Thursday, October 17, 2019

PSA: Tatcha Friends & Family Sale 2019

I have two kinds of friends when it comes to skincare. The first kind is meticulous about their multi-step skincare routine and could rattle off ingredient names and its benefits off the top of their head. The second kind asks me for recommendations and purchases the same thing forevermore. I've recommended Tatcha to more people than I can count over the years, and one of the things we all look forward to is the annual Friends and Family sale.

If you happen to fall into the second bucket and need recommendations, or want to try something new, here's a handy list of my favorite Tatcha products:

1. The Essence
Mini review here. My current bottle (shown here) is one application away from being a sad empty. Good thing I already have another one waiting in the wings.

2. Dewy Skin Mist
I talked about this product so much on this blog it's not even funny. Do I have three of them casually lying around my apartment? Do you really even have to ask?

3. The Indigo Cream
When my skin inevitably gives up in a giant rash-y, dry mess in winter, I pull this baby out.

4. Sunscreen
I've used this every single day for the last four years. You might think I'm exaggerating, but I know this to be true because Tatcha launched this in 2015, and I happened to join the PR agency that represented them that year (I no longer work for that agency). Mini review of it here again.

5. Lipstick
This may sound odd but I use Messy Wands as a resource a lot. Like, if I want to remember how a particular eye shadow or blush looks on me without putting it on, or if I'm contemplating a purchase of a brand that I no longer remember if I liked. You would think I would remember, since I wrote all of it. What can I say, eight years of blog posts is a lot.

Anyway, the point is my recent post swatching all of Tatcha's lipsticks is really handy right now for a quick refresher on how all of them look. The one I use most is Cherry Blossom, shown below.

I'm half a tube down and somewhat seriously contemplating a backup. Thoughts?

Tatcha's Friends & Family event is running now through 10/20. Enter code FRIENDS19 at checkout for 20% off!

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Empties, Volume 1

Wow, that last month flew by quick. If you ask me what I've been doing the past month, all I can say is I wasn't vigilant enough in protecting my mental health, which was why it went by in a not particularly enjoyable whirl. In between learning new ways to be stressed at my new job, I accidentally over-scheduled myself to meet people every day for one week and was also trying to plan a vacation to Yellowstone for next summer. Planning to go to Yellowstone, especially with a family, is its own beast. Every decision you want to make comes with a cascading set of research. For example, I originally started looking at going in July, but a friend told me that it's high tourist season so it's less enjoyable, so I pivoted to May, but had to research when the lodges/hiking trails/park in general opens (the answer: dates vary). Then after doing all that research, flying end of May was apparently prohibitively expensive, so I had to look into which week in June had reasonable flights...

I won't bore you with the rest, but my brain spiraled real hard for a couple of weeks. I had to consciously choose to step away and be kind to myself, hence some alone time this week and a precious sliver of time to read and write for fun. I finished up a lot of skincare last month and thought I'd do mini reviews of them!

1. Tatcha Cleansing Oil ($48 for 5.1 fl oz / 150ml)
For years, Tatcha's cleansing oil was my HG. It unfailingly removed even the most stubborn of makeups and didn't dry out my skin. It didn't feel too heavy, didn't stick to my skin after cleansing (yoohoo, Shu Uemura), and didn't have an overwhelming scent (L'Occitane, I'm looking at you). The only reason I am now partial to another cleansing oil is because I found another one I equally liked for a quarter of the price (Hada Labo, I love you). Since I use a substantial amount of cleanser everyday, seems like a no-brainer to switch HGs. I still love this Tatcha one though. I dream of the day they will create a cleansing body oil.

OMG. CLEANSING OIL FOR BODY. Gotta investigate this now.

2. Shangpree S-Energy Facial Mousse Cleanser ($35 for 4.73 fl oz / 150ml)
Okay, I took this photo over a month ago, and at that time I thought I was finished with this cleanser because it started pumping out air. Turns out, it had another month's worth of legs, which brings its total life span to possibly a year and a half of daily use. The mind, it's boggled.

It's definitely a pleasurable foam cleanser. For some reason, I currently have four other facial cleansers in my bathroom, three of which are foam types. All of them require vigorous hand rubbing to generate foam. I realize now that this Shangpree one is gone that I prefer the pump style much better, since it requires wayyy less effort. Usual requirements (not drying, no overwhelming scent) satisfied. If I ever run out of facial cleansers at home (current time horizon for that... 4 years?), I would repurchase.

3. Holy Snails Kadi Cleanser ($25 for 4 oz / 150ml)
Also a pleasure to use! The overall experience is understandably less premium than the Shangpree one since it's an indie skincare brand, but I think it's important to support small businesses. It creates a denser foam than the Shangpree cleanser, but that doesn't matter to me. Again, fulfills all usual requirements and would repurchase.

4. Holy Snails Shark Sauce ($29-36 for 30ml)
Briefly touched upon this serum here. I'm already using my next bottle! If you're interested in the brand in general, you can get 10% off using my referral link!

5. Haus of Gloi Pumpkin Butter ($10 for 6 oz)
Another indie skincare brand that deserves much love for making excellent but affordable products — $10 for a 6 oz jar that lasts through the cold months. Would I enjoy a more premium packaging design and experience? Probably. But I know I'll have to pay more for it and at the end of the day, it really doesn't matter. So there, please never change.

6. Tatcha Sunscreen ($65 for 2 fl oz / 60ml)
Recently learned that people cut tubes to get to the last of the product so I did that with my Tatcha sunscreen when I thought it was empty and there was at least one week's worth of product still in there. I learned a valuable lesson indeed. I've used this sunscreen on my face almost exclusively for years. I don't plan to change. Bonus: it's 20% off on the website right now.

Did you use up anything noteworthy lately? Let me know!

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Distracting myself from Chanel with a little Tom Ford

Every few months or so I get an irrational itch to buy something I definitely don't need, like a lipstick or blush or eyeshadow that's "missing" from my vanity (and by missing I mean it's probably 90% similar to something I already own). That urge will come down hard and remain an obsession until I inevitably pull the trigger.

At the moment, I'm consumed by the Chanel Top Coat Eyeshadow Veil that's released for fall. The idea of a gossamer, barely there hint of shimmer kind of eye is very appealing to me, but this particular product is really hard to gauge over the Internet. The bloggers I like have praised it for what it purports to be: a shimmering veil of light over the lids, but their swatches look disappointing. Somehow I remain undeterred, and visited two Chanel stores to see it in person.

In real life, they were... alright. The perfect version of this would be shimmering microglitter that looks almost wet on lids, but don't crease (yes, one can dream). The Chanel Top Coat Eyeshadow Veil had the shimmer, had the microglitter, but also had some chunkier bits. The effect is honestly quite dreamy over other eyeshadows, but on its own it's not quite what I had in mind. The colors on offer — white and pewter — were also not my cup of tea.

To deter myself from purchasing it, I dug into my own stash and unearthed the Tom Ford Cream and Powder Eye Color in Naked Bronze. The powder portion of the duo is a fine gold shimmer with glitter bits. It shall do instead for this fall season.

I applied just the powder all over lids in the photos above. You can visit this old Instagram post for a fully bronze look. I'm still on the lookout for an eyeshadow that'll give me that shimmering wet editorial look that won't crease. If you find one, let me know.

Alas, that original itch, far from being scratched, was satisfied by another rogue Chanel purchase.

Products used in this post:
Sulwhasoo Perfecting Cushion Intense in Medium Pink
Tom Ford Cream and Powder Eye Color in Naked Bronze
THREE Mesmerizing Performance Eyeliner Pencil 10
Heroine Make Long and Curl Mascara
Glossier Cloud Paint in Beam (you can get $10 off as a new customer with this link)
Glossier Haloscope in Quartz
THREE Lyrical Lip Bloom 16

Monday, September 9, 2019

Tatcha Dewy Skin Cream Review

I've had the oddest skin in the last few weeks. What was once normal/combination, perhaps even a tad oily in the summer months, became bone dry especially around my mouth. There wasn't anything I did that made it so. I was perfectly normal one day, and the next the bottom half of my face could no longer hold moisture.

The silver lining in this unfortunate turn of events is I now have the appropriate skin type to test Tatcha's Dewy Skin Cream. I actually purchased one when it launched in February, but quickly returned it because it was too much for my skin then. While finding ways to soothe my dry skin, one of the things I tried was using increasingly occlusive creams. I went from a gel cream to the stuff I used in previous winters, but nothing worked. That was when I broke out this beautiful purple tub, hoping that what was "too much" half a year ago is exactly what I need now.

Bear in mind that I'm not relying on the occlusive layer (aka last layer of skincare) to provide me with the hydration I need. To fix my dry skin, the essence/toner/serum parts of my routine went on overdrive. However, I've found in addition to all that I needed a heavy layer at the end to ensure the hydration stays locked in.

I mean it in the best possible way when I say the Dewy Skin Cream is the thickest, most emollient occlusive cream I've ever tried. It almost feels like a facial oil without actually being one. This is exactly what I want, especially during the daytime. Facial oils are incredible at locking in hydration as a final step of skincare, but doing so in the morning is impractical due to its dry-down time. The Dewy Skin Cream is a good alternative. I'm free to put on sunscreen or makeup immediately after application, but I have a strong barrier to prevent evaporation.

As you might guess from the name, the Dewy Skin Cream takes after the Dewy Skin Mist, which to this day remains my favorite face mist. Both products impart a glow upon use. In fact, to test this theory, I applied the Dewy Skin Cream to my face without any other skincare product. By the third hour my skin felt parched, but it looked glowy, as if it was plump with hydration (it really wasn't). The light scent of the cream is similar to the one used in the mist, which I personally find pleasant.

I definitely wouldn't recommend this cream to anyone with normal or oily skin. In fact, the skin on my forehead is still relatively normal, which means when I use this cream on that area it ends up being too oily. So yes, I am currently using two different moisturizers on my face and yes, I know it's a little ridiculous. But you gotta do what you gotta do!

Tatcha Dewy Skin Cream is $68 and available at:
Tatcha website

Products in this post were provided by the company for editorial consideration.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Le Labo City Exclusive Gaiac 10 + Memories of the Past

Longtime readers of Messy Wands would know that I'm terrible at identifying scents. I smell a thing, but I can't describe what the thing is, not knowing the difference between the smell of cedar or oak or musk or any of the floral varietals. I've always admired perfume bloggers who seem to be able to identify different notes with precision, whereas my approach to fragrance resembles a weak hand-flapping motion. I can tell you what I like, but I can't tell you what it smells like.

For that reason, I've written about perfumes maybe twice in the entire history of the blog. Today though, I invite you to experience something truly special: Le Labo Gaiac 10.

Gaiac 10 is one of Le Labo's city exclusives, which are limited edition scents usually only available for sale in its inspiration city. Perhaps unsurprisingly if you know me, Gaiac 10 is the Tokyo edition. I remember chancing upon the collection at the Williamsburg Le Labo store. By then, I've heard of Gaiac 10 being spoken about with reverence by other beauty bloggers, so it was the first one I spritzed on. It drew me in a way no other perfume has ever done, and to this day remains the only perfume I would wear.

Since I have no vocabulary to describe this smell, in Le Labo's own words:
Gaïac is a very hard, greenish wood that isn’t as dry as cedar, but is as subtle, profound and stable. Le Labo’s Gaiac 10 is a tense formula built on gaiac wood and surrounded by musks (4 different types in all), with hints of cedar and olibanum (incense).
To me, it smells like a walk in a clean forest, like this:

This was me in Mount Kōya in 2015

As the label indicates, I purchased it for myself almost exactly two years ago. I recall writing those specific words down to serve as a reminder of time gone by. In September 2017, I was in my third semester at Columbia University and was taking my first notoriously difficult undergraduate CS class. I was desperate to do well, knowing that the outcome would affect my chances of getting into the master's program. That fall, I met some of my best friends at Columbia, which finally gave me the college friendship experience I've always craved (I didn't have a lot of friends in undergrad because of a controlling ex, but that's a story for another day). I also learned a lot about myself when my boyfriend wanted to take a break — I descended into an anxious wreck because it was a situation that wasn't under my control. I was a shell of a human being because I kept spiraling, going over what-ifs and plausible scenarios that could happen, wanting to be prepared when it did. What to do if he broke up with me, what to do if he asked to get back together, and every decision spawned more branches. Part of it was a normal reaction to a breakup, but most of it was anxiety as I have never experienced it before.

We eventually made up, but I also committed to a lot of introspection and self-therapy because I didn't want to be the kind of person who falls apart anymore. My particular form of therapy is journaling and asking myself the hard questions. If I go down five levels of why, I would usually get to the root of the problem. I think it's easy to identify that I'm angry or unhappy, but it's much more difficult to admit that the emotion I'm feeling is due to some sort of insecurity I have with myself. I've found, however, that being truly honest with myself is mentally and emotionally freeing.

I'm glad I decided to label my bottle in such a way, otherwise I would have forgotten about the minutiae of a time that was pivotal in my life.

Le Labo city exclusives are available worldwide in the month of September. That means you are able to smell every single city exclusive at your local Le Labo store. If you're not close to one, you can purchase discovery sets (and full size bottles) on the website. Also, if your city exclusive bottle runs out, you can refill it at any Le Labo store at any time.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Sulwhasoo Perfecting Cushion Intense Review

I bought the Suqqu Extra Rich Glow Cream foundation a couple weeks ago from Taiwan and frankly, I haven't been able to get it to work. I know it can be done, because the SA applied it on me and it looked great that day. Since I've returned to the US though, every attempt has been a patchy mess. This led me to wonder why I succumbed to the hype when I already own a foundation that serves me well. Like an errant spouse with a wandering eye, I regretted it almost immediately after it happened.

Here's my trusty, clearly well worn Sulwhasoo Perfecting Cushion Intense in 21 Medium Pink. After a year of regular use, most of the sponge no longer dispenses product anymore. I'm currently squeezing and scraping the sides for what's left before inserting the replacement (each cushion purchase comes with a refill).

Because I'm fortunate to have pretty good skin, my foundation needs are simple: light but buildable coverage, hides redness, evens out skin tone, doesn't feel heavy. I specifically want my foundation to not look like I've applied foundation on my skin. This is not my experience with most foundations.

You can see in the before/after photos below that the Sulwhasoo cushion does exactly what I want it to. The differences are subtle, for which I am grateful (thanks mom for the good genes and skincare indoctrination!). In the second photo, my skin tone is more even. Some of the veins on my cheeks are no longer visible. It gives my skin a more polished feel. Most importantly, it doesn't look like I've put anything on my skin at all. I also like that it has buildable coverage. On days where my skin is a little more lackluster, I just apply a few more layers. No matter how many layers I have on, it never feels heavy.

no makeup!

with foundation

Sulwhasoo marketing materials say this includes Radiant Pearl Powder Complex, which provides a healthy glow. I don't know what exactly is Radiant Pearl Powder Complex, but I can attest to the fact that my skin does have a nice glow after applying the foundation. If you're looking for something that's mattifying, this is not it.

Sulwhasoo also claims that this cushion has anti-aging properties due to its inclusion of red pine extract. Personally, I think one shouldn't make makeup purchasing choices based on its purported skincare benefits. It's highly unlikely that we would either apply enough or have high enough concentrations of the ingredients to matter (I'll save my diatribe on foundations with SPF for another day).

That said, I love this foundation and I'm sorry I strayed. It's sometimes difficult to curb the knee jerk response of wanting shiny new things when what I have works perfectly in the first place. I'll try to be better next time!

It turns out Sulwhasoo Perfecting Cushion Intense is a little difficult to find in the US right now since it's sold out at most major retailers. I've reached out to them to see if they have any plans to restock it (GOD FORBID IT'S DISCONTINUED) and will update you accordingly. In the meantime, you can get it from Koreadepart, which ships items directly from Korea.

Sulwhasoo's other foundations are available at:
Sulwhasoo's website

Friday, August 30, 2019

Beauty Shopping in Taiwan, Part 2

Another place I always visit when I go back is Watson's, a local pharmacy that stocks a variety of beauty brands. I usually go there to stock up on Japanese sunscreens. My current favorite is by Skin Aqua (not pictured above), though I have a pet peeve. Skin Aqua made at least five different types of sunscreens and put them in similar looking white bottles with similar sounding names (apparently this is common across drugstore Japanese sunscreens. Why?!). I've used the UV Moisture Gel for the last year and the only complaint I had was that it smelled a tad plasticky on application. This trip, I found out that the UV Watery Gel has the exact same texture except it has a floral scent, so it's on track to becoming my HG body sunscreen.

Hada Labo is one of my favorite Asian drugstore brands. I've used their oil cleanser, foaming cleanser (the sensitive, low pH one) and premium hyaluronic lotion. The reason they're not pictured is because they were already in my existing routine. This trip, I got a couple of sheet masks to test — I've never used their sheet masks because they were on the pricier side compared to Naruko's, but I felt it's time.

Speaking of Naruko, I am a fan of their face masks, particularly from the Raw Job's Tears line. I usually buy them in boxes of 10 since they're so cheap (like $1 per mask). Similar to My Beauty Diary masks, Naruko masks are overflowing with essence and super drippy. The Raw Job version hydrates and brightens. It's my go-to mask when I don't have particular sheet masking needs. Just slap one on!

The Naruko Face Renewal Miracle Essence is a repurchase. I don't have much experience with First Treatment Essences so TBD on whether this will be a staple moving forward, but the last time I used it I recall having particularly bright skin. The only downside is the alcohol smell is pretty strong on this one.

Lastly, I impulse purchased these From Taiwan sheet masks at the airport because they were having a ridiculous deal (something like 3 boxes for $10). I've tried one so far and it's really thin and clingy, with the tiniest mouth opening. Unlike Naruko masks, it's not dripping all over the place, but it did also dry out within 30 minutes.

These products are pretty much available everywhere in Taipei. There are Family Marts on every block that stock limited amounts of beauty products, but it's also not difficult at all to stumble upon a pharmacy that exclusively sells Taiwanese/Japanese skincare. I loved visiting Taiwan — the people are some of the nicest I've ever met, the food is delectable, the skincare bountiful. What more can you ask for?

Saturday, August 24, 2019

A Fall Look with THREE and Suqqu

A brief interlude between cataloguing my shopping excesses to show you a look created with the products from Taiwan shopping part 1.

Repeat of the photo of the products for good measure:

The colors from top left to bottom right are: a shimmering pale gold, an auburn cream, a matte brown, a light barley. All of them pull warm. In the picture above, I used the palette traditionally. Started with a wash of the auburn all over the lids and the bottom lash line, then I targeted the pale gold on the inner lid and the matte brown on the outer lid. I blended them into each other using a fluffy brush. With my ring finger, I dabbed the lightest bit of the barley on the inner corners of my eye. To finish off, I tightlined my eyes using my favorite Suqqu eyeliner and applied a coat of mascara.

I placed the Suqqu blush in Usumoya higher up on my cheeks than usual (apparently the placement trick that's all the rage in Taiwan right now) and blended it to the sides. Lips are one coat of the Lyrical Lip Bloom 16 featured above. It has a smooth but not overtly silicone-y texture. Unfortunately, I realized belatedly that it catches on dry skin, so as much as I love how it looks when applied, I wouldn't recommend it to anyone with dry lips.

These colors are getting me excited for fall! Bring on the foliage!

Products used in this post:
Sulwhasoo Perfecting Cushion Intense in Medium Pink
Guerlain Multi-Perfecting Concealer in Medium Cool
THREE Dimensional Vision Eye Palette 03
THREE Mesmerizing Performance Eyeliner Pencil 10
Heroine Make Long and Curl Mascara
Suqqu Pure Color Blush 10 Usumoya
Glossier Haloscope in Quartz (you can get $10 off as a new customer with this link)
THREE Lyrical Lip Bloom 16

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Beauty Shopping in Taiwan, Part 1

So... remember that large suitcase I was telling you about in my travel post. True to my prediction, exactly half of it was filled with food, and the other half filled with skincare and makeup (I only brought one packing cube worth of clothes). I was doing so well with my skincare no-buy before the trip and making headway on working through some of my stash, but traveling to Asia does crazy things to me. Now that I'm back, I'll put myself back on that no-buy so I can actually work through these goodies.

I spent two weeks in Malaysia and three days in Taiwan. If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen the barrage of food content on my stories. Most of my time in Malaysia was spent with family and friends, while most of my time in Taiwan was spent eating everything I saw and trawling through pharmacies and department stores. I was particularly ecstatic to find that my favorite Japanese brands (Suqqu, THREE and Addiction) were all available in the same department store, Shin Kong Mitsukoshi Hsinyi Place A8, so that was the first place I went.

The difference between beauty shopping in Taiwan and the US is that the sales associates in Taiwan are more savvy when it comes to skincare. I went to the THREE counter with the express purpose of purchasing my HG eyeliner (thwarted because they don't sell the black one in Taiwan /anguish) but got waylaid and treated to a whole skincare and makeup routine instead. THREE's skincare philosophy centers around "naturally derived ingredients," which I take to mean lots of essential oils and plant extracts. This doesn't necessarily speak to me, because I'm a believer of clinically proven results when it comes to skincare ingredients (see: Vitamin C, niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, etc). However! I've heard great things about the cleansing oil and balancing foam and was willing to try them because my requirements for cleansers are less stringent. I also impulse purchased the balancing cream because the SA put it on me and I liked it.

The risky buy here is the balancing clear lip lotion. For context, I have terrible peeling lips that no amount of water drinking or lip balm applying has ever fixed. It has gotten to the point that I suspect it is caused by allergies, but it peels even if I have nothing on it! The lip lotion, I surmise, is like a serum for the lips. I bought it even though the ingredients don't suggest that it would... do anything, but I am desperate enough about the situation to try any new thing I can find. Right now, I'm dutifully using it morning and night. We'll see if it changes anything!

On the other hand, the lip balm has a pleasant yuzu scent and a nice melty texture. Definitely a new favorite.

I think I was just feeling particularly trigger happy that day. The model in their Autumn/Winter campaign was wearing the Dimensional Vision Eye Palette 03 and her eyes were a vision of fall. I also picked up the peach-toned lip gloss/cream she was wearing, which the brand calls Lyrical Lip Bloom 16. I AM NOT IMMUNE TO MARKETING, OKAY? Both pieces are limited edition for fall.

Suqqu went through a packaging revamp since I last saw them (admittedly, years ago) and damnnnnn are they sleek now (action video here)! I briefly regretted purchasing the THREE palette instead of going all Suqqu when realizing the disparity between their packaging, but of course it's what inside that counts... right?

Pictured here are the Retouch Pressed Powder 02 and Pure Color Blush 10 Usumoya. Both are from the permanent collection. They're both housed in the thinnest black and gold palettes and it's such a joy handling them that I'm battling waves of regret for not getting more Suqqu things to pepper into my stash.

I also got the Extra Rich Glow Cream Foundation, mostly because of Wondegondigo's recommendation. I waver back and forth whether this or the THREE Flawless Ethereal Fluid Foundation was a better choice, but I guess I'll never know. Such are the pitfalls of purchasing products with no window for testing.

I'll stop here for now. Part 2 will feature my drugstore picks!

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Currently: Malaysia

I'm enjoying a blissful two weeks at home in Malaysia. Such is the perils of being an immigrant that I can only visit my favorite people for such brief spurts. I went to the US for college in 2009. As I grow older, I ache with the knowledge that my time with family is fleeting because I chose to stay.

On a brighter note, if you're interested in learning more about different types of Malaysian food, I've been posting about them on my Insta stories. The whole series is saved under the 🇲🇾Food highlight. It's surprisingly difficult to distill the essence of many Malaysian dishes into a sentence. In fact, I've never had to think about how to describe the dishes to a non-Malaysian, English-speaking audience. Thank you to those who've DMed me with questions and/or salivations. You've made creating this food series even more enjoyable.

A sample of what I've been posting on Insta

Besides eating, my time here is a flurry of decades-old friends and family. We don't do much, just bask in each other's company. I like accompanying my mom in the morning as she shops for groceries for the family (the vendors know her by sight and greets her with welcome, a scene that differs greatly from my grocery shopping experience in New York), drinking tea in companionable silence with my father, completing escape rooms with my brother and sisters. My friends are mercifully understanding of how little time I have with my family, so they would usually come to my house to hang out.

As I write, morning light is streaming through the curtains and I'm lying on my favorite sofa, listening to the hum of a household that's about to awake. I am happy, I am home.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Super Pared Down Travel Makeup

After over three months of anxious waiting, I finally got my Employment Authorization Document (EAD), which allows me to legally work in the US but equally importantly, leave the country and safely return. I have been agonizing about having all this precious free time and not being able to spend it with friends and family back home, so trust when I say I'm vibrating with anticipation to get on that flight.

I like traveling light when I go home, mostly because I want every extra ounce of unused weight to go into bringing snacks and Asian skincare back to New York. I own a Rimowa Lite Large Check-In (best suitcase ever) and I would fill up less than a quarter of the space. This does mean cracking down on what makeup to bring. There are people like my older sister, who only uses one blush, one eyeliner and one dedicated lip color — clearly this isn't a problem for her. Asking me to choose JUST ONE BLUSH to go with every look I might want to do in 1-3 weeks plunges me into a rabbit hole where I'll start drawing decision trees in my head, because that blush will affect what eye and lip colors I can bring, and the pile would get bigger and bigger until I'm stuck under an avalanche of palettes, wondering how I got there.

After years of agonizing and still bringing more stuff than I would use, I have now narrowed it down to my most basic kit. With this, I don't even have to bring makeup brushes. I just use the ones provided and my fingers:
  • Concealer and/or foundation, depending on how much coverage I need at the time.
  • Eyebrow pencil I microbladed my eyebrows and no longer have to fill them in! Best decision ever!
  • Burberry Earthy to double as eyeshadow and blush.
  • Eyeliner and mascara, usually black.
  • Highlighter. My relationship with the Glossier Haloscope went from meh to grudging respect, which is a story for another day. I like bringing this for travel because it's meant for finger application.
  • One nude lip and one fun lip. I've been partial to the Chanel lip balm and powder duo in recent trips because I can either do a light stain or build up to a full red.

This is the base look that I create with the kit above, though lips are bare in the photo. It's my-face-but-better, versatile with lip color, and photographs well. There's honestly not much more I can ask for.

Another way to police how much to bring is to have an inviolable rule. I can only bring what fits into my Issey Miyake pouch, which does double duty as a clutch when I travel. If only I would enforce this rule on skincare...

How do you pack for travel? Do you bring your entire kit or mercilessly choose your favorites?

Monday, July 29, 2019

S'well Bottle and Tumbler - worth the hype?

Am I a child? Yes, yes I am

Nothing makes me more skeptical than an absolutely ridiculous amount of hype surrounding what is a basic ass product. I'm more likely to wonder if it's just groupthink or meticulous branding (see: Glossier, Away) versus the item actually being extraordinary. For this reason, I've never really put the S'well bottle I've owned for four years to much use, thinking it was just a pretty but kind of heavy reusable bottle and grumbling about not being able to toss it (it was a farewell gift from a previous boss). Until recently, when I put some cold water in it before going out to swelter, then left it in my bag till the next day, and lo and behold, the water was as chilly as it was the day before! And then I started bringing hot tea around and it stayed hot! And it has never leaked! And it really does look quite good!

So I'll eat my words. I can't imagine a scenario where it will break, but I will absolutely plonk down another $35 to replace it if it happens.

(I'm aware that all the things I described are just basic functions of a thermos, but most thermoses I've owned don't look that nice, or features a detachable lid that leaks even if they say it won't, or keeps drinks colder/warmer for less time than advertised, which is why my threshold for wonder is so low at this point.)

Buoyed by the promise of the S'well Bottle, I purchased the 18oz Tumbler for at-home use. Reviewers claimed that it still manages to keep beverages hot/cold longer even without the lid, and I'm like what kind of magic is going on?! The Tumbler is essentially a tall cup made with the same materials — Therma-S'well technology, triple-walled yada yada — but I imagined the exposed water would still be subject to the law of thermodynamics. So I left a cup of icy cold water out overnight and drank it the next day. It was still cold.

Granted, it wasn't as cold as it would have been in the Bottle, but beverages in an open cup are usually consumed in a few hours anyway. For that particular use case, mind is blown. Water has frankly never been as delicious.

I own two Bottles and two Tumblers. The Tumblers and one of the Bottles are from the Shimmer collection and the other Bottle is from the Stone (not pictured because it's holding cold brew in my boyfriend's bag). The products in the Stone collection have a rough, sandpapery texture, and we do worry that it might be prone to scratching — either the bottle itself or the stuff that comes in contact with the bottle. If you do decide to get one, that might be something you want to take into consideration.

S'well bottles can be procured from:
S'well — $35 for a standard 17oz Bottle, $30 for 18oz Tumbler
Amazon — you can get them here for less but make sure they're genuine
Nordstrom — there's an anniversary sale version going for $23 right now!

Friday, July 26, 2019

Currently: almost the end of July 2019

I really enjoy reading The Non Blonde's Currently roundups, so I'm going to make like imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and do one myself (sorry/thanks, Gaia)!

New Yorker, August 7 & 14, 2017 cover being a little too accurate about the MTA

A Diptyque Baies candle that I got for Christmas last year (thanks Darun!). A part of me is like "be more adventurous!" while the other shrugs "why change something that works." Either way, enjoying it.

The Lord of the Rings. I read this when the Fellowship of the Ring came out in theaters and convinced me that things definitely get more exciting after Book One. I've seen the trilogy countless times since then (go extended cut or go home), so it's fun to compare how characters and events play out in the book versus film. I also do a thing where I update my boyfriend on where I am in the book, inevitably reenact the scene from the movie for clarity, then explain how it differs. For some reason he's still listening to me.

Hadestown Original Broadway Cast Recording. I'm so glad I got tickets wayyy before it blew up. It's one of my absolute favorite shows and I just want everyone to experience it, even if you have to buy your tickets six months out. The music has a jazzy, New Orleans vibe and the joy is infectious; Andre de Shields and Amber Gray and Patrick Page are literal god(desse)s.

Season 7 of The Office, US version. I started it because I wanted to understand all the references (same reason I watched Sex and the City), but of course now it's just enjoyable.

This slinky champagne colored slip dress from Aritzia paired with a black suede Stuart Weitzman NearlyNude Ankle Strap Sandal.

Anxiously waiting for a few moving pieces to line up so I can go home. Extra frustrated because the process is out of my control. I won't bore you with the particulars of US immigration, but if you're interested let me know.

How's your weekend looking? Any fun plans?

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Every Tatcha Lipstick, Swatched

I've always had a soft spot for Tatcha because they were one of the first brands to ever support Messy Wands. Such was my love for them that I once reached out to the founder Vicky for a job, and though I've never worked for them directly, I did join the public relations agency that represented them, and happily they gave me the Tatcha account.

As you can probably guess, public relations is not my thing. However! I've never stopped loving the brand. While I've moved away from having an all Tatcha skincare routine (more out of a compulsive need for experimentation than anything), I usually still have one or two of their products in my lineup.

But today is not about skincare. It is another opportune moment to talk about lipsticks, the reason for which will be clear by the end of the post. I happen to be the fortunate owner of every single lipstick shade Tatcha ever made, which seems to mean that I'm duty bound to swatch them, especially when all but one, Peony Blossom, are still available on the website.

Left to Right: Twilight: A Cherry Blossom, Plum Blossom, Magnolia Bloom

First, let's talk texture. Tatcha maintained the same formula for all its lipsticks, varying only the colors. This is a fantastic thing, because it really is one of the most comfortable lipsticks I've worn. They're fragrance free, taste free, non-drying and has a buildable formula, which means you can wear them sheer or fully pigmented.

I swatched all six in one sitting, wiping each color off with a cotton pad doused with micellar water and applying a light layer of Tatcha lip balm in between color changes. Multiple lipstick posts aren't my favorite because my lips would be crying by the end, but being rigid about the balm application made this a breeze.

Cherry Blossom is my go-to nude pink, as you can see from the well worn bullet. I try to keep the diamond facets of Tatcha lipsticks intact as I'm using it, but one can only do so much. Plum Blossom is a nude that pulls the slightest cool plum, whereas Magnolia Bloom is a curious warm in-between red-pink.

Cherry Blossom Silk Lipstick

Plum Blossom Silk Lipstick

Magnolia Bloom Silk Lipstick

Left to Right: Peony Blossom, Beautyberry, Kyoto Red

Peony Blossom's brighter, more vibrant case always trips me up, because on lips it's a much lighter coral pink. Beautyberry is, as you might imagine, a true berry shade. I talked extensively about Kyoto Red in this post, so I won't repeat myself, but I giggle a little thinking about how all my photos used to be of the deer in headlights variety.

Peony Blossom Silk Lipstick

Beautyberry Silk Lipstick

Kyoto Red Silk Lipstick

From July 21 to 29, Tatcha is offering a free mini Plum Blossom with $100 purchase, mini Plum Blossom and Kyoto Red with $125 purchase, and mini Plum Blossom, Kyoto Red and Cherry Blossom with $150 purchase. Use code KISSES19 at checkout to redeem!

Monday, July 22, 2019

Lisa Eldridge Luxuriously Lucent Lip Colours

I've never been one for celebrity beauty lines, but when Lisa Eldridge announced that she was making lipsticks I let out a squee. I missed the first True Velvet launch and was determined not to miss the summer pink collection, and was lucky to snag three out of four shades. Unfortunately but not surprisingly, they were completely sold out in a couple days. The good news however is that Lisa will be restocking the two Luxuriously Lucent Lip Colours, Love of My Life and Go Lightly this Wednesday, along with the OG True Velvets!

Lisa was mighty generous with the swatches on her website, but a few of her Instagram followers lamented the lack of Asian representation. I think it's difficult for her to try to capture her lipsticks on every skin tone, but since I own Love of My Life and Go Lightly, I thought I'd do a quick lip swatch for those who didn't get to purchase them the first go-round.

Top to bottom: Love of My Life, Go Lightly

Lisa describes the Luxuriously Lucent Lip Colours as semi sheer lipsticks that you can build up to full color if you so desire. In my photos below, you can see that her description is spot on. My lips are pretty pigmented (photo of my bare lips here) and the natural pink does peek through. For that reason, these lipsticks tend to look different on everyone. Lisa regrams her followers wearing her lipsticks and Go Lightly in particular is a chameleon, where it looks pinker or peachier depending on the person wearing it.

Wearing Love of My Life

Wearing Go Lightly

I forgot how the camera washes out your face and should have used a heavier hand, but I used the lipsticks on cheeks and lips in both photos. They double nicely as blushes! Love of My Life is a true neutral pink while Go Lightly leans peach.

The lipsticks are lightweight and have a silicone-y slip to them. They are taste and fragrance free, and wears well unless you eat or drink. In short, just about as well as you can expect from a semi sheer lipstick. The lipstick holder is a beautiful warm gold with magnetic closure, heavier than most lipstick holders made of plastic but lighter than say Guerlain Rouge G or Tatcha's range. If you like the colors, I won't hesitate to recommend it!

Lisa is restocking Love of My Life and Go Lightly, as well as her True Velvet Lipsticks this Wednesday on her website at 3pm UK time.

Products used in this post:
Sulwhasoo Perfecting Cushion Intense in Medium Pink
Guerlain Multi-Perfecting Concealer in Medium Cool
Clio Hitch Eye-King 002 Curling Mascara
Three Mesmerizing Performance Eyeliner Pencil #10
Addiction eyeshadows in Sandbar and Flash Back
Glossier Haloscope in Quartz (you can get $10 off as a new customer with this link)
Lisa Eldridge Luxuriously Lucent Lip Colour in Love of My Life and Go Lightly

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Summer Skincare Routine

Let's get the scary part out of the way. Here's how my skin looks now. On a better day, that minuscule pimple on my nose wouldn't exist, the raised bumps on my right cheek would magically disappear, and I wouldn't have two random gashes on my forehead. But it's important to acknowledge that this is still a good skin day. Impossible expectations have a way of weighing us down, let's try not to do that to ourselves!

Skincare has always been a ritual for me. I grew up watching my mother slather creams on her face day and night and dutifully started doing the same when I was a teenager. I disliked Clinique's astringent toner as soon as I tried it, precipitating years of being annoyingly meticulous about the textures and effects of what I use on my face. I've finally reached a place where I think my skin is as good as it gets without more drastic intervention.

As with all talk of skincare, your mileage may vary (YMMV). What works for me may not work for you. I subscribe to the belief that skincare is part science part psychology, which is why one person's HG is another person's dud. Here are the products that work for me.

Mr. Plant Pot says hi!

The two in my current rotation are Tatcha The Essence and Sulwhasoo Concentrated Ginseng Water. The Tatcha essence looks and feels just like water out of the spout, which makes applying it without spilling a couple precious drops an exercise of dexterity. Ironically, the Sulwhasoo water is viscous and requires a good ketchup shake to get out. It's stickier but doesn't bother me, and sorts of smack you in the face with its delicious ginseng scent (which, unghhhh, give it to me).

One of the hardest things to definitively answer about a skincare product is "how do you know it works," which my partner brings up every few months as he puts on whatever toner's on our vanity. I notice the difference this step makes to my skin because I usually skip it when I'm traveling and my skin is less... good. Nothing would be outwardly wrong, I just know it would not be up to its usual standards. And I can safely say it's the essence step because the rest of my skincare pretty much stays the same.

If there's one item I wouldn't like to be without, it's this $21 miracle worker Cosrx Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence. It's a tad slimy, which might take getting used to, but every time I put it on my skin soaks it up like it's been thirsty for days. The fact that it costs a fraction of the other stuff in my routine is icing on the cake.

Close on its heels is Holy Snails Double Shark Sauce (or its OG Shark Sauce or Sauce du mois variants). Preventing age spots and unevenness is my #1 goal, and having a healthy dose of niacinamide (10% in the double!) is key. I'm partial to supporting Holy Snails because she started out as a blogger and created this product for her friends. I would caution that form factor aside, it doesn't travel well. I've had at least two heartbreaking instances of shark sauce blowing up in the plane.

The Sulwhasoo Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Serum is pure decadence for me. Do I have clinical, scientific proof that ginseng does something for my skin? No. Do I like the hanbang smell and does it make me feel extra fancy? Yes. The optimist in me hopes that the anti-aging stuff is true, and maaaybe that's why I don't have wrinkles and fine lines. But I'm also 30, so that sounds like a stretch? You know what, it's okay to just do a thing (that doesn't make anything else worse) because it makes me happy. Pardon me as I sniff the ginseng off my face.

I've started incorporating vitamin C into my routine since learning that it's one of the few ingredients in skincare that has been clinically proven to reverse signs of aging. I haven't gone all out and optimized for concentration and pH yet, mostly because I'm using up what I happen to have at home. Currently going through Glo Skin 15% Vitamin C Serum, which is as straightforward a vitamin C serum as it gets, housed in a bottle with dropper that repels sunlight. I apply to face twice a week or so, but I'm gauging effectiveness by putting it on a blemish on my knee caused by an errant curler.

Eye Serum
I dismayed when trying a sample packet of the Sulwhasoo Timetreasure Renovating Eye Serum and seeing my eye bags vanish the next day, because the $260 price tag is hard to swallow. Fortunately, my brother's girlfriend was on a trip to Korea and got me one for less. I use this sparingly and only on days I didn't get enough sleep or want an extra boost. In my experience, the effects are more pronounced when used overnight.

I question whether the occlusive layer is strictly necessary in summer, but I do it out of habit anyway. I'm using Tatcha The Water Gel to give myself the lightest of watery layers.

I'll go more into sunscreen in another post, but please! Apply it every day, rain or shine, and put on way more than you think is necessary (like 1 tsp just for your face). Preferably SPF50 and broad spectrum, every two hours that you spend outdoors. I've repurchased many tubes of Tatcha Pore Perfecting Sunscreen throughout the years because it's scentless and I happen to like its creamy texture for the face over other, more aqueous Japanese sunscreens. But the best sunscreen is the one you would use.

This might sound like a lot, but it takes no more than a couple minutes to complete and I've come to relish that bit of time that's wholly for my self-care. We'll talk about acids and exfoliators and masks and cleansing another day. In the meantime, I'd love to hear about your own skincare HGs and journeys!

Monday, July 15, 2019

Hello Again, Dear Friend

My last post on this blog was on the heels of a break up with someone I thought I was building a life with. At the time, I chose to be kind to myself and not spend hours in the week on an endeavor that no longer gave me joy — Messy Wands was many things to me throughout the years: fun hobby, safe harbor from an emotionally abusive relationship, a way to meet friends... Unfortunately, I became confused when contemplating what it meant to be successful, forgetting that a hobby didn't need to be productive or provide income or get more page views or have more Instagram followers. It should always have been writing about things that brought me joy.

Four years have passed. I want to go back to paying attention to the small things and writing about them again, so here I am.

A couple months ago, I graduated from Columbia University with a Master's in Computer Science. I'm now on a brief holiday before starting my new job as a software engineer in August. Immersing myself in this new world made me ever more grateful for my liberal arts undergraduate education. I went from a program where kids joked about not knowing how to do math to a program where kids joked about not being able to write a paper on poetry, and I wished there was a way to convince both groups that they should break out of those neatly defined categories. One of the more common experiences shared by women who were interested in CS was wondering if they fit in an industry that seemed to be just guys who tinkered with computers and code even in their spare time. Imagine how many opportunities and experiences we have let slip because we thought something wasn't for us based on an impression of what "has been."

On beauty, I'm no longer doggedly monitoring new releases. Other than Lisa Eldridge's new lipsticks, I haven't bought makeup other than to replenish essentials — it may please or despair you to know that I still swear by the eyeshadows and eyeliners I procured in Japan all those years ago. After two painstaking trips to Sephora to try to replace my Three eyeliner, I caved in and just ordered it from ichibankao. I am, however, even more fanatical than before when it comes to skincare, the details of which I will happily share with you in future posts.

Lastly, the part I most missed about Messy Wands was the meeting of minds. I relished the conversations with readers about smells and colors and textures that made us giddy. This time around, I'll write about my other interests: books, Broadway shows, Malaysian food, how to decorate a small apartment... If any of them resonates with you, I hope you'll reach out so we can have a chat!