HAIR CARE | Effective (and not-so-effective) products to treat dry and flaky scalp, featuring Omorovicza, La Biosthetique, Ativo, Briogeo, and Lador

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I’ve been suffering from dry and flaky scalp for as long as I can remember. Way back in high school, I used Head and Shoulders but it was way too drying for me, which just made my dry scalp worse. I’ve been experimenting with different products to treat dry scalp and I’ve found a few products that work. I’m not an expert on scalp care, by any means, but as far as I understand it, my scalp is dry, which causes flakiness, similar to dry hair. It’s hard to treat dry scalp because products that can really help nourish the scalp can potentially make the rest of your hair greasy.

Omorovicza Revitalizing Scalp Mask

I received this as a PR sample from the brand, which I am so grateful about because I’ve been really itching to try this after hearing a lot of promising things. I was not disappointed. The Omorovicza Revitalizing Scalp Mask is pretty close to amazing. I’ve only used this a handful of times but it has been pretty good to me each time. Not only does it do a great job at deep cleansing and removing all of the flakes from my scalp, it leaves my scalp flake free for several days. Normally in order for this to happen, I have to apply some sort of scalp leave-in treatment, but I wanted to test the mask out on its own so I left it untouched after washing. I’m so thankful that I’ve been lucky enough to try this because it really is worth the splurge. The bottle is HUGE too. You get 200mL of product which should last you a really long time. I was not holding back at all when I use this, and even then I’ve barely made a dent in it.

You can purchase this product at Nordstrom in Canada.

La Biosthetique Anti-Pelliculaire Shampoo and Lotion

La Biosthetique is a salon-exclusive hair and body care product. I purchased this at my local salon when I went in for a scalp treatment and hair cut. The Anti-Pelliculaire line is the line for treatment dry scalp and dandruff. You’re supposed to use the shampoo first, rinse, then followed with the lotion on towel-dried hair. There is no conditioner. I really love this line because it smells amazing and the shampoo is actually fantastic at de-flaking my scalp. I didn’t find that the shampoo alone does anything to help improve my scalp conditions over time, but coupled with the lotion it does work at keeping my flakes at bay.

The lotion itself also works really well with other mild shampoos and conditioners, such as the Ativo one. I wouldn’t use it with normal shampoos since normal shampoos tend to be over-drying on the scalp anyways, then the lotion becomes almost ineffective.

You can purchase La Biosthetique at select salons across Canada.

Ativo Dandruff and Dry Scalp Shampoo and Conditioner

I initially purchased this over a year ago, and since then I’ve gone through at least 2 sets of the shampoo and conditioner. Ativo is made and based in the Greater Vancouver Area, and the products are all natural with no synthetic preservatives. It primarily uses natural extracts and essential oils to help treat skin conditions. I really like both the shampoo and conditioner and over time, this set has been the one that is consistently delivering results.

I don’t use this all the time, as I like to rotate through my scalp treatment products. Each time I come back to this, I feel like it’s making a difference. The shampoo is nicely foaming and cleansing without being drying, and the conditioner is nourishing without being heavy. The conditioner also includes scalp revitalizing ingredients so I massage a little bit right into my scalp, and it never feels too rich. The two together are great at maintaining my scalp health and keeping flakes at bay. My only issue with this is that it doesn’t always work 100% of the time. If my scalp is extra flakey, then it doesn’t really work to remove or prevent flakes.

You can purchase Ativo directly on their website.

Briogeo Scalp Revival Micro-Exfoliating Shampoo and Charcoal Scalp Treatment

I purchased the Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal + Coconut Oil Micro-exfoliating Shampoo because I head some Youtubers really rave about this. While it does feel nice and deep-cleansing when I’m using it, it is very drying on my scalp and not suitable for regular use. I would reach for this if I am having a very congested scalp day and I need something to scrub and squeeze every last bit of congestion out of my hair and skin follicles.

The Charcoal Scalp Treatment is also great for days when I am feeling extra congested as it helps to keep my scalp feeling clean and refreshed. While I don’t contest that these are great at helping scalp health, they just aren’t great for those with dry scalp because the charcoal can be extra drying. If you have oily scalp, these might be useful for you.

You can purchase Briogeo at Sephora.

Lador Scalp Scaling Spa

My bestest friend Angela of Dowantmakeup.ca discovered this on a Korean skincare blog, and made a group order for us off eBay. Of all of the scalp products featured, this one is the most inexpensive at approximately $3 per tube. It comes in a small 15g tube that allows for 2-3 uses, depending on how heavy you apply it. I really like this because it does a great job at clearing my scalp of flakes, and also giving me that refreshed scalp feel.

Of everything here, minus the Omorovicza, the Lador also gives me the most consistent results. It’s not too drying and works pretty much every time I use it, whereas the other products might not perform as well if my scalp is extra flakey that day.

My top picks are the Omorovicza Revitalizing Scalp Mask and the Lador Scalp Scaling Spa. The Ativo Dandruff and Dry Scalp Shampoo and Conditioner is good but only if your flakey scalp issue is more moderate. La Biosthetique Anti-Pelliculaire Shampoo and Lotion is expensive if your issue is recurring, and Briogeo Scalp Revival Micro-Exfoliating Shampoo and Charcoal Scalp Treatment is not great for those with dry scalp.

The Omorovicza was sent to me as a press sample for review purposes, everything else was purchased by me. All opinions are my own.

SKINCARE | High tech skincare with FRANZ Microcurrent Face Mask System and Everyday Essence Face Serum

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In my quest to get the best possible skin for my upcoming wedding (and just in general because good skin is always a good thing), I’ve been trying out some pretty interesting products. The most unique is the FRANZ Microcurrent Face Mask System and the accompanying Everyday Essence Face Serum. FRANZ is a Korean skincare brand which harnesses the power of microcurrent technology to help improve the efficacy of skincare and its absorption into the skin. The brand’s primary products are face masks, and it also has accompanying skincare products that you can use for maintenance on a day-to-day basis. The products are all made in Korea.

From the brand, I received a two week starter kit, which includes two boxes of Premium Microcurrent Mask Systems:

  • 4 Enriching Masks (Wet)
  • 2 Elixirs (Boosting Essence); 7ml / 0.24OZ each
  • 4 Empowering Masks (Dry)

The starter kit also included one bottle of Everyday Essence (50ml / 1.7oz). Each box of the Premium Microcurrent Mask System includes two sets of masks and retails for US$50, so each application is US$25. The Everyday Essence is US$60, so by buying the set together, you save a total of US$40.

Application is pretty complicated, and it’s not something you would just slap on randomly. The face masks come in three steps; you’d first put on the Enriching Mask, which contains the majority of the serum and helps the mask adhere to your face. Next you’d apply the Elixir to the dry Empowering Mask on a specific area marked on the mask, and then you align the dry mask on top of the wet mask. The dry mask contains the microcurrent technology, and after 25 minutes, it should deliver a thorough dose of hydration and anti-aging ingredients to your skin. The process is explained in the Youtube video below.

First, let’s start with my thoughts on the Everyday Essence. For US$60 for a standalone bottle, it’s pricier than your everyday serums. It does come in a hefty 50mL bottle compared to most serums which are only 30mL. This is a great every day serum to use either morning and night. I mostly get hydrating benefits from it, as the anti-aging benefits usually take longer to appear. I use a hydrating serum over top most of my other serums with active ingredients, and this one layers really well over other products without being greasy, heavy, or sticky. I like that it contains some great ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, retinyl palmitate, biotin, folic acid, and folic acid.

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Now for the mask itself, I really like the fit, and the texture of the mask fibre. The shape and cutouts of the mask fits my face almost perfect, with the exception of the forehead space being slightly too short (this is a common problem for me so I guess my forehead is just too big XD). Of all the masks I’ve used in the past, this one fit me the best with barely any excess mask fibre dangling about. Each wet mask contains 25mL of serum, which is a lot. The wet mask is completely soaked in the serum, and there was still a ton leftover in the bottom of the sachet. The serum itself is a very thin liquid, and dripped quite a bit when I was taking it out of the sachet and unfolding it. I saved the rest of the serum to apply the next day, although you could also use it on your body.

The dry sheet with the elixir is really gimmicky. You’re supposed to squeeze the elixir into two small sections on the dry mask, and let it absorb. I assume this is what kickstarts the microcurrents as the dry mask itself is not attached to any electricity or anything. I had a really hard time “aiming” the sachets correctly and ended up getting a lot of the elixir on the mask itself. Once the dry mask was on, it adhered really well to the wet mask, and then my 25 minute countdown started.

I’m not going to lie. I fully expected to hate this mask because of how annoying the application was. While I was using this, I even texted my friend Angela to let her know I’m using this weird microcurrent mask and it’s so annoying to use. During application, I couldn’t feel any microcurrents or anything to indicate that the microcurrent technology was working. I couldn’t wait to take it off.

Finally the 25 minutes were up and I quickly went to remove the mask, and I was absolutely gobsmacked at how lifted my face looked. My jaw looked so much more contoured, my cheeks were more lifted, and my skin looked more taut and bouncy. My skin also felt very plump and hydrated. The serum from the wet mask had more or less either absorbed into my skin, or absorbed into the dry mask. There wasn’t much serum left to massage into my skin, which I was completely fine with as I really dislike too much excess serum.

Despite my low expectations, I was really pleasantly surprised by how good this mask worked. It is very pricey though, at US$25 per application, so it’s really not for regular use. I can see this as being a fantastic pick-me-up mask for pre-special events or when your skin is feeling particularly blah. I highly recommend this if your budget allows for it.

The Everyday Essence is good, but not amazing. I don’t think it outperforms some of my other hydrating serums, and it’s also harder to acquire so I’m not sure it’s worth the trouble. If you are going to get the masks though, do get the 2-week starter kit as you get a full size serum for just an extra $20, which is a great deal.

You can purchase FRANZ products on their website. I received my package directly from Korea, and folks in the US get free shipping with orders over US$50.

Products provided by PR for review consideration; all opinions are my own.

SKINCARE | Seven days of masking featuring Biotherm, Laneige, Sulwhasoo, Omorovicza, Vichy, Valmont, and La Prairie

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One of my goals this year is to use more face masks. When I was in Bermuda visiting my good friend Suz, I noticed that she masked every day, sometimes using two masks consecutively, and her skin is just glowing. She had a routine – get home from work, take off makeup, mask. A few years ago, I was masking way more often too but ever since I moved out of my condo, I’ve just been super lazy and less creative with my skincare. Don’t get me wrong, I still buy and hoard masks, and I have a super full mask drawer, so I really need to just use them.

Anyways, I wanted to write up some quick reviews on the face masks that I’ve been using lately. Despite the title of this post, I didn’t actually use these consecutively over seven days. I don’t actually advocate for using a different face mask every day, multiple days in a row, because you are subjecting your skin to different ingredients every night. My skin can get sensitive, so doing that just increases the sensitivity.

I’ve included a combination of sheet masks, wash off masks, and even overnight masks. Sheet masks can get really tedious to use sometimes (see lazy above), so I prefer to do a wash off mask just because it can be easier to use, especially in the mornings when I really just need a quick pick-me-up.

Biotherm Life Plankton Essence-in-Mask*

Serum texture: I believe the serum is the Biotherm Life Plankton Essence dumped into a mask pack. It’s very hydrating and lightweight, but too much of it and it becomes really sticky and doesn’t absorb. I had to wipe off quick a bit and my skin still felt a bit sticky climbing into bed.

Mask fibre and fit: It has a traditional cotton fibre mask, which I actually don’t like. It feels very heavy and weighed down, especially if the fit of the mask isn’t great. The good thing is that it does absorb a ton of serum, so it won’t dry out even if you leave it on for a long time. The fit of this mask is not bad. The forehead part was a bit short so I had to make up for the lack of coverage by constantly massaging serum into that area.

Overall: This mask costs $72 for a pack of 6. For a $12 mask, it’s not terrible, but it’s not great. My skin felt hydrated after but I didn’t feel like it was long-lasting hydrating. The next morning, my skin felt just okay. It has a very spa-like scent, which doesn’t bother me. I do like that it’s a quick and easy face mask, as they only ask you to leave it on for 8 minutes, which is a very short yet specific period of time.

Laneige Water Bank Soothing Gel Mask*

Serum texture: Such a lightweight texture that absorbs quickly into the skin with almost no stickiness. It’s super hydrating, and my skin feels plump and refreshed the next morning. The only downside is that it does contain quite a bit of alcohol, so if your skin is sensitive to alcohol then you might want to skip.

Mask fibre and fit: LOVE the fibre of this mask. It’s a gel mask so it’s super lightweight, adheres very well, and doesn’t fall off. I don’t love how it comes in two pieces, I find that the lower piece tends to slowly slide off my face, and I need to constantly readjust it. The downside of a gel mask that it doesn’t actually absorb that much serum so I tend to scoop a bunch from the bag, apply it to my face, then stick on the mask. Fit was okay, I felt like it was a bit wide (a common problem with me and sheet masks), so the sides kept falling off.

Overall: This mask is $31 for a pack of 5, which is a pretty good steal for the quality. The instructions say to leave it on for 30 minutes, so it’s not a mask you could use if you wanted a quick skin pick-me-up. I would definitely buy this again as they would make great masks to use on a sunny beach vacation.

Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Mask

Serum texture: This mask contains the Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum soaked into a mask. The FCAS is one of my all-time favourite step zero serums. I’ve gone through at least 3-4 bottles of this stuff, and I still have two in my backup. It’s such a great base layer skin serum that allows all of the other products applied after it to be more effective. Each mask pack includes, I believe, 10mL of serum.

Mask fibre and fit: The fibre is a super light, thin cotton. It does a better job at soaking in the serum than a gel mask, but isn’t as heavy as the traditional cotton mask. It adheres really well to my skin, and I can leave this on for up to 30 minutes (instructions say 10-20 minutes).

Overall: This mask is $79 for a pack of five. I would highly, highly recommend getting this if your budget allows for it. This is one of my favourite masks to use when I really want to seriously pamper my skin. My skin always feel incredible after using it – super plump and glowy.

Omorovicza Deep Cleansing Mask*

Texture: Lightweight mud mask that dries down completely but doesn’t feel tight.

Overall: I don’t use mud masks that often because my skin is relatively dry, although it does get congested sometimes which is when I bring out the big guns. I recently discovered this product and I really like it. For a mud mask, and for something that is called a “Deep Cleansing Mask,” it’s not drying at all. It does a great job at decongesting my skin but still maintaining it’s balance. I don’t need to use a hydrating mask after this, which can be case with other mud masks. It’s a bit pricey at $160 for 50mL, but a little bit goes a long way with this because it is thinner than most mud masks in my mask drawer. I would probably rate this as one of the top 3 mud masks I’ve ever used.

Vichy Soothing Aloe Vera Mask*

Texture: A gel-ish cream texture that contains aloe vera and Vichy’s mineralizing thermal water.

Overall: I’m not a fan of this mask, sadly. I was really looking forward to it because my skin can get really sensitive under extreme climates (either too much sun or too much wind / cold), but I actually find that this mask makes my skin even more sensitive after just one use. It is pretty affordable at $34 for 75mL. It does do a good job at minimizing redness, probably because of its green hue that is a bit hard to wash off. I much prefer the Quenching Mineral Mask from Vichy, which is also $34 and does an amazing job at helping reduce sensitivity while deeply hydrating my skin.

Valmont Prime Renewing Pack*

Texture: Very rich, white cream that is a bit harder to spread. Feels like a primer and a traditional cold cream had a baby.

Overall: I understand that this mask has a cult following in Asia, which I completely cannot understand. Of all the masks I reviewed today, this one is the worst. It’s supposed to be a prime renewing, and stress and fatigue relieving mask, but I feel like it doesn’t do much to my skin at all. I use this in the morning because of its “priming” properties, and I keep hearing about how it helps to completely renew your tired skin, but honestly I didn’t see a difference before or after. The second ingredient on this list, after water, is mineral oil, and it feels very rich like mineral oil. It does contain a ton of different extracts starting from the 4th item on the ingredients list, but maybe my skin just isn’t in that bad of a condition to fully appreciate it. It’s also very pricey at $280 for 50mL. I definitely think you should try a sample of this before you buy it.

La Prairie Skin Caviar Luxe Sleep Mask*

Texture: Lightweight cream with the signature Skin Caviar scent

Overall: I received this from the La Prairie team as an engagement gift last spring. This is such an amazingly luxurious cream mask that I’ve been savouring for the nights where my skin really needs a lot of help. With this mask, I can instantly tell a difference in skin texture, bounce, and lift the next morning. My jaw is nicely contoured and my skin is visibly lifted and firmer. This product was revamped a year or two ago with the new caviar premier, which is even more effective at anti-aging, and I can really see the difference. It also comes with a beautiful brush that you can apply the mask with, which makes for such a lovely treatment. It is very pricey, at $500 for 50mL. It’s not going to be in everyone’s budget, but if you have the budget and want something effective, this definitely is something you want to add to your skincare collection.

Products with an asterisk (*) were received as PR samples for review consideration or as gifts from the brand. All opinions are my own.

SKINCARE | Daytime and nighttime routine update featuring Omorovicza, Eve Lom, and Verso

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Hello and happy 2020! I took a bit of a blogging hiatus towards the end of 2019 because honestly I was running low on inspiration, and I’d rather not publish unless I had something really good to say. To start off my blog in 2020, I wanted to share a skincare update with you on the products I’ve been using the last few weeks and months.

Daytime

Omorovicza Daily Vitamin C Serum

I’m on the fence about the Daily Vitamin C Serum from Omorovicza (C$200 for 30mL). I do like how lightweight and silky this makes my skin feel, and a little bit goes a long way, but I found that under a lot of products, it pills. I love the lightweight citrus scent, and while it’s not medical grade vitamin C (unlike Skinceuticals or AlumierMD), I do find a bit of comfort knowing that I’m still using this as an anti-oxidant during the day. I likely won’t repurchase this as it is also super pricey for being just okay.

You can purchase Omorovicza at Sephora and Nordstrom.

Eve Lom Radiance Antioxidant Eye Cream

Full disclosure – I’ve only been using the Radiance Antioxidant Eye Cream (C$98 for 15mL) for about a week but I am pretty happy with it so far. I ran out of my normal eye cream (from La Prairie) a few weeks ago and I’ve been going without a daytime eye cream just because I’m lazy, and was relying on my Verso eye serum. I’ve had great experiences with Eve Lom skincare in the past and this one is no different. I love the balmy texture that is moisturizing without being greasy. I use this as my “eye moisturizer” on top of the Vichy Mineral 89 Yeux and they work wonders together. I don’t notice that it minimizes wrinkles or anything but I do feel like it reduces the creation of additional fine lines.

Eve Lom Moisture Cream

Similar to the above, I’ve only been using the Moisture Cream (C$210 for 50mL) for about a week and I am absolutely IN LOVE with this. It is such an interesting gel-ish thick cream texture that is super moisturizing but still very lightweight. It has lavender in it, which not everyone enjoys, but I adore. I’ve been using this primarily as my day cream but I also use it at night on the evenings where I am taking a break from Verso. It works great both under makeup and as a rich night cream for my super dry and dehydrated skin. If you buy anything from what I’ve reviewed today, this has to be it (unless you hate lavender, then you should stay far away from this).

You can purchase Eve Lom at Shoppers Drug Mart.

Nighttime

I switched the majority of my nighttime routine to Verso towards the end of November / beginning of December last year. After about a month of using them, I’m really liking the state of my skin. This is the first time I’ve ever used a retinoid eye product and moisturizer. Historically I’ve only used retinol or retinoid serums or facial oils.

Verso Super Eye Serum

The Verso Super Eye Serum (C$110 for 30mL) is a lightweight milky gel texture. A little bit goes a super long way. I apply this at night only and I use it about five days a week, or two to three days on and then one day off (using the Eve Lom Eye Cream above) to give my eye area a break). I really like the texture of this serum but I don’t know if I feel like it’s doing much to my eye area. I feel like it is a bit too gentle to actually make a difference, but it also causes sensitivity if I use it too many days in a row. I would skip this.

Verso Super Facial Serum

The Verso Super Facial Serum (C$175 for 30mL) is a thick serum that is ultra creamy and relatively moisturizing for a retinoid-based product. I use this about 5-6 days a week, with a one day break. I really like how gentle it is that I can use more regularly compared to other retinol products. It really does work. I feel like my skin is a lot smoother and softer over time. It does cause a bit of sensitivity if I use it without a break, but I found that I can get away with just a one day break per week. If you have ultra sensitive skin, you may want to take additional breaks.

Verso Night Cream

The Verso Night Cream (C$145 for 50mL) is my favourite of the three products. It is a super rich night cream that still is moisturizing but not greasy, and still absorbs quickly. When used with the face serum, I wake up with smooth, glowy skin that is a great base for makeup. Similar to the Facial Serum, I like that it is a lot gentler compared to straight up retinol products, and I can use it pretty much every night (I also take a one day break with this each week). Slow and steady wins the game – now I can get all the benefits of a retinol-like product without the dryness.

You can purchase Verso products at Holt Renfrew.

All products were provided by PR for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

FASHION | Four worst luxury purchases

Now that you know all about my five best luxury purchases, I also wanted to share with you my worst luxury purchases. I was going to put together a list of five, but I couldn’t really think of a fifth one and I didn’t want to just jam something in there when it didn’t deserve to be in there.

4. The Cross Design “Dream Bed” dupe

This isn’t quite a ‘luxury’ purchase in the traditional sense but I’m still including it because I spent a ton of money on this bed. I had fallen head over heels in love with the Dream Bed from The Cross Design. I LOVED that ultra luxurious, tuft headboard look, with its huge majestic wings. Well the issue is that the real Dream Bed is $3500, and I was not about to drop that much money on a bed, so I went on Craigslist and saw a lady who made custom beds in her garage (I know) and can recreate the Dream Bed for me. Her price was $1,200, which wasn’t bad considering that it was completely handmade and custom designed for me, down to the height of the bed and the fabric choice.

Well the issue is it was built really poorly. The parts weren’t cut right and didn’t fit together well, the slats weren’t supporting our weight properly, and the foam headboard felt flimsy and didn’t have enough padding. It looked really pretty but it was definitely not the most functional bed.

3. Dior Diorama bag

I’ve always had a special connection to the house of Dior because I grew up with my mom using exclusively their beauty products. I’ve wanted to collect a Dior bag for a while and I fell in love with his bag when I saw it on Instagram. The issue is that I fell in love with this dark rose / raspberry colour that was no longer available, but I appeased myself by buying the grey one because Dior is all about the dove greys. Well sadly, I was super underwhelmed with this bag. While it’s beautiful, it’s just not as nice as the other flap bags I own. The other thing that really bothered me was the fact that the chain is part metal part leather, and I’m super OCD about wanting the leather part of my chain to be on my shoulder, right side up, so then I’d spend a lot of time adjusting the chain. I just didn’t enjoy using it, or the blah colour. I still wear it, primarily when I travel, because it is a comfortable bag to wear, and for a designer bag it’s pretty low key. But I don’t love it. For such an expensive bag, you really should love it.

2. Shoes

I have several pairs of shoes that I bought…. and never wore ever. Among them are a pair of Louboutin Simple 85 pumps that are not even that comfortable, but I bought because I didn’t have a pair of classic nude high heel pumps that would go with any outfit. The Louboutin red sole is super flashy and I didn’t feel comfortable wearing them to the office, and then on weekends I’d rather wear something more statement or comfortable.

One pair I did wear but are just super uncomfortable are the Chanel two toned slingbacks. I got these on sale for 40% off and was suuuuper happy about them, but they are just insanely uncomfortable. They pinch my feet so much and the leather is pretty stiff so they just don’t stretch out. I might buy some shoe stretchers just to help it along a bit, but otherwise they are really not that wearable. They look beautiful though, and I still love that I have them.

1. Chanel Just Mademoiselle tote

This was my first ever luxury bag purchase and it’s also the one I regret the most. I bought this bag in 2012 after I started my first full time job. I have no idea why I bought it, it was totally on impulse. The lambskin leather makes me super worried to use it, and the soft leather also means the bag is not structured at all (I prefer structured bags that don’t lose their shape). I just barely ever used it. I ended up gifting it to my mom but she gave it back to me because she also found that it didn’t work well for her lifestyle. For now it’s just sitting in my closet.

What are some of your worst luxury purchases or regrets?

HOME | Master bedroom decor

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I haven’t done a home post in a while so I wanted to share some aspects of our master bedroom with you. This is the room in the house that I am most close to being finished in terms of decor. The only thing that may be added in the future is something above the bed to fill out the space more, but I’m still trying to decide if we really need that.

The master bedroom was the one room in the house that I had a clear vision for how I wanted it to look. It’s also the room that I am the most happy with overall. We were very lucky in that the room itself had very good basics to work with – the size was just right, with the right configuration of where the window and doors were. I was also given a lot of freedom creatively to design the room.

Bed – customized via Candace & Basil
Mattress – Mr. Mattress, in the model Bennett
Side tables – Ikea customized with brushed brass knobs from Amazon
Sconces – Hang Out Lighting via Etsy
Edison bulbs – Amazon
Wall clock – Amazon
Accent wall paint – Sherwin-Williams Naval
Wall paint – Sherwin-Williams Icicle

I’ve written extensively about our bed so I won’t go into too much detail about this. In summary, we are both ecstatic that we went with a king size bed because now we both have a lot of room to move around in our sleep. There’s also enough room for our cat, Noodles, to sleep with us if she wanted to.

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The mattress itself is the Bennett from Mr. Mattress, a local Vancouver mattress store. I’m fairly certain they ship across Canada. This is our second Bennett mattress from Mr. Mattress (our first one is now in the guest bedroom) so you know how much we love this mattress. We’ve recommended everyone we know to shop there and try out the Bennett and several people have also purchased it based on our recommendation, so that’s just more proof that it is an amazing mattress. I find that mattresses are rarely double sided now, and most modern models also come with a thick pillow-top which can be comfortable initially but are more prone to sagging. Since you are no longer able to flip the mattress over, you’d have to replace it sooner rather than later. Mr. Mattress’s models are all double sided so you can flip them, and they don’t come with that thick pillow-top so they tend to last longer. I haven’t noticed much sagging in either of our beds either, so they’ve lasted quite well. If you want a soft pillow-top to sleep on, it’s much cheaper just to add your own and you can just replace that instead of having to buy an entirely new mattress.

Our side tables are from Ikea. They were a very generous housewarming gift from my brother, who purchased them for us when we moved into our condo over three years ago. We had kept the original black knobs for most of the time we’ve had this, but I’ve always wanted to change them out to something more modern. With our navy blue wall, I wanted to add brass accents throughout the room, so I ordered these brass knobs from Amazon. They were about $5 each but make such a big difference in the overall look and feel of the room.

The sconces were something I had been researching and looking at for several months before I finally found the right ones for the right price. I ordered these customizable sconces from Etsy. They are made in Chicago and come in a variety of different colours and finishes. I picked an all brass look with navy cord. We didn’t want to get the hard wired style because I figured having plug-in will make it more versatile to change out later, if we wanted to. The navy cord blends in with the wall so its barely noticeable, and installation was also relatively easy.

The LED Edison bulbs are from Amazon. I looked for a really long time to find LED Edison bulbs that have that coil-effect on the inside, similar to old fashioned Edison bulbs. I almost contemplated getting actual Edison bulbs but since there was no lampshade with the sconces, I would 100% burn myself all the time from the heat. I’m glad I found these LED ones because there is almost no heat generated from them.  The energy footprint is also minuscule at simply 4.5W per bulb.

Our bedsheets are primarily from Fieldcrest Home, which were purchased from Target. We have the Damask Stripe and the Hotel, both in white. We absolutely love the sheets from Fieldcrest – I’ve written about them extensively on my Instagram here and here. We also purchased a set from Bluebellgray on clearance, which I wrote about here, but they aren’t as luxurious. I would not pay full price for the Bluebellgray ones, but highly recommend Fieldcrest as the price to quality ratio is just fantastic.

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We purchased this @fieldcresthome Damask Stripe 500 thread count duvet cover set from @target for our new king bed. I LOVE well-made, thick, high(ish) thread count bed sheets. I find that they are so much better in quality than normal sheets, and I end up sleeping better overall and wake up feeling more refreshed. 1️⃣ They feel like 500 thread count. I've had high(ish) thread count sheets before that are super thin and flimsy, these are not it. If you look into how thread count is calculated, you can see that it is often manipulated to show a higher thread count without the quality behind it. These are thick, luscious, and super soft. 2️⃣ They come with wonderful corner ties! I recently discovered corner ties and they have been incredible. 3️⃣ Fieldcrest duvet covers are larger than most down duvets on the market, so you end up with "spare" cover without any duvet inside it on the edges. Fortunately, having the corner ties really help alleviate this issue, and we haven't noticed any shifting. 4️⃣ They are $99.99 USD normally, from Target, but they often do sales. I waited for a sale and got this for $74.99 USD. It's pricey, but nice sheets last for a LONG time. 5️⃣ We don't use a flat sheet so instead of buying sheet sets, our fitted sheets are just the regular Target Threshold 300 thread count ones that are around $30 USD or so for the king size. We've been using this brand since 2012 and love the quality. ➡️ Let me know if you have questions!

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The duvet itself is from Costco, our pillows are from Bed Bath and Beyond and Ikea, our navy accent pillow was a collaboration between local Vancouver artist Dana Mooney and Joue Designs (now discontinued), and our fleece blanket was from Winners.

I always love to read about people’s homes and how they like to fill it, so I hope this was an interesting read!

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FASHION | How to buy Max Mara and other designer brands for European prices without travelling to Europe

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Today I wanted to let you in on a secret… I purchased my brand new Max Mara Manuela Icon Coat for 40% off the Canadian retail price. It was shipped directly to me via DHL, duty paid, from Italy.

Background

When I was researching Max Mara, I had the realization that the products are significantly cheaper in Europe compared to North America. The Manuela coat retails for C$3,490 (plus tax) in Canada but only EURO 1,400 in Italy, plus you get a nice 18%-ish percent VAT refund too, so the coat ends up being just approximately C$1,700. Of course you may pay duty upon entering into Canada, but sometimes you get lucky and just get waved through by the customs agent. Of course, the smart thing to do was to wait until I had plans to go to Italy to make my purchase, but we have no plans to go back to Italy since I was just there last summer. I also wasn’t going to plan a trip just so I can buy this coat since that just made no sense.

Luckily for me and my awesome internet research skills, I stumbled across a site called Italist. This company is based in LA but they work with stores and boutiques in Italy to bring you products at Italian-local prices, VAT-free, shipped directly to your house anywhere on the planet for free.

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Shopping experience

Shopping on the Italist is very confusing. It is not for the faint of heart or for someone who wants an easy shopping experience. You place your order online, then they will confirm stock with their boutique partner, and if the item is in stock, the boutique partner will ship it out within the next day. Since the stock listed on their website isn’t theirs, stock isn’t guaranteed and your order is only confirmed if the boutique partner confirms it. I messaged Italist on Instagram and they said one out of every 200 orders is cancelled due to lack of stock, since their inventory system refreshes every hour.

In addition, because product information is provided by the boutiques, sometimes it is very vague and you don’t get all of the details. You really have to know your brand, research the product you want, before making your order on the Italist. For example, when I found my Manuela coat on the site (screenshot below), the item wasn’t even labelled as the Manuela coat – it actually made zero reference to the word “Manuela”‘ and was just called the Tie Waist Coat. However I was familiar with the description of the coat and various details that make it the Manuela coat, so I knew it was that exact coat. I also confirmed my knowledge by comparing the the photos of the coat on the website with stock photos on the Max Mara website, and with my own photos I took when I tried the coat on in store.

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The listing of the coat I bought was taken off once my purchase went through (there was only one available from that particular boutique so once inventory was sold, the listing was removed), but the current listing for the Manuela coat is available here and just calls it the “Max Mara Coat.”

Also, you might see multiple listings of the same product, making it even more confusing to the shopper. This is because there are multiple boutique partners selling the same style. If you are looking for a particular size and one boutique partner doesn’t have it, just search for the style in their search bar and you will likely see another boutique partner offering it in your size.

Since it was my first time ordering, I took screenshots of the product page so I can compare the end product that I received with what was listed on the website. This is just me being overcautious, but also it was for good reason. Italist does not accept free returns. I know that being in North America, we are used to free shipping and returns as that is just the nature of retail here, but in Europe, a lot of places do not accept returns, especially smaller boutiques. Since Italist offers low prices for products based in Italy, free express DHL shipping on a duty paid basis, returns are a hassle. You have to pay for the shipping back to Italy, and because it has to go through customs again, it is a huge hassle to get the customs refund and your ultimate refund for the product. This is another reason why I suggest doing a lot of research outside of Italist before you make an order. I would essentially treat each order as final sale.

Before you buy, definitely read up on their “How to Shop” guide, which has everything you need to know to shop there.

Price savings

Now why would anyone go through that trouble and such inconvenience? Because you get huge price savings. Like I said before, the Manuela coat costs C$3,908 in Canada with tax. I paid C$2,300 for mine in the classic camel colour. This is the tax in, with free shipping, the all in cost. If I had travelled to Italy, bought the coat, got the VAT refund, paid duty upon entering Canada, my end cost for the coat would be about the same as what I paid on Italist. Plus I saved all of the travel costs and the hassle of bringing a giant coat back in my luggage.

Let’s look at another example of a Max Mara Icon Coat – the 101801 “Madame” coat retails for C$4,650 (plus tax) in Canada. On the Italist, you can purchase the same coat for US$1,550-$1,800 (plus import duty). After converting this to Canadian dollars, it’s about C$2,400 before import duty, which is usually about 20% of the base value of the product. Essentially you save almost half the Canadian price.

I only researched Max Mara on Italist, but from reading the Italist thread at Purseforum, people have purchased other brands from there. Most of them were successful and very happy with their purchase, but there were a few people who had minor issues and had to work out a return with the company.

In addition to the Italist, there is also the Clutcher, which is a similar concept shopping site, as well as Elsa Boutique, which is a boutique based in Italy that ships to countries around the world. I was considering ordering from these but in the end the Italist had the style I wanted at the right price so I shopped with them. I haven’t ordered from the Clutcher or Elsa Boutique so I strongly suggest doing your own research before placing an order as there is always some level of risk when you order from a website that ships products from overseas.

I’m always a strong advocate for smart shopping. I love buying designer products but if you do it in a savvy way, you can find incredible deals, leaving you more money in the bank for savings (or to buy other things).

Hope this was helpful! Also, I don’t use affiliate links so none of the links here give me any kind of commission if you click on the links.

FASHION | First impressions of four Max Mara coats: Manuela, Doraci, Flint, and Ted

Max Mara Manuela camel coat

Can you believe it – I don’t own a good camel coat. I have a few in black and also a beige trench coat, but none in camel. I recently started looking to Max Mara, and I wanted to share my thoughts on trying on the various coats that I’ve been trying on from the brand. I was looking to spend as little as possible while still getting a good quality product, and Max Mara also has a few diffusion brands that that are a lot more affordable compared to its main line.

I tried on four models of varying price points: Manuela (from the main Max Mara line), Doraci and Flint (from S Max Mara), and Ted (from Weekend Max Mara). Overall I found that most of the coats I tried on ran very true to my designer clothing size (IT 42 or UK 10 – I normally wear US 8 or UK 12, but for some reason for designer coats my size is UK 10). Only the Manuela coat is made in Italy, everything else is made in Central Asia or China. Despite the other coats not being made in Italy, I found that the craftsmanship in general to be good.

Max Mara so many different styles of coats that come out every year; it only has three classic Icon Coats that that are released seasonally, and the Manuela (C$3,490) is one of them. It is made of camel hair and the only coat of the ones I tried that is lined. I tried this one with both just a simple knit top underneath (first picture above), as well as trying to layer with a thick oversized cardigan underneath (pictures below). There is a reason this coat is the classic style because it is such a versatile coat. Regardless of how much you layer underneath, it still looks really streamlined and classy. It is extremely warm, even without any layering, but I do like the option. I thought it was going to be heavy but it actually is actually relatively light for its size. The camel hair is interesting – I’ve never owned a camel hair coat before (I usually wear wool or cashmere) and it’s slightly longer fibres so it feels very luxurious. In terms of length, it hits me mid-calf which is a bit longer than I would have liked, but it is a length that works on me.

Max Mara Manuela camel coatMax Mara Manuela camel coat

The Doraci (C$1,690) was the coat that got me interested in Max Mara. It is an unlined virgin wool coat that has a Peter Pan collar and is a bit more oversized. I found it on an Italian website (with free ship) for strangely something pretty affordable so I almost bought it. It’s the least versatile of the styles here because it’s not lined so if you wear anything thick underneath, it’ll ruin the drape of the wool. While it is super lightweight and comfortable on, you can really only wear it under certain circumstances as it doesn’t hold up well under the super cold, and I also wouldn’t wear this in the rain. Because of the lack of versatility, I was turned off by the design. I do really like the unlined wool coat look because it is so effortless but you still look really put together.

Max Mara Doraci coat

The Flint (C$2,050) I tried on just for fun because I wanted to see what the beige colour looked like on me. The length and colour combination made it look too much like a bathrobe. I also didn’t like the slits on the side or the hood. If I were to buy a wool coat in this colour, it would have to be way shorter in length. This is also made of 100% virgin wool and was super soft.

Max Mara Flint coat

The Ted (C$1,190) was my original 2nd runner up. It’s the most similar to Max Mara’s classic coat silhouette, and it’s also the most affordable out of all the coats I tried on. Sadly I felt that the virgin wool was a bit scratchy and not as soft as the other coats I tried on. Even though the Doraci and Flint are made of the same material, the Ted is noticeably rougher and less flowy. I had to size down for the Ted coat because the kimono sleeves made it look bulky when I took it in my original size. I’m wearing my original size (IT 42) in the pictures because they didn’t have 40 available in the camel.

Max Mara Ted coatMax Mara Ted coatMax Mara Ted coat

I’m glad I went and tried these on in store. I really dislike store shopping most days because I don’t like having to wait around for a fitting room or wait around for service, but I had a really pleasant time the three times I went back to try on the coats. The service at Max Mara was fantastic and everyone was so kind even though I really was just there for research. It made me feel a lot better about buying products from their brand. Hope this was somewhat useful to someone looking to buy a Max Mara coat!

SKINCARE | Blush and navy wedding skincare featuring Suqqu, La Prairie, Laneige, Halo Beauty, and Nivea

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Ever since we picked blush and navy to be our wedding colours, I’ve been subconsciously drawn to skincare products packaged in these colours. Today I wanted to share with you some of the products that I’ve been (still) enjoying in my skincare routine as I prepare my skin for our big day!

The first is Suqqu Moisture Repair Essence N. This product I added to my routine in early September as the weather was just starting to turn cold in Vancouver. My skin isn’t perpetually dry and dehydrated and I needed an extra moisture serum step to help boost my skins hydration level. I purchased this in London when I was there last summer, and so far I’ve really been enjoying it. It’s such a lightweight hydrating serum that works perfectly over my retinol. I love this under my La Prairie moisturizer too. With my dry skin I’ve been expecting it to peel once I restarted using retinol, but I haven’t had any redness or peeling.

I previously wrote about the La Prairie Skin Caviar Luxe Cream Sheer, and I’m still loving it. While with the colder weather, it’s not quite enough hydration for my dry skin (hence the layering with the Suqqu serum), I love how it absorbs so quickly into my skin leaving no residue behind. While I love a rich moisturizer, some of them do leave behind a residue, but thankfully this does not. My skin feels firmer and smoother with every week of using this cream, featuring the new Caviar Premier which launched earlier this year.

I have perpetually dry lips but when I was in Vegas earlier this year, I picked up this mini size of the Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask. I LOVE THIS STUFF! It’s been absolutely amazing for my dry lips. My lips used to peel and crack regularly but with this lip mask applied every night, I haven’t had any issues at all with dryness. I also bought the day gloss / balm and while it’s great for on-the-go, I still prefer this one since it works the best on me.

In terms of general skin, nail and hair health, I started using Halo Beauty Hair, Skin and Nails Booster this year. I was using it off and on (which you’re not supposed to do since it won’t maximize the benefits), but when I am using it, I definitely see and feel a difference. I was on the keto diet earlier this year and I had been experiencing some hair fallout. While I feel like this didn’t stop the fallout, this did make my hair grow back at an alarmingly fast rate. I also noticed the random dry patches on my skin have been disappearing. Recently I’m back on HSN Booster on a regular basis because I’ve been really stressed out from work so my scalp has been really dry and flakey.  I’m hoping that this will help.

Lastly, an oldie but goodie is the Nivea Firming Body Oil. I’ve taken FOREVER to use up this entire bottle, and sometimes I do forgo this in favour of other, more interesting body lotions, but I always come back to this one eventually because it works. I love how fast it dries on my skin, how it doesn’t leave a residue, the amazing and comforting smell, and how it’s great for the colder months. I wanted to pick up another bottle but I don’t think they sell this anymore… so sad!

As I continue further into my wedding prep and get closer to the big day, I’ll be sharing more skincare prep ideas and product reviews with you! I’m so happy to be back writing skincare reviews, it really does bring me the most joy and I hope you enjoy reading them too!

La Prairie and Nivea were PR samples. Everything else was purchased with my own money or received as a retail gift with purchase. All opinions are my own.

MAKEUP | Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Flawless Foundation

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I wasn’t intending on reviewing this foundation, but I’ve been seeing nothing but raves about it (mostly from girls who received this in their Influenster box or as PR samples) so I felt it was only right to share my views. I’m talking about the recently(ish) released Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Flawless Foundation. Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE CHARLOTTE TILBURY. I have to yell that at the top of my lungs because it is true. Her products have quickly become an absolute staple in my makeup kit, for example her pressed powder is the first pressed powder I ever finished. I also use several of her other complexion products because most of them are AMAZING. That being said, the Airbrush Flawless Foundation has failed me in many many ways.

The TL;DR version of it is that it oxidizes poorly, sinks into pores, and doesn’t sit well on my dry skin.

The shade I have, which I received from Sephora as a deluxe sample with purchase, is 4 Neutral. When it goes on my face, it is way too light, as if I’m wearing a mask, but 20-30 minutes later, the shade has oxidized to the point of it being perfectly suited for my skin. A foundation should not oxidize that much, especially since I have dry skin so it’s not like it’s mixing with the oils on my skin to create something else. The brand says this is the foundation ‘adjusting’ to you skin, but really it’s just oxidizing. I don’t own any other foundations that oxidize like this, which is several shades deeper than what it looks like out of the bottle.

The first thing I noticed wasn’t even the oxidization, but rather how much this stuff sinks into pores. Again I reiterate I have dry skin, and I generally have pretty poreless skin. I’ve never owned a foundation like this that accentuated all of my pores, especially on my nose and cheek area. Thankfully I wear glasses so that area is a bit harder to see, but I know it’s there, and it’s not pretty. Charlotte Tilbury says to use this over the Magic Cream, which I haven’t tried yet and don’t plan on trying. I don’t need to use a specific skincare routine to make my foundation work – it shouldn’t be like that. I did try this over the Wonder Glow, which is Charlotte’s primer, and even then it sunk deep into my pores.

Charlotte advertises this as a hydrating foundation for those with dry skin. Unfortunately I didn’t find this to be the case at all. My skin felt dry and tight when I used this, and not skin relieving or hydrating. Even the long-wearing foundations I have that aren’t supposed to be hydrating feel more comfortable on my skin than this one. I didn’t change up my skincare routine at all when I used this, and even added a hydrating serum at night (which was washed off in the morning) to help my skin feel more comfortable. Unfortunately my skin was still dry feeling.

I’m not really sure how Charlotte got it so wrong this time. I have the Hollywood Flawless Filter and I love it. I also have the Light Wonder foundation and I also use that once in a while; it’s not my go-to foundation but it fills a need in my foundation collection.

If you’re looking for a foundation, stay far away from this one. I rarely write about a product with no redeeming qualities, but unfortunately this is one of them.