Monday, May 28, 2012

Review: Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab

A long time ago, when I was but a poor college student I developed a yearning for BPAL Imps, except that I couldn't afford them. Now I know what you're thinking, Imp's Ears (which are sample size) are only $4 each -- but if you look at BPAL's extensive site, I'm pretty sure you can easily find 10 of them that you like. Anyhow, during that time, I was participating in a LiveJournal Christmas community called "Holiday Wishes" and someone sent me some imps. And that is how my love of BPAL was solidified.

Fast forward to last month, I finally decided to treat myself since I love oils over traditional perfumes and after combing through the site, I came up with 14 that I wanted -- but I paired down that list and opted for a bunch of from the Mad Tea Party line. (For future purposes, the ones I wanted are: Bordello, Salome, Black Pearl, Jack, Hanging Gardens, Gluttony, Elf, Drink Me, Eat Me, Queen Alice, Queen of Hearts, Red Queen, and Bread & Butter). From the ones that I got as a gift, Alice quickly became a favourite so in addition to the imps, I sprang for a 5 ml of the Alice.

Eat Me
Description: Three white cakes, vanilla, and red and black currants.
Reaction: Oh goodness, I ridiculously love this scent. The funny thing was that the morning that I selected it, I totally forgot what the description was and just grabbed one. The scent is delicious -- it has a bit of a deep earthy scent to it, but you can definitely make out the cake scent along with the vanilla. The mixture of currants might be what gives me that feeling of a earthy scent. This scent ridiculously smells so damn good. Sorry for the language, but yes, definitely a great choice. If you're a fan of sweet (deliciously savory) scents, I highly recommend this.
Update: I admit I was a bit heavy handed in the application of this oil but perhaps that's what helped it last all day. Seriously, I went to bed thinking of delicious cake.

Description: Bread lightly buttered, with weak tea, cream, and a lump of white sugar.
Reaction: I hate to mimic yesterday but oh my goodness, this one smelled like cinnamon french toast. I was in a rush so I didn't apply as much (actually I put on a minuscule amount before running our of my apartment) but once that scent settled, all I could think about was french toast with a hint of maple syrup. I can definitely see the hints of bread and butter though I'm missing the hints of tea. >_< I kid, but I do love the scent of this one.

Drink Me
Description: Cherry-tart, custard, pine-apple, roast turkey, toffee, and hot buttered toast.
Reaction: If you have a nose for these perfume oils then you're bound to be better at it than I. When I first open each of them, while they have distinct signature scents, I'm usually not good at making them out. With the disclaimer out of the way, I opened this imp and it smelled like popcorn. Which is delicious in itself but made me weary about the occasion with which to wear it. Immediately after applying it, that popcorn scent went away and was replaced with a scent that I couldn't place for a while. Sure, it smelled delicious, but what was it? Vanilla with a hint of cherry. I'm definitely getting the hot buttered toast (and yes, it is very different than the Bread-and-Butter-fly's lightly buttered toast) with that cherry and custard. Overall, a beautiful scent, especially when you let it settle in. I adore it as well.

Queen Alice
Description: Carnation, posies, and white amber with a hint of inky treacle, sandy cider, and wooly wine.
Reaction: At first, I really couldn't place the scent (reoccurring theme here) but I figured that it smelled like a pastry but what? Well, for some reason I picked up cinnamon so it reminded me greatly of a cinnamon roll. As the initial scent wore down, there was the lovely garden scent. So in retrospect, looking back at the description, you can kind of pick up each hint of it. You start with this dessert like blend -- the treacle, cider, and wine which then subtly lends itself to the flowers. I will admit that I loved the initial scents and while the latter was good, they weren't quite up my alley. If you love the floral scent, then this would be a hit but alas, I am not. This is not to say that I didn't enjoy yet, just wasn't something I was prepared for.

The Red Queen
Description: Deep mahogany and rich, velvety woods lacquered with sweet, black-red cherries and currant.
Reaction: Upon first scent (while still in the bottle) it smelled really good, like a sugary fondant -- some type of light pastry like petit fours or the like. When I applied it though, that scent quickly faded into cedar. A few hours later, there is still a strong woodsy scent with hints of cedar but not super strong. If there were hints of cherries and currants, that definitely did not come through. Definitely not a favourite.

The Queen of Hearts
Description: Lily of the Valley, Calla Lily, stephanotis and a drop of cherry.
Reaction: Out of the bottle the scent was like a light pastry but I couldn't figure out what it was -- lighter than the fondant from The Red Queen, but still a hint of vanilla and then very faint cherry. The flowers came in strong once on my skin and after a few hours, though the scent became faint, the floral notes still remained. Perhaps this is just not the week for my wearing floral notes or I'm just not a fan in general, but I really didn't like it much. It reminds me too much of traditional perfumes (hey, nothing against them but they do tend to give me headaches) so this too wasn't quite up my alley either. (And yes, by this point I'm wondering why did I order all these floral oils, but then I realized that I got so overwhelmed by the sheer amount that I just picked names that I liked).

Note: By this point I had established that floral notes were giving me a headache for some reason. They don't normally cause this reaction for me, but I'm assuming I was extra sensitive this week for a myriad of reasons. I would still recommend Queen Alice, The Red Queen, and The Queen of Hearts if you like floral notes as they are great however during the time I was testing them, they just caused headaches which is a quirk of my own and not the perfume oils.

Dragon's Bone
Description: The dry, thin scent of a draconic ossuary. Dragon’s blood resin with white sandalwood, dusty orris and crisp blondewood.
Note: BPAL sent me a few extra imps, but since a friend wanted to try them out as well, I handed the majority of them to her. This one that I kept because I liked the name. >_< This one comes from the Ars Draconis line.
Reaction: Loved... and I do mean loved this one. Out of the bottle I wasn't sure what the scent was and in retrospect all I could think about was a desert. And maybe it's because I was recently playing WoW and all I could conjure up as an image was the Bronze Dragonshire, but the sandalwood came in strong and smelled so good. I was really very pleasantly surprised by how this smelled and I loved it -- it was right up my alley.

Description: Curiouser and curiouser. Milk and honey with rose, carnation and bergamot.
Note: You should already know that I love this one.
Reaction: Of course I love this one, my whole order revolved around my getting the 5ml of this. This one has very light floral notes, but mostly it smells of tea with honey and milk, which means while it's not like a cake it's still soothing and light. This scent definitely is me. Not too dense in flavour-like scent but not too heavy on the other notes, it's a perfect blend and I absolutely love it.

BPAL sells the 5ml for $17.50 and Imp's Ears can be purchased for $4.00 each (they are 1/32oz). Some imps cannot be purchased if they are part of a set (and they make it clear what you can or cannot request) and just a note that you can get 6 imps for $22.00 (which is what I did).

Friday, May 25, 2012

Review: Kérastase Age Premium

My friend ordered the Gossip Girl Birchbox and instinctively knew that based on her profile, she'd be getting the Kérastase Age Premium samples and had no use for them. Now in a pre-haircut world, I was and still am pretty comfortable with trying out anything on my hair so long as it wouldn't weigh down my hair. The verbiage that I use will be in reference to when my hair was long as I have yet to use the samples on my short hair.

What I did to start was that I dabbed a bit of the Masque Substantif prior to washing my hair and mostly to work it into the ends of my (then) long hair. After running around for about 10 minutes getting other things into order, I grabbed the Bain Substantif (shampoo) and worked it in. The texture and consistency is that of normal shampoo so there was nothing uniquely remarkable about that. It does create a substantial lather so I was pretty content with it's performance.

Now here's where I deviated yet again. See I didn't get the sample box so I didn't get instructions as to what to do with the masque. I know, it's a masque, but do I use it before I shower (like other hair treatments) or after? I wasn't sure and that's why initially I dabbed a bit on the ends so in that way, I could have both bases covered. Looking at Birchbox's website now, I realized that it goes on afterward, which makes me happy that that is exactly what I did.

I grabbed the remainder of the Masque Substantif, rubbed it in and allowed it to sit for a bit before washing it off. It's recommended you let it sit for 5-10 minutes and I opted for 5 minutes (one of the masques I use require you let it sit for 20 minutes but I was running late that morning and couldn't spare a minute longer than 5 so I just kind of lucked out). Since I let my hair air dry, I didn't notice any real differences till later on in the day.

Over the day as my hair dried I noticed that it was a bit more lighter in weight and fluffy (but not frizzy). Which is a good thing. I rather liked how my hair felt overall but I admit I wasn't sure what set this apart from other things that I do to my hair. In other words, there wasn't a noticeable difference. Sure my hair felt a bit lighter and fluffier, but it also feels the same way after I use Lush's Jasmin & Henna Fluff-Eaze so I'm definitely not sure if this in the cards for being for long term use.

Product: Kérastase Age Premium Brain Substantif
Price: $36
Would Recommend? No
Takeaway: I can't speak about the extended use of this product since I only had a sample, but for the two times I did use it, I really wasn't that blown away by it.

Product: Kérastase Age Premium Masque Substantif
Price: $60
Would Recommend? No
Takeaway: I can't speak about the extended use of this product since I only had a sample. Just like the product above, I really wasn't that impressed by it. It does a good job, sure, but not better than other products I've seen that are much cheaper.

The Great Bob

I promise that will not succumb to being a blog where I take a break to whine about personal things, but that being said, this is about my hair and well, I will claim that it is in fact beauty related and belongs here.

The short of the long (pun absolutely intended), is that yesterday I finally cut my hair. After 4 years, I finally got my hair to 9.5 inches which meant that I could finally donate it to Pantene Beautiful Lengths. For those of you who have done it before, yes, I took longer than most normal people would take -- some can grow out the minimum requirements in approximately 2 years or less, but for whatever reason, my hair decided to go the long route. And I'll explain. 

Fresh out of the salon. My hair will never look this good.

This won't take too long, I promise.* It started with the idea of wanting to donate my hair -- my hair had always been processed and damaged by heat so obviously this meant doing everything right so whatever little growth I had, I had to cut it off and try again. No dyeing, no blow drying, no hair straightening, and no excessive use of products that might lead to breakage. This is the standard for donating hair.

My hair is naturally wavy however the shorter it is, the less waves there are and the more sporadic it is. Basically, short hair means that it acts like some wayward demon that does whatever it wants. The longer it is, the more waves and curls come in but at least it behaves itself. It also happens to break an awful lot. So after the first year, I had to cut off about 5 inches worth that just got damaged -- even though I was on a strict no SLS, no heat damage, etc. regime. Turns out my hair needed a lot more moisture and I didn't adjust quickly enough. 

I changed my regime from completely SLS & paraben free to sometimes having silicones (changing it up every week or so) only shampooing my scalp and conditioning the heck out of ends. In addition I got myself a carbon wide tooth comb and nixed the use of my brush (Ricky's NYC used to carry them, but the closest thing they now have is the Carbon Jumbo Detangler). Every once in a while I'd do a hair treatment only on the ends. After a while though, I had about 2 inches that got damaged and had to chop off about 3 inches. 

After that trim I integrated the use of argan oil into the routine along with a steady use of biotin supplements. The results was that I was able to grow the rest without issue up till the point where I could cut it for donation.

Things I've learned along the way: My hair is a cruel and untameable beast. It took far too long to figure out what it needed over time but I eventually got it figured out.

  1. Switching over completely to a new product won't always yield the results you're looking for. My hair loved the initial switch to SLS & paraben free haircare but over time it just took in much more damage. I needed to balance out the amount of moisture it was getting from those products and sadly oils and masks just isn't enough at times. 
  2. Biotin is amazingly effective and you should integrate it in as soon as possible. It won't save your hair from damage but it'll help you bounce back.
  3. Dusting (or finding split ends and trimming them) is the most annoying thing ever but you should do it weekly. You could just go get real trims but I found dusting to be effective so long as my hair was getting moisture. 
  4. Invest in a good comb or brush. My original brush was not the coveted boar's hair and if you're going to get a brush, might as well get a good one. Combs are great but make sure they are wide tooth -- my Nexxus "Detangler" was terrible and caused me to have to run out to get another one (back up to my carbon wide tooth comb). 
  5. Don't be afraid to chop it all off and start anew. And similarly, don't be afraid to grow out your hair and donate it. Even if it took you 4 years and you feel way better in long hair than you do short. :) (Okay, that last part was for me).

* No, I don't.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Some Other Updates

On heels of my previous post regarding Mordy, I have been busy with a few other things so I just wanted to give a bit of an update.

  1. I've been a bit under the weather lately probably due to stress. So I've been reducing the amount of makeup and other things that I do (like a temporary stop on the book challenge) and mostly just playing Diablo 3. Now before you say, "You mean you stopped everything for D3," my rebuttal would be that I started feeling really stressed out a few weeks ago and had a hard time keep up with some things. 
  2. That being said, I have been doing extended comparisons of primers so unlike the mascaras, I've been testing a bunch over the span of multiple days rather than just one day which is why it's taking a bit longer to compile. (I'm giving each primer about 2-4 days of testing). 
  3. I'm working on reviews for some of the Black Phoenix Alchemy Labs imps that I recently purchased. I bought a bunch from the Mad Tea Party line and since I'm very forgetful when it comes to putting on perfume, it's taking me longer then it should.
  4. In regard to Kara's Way -- when I first mentioned it, it was a sole undertaking of my friend. It still is  however since then, I've become a bit more involved (read as: I'm a Kara's Way Minion). While I don't receive any kind of compensation for my assistance it would be biased of me to say anything about the box. I helped to package some of the items for the launch so it would make no sense for me to say anything about the service and as a result I'll likely also be refraining from posting reviews for items in the box. I will say that I do love many of the items and I do use them as much as I can, when I can. 

I think I've covered all the bases. Although I now wish that there was more highly pigmented makeup out there that is named after Diablo 3, Battlestar Galactica, or Star Trek. More nerd makeup oriented is needed!

May Twentieth

I apologize for my prolonged absence but this week was all about Mordecai Caramon Jinx (my betta). Earlier this week he got sick and was in and out of "intense fish care." He came down with fin rot and while he looked like he was going to have a full recovery, the fishmonger who he was seeing (at the aquarium where he was raised before I got him) gave him some worms and then he took a turn for the worse. He ended up getting dropsy while meant he was no longer able to fight off his previous infection.

I know that if you're following this blog, then this is probably the first time you're hearing or reading about Mordy, however he appears on the "About this Blog" page -- this blog was created on the day that I got him (or his birthday). It was a huge deal to have him since he was very young when I got him so I used to freakishly call the aquarium all the time if even the slightest thing went wrong. I'm no stranger to betta care but I hadn't ever had one this young and I wanted to take every precaution.

There's more that I could say but I wanted to keep this brief. I wanted to write about him because one of the reasons I started this blog was so that at night, I could write about things (that I really didn't know much about), while having him right nearby. I used to bring him near my laptop so that I could keep him entertained while I wrote. He was a good aquatic companion.

The pictures that you'll find of him on this blog were taken the night I got him, so he was still a little bit scared  which is probably why he stayed so still for pictures. (Also, his tummy is a bit big because we had fed him before his trip home with me).

Friday, May 4, 2012

Review: NYX Cosmetics Retractable Pencil Eye Liner

Countless times I have told myself to write a post about NYX but I take pictures of the pencil and realize how blurry it is and then realize that maybe I write way too often about eyeliner. Oh well. Now, while I haven't begun an official Project 10 Pan, there are a few items I've been meaning to finish and my NYX Cosmetics Retractable Pencil Eye Liner is one of them.

Not that I don't enjoy it! (But I also have two other Stila eyeliners and one from Sephora). So here's my general impression of it.

It is slightly on the dry side (so not quite creamy) which means that while there is a lot of control with putting it on, there is also the issue of it going on heavy. A thick application of it means that I get a very dark and wide line -- great pigmentation but when I'm aiming for a day look, it is slightly frustrating to get thick lines instead. Depending on the placement on my eyelid, it either lasts all day or it doesn't -- meaning that if I use it to create the top of the arch along my eyes, it's fine and can last all day. However closer to my upper waterline (the lower waterline just gets messy), it will fade very quickly by noon. 

My assumption in regard to that issue is that the eyeliner is not waterproof so tight-lining is not really recommended (unless you're going for the smudgy eyes look [Read as: Perfect for Halloween]). Wherever you use it, just note that it may just fade so be careful about this. I learned this when I used in a cat eye look and found that the scalene triangle at the edge of my eye faded by noon and the eyeliner on the upper lid had transferred to the bottom. Solution for those of you that might see this issue: Reinforce it with another eyeliner. I personally reinforce the NYX liner with L'Oreal HiP Studio Secrets Professional Color Truth Cream Eyeliner -- I use the L'Oreal along the upper waterline and fill in any areas that the NYX liner missed.

Product: NYX Cosmetics Retractable Pencil Eye Liner
Price: $4.50
Would Recommend? No.
Takeaway: While it has the positive of being very pigmented which is nice, the negative is that it fades and really needs to be kept away from the waterline in order to remain intact. It's a good cheap alternative which is on par with one of my Stila eyeliners, but I'm not sure it's a good replacement for something like the Lancome eyeliner.

A great reference for identifying the parts of your eyes for eye makeup is over at Temptalia.


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