter Solstice

A little fun fact about Winter Solstice and how we Chinese celebrate it! For years all I knew about it was that I get to make fun little balls immersed in sugar water to eat on December 21/22. But there's a little more to it than that.

Winter Solstice (冬至 dongzhi) occurs on the shortest day and longest night of the year, traditionally marked as the first day of winter (you can read more about it in this fairly comprehensive Wikipedia article). On this day, we make a treat called 汤圆 tangyuan, which are glutinous rice balls, usually served with sugared water. 

Though I've been having these since I was born, only today I found out the reason why these balls are round is because they symbolize reunion (the word for reunion in chinese is 团圆 tuanyuan), which made me all fuzzy inside because I was home. 

Uncooked tang yuen

How they look cooked

I like to make special shapes with it. One of the only times we are allowed to play with food

Though my sister's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle heads take the design cake

Technically you're also supposed to eat according to your age as a commemoration of a year gained in life, for example since I'm 22 I should eat 22 balls, but um, I never followed that rule. 

Happy Winter Solstice, everyone. May we all have a bearable winter ahead!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Le Métier de Beauté Couches de Couleurs

I got into these late, which is ridiculous because for over a year now I've known these are the best eyeshadows in the industry (this statement said after author has been through every aisle in Sephora and every counter in Bergdorf/Neiman's). But there's something about beginning your experience with the brand with a kaleidoscope (Splendid Frost, in my case): It's all there arranged for you. When you throw me into the wild with 34 eyeshadows to choose from, I start to panic. Like what I said in my lip creme tutorial, sometimes people just need a little bit of structure and guidance before they know how to experiment.

So after pestering Dustin for another hour of instruction, here you go! We throw the words Couches de Couleurs around fairly often without really explaining what it means (I personally just thought it meant layering), but now I have a comprehensive chart detailing exactly how you should layer eyeshadows according to the Le Métier de Beauté technique. Keep in mind you can always experiment any way you want. The chart below is not the be all end all to eyeshadow layering. I just personally hold that you should know the "rules" before you start breaking them, you know? 

Oh to own the whole array

There are four types of colors according to the Couches de Couleurs technique: 
  • Brighten: Resembles skin color, but has a little radiance to it
  • Warmth: Resembles your natural blush color. Everyone has a different color, some people have more red, some more pink. He suggests using the knuckle trick (clench your knuckles and look at the color by the protruding bones) to determine which tone you are
  • Focus: What the overall look is going to become
  • Depth: Usually placed at lash line, gives a veil on the entire look. The texture of the Depth colors are harder, thus it's usually a little difficult to pick up pigment from them

And you layer them accordingly! I swatched the colors according to type in the chart below. Do click on the picture to access the enlarged version. For arm swatches, please visit Karla Sugar's fantastic recap of the entier Le Métier eyeshadow line.

If anyone is interested to know, my Brighten and Warmth colors are Jojo and Tuscan Sunset.

Click to enlarge!

I should tell you that Dustin was hesitant to label certain colors under "Brighten" or "Depth," because women have different skin tones thus use different Brighten colors. For example, people with darker skin tones can use certain Depth colors (like Spicy) as Brighten colors. So do take the chart above with reservations if your skin tone is much darker than mine!

Also, notice I labelled Corinthian under "Everything." Corinthian is unique in the sense that it could be used as a Brighten, Focus, or Depth color (or if you're lazy or in a rush, it's pretty enough on its own that you can just slap it on and call it a day). I'm surprised it's not one of my first acquisitions - in fact, I only got this a few weeks ago when I was visiting New York, largely because Joeybunny and Dustin both gave me looks of acute disbelief when I admitted I didn't own it. Ah peer pressure!

Now, you probably realize by now that the seasonal kaleidoscopes don't exactly follow this technique. A prime example is Violaceous Splendor, which is basically an explosion of color! To this Dustin says the seasonal kaleidoscopes are unconventional ways for color to go together, like fashion-forward accessories that are just made for the season. This is not to say they'll go out of style as soon as the snowfall ends or the spring flowers bloom, but like the ubiquitous cape of Fall 2011: nice to have now, but you bet I'm going to wear it over and over again in the years to come.

In response to Larie's question about the eyeshadows and whether they contain paraben (and my horror at not finding even one picture of the ingredient list online), here's a picture for those with sensitive skin:

Le Métier de Beauté single eyeshadows are $30 each. I'd love to thank Dustin for sharing his knowledge, so if you don't have a counter near you, I hope you will give him a call at 212-872-8612. Let him know I sent you and I promise he'll be extra nice (not that he isn't already)!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Le Métier de Beauté Brown and Metallic Nail Polishes

This last installment absolutely slays me in the foam-in-mouth I-want-all way. Le Métier de Beauté does killer browns and metallics and had the holographic/glitter top coat thing going on way before Nails Inc. came over to the States. Looking at pictures now, I wish I bought all three of the browns and the top coat, but hey, these are not limited edition so we can get it whenever we want! 

L-R: Kona, Bali, La Belle, Tres Taupe, Grey Gardens, Silver Belle, Femme Fatale, Disco Fever

L-R: Kona, Bali, La Belle, Tres Taupe, Grey Gardens, Silver Belle, Femme Fatale, Disco Fever

I knew I couldn't capture accurate colors in the salon so I placed all the tape on a paper and brought it home for a dose of my regular lighting and camera. As you can see, the browns and metallics completely reflected light, so I'm thankful the photograph above was as close to true color as it could be. That taupe color is so intriguing, but I wouldn't purchase that without trying it on my finger before. If you have it, let me know how it looks!

These Le Métier de Beauté nail polishes retail for $18. They are exclusively available at the John Barrett Salon in New York City, but you will be able to order them through the lovely Heather at 212-872-2700 x2714. Let her know I sent you!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Le Métier de Beauté Nude Polishes

I'm not big on nude nail polish. They're typically reserved for interviews, and even so I still go for edgier nudes, like the holographic goodness of Butter London All Hail The Queen, or a mushroom taupe like Rescue Beauty Lounge Grunge, or even Chanel Particuliere. It's not that I have anything against a good nude polish (I'm sure there are plenty), it's just ballet whites and pinks usually clash with my skin. I guess it's a good thing I didn't grow up doing ballet, though a huge part in me is rueful about my utter lack of grace.

L-R: A La Carte, Love Poemes, Kiss Me Couture, Mon Petit Cheri, Ma Belle Amie, Tussled Tulle

L-R: A La Carte, Love Poemes, Kiss Me Couture, Mon Petit Cheri, Ma Belle Amie, Tussled Tulle

So maybe I'm just making up for not learning how to dance like a swan, but I purchased three of these. Watch me use it and descend into despair because demure pinks and me just cannot happen. 

Each of these polishes retail for $18. Tomorrow will be the final installment of this nail series, and I definitely saved the best for last!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Le Métier de Beauté Orange/Red Polishes

Today we delve into the brights with varying shades of orange and coral, and one lone red. I can see these being a major hit during summer, though if you need a little pick-me-up come snow time these will brighten up your day.

L-R: Clockwork Orange, Wango Tango, Riviera, Orange You Lovely, Krazy Koral, Red Hot Mess

L-R: Clockwork Orange, Wango Tango, Riviera, Orange You Lovely, Krazy Koral, Red Hot Mess

These polishes retail for $18 each. Stay tuned for the next couple of days and I'll show you the browns, sparklies, and nudes! If you absolutely cannot wait, you can give Heather a call at 212-872-2700 x2714. Do tell her I sent you!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Le Métier de Beauté Pink Polishes

Welcome to our weeklong feature of the exclusive Le Métier de Beauté nail polishes available only at the John Barett salon. I'm providing swatching services in case anyone is interested in them! These polishes are in the larger-sized bottles and the formula lives up to its usual top notch standard (oh so smooth). Yesterday I showed you the blues and greens, today it's the pinks and um, one shimmery lilac.

Again, I apologize for the lesser quality of these photos. That blurry swatch photo is the most color accurate out of the bunch I took. I hope it still gives you some inkling of what the colors look like.

L-R: Summer Soiree, Cheeky Rendevous [sic], Paris, Grape To See You, Monaco, Uma Paro, Rio de Janeiro, Palm Beach

L-R: Summer Soiree, Cheeky Rendevous [sic], Paris, Grape To See You, Monaco, Uma Paro, Rio de Janeiro, Palm Beach

These polishes retail for $18 and are exclusively available at the John Barrett Salon. Stay tuned for the next few days and I'll show you the oranges/reds, browns, metallics/sparklies, and nudes! If you absolutely cannot wait, you can give Heather a call at 212-872-2700 x2714. Do tell her I sent you!