Another great find besides, well, everything I found at Asian makeup mecca Sasa while overseas was the company’s in-house brand Sasatinnie. Among my favorite store brand finds is their Aqua Magic Gloss which I nabbed in a bronzed coffee/gold color, Spun Gold because I have a weakness for bronze lippies. Also, my MAC Lip Gelee in Goldensoft is bound to run out some time and I’ve been on the hunt for its impending substitute ever since MAC stopped making it.
What I like: Sasatinnie’s Aqua Magic Gloss’s formula is super-moisturizing and glides on effortlessly with a smooth finish. This contrasts with MAC’s Lip Gelee which has a tendency to flake and gather in one’s lip folds, thus requiring a good amount of re-application throughout the night so one does not look like she dunked her mouth in glossy benito flakes. The pigment isn’t wimpy and the glitter factor is at West-Hollywood-after-Pride levels. A little goes a long way and while I have yet to layer it on top of another color, i assume it would blend nicely.
What I don’t like as much: It’s a gloss… that tastes like one. In the same way I don’t love the taste of lipstick (MAC has done a wonderful job of remedying this with their lip products), I don’t love the taste of gloss either. Who does? Also, the glitter factor is the REAL DEAL and the double-edged sword of this otherwise fairly decent product: On the one hand, the sparkle yield is impressive, so impressive that even after you wipe it off, your mouth will glitter like that of a Cullen.
Price: 2 for ~$12 USD (promo price).
Oh, mascara. So many kinds by so many brands with so many different kinds of brushes and price points. Finding the “right” mascara has proven to be a lifelong beauty quest. With such variety on the market, in truth, I’ve only bought two kinds more than once: Lancome Courbe Virtuose and L’Oreal Voluminous Original Volume Building. What was that thing about different price points? And, oh, my general lack of product fidelity?
My quest might be over though. During this last jaunt in Asia, I discovered Za’s Killer Volume Waterproof Mascara in Real Black. If you follow this blog, you know that I’m crazy about Za products (parent company Shiseido) for their wallet-friendliness and quality. It really is too bad they haven’t made it over stateside.
What I’ve found in my years and years of testing out different eye fringe formulas is that a brushes are perhaps the most important part about finding your Perfect Mascara. In a mascara emergency? Ignore packaging, ignore snazzy gimicky product names and look exclusively at the brush. Looking for length? Long and skinny. Curved? Self-explanatory (although a straight brush when pressed against lashes upward and held there for a few seconds also does the trick in a pinch). Volume? Thick and bushy. My personal mascara needs all of the above and add in there “defies changing weather + doesn’t give me raccoon eyes + can hold up decently through surf session.” That last one is optional.
Za’s Killer Volume Mascara is, indeed, killer. The “ultra volume” brush is thick, full and slightly curved upward hence yielding some serious volume, but my favorite part is its staying power. Prepping my lashes for the real world usually goes something like this: 1) curl, 2) apply 100-200 coats of mascara (more like 3-5), 3) sit and wait for a minute, 4) re-curl, 5) admire my new “doll eyes” in the mirror. Done. Unfortunately, the doll eyes effect lasts for about 20 minutes before my fringe goes limp, retaining very little vertical game. I put Za’s to the test against both Beijing’s poor and polluted air quality and Hong Kong’s stifling humidity and was truly impressed by how doll-like my lashes stayed throughout the day. Also, no residue or raccoon eyes. Of course, I stocked up with an extra tube before I left the continent.
Price: ~$10 USD.
I discovered Za Cosmetics (parent company: Shiseido) while overseas in Asia since shelves of the brand’s lipsticks, concealers, BB creams, foundations and more seemed to line the walls of every corner drugstore. I’m a huge fan of drugstore beauty products, ones by Asian brands even more so because of the quality: they tend to be gentler on skin but yield rich pigments. Also, their names crack me up. Below are a few products that have me going “rah-rah” for Za.
Cheeks Groovy in Apricot Pink.See what I said about the names? It’s a subtle peachy color that’s similar to a Covergirl Cheekers color (I forget the name) but with stronger pigment. Think somewhere between Cheekers and MAC’s Sheertone Blush in Peaches.
Cheeks Groovy in June Bride. A subtle highlighter that I wrote about in a previous post on my favorite highlight hues. I haven’t put this one to the (camera) test yet but it’s so pearly and pretty, I couldn’t resist picking it up.
Groovy Smoovy Oil-Blotting Powder. Again with the names. A light hand with this translucent powder blots away shine with staying power comparable to Make-Up Forever’s HD Microfinish Powder. Use too much, though, and it can come off opaque which is why I don’t use the mini powder puff that came with it, opting for a small powder brush to apply product instead. But gosh darnit, is that mini-puff cute.
Concealer Perfection in #2. This is hands-down my favorite Za find. Enriched with Vitamin E, the formula yields full coverage and blends easily with a rich smooth finish. I usually squeeze a drop on an empty palette or on the back of my hand, pick up color with a small concealer brush and dab, then smooth it out with a wedge sponge lightly spritzed with lavender water.
While I was in Asia at the end of last year, I stocked up majorly on Biore Pore Strips. Essentially, they’re the same strips as the ones sold stateside at CVS, Target, etc. but as with many beauty products sold overseas, these had a little something special: aromatherapy! Well, actually a subtle jasmine scent that makes the usual sebum-extracting process just slightly more enjoyable. One downside I’ve noticed: they’re slightly less potent in the blackhead-vacuuming department than the ones I’ve bought at home. Still, I’m all for a little jasmine-infused skin-clearing.
If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, you know that I’m a Shiseido-holic. Before discovering Shiseido’s Urban Environment UV Protection Cream SPF 40 for Face/Body, I was a huge fan of the iconic beauty brand’s Oil-Free UV Protector for Face (SPF 42). The formula was thin and liquid-ey with smooth finish.
In comparison, the Protection Cream is considerably thicker in consistency and when applied comes off way more opaque. I found myself really having to blend it into my skin as to avoid that lovely “ghostface” look. I have a lot of faith in Shiseido products, opaque residue factor notwithstanding, so I’ll stick with it until I run out. Why? Because I’m stubborn and have drunk the Kool-Aid of the storied Asian beauty line. With the thickness of the formula, it might be one of those “little goes a long way” products - and I’m not opposed to that.
Mastering the use of highlighter is like mastering contouring: it’s one of those simple make-up techniques that can make a world of difference when it comes to adding definition to, illuminating, or hiding the flaws on your face. I’m a huge fan of a good, golden highlighting powder or liquid to either bring out my cheek bones or add a dewy finish to my make-up. Below are a few presently in my make-up kit (and one from the past) that will have you going for the glow.
Topshop Highlighter in Sunbeam
I picked this up when I was overseas at the end of last year, partly because I got a 20% “tourist’s discount” and Topshop in LA hadn’t opened yet. It yields a strong gold tone that works great for a night out but I avoid using it on-camera: It’s a little too bold and risks looking greasy.
LORAC Perfectly Lit OIl-Free Luminizing Powder in Radiant
This one’s my go-to for adding a little glow when I’m getting camera-ready. At over $30 for a compact, it’s on the pricier side but a little goes a long way. Apply with a fine angled blush brush on the top part of the cheekbones for a radiant glow that isn’t greasy.
Revlon SkinLights Instant Skin Brightener in 03 Warm Light (DISCONTINUED)
Alas, a personal favorite that is no longer. I’ve yet to find a liquid luminizer that can be mixed in with my foundation for a dewy finish. If anyone has any suggestions, I’m open!
L’Oreal Bare Naturale All-Over Mineral Glow in #432 Nude Glow
Pros: It definitely illuminates and gives a strong glow on jawbones and cheekbones. Cons: the formula is on the sparkly side which makes it more suited for use on the arms, legs and decolletage instead of the face, and the brush it comes with picks up way more color than necessary. Passable if you’re looking for a drugstore highlighter.
Za Cosmetics Cheeks Groovy in June Bride
When I was in Asia, I discovered Za Cosmetics, a drugstore line akin to Cover Girl. Naturally, I loaded up on products, including this highlighter. In the compact, it looks white-ish and opaque but yields a very very subtle highlight. Good for use in the center of the brow bone for a subtle sheen and sparkle.
When I was in Asia a few months ago, I was laser-focused on nabbing Shiseido Tsubaki haircare products. They contain tsubaki or Japanese camellia oil that’s rich in oleic and amino acids. The imports have gained something of a cult following stateside but even modestly-sized bottles get marked up something fierce.
So imagine my delight when I found shelves of Tsubaki products ranging from shampoo to hair masks at every corner drugstore in Asia - and at normal prices to boot. It was like the beauty gods were smiling down on me and demanding, “GRAB AS MANY BOTTLES AS YOU CAN AND BRING THAT STUFF HOME!” Beauty gods speak in all caps when they issue mandates.
So like a crazy tourist, I stuffed one large bottle each of the Damage Care Shampoo, Damage Care Conditioner; one smaller bottle each of the Shine Shampoo and Conditioner; and one tub of the Damage Care Hair Mask into my suitcase and hauled it across the ocean back home.
Right now, I’m working my way through the Damage Care line. I like the shampoo just fine but I am LOVING the conditioner. One small pump’s worth worked through my hair in the shower and my hair is tangle-free the moment I step out. Usually, I run a leave-in conditioner or, lately, some coconut hair oil through it to soften and detangle, but I’ve found that when I use Damage Care, I’m ready to comb through right away. The hair mask, which I’m using weekly, is equally effective on my fine ombre’d ends. And by “fine” I mean “on the thin side” not, like, “fiiiine,” just so we’re clear. The one downside to Tsubaki products is that they contain sulfates (boo) which will definitely make me think twice about going for seconds. For now, though, I’m loving my firsts.