Travel review – Iberostar Paraiso Beach in the Riviera Maya, Mexico

I’ve done so much travelling in the last little while, it only makes sense that I try to catch up in my travel posts. The boyfriend and I went to Riviera Maya in September, 2017. We traveled as a couple with the boyfriend’s friends, a nice group of 9 people total, including four couples. It was my second time in the Riviera Maya area and honestly it’s one of my favourite relaxing vacation spots. The first time we stayed with Grand Bahia Principe Tulum, which was an amazing resort with the most incredible food and service. This time we opted for something different, another chain – Iberostar – mostly because there were way more activities that you can do here compared to Grand Bahia Principe. The Iberostar Paraiso resort grounds includes four full resorts with varied luxury, as well as a conference centre. The resort grounds were big but definitely walkable.

I have so many thoughts about this, so I ended up organizing it into pros and cons lists. In general I had a good time; it was a super relaxing trip and it was also a good mix of things going on, such as activities to do as a big group or just with your significant other. They had a shooting range where you can shoot BB guns and arrows, as well as a full gym with fitness classes (I didn’t end up taking advantage of this). There was also a shopping centre on the resort properties that hosted a variety of shops, cafes and restaurants (included with the all-inclusive), as well as a club.

One main thing I didn’t like was the inconsistency in service. I saw people who worked at our resort also work at others on the same grounds, so I’m not sure why there’s that inconsistency.

Pros: 

  • The beach is beautiful, sand is very smooth, not very rocky, and the water is very clean with very little kelp and other things floating around. The water was so clear that we could see angel fish swimming around underwater while we were standing in the water.
  • The pool is very beautiful, lots of options for loungers and cabana beds. We would go later during the day and even with a big group of 9, we were still able to find lounge chairs in a row. There are a lot of options for quiet versus party areas, and there is also pool volleyball, pool basketball, as well as a nice waterfall.
  • The service at the pool and beach were fantastic, there were people who came around regularly asking if we needed anything, and also taking away our empty cups. The service as the swim up bars was also very efficient.
  • The alcoholic drinks were AMAZING. The best I’ve ever had for an all inclusive. It was never watered down, and the drinks were also made consistently between bars / bartenders.
  • There are a lot of food options so that you don’t just choose between buffet or a la carte. The taco place at the shopping centre was AMAZING. We went there pretty much every day. The Star Rock Cafe was also good, albeit the service was very questionable (particularly from older servers, the younger ones were good). I love the room service option as well, since on some evenings we were craving snacks and they had room service included with the all-inclusive. The food wasn’t the best but it was nice to have fries and nuggets delivered to your room!

Cons:

  • Check in was very slow and inefficient. We had emailed the resort weeks in advance to request a room on a higher floor, but when we got there they didn’t have such a room available. They were helpful to try to group everyone’s rooms near each other, and on the first night they put myself, my significant other, and one other couple in the Presidential Suite so that on the second night we can check into a room closer to the other couples. While this was appreciated, they had told us the Presidential Suite had 2 bedrooms and a connecting living room, when in fact it was just the one bedroom with the second couple having to sleep on futons in the living room, which were extremely uncomfortable. Finally on the second day when we checked into our actual room for the trip, the communication was very confusing and inconsistent, and the change in rooms wasn’t updated in their system completely, so we had a lot of issues trying to book a la cartes and other activities that required room numbers. It just seems very inefficient that such a big resort requires the guest to go back and forth between the check in counter and the activity counter to confirm the changes, and that the change isn’t actually made in their system.
  • We noticed that service is very inconsistent. Sometimes it was fantastic, other times, particularly when the person seems to be more in a management position, the service is severely lacking. We were at the Japanese restaurant with the group, no one explained to us how the menu worked, when we tried to order both the sushi and the appetizer, the server gave us attitude because we could only pick one. If that was the case, why not explain the menu to us.
  • The buffet food was just okay, we didn’t really go to the buffet much because the food was pretty bland and there weren’t that many options or changes day by day.
  • Housekeeping was inconsistent even though we tipped the same amount of money every day.
  • The air conditioning was set at 22 degrees and could not be changed. It was very very hot and humid out so this was kind of unfortunate as even 1-2 degrees lower would have been better.
  • The men in our group got sick from eating at one of the beach restaurants (#9 on the map). For some reason the women ate at the same restaurant but did not get sick, don’t know how that happened.
  • The beds were very uncomfortable and the sheets were rough. For a hotel that is advertised to be 5 stars, I definitely would not say that is the case.
  • The first few days we were there, there weren’t that many trolleys to help bring us around. While the walk from lobby to beach isn’t terrible (10 minutes), the days were very very hot and humid, so more trolleys would have been appreciated.

Overall, we’d probably not go back to this resort again. The experience was generally on the positive side, but It didn’t wow us enough to want to go back, and we’d more likely want to try out other resorts.

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All the love for the L’Occitane en Provence x Rifle Paper Co. collaboration collection

L'Occitane en Provence x Rifle Paper Co. collection review

One of THE most exciting collaborations I’ve seen in a long time is the L’Occitane en Provence x Rifle Paper Co. collection. I LOVE Rifle Paper Co., if you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that I own several pairs of their Keds collaboration shoes, as well as their 5-year journal and more. I would love it if my entire home was filled with Rifle Paper Co. prints. I received a few products from the brand for review, and I also purchased some for myself just because I love the print so much. The prints are super beautiful and do a great job at reflecting both companies.

L'Occitane en Provence x Rifle Paper Co. collection review

The Shea Butter Hand Creams (C$12 for 30mL or C$32 for 150mL or set of three 30mL tubes for $29) need no introduction – I’ve been using these hand creams for years and I will continue to use them. I love that they come in a variety of sizes (10mL, 30mL and 150mL) to keep with you at all times and also keep on your nightstand or desk. I have one in every single handbag (and I have a lot of handbags). This formula is super hydrating, nourishing, and soothing, perfect for the cold winter climates. I wash my hands a lot so they are also perpetually dry, so I love using this to replenish that lost moisture. In addition to the Shea Butter Hand Cream, I also religiously use the Shea Butter Intensive Hand Balm, which is an HG product of mine for the winter, particularly after each day’s dishwashing session.

Anyways, I digress. The regular Shea Butter Hand Cream and the Rose-scented version have both been given Rifle Paper Co. makeovers. The regular formula is available in both the 30mL and 150mL, and then rose version is available in the 30mL. I also received a small 10mL version as a gift with purchase from my order, which is super cute. As a rose lover, I can’t get enough of the rose-scented version.

L'Occitane en Provence x Rifle Paper Co. collection review

In addition, the amazing Multi-Purpose Shea Balms (C$12 for 10g or set of three for $29) have also been repackaged. There are three scents – regular Shea, rose, and apricot. I picked up the rose version for myself, and I keep it with me in my purse. As its name indicated, it can be used anywhere on your body, on your lips, nails, cuticles, skin, hair. Again, this is a great product for the winter. My only complaint is that the tub seems smaller than I remember it… I wish it was bigger!

L'Occitane en Provence x Rifle Paper Co. collection review

The collection is out now both in stores and online, and a lot of the products are already sold out. At the time I made my order, there was an offer for a Rifle Paper Co. limited edition tin, plus a 10mL rose hand cream and 50mL Shea Butter Body Butter, PLUS $10 off your order, with the code Rifle18. I’m not sure if this promotion is still on, but if you google around, L’Occitane online generally has some codes for very generous gifts with purchase. This collection was introduced for Valentine’s Day 2018, so if you want something, you better get going on it. In addition to it making a great gift for the special woman in your life, it also would be a fantastic treat yo’ self.

I received the Shea Butter Hand Cream set for review purposes, and I also purchased the other products for myself. All opinions are my own.

Show some love with the LUSH Valentine’s Day 2018 collection

Lush Valentine's Day 2018 Tisty Tosty

The LUSH Valentine’s Day collection for 2018 is the biggest I’ve seen it in several years. I’m so excited about this year’s collection because it’s a good variety of bath, shower, and other products. Also, this is usually when rose products come full force so I am definitely a fan. Check out my thoughts on the various products below!

Starting out with the biggest hit of this year, the popular Rose Bombshell Bath Bomb (C$8.95) is now available in a GIANT version. The normal version, which is also available to purchase, is 165 grams, but the Giant Rose Bombshell Bath Bomb (C$19.95) is over four times the size at 700 grams.  It is huge, very heavy, and is amazing for if you want to fill up a larger bathtub. Both sizes are formulated with lemon oil, geranium oil, rose absolute, rose oil, as well as sea salt and rose petals for that complete relaxing bath experience. It smells amazingly rosy, and is such a fun indulgence both by myself and with my boyfriend. My apologies that I don’t have photos of the Rose Bombshell Bath Bombs because my photos were corrupted 😦

Lush Valentine's Day 2018 Love Boat

In addition to Rose Bombshell, in the bath bomb category we also have Tisty Tosty (C$6.95), a concoction of rose and jasmine. Compared to Rose Bombshell, Tisty Tosty is fresher and lighter, and not as much of a warm rose. This is great if you like rose but doesn’t want to be overwhelmed by it. My boyfriend really enjoyed Love Boat (C$7.95), because it’s like the adult version of having a toy boat in your bath. It contains lemon oil, orange oil, and rose oil if you want a citrus-y take on a rose product.

Lush Valentine's Day 2018 collection review

If you prefer to have a bit more fun during your bath, may I suggest Unicorn Horn Bubble Bar (C$7.95) or Whole Lotta Love Bubbleroom (C$8.95). Both of these will create a plethora of silky bubbles to help you spend a bit more time in the bath. Unicorn Horn is a lavender, ylang ylang, and neroli blend that’s pretty much just straight bubbles. In comparison, Whole Lotta Love is formulated with bergamot, jasmine, lemongrass, rose, ylang ylang, and gardenia for that full garden experience, and also contains cocoa butter and murumuru butter to give you silky smooth skin right out of the bath. Lastly in the bubbles category is Heart of Enlightened Expectation Bubble Bath Melt, a bubble bar that contains cocoa butter, bergamot oil, geranium oil, jasmine absolute, and rose absolute. Between the three, I prefer Whole Lotta Love just because I find it slightly less drying and the scent is also mesmerizing.

Lush Valentine's Day 2018 collection review

For body care products, we have Cherryish Body Scrub (C$12.95), a sea salt and cocoa butter based balmy body scrub, as well as Melt my Heart Massage Bar (C$7.95), a cocoa butter and shea butter based massage oil bar. I personally dislike Lush’s body scrubs, not because of the formulation, but because I tend to take very hot showers and then the product just melts really quickly in the shower. I do like the formulation though, because it gives a very nice scrub and moisturizes at the same time. Lush’s Massage Bars were one of the first Lush products I’ve used ever, and I’ve been loving it since. In addition to being a great treat with your partner, they are a great alternative to a body butter when you’re traveling since it doesn’t take up your liquids allocation.

Lush Valentine's Day 2018 collection review

If you’re not into taking baths, and are just looking for plain and simple shower products, then Tunnel of Light Soap (C$8.95) and Tender is the Night Naked Shower Cream (C$24.95) are for you. Tunnel of Light Soap is a rosewater, cocoa butter and coconut oil-based soap. It has a very subtle light flora rose scent that even my boyfriend was fine using – it’d be an awesome product to stick in your shower for your partner! Tender is the Night Naked Shower Cream is made with  shea and murumuru butters, as well as jasmine, ylang ylang, and vanilla to give you the most decadent of showers. I’m a fan of Lush’s naked shower creams as they work pretty much exactly like the regular shower creams. I’ve been using mine every day for the last 2 months and I still have maybe 1-2 weeks worth of product left.

One new, and very intriguing thing introduced this year is the Kiss Me Quick Wash Card (C$3.50). Basically the adult version of a Valentine’s Day card, you can stick this into a card for your lover or friend and they get a one-time-use card that will lather under water for some quick and easy suds. Made with apple pulp and cloves, this smells delicious, like cider. It’s great if you are going somewhere for one night and need to bring your own shower products with you.

Lastly, we have a delicious lip scrub, The Kiss (C$9.95), made with mandarin and almond oil, it’s great for keeping your lips flake-free and hydrated. I don’t generally use lip scrubs since they can get messy, but this one is easy to use since you just lick your lips clean.

Overall, my picks for this year’s Valentine’s Day collection are the Giant Rose Bombshell Bath Bomb, Whole Lotta Love Bubbleroom, Melt my Heart Massage Bar, and Tender is the Night Shower Cream. You can pick up all of these products in LUSH stores across Canada and online at Lush.ca.

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

Review + swatches – Guerlain Spring 2018 Glow with Love collection, featuring new Meteorites

Guerlain Spring 2018 Glow with Love collection review

I’m actually really surprised there isn’t much news on the internet about this collection because it is absolutely divine, and one of the more recent makeup releases that got me super excited. It seems like every spring, Guerlain releases new variations to its Meteorites collection – last year it was the 30th Anniversary Meteorites, in 2016 it was the new Meteorites Base and Meteorites Voyage, and in 2015 it was the Meteorites Baby Glow Foundation, Meteorites Perles de Blush, and the Meteorites Compact. Spring is such a perfect season to release these Meteorites products because they help to create beautiful, ethereal glow on the skin – think Arwen from Lord of the Rings. For Spring 2018, Guerlain is going a heart-theme and is introducing a brand new Meteorites product – the Heart Shape compact. In addition, there are five new lipsticks in the KissKiss range, called the KissKiss LoveLove lipsticks.

Guerlain Spring 2018 Meteorites Heart Shape Compact review and swatches

The Heart Shape Compact (C$71) is not just called that because of the heart on the cover of the compact, but also because it is meant to be used as a subtle contour palette to give you that cute heart-shaped face. The darker pink can be used as the contour along the edge of your face, with the lighter pink and light beige used as highlights on your cheekbone and nose to create dimension. This product reminds me of that Guerlain event I wrote about a few years ago about how Guerlain’s international makeup artist, Maxime Poulin used highlighters to contour the face. The cutesy theme makes me think this was probably designed with the Asian market in mind.

Guerlain Spring 2018 Meteorites Heart Shape Compact review and swatches

The Heart Shape Compact comes in one variation, which is really only good for those with fair or light skintones. If you have medium or dark skin tones, this would likely turn out ashy on you. For my light-medium skin tone, this works really well to highlight my face. The dark pink is a bit too sheer to do any true contouring a la Instagram, but it does subtly help to shape my face. As with any Meteorites product, the effect is very subtle and you don’t quite notice it specifically (i.e., wow I love your highlight), but you do notice that something is different (i.e., wow there’s something about your skin today…). If you’re lazy like me, you can also just use this like any other Meteorites product and swirl your brush over the entire thing and use it as a finishing powder. That is what I love using my Meteorites for as they do give you that ethereal, lit from within glow.

My biggest issue with this is how flimsy the packaging is. For a $71 product, they should be able to invest a bit more in the packaging. The compact is probably one the lightest and most flimsy of all of my Guerlain products, and even out of all of the luxury beauty products I own. Also, the actual powder pan fell out of the compact the first time I opened it, so it wasn’t glued on that well. I’m pretty disappointed with this in that sense.

Guerlain Spring 2018 KissKiss LoveLove lipstick in Coral and Beige review and swatches

The KissKiss LoveLove (C$44) lipsticks are super cute, albeit somewhat gimmicky. I’m a fan of Guerlain’s KissKiss lipsticks, especially the balmy ones (the KissKiss Roselip Hydrating & Plumping Tinted Lip Balm is one of my favourite go-to lipsticks for subtle lips). These LoveLove lipsticks are balmy and fantastic for dry lip girls like me. They are formulated with mango butter, commiphora oil, and hyaluronic spheres to help plump and protect your lips against dryness. The two shades I received are #570 KK Coral and #571 KK Beige. #570 Coral is my favourite of the two as it is a super flattering pink-coral. #571 Beige is a pretty beige-peach that’s more suitable on those with lighter skin tones. I also love the packaging, as it is very weighty (more weighty than the compact…), and comes in a beautiful iridescent pink colour.

With Valentine’s Day coming up, these heart-themed products can make fantastic gifts, in addition to some treat yo’ self gifts. My top pick is the KissKiss LoveLove lipsticks, especially in the all-flattering Coral shade.

Do any of these catch your eye?

The swatches

From left to right – KissKiss LoveLove lipstick in Coral and Beige, and the Meteorites Heart Shape Compact (individual shades then combined… it pretty much just melts into the skin!)

Guerlain Spring 2018 Meteorites Heart Shape Compact and KissKiss LoveLove lipstick in Coral and Beige review and swatches

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

Christian Louboutin Rouge Louboutin Metalissime Collection returns for Chinese New Year in a special set!

Christian Louboutin Rouge Louboutin Metalissime Collection review and swatches

Hello, heart palpations. I first saw the Christian Louboutin Rouge Louboutin Metalissime Collection last October when it was being introduced for the holiday season. It quickly sold out, of course, but I am so excited to be one of the first to let you know that this beautiful red and gold collection is coming back as a set for Chinese New Year, exclusively at Holt Renfrew Vancouver!

Priced at C$305, it includes all three products from the collection, all adorned in the limited edition metallic red packaging – Rouge Louboutin Metalissime Silky Satin Lip Color (normally C$120), Rouge Louboutin Metalissime Loubilaque Lip Lacquer (normally C$120), and Rouge Louboutin Metalissime Nail Color (normally C$65) – plus a chic limited edition metallic finished Shopeaks clutch (photo above provided by Louboutin Beauty PR).

Christian Louboutin Rouge Louboutin Metalissime Collection review and swatches

I’ve previously reviewed the Louboutin Silky Satin Lip Color in Belly Bloom, and was super impressed by the opacity, wear time, and finish on my lips. The Metalissime Silky Satin Lipstick is equally, if not more impressive. It feels super lightweight on the lips, delivering a thin veil of colour that is still mostly opaque without any of the weight. My lips look plumper, and my lip lines are also smoothed. The Metalissime shade is a beautiful red-gold blend that is absolute perfection for the upcoming Chinese New Year festivities. I love how weighty the tube is as well, it’s made of metal and feels very substantial and luxurious in the tube with the red and gold packaging.

Christian Louboutin Rouge Louboutin Metalissime Collection review and swatches

It was my first time trying out the Loubilaque Lip Lacquer (C$120), and I’m happy to have gotten it in the shade Metalissime. This is my favourite product in the collection, it just applies so beautifully with the most gorgeous colour saturation and finish. The Loubilaque is similar to a glossy liquid lipstick, with a completely opaque finish and a super high shine glossy lacquer finish. It’s not super heavy either, making it perfect for people who normally don’t love gloss (such as me…). Wear time is fantastic – it keeps its high shine finish for about 4 hours, through light drinking. After the glossy finish wears off, there is a bit of a red-gold stain that is left behind which wears for another few hours.  The pointed doe foot applicator does an amazing job at precise application, giving me super full lips that glisten with the light.

Christian Louboutin Rouge Louboutin Metalissime Collection review and swatches

Christian Louboutin Rouge Louboutin Metalissime Collection review and swatches

Lastly, we have the Metalissime Nail Color. Again it’s my first time trying Louboutin Nail Color, and I remember it being all the rage when it first came out. The applicator made this super easy to apply, and the metallic finish polish formula was super smooth. For the high price tag though, I’m not super impressed with the formula – even after nearly 3 hours of dry time, I went to bed and I still woke up with some bed wrinkles on my nails. It also isn’t the most glossy of polishes on its own, and definitely needs a high gloss top coat. After 24 hours of wear, there is already minor chipping at the tips, which is a bit disappointing for such an expensive polish.

The Louboutin Metalissim collection is available now exclusively as a beautiful set at Holt Renfrew Vancouver. I really love the Loubilaque and the Silky Satin Lipstick in the shades Metalissime, and I feel like it would make a fantastic Valentine’s Day gift for your loved one. The red and gold is so appropriate for Chinese New Year as well as any festive environment, such as Christmas, anniversaries, or New Years. Pick up yours now because they are sure to go quickly!

Christian Louboutin Rouge Louboutin Metalissime Collection review and swatches

The swatches

Left: Loubilaque Lip Lacquer in Metalissime; Right: Silky Satin Lipstick in Metalissime

Christian Louboutin Rouge Louboutin Metalissime Collection review and swatches

Louboutin Nail Color in Metalissime

Christian Louboutin Rouge Louboutin Metalissime Collection review and swatches

Christian Louboutin Rouge Louboutin Metalissime Collection review and swatches

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

J-Beauty brands you can get in Canada, featuring Shu Uemura, Sekkisei, Paul & Joe, Anna Sui, Shiseido, and Muji!

IMG_6992

Everyone is going on and on about K-Beauty (or Korean Beauty) right now, but I’ve always been more obsessed with J-Beauty than anything else. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, then you’ll know that I religiously use these J-Beauty products, way before they were ever available here. I’m so happy that now you can purchase these products in Canada because honestly Asians do skincare way better. Today I’m talking about a few authentic Japanese beauty brands that you can purchase in Canada. When I talk about authentic Japanese, I’m not talking about the Tatchas or Boscia that are Japanese inspired, or simply made in Japan. I’m talking about brands that originated in Japan, are based in Japan, and all of their manufacturing and R&D is done in Japan. Essentially products created for the Japanese woman.

The first and most obvious brand I wanted to share was Shu Uemura. I think Shu has been around at department stores long enough that it doesn’t seem that exotic anymore, but they are the original creators of the oil cleanser, which is a wonderful invention that allows for easy removal of makeup. Another one of their cult classic products that everyone has in their beauty case is their amazing eyelash curler. Created for the Asian eye shape, this is fantastic at curling and your lashes without crimping, and for some reason the curl tends to last longer too. Shu Uemura is available at The Bay and on ShuUemura.ca.

One brand that I am so happy to see available at certain Shoppers Drug Marts here now is Sekkisei. Owned by Kose, a massive Japanese beauty company (think the Japanese version of Estee Lauder), I started using Sekkisei over 10 years ago when I was still in school. At the time I had to purchase on eBay because it wasn’t available here. Its Medicated Lotion is one of the original essence lotions in the beauty industry, and is a cult classic product in Japan and in Asia. I still use the Enriched Medicated Lotion to this day, and its one product I will continue to return to years later. Sekkisei is available at Shoppers Drug Mart and at beautyboutique.ca.

Paul & Joe Perfect Makeup Primer review
Paul & Joe 15th Anniversary Collection review and swatches

While this fashion brand is French, the Japanese beauty company Albion (another big company like Kose) licensed the name to create Paul & Joe Beaute. Known for its whimsical patterns and soft textures, this brand was made for the young professional generation. You’ll notice that the products tend to have sheerer pigmentation and also contain a lot of shimmer, this is generally how Japanese makeup is created, because the women there prefer softer colours for their makeup. Their skincare is also fantastic, and all of them have the orange flower scent, which is soothing and refreshing. My top picks are their lipsticks (for the soft texture and hydration factor) and their foundation products, which can double as skincare. Paul & Joe Beaute is available at Shoppers Drug Mart and at beautyboutique.ca, as well as at Beauty Court in Richmond.

Anna Sui is another one in the same bucket as Paul & Joe Beaute. They are both owned by Albion so there are some similar products. I used to LOVE Anna Sui (their mascaras are one of my favourite mascara formulas ever), but my biggest issue with them is that they have package changes and formula changes almost every year. To me that’s super risky because what if I find a formula I love and then the next year it gets reformulated. I’ve fallen out of love with the brand because of that. The products all smell like roses, which I am obsessed with, and the designs are also very feminine and beautiful. My favourites from the brand include the lipsticks and the mascaras. Anna Sui is available at Shoppers Drug Mart and at beautyboutique.ca, as well as at Beauty Court in Richmond.

You can’t have a Japanese beauty brand post without mentioning Shiseido. Shiseido in Japan is another huge brand that owns a lot of sub brands. While I don’t really use a lot of Shiseido products from the main line, I’m a fan of a lot of their other sub brands which sadly aren’t available here. Shiseido is big enough that the products they sell in North America are specifically designed for the Western Market, so there is more of a mesh culturally that way. Shiseido is available at London Drugs and Murale.

Lastly, Muji recently just opened their second location in Greater Vancouver, this one on Robson Street, and the other in Metrotown. Muji has some amazing skincare items that are simple, to the point, and at very reasonable price points. My favourite beauty product of theirs is actually the organic cotton pads which are super soft and gentle on the skin, and very inexpensive compared to other Japanese beauty brand cotton pads.

Do you have any favourite J-beauty brands that are now available in Canada?

Travel review – The Douglas, an Autograph Hotel in Vancouver, Canada

Last December, I was offered the chance to stay at The Douglas, an Autograph Hotel in Vancouver through L’Oreal Luxe. This hotel is part of Marriott’s family of hotels, part of the Starwood Group, and is a boutique hotel within their brand. The Douglas has 188 guest rooms, 10 suites, and is built to LEEDS standards. The decor inside is super West Coast, i.e. lots of wood, plaid, and almost with a cabin feel. The hotel had just opened in October of last year, so everything was brand new. That being said, for a supposed five-star hotel, I was actually very disappointed with my stay.

Check-in was relatively smooth, the lobby is located on the 6th floor and it was a bit hard to find the front desk but there was a person near the front door who directed me upstairs. There were no issues once I got to the check in desk, and I was quickly given my key cards to the room. The room itself is beautiful – ours had a view of the city which was gorgeous at night with the beautiful city lights. Our room had a king size bed, with a large sofa-bench, a very large flat-screen smart TV, desk, as well as a fully stocked snack bar and mini bar.

The bathroom was absolutely breathtaking, with a very large walk-in shower with a rainfall shower head. There was a separate area with the toilet for increased privacy. There were also marble accents throughout the bathroom that is luxurious and impressive. The best part is that all of the bath and body products used at the hotel are by AESOP, an Australian luxury and natural beauty brand. The shower head had really good water pressure and it was just an enjoyable experience overall.

The bed was super comfortable. It was paired with high thread count sheets which made sleeping there very enjoyable. We had plans to go out in the evening and the boyfriend found it hard to peel himself away from the bed because it was so comfortable. It is a brand new hotel though, so the beds are all new, I can’t say if in a few months if the beds will developed dips.

Both the bedroom and bathroom were immaculately clean. I always wear slippers because I don’t like walking around barefoot, even in my own home, but I felt fine in bare feet at the hotel. TI was very impressed with the room and bathroom and have nothing negative to say.

Now to why I was disappointed with my stay. For a five-star hotel, you not only expect a luxurious environment, but you also expect top service. The service was completely lacking at The Douglas. I was surprised to find, upon check-in, that the room only included a robe and slippers for one guest. I immediately called housekeeping to request a second set, expecting that it would take a while for it to be delivered. We went out for dinner and came back, and a few hours later, still no robe or slippers. I’ve honestly never had this happen at any hotel I stayed at. If I call housekeeping for something, it’s usually delivered within the hour, if not right away.

Secondly, I was surprised there was no bottled water. While we’re not big drinkers of bottled water since we know how clean Vancouver tap water is, this is a hotel so I assume most guests are from out of town. Since that is the case, if they aren’t offering bottled water for environmental, there should be a sign that says the tap water is clean, or offer some kind of service to bring up filtered water. There was no such substitutions offered. Instead they are charging $2 for bottled water through the mini bar.

Additionally, for a five star hotel, it does not offer complimentary Wifi. You actually have to pay for internet. It’s $8 for basic internet or $15 for high speed internet. Honestly if places like Starbucks and McDonalds can offer complimentary internet, hotels should too. It’s too basic an amenity not to have it.

Another thing I noticed was the inconsistency of service. Since we were offered to stay at The Douglas through L’Oreal, other bloggers had booked their stay a few weeks prior to our stay, and I noticed that some of them were offered extra treats upon check in, for example housekeeping would come by with complimentary dessert. I’m not sure if it was just because I stayed closer to Christmas, but this just seems odd that the service is so different between guests.

That being said, I did post on Instagram during my stay that I was disappointed with the lack of robe / slippers, bottled water, and complimentary internet, the front desk manager called our room and said that they will immediately bring up the robe and slippers to be brought up, and also offered us complimentary internet for our stay. We did eventually get the robe and slippers, and they had also brought up some jugs of water, but the complimentary internet didn’t end up working (we still had to go through the payment option, which we ended up not opting for in case there was still a risk of being charged).

Maybe I’m spoiled now because I stayed at the ultra luxury The Adelaide Hotel in Toronto, which is also a Starwood hotel, but I just found the stay at The Douglas to be mediocre at best. The hotel is shiny and new but that’s pretty much all its got going for it at the moment. I surveyed a few other people who had stayed there through L’Oreal and the conclusion was all the same – the hotel is just meh. For $350+ a night, there are better places to stay at in the city, and I likely wouldn’t recommend The Douglas.

P.S. the hallway signs weren’t fantastic, it took us a while to figure out where our room was located because see below… at first it looks like there are no rooms above 1158…

And then we saw it…

That being said, the elevators are super cool and appropriate for this Instagram age.

I was invited for a complimentary stay at the Douglas Hotel after a L’Oreal media event. All opinions are my own.

IT Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC Cream SPF 50+… does it live up to its hype?

IT Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC Cream SPF 50+ review

IT Cosmetics launched in Canada last year, and I was sent a tube of their Your Skin But Better CC Cream SPF 50+ (C$49 for 32mL) to try. This is one of IT Cosmetics’ most raved about products, and I was really excited to see how it lives up to the hype and its claims.

This is the first CC cream I’ve tried in a long time, and it has some pretty hefty claims (per the IT Cosmetics website):

Clinically shown to give you 179% of skin hydration, smooth skin texture and enhance skin brightness, this breakthrough color-correcting cream never creases or cracks and instantly camouflages skin imperfections including dark spots. Plus, it’s infused with an advanced anti-aging serum made of hydrolyzed collagen, peptides, niacin, hyaluronic acid, antioxidants and vitamins A, B, C and E that work in harmony to diffuse the look of wrinkles, minimize pores and give you a more radiant, supple and flawless-looking complexion.

The ingredients look pretty impressive, with snail secretion filtrate (a popular K-beauty ingredient), Babassu Oil (Orbignya Oleifera Seed Oil), bergamot fruit oil, lim oil, grape seed oil, avocado oil, niacinamide, and a very long list of plant extracts and oils. It also contains SPF 50 in the form of titanium dioxide 9.0% and zinc oxide 6.3%. In terms of the makings of a CC cream, IT Cosmetics got it all right. In addition, it comes in seven shades, which again is impressive for a CC cream, which following after traditional Korean beauty, usually only comes in 1-3 shades that are all very light / fair. This one has something for almost everyone, from fair to deep.

I was sent the shade Fair, which looks super light in the tube but actually does a pretty good at adjusting to my skin tone. It is still just slightly too light for me so I’ve been making it work for a tinted powder. It blends in very, very easily, and I just pat it in with my fingers. I can get light to medium coverage with this, and it also does a pretty good job at covering redness. It’s also lightly hydrating, which is great because I have dry skin.

My biggest dislike, and the reason why I actually don’t like this CC Cream for day-to-day, is that it doesn’t fully dry down. I really need to powder it quite a bit in order to get it to stay on my face, otherwise it slips and slides around. While I appreciate that it is an all-in-one product for moisture, anti-aging, sunscreen, and tint, I generally prefer to rely on individual products for each purpose anyways (including applying an actual sunscreen because the sun block in a foundation is never enough for true sun protection). I have relatively dry skin too, so I can’t imagine how much it will slip and slide on someone with oily skin. Also, because it has some slip, I find it settles a bit into my lines and pores unless I really powder it down.

With all of the products on the market now, and all of the products on my bathroom counter, I don’t find myself reaching for this one very much, if at all. The only time I can think of that this would be good for is travel, and even then I’d want to apply a separate SPF to get true sun protection.

If you are looking for an all-in-one product for travel or for convenience, then you might find luck in this one. It does have some very promising ingredients and it is priced pretty fairly based on what it can do.

You can find IT Cosmetics at Sephora in Canada.

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

Review of pre-serums, featuring Vichy Mineral 89, Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum Ex and Dior One Essential

Review of pre-serums Vichy Mineral 89, Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum Ex and Dior One Essential

Ever since I wrote about Shiseido Ultimune more than three years ago, the original pre-serum serum, the market has been flooded with other brands introducing similar products. I’m still skeptical of the benefits of using a pre-serum, but I love layering skincare and any excuse to add more products to my regime is a good one. Today I have three pre-serums to share with you, ranging from affordable to the ultra expensive.

Priced at C$40 for 50mL, the Vichy Mineral 89 is the most affordable and most easily accessible of all pre-serums. It contains 89% Vichy thermal water, powered by 11 different minerals, and only 10 other ingredients. It is ultra light, very watery, and fast absorbing. This is also the simplest of all of the pre-serums, in that it claims to hydrate, plump, and fortify the skin. I think it does a fantastic job at hydrating my skin, and I can even use this alone as a hydrating serum during the day. It does help the absorption of other products, which I am loving, but whether or not it helps to boost the other products’ efficacy is hard to tell. Based on its superior hydrating properties and its reasonable price, I’d re-purchase this.

Priced at US$84 for 60mL, the Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum Ex contains the most plant extracts, harnessing the power of traditional herbal medicine to create a product that’s good for you on both the inside and outside. The texture is a super lightweight gel. As with most Asian skincare, it does contain alcohol. It’s not as fast absorbing as the Vichy Mineral 89, but it feels significantly more nourishing, like a step above simple hydration. Despite its higher price tag, you do get a good decent amount. I use one pump for my face and one pump for my neck, and the bottle has lasted me a long time. I can see myself wearing this as a serum on its own as well in the summer as on its own it performs decently. Sulwhasoo is a high end luxury brand, and this product seems to be priced on the lower end. It’s a great entry level product if you are interested in trying more from the brand.

The Dior One Essential is the most expensive product talked about today. Its priced at C$162 for 50mL, or you can also purchase a smaller size of 30mL for C$130. The Dior One Essential has the most claims of all of these products, as it claims to “detoxify, regenerates and boost skin for a revitalized complexion,” and also targets UV rays, stress, and pollution, as well as indoor toxins such as carpet, glue, varnishes, and electronic devices. I generally have pretty good skin so I didn’t see many major changes. I do feel like my skin is a tad brighter and less dull after incorporating this in my routine for a few weeks, likely because pollution is one of the major causes to skin sallowness. In that sense, it worked pretty well!

But let’s not end it here. I’ve previously talked about the La Prairie Anti-Aging Rapid Response Booster (C$405 for 50mL), which is probably the most lux pre-serum on the market. I only had a small sample of it so I wasn’t able to test it over a long period of time, I have heard that some people consider this a favourite and game changer. If you have some cash to spare, consider looking into the La Prairie as well. Another brand that released a pre-serum around the time that Ultimune was released was Elizabeth Arden, called the Superstart Skin Renewal Booster (C$119 for 50mL). I’ve never tried theirs but it’s another option to look at.

If I had to pick in terms of price and value for the benefits, my top choice would be the Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum EX. It’s not the most expensive, but comes in the biggest bottle, and also has the most nourishing herbal ingredients. If you are looking for a simple, straight-to-the-point hydrating pre-serum, the Vichy Mineral 89 is a fantastic choice. If you are looking for a do-it-all and aren’t worried about price, then the Dior One Essential can be your friend. With so many pre-serums on the market, you’re bound to find one that fits your needs.

Sulwhasoo, Dior, and La Prairie are available at Holt Renfrew. Vichy and Elizabeth Arden are available at London Drugs.

Products were provided from companies for review consideration; all opinions are my own.

Four must-have household products for busy pet parents

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that I adopted a kitten about a year ago. She’s the cutest, most cuddly, and most mischievous kitten of them all. After getting a pet, we’ve had to make a few lifestyle changes because of the responsibilities of looking after another living being and also all of the fur that she sheds. I’ve included some of my must-have products below if you have, or are thinking about, getting a pet.

  1. Dyson Animal vacuum – We have the Dyson DC66 Big Ball Animal upright (older model) that was gifted to us by my boyfriend’s parents when we first moved into the apartment. It’s huge and heavy but boy does it clean well. The current model is the DC66 which is a similar concept. It comes with multiple attachment heads, including heads for upholstery and grooming (although my cat will never let me groom her with it, the vacuum freaks her out). Most importantly, it comes with a HEPA filter that allows you to filter out allergens and fine dusts in the air and on surfaces. The Big Ball version is very heavy and not the best for manoevering around small spaces, but it also comes in the stick V7 and V8 options which are cordless and much lighter. I do love the crazy suction power of the Big Ball, you can really notice the difference in our rug when we use this versus another vacuum.
  2. iRobot Roomba – In between weekend vacuums, we also use a Roomba, which is an automatic robot vacuum that goes around cleaning your place without you having to do any work. The model we have is the 761. Honestly I’m not too sure of the difference between each Roomba model, but I know this one you can schedule cleans when you’re not there. I love this for days when I am too tired to vacuum. It doesn’t do nearly a good of a job compared to the Dyson in that it doesn’t pick up fine dust or filter allergens, and isn’t great on carpet / rugs, but it will pick up animal hair and human hair and also big dust balls. It’s a nice feeling to come home to a clean home. The only thing is it doesn’t work well if you have a lot of clutter on the ground, as the Roomba will just bounce around and not do a thorough cleaning.
  3. Petsafe Scoopfree Litter Box – Specifically for cat parents, this litter box is a godsend if you lead busy lives. It is an automatic litter box that rakes waste into a repository, and then you just have to replace the litter tray every 20-30 days (per cat). I travel a bit for work and my boyfriend is home alone with the cat, so I didn’t want to make him scoop her litter multiple times a day. This seriously saves us so much time, you basically get all of the good bits of a cat without doing a lot of the work. The initial litter box raking mechanism is pricey, around $180 but we got ours on sale for $150. Each replacement tray (comes with litter gel beads) is around $20, but you can find it on sale for as low as $15-16 each. It is pricey but it saves you SO MUCH TIME.
  4. Diptyque room spray – For getting rid of any animal smells, I highly recommend Diptyque room sprays. You only need 1 spritz in the air per room and you are good to go. This is perfect because it doesn’t add a lot of chemicals into the air but its still very potent. For extra bad smells that you want to neutralize first, spray a 50/50 vinegar/water mixture into the air first, wait a few minutes for the vinegar scent to dissipate, and then use the Diptyque.