Saturday, August 30, 2014

Review: August Ipsy Glam Bag

The products in this post were purchased by me. All opinions are my own.

Happy Labor Day weekend! I hope you all in the US are doing something fun over the long weekend! I'll also mention quickly that there's a sale going on right now at my shop!

Today I finally got around to reviewing my Ipsy bag for the month. If you're not familiar with Ipsy, it's a monthly beauty subscription that sends you 4-5 sample and full size products. It costs $10 per month and is roughly customizable. If you're interested in signing up, here's my referral link!

This month was decent, although I wish Ipsy would stop sending me eyeliner!! I give it a low rating every time, yet it keeps showing up in my bag! Anyway, here's what I got:

1. Absolute New York You're the Balm in Grape

Since I make my own lip balm, I think I'm allowed to be extra critical of other lip balms! This one feels nice on my lips (a little thin though), but I have some problems with it: first, I hate balms that come in tins like this rather than tubes, because you either have to get lip balm/spit all over your finger or you have to carry a brush around with you. Plus I find it harder to get the application I want with my finger. I also wasn't a fan of the scent--it's very fake grapey, like a Jolly Rancher. Third, the ingredients are practically all artificial, which isn't a dealbreaker by itself, but you can get more benefits from natural oils/butters in terms of vitamins.

On the upside, I think the price is very reasonable: $6 for two tins of 12 g each.

2. Coastal Scents Forever Blush in Fresh and Elegant

I'm already a fan of Coastal Scents because of their awesome Revealed eyeshadow palettes, but I'd never tried their blush before. Elegant is a pink sparkly blush, and Fresh is a peachy-tan matte blush. Unfortunately neither of the colors looked great on me; I'm too pale for Fresh, and Elegant just made me look like I'd had a few too many glasses of wine (I'm part Irish after all). The wear time on these arm swatches wasn't terrific. I think I'll stick with the blush I use now (L'Oreal True Match Naturale in Rose Glow, in case you're curious).

3. Dr. Brandt Pores No More Pore Refiner Primer

I'm always excited to try a new primer, especially one that reduces shine and oil. Overall I was fairly happy with this one. It does seem to have a blurring effect on pores, and is definitely matte. I think it did even out my skintone a little bit too. The downsides for me were, first, application was sometimes flaky (not sure if the flakes were primer or dead skin), and second, the primer didn't do a great job at slowing down my skin's oil production. So I'd give it maybe a B- overall.

4. Urban Decay Perversion Mascara

Just when I thought I was getting tired of trying new mascara, this product really impressed me! I thought it did a great job lengthening my eyelashes, and I didn't have issues with clumping. Definitely will use again.

5. Lord & Berry Silk Kajal Kohl Eye Pencil in Black

Hey Ipsy, STOP SENDING ME EYELINER!! Seriously. Even if I was a fan of eyeliner, I don't think I'd like this one. The color payoff doesn't seem to be that good, and it wiped off my arm really easily.

Did you like your Ipsy bag this month?

The products in this post were purchased by me. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Today's mani: Wave of dots

Hey kids! Hope you're having a great day! I've gotten a bit rusty at nail art over the past month or so, so I decided to get back into it today with my old standby, the dotticure!

I started with a base of Zoya Audrina, a lovely Radiant-Orchid-esque creme. I added dots in an abstract wavy pattern with Sally Hansen Mellow Yellow. Dotting is so easy but looks so cool, don't you think?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Review: Valentia Even Glow Serum

The product in this post was sent to me for review. All opinions are my own.

Hi all! Long time no post, but I had some sort of gastrointestinal adventure this weekend and basically stayed on the couch for two straight days. (I'm sure you wanted to know that!!)

Today I have a review of a really nice skin serum I've been using for a week or so: Valentia Even Glow Serum with 20% Vitamin C! This serum claims to even skin tone, reduce signs of aging, and add moisture and glow.

The reason I like this serum is that it's not just a vitamin C product, but it also has a whole lot of other great (mostly natural) ingredients, such as:
  • organic rosehip and seabuckthorn oil: moisturizers and antioxidants
  • plant stem cells: protect against stress-related and environmental damage
  • hyaluronic acid: improves moisture retention and elasticity
  • green tea: antioxidant
The serum is milky yellow and thin. It goes on easily and dries quickly. Grapefruit essential oil gives it a slight citrusy scent. I've used this serum once a day for over a week, in the morning before moisturizing, and haven't noticed any adverse side effects like peeling or breakouts. Plus, I only need two drops to cover my whole face!

I definitely recommend this product if you want to add vitamin C to your routine! Valentia Even Glow Serum is currently on sale for $35 for 35 ml on Amazon (regular price is $70).

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Review: Exuviance Performance Peel AP25

The products in this post were sent to me for review. All opinions are my own.

Hi all! Hope you're having a great week! Yesterday my husband finished work on his book, so to celebrate we went out to see Guardians of the Galaxy. It was a lot better than I was expecting, and Lee Pace was awesome in it!

Today I'll tell you about my experience with Exuviance Performance Peel AP25. This is a 25% alpha hydroxy and polyhydroxy acid peel that promises to improve the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and overall skintone after one month of twice-weekly use. I only tried it twice, so I can't verify that my skin improved, but the peel contains ingredients that I've seen in many high-quality products, including mandelic acid, glycolic acid and gluconolactone. These are all exfoliants that remove dead cells from the skin's surface and promote cell turnover.

As you can see, the process has two steps. First, you wipe the activator pad on your dry skin. After 10 minutes (or earlier if your skin starts to turn red or irritated), you use the neutralizer pad, which contains high-pH ingredients that stop the action of the acids. Finally, you rinse your face off. Very easy!

I didn't experience any discomfort using the peel, just some tingling. My skin is like iron when it comes to acids though! I also didn't have any actual peeling or flaking, which is great. (I'm not sure if that's intentional or if my skin is just really well-exfoliated already.)

I also received a sample of Exuviance Evening Restorative Complex, which is a great follow-up to the Performance Peel! It's a night cream that contains age-fighting ingredients, antioxidants and vitamins A, C, and E. It has a very creamy, luxurious feel without being too heavy or greasy, as well as a light, pleasant scent.

The Performance Peel AP25 retails for $75 for 12 peels, and the Evening Restorative Complex is $48 for 1.75 oz. You can also find Exuviance products at Ulta!

The products in this post were sent to me for review. All opinions are my own.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Today's mani: Beach stamping with China Glaze

Happy Monday! I don't know about where you live, but August has not been very August-like here. It feels more like early June than the middle of summer! To make up for that, I thought I would do a mani that reminds me of the beach.

Last weekend we actually got to visit the beach in our town for the first time since we moved here. It's the oldest public beach in America!

For my mani I started with a base of China Glaze Seahorsin' Around, a bright aqua textured polish with gold sparkles. I added some stamps from the MoYou London Sailor 04 plate using Maybelline Bold Gold. It's a little hard to see the stamps here, but there's a variety of seashells, starfish and other beachy stuff.

The pictures don't do justice to how sparkly Seahorsin' Around is. Definitely recommended if you like more in-your-face textured polishes!

Last but not least, here's Trudy hanging out in bed (she likes to sit there and look out the windows onto the street, just to make sure there are no bad guys hanging around)!

Friday, August 15, 2014

My love affair with Paula's Choice

The products in this post were purchased by me. All opinions are my own.

Happy Friday everyone! Today I want to talk about some skincare products I started using a few months ago and am now obsessed with!

If you're interested in skincare (and especially if you have problematic skin) then there's a good chance you've heard of Paula's Choice. I've known about them for a while, but I avoided buying anything because their products are on the mildly pricey side. But I kept reading amazing reviews about one product in particular, so one day I finally caved in!

Paula's Choice carries several lines of products, each targeted to a different skin type. The lines are designed so all the products work together. With each purchase you get a card showing you when and how often you should use each type of product. I find that really helpful because it's so easy to get overwhelmed with all the different types of skincare products out there! In addition, all Paula's Choice products are free of dyes and fragrances and designed to be as gentle as possible.

OK, let me tell you what I've tried so far! As you can see, I've chosen products from a couple different lines. My skin is oily and acne-prone, so I mostly went with the skin balancing line.

1. Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid ($23/4 oz): This is the big one for me. I kept hearing about how this stuff works miracles on acne. I was skeptical because I've tried a million drugstore salicylic acid (BHA) products and they never seemed to do anything. At one point I tried replacing my benzoyl peroxide with salicylic acid, and my skin got so bad, my dermatologist started talking about Accutane! Yikes!

But apparently the formulation of a BHA product affects how well it works, and this stuff is formulated perfectly. Since I started using it, I've seen a drastic reduction in the number of breakouts I get, and I've been able to use a lot less benzoyl peroxide as a result. I haven't gotten any more cystic acne at all! Plus it has improved the texture of my skin!

The downsides: first, it can dry out your skin, especially if you use it alongside benzoyl peroxide. So I only use it every other day, moisturize well, and use physical exfoliation to remove any skin flakes. Also, this product leaves a sticky residue behind, so I only use it at night.

2. Skin Balancing Invisible Finish Moisture Gel ($24/2 oz): This is one of the most lightweight moisturizers I've ever tried! My skin feels soft afterward but not greasy at all. Perfect for summer. This stuff also has wrinkle fighters, and one really nice thing about it is that you can use it on the eye area as well. I'm glad Paula's Choice doesn't try to sell you eye cream as well as moisturizer!

3. Resist Barrier Repair Moisturizer ($27/1.7 oz): I bought this because I decided I needed a retinol product, especially for my eye area (I spent many years as a teenager not wearing my glasses because they weren't "cool", so I have a bunch of fine lines now.) Retinol is also supposed to be good for acne. The moisturizer feels great, not greasy, and contains shea butter, one of my favorite ingredients. Just be aware that retinol might irritate your skin.

4. Skin Balancing Pore-Reducing Toner ($18/6.4 oz): This stuff is better than the average toner, because not only is it alcohol-free, it's actually moisturizing and anti-aging! Not irritating at all and leaves no residue behind.

5. Skin Balancing Oil-Absorbing Mask ($17/4 oz): This is a pretty straightforward clay mask. It contains kaolin and bentonite, as well as glycerin (which is moisturizing) and aloe and oatmeal (which soothe irritation).

Overall I'm very happy with the amount of oil my skin has been producing this summer! The only thing I've noticed is that despite all the "pore-reducing" properties of these products, my pores don't seem to look any different. But then again, NOTHING has ever affected my pores, so I think they're just happy the way they are!

If you want to try out Paula's Choice (they offer sample sizes of everything!), you can click my referral link and we'll both get a $10 credit! They have sales all the time!

The products in this post were purchased by me. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Review: Makeup by One Direction in Up All Night

The products in this post were sent to me for review. All opinions are my own.

Hope you're having a lovely week so far! Today I have a brand-new makeup kit to show you. It's a limited edition One Direction set called Up All Night! I have to confess that I can't name a single song by One Direction, so I had my husband sing me one (he keeps up on pop culture much better than I do). Anyway, I'm sure there are a ton of One Direction fans out there who are dying to hear about this kit!

The set comes in a tin with a plastic sleeve, which you have to remove every time you open the box--slightly annoying.

Here's the inside of the tin. You can see all the products are in there pretty securely.

Let's look at all the makeup you get in here!

Nail Polish: Na Na Na

Makeup by One Direction Na Na Na. Three coats with Out the Door topcoat.

Na Na Na is a teal/green shimmer. As usual my camera is making it look more blue than it actually is. In real life it's a pretty mermaid green. The formula was pretty sheer for my taste; even at three coats there is still visible nail line. Other than that I had no problems.

Eye Products

From left: Stand Up, More Than This, Gotta Be You, Save You Tonight, Another World, Up All Night

Stand Up eye and body crayon: This is a fat denim blue crayon that can be used as eyeshadow, liner or for body art (along with the included stencils). In my opinion the crayon is a little too fat for eyeliner, but hey, I'm old. The pigmentation seemed good; the arm swatch lasted through 24 hours and a shower.

More Than This: A peachy pink eyeshadow with slight shimmer. It was hard to tell how pigmented this was because it matches my skintone almost perfectly.

Gotta Be You: A taupe-grey shimmer. This one barely showed up on my eyelid when I tried it.

Save You Tonight: This one is my favorite shadow in the palette. It's a shimmery light turquoise. I found that this one went on my eye nicely, but tended to fade when I blended.

Another World: A sparkly royal blue. This one had MAJOR fallout problems. The bits of sparkle basically don't cling to skin (even with primer), so as soon as I blended the shadow it lost all its color.

Up All Night: Blue glitter in a clear base. I didn't try this on my eye, but I'm skeptical about how well it would stay on.

Little Black Dress mascara: Forgot to take a picture of this one! It's a pretty decent mascara. Not the most amazing one I've ever worn. More on the wet side than the crumbly side.

Lip Products

I Should Have Kissed You: A bubblegum pink creme lipstick. Good pigmentation, but on the dry side; after a little while I got creasing. Seems to be long-lasting. I thought the stick was a little too wide, as I had some trouble staying in the lines.

Taken: A hot magenta lip gloss with tiny glitters. This one glows orange under UV light, although unfortunately I couldn't test that! Formula seemed typical for a lip gloss, not too sticky. The glitters are really hard to remove!

My Verdict: The eyeshadow palette was a disappointment, but everything else seems to be of decent quality. While the nail polish is sheer, it could be pretty over a base color. The colors in general definitely skew toward a younger crowd, not surprisingly!

The three Makeup by One Direction kits will be available at the following stores in the US:

Macy's - now available!
Stage Stores - August 25th
Dillards - August 25th
Beauty Brands - August 25th
Lord and Taylor - August 25th

You can also like Makeup by One Direction on Facebook!

The products in this post were sent to me for review. All opinions are my own.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Swatch: Mentality Gale

The product in this post was purchased by me. All opinions are my own.

Happy Sunday everyone! Before I show you today's mani, I just want to point you to my brand new storefront! It comes with a rewards system I call Pooch Points, meaning you can start earning discounts when you shop there! You also may have noticed that the URL of the blog has changed--if you find any broken links around the site, please let me know!

OK, on to my mani! I was so busy last week that I didn't get to do my nails at all until Friday. It feels good to have polish on again! I'm wearing Mentality Gale, a new acquisition. Mentality makes amazing matte polishes, so I had to grab a couple when they were having a sale!

Gale is a matte polish composed of tiny flecks of grey and red, which give the polish a slightly purple tone.

Mentality Gale. One coat.

The polish was nicely opaque in one coat! The formula was on the thick side, but not annoyingly so. I tried to minimize the number of strokes on each nail to avoid brushstrokes, because the particles in this one are prone to showing everything the brush does. Dry time was pretty quick.

I'm not seeing Gale on Mentality's site right now, so I'm not sure if it's still available. But they have plenty of other beautiful matte polishes for sale!

The product in this post was purchased by me. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Important news for my Bloglovin'/RSS followers!

Hey kids! In the next couple of days, I'm going to be changing the address of the blog to as part of my master plan, which will soon become clear. So I want to make sure that everyone following the blog through some kind of feed reader doesn't get lost in the shuffle! If you have a minute, make sure you're following the right account (most people won't have to change anything):

  • For Bloglovin' followers: Make sure you're following this page, which connects to my underlying Blogspot address. That address isn't going to change.
  • For other RSS readers: You should be following The RSS button in the sidebar redirects to, so don't use it until I've switched over the site's address.
Thanks guys! I'm really excited to show you what I've been working's a little preview. ;-) (Yes, I know my nails look like crap!)

Monday, August 4, 2014

Painted Sabotage The Mermaid's Song and more vacation pics!

Hi everyone! Long time no talk! We finally got back home on Friday and I've been working on a variety of projects since then, so I'm just now getting back to the blog. I've got a swatch for you, plus some photos from my trip to Michigan!

First of all, here's Painted Sabotage The Mermaid's Song, which was made to celebrate The Mercurial Magpie's first bloggiversary! This is a teal crelly with purple, blue, copper and silver holo glitter.

Painted Sabotage The Mermaid's Song. Two coats with Out the Door topcoat.

I liked the formula on this one. I had to dab a little to place the largest glitters, but I had no trouble getting them on the brush. If I had to change one thing, I'd make the base slightly more translucent so the glitter showed through more. But that's a very minor thing! This polish is available here for $10.

I'm going to put the rest of the post behind a jump because it's very photo-heavy!