Hi! I’m Amanda. I’m 24, a Canadian grad student, and a lover of makeup, skincare, haircare, and more. I started this blog in 2013 to act as a resource for people with dark skin like mine looking for product reviews. My writing focuses on beauty, but I also enjoy writing about mental health, sex, and other lifestyle topics
Recently, my skin has been acting up. I *think* I got down to the bottom of why (I have a suspicion that it’s the Nature’s Bounty hair vitamins I love so much!). But in the interim, I’ve been doing the absolute most in terms of skincare to try to calm things down.
For cleansing, I’ve been trying out the Foreo Luna Play Plus*, and I love it. I’m a fan of cleansing devices, and this one is awesome for a couple reasons. The price point is just right – at $59, you can try out a Foreo without the hundred-plus-dollar commitment. Unlike the original Foreo Luna Play, when the batteries die on this one, you don’t have to throw it away and buy a new one – you can replace them with regular AAA batteries. In terms of benefits for the skin, it delivers a better-than-just-your-hands clean while still being super gentle on the breakouts I’ve been having on my cheeks. Plus, the compact size means I can take it with me on weekend trips!
After cleansing, I’ve been using witch hazel to tone. I had this lying around for use before facial hair removal, but it works great for getting everything super clean without drying my skin out. I’ve been alternating this with an acid tone to try to balance my skin out. Bonus points for being super inexpensive!
Finally, the serum that’s really helped my skin along: The Ordinary Niacinimide + Zinc. Niacinimide works wonders for breakouts, bringing those tiny bumps to a head and helping them heal quicker. I don’t know what’s going on with the founder of Deciem, but I don’t like the way he’s been treating critical customers. I’ve reviewed The Ordinary products before, but I’m not sure where to go from here with the brand – it’s a wait-and-see situation I suppose. They have a wonderful product, and I genuinely hope they get their PR situation under control soon.
Sometimes I find monthly favourites can be a bit repetitive – despite the contents of this blog, I’m actually pretty boring and tend to use the same core set of products every day. So although I won’t commit to doing them monthly, there are several items I’ve been really loving this month, so I thought I’d share.
CoverGirl Outlast All-Day Matte Finishing Powder // I got this last winter and didn’t end up blogging about it (I don’t think). Part of the reason for that is that the shade range is tragic – this is the shade dark – so I can’t use it year round, which is ridiculous. But right now, due to the lack of sun, my skin is pale enough that my usual fave Laura Mercier powder leaves me with a weird undertone going on. This one doesn’t do that! It’s super matte, though, so I really only press it in where I want the extra shine-proofing: nose, chin, and top of the forehead.
Fenty Beauty Match Stix Matte Skinstick in Espresso // You all know how I feel about Fenty: Rihanna can take all my money. I wasn’t a cream contour person until this came into my life. What I like so much about it is that it’s on the stiffer side, which makes it easier to control so I don’t get contour all the way down to the corners of my mouth.
Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector Liquid in Opal // In addition to being lighter, my skin is also drier in the winter – combo rather than oily – and I am not about it. As much as oily skin is annoying, I am never short on glow. I find my skin looking dull, no matter how hard I go with the glycolics and hyaluronics. Again, although I’m not usually a liquid highlighter kinda squirrel, this has been amazing for mixing into foundation and tapping over my cheekbones just before I apply a powder highlight. It makes my skin look healthy and radiant. Take that, Ottawa winter!
Sephora Collection PRO Featherweight Crease Brush // Once upon a time, I had a fluffy domed brush from Sigma that I loved to pieces – well, at least until it became so scratchy and frazzled that it hurt my eyes to blend out my transition shade. My bestie loves the Sephora Collection Featherweight line, so I gave it a try and the Crease Brush changed my life. Who knew that a brush could be so soft and blend so well?
Too Faced Just Peachy Mattes Palette // I have a whole dedicated post for this baby, so I’ll spare you the gushing. On days where I don’t know what I want to do with my makeup, this has been such a go-to. A peach in the crease, dark brown on the lid, lots of mascara and a nude lip? Sign me up
Glamglow VOLCASMIC Matte Glow Moisturizer// I’m loving this again as a winter daytime moisturizer. It plays so nicely under makeup – I really appreciate the primer/moisturizer thing. It’s great for lazy people like me!
And that’s what I loved throughout January! I know February has some fun and interesting events in store, and hopefully some fun makeup looks and products too!
Back in October, I decided to kiss my iPhone 6 goodbye and pre-order the iPhone X. When I was deciding between the iPhone 8 and X, a lot of the reviews out there were very good, but were done by men. (Such is the tech industry, unfortunately.) I decided that it might be good to put my perspective out there – as a young woman, a grad student, a beauty blogger – in the hopes of helping other people like me make informed decisions for such a big purchase.
Instead of doing a comprehensive review, I thought I’d touch on the most important points: big and controversial changes in this model, and features I’ve been loving and hating.
No Home Button, more screen // In addition to the all-glass front and back, this is probably the biggest physical change with the iPhone X. No Home Button means more screen space for Instagram-scrolling and blog-reading, but it also means that I had to get used to new gestures and functionality. Swiping up from the bottom now brings you to the home screen; swiping down from the top right gives you your control center, and swiping down from the top left shows your notifications and lock screen. I’m not gonna lie, I had to google all these when I got the phone and practice using it, but now I only kinda miss the Home Button.
The notch // Again, to maximize screen space, there’s now a little notch at the top of the screen that houses the new and improved front camera and all the fancy sensors that facilitate Face ID. Some people were really upset about it, but I’ve gotten used to it. The only thing about it that annoys me about it is that there’s no place for the battery percentage; you can only see it when you swipe down the control center, which really sucks.
No headphone jack // A lot of people are up in arms about this, but I switched to Airpods maybe a year ago with my iPhone 6 and haven’t looked back (I can do a separate Airpods review if you like!). If you’re especially attached to the headphone jack, the phone comes with an adapter, but that means you can’t charge (unless you go wireless with that, too) and listen to music at the same time, so I get why some people are upset.
Face ID // I have such mixed feelings on Face ID. My boyfriend really summed it up nicely when he said that, if Steve Jobs were still around, this phone would not have been released as-is. I think he’s right, and I think that Face ID is a huge reason why. When it works, it works great, and is almost like not having any locking system on my phone at all, which is wonderful. But when it doesn’t work, it’s super frustrating.
I find myself entering my passcode all the freaking time: when trying to unlock while the phone is horizontal; when trying to unlock in bright sunlight; when trying to unlock while wearing sunglasses (this one’s understandable); when trying ton unlock while chewing, when trying to unlock when my bangs are down (!); when trying to unlock while lying down with my face slightly smooshed. Basically anything less than ideal conditions means I’ve got to put in my passcode, and it drives me nuts.
The attention feature – where the phone only unlocks while you’re looking at it – is meant to add security, but only seems to exacerbate Face ID’s problems, so I have it turned off. One thing that I did that really improved it was to scan my face while looking down at the phone, with as many of my chins on display as possible, because that’s how we naturally look at phones. Even with this trick, I honestly don’t think Face ID works often enough for it to have been released as it is. I like it, but the fact that it doesn’t work horizontally and in bright sunlight is pretty annoying.
Animoji // This was a big selling-point for the X over the 8, but it’s honestly not as big a deal as Apple made it seem. It’s cute, but I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve used it.
More storage // This is such a big deal for me! Moving from my 16 GB iPhone 6 to a 64 GB iPhone X has changed my life. No more deleting pictures! No more deciding if I really need that app! Digital packratting has never been easier!
Incredible camera // The camera quality is phenomenal. (It’s worth noting that the iPhone 8 Plus houses the same camera.) Portrait mode – which blurs out the background of a photo – is phenomenal. Thanks to the app Camera+ – which lets you adjust the ISO and other settings – I’ve been using my phone rather than my DSLR for all my blog photography over the last two months! Did you notice?!
Accessories // I have three main accessories that I use with my iPhone X: a screen protector, a case, and a ring.
The screen protector I have on is the ZAGG InvisibleShield Glass+, and it’s tempered glass. I had one from them for my iPhone 6 and always really liked it. I initially went for a much cheaper glass screen protector from a booth at the mall. That one covered the notch, whereas the ZAGG one doesn’t. I ultimately got rid of the cheapie screen protector because, although it covered the notch it didn’t stick to it, and a lot of dust and cat hair got under there, making the already-unreliable Face ID even less reliable. Moral of the story? Get one with a cutout for the notch.
My case is from Kate Spade. I was super disappointed that there’s no rose gold (or gold!) option for the iPhone X, so I slapped a rose gold glitter case on there. Without a rose gold case I’m pretty sure I’d die.
Finally, because I have itty-bitty President hands, I have a ring on there from Amazon (similar one here) to make sure I don’t drop this very expensive mini computer I bought. The only downside is if I get a wireless charging pad (which I hope to!), I think I’ll have to remove this to make it work.
Overall, I love the phone, in spite of its quirks. I’m really happy with my decision to get the X rather than the 8 or 8 Plus. Design-wise, the X feels like a bigger departure from the iPhone norm, and if Apple sorts out the kinks of Face ID, I’ll be the happiest Apple cult member there ever was!
Ever have a makeup product you just can’t get out of your head? That was me with the Too Faced Just Peachy Mattes Palette. I’d see vloggers like Jackie Aina and Aysha Abdul post about how great the palette was for dark skin. Then I’d go to Sephora and swatch it, and I’d be underwhelmed by the feel and the swatches.
After literal months of indecision, I decided to pick it up, and I’m so glad I did.
Following up with the super successful Too Faced Sweet Peach Palette, Just Peachy Mattes consists of warm, matte shadows that serve as basics for everyone, but especially for people with dark skin. This palette is everything I wish the Urban Decay Naked Basics range – which is way too light for me to use – could have been, and I can confidently say that I have used or will use every single shade.
The palette packaging is different from Sweet Peach – it comes in a more square (rather than rectangular) shape, and overall feels pretty similar to the Becca x Jaclyn Hill Palette.
What’s so wonderful about this palette is that there are at least four transition shades for me (Peach Tea, Peach Cobbler, Peach Punch, and Just Picked) whereas, in most palettes, I’m lucky if there’s one or two. I love Peach Tart on the lid for subtle definition, Chocolate Dipped is a gorgeous crease colour, and Peaches and Cream mixed with Peach Butter makes for a beautiful matte brow-bone highlight.
The shadows swatch feeling kind of dry and powdery, which contrasts pretty significantly with the buttery mattes of ABH Modern Renaissance or even UD Naked Heat. When I was indecisively swatching this in Sephora for months on end, the dryness of the shadows was what made me hesitant to buy. Fortunately, this hasn’t translated to the lid. They go on beautifully and basically blend themselves, which is amazing because – confession time – I’m not great with eyeshadow.
On eyes: Peach Tea to set primer, Peach Cobbler as transition, Peach Tart on lid into crease, Chocolate Dipped smudged on lashline.
This subtle look has been a go-to for me, and even with my oily eyelid situation, the shades stay crease-free all day. I find myself reaching for this palette frequently, no matter what look I’m doing. Because of its lack of shimmer, it has encouraged me to rediscover my ColourPop Super Shock shadows and other random singles in my collection, which is awesome. Overall, I’d say look at your collection and decide whether these are shades that you’re missing. If they are, I think this palette performs really well and is worth picking up.
It’s so exciting to see MAC collaborating with more influencers, and particularly POC. They have even more collabs on the horizon, probably thanks in part to the success of the MAC x Patrick Starrr Collection.
The starrr (ha ha ha) of the collection was really the setting powder, which is currently sold out almost everywhere. Oddly enough I didn’t pick that up because I didn’t think I needed a fourth translucent loose setting powder, but you know what I thought I did need? A 300th rose-y brown lipstick. Don’t judge, okay?
The shade Mama Starrr is a Satin lipstick. I love many of MAC’s formulas, but I think that Satin and Matte are among my favourites. With just a hint of sheen and moisture, Mama Starrr is comfortable to wear. The trade-off with that moisture is that it isn’t super long-wearing, but I don’t particularly mind because I’m always mentally prepared to touch up a non-liquid lipstick. In terms of colour, MAC Taupe is probably the closest dupe for this shade, but I swatched it along with some other similar shades.
On me, works as a really pretty nude, but I do tend to wear it with a slightly darker lip pencil (in the picture below, I’m wearing Bite Lip Pencil in 040, but Patrick included MAC Mahogany as part of the collection).
Overall, I’d call it a nice-to-have if you don’t have shades like it or if this kind of shade is just your type.
I slept on the Coloured Raine Queen of Hearts Palette the first time, and because my bestie got it and liked it, I knew I wanted it if it ever came back. When CR announced its return in the summertime, I tried to get my hands on it only to have it sell out.
I think we all know how I feel about hard-to-get makeup at this point. (I don’t like it.) I’m a little more forgiving when it comes to indie brands, and I of course have a soft spot in my heart for Black-owned brands like Coloured Raine. I think the whole thing was poorly-handled, but ultimately they did the right thing making Queen of Hearts a permanent palette in their lineup.
The palette itself retails for $50 USD (currently $65-ish CAD). When you factor in shipping and duty to Canada, I ended up paying $82 CAD for the palette. I think that’s a lot for an indie brand, and if I had to do it all over again, I’m not sure I would. It’s a nice palette to have, and I’ve created some nice looks with it, but it’s not an absolute must-have/go-to, the way that my Melt Rust Stack is.
Unlike the Melt Rust Stack, you get a whole bunch of shades in a variety of finishes. Of the 12 shades in question: 6 mattes, 1 satin, and 5 metallics. I’d classify this as a colourful palette for neutral lovers like me, because it’s full of oranges, purples, and reds in addition to some basic neutrals. I wish there were a deeper matte brown and/or a black, because as it stands, I often reach for one of those to deepen up looks and give them more dimension.
The mattes are a smidge dry, but they blend surprisingly nicely. The one dud of the palette is the matte purple, Ladyship, which is patchy and tough to blend. The metallics and the satin are gorgeous and perform beautifully. Some of my favourite shades are Empress, Princess, and Prerogative as transitions; Your Majesty, Noblewoman, and Dethrone on the lid; and Crown mixed with Your Majesty to highlight the brow bone and inner corner.
On eyes: Princess to set primer, Empress and Duchess as transition, Noblewoman all over the lid, Your Majesty in the center for pop.
When it comes to wear, they’re just average, and begin to crease on me in about 5 hours when primed with my holy grail, Nars Smudge Proof. I’d put them on-par with Urban Decay’s original formula in this department – not quite as long-wearying as the Naked Heat formula, but still decent.
One thing I don’t love about it is the packaging. For a $50 palette (in the US), I expect a little better than a matte black cardboard palette. The pretty design comes on the sleeve, but personally, I throw sleeves out and don’t find them useful at all. I wish they’d print the design right on the palette itself. In terms of quality, the palette does seem durable, but the matte black exterior scratches fairly easily.
Overall, it’s a nice palette to have and I like it a lot, but because of the price and the wear time/creasing, I wouldn’t call it an absolute essential.
I thought I could do a top 7 to be cute and match with last year’s top 6, but I couldn’t okay? I just. Couldn’t. It’s been a flaming pile of garbage of a year, so just allow me this.
This year, I branched out with my blog a whole lot more. I talked mental health. I talked sex and dating. While I tried to hold it together, I kept trying new products. Most of these will be familiar, but some I use so often I just take them for granted and never talk about them. In any case, in no particular order, here are my favourites of the year!
Bite Beauty Agave Lip Mask // I slather this on thick every night before bed. As you can see, I’ve been through one tube this year and picked up another in the VIB sale. It’s iconic.
TheOrdinary Hyaluronic Acid // I use a lot of brightening serums, but my skin also gets drier in the winter (which is like, 6 months out of the year in Ottawa, I swear). When I don’t feel like brightening/exfoliating, this comes in so handy. I’m half done the bottle and will definitely get another. Bonus points for going on nicely under makeup.
FentyBeauty Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation in 420 // Can we rename 2017 the Year of Rihanna? Please? People keep hyping Fenty Beauty but the line is no joke, peeps. Because I’m a base-ic bitch (Get it? Base? Like foundation?), the foundation is the highlight of the line for me. I’m 1/4 done the bottle, and I have a lot of foundations. 420 is too dark for me at the moment (waiting on a Rih-stock of 390), but when I got it in early Fall it was a perfect match.
Tarte Shape Tape Concealer in Deep // This is was in my favourites last year, too. You’re looking at my second tube, and mama’s got 2 more in her backup drawer. It’s thick, pigmented, a great shade match, and doesn’t crease. Oh, baby.
Nars Blush in Goulue // This was basically the only blush I wore for like 5 months straight. Just the right mix of pink and plum with a dash of shimmer. SO good.
Lilla Rose FlexiClips // I don’t understand how these aren’t all over curly YouTube. These hair clips are so convenient for curly hair. I think I’ve bought 5 of them – 3 for me, and some for my mom and aunt. They don’t dent my hair or stretch my curl pattern too badly. I use a size L (the Carmine and Cat’s Meow styles) for half-up hairstyles, and an XL for ponytails (skull and crossbones unavailable now).
Curls Passionfruit Curl Control Paste // I cannot believe that I went through an entire jar of this and never blogged about it. I guess you really don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone… This is THE best edge control gel I’ve used, period. It smells great. It doesn’t leave my edges crispy and weird (I’m looking at you, got2b). It keeps things under control even in humidity. Right now I’m using a Creme of Nature edge control that smells like toilet cleaner and every time I fleek my edges I have to hold my breath. I’ve gotta get myself to a Sally’s or Cloré to get this Curls one back into my life.
Clinique Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm // I hate that I love this so much because it’s so expensive for something you ultimately wash down the drain, but the heart skin wants what it wants. This gets my makeup – including waterproof mascara – off with no problem at all, and then washes clean. I’m on my second jar. #cantstopwontstop
One of the best parts of the end of the year for me is seeing what people loved all year. Thank you so much for reading for another year (four of them! This blog is four years old and I can’t believe it!) and I’ll see you in 2018!
I’m not sure how much point there is to this post because the world has collectively decided that we love Fenty Beauty and Rih can do no wrong, but if you’re on the fence, I thought I’d offer my thoughts on the new Fenty Beauty STUNNA Lip Paint in Uncensored along with a few swatches and a comparison with a few of my other reds.
Uncensored is what I’d call a true neutral red. It doesn’t pull too blue or too orange on me, but I’ve seen it look more blue or more orange on people with different undertones. I think that that adds to the beauty and versatility of the shade because, and as Rihanna and Fenty Beauty have confirmed, Uncensored is a red for everyone.
The packaging, as with all Fenty lip products, is super unique. This one looks like it might be a nail polish, which is a lil weird at first, but I really appreciate that the unusual shape makes it easy to find in the sea of other lip products in my purse at any given time.
The brush is also unique. It’s still a doe-foot applicator, but the body of the brush is hourglass-shaped. I’ve found that, combined with the formula, there’s a bit of a learning curve in applying. The formula is super thin and watery. This, along with the brush, I find makes it difficult to control application, leading to a bit of a wiggly lip line if I’m not careful. But this is purely a matter of preference, of course. I’m just used to a slightly thicker formula and a conventional brush.
The plus side to the very liquidy formula is that it’s extremely lightweight and comfortable to wear. Although it’s matte, it doesn’t dry down to a transfer-proof finish, which might be a dealbreaker for some people, but it doesn’t bother me. In fact, that adds to its comfort on the lips, because it isn’t drying on my already-dry lips. I find that the wear time is still impressive, although I do like to touch it up once throughout the day if I’m wearing it to school or something. Another plus to the non-drying formula is that you can add another layer right on top without looking cakey.
In a few short weeks, it’s become my go-to red. I really enjoy the formula, and look forward to Rihanna releasing other shades (gimme some nooooodz).
I follow a few sex bloggers and YouTubers, and I like to do my research before investing in a new toy the same way I do my research before buying a new foundation. Most of the time, toys that get a lot of hype don’t catch my attention, or seem to have mixed reviews. But this one is a little different, because it really delivers. The Womanizer Pro40 is the Fenty Pro Filt’r Foundation of sex toys: so worth the hype.
Despite being lumped into the vibrator category, the Womanizer Pro40 ($169.95 at Venus Envy, which is my fave sex store in Ottawa) is neither a vibrator nor a clitoral pump. The concept is actually relatively unique*: you position the little silicone head on the clitoris and the device delivers quick bursts of air pressure to the localized area.
Because it’s such a different kind of toy, there’s a bit of a learning curve. After a few uses, though, you get the hang of it. The sensation is unique and, when turned up all the way, can get intense af. It doesn’t feel like vibration or suction – I honestly think that only a toy like this can produce this kind of sensation. The result of novelty and really precise, intense stimulation, for me, was a really quick climax. Like, within 3 minutes quick, when it usually takes at least double that.
In terms of build, quality, and specs, it ticks all my boxes. It’s rechargeable with a wall charger, which is a must in a luxury toy – who’s got time to switch batteries in an emergency?! It feels smooth and weighty in the hand. The head is made of silicone and is detachable, and the entire device is waterproof for easy cleaning or in case things get splashy.
The controls are easy to use and really thoughtfully designed, which I appreciate. It’s designed to use “upsidedown,” with the power button at the bottom and the +/- speed controls on top. What I especially love is that, when using it on one of the higher speeds, giving the power button a quick press will bring the toy back down to its lowest setting. This is fantastic for those of us who enjoy intense stimulation to get there, but prefer something gentler during orgasm.
There are a few things I don’t quite love, though. When turned on, a weird red light goes on inside the silicone head area (as you can see in the first photo), and I truly don’t understand the purpose of that. The price is high, but it is a luxury toy and – in my opinion – worth the investment.
My biggest gripe as a woman and a feminist (and a would-be feminist theorist) is that I don’t love the name. “Womanizer” has misogynistic connotations – and rightly so! – so I don’t understand why a company would name a product designed for people with vaginas (many of whom are women) something so anti-woman. Finally, the it’s not exactly discreet in the sound department. It’s moderately loud and buzzy when powered on, and the noise decreases when it’s properly positioned against the clitoris (that’s part of how you know you’ve got it positioned right). Even then, it’s not the quietest toy, and probably isn’t great if you’ve got roommates you aren’t super close with
* Although it’s been copied by a few other brands at a lower price point, sometimes price and quality really are correlated, and I wanted to get the original.
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