Allergy Alert! Products I Have Had Allergic Reaction to

Hey there, how’s everyone on Wednesday? We’re halfway through the week, and usually after Wednesday time passes in a blur for me, so I guess that’s good news!

I know that allergies are complicated, and just because I have been allergic to something doesn’t mean everybody will. Therefore, this post is there mostly as reference for myself and anyone who might want to take this into consideration. I do suffer from allergies, but it’s mostly my nose. Drastic changes in weather and animals (which is ironic. I found out about it after owning two cats for 5 years, but of course I’m not giving them away) could make my nose stuffy and runny. My skin is a bit sensitive, but it hasn’t reacted badly to an awful lot of products. That’s why I also think the products I have reacted badly to deserve some mentioning…

1. MAC Fertile eyeshadow. I adore purple eyeshadows (as you guys have probably found out by now), and Fertile looked like another dream one for me, so I was excited when I got it in swap! The color is indeed nice, but it is a bit hard to blend. I can’t remember if I had any pigmentation issue because to my horror, Fertile made my eyelids BUBBLE UP! I had never previously reacted to any eyeshadows, so it was a shock when the parts of my lids to which I had applied Fertile started bubbling up. I ended up having to show up for my date with no makeup, and the swelling finally went down after 6-7 hours. I repeat, MAC or not, I had never previously reacted to an eyeshadow. I’ll have to steer clear from it for the rest of my life.

2. Avene Cleanance Soap-free Gel Cleanser. OH MY GOD THIS STUFF BREAKS ME OUT! I have combination skin and occasional acnes, and I used to buy pharmaceutical cleansers that help keep excess sebum under control. I noticed an increased amount of acnes after using this cleanser. At first I thought it was the change in season so I used some other products to keep the acnes under control. I left for a long trip soon afterwards and didn’t want to take the almost full bottle with me, so I purchased L’Occitane Foaming Rice Cleanser (which became my HG) at the airport and stuck with that instead. My skin pretty much went back to normal, but up till that point I didn’t suspect it was THIS that caused the problems. I thought I’d go back to it when my bottle of L’Occitane was running out, and I was still naive enough not to have suspected this when I started breaking out BADLY again. My roommate was surprised, shocked, and concerned — he had never seen me with so many bad acnes ever and he had known me for 6 years. That says something! At a certain point I finally remembered I was using this bottle of cleanser the last time I had a bad breakout. I stopped using it and my skin snapped back to normal in a day or two. It was dramatic! I had never ever reacted to ANYTHING like this in my entire life. Again, I’m not saying everyone should stay away from this, but I’m DEFINITELY not repurchasing! Ended up throwing the bottle away when I moved.

I will keep updating the list if I turn out to be allergic to anything else again. How about you? Have you reacted badly to any makeup/skincare products? Do share the experience!

EDIT 12th January 2012

3. Korres Olive and Rye Night Cream. I received a sample of this, and the first time I used it I found the texture surprising. It looks like a cream, but once applied the cream melts into oil. The oil was absorbed after a while, so it wasn’t too greasy or anything. However, the next day some big and angry acne developed on my face! I suspected this cream because it was the only new thing I was trying out, so I switched back to the Caudalie one I am using at the moment, and the acne went down. However, since I planned to put this in the blog, I didn’t want to accuse the innocent. Therefore, once the acne went down completely I gave it a second try. The same thing happened. Granted I probably don’t need an anti-ageing and firming cream yet, my past experience with richer creams didn’t really lead to angry breakout. Maybe I’ll give it another try in several years when I do need an anti-ageing cream, but in the meantime the rest of the sample is going in the bin.

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When They Call it a Dupe…

Living in a country where a lot of raved-about products are not available and return policy is virtually non-existent, I’ve had to do a lot of research online to minimize buyer’s remorse. It can be a lot of trouble getting a product, so if I have to go through all that trouble I would prefer to make sure it’s going to be something I’d love. Also, since there’s no taking anything back, once I purchase something I’m stuck with it. I’m just not interested in having a lot of unused/unloved items stashed away in my makeup drawer!

Besides ending up with a grand majority of products I do enjoy and use, my research experience has taught me one more thing: when they call it a dupe, it is not necessarily a dupe. I’m not saying this because I don’t trust all the other hard-working bloggers who spend their resources giving consumers more information. I’m saying this because sometimes, the same product looks SO different on different swatch pictures that I am really surprised. For example, the other day, I saw someone comparing Toasted from the Naked Palette to one of the shades in Wet n’ Wild Comfort Zone. I literally had to rub my eyes and resort to my own swatch pictures to make sure Toasted is the shade I remembered it is. For a moment I thought I was remembering it wrong. Yeah, it was THAT different. To me personally, the two don’t even come close.

Apart from technical problems such as lighting, flash, screen settings, the swatcher’s skintone and undertone play a decisive role. Therefore, I would encourage everyone to keep this in mind. It’s not that a warm-toned girl can’t wear cool-toned eyeshadows. I am not very experienced, but from what I’ve seen, I’m sure almost anyone can “work” anything they want to. It is just that everyone’s resources are limited. For example, if I buy a powdery blue eyeshadow that I can only use in combination with one certain shade I have, and only on my waterline, it would be a bit of a waste. I’m not saying you shouldn’t though, if this powdery blue or whatever shadow you are lemming for really caught your eye. It’s just something to keep in mind. It’s better to come to terms with this than purchasing something you regret about, wondering why it looks stunning on someone else.

For the same reason, I would be a bit cautious when people call something a dupe. Maybe two products can look the same on the same person, but I wouldn’t want to guarantee they’d work that way for everyone. They could be similar enough, but they might not necessarily be the same. I’m not saying we should all forego for example similar drugstore versions of high-end products. As a matter of fact, I have found excellent gems in the drugstore range at a fraction of the cost. However, unless you own both, you wouldn’t be able to say if it’s a dupe. But then again they could be close enough not to warrant owning both.

My unsolicited advice is to keep the swatcher’s general skintone and undertone in mind when you hunt for dupes online. Is he/she warm-toned? Cold-toned? Of at least similar skintone? Your dupe hunt will likely be more fruitful if you analyse it that way. Also, if you think about it in terms of owning something that is roughly the same, you will also be more satisfied with your purchase.

Happy shopping!

PS: For Belgian shoppers’ reference, MAC does have some kind of return policy here. Within 2 weeks of purchase (if I remember it right) you can return unused and unopened merchandise to the shop. However, I was told on the phone to “give it a second thought,” since all the returned merchandise is to be destroyed. I appreciated the information, but since a return policy exists, I don’t think you should, however subtly, discourage customers from using it.

My Makeup Pet Peeves

The lesson we can all learn here? If even Beyonce (don’t get me wrong. I adore this woman) can’t pull off big color chunks of eyeshadow, we common, ordinary, everyday girls should really blend, blend, blend!

I’m writing this post with the full understanding that everyone should be free to do whatever they want to themselves, particularly when it comes to makeup, just because aesthetics is very culturally and personally specific. However, I have to get some things off my chest, because a lot of the times I can’t help but wince when I see certain things on girls. Here we go:

1. Lack of eyebrows. In my university town, girls usually wear minimal makeup. There is also this cultural perception that if you have a brain, you should completely disregard what is on the outside. Well, I beg to differ. Some things do not belong to the “makeup” category to me. Instead, they should be more like etiquette. I personally don’t have any eyebrows if I don’t fill them in, just because I have VERY sparse and light hair on my face. Some girls don’t have visible eyebrows because their hair is so blond, especially in summer it really looks like they have none. Well, guess what, fill them in. I don’t care if you want to dress like a hippie because you think that’s the way to go to save the world, but eyebrows make a big difference in terms of framing your face, and the lack of it is very often no less than shocking. Brains and brows can co-exist, I assure you. Now please go to the drugstore and pick up any brow pencil you can find. It might take some practice, but once you get the gist I guarantee you’ll look like a different person.

2. Unblended eyeshadows. Besides thinking “oh my God girlfriend, what did you do to yourself?” after watching that music video, what I secretly wanted to do was taking my blending brush (MAC 217. Will soon write a review) out and blending the eyeshadows for Beyonce. Girls, especially Asian girls who don’t have pronounced creases, unless they are really going for the drama on special occasions (like Halloween?), should definitely blend their eyeshadows to a seamless finish. Unblended eyeshadows do not fake creases. They do not give depth to your eyes or emphasize the shape of them. They make you look like a drag queen. There, I said it.

3. Over-highlighted brow bones. I have nothing against people who want to highlight their brow bones with a shimmery eyeshadow. In fact, I opted for a matte one only very recently. However, I’ve seen girls who try SO hard to highlight their brow bones with a shimmery eyeshadow that their brow bones are practically screaming for attention. You want your brow bones to stand out in order to give your face a bit more structure, not in order for everybody to see you have super shiny brow bones. It is NOT a good look, not to mention if you have any photos taken with flash, it’ll reflect like crazy. It actually distracts people from whatever other shadows you might or might not be wearing, and they’d be talking to your brow bones.

4. Thick cat eyeliner on Caucasian girls. Sorry, Caucasian girls. Despite the fact that you have numerous assets, being able to wear thick cat eyeliner is not one of them. As a matter of fact, that always reminds me of Amy Winehouse. No disrespect for the dead. I am actually a fan of her music, but her aesthetics was… Just don’t do that! The Kate Moss campaign for Dior Addict Lipstick literally sends a chill down my spine every time I see it. Incidentally, the Natalie Portman campaign for Miss Dior Cherie totally nails it. If you want to wear cat eyeliner, how about something subtle yet sexy like that? You have big and beautiful eyes, so work with them instead of drawing a thick line all the way to your eye sockets. NOT attractive. To be honest it’d make anyone look cheap.

5. Dark lipstick on girls with thin lips. Look, this is basic color science. When something is dark, it becomes visually smaller. If you have thin lips but wear dark lipstick, it makes your lips even thinner. I’m not saying everyone should have big lips, nor that they are somehow sexier, but dark lipstick is not flattering if you’re not well-endowed in the lip department to be further depleted. How about using a dark lipgloss if you want to go vampy? That way the gloss at least plumps your lips up a little.

6. Too much gloss on girls with big lips. This is the reverse mistake of pet peeve number 5. I know lips a la Angelina Jolie are in, but that doesn’t mean you should overdo it when you are gifted with them. As a matter of fact, if you browse through Miss Jolie’s pictures, most of the time she sports nude and pretty matte lips. That’s the way to go, my dears.

7. Faded, creased eyeshadows. Have you heard of something called eyeshadow primer? No? Consider that the most important thing you learnt today and lay your hands on one ASAP. Girls with creases usually have their eyeshadows creasing on them by the end of the day, which means all the eyeshadow gets stuck in their creases, leaving the rest of their lids almost bare. Even on girls with no creases like myself, a primer helps your eyeshadows and eyeliner look way more vibrant and stay put, so invest in one.

8. Lipstick on teeth. Need I say more? The trick is inserting a finger into the middle of your mouth and pulling it out. That way the excess stays on your finger instead of transferring to your teeth. Don’t do this in public though. You don’t want to give people the wrong ideas.

9. Too much blush. There is no need to look like a real-life matryoshka doll. Rather than wearing too much blush, or a blush that is too pink/orange/coral, I’d rather go blush-less.

10. A foundation that doesn’t match your skin tone. Oh, I know how hard it is to find a shade of foundation that matches. In fact, that is why I have been putting off this challenge. With that said however, please don’t intentionally buy something that is one shade lighter because you want to look paler (this is a common pursuit in Asia). On top of looking unnatural, it doesn’t work with the rest of your body.

11. Too much fake tan. This is something I have noticed almost exclusively in the West. I understand how a tan is the synonym of good health, tropical vacation, and sexiness in this part of the world, but most of the time it makes you look like a carrot. There, again, I said it.

At the end, I do believe that everyone has the right to do whatever they want in their pursuit of beauty, so these are nothing but my biased personal opinions. If it made you laugh, however, I’d consider this post worthwhile.

On Self-Acceptance

I’ve never accepted the way I look till very recently. Back in Taiwan where I grew up, my appearance stands out in a not-so-good way. I am 168 centimeters (5’6″), which makes me way taller than average for my age. I’ve always been one of the tallest girls in class, and since I’m not skinny skinny nobody has ever complimented on my looks. My shoe size is 38, and when I was a kid I could never ever get female models of NIKE trainers. That was basically the biggest female size and the smallest male size. Since shops always had a very small stock of them (and my mother wouldn’t pay for the models that were not on sale), I was always forced to buy man trainers. I trained to compete between the age of 12-15, but after that I was chained to my desk trying to get into a decent university, so for years and years I didn’t buy new trainers. It was not until I came to Europe and decided to start jogging again that I got my first pair of trainers for women. The marks and trims are magenta, and I had to heave a sigh for finally getting some compensation.

I have never been the most feminine of the bunch. In fact, I’m still very obtuse when it comes to how Asian girls (or girls in general, but particularly Asian ones if I may say) interact with each other. How they would mercilessly trash a colleague they have been working for YEARS with just because she was a bit friendly with this new guy at work at a work party. How they always have to move in pair or group, even if they are just going to the restroom. How they would stop talking to you all of a sudden with no apparent reason. There are some things I’ve never figured out in my life, though it’s not that I still care enough to work them out.
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