Winter Essentials – A Noob’s Guide to Survival in the North

Well, honestly, I feel like a bit of a fraud writing this. What the hell do I know about winter? Even my first winter in Vermont had the training wheels firmly in place. Only one or two days below 0F, hardly any snow accumulation ever, wind mostly behaving. But still – it’s more winter than I’ve ever experienced so far, and as such, my skincare and wardrobe needed some adjusting. So I thought I’d share with you guys a few things that saved my bacon over the last few months.

First, let’s talk wardrobe.

Right up until late November, my light North Face mid-layer jacket mostly did the job. But by the time December came along, it was time for the big guns.

The North Face Women’s Arctic Down Parka – $299

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I got this in navy. I tossed up between navy and teal, and the strangest thing happened while this was in the cupboard unseen between August and December – I forgot completely that I bought navy, and pictured it in teal in my head. Imagine my surprise when I pulled it out. I shhould have bought teal, but navy is one of My Colors and so I guess I just went with what I always buy. Big mistake! Anyway, it’s an absolutely excellent parka. It’s exactly what I wanted – waterproof, windproof, a big (faux)furry hood, deep pockets and long enough to hit me at about knee level. Worth every penny.

Uniqlo HEATTECH thermal underlayers – approx $20 a piece

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I LOVE this range. Honestly, next year I’ll buy even more of it, because there were weeks when I needed a pair for every day of the week. These are so soft and warm and not bulky at all, really thin and just perfect under any items of clothing including skinny jeans. Most importantly, they were absolutely perfect under scrubs, which is what I wear 5 days out of 7. Absolute winners in my book!

Uniqlo Women’s Extra-Fine Merino Sweaters – $30

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I actually got these in Australia, on the day of my ill-fated visa interview. It was a defiance purchase. “TELL ME I CAN’T GO TO AMERICA, WILL YOU?! JUST WATCH ME BUY THE MOST INAPPROPRIATE-FOR-AUSTRALIA THING I CAN FIND!” I bought three of them – one in black, one in red and one in teal. I have worn these ALL WINTER. They’re perfect as under-layers on especially cold days, and as mid-layers as well. On more spring/fall temp days they’re fine as outer layers. They’re soft, not cashmere soft (I wouldn’t wear this straight over a bra, for example) but soft enough for comfortable wear over a tank top, and thin enough fabric to wear, you guessed it: under scrubs.

Hunter Side Adjustable “Norris Field” Tall Rain Boots – $160

I was lucky enough to receive this as a gift for Christmas from my mother, who lives in the UK and knows a Hunter rep! As such, I’m not 100% sure that the ones in the link are the ones I have. But anyway – I. Love. Them. They’re so easy to wear – which sounds silly, but my other tall winter boots are fiddly and hard work to put on. These ones are just step-in, adjust the strap then go. I got some boot socks too which are really helpful when it’s very cold. I love that these boots are wide enough to not be tight on my large calves, and classy enough to be worn with nice jeans to a decent restaurant, for example. Huge fan!

As for skincare, well, I didn’t change too much. Maybe I should’ve – I’d love to hear if you guys have any must-haves for winter skin.

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The biggest problem for me in cold, dry weather is my lips. They are kinda wrinkly and weird anyway and they seem to chap and flake so fast. The only thing I’ve ever found to both effectively treat and prevent this is the Bite Beauty Agave Lip Mask. It’s pricey but it’s worth it, 100%. It’s honestly amazing. I sometimes switch to other things and the change is immediately noticeable. The only complaint I have about this product is that the product is extremely thick, so if it gets cold, it’s basically impossible to squeeze it out of the tube. But you only need a tiny bit, so the tube goes a long way.

I don’t like to put moisturizer or serum onto a completely dry face so I’ve been using the La Roche Posay Serozinc facial mist / toner to moisten my skin after the shower. It contains zinc sulfate so it’s great for combating spots as well as being a hydrating agent that’s perfect for prepping skin for treatments. The mist is super fine so it doesn’t feel like a jet of water in your face – bonus! The bottle is pretty big and I’m nowhere near finishing the one I got in early December – pretty longlasting for a mist!

I had a terrible cold for the last few weeks, it’s finally kicking the bucket now (thanks at least in part to a z-pack I was prescribed after finally going to the doctor) but while I was blowing my nose every 8 seconds, the skin around my nostrils and upper lip area was cracked and red. It was horrible. It was so tender and painful, my life was hell! At least until I grabbed a little travel size tube of Gold Bond Ultimate Healing Skin Therapy “Aloe” cream. It really seemed to heal and treat the skin so fast! I applied it a couple of times a day and used a balm at night to lock it in (I just used the Bite Beauty balm), and my tender, cracked skin cleared up really quickly. So this is a very specific thing to talk about but it was such a relief that it immediately jumped to mind when I decided to do this post! It’s readily available at all drugstores in both travel size and full size.

You all know I adore my oil cleansers and my latest favorite is no exception. The Oskia Renaissance Cleansing Gel Illuminating Vitamin Facial Cleanser (phew!) has a pretty big following in the UK and since some of my favorite bloggers are British, it had been on my wishlist for awhile. Americans (and Australians) can pick it up from BeautyBay. It’s kinda pricey, but the container is large and the pump is fantastic. Its name is misleading – it’s really more of a balm/oil hybrid than a gel. It’s absolutely fabulous for getting rid of all traces of makeup and sunscreen at the end of the day, and it smells nice too.

Dr Jart+ Ceramidin Liquid is one I think I’ve talked about before. It’s basically a liquid hydration booster that I like to add to my skincare at night. Specifically, I like to mix it in with my CeraVe PM Moisturizing Lotion. The latter is one of my absolute favorite skincare items of late. It’s super affordable and packed full of hard-working ingredients – namely niacinamide and ceramides – to keep your skin looking and feeling hydrated. I actually use this in the morning too (minus the Ceramidin Liquid).

Finally, lemme admit something: my trend of being SO BAD at putting body lotion on has not gotten better but when I have remembered to use it, I’ve been reaching for the Nivea Cocoa Butter Body Lotion. I love the convenient pump pack, and I love the cheap-as-chips price. Lately my husband has had really dry skin too so I’ve been smearing this all over his arms and legs and it’s been working a treat to make him feel more comfortable. It’s a winner. It smells delicious too!

Thanks for reading, and like I said, feel free to share your winter products or purchases! Looking outside today you’d be hard pressed to believe that winter is over – it’s below freezing, windy as hell and this morning it snowed. What the heck, Vermont?!

Now that I’m working full time I don’t expect to be posting more than once a week. The days are longggg. But I’m gonna do my best to post regularly! I promise!

Love+++
F&V

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Rant: Pushing ~Natural~ Skincare – Can You Please Just Not.

It’s time we had a talk, guys. It’s about “natural skincare”. Wayne Goss, whom I usually LOVE SO MUCH, recently posted this on his blog and I was devastated. He also recommended putting Milk of Magnesia, straight, on your face on the reg (it is ok in very small doses, very irregularly – thanks Chanelle). Sure, it makes your skin look a little better (debatable) in the short term, but with long term, frequent use it can cause major bacterial proliferation. Jaclyn Hill recommends using sugar to scrub your face. Come ON guys! I don’t want to go on and on about this, so I’ll try to keep this short (spoiler alert: I failed). I also don’t want to tell people to stop doing what works for them. But this is a dangerous trend that I want to put in my US$0.02 about.

Look, everyone wants to be closer to nature, right? Everyone wants to save some money, everyone wants to seek out multi-use items. I get it. I really do. But some things can be as natural as hell, but still not great for your skin. In fact, some people can react really badly to natural ingredients. Sure, they can also react badly to synthetic ingredients, but those are often formulated to be less likely to make people’s skin fall off.

The bottom line is, not everything that is natural is good for your skin. Take oft-touted lemon juice for example. Your skin’s natural pH is somewhere between 4 and 5. It already HAS a natural acid mantle and this acid mantle is INCREDIBLY important. Lemon juice is extremely acidic – it has a pH of 2 (approx. 6% citric acid) – and can burn your skin. Some people manage to use it JUST fine. But I would suggest that those people are in the minority, and most people’s delicate facial skin will be irritated by this. Irritation can show up in a myriad of ways – it can be redness, small whitehead bumps, cystic pimples, dryness and even sores/blisters or burns. Same goes for baking soda. Baking soda + vinegar (also acidic, pH 2.4ish) is the kind of thing you clean stubborn stains from pans, sinks, drains and cooktops with. Do you really think you should put that on your face!? No. Stop it.

Sugar is jagged crystals. Same goes for anything like those awful apricot scrubs that are literally crushed apricot seeds.What! They’re sharp as hell. Sure, they’ll exfoliate the SHIT out of your face, but they’ll also create microtears around your pores and aggravate any problem areas you already have. Don’t do it. I’m a huge proponent for NEVER scrubbing your face with anything more abrasive than a muslin cloth. If you want to exfoliate, use something gentle that won’t mess around with your skin’s pH level. I personally use the Paula’s Choice AHA gel, because I find it works well for me, but if you are oily you might prefer the BHA. Dr Dennis Gross also does a wonderful exfoliant line. Don’t scrub your face! Microbeads, though smooth, are still not great for your skin, or necessary, and they’re REALLY bad for the environment (some States in the US are about to ban them). Body skin is different – it’s much tougher and thicker. Scrubs on the body are fine but I would still recommend doing this only once a week at MOST.

Things like bee pollen can also cause a huge allergic reaction. That’s a LOT of concentrated bee product to be putting on your face. Honey is much less concentrated in allergens but there isn’t very much health benefit in it – so eat it instead of wasting it by putting it on your face. It’s delicious.

Another common one is tea tree oil.  TTO does contain antiseptic, antibacterial properties, for sure. But please dilute it in another carrier oil like almond oil or another neutral oil before you dot it on your spots (DOT, people, don’t slather!). It’s REALLY strong!

Which brings me to the current wonder-product: coconut oil. I CONSTANTLY hear people say that this is all they use to remove makeup, wash their face or moisturize or whatever, any number of things. And it works brilliantly for them! Which is wonderful. Those people are probably not prone to acne though, because let me tell you something that is a scientific fact and not at all an opinion: coconut oil is EXTREMELY comedogenic (meaning that it blocks pores like a mofo). On a scale of 1 to 5, it is a 4. That’s basically just below … what is the most? Beef tallow? Engine oil? So please don’t put it on your face unless you have never had a pimple in your life. Or, by all means give it a red-hot go, but if you break out, don’t say I didn’t warn you! Put it in your food, use it for lube (seriously it’s great for that in my experience *eyebrow waggle*), but please be really careful using it on your face.

If you are still dead-set on using natural products, remember that science often loses to marketing. I dug up this great article on WebMD about things that actually probably/maybe do work, but note that even the “active soy” in one of the products mentioned has been altered in a lab to be more effective. Please also note “industry sponsored study” as a phrase to indicate taking results with a grain of salt.

Natural skincare doesn’t even necessarily save you money. Be very careful of expensive products containing cheap ingredients. It might be important to you that the ingredients in your skincare are sourced ethically, locally or organically, which is of course going to bump the price up. There is incredible, simple, cheap skincare available at the drugstore/pharmacy (Cetaphil, CeraVe etc) that works great for a lot of people. No need to spend an arm and a leg.

Finally: please remember that everything is a chemical. Water is a chemical. Lemon juice is a chemical. Salt is a chemical. Stop talking about things being chemical-free. You are made up of chemicals. If you don’t want to put chemicals on your skin then enjoy never bathing, touching food, dressing or leaving the house ever again. Hooray!

To me, this is a bit like the great Tim Minchin line from his excellent anti-alternative medicine animation, Storm, “You know what they call alternative medicine that’s been proven to work? Medicine.” I feel the same way about skincare. Technology is so incredible these days, and skincare / beauty etc is at the forefront (because $). Why shouldn’t we take advantage of the benefits? It can even help the environment. Synthesized ingredients stop the destruction of habitats by mass farming, for example.

Really, I don’t care what people do in their own homes that works for them. The thing that upsets me is when people, particularly people in positions of authority like WG and JH, make dangerous, bad recommendations to their friends or followers that could be disastrous.

Be safe, be careful, do your unbiased research, but mostly – do you boo.

Love,
F&V

 

#MaskVember – A Different Sheet Mask Every Sunday: Week 4 – Karuna Clarifying Face Mask (+selfies)

Karuna Clarifying Face Mask

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Skin status prior to application: Clean, dry, no moisturizer.

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Current skin condition: Actually pretty decent, some hormonal pigmentation, slightly dry.

Cost: $8 per mask or $28 for 4. Value is dece if the result is good.

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To use: Unfold mask, place cloth side over face and remove backing. Shift into position making sure all the bits are unfolded. Leave for 20-30 minutes then massage remaining serum into skin.

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During the mask: First off I’ll say that I was annoyed at first with this mask. It’s really wet, though not as wet as the TonyMoly one, and the instructions are bad. They say to position first and then peel the backing paper off but that is straight up bad advice. The backing paper is very stiff, you’re better off getting the basic placement done, peeling the backing away then adjusting the cloth mask. In saying that, once all the bits were in place, it was actually very secure and the different flap sections made the coverage very good. It felt comfortable, though cold, to wear, there was no stinging or anything.

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After: Massaging the serum into my skin felt really nice but as it dried it felt a little bit tight.

2 hours later:  My skin feels nice? I dunno, nothing spectacular, no grand difference in appearance or feel.

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Final verdict: Once again I really think I need to try one of these when I’m having an active breakout. Sorry I can’t give more info!

Well that’s the end of the mask series! It was fun to do, I hope it was helpful.

I thought I’d post some selfies from the last couple of days, I’ve been feeling my makeup lately, nothing special but I felt good.

Strangely I feel that the boost of confidence is from some new clothing purchases I made lately. Just some basics from Old Navy – some chambray shirts that are comfortable and casual and go great with my beloved Uniqlo …jeggings.. I mean, they’re not denim colored but you know what I mean. Pants. Stretchy comfy flattering pants. But anyway, on with the selfies!

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Dark berry/cherry toned reds have been the order of the month so far. Partly because it’s fall and partly because my husband loves these colors on me.

This week I’m going to try to get a post up on Tuesday or Wednesday then I’m off to Chicago for a few days. I’m meeting my beloved mother there, she’s flying from England to meet us, and bringing her amazing partner Dannielle with her so I can FINALLY introduce Dann to my husband, they’ve never met! Mum is then coming back with me to Vermont and we’re gonna hang for a week before I reluctantly send her home on a jet plane. So things might be a little quiet for a week or so while I bask in some maternal love!

Have a great week, teamsters.

Love++
F&V

#MaskVember – A Different Sheet Mask Every Sunday: Week 3 – Dr Jart+ Cheek & Eye Lift

Dr Jart+ Cheek & Eye Lift Targeted Hydrogel Patch for the “Apple Zone”

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Skin status prior to application: clean, dry – no moisturizer.

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Current skin condition: normal for me – oily/combo, a touch dry because of the weather. I felt that it was important to take a pic this time since this is meant to make your skin feel “lifted and firm”.

Cost: $12 for one mask, but I got mine in the Dr Jart+ Book of Masks (below) which is $39 ($56 value). Not great value IMO, the result would have to be remarkable!

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To use: Very similar to the last Dr Jart+ one – in that it’s a dry mask that you peel the backing from to reveal a gel surface that you place down onto your skin, this one is just for the cheek and eye area so it goes across the nose onto the apple zone (use a mirror), leave for 30 mins, peel off gently.

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During the mask: Same comments as last time do apply here. It’s very easy to apply, there’s no product dripping everywhere, I really like that aspect of it. It was comfortable while it was on, especially since it is only on one section of your face.

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After: Sadly I do not feel like this did anything for me. My skin felt exactly the same as before. But in saying that; I have relatively young/firm skin anyway because I’m oily – sagging isn’t really something I’m experiencing yet! So if you have dry skin that’s losing some elasticity I’d be really interested in your opinion of this mask!

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2 hours later: I was at a party and didn’t notice anything different! Sorry!

Next day: Absolutely no change or difference in the next-day condition of my skin.

Final Verdict: Would not buy again. It just doesn’t do it for me – mostly because as I said, it treats a problem I don’t have!

Side by side comparison:

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Note: I think the main reason the after looks better is that I was looking up more, lol! I also got my eyebrows threaded right between taking this pic and putting the mask on. Worst experimenter ever!

See you next week for the final installment…

Love++
F&V

#MaskVember – A Different Sheet Mask Every Sunday: Week 2 – Dr Jart+ Water Fuse Hydrogel Mask

Dr Jart+ Water Fuse Water-Full Hydrogel Mask

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Skin status prior to application: Clean skin, not moisturized.

Current skin condition: “normal” for me, a little oily in the t-zone, combination, dry-ish because of the weather. A couple of almost-completely-healed pimples in the middle of the eyebrows.

Cost: $9.00 for one mask, $42.00 for 5 masks. Not amazing value, but let’s see the results before we make an official call.

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To use: Remove from packaging, peel film away from mask, place gel-side down onto face in 2 sections (hint: use a mirror). Leave on for 20-30 mins.

During mask: Ok so I want to use this moment to talk about how GREAT this mask is to apply. I loved it. The mask itself is DRY! Let me explain. While it has the film over it, it feels like … felt material? And the other side is glossy stiff paper. Then you peel that part away and on the other side to the felt is a sticky gel, and that’s the part that goes down on your face. This has multiple benefits. Firstly, it’s really clean to apply. You don’t have a drippy, wet, floppy mask to try to position onto your face. Secondly, it sticks beautifully once it’s down. THIRDLY, it makes you feel less cold and wet while it’s on. Hallelujah! One main drawback is that you can’t really reposition it, well you can, but it loses some of its stick. But this is such a small problem really! It’s such a great mask to use. It feels comfortable while it’s on, you don’t have to constantly adjust it and make sure it’s not sliding off. A+ usage factor! Whee! Note: by the end, this was a bit more annoying. The dryness and lack of moisture meant that the stickiness kind of wore off and I had to keep pressing it back onto my face.

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You can see above why I wish I had looked in a mirror to apply it, it’s a bit wonky around the mouth and eye area. Oh well!

After: My face was completely dry. Not uncomfortably, but not like the usual leftover serum to massage in. I added a smidgen of my usual sleep balm and went to bed.

COSDNA Analysis: http://cosdna.com/eng/cosmetic_c505200167.html – no issues at all though some might not love the mineral oil factor.

2 hours later: …. ummm

Confession time: I was mildly tipsy while I did this mask. It was 1am by the time I peeled it off so I went straight to sleep. Sorry!

Next day: My skin feels great! Nothing miraculous (but I never expect miracles), but it felt plump and moisturized and bright and comfortable. Not oily at all, not dry, just comfortable.

Final Verdict: I’m really really impressed with this mask. I think I will try to pick up a few more at some point. It’s a little more expensive than I would like, but I do think it’s a worthwhile cost. The dry, un-soaked, gel style is so pleasant to use compared to the usual sheet mask that’s dripping with product and sliding all over the place. Big fan! Dr Jart+ does it again.

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#MaskVember – A Different Sheet Mask Every Sunday: Week 1 – Tony Moly Rice Mask

So as you can guess from the title, I decided to do a little project for November to motivate myself to get back on board with blogging regularly. Every Saturday night in November I’ll be putting myself through the arduous task of applying a different sheet mask and analyzing the results. Yes, yes I know. I’m a brave soul.

Before I get started, it’s important to note that I do not really believe that one application of a sheet mask can make anything but a superficial difference to the condition of my skin. There’s nothing wrong with that obviously, when my skin feels nice I’m happy, but I just want you to know I’m not expecting miracles here.

There is value in doing things that just feel nice briefly. Self care is really important and what could be better than putting on a sheet mask and relaxing? I painted my nails (loving the CoverGirl Outlast polishes, by the way!) and watched some Netflix, but you could put on some music, lie back and relax (this has the bonus of making the sheet mask lie better on your skin, because gravity). You could do some coloring in your choice of adult coloring book. You could organize your makeup. You could write a blog post. Do whatever you want! But taking time for yourself is key.

Now that that’s all said and done, let’s get started on Week 1.

Tony Moly “I’m Real” Rice Face Sheet Mask – Clear Skin

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Skin status prior to application: Clean skin, not moisturized.

Current skin condition: Normal for me, ie combination – no current active blemishes, texture uneven, large pores, oily t-zone and dry cheeks (I probably should have taken a before photo. Oops!).

Cost: $7.50 for a twin pack, excellent value.

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To use: Remove from package and gently position over cleansed skin. Leave on for 20-30 mins. Remove sheet. Massage remaining serum into skin. Ok!

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During mask: Parts around mouth hole (lol) were very flappy and not very secure, I had to keep smoothing them down onto my face above and below my lips. the rest was very secure

After: Serum is viscous enough to stay on the skin, and slippery enough to provide a nice base for a facial massage (clean hands).

COSDNA analysis: No major issues – http://www.cosdna.com/eng/cosmetic_ce7d191543.html

2 hours later: Skin still feeling very well moisturized, a little tacky to the touch, no dry patches or tight feeling. Night time mask only.

Next day: First impressions were good. My skin felt soft, my forehead and nose were a bit oily but that’s pretty normal for me upon waking up. However, when I looked in the mirror, I had two surface pimples right between my eyebrows. This is a classic place for me to get “reaction” pimples, as opposed to my usual hormonal ones that appear around my chin and jaw, or normal breakouts.

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Confession time: You know how I said this was a twin-pack? Well, I actually used the first of these a couple of months back. And it gave me a couple of small pimples then, too. That’s why I didn’t use the second one for a long time. But then I thought, ok so I bet that was just a once-off, maybe it was from something else! Alas, no.

Final verdict: Nope. Won’t be buying again. And if this is the “clear skin” product, I certainly won’t be trying any of the others in the range either.

Stay tuned for next week, dear readers.

Love+++
F&V

September Favorites

Ok so I know that I didn’t do an August favorites post and this one is a bit late so please accept my apologies! Just a few things for this month, I’ve been trying a few different things so some things aren’t like legit favorites yet, but I feel they’ll be there in the future. Let’s crack on.

Kat von D’s Tattoo Lock-It Foundation, Concealer & Powder has been getting a lot of wear from me this month.

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The foundation is full coverage and it’s matte but not overly cakey or chalky. I think it’s a great one for most skin types apart from those who are very dry. One thing I’ll say about it is that it needs a good moisturizer AND primer layer as it is prone to oxidizing. So if that is something that you really avoid in foundations, skip this one for sure. I also love the concealer, this is funny because it’s one I actually gave away in the past because I didn’t like it but it’s back in the good books now, the formulation has changed and one thing I didn’t like in the past was how a little bit of oil was always there when you squidged some out of the tube but I figured out that just smooshing the tube around fixes that up a treat. It’s a very full coverage concealer and I like it a lot. It’s not brightening at all, it’s totally matte. The powder is great as well, it’s technically a powder foundation not a setting powder and you could wear it alone but I think it has a similar issue to the liquid foundation and that is that it does oxidize a tad so I use it as setting powder to give a little extra coverage. It’s great stuff and, like all KvD products, the packaging is gorgeous. You can get these from Sephora exclusively.

This month I decided to give the new Ole Henriksen “Empower” Foaming Milk Cleanser a try.

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It was getting good press for people in their mid-twenties / early thirties who just wanted a nice simple cleanser (plus the matching moisturizer – I only have a sample, jury is still out, stay tuned). I’m always attracted to “milk” type cleansers because I HATE overly-foamy, gel-like, drying UGH AWFUL UGH ok anyway, I like these kinds and this one did NOT let me down. It’s lovely. I use it as my second step after using an oil cleanser to remove my makeup (I’m currently trialing Clinique’s “Take the Day Off” cleansing oil – stay tuned). It’s nothing incredible but to be honest, cleansers often aren’t. They don’t stay on your skin long enough to be hugely amazing IMO and at $26, this one is reasonably priced for an enormous amount of product. You can get it from Sephora in the USA and in Australia from Sephora too probably but WHO WOULD KNOW because no online shopping yet. Get on it guys, seriously.

The First Aid Beauty Skin Rescue Daily Face Cream has been my go-to morning moisturizer for this majority of this month and it’s a good one, I’m a fan.

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I’ve recently read that their mattifying gel moisturizer is incredible so I might try that one next but this one has been great. It’s lightweight, it sinks in fast and it works. There’s not much else to say about it really! Oh yeah wait – it comes in a pump bottle which I love, if there’s anything I find super wasteful and annoying (and unhygienic) it’s moisturizer in a frickin’ jar. This brand is great for people with sensitive skin (for the most part – always check ingredients and get familiar with what irritates your skin). You can get it for $20 from Sephora in the USA and oh look it’s not available at AdoreBeauty although other products from the brand are, but you can get it it from BeautyBay if you’re willing to wait for $25.80.

My go-to fall nail polish color so far has been plucked straight from the “new in” section of CVS – it’s the Essie Fall Collection – Leggy Legend.

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It’s just a gorgeous, bronzey, slightly iridescent coppery color and I love it. Essie is great. I have no idea if this is available in Australia – I guess because it’s seasonal maybe not? But you can grab it from any drugstore or Target or anywhere that sells Essie for like $8-9. Woo!

My skin immediately started getting very lizardlike as soon as the weather cooled down so it was body lotion trying time. I heard a lot of people saying very good things about the Josie Maran Whipped Argan Oil Body Butter.

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So I picked some up in the scent “lavender” because I often put on body butter before going to sleep and it’s a sleepy scent. I love this stuff! It works great, it’s easy to spread, it sinks in fast so you don’t feel greasy and it smells AMAZING. I also bought some in the Ginger fragrance for someone and it smells phenomenal as well. I’m not sure about the “whipped” thing. It feels the same as normal body butter to me? Anyway, it comes in tonnes of different fragrances and is available from Sephora in the travel size (which I got) for $12 (!!! pretty good really!) and $35 for the larger sizes, and in Australia from Mecca (though only in 2 scents) for $17 and $48.

I love drugstore mascara and my latest love is no exception. It’s the Maybelline Lash Sensational mascara.

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It works great. It’s not clumpy. It both lengthens and adds volume. It’s just a really great mascara and it’s super cheap – about $9 at the drugstore and I know it’s also available from anywhere in Australia that sells Maybelline too. A+ mascara, will definitely buy again!

Special mention this month goes to a super cool gift that my lovely friend Megan sent me. It’s a Marimo terrarium!

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It’s a gorgeous mason jar with a little seascape in it made of lego sharks (the maker went out and bought them especially for me – I love sharks!) and the prize addition of some adorable little Marimo moss balls. You can read more about them on the Etsy store page but if you’re stuck for a gift for someone special and you think they’d get a kick out of this (the maker sends you everything you need, carefully packaged!), then I urge you to contact MomoBarks to set something up. She rules.

That’s all from me this month – next month expect more fall-related items, it’s really starting to cool down very fast which is exciting and terrifying. I have a real winter coat now! Look at me go!

Ok bye lovers!

Love+++
F&V

July Favorites: Beauty etc

Hello welcome back, finally I’m getting around to doing a favorites! I skipped June because honestly I was grasping at straws with regards to things I wanted to talk about, so I couldn’t really consider any of them “favorites”.

I actually had quite a lot to talk about this month! I narrowed it down to some things that have REALLY been impressing me.

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First up is the MAC 187 brush. It’s a large duofibre stippling brush. I have actually had this brush for over a year – Ray bought it for me at my request from MAC in the Guam international airport when he was moving to Australia. I used it a couple of times and kinda didn’t really “get” it. I think I was using it to apply powder? I just read that it was a popular brush so I bought it. I stopped using it and didn’t pick it up again, until recently when my friend mentioned that she gets her base flawless by using stippling techniques.

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A “duofibre” brush is one where there are two kinds of bristles quite defined from each other. In this case, and most cases, the black bristles really have no function apart from holding the white bristles straight and up because lemme tell you those white bristles are SOFT and extremely flexible. So the reason I’ve been loving this little baby lately is for applying a more natural base. The light, soft bristles just seem to really move the product around on my face in a gentle, sheer way rather than the more full coverage application of a buffing brush, EFB or flat topped kabuki that is my usual preferred method. So if you’re looking for a luxe purchase for a natural finish, give this qt a try, you won’t regret it! It’s $42 from MAC USA and …$85 in Australia?!?!!? COME ON MAC that is RIDICULOUS. Now I remember why I had Ray pick it up for me. Hmph.

Next up we have the moisturizer that’s been saving my skin. Well, maybe not, who knows really but it is at least not breaking me out, and my skin is great (for me) at the moment. I feel like when I don’t wear makeup my skin is just comfortable almost all day, then as per normal it’s a little oily at the end of the day because that’s just how my skin is – no big deal.. Anyway it’s the First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Lotion. It’s light and almost a gel/cream in consistency so it sinks in really rapidly and I’m just in love with it.

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First Aid Beauty is a brand that is formulated especially for sensitive skin which is why I felt safe buying it. I bought the travel size but it is massive, to the point where I worry that they sent me the wrong size.. And how big is the normal size? This will take me months to get through and I will happily repurchase, it just does what it says on the pack, nothing more nothing less and that’s really what I wanted. You can pick up this size for  $7.50 from Sephora and there’s obviously bigger sizes there too, or in Australia from Adore Beauty for .. wait they only have the Ultra Repair Cream which is a bit heavy for me (at least in summer – in winter I may need it!) so you can grab it from BeautyBay for about $30 (for the larger size!). BeautyBay is a UK site but they do free (slow, IME) shipping to Australia. Sweet!

A favorite for the month that needs little introduction is the Urban Decay Naked Smoky palette.

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I’ve already done a post on it so I’m not going to really go into it here but I think it’s absolutely wonderful and I don’t regret buying it at all! I just want to creepily stroke the gorgeous packaging allll the livelong day. Sigh…

Anyway ahem. Where were we… oh yes. Things that are good.

I bought the most gorgeous candles from a cute little website called PF Candle Co this month! Well I only bought one but they sent me another little tealight sample size of another one.

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I bought the scent “Amber & Moss” because it sounded interesting, and I was right, it is really interesting! It’s kind of .. earthy and .. herby.. with a lemon edge? I don’t know how to describe scents clearly but it’s just really different and I love it. It is not overpowering in the small space either, it just gives a very light fragrance and the amber glass jars give a really lovely warm light as well. I got the mini size for this which is still decently sized, and has about a 20 hour burn time. I’m going to obviously repurpose the jars! The minis are $11 and the larger size ones are $18. Explore the range here! PS. I may or may not have three more scents to try on the way.. I couldn’t help it!

When I went to Sephora in Montreal, I had my makeup done by a lovely man by the name of Matthew and the lip color he used on me rocked my world so much I went back the next day and bought it. It was Marc Jacobs New Nudes in Role Play and it’s soooo gorgeous.

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The consistency is so creamy and moisturising but not sticky at all. It’s a satin finish so not gloss or matte – somewhere in between. The packaging is glorious – there’s a magnetic snap lid and the sleek, oval container with minimalist logo is super classy. I always feel very fancy when applying this! On the website it’s called a “sheer lip gel” and I don’t know that I’d really agree with that, it’s still a decent amount of pigmentation and though it’s smoother than your usual lipstick it’s not a gel consistency in any sense of the word IMO.

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The color is a gorgeous blush/pink/nude – a very MLBB color for me but perhaps a little more pink on other people…

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They’re kinda pricey at $30 from Sephora or maybe even Sephora in Australia as well but WHO COULD KNOW because even though it says there’s MJ products there, it’s impossible to know whether they have this exact thing. Get online shopping already you twats. Ugh!

I know we already talked about the Boscia Makeup Breakup Cool Cleansing Oil but too bad, I’m talking about it again because it frickin owns.

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It’s a really liquidy oil that spreads super easily and works really fast to remove ALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL your makeup. It’s seriously amazing. It leaves my skin feeling so soft, but doesn’t leave any residue. I have been using this almost every day and I will be buying the full size when I finish my mini size. The mini is $10 from Sephora (it’s still a decent size – will take me a couple of months to get through) and the larger size is $28 so pretty reasonable – not available in Australia as far as I can tell though. Sorry team!

The last item is one I’m still trialling because the full size product is pricey and I’ve been burned before.. it’s the Nude Skincare Progenius Omega Treatment Rescue Oil.

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Sephora has this in both small sample form and in deluxe sample form at the moment and I’m going to be pretty dodgy and order several times before it inevitably runs out I think so I can really make sure it works for my skin. But I will say this – it smells AMAZING and feels really good massaged into the skin. Come to think of it, I’ve been using it for a couple of weeks now and my skin is looking pretty great. The scent reminds me of the Clarins Lotus Oil which is a classic and something I used for many years. It’s herby and fresh and I really like it. Nude Skincare seems generally pretty awesome tbh, I look forward to trying more of their stuff. It’s $68 here in the States at Sephora and in Australia you should be able to get it soon at Mecca Cosmetica – it’s pretty new here so I assume it will make its way to Australia on the usual majestic sea-turtle drawn chariot that always seems to cart the best products to Australia.. that’s the only way I can explain how long things take to get there. Hello companies, pls be informed that planes exist. I know you don’t want to put the sea turtles out of a job but look they have a lot of other skills and… ugh forget it (thanks to Mem for helping me build that metaphor).

Ok so that’s that, I’m going to try to do another post on Monday after my trip to Albany for the Sephora VIB Rouge (I MADE IT) closed-door event. Wheeeeee!

Have a great weekend loves.

Love+++
F&V

40% Off Skincare Sale at Priceline Australia: OK CALM DOWN PEOPLE, CALM DOWN

There’s enough Bioderma for everyone!

Priceline can be a really great resource for skincare when you’re on a budget. I should start with a disclaimer as I so often do, but this one is pretty relevant: I don’t use a lot of drugstore skincare myself. Not because I think there’s anything wrong with it, but because the stuff that I find works best for me is normally found at high street places. In saying that, Priceline is getting better and better with what it is stocking in terms of skincare and I’m happy to point out a few of my favorite things, and a few things that I know are cult buys or things I’ve heard great things about. Does that make sense? OK COOL! I probably won’t really talk about prices because a) me calculating 40% off for everyone is silly, you know how much 40% is and b) the prices aren’t up on the website yet because the sale doesn’t start til Tuesday (and goes only until Wednesday). I’m just gonna talk about what I would buy!

First of all, we can’t have this blog post without mentioning my precious Bioderma Micellar Water.

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I’ve talked about it before so I won’t go on about it but it’s great and I use it every single day to remove my eye makeup and sometimes lip makeup too. It’s a cleansing water basically; you put it on a cotton pad then use it to remove makeup and it doesn’t leave any residue or any film, it’s just a fantastic product and I love it. If you don’t want to buy the Bioderma one, La Roche-Posay do a fabulous one too and for even cheaper, Garnier has one that has been getting decent reviews but I’ve never tried that one. So I would definitely pick up the largest size of this that you can afford, because I think it’s a product that works for everyone regardless of skin type. It used to come with a pump-top where you just pressed it down using the pad thing but it doesn’t have that anymore by the looks of it. What a shame, that thing is great! I bought a massive thing of this when I left Australia and it is still 3/4 full so it lasts a good long while.

Another brand that is sold at Priceline that I have a lot of time for is La Roche-Posay. They do excellent sunscreens and high quality skincare. Their Effaclar Duo serum is really well regarded and they have a product to suit most skin types – the Effaclar range is for oily/combo skin types. The Toleriane range is great for sensitive skin havers, and their retinol product is meant to be one of the best drugstore/commercially available retinol products around – I believe it’s called Redermic. One of the best LRP products I’ve personally owned was the Thermal Spring Water, I know it’s so stupid it’s just thermal water in a can but the mist is so fine and it feels SO GOOD on your skin when it’s dry, or just when the weather is hot, or before application of a product that needs help spreading. For 6 bucks, chuck it in your bag and keep it on you for Those Days, I reckon. It can even refresh tired-looking makeup if used sparingly.

Cetaphil products are already cheap, and really highly recommended as a kind of “skin reset” or ongoing skincare range by dermatologists. They are really simple products that do exactly what they say on the containers, so if you’ve been on struggle street with your skin and don’t want to spend an arm and a leg on new skincare then picking up a couple of these could be a good idea for you. There are products for all different skin types and I’ve used the oily products in the past with decent results.

A range that I am always hearing great things about is Indeed Laboratories. It’s pricey which is why it’s going in this post – if you can grab this for 40% off you should, if any of the products appeal to you that is. The Retinol Reface is moisturizing and delivers a decent, though obviously not pharmaceutical strength dose of retinol which is a very effective anti-ageing ingredient. There are hyaluronic acid products for those of us who have dry skin and are looking for ways to lock in moisture. Snoxin is a peptide treatment that I know people in the beauty blogging world swear by so that could be something you look into as well, and the eye cream is meant to be amazing too. I’ve never used any of these products because they’re expensive so have a read of the product descriptions and see if any of them suit you and if so, maybe think about picking some up.

The Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse is a very interesting product. It’s actually lovely but I find the smell… challenging. It’s a bit old-lady-ish. But a few of my very good friends who know their stuff about skincare absolutely swear by it. If you’re someone who suffers from dry skin in the winter, face or body, you could think about grabbing some of this to mix into your moisturiser or even your foundation, or just to rub into your lizard legs (no? just me? ok) when the weather is super dry. It is extremely nourishing. This stuff absorbs so fast you’ll barely know you had it on. It’s multi use; you can use it on your face, body or even your hair to give your locks a bit of a boost but I’d go very very easy on this especially if your hair is fine. This product also comes in a bronzing formula which is cool, it adds a golden shimmer to your skin but nothing sparkly or vampire-like. This is a good product, a great one if you like the smell which a lot of people do. I got a couple of samples of this in various beauty boxes and despite my aversion to the scent I still used them all up so what does that tell you?

Sukin is a vegan, cruelty free, Australian owned brand free of lots of nasties that people often react to (parabens, sulfates etc). Their rosehip oil is meant to be an excellent buy, and rosehip oil is very good for the skin (keep an eye out for my friend from allthatfroufrou.com‘s review on skin oils coming up soon!) so you could consider picking some of that up to pop a few drops into your night time moisturiser. I’ve never used any Sukin products but I’ve heard good things so if you like your skincare with a good social conscience then take a gander at their stuff.

Vita Liberata is actually a self-tan brand sold in Sephora in the USA, so I was surprised to see it pop up on the Priceline site. If you are looking for a nice summery natural self-tan, grab the mousse from this range and give it a go, I think you’ll be impressed. I’ve used it, I had a mini from Sephora, and it is actually very good (though I’m still a convert to the St Tropez In-Shower Gradual Tan – it’s just so easy for those of us who only care a little bit!). Use a mitt for easy application. I don’t know if this range will be included but it’s in the Skincare section of the Priceline website so let’s hope so!

The final brand I want to talk about is the Yes To brand. The premise is that each “yes to x” vegetable/fruit is good for a particular thing. For example, Yes to Grapefruit is brightening (agreed, have used the wipes, they are brightening but a bit too harsh like all wipes and I would still avoid them in the future heh), Yes to Cucumbers is calming/sensitive, Yes to Blueberries is hydrating and nourishing etc etc all that stuff. I LOVE the packaging on this brand, you know how I feel about packaging. I just love it and a lot of my beauty blogger peeps actually love this brand, particularly the blueberries range.

Other good things to pick up at this sale are things like a huge vat of your favourite body cream. I’ve been very much enjoying the Nivea Rich Nourishing Lotion (well I think actually what I have is the US version) but we all have our favourites right?

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Priceline has all kinds of brands including the old classics like Palmers, Avene etc. You could also think about grabbing some sunscreen for summer; the Neutrogena ones are well regarded. Ultra Sheer is a great one for those of us who are a little oily.

Here’s something weird: one of my favourite beauty bloggers, NikkieTutorials, absolutely swears by the Nivea Men Post Shave Balm in sensitive as a primer. Like, she has tossed all her other primers out the window.

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I have picked some up, because I’m curious, but I’m a little scared that it might break me out so I’m going to use it sparingly. The basics of it is that it is very high in glycerin which will help makeup stick to your skin. So if that’s included, which it may not be, you could pick some of that up and see if there’s anything to this crazy claim!

I’m sorry this post is so rushed – I really wanted to get it out before the sale starts. I’m hoping that by getting it up Monday morning (Australia time), it will give you guys time to ask questions if you have any or ask for more specific product recommendations. I’ll help where I can!

Go forth and save/spend!

Love+++
F&V

Review MegaPost: Pale Girl Self-Tan, Cleansing Oil, a Brow Pen & Drugstore Lipstick

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Wednesdays off are blog post days and there’s a few things I’ve been wanting to review lately, so I thought I’d condense them into one post. Hopefully this will stop me going on for too long about each product!

First of all, let’s talk about a much-reviewed product of late, the St Tropez Gradual Tan In-Shower self-tanner.

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The pale, lazy girl’s ideal self-tanner.

I was very curious about this product for a very important reason: I am super, super lazy with self-tan. And the prime factor influencing this is that being tanned is just not a priority for me at all, I don’t really mind being pale. But I really like how I look with a very slight tan, for instance you can see my veins a little less and it disguises cellulite and all that good stuff. I am working on giving fewer fucks about cellulite but it’s still pretty cool when you can make it less obvious!

So the instructions for this product are to get in the shower, wash your body like normal (though if you use an oil or very moisturizing gel I’d recommend swapping to a normal soap – self-tans do not cope well with overly moisturized skin) then turn the shower off, apply the product with circular motions all over your body, wash your palms and wait 3 minutes. Then you just rinse and you’re done. They recommend during the 3 minutes you put a mask in your hair or something like that but I just turned the kitchen timer on and waddled around damp and slimy doing a couple of things because I have the (in this case) luxury of a tiny apartment where everything is close to the bathroom.

The tan then develops over the next 24 hours. When I first washed it off, there definitely wasn’t any evidence of a tan which was in line with what I expected. But overnight I definitely developed a light, even, natural tan. I SO wish I had taken before and after pictures. AMATEUR! It’s so light and natural that my husband couldn’t even tell I’d done it but I could definitely tell. It was just like I’d got a little bit of sun, a healthy amount, without the tan-lines. There were no yucky streaks or patches because the product has a slippy quality that makes it really easy to spread. There was no orange-ness or unnatural Dorito-hued aspects to this tan. Pro!

A few things: the smell of this product is not offensive at all. It does linger, I could smell it even the next day. It kinda reminds me of biscuits or scones or something like that. It didn’t last past my next shower and it wasn’t obvious to anyone but me.

The 3 minutes you have to stand around naked and damp could be a problem if it’s cold where you are, or just in your bathroom or whatever. It wasn’t really the case for me (New England is finally seeing summer!) so I didn’t mind at all.

If you are the kind of person who wants a nice deep tan, or who is ALREADY tan, then this product is not for you, not as a tanner anyway. I think if you wanted to extend your tan a little longer it could be perfect, but for US$25 I’m not sure how keen you’d be to pick it up.

Bottom line: it’s really easy to apply, it’s really natural and it’s really subtle. TICK TICK TICK DONE WILL PURCHASE AGAIN A+ PRODUCT! Grab it from Ulta or Sephora for $25.

Next up let’s talk about a very recent purchase for me, the Boscia Makeup Breakup Cool Cleansing Oil.

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I bought the mini (50mL) size of this to try it out to see whether I like it more than my current oil cleanser obsession (Nude Skincare Omega Cleansing Jelly). The product comes in a pump pack which already puts it above the other to me, but that could just be me.. anyway, I used a full pump and massaged it into my skin to remove my makeup and my first impressions were that the amount I used was WAYYY too much for my face, which is good news, means the product will last longer. I also felt that the smell was quite strong – it reminded me of eucalyptus which is a scent I enjoy but I worried that there would be an irritant oil or perfume in it. I also felt that it was a lot thinner in consistency to the Nude jelly but that wasn’t necessarily a negative, it spread a lot more easily but has the potential for more mess.

I used the same technique as always, giving my face a good massage with the product to break up all the makeup then wipe off with a warm, damp cloth.

I have to say, I really like this product a lot. I felt that it did a better job than the Nude product and will last longer. I waited a few days to write this review in case it broke me out but it hasn’t at all, and after using it my skin feels more soft than it does with the other product too, I don’t feel that I need to run straight to my moisturizer and slather it on immediately. I will be buying the full size of this (US$28, mini size is $10) when the mini runs out. Very impressed.

Next up, something I was not at all impressed with – the L’Oreal Colour Riche Le Matte Lipcolor Stick.

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When I posted on my fb that I had bought this, a fellow beauty lover said that the smell was unbearable for her. I’m not particularly sensitive to smells so I wasn’t too worried. Nevertheless I picked it up, uncapped the lid, brought the product up to my nose and nearly passed out. It is TRULY DISGUSTING. It smells like the worst kind of shitty plastic kids toys you can get from the crappiest stores. Like chemical laden play-doh. I decided to try it on anyway and look, I’m not gonna lie. It lasted about.. 2 minutes before I took it off. I literally couldn’t wear it, the smell was so strong. The application was also very patchy, I couldn’t get it to look smooth and even. I got the colour “Matte-r of Fact” which is a magenta pink and a really nice color but just .. no.

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Even in the swatch I had to go over and over it to make it come out an even color. This product sucks and unless you like that smell and patchy lipstick I just wouldn’t bother. If that sounds great to you, you can grab it from anywhere that sells L’Oreal or from Ulta for $10, congrats on being a huge weirdo I guess!

The final product is one that I’m going to return to Sephora for reasons that aren’t really to do with any failing of the product itself, but more of a systematic issue in brow products: STOP MAKING BROWN SHADES SO FRICKIN’ WARM, MAKEUP COMPANIES! GRRRRRRRRRRR! It’s the Kat von D Tattoo Brow Brush Tip Brow Pen.

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I bought medium brown which is the darkest shade and I’m so cranky at how red-toned it is, especially when compared to my dark-brow/black brow hairs because as a product it is GREAT. I really like how you can adjust the pressure to make the product work differently. A little bit of pressure paints the thinnest, finest hairs into where they might be missing from your brows, a little more pressure adds fullness and depth to the brow area in general. You can then brush out the brows to blend everything together for an overall full effect. Fantastic!

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But it’s so warm and it’s just really upsetting. There’s no darker color either so I can’t swap it. Please KVD, please create a cooler or just straight black brow pen. I love this product and it will suck to take it back. If your brow hairs are more of a warm brown then you can grab this handy little sucker from Sephora for $US19 and I recommend you do because it’s really great!

Heading off to the gym now. My next post is going to be about the Kat von D Shade & Light Eye palette and how to create 3 different looks using it. I hope the weather holds so I can take good pictures! One day I’ll get a good camera.. one day..

Love,
F&V