Friday, August 30, 2019

Stila Hide & Chic Fluid Foundation Review

Remember when I told you that I’ve always had difficulty finding foundations that match? Well recently most of the products I’ve been sent to review look amazing on my skin! I don’t know if it’s because beauty companies finally understand the value of incorporating more women of color but things are definitely improving for girls in the medium range of the color spectrum (woo hoo!).

I was matched with Stila’s Hide & Chic Fluid Foundation ($51.00) in the shade Tan/Deep 1 and decided to test the formula on date night. I had pretty good results with Stila’s Lingerie Souffle Skin Perfecting Color and if this one didn’t work, I knew my husband wouldn’t call me an oompa loompa over a candlelight dinner...he’d wait until we got home and let me down gently.


Hide & Chic is described as “a magic elixir” infused with botanical ingredients that smooth, blur, refine and even the complexion. I love makeup enriched with skincare and this golden bottle contains plant collagen and vegetable extract to firm and tone, baobab tree root for moisture and Irish sea moss.

What I love most is the customizable coverage. The consistency is light and very liquid-y so the color blends effortlessly and provides a natural, skin-like veil that is long-wear, flexible and humidity-proof. It is also very buildable so you can easily go from medium to full-coverage with no trouble concealing blemishes and discoloration.

The foundation is quite runny so be careful when using the pump dispenser. Yesterday a stream of it shot across my vanity and ended up in a drawer. 

Fortunately this shade makes my complexion look flawless. I used my beauty blender for quick, seamless application and it spread beautifully!

The swatches below show the texture of the foundation blended and unblended (FYI, my face is a completely different color than my forearm).



I always set my liquids with powder and after a full night of fun at the fair, my skin wasn't greasy at all! There was no transfer (my hubby occasionally complains about makeup on his shirt) and the color didn’t oxidize in the sun – no harsh red tones.  

The silica coated pigments create a bouncy, breathable finish that feels silky and stays smooth with no caking or flaking. I didn’t experience any irritation and the formula is suitable for all skin types with the perfect balance of matte and dewiness. There is no dryness or shine (even in warm climates) and it does not accentuate lines, pores or uneven texture.

There are 30 shades to choose from and about half of them are in the tan, medium and deep range.


If you’re looking for a great foundation that makes your skin appear healthy and energized, I definitely recommend trying this one. Stila is available at Sephora, Shoppers Drug Mart and beauty.shoppersdrugmat.ca.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Lancome L’Absolu Mademoiselle Shine Lipstick: Review & Swatches

Sometimes a girl just needs a gorgeous lipstick that she can swipe on quickly without worrying about smudging dryness or discomfort. Lancome seems to understand exactly what women want because the new L’Absolu Mademoiselle Lipsticks ($38.00 ea) are juicy, vibrant and incredibly hydrating.


The color selection is gorgeous! Your choices include a trendy collection of classic red, plum, pink, wine, nude and coral - something for every skin tone, style and occasion.

The first thing I noticed was how lush and lightweight the formula is. It contains rose oil, vitamin E, and a patented moisture lock complex that protects, nourishes and conditions for hours! The fruity scent smells delicious and the color glides on effortlessly with minimal transfer and no bleeding.


I usually prefer matte lipsticks but I’ve totally fallen in love with the glistening shine and plush finish of these bright hues. They make my pout feel soft, smooth and youthful with a sexy plumping effect.

As the pigment drenches parched lips in supple moisture it feels like a soothing balm with the buildable color of a satin lipstick. I don’t need to reapply often and the gold tubes are are super chic. 

During hectic workdays or long flights, the lipstick prevents skin from chapping or peeling and never feels sticky or slick. I always keep one in my purse to enhance my complexion right before a big meeting or event.


The best part – you don’t have to wait for a good lip day to wear them. The color looks great even when your pout is in bad shape and they actually make my skin feel healthier  – silky, resilient and completely replenished.

Swatches left to right: 232 Mademoiselle Plays, 368 Mademoiselle Smiles, 382 Mademoiselle Shine, 398 Mademoiselle Loves and 157 Mademoiselle Stands Out

Lancome is available at Shoppers Drug Mart, department store counters and online at lancome.ca

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Merlot Natural Grape Seed Skin Care Review

It seems like I’ve tried almost every beauty product on the market so when new trends and passing fads become overwhelming, I go back to the basics.

Merlot was one of the very first companies I worked with when launching my website. I used their products for many years and my entire family saw visible improvements in the health of their skin.


The brand’s philosophy is simple – they believe that their customers can look like a million bucks without spending that much and as someone who uses five thousand dollar face masks, this ideology is very refreshing. Sometimes simple ingredients are all you really need and Merlot features the natural power of grape seed antioxidants to reverse signs of aging and environmental damage.

I am no stranger to the health benefits of red wine and grape seeds. The extract is 50 times more potent than Vitamin E and nearly 25 times more effective than Vitamin C. I use the oil to cook with and drink non-alcoholic red wine to keep my cholesterol in check. It is also known to prevent certain cancers, increase blood flow, strengthen collagen and improve brain and organ function.

Merlot’s entire range is cruelty-free, vegan, paraben free and the family-owned business is based in the U.S.A.

Day Routine
In the morning I always use a good face wash to cleanse my pores, control oil and remove bacteria that may be lurking beneath the surface. The nourishing soap-free Grape Seed Cleanser ($11.00) eliminates impurities, moisturizes and soothes with a fragrance-free blend of cucumber, apple and papaya extract. My face never feels tight, itchy or dry and it is safe to use around the eyes. The rich cream feels great but it doesn't lather. 


Before applying makeup I prep, hydrate and replenish my skin with the Sunrise Serum ($22.00) which contains high-tech, anti-aging peptides. The lightweight, water-based liquid absorbs instantly without greasiness and creates a smooth, silky base for flawless foundation. It also improves texture and tone by plumping and firming.


On top of the serum I apply a layer of Merlot’s Grape Seed Moisturizer ($17.00) with powerful antioxidants and botanicals. Enriched with SPF and free radical defense, the formula helps inhibit the aging process and shields skin from daily aggressors without oil or heavy fragrance. You can tell the cream is infused with a lot of grape seed extract because it has a purple tint and a supple finish.


Evening Routine
At bedtime I use the Grape Seed Cleanser to eliminate makeup and pollutants before applying the Moonlight Radiance Night Cream ($20.00). The consistency is a bit richer than the daily moisturizer and the revitalizing anti-aging complex renews tired looking skin that has been damaged by natural or external elements. State-of-the-art peptides reduce the appearance of wrinkles while boosting collagen, enhancing elasticity and balancing pH to restore the dermal layer. For very dry skin I recommend using a generous amount. The cream never clogs pores and when used frequently it brightens, softens and firms.


For velvety skin, apply 2 drops of Vineyard Gold Facial Oil made with 100% pure grape seed ($18.00). This is my favorite product in the line because it repairs and rejuvenates as you sleep without causing breakouts. It also works wonders on cracked heels, brittle nails, ragged cuticles and chapped lips. The light, dewy sheen makes skin glow without greasy buildup.


Don’t forget to apply the Grape Seed Eye Cream ($13.00) if you want to look well rested and refreshed. This invigorating treatment improves circulation, reduces puffiness, diminishes dark circles, moisturizes, boosts collagen and smooths fine lines.


Merlot Skincare is available at merlotskincare.com.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Pixi Beauty Eye Reflection Shadow Palette Review

Resisting new beauty trends can be difficult when there is so much enticing makeup. Most of us have more products than we know what to do with but Pixi’s eye shadow palettes should probably be at the forefront of your collection.


These babies are gorgeous! If you love smooth, buttery pigment that glides on effortlessly and illuminates your eyes with striking metallic brilliance, then look no further. After swatching most of the colors, I totally understand why these shadows are called “reflection” – the silky mineral powder catches light and creates a gorgeous 3D effect that shines and shimmers.

At first glance the shade selection may appear neutral but these hues are anything but boring. Mixed Metals has a stunning combination of garnet, gold, taupe and champagne that look radiant on all skin tones. The rich chrome-like finish is vibrant and full-coverage with no creasing or fading.


If you’re searching for the perfect rose gold, Reflex Light has the most flattering variation – (3rd row, 2nd shade). There aren’t any mattes in this palette but who cares! I can easily find other shadows to match and for special events, they make my eyes look mesmerizing!

The only issue I have is some lid to crease transfer which is annoying when I want to keep the colors separate and defined.


More variety would be nice because these palettes are quite similar. I’d love to see Pixi formulate a few jewel tones including emerald, shimmery royal blue, ruby and maybe even a vivid purple with the same rich texture, longevity and intensity.


If you prefer cool tones, Natural Beauty might be more your style. This palette still has pops of glam but there are also a few earthy mattes to balance the radiance. 


The Eye Reflection Palettes retail for $34.00 each and they are totally worth it!

Pixi's Books of Beauty are great for travel and busy mornings. Contour Creator ($24.00) is designed to shape, bronze and highlight with micro-milled particles that draw attention to your best features. The highlight shades are a little too white and chalky for my complexion but the sculpting hues (light, medium and deep brown) are great for accentuating your profile.


The Glow Getters Palette ($24.00) features “6 universal shades” but I think the powders are too light for medium to deep skin. The finish is luminous but I prefer vivid gold or bronze - something with more dimension.

For application I’ve been using the Real Techniques Rebel Edge Brushes ($26.00) which are cut at an angle to apply bronzer, highlighter and blush. The thick, fluffy bristles are perfect for buffing color onto the skin while creating a seamless contrast of shadow and light.

The Pixiglow Cake 3-in-1 Luminous Transition Powder ($38.00) has a gradient of 5 colors so you can use your favorite or mix and match. There isn’t a lot of depth to these shades (they have a white/silvery base) but the natural finish is pretty for daytime wear.


Pixi Beauty is paraben and cruelty free. You can find these great products at Shoppers Drug Mart and online at beauty.shoppersdrugmart.ca.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Soap & Glory Summer 2019 Bath & Body Collection

Over the years I’ve tried many scrumptious products from Soap & Glory and the brand's most distinctive characteristic is the sweet scent they refer to as “pink.” If you want to smell incredible all day without dousing yourself in perfume, this collection might be what you’re looking for.


The range includes a variety of wonderful scrubs, lotions, butters and shower gels infused with moisturizing extracts and luscious oils. If you are sensitive to heavy fragrance, make sure to sniff everything before purchasing. The perfume is quite overpowering and the scent may linger for hours.

Clean On Me Clarifying Shower Gel ($14.00) is infused with mandarin extract and built-in lotion to give you smooth, sexy skin whenever you want it. The fun, feminine fragrance makes the entire bathroom smell amazing and the rich lather rinses away dirt, oil, pollutants and sweat without causing dryness.


Before I hop out of the shower, I like to scrub until my entire body feels silky. Flake Away ($18.00) is packed with shea butter, sugar and apricot seeds to polish dry patches, slough away roughness and moisturize.


If you're short on time, Scrub Of Your Life ($16.00) cleanses and exfoliates in one simple step. The invigorating formula smooths bumpy areas while eliminating impurities so skin feels soft and renewed.

When you feel clean and rejuvenated, slather on the righteous Body Butter ($18.00) for a velvety finish. The aroma is strong but the formula is light, hydrating and non-greasy so you can use it in the summer without feeling sweaty. S & G recommends applying a “generous handful” on damp skin so the shea and aloe absorbs deeply.


When you want to show-off your mani or pedi without embarrassment, Heel Genius ($16.00) and Hand Food ($10.00) has your back. The hand cream has a supple blend of shea, macadamia and marshmallow to treat damaged nails and ragged cuticles without residue. 


Foot cream is a must during sandal season and this one is enriched with fruit acids, oils and menthol to alleviate soreness, gently exfoliate and heal cracked, ashy heels.

Soap & Glory is available at Shoppers Drug Mart.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Get Flawless Looking Skin with No7 Airbrush Away Primer

My morning routine usually consists of checking my phone, answering emails, brushing my teeth, cleansing, showering, moisturizing, eating breakfast (avocado on toast with spicy humus) while watching King of Queens, styling my hair and applying makeup.

Before sweeping on eye shadow or blending foundation, I always use primer on my eyes, lips and face. A good base is essential for creating any look because it helps smooth, prep, prolong wear and prevent creasing, caking and transfer.

No7 Cosmetics has recently launched a collection of Skin Perfectors that will take your beauty regiment to the next level!


The Airbrush Away Primers ($22.00) have a lightweight, silky formula that minimizes pores and blurs imperfections with a sheer, matte finish. The creamy texture blends seamlessly into all skin tones and nourishes with a blend of hyaluronic acid. It also contains oil absorbent powder and glycerine to plump, smooth and control shine so you never look greasy. Both primers work the same way (it doesn’t really matter which you choose) and I don’t have to retouch or blot my face for up to 12 hours (unless I get sweaty).


The Airbrush Away Tinted Skin Perfector ($22.00) is also a lightweight face primer but this formula has a hint of satiny color that conceals minor imperfections, discoloration, fine lines, large pores and wrinkles. The sheer finish is very natural so the tint can be worn alone or layered under foundation to create a camouflaging veil.


There are only 3 shades available (light, medium and dark) but each hue adjusts to a wide range of skin tones so you don’t need an exact match. The Perfectors are also enriched with Vitamin A and E to condition and defend against free radial damage - perfect for battling summer smog and pollution. Use it sparingly and blend well because the cream tends to form tiny rolls that bead and flake.


If you prefer something a little stronger, the Resurfacing Skin Paste ($28.00) visibly brightens and refines skin texture to improve the look of hyperpigmentation, scars and blemishes. The formula is powered by a potent Derma-Peel Complex containing AHA and PHA – gentle exfoliating acids that make skin appear even, youthful and clear.

Remember to read the instruction leaflet and wear sunscreen after treatment as these ingredients may cause sensitivity to UV.


No7 is available at Shoppers Drug Mart, Beauty Boutique and online at beauty.shoppersdrugmart.ca

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Banff Travel and Tourism Guide: How to Spend a Weekend in the Canadian Rockies

I’ve traveled all over the world and embarked on many exciting adventures but oddly enough, I haven’t explored much of my own country.

Many Canadian provinces have breathtaking landscapes, sparkling lakes and rugged terrain so instead of touring another big city or escaping to a tropical destination, I decided to get in touch with nature.


Banff has been at the top of my travel bucket list for years and last week I finally made it to the Rockies! I didn’t trek through grizzly territory or sleep in a flimsy tent while being eaten alive by bugs, but I did hike partway up a mountain and came face to face with powerful predators.


The flight from Toronto to Calgary International (the closest airport to Banff) is less than 4 hours so it is possible to plan a weekend getaway if you are prepared and informed. For those traveling from other countries, you won’t be disappointed by the wonders of this incredible landscape.

My first tip is to book early because accommodations in and around Banff sell out quickly. Since this was my first time in Alberta, I did some sightseeing before heading into the wilderness.

Stephen Avenue

Aside from the Stampede in July, Calgary offers basic attractions including museums, parks, historical sites, shopping, trendy neighborhoods and a great zoo. I visited the Calgary Tower (which is actually shorter than many of the surrounding buildings), the Core Shopping Center and Stephen Avenue Walk – a pedestrian street lined with cafes and entertainment venues.


Intriguing artwork can be found throughout the city so I stopped at several popular installations.

Galleria Trees Sculpture on Stephen Ave

Wonderland Sculpture 6 Ave SE

The Brotherhood of Mankind Sculpture - represents “the dominance of man.” 

Visiting Banff National Park
The next day was long and tiring but I created an excellent itinerary to make the most of my short time in the park. Due to the high volume of tourists, you definitely need to plan ahead and be prepared in order to get anywhere near the lakes.


A few items that may come in handy on your road trip include:

*Toilet paper – restroom lines are very long and they usually run out of essentials.

*Map, GPS or compass (depending on the activities you have planned).

*Warm Clothing for early morning expeditions. Summer in the Rockies can be quite cold.

*Umbrella and rain gear (the weather changes quickly).

*Lots of water to prevent dehydration. My brand of choice is Flow Alkaline Water because the high pH level neutralizes acid in the body and promotes blood flow which helps when hiking at high elevations. It is also a great source of electrolytes with no added sugar, juice, calories or preservatives and the box is made of 100% recyclable material. For more info click HERE.


*Snacks/Food – there are no restaurants along the Icefields Parkway except an overpriced lodge serving cafeteria style food that isn’t very good. Many families pack a cooler and make use of the picnic areas.

*Hiking gear (if necessary), if not, bring suitable footwear for walking and extra socks in case the ground is wet.

*Backpacks are hands-free and easy to carry because they help distribute weight.

*Camera (obviously).

*Bug Spray (trust me, you’ll need it).

*First Aid Travel Kit (you can never be too careful).

*Park Pass.

*Sunglasses.

*Sunscreen.

*Bear spray if you plan to venture into the deep woods....or just in case.

Driving From Calgary to Banff
Usually it takes about an hour and thirty minutes to reach the park and we didn’t need GPS.

Unfortunately, heavy fog and rain made driving conditions quite treacherous. The roads were pitch black (no street lights) and visibility was terrible. When you combine bad weather with elk and moose crossings, the journey can be dangerous. It is important to be extra vigilant while driving before sunrise or late at night on this highway.


Park Pass
As you enter the park gates you will be required to purchase a Park Pass for $9.80 per adult or $8.30 for seniors (65+). Youths 17 and under are free. If you are traveling as a family or group, the best value is the Day Pass ($19.60) which covers the entrance fee for up to seven people until 4 pm the following evening. Discovery Passes ($67.70) are valid for one year from the month purchased and includes access to historical sites.

*You must display the pass on your windshield at all times. Failure to do so may result in a fine.

Moraine Lake
Moraine Lake is a must when visiting the park but it is also the most difficult to access. I suggest making this the first stop on your tour if you want to secure a parking spot. Arrive between 5 - 6 am before all the tour buses show up. If you don’t make it in time, have a backup plan. Once the lot is full, park officials close the road and you can’t get anywhere near the lake unless you walk or bike (it is a long uphill expedition, even by car).


I woke up at 3 am, got ready, stopped for breakfast and arrived in Banff around 7 am (a little too late). By then the lots were full at both Louise and Moraine so I resorted to plan B.

Shuttle Service
If this happens, make your way to the Lake Louise Overflow Lot off the highway and take the early bird shuttle ($8.00 per person with free parking). There will most likely be a long line and tickets tend to sell out by 4 pm. Fortunately for us bad weather deterred many people from visiting so the wait wasn’t very long.

The shuttle service is poorly executed. Most days they are unable to handle the high volume of tourists that show up and the entire process is tiresome.

It takes 30 minutes to reach Moraine via shuttle and although Louise is close by, there is no service between the two. Instead we had to go all the way back to the overflow lot (another 30 mins in the opposite direction) and transfer to another bus. It was a complete waste of time.

Weather
Once we arrived at Moraine Lake heavy fog had settled over everything and the mountain peaks were completely shrouded. Visibility was so poor that I could only see what was directly in front of me – small patches of blue water. I was not a happy camper but the forest looked tranquil after the rain and everything was covered in droplets of dew.


The forecast in the Rockies is often unreliable and unpredictable. The climate changes rapidly so if you don’t have much time, persistency is key to outsmarting Mother Nature.


This was our view around 8 am...not good.

And this was our view at 5:30 pm the same day.

The sky finally cleared for a few hours so we could enjoy the incredible view. I would have stayed all evening had it not been for the mosquitoes gnawing at my extremities.

Note: The parking lot at Moraine was open for a brief time around 5 pm but on our way out (around 6:30 pm) road access was blocked once again. In the evening most people head back to the village so try your luck just before sunset.

Best Location for Photography
If you don’t mind an uphill climb, the best place to enjoy Moraine Lake and capture amazing photos is atop the rock pile (to the left of the parking lot).

The path has makeshift steps that are quite steep but the view is totally worth it. Keep an eye out for cute ground squirrels, they are all over the forest.


Lake Louise
Lake Louise is the most popular tourist destination in Banff and although it is spectacular, Moraine and Peyto are arguably more impressive.


Best Time to Visit
Summer is short in the Rockies so it is not uncommon for the lake to remain frozen until June. If you want to see Louise at her best – stunning blue water, clear skies and green foliage, visit during July or August. Unfortunately this is also busy season for tourism so expect obnoxious crowds and backed-up shuttle service.


The park is also beautiful in autumn and winter when heavy snow settles on the peaks. There are usually less tourists but snow storms and hail can cause road closures, dangerous driving conditions, avalanches and limited park access. It is best to visit at the beginning of the season.

The Fairmont Chateau Hotel sits on the shores of Lake Louise and their restaurant offers quite a view. During busy season, rooms cost upwards of $800.00 a night and reservations can be difficult to obtain.


The gardens are also impressive.

Canoes at Lake Louise
For a different perspective of the lake, canoe rentals are available for $125.00 plus tax per hour.

Gondolas
Due to poor weather conditions I was unable to ride the Gondola but there are 4 options available to access the summit. The one at Lake Louise Ski Resort (8 minutes from the actual lake) cost $37.95 per person and for two more dollars you can enjoy a basic breakfast buffet at the lodge from 8 am – 11 am.

Icefields Parkway
The Icefields Parkway is a scenic stretch of road connecting Lake Louise to Jasper. This breathtaking highway is surrounded by more than 100 ancient glaciers, cascading waterfalls, dramatic rock spires and emerald lakes.


We didn’t have time to stop in Jasper but I plan to visit next time I’m in Alberta.

I highly recommend this once in a lifetime road trip because the mountains and woodland along the parkway is home to bears, elk, deer, mountain goats, wolves and coyotes.

I spotted 4 bears on the same day! When this guy emerged from the underbrush I was standing outside taking photos. He made his way around the cars and crossed the road.


Another black bear walked alongside our car. He was so close I could reach out and touch him! 


I also spotted a large grizzly and a few goats grazing near a lookout point.

Although animal sightings are exciting, you should always adhere to park rules and keep a safe distance. During our trip a man was dragged out of his tent and brutally attacked by a wolf. I also heard reports that another tourist was chased by a bear.

When venturing into the woods carry bear spray and follow the safety procedures outlined in the park’s guidebook. Always pay close attention to warning signs around trails and picnic areas. Entering the wilderness means encroaching on animal territory so be cautious and respectful.

Stops to Make Along the Icefields Parkway

Hector Lake

Bow Lake

Peyto Lake was the most impressive valley I saw during the trip and parking was not a problem.

The trail is paved but the steep uphill climb to Bow Summit can be a little difficult. Remember to bring water, rest if necessary and allow your body to acclimatize to the altitude. 


The elevation is 2115 m/6965’ and snow covers the ground for nine months of the year. At the top you will come to a wooden viewing platform packed with tourists but the trek is totally worth it.

The sparkling blue lake is fed by glacial water and I hear the view at sunset is spectacular.

Waterfowl Lake

Athabasca Glacier
Our last stop on the Parkway was the Athabasca Glacier along the Colombia Icefield – the most visited glacier in North America.


There isn't much snow this time of year but in the winter, it is completely covered in ice and glacier tours are available.


After taking some photos we headed back to Lake Louise before sunset. I am aware that this 18 hour itinerary seems like a lot for one day but if you only have a weekend, you’ll see almost everything that’s worth seeing. We started at 3 am and by 9 pm we were back at the hotel having dinner.

Banff Village
The next day I slept-in, had breakfast at Denny’s and explored the charming town of Banff. There are many lodge style accommodations, restaurants, shops, parks and bars in the area.

I prefer Banff village to Calgary because the architecture is beautiful and the town is surrounded by mountains on all sides. Parking is free for 2-3 hours in most lots and it is a fun place to spend an afternoon.



We stopped at the Fudge Store for some dark chocolate and made our way along the river to a beautiful garden infested with mosquitoes (I was bitten on the forehead...it wasn’t pretty).




Bow Valley Parkway
Before heading back to the hotel, we took a scenic route on Bow Valley Parkwaya picturesque road that snakes its way up the winding mountain. I’ve been to rainforests and jungles before but I’ve never seen such dense woodland. The lush pine trees are so tightly packed that you can barely see between them.

Despite the enticing trails and picnic benches, this parkway can be very dangerous. It is well known for wildlife sightings including huge grizzlies so keep your eyes peeled at all times and dispose of food properly.


There are a few lookout points on the parkway including Morant’s Curve – one of the most photographed spots in Banff National Park. I also passed the Johnston Canyon Trail but I didn’t have time to see the falls.

Stay tuned for my next adventure and check out my travel page.

~Bon Voyage!
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