An Eye for Style: Accessorizing with Firmoo

As an eight-year-old with rapidly-developing near-sightedness, my glasses were part of my identity. I remember the day I picked them out–a pair of giant oblong frames in a purple tortoise-shell finish–considering how they could change people’s perception of me, what they would say about who I was. I wore them day in and day out, content with them and their effect on my image. As a teenager, however, it occurred to me that I changed my clothes every day. I wore different makeup, different shoes, even carried different purses if it suited me. Why should I have to wear the same glasses all the time? Of course, I was oblivious to the exorbitant cost of a pair of glasses. It was expensive enough to change the lenses in one pair each year.

When I was contacted by Firmoo about reviewing a pair of glasses, I had flashbacks to that first time I ever picked out a pair of glasses. My most recent pair was selected more for comfort than style: I experience chronic photophobia and selected the largest, blackest frames I could to reduce the amount of light that came through. However, I find my large frames and tinted lenses to be an obstacle while working. They interfere with my sense of colour and space, which is not acceptable while working with hair and makeup. Firmoo offered me my choice of frames as well as lenses in my prescription in exchange for my honest review.

The task was honestly a little daunting–Firmoo has thousands of frames to choose from. Luckily, you can break down your search easily by materials, colours, shapes, sizes, and any combination thereof. When selecting frames in a doctor’s office, I usually end up trying on a dozen or more pairs before settling on one over another, so I was uncertain how shopping online might turn out. However, if you create an account on Firmoo’s website, you can use their handy “virtual try-on” tool by uploading a photo of yourself, selecting your pupils for accuracy, and allowing the tool to superimpose an image of your frames over your face.

After agonizing over five or six different pairs for what seemed like days, I settled on the frames above: a dainty pair of black-and-lavender plastic, much lighter than what I was used to but still bearing enough black for me to feel like myself. Inputting my prescription information was simple enough, but my doctor did not give me my Pupilary Distance, or PD. This is a measurement taken before fitting a pair of frames and is not usually written on a prescription. Luckily, I did some quick google-fu and found this handy online tool that measures your PD using your webcam a basic credit card for measurement. I did this a few times to get a solid number and came up with a number of 62, a fairly average PD for a normal human being.

My glasses shipped within a week and arrived quickly, along with a sturdy leather case, a cleaning cloth, and a tool to loosen and tighten the screws as necessary. The frames fit perfectly without any adjustments–my last pair needed to be re-molded several times before they sat evenly on the bridge of my nose. My prescription was correct and the lenses were clear. However, like many glasses I’ve had in the past, I did notice a bit of distortion around the periphery. It could be my prescription, it could be the shape of the frames, I’m not sure, but I have had many pairs of glasses in the past that had this same sort of warping around the outermost portion of the lenses. It usually takes me about a week to adjust to it and then it becomes less noticeable. I found the same was true of these glasses. I don’t feel it has anything to do with the quality of the lenses as much as it has to do with the sensitivity of my eyes.

All in all, I am very satisfied with my experience with Firmoo. Even if these glasses had not been free, they would have been well worth the money: the frames with basic lenses would have cost about $8.00 plus shipping–my last pair of glasses cost me over $150 for the frames alone, and lenses were an additional $200. The most expensive pair of frames Firmoo offers is $55.95, which is still far less expensive than what most places ask. If you require more than just basic lenses, that’s fine: for less than $30, your glasses can be made into bifocal or progressive lenses. Prescription sunglasses can be polarized for an additional $20, and for no extra cost you can select your own level of tint.

If you’ve never purchased from Firmoo before, make sure you check out their Free Glasses offer. As a new customer, you can receive a voucher for new glasses when you share your favourite eligible pair through Facebook, Twitter, or email. Even if you have a pair of glasses, this offer allows you to snag a spare pair for backup, or even just a departure from your norm!

Thanks to Firmoo, I have a great, functional addition to my fashion arsenal. Now that I have the option to choose which eyewear I’ll be sporting each day, I wonder how I got by for so many years with just one pair.

(cross-posted to QueenCicada.com)

Dewlap Valentine: a Reptilian Love Story

I was raised by animals. Don’t get me wrong, I had great parents, but for as long as I can remember I’ve been surrounded by animals of all kinds: cats, dogs, birds, rabbits, hamsters, frogs, turtles… My family and I have worked in rescue for years and opened our hearts and home to countless animal companions, some of whom have left for forever homes and some of whom have made their forever homes within our walls. I’ve learned something from each of them and loved every one.

Bob hugs in the hospital

Bob hugs in the hospital

Bob came to me as a baby barely longer than my little finger. His eyes were eager, his feet quick, and his scales impossibly green. He had a calcium deficiency that required a sweet-smelling syrup spoon-fed to him with each leafy meal for the first two years of his life and left him a little more sluggish than most iguanas his age, but it gave us even more quality time together. As he grew, he would sit on my shoulder while I watched television or surfed the internet; we sat together on the back porch in the hot summers; he even maintained a live journal in his younger days–many of the entries read “alkjdskllllllllllllll,” but he still acquired more friends than he had long, spindly toes.

Bob loves dinner

Bob with a favourite meal

We knew each other well: Bob knew when I got home from school or work, crawling off his Throne of Rocks to wait by the food bowl while I chopped up leafy greens–collard, mustard, dandelions–along with a finely-chopped strawberry or melon, all sprinkled with vitamin and mineral powders. His golden eyes would go wide, ringed pupils dilating as he stared down the bowl before his sticky pink tongue would dart out to taste the day’s offering. His preferences were red and yellow foods: berries, yams, squash, but above all bananas. Simply seeing a banana on the counter beyond his enclosure could send him into a fit, shaking his head, paddling at the tank, trying to lunge open-mouthed on it despite the glass between them. Yellow shopping bags, purses, flowers, and knick-knacks had the same effect.

Bob's insides and a bladder stone

Bob’s x-ray and removed bladder stone

It was the day before Easter when I noticed something was wrong. He was drinking excessively, moving as little as possible, drooling. My family vet had never seen anything like the x-ray image we took and we were referred to an emergency specialist who instantly identified it as the largest bladder stone he had ever seen. He went into surgery the next morning and had the stone successfully removed. A few weeks later, however, he suffered some complications of his condition and passed away at the emergency vet. I was fortunate enough to visit with him the night before he passed away, and I know he received nothing but love and care from the wonderful staff. I was heartbroken. He had fought so hard and come so far and even the doctor had expected him to fully recover. At that time, I was working towards my state board exams and graduation and I felt as if Bob had set the ultimate example for me: he just kept going.

Bob makes a swan friend

Bob makes a swan friend in the hospital

I wanted to hang on Bob and his determined survival instinct desperately. While he will forever live on in my heart, I needed a physical memento. Enter Darling Clandestine. Owner Evonne knows what it means to love a lizard or two, and she worked tirelessly with me to create a blend I know Bob would have loved, appropriately named Dewlap Valentine. In its glimmering green bottle, it smells like ripe, fresh strawberries and yellow banana tossed with dark leafy greens. It’s bright, it’s fresh, it’s delicious. But applied to the skin, Dewlap Valentine comes to life. The greens grow darker, the fruit goes riper, and something beautifully animal comes through. It becomes musky, salty, organic-smelling, like bright green noses and spiny toes and stripy bellies, all smeared with fresh fruits and leaves. It is one of the most complex scents I’ve ever smelled.

Dewlap Valentine by Darling Clandestine

photo from Darling Clandestine

They say scent is one of the most powerful triggers of memory, and Dewlap Valentine is all of Bob’s scent-memories bottled. I know he would be proud to have inspired this scent–he’s even smiling on the bottle. I can’t thank Evonne enough for creating this wonderful scent and making it available to her customers. It touches my heart to think that people might wear this perfume and look at the little green bottle bearing Bob’s grin and smile themselves, imagining all the love and warmth that this cold-blooded companion contributed during his lifetime. I know I do every time I put it on.

Mind Your Mane: Bumble & Bumble’s Color Minded

As a beauty professional, I’m always amazed by the number of people who don’t know what they need. Hair and skin can change over our lifetimes, but for the most part the hair you have now is the hair you’ve worked with for years. I’ve met countless people with fine, straight hair who are heartbroken because they think they have thin hair, or women with gorgeous, thick curls who label themselves with coarse, unmanageable locks. Simply put, most people don’t know what they’re dealing with and therefore don’t know what kind of products they need to be using.

I thought I knew my own hair: it’s on the finer side, but its significant wave pattern can make it look puffy and fizzy at times. But rather than buy products for fine or wavy hair, I often find myself trying to combat the damage I’ve done through years and years of bleaching. Trying to take my naturally near-black hair to a state as close to white as possible has wreaked absolute havoc on its integrity, so I moisturize and reinforce as much as possible. Now that I’ve stopped bleaching, my hair has bounced back almost completely, but I still use my products for fragile, damaged hair daily.

When Klout offered to send me Bumble & Bumble‘s new colour care line, I considered my hair carefully: would stepping away from my protein-infused, deep-moisturizing products spell disaster? I had been curious about Bumble & Bumble for a while–as a prestigious professional brand not sold in my salon supplier, I always wondered about the quality of the line. When the KloutPerks box showed up on my doorstep, I was incredibly glad I took the chance.

I was expecting little foil packets with maybe two good applications of product, but Klout and Bumble & Bumble sent full sizes of not only the new Color Minded shampoo, but also the UV Protective Styling Balm and Polish. The line also has a corresponding conditioner, which was not part of the Klout Perk, but can be purchased at Sephora, Bloomingdale’s, or Bumble & Bumble salons.

The Color Minded Shampoo boasts a sulfate-free formula and gentle-cleansing action, both buzzwords in the current haircare market. According to the bottle itself, it promises clean hair without colour washout or fading while preserving shine. If I had a dime for every shampoo I’ve used that made the same claims, well, I’d probably have enough dimes to buy this product at retail value (that’s 290 dimes, by the way). The ingredients all checked out: aside from the sulfate-free cleansers, it has components to adjust hair’s pH and seal in colour during the washing process. The texture is pleasant and lathers nicely, both chief complaints I hear from people switching to sulfate-free formulas, and the scent is light and clean. When used in my hair, it did not tangle, pull, or leave my hair feeling “squeaky”–all things I’m particularly conscious of before conditioning. I began testing this product after coloring my hair with a demipermanent formula to start with a fresh slate: I noticed that the lather initially took on the orange-pink cast of my colour, but after that first wash the lather remained clear.

I followed the shampoo with conditioners I had on hand since I did not have the corresponding conditioner to test, but used the Color Minded UV Protective Styling Balm as a leave-in conditioner in my clean, damp hair. Formulated with proteins, humectants, and even a few hair-stimulating ingredients, this is a very thick preparation with a texture like sour cream or greek yogurt. A dollop about the side of a nickel is enough to work into my not-quite-bob-length hair.

After blow-drying, I used a pump of the Color Minded UV Protective Polish to seal out environmental damage to my colour and keep my hair shiny. I was taken off-guard by how light this polish was compared to most other silicone-based shine serums: rather than the super-viscous goop that many brands produce, this polish is almost runny by comparison and applied correctly (rubbed between the palms and dispersed into the hair beginning at the ends), it will not weigh down fine strands or look greasy.

The following shows my freshly-coloured hair alongside my hair after about five shampoos (four weeks) using the Color Minded system, first in direct natural light, then indirect.

As you can see, the fading is minimal. Previously, my colour would fade to a shade more pink than red just days after coloring between washing, styling, and simple environmental factors. Even friends and colleagues have noted the difference (and trust me, hairstylists notice every little change in a person’s hair). Honestly, I really wanted to hate these products–since Bumble and Bumble appears to be privately distributed, my only hope of getting them wholesale would be working a Bumble salon–but I can’t. They’re wonderful, well-formulated, and do exactly what they say. I might be able to get professional grade shampoo for less than $7, but I would definitely consider spending the $29 retail for more Color Minded shampoo when I run out. The Styling Balm and Polish each retail at $28, and great for summer styling when the sun noticeably leaches colour.

Take In Your Memories: Innocent+Twisted Alchemy’s Endless Rain Collection

It’s no secret that I’m incredibly impressed with Innocent + Twisted Alchemy‘s branding: owner Linda not only makes incredibly pretty, unique colours, but also draws her own logo and marketing images. Shopping her store is fun and interesting because of all the personal touches she adds to her products. When she released her new line of shadows, I knew there was no way I could resist.

With labels designed by another talented artist, Strawberry MilkMade, the collection of eight new shadows bears the name of one of my favourite X Japan songs, Endless Rain. That alone would have sold me–I never pass up the chance to wear a song on my eyes, much less one so nostalgic for me. I picked up the full collection, each one contained in a beautifully labeled 5g jar, packed full without a sifter. The following swatches are over Darling Girl’s Glitter Glue in direct sunlight.

Weed Whacker is an “olive with gold and blue shimmers.” The base is most definitely a rich olive green, full of bright gold and light blue sparkle.

Sleepwalking Pastorals is described as a “warm green with a subtle golden duochrome and sprinkles of blue sparkles.” Next to Weed Whacker, it appears a bit cooler and more blue though I can’t quite tell if that’s because of the base or the quantity of blue sparkle. On its own, the gold shift can cause it to appear a bit more olive in tone.

The title shade, Endless Rain, is a “soft metallic teal with a green sheen with sprinklings of white sparkles” and truly a beautiful shade. The teal-y base has a lovely aqua shift and glitters like raindrops when the light hits the white sparks. It’s every bit the colour I would imagine the song to be.

Needs More Lace, a “medium purple with a blue duochrome and aqua sparkles,” gave me a hard time on camera. I think it showed up fairly accurately in direct light, but the blue shift in this shade can make it appear much darker on camera than it is. The base is a lovely dusty blue-based violet, made even cooler by the blue shift. The sparkles in this shade are more subtle than in any other colour in this collection.

Cold Grace is an interesting shade. Described as a “purple that has a red undertone with blue shimmers and sprinkles of fuchsia sparkles,” it almost appears pink at times. The violet base has a strong red tone that almost pulls fuchsia, though the blue shimmer keeps it looking distinctly purple when it kicks in. I feel like I see some gold sparkle to it, but it could be the way the light catches the fuchsia spark.

Lavish Lollipops, a “mauve pink that has a lavender undertone with a strong gold duochrome and gold shimmer,” is an unexpected favourite of the collection. With a rosy, cool pink base and very distinct gold shimmer, this makes an excellent base colour for so many looks. It’s incredibly versatile.

1000 Cherry Trees is, quite simply, a “pale, frosted pink.” Such a pale pink that it almost seems white, this is an excellent highlight. Used lightly, it’s a natural-looking glow. Layered over a tacky primer, it’s a bright, opaque shimmer. The owner mentioned on her blog that this colour was originally part of a trio for a co-worker’s wedding and I simply cannot imagine a more appropriate bridal shade.

Velvet Tears is a truly amazing colour. Described as a “warm red with green, turquoise, and blue shimmers,” this shade was meant to be an eyeshadow version of Lipstick Queen’s Monarch. I don’t have the lipstick to compare it to, but this shade appears to me to have more of a brown-toned berry base, though perhaps it is the result of the ultra-cool shimmer. It’s nearly impossible to capture the amazing variation of colour in the shimmer with my prehistoric camera.

Innocent + Twisted is currently on hiatus, but when they’re back I would definitely recommend grabbing any of these shades that strike you. My personal favourites are Lavish Lollipops, Velvet Tears, and the eponymous Endless Rain.