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:


A Few of My Favourite Things (cont'd)

About the new brush mentioned in my previous post, I'll do a tutorial on it.

I'm really liking shades of wine/berry/brown lately.
These are some of my usual suspects this autumn:
Bobbi Brown lipshine in Toffee
Royal Effem (a local brand)
M.A.C. 5N
NARS Masai, my favourite
L'oreal H.I.P. lipgloss in #724

I layered the L'oreal lipgloss over M.A.C. 5N and really liked it. I don't particularly like these products used on their own so I combined them!

Do you use warmer shades like these? Any recommendations?

Trang asked me to talk about more Shu Uemura Whitening Recovery EX products so here goes:

I have the whitening refresh lotion and the emulsion, both purchased in Japan. I haven't been using them long enough to say whether they really whiten my skin or not, but surely they have helped to even out my skin tone.

These two products contain Ougon extract, Mint Extract, Shiso Extract, Vitamin C derivatives, vitamin B3, etc so I'd say they're treatment products without aggressive chemicals.

On humid days (which is everyday in Milan), I use only the lotion in the morning before using the UV base. In the evenings, when I feel I need more moisture, I'd use the emulsion. Both of them feel very nice on the skin, not oily at all. Worth a try!


A Few of My Favourite Things

I care a lot about skincare so here are my favourite products of the moment:

Shu Uemura UV Under Base. I love its easy application and light texture.

Shu Uemura White Recovery Ex provides all the moisturising I need in humid weather.
Taer Icelandic Complete Cleanser smells medicinal, but I know it's good for me with absolutely no preservatives.
Sjal Serum intensely heals my skin while I sleep.
Unhappy with my angled brush, I finally got this brand new Sephora mineral brush #45 yesterday.

I don't use mineral makeup so I'm just using this for more precise contouring. The bristle is very smooth. The brush head is short and sturdy. Today I used it for the first time and am very happy with it. From now on, this brush will be for contouring and the angled brush for blush.

Coming up: tutorial on layering your bronzer and favourite blush for more nuance and depth.


Back to M.A.C., or Maybe Not

I rarely do long posts, but I gotta do this one for my friend.

This past week, she submitted a formal complaint to M.A.C. regarding its recycling programme.

She brought six empty packaging back to the M.A.C. counter at Nordstrom's in exchange for a lipstick. The M.A.C. salesperson asked her what colour she'd like. My friend named a few possible colours, but the rep said she had no stock of anything of those. My friend finally named a reddish brown, and the rep put it in the bag for her.

My friend got home, and discovered the lipstick was not the colour she picked. It was something pink, a colour she cannot wear and would never ask for. She felt deceived.

This is M.A.C. says about its recycling programme on its website:

"Recycling with Back to M.A.C.
By returning six M·A·C primary packaging containers to a M·A·C counter or M·A·C Cosmetics Online, you receive a free M·A·C Lipstick of your choice as our thanks to you."

Of my choice? Apparently not.

This is how M.A.C. responded to the complaint:

"Thank you for taking the time to contact us and for your interest in M.A.C.

Our "Back to M.A.C." program was established to promote recycling by offering an incentive for consumers to help preserve the environment. Since its inception in 1985, our program has offered a free lipstick to anyone who returns six (6) M.A.C. primary packages to a M.A.C. location. This program has been enthusiastically embraced by the majority of consumers.

Of course, over the years a few consumers have asked us to offer them a different free product. We hope you can understand that the popularity of the program, coupled with the inventory/sales logistics involved with our retail partners, precludes our extending the program to individual product choice.

We will continue to offer a free lipstick, and if this is not appropriate for the recipient, we hope it will be passed on to someone who can enjoy it.
We trust the above addresses your concern. We hope that we have the opportunity to serve you in the near future.

Again, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and concerns.

Kiola Toussaint-Brew

Response Representative
Global Consumer Communications"

My friend wrote back:

"Dear Ms. Toussaint-Brew,
I appreciate your effort, but your response did not address my complaint.

My complaint was that your sales person was conducting business in a deceptive way. If your company cannot afford to continue the program or think that the program is costing too much money, then terminate the program. I believe most people would rather be told that the program cannot continue than being cheated.

By pretending to let your customer choose a lip colour and then turn around and give the customer another one that she did not choose: this is dishonesty. The fact that you try to explain the act, that it is being condoned or even approved by your company shows that your company does not respect your customers; that your company thinks that keep half of a promise is OK. If your company cannot afford to continue the program or wants to change the conditions of program, then let your customers know.

I think it is irresponsible for your company to try to find a rationale for your salesperson's disceptive behavior. I think the public should know about this. I am going to blog this email exchange and let others decide whether cheating customers are OK."

Well, I'm sorry to say that M.A.C. has lost a very good customer. My friend has decided not to purchase anything from this brand anymore (and this is someone who normally buys a few things from them every month). It wasn't about this lipstick or that lipstick, but it doesn't feel good to be deceived.

What surprised me about all this was that M.A.C. could have at least say sorry. Instead, they actually supported the salesperson's action.

Now, I'm simply wondering if M.A.C. might be giving out expired products through the recycling programme, just to get rid of old stuff.

What is your experience with Back to M.A.C.?