Tag Archives: Japanese cosmetics

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

Estessimo Tins Seductive Amethyst nail polish review

Regular readers may be aware of my quest to find every single holographic nail polish in Hong Kong. I just can’t enough of my rainbows in a bottle – it’s such a magical concept that taps into my inner holographic-sticker loving child. The latest on my hit list to show you: Estessimo Tins Seductive Amethyst.

I’ve already told you a bit about Estessimo Tins (known to my boyfriend as Snils and who knows, he may be correct!), a Japanese brand that specialise in creating glitter bombs for the nails. Most of their polishes are the old-fashioned type with pieces of actual glitter sparkling away inside them – like The Neptune and The Splash Blue which I have previously showed you – but they do have a few holos hiding in the wings too.

Seductive Amethyst is one such specimen and it is GORGEOUS. It’s a medium purple colour, slightly pink-leaning, that on its own is the exact colour I picture amethysts being in the first place. Tip in those holo rainbows and it becomes an even more magical prospect.

Unlike the famous China Glaze OMG holographic polishes, which produce a strong rainbow effect that sort of radiates round the nail in ripples (nail geeks call these ‘linear holos’), Seductive Amethyst produces a ‘scattered’ holo effect – little bursts of rainbow scattered all over the shop.

Holographic polishes are different from the old glitter polishes because, through some nail polish magic, they don’t actually feature glitter pieces submerged in the lacquer – even though the scattered ones, like these, really look like they should! Instead, the rainbow glitter seems to just exist as part of the polish itself, meaning you get a smooth (and easy to remove) finish but with a just as beautiful bling to your buck. It really is totally reminiscent of those kaleidoscopic rainbows I saw in stickers in my childhood; substitute Pokedex cards or Pogs or whatever was your childhood magpie equivalent!

I find Estessimo Tins’ longer handle easy to control and its brush is nicely-sized – somewhat equivalent to China Glaze’s but a little bit thiner – and spreads nicely. Seductive Amethyst was super-easy to apply in two quick-drying coats and delivered a flawless holographic finish. It’s a rainbow-dusted amethyst purple that looks like it belongs in fairytales.

But where this beauty really comes alive, when all the rainbows come out to play, is in super-bright sunlight… and thankfully, that’s one thing Hong Kong does well! It’s like rainbows are dancing off your nails! It’s searingly, blindingly, mind-blowingly brilliant. I could not stop staring in awe at my claws.

Beautiful, bountiful, bouncing rainbows at my very fingertips and in my fave shade, purple – seriously, what more could I ask for? Seductive Amethyst didn’t even need to bother with a chat-up line, it had me at hello… or should that be holo!

Looks good with: bright sunlight, not minding if you bump into stuff because you’re staring at your nails
Drying time: 5 mins
Coats required: 2
Chips: 2 days

Estessimo Tins Seductive Amethyst, Winter 2006 More Jewellist Collection

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

SK-II Facial Treatment Essence review

I have a confession. I didn’t know much about SK-II.

About all I did know was that Cate Blanchett was one of their spokesmen and well… if there’s one current celeb female whose skin you wouldn’t mind having, porcelain princess Cate has to be pretty high on the list!

To clear up my ignorance, I was sent a few of SK-II’s bestsellers by the fabulous Bastian (see the full post here), including their most famous product – SK-II Facial Treatment Essence.

The essence has been dubbed ‘miracle water’ by some, with Asian celebs (and their milky white complexions) clamouring to call it their ‘best friend’ or even ‘lover’! Not much to live up to then! I’m not ready to dump the boyfriend just yet (especially after he bought me that Bobbi Brown palette, hehehe) but I have to admit, I was mightily impressed.

The story of SK-II started at a sake brewery in Japan, where scientists noticed that elderly workers, despite their wrinkled face, had beautiful soft hands as a result of being in constant contact with the sake fermentation process. Eventually, scientists isolated the miracle ingredient responsible for holding back the years – Pitera, a naturally-occurring liquid from the fermentation process. It contains a blend of vitamins, amino acids, minerals and organic acids that help enable the skin’s natural rejuvenation process by regenerating its outer layer (who else is picturing a Doctor Who style regeneration round about now?!). All of SK-II’s skincare products contain Pitera but the Facial Treatment Essence contains the most, with a whopping 90% of the liquid made up of the stuff.

An interesting story and brilliant brand mythology yet who cares about some wrinkled crones with pretty hands unless the stuff actually works, right?! Had those scientists just knocked back a few too many sakes down the factory or was there something to this Pitera lark?!

The essence is a transparent, slightly hay-tinged liquid with a similar consistency and place in your routine as toner. However, whilst toners have tended to either break me out or uncomfortably tighten me up, the Facial Essence has none of these effects. It’s as gentle as a kiss from a butterfly, so gentle you can even use it over sensitive areas, like your eyes and lips. It absorbs quickly without a trace and leaves no residue.

But the most noteworthy thing about SK-II’s Facial Treatment Essence is the smell. It’s a strong sour scent, somewhere between rice wine vinegar and (for me) Thai fish gravy! Not usually the sort of smell you’d associate with skincare for sure! It’s not exactly unpleasant, more surprising, but you quickly get used to it. I guess it’s all that Pitera… so whilst those elderly workers might have had lovely hands, I’m not sure they would have smelt so hot after all those years down the factory!

All the instructions for the Facial Treatment Essence were in Japanese but application is simple. Splash a few drops of the essence onto some cotton wool morning and evening, pat all over the face and you’re done! There is even a handy diagram to illustrate:

I was slightly dubious about seeing tangible effects from the essence, as despite all the ‘miracle water’ worshipping, mention of what it actually did seemed rather vague. But after a few weeks, the evidence was clear. There’s a reason the formula for this hasn’t changed in 30 years – it works. Wonders.

My skin is softer. My skin is brighter. My skin is clearer. I have fewer breakouts and when I do get the occasional blemish, it’s seems to clear up quicker and without as much aggravation. My complexion is more even and less prone to blotchiness and redness. Dry patches (by my nose, lips and one particularly troublesome area near my eye that richer eye creams made worse and normal moisturisers aren’t supposed to be applied there) are now nourished and non-flaky. Similarly, oilier areas seem more controlled too. My skin feels supple and hydrated, neither too greasy nor too dry, throughout the entire day and night. The Facial Treatment Essence claims to balance the skin’s pH and sebum secretion and my skin really does now feel perfectly-balanced.

How do I know all this? After about a month and a half of using the essence, I stopped. And basically, the opposite of all the above started happening!

I’m not a huge fan of having to use cotton wool so frequently in my beauty routine as I find it quite wasteful but having experimented with trying to splash it directly onto my hands and dab it on (which wasted a lot of product both in spillage and it absorbing into your fingers), this is the best way. It probably also contributes to the cleaning process, meaning my skin really does look crystal-clear and radiant. The only things I can think of that the essence doesn’t help with  are pore size, blackheads or providing really intense rich moisturising.

The downside – the cost (allegedly due to the difficulties and expenses of churning out all that Pitera, with only limited quantities produced). Used twice a day, even sparingly, I think you’d be lucky to get much more than six months out of the 215ml bottle.

I love that it’s suitable for all skin types, for all ages and can be used all over the face. The effects are subtle but noticeable, giving you a youthful natural glow. In short, it’s a wonderful addition to any beauty routine.

One bottle of SK-II Facial Treatment Essence is sold every 28 seconds, with over 20 million bottles sold to date. Well, it’s now 20 million and one. Chalk me up with the statistics – I’m converted! Miracle water all the way!

SK-II Miracle Water… oops, I mean Facial Treatment Essence, $980 for 215ml; see all SK-II locations in Hong Kong here

Estessimo Tins The Splash Blue nail polish review

Time for another glitterbomb, courtesy of Estessimo Tins The Splash Blue.

Remember that gorgeous frosty ‘Blue Fairy’ look I created by layering China Glaze White Cap and OPI Last Friday Night over China Glaze Sea Spray? Well, The Splash Blue is essentially that but better – and without having to go to the trouble of four coats of different polishes!

It’s an icy baby blue swirled with the trademark Estessimo Tins magic mixture of silver and holographic glitter. Unlike The Nepture, whose glitter seemed to reflect a whole galaxy of colours, this time the effect is much cooler – a palette of opalescent blues, greens and silvers that twinkle like a shaken up snow globe.

I love this dreamier approach to glitter for nail polish (file alongside OPI’s Teenage Dream), which is often categorised as being brash and in your face. Unfortunately, despite being exceedingly desperately pretty, it also seemed to bring out the red in my skin tone – making for those hideous blotchy fingers you see in the photos!

Sadly, my experience with The Splash Blue wasn’t as good as the one I had with The Neptune either. The formula felt much grittier and thicker and application was more difficult as it seemed a bit bumpy and lumpy. But once again, only two coats were required to get a fully opaque finish and although drying time is average, wear-time, as with The Neptune, was fantastic.

Other than Pinocchio’s Blue Fairy, the other thing this glittering glacial blue reminds me of are cute candy-coloured sorbets or ice-creams – topped with a sprinkling of fairy dust, of course! If you can put up with the slightly troublesome application, polishes probably don’t get much more magical than The Splash Blue!

Looks good with: pastels, soft shades, pretty summer frocks
Drying time: 5-7 mins
Coats required: 2
Chips: +7 days

Estessimo TINS 016 The Splash Blue nail polish, Spring 2004 Sweet Go Happy Collection, $85, Nail Concept Company

Estessimo Tins The Neptune nail polish review

‘They’ve got SNILs!’ Boyfriend told me, as I continued to hunt around a shop for nail polish. I, of course, ignored him. What the hell are SNILs?! Probably some football-related nonsense. But he kept repeating himself until I was finally dragged over to see the ‘SNILs’, which were in fact Estessimo TINS, a Japanese nail polish brand renowned for their glitters that I had declared an interest in but days ago.

Most of their polish names begin with an entirely irrelevant and unnecessary ‘The’, which many find amusing but I find sort of charming and quirkily cool. Plus, the definite article implies special-ness and individuality, which these polishes have in spades. And good on them for not going down the boring names and numbers route so beloved of Asian cosmetics companies – hi Majolica Majorca V1494 and Sasatinnie FCGL002!

So here we have The Neptune, from their All Night Stars Collection, which was named entirely after planets. Perfectly-named, may I add, because these heady hits of colour and glitter send you shooting straight to the stars.

The Neptune is a mid-toned indigo shot through with silver glitter and larger round holographic glitter particles. In short, it’s total starry-studded night sky stuff. One coat gives you a pale pretty lilac kind of colour, two is the lovely shade of not-quite-blue not-quite-purple that’s pictured and three intensifies it to a deeper, darker colour that’s heading more towards midnight yet all look like they’ve come from a galaxy far far away. A galaxy that’s been hit with a shed-load of glitter, of course.

For those that love their glitterbombs, look no further. The Neptune is practically dripping in sparkle. And even though it’s saturated in silver glitter and bouncing off the ceiling with those bigger rainbow-reflecting particles, enough of that lovely base colour still shines through. Glitter may as well be Estessimo Tins middle name.

Application was easy, the brush was medium-sized leaning more towards the thin and it was pretty opaque in just the one coat. Yes, you’re hearing that right – ONE. Normally, glitters have to be built up to two coats on a good day but usually at least three or four to get any decent coverage of the sparkly stuff yet this has more glitter going on in one swipe than most polishes manage in a lifetime.

That amount of glitter obviously means you don’t get a finish that feels smooth yet it looks smooth and not at all gritty, which is, in glitter terms, practically as good as it gets. It stayed chip-free for an age… or should that be a light year… and what’s more, unlike OPI’s Sparkle-licious, it wasn’t utterly nightmarish to remove. I even managed it with a non-acetone remover without rubbing my skin off in the process!

I also loved the base colour of The Neptune. I mentioned in my review of OPI’s Ink how many nail bloggers seemed to have forgotten the term indigo existed, instead making up the word ‘blurple’, and I’ve also detailed how difficult a colour it can be to pitch right (remember the inky dull disaster that was Zoya’s Pinta). But The Neptune manages to nail (ho ho ho) even that! The perfect little bear portion of blue and purple, it would be a pretty dreamy colour on its own, and that’s before you’ve mixed in a solar system’s worth of sparkly stuff.

Seriously, look how prettily those particles glow against that indigo backdrop! Red, pink, blue, green, gold, copper, purple – they’ve got it all. Astronauts would probably be disappointed with how the real galaxy looks in comparison once they’ve seen this baby.

The Neptune was so impressive that it’s got me seriously wondering if I’ll ever bother with other brand’s glitters again. Even if I’ll never be able to think of Estessimo Tins as anything other but SNILs ever again!

Estessimo TINS 023 The Neptune nail polish, Winter 2003 All Night Stars Collection, $85, Nail Concept Company

Looks good with: Black, constellations, star-gazing
Drying time: 5-7 mins
Coats required: 2
Chips: +7 days

Make-Up Miracles: Atorrege AD+ Medicated Acne Spots Treatment review

‘I had got so used to anti-blemish products drying out and tightening up my skin that I’d assumed it was the only way; Clinique proffered a gentler, kinder path that actually produced results.’

That was what I wrote about my last make-up miracle, Clinique’s Anti-Blemish Foaming Cleanser. Well, it seems that good spot treatments are like buses, as after a long dissatisfying wait, another amazing anti-blemish solution turned up as well! The next inductee into my make-up miracles hall of fame: Atorrege AD+ Medicated Acne Spots.

Yes, the English name makes no sense (it’s from Japan). But I promise that once you use it, everything will become crystal-clear. It’s unmitigatedly absolutely brilliant.

As opposed to Clinique’s cleanser, which is as much a preventative for acne-ridden skin as it is a cure, Atoregge’s treatment is best used for neutralising hostile takeovers from the little blighters. It comes in a highly professional looking glass bottle, complete with a glass dropper to dispense the serum-like essence. Basically, this stuff means business.

Atorrege’s translation skills aren’t perfect but given how few Japanese products get translated here (it seems to be a badge of honour for Japanese and Korean stuff to remain unintelligible), we should be thankful we’re getting a translation at all. It promises to eliminate inflammation, prevent acne, inhibit bacteria and lighten blemishes, by way of ingredients like witch hazel, lavender oil, chamomile, soy bean and bark extract from a tree traditionally used in Chinese medicine, huang bo (黄柏 or 黄檗, known as the Amur Cork tree in English).

This seems a fairly ambitious mission statement but Atorrege completely make good on their claims. The essence is a light transparent serum (somewhere between gel and liquid) that glides on and sinks in easily, with application extra-easy thanks to the super-hygienic dropper. Once you feel that familiar tingle signalling a spot invasion, simply rub in a few drops of the essence to the affected area. Unlike so many other treatments designed to zap away acne, it’s completely non-astringent, non-drying and non-stinging, making it absolutely perfect for sensitive skin.

Also unlike so many other treatments designed to zap away acne, it actually works! Your spot will be gone before you know it. It’s not allowed to ferment and become a raging angry red mountain or yellow-headed monster, instead fading away with barely a sigh of resignation. If you’re really lucky, said spot might even wave a white flag and retreat without even making a proper appearance!

My only proviso would be to apply sparingly – only a couple of drops really is enough. The essence includes a whitening ingredient, meaning that if you go overboard on an area that doesn’t need it, you can get a bit of strange pale patch on your skin (don’t worry too much if this does happen, it quickly goes away!). Since you only need so little (and depending on how often you get spots), one teeny 10ml bottle can even last out a year!

Quite simply, it’s the most effectively method at beating the little blighters I’ve met yet, but with none of the trauma of the evil old ways. And who can argue with that?

Atorrege AD+ Medicated Acne Spots, $220 for 10ml, available from selected Watsons