Monthly Archives: August 2011

OPI Planks-A-Lot nail polish review

It’s been a while since a nail polish review right? Well, let’s get back on the Pirates Of The Caribbean galleon with OPI’s Planks-A-Lot.

Firstly, what a name! Fun and tongue-in-cheek enough not to feel like you got dumped with a huge side order of cheese.

Planks-A-Lot is probably the brightest colour in the Pirates Collection, which mostly specialised in muted muddied pastels that weren’t at all what you’d associate with the gypsies of the seven seas. It’s a medium perfect purple, veering slightly to the lavender side yet still bright enough to not quite sit at home amongst pastels. It does have a touch of dustiness to it too and is noticeably darker than the pale lilac of the bottle, but nothing near as greyed-out as the grurple explosion (best exemplified by all-time favourite, Parlez-Vous OPI). And obviously, I love it.

You know this. I love all purples. Grey purples. Matte purples. Flakie purples. Holo purples. Glittery purples. Rock star purples. Purple, purple, purple (thought I’d just say it a few more times to make sure). So it’s no surprise that I now love Planks-A-Lot, a fairly straightforward lavender purple crème, too.

What I didn’t love was the formula. I had similar problems with OPI’s Mermaid’s Tears and Planks-A-Lot was even worse. Thick, gloopy, uneven first coat… and once again, I tried to over-compensate, forgetting about OPI’s self-levelling properties, meaning I didn’t get quite the lovely smooth finish I hoped for. But even then, Planks-A-Lot is still super-glossy, lushly creamy and just a gorgeous dreamboat of a colour through and through.

So I know I’m not surprisingly anyone by declaring my outright love for Planks-A-Lot, but she really is a beauty. Yo ho ho and all that too.

Looks good with: muted crèmes, florals, grey
Drying time: 10 mins
Coats required: 2-3
Chips: +7 days

OPI Planks A Lot nail polish, Summer 2011 Pirates of the Caribbean Collection, $70, Cher2

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Sense Of Touch, LKF: The Sweetest Hangover spa treatment review

As you may have worked out from this blog by now, I’m rather partial to a good spa treatment (hi Bliss Spa and Elemis!). Sense Of Touch is a spa that has a lot of buzz and positive word-of-mouth in Hong Kong (plus the multiple awards to prove it!) – and now I’m going to join the ever-mounting chorus of praises!

Thanks to Sense Of Touch, Sassy Hong Kong and the lovely Vivien, I was invited to try their newest spa treatment – The Sweetest Hangover (the fact that this branch is in Lan Kwai Fong, THE nightlife spot in HK, should mean that name makes a little more sense!). It’s a 2- hour intensive treatment comprising of an organic seaweed bath, a sugar cane scrub and a full-body massage using a combination of essential oils – and it’s amazing!

The seaweed bath actually has real pieces of Irish hand-harvested seaweed floating around in it, which made me feel like a cross between something from a wildlife documentary and an alien from Doctor Who! But sans tub in my apartment, it was just exciting to be getting to have a bath in the first place!

Overall, it was a blissful experience – detoxifying, invigorating, refreshing and relaxing. By the end, my skin just felt out of this world (and in a good way, rather than a Doctor Who alien way). You can read a full review of The Sweetest Hangover, Sense Of Touch and all the beneficial best bits of the treatment at Sassy Hong Kong here – but this is just a quick garble to say, if you get the chance to try Sense Of Touch, GO GO GO!

The Sweetest Hangover is currently on promotion until 15th September for $1290 for 2 hours and normally costs $1590.

Sense Of Touch Lan Kwai Fong, 1-5F, 52 D’Aguilar Street, Lan Kwai Fong, Central, 2526 6918

Canmake Jewel Star Eyes, Stone Gold and Illumination Nude eye shadow review

I’ve recently been on a cream eye shadow kick – whether it’s because they feel more convenient than powders, seem cooler for summer or there’s just some subliminal connection to ice-cream, I’m not sure! The latest victims of my cream eye-shadow binge? Canmake Jewel Star Eyes in 07 Stone Gold and 08 Illumination Nude.

Canmake is a Japanese cosmetics brand and like most Japanese cosmetics brands, glittery girliness is very much the order of the day! The Jewel Star Eye Shadows are no exception – all nine shades are packed to the hilt with shimmer, sparkle, pearl and lamé particles for a high-shine Hollywood finish.

The texture of these is somewhere between a cream, jelly and mousse (my friend Jenn reckons they’re cheaper versions of Jill Stuart’s Eye Jellies); not as thick as a typical cream eye shadows, yet not as bouncy as a jelly and without that light whipped feeling of a mousse. The shadow slides onto your fingertips easily, almost melting off in fact (yet more subliminal ice-cream connections!), and it feels slippery and light but dries to a smudge-proof finish almost instantly. One light swipe gives you a sheerer, stardust-like effect, with a few heavy smears required to build the shadow to a more vivid colour.

Stone Gold (07) is a light wash of champagne or white gold. It contains gold, silver and red pearl particles – more recognisable to you and me as glitter – and I’d say silver is most noticeable of these three. This is a great neutral that packs more of a punch than the average neutral and looks really beautiful layered over other colours for a stunning starlit shimmer. For me, however, it’s a little too insubstantial to use on its own.

Illumination Nude (08) is a pinky-peachy melon shade that’s yet another great neutral. Canmake recommends using this as a base and the colour is in the vein of Urban Decay’s Sin (which you can see swatched in this post) – except there’s a riot of glitter going on here too! Close-up, you can really see the mixture of gold, pearl and red particles, and in the light, they flash a whole rainbow of other colours too. This is a more strongly-pigmented, multi-dimensional colour than Stone Gold and the shadow’s texture is smoother than Stone Gold’s too (you can tell this from the banner photo alone!). This one is sensationally pretty, especially when it hits the sun.

I was worried that Illumination Nude was a dupe for one of my Urban Decay shadows, X, and from this angle, my worry was well-founded! Illumination Nude basically looks like someone emptied a jar of glitter into the Urban Decay!

However, X is an amazing eye shadow (full review… someday) that performs a chameleon number on the Canmake and turns to a pretty pink-gold from other angles. So not a dupe after all!

Canmake promises that the Jewel Star Eyes series is long-lasting, non-creasing and doesn’t shed glitter. I can get on-board with non-creasing, but used alone, I found that the shadows seemed to melt away after a few hours and Stone Gold in particular dispensed glitter around my eyes during its disappearing act! I also wish the packaging was a little more substantial – they’re in individual plastic pans that are small and easy to lose in the wilderness of my make-up bag. But since you have a smaller quantity of product, plus shadows that feel less wet and more compressed than typical creams and jellies, drying out shouldn’t be as much of a problem.

I enjoy the unique easy-to-use texture of Canmake’s Jewel Star Eyes and getting that super-starry effect from such a light feeling, non-gritty shadow is rather awesome. It’s a shame the other colours in the range aren’t more useable – bright playground purples, blues, greens and pinks bulk up the rest of the range. I like to use 07 and 08 blended together to create a look so multi-dimensionally sparkly that passing magpies squawk in approval but that’s still neutral, easily wearable and versatile.

If you’re a fan of glitters, these are a must; if you’re a fan of great-wearing cream eye shadows, perhaps not. Canmake’s Jewel Star Eyes are not quite the crown jewels in my book, yet make for some pretty fantastic costume jewellery nonetheless.

Canmake Jewel Star Eyes in 07 Stone Gold and 08 Illumination Nude, $64, City Super and selected Sasas

Dr Wendy’s Botanical Skincare Gentle Moisturiser review

Long gone are the days when the word ‘organic’ was associated with straggly-bearded hippies in hemp shirts. I’ve already covered the awesome side of organic food with my post on HK’s Life Café and just as organic eating has been embraced by the mainstream, organic cosmetics are growing in popularity too (Avalon Organics is now stocked in many supermarkets). So may I introduce you to Dr Wendy’s – a 100% botanical skincare range from New Zealand, which launches in Hong Kong this month.

The whole range, created by Dr Wendy Maddocks-Jennings with over 15 years of experience in healthcare, is 100% natural, plant-based, vegan-approved and free from chemicals. All the products use high concentrations of New Zealand-grown organic ingredients and the potent blend of natural ingredients means many are perfect for HK’s hot, humid and polluted climate.

I was lucky enough to be given a sneak peek of the line from Kristine prior to its launch here and received its Gentle Range Moisturiser to trial over the past few months. There are four key ranges to Dr Wendy’s skincare products, each designed for different skin types and comprising of a cleanser, toner and moisturiser, and the Gentle range is light, lovely and developed for oily or acne-prone skin.

Regular readers will know I’m prone to the occasional breakout (now kept mostly at bay by the likes of Clinique’s Anti-Blemish Cleanser and Atoregge’s Spot Treatment) so this seemed like it would complement my skin well. It boasts a light formula that makes it perfect for summer and with a consistency somewhere in-between cream and gel, it absorbs easily too, making it a good base for make-up. It comes out via a hygienic pump dispenser, although it took a few weeks to calibrate itself properly and not spurt all over me every morning!

The moisturiser is made with fragonia, sandalwood and teatree essential oils (which all have anti-bacterial properties to keep those zits away), plus lavender to help skin repair and Australian jojoba to moisturise. Apart from all these obvious skincare benefits, it makes for one of the best aspects of Dr Wendy’s Gentle Moisturiser – the amazing smell! It smells like all those yummy fragrances they waft under your noses at spas and massages, yet still managed to be light and refreshing rather than overpowering.

I’ve been using the moisturiser day and night for a few months now (incidentally, one bottle seems to last a while!) and am reasonably pleased with its performance. It has a soothing feel and a scent that I frankly look forward to every day (no comments on the sadness of my everyday life thank you!) whilst breakouts have been minimal, my complexion is clear and bright and my skin feels soft and hydrated throughout the day. I think this is a great moisturiser for spring and summer but may not fare as well during the dryer winter months, as it wasn’t strong enough to combat a few of my flaky patches on its own. Also, after long-term use, I felt like it contributed to blocking my (admittedly enlarged) pores. Meanwhile, those of you with dry skin should head for Dr Wendy’s Replenish Range and you lucky girls with a normal complexion should go for the Balance Range. There is also an Ultra-Light Range brilliant for the hottest, sweatiest summer days and which is ideally suited for sensitive skin.

I also received a few samples of other products but they’re a bit too small to judge properly on any long-term effects. The Ultra-Light Toner is worth a mention, as it’s also recommended as a handy handbag spritzer to refresh your face, especially apt for all ‘cook an egg on your forehead’ summer temperatures! Unlike many old-fashioned toners, it’s free from alcohol and instead stuffed with useful organic ingredients (like olive oil, lemon geranium, hempseed and rare buckthorn oil, which have antiseptic and nourishing properties) so it a perfect non-irritating mid-afternoon pep-up for the face – especially for those of you, like me, who don’t use a toner in their morning and evening skincare rituals.

This isn’t just a range for eco-warriors with an agenda; Dr Wendy’s is organic done right. No preaching, top-drawer ingredients and great products. I think Dr Wendy will fit into HK nicely!

Dr Wendy’s Gentle Moisturiser, $350, ThreeSixty

Grappa’s restaurant review – the Italian job

I don’t think Grappa’s gets nearly enough love.

Whenever there’s a request for reasonably-priced, good quality pasta or a shout-out for your favourite Italian in Hong Kong, I feel like I’m the only one gunning for Grappa’s! It might not be the newest or hippest Italian restaurant on the block or have a particularly innovative exciting menu, but what it does deliver is efficient service, consistent quality, food that I want to come back for and at prices that don’t make my wallet run away screaming in horror.

For a chain, its branches do vary a lot, both in quality and atmosphere. The one in Central is in a cosy cellar and is one of the best venues for live music from artists that can’t yet sell out arenas but aren’t quite ‘skivy bar in Wan Chai’ material. The one in Quarry Bay has a more business-like vibe and fantastic staff, yet their food tends to range wildly in quality (two years ago, it had a limited menu that barely included any meat; now, they’ve rebranded with a whole new supposedly American-Italian menu). But for me, the one in Pacific Place – a stalwart of the HK dining scene for over 20 years – is where it’s at.

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OPI Mermaid’s Tears nail polish review

I’m usually a bit dubious about the current vogue for nail polish celebrity cash-ins tie-ins, yet OPI’s Summer 2011 Pirates of the Caribbean collection struck gold… or should that be pieces of eight?!

Overall, it was an unusual collection for summer, filled with murky muddied pastels that didn’t exactly scream adventures on the seven seas. Yet for that reason, it was probably one of my favourite OPI collections to date and I snapped up the whole collection quicker than you can say ‘Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum’!

I was instantly drawn to Mermaid’s Tears, a dusty turquoise (and you know how much I love turquoise!). Firstly, what a gorgeous evocative name! OPI are known for their cute-but-cheesy names so I was expecting this to be pun city but they actually managed to keep it classy – classier, in fact, than the film itself!

Unfortunately, I found this polish quite difficult to work with. It was gloopier than most OPIs and the first few coats went on thickly and unevenly – partly my own fault as I spent too much time trying to correct it, forgetting that OPI lacquers are actually amazingly self-levelling on their own. Consequently, drying time was longer than usual and the finish was a bit lumpy up-close.

What I can’t complain about is the colour. Gorgeous! It’s an almost vintage take on turquoise; classy but murky, delicately dusty, but still straight-up beautiful (although a shade darker than the bottle colour). You could well imagine it being the tears of a siren, prettily magical yet refined. There aren’t many turquoises that suggest sophistication, but this is definitely one.

Compared to my other top turquoise creme, Essie’s Turquoise & Caicos (on the middle finger), Mermaid’s Tears is noticeably less bright, dustier and perhaps more obviously green-leaning – a pale green tea, or pretty slate green rather than the tropical island turquoise of the Essie. Both, however, are creamily lush and look great on.

Mermaid’s Tears – Lorelei loveliness in a bottle. No pirate puns needed.

Looks good with: other muted pastels, floral tea-dresses, grey
Drying time: 10 mins
Coats required: 2-3
Chips: +7 days

OPI Mermaid’s Tears nail polish, Summer 2011 Pirates of the Caribbean Collection, $70, Cher2