Drunk Elephant Skincare: B-Hydra & Lala Retro

Earlier this week, I reviewed two products by Drunk Elephant: the Lippe lip balm and the C-Firma antioxidant serum. Now, on to the B-Hydra gel for combo/oily skin and the Lala Retro cream for dry skin, which comprise the other half of my Drunk Elephant skincare collection. A reminder about my needs: my skin is combination, sensitive, and mildly rosaceous.

B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Gel


My first bottle of B-Hydra was close to done, when I found out I hadn’t been using it 100% correctly. I purchased B-Hydra for use as a standalone moisturizer, the last step in my nightly routine or prep for sunscreen in the morning. Mind you, not like it was bad in those roles. A water-based gel, B-Hydra is very refreshing and sinks in quickly. It doesn’t have silicones, a welcome change from my previous moisturizer: CALM Redness Relief by Paula’s Choice. (I’m not against ‘cones, but CALM was so silicone-heavy it felt filmy and nasty.) B-Hydra also makes good on its “illuminating” claim, breaking with the “oily skin=needs mattifying” orthodoxy. It amplifies the dimensions of the face, creating an almost statuesque finish.

One problem, though: B-Hydra didn’t give skin much of a relaxing sensation, familiar from the use of richer moisturizers. After some research, I found out that B-Hydra might work better as a hydrating add-on to other products, rather than its own thing. Now, I am mixing it with an oilier and more nourishing Drunk Elephant product, the C-Firma day serum. That combo is recommended by the brand, and I agree that the two products are truly meant to be cocktailed. C-Firma is a little oily and tacky on its own, but the blend has an airy and refreshing quality. I use it in the morning underneath my daily sunscreen. As for the nighttime routine, I’m now playing with other products, such as CeraVe PM and rosehip oil. If I go back to B-Hydra, I’m planning to layer or mix it with oilier moisturizers.

Lala Retro Whipped Cream

Such is the life of someone with combination skin: it gets crazy in all different ways. Therefore, you end up trying products for oily, normal, AND dry skin types.


Last fall, I suffered from massive allergies that bloated, irritated, and tattered the hell out of the skin around my eyes. Right after the allergies improved, my city of San Francisco got a bout of cold weather, uncharacteristic in these times of climate change. B-Hydra didn’t help me, of course; neither did the heavier creams by CeraVe and First Aid Beauty. A little sample of Lala Retro turned out to be the hero to stop the flaking. I had a $20 Sephora coupon burning a hole in my wallet, so I purchased a full size.

Most of the time, I use Lala Retro as an eye cream. I apply it all over my face whenever unsuccessful product experiments make my skin red and dry. The cream sinks in nicely, and I find its earthy, nutty scent intoxicating. I only have one issue: in keeping with the “retro” theme (I guess), Drunk Elephant originally released the cream in a classic tub. After multiple customer complaints about the less-than-sanitary packaging, the brand switched it up for an airless jar. The new container was revealed very soon after I bought my Lala Retro–daaaaamn.


And that’s it for my Drunk Elephant collection. Here are some disjointed thoughts about the brand’s offerings that I’ve sampled or am curious about.

The T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum changed my mind about glycolic acid and AHAs in general. My face had been hurt by Paula’s Choice and Andalou Naturals’ glycolic acid products, so I avoided the world of AHAs for a while. But I’m nothing if not hella curious, which is why I couldn’t resist trying the much-hyped T.L.C. Framboos. And it turned out to be very gentle! After playing with the Sephora sample for two weeks, I saw that my skin got smoother. However, I’m not sure if I will purchase the full size, as I’m pretty satisfied with my new, much cheaper AHAs by Deciem.

I pawed a tester of the Umbra sunscreen at Sephora, and I was surprised with how insanely greasy it is. The brand only recommends applying a pea-sized amount, due to Umbra’s high zinc oxide content (20%). For those of us who are used to the “1/4 teaspoon of sunscreen” orthodoxy, “pea-sized” sounds a little weird, but I’m down for trying this method with an Umbra sample in the future.

I’m also interested in checking out the Pekee and Juju bar cleansers, since they both are touted as mild. So far, none of the Drunk Elephant products I’ve tried were irritating, so I have a fair amount of goodwill towards the brand in that regard.

In general, I commend Drunk Elephant for making pretty solid skincare and paying special attention to the needs of those with sensitive skin. However, I wouldn’t call their products “miracles” worth oooh-ing and aaah-ing about. Except for maybe Lala Retro, which I think is a boon for dry, flaking skin.

Drunk Elephant Skincare: Lippe & C-Firma

Drunk Elephant is enjoying something akin to cult status in the beauty world. It boasts photogenic packaging, instantly memorable product names, and a slew of “best skin of my life!!” reviews. The elephant in the room (hahaha PUN) is that the goodies are quite expensive. Fortunately, Sephora and Dermstore have sales and coupons sometimes, which is pretty much how I assembled my four-strong collection.


In this post, I will be covering two items: the Lippe balm and the C-Firma antioxidant serum. For context, here are my skincare concerns: mild rosacea, sensitivity, and general combination skin issues, such as oiliness in my T-zone and dryness around my eyes.

Drunk Elephant first caught my attention thanks to high ratings on Beautypedia, a site famous for bashing skincare with potentially irritating ingredients. I use its ratings as a predictor to see if a product would make my face redder than normal. (Ironically, the most aggravating products I have ever tried were two masks by Beautypedia’s house brand, Paula’s Choice–but that’s another story.) Drunk Elephant touts its gentleness to skin using the “no toxins” language, a berserk button for those who prefer nerdy skincare philosophies to hippie ones. However,  the company promotes beneficial synthetic ingredients in addition to natural stuff, and the “toxins” it avoids include natural irritants such as essential oils.

The core product in the line is the 100% Virgin Marula Oil, which ties into a story behind the brand name. The marula trees grow in Africa and their fruits indeed make elephants drunk. (The fruit are also used for the Amarula cream liqueur, which has an elephant on the bottle.) Marula oil is an ingredient in all of the currently available Drunk Elephant products. A representative told me on Instagram that the brand uses fair trade oils, however I haven’t been able to verify that claim.


Lippe Lip Balm

Lippe is the only product in my Drunk Elephant collection that I know I won’t repurchase. Lip balms as expensive as this one ($22) better be miracle workers… Lippe isn’t.


To be fair, my lips are extremely dry and prone to shriveling, and lip balms either do nothing at all or offer a short-term improvement. Lippe is a decent enough oily balm, similar in feel to Hurraw! and Yes to Coconuts. This is actually my favorite kind of lip moisturizer, but Lippe’s effect is not much different from the aforementioned under-$5 options. If one’s particular about ethically sourced ingredients, Fair Trade USA has partner companies that sell lip balms for $3. In short, even though I don’t regret purchasing Lippe, I remain unconvinced about the whole genre of fancy lip balms.

C-Firma Day Serum

Hey you! You’re losing, you’re losing, you’re losing, you’re losing your Vitamin C. 

A few years ago, I went to a cosmetic dermatologist at Kaiser Permanente for advice on a general skincare routine. She recommended retinol, resveratrol, and antioxidants, all of which I’ve been dutifully using since then.


Of the antioxidant serums I’ve tried, C-Firma is as good as any. Some use Vitamin C products to banish dark spots, but I don’t have many, and those serums are more like maintenance workers than problem-solvers for me. I view them as building blocks in a regimen for mitigating general signs of aging. So far, I can testify that since I started using antioxidants (along with retinol and resveratrol), my face didn’t slide off, I didn’t erupt in boils, and my skin has been generally looking softer and, ummmm, glowier. And yes, it’s still firm. I might be able to produce more authoritative conclusions in a few years, when I get closer to 40 (I’m 31.) Of course, if I still have this beauty hobby of mine.

I’m on my second bottle of C-Firma now. Drunk Elephant has recently reformulated the serum for a more convenient application experience, and the change is for the better. The first iteration of C-Firma was too runny, similar to Paula’s Choice C15 Super Booster, and the new formula is more viscous, feeling oily and gel-like at the same time. Lately, I’ve been mixing the serum in the morning with Drunk Elephant’s B-Hydra, a gel hydrator for oily skin. The resulting mega-serum sinks in quickly, and feels refreshing and nourishing. I consider it decent prep for my dry-ish daily sunscreen, the Paula’s Choice tinted moisturizer. Dayum, a lot of mentions of Paula’s Choice in this post dedicated to a different brand… But it is what it is. I know Paula’s Choice skincare pretty well.

Back to Drunk Elephant, this Sunday I’m planning to post about B-Hydra as well as the Lala Retro cream for dry skin. I will also include some random thoughts about the brand’s products that I’ve sampled or am curious about. Til Sunday.

OCC Lip Tar in Shoegazer

Who wears lip tars? I do! Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics’ “original liquid lipsticks” are not as hyped these days as they were back in 2014, but they’re still out there, still coming in colors that no one else but OCC messes with (see: Derelict and Rime). Sephora phased OCC out, as the lip tars in their original squeeze tube packaging were too fussy. Beautylish and Urban Outfitters still sell them, now in “ready-to-wear” packaging with doefoot applicators. The first RTW lip tar I purchased was Shoegazer, from an Urban Outfitters-exclusive collection.


First things first: I don’t think the new packaging makes much of a difference. The lip tars are still fussy, oh yes they are. The formula’s the same: thick and viscous paint. Just like before, the lip tars need to be applied in conservative amounts–I actually wipe the applicator down the neck of the tube before putting the product on. They necessitate a lipliner to avoid big-time feathering. Applying them requires time and patience: I use the doefoot applicator to place the color into the center of my mouth, and then (very gently) drag it to the edges of my lips with a lip brush. The lip tars also transfer easily, and god forbid you wear them while eating a messy burrito or sandwich.

But! But. I’ve noticed that almost every time I get compliments on my makeup, I’m actually wearing a lip tar. The finish is gorgeous: it makes the lips look full and smooth and juicy. There are other super-pigmented products that have this kind of finish–ColourPop Ultra Satin lipsticks come to mind. However, those lines don’t have the same color selection as OCC does. Shoegazer is one of the tamer colors, but it’s still interesting: it’s dark raspberry red, but with a subtle purplish undertone peeking through.


Why the name Shoegazer, by the way? The term shoegaze refers to dreamy, fuzzy rock music from late 1980s-early 1990s. When I think about it, the red/raspberry/purple mishmash reminds me of the cover of Loveless, the classic shoegaze album by My Bloody Valentine:


(Pic from the Loveless Wikipedia page.)

This is not the first time OCC released lip tars inspired by the trippier side of popular culture. They had a collection influenced by Frank Herbert’s Dune novels, as well as an “Unknown Pleasures” collection named after Joy Division’s seminal album.


Here’s an incomplete flatlay for the look I’m wearing in the selfie above. I did a very subtle eye, with Mary Quant’s N-05 eyeshadow reviewed here and the Ubame “no mascara-mascara” by Milk Makeup. I also ditched my usual bangin Dipbrow for an unassuming Essence tinted brow gel.

The frost-kissed blush look was achieved using what I swear is the most pigmented blush in history, Sleek’s Pinktini –the reddest shade from the Pink Sprint palette. I tapped the blush with a fluffy powder brush, then sort of lightly caressed my cheeks with it and blended with a finishing powder. When you look at the palette, it looks untouched, even though I adore it and use it fairly often–that’s how saturated these blushes are. Just like the lip tars, so I guess Pinktini is a conceptually fitting choice.

Mary Quant Eyeshadows

Hm, Mary Quant. Wasn’t that something from the 1960s, mod dresses and cute tights?


(Pic taken from the dovima2010 flickr page.)

Turns out the iconic UK brand is alive in Japan, running a badass Instagram page and nestling in corners of fancy department stores such as Lumine Shinjuku. Its displays still look very pop arty and colorful, with the Warhol-esque flower logo everywhere and bright eyeshadows, lipsticks, and blushes in triangular pans. Mary Quant uses the same refill system as MAC, Inglot, Makeup Geek, etc. You can purchase a few pans and put them in a flower-embossed plastic palette.


Unfortunately, the palette is not magnetic, and the Lumine sales associate stuck my two eyeshadows in with an adhesive. The pans sit in there without budging, and I’m afraid I’ll damage the shadows if I try to take them out. Aaaand I never wrote down their numbers–whoopsie doodles. I think the brown one is N-05, and the glittery one is… A-43?! Lol, I don’t know, man.


Why I still want to cover them here, even though their numbers are lost, is because the quality of these eyeshadows, N-05 in particular, blew me away. The refills are on the expensive side: around $12 a color (same as Anastasia Beverly Hills but pricier than Inglot and Makeup Geek), so you kind of expect they would perform decently. But still, I didn’t think I’d go whoa! the first time I put N-05 on my lids. In the pan, it looks like a dry satin eyeshadow; in actuality, N-05 is an extremely smooth and rich next-generation metallic.


Yeah, N-05 is “just” a neutral brown, but I like its subtle rosy tone, which I think complements my green eyes. Since it’s medium-toned, N-05 is also perfect for soft one-eyeshadow looks. Not too dark to be worn all over the lid, not too light to be smudged underneath the lower lashline. I love pairing this eye look with striking lipsticks, such as OCC Shoegazer or ColourPop Lyin’ King.

For the look above, I stuck the glitter eyeshadow, A-43 (or something) into the inner corner. It’s not really a highlighter, just silvery glitter with an almost imperceptible white gold base. I got curious about that type of product on my recent trip to Japan, where I saw an employee of a Tokyo soba place we frequented wear delicate glitter (solo) on her lids.


I think that a swipe of glitter onto the lids adds subtle visual interest to a bare-bones tinted moisturizer + lip gloss type of look. The first time I tried that, I put A-43 on top of my usual Lorac primer, which turned out to be a bad, bad idea. The primer is lighter and greyer than my skin tone, plus it brought out the whiteness in the shadow’s base, resulting in lightened lids. Some people say that light eyeshadow worn without any sort of socket contouring provides for a younger and fresher appearance, but for me, it’s exactly the opposite–I start to look grey and sickly. Ai yai yai! So, I now go full Temptalia and wear A-43 without any primer–the audacity!–and that gives me exactly the effect that I want.

Fiona Stiles Beauty Radiant Aqua Eye Veil in Galaxy Way

First, story time. Before I took up makeup as a hobby at age 28, I used to wear the same look every day: foundation to cover my rosacea and dark, sparkly eyeshadow smudged all around my eyes. I didn’t care about the color: just wanted something in there to define my eyeballs. And of course, I didn’t know what eyeshadow primer was.

I’d been doing that look since I was 16 years old, and didn’t fret about it. Once, when I volunteered at a fundraiser, a very stylish young woman who was the event photographer took to my makeup for some reason. She showered my look with compliments and snapped a billion photos of my face. (It didn’t seem like she was hitting on me or had nefarious goals in mind.) I’m not one of those people who are finely attuned to trends: my trend awareness begins and ends at “Hmmm, millions of people are wearing this, must be fashionable.” But now that I’m more knowledgeable about makeup, I suspect that woman might have thought my creased, oily black eyeshadow looked editorial. Like grease goth–was this kind of stuff considered hot in 2012-2013?

Flash forward to now: I own a primer, not to mention a whole big collection of eyeshadows, but I still go for a smudgy, creased look when I don’t want to spend my sweet time doing makeup. For this, I tend to use eyeshadow sticks in nondescript medium colors, such as the gray Shadow by Bobbi Brown or the mauve Pinch Hitter by TheBalm. Both have broken on me… yeesh. When I went to Ulta to look for a stick or cream product to replace the Bobbi, my eyes got drawn to the Radiant Aqua Eye Veils by the new brand, Fiona Stiles Beauty.


The shade called Galaxy Way especially called to me: deep and sparkly, it was exactly the kind of color I used to smear all over my lids in years past.


So… have I been wearing it in grease goth style?! Naaaah. The reason is that the formula turned out to be bone dry. The shadow goes on like a cooling mousse, but dries down in seconds, and every attempt at blending or moving it around results in black clumpies. I actually found Galaxy Way decent for more polished eyeshadow looks, with shimmer on the (primed) lids and matte in the outer corners. The primer allows Galaxy Way to fully showcase its greenish/gunmetal goodness.


Above is my favorite look with this eyeshadow, so far. I spread Galaxy Way onto the lid with my finger and swirled a medium brown matte eyeshadow (Lorac Corduroy from Pro Matte) into the outer corner and deep crease. For easier blending, I used a trick I learned from one of Viola Killer Colours‘ videos: leave one side of the fluffy crease brush clean of shadow, to apply and blend at the same time. Underneath the eye, I fluffed Galaxy Way out with Corduroy, as well.


What kind of lip product would go well with this glistening smoky eye? One could put on a dark lipstick for a full-on goth effect, or a light beige for Kardashian glamour. But instead, I chose a brick rose: Charming by TheBalm. I find that those two products, Charming and Galaxy Way, work in symbiosis. The beauty of the eyeshadow elevates the boringness of the lipstick, and in turn, Charming tones down the whole look, making it office-friendly.

Also… how do you like my big ol Swans poster?

Sheer Lipstick Heaven: Lipstick Queen, Rouge Bunny Rouge, CANMAKE

Since this is my first proper blog post, time to confess which makeup rules I follow. The big one is “either a statement eye OR a statement lip, but not both.” In general, this rule makes sense with my face. I have prominent lips and eyes, and with both emphasized, the whole becomes too overwhelming. When I create bold eye looks, which is fairly often, I balance them out with sheer or nude lip products.

This post is about three of my favorites in the sheer lipstick category. I find that glossy lipsticks on the red to berry spectrum make my lips look especially juicy.


They might not look like much in swatches, but it’s not like we buy products just to swatch them, do we?

Lipstick Queen Medieval

I’ve had this tube since forever ago, hence it looks quite beat up. The lettering is bound to be worn down to mysterious runes.


Why the name Medieval? Lipstick Queen spins a macabre tale about actual medieval women defying church rules against lipstick and rubbing lemons on their lips to bring out a bloody tint. Um… sounds painful, no thanks. There are products on the market that mimic that kind of blushy effect, but fortunately, Medieval is much richer and oilier than those.


In the pic above, I’m wearing Medieval with a cranberry-ish eye look (TheBalm Meet Matt(e) Trimony palette) and the Milani Luminoso blush.

Of all the lipsticks I’m covering today, Medieval is the reddest. Depending on the lighting, it might show up as an airier version of tomato red, or as a nondescript my-lips-but-redder color. In my review of Medieval published on Instagram on 2015, I mentioned that the red pigment doesn’t apply evenly (i.e., it balls up). However, I haven’t had that problem in a while, probably because my lips are now in a better condition and there are no dry patches that would cause uneven application.

Rouge Bunny Rouge Relish of Heaven

The whole Rouge Bunny Rouge concept reminds me of the Japanese “Mori” fashion, girls dressing like dreamy woodland creatures. I want to listen to Alison Goldfrapp’s first album, Felt Mountain, when I put that stuff on my face. (Yea, I became a music fan in the late 1990s.) Everything about the UK-based brand is whimsical and delicate, down to the product names. The sheer lipstick range is called Succulence of Dew, and other shades have names such as Jasmine-Weighted Air and Perfume of his Gaze. That’s all right, Rouge Bunny Rouge, I forgive you for these naming conventions, because the products are pretty damn solid.


Relish of Heaven looks warmer in the tube than it does on the lips, at first I even took it for an orange red. In reality, it has more of a reddish berry tone. It feels less oily than Medieval, and creates a vinyl or jelly finish. It’s also quite pigmented and wears down to a noticeable stain. When jelly-like lipsticks or glosses are on the pigmented side, there is an expectation that they might slip and slide, but Relish of Heaven is satisfyingly grabby.


The look above also features warm eyeshadows from the Too Faced Semi-Sweet palette and a green eye pencil (Urban Decay Mars).

One thing I dislike about RBR lipsticks is that their tubes’ caps fly off like nobody’s business, and furthermore they don’t sit tight enough. I’ve had a few Wet’n’Wild lipsticks get moldy or smooshed due to craptastic caps, and I am worried for the fate of my RBRs, especially since they are not easily obtainable in the U.S.

CANMAKE 05 Dark Raspberry

If Rouge Bunny Rouge brings to mind the Mori style, Japanese drugstore brand CANMAKE is full-on princessy, as this lipstick’s packaging demonstrates.


Well, it’s not technically a lipstick, but a Jelly Gloss Stick, a lipstick/gloss hybrid. Of the three swatches above, Dark Raspberry is the most reflective. I’ve become enamored with wet, balmy finishes on my recent trip to Japan, where this kind of lip look is mainstream and heavily promoted by beauty magazines.


The Japanese lip look also goes great with the all-American Anastasia Beverly Hills Modern Renaissance palette.

The Jelly Gloss Stick is so dainty and emollient, it literally starts to melt in the tube on contact with my lips. I’ve never had such a thing happen with any other lip product! (It hardens back after application.) Moreover, per Citrine’s Blog, the brand recommends twisting up just a little bit at a time, or else the lipstick might get destroyed. Should I also wrap it in a blankie and bring it a cup of hot chocolate, while I’m at it?

Oh well, I guess I’ll be gentle with this bad boy–in addition to being easy on the eyes, Dark Raspberry brings back sweet memories of Japan.


SWEET, SWEET memories. This is what my hubby and I ate in Tokyo.

First Post



Hello hello. Me speaking. My name is J, I’ve been into makeup for the past 3 years, and now I’d like to share my opinions publicly. I don’t know how long this blog will last, as I am a serial nerd and might abandon this hobby for a new one someday soon. But I’ve already written a few posts, and so far I’ve been enjoying the process.

About me: I am 31 years old; I live in California and work full time in a field unrelated to the beauty industry. Of all makeup products, I like eyeshadows the most, followed by lip products and blushes. My makeup philosophy is “anything goes,” nothing less, nothing more. But because I work at an office, most of my looks fall under the umbrella of “office-friendly.”

I post on Instagram as @gothleesi. I’m not part of the goth subculture, but I like me some Bauhaus and Game of Thrones. So gothleesi it is. By the way, the purple lipstick I’m wearing in the pic above is Bite Beauty Taro.