Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The scary world of beauty vlogging

PS. I wanted to add cute gifs to this post, but as I'm technologically challenged, it didn't work. Sorry.You'll have to look at random photos from my Instagram instead.

I'm always conflicted whether I should post so-called opinion pieces from time to time, or just stick to product reviews. I'm not going to post skincare advice, ever, because I am not a cosmetologist, or a skincare professional. And besides, only a total idiot would take skincare advice from an unqualified blogger. Sadly, judging by the stuff seen in the beauty blogging world, there are idiots aplenty out there.

I was asked today why I don't do vlogs.
There's a short answer - I don't do vlogs, because I'm lazy, and a long answer - because the beauty vlogging world reminds me too much of high school, and I'm way too old for that shite.

High school was quite traumatic for me. It's not the time of my life I want to remember, or revisit, in whatever shape or form. No, thank you.

Kumamon agrees

There are some beauty YouTubers (of various levels of popularity) that I watch from time to time, mainly to keep up with new product releases. But as they are paid for their opinions, I tend to turn down the volume and just watch the images. Convenient and stealthy, if the only time you can watch YouTube is at work.

Being a small time "beauty" blogger (in quotation marks, because I don't do winged eyeliners and lipsticks) with only a handful of followers means that I'm pretty much an outsider to the beauty blogging community. And as such, few people, if any, pay attention to what I have to say.

Surprisingly, that has its good points. Because peeps like me fly under the radar of popularity, I can be as obnoxious and controversial as I want to be, and nobody's none the wiser.

We have a string of public holidays right now here in Japan and that means that I have some time to burn on Instagram and YouTube. And that's exactly what I was doing this morning.

There was this event called Beauty Week 2015 in Seoul, where the movers and shakers of the beauty vlogging world got together to eat, drink, look pretty and be merry.

And looking at the coverage of the event on Instagram and YouTube, it became painfully obvious that the beauty vlogging world is even more like high school than I thought.
You have the popular chicks, the prom queens, the homecoming queens, the upper echelons of high school life, err, pardon me, of beauty vlogging "community".

My cat doesn't give a fark. She's smart.

For them, this is business as usual. It's a job. They do their job. And they are damn good at it.
They worked hard for their success and hats off to them. They deserve to be admired for what they've accomplished.

Then you have the hangers-on. The adoring fans, who think that because their social media following might be in the low 5 figures, they are hot shots, too. Newsflash lovelies, you're not. Not even close. While appearing friendly and open on the surface, their mutual adoration societies are basically the extension of high school cliques. And can be just as brutal.

And then we have the masses, the misfits, the wannabes, the outcasts, the outsiders, and whoever else is left in the graduating class.

The top level vloggers understand that their job is to mingle with the masses and look happy doing so. After all, they get paid for their presence. The second tier, with its inflated sense of self importance, is a lot less accommodating.

While looking at the instagram photos from the event, it became painfully obvious that for the hangers-on image is everything. And that's no surprise, they are clawing their way up the vlogging food chain, so for them image equals credibility.

It got to the point that it was painful to look at.

Photos with the itsbubzes and xsparkages of the world were carefully tagged and marked with everyone's instagram handles, so they would be easy to find by the important people. Unlike photos featuring the happy-to-be-there-rubbing-shoulders-with-the-gurus members of the masses. And if said member happened not to have the physical appearance of a high-powered beauty vlogger? Hahaha! You can't be serious!
You can't expect the pretty people to remember the handles of the not so pretty people. An honest oversight? Who are you kidding!

All those deep thoughts made me hungry.

So there you have it.

My long answer as to why I am not interested in beauty vlogging. I want no part of that world.
I am happy being a small time blogger doing the stuff that small time bloggers do.
Small time beauty bloggers can be as controversial as they want. They do not answer to corporate sponsors and have no ambitions of turning pro. (At least I'm speaking for myself here).

Basically, being on the fringes of the beauty blogging community, we can say whatever we want to whoever we want however we want.

For me, to be a beauty vlogger and be taken seriously based on my appearance, first I'd have to go on GoFundMe, or whatever it is, and beg for money for dental and jaw realignment surgery. Preferably by some miracle-performing Seoul plastic surgeon.

Hey, at least I have cute arm covers!

So that's the end of that story.

What I can do instead is a podcast.
But what the hell would I talk about?
Any ideas?

PS. I am very aware that a similar pecking order exists in the "traditional" beauty blogging community as well, it's not exclusive to vloggers.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Tosowoong Makeon Bronze Spectrum Waterproof Gel Pencil Liners

The problem with color eyeliners is this - when you have tried a high quality one, you are never going to be satisfied with a budget version.

And basically, this could be the end of my review today.

After the disastrous Etude House Play 101 pencils, instead of giving up on cheap Korean liners, like any other reasonable person would, I listened to the advice of web people and bought more.

This time, I chose Tosowoong Makeon Bronze Spectrum Waterproof Gel Pencil Liners. And I didn't mess around. I chose all of them. Yep. All 12.

I found them on Rose Rose Shop and because they were reasonably priced, and the colors looked nice, and they had good reviews on the internet, and the shipping to Japan was cheap, I bought the whole set. I should have known better.

If something is too good to be true, then it probably is.
Now, as of today, they are even cheaper than when I bought them. Just take a look - Rose Rose Shop.

You may wonder if there is a reason why they're so cheap.
Yes, there is.
Here it is:

Yep, that's right.
The expiration on these Tosowoong Makeon Bronze Spectrum Waterproof Gel Pencil Liners is like tomorrow.

That also should put to bed the question of whether some Korean companies print the expiry date on their products.

So yeah, there you have it.
Luckily, it's a pencil. I've had some old eye pencils from other brands. They didn't make my eyes fall out. But those were high end western brands. Not sure what kind of damage an expired eye pencil from a Korean budget brand can inflict. I guess we're about to find out.

And needless to say, I will not be shopping at RRS anytime soon again.

Ok, back to the Makeon pencils.

The full name of this product is a mouthful:

And because I am too lazy to type it up each time, I'm just going to use the copy-paste function for it from now on - Tosowoong Makeon Bronze Spectrum Waterproof Gel Pencil Liners.

They came highly recommended and had good reviews on line.
Lani liked them and her eye makeup always looks better than mine, so I had no reason to doubt her.

The colors are indeed very pretty.

They are sparkly, but a lot less glittery than the gold and silver Etude House Play 101 pencil disasters.

I knew they were not retractable and required sharpening, so no big disappointment here. My Shu Uemuras are not retractable either and I'm not complaining.

They claim to be waterproof. Hmmm... Let's just say, they are possibly waterproof under normal circumstances. I had them on during a typhoon. They were not waterproof. Not even close. I had sparklies all over my face and smudges around my eyes.

They're easily removable with any old micellar water. I've been using A-True Cleansing Water (because I'm out of Bifesta and I haven't been able to go shopping recently), and they come off with 1 or 2 swipes, depending on the color.

Here are the swatches of Tosowoong Makeon Bronze Spectrum Waterproof Gel Pencil Liners:

Unedited photo taken in natural light.
They don't look too bad, right?

While the colors are lovely, the overall quality is hmmm... how to put it gently... lacking.

Tosowoong Makeon Bronze Spectrum Waterproof Gel Pencil Liners are a step above Etude House Play 101 pencils, but a few notches below Maybelline Vivid & Smooth Liners.

And to think that I used to consider Maybelline junk! Ha! It took a couple of Korean drugstore brands for me to realize how good I had it.

Having said that, Tosowoong Makeon Bronze Spectrum Waterproof Gel Pencil Liners are perfectly serviceable for low-maintenance daily use.

In the morning I just blindly grab any two, or three, draw something in the general eye area, and I'm out the door (I usually put on mascara in the car, I'm bad, I know).

The glittery particles tend to travel around even under normal circumstances and in the evening there will invariably be sparkles in the bags under my eyes.

Of the entire bunch my favorites are: Gold Glow, Sun Blonde and Metal Tan.
I thought I would like Blonde, but it turned out to be too brassy, trailer park yellow. Reminds me of badly bleached hair.

Here you have the entire lineup:

Final thoughts:


  • affordable
  • mostly pretty, wearable colors
  • did not cause an allergic reaction (suitable for sensitive eyes)


  • low quality
  • need sharpening
  • some colors are quite dry (though it might be due to the fact that mine are nearly past their freshness date)

Would I recommend them?
If you can find them for 4 bucks a pop, then by all means, go ahead, try them. You might find them satisfactory.
Personally, especially around my eye area, I prefer better quality products.

Having said that, guess what?
I have more of those damn Tosowoong Makeon pencils!
What in the bloody hell was I thinking? (Not much, apparently).

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Anna Sui Eye Brightener

I think it was about ten years ago when I found myself walking aimlessly around Narita Airport. For some reason, my flight was delayed.
Suddenly, with tons of time on my hands and nothing to do, I reluctantly faced towards the duty free shops. Why reluctantly? Because I was broke as hell.

"Window shopping only, " I told myself.

Ha! Famous last words.

But to my credit, after a couple of hours of diligent searching and comparing, I picked the best deal available that day.
And that deal was a brand that was totally unknown to me.

Anna Sui.

Who, or what, that was, I had absolutely no idea. But the perfume smelled nice and fresh and energetic. And, best of all, there was a massive gift with purchase to go with it.

And though I don't recall what scent that was exactly, I do remember I quite liked it.

Fast forward to January 2015.
I'm at Narita again.
I'm not broke as hell, but on a strict budget. The bulk of my money is meant for my upcoming Taiwanese shopping spree.
All I know is that at Narita I want to buy something nice-smelling. I'm tired of Dior. Other scents are too overpowering for my nose.

Suddenly I remember Anna Sui.

I got this Flight of Fancy based solely on the packaging. Just because.
And while I was getting it, I finally had a chance to test every single Anna Sui makeup and skincare item on the shelf.
To be honest, apart from cute designs, it was all very underwhelming.
The only thing that stood out to me was Anna Sui Eye Brightener.

It's available in just one color marked as 01, or 001, depending on whether you're looking at the box, or the website description.

And speaking of website descriptions, here's a screenshot from Anna Sui's page:

Anna Sui Eye Brightener is intended for the eye area (duh!), but they say it can be used anywhere on the face.

I swiped it on my hand at the store and liked its light color. I liked how to blended seamlessly and disappeared into the skin. I liked how it did what it said it would - namely, brighten the eye area.

What I didn't like was the overpowering scent, so typical of Anna Sui makeup and skincare.
The scent still bothers me, but it's possible to get used to.

It's not a concealer. It will never work as such. But that's just fine with me.
As I get older, I'm realizing that under-eye concealers are a tough balancing act when you're over 40.

On one hand, I want something to camouflage my uneven under-eye skin. On the other, overdo it, and you risk looking like a clown with cake batter smeared under your eyes. Sadly, from what I'm seeing on different beauty blogs, the dried up cake batter deal seems to be the in look these days for Western women.

Thanks, but no thanks.

I know firsthand that it's a challenge to find something that doesn't settle in the fine lines or emphasize wrinkles. It's a struggle.
And because I'm lazy and I'd rather watch cat videos on YouTube, I don't like to struggle with my eye makeup. Usually what that means is that I forgo the undereye concealer altogether.

That's why highlighters, or brighteners, or illuminators, are such a life saver for me.

Anna Sui Eye Brightener is a pretty standard deal.
We get 5.6ml of product in a pretty plastic bottle.

The applicator is a standard issue doe foot.

Anna Sui Eye Brightener is easy and efficient. It makes me look awake. It doesn't irritate my dry and sensitive skin. And despite the strong scent, it doesn't make me cry.
And because it's not a heavy concealer, it's nearly impossible to overapply. It's literally foolproof.
If a makeup idiot like me can manage it, then everybody else should too.

Anna Sui Eye Brightener ingredients:

As you can see, the product is made in Japan.

It's light, it's simple, and it wasn't ridiculously expensive either. I don't remember how much I paid for it, but it was definitely very reasonable.

It joined my very small group of "stuff that most likely goes around the eyes" cosmetics.

From the top:

  • Anna Sui Eye Brightener
  • DiorSnow UV Shield BB Eye Cream in 010
  • Yves Saint Laurent Touche Eclat Radiant Touch in 1

And this is how they all look swiped on my arm in the same order as above:

And incidentally, this is also the order of how much I like them.

Final thoughts:

Anna Sui Eye Brightener is a decent product at a good price, if you can find it duty free.
It's very strongly scented, so if you're sensitive to perfumed cosmetics, Anna Sui is definitely one brand to avoid.

Will I repurchase?
Hmmm... only if I can't find anything better.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Sunplay, Sunkiller and MK Customer generic sunblocks

This is part 5 of our 2015 alcohol-free sunblock series (part 1 part 2part 3part 4)

It all started innocently enough.
Miss K and I were at Matsumoto Kiyoshi. She was buying feminine protection, and I - contact lens cleaner. I had a coupon for 10% off, that was the only reason why we were there. Matsumoto Kiyoshi is one of the largest, if not THE largest, drugstore chains in Japan. If you live in the US, think Walgreens on steroids. As a point card carrying member, every so often I get a postcard coupon in the mail. And that is pretty much the only time I shop at Matsumoto Kiyoshi, or MatsuKiyo for short.

I was camping in the sunblock isle (yes, there was a whole isle of sunscreens) and sniffing and smearing and checking the ingredients. I was looking for ethanol-free sun protection products. Miss K saw me reaching for SunBears.
She grabbed it out of my hand and said, "No, no, you don't want this one. This is made in Thailand. I don't trust such cosmetics."

"But it's made by a Japanese company, right?" was my answer.
"Doesn't matter. If it's not made in Japan, you can't trust it. Here, try this instead," she said.

She stuck an unassuming store brand sunblock in my hand.

MK Customer UV Protection Super SPF 50+ PA++++

A generic brand made specifically for Matsumoto Kiyoshi. To be honest, usually, I don't even look at MK Customer products. I always tend to make a bee line straight towards brand names.

"This one here is an exact dupe for SunBears," Miss K informed me.
"It's even made by the same company - Omi, but unlike SunBears Strong, they make the generic version right here, in Japan," she helpfully added.

We compared the ingredients one by one.

Miss K was right. Japanese-made MK Customer UV Protection Super SPF 50+ PA++++ was indeed an exact dupe for Thai-made Sun Bears Strong Super Plus SPF 50+ PA++++.

To shut her up I bought it. I also bought Sunplay Super Block SPF 50+ PA++++ (made in Vietnam) and Sunkiller Perfect Strong Moisture SPF50+ PA++++.

And for good measure, I also threw in MK Customer UV Protection Cool SPF 50+ PA++++, which turned out to be an exact dupe for SunBears Strong Cool Super Plus SPF50+ PA++++, and which turned out to be dreadful, awful and all things horrible.

So let's go back to the more pleasant option of standard MK Customer UV Protection Super SPF 50+ PA++++.

It's a no frills, simple bottle. Inside there's 30 ml of product.

MK Customer UV Protection Super SPF 50+ PA++++ has exactly the same specs as SunBears Strong Super Plus:

  • - milk type
  • - combination of UV blockers and UV absorbers
  • - waterproof
  • - sweatproof
  • - sebumproof
  • - suitable for outdoor activities
  • - non-drying
  • - grapefruit scented (very fake, annoying smell)
  • - ethanol (alcohol-free)

It feels moderately light on the skin and doesn't seem to leave a white cast. There is no oily, sticky film on the skin.

The specs claim it can be used as a makeup base, however, I didn't try it.

Unfortunately, it's not a sunscreen for me, as despite claims that it has moisturizing properties, I found it very drying. But then again, I have very dry skin. I think it would work great for normal and combination skin types.

You can check the ingredients on Ratzilla's website.

Final thoughts on MK Customer UV Protection Super SPF50+ PA++++:

  • All in all, I was very pleasantly surprised. 
  • And it's very cheap - MK Customer UV Protection Super SPF50+ PA++++ costs 400 yen (tax included).
  • I might consider it in the future as a body sunscreen.
  • Solid, functional, dependable, affordable - buy? YES!


Next up we have Sunkiller Perfect Strong Moisture SPF 50+ PA++++.

It's made by Isehan, and it's just one of several options in their sunscreen lineup.

Again, we get a simple, plain bottle containing 30 ml of product, made in Japan.

Sunkiller Perfect Strong Moisture SPF 50+ PA++++ specs:

  • - milky type
  • - ethanol (alcohol) free
  • - paraben free
  • - waterproof
  • - resistant to sweat
  • - resistant to sebum
  • - chemical UV absorbers

As its name suggests, it's moisturizing. It's very moisturizing. It's moisturizing to the point of being an oily, sticky mess.
There was no white cast, but instead, we get a shiny slick of stickiness.

And as you easily guess, it took forever to dry. Or rather, it didn't want to dry.

The specs say it can be used as a makeup base, but it's very hard to imagine how that would work, this stuff is just too moisturizing and too rich.

Here you have Sunkiller Perfect Strong Moisture SPF 50+ PA++++ ingredients:

And you can find the ingredient list in English on Ratzilla's website.

Final thoughts on Sunkiller Perfect Strong Moisture SPF 50+ PA++++:

  • Ugh!
  • No, thank you!


And finally, our last contestant today - Mentholatum SunPlay Super Block SPF 50+ PA++++

This is a bit complicated. This sunscreen is made by Rohto, but the version you see above was manufactured in Vietnam.

However, at some stores, you can find the Japan-made version. Below you have them side by side:

SunPlay Super Block SPF 50+ PA++++ made in Japan on the left, and made in Vietnam on the right. As far as I can tell, apart from the place of manufacture, these seem to be identical products.

Here are the specs for SunPlay Super Block SPF 50+ PA++++:
  • - milky type
  • - super waterproof
  • - sebumproof
  • - sweatproof
  • - intended for heavy-duty outdoor use
  • - ethanol (alcohol) free
  • - combination of UV blockers and UV absorbers
  • - paraben free

Again, plain and simple bottle with 27 ml of white goo.

27 ml is listed as 30 grams. So overall, it contains a bit less product than the other two sunscreens presented today.

Here is how SunPlay Super Block SPF 50+ PA++++ looked on the skin:

As you can see, it appears a lot more creamy and thicker than the other two sunscreens.
It leaves just the slightest white cast. 
It's indeed bullet proof. Removing it is hard work. Oil cleanser in the shower is a necessity.

I didn't use it on my face.
I used it on my arms, and this is what happened:

This was a very unpleasant surprise, because I had used this sunscreen in previous years with no adverse reaction. And this season it wanted to eat me alive.

I'm not sure what ingredient was responsible for this violent reaction.
It was a good reminder that patch testing is ALWAYS necessary.

Here are SunPlay Super Block SPF 50+ PA++++ ingredients:

And in English on Ratzilla's website.

Final thoughts on Mentholatum SunPlay Super Block SPF 50+ PA++++:
  • - no, thank you.

Overall, it was an interesting batch of sunscreens.

Unfortunately, none of them worked for me.
So if anyone wants them, they're available for US $6.00 for all three plus shipping of your choice.
Send me an email, if you're interested.

PS> First come, first serve. They found a better home.

To be continued....
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