SHOPPING | Sephora Favorites deluxe kits for travel and trying out new products!

C9EAE73E-4D2B-4D36-A28C-4A80A5F1266FSephora releases these amazing Sephora Favorites kits each season, with an abundance of them released in the summer in order to accommodate the summer travel season. I’ve been buying these kits for the last year and I highly recommend them as they are incredible value. Not only do you get several, very generously-sized deluxe samples to try out, they are also very travel friendly. You can either bring them with you on your travels, or use it as an opportunity to play with different brands for a low price.

There are kits made for skincare, hair, lip products, perfume, and also specific themes such as inner beauty. At the time of writing this post, there’s also a Clean Beauty one (might be sold out already by the time this is published… these kits go super fast!).

The one I ordered recently is The Ultimate Travel Bag (pictured). Everything came in a TSA-friendly clear pouch which is perfect for hauling everything around with you in your carry on. The price? Just US$40! The value of the Sunday Riley C.E.O. Serum itself is already $42.50, so you are essentially getting everything else for free. I plan on taking some products in my kit to Europe with me when I’m there in August, and then the rest of the products will go with me to Florida in November. Sadly, this kit sold out within a few days of being posted on the Sephora website.

Here’s the complete list of products included in the kit. Some of the products I’ve already tried in the past, so I’ve included some thoughts about it, others I have not tried.

  • 0.23 oz/ 7 mL Algenist Complete Eye Renewal Balm – amazing value, basically half of the full size which retails for $68. A tiny bit goes a very long way, very good for soothing and hydrating tired undereyes, great for preventing fine lines
  • 1.35 oz/ 40 mL Alterna CAVIAR Anti-Aging Replenishing Moisture Shampoo
  • 1.35 oz/ 40 mL Alterna CAVIAR Anti-Aging Replenishing Moisture Conditioner
  • 0.16 oz/ 5 mL AMOREPACIFIC The Essential Crème Fluid – very lightweight but very hydrating, love this for travel
  • 0.7 oz/ 20 g boscia Luminizing Black Charcoal Mask – didn’t find it very luminizing but definitely very fun to use!
  • 0.5 oz/ 15 mL boscia Tsubaki Swirl Two-Part Gel & Cream Deep Hydartion Moisturizer
  • 1 oz/ 30 mL Caudalie Beauty Elixir – really refreshing, not super hydrating, great for travel when you need a quick pick-me-up
  • 7 tablets HUM Nutrition Beauty zzZz Sleep Supplement
  • 0.5 oz/ 15 mL LANEIGE Water Sleeping Mask – amazing for when you are on the plane and want to prevent your skin from drying out.
  • 1 oz/ 30 mL Origins Checks and Balances Frothy Face Wash
  • 0.81 oz/ 24 mL Sol de Janeiro Brazilian Bum Bum Cream – LOVE THIS CREAM! Smells amazing and is super moisturizing and nourishing, but dislike the shimmers in the cream
  • 0.5 oz/ 15 mL Sunday Riley C.E.O. Rapid Flash Brightening Serum
  • 0.5 oz/ 15 mL Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 40

Sadly, the availability is different on Canadian and US Sephora. The Canadian one has fewer kits (there are only six on Canadian Sephora compared to 21 on US Sephora), and even within the kits there are certain products missing (for example any SPF products that aren’t sold in Canada, such as Supergoop). If you are near a Sephora store in Canada, you might find certain kits that are either not available or already sold out online. If you have access to a US mailing address, I highly recommend that you order these directly from the US Sephora site for the biggest selection.

Highly recommend Sephora Favorites!

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SHOPPING | My top favourite brands and products, available at Holt Renfrew

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So by now you’ll already know that I am a major luxury shopper and I buy a lot of my stuff from Holt Renfrew, a luxury department store in Vancouver that also has locations across Canada. Some of the brands I talk about extensively on my blog are also available at Holts, so I wanted to give you a mini shopping guide, of sorts, of the products and brands I love that are also available under one roof.

The full disclosure is that yes I do work with Holts sometimes and I get invited to their events. BUT if you know me in real life, you’ll know that I actually work two blocks away from the Vancouver store and it also happens to be on my way home (on the way to the skytrain…) so I actually shop quite extensively here. During their May/June designer sale, I’d actually come here every day after work to check out shoes and other sale items. This post is absolutely not sponsored, I really just go there a lot.

1. Charlotte Tilbury

It’s no secret that Charlotte Tilbury makes some of my favourite makeup products. My top picks include Filmstar Bronze & Glow, the Luxury Eye Palettes in the Dolce Vita* and the Vintage Vamp*, KISSING Lipstick in Bitch Perfect, Lip Liner in Pillow Talk*, as well as the combination of Magic Cream + Wonder Glow* + Light Wonder Foundation*. I recently broke the highlighter pan in my Filmstar Bronze & Glow. It still works but I just can’t take it around with me anymore since the powder spills out. Well I love that so much that I ended up picking up a replacement to take around with me because I need my glow on the go!

2. Christian Louboutin Beaute

I love Christian Louboutin lip products. They are such a luxurious splurge but oh so worth it. Since it’s summer, I’ve been wearing the Sheer Voile Lip Colour in Mexicatchy* all the time. Not only does the formula and colour look beautiful, the packaging is also such a statement piece.

3. La Prairie

Okay do I need to say more about my love for La Prairie? The products are insanely luxurious but it’s such a wonderful experience whenever you use them. My top picks are the Skin Caviar Concealer + Foundation* and the Cellular Swiss Ice Crystal Dry Oil*. Both of these are on the lower end of the price spectrum for La Prairie, and both of these also last you FOREVER in terms of usage, so you actually get pretty good value for your money (despite it being luxury products).

4. AmorePacific

The first brand that introduced me to the world of ultra luxury skincare, AmorePacific is a Korean brand that specializes in using green tea extracts to achieve skin goals. I love their Time Response products, which are an ultimate splurge, but the texture and skin benefits really outweigh the price. I have travel sizes that I take around with me whenever I travel, and I simply love how amazing they make my skin feel and look. For a slightly less pricey (but still very pricey) alternative, the Future Response line is also great. Their skin basics, such as cleansers and toners have been long-standing favourites in my skincare routine. While I test out many products, every few years I will return to AmorePacific and the results are always just as I expected.

5. Sulwhasoo

Korean luxury beauty brand Sulwhasoo is owned by AmorePacific and specializes in ginseng-based skincare. I’ve only tried a few products from the brand but so far I’ve been very impressed! The First Care Activating Serum* is a greater starter serum for anyone looking to venture into this brand. I’ve also had very good luck with the Snowise Brightening Mask* to give me luminous skin before an event or when my skin is looking particularly sallow.

6. Givenchy Beauty

OH MY GOD. I was so happy when I found out Givenchy Beauty was launching at Holt Renfrew. You can now pick up the entire line of makeup products here, as well as their line of Atelier Haute Parfumerie collection. I’ve been buying Givenchy Beauty from Sephora for years but the line wasn’t that widely available, and it was always hard to find stock / good testers, as well as people who knew the line. I was invited to the media launch of this when it opened early June, but of course I went back a few days later to pick up one of their new Le Rouge Liquide lipsticks. SO MUCH LOVE!

You can purchase all of these products at Holt Renfrew (duh). Next time you’re in Vancouver, make time to browse their beauty floor, which is amazing and YUUUGE. I love spending time browsing the different counters and playing with all the new products.

Let me know if you’ve tried any of these and what your thoughts are!

Certain products were gifted or provided by PR for review consideration; these are marked with a *. Most products I’ve tried from these brands were purchased by me. All opinions are my own.

Celebrating Swimco’s 40th anniversary + e-commerce launch!

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Swimco is western Canada’s leading retailer of swim apparel and accessories. A family-owned business, it was founded in 1975, meaning that they are celebrating their 40th anniversary this year! The matriarch of the company, Corinne Forseth, created Swimco from her basement as a mail-order swimwear business, and since then, Swimco has developed into a an operation with 22 retail locations in western Canada. In 2014, Swimco launched its e-commerce website, essentially going back to its roots in the mail-order business, and has become readily available to customers across Canada.

I’ve shopped at Swimco brick-and-mortar retail, and their customer service is really great. I remember shopping at the Metrotown location last year in preparation for my Mexico trip and the experience was very pleasant – the salespeople were very knowledgeable, never pushy, and also provided me with a variety of options to suit my body type. Swimwear shopping is extremely daunting, especially on someone like me who does not have a supermodel body, but Swimco has really turned it into a positive experience.

Recently, I was offered the opportunity to experience shopping via the Swimco e-commerce website. The Swimco website offers a plethora of brands, as well as wide selection of styles. You can choose to shop by brand, such as Seafolly, Azura Australia, Speedo, BCBGeneration, and more, or by style, such as tankini, one-piece, fitness, and more. The website also offers styles for men and children, in addition to women’s styles. You might think it would be difficult to shop swimwear without trying it on, but the Swimco website is amazing in that it offers size guides by the brand (not an umbrella size guide), because we all know that sizes vary by brand; as well as a customer service “Fit Expert” live chat who will be able to answer your questions about any particular brand.

I am particularly biased towards Seafolly suits. I currently own three swimsuits and all of them are by Seafolly – I just love the cute designs as well as a pretty prints that are released every season, and I also love the availability of sizes for bigger busts. One of my bestest friends (and blog contributor) Liza swears by Seafolly, and she says after even years of wear and wash, they still hold up extremely well, which is also what convinced me to continually purchase their suits.

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The design that really caught my eye was their Vintage Holiday print – I just fell in love with the U-Tube Bandeau Top and the Roll Top Retro Bikini Bottom (scroll to the bottom of the page). I have the U-Tube Bandeau top in the normal size, but I was really excited to see it being released in a size more suitable for bigger busts, providing more support via bigger cups as well as underwires. Keep in mind that the sizes on the Swimco website are listed in the Canadian sizing, not the Australian sizing on the label of the swimsuit.

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Website tip – if you want to check if there is stock of your size at a brick-and-mortar store near you, you can click on the size on the product page, then click “check in store availability.” If the size you want isn’t in stock on the website, you can do a live chat (or leave a message if its after hours) with a Fit Expert to ask them to check store stock. The Fit Expert live chats are available from 8:30AM to 5:00PM MST on Monday to Friday, closed on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays (but you can leave a message and they will get back to you the morning of the next business day).

I ended up ordering the U-Tube Bandeau Top in a size 12, which I thought was the Australian size 12 (Canadian size 10 or US size 8) but turned out to be a Canadian size 12, meaning it was one size too big for me. This meant that I got to experience the speedy and convenient exchange service offered by Swimco! I did a live chat with the Fit Expert to let her know that I need an exchange, and because the size 10 was sold out online, the Fit Expert managed to track down a size 10 at a retail location, and also offered to transfer the top to the store that’s most convenient for me to get to. After a few days, the store called me to let me know that my suit had arrived, and the exchange process was just super easy. In the end, I was very happy with the Swimco online service, and the entire ordering process.

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The U-Tube Bandeau Top in size 10 was the perfect fit for my 34DD size chest. While it is a bandeau-style top, it comes with underwire support for those in need of more support. I love that the suit is also lined in a fluor pink that’s super whimsical and cute. The bandeau style doesn’t provide me with a lot of cleavage, but I prefer this type of understated look that provides more coverage and support rather than cleavage. I also ordered myself the Twist Front bottom from Seafolly in navy to pair with the Vintage Holiday print – the navy colour goes perfectly with the blue floral print.

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If you’re a Canadian in need of a large selection of swimsuits for every size, and want somewhere that offers free shipping for orders over $100, easy and convenient exchanges or returns, you should check out Swimco!

Thanks to Swimco for providing me with a gift card to shop!

NEW! 9W♥InStyle capsule collection for Spring 2014

For spring, Nine West is collaborating with InStyle magazine once again to create a limited edition capsule collection; Nine West and InStyle collaborated previously for their capsule collection in fall 2013. The 9W♥InStyle capsule collection will be available at all Nine West locations in Vancouver, as well as in select stores across Canada, the US, the UK, Spain, Turkey, and Mexico.

Their previous collection included only shoes, but this time there will be a portfolio clutch and also a cuff bracelet, both available in 3 different colours. The accessories are priced at $180 for the clutch and $98 for the bracelet.

The 9W♥InStyle capsule collection is available in stores on Friday, March 7 and the shoes will be priced at $120 to $149. Some of my favourite designs in the collection are below.

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Basic wool peacoat: the purchase (part 2)

I previously wrote about my search for a classic and basic wool peacoat here. After literally months of searching, I finally found the one.

I like to think of my coats as an investment. Prior to this year’s replacement of the coats, my previous outerwear have all lasted me anywhere from 4 to 7 years. This year, I finally decided to replace all of my coats due to realizing that they’re actually not that warm anymore.

The three choices that I had looked at in my last post all had flaws that I just couldn’t overlook, and because I was confident in that I would be wearing this coat for many years, I decided to expand my search to more luxury brands. Specifically, I looked at Burberry.

I absolutely love Burberry for outerwear. I find that the quality really is fantastic and the price they charge for the craftsmanship and material is (almost) justified. I previously purchased a trench coat from Burberry and it has become the most beloved and most worn articles of clothing in my closet. Coincidentally, the Burberry website started their winter sale just before Christmas and of course I had to take a look.

Wool coats by Burberry London (my favourite of the three Burberry brands – Prorsum, London, and Brit) were marked down 30%, and everything was shipped straight from the UK. I looked at three different styles that met my criteria (everything except the price, of course). All o these coats were made of 80% wool and 20% cashmere, meaning they are extremely soft and warm.

Wool Cashmere Military Pea Coat

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I love the button details on this style, as well as the giant pockets (yay for carrying a lot of stuff around!). I also really like that cuff design around the sleeves and the nightingale extension at the back of the coat. The downsides were the extremely high price, and that it looked a bit too contemporary for me. I wanted something more classic that would stay in style for years.

Revere Collar Wool Cashmere Pea Coat

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Again, loving the button detail on the sleeves and the scrunched up fabric at the back of the waist. The downside was the sleeves look really short on the model, and I felt it might be too fitted to layer anything underneath. This coat looked more like a light spring jacket than a warm coat.

Wool Cashmere Pea Coat

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This one was a winner! Definitely love the oversized collar and the slightly longer cut. It’s fitted but still loose enough to layer a blazer or a sweater underneath. It has less detailing around the back of the waist or the sleeves, but the oversized collar is definitely the main feature. While the price is a bit high, I was very happy with this purchase. I was also extremely happy that my search is now over!

Basic wool peacoat: the search (part 1)

I’ve always been a long coat kind of gal. All of the jackets/coats I wear on a regular basis are long, either knee length or longer. This year, I wanted to get myself a short wool peacoat, something for more casual wear that wasn’t as heavy or formal as a long coat.

I started my search at the beginning of coat-shopping season, during early September. I had narrowed down my list of criteria to the follow:

  • Short (ish), around hip length
  • Dark colour, either black or navy
  • Made of wool, with minimal other materials mixed in
  • Fitted enough to create an illusion of a waist-like, but loose enough so that I can layer underneath
  • Budget of around $300

In addition to looking at the various brands such as Club Monaco, J.Crew, Mackage, Smythe, I also kept my eyes out for sales on shopping sites such as Gilt, Rue La La, and others. In the end, I narrowed down my selection to the following choices:

Majesty Peacoat from J. Crew

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The classic Majesty Peacoat from J. Crew is made of warm stadium cloth. Available in a wide variety of colours, I fell in love with the fit of this design. I tried this in a size 8 and it was just perfect for wearing with a thick sweater or a blazer underneath. The navy colour, coupled with the gold buttons, was also a standout. The downside to this peacoat was the gold buttons, as they looked plastic and slightly cheap.

Samantha Navy Blazer Coat from Mackage

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This was a lot more expensive than what I had originally budgeted, but I love the feel and quality of Mackage coats that I couldn’t resist but look. The leather detailing, a Mackage signature, was very much my style, but the zipper side details were a bit too grungy for me, especially since I wanted something classic for every day wear.

Wool-felt peacoat from Iris & Ink

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I’ve never heard of the brand Iris & Ink, but this came pretty close to what I was looking for in a wool peacoat. The material looks heavy-duty, and the design was a contemporary take on a classic silhouette. The only thing was I couldn’t find much online about the quality of this brand and I was wary about spending so much money on a coat that I wasn’t sure of the material and make.

Which coat do you think I chose in the end? I’ll be following up with part 2 of my coat search soon!

Maddy Loves holiday gift guide, 2013 edition!

It’s not easy to shop for the beauty fanatics in your life. I know from personal experience that I don’t like it when people buy me beauty products because I’m very particular about what I want. However, there are some great alternative beauty products out there but I never thought to buy for myself. This is where the gift givers come in!

1. MICRO Pedi at-home pedicure

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For the DIY lovers in your life (that’s me!), the Micro Pedi is the perfect gadget. Pedicures are expensive and impractical sometimes, so this is the perfect compromise. Battery-operated, the rolling spinner works to remove the dry skin to give you soft and smooth feet, perfect for holiday season cuddles. Priced at $49.99, the Micro Pedi is available at Shoppers Drug Mart and at http://www.micropedi.ca.

2. MIYU Beauty facial essence and tea sets

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MIYU Beauty has combined beauty and health with their beauty essence and tea sets. Available in two varieties – a hydrate set and a de-stress set – this is perfect for your office-worker lady friend. The spray is perfect to keep at the office and the tea is great to enjoy while working late nights. Priced at $42 for each of the sets (pictured above), you get a 80mL of the beauty essence and 16 tea bags. There is a great sampler set available for $24 (pictured below) that includes 15mL each of the hydrate and de-stress beauty essence, and two each of the hydrate and de-stress tea bags. Available online at http://www.miyubeauty.com.

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3. Way Spa gift cards

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Way Spa is a spa network that spans across Canada and their gift cards are redeemable at over 2,000 spa locations across Canada. Available in denominations of $25-500, these are great if you want to surprise your lady (or male) friend with a relaxing day at the spa. I wrote about my experience at one of Way Spa’s partners, the Sabai Thai Spa here. A general gift card like this is great for when you want to be a bit more flexible as to where your gift card can be used. Available online at http://www.wayspa.com.

I also wrote about holiday offerings from L’Occitane en Provence and LUSH Cosmetics, if you need some more inspiration!

Shopping for work clothes: what I look for, where I shop, and how to get the best deals

I admit, I am becoming like an old woman because I get excited at the sight of nice, proper work clothes. On my last trip to Vegas, I didn’t look at any casual clothes, and even if I did look, I was not interested at all. What I was interested in, though, was the pencil skirts and fitted blazers of the bunch.

When I shop for work clothes, I look for three main things:

  • Fit – I like my clothes to be fitted against my curves but still loose enough for me to move around comfortably in them. I really like structure in most of the work clothes I buy as I feel it makes me look more professional, however structure does not mean scratchy fabrics.
  • Texture – The feel of the item is equally important as the look. I like my fabrics to be soft to the touch, and preferably stretchy so it is easier to move around in them. I also like well-made, high quality pieces of clothing. I am willing to splurge on something that will last several years rather than buy several items that are of lower quality.
  • Timelessness – With work wear, I rarely, if ever, follow trends. I almost always go with timeless pieces, such a good quality collared shirt or silk blouse with bow tie.

There are some stores that I absolutely love for work clothes, some of them have been long time favourites and others are new discoveries for me. Some of them used to be favourites, and then as time went on… quality of their products have really declined so I’ve stopped shopping there.

  • Banana Republic – BR is hands down my absolute favourite place to shop for work clothes. Their non-iron shirts are staples in my closet as they are incredibly soft and they fit well on my body shape, not to mention the convenience of not having to iron them. Their designs in general are chic and modern, without looking too trendy. Quality is also on their side; their products are very well made and are made from high quality fabrics too. Their products are slightly on the pricier side so I usually wait for sales to buy them though, make sure to sign up for their mailing list to get information on when their sales are. Hint hint, they almost always has some kind of markdown event going on!
  • Ann Taylor – This is a new discovery from my Vegas trip. I’ve been hearing bloggers talk about Ann Taylor but I’ve never shopped at one until recently, and I quickly fell in love. Their Perfect Pumps are easily one of my favourite work shoes and I also love their blouses. The quality isn’t as top notch as Banana Republic’s, I find, but again if you check their website regularly, or subscribe to their mailing list, you can find really amazing deals (up to 90% off!).
  • BCBG Max Azria – My favourite place to shop for blazers, which I talk about in detail here. I also love their silk blouses and accessories, especially belts. Quality of most products is fantastic, but they are a little bit trendier so not everything is office-appropriate. Their outlets are great places to find awesome deals, and they also do sales sometimes in store, either for 30, 40, 50 or 60% off select items, and then sometimes they have a 20% or 30% off all regular-price items in store.
  • Zara – I fell in love with Zara just this spring when I bought two of their blazers in a row, plus a bunch of other things. Both fit and quality are inconsistent, so I highly recommend trying things on in person. Their sales are good… on the first day. And then it becomes a madhouse and things get ripped or makeup stained and I would rather just not go there.
  • Jacob – I used to love shopping at Jacob, both the regular Jacob and Jacob Connexion. The quality of their products used to be fantastic, with great designs that were trendy but still very wearable, but now it has just been going downhill. Now, I feel that their products don’t fit me as well as before, and the fabrics are stiffer, but prices have stayed the same. I will still look occasionally, but I usually don’t find anything I like anymore.
  • Mexx – Same as with Jacob, but Mexx does those 50% off the entire store events which I enjoy.

Wow, now that I’m done, I totally realized this was just a big fat word vomit of a post. I hope it was helpful to those of you who had the patience to read through it though. If you have any questions, feel free to ask =)

CityTV x eBeauty.ca event… and the birth of a new Canadian online shop for all of your cosmetics needs!

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I was invited to the CityTV x eBeauty.ca event that took place on the 29th of June. eBeauty.ca is a new Canadian online retail space that sells over 300 brands of cosmetics, many of which are not available in Canada. They offer free shipping over $75 (right now there is a promotion going on that is free shipping over $25) and many weekly deals and specials. Brands include Stila, Paul & Joe, Jack Black (for that lip balm that Temptalia has raved about), Butter London, Barielle, Caudalie, and MORE! What’s best is that they are a 100% Canadian-owned company as they are owned by Rogers.

Now for some photos from the event… I will do a look breakdown for you in another post =)

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Awesome deals for the early present buyers~

I know I haven’t done one of these in a while, but there have been some really awesome deals around the net lately so I feel I have the obligation to share (aka enable) them with you.

  • Strawberrynet currently has YSL Ombre Duo Lumieres (duo eyeshadows) on sale for $20! That’s 50% off. Products are boxed, have no problems and they’re the current ones being sold at the counter (not discontinued), so its an amazing deal. Free shipping on everything and 5% off if you buy 3 or more items (as usual).
  • Strawberrynet is also currently having their unboxed sale, with products discounted as much as 65%. The products won’t have boxes (which is why its an unboxed sale…), but don’t worry, its not because they’re testers or anything. Deals include Bobbi Brown Shimmer Brick in Nectar for $21, Bobbi Brown Protective Face Lotion for $23.50, Diorskin Nude liquid foundation for $33, Dolce & Gabbana lipgloss for $22, and MORE.
  • ASOS is currently having their mid-season sale on cosmetics. This includes whopping 50% off deals on brands like Paul & Joe, Illamasqua, Steamcream, etc. If you’re looking for Paul & Joe holiday collection, it has already been released on ASOS (yes, already). Shipping to North America is $6 flat rate.
  • Sasa is selling Chanel Rouge Coco and Rouge Allure lipsticks for $26. Shipping is free over $100.
  • Cosme-De has Anna Sui Luxury Face Powder on sale for $39 (usual price is $56 I believe, in stores) and Dejavu mascara for $10 (Selling on Sephora for about $28). Also you can pre-order Barbie Hsu’s HG face mask, the For Beloved One Melasleep Bio-cellulose Mask for 50% off. Shipping is free on any order.

That’s about all the deals I can remember right now. If you know of any, please feel free to comment with the information and URL.

If you bought something, please let me know what you bought!! I love to hear about other people’s purchases =)