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!