Thursday, March 31, 2016

Tonoike Sake Brewery visit and Kuramoto Bijin skincare haul

Sake brewery and skincare haul all at the same time?

Yep. Totally possible if you live in Japan.

Sake based skincare has been around for a long time, even since before SK-II patented their Pitera.
And in recent years there has been a virtual explosion of sake-inspired, sake-infused, sake-blended, and sake-based cosmetics. At least in Japan.

Why? Because sake is virtually everywhere here, sake by-products are full of vitamins and anti-ageing compounds, and fermented products are probably one of the oldest beauty treatments known to man.

Kuramoto Bijin rice oil and sake serum (the red one) has been my friend since last year. I loved it so much that I began to spread the joy to my friends in foreign lands.

A few weeks ago I was finally getting ready to write about it (and as always, the review is still pending) and had the mother of all eureka moments.

Tonoike Sake Brewery that makes the product is literally down the street from my house. It's located in Mashiko in Tochigi prefecture.

A quick look at the company's website revealed that the brewery is very visitor friendly.
You didn't have to tell me that twice.

And so last Monday I hopped in the car and zoomed over to Mashiko.
Mashiko is famous in its own right - it's one of the main pottery centers in Japan. It holds two pottery festivals a year and if you're into expensive tableware and pretty things, you should definitely consider visiting.

I don't drink alcohol. I dip my tongue in sake only during official ceremonies when it absolutely, positively can't be avoided. I am no sake expert. I only know what wikipedia tells me.

But what I do know is that sake kasu (a.k.a. sake lees) makes for a wonderful face pack.

With that in mind, I had no idea what I could expect during my visit to Tonoike Shuzouten in Mashiko.

As it turned out, I worried needlessly. A visit to a sake brewery is great fun even for a non-drinker and a sake noob like me.

 I was met by Mr Shigeki Tonoike, the boss himself, who kindly volunteered to be my guide.

The Tonoike family has been making sake in Tochigi prefecture since 1829 and the brewery in Mashiko was established by Mr Tonoike's (the current boss's) grandfather in 1937.
And apparently, as evidenced by numerous domestic and international sake competition awards, the Tonoike family really knows their stuff.

My tour started with a video explaining the sake making process.
After that I donned special slippers, a white smock and a hat and went to see the fermenting rice up close and personal.

What makes sake special is how the rice is polished. The more of the outer layer you remove, the fancier the sake later on.

When polished and washed, the grains don't look like rice anymore. They resemble tiny white pearls. And are just as shiny.

And here you can see it fermenting in huge vats:

There's your sake being made. And cosmetics :-)

Actually Tonoike Shuzouten doesn't manufacture beauty products in-house. Instead they send their raw materials to proper, licensed plants that do the work for them. They also work with cosmetic chemists and scientists to make sure that their products are up to the highest standards.

Mr Tonoike explained that the cosmetic side of things started 10 years ago with soap.
Sake bottles are heavy, and while they make great gifts and souvenirs, they are big and hard to transport. And not everyone is a drinker.

Sake based soap seemed like a perfect solution. It was small, light and something that everyone uses.

Then came sake-infused hand cream. And let me tell you, it really does smell like sake. If you're a drinker you might end up licking your hands. A lot.

But what about those who are not fans of the sake smell?

The answer was very simple - tochiotome strawberries - Tochigi's most famous crop.
And that's how the strawberry infused cream was born. And let me tell you, it really does smell like strawberries. I wanted to lick my hands. A lot.

Then came sake and strawberry infused bath salts. If you ever wanted to bathe in a sake smelling soup, this one's for you. I used to plop a chunk of sake kasu into my hot bath, now I can use proper bath salts. Saves a lot of work when scrubbing the bathtub later on.

Kuramoto Bijin Hakumai Ferment Lotion was new to me. I can't wait to try it.

Kuramoto Bijin Hakumai Ferment Milk was made famous by Ratzilla's best pick feature.

I am on my second bottle and it has become my winter dry skin savior.

Ratzilla also wrote about Kuramoto Bijin Komeyu Rice Oil.

I have been using it on my eczema patches and works better than any other facial oil I have tried. Eat your heart out tsubaki!

The three rice grain ladies (yep, they are shaped like rice) signify women in their 20s, 30s and 40s. In other words - Kuramoto Bijin Komeyu is skincare for everyone.

Tonoike Sake Brewery is working on additional beauty products - face cream, sheet masks and a face pack (which means no more do it yourself sake kasu!). A premium line is also in the works.

And the best news is that the company is working on an English-language internet store with worldwide shipping.  How awesome is that?

Many Japanese companies are totally oblivious to the popularity of Japanese skincare overseas, they don't care and can't be bothered.
So it was so refreshing and inspiring to see a Japanese company that understands the importance of making life easy for its foreign customers.


This is my entire Tonoike Shuzouten Kuramoto Bijin haul.

Kuramoto Bijin Komeyu Rice Oil and Kuramoto Bijin Komeyu Rice Oil Serum:

Kuramoto Bijin Hakumai Ferment Lotion and Kuramoto Bijin Hakumai Ferment Milk:

Kuramoto Bijin Hakumai Ferment Soap:

Tochiotome hand cream and bath salts:

Nameraka hand cream and sake bath salts:

And... sake kasu pound cake!
It was delicious!

I seem to have missed the strawberry body lotion, but that's ok. I have an excuse to visit again!

Thank you so much Mr Tonoike and Ms Sato for making me feel so welcome!

Isn't it awesome to realize that your favorite skincare brand was born literally in your own back yard?

I will be reviewing the products in the coming weeks. So stay tuned. Because a Kuramoto Bijin giveaway is coming too. I hauled lots and I'm happy to share!


If you're interested in any of these products, but can't purchase them easily online (I know they can be hard to find!), please let me know.  I'll be happy to help. Because, hey, Tochigi pride! Represent! :-)

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Shu Uemura Drawing Crayons

This review of Shu Uemura Drawing Crayons will be short and sweet.

Very short and very sweet, because unlike the freakshow that was Shu Uemura Blanc:Chroma cushion foundation, these crayons are awesome.
Which only proves what we've all known for ages - Shu Uemura does eye makeup well. Does eye makeup remarkably well.

And no, this is not a sponsored review - I bought these.

I am a huge Shu Uemura fangirl, I can't deny it. Even though Shu skincare leaves me feeling meh, their point makeup more than compensates for that.

I have already written about my collection of Shu Uemura Drawing Pencils.
Today we will talk about Shu Uemura Drawing Crayons.

What is it?
Basically, your standard big, fat crayon that works as an eye shadow, or - according to Shu - as an eyeliner.
I use them as eye shadows.

They are waterproof, long wearing, non-smudging colors that stay-on-forever in a true Shu Uemura fashion.

The colors are beautiful soft pastels - perfect for spring.
The swatches I have seen on the internet look awfully photoshopped with saturation and vibrance cranked up to the max.
In reality, they are much softer and subtle - even the bright hues like blue or green.

The whole collection consists of 12 colors.
They are marked as M for matte, P for pearly, and S for shimmer (in some countries, like Malaysia, shimmer shades are not marked as S, so be careful).

image from Shu Uemura Malaysia

I have these six colors:
  • Pearly Brown
  • Pearly Yellow Gold (doesn't seem to be available anymore in Japan)
  • Pearly Purple
  • Pearly Soft Orange
  • Pearly Pink (number 1 popular color, according to Shu Uemura Japan)
  • Matte Soft Brown.

And this is how they swatch.
No photoshop and no filters applied!

Swatches of Shu Uemura Drawing Crayons:

As you can see, all of them are very wearable, everyday colors.
I am clueless when it comes to traditional eye shadows, I don't know how to use them, how to apply them and how to blend them.

Eye shadow crayons are my salvation. Just draw a line, smear it a bit with your finger and you're good to go. That's how I roll. Fiddling and piddling with brushes requires a level of makeup skills that I just don't have. And at my age, I am too old to master. So it's sticks and crayons for me all the way.

Same as Shu Uemura Drawing Pencils, these crayons are made in Germany.

They are very old school. You will need to sharpen them. You will need a big, fat Shu Uemura sharpener here.
Let me repeat it, these are NOT the twist type. These are the old school sharpening type.

To most Shu fans that is pretty obvious, but to newcomers to the brand it might be a bit of a shock. One reviewer on the American Shu site complained that "they are good for only a few times and there is no way to get more crayon."
Yes darling, there is a way to get more crayon, it's called sharpening.

To me it's not a deal breaker, but I know to many people might be.

Not sure who'd be interested in the ingredients, but here they are, just in case.

Shu Uemura Drawing Crayon ingredients:

How much?
2800 yen plus tax.

A bit on the steep side, but we're not talking about L'Oreal Infallible® Eye Shadow Crayons here.
Incidentally, Shu Uemura is a L'Oreal brand, and it's been said that the Infallibles make for good Shu dupes. Personally I don't know, so can't confirm.

From what I've seen on them innernets, L'Oreal Infallibles are much more shimmery with quite big glitter particles.
These Shu crayons are more in line with Clinique Chubby Sticks Shadow Tint for Eyes. But Clinique sticks are not as long lasting as Shu Uemura Drawing Crayons. However, on the plus side, they don't need to be sharpened.
(And I have a crapton of those, so I definitely can confirm.)

So there.
You have all the pros and cons.

My verdict?

I love them.
If I had more disposable income, I'd buy all 12 colors.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Yves Saint Laurent Le Cushion Encre De Peau - Fusion Ink Cushion Foundation

Yes, this is indeed my review of the long awaited and much praised Yves Saint Laurent cushion foundation.

If you are new to cushion foundations, please start by clicking on the "cushion foundations" tab in the top menu, though I'm assuming that by now most beauty fans around the world are already familiar with the concept.

Please, don't ask. I don't know how it happened. I guess I secretly must enjoy the feelings of pain and disappointment, because despite my previous experiences with cushions from the house of L'Oreal, I keep buying the damn things.

You know, it's like when people slow down to watch car wrecks, they are both drawn and repelled by the gory mayhem. I'm like that with cushion foundations from the many L'Oreal brands.

Yet, of course, all these cushions (I mean high end, let's pretend that L'Oreal and Maybelline never happened) got glowing reviews by sponsored and pro bloggers, who were literally bending over backwards to please the brands' PR overlords.

And then there was Yves Saint Laurent and its magical Fusion Ink Cushion Foundation.
Like a good lemming that I am, I obediently marched to the nearest YSL counter (which just happened to be at Tobu department store) on March 18th (the release date in Japan) and got me one.

The L'Oreal Inc beancounters in Paris must be laughing all the way to the bank. They know they have me by the balls. Or cushion puffs. Or both.

I had a chance to play with this cushion a couple of weeks before the launch day and I was very cautiously optimistic. The color seemed all right. The staying power was fine, too. The finish was acceptable. Only the price wasn't.
Holymotherofbatman, that thing was bloody expensive! Breathtakingly expensive. Stroke-inducingly expensive. 7500 yen plus tax.

Yet in the end the pros outweighed the cons, and even though initially I was saying I'd rather chew my leg off and bleed to death than buy another L'Oreal branded cushion, it turns out that I am glad I did. (Yes, in case you've been living under a rock in cyberspace - Yves Saint Laurent is a L'Oreal brand).

And here I should just collapse and self-combust, or something, because it seems that I just said that I actually like a western, L'Oreal branded cushion foundation.


Don't worry! No one is shocked more than me.

Basically, you could just stop reading right here, right now and go and buy yourself your own Yves Saint Laurent Fusion Ink Cushion (you still here? what are you waiting for? go on and buy one already! and no, this is not a sponsored review), but if you want to stick around for the details, here they come!

So, let's get this YSL cushion party started, shall we?

The goods come packaged in a shiny, gold box. I suppose it meant to evoke the feelings of luxury, but instead made me think of old ladies who try too hard. Real luxury doesn't need to show off.

As you can see, I bought color number 10, or rather B10, as they call it in Asia.
Yves Saint Laurent Fusion Ink Cushion Foundation comes in 6 shades in most Asian countries, though only 5 are available for purchase in Japan.

The compact is black and gold. Again, I guess Yves Saint Laurent was going for rich and fancy, but instead ended up with high-end hooker esthetics.

On the back of the box it tells us that:

Yep, this cushion is supposed to perform all kinds of makeup sorcery:
  • long lasting
  • all-day wear
  • shine-free (calling all nearly-matte finish lovers!!!)
  • flawless coverage
  • ultra-smooth texture
  • weightless feel
  • protection, hydration, blah blah blah...
In other words, pretty standard claims of just about any base makeup product out there.

The cushion is made in Korea:

There are 14 grams of product packed inside.
The YSL cushion compact is interchangeable with other L'Oreal branded cushions and with some Korean cushions (most those manufactured by Cosmax).

Oh yes, the compact.
It's black. Nearly all black. Which makes me want to get a silver fern decal on the case and force my guy to do the haka every time I apply makeup.

The puff is average. Rubycell it ain't, that's for sure.
And pity that the application side is nearly white. Buuu... So much for my All Blacks fantasy.

In Japan the bottom of the case has a Japanese-language sticker. I was too lazy to try to peel it off.

And speaking of cushion cases, Yves Saint Laurent Fusion Ink Cushion came fully assembled. The refill was pre-loaded in the case. When I asked to purchase just the refill, I was told that wasn't possible. There was no option to buy the case separately, either. How very unjapanese, YSL!!! What were you thinking???

So let's open this baby, ok?

White sticker? How anti-climactic.
But yeah, if your cushion is brand new, the surface of the sponge should be protected by a sticker with the YSL logo. Any other generic sticker means that your cushion is no longer a virgin.

And under the sticker?

The cushion in all its glory.

Yes, this is why a cushion foundation is called that. It's basically a chunk of sponge saturated in foundation and placed in a compact. It combines the benefits of liquid foundation with the ease of powder application. And that's it, in a nutshell.

Ah yes, the same type of low-grade, extremely porous sponge that L'Oreal wants to be famous for.

I'll be the first to complain that it's really pathetic that a cushion with such a high price tag has something resembling a kitchen sponge inside. I b*tched and moaned about it last year when writing about the Lancome cushions, so I am not going to repeat myself this time around.

However, it was interesting to read the sponsored apologists explanations as to why L'Oreal brands use such crappy sponges in their products.

One of my favorite bloggers, normally a very level-headed and to-the-point reviewer - Musical Houses, while talking about Biotherm Evermoist CC Cushion (Biotherm is also a L'Oreal brand) totally drank the PR kool-aid and said that the porous sponge was one of the "features" of the Biotherm cushion.
As we can see, that is patently not true, regardless of what Biotherm PR spin machine claims. All L'Oreal cushions are stuffed with the same kind of porous pseudo-features.

In her review, she goes on to quote Biotherm that the bigger pores "are able to trap more air, moisture and formula for a light, breathable texture". Her guess was that "because the sponge is more porous, you pick up less (foundation) during application".

Unfortunately, the laws of physics don't quite work like that, no matter what them crafty PR folks tell us.

This is what bigger pores mean for your cushion foundation:

  • Bigger pores mean more foundation is picked up during the application process. 
  • That means you waste too much foundation with each application.
  • That means you end up overapplying the product.
  • Bigger pores mean more air gets trapped inside the cushion causing the product to dry out much faster.
  • Bigger pores are more suitable for thicker, heavier textures (but then so are metal plate cushions).
  • Sponges with bigger pores are also cheaper. 

This actually explains the infamous bit when the Lancome makeup guru, Lisa Eldridge, was seen applying the Lancome Miracle cushion while bending the applicator puff in half.
It took me nearly a year and a YSL cushion to finally understand why.

The puff picks up waaaay too much foundation and stamping it onto your face is an exercise in futility. To not waste all this already-picked up product, you gotta smear it the traditional way, which is damn hard to do with a cushion puff. So you gently bend it in half and start smearing. I actually caught myself doing that.

Anyway, where was I?

Ah, yes... The YSL Fusion Ink cushion surface.

I pressed it with my finger ever so gently. This is what happened:

See what I mean?
This is too much product for a gentle press. This is what big pores will do.

The color looks light enough, right?
It's B10, let's see how it stacks up next to MAC NC15 and MAC NW10.

Taken in natural light, no filters.

The foundation inside YSL Le Cushion Encre De Peau sets awfully fast, you gotta spread it out ASAP, otherwise you're gonna end up with a mask.
Here is a more blended shot:

I see pink undertones in there, but then again, that's me.

And because I am awesome like that, I also swatched for you shades B10, B20, B30, B40 and B50. B60 is not available in Japan.

(click on the image for larger view)

I also did an oxidation test.
Here are the results after one hour:

Right - freshly applied (artificial light, no filters)
Center - after setting (natural light, no filters)
Left - after one hour (natural light, no filters)

So, what do you think?
Not so bad, I'd say!

Now let's talk about the very misleading name - Yves Saint Laurent Le Cushion Encre De Peau, or YSL Fusion Ink Cushion Foundation.

You might be excused for believing that the cushion contains the iconic Fusion Ink product. In fact YSL makes us believe it actually does.
But does it?

Well... A quick look at the ingredients tells us otherwise.
Despite the Fusion Ink name, the product inside is something else.

Don't believe me?

Here's a screenshot of what's inside the Fusion Ink Foundation:

From YSL's official page.

And here is what's inside the cushion:

Yves Saint Laurent Le Cushion Encre De Peau ingredients:
Yves Saint Laurent Fusion Ink Cushion Foundation ingredients:

Quite different, wouldn't you say?
Here, I even entered it into CosDNA for you - link.

So yeah, whatever it is, it sure as heck ain't the original Fusion Ink. Nice try YSL! Next time try harder.

What else?

Just like Lancome Miracle Cushion and Biotherm Evermoist CC Cushion, YSL Fusion Ink Cushion also has SPF 23/PA++.

Of course, as with most SPF equipped base makeup, this is just a vanity selling point.
Do NOT, and let me repeat it once again, DO NOT rely on makeup as your sole source of sun protection. Unless, of course, you want to age in a hurry and entertain the possibility of skin cancer in the future. Then, by all means, feel free to listen to idiots, who tell you that SPF 23/PA++ rating provides "an ample dose of sun protection".

What else else?

YSL is touting the "rolling ink gel system" that this foundation supposedly has, and which provides superior spreadability and color delivery, as well as a soft focus effect cover.
Whatever that means...

What else else else?
  • It's a liquid-to-powder formula.
  • The "innovative structure" of the liquid forms an ultra-thin veil on the skin.
  • .... zonk.

Oh, what the heck... I'm too lazy to translate the official blurbs from the webpage.
This is what the very multi-lingual leaflet in the box says:

Yada yada yada...

My thoughts on YSL Fusion Ink Cushion Foundation.

Guess what???
Their promises are TRUE!!! Well, nearly all true.

  • - natural looking effect? YES.
  • - long lasting? - YES.
  • - lightweight? -Yeah.
  • - matte finish? - Kinda.
  • - coverage? - Sufficient.
  • - moisturizing? - NO!!! Absolutely no!!!
  • - comfortable to wear? - Yes.
  • - light-diffusing? - How the hell am I supposed to know?
  • - shine-free? - Absofreakinlutely.

And some additional thoughts:
  • Did it break me out? - Too soon to judge, but so far so good.
  • Accentuates fine lines? - At my age anything accentuates fine lines and wrinkles. But this foundation did not make me look 10 years older, so I'm quite pleased.
  • Emphasizes pores? - Well, not in my case.
  • Scent? - Minimal and non-offensive.

And now, excuse me while I collapse to the floor and self-combust.
I've gone and done it.
I'm liking this cushion. A lot.

Final verdict?

Yves Saint Laurent Le Cushion Encre De Peau (a.k.a. YSL Fusion Ink Cushion Foundation) is a great cushion, western or otherwise. Few Korean cushions come even close.

The next sound you hear is me fainting and hitting the floor...


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