May and June: The Season of Gifting Galore!

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Is it just me, or do May and June feel like a gift-giving marathon? Birthdays, Mother's Day, anniversaries—you name it, my calendar is packed with celebrations. Naturally, I'm always on the hunt for the perfect present around this time of year. This year, I'm revisiting an old favorite: beauty boxes.

Once upon a time, I was obsessed with subscription boxes. They were like a treasure trove of beauty goodies at a bargain price, perfect for anyone with a love for makeup. However, as I've grown older (and maybe a tad wiser), the thrill of surprise has lost some of its shine. Now, I'm all about sustainability and thoughtful choices. I don't want to end up with a box of products that I'll never use, no matter how great the deal.

I still love a good bargain, but now I want to know exactly what I'm getting. Enter Notino. They totally get it. Their beauty boxes, which they refresh regularly, cater to every budget and taste. I'm a fan of their boxes full of luxury samples, filled with miniatures of high-end products. These are perfect for travel and let me try new things without splurging on full-sized items that might not work for me.

After a tough job transition recently, I decided to treat myself. I picked up a luxury beauty box featuring miniatures of Prada La Femme perfume, Lash Idole Mascara, and L'Absolu Rouge Intimatte lipstick from Lancôme. With some travel on the horizon and my commitment to low-budget, light packing (hello, handbag-only low budget travel), these miniatures are a dream.

The Prada perfume? Absolutely gorgeous and delightfully feminine. It's right in line with my usual scents like Burberry London and Lalique's Soleil. I've reviewed the mascara before, so check out my thoughts on that in an earlier post. The lipstick, while a bit out of my usual color range, is Lancome, and I'm excited to give it a whirl.

So, if you're like me and navigating a season of celebrations, consider a beauty box. It's a fun, thoughtful gift that’s sure to delight any beauty lover in your life (including yourself!).

Korean Skincare: The best moisturisers and SPFs

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As a self-proclaimed beauty enthusiast, it took me longer than expected to dive into the world of Korean skincare that everyone raves about. Maybe I was initially put off by the hype around certain products that everyone seemed to love but I ended up despising. Eventually, I got there, and I discovered some holy grail products that I'll repurchase until the day I die (or until they get discontinued, which is pretty much the same thing).

When I think about my favorite Korean skincare brands, three come to mind: Mizon, Beauty of Joseon, and iUnik. These brands have truly transformed my skincare routine.

Mizon: My Gateway to Korean Skincare Mizon was the brand that sucked me into the K-beauty world. Despite my general lack of enthusiasm for face masks, Mizon's Strawberry Sheet Mask is an exception. While I typically struggle to use face masks consistently, this one is different. Whenever I have it at home, I use it within 48 hours. It's super affordable and leaves my skin smooth, radiant, and refreshed.

Beauty of Joseon: A Routine Staple Beauty of Joseon is the brand I have the most experience with. I've had a full skincare routine composed of their products, but there are two standouts that I keep repurchasing: the iconic Dynasty Cream and the Rice Sunscreen.

  • Dynasty Cream: This cream is very similar, if not identical, to Kiehl's Ultra Facial Cream but at half the price. After testing them back-to-back, I couldn’t tell the difference. The Dynasty Cream is light, refreshing, and incredibly moisturizing. It’s perfect for those with dry, dehydrated skin who dislike heavy, oily products. Plus, it’s unscented, which is a huge bonus as I've started gravitating towards simpler, unscented skincare products.

  • Rice Sunscreen SPF50: This is hands down the best sunscreen I’ve tried so far. It’s light, absorbs quickly, and doesn’t leave a white cast. My skin doesn’t feel clogged or greasy, and it lacks that typical sunscreen smell. The only thing missing is a version that comes as a clear over-makeup spray!

iUnik: A Close Contender The iUnik Beta-Glucan Daily Moisture Cream is nearly as good as my beloved Dynasty Cream. It comes in a tube, has a thicker consistency, but still feels light on the skin. It’s not as refreshing, but it provides all the moisture and hydration my skin needs without feeling heavy or greasy. Plus, it’s unscented and very affordable. A win on all fronts if you ask me.

I’m still exploring the world of Korean beauty and would love to hear your recommendations! Please share your favorites in the comments. Let's discover the next must-have products together!

The only Lip liner I have ever repurchased

AD - This product was gifted to me for a review

Who would have thought that in 2024, my go-to product would be a lip liner? I've reached a point where I'd choose a lip liner over mascara any day. If you've known me for a while, you'd understand the significance of this statement.

I've experimented with various lip liners in the past – some excellent, others not so much. Interestingly, lip liners defy the notion that higher price equals better quality. I've discovered fantastic lip liners for as little as £2, while some priced at £20 were disappointingly terrible. It's one of those rare product categories where price isn't a reliable indicator of quality.

While I'm a huge fan of very affordable Catrice’s Plumping Lip Liner, my absolute favorite comes from MAC Cosmetics. It's the only lip liner I've repurchased in the same shade. A few months back, social media went crazy over the Lip Pencil in the shade Whirl. It felt validating because I'd been using this liner for about a year by that point.The hype surrounding it is justified. 

The liner offers a universally flattering deep nude shade that complements any skin tone and a wide range of lipstick shades. My preferred method of application is pairing it with a lip gloss. Filling in my lips with the pencil and topping it off with a clear or deep nude lip gloss creates the perfect combination for my lips. Surprisingly, my favorite lip gloss to pair it with is Juicy Bomb from Essence. It's a steal, in my opinion, and the shade Pretty Plum matches my skin tone perfectly. As for lipstick, I keep gravitating towards one of my favorites: Powematte from NARS in the shade Sweet Disposition.

The pencil is richly pigmented (yet not overly so that it leaves crumbs around my lips). It's blendable, but once it sets, it stays put for hours, even through drinks and meals. Of course, it may need a touch-up throughout the day, but thanks to its forgiving shade, you'll manage just fine even if you forget your lip liner at home.

Armani Si Intense - Review

AD - this product was gifted to me for a review

Alright, folks, gather 'round for a tale of scent-sational proportions! Picture this: there's one fragrance that holds a VIP pass to my heart – none other than Armani Si. It's the scent that escorted me through my graduation day, leaving an indelible mark on my memory. Every spritz is like a one-way ticket to nostalgia town, where the air is thick with excitement and achievement. And guess what? Armani Beauty just dropped a bombshell – the Intense version of this iconic scent is hitting the shelves, just in time for those special gifts for her!

Now, let's talk packaging. Armani Si Intense arrives in its signature sleek bottle, sporting those unmistakable 'S' and 'I' initials like a badge of honor. It's the kind of bottle that demands attention on your vanity – simple, yet sophisticated. I snagged the 30mL size, but there's plenty of room to upgrade to the 50mL or 100mL options. Oh, and did I mention? They're refillable! Talk about a gift that keeps on giving.

Now, onto the main event – the scent itself. I'll be honest, I had my doubts about an intense version. They have a tendency to go off the rails, like a remix that just doesn't hit the mark. But fear not, fragrance enthusiasts, because Armani nailed it! They managed to crank up the intensity without losing an ounce of the original magic. It's like they turned up the volume on your favorite song – same melody, just with a little extra oomph!

And let's talk staying power. The original Armani Si? It's a marathon runner, no doubt. But the Intense version? It's practically immortal! I'm talking scent that sticks around longer than your favorite earworm – I swear, I catch whiffs of it even after a steamy shower. Now that's what I call commitment.

But hey, fair warning for the younger crowd – this one's for the sophisticated noses out there. If you're just dipping your toes into the world of fragrance, start with the OG Armani Si. Consider it your training wheels before you graduate to the Intense version. Trust me, it's worth the wait.

In conclusion, Armani Si Intense has officially stolen the spotlight in my fragrance collection. It's everything I hoped for and more, like a reunion with an old friend who's had a makeover and come back even better. The whole Si collection is amazing but the original Si and Si Intense are my favourites. 

L'oreal Paris - Panorama Mascara (Review)

AD - The product mentioned was gifted to me for a review. 

In the world of lip oils, glosses and tints, I did not expect to see any new mascaras from L'oreal Paris on the market anytime soon but to my surprise one of the L'oreal's big launches this year is another mascara (possibly as a recovery from the infamous mascara-gate lol). The mascara carries a majestic name - Volume Million Lashes Panorama promising a volume of million lashes. It comes in two colours, black and brown and I picked both to test as I like to have both colours handy. 

The Panorama mascara has a silicone wand with short and quite sharp bristles. I usually like this type of applicator the best but the bristles are a bit too harsh so the application is not very comfortable. My eyes are not irritated during the application but I can feel the bristles being a bit scratchy if that makes sense (keep in mind I wear contacts so my eyes are quite sensitive). That goes for both mascaras. Once applied, this mascara becomes the most comfortable eye product ever but more on that later.  

Both colours are quite dry which means there is less mess when applying - less smudges but I think we can assume the mascaras will dry quicker. On the other hand, at least we are forced to stick to an expiry date (I am 'as long as it does not smell bad' kind of gal but I am very strict when it comes to mascaras as my eyes are fairly sensitive).

Overall effect is subtle. To get any decent volume, I need to apply several layers which is fine because I feel like the dry formula and layering helps to prevent clumping of the lashes (yay!). I think the mascara goes well with the current trend of less intense looking lashes. 

As I already said, neither of the mascaras smudges and it sits comfortably the whole day. I have not cried in it yet (perhaps because I do not wear makeup when working most of the days lol) but the mascara is very much sweat resistant and lasts a whole day without any issues.

As much as the effect is nothing out of the ordinary, this mascara is extremely comfortable to wear. Most drugstore and even high-end mascaras start annoying my eyes after a few hours but this is not the case here and I really appreciate it. This aspect is more important to me than the overall effect and I would always pick more subtle mascara that doesn’t irritate my eyes over a mascara that makes me look like I have thick falsies on but makes me cry dark pigmented tears. 

Overall, it's not bad mascara but it's nothing revolutionary especially compared to L'oreal Lash Paradise (here is a recommendation for you if you like to stay faithful to the same brand). If I ever get my hands on this mascara again, I will happily use it but my favourites still are the YSL’s Lash Clash and Maybelline’s Sky High or already mentioned Lash Paradise from L’oreal.

Juliette has a gun - Mmmm | Review

AD - This perfume was gifted to me for a review

If there were an award for the most enigmatic name in the realm of perfume brands, Juliette has a gun would undoubtedly secure a top position. Upon encountering the brand for the first time, I couldn't help but assume it was some obscure joke that I did not understand. However, as it turns out, Juliette has a gun is not only a legitimate brand but also holds a prestigious status in the realm of luxury perfumes.

As the time went, I've developed a deeper appreciation for niche perfumes. Their uniqueness and exclusivity appeal to me more than ever before. Don't get me wrong; I still love my Armani Si, but there's something captivating about fragrances that set themselves apart. Yet, I've found navigating the world of niche perfumes to be somewhat challenging. Often, they're either exorbitantly priced or overwhelmingly potent. Given my sensitivity to certain scents, I tend to tread cautiously. This is where Juliette has a gun excels. While its perfumes may be priced at a premium, they remain within the realm of accessibility. The fragrances, though distinctive, are remarkably wearable. It was amidst this allure that I gravitated towards their perfume named Mmmm.

Available in two sizes—50ml and 100ml—the bottle exudes sheer elegance. Its simplicity is elevated by a captivating colour, making it really enjoyable to photograph. Moreover, the bottle is fairly heavy which gives it a sense of luxury. 

Mmmm unfolds its olfactory journey with top notes of Neroli, leading to a heart comprised of Iris, Jasmin Sambac, Tuberose, Raspberry, and Orange Blossom. Finally, it settles into a base of Vanilla, White Musk, Patchouli, Heliotrope, Caramel, and Sandalwood. The resulting scent is a harmonious blend of fruity sweetness with a powdery undertone—a combination that typically doesn't resonate with me. However, in the case of Mmmm, it seamlessly coalesces into an enchanting aroma. The initial burst of juicy raspberry gradually gives way to a creamy vanilla essence, accented by a subtle hint of caramel.

Despite encountering reviews suggesting otherwise, I must disagree with the notion that this perfume lacks longevity. I've found that I can smell  the perfume on my skin even after a full day of wear, garnering compliments along the way. While it may not be the most overt scent, its presence is palpable enough for those in close proximity to notice—a victory in my book.

In conclusion, I am pleased with my selection of perfume for the impending spring season. I anticipate further explorations with the unconventional offerings of Juliette has a gun, or as some affectionately refer to it, JHAG.

I will not burn out!

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I was just 16 when I first heard the term "burnout." It came up in my high school social science class, and I distinctly remember wondering who would allow themselves to reach such a state just for work. Little did I know, more than ten years later, that someone would be me.

Given my history with eating disorders and anxiety, struggles that have persisted since my mid-teenage years, it's not surprising that I didn't set myself up for a healthy relationship with work. This should have been a warning sign that I needed to be careful about how I approached my day-to-day life. I'm not one for half measures—I consider myself a hard worker, and I always took pride in that. However, it turns out that this trait can be a recipe for disaster.

Me ready for my 'I will not burn out' daily walk. 

My therapist explains that our "primitive brain" deals with stress, prioritizing basic survival over everything else. If this continues for extended periods, we become drained, forgetting the essentials of life. I experienced this firsthand—I forgot to switch off, to acknowledge there are things beyond work, and most importantly, to take care of myself. Simple things like eating and staying hydrated slipped through the cracks. There were days when all I consumed were two cups of coffee, and I didn't even notice.

As someone not inclined towards New Year's resolutions, the period before Christmas became my breaking point. With some proper time off during the holidays, I realized something had to change; otherwise, I would break myself beyond repair. It became evident that the problem lay in my attitude and approach to work and life, rather than the environment itself.

So, how can I save my mind?

1) Reconnect with Hobbies: To rediscover who I am, or more precisely, to remind myself that I am not just my work, I need to return to some of my hobbies. Not being particularly adept at small talk, and having been engrossed in work for the past year, I haven't been the most engaging person to be around. Considering a return to dancing, despite my lack of proficiency, might provide a humbling experience. It could teach me that it's okay not to shine and simply engage in something for the pure joy it brings.

Lucky for you, no photo of me dancing. Instead here is a photo of me enjoying my second hobby - drinking Butter Beer at Victoria Street (aka Diagon Alley)

2) Prioritize Hydration: Drinking more water is essential. Realizing how dehydrated I am after experiencing what feels like altitude sickness from my European water intake (read as two cups of coffee) is a wake-up call. Since I've always struggled with fluid intake, I've taken a cue from basic girl habits—purchased a new Instagrammable water bottle from Sigg and placed a reminder sticker in my diary. Hoping for at least one liter, if not a full two liters, of water intake daily. 

3) Train My Mind to Let Go: This is trickier and will require more effort. I want my mind to respond to certain sensory stimuli by relaxing. Being highly responsive to scents, I've chosen the Peace of Mind collection from Origins for this task. Specifically, the On-the-spot Relief, a gel-like substance applied to wrists, temples, and the back of the neck, produces a cooling effect that helps relax the mind. It may be a placebo, but that's precisely what I need to train my mind. Additionally, the Nourishing hand cream from the same collection, with its divine scent, leaves my hands soft.

In summary, I have plenty to focus on this year, and I am cautiously optimistic about what lies ahead in 2024.