My Summer Beauty Essentials

Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess bronzer palette, Revlon PhotoReady Skinlights, Cover Girl LashBlast Volume mascara, SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50, Lise Watier Portfolio Professional Correctors, Givenchy Mister Eyebrow Fixing Pencil

I like looking groomed and put together without being overdone, and summer is no exception. If anything, my beauty routine becomes even simpler during the warmer months. My entire daily routine has dwindled to six essential products. (Longtime readers will recognize some of these items from previous posts!)

1. SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50 ($34 at Project Skin MD; previously featured here). This tinted, non-greasy fluid evens skin tone, goes on light, and provides broad spectrum protection with its blend of mineral sunscreens. I use it in lieu of BB cream or foundation.

2. Lise Watier Portfolio Professional Correctors ($31 at London Drugs). With such a sheer base on my face, it's important to conceal and correct any flaws. I've been turning to Lise Watier's round palette of concealers for every imperfection, from undereye circles and broken capillaries to darkness and the occasional blemish. It's amazing what a dab of green can do to camouflage a pimple!

3. Estée Lauder Bronze Goddess Powder Bronzer ($40; previously featured here). After evening out my skin, I sweep a bit of bronzer along the sides of my face and under my jawline for subtle definition. This one adds depth with next to no shimmer.

4. Revlon PhotoReady Skinlights Face Illuminator ($16.99 at London Drugs). Like bronzer, highlighter is a new-to-me product category I've only just started exploring this summer. Revlon's is pretty and not too shimmery, and blends easily into cheekbones, the bridge of the nose, and under brows.

5. Givenchy Mister Eyebrow Fixing Pencil ($26 at Sephora; previously featured here). Groomed brows go a long way in an otherwise minimalist makeup look. I brush mine into place and draw on top of them with this clear pencil using short, feathery strokes.

6. Cover Girl LashBlast Volume Mascara ($9.99 at London Drugs). I've tried my share of mascaras at all price points, with any number of formulations and special applicators. Cover Girl LashBlast is still one of the best in my opinion: a clump-free, smudge-free volumizing formula that stays put all day but comes off with cleanser and warm water. It's the one I inevitably turn to when I sample a mascara that disappoints, and it's one of the few I trust to do its job under the summer sun.


Anna Sui F/W 2013 Preview

Anna Sui cosmetics first came to my attention when I was in high school and flipping through the pages of Seventeen. I distinctly remember a full-page spread about the new beauty line with quotes from Anna explaining how her love of colour and texture, her favourite flower (the tea rose), and her favourite colour (purple) informed every single detail of the collection.

Fast forward 15 years, and Anna Sui's then fledgling beauty line is going as strong as ever. The line now includes lip, eye, and nail cosmetics as well as a full range of face products, refillable compacts, and vanity accessories. Anna Sui products are just as likely to win kudos for their adorable packaging as they are for their superior pigments and innovative formulations. I had a chance to get reacquainted with Anna Sui beauty last week, which is relaunching this fall in Shoppers Drug Mart, Murale, and Hudson's Bay stores nationwide. Here's a little glimpse of what you can expect.

Nailed it: Love the bodice bottles on the nail polishes! The ruffle-skirted gowns indicate shades from the Nail Art Colour N range, which has a unique brush for precise nail artwork. Pleated gown bottles are reserved for the Nail Colour N collection which has standard brushes. Not shown: the ballerina pink Base Coat, which corrects nail discolouration so that nail polishes go on evenly and opaquely with just one coat, and the high-performance Top Coat, which dries to a gel-like shine within minutes.

Anna Sui-ify your vanity: Gothic meets girly in Anna Sui's beauty products. Expect to find plenty of black, purple, bows, butterflies, and rose-adorned and rose-scented everything. The Loose Powder (also available in a refillable portable compact) and Rose Cheek Colour have pearly light-diffusing particles that give skin an airbrushed look, just like the other Anna Sui foundations, powders, and face products.

Perfect brows: The Eyebrow Colour Compact wraps up everything you need to achieve groomed, bold brows in a neat little bow: a palette of blendable shades to achieve the best match for your hair colour, a double-ended fluffy and angled brush, and a teeny mirror. Not shown: the universally flattering Eyebrow Liner, which draws short, feathery strokes to fill in sparse spots.

Bohemian rhapsody: Anna Sui's La Vie de Bohème fragrance launches this August exclusively at Hudson's Bay counters. Isn't that bottle something? The fragrance—an enticing blend of floral, fruity, and woody notes—is pretty and invigorating without being overpowering.

Put a ring on it: To celebrate the line's 15th anniversary, Anna Sui is introducing the limited edition Rose Ring Rouge. It's a lip colour you can wear in more ways than one. Available August.

Are you an Anna Sui fan?


Latest Outfit(s): Guest Post for Wear Else

These are just little glimpses of the looks I put together for Wear Else. You may remember that the last time I played dress-up with Wear Else, it was in the middle of fall and I was styling outerwear. This time around, I'm having fun with dresses and proving that, yes, there is a dress for every occasion, and yes, dresses are really the easiest sartorial solution for those hot summer days!

So click, click, click away to the Wear Else blog and discover the story behind these three outfits, as well as actual full-length photos. Enjoy!


Product Review: John Frieda Frizz Ease

I have John Frieda's Frizz Ease line to thank for the amazing hair day I enjoyed the day this photo was taken. Frizz and flyaways have always been my biggest hair concerns, so most days I reconcile myself to looking artfully disheveled at best and like a crazy cat lady at worst. But look! The glossy, touchably soft texture transcends the computer screen, and that lock hanging across my face is practically begging to be touched and twirled around an index finger when bored. Ironic considering I'd never tried the cult-status Frizz Ease line until some of their products landed on my beauty desk recently.

For all its effectiveness, my Frizz Ease routine is surprisingly quick and low-maintenance. I start by lathering up with Smooth Start Hydrating Shampoo in the shower, which moisturizes strands with its frizz-mending complex and natural olive oil. After I get out of the shower, I spritz my hair liberally with Daily Nourishment Leave-in Conditioning Spray, a lightweight but nourishing conditioner infused with vitamins A, E, and C, protein, and moisture.

That's followed by generous spritzes of Heat Defect Protective Styling Spray. (The sprays are so light a few measly spritzes don't do much, so I err on the side of excess.) I then blow-dry my bangs and roots and the front pieces of my hair and leave the rest to air-dry. If I'm feeling fancy, I'll put out the straight-iron for a sleeker look. These three products score major points in my books for delivering effective frizz control with very little residue. Another plus: Spraying my conditioner into my locks takes a lot less time than conditioning and rinsing in the shower, which shaves precious minutes off my morning routine. Thanks, John Frieda!

Are you fighting frizz right now? Instead of fussing with heat styling and your hair's natural texture, try these 'dos:


MAC Summer 2013

Last week, I had the pleasure of sitting down with MAC Cosmetics and getting a run-through of Autumn/Winter 2013's makeup trends and newest products. A lot of what we looked at is still under embargo (sigh). In the meantime though, MAC mavens can check out these products which are in stores now.

MAC is known for their highly covetable and collectible limited-edition packaging, of which this cosmetic pouch by fashion illustrator Anja Kroencke ($43) is a prime example. Love the black-and-white line drawing and the intricacy of the wild, frizzy hair.

Consider Sheen Supreme Lipglass Tint ($23) an ideal transitional lip colour, situated between summer's sheer glosses and fall's deeper matte formulas. Each clickable pen dispenses glossy, pigmented, semi-sheer colour from a brush tip for easy application. The formula is moisturizing with just the right hint of hue for this time of the year.

The colours adjust to one's PH balance for a custom shade. On me, 'Simply Wow'—the cool mauve shown here—becomes plum with pink undertones.

More MAC coming your way in September. Hope this tides you over for now!


Latest Outfit: Chambray Shirtdress

Banana Republic chambray dress | J. Crew belt | Kelsi Dagger sandals | Benji Frank shades (c/o) | Roots 'Cutie' bag (c/o)

Sorry I've been MIA this week! Between a major freelance deadline on Monday and two huge deadlines for work next Tuesday, I've been mired in work—so much so that in the evenings I come home exhausted and in need of a "brain break," which basically amounts to sipping kiddie-sized Orange Crush Slurpees while watching reruns of The Office. I've been pretty quiet on the blog, social media, and email for that reason.


Up Your Serum Game

Quick, a show of hands: How many of you use a serum in your daily skincare routine? And how many of you have separate skin serums for day and night?

If your hand didn't go up in response to either question, you might want to sit up and take notice. Serums are touted as skincare wunderkinds because they contain more potent, concentrated ingredients than creams or lotions. And although they've only really gained momentum as a product category in the last couple of years, those who are fanatical about their anti-aging regimens swear by them.

Whether you're new to the serum game or you're looking for an alternative formula, keep your eyes peeled for these two newly launched serums—one for daytime use, one for nighttime— the next time you're shopping.

Philosophy's time in a bottle ($74 at Sephora) combats signs of aging under the surface with its DNA renewal complex (the big bottle) and potent vitamin C8 activator (the small bottle). Before you use it for the first time, you're supposed to pour the vitamin C8 vial's contents into the large bottle using the enclosed miniature funnel and shake it. Once the big bottle's visual indicator shows that the contents have changed from white to salmon pink and therefore become active, the serum is ready. (Packaging the two components separately ensures that the serum remains potent and the active vitamin C doesn't degrade on shelves.)

It took me a few days to get into the habit of adding time in a bottle to my morning routine. But once I did, I was hooked. The serum absorbs quickly and has a sublimely silky texture, which means it's ideal for layering moisturizer, sunscreen, and makeup on top. 2.5 pumps is enough for the face and neck. Although it's supposed to be good for day and evening, I prefer putting it on in the mornings so that the vitamin C can do its anti-oxidant thing and fight free radical damage.

Estée Lauder reformulated their Advanced Night Repair Synchronized Recovery Complex merely four years ago, but they're already launching a another new formulation this summer based on a breakthrough discovery about how cells renew themselves. Advanced Night Repair Synchronized Recovery Complex II ($72 for 30 ml, $105 for 50 ml) has more than 25 patents and patents pending lasting until 2021. The science may be complex, but the basic principle behind ANR SRC II is simple: The formula synchronizes with skin cells' metabolic, purifying, and repair processes at night to better promote skin cell renewal. Other pluses: an insanely high level of hyaluronic acid to plump and moisturize skin; a quick-absorbing, silky texture; and an apothecary-like dropper bottle which makes it easy to dispense a precise amount of product.

Both serums are supposed to address under-the-skin, cellular-level aging. I can't speak to how effective they are at addressing those concerns because I don't have many outward signs of skin damage at this point in life (thank you, Asian genes and a lifestyle that keeps me indoors and out of the sun). But in the past couple of weeks of regular use of both serums, I have noticed subtle improvements in my skin's tone and texture. I wake up looking much more refreshed, and I spend more days being tempted to go without makeup. So does that mean the serums work? Only time will tell.


Latest Outfit: Blush Tones

Aritzia Babaton 'Benedict' dress | Benji Frank shades (c/o) | Roots bag (c/o) | Kelsi Dagger sandals

Based on these photos and my last outfit post, my summer style seems to have devolved to the bare basics: a dress, some sandals, shades, and a carefree little tote I can't get enough of. A sleeveless silk shift is exactly the sort of staple I love wearing on the hottest of days, so of course I had to get this blush one and the emerald version when I was browsing Aritzia's sale.


Product Review: Givenchy Mister Eyebrow-Fixing Pencil

Givenchy's Mister Eyebrow-Fixing Pencil ($26 at Sephora) seems tailor-made for brow hang-ups. You see, I've always avoided coloured brow pencils and powders even though I love the look of bold brows. Finding a dark brown shade that looks natural with black brow hairs is surprisingly difficult. Plus, I'm pretty clumsy with application.

The wax-like core of this chubby pencil is actually a luxe blend of shea, aloe, and high-tech polymers that hold stray hairs in place all day. In the morning, I brush my brows upward and in place, then run the pencil over it them light strokes. The pencil imparts a light, clear sheen and defines brows by highlighting their natural colour. The best part: no worries about perfect colour-matching, and application is goof-proof and quick.

The only downside of Mister Eyebrow-Fixing Pencil is that there isn't much product for the price tag (the pencil is less than 4" long), but I'm planning to enjoy mine while it lasts.


Summer Snoozing

With the warm temperatures and occasional humid evenings we've been enjoying lately, it's no wonder pajama shorts are one of my best loved new purchases. They're perfect for snoozing comfortably and lounging around, and are a vast improvement over long cotton pajama trousers. Quite frankly, I don't know how I lasted through so many summers without them!

I like my sleepwear more sweet than sexy, with feminine details and vintage-inspired patterns. Here are four picks if you're searching for new summer PJs of your own.

1. J. Crew vintage cotton pajama set ($85)

2. Lord & Taylor cotton polka dot pajama shorts ($19.99)

3. La Vie En Rose unbrushed woven boxers ($12.99)

4. Eberjey maritime striped romper ($97.21)


5 Summer Sale Items to Buy and Wear Now

I'm one of those people who eyes spring/summer merchandise as soon as it trickles into stores. Even if I'm still clad in cardigans and wellies and being drenched by April showers, I'll dream of sundresses and sandals and start buying them, like some crazed squirrel storing sartorial acorns for the few months when Vancouver enjoys truly hot, summery weather.

But in the past few weeks, as I've eyed midsummer sales online and in stores, I had an epiphany: Most people don't buy hot-weather clothing until it's actually hot, which explains why July sales are so good. Lots of sizes and styles are still available, marked down with even deeper discounts if you have a coupon code.

My tips for shopping summer sales: Get something you'll want to wear right now, and take advantage of the reduced prices and superior selection to get something you wouldn't normally go for. Opt for an emerald green silk dress instead of a beige one, floral-print sandals instead of solid-coloured ones, and a super-trendy (and surprisingly versatile) neon accessory. Here are my picks of the sale season.

1. Aritzia Babaton 'Benedict' dress ($155 $140)

2. Tory Burch neon snake cross body bag ($295 $236)

3. Saint James for J. Crew shrunken tee ($94 $70.99)

4. J. Crew cluster sequin tee ($116 $81.99)

5. J. Crew 'Marina' mini-wedge espadrilles ($138 $114)


Latest Outfit: Easy Summer Stripes

I wish I were one of those people who breeze through hot weather without breaking a sweat (literally), but truthfully I'm beyond graceless when it comes to soaring temperatures. I sweat, my limbs and extremities swell, and even the most basic clothes and accessories feel restrictive and binding somehow. In hot weather, I can't deal with anything that adds weight and/or layers to the body. Bags can't have crossbody straps, shoes need to be open-toed, clothes have to be loose and forgiving, and accessories should be as light as possible.


Product Review: MAKE UP FOR EVER Aqua Rouge

"Sychronized swimmer-approved" is the claim to fame behind Make Up For Ever's much lauded Aqua line of waterproof beauty products. After all, if MUFE's eyeshadows, liners, and lipsticks don't budge during splashy Olympic routines, they'll likely stand up to a sweaty summer day spent window-shopping downtown. MAKE UP FOR EVER's Aqua Rouge lipstick ($29 at Sephora) definitely lives up to this reputation. One side of the tube features budge-proof, opaque liquid colour, which needs to set and dry before the clear gloss from the other side can be applied.

I'm pretty infatuated with this lipstick. Not only does it last for hours, the sponge-tip applicator makes precise application sans liner or lip brush a breeze. Plus, the gloss moisturizes lips throughout the day. I've always been a fan of glossy lips with saturated colour, but never been able to achieve it without making a mess and smearing my lipstick. Not so with Aqua Rouge. In fact, the colour stays on so well when set properly, it doesn't kiss off on wineglasses, napkins, or the boy.

My pick of the five new shades available this summer? Definitely #16 Fuchsia, which goes on kind of neon. I've already worn it here and here and in my new favourite Instagram selfie.

P.S. Only one week left to win a John Frieda basket of blonde haircare products worth $150! Enter my giveaway now.


Vancouver Home + Design Show Presents Urban Barn Next Top Designer Contest

Calling all aspiring interior designers! Vancouver Home + Design Show and Urban Barn are partnering up to look for the next big interior design star.

From now until Friday July 19th, decorators and designers can enter the competition by creating a Pinterest board showcasing their decor style and filling out the online form. From there, three finalists are given a $5,000 budget for Urban Barn furnishings and must create their dream living room to be showcased at VHDS this fall. VHDS goers will vote on the winning design, which will end up in Urban Barn stores.

Exciting stuff, no? Enter now!


Battle of the Black Liquid Eyeliners

When it comes to eyeliner, I'm one finicky customer thanks to oily lids and a crease-grazing lashline. Pencil and gel don't stand a chance, and even the most hard-wearing liquid liners start fading around the two-hour mark. It's a shame because I do love a good cat-eye.

Until recently, I stuck to Geisha Ink ($30 at BeautyMark) because it was the only precise-tip eyeliner I've found that truly lasts all day. And while I still love it, I've also been experimenting with new ones. So how do they stack up to the golden Geisha standard? Here's the lowdown.

The liner: Cargo TexasLiner in black ($20; available this fall at London Drugs)

Packaging: Riffing on the saying "Everything is bigger in Texas," this short, chubby liner earns extra points for being so adorable. The fat marker tip draws fine and thick lines with the greatest of ease.

Performance: I wanted to like this liner because it was so cute, but the formula just wasn't working for me. I wore it the night we saw Les Mis; by the time the final curtain call and standing ovation ended, most of my cat-eye had transferred upward on my lids and faded to a bleary mess.

The liner: NYX Super Skinny Eye Marker in carbon black ($10.99 at London Drugs)

Packaging: Like Geisha Ink, this is a skinny marker with a superfine tip.

Performance: Unlike Geisha Ink, NYX's formula started disappearing after 1-2 hours of wear. I put it on in the morning before going to the office. By mid-morning, it required a touch-up. By the afternoon, my cat-eye was no more and I had to wipe off any traces of liner with a wet paper towel.

The liner: Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner in intense black ($26 at Kiss & Makeup)

Packaging: Another precision-tip skinny marker. Although the tip is fine, it dispenses liquid considerably quicker than Geisha Ink's, making a tightline slightly more difficult.

Performance: I am in love with this formula. Not only does it last all day like Geisha Ink, the black is more vivid and intense and dries to a glossy finish. I wore it all of Canada Day long weekend—through hot and humid days, sweaty afternoons spent salsa dancing outdoors, evenings spent outside—and my liner was just as polished and perfect at night as it was when I first applied it. It's safe to say I have a new favourite!

What's your go-to black liner?

P.S. Only one week left to win a John Frieda basket of blonde haircare products worth $150! Enter my giveaway now.

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