I returned the two pairs of Birkenstock Arizonas I wrote about last time. The rose gold upper leather was too stiff and I wasn’t in love with the rose gold. The white pair was just too white.

Verdict: I love the Birkenstock Arizonas in EVA in black. I tested them for warm weather for a week in rainy Taipei and heartily give them two thumbs up.

Pluses:

  • Price point
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to clean
  • The non-leatherness is not that obvious (for the black color; other than white, the other colors do not have matching buckles)
  • Arch support is softer than the leather/cork version and breaks in easy
  • Leather-free for those who do not like animal products

Cons:

  • If the straps are on too tight and it’s hot, your feet won’t be able to breath.
  • The strap material doesn’t look that durable in that I wouldn’t change the strap holes often.

Sizing: I am normally a US 8 and wear a 38 Narrow in Birkenstocks. I could get buy with 39 (what’s recommended for US 8) but I like 38 more.

Where to Buy: Nordstrom (women, men), Birkenstock, Dick’s Sporting Goods. Amazon is not an authorized seller due to counterfeits — I would avoid Birkenstock. If you are going to Europe, they are cheaper there and have more styles. Birkenstock is a German brand.

I also got the Arizonas in dress blue patent/red bottom. Those need breaking in. I’m not sure if it’s a seasonal color, but only Birkenstock carries this color combination.

(1) New Balance 696 Reengineered Polka Dot Running Sneaker – I like polka dots. They come in navy or brown (looks very brown here but reads warm/burgundy to me). I found the brown ones on super sale and went with that, but won’t be using them as running shoes. Available on sale in very limited sizes at Urban Outfitters and Bloomingdales and in more sizes at Free People. I sized 0.5 size up.

(2) Old Navy Laser-Cut Peep-Toe Sandals. These have been semi-restocked. They run wide in the front and slightly long. I’m going to see if sizing down works. I love the delicate lace look but don’t intend for them to last past a season or two. Reasonable for $15 (on sale) and synthetic material. They come in gold, black, coral and white/nude. The nude is out of stock.

(3) My feet are craving some arch support. I haven’t worn Birks in a while (and actually sold my old ones), but it’s time to get some again. I’m not sure if I love these Arizonas in rose gold or white (too white!). You can find them at Urban Outfitters, Nordstrom, and Zappos. I sized down, but was on the border of going TTS and take the narrow width. I.e. I’m a US 8 and should be EU 39 but went with EU 38.

Good news. The new Tata Harper Beautifying Face Oil is now available at Nordstrom and Sephora.
Bad news. The price is going from $48 to $68! Packaging update aside, a 40% price increase and no changes in size (30ml/1fl oz) or ingredients is a bit ridiculous!

The oil was previously only available on Tata’s own site, where it is still available for $48. (Referral link for $25 off $100). It is squalene based, I love the smell, and it’s quite lovely, but it’s not life changing. My bottle has lasted a long time since I don’t use it all the time. You can use the push method for a glow (I’m currently tampering down my glow).

 

Image: Tata Harper; Sephora

 

PSA — 30% off Baggu on Macy’s and up to $15 in gift cards from Target on Laneige purchases!

Macy’s has a VIP sale going on. Get 30% off lots of stuff including current season Baggu and 15% off beauty (they carry Peach & Lily and Shangpree masks).

Images: Baggu

Korean brand Laneige is clearing out of Target and moving to Sephora. I think most Laneige purchases get a $10 gift card, which stacks with the $5 gift card for $20+ beauty purchase for a total of $15 Target gift cards. Some stuff is sold out, but if you like this yogurt mask (use as overnight mask), you’re in luck. Especially since Target gift cards are like cash unless you have self-restraint of steel.

Image: Target

I saved a lot of shopping for Q416 sales…

1. Atopalm

Atopalm is a Korean drugstore brand that was created by a doctor. Its star ingredient, MLE, is designed to repair the skin barrier and perfect for those with sensitive skin conditions or looking for clean moisture. I started using this line in December and I love the products I’ve tried — Moisturizing Skin Revitalizing Complex, Intense Moisturizing Cream, Moisturizing Eye Repair Serum, and Daytime Undermakeup Moisture Cream. I don’t wear these together but will apply a layer or two depending on the weather. It dries quickly, has a smooth texture, isn’t heavy or greasy, and layers beautifully under sunscreen.

  • Great for? Sensitive skin, skin barrier repair, and intense lightweight moisture with some anti-aging benefits.
  • How much? I got everything for 40% off in November. It was <$30 for most items, with the daytime cream being $12.
  • Where to buy? There are multiple outlets online (including Dermstore, Target, Peach & Lily), but I recommend purchasing from the Atopalm USA website, which has by far the best prices (30-40% off promotions).
  • Rebuy? Yes, and I like the complex and eye serum the most since it’s in a convenient airless pump container and they also contain anti-aging ingredients.

2. Drunk Elephant Lala Retro Whipped Cream, Lippe, and Babyfacial

Drunk Elephant introduced a new airless pump for their Lala Retro cream in December which made this much more enticing. Otherwise, I have to pause my routine to wash my hands with soap and dry them to stick my fingers into the tub. I got a deluxe sample of it and it was indeed very lightweight and moisturizing. I use a number of actives at night and I like to top ’em off with a heavy dose of moisture in the form of cream and/or oil. This has both.

  • Great for? Dry skin and cold weather. It has oils in it so I find the moisture to be more intense than a single Atopalm product. If you’re sensitive to oils, best to spot test first. I also find that DE products play very nicely with each other — this is especially the case for the Lala and the marula oil.
  • How much? $60 for 1.69 oz. I got it from Dermstore with a 25% off coupon.
  • Where to buy? The normal DE stockists: Sephora, Lock & Mane (via Amazon), DermstoreDrunk Elephant (20% off for new customers, referral link). Given the recent packaging change, just make sure you’re getting the new airless packaging.
  • Rebuy? Yes, I really like airless packaging and the grease-less feel.

Lippe is a simple lip balm. I got it through a set. It’s quite small (0.13 oz) but packs a punch — multiple antioxidant oils (marula, avocado, mongogo, and cranberry), shea butter, and peptides, sea fern algae for moisture.

  • Great for? Dry lips and maintaining good lips
  • How much? $22 for 0.13 oz. I got it from Dermstore in a value set with a 30% off coupon.
  • Where to buy? The normal DE stockists: Sephora, Lock & Mane (via Amazon), DermstoreDrunk Elephant (20% off for new customers, referral link).
  • Rebuy? Maybe. It’s a solid lip balm, but I also have a huge stockpile of lip balms.

TLC Sukari Babyfacial is DE’s newest product. It’s exclusive to the US and as of writing, exclusive to Sephora but will also be sold at DE and Dermstore. It did well enough that it sold out at Sephora for a bit. It’s $80 and 1.69 oz so the biggest complaint you’ll hear about is the price. The Babyfacial is an at-home peel. I probably used more pumps than I cared to but it’s cheaper than going to a facialist for a peel. I don’t get facials regularly (less than annually), so that’s how I justify the money I spend on the numerous masks and skincare.

Despite having fairly resilient skin, I felt some tingling. I followed instructions and washed it off after 20 minutes and slathered marula oil on top. It also comes with a travel size marula oil. I experienced no redness. My skin was indeed baby soft. I will most likely use this once a week (on the weekend) for the first month or so. Since the product is so new, there are no reviews of long term use yet. If you try this, make sure your skin is dry (active ingredients penetrate wet skin much deeper and can cause harm) and space out any other AHA/retinol products so they are not back to back. June 2017 Update: Most likely using once every 3 weeks or so. With summer rolling around, I find my skin to be more sensitive given the increased sun exposure. I would avoid it in general if you know your sun exposure is or will be high!

  • Great for? Skin that isn’t too sensitive. Futurederm has a great review and explains why the chickpea flour may not be the best for those with dry skin.
  • How much? $80 for 1.69 oz
  • Where to buy? For now, Sephora, Dermstore at a future date, and Drunk Elephant (20% off for new customers, referral link).
  • Rebuy? Most likely. I love baby soft skin and hope some sun spots will fade. However there are so many other darn tempting products out there and I have only one face.

3. Tatcha The Essence

The essence step comes after the cleansing and toner. I previously used the Cremorlab essence but kind of stopped this step. Aside from hydration, I didn’t see a difference. When Tatcha started to market its new product, I was intrigued but wasn’t planning to spend $95 on a bottle of essence. But then they released its Lucky Bag promo and I gave in. (For the record, you had to spend $100 to get a Lucky Bag worth over $100. I got a full sized bottle of the Deep Hydration serum and a travel sized exfoliant cleanser in my Lucky Bag, worth over $100 as advertised.)

As expected from Tatcha, the packaging is gorgeous. I splash some essence on my face after cleansing and gently patting my face dry. The essence looks, feels, and smells like water, however it has a trio of superfoods (green tea, rice, algae) that produces lactic acid through natural fermentation. If you read up on Tatcha’s site, they describe the essence as soaking through layers of your skin so your subsequent steps can penetrate deeper and perform more effectively. After using this for a few weeks, I can say that Essence works really well to boost my other products and feels like a skin softener. Since it is a booster, the overall effect on your skin is dependent on the other products you use. Similarly, your skin is only as good as the worst product that you use. In the morning, I apply my DE Vitamin C day serum on my wet, essence soaked skin. I don’t always have time to wait for it to dry and the day serum is harmless. In the evening, if I’m putting on actives, I have to make sure the essence layer is dried or else the active may penetrate too deeply and damage the skin.

  • Great for? People who aren’t too lazy to perform multiple steps in the skincare routine. Good for all skin types.
  • How much? $95 for 5.1 oz. Tatcha has occasional promotions.
  • Where to buy? Tatcha, Sephora, or QVC. Through Feb 8, use code DMLUCKY for a Lucky Bag valued $100+ (examples).
  • Rebuy? Most likely unless a cheaper alternative presents itself.

4. Fresh Sugar Face Polish and Black Tea Instant Perfecting Mask

I’m been using Fresh lip products for years but missed the boat on their facial products until I got my soy face cleanser/rose mask birthday gift from Sephora. (I didn’t love the cleanser but liked the rose mask.) Based on research, the Black Tea Instant Perfecting Mask and Sugar Face Polish kept on coming out as the top two products I had to try. The mask is cooling and soothing — perfect after a peel (like Babyfacial or Tata Harper Resurfacing Mask) and smells like melons. I don’t use physical exfoliants often but will make an exception for the Sugar Face Polish. It will help your pores disappear. I use it after the Tatcha cleansing oil.

  • Great for? Mask is good for all skin types. Polish – stay away if you have sensitive skin.
  • How much? Mask is $92 for 3.3 oz, polish is $62 for 4.4 oz. Ouch? Yes, back to my point earlier on not getting facials. I tried using a mask brush with the mask but still prefer using my fingers due to its pudding texture. I wonder how long the mask will last with 1-2x/week use.
  • Where to buy? Nordstrom, Sephora, Neiman Marcus, or Barneys. Fresh has promos but they aren’t that great. I bought these from Nordstrom since they had a good GWP for Fresh and two other beauty gifts.
  • Rebuy? Definitely!

5. Sulwhasoo Clarifying Mask EX

I love the Overnight Vitalizing mask, which I often use as lotion in dry, cold weather. This Clarifying Mask is a gooey peel-off mask also full of Korean herbal ingredients. It is very gentle and somehow purifies without leaving your skin a dry mess. Sulwhasoo recently updated its masks to an EX version — I’m not sure how this compared to the non-EX version. I can’t tell the difference between Overnight Vitalizing EX and non-EX masks.

  • Great for? All skin types. Stay away if you hate herbal smells.
  • How much? $41 for 5 oz. Cheaper at duty-free in Asia.
  • Where to buy? Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus
  • Rebuy? Maybe. I have a lot of masks… variety is fun.

Images: Google

The Spring/Summer Uniqlo x Ines de la Fressange collaboration dropped yesterday. It’s inspired by the Southern port city of Marseille and is breezy and casual. Read cotton, sun dried, ruffled, less polish and ironing.

Flagship NYC Fifth Avenue store. The striped sweater is a linen blend and pilling on the rack (warning).

Women IDLF Rayon Printed Wrap Front Dress

The sad thing is that the pictured straw tote is not sold at Uniqlo.

As usual, the US Uniqlo site isn’t that great for lookbooks. For reviews/lookbook/styling info:

I stopped by the NYC flagship store yesterday (launch date) for a quick browse. The racks were surprisingly well stocked and there was no crowd. I had already placed an order online (and hope they don’t majorly mess up my order like the last IDLF drop). Some items I saw online had no appeal to me but had the opposite effect in person. In general, sizing looks similar to prior IDLF collections (true to size), but there are some items that are cut more generously whether it’s due to the fabric or fit due to the Marseilles concept.

The shirt jacket is unlined and lightweight, the stadium jacket is thicker (but not my style). Both come in various colors.

Women IDLF Twill Rayon Windowpane Shirt Jacket, Women IDLF Satin Stadium Jacket

The polo sweater quickly sold out and is one of the few items I would put in the ‘fits small’ category. It comes in 4 colors and 3 of them have a light colored collar. I have an aversion to light colored collars. Hand wash only.

Women IDLF Polo Short-Sleeve Sweater

This tee is a thicker knit with a clingier fit. It is very stretchy. I wish the neck was a crewneck.

Women IDLF Ribbed Striped Crewneck Short-Sleeve T-Shirt

This collection has a ton of shirtdresses. Some of them are called tunics, but they’re long enough to wear as a dress. The one on the left was a quick seller and has a microdot print on a thicker indigo fabric. The pintuck makes it look abnormally long, but it looks normal in person. A belt might work with it. In general, these have a generous fit around the bust and are hip friendly. However, unless you have skinny arms, the sleeves may be too tight to comfortably size down.

Women IDLF Indigo Printed Pullover Long-Sleeve Tunic, Women IDLF Cotton Poplin Long-Sleeve Tunic

Close-up of the microdot print. It also comes in a shirt.

Women IDLF Indigo Printed Pullover Long-Sleeve Shirt

Aside from stripes, the collection has a lot of dots. On the left is the wrap dress in the promotional pictures. It comes in black or brown. Brown polka dot dresses always remind me of the horse race dress Julia Roberts wore in Pretty Woman  In general, I found the other rayon dotted items (shirts, skirts) to be boring. The dots on the dress on the right are less boring.

Women IDLF Rayon Printed Wrap Front Dress, Women IDLF Cotton Lawn Printed Pin Tuck Long-Sleeve Tunic

There is always a navy blazer in every collection. This one has wider lapels and single button closure. The linen jacket is unlined hence lightweight and comes off casual despite being in a more serious plaid print.

Women IDLF Blazer, Women IDLF Linen Jacket

More un-boring dots on silk neck scarves. Uniqlo recently had some other dot neck scarves that had a more interesting print, although it was in a thin silk-like polyester and hence half the price.

Women IDLF Silk Printed Scarf

These straw-looking totes were larger than expected. They looked pretty durable for being woven paper and are fully lined in cotton. I’m not sure how popular woven paper is in general, but the woven paper panama hat I got in Provence is still going strong after 2 summers!

Women IDLF Paper Bag

Images: Uniqlo

This deal is available online and at select stores. They are stackable and very popular with the makeup community. If you purchase online you have to pay an additional handling fee for each unit and shipping. Not every store is running the promotion — it’s confirmed at the new Boston Newbury store, the Soho NYC store (which is closing for renovation at the end of February), and reported at a SoCal store. The Soho store also marked down most of their stock, excluding cosmetics/skincare, aroma diffusers, and luggage.

All light grey inserts in the cases below are sold separately.



Images: Muji

Everything I liked lately wasn’t set in modern times.

Victoria on PBS. Season 1 just started with Queen Victoria’s ascension to the throne. If you liked Netflix’s The Crown, you will like this. Stream for free online (although it won’t last forever).

I found Kurt Seyit ve Sura on Netflix. It’s a 40+ episode Turkish drama in Turkish or Spanish and English subtitles. It starts with Tsarist Russia and takes you through the end of the British occupation of Istanbul. Did Seyit and Sura’s love for each other survive? The two leads had great chemistry. It was quite dramatic and I was glad when I was done with it. (Warning: Turkish dramas are time consuming, especially since it’s hard to multi-task with subtitles!)

Amazon’s Man in the High Castle Season 2 dropped not too long ago. This show is set in the 1960s and takes you down the path of alternate history — what if the Axis Powers won WWII instead of the Allies. I like being able to binge through it but am sad that I need to wait a while for Season 3. Not enough to read the book though.

Magnificent Century was the first Turkish drama I watched on Netflix. It’s similar to the Chinese Empresses in the Palace (甄嬛傳/Zhen Huan Zhuan) which is also on Netflix in a few condensed episodes (watch it all on Youtube). It takes place inside the sultan’s harem of the Turkish palace circa 16th century. I only watched the first season — the rest are scattered on Youtube and to my relief, hard to find with English subtitles. Women in Turkish dramas like to faint.

Another PBS show – Secrets of the Six Wives – is based on the wives of Henry VIII. Historian Lucy Worsley steps in to narrate some scenes so it’s like a hybrid documentary. (If you like historical British documentaries, you may have seen her before.) Stream for free online (although it won’t last forever).

I made three boot purchases this winter season. The J.Crew Chelsea Boot was the one of them. I tried both my normal size and half a size down. I have wider feet (but not officially wide) and liked my normal size more with thin socks. The heel is a little over an inch and very comfortable. It also comes in two other shades of brown, but I’ve always been more of a black boot person. I got them for a great sale price in-store and am very happy with the purchase. Otherwise, I was keeping an eye on & Other Stories for Chelsea boots.