Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Review: Hourglass Immaculate Liquid Powder Foundation

I have been hearing so much about Hourglass cosmetics lately - from their primer to their Ambient Lighting Powder (the palette sold out within hours of the first day of Sephora's Giftobia event).  These two products have been exploding in popularity due to how effective the primer is and how gorgeous and ethereal the Ambient Lighting Powder is on the skin.  Their Immaculate Liquid Powder Foundation launched Spring of 2012 and has been on the receiving end of hundreds of glowing testimonials from consumers who rave how wonderful this foundation is for their oily, acne prone, and sensitive skin.

A quick look at their ingredients list and I was sold on trying.  It doesn't contain any of the harmful ingredients I normally watch out for (read about that HERE).

This foundation dries very quickly so I suggest you immediately buff it in the second you apply it to your face.  I do not suggest dotting your face with it and THEN buffing it out.  I dipped my Real Techniques Buffing Brush into a small amount and went to work buffing the product into my skin.  It blends very easily and glides over the skin.

The Finish + Longevity
True to its word, this foundation dried to a matte powder finish.  Impressive.  I didn't need to reach for my setting powder.  Formulated with cashmere kaolinite clay that functions as a super oil-absorber, this foundation sufficiently kept my oily t-zone area beautifully matte for a good 8 hours.

This is a medium coverage foundation.  I tried to apply another coat of the foundation to see if it would build but it doesn't seem like it can be buildable to full coverage.  It still evened out my skin tone so it is a good medium coverage foundation.  Because it dries to a powder finish, concealer needs to be applied over blemishes BEFORE use of this foundation.  (Remember, once you apply powder to your face, you cannot go in with a cream product over the powder).

Gorgeous packaging.  The foundation is in a sleek glass pump bottle and really does scream "high end".

OUCH!  At $55 for 1 oz of product, this is definitely not a cheap purchase.  I'd suggest getting a sample of this first to use for a while.  If you can't live without it, go ahead and buy it.  There definitely are cheaper alternatives out there (MUFE Matte Velvet Plus anyone?)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Recipe: Sweet and Sour Beef Stew

With the weather cooling off, I was in the mood for a beef stew.  While Viet Nam has its own version of beef stew, called Bo Kho, I was in the mood for a Western stew.  A while back I made Chef Ellie Krieger's Sweet and Sour Brisket, and it was delish.  I also remember the braising liquid being just as yummy.  Anyone who knows me knows Chef Ellie Krieger is my go to chef for recipes - hers are healthy without sacrificing flavor.  I adapted her recipe for sweet and sour brisket to make my stew, and it was surprisingly met with enthusiasm by hubby.  So without further ado, here you go!

Special Equipment: Dutch Oven

2 lb beef flank, cut into 4 equal parts
1 medium onion, cut in half, then sliced into half moons
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp fish sauce
1 - 6 oz can of tomato paste
3 cups of shrimp stock
3 tbsp firmly packed brown sugar
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup raisins
5 black peppercorns
2 allspice berries
1 lb of potatoes, peeled and quartered

1. Salt the beef flank.  In a Dutch oven, heat 2 tbsp of vegetable oil and sear the flank until brown.  Transfer the flank to a plate to let rest.

2. Add another tablespoon of vegetable oil and sweat the onions.  Add the garlic and cook for a minute.  Add 1 tbsp of fish sauce.  Stir.

3. Add the 6 oz can of tomato paste, shrimp stock, brown sugar, vinegar, raisins, peppercorns, the remaining 2 tbsp of fish sauce, and allspice berries.  Stir to combine and allow the stew to heat up to boil.

4.  While stew comes to a boil, slice up the beef flank into one inch cubes.  Add to the stew along with any juices that have accumulated.

5. Add the potatoes.

6. Once the stew comes to a boil, reduce to simmer.  Cover the pot and let cook for an hour and a half.

Bon appetit! 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

First Impression: Arbonne Products

DISCLAIMERI was recently contacted to do a review of Arbonne products.  Let me start by saying that this is NOT a sponsored post.  I'm aware that many out there function under the belief that reviews like this are ALWAYS sponsored and thus are not 100% truthful.  I cannot speak for other bloggers or beauty gurus out there.  I CAN, however, tell you that while this may be true in certain situations, it is not true for me.  I blog as a past time, a hobby, and as a stress relief from my career (which I will not disclose because a girl's gotta keep a few secrets here).  I blog to share with you all what I've been enjoying on the makeup and skincare front so that we can benefit from one another.  Rest assure my opinions are completely my own, affected by nothing other than my personal experience with a particular product.

In general, what I DO appreciate about this line is that the products are formulated without harmful ingredients such as mineral oil and parabens.  This line boasts to be botanically based and hypoallergenic.

Many people are under the mistaken belief that because certain ingredients are natural, such as mineral oil and talc, they are safe.  WRONG.  Being "natural" doesn't preclude it from being harmful.  The two are not mutually exclusive.  In fact, while mineral oil (aka paraffinum liquidum) is natural, it has been linked to carcinogenic effects.  I wrote a blog post a while back discussing the various ingredients I watch out for when trying a new product.  It may be worth your while to read that post (click HERE) to understand why I'm such an obsessive monster when it comes to trying out new products.  Believe it or not, after I educated myself about the various harmful ingredients cosmetic companies use, I went through a purge with my makeup and got rid of a ton of products.

Another pro to the line: the packaging.  The packaging for every product is just beautiful.  I like that they're mostly pump or squeeze bottles as this promotes good hygiene practice.  Looking at the packaging, you expect quality high-end products.

As an animal lover, I also appreciate that this line is vegan certified, cruelty free, and free from animal testing.  So let's see how these products actually performed...

Arbonne Makeup Primer
This primer looks and feels like the Smashbox primer.  It's silky, a little goes a long way, and is fragrance free, which is great for those sensitive to smells.  I used one pump, and it was enough to cover my entire face.  While this primer lasts a good 6 hours, my nose was shiny after the 6 hour mark.  I have normal to combination skin so it doesn't surprise me that my nose became shiny.  However, the purpose of a primer is to keep makeup in place so those with oilier skin may have a bit of a problem with longevity.  While this product isn't advertised as mattefying, it has a matte finish upon application and does not leave your skin oily.  After a week's use, I was happy to see this product did not break me out.

My first thought when I applied this to my face: THIS SMELLS GREAT!  I'm not a fanatic when it comes to smells (scents don't usually bother me), but I loved how fresh this mask smelled during application.  The smell indeed was a bit reminiscent of the sea.  The mud mask is like any other charcoal mud mask in color: charcoal gray.  It easily applied to my face like a cream.  The tingling sensation was actually enjoyable and did not cause any pain or stinging.  However, it's on the drying side.  I have normal to combination skin, and it left even my oily areas (the t-zone) tight and dry.  Even after I applied the RE9 Advanced Intensive Renewal Serum, my skin was still tight and dry.  As for its effectiveness, unfortunately, it did not clear my blackheads as much as I was hoping and I still had small bumps on my forehead.  While you should normally give new skincare products about 2 weeks to determine their effectiveness, I am especially harder to please when it comes to mud masks because of  GlamGlow's Super Mud Clearing Treatment.  I use GlamGlow's mud mask as the measuring stick for all mud masks out there simply because GlamGlow gives INSTANT results: blackheads are gone while skin is left feeling soft, supple, and hydrated.  Hence, while this Sea Source Mud Mask was enjoyable given its smell and tingling sensation, I will still shell out $69 for GlamGlow's Mud Mask.

I applied this serum after using the Sea Source Mud Mask.  It is lightweight and quickly absorbs into the skin.  However, it isn't as hydrating as I prefer a serum to be.  I was indifferent to serums until I began using Caudalie's Vinoperfect Radiance Serum a month ago.  Even after I've scrubbed my face with a scrub, cleansed it with my Clarisonic, used an exfoliating mask, Caudalie's Vinoperfect Serum was so hydrating, despite being lightweight, that it can also double function as a moisturizer.

This cream was THE answer to my complaint that the Sea Source Mud Mask was over-drying and the serum not being adequately hydrating.  This rejuvenating cream was like a spa in a jar!  This thick and creamy moisturizer was oh so luxurious that it was a complete treat to use.  My skin was greedily drinking up the moisture this cream provides.  It did not leave my skin greasy, but it does leave your skin sticky for about an hour after application.  This sticky feeling, however, doesn't bother me at all.  The next morning, my skin was soft, supple, and hydrated.  I'm even more impressed with this product because of the fact that it restored the hydration I lost from the mud mask...and then some.  I know this is a night cream but I can almost see this doubling as a primer for those with dry skin.  Getting multiple use out of a product is always a huge plus!

RE9 Eye Cream
As far as eye creams go, I prefer mine thicker for the night time and lightweight for the day time.  I'd classify this eye cream as a thicker one.  Like the Rejuvenating Cream, it's thick, creamy, and luxurious upon application.  While I can't speak to whether or not it helps reduce dark circles (since this is merely a first impression review and I don't really have bad dark circles to be able to notice) and whether it minimizes wrinkles (I've been blessed so far with a youthful appearance despite my whopping early thirties), I CAN speak to the fact that it does feel hydrating.  By the next morning, my orbital area still feels supple, soft, and hydrated.  Caffeine is one of the listed ingredients in this so while it isn't advertised as having an instant brightener, the caffeine will help make you look less tired pretty quickly.   While this eye cream IS on the thicker side, it's not so thick that my under eye concealer slips and is unable to stay put underneath my eyes.  Thus, you can definitely use this as your daytime eye cream.  Take caution, though, my oily monsters.  Depending on how oily you are, you may or may not want to use this during the daytime.  What I absolutely love about this eye cream is that after 7 ingredients, you see 15 plant based extracts listed in the ingredients list.  HELLO!! LOVE!

RE9 Smoothing Facial Cleanser
I applied one pump of this onto my Clarisonic and let the Clarisonic do its magic.  While it does feel smooth even as I rinsed it off my face, my skin was left feeling very dry and tight.  I initially used this cleanser after I used the mask so I used it again the next morning after my face was hydrated with the rejuvenating cream.  Unfortunately, it still left my skin tight and dry.  Given that the rejuvenating night cream restored moisture into my skin after the drying effects of the mud mask, I'd say this cleanser is the reason for the tight dry feeling on my skin.  I definitely don't recommend this for people with dry skin despite the fact that this cleanser is advertised for all skin types.  The good news about this cleanser is that it does not contain SLS, an irritant.  (Read more about the use of sulfates and their adverse effects HERE)  I found this to be surprising since the cleanser lathers up quite well without the presence of SLS.  If you have oily skin, this cleanser may be the one for you.

FC5 Exfoliating New Cell Scrub
A cream formula with tiny granules that you can use on a daily basis, this scrub is advertised to be infused with antioxidants that help restore and rejuvenate the skin to yield a more youthful appearance.  I like that there are numerous fruit oils (bergamot, mandarin orange, sandalwood, lime, orange, to name a few) in this scrub thus keeping to the product's promise of being infused with plenty of antioxidants and being botanically based.  The creamy texture feels very nice on the skin.  The product warns of possible feelings of tingling in the skin that may last up to 2 hours.  However, I didn't experience this at all.  It was quite pleasant to use.  I skipped using a cleanser after this scrub to see how well it cleansed my skin.  The cotton pad I used to apply the RE9 Advanced Regenerating Toner was pretty clean.  Thumbs up for effectiveness!  However, while this product was certainly effective in removing the grime, dirt, and dead skin cells on my face, thus leaving it squeaky clean, it did leave my face a bit dry.  It didn't leave my face as dry as the cleanser but compared to other scrubs I've used, this definitely isn't as hydrating.  Those with oily skin may very well love this scrub and may, in fact, be able to use this everyday.  Those with normal skin may wish to use this about 3 times a week.  I'd recommend those with dry skin to use this more sparingly.

RE9 Advanced Regenerating Toner
I really like the citrus scent of this toner.  The scent is great to wake you up in the morning.  While this is advertised to be used as a mist, I apply all toners with a cotton round.  Because I was only able to run a test drive with this product for about a week, I cannot speak to whether or not it truly does help with the turnover of skin cells.  If you want a toner rich in anti-oxidants, Vitamin A (great for blemish prone skin), Vitamin C (natural skin brightener and collagen promoter), and Vitamin E (fights free radicals in your skin thus great for anti-aging), you should definitely give this a try.

RE9 Advanced Restorative Day Creme SPF 20
In general, I like the moisturizers in this skincare line.  The day creme is no different.  Hydrating but doesn't leave your skin oily, this moisturizer has the added benefit of SPF 20 protection.  I can always use some SPF protection since some of my foundations do not contain SPF.  However, while this is a good day cream, I'd caution use of this day cream if you are the subject of flash photography.  I find that products with SPF higher than 15 tend to give a flashback (the white cast you see on your face in photos).  

Overall, this is a solid skin care line.  You will need to test out the various products in order to best find the ones that suit your skin.  The Arbonne consultant will be able to help you pick and choose the products that will best suit your skin.

This line is not readily accessible at places such as Sephora, Ulta, and or even the drug store.  I like knowing that when I run out of one of my beloved skin products, I can just jump into the car and head to my nearest Ulta or Sephora to stock up.  The flip side to this is that you make contact with the Arbonne consultant who WANTS to give you face time to explain each products in further details.

I was not provided with the products in their original boxed packaging.  Thus, I do not know whether or not the ingredients are listed on the outside packaging (they aren't listed on the actual products themselves).  I would assume so as that is FDA required.  If you are an ingredients fanatic like me, you will be frustrated in your efforts locating an ingredients list online.  While some consumers are bothered about this, cosmetic companies aren't required to publish ingredients online.  They are only required to do so on the packaging.  However, not having ingredient information readily accessible may prevent some consumers from even giving this skin care line a try.

The Arbonne consultant I dealt with, Lori, was more than happy to give me the ingredients list for each product when I requested.  

If you're interested in purchasing any of these products or to just obtain more information, Lori will be more than happy to oblige!  You can contact Lori via:
Website: Lorimyers.myarbonne.com
Email: LoriAMyers@me.com
Facebook page : Arbonne Lori Myers Independent Consultant