Happy New Year (almost)!

2008 has been a crazy year! I learnt a lot both about myself and about the people around me. 2009 will be a huge challenge, but I'm hopeful. I don't have any real new year's resolution, except that I'd like to be speak up more about what I don't like. I think that's important.

I can't get over how cute Monokuro Boo are... I have a big stuffed animal of the black one and a small white one.So here are the two things I got yesterday: Avène spring water spray and Caudalie Nourishing Body Lotion.

Oh and my cup of organic ginger tea, great after dinner!

The Caudalie lotion is another paraben-free find! On top of that, it does not contain any paraffin either. Instead, it has grape seed oil, gingko biloba leaf extract, sesame seed oil and sunflower seed oil. I used it my shower today and it feels clean, not oily. It's just the right texture too!

I also got a 150-ml can of the Avène spring water, which is directly and sterilely bottled at the very source of the spring in France. This is the brand's signature product.
The mist is very, very fine, propelled by a nitrogen gas which is not harmful to the atmosphere.
I've been using this to fix my makeup and after removing makeup. Wow, my face is loving this stuff! I'm seeing a new radiance (not oil), and my makeup looks more beautiful. At night, my skin tends to look dull, but a spritz just before my moisturiser keeps my skin in good shape.


Green Mile (cont'd)

I've been a bit lazy with blogging so photos are coming up later.

Today, I got Caudalie Nourishing Body Lotion so fingers crossed that this will be a good one!

Also, I got a sample of La Roche-Posay Fluide Mat foundation, which is probably the friendliest foundation as far as liquid ones go. 20 euro for a handy 30-ml tube.

I am thinking, "Foundation is the most important thing because I use a good amount and almost every day. So, if I want to use liquid ones, they have to be at least not harmful for my skin. Otherwise, I might as well go mineral."

Besides Jane Iredale, choices are scarce in Italy; that is if you exclude L'oréal and The Body Shop - and I'm not interested in those.

How many of you guys use mineral makeup? Do you think it can be for me?


Green Mile

I hope you all had a great Christmas! What did everyone get? Good stuff?

My Christmas was pretty relaxing. Except an afternoon with relatives, I've been either just at the park or at home. During this two-week holiday, I am determined to make a dent in The Wings of the Dove, and enjoy the gym.

My search for the paraben-free, 100% natural mask finally led me to Jeanne Piaubert (Paris)'s Green Paradise Gentle Facial Mask. The 50ml handy tube contains a white cream that spreads easily onto the skin, and slowly becomes absorbed over the course of 10 minutes. Just rinse or wipe off afterwards.

Now, the truth is my skin type doesn't need masks. But I thought I would enjoy a true chemical-free moment with this product. With a wealth of essential oils, my skin feels baby-soft after the treatment. I recommend this to someone who has normal to combination skin.

I tried a few samples from Jeanne Piaubert's other lines, but they are not worth the trouble.


Happy Holidays!

I've had a bit of a difficult week, but I don't want to think about it anymore...
Let me first wish every one of you and your loved ones a great Christmas, and a better 2009 ahead!

The sun finally shone down on Milan after months of darkness and rain.
Time for some photos!

Here I used Too Face Lash Injection mascara, and the M.A.C. cream colour blush in Crushed Bougainvillea - both were what my mom sent a while back.
The mascara is absolutely wonderful. My lashes are hard to get into, so I don't use the applicator inside the tube which is really big. Instead I'm using a tiny little mascara brush to pick up the product. It's really working out great! The mascara is easy to wash off too.

The M.A.C. cream colour base is beautiful. It's an intense blue-toned fuschia, which is just my thing. I dabbed it onto my lips and that's it, very easy to apply. The only drawback is that it's not very moisturising.

Here, I highlighted the corner of my eyes, the center of my eyelids, and even my cupid's bow simply with a dab of M.A.C. eyeshadow in Nylon. This beige gold colour is so versatile and beautiful.
On my cheeks, I applied an iridescent purplish fuschia with a small domed mineral brush by Sephora for precision.
What do you think? I can see a real difference. I love a matte look, but this highlighting can add some radiance.

I've been watching Smashbox's tutorials on youtube. They're so helpful! Just search under "giovannismash" as the channel name. There are all sorts of looks: beachy, bronze, everyday, soft smoky, rock n' roll, etc.

I'm still waiting for my box of Jane Iredale cosmetics to arrive so I'm afraid it won't get here till after Christmas :-(


Back from Mars (cont'd)

"Hi, I'm Rick Steves. Join me on a trip to Lucerne in the Backdoor to Europe." You will have to imagine the programme's theme music here.

Chapel Bridge, built in the 14th century, is the oldest covered bridge in Europe. Here is the Water Tower too.
The bridge, theatre and Jesuit church here
Hof Church on the left and a view of the Reuss River

Oh, hello!
Walking up a powdered hill outside Lucerne. The cable line at the back goes up Pilatus Hill.My host in Lucerne, a great globetrotter herself. She almost cried when we said bye at the train station.


Back from Mars

Hi everybody, I just got back from Switzerland last night. How's everyone doing?

Lucerne was cold, about -5 °C (or under 30°F). It snowed pretty much on and off during my whole trip, though the second day was nice and dry enough to walk up the hills surrounding Lucerne. Beautiful scenery, powdery snow crunching under my feet. I'll be posting photos as soon as they're touched up!

I'm also starting to try out the makeup that mom sent me so reviews/looks are on their way. The Rimmel automatic lip pencil is really nice so far.

Today, I tested some Jane Iredale, the world's very first brand of mineral makeup. The liquid foundation and blush are both beautiful so I'm having those sent to me, hopefully within next week. See you soon!


Thanks Mom

This is not a haul; my mom sent me a package! Among the goodies are:
  • Yogi organic ginger tea (can't live without this)
  • Henry James' The Wing of the Dove (can't live without me books either)
  • M.A.C. Crushed Bougainvillea cream colour base (this was before her boycott)
  • Too Faced Lash Injection (haven't tried this yet)
  • Rimmel "1000 Kisses" lipliner in Tiramisu, and "Exaggerate" in Eastend Snob (beautiful, neutral colours)

So, how about that list of safe cosmetics that I compiled for you?

Here are some highlights. The following items all have less than 5 on the toxicity index:

Facial Cleanser
The Body Shop, Aveda, Kinérase, Eucerin, Korres

Tarte "Smooth Operator", Cargo "One Base", Lorac "Breakthrough", and surprisingly M.A.C. Studio Fix Powder Foundation

Guerlain, NARS, Tarte, Lorac, Too Faced

Korres, Make Up For Ever (the lenghtening mascara in particular), Lancome

M.A.C., Boots No. 7 sheer, Smashbox Photo Finish

Noteworthy drugstore brand
Almay Pure Blends

Noteworthy high-end brand and overall winner
Jane Iredale

Have a great week!


Cheeky (cont'd)

Is everyone having a good weekend?

I spent a rather lazy Saturday morning at home, and enjoyed a Mendelssohn piano concerto at the theater in the afternoon :-)
The colours I used on my cheeks in the previous tutorial were Madina Milano eye shadows. Nic Nic told me she saw Madina in Japan so if you see Madina, please do let me know!
I love their pans because they are handy and the colour selection is endless. Their eyeshadows are pretty chalky, easy to control and blend. The colour doesn't crease so you can even apply them without a base.
Last weekend, my colleague was in London so I asked him to stop by Selfridges to pick up some Taer Icelandic for me. This is the organic cleanser I've been using:

Turned out Selfridges didn't stock that brand anymore. I was so upset!

The cleanser is available in Milan, fortunately. It just costs five euro more over here.

I feel tired, depressed and muddled these days. This will sound terrible, but I feel so sick of everyone around me. Every day I give 200% of myself, and people still want more. Enough! Basta! I'm getting away for a few days next week.



I'm back with another so-called tutorial, this time using two blushes, one lighter and one darker.

I've already applied base, loose powder, bronzer, eyeliner, everything except lip and cheek colour.
I started with an iridescent pink for the cheeks.

After having applied it across the cheeks (see photo above), I proceed to an iridescent purple. I applied it sparingly with an angled brush right under the pink and blended.

You don't need to have mad skills, as long as the colours you use are sheer enough to be foolproof.

So there you have it. You can see the contouring more on the right side, where the purple creates depth while the pink provides a bit of glow.
You can still play up the lip colour, but it might be better to leave the eyes natural.


Once More

In mid-November, Versace held a fashion show and charity gala in Beijing to benefit Jet Li's One Foundation. They are in a one-year-long partnership. Here are some highlights from the s/s09 collection:

The hair, the legs, the gold...very Donatella.

Over 900 of China and Asia’s top celebrities, socialites, officials, business and style leaders attended.


La what?

I hope those of you in the U.S. had a great Thanksgiving holiday. It's very cold in Milan! Snow, rain, sun - we've had a bit of everything this past weekend!

There are quite a few pharmacy brands in Europe that are worth looking into, if you are interested in slightly lower prices and consumer-safe products. Most of these brands use the least number of ingredents, which means the products will be more tolerable to the skin.

La Roche-Posay is perhaps best known for its Anthélios sunscreen, one of the best out there. In Europe, the brand's makeup collection is also available.

  • La Roche-Posay has a few types of fluid foundation. I have the Unifiance Optic Smoothing one. The texture is emollient, application foolproof, and the colour stays put all day. However, since it has a matte finish, it's too dry for me during winter.

  • The Respectissime collection for the eyes is good. I have this eyeshadow in matte chocolate brown. Pearl white, pastel blue and a couple of other fun colours are available. The formula for all eye makeup is non-irritating, non-flaking. The same goes for their mascara: lightweight, very comfortable.

  • I hardly ever finish a product completely, but I've almost used up this Nutritic chapstick. With coriander fruit oil, apricot kernel oil, biolipids and no petroleum, this is an excellent base for lipsticks.
However, I've tried La Roche-Posay skincare products and don't particularly recommend them. I used up a tube of Mela-D with SPF, which is supposed to even out my skin tone. The product worked fine as a makeup base, but I didn't notice anything different with my skin after 6, 7 months of continuous use!


Toxic (cont'd)

Happy Thanksgiving!

I've compiled a list of the less toxic cosmetics brands/products for you, which I'll put up this weekend.
Also coming up is a tutorial on contouring your cheeks with two blushes.

Today, I let myself out of work a little earlier (6pm) than usual (8pm), and got up the courage to check out all the major drugstore cosmetics brands: L'Oréal, Maybelline, Rimmel, Max Factor, etc.

I gotta say the experience was overwhelming, because I couldn't tell the difference from one brand to anther. Not only was there no salesperson assisting you with your choice, all the ingredients labels were well hidden, in a point-2 font. Needless to say most products were full of lanolin, parabens, dimethicone and other good stuff. It's scary how widely distributed these major brands are.

The search for ethical and safe makeup continues...



The Eucerin eye makeup remover solution isn't working out so well so I guess it doesn't even deserve a photo posted here!

Except for removing eyeshadows, it can't seem to take off eye pencils, liners, or anything that's a bit more difficult to, well, remove. So now I even doubt if the brand's facial cleansers even work at all?

I'd like to bring your attention to this site called Cosmetics Safety Database. Here, cosmetic products are tested for their level of toxicity and flagged from 0 (innocuous) to 10 (high hazard). All you have to do is type in a brand name and let it do a search.

I'm sorry to say that a lot of the beautiful, high-end brands have pretty high toxicity in some of their products. To my surprise, some drugstore brands aren't so bad!

In general, it seems like highly pigmented blushes, lipsticks, bronzers and compact powders have the highest toxicity, while sheer lip glosses or lipsticks are quite innocuous.

Also, the European Union has stricter regulations on cosmetic products than the USA. So a number of American brands actually are not distributed here, simply because they use ingredients that are not allowed by the E.U.

And no, the FDA does not do jack to regular cosmetics made in the USA. Beware, ladies!


Mauve Away

Apparently after my 100th post, I disappeared for a few days :-) This morning instead of heading straight to the gym, I snuck into the department store.

I browsed quite a few brands' holiday collections: Lancome, Givenchy, YSL, etc. I think Guerlain's theme is most outstanding.

I also checked out NOUBA's palette sets. I don't know why a youtube guru says NOUBA is like a NARS sister brand. There's nothing comparable between the two.

But being a nerd, I just had to look at something even less mainstream.

Royal Effem is a wonderful laboratory makeup/skincare maker that collaborates with the University of Pavia, a school well-known for numerous studies on Italian cosmetic products.
I picked up the long-lasting lipgloss in #02, a warm mauve. The flash made it look light here, but you can see the ever-so-slight pearlised finish.
The tube is small (compared with my palm-sized hair clip), but that's what I want, because I can never seem to finish a whole tube.

So it's between brown and purple. This is close to the autumn look that I've been looking for.

This brand does not use any lanolin, paraffin or petrolium-derived ingredients, and a minimum use of paraben. The only drawback is the collection offers mostly "practical" colours so you won't find anything crazy here.


This is my 100th post!

Time flies when you're having fun. It's good to share and read about so much beauty news on Blogger.

Unfortunately this post has no photos because I'm dead tired after a pretty intense day at work. But that's every day for me, it seems.

I am happy with the Make Up For Ever Aqua Eyes pencil, with the exception that it's a bit difficult to wipe off.

Tonight, I purchased Eucerin's high-tolerance eye makeup remover for sensitive eyes with balanced pH. Hopefully it will work well.

I would like to ask those of you who have tried Bobbi Brown's gel eyeliner: is it really better than M.A.C.'s fluidline?


A Breath of Fresh Air

Any time's a good time to be thinking about bags and shoes. It's fun when all the new collection news come in.

Giorgio Armani offers the easy-going Montenapoleone sandals.

With a matching bag, this has got to be an easy favourite.

Eccentrically called "Blotchy" shoe.
With a luxurious matching bag, also part of the Blotchy concept.
The younger Emporio Armani line is always fun, offering a "Net" concept with a comfy pair of low heels.
Light as a feather with patent leather handles, the Net bag.


Sunny Sunday (edited)

I hope everyone had a good weekend. The sun shone for the first time in two weeks. Pasty me enjoyed the warmth, and went to the theatre yesterday for a violin concerto at Teatro Dal Verme.

The programme was Paganini and Haydn. Music is the only thing that can truly help me relax or cheer me up.

On a different note (ha.ha.), today I tried Taer Icelandic's Restore & Replenish moisturiser for the first time. It's supposed to be for face and neck, but I used it on my body. The medicinal smell was overpowering, but it disappeared after a couple of hours, leaving my skin baby-soft. No parabens, no lanolin, no petrochemicals. It's very spreadable so a little goes a long way. My skin feels pampered and perfectly fresh. Wonderful stuff!

I haven't been getting a lot of new makeup, just trying to use up what I have so far. I did get Make Up For Ever's Aqua Eyes in a silverish white colour though. Here's how I used it.

I only lined the very outer corner of my waterline in black. The rest of the lower eyelid is all white. I lined the upper lids so the eyes look rounder and winged a bit towards the ends.

I tried a warmer complexion for a change. No mascara or false lashes used (too lazy on a Sunday afternoon).

Here are my best friends who achieved the look:

  • Shu Uemura UV base
  • Shu Uemura loose bronzer powder (not pictured)
  • La Prairie undereye treatment
  • La Mer loose powder
  • M.A.C. kohl pencil (tightline), eyeshadows (to fill in the brows), fluidline in Blitz & Glitz (upper lids), and highlight powder in Emphasize (all over lids).
  • Make Up For Ever Aqua Eye pencil in 14L
  • Madina eye pencil in a matte white
  • Clarins lipgloss 03
  • NARS Angelika blush


Long Way Home

Donatella Versace went to San Jiang, Sichuan Province in China to visit the Versace One Foundation Children’s Centre, accompanied by Jet Li, acclaimed actor and founder of the One Foundation. The Versace company is in a year-long partnership with the One Foundation and has financed the opening of a centre dedicated to providing psychological post-trauma therapy and counseling for children.

Look at that big smile on Jet Li's face! In an interview he said the One Foundation is the greatest challenge and hardest work he has had in his life.


Let's Face It (cont'd)

I got off work early today and went straight to the hairdresser's. My last cut was mid-August back in the U.S. by a Tokyo stylist. He's amazing, and is very knowledgeable about haircare. Any of you in Seattle can write me so I can give you the contact.

My hairdresser here is good too. He's fast and precise. I hate spending more than 1 hour at the salon. He convinced me to do a wavy blowout and I gave in :-)

The look is really a bit mod, isn't it?


Let's Face It

I wanted to thank everyone for their messages. I think I do need to remind myself to look at the bright side of things sometimes: I just went to the spa last week and now I'm already complaining about life! I guess I'm just a bit homesick.

So, without further ado, here is my bronzer/blush tutorial. I just woke up when these photos were taken so bear with me!

I already have La Prairie cellular treatment liquid foundation in #100 on:

Get a round brush and Make Up For Ever HD loose powder.

Tap a little onto the brush and gently tap off excess. This step is messy, but oh well.

Brush all over face. Get more powder if necessary. I even powder my eyelids if I have eyeshadow on (I don't here). It's what I use instead of eyeshadow primer.Now that I have a smooth canvas to work with, I use that Sephora "mineral" brush and apply my favourite bronzer starting from the hollow of your cheeks.

And U-shape it down to the jawline in one single stroke. Repeat a couple of times if your bronzer is sheer. Remember to check before re-applying.

At this point, I switch to my angled brush and apply blush on the apple of my cheeks.

It's subtle, but you can already see a bit of contour and colour.
The face is pretty much done here, and I can proceed to eyes and lips makeup.
I realised perhaps I applied the bronzer and the blush too lightly, but you get the idea.
If you want the blush to really pop, simply apply the bronzer on the apple of your cheeks and u-shape it down to the jawline.
The Sephora mineral blush tends to pick up a lot of product since it's short and sturdy so be careful. Its application is very, very precise.

You can also simply use this mineral brush to apply the blush.
I hope this was helpful!



Hi everyone, I've had a busy and tiring weekend. Hopefully yours was more restful than mine.

Usually I post Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays so you can bet on reading something new here, but I'm usually out for the rest of the week.

This coming week, I have some tutorial photos coming up. They're being touched up right now :-)

It's getting colder, and the holiday season is just around the corner. I miss home, and am more irritable than usual. No matter how glamorous people think Milan is, it's a very lonely place for a Chinese girl to live:-) You can pretty much forget about having anything common with anyone here.

I say this both humorously and realistically. I'm beyond worrying about whether I "fit in" or not (because I'm not supposed to), but I miss the comfort, the cultural diversity, the open-mindedness, and customer service (!) in the U.S.


Sunshine, If Only

A special thanks to those of you who left me comments for the first time! I love hearing from you all.

In this damp, grey, stormy weather, I can kiss my sunglasses goodbye. But here is a preview of some of my favourites from the Emporio Armani spring/summer 09 sunglasses collection:

And below are a couple from the Giorgio Armani label: