Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Review: 'Rosehip by essano' Gentle Facial Cleansing Micellar Water

Hello everyone! As I'm writing this it's a glorious overcast, chilly day - which is one of my favourite weathers. Pale skin like mine doesn't like the sun!

Awhile ago I was looking around the supermarket for a makeup remover. I used to just use my cleanser to remove my eye makeup at the end of the day, but it's not the most convenient method, and because my Ethique cleanser has salt in it, it can sting my eyes. But there aren't many cruelty-free makeup removers out there that are both easily accessible and cheap. I came across Rosehip by essano's Micellar Water, and grabbed it because it was the only cruelty-free option that I could see. From memory it cost me around $NZD8.



Rosehip by essano (www.essano.co.nz) - spelled with a lowercase e - is a New Zealand-based cruelty-free skincare company that specialises in using rosehip oil. Some of their products are certified organic by Ecocert, and all of their products contain certified organic ingredients - so while they are not 100% organic, they are close.

Micellar water has been around for a long time, but has only just hit the mainstream (read. US) market in the past few years. It is comprised of 'micelles', which are small oil molecules, suspended in soft water. The micelles are attracted to dirt and grime, which means that you don't need soap and other cleansing agents to grind away the dirt - the micelles attach to the dirt and grime, dissolve them, and when you wipe your face, remove all the nasties. It's meant to be a no-rinse, no-fuss solution to removing makeup and cleansing the skin at the end of the day.

So let's get onto the review!

The bottle is pretty huge - there is 400mL in the bottle and is estimated to last for 200 uses. I like the look of the product - it has a pretty colour scheme, has a nice font (yes, I notice fonts!) and packs in quite a lot of information in a glance. The cap is solid and clicks satisfyingly shut - this reassures me that this bottle would be safe to take travelling.





When you pour some of the product onto a cotton pad, it feels exactly like water, which is weird and takes some getting used to. I have used this on a cotton pad and on a face cloth, and while the cotton pad was better and removed my makeup faster, I feel that this is wasteful, so I prefer to use a face cloth. But it works well with either medium.

The liquid has no scent or colour, so I don't think that it would irritate sensitive skin. It didn't burn my eyes at all, even when I got some in my eye by accident.

This product takes off my eye makeup really well. I hold the soaked cotton pad or face cloth to my eye, soak my (closed) eye in it for a few seconds, wipe away, and most of the makeup is gone. I usually only need one or two more swipes to get every trace of makeup off. I don't need to scrub at my eye or even use a lot of product to get the desired result. It is just as effective with foundation and other base makeup. It takes a little more work to remove liquid lipstick, but it does eventually get it off without too much scrubbing. Oil (I prefer coconut or olive oil) removes liquid lipstick the fastest in my experience, and micellar water does have oil in it, so this does do the trick if you don't have any straight oil on hand.

Test arm (L-R): lipstick, liquid lipstick, liquid eyeliner, pencil eyeliner, foundation (that is way too dark for me - and this shade is called Ivory!), and mascara. 

After one swipe of the product! The lipstick is almost completely gone, the eyeliner is almost gone, the foundation has disappeared, and the mascara is mostly gone. 

Two swipes of the product! Everything is gone apart from the liquid lipstick.

After a couple more swipes, some rubbing needed to remove all the liquid lipstick. This lipstick does leave a stain, and the micellar water doesn't remove this (to be fair, neither does oil).

I like to use this on my eyes, although I also like to rinse afterwards as it can leave my lids feeling slightly sticky. But unfortunately using it on my face breaks me out! I have used it three times on my face, and each time I have had a breakout. And the pimples end up in weird places - at the moment I have one on my cheek, which is a place where I never get acne. I get the same result even if I cleanse afterwards with my usual cleanser.

So I will continue to use this to remove my eye makeup, but I will stick to using a cleanser to take off base makeup, and won't be using this to cleanse at the end of the day, which is somewhat disappointing.

Have you tried any other micellar waters? I am intrigued by them, so leave me some recommendations! 

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

The Struggle - Buying Cruelty-Free Makeup in New Zealand

Hi everyone!

Sometimes living in New Zealand can feel a lot like living in the middle of nowhere. Very few musicians come here on tours, we get TV shows screened months late, some maps don't even include us... Australia may be nearby, but it doesn't feel like it!

Sometimes I ask myself the same question...


Cruelty-free makeup can be really hard to buy in New Zealand. Even though animal testing on cosmetics that are manufactured in New Zealand is banned, there are very few New Zealand makeup brands, and those that do exist are sold in small quantities, usually online.


This image is taken from the New Zealand Anti-Vivisection Society website (www.nzavs.org.nz)


We don't have a Sephora (in person anyway - we do have a very limited online NZ Sephora) or an Ulta. Pharmacies, Kmart, supermarkets, and The Warehouse all stock the same brands, which usually stop at Maybelline and Covergirl - who most definitely do test. You can get E.L.F. at Kmart, but it's a very limited range. The Body Shop is owned by L'Oreal, so if you like to only use brands with cruelty-free parent companies, your options are narrowed. You can find the odd MAC counter in a city mall, but they have started to test on animals as they now sell to China. There are a couple of stores in large cities like Wellington and Auckland that sell makeup in person, like Kirks in Wellington (now David Jones), but they are location-bound. So really the only reliable place to get ethical makeup in person country-wide is Farmers. And even Farmers' range is limited to about three or four brands.

To the internet, then. Surely it's easy to get hold of makeup on the internet?

Think again.

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Shipping prices are often astronomical when you have a Kiwi postcode. Okay, I get it; it's a lot of work to get a package from Europe or the States to New Zealand, especially because it has to hitch a ride on a plane. But the difference between websites is very telling: Beauty Joint charged me $USD7 to ship my last package of three lipsticks, while Colour Pop charged me $USD15 to ship the same amount. Add more products, even if they're light packets or pencils, and by that point the shipping can cost more than the products themselves.

Shipping at the post office is calculated by weight, but this doesn't mean that the website will charge you just what it costs to post it. This is down to two factors: overpriced shipping and packaging. A lot of companies will charge you extra for shipping, rather than just the price it actually costs, to make a quick buck. Or they will make shipping expensive up until a certain price point to encourage shoppers to spend more (NZ Sephora, I'm looking at you!) Many companies will also package their products so well that it adds heaps of weight. This can be a good thing - if you've bought something packaged in glass, for example - but it can be super frustrating when all you wanted was a lip pencil and mascara. If you choose a brand that is known for its cute and unnecessary packaging, be prepared to pay more - that adorable box and coloured bubble wrap has to be paid for somewhere!

But all of this becomes irrelevant when you realise that the website you're shopping on doesn't even ship to New Zealand. At all. This includes Sephora, Ulta, numerous brand websites like Too Faced and NYX... It's the ultimate first world problem, I know, but the struggle is real.

Since I know that there are lots of Kiwis out there who are struggling with the same thing, I've decided to list some of my favourite websites that are based in New Zealand, ship to New Zealand at a semi-reasonable price, and some shipping methods to buy from US-only websites, in the hopes that it may help some people.

I won't be including brand websites that do shop to NZ in this list; rather, this is a list of websites that stock multiple brands. This is because there are simply too many brands out there for me to give a comprehensive list of those that do and don't ship to NZ!

I think that I may start a working document on this topic and fill in brand websites when I do encounter ones that ship to NZ - would anybody be interested in that? 

I will, however, be listing some shipping methods that you can use to access both brand websites and multi-brand websites that don't ship to New Zealand.

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There are a couple of New Zealand websites that have good ranges to choose from:




I am a huge fan of Beauty Bliss (www.beautybliss.co.nz): they are my number one, hands down, New Zealand makeup supplier. They have a good range of products, some of which are difficult to get in NZ like the Jeffree Star liquid lipsticks, the Becca range, and Morphe. They have very fast and well-packaged shipping at a cheap price; they have an active social media platform (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest) and respond to comments and questions quickly; and the rewards system is generous and easily accumulates. If you post a photo of your purchases on Instagram with the hashtag #beautybliss you go into the draw to win a $25 voucher every month, and they regularly re-post and comment. Aaand they have a physical store in Wellington, where you can go and try out products, as well as pick up online orders.




Another good NZ makeup site is Makeup.co.nz (www.makeup.co.nz). While this site doesn't have extensive products per brand, it does sell Anastasia Beverly Hills at a semi-decent price, which is rare in New Zealand (Beauty Bliss stocks ABH as well). You can get all of their eyebrow products and their contour kits, but none of their lip products yet. They have a fast shipping rate and their prices are comparable to Beauty Bliss. Their website isn't the most user-friendly, but it's workable.




I can't talk about a NZ makeup site without mentioning Sephora (www.sephora.nz)... It has good brands, don't get me wrong - although it is missing key brands like Urban Decay, Too Faced, OCC, and Tarte, so really its range isn't that fabulous - but shipping is $25 until you spend $75!! Not to mention that returning products is a difficult and expensive business that is not refunded. But if you like Kat Von D makeup (I don't support her brand for a number of reasons, but I know many people love her products), Anastasia Beverly Hills, Bite Beauty, Nudestix, or theBalm, then it might be worth it if you're willing to drop $75. I personally haven't shopped there because I'm not rich enough to spend that much money at once, but when I do (I've been saving up for a couple of months to get a decent amount of money - the student struggle is real) I'll post a shopping review.

There are other websites like Strawberry Net (nz.strawberrynet.com) and Makeup Direct (www.makeupdirect.com) that also have reasonable shipping prices, although their ranges are quite limited for cruelty-free brands. Strawberry Net is better for skincare and haircare; Makeup Direct stocks my favourite bath brand ever, Bomb Cosmetics! Mecca (www.meccacosmetica.co.nz) has a lot of high-end brands, but their prices are very high. Extremely high. Bum-clenchingly high.

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When you're shopping on an overseas website, you're better off buying from a multi-brand retailer, rather than a specifically branded website. These sites are often better equipped for overseas purchases and can afford to lower their prices a bit. Some notable websites that ship to New Zealand don't charge an arm and a leg: you just need to know where to look.




Beauty Joint (www.beautyjoint.com) has remarkably cheap shipping for a US site. For a highlight, lipstick, concealer, and foundation sponge (so a decent amount of product), weight-based non-tracked shipping was $US7.38. I have shopped with them a number of times using the non-tracked option and have never had a problem, but I don't officially recommend taking this option as you never know what might happen (yes, I'm a cheap hypocrite). Packages don't take long to get here, but I would allow two weeks, just to allow for wiggle room. I use this website for cheaper brands that are still hard to get here in NZ, like NYX and a small range of OCC.




Beauty Bay (www.beautybay.com) has a wide range of brands including Too Faced and Urban Decay. They often have free international shipping (they also offer a very cheap International Saver rate), as well as offering small samples when you spend a certain amount, and regular online sales. This is a website that reminds me of Sephora or Ulta, where you can get small samples, the website is pretty, and you have lots of options. It's an Australian website, but the exchange rate between NZ and Aus is usually okay - at least it's better than the US exchange rate at the moment!




Glam Bot (www.glambot.com) is a great website to get hold of discounted makeup products for a low price. The makeup items have been used, but are all in excellent sanitised condition (as the website sells them, rather than individual sellers, guaranteeing consistent quality). Shipping is pretty good once you buy enough product: my last purchase - two blushes, one with quite hefty packaging, and a lipstick - cost me $US10. The only issue with the website is that it is supply-based, so they can't guarantee that they will have certain products, or even certain brands, at any given time. It's frustrating to see products that have been there in the past with 'SOLD OUT' over the top of the picture - I wish that they didn't even show them because it reminds me of things that I wish I could buy!




Beautylish (www.beautylish.com) is a new discovery of mine. It stocks some brands that I've heard about on YouTube but have never had the opportunity to try: Natasha Denona, Charlotte Tilbury, Lit Cosmetics, and RCMA Makeup. I'm yet to make a purchase from here, but shipping is a flat rate of $USD10 until you spend $USD50, when shipping becomes free. That's really generous once you pass the $50 mark, because you can load up your order as much as you'd like! I'm looking forward to shopping from them. I'm just waiting until the RCMA No Colour Powder is back in stock.




All Cosmetics Wholesale (www.allcosmeticswholesale.com) sells retail shelf pull and manufacturer excess inventory makeup at heavily discounted prices. All products are guaranteed authentic, but the packaging is often not 'shelf quality' and may be marked with store labels or be labelled as Tester or Free Sample (this doesn't mean that they have been used - they are just overstock that have been sold to the wholesale market). I've found some great products on this website, and shipping isn't too bad - generally it is around $10 for one thing, $15 for three things.

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One of New Zealand's most well-known shipping services is YouShop (www.nzpost.co.nz/tools/youshop), which is run by NZ Post, our national post system. They have warehouses in Europe, the USA, and China, which you can ship orders to from websites that do not ship to New Zealand. Basically it opens up a number of websites and brands to you that you would otherwise not be able to access. It's fast and secure: once the item reaches the warehouse it takes 5-6 days to arrive in NZ from the USA, 3-4 days from the UK, and 2-3 days from China (see my in-depth review here). That's faster than orders from websites that ship directly to NZ often take! The only downside of this service is a. it's expensive (my latest order, which was small, was $NZD22 to ship), and b. Sephora doesn't ship to their warehouses as they've realised that it's a shipping service that sends items to NZ. However it's a trustworthy service that opens up a lot of beauty goodies to us!




There are a number of other shipping services that you can try, although I personally haven't used any. MyUS (www.myus.com) is one that comes to mind. MyUS also has a Personal Shopper service, which lets you purchase from websites that don't take overseas credit cards or have other payment specifications that you can't meet. There are a number of other services available if you do a quick Google search, although I plan on sticking with YouShop as it's a national and safe service.

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So there are ways to get hold of makeup, even in little ol' backwater NZ. You just have to be prepared to do some digging, look carefully for bargains and free shipping deals, and spend a whole heap of time waiting by your mailbox, just you by yourself with your considerably smaller bank balance.

Hopefully in the next few years things will get easier, as New Zealand starts to be recognised as a country in its own right, rather than an island that's part of Australia (which, for the record, it isn't!!). And hey, an online Sephora has opened up in NZ, even though shipping is expensive and the range is small. If that's not a sign of brighter and better things to come, then I don't know what is!

What stores do you shop with? Do you have any other tips for New Zealanders when shopping online?

Sunday, 6 March 2016

YouShop: Review

Hi everyone!

Today I'm going to be giving a rundown and review of YouShop, which is a NZ shipping service that assists New Zealanders in buying things online from US, European, and Chinese companies. I've wanted to use YouShop for a long time but could never find any reviews about how it worked and how expensive it was, so now that I've made an order through them I thought that others might be curious to know how it all works. :)

YouShop (www.nzpost.co.nz/tools/youshop) is run by New Zealand Post, which is NZ's official post service. It has warehouses in the UK (which services Europe), USA, and China, and when you sign up you are given delivery addresses on the ground in each of these places. Basically, if you want to buy something from a brand that doesn't ship to New Zealand, you can buy it anyway and have it shipped to the country's YouShop warehouse, which then posts it to your real address in New Zealand. This is particularly useful for makeup brands that are otherwise extremely difficult to get hold of in NZ (I'm looking at you, Urban Decay!)

I recently made a purchase on Too Faced's website (www.toofaced.com), which does not ship to NZ. It is difficult to get hold of Too Faced's full range here, as the websites that do ship to NZ that stock Too Faced only carry a limited range, and at very high prices. So I decided to take the plunge and use YouShop, going in almost totally blind, and post an overview and review of the process.

I bought a Beauty Blogger Darlings makeup collection, which includes deluxe samples of the Better Than Sex Mascara, Chocolate Soleil Bronzer, Primed and Poreless Skin Smoothing Face Primer, and Shadow Insurance Eye Shadow Primer. It cost me $USD20, which at the time of purchase was $NZD32.88. Yikes. The exchange rate always kicks my butt. Anyway...

I bought this on the 16th of February from the Too Faced website, which was shipped and arrived at the YouShop warehouse on the 24th of February. I'm not sure why it took so long for it to arrive at the warehouse, but I'm not that knowledgeable about the American postal system, so this may be a standard wait time.

Email received on the 24th of February

I paid $NZD22 for this to be shipped to New Zealand on the 24th of February. My order was packaged in a pink Too Faced branded box, which had the following dimensions: 27x17x7cm, weight of 0.3kg, volumetric weight of 0.64kg. I had to enter in the value of my package, although I'm not sure if this impacted on the end price of shipping, as YouShop's shipping price excludes any GST that you might have to pay when the package passes through Customs.

I don't know much about the Customs process as I have never had packages shipped to me that were worth more than around $100, but this is something that you need to keep in mind if you're making a large purchase!

Email received on the 24th of February

My purchase was shipped the very next day on the 25th of February in the early hours of the  morning - yes, the email gave me the time that it was shipped! It arrived at the NZ post office on either the 29th of February or the 1st of March (it is a leap year this year) - it didn't specify when it arrived in New Zealand, just when it arrived at the NZ post office. It then left the NZ post office on the 1st of March at 4.00am, and I received it that day. I'm not sure what time it was, as it had arrived when I was at work. You can choose whether you want delivery to require a signature or not, and as I live in a very quiet place I chose to just have it left at my back door if I wasn't home.

I received very frequent emails that let me know exactly where my package was at all times. I liked this: it made me feel more informed and also reassured me that my package would actually arrive!

Email received on the 25th of February

Email received on the 1st of March

Email received on the 1st of March

From arrival at the warehouse to delivery, the process took six days. YouShop estimates that packages take five to six days to arrive in New Zealand, and my package just cut into the five day mark. The process was extended by another eight days because it took so long to get from the Too Faced warehouse to the YouShop warehouse.

So all up, it took 14 days for my parcel to arrive at my front door and cost me $NZD22 (this isn't including the small postage fee that Too Faced charged to send it across the USA).

My parcel arrived slightly dirtied, but not dented or damaged in any way. My products were in perfect condition - although I question Too Faced's decision to use crimped pink paper in the place of bubble wrap. Perhaps when they ship glass items they use better padding.

Overall I was very pleased with the service I received from YouShop, and although it was slightly pricey, I will be using them again when I buy from sites that don't ship to NZ.

The only downside of this service is that the US Sephora has cottoned onto them and no longer ships to their warehouse! So if you try to make a purchase and use your YouShop address, they will cancel the order. I've heard of some people's packages slipping through the cracks and still being delivered there, but I wouldn't count on it. So we're stuck with our own, vastly inferior, Sephora, unless you use other shipping services (which I have not personally used).

Have you tried YouShop or any other kind of shipping service? Let me know which ones you've tried - and if any of them will still work with Sephora purchases!


Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Lush Review: The Kiss Lip Scrub

Hi everyone!

Today I'm going to be reviewing Lush's newest lip scrub called The Kiss! This is part of their new Valentine's Day line, which is a gorgeously scented product line with adorable names, like the Prince Charming shower cream and the Lover Lamp Bath bath bomb.

Lush lip scrubs are, in my opinion, a bit overpriced. One pot of lip scrub costs $NZD11.50, which is expensive when you consider that the main ingredients are sugar, safflower oil, and sea salt. But I do love them because they have colours and flavours that you would find difficult to recreate at home, and they're that kind of frivolous product that look cute in your bathroom cupboard.

 I think The Kiss is a cute name! It makes me think of fairy tale kisses and Disney princesses.

The Kiss is a pink-coloured scrub with little red hearts scattered throughout it. The British and American versions look like they have sprinkles as well, but there aren't any in my NZ version from what I can see, and there's nothing in the ingredients list to indicate that there are any. There's also some subtle glitter in there.

They look a bit lumpy in this photo, but there are definite hearts in there.

The packaging is a simple glass tub with a pink label. I'm a bit disappointed with this, because the American version has a cute silhouette of two people kissing on the lid, surrounded by a heart, and the NZ version is just a plain pink sticker! However I was really happy to see that my Lush store was displaying the Valentine's Day line with queer-friendly advertising! It was titled 'Equal People, Equal Rights, Equal Love'. It made me feel so much happier walking in, and made it feel like a safe space for me.


The scrub itself smells like sweet candy and mandarin. It is a relatively soft exfoliating product, so it doesn't scratch at the delicate skin, although you do need to work a bit harder than is desirable to get off flaky patches. You end up with a bit of sugar surrounding your mouth, but if you're careful then this isn't a big deal to wipe off.

Unfortunately the taste isn't as good as the smell! It's still sweet, but it's a lot tangier than what I imagined it would be. There's also a slightly salty taste from the sea salt - but combined it's a weird taste. But then again I think that this might be a good thing, because I literally ate my last one (Popcorn flavour) out of the pot more often than I care to remember.

Because this is pretty much just sugar and oil, it lasts for a long time.

Once you've rinsed or licked off the product, your lips are left feeling a lot smoother and plumper than before. I recommend using a lip balm immediately to lock in moisture. The scrub doesn't irritate my lips or stain them, which is great - sometimes highly coloured products can do that to me!

My only real complaint is that the little red hearts just don't dissolve! When you scrub your lips some naturally falls into the sink below you (assuming that you do it in the bathroom), and every time I use it, no matter how careful I am, those red hearts end up in the sink and I have to wipe them off. I think that if they were made water-soluble then the product would be cleaner to use, and I worry a little about what happens when they go down the sink into the water system!

So overall this is a cute little product. It's not my favourite of their scrub line - Bubblegum will always have my heart - but it's sweet and does a good job and it brightens my bathroom cupboard!

Have you tried anything from the Valentine's Day line? Let me know in the comments below if you liked them!

Monday, 8 February 2016

Review: Lush 'Ayesha' Fresh Face Mask

Hi everyone!

I hope all of you are doing okay in the sweltering heat - New Zealand is in a heatwave at the moment and it's pretty gross. I run very hot so I don't do well in the summer!

Today I'm going to review a Lush Fresh Face Mask called Ayesha! This mask is meant to be used to combat the signs of aging, tightening and toning the skin while brightening dull spots. It is a clay-based mask, made with Fullers Earth, kiwifruit, asparagus, elderflower, witch hazel, and honey.

I don't use Lush face masks all that often, as many of them are tailored towards oily skin, and I prefer to make my own masks out of banana, yoghurt, and oats - on a side note, honey mixed with cinnamon makes a great spot treatment if you don't have sensitive skin! 

"Spellbinding ingredients to smooth away wrinkles. Tightening, absorbent clays, deeply effective asparagus, vitamin rich fresh kiwifruit, bewitching elderflower, and witch hazel leave the skin radiant, relaxed, and refreshed".

But I do love a good store mask from time to time, so I picked this up on a whim at my local Lush store. It costs $NZ16.50 and is meant to be stored in the fridge - my Lush store has a nice display where all the pots are set out on ice! It is meant to be used within a few weeks of being opened, as it has no added preservatives and uses fresh ingredients.

For a (temporary!) face lift, simply take out of the fridge, apply a generous layer over the face, avoiding the eyes. Leave on for 5 to 10 minutes, then wash off with warm water.

The mask is a brownish-grey colour with bits of some kind of ingredient in it - probably the asparagus. It's not a very attractive-looking mask, but looks aren't everything in a face product. It has a strange scent that I can't really identify. I'm sure that I can smell asparagus, but it's not a very pure scent as it's mixed in with other herb-y, plant-y smells. It's not nice, but it's not strong, either, and once it's applied to the face I barely notice it. People with very sensitive noses or an aversion to asparagus might disagree with me, though.

Not the prettiest mask in the world, but don't judge a book by its cover!

I have incredibly dry skin, and this is one of the few masks that I've tried that didn't sting my face as it dried. It sat very comfortably on my skin, felt quite cooling, and as it dried I didn't feel any noticeable tightening. This was unusual as usually my skin doesn't like clay-based masks. I'm not sure if this is a good thing - while I appreciate that using this mask didn't feel uncomfortable, doesn't it claim to have skin tightening properties? I guess I expect a mask that claims to tighten the skin to be more, well, tightening? (Yes, I've used the same word three times...)

I've had this sexy green clip for six years and I've been mocked so many times by my mates for it - but it does the job!

I left the mask on for ten minutes and then moistened my face a bit, using the opportunity to give my face a light scrub with the plant material. The mask is quite thick, so it takes a bit of work to get off the skin. Make sure that you take it off very gently, rather than scrubbing the skin with a harsh flannel - which is a bad habit of mine.

Once I washed off the mask, my skin felt smooth and hydrated, and it had a nice glow to it.

From this angle it looks like I have no top lip? But look at that glow!
 
My fine lines were somewhat less noticeable - although this effect didn't last long. I think that this mask, used once or twice a week over a few months, might have a longer lasting effect. I didn't expect it to do much for my acne scarring on my forehead and around my mouth, but I'm working on that with other products.

What impressed me a lot was how far the mask went. I barely made a dent in the pot, and after using it one more time, there's still more than half the product left. I'll probably get two or three more uses out of it, which is quite impressive for such a small container. I'm just conscious that I have to use it quickly! I think that this mask would be great value if you wanted to have a pampering party with your friends or family because it stretches so far.

Overall I enjoyed using this mask, although it wasn't absolutely incredible. But it was a nice experience, gave me a pretty glow, and it was remarkably comfortable on my dry skin. I'd recommend this to other people with dry skin who want to try something with anti-aging properties, but want to use something more natural and cruelty-free.

Do you have any favourite Lush masks? Let me know about them in the comments!

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Ethique: Skincare Routine and Review

Hi everyone!

Today's review is going to be about Ethique skincare! Ethique is a skin and hair care brand from Christchurch, New Zealand, which specialises in solid products, eliminating the need for bottles and containers. Their mission statement is simple:

"Ethique is a 100% solid skin and hair care company based in Christchurch, New Zealand. We are committed to making amazing-smelling, seriously bubbly hair, face, and body bars using natural ingredients and compostable or reusable packaging".

Ethique brand logo

95% of my skincare routine comprises of Ethique products. The only things that are not from this brand are my eye cream and my face masks, as the Ethique line does not carry these products - yet! I have been using these products for over a year now, so it's safe to say that I know that they work.

I came across this brand in a magazine about a year ago, and bought a sampler of their skincare out of desperation. My skin care story before this discovery isn't the nicest!

During my early teens I was very oily and acne-prone, and no skincare seemed to be able to treat the pimples that blanketed my face. Then when I turned 17, almost overnight, my skin became extremely dry, while remaining acne-prone. It's pretty awful trying to get enough moisture in your skin to be comfortable while dealing with permanent patches of acne all over your face. Thick moisturisers, slapped on three layers thick to stop my skin feeling tight and sore, clogged my pores, and didn't fix my dryness. Acne creams and cleansers stripped my skin of all moisture, made my skin burn and crack, and gave me semi-permanent eczema around my mouth. Eczema creams, designed to deal with the crust around my mouth and the patches on my cheeks, clogged my pores further and added more pimples to the mix.

I was really unhappy with my skin, and I had tried so many products, both high and low end. The closest to a breakthrough had come with using Shiseido skincare, but it still wasn't perfect, and I wanted to use products that were cruelty-free. This was during the period when I was transitioning to using all cruelty-free makeup products as well.

And I'm not kidding you, within two weeks of switching to Ethique skincare (then known as Sorbet Cosmetics), the patch of acne that had been lurking around my bottom lip was gone, my skin had stopped hurting, and my fine lines had decreased. It was like someone had waved a magic wand over my face and made my skin healthy again. It wasn't perfect, but for the first time in many years, I felt comfortable. People who have had super dry skin know how painful it can be!

Over the past year I have been able to cut down on the amount of serum and moisturiser I need to apply, and am now down to one semi-thin layer per product. I believe that this skincare range has not only helped to minimise the issue, but has helped to heal whatever caused it in the first place.

My latest order: The Perfector, Saving Face, and an adorable mini sample!

So without further rambling, let's move onto my review of the products that I use.

THE PRODUCTS


In Your Face Cleanser: $NZ28

This glorious pink bar lasts for ages. You could cut it into pieces if you store it in the shower and don't want it to get wet, although I haven't tried it. It does dissolve quite easily if you leave it under the water stream, so beware! 

The In Your Face cleanser was created to imitate the feeling your skin gets after swimming in the sea, in particular the positive effects that salt has on the skin. It is made with coconut oil, mandarin essential oil, sweet orange essential oil, cocoa butter, raspberries, and salt.

This comes in one large pink block, which lasts for ages and ages. I'm at the end of my fourth month of my current block and it's still going strong. I'd probably only need to buy a new one every six or seven months. It isn't much to look at, but you can seriously feel it working when you put it on your face. It has a slightly tingly feeling, that feeling that you get when you're swimming in the sea, and your acne feels tingly and warm in a way that you just know means it's disinfecting and cleaning out your gunky pores and sore pimples.

For reference, the block on the left is a new one, and the block on the right is the one I've been using for four months. Look how much there is left!

Texture-wise, it has a slight foaming action if you rub it enough on your face, although it's not hugely noticeable. Mostly it's just thin and slippery, and you only need to glide the block once over your face to get enough product to massage into your skin. It smells like salt, but really it doesn't have much of a scent at all.

This cleanser doesn't leave my skin feeling tight or stripped of moisture, which I think is amazing as it is marketed for people with problem skin and acne. I was worried when I first tried this as I thought that it would be like every other cleanser for acne out there and leave my skin feeling like a piece of dry sandpaper, but it doesn't. I credit this product to clearing up my acne, 100%.

Ingredients: Cocos nucifera (coconut) oil, sodium chloride (NZ sea salt), raspberry (Rubus idaeus), sodium hydroxide, theobroma cacao (cocoa) butter oil, Ricinus communis (castor) oil, and mandarin (Citrus reticulata) & sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) essential oils.

Gingersnap Exfoliant: $NZ22
I don't have the new packaging for Gingersnap - I bought my last product when Ethique was still known as Sorbet. I think that shows how long these little cubes last! But I did receive a small heart-shaped sample with my last order, which is the photo to the right.

Gingersnap smells absolutely gorgeous, and is a fantastic exfoliator, too. Its main ingredients are brown sugar, jojoba oil, ginger, vanilla, and cinnamon, so it's pretty much a ginger biscuit in block form. I wouldn't recommend eating it, although it probably wouldn't hurt your insides. It's just better for the face!

(Although having said that, I have got some in my mouth before when using it and... It was actually kind of nice...)

This product comes in 16 small blocks that you snap off like a chocolate bar. They are supposed to last for two uses, but I find that one block lasts me about two, sometimes three weeks, assuming that I use it three times a week. So that's six uses, minimum!

This is a really great exfoliator that can be gentle or more vigorous, depending on how you use it. If I want to lightly exfoliate, then I just rub it gently over my face, moving the block in circular motions on areas that I want to work on. If I want a deeper scrub, I will rub the block gently in the same way, but repeating the process a few more times until there is more product on my face, and then I will rub in it again with my fingers. The best thing is that even if you work the product more firmly against your skin, it doesn't feel like you're scratching or hurting your face - it just feels like you're doing a better job of exfoliating the dead skin cells away. I really like this versatility, because some days you want to scrub your life away, and other days you just want to give your skin a quick go over and be done with it.

This is a perfect exfoliator for dry skin, because it doesn't strip the skin of moisture. It can be used as a cleanser on its own, but I prefer to use two products. I really love how clean and smooth my skin feels after using this, without being sore or irritated.

It's also important to mention that this product does not contain microbeads. Microbeads are found in many beauty products, especially face and body exfoliants, and are very bad for the environment. Once washed down the sink, they travel through water filtration systems as they are too small to be detected, and so eventually find their way to the ocean. Once there, animals absorb or eat them, which is not only terrible for their health, but also for the humans that eat the animals that have eaten the microbeads. So you're doing the environment and your own health a favour by not using products with microbeads.

Ingredients: Sucrose (organic brown sugar), Sucrose (white cane sugar), Theobroma cacao (cocoa) butter, Garcinia indica (kokum) butter, cetearyl alcohol, glyceral stearate, Simmondsia chinensis (jojoba) seed oil, candelilla (Euphorbia cerifera) wax, stearic acid, ground ginger (Zingiber officinale), ground cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum), and vanilla (Vanilla planifolia) essential oil.

(As Ethique states that they do not use animal products and are certified cruelty-free, I think it is safe to assume that the stearic acid they use is vegetable-based.)

Saving Face Serum: $NZ41

 
Saving Face comes in pink, sleek, graphic packaging, wrapped in pink paper. You get three disks, which have small imperfections on the top due to - I assume - being poured into moulds to set.

These little cream-coloured disks are liquid gold. Truly. This serum is made with cupuacu, shea, and illipe butters, as well as rosehip and pomegranate oils, so it's pretty much just a magical formula full of antioxidants and fatty acids. This product is well worth the $41 - you pay a lot more for more traditional brands that have only half the amount of goodness that this product has.

Each box comes with three disks. One disk lasts about a month - probably more if you aren't as dry as I am. All you need to do is gently wipe the bar across your face, which melts slightly on contact. You only need one swipe to get enough product on your skin, which you then massage in. It's a very creamy, spreadable texture, which feels rich and sits on the skin for quite awhile after application. This might not be good for oily skin, but I appreciate a layer of product that sticks around.

You can use this as a serum under your moisturiser, or as your moisturiser itself. I use this as a serum: I have tested it as just a moisturiser, but my very dry skin needs a second product. This is a necessary product for me, as The Perfector moisturiser isn't moisturising enough on its own. But pairing these two together works perfectly. It doesn't break me out, so don't be afraid if you're acne-prone. I think for a more normal to combination skin type, this would work very well on its own.

Scent-wise, I can't really identify it. It's definitely a herbal-type scent, but it's not strong. You can't smell it once it's on the skin - it doesn't have any added fragrance, so it's just the scent of the ingredients that you can smell.

Ingredients: Theobroma grandiflorum (cupucau) butter, Garcinia indica (kokum) butter, Rosa canina (rosehip) oil, Punica granatum (pomegranate) oil, Cocos nucifera (coconut) oil, Euphorbia antisyphillitica (Candelilla) wax, caprylic/capric/stearic glycerides, and Butyrospermum parkii (shea) butter.

The Perfector Moisturiser: $NZ45

The Perfector comes in the same sort of packaging as Saving Face, but in a purple box rather than a pink one. The disks are a deeper cream colour than the serum bars.

The Perfector moisturiser is described by Ethique as 'the Lewis Rd chocolate milk' of moisturisers (for non-NZers, Lewis Rd Creamery released a chocolate milk that was made with Whittaker's Creamy Milk chocolate in 2015 which the whole country lost their collective shit over - I'm talking security guards at the chiller to make sure people only took one, and lines half an hour before the supermarkets opened). It's made with kokum and cupuacu butters and coconut oil.

Like the Saving Face serum, this moisturiser comes in three cream-coloured disks that you glide over your face then massage in. One disk lasts about the same amount of time as the serum, which is around a month. I wait for a few minutes for the serum to sink in, and then apply the moisturiser over the top. It helps to leave a gap in between the two, as it allows the serum time to sink in further.

The Perfector isn't as thick as Saving Face, nor as spreadable. It's still smooth and creamy, just not as heavy. I like this as a top product; a finishing coat to end my routine. It gives my skin an extra boost of moisture that the serum alone doesn't give me. I think that this would be a good single product for someone with more normal to combination skin without the serum, although I'm not sure if I'd recommend this for someone with oily skin, due to its tendency to sit on the skin after application. For dry skin this is a good thing, but it's not so good for someone who likes a matte face.

Ingredients: Cupuacu (Theobroma grandiflorum) butter, Kokum (Garcinia indica) butter, aqua, rosehip (Rosa canina) oil, coconut (Cocos nucifera) oil, candelilla (Euphorbia antisyphillitica) wax, glyceryl oleate, soy lecithin, hyaluronic acid (vegan), sodium lactate, silica microspheres, kaolin clay, frankincense and ylang ylang essential oils, vanilla absolute, benzyl alcohol, and dehydroacetic acid. 

THE BRAND


Ethique has a number of green credentials. The scope of their charity and commitment to using natural, sustainable products is extremely wide and sets a very high standard for other businesses. I need to break these up into sections, because they literally do so much charity and sustainable work:

Donations
Ethique contributes monthly to HUHA (Helping You Help Animals - New Zealand's leading no kill animal shelter), World Animal Protection, Greenpeace, and sponsors and Orangutan named Monti through the Orangutan Project. Every two months, proceeds from a certain bar sold on the website are donated to a different charity.

Sustainability
All Ethique products are packaged in compostable boxes, and they use no lamination or chemical sealants. All packaging is made in New Zealand. The in-shower containers (which last up to five years in the shower) are made of bamboo and sugar cane, and are compostable.

All ingredients are chosen keeping in mind that everything that goes down the plug hole eventually ends up in the ocean - this means no micro beads and no ingredients that can pollute the ocean.

Ingredients are chosen from sustainable sources, are put through as little chemical processes as possible, and are organic and local wherever possible.

They do not use in their products:
Sodium lauryl/laureth sulphate
Parabens
Phthalates
Ingredients that form nitrosamines or dioxins
Palm oil and its derivatives
Petroleum by-products
Animal products

Ethique is also certified carbon-neutral by climatefriendly.com.

Animal Testing
Ethique does not test on animals, nor do they use ingredients that have been tested on animals. They are certified cruelty-free by three organisations: PETA; SAFE NZ; and Choosecrueltyfree.org.au. They do not appear to have a vegan accreditation, although they do claim to not use any animal products.

Ethique is currently working with SAFE NZ and other organisations to get cosmetic animal testing banned worldwide, which has recently been made law in New Zealand. Ethique also actively supports research into in vitro methods of testing ('in glass') that will eliminate the need for and use of animal testing.

OVERALL


I hope that this review was helpful - I genuinely adore Ethique, both their products and the brand itself, and I would love to see the business grow. I like to support New Zealand business, especially small ones, but I do want to use things that work the best.

Ethique proves that skincare can be both effective and good for the environment. It can be good for sensitive skin, it can be environmentally friendly, it can use organic ingredients and not test on animals, and it can work.

What I haven't gone into is Ethique's hair, body, household, and pet products. I have not tried anything from their other lines, although I am intrigued by their Laundry Bar. If I do try more products, then I'll be sure to review them on this blog.

Have you tried anything from Ethique? Has this review made you interested in using any of their products? Let me know in the comments below! :)

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Holiday Palette Review: In theBalm of Your Hand


Kia ora koutou!

Well, the holidays are almost upon us! I have finished work and will be on leave for three whole weeks, which I'm super excited about. After working shift jobs for years, it's nice to finally get some time off around the Christmas break - working checkout on Christmas Eve is something I never want to repeat ever again.

Christmas is a time for makeup brands to bring out special edition products, and today I have a very special item to show you: the In theBalm of Your Hand palette by theBalm!

In theBalm of Your Hand - Holiday Palette

I'm not too familiar with theBalm as it's not very easily accessible in New Zealand, but what I've seen, I like. I have the NUDE 'tude palette (the naughty version, of course), and have lusted over their packaging for a long time. That retro look really appeals to me (even though I know that it's the product itself that counts). I've heard that their Meet Matt(e) Hughes liquid lipsticks are really great for dry lips, although the colour range hasn't enticed me to buy one yet.

When I went to the Beauty Bliss store opening in Wellington a few months ago, I bought on a whim theBalm's newest holiday palette, In theBalm of Your Hand. I was initially attracted to it because it is a travel-sized collection of already popular theBalm products, rather than being a limited edition collection of holiday products. I thought that it would be a great introduction to theBalm's line, as well as being a really cute, travel-friendly addition to my makeup collection.

So let's get into a review and some swatches!

The palette comes in a cardboard sleeve that matches the inner product, which I really appreciate as it stops the palette itself from getting dirty.

The cardboard sleeve is the same as the palette itself

The packaging is covered in the promotional images from the individual products themselves, but with a white background. It's got a magnetic flap and a good-sized mirror, and the cream products have their own flap so that there isn't any cross-contamination between the powders and the creams; a thoughtful addition that I really appreciate. It's this kind of intelligent design that sets this apart from other standard palettes.

I've noticed that it's titled Vol. 1, rather than just Greatest Hits, which makes me think that they might bring out a Vol. 2 sometime next year!

Who says you can't have it all?

These products are all very popular and have been reviewed hundreds of times. However my skin tone is very very pale with pink undertones and isn't represented that much in swatches, so I thought that it would be helpful for other ghostly people out there to see what these look like swatched on pale skin!

Top Row (Left to Right): How 'Bout Them Apples? Lip and Cheek Cream in Caramel; theBalm Girls Lipstick in Mia Moore
Bottom Row (Left to Right): Hot Mama Blush; InStain Blush in Argyle; CabanaBoy Blush; Bahama Mama Bronzer; Shady Lady Eyeshadow in Insane Jane; Shady Lady Eyeshadow in Mischevious Marissa; NUDE 'tude Eyeshadow in Sexy; Balm Jovi Eyeshadow in Lead Zeppelin; Mary-Lou Manizer


BLUSHES/BRONZERS



Hot Mama Blush



This is a quite shimmery, peachy pink blush with a subtle gold glimmer. It looks darker in the pan, but comes out more pink than peach. It's very pretty on my skin tone, and the subtle sheen complements my skin, which is very dry and has a tendency to look flat and flaky. It falls slightly on the sheer side, which I actually like because if it was more pigmented then it would be easy to overdo it and end up like a pink disco ball! The texture is very soft and smooth, which makes it easy to apply and wear. theBalm says that it can be used as a shadow and a highlighter as well. While I can see myself using it as a shadow, this is too pink to be used as a highlight on my skin tone. It could be a nice blush topper, though, if you layered a matte blush underneath.

InStain Blush in Argyle



This is a blue-based, slightly darker than baby pink blush with a matte finish. It's what I would think of as a doll pink, which I'm not much of a fan of on my skin tone as it can easily end up looking clownish. It's very pigmented - this is one swipe on my arm! I would definitely recommend using a light hand with this. It lasts a good amount of time, although most blushes last on me due to my dry skin. I thought that it would be chalky, being a matte blush with a lot of pigment, but it's just as smooth and easy to blend as Hot Mama. Overall it's very pretty, but not my favourite colour. I can still wear it, but it's not what I would reach for first.

CabanaBoy Blush



Pros: beautiful berry/plum shade with gold sheen, very pigmented. Con: doesn't look too great on my skin if I use too much of it! I have to apply this with a very light hand, otherwise I can come off looking bruised. I do wear this when I go out at night, as it stands out more than lighter blushes, and it fades down to a very pretty raspberry shade after a couple of hours. So it's more of a night time blush for me. I can see why this is so popular, particularly for people with darker skin tones! Like all the others in the palette, the texture is silky and smooth. theBalm really has great quality cheek products from what I've seen.

Bahama Mama Bronzer



This is the only product that I really don't like in the palette. It's so orange on me! It is marketed as a cool-toned brown that can double as a contouring product, and maybe it is that on a darker skin tone, but on me it just looks awful. I really struggle with bronzer - I have never found one that looked natural on me because I'm so pale. So unfortunately, this is a big no for me. I also found that it is a bit chalky and streaky: this swatch took a bit more effort than the other blushes, which smoothed on beautifully.

EYESHADOWS



Shady Lady Eyeshadow in Insane Jane



Insane Jane is a shimmery taupe from the Shady Lady Vol. 2 palette. It's a medium-tone taupe with a brown base. It's actually really nice on the eyes, despite its quite boring description! I like it layered on the outer corners of my eyes with a light shimmery colour on the inside corners, but it also stands up well on its own. It has a bit of fall out, but it's not too drastic. I particularly love the buttery, smooth texture of the powder.

Shady Lady Eyeshadow in Mischevious Marissa 



Mischevious Marissa is also from the Shady Lady Vol. 2 palette. It's an orange-copper shade with a metallic finish. It's also sold individually. I do love the shade, but it doesn't work that well with my skin tone or eye colour (blue-green). If it were perhaps a shade deeper, then I think it would work better. But it's nice to add in the centre of the eyelid to add some brightness, and I've had success with it as a bold inner highlight with a shimmery brown lid. Like Insane Jane, it's very buttery and applies gorgeously to the lid.

NUDE 'tude Eyeshadow in Sexy



This shade has me more confused every time I use it. When I apply it, I'm reminded of how chalky and hard to apply it is, but at the end of the day I always end up admiring the colour on my lids. The swatch on the right is one swipe of the finger; the swatch on the left is three swipes. I have to build it up not only to get the colour, but also to get an even application. The colour is a deep plum/burgundy with a matte finish, and it's utterly gorgeous when layered well. It plays off my skin tone so nicely! It's just a difficult shade. I have the NUDE 'tude palette and this shade does the same thing in that palette, so it's not that I got a bad batch. But I do love it, so I persevere!

Balm Jovi Eyeshadow in Lead Zeppelin 



This photo isn't picking up the green in the shadow, but rest assured, there is green in there! It's a dark, blackened green with a frosted finish. It's been described as an olive green, but it comes off a lot darker on my skin tone. For some reason I couldn't get a photo that showed the green that it comes off as on my lids, which is frustrating. It's not overly special, but it is something a bit different to use instead of a dark grey or black in a smokey eye look. Like Sexy, it applies unevenly: the swatch on the right is one swipe of the finger, while the swatch on the left is two swipes. But it's not as patchy as Sexy, and it doesn't have any fallout, so this isn't a big deal.

HIGHLIGHT




Mary-Lou Manizer




I was so excited to try this, as I'd been wanting to get my hands on it for months! Mary-Lou Manizer is a champagne highlighter that reflects gold on my skin. It's shimmery rather than glittery, and it gives an absolutely gorgeous glow to the skin with just the tiniest amount of product. What I've found is a light dusting imparts a glow but no colour; while a heavier application gives a golden appearance to my cheekbones. I prefer the lighter look on my face, as I'm not a huge fan of gold, but I pack it on as a golden inner highlight all the time. This is also absolutely stunning on the cupid's bow and on the collarbones and shoulders. It's smooth and buttery and blends out so easily - I don't have a single complaint about the formula! I seriously love this product and will be buying the full size.

CREAM PRODUCTS




How 'Bout Them Apples? Cheek and Lip Cream in Caramel 



I thought that I wouldn't get much use out of this cream, but it's actually one of the quiet stars of the palette. It's a kind of orange-brown, which doesn't sound special, but it's such a flattering shade! It's very muted and doesn't have any glitter or shimmer, although it does have a dewy finish due to being a cream formula. I love it on my cheeks, applied very lightly and further back than I would usually apply it. It gives me a bit of colour to my skin that could almost be interpreted as a tan (as much of a tan as I can get). It's a pretty orange-nude on my lips: when I'm feeling lazy I put on a very thin layer and it adds a pop of colour and sheen to my lips that doesn't look overdone. It lasts a good amount of time and applies evenly without streaks. Overall I really like this cream, and I might look into getting the Apples palette.

theBalm Girls Lipstick in Mia Moore



Mia Moore is a bright, cheerful red. To me it is more of a raspberry red than a cherry red, which I like as straight reds often look too jarring against my skin. This lets me wear a red lip and look pretty without being too out-there, which I really like. I usually apply this with my finger, and then use a lip brush to carve out my lip line, and find that it lasts a couple of hours even when I don't blot and add a second layer. It's very smooth and doesn't bleed, which is a rare treat for me as almost all lip colours bleed on me, even with a lip liner. It has a slight minty scent, but it's not overpowering. I find that this makes my teeth look whiter, which is a nice plus!



So those are my my swatches and first impressions of the products in the In theBalm of Your Hand palette! Apart from the bronzer, I can use all of these products in one way or another. The standout stars for me were the Hot Mama Blush, the Mary-Lou Manizer, and the How 'Bout Them Apples? Cheek and Lip Cream in Caramel. The only real disappointment was the Bahama Mama Bronzer, but I think this is the fault of my skin tone, rather than the fault of the bronzer.

Other reviewers who are more familiar with theBalm's products have said that the quality is the same as in the full-size items, so if you buy this palette and then choose to buy one of the products from it, you won't have any nasty surprises. It actually amazes me that some brands do this - that they make compilation palettes with watered down product formulas. It just makes no sense to me! Thankfully theBalm doesn't take this route.

This is a really useful, balanced palette in my opinion. It's so varied that you could use five products from the palette on different parts of the face without doubling up: blush, bronzer, eye shadow, highlight, and lipstick! There are all sorts of shades and finishes, increasing its versatility, especially considering that there will be people of all sorts of skin colours and tones that might want to try this out.

I really think that this will be perfect for travel, as it reduces the amount of items that you need to pack into your makeup bag. The cardboard wrapper stops the palette itself from getting dirty, and it's small enough to slip into a bag without much trouble. This is why I see it as more of a holiday palette than a Christmas one - it's special enough to gift, but it comes into its own when you travel around on holiday.

So I'm really impressed with In theBalm of Your Hand and will be purchasing some of the full-size products in the new year. This was a perfect introduction to theBalm's products!



Have you tried this palette? What are your favourite theBalm products? Let me know so I can try them!