U&A’s Holiday Beauty Gift Guide 2016

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🎄🎁Hey everyone!

Christmas is just around the corner and I’ve been busy shopping, trying to get it all done early. This time of the year always reminds me of gingerbread cookies, warm knit sweaters and holiday gift sets 😂. In all seriousness, most of your favourite brands come out with sets that bundle their best sellers together or they release limited edition items like eyeshadow palettes. This gives you an opportunity to try new things, or get the makeup you wanted in a kit with extra stuff. It's all enticing and a great way to stretch your dollar a little more, or a way to spend even more money during the holidays. But you know, there is no such thing as too much makeup!

I’ve picked up some great beauty gift sets that I wanted to share with you guys. To those that I will be seeing this holiday, and are reading this, unfortunately some of my gifts will be spoiled for you. But it’s all for the blog! For the rest of you, I hope this list will help you buy for that makeup hoarder in your life. Without further ado, lets show you my Christmas Beauty Gift Guide 2016.

1. Revive Beauty Blender or W.O.W. Mini Beauty Blenders, $6.99ea at Marshalls.
Compared to the $28CAD you'll fork out for the original Beautyblender, this is a steal. I found these dups at Marshalls for only $7. I will most likely do a full review on the two blenders but for a dup, Revive holds up pretty well. It absorbs water similarly to the BeautyBlender, and applies makeup easily and smoothly. The mini sponges will be great for contouring or applying cream shadows.  If you've never used a beautyblender-like sponge before, this is a cheap and cost-effective way to try it! 

2. Smashbox LIGHT IT UP Primer Set, $44CAD at Murale by Shoppers Drug Mart.
Ask anybody and they’ll tell you smashbox makes one the best primers out there. This set is a full sized Photo Finish Foundation Primer with a bonus travel sized Photo Finish Primer Water. It comes in a fun fluorescent box ready for gifting and great to reuse for storing all your other makeup! I love this primer and I know whoever you buy this for will too!

3. Smashbox LIGHT IT UP 3 Palette Set, $55CAD at Murale by Shoppers Drug Mart.
Okay, this is really cool. This set comes with three mini palettes, an eyeshadow palette, contour palette, and a lip palette, all perfect for travelling. The Eyeshadow palette comes with six colours: (L to R) Vanilla, Flamingo, Russet, Totally Nude, Amethyst and Dark Cocoa. The Contour palette has three colours: Contour, Bronze and Highlight, and the lip palette comes with three glossy and three matte lip shades: (L to R) Cognac, Pretty Social, Inspiration, First Time Matte, Jam On It Matte, Bing Matte. This is such a fun set, it comes in the same fluorescent box as the primer set and the palettes matches the box. It has a little bit of everything, perfect for the person you don't quite know what to get.

4. Tarte Colour Wheel Blush and Highlight Palette, $55CAD at Sephora.
I admittedly bought this one for myself a couple months back, but it would be a wonderful gift to receive. This is a beautiful blush/highlight set, it comes with 8 blushes and two highlighters. The top colours are very bright and summery: Mod, Deco, Surreal, Culture, and Idol and the bottom ones are more warm for the winter: Concept, Icon, Montage, Ironic, Crafty and Concept. With a range from dusty rose to bright pinks and corals, this palette will fit with many skin tones. You can even multipurpose this palette and use it as eyeshadow. I like using the highlight colours to brighten the inner corners of my eyes.

5. Lancome Juicy Shaker, $28CAD at Sephora or Murale by Shoppers Drug Mart.
Remember juicy tubes? I must’ve had 20 of them, no word of a lie. This is the new Lancome Juicy shakers that replaced the Juicy tube. They have a nurturing oil layer and a pigment layer, you shake it up to emulsify the layers together and use a spongey applicator to apply it. These are such a fun twist to lip gloss. They’re not overly pigmented, they give that little pop of colour and shine to the lips with out being too sticky or high maintenance. And they're a great stocking stuffer! It comes in 11 shades, I have it in Mangoes Wild. (I'm sorry I did not take an up close picture!)

6. Stila Eyes Are The Window Shadow Palette in Mind, $60CAD at Sephora or Shoppers Drug Mart.
Stila makes wonderful eyeshadows, that are always so pigmented and apply effortlessly. This one isn’t a holiday set and is available regularly throughout the year. This palette is a neutral all matte palette, with some bold pops of colour like the purple shade or the burnt orange. The only thing is, when I first purchased the palette, the shadows were cracked. I went to several Shoppers Drug Marts after to find a replacement and many of them were cracked. I think it has to do with the old packaging. The new packaging is the one I repurchased, which is the same eyeshadow palette but a different exterior, and I feel like this case is a lot sturdier than the old packaging.. here’s to hoping.

7. Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner in Intense Black, $29 at Sephora or Shoppers Drug Mart.
This is also not a holiday item, but it does come in a gift set consisting of three eyeliners. I just wanted the single black waterproof eyeliner. This is by-far my favourite liquid waterproof eyeliner. It’s absolutely the best in my opinion. Just like the colour says, it is such an intense black, and it dries relatively quickly, so there won’t be any chance for transfer on the folds of your eyelids. And when they say this is waterproof, they mean it. Go ahead and bring on the water works, this guy won’t budge. 

8. Quo Roll and Go Brush Set $55CAD at Shoppers Drug Mart.
Beautiful black handles with rose gold ferrules, this set comes with 10 brushes and travel case that will upgrade anybody’s vanity. If you've bought makeup brushes before, you know how expensive they can be, especially buying a whole set like this. Quo makes beautiful synthetic brushes, and this set is no different. The brushes are soft to the touch and have a good weight to them. The handles aren't overly large, or long, making them easy to hold. The bristles are dense which I like so that you can easily pack on eyeshadow or powder. Playing around with them, it doesn't look like they shed the bristles easily. Having said that, I haven't had a chance to use these brushes fully yet, but I use Quo brand brushes everyday for my makeup and I have no complaints. This is a steal for this many brushes, especially if you compare it with a powder brush from their professional line which is already $45.


Thank you for taking the time to read. I hope you found a little inspiration in this blog post for your holiday shopping. I want to say that a gift isn't about its monetary value at the end of the day. I love makeup and I wanted to share all the things I love with the people I love and that's what inspired this beauty gift guide.

Happy Holidays! I'll see you in my next post!

xo, Karen

2016 Advent Calendar DIY

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It's that time of year again, where everyone is hitting the stores looking for the best deals for the holidays. As I'm furiously shopping for others (and let's be honest, for myself..I can't help it), beauty advent calendars are everywhere, from NYX to Benefit Cosmetics. As I drool over them, I noticed they can be quite pricey, and sometimes filled with maybe a couple of items that you want, and some things you definitely don't want. I've been in a crafty mood lately and thought, why not make my own advent calendar that I can personalize for someone. Beauty advent calendars is what spawned the idea to make this, but you can put anything you want in it. This year my boyfriend (Bryan) and I, along with our cat (Zoey), are going to do 12 Days of Christmas. Twelve days leading up to the Christmas, we each get to take turns opening a door and get a "stocking" stuffer gift. We put a price limit per gift of $1-15 and for Zoey, we're gonna fill her doors with treats and handmade catnip toys.

I had a lot of fun making this. Making the doors were the worst part, just because I had to map out each door before I cut them out. The doors will be the most time consuming part, but other than that, it's quite easy to craft this up!

My advent calendar is HUGE, because why not?! By no means do you need to make it this big, use whatever you have at home to make this the most cost-effective calendar. So, if you're in the festive mood and want to learn how to make your own (beauty) advent calendar, keep reading!

Some things you'll need:

Two boxes (Cereal boxes are a good idea)
wrapping paper
x-acto knife/scissors
measuring tape/ruler

1. Start with two boxes. The first you'll make your calendar out of and the other is just for extra cardboard you're going to use/cut up. The box I got from work, and it's 35"Lx24"Wx3.5"D, which is absolutely huge for an advent calendar. Feel free to make this as BIG or as small as you want! I suggest using a cereal box, that will work really well. 2. Wrap the first box however you like, I suggest using a glue stick to glue down the wrapping paper. (I did not do this, I wrapped it and taped it down, and then had to go back a glue down the paper on the doors).

3. Using the extra box, cut out two strips of your LxD and three strips of your WxD. Cut notches out halfway though the strips, three for the LxD and two for the WxD. Make sure the notches are evenly spaced out, as shown above.

4. Slot the strips together, and it should look like a grid, see above picture. This will act as the dividers for your calendar.

5. Before you slide the divider in to the box, just mark out approximately where the divider will be by setting it on top and draw the grid pattern with a pencil. After you've done that you can go ahead and slide the divider into the opening of the box. You can seal the box with some tape.

6. Mark out boxes using the gridlines you drew as a marker to where the boxes should be. I made the boxes smaller than the actual area of the grid, 17"Lx14"W and I did my best to put it right in the setting of each square of the grid. Use an exacto-knife to cut out three edges of the box, leaving the fourth edge, to create doors. You don't need to be perfect, I eye-balled the positioning of all the boxes here. Once you have some doors made, you can adjust the positioning of the grid inside now. Cut some triangles on the length of the open edge of the door for finger holes for easy access.

And there you have it! Label it with some numbers, and decorate it however you'd like! Honestly, I spent all night making this, while watching Gilmore Girl reruns and did not feel like making it super fancy.

I hope you try this out, it's a great way to personalize a gift, especially an advent calendar. And it also puts you in a festive mood leading up to the holidays. I have some great beauty gift ideas, and that post will be coming very soon. I know I haven't posted much, but you're about to get a barrage of holiday posts!

Please share your advent calendars with me, you can tag me on instagram, @kernh, or in the comments below!
Good Luck! Karen

A Closer Look: Setting Powders

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When using a liquid or cream foundation you're going to want to set the foundation with a setting powder to create that flawless, seamless look. Setting powders absorb excess moisture and oils and prevents the makeup from creasing or caking throughout the day. I find that setting powders are great for normal to oily skin. If your skin is very dry, adding a setting powder over your foundation may dry out your skin further. For those with very dry skin, skip this step and go for a liquid to powder foundation.

Setting powders come in a pressed compact or as a loose powder. Normally they are white in colour and go on transparent or they can be slightly tinted to a flesh tone. Either way, a good setting powder will be fine enough and soft enough to be absorbed into your skin and fill in the pores, giving a smooth look with no residual powder left over. I've tried a few setting powders and at some point you start to think that they are all the same. And that got me thinking, are they the same? What goes into these products? I did some research, I looked at my most commonly purchased products, shown below, and quickly broke down the main ingredients in all of them. You'll see that many of these ingredients are common to most of them.

Clockwise from the top:

Make Up Forever Super Matte Loose Powder Ingredients: Talc, Silica, Nylon-12, Silk Powder, Propylparaben, Butylparaben, Methylparaben, Dehydroacetic Acid. May Contain: Iron Oxides, Mica, Red 27 Lake, Titanium Dioxide, Yellow 10 Lake, Red 7 Lake, Red 21 Lake, Yellow 6 Lake, Ultramarines, Blue 1 Lake, Yellow 5 Lake, Red 6, Manganese Violet, Chromium Oxide Greens, Chromium Hydroxide Green, Synthetic Fluorphlogopite, Slica, Calcium Sodium Borosilicate, Tin Oxide.

Joe Fresh Translucent Loose Powder Ingredients: Talc, Silica, Phenoxyethanol, Titanium Dioxide, Iron Oxides

NYX HD Studio Photogenic Finishing Powder Ingredients: Silica 

Tarte Smooth Operator Ingredients: Amazonian Clay, Silica, Talc, Polymethylsilsesquioxane, Phenoxyethanol, Dimethicone, Kaolin.

Silica or Silicon Dioxide (SiO2), a natural mineral found in sand, clay and granite. It's very versatile in the makeup world, typically used to bulk up products. It is also anticaking, prevents products from clumping and it's very good at absorbing oils and moisture.

Talc or Talcum Powder (Magnesium Silicate), is used to absorb moisture, a bulking agent, and anticaking. Talc has become controversial over the years because in its natural form, talc is known to contain asbestos - a carcinogen. So when talcum powder is processed, they are manufactured "asbestos-free" for things like cosmetic use, but there is always that risk. Actually, a few years ago, CoverFX reformulated their products and completely eliminated talc from their entire line, replacing it with Mica. However, you still see talc in many cosmetic products today.

Mica or Sheet Silicates - Micas are a group of silicates that are physically and chemically similar, forming sheet layers. It is used as colour additives in makeup, and has reflective properties to give that shimmering effect in mineral foundation. It is also used as a bulking agent and is also good at absorbing moisture and oils. Working with mica poses a high risk of exposure through inhalation. I should mention that inhaling any fine particle poses a risk to your respiratory health.

Amazonian Clay or Aluminum Silicate. An ingredient used in all of Tarte cosmetics. Amazonian clay is collected from the banks of the river basin in the Amazon. The clay is collected through a selective process to maintain and preserve the environment and its natural resources. The clay is dried and then shaved into a fine powder which is directly used to bulk up Tarte cosmetics. Like the other silicates, it absorbs moisture and oil to mattify the skin, but this source of clay contains many natural nutrients that also promises to nourish and help improve the overall quality of skin.

Titanium Dioxide (TiO2), a natural mineral used as a colouring agent, a whitener/lightener, and also used as a UV blocker. This is a very common ingredient in sunscreen or sunblock. Titanium Dioxide is normally coated in silica and alumina what in sunscreen because they can be absorbed into the skin, which can then photo catalyze the production of free radicals (highly reactive compounds) that damage DNA (which then defeats the purpose of a UV blocker).

Phenoxyethanol - a preservative to minimize bacterial growth in cosmetics. Also a stabilizer in soaps and perfumes. May cause an allergic reaction, from eczema to hives.

Overall, each of the products mentioned perform similarly, they absorb oils, mattifies the skin, and gives your face that smoothed over look. However, I'm going to have to single out NYX's setting powder, I am not a fan. This is purely silica, and doesn't blend or absorb into the skin as well as the others and it leaves a white cast on my light-medium skin tone.  I can only assume that the powder is not as soft, and being harsher, it doesn't melt into the skin as well or as quickly. If you want a drug store brand, I by far prefer Joe Fresh's setting powder. Last thing, if talc is a concern for you, try CoverFX's setting powder, which I have also used, but isn't pictured.

I hope this was informative for you guys. I wanted to learn more about what goes into a product and therefore, I am sharing with you what I learnt. All the ingredients can be found on the Sephora website or on the packaging of your product. If you have any questions, I would be happy to answer them in the comments below.

For more information, I will link my sources below in order as the information appears:

Until next time!

Brow Tinting

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Brow tinting is essentially dying your eyebrows to darken the colour. It isn't a new thing but I've just been introduced to it thanks to my Instagram feed (follow me @kernh, shameless detour). I have pretty light eyebrows, typical for an asian, so I was completely intrigued. I found a place in the heart of downtown Toronto, Mync Beauty. They do brow tinting, and numerous other beauty services . Mync Beauty has three locations, I went to the one on Queen St. West. I didn't do very much research on the place, which is unusual for me, but it received a lot of positive press, from the Marilyn Denis to Hello! Canada. I was pretty excited to try it out, so I went in head first and told myself I'll worry about the consequences after! (that's a terrible philosophy to live by..)

Having said that, I was super worried that it was going to turn out terribly. I invited my friend Tiffany, who was brave enough to come and try brow tinting with me. It didn't help me that Tiffany kept joking about potentially coming out with sharpie eyebrows! Although, we'd look hilarious, it's not quite the look I wanted.

Thankfully, we had a wonderful aesthetician, Ashley, who reassured me that wouldn't happen. The process is gradual, and the depth of the colour is built over several applications of the brow dye. Ashley chose a colour that would match our hair colour and started by removing any brow product and applied a layer of dye on the brows. The dye is a gel concentrated with the brow pigment - similar to regular hair dye, but I assume less harsh since it's going on your face, which is thinner and more sensitive that the rest of your skin. The gel is only on for about a minute and is then removed. The colour shows pretty much instantly, and if you want the brows to be darker, another layer is applied. I did it three times, and Ashley concentrated the colour towards the ends of my brows where it's the lightest, and where I wanted to really show. After that, I had also requested to do their "highbrow" service, where they clean up your brows and shape them if needed. For me, I asked for the stray hairs to be cleaned up and a have them trimmed. I have never had anyone do my eyebrows before, I was a bit skeptical, but she did a great job, and I like the way she tweezed my brows. Below are the progress photos:

What my brows looks like before and not filled in.

Brow gel on!

Marking out where to tweeze (outside the lines)!

The next day - what my brows look like after three applications of brow dye, and tweezing. Even though my hairs are sparse, I can see the difference in the ends of my brows.

My brows fully filled in by me!

My brows are quite sparse to begin with, so I wasn't expecting them to be thick and dark afterwards (although if there is a process for that, sign me up! Let's be clear, not sharpie eyebrows). But even so, my brows are darker and a lot more defined. Tiffany's brows came out especially well! She has fuller brows than I do, so the brow product took to her hairs better, and really became more defined. She really didn't have to fill them in afterwards either!

The dye lasts for a couple of weeks depending on your skin care routine, for example, how often your cleanse or exfoliate. For me, I don't think the colour will last more than two weeks, considering I do have an extensive skin care routine, which I've posted about before.

The Brow Tinting is $20, and the Highbrow is an extra $16 if done together, it's $23 alone, but if it's your birthday month, like it is mine, then Highbrow is free.

All and all I had a good time! Thank you to Mync Beauty for taking care of Tiffany and I. If you want to learn more about Mync Beauty, please visit their website, here.

If you've done brow tinting before, I'd like to know about your experience! Or if you have any more questions about it, please ask below.

Until next time,
xo, Karen