Konjac Sponge – Changing up your skin routine

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I was in Winners the other day, going through their cosmetics and skin care and sometimes you find that great one-off product. I came across a Konjac sponge and it reminded me how much I enjoyed using them as part of my skin care routine. In short, it’s a biodegradable reusable sponge made of a Japanese plant fiber that gently exfoliates skin, helping slough off dead skin cells. It can be used alone or in conjunction with cleansers to really get that deep clean. This sponge is gentle enough to use daily and after several uses, your skin is softer and refreshed looking.

What is Konjac?

Also known as Konjaku, Devil’s Tongue, Snake Palm and Voodoo Lily, Konjac is a perennial plant that grows in Asia. It has a potato-like corm that grows in the ground and a stalk plant that produces a lily-like flower. The Japanese have used the corm as a food source and as a beauty remedy for many years. The sponge is made up of the vegetable’s plant fiber to create a webbed/meshed sponge and can be infused with skin benefiting properties, such as green tea, for added anti-oxidants and to help with inflammation, clays for added vitamins and minerals, and activated charcoals, to promote the removal of oil and dirt. The Konjac Sponge is 100% natural and biodegradable.

How does it work?

The sponge is made up of soft mesh-like fibers that act as a gentle exfoliator for your face and body. The fibrous sponge sloughs off dry/dead skin cells, and removes some surface dirt and oils, leaving the skin feeling soft and refreshed. It can also help remove non-waterproof makeup, but to get a deeper clean and to ensure all your makeup/dirt and oils are removed, it is best to use it in conjunction with a cleanser.

How do you use it?

When you first get the sponge it will be dried out and hard, run it under warm water to soften it and to make it flexible. You can now massage the sponge onto your skin. Use a separate sponge for your face and body.

You can use it with or without a cleanser. Without a cleanser, the sponge simply scrubs the skin, removing skin cells and some dirt and oils. To get a deeper clean, I always use it with a cleanser. In the mornings, I simply pump on the cleanser, and then massage my face with the sponge, working it in problematic areas, like around my nose, and right now my chin and upper lip, because of dry skin patches. I rinse the sponge under the water and squeeze the sponge to remove excess soap. Then I continue to use the sponge to rinse the rest of my face. At night, I typically remove my makeup first with a face wipe and makeup remover and then in the shower, I will use the sponge and a charcoal cleanser in the same way as my morning routine.

When you are done with the sponge, squeeze out as much water as you can. Don’t “wring” out the sponge like you would a towel however, you’ll just damage the sponge and it’ll have a shorter shelf-life. Store the sponge on a bath rack OR thread a string through it to hang it in the shower. You need to let the sponge dry out in between uses or else mold will grow and that’s just not fun.

How long does the sponge last?

Typically the sponge will last for 2-3 months. Over time the sponge will loose its elasticity. I suggest replacing it within 2-3 months anyway even if it lasts longer, because over time bacteria will build.

Where do you buy them?

Winners ($6CAD) – The brand I picked up was “Spa Sisters”, a Green Tea infused Konjac sponge, a great find. Once again, this may or may not have been a one-off kind of product from Winners, you know how they have a bunch of random things you can find and may never find again. Maybe you’ll get lucky and find one too but I did find their website and linked it for you! 

The Face Shop ($6CAD) – They have both the original Pure Konjac sponge and the Charcoal Konjac sponge. What’s unique about theirs is the teardrop shape. The shape helps get into corners, like around the nose, a lot easier. I have used the charcoal sponge and love it. After the Spa Sisters sponge, I will be repurchase the charcoal sponge.

Boscia at Sephora ($16-20CAD) – Boscia has their pure Konjac sponge, charcoal sponge and hydrating clay sponge. I personally have not tried these before BUT it is made of the same plant fiber as any other Konjac sponge. I want to think you’ll get the same experience with the cheaper alternatives.

If you have any other places where to find this sponge, let me know and I’ll add it to the list!

 

Using the sponge with my cleanser instead of working the cleanser with my hands, really has improved my skin. I find my skin feels softer and cleaner – without being dried out. I have a pimple on my chin that has scarred and the sponge has helped scrub off the dead skin cells and promote new skin cell growth. You will need to use the sponge for a couple of days to start seeing the difference but I think it is worth the try. It is a great natural exfoliator that is suitable for all skin types, especially for sensitive skin because it really is gentle.

If you try the Konjac sponge out, let me know in the comments below!

I'll talk to you guys next time,

Karen.

 

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

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

Katy Perry x Covergirl

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Trial and Error III: Katy Kat Matte Lipsticks

Covergirl teamed up with their spokeswoman, Katy Perry, to release 11 demi-matte lipsticks, the 'Katy Kat Matte' Lipsticks. They're velvety soft lipsticks that go on with minimal fuss and has a semi-shine finish with the non-sticky feel of a full matte lipstick. The formula is creamy enough that it doesn't dry out the lips but matte enough that it doesn't feather or blur around the edges of your lips. I still recommend a lipliner for longer lasting colour, especially for the darker shades, because it will transfer and fade while eating, drinking, etc.

All the colours are beautiful and have punny cat names because of Katy Perry's love for cats. I tried so hard to get my cat to take photos with me for this post, but she would have none of it! The colours I bought were, Kitty Purry - a dusty pink rose (with my tan, it looks baby pink on), Cosmokitty - a light lavender purple with blue undertones, Maroon Meow - a dark maroon and Catoure - a dusty reddish nude (yes, I think this best captures it). I genuinely love all the colours I chose, even Cosmokitty, it's very different from your typical pinks and reds, I don't know where I'm going to wear it but I love it! My favourite, and most used has to be Catoure. It's a great nude shade that just elevates your natural lip colour. It's so pretty and would look good on every skin tone. If I could buy them all, I would! The one I wanted that I can't seem to find is Perry Panther - a black shade.

Overall, these were a great buy! A drugstore lipstick that feels great on the lips and has full colour payoff, yes please! If you get a chance and see these at Shoppers Drug Mart ($8 on sale) or Rexall ($12-13), pick one up!

To see more go to, Covergirl.ca

Thank you for reading!
Until next time,
xo, Karen.

NYX Face Awards 2016

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Hey Guys!

A couple of weeks ago I decided to enter the NYX Face Awards contest, where you enter a video of yourself doing a makeup tutorial - spoiler alert: I did not make the Top 30. I didn't expect to make it to the next round. I wanted to, don't get me wrong but I knew with thousands of applicants, and such amazing talent out there, I wasn't going to cut it. I want to think I did it anyway to break out of my comfort zone and really test the waters of my capabilities. I'm actually very proud of the way my video turned out. This was the first time I had ever filmed myself, and edited a video. I had taught myself the whole process in less than a week. I'm surprised I even managed it. There were some obstacles, of course. For example, having to borrow a camera - twice, and then downloading a video editing program - which also meant I had to update my OS in order to run the program, and as well things like whether or not I'd have the time to finish filming/editing. There are many things I need to work on, but all those things will come with time and more experience with making videos. Regardless of the flaws you might find, I learnt a lot during this process and I'm happy I did it.

Now a part of the contest rules was to not show other products besides NYX/the sponsor products. But I did want to share with you guys the products I used, so I'm listing them here. Many of these things I use daily and absolutely love!

Face:
Primer - NYX Pore Filler
Foundation - CoverFX Cream Foundation in G50
Translucent Powder - Make Up Forever Super Matte Loose Powder
Bronzer - Bobbi Brown Bronzing Powder in Natural
Blush - Milani Baked Blush in Berry Amore

Eyebrows:
Brow Pomade - Tarte Brow Mousse in Rich Brown (Great colour for those with black hair but shines brown in the sun, asian/oriental hair I guess?)

Eyes:
Eyeshadow Primer: Smashbox 24 Hour Photo Finish Shadow Primer
Eyeshadows: Limecrime Venus the Grunge Palette: Creation (dark orange)/Muse(brick red) and Tarte's Holiday Collection 2015 (not shown): Peach On Earth
Liquid Black Liner - Covergirl Full Lash Bloom Mascara (I actually like the Lash Blast Volume better - the orange tube)

Lips:
Lipstick - NYX Lingerie Liquid Lipstick in Exotic (not shown)

(FYI - All the links will lead you to their respective brand websites. You can find all these products at your drugstore, Shoppers Drug Mart actually carries many of these brands, or Sephora. Lime crime products are only available online)

As daunting as it is to be completely makeup-less on camera for all the internet to see, here is my first ever makeup tutorial, I hope you enjoy it! Let me know in the comments what you think.

xo, Karen

Welcome to Upclose&Awkward

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Welcome to my blog! I’m very excited to finally present this to you. It’s been a long time since I’ve done something like this but it feels good to start all over again. I won’t lie, I’m a bit rusty. I haven’t played with photoshop in years, so this layout will just have to do for now. I’m sorry if there are a couple of unresolved issues with this site but I’m working on it =).  So, everything isn’t exactly quite how I want it to be (and this post is probably riddled with grammatical errors…sorry about that), but if I don’t start posting now, I never will.

Let’s start off with a bit of an introduction. I’m Karen (or Kern), I’m 25, I live in Toronto, Canada, and I’m a chemist. I started this website because my life and work felt a little bit inadequate. I have a 9-5 job, which I’m lucky to have, but at the same time, I feel like I’m going no where. Every day I go to work, I come home, eat dinner, go to bed, and start all over. It’s just  an endless cycle. Life has become really repetitive and like most people, I stopped liking what I was doing. I soon realized that, if I did nothing about it, this is how my life is going to be. And I hated that. I used to spend my time creating art on photoshop, playing the piano, and just indulge in any hobby I chose. Today, not so much. I feel like that’s the problem with being an “adult”. Sometimes, you get caught up in making money and having to put food on the table, you forget to enjoy the things you love. And I forgot to enjoy the things I love. That’s why I feel like my life is going no where.

So I decided I would change that.  This blog is to express my creative side and to have something outside my boring 9-5 job. This internet space is for me to get Upclose and Awkward with you guys (I had to work my website name in somehow) and talk about what interests me. I love beauty and skin care. Long story short, I have always had problematic skin. Makeup has helped me gain a lot of confidence. Over the years, I’ve tried a million different products, learning what works and what doesn’t. Today, through lots of trial and error, I know how to better take care of my skin with the right skin care regime and the right makeup. I’m not saying I have a miracle routine here, it’s just better than before =P. I want to share my thoughts and opinions on the various products I have tried and hopefully help another person struggling with problematic skin. Really, I just want to start a conversation, where we can help each other out. Because, I’m not an expert on these things, I just know what I know, and I’m always open to trying new things and learning about new products.

So, I hope you will come on this journey with me. It’ll be fun, I think.. =].

xo, Kern

(P.S. stay tuned for my first official beauty post! – face cleansers – so important, especially for oily/acne prone skin – although, everyone should be cleansing their faces!)