Quick Reviews: Essence, The Body Shop, Pacifica

Life update: I’ve just had wisdom teeth surgery! I was supposed to see a Peter Murphy concert today (exactly 12 years since I first saw him with Bauhaus in Berlin), but the whole tour got rescheduled. I think that was a blessing in disguise, as my face is still insanely swollen, and I’m drowsy from the painkillers.

As I’m shambling around my apartment in pyjamas instead of slapping glitter on my face in anticipation of the “godfather of goth” show, I thought I’d write up a couple of reviews of recent purchases. Those goodies don’t have much in common, except for one thing: they all fall into the “boring staple” category. However, I have developed an outsized love for at least one of them, and that product would be…


Essence I Love Extreme Mascara

Tacky packaging aside, this $4.99 find is seriously the best mascara I’ve ever tried, so I was happy to repurchase it. Granted, I don’t expect much from mascara. The most it can realistically do for me is: 1) make my tiny, pale lashes a little bit more visible, and 2) not be a pain to use. I’ve tried a lot of expensive “cult favorites,” and believe it or not, most of them FAILED to pass those simple tests. Kevyn Aucoin Volume dried up on me too quickly. Urban Decay Troublemaker has a weird spiky wand that makes it hard to paint my lower lashes. Milk Makeup Ubame is too subtle. It Cosmetics Superhero gunks up in its packaging horribly… But I haven’t had any of those grievances with I Love Extreme. It gives my lashes a moderately spidery but still “separated” look, and I like its no-bullshit wand. The latter is straight and on the bigger side, but not obnoxiously huge, which works for both upper and lower lash application.


The Body Shop Camomile Waterproof Eye and Lip Makeup Remover

Eye makeup remover is another one of those product categories that are ubiquitous, but damn, it’s hard to find one you truly like. I was peeved when Target stopped selling Sonia Kashuk’s Remove, my “holy grail”–I went through countless bottles of it over the years. When my last drops of Remove were gone, I picked up the Body Shop’s Camomile Makeup Remover, which thankfully turned out to be a worthy replacement.

Like the Sonia Kashuk remover, the Body Shop is a bi-phase product, which takes everything off in a pinch. This is important for me, because I like to wear heavy makeup: 3+ eyeshadows, eyeliner to tightline, liquid lipsticks, etc. Moreover, the Body Shop is gentle enough to not irritate my skin or eyes. So yes, it does stand its ground in comparison with my old holy grail. The only issue is the price: $18 for 5 fl oz vs. $11 for Sonia’s 4.75 fl oz. I would be down for exploring cheaper cruelty-free options for this kind of product.


Pacifica Kale Charcoal Ultimate Detox Mask

I’m not a fan of face masks, because they tend to irritate my face. But I still try them sometimes, as my combination-type skin, with issues such as blemishes and clogged pores, could potentially benefit from a good mask. If I could only find The One…

Recently, I was curious to try clearing out my pores using the Fifty Shades of Snail “Super Pore Killer” method, which necessitates a clay mask as one of its three steps (after salicylic acid and before cleansing oil). It turned out to be surprisingly hard to find such masks at my favorite “hippie” co-op, San Francisco’s Rainbow Grocery. (What I found was “raw water.” WTF, Rainbow??!!) The Pacifica Ultimate Detox was one of the few clay masks available. Even though its name highlights “kale and charcoal,” it’s actually a traditional cleansing mask with clays as the second and third ingredients. The product is affordable (around $10), and like everything by Pacifica, it boasts youthful “earth mama”-style packaging, reminiscent of Tarte in its glory days. I like that the format is “ready-to-apply,” without the necessity to mix clay with water.

Regarding quality, my verdict is this: the Pacifica mask is not The One, but it’s okay! So far, I’ve only tried it on my blemish-prone T-zone, as part of the aforementioned “Super Pore Killer” method. Even though that area is the hotspot of my rosacea, I didn’t notice any extra sensitivity or irritation. In general, I’ve found the Pacifica to be a very basic clay mask, which soaks up the oils and leaves the skin slightly dry. It has a bluish grey color, which has prompted me to call it “my stone-eater mask” (in reference to N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth books, haha).

As for the results of the “Super Pore Killer” method, they have been mixed. The method didn’t “vacuum clean” my pores, but they have indeed become somewhat clearer; my skin got generally softer; and I’ve been getting fewer blemishes. However, I’m debating if I should continue, as treatments that require rubbing my face with cleansing oil for a few minutes make me suspicious–the risk of busted capillaries is real.

So yeah, those were my drowsy little reviews. Have you tried any of those goodies & what are your favorites in those product categories?


FOTD: Zoeva Alloy

Beauty subreddit r/muacjdiscussion has a FOTD thread once a week, where users review all the products they are wearing on that day. I decided to steal this idea for a post about one of my favorite looks, which centers around Alloy, the dirty plum/brown eyeshadow from the Zoeva Mixed Metals palette. Here is the face…


…and here is my left eye in the angelic late afternoon sunlight.



Zoeva Alloy (lid) belongs to one of my favorite eyeshadow categories: complex, rich medium darks. Such eyeshadows are like my black, baggy maxi skirt I brought from Japan: wearing them makes me feel stylish and intensely comfortable at the same time. In the pic below, Alloy is swatched against Zoeva Delicate Acidity and Rouge Bunny Rouge Delicate Hummingbird. Delicate Acidity is more purple than Alloy, and the RBR is cooler (in tone!!) than both of them.


Since I am reviewing ALL the products in this look, I need to mention that the eyeshadows were applied on top of the Lorac Behind the Scenes primer. I need that stuff for my oily, hooded lids. Behind the Scenes is just your average primer that gets kudos for not drying too fast and blending out without trace. I’m not too attached to this primer and will try a new one when Behind the Scenes bites the dust.

Back to the eyeshadows. In my outer crease, I used Lorac Unconditional, the workhorse rosy mauve from the Unzipped palette. In the outer corner, we have Unbridled, the juicy reddish purple from the same set. Unzipped has been my staple palette since 2014–I still can’t get enough of those Naked 3 vibes that were popular back then, “gotta grab ALL THE ROSY!” Such tones are perfect for green eyes, after all. I love Lorac Unzipped so much that I’ve worn it twice for my most important annual work event.

Unbridled wasn’t dark enough for this look, which is why I also deepened the outer corners with NARS Subra, swirling it in tiny, soft circles. Described as “black orchid” on the NARS site, it’s an extremely dark, lush shimmering burgundy. Subra is available as a single eyeshadow, but I own it as part of the limited edition Steven Klein palette from 2015. The color selection in that palette is really basic, so I wouldn’t be upset for missing it, unless you’re a Steven Klein fan.


After I did my eyeshadows, I poked between my lashes with the Kat Von D Ink Liner in Trooper–one of the longest-lasting eyeliners that I know of. My mascara here is Essence I Love Extreme, a recent $5 discovery that made me forsake any mascaras priced higher than ten bucks. I Love Extreme is volumizing without being gunky, and creates a finish that is both fluttery and spidery in a cute way.

Here is my eye makeup all piled up on my hysband’s nice computer chair:



If you’re at all aware of Western beauty culture right now, you know that the current alpha and omega of makeup is Brows. I… don’t fuss over brows much. As was common with my generation (now in our 30s), I plucked them extremely thin in my youth, so parts of my brows will never grow back. (No regrets. I LOVED my thin brows to death.) Virgin “boy brows” will never be attainable for me, but I’m satisfied with just darkening what I have. For this look, I used Anastasia Beverly Hills Dipbrow in Dark Brown: a thick but malleable paste that’s intensely pigmented and long-lasting.


My most essential makeup product at this time is Paula’s Choice Resist Super-Light Daily Defense SPF 30. The brand categorizes it as “tinted moisturizer”, however, Resist ain’t gonna cut it as a moisturizer unless you have extremely oily skin. As one dealing with combination skin issues, sensitivity, and rosacea, I use Resist as a non-irritating physical sunscreen (chemical ones burn my face), a light cover-up for redness, and, to borrow Paula’s Choice terminology, a shine stopper. So far, I haven’t yet encountered another product that performs all of these three functions as well as Resist does. It has a few problems, though, including the aforementioned dryness, a weird greyish-pinkish tint (which would probably look ashy on dark complexions), and a high cost for such a quickly-depleted product as sunscreen. Which is why I like adding Resist to my Christmas and other wishlists.

I usually top Resist with BareMinerals (the OG “glowy foundation”) and a loose powder, but when in a hurry, I prefer The Face Shop Radiance Two-Way Cake Powder in NB 23. It’s not “glowy” but quite natural, and provides some extra coverage and sun protection. Too bad I’m not going to repurchase this powder–I prefer cruelty-free brands now.

If I’m wearing anything on my cheeks, 90% of the times it’s my old, beat-up Pixi Subtly Suntouched bronzer. I just take a big fluffy powder brush and swirl it on. Subtly Suntouched adds juuuust a little bit more definition to my cheekbones, and looks good with makeup of any color.


This post is my “makeup greatest hits”: Lorac Unzipped, Dipbrow, the Paula’s Choice tinted sunscreen, and the Pixi bronzer have all made an appearance. Now, it’s turn for one of my most-worn lipsticks, Kat Von D Everlasting Liquid Lipstick in Bow N Arrow. Yes, dark(ish) eyes and beige lips–what else is new? I’ve never watched the Kardashians, but I guess that type of glamour has imprinted itself onto the subconscious of our entire generation. Bow N Arrow is not just a regular beige: on me, it takes an almost lilac tinge. The formula is humane for a liquid lipstick, compared to some bone-dry and crumbly atrocities out there.

For the most even possible application of Bow N Arrow, I put it on top of Jordana Easyliner in Rock N’ Rose. Jordana lipliners are very smooth and soft–however, the softness can sometimes lead to their downfall, as they might break on you. Nevertheless, in my experience, these liners are some of the best makeup products one could buy for $3.

And that’s it for my epic FOTD review. Here is the huge makeup pile… except for the Pixi bronzer, which I forgot to add. It seems like people always forget ONE PRODUCT when taking those photos, haha.