Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Ever heard of The Body Shop at Home? It’s basically like a Tupperware party but with products from the Body Shop. A friend of mine is a seller and invited me to have a party at my place. I’m usually not a fan of these sorts of things, either because the products are too expensive (e.g. $30 for a lunch box) or they aren’t something I want to purchase in front of family and friends (e.g. lingerie).  Then there’s the overwhelming obligation to purchase something – even if I pick the cheapest thing, I’m normally out $20+. And it always ends up being something useless like a rolling pin.

Anyway, I decided to go ahead with the party and invited a heap of friends around for lunch. I also told them that there was no need to buy anything if they didn’t want to – I had a few things on my personal shopping list but was willing to pay full price for them. The party started with an icebreaker game where names were pulled out of a hat, prizes were handed out, then they were stolen from each other as more and more names were drawn out of a hat. After that, we broke into two groups and took turns doing hand spas, trialling a range of different soaks, scrubs and moisturisers. While this was happening, a selection of products were laid out for everyone to try and experiment with at their own leisure, without the sales pressure that normally comes with visiting a Body Shop store.

The ordering process was quite easy – there were a heap of catalogues and order pads scattered around the room. Orders were delivered within the week so it was great for everyone trying to finish off their Christmas shopping before the silly season well and truly starts.

The benefits of being a host are amazing and make hosting a party truly worthwhile. A mixture of free product, half price product and discount product allowed me to get everything in the photo above for around $100 (retail value of over $240). It was a great opportunity for me to stock up on everyday items and try a few new things for little cost.

The items I chose were:

Peach Body Butter $27.95

Cranberry Joy Body Butter $27.95

Earth Lovers Cucumber & Mint Shower Gel $14.95

Fruity Butter Trio $31.95

Spa Wisdom Africa Shea Butter & Sesame Oil Body Balm $38.95

Fuzzy Peach Bath and Shower Gel $12.95

Mango Body Scrub $27.95

Pink Grapefruit Body Scrub $27.95

Sweet Lemon Body Scrub $27.95

For product info: www.thebodyshop.com.au

For party info: http://www.thebodyshop.com.au/Content.aspx?Id=8

I’m pale. Really pale. The type of person that goes out on a cloudy day and comes home sunburnt.  Unfortunately, living in a country whose culture worships sunkissed beach babes, it’s hard not to feel like the odd one out. In a crazy contradiction, people in Asia are buying products in an effort to lighten the skin, while people in Australia are loading up on self-tanners!

Over the past few years, thanks to Hollywood beauties like Christina Hendricks, Anne Hathaway and Liv Tyler (look at the photo above – she is soooo gorgeous!), I’ve embraced my complexion, however it’s tricky finding a good colour match. The biggest problems I encounter are foundations that are not light enough, or are too yellow (especially for those like me with cooler-toned skin), leaving me orange-faced. After a few years of trial and tribulation, I can happily recommend the following five foundations for the fairest of maidens:

 

MAC Mineralize Foundation SPF15 in NW15

$59 from MAC Cosmetics

MAC says: “A rich, luxurious compact foundation offering a creamy application for a flawless, medium-buildable, naturally revitalized, fully dimensional finish. Lightweight and silky to apply. Good for all skin types; particularly benefits dull and/or dry complexions. Provides super-hydrated, high-comfort wear and everyday SPF 15 sun protection.”

I say: I don’t know why this is in a compact, because if you apply it with the sponge provided, it looks flat and uneven and feels like a mudslide on your face! Once you get the brush right, it’s a dream. Best applied with a stippling brush for a glowy, flawless finish.

Chantecaille Future Skin in Alabaster

$105 from Mecca Cosmetica

Chantecaille says: “An oil-free gel foundation that has the unique ability to transfer water into the skin without the use of any oil. Natto gum, a soybean-derived phyto-collagen is a natural emulsifier used in this process. Clinical evidence shows that after consistent 7-day usage, there is a 26% reduction in sebum production.

Aloe, Chamomile and Arnica work to calm irritation and soothe sensitive skin. Rosemary, Green Tea and Rice Bran boost the immune system and help prevent oxidation. The formula provides adjustable coverage (medium to full) thanks to light-reflective circular pigment that eases the appearance of flaws.”

I say: I really like this one. Created by the same lady behind Prescriptives, the formulation is creamy and luxurious and works well with easily-irritated skin. The coverage is medium but it’s buildable and it can be easily mixed with illuminator for an evening glow. The only downside is the hefty price tag. Book in a product-redeemable makeover at Mecca and buy it then so you feel like you’re getting value.

Covergirl CG Smoothers Tinted Moisturiser in 805 Fair to Light

$17.25 from Priceline

Covergirl says: “Designed with AquaCurrent Science, this lightweight moisturizer with SPF 15 has a sheer tint of color to help even out skin tone and hydrate skin. Its sunscreen provides UVA/UVB protection from everyday sun exposure, while the Gel Complex formula glides on for a barely-there coverage that’s fresh and smooth.”

I say: Great, inexpensive product for a “good skin” day where I only need to even out skin tone. This will do nothing to cover blemishes, so pair it with concealer to cover spots, redness and dark circles. The finish is quite oily, so a light dusting of translucent powder is a must for longevity.

NARS Sheer Glow in Mont Blanc

$99 from Mecca Cosmetica

NARS says: “A glowing, satin-finish foundation with sheer and buildable coverage that immaculately evens skin tone. Replete with skincare benefits and the NARS Complexion Brightening Formula, it leaves skin hydrated, more luminous, softer and smoother. Used daily, Sheer Glow Foundation improves the skin’s brightness and texture.”

I say: Great coverage (medium-full) and gorgeous glowy finish – definitely my favourite of the bunch! A tiny bit of product goes a long way and the foundation does not feel heavy on the skin. Colour match is good for pale ladies with cool undertones. Unfortunately Sheer Glow is another foundation with a teeny-tiny bottle neck. The in-store testers have a pump, so why don’t all the bottles? And what’s with the price?!  

Prescriptives Virtual Skin in Real Camellia

$35 USD + tax (note: this is only available in the US)

Prescriptives says: “Erases the line between makeup and skin. Virtual Skin Super-Natural Finish is our most natural-looking, natural feeling foundation. Weightless. Sheer to medium coverage. Long-Wearing. Oil-Free. SPF 10.

I say: Why did Estee Lauder discontinue this brand?! Prescriptives is the only line that caters for those with blue/red skin tones, and Real Camellia is an excellent colour match, not to mention great for sensitive skin. Coverage is good (medium) and the satin finish looks completely natural. One negative – the packaging is a little ho-hum, with a narrow bottle neck that requires a cotton tip to dig the product out. A pump would make this perfect.

BECCA is one of my favourite cosmetic brands, especially for natural beauty looks. I wouldn’t call them cheap, but you certainly get what you pay for – BECCA products are consistently high quality and always deliver. My first BECCA purchase occured back in about 2007 when I picked up the Luminous Skin Colour. I never wore much makeup then, but I loved how this evened out my skin tone while providing protection from the sun. Since then I’ve added to my stash with numerous creme blushes and one of my favourites, the Avalon palette.

One of the things BECCA does so well are their promotional photos for each collection. Today I am going to show you the Fallen Angel Palette from Holiday 2010, which is part of this gorgeous look:

The palette contains a mixture of lip and cheek products, including a lipgloss in Sunrise (sheer peach), lip and cheek creme in Nectar (tawny peach) and a highlighter in Narcissus (opalescent peach).

Packaging is minimalist, made of sturdy rubber similar to NARS packaging:

See pics below for swatches (L-R: Sunrise, Nectar, Narcissus, all swatched on NW15 skin):

and another one in bright sunlight…

Each product is 1.3g (a full-sized creme blush is 3g) and about the size of a 10 cent piece. The consistency of the products is excellent, especially the creme blush which easily blends into the cheeks. The lipgloss is sheer and smooth, but not sticky. The mirror is a good size (big!) and the little brush is very high quality and perfect for applying the lip gloss. For best results, I recommend using your fingers for the cheek products.

Overall I really like this palette and think it would be great for travel, just throw it in your bag and you’re set for the weekend. Unfortunately the colours are a bit too warm for me, especially on my pale skin but they would look great on those with warmer complexions or a summer tan. Check out this post on Makeup and Beauty Blog for an example. For what it’s worth, I’d snap up a cool pink version in a heartbeat.

The Fallen Angel Palette is no longer available on the BECCA website, but for a limited time, you can purchase it for half price (it usually sells for $64 but you can get it for $32) at Brands Exclusive who are also stocking a wide range of BECCA blushes, powders, lip glosses and eye liners. The sale ends in one day so be quick! 

Click here for a link to the Brands Exclusive BECCA sale.

Not a member of Brands Exclusive? Click here for a referral link.

Click here for a step-by-step guide on how to get the Fallen Angel look.

Review: OPI Do You Lilac It?

Posted: October 15, 2011 in Beauty, Reviews
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I am such a novice when it comes to DIY manicures. I really need to start learning though – $25 for a file and polish really starts to add up after a while! I’ve got about 14 bottles of various nail polishes under my sink, mostly unused, so I thought I’d bite the bullet and see how I went with OPI Do You Lilac It? (results below)

“Do You Lilac It?” is a lavender creme and is part of the OPI Classics collection. It looks very similar to “Planks A Lot” from the OPI Pirates of the Caribbean collection. It’s a lovely vibrant medium-purple shade (a bit darker than what you’d expect lilac to be) and it’s perfect for spring!

I started with OPI Ridge Filler as a base coat, then put on two thin coats of polish. I found this polish really easy to work with, especially with the Pro-Wide brush. It goes on smoothly and doesn’t bubble. One coat was a bit too sheer – you could still see the nail line underneath – for best results, I say go for two or three coats. I was in a rush to get out the door for a wedding so I had to skip the top coat and go straight for the OPI Drip Dry drops, but I think it looks pretty decent. Six days later and a week of heavy duty typing and it’s only just started to chip around the edges. 

And I now have $25 more in my pocket than usual – it’s like I’m making money!!

OPI Ridge Filler 15ml – $19.95

OPI Do You Lilac It? 15ml – $19.95

OPI Drip Dry Drops 9ml – $23.95

Shop online at Adore Beauty or in store at David Jones.

A few weeks ago, I had a ticket to attend a formal event at Crown Palladium to mark the end of the football season. Naturally, occasions such as this call for a new outfit, so I set off to the CBD to look for the perfect dress. After two days of searching every inch of Myer, DJs and Melbourne Central, I was extremely disappointed. My budget was around $300 but everything I saw was either too short, too revealing, too casual, the wrong colour, too expensive or too polyester. Out of frustration, I turned my attention to Google and was able to quickly find exactly what I wanted in a wide range of US-based stores.

Ordering from the US was surprisingly easy. Although not many stores ship to Australia, most accept international credit cards, which means that all you need is a third-party forwarder. After a bit of research, I decided to go with Fiona at Shopaholiques, who offers both a parcel forwarding service and a purchasing service (for those websites that don’t accept Australian credit cards). The best part about Fiona’s service is that she is located in New Jersey, which means that there is no sales tax payable on clothing or shoes, saving you around 8%.

Since I was purchasing from sites that accepted my Australian credit card, I didn’t need to contact Fiona first – I just put the order in using her address as the shipping address. After ordering, I used to contact form on her site to let her know how many orders I was expecting and where they were from.

My first purchase was the ‘Arjeta’ silk-jersey dress from Tory Burch which was reduced from $348 USD to $174 USD. I thought this would be a great dress to wear to the office in summer.

My second purchase was the ‘Palais’ dress from BCBG Max Azria which cost $248 USD. This is the one that I wanted to wear to my formal event.

I needed my dresses in a hurry, so Fiona ensured that they were sent via USPS International Express Mail. This option cost me around $50 USD for 3.5 pounds (approx 1.5kgs) including tracking (as opposed to approx $30 USD for First Class mail with no tracking) and the dresses arrived within five business days of being posted!

I was very happy with the dresses and thought the fabric quality was amazing. The best part was that I didn’t have to worry about seeing anybody else walking down the street in the same clothes (how often have you seen this with Country Road or Cue dresses?!)! More importantly, I felt like I was able to get a much higher quality garment for my money from the US than what I could buy for an equivalent price in Australia.

Shopaholiques is very good value for the service Fiona provides. She charges a base rate of $20 to forward one package, then $2 per additional package to consolidate. You then pay the shipping costs and Paypal fees on top of that. I was very impressed with the personal service that I received. Fiona is very organised, replies to emails within 24 hours and is super-friendly, helpful and reliable. I would definitely use her service again and am already planning my next order!

Tips for shopping for clothing online:

  1. Measure, measure, measure!  – utilise the measurement charts provided by stores to ensure the perfect fit.
  2. Order early if you need your clothing for a special occasion – the whole process of ordering and parcel forwarding usually takes a minimum of 1-2 weeks. If you need something urgently, plan ahead and use premium mail services to avoid mail delays.
  3. Take advantage of opposing seasons – You can make great savings by buying winter stock in the US end-of-season sales just as it is arriving in stores in Australia
  4. Check the return policy – if your order arrives and isn’t what you expected, make sure you can easily send it back for a refund/exchange.
  5. Utilise rewards sites for cashback – one thing the US does well is coupons and cashback. Sites such as eBates offer a percentage of your purchase back as cash on every order from a wide range of retailers.

I was fortunate enough to receive an invitation from a colleague to attend the Australian Open Women’s tennis final at Melbourne Park a few weeks ago. We stopped in at Taxi Dining Room at Fed Square for a five-course tennis degustation menu, especially designed to get diners in and out of the restaurant in time for the main match.

Taxi Dining Room describes its cuisine as ‘Japanese fusion’ – it’s not cheap but the quality of the ingredients is excellent and the service outstanding. The five-course degustation was $110 per person. It sounds overwhelming but the portion sizes are smaller, which means that you get a taste of everything without feeling too full. Here are some pics of what we ate – take note of the gorgeous crockery!

Yellowfin tuna sashimi with spring onion and caviar

Beef gyoza with picked cucumber garnish (note: there is no photo of this – I ate it before my friend could whip the camera out!)

 

Fillet of Atlantic salmon with sorrel & King prawn salad, shellfish dressing

Crispy Szechwan duck with lime pickle, Vietnamese salad & sesame tamarind sauce

Peach souffle with white chocolate centre and peach sorbet

 This was the second time I have been to Taxi and once again, it was simply magnificent. One thing about Taxi is that all the dishes are fairly simple concepts, but they are lifted by a sensational sauce or a deliciously refreshing salad. I would highly recommend this restaurant for a special occasion, especially the set menu as it allows you to try a variety of dishes selected by the chef to ensure that they complement each other perfectly. Make sure to get a table with a view of the Yarra River!

For further information and bookings, check out www.transporthotel.com.au

I visited French Pink for a manicure on Friday and discovered an amazing new brand of nail polish – butter LONDON! I’m normally an Essie girl but it was hard to go past this gorgeous neutral shade, Yummy Mummy. butter LONDON describe this shade as their ‘magic lacquer’, one that ‘suits every skin tone’. It’s hard to say what colour it is – it looks like a grey-beige in the photo above, but there’s also a touch of mink to it. I can picture South Yarra/Brighton school mums sporting it on their morning drop-off. Either way, I’d call it a highly versatile shade for all seasons AND it’s 3 Free!

The packaging really grabbed me – it’s so sleek! The bottles are thin, rectangular blocks that fit comfortably in the palm of the hand. I can imagine myself stacking a heap of these in a small space in my cupboard. I was a bit thrown by the brush; in an era of ‘bigger-is-better’, it’s definitely on the small side. I guess it’ll make it easier to paint nail edges?

After three days sporting this polish, I’m 100% sold on it and plan on picking it up next time I drop in for a manicure. It’s $22 AUD a bottle, and is available from my nail salon French Pink (www.frenchpink.com.au), as well as online at www.honeyhoney.com.au . Read more about the brand at www.butterlondon.com

Note: The polish in my first photo is not butter LONDON, it’s Mecca Cosmetica ‘Maria’ which is a similar shade. I didn’t photograph Yummy Mummy because I don’t own it…yet!