Monthly Archives: September 2011

OPI Stranger Tides nail polish review

OPI’s Summer 2011 Pirates Of The Caribbean Collection has to be one of my favourites of all-time. A cohesive range of dusty pastels, it may not have exactly screamed summer… or indeed pirates… yet it totally floated my boat – or should that be galleon?! And Stranger Tides was no exception!

Stranger Tides is a greyed-out pistachio, a soft pale ghost of khaki, a murky sorbet sea-foam. It’s a dreamy creamy love of a dusky pastel and there’s something about it that feels really breezy and spring-like, yet it can also feel cool and autumnal too. It’s really versatile, neutral enough to work well with other nudes (and be office-friendly) yet also as a refreshing palette-cleanser to bright pops of colours (I wore it with Essie’s Your Hut Or Mine, a bright honeysuckle, and it looked gorgeous). In short, it’s one of those interesting trans-seasonal transitional shades that are always a winner.

Not that this was a view shared by anyone. Whilst I keep studying my glossy creamy talons and screaming AMAZING every few seconds, my boyfriend thought it looked ‘plain’. Admittedly, this is probably because his brain has been addled by my normally wearing polishes like this or this yet he just didn’t get the appeal.

The formula was a dream. After an initially worrying thin and streaky first coat, the second applied like butter, becoming richly opaque and (in what is possibly my favourite aspect of OPI polishes) self-levelled out beautifully. [In that respect, OPI makes application really easy, although as you all know by now, I still find their brushes to fat for my diddly nails.] Smooth, glossy, creamy, gorgeous – it’s no wonder that it’s the third time I’m using most of those words in this review. The finish was as perfect for a crème as you could ever hope for.

What I love most about Stranger Tides – and trust me, it was hard to decide on just one factor! – is how it’s simultaneously modern yet retro. These kind of grungy dusty shades are still edgy in the polish-world and I adored this pastel take on the trend, yet it’s also a colour that probably exists as a Formica table-top in some 50s diner. Which just makes me love it more.

So Stranger Tides makes it for three for three hits in the Pirates Collection so far. It’s super-elegant, super-fresh and super-glossy… just super really!

Looks good with: other dusty shades, neutrals, bright colours (i.e. everything)
Drying time: 5-7 mins
Coats required: 2
Chips: 3 days

OPI, Stranger Tides, Summer 2011 Pirates Of The Caribbean Collection, $70, Cher2

Deborah Lippmann Across The Universe nail polish review

I’ve kept photos of this sparkling sensation hidden away for far too long… and now she’s just screaming to get out and show you all her stunning self! Yes, it can only be Deborah Lippman’s Across The Universe.

All the rumours you’ve heard about this polish are true. It IS the most awesome thing I’ve ever set eyes on, without there even being a hint of holo magic in sight!

Across The Universe is a truly AMAZING polish – a dark blue jelly base that has tiny specks of blue glitter, plus bigger hexagonal pieces of green, aqua and blue glitter, floating in it.

The results are truly breathtaking and however many pictures you take of it will never be enough; I was receiving compliments about this polish all week long! It’s supremely strikingly sparkly, yet somehow without being too garish or OTT. Layering up the translucent navy base with all those glimmering sparks suspended in it results in a gorgeous glittering depth – so it really does resemble a beautiful night sky, far off in some cosmic star-strewn galaxy… or a glistening magical paradise deep in the depths of some enchanted ocean.

For a polish with such big pieces of glitter in, I found it extremely easy to work with. The glitter didn’t settle in clumps or at the bottom of the bottle – instead, it spread evenly around the nail and there was a nice random assortment of sparkle applied with each sweep. The jelly base is just the right thickness to allow the glitter to shine through wonderfully yet build into that dazzling depth I spoke of earlier. The drying time was fairly quick and the surface didn’t feel bumpy, rough or uneven – instead, the finish was smooth and glossy, another rarity with heavy glitter lacquers. I achieved a really neat nail with barely any need to clean up afterwards, so I guess the Lippmann brush must be pretty good too! It’s basically polish perfection.

I absolutely love the thought that has gone into Across The Universe. The cool blue, aqua, cyan and green shades of glitter are absolutely gorgeous in their own right yet fit oh-so-perfectly with each other… and entirely complement the whole package, right down to the polish’s entirely fitting name! I also love the swirl of different sizes and colours of sparkle you get with each stroke, which just builds in awesomeness with each coat. It looks great as an accent to black, to jazz up a casual outfit or to just totally up your glitz factor yet it’s dark and somehow subtle enough not to totally take over a look. Ugh, seriously, I wish I could cover everything in life with a coat or two Across The Universe – it would be a much more beautiful place!

What’s more, I didn’t even find it that difficult to clean off either! [I think the smooth jelly base helps a little with removal.] I know varnish aficionados will recoil in horror but with chunky glitters like this, I always wait and chip off as much as possible – the strength of my Nail Tek II base coat means, for me at least, that chipping is a less painful process for my nails than rubbing acetone for ages on dry fingers.

Incidentally, this was my first Deborah Lippmann. It was very expensive and there’s no way I’d pay that sort of money for one of her crème polishes, but Across The Universe is unique enough, beautiful enough and performs brilliantly enough all-round to make it worth the purchase. The chunky bevelled bottle totally adds to the overall deluxe feeling.

You might think I’ve gone a bit over the top for a nail polish (in which case, have you read this blog?! What are you doing still here?!) but Across The Universe really is a show-stopper. It’s almost poetic in its perfection. The best nail polish I own. And that is all there is to it.

Looks good with: awesomeness
Drying time: 3-5 mins
Coats required: 3
Chips: 2-3 days

Deborah Lippmann, Across The Universe, Fall 2010 Collection, Joyce Beauty

Orly Frisky nail polish review

Thank God for swatches, right? [That’s photos of beauty products tested in real life, for all you non blog-linguists.] They’ve practically revolutionised the way we make-up mavens shop – the equivalent of try before you buy! This is especially useful for nail polish which, unlike make-up you’re allowed to smear on the back of a hand or let an assistant vandalise your face with, shops generally won’t let you try before you buy anyway!

But what’s worse than not being able to find a single swatch of a make-up product online? Finding dozens of inaccurate ones instead.

And thus is the case with Orly Frisky.

Most blog pictures have made this crème look like a super-bright saturated cyan blue colour. Even Orly’s product photo makes it look like a super-bright saturated cyan blue. So I figured the first few pages of results in Google Images couldn’t be wrong, and bought Frisky believing it to be a super-bright saturated cyan blue. It isn’t.

That’s not to say that Frisky isn’t a fantastic colour. It is super-bright and it is saturated – but it’s more of a turquoise, actually. Luckily, turquoise just happens to be one of my favourite colours so I was still delighted with the results.

It leans more blue than Essie’s Turquoise & Caicos (thus far, my ultimate turquoise) but it’s definitely much more aqua than the green-leaning Turned Up Turquoise from China Glaze. It’s by far the brightest turquoise I own – the closest thing to being fluorescent without actually heading into highlighter pen territory.

It’s a vivid vibrant aquamarine that pops straight off the nails. Brilliant, bright and bouncy, it totally lives up to the name of its mother ship – the Happy-Go-Lucky collection.

It’s a really lush creamy colour but sadly, doesn’t dry to a high-gloss finish. The formula was a little tricky to work with – thick, glue-y and with a finish nowhere near as self-levelling as OPI’s – but the coverage was good and the colour was opaque in just one coat (though I did two anyway). I experienced a little bubbling with thicker coats though, which you can see from my photos, and a longer than average drying time. Orly’s brush is large but thin – sort of a cross between OPI’s in size and Essie’s in thickness – which I found spread the polish nicely, and I love brands that have rubber caps like these for better grip.

Overall, Frisky is an awesome aqua that sits equally nicely amongst spring pastels, summer brights or as a pop of colour against an otherwise neutral outfit. It’s a charismatic crowd-pleaser, bursting with oodles of oomph. It’s just not cyan blue, ok?!

Looks good with: summer brights, spring pastels, as a pop of colour
Drying time: 5-7 mins
Coats required: 1-2
Chips: +5 days

Orly Frisky, Summer 2011 Happy Go Lucky Collection, $60, Cher2

Helena Rubinstein Prodigy Powercell Youth Grafter Facial, Lane Crawford treatment review

As part of Lane Crawford’s Autumn/Winter Beauty Style Campaign, I was lucky enough to be invited to try out Helena Rubinstein’s Prodigy Powercell Youth Grafter Facial pre-launch. Woah, sounds super-intense, right?!

Actually, it was nothing but super-lovely. I was firstly ushered into some rooms in Lane Crawford that I never even knew existed! These special treatment rooms are surprisingly calm, spacious and sealed-off from the hubbub of the department store – you can hear a muted noise from the crowds outside, but it’s not at all distracting and almost enjoyable (in a ‘Ha! I’m enjoying a lovely facial whilst you drag your temper tantrum throwing five year old around’ kind of way).

The facial uses some of Helena Rubinstein’s signature products combined with ultrasound technology and unique massages to ‘maximise cell metabolism and skin regeneration’ leading to more radiant, supple and firm skin. Quite an achievement for a 45 minute facial, right?!

Sadly, my 45 minutes blurred by all too quickly – I’m beginning to think facials operate in a different time zone that’s always over way too soon! The most interesting part of the facial involved using the ‘Prodigious Roller’ to smooth and firm the skin, which felt deliciously cool yet also massaging, then an ultrasonic machine to clean the face and magnify the effectiveness of the Helena Rubinstein Powercell Serum, allowing it to penetrate the skin more deeply.

Previous facials had led me to expect all kinds of generally unpleasant sensations from high-tech machinery – stinging, prickling, bright lights, ultra-sensitivity – yet this was absolutely none of above! Instead, it was a gentle, soothing feeling that just washed pleasurably over me. The serum itself contains stem cells of Oceanic Crista, an active ingredient which revitalises the skin and has been proven to aid cellular regeneration, tissue repair and anti-radical defence!

There was also a wonderful sculpting face massage using pro-collagen cream, supposed to re-activate the skin’s deep tissues, and which did indeed leave my skin feeling rejuvenated, firmer and freshened-up. There was also a refreshing and nourishing ten-minute face mask before finally, the Prodigy Powercell Face Cream was applied (more of that awesome Oceanic Christa stuff and with a creamy rich-but-light texture) and I was sent off on my way.

The results were wonderful. My skin looked brighter and more radiant, with a soft relaxed look to it that lasted for days. It also felt firmer, more supple and generally rejuvenated, both inside and out!

Aside from the stellar results and overall relaxing experience of the facial, I loved its convenience (as if I need a further incentive to go to Lane Crawford, who as you can see from my hauls, are already pocketing half my bank balance already!). It also acted as a nice little introduction to some of Helena Rubinstein’s award-winning Prodigy Powercell products, a brand that thus far I’ve been pretty unfamiliar with. Expect to see plenty of Helena Rubinstein products popping up on my Christmas list this year!

Helena Rubinstein Prodigy Powercell Youth Grafter Facial, $1020, Lane Crawford, September 15-October 2

A version of this review also appears on Sassy Hong Kong.

Applegreen restaurant review – these are the salad days…

UPDATE: Sadly, this branch of Applegreen is now closed and there are currently no more locations on HK Island. For the updated list of their restaurants in Hong Kong, see the bottom of this post.

After my post on being a calamari glutton at Grappas, I had a lovely email from a reader demanding (very politely, of course) more posts like that. So hello Kai and may I present another of my regular Hong Kong haunts – Applegreen.

Applegreen’s cuisine is inspired by the café culture of California and its strapline ‘The house of salad’ is the main reason it took me so long to get there! My boyfriend is no particular friend of salad (or anything healthy and non fried potato based) and made disgusted faces every time I attempted to broach a visit to a place boasting salad as its signature dish. Instead, I waited it out until a group dinner with friends, which turned out to be great and where I spotted Cajun Fries (served in a trash can, no less) smiling brightly on the menu. Well, the boyfriend loves Cajun Fries almost as much as he hates salad – and consequently, we have found ourselves there nearly every fortnight ever since!

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Estessimo Tins Alluring Aquamarine nail polish review

The holo hunt continues – and next on the list is Estessimo Tins Alluring Aquamarine!

This stunner has to be one of my favourite holographic polishes yet, if not one of my favourite polishes full stop! Alluring Aquamarine is a bright tropical blue with oodles of rainbow-reflecting glitter that shimmers its way to the surface.

The vibrancy of this polish is what makes it so special; many holos have a slightly pale or muted quality to them but this one bursts out the bottle with all guns blazing and rainbows set to beam. In that respect, it’s similar to another of my favourite vivid holos, China Glaze DV8 – but that one’s more of a teal (plus with the non-sparkly holographic effect) whereas Alluring Aquamarine is a pure and simple bright blue, the colour you thought the sky or sea should be when you were five!

The formula, as with Estessimo Tins Seductive Amethyst, is great (although the rainbow effect isn’t quite as strong) – a quick and easy two coats, neither too thick nor too thin, and with no strange streaking or bald patches either. It dries to a super-smooth shiny finish, crystal-clear in its clarity and cleanness. Unfortunately, it did chip quite quickly (the same thin easy peeling I noted before with holos) but it’s nothing a quick touch-up can’t fix – and trust me, you’ll want to keep Alluring Aquamarine on for as long as possible!

Under artificial light, to show the rainbow holo effect more!

Alluring Aquamarine is one of those polishes that just makes you happy. It’s a bubbly brilliant blue scattered with sunbursts and rainbows – and how can that not be anything but utterly delightful?!

Alluring? Definitely! But awesome, adorable, amazing and astounding would also do just as nicely.

Looks good with: summer brights, sunshine, smiles
Drying time: 5 mins
Coats required: 2
Chips: 2 days

Estessimo Tins Alluring Aquamarine, Winter 2006 More Jewellist Collection

Here Today, Haul Tomorrow

It’s that time again… another EPIC haul post. So here’s what I’ve been buying over the past few months. Non-shopaholics look away now!

I loved the look of the Chanel’s Fall 2011 Illusion D’Ombre Collection, which marks their first foray into cream eyeshadows in nearly ten years (and as we know, I’m currently loving my cream shadows), plus some of their highly-coveted limited-edition sell-out nail polishes. The eye shadows are all kinds of gorgeous – shimmery, lightweight and extremely easy to use – and I picked up Illusoire (a smoky mauve), Epatant (a silvery khaki) and Emerveille (a shimmering peach). I have, wonder of wonders, actually swatched these so you can expect a review soon! I also got the nail lacquer in Graphite and a free sample of eye make-up remover.

These Stila Beach Palettes are the result of ‘which one should I buy… oh, I’ll just buy them all syndrome.’ Which happens to me a lot! They contain four eye shadows and two blushes/highlighters each, they’re super-cute and they were only £10 quid each. What’s not to love?

They’re from Lookfantastic.com, who I’ve already sung the praises of in my previous haul, who have since gone one better – by crowning me the winner of a competition to win a £75 beauty hamper! The spoils of my victory are shown here and I’m most excited about the mini bottle of Moroccan Oil, which I have been dying to try for ages yet never dared take the plunge full-size – and full-price!

My latest beauty discovery is Nars, thanks to the bessie beauty blogger Jenn. I love bright non-neutral colours, and it seems Nars does too! I picked up eyeshadow duos in Noveau Monde, Eurydice and Sugarland, plus a single in Strada, this amazing gold-dusted lavender. My wonderful boyfriend then bought me some goodies from their limited-edition Night Series collection – the Night Series Palette and two nail polishes, Night Flight and Night Rider, which are based on the eyeshadow colours and are seriously STUNNING. As usual, reviews to come!

Illamasqua had a summer sale so I used this as an opportunity to try my first make-up from the brand, which launched in the UK after I left. Service was brilliant – the order was beautifully-packaged, came with a catalogue, arrived by registered delivery and came within a week of ordering! I got two nail polishes – Raindrops (which I’d been lusting after since this post) and Poke, the Liquid Metals Palette, a Loose Pigment in Involve and a Liquid Metal in Stoic, both of which were on sale. Can’t wait to try these as they look all kinds of intensely awesome.

Clinique also have a new range of cream eyeshadows out – the deliciously-named Lid Smoothies. Colours, as ever with Clinique, are un-exciting but the formula and quality is great – I got Bit O’ Honey (a glistening light gold), Cashew Later (a super-versatile neutral) and probably the star of the collection, Born Freesia (a light lilac). I also stocked up on their Anti-Blemish Foaming Cleanser, one of my make-up miracles, and their Derma-White City Block, a great anti-pollution base with a high SPF that I loved from a free sample. Mega-spend with Clinique equalled a pretty awesome bag of freebies too!

I also got my Mum to send me over some stuff from Boots – can you guess which item I might be stocking up on because it’s been discontinued?! Yes, my make-up miracle, the Benefit Get Bent Eyeliner Brush SOB. I also got two of Benefit’s Creaseless Cream Shadows in Skinny Jeans and Birthday Suit, a load of toothbrush heads (which I’ve spared you) and some super-moisturising Lanolips stuff, another brand I’ve been dying to try. I got the Intense Rose Balm For Very Dry Hands & Nails (remember how my hands are falling apart?), Lemonaid Lip Aid, 101 Ointment and their coloured Lip Ointments in Dark Honey, Apple and Rhubarb (my lips are now falling apart too). Lanolips will be launching in HK soon, but as usual for mega-bucks…

After Benefit also discontinued my holy-grail, one-and-only blusher/miracle, Georgia, I’ve been one the hunt for a suitable replacement. And ever since Mac’s Semi-Precious Collection, I’ve been obsessed with baked, marbleised make-up. Enter Laura Geller, a brand which comes with great word-of-mouth Stateside and again, posted over by my Mum via QVC. I got Blush N Brighten blushers in Golden Apricot and Pink Grapefruit (I love that these come with brushes too!) and the Backstage Beauty Kit, which includes a Blush N Brighten Highlighter Duo in Como/Portofino, a Baked Eyeshadow Duo in Rome/Milan and a Lip Lights Lip Gloss in Dewberry. Can’t wait to try these stunners either!

Another Mac haul from their latest Mac Me Over Collection. The Icelandic Cool section was, sadly for my wallet, totally my colours! Again, amazing boyfriend gifted me the Lady Grey Eyeshadow Palette and four Shadesticks, in Tundra, Cakeshop, Heirloom and Street Cool (Butternutty is still to come, thanks to the lovely Vicky!).

I also won a Lush competition to win their Limited Edition John Burgerman Bath Bomb Set – I absolutely love the colourful tin, which is definitely a keeper, and the bath bombs look like sweets! Is this a bad time to admit I don’t actually have a bath?!

What haul post of mine would this be without some nail polish! Zoya’s Smoke & Mirrors Collection is one of my favourite collections in ages – two halves, one with a dusty murky shades (Smoke), the other with glimmering glittering smoky shades (Mirrors), and a ridiculous amount of purples. I picked up Jana, Neeka, Yara and Jem – how could I resist a polish named after Jem & The Holograms, only my favourite cartoon of ALL-TIME! Spot the odd OPI out, Grape… Set… Match!

And finally, the piece de resistance, the Urban Decay 15th Anniversary Eyeshadow Palette. Ugh… how GORGEOUS is this?! Thanks to my lovely Mother I’ll leave you with a few pics revelling in its ultra-luxeness… try and keep your drool to yourselves!