Monday, 27 January 2014

NAIL TUTORIAL: The Mermaid Mani

Mermaids always mystified me as a little girl. I loved Disney's The Little Mermaid (and its sequel...), how they had fish friends and could sing underwater. Once I tried and, well, you can imagine how that turned out!

Regardless, even though I have two legs and not a scaly tail, straight hair that doesn't flow with the waves and don't have a flounder best friend, I still wanted to get my mermaid on this summer. So I created this nail look!

As Sebastian the crab once sung, "Just look at the world around you, right here on the ocean floor. Such wonderful things surround you, what more is you lookin' for? Under the sea, under the sea!" (I'll bet that you were singing along as you read that!)

So take it from our crustacean friend and add a little sea style into your look with my mermaid nail tutorial. It looks complicated, but I promise that it's easier than it looks. All you need are a bunch of ocean-coloured polishes and a nail art pen (and about an hour), and you're set to swim!

Taken By Surprise Tutorial: The Mermaid Mani

Let's get started with the scales first!

Now to decorate that accent finger!

Then just add a generous layer of your favourite clear topcoat to seal in the colour and you're done!

The giveaway to celebrate Taken By Surprise passing 200k page views is coming soon, so keep your eyes peeled! Would you rather have the chance to win a bunch of beauty products or a one-of-a-kind headpiece from CrownedByFlowers? Let me know in the comments below!

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Night Skincare Routine & Recommended Products (Combination Skin)

Combination skin can be a tricky one. One day you've got dry cheeks and the next your T-zone is oily enough to cook a morning-after breakfast with (sorry for the visual!). Which means that the products in your skincare routine need to work together to both hydrate and keep oil at bay.

Even if you don't have a stellar morning routine *coughlikemyselfcough*, if you maintain a good skincare regime at night, you'll find that you'll be just fine. It's more important to look after your skin while you're sleeping, because it's while you're catching a few z's that your skin cells regenerate.

So what steps do I do and products do I use before bedtime every night to maintain healthy skin? Read on!

Taken By Surprise Tutorial: Night Skincare Routine

1. Removing Face Makeup

I know that these say they're for normal skin, but since we're working with combination skin, we'll be needing a combination of products, from normal, to dry, to oily, to sensitive! These have been a staple in my skincare routine since high school (a good three years ago now) and do a great job of removing all of my base makeup, such as foundation, blush, bronzer, etc. 

These are also gentle enough to use to remove my mascara and liquid eyeliner. If you're too tired for a full skincare routine, at least enlist the help of these lifesavers!

1.5. If Necessary: Removing Eye Makeup

This stuff is amazing–but expensive–so I only use it to remove eye makeup. I usually just stick to the makeup wipes above for my day-to-day eye makeup, but if I've gone for a complicated look with lots of different eyeshadows and thick mascara, then the Bioderma comes out! 

I just dampen a cotton pad with it and hold the pad to my closed eyelid for about 20 seconds, then gently wipe off my makeup. It doesn't irritate my eyes (a plus because I wear contact lenses!) or make the skin around it red/puffy, so it's a winner for me.

2. In The Shower: Cleansing

Yes, I'm one of those people who cleanse in the shower rather than over the sink! As long as the water isn't blasting directly on your face (try cupping your hands to collect the water then splashing it on your face), it won't damage your skin. 

As for what I use, I prefer a gel cleanser as I've found from experience that they are better at fighting blemishes than other formulations. I just use a small coin sized amount, massage it into my skin (avoiding the eye area!) and then rinse it off.

3. In The Shower: Exfoliating

You either love or hate this stuff. I'm a lover, for sure, and have been using St. Ives scrubs for a few years now. After cleansing, just gently massage a small amount (maybe a big blueberry sized dollop?) into any areas on your face that are rough, dry or feel congested (such as your T-Zone). The little granules in the scrub help buff away any dead skin or built up dirt on your face, leaving it smooth afterwards. 

The key here is to only use this baby every three or so days (unless you have a dry patch that just needs buffing, which this scrub is amazing for!) and to apply it in gentle circles in your skin. No harsh rubbing!

4. Toning/Refreshing

Juju Cosmetics Aquamoist Moisture Lotion
(I couldn't find a link, but try Asian cosmetic stores–especially Japanese ones)
Some people are divided on the benefits of toning, but I definitely think it's a great step to include in your night time skin routine. They help hydrate your skin and even out your skin tone (perfect for combo skin!) and afterwards you'll feel really fresh. 

I just use some folded tissues or a cotton pad, dampen it with the toner and apply it to my face, neck and upper decolletage. This lotion by Aquamoist is really gentle (stay away from toners that contain alcohol as they dry out your skin and give it that awful 'tight' feeling!) and just makes my skin feel amazing after using it.

5. Moisturising

Japan is known for their incredible skincare products and this does not disappoint (if anything, it impresses me every time I use it!). In winter, my skin went a little loco and began changing from an oily skin type to a combination skin type (hello dry patches, ugh). I tried a whole bunch of other moisturisers to try and fix the problem, but nothing worked. Then my cousin gave me this moisturiser (along with the toner above–thank you Jasminne!) and it pretty much changed my life–dry patches, gone! 

If you're having trouble with dry areas, try a 'milk' formulation of moisturiser rather than a rich cream. Thick moisturisers tend to stay on top of the skin, while a thinner one will penetrate the surface and hydrate your skin much faster.

These are the moisturisers that I tried when I was trying to fix my dry skin... I'm sure they're all good in their own ways (I used to swear by the Nivea Visage Young one!), but they just weren't hydrating enough for my–now–combination skin.

Yes, that first one is a moisturiser formulated for babies! I was willing to try anything haha

6. Taking Care Of Your Eyes

If there's one thing that you take away from this entire post, it's to start using an eye cream. It's not just for your mum! I really recommend starting to use an eye cream once you turn twenty, because it's never too early to look after that delicate area. The skin around our eyes is very thin and doesn't 'bounce back' like the skin on the rest of our body does, so if you're constantly rubbing your eyes or applying eye makeup on a regular basis, you need to protect those peepers! 

Eye creams aren't as expensive as you think either, I picked this one up for around five dollars and it does a fab job of keeping my eye area bright. Just use a tiny (think the size of a grain of rice) amount and apply it to your under eye area with your ring finger and a patting motion, and to the outer corner of your eyes where the skin crinkles when you smile. 

What does your night time skincare routine consist of? Let me know in the comments below!

Monday, 13 January 2014

Sydney Shopping Haul

Now that the holidays are coming to a close (why can't holidays go on forever, seriously) I managed to cram in a little trip to Sydney last week with my family. And gosh, I really fell in love with the place! 

It's been a longtime dream of mine to one day be living and working in Sydney in beauty and fashion journalism, and this trip just made me want that dream to come true even more. *Sigh* One day.

In the meantime, I headed to some of Sydney's famous shopping spots like Pitt St Mall, Midtown, The Strand and the Queen Victoria Building and I picked up a few lovely keepsakes to bring home. Best part? All of the sales were still on! #forgetfashionista #justcallmeabargainista

Stay tuned to the end of the post to see some of my snaps from the trip and for now we'll jump straight into what  I picked up while I was away!

Leopard Moto High Waisted Shorts - Topshop ($32 from $64)
I have a huge love affair with high waisted shorts, but I've especially been on the lookout for a pair that are proper high, as in, actually come up to my belly button. These gorgeous ones do just that. They are the comfiest things ever and are still modest (no unsightly butt cheek hanging out!) and if you're a frequent reader of my blog, then you'll know that I have a soft spot for hints of leopard print. And that colour! It's only just started to feel like summer here in Melbourne (taking your time much, it's already the middle of January!) so I know I'm going to wear these out.

Ember Split Maxi - Topshop ($70 from $140)
This skirt. This skirt. Can we just take a moment to admire this? It's a sheer maxi with a mini skirt underneath and the material is has the most gorgeous, delicate, feminine pattern I have ever seen. I have no idea why this was in the sale section because it is absolutely beautiful. It'll be perfect for summer nights and I can also picture it with lace-up boots, a floppy hat and a leather jacket when autumn comes around. 

Black Chiffon Knee Dress - Piper Lane ($25 from $150)
Okay, can we just talk about how ridiculously rad the discount on this dress was? Piper Lane is a gorgeous local designer boutique in Sydney and I'm assuming they were making room for new season stock and that's the cause of the drastic drop in price. This dress definitely looks better on because then you can clearly see the mesh cutouts along the waist. It also has a very subtle fishtail effect thanks to the mesh material around the fitted skirt. Designer piece for $25? Yes please!

Gorman has always been one of those brands where I just admired their pieces from afar. They're a tad exxy for my wallet, so when I saw that they were having a sale, I figured I'd just treat myself to something small. These socks are just so cool and will look awesome peeking out from boots or worn with jelly shoes (yes, socks and sandals, trust me!). And again, they're leopard print. Need I say more?

And the leopard print continues! My old skinny belt that I used to wear with my high waisted jeans has become a bit worn and torn, so this is literally a replacement. I love that it's the perfect length for me too; I used to have to blu tack the excess belt so it wouldn't be swinging around as it wasn't long enough to go into the next jean loop! 

If you don't know already, I make floral headpieces and sell them in my Etsy shop CrownedByFlowers. I like it when I order things online and they arrive to me wrapped up all lovely and pretty, so I like to do the same! My old sticker book is running out of nice seals to wrap my headpieces with, so I just bought a new one.

I know $35 might seem a bit excessive for tea, but this isn't just tea! Matcha is the traditional form of green tea in Japan, mainly used during tea ceremonies. I absolutely adored it when I was in Japan a few years ago, so the price was definitely worth reliving that amazing experience. If you ever get the chance to try Matcha, please do!

I've had my eye on this at work for a while, but they sold out quicker than I could get one for myself. So after seeing it at the Pitt St Sportsgirl, I made sure to buy one! Now that I've started driving (late bloomer, I know) this will make my trips really convenient. Have you ever tried to knock back a drink while you're driving? It's really difficult (and dangerous!) so I was pretty happy to find there are still some of these left.

The Polish Pen in "Black", "White", "Silver" and "Pink" 
- Sportsgirl ($0.65 - $2.06 from $8.95)
I first got to try these pens at the I Scream Nails event at Sportsgirl and was pretty impressed! When I saw that the full range was on sale, I made sure to pick up a few colours. To use them, basically you just press the tip of the pen against some paper a few times to release the colour, and then you just draw to your heart's content. Look out for them in a future nail art tutorial!

I tend to keep to powder eyeshadows rather than cremes, but this beautiful mint green from the new Essence collection was too gorgeous to pass up. It's not super pigmented, but it does create a soft wash of shimmer to the eyelids which is a lovely low key way to dress up your eyes. 

When they say 'sparkling effect', they really do mean it! This eyeshadow is crazy shiny and creates a stunning metallic eye effect. I'm a little unsure of its staying power (a little skeptical of an eyeshadow that costs less than $3!), but we'll see. I can always use this as an inner corner highlight. It was just too gorgeous to pass up!

I've heard a few good things about this mascara and so far it hasn't disappointed! I wear winged eyeliner pretty much every day because my eyelashes are short and straight and wearing liner helps to make them look thicker and fuller. But the other day I wanted a natural, low key look without liner, so I reached for this mascara and I was so surprised at how much it lifted my lashes! No clumping, no smudging and no flaking - how's that for a five dollar product! Very impressed.

That's it for the haul! I'll leave off with a few snaps from the trip...
Feel free to follow me (@hijessicaanne) on Instagram if you would like for more shots like these!

Top Left - Casually coordinating my outfit with a wall at Topshop
Bottom Left - Debuting my new favourite pair of pants from Finders Keepers
Centre - At Circular Quay with the Sydney Harbour Bridge
Top Right - The best coffee of the trip at Bon Bon Fine Chocolate
Botton Right - The famous floating birdcages at Angel Place
While I won't give much away just yet, there will be some fashion look book posts featuring some beautiful designers coming soon! Plus some fun new beauty tutorials, so do keep a look out for them!

Do you have any post requests? Please do let me know in the comments below and I'll do my best to accommodate!

Monday, 6 January 2014

An Exciting Announcement!

Something very exciting happened over New Years (and it wasn't just the beginning of 2014!). Taken By Surprise passed 200,000 pageviews!!

Is this for real? It feels like only yesterday that I was starting up Taken By Surprise and now, almost three years later, it's sitting at a massive 200K views. It still hasn't sunk in.


Please do excuse me as I pick my jaw up off the floor.

Thank you so, so much everyone!

To celebrate, I will be hosting a giveaway very soon to thank you guys. I'm still deciding what the prize should be, so help a lady out! Let me know in the comments if you would rather have the chance to win a one of a kind handmade headpiece from my Etsy store, CrownedByFlowers, or a bundle of rad beauty products!

If you would like to share the Taken By Surprise love, please do feel free to like my blog on Facebook for special updates. I'm also on Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest, so if you'd like to send me some love there, leave me a message/comment/post/whatever saying that this blog post sent you and a link to your blog/social media and I'll be sure to pay you a visit!

Thank you so much again and I'm looking forward to finding out what you guys would like the chance to win!


Thursday, 2 January 2014

Favourite Makeup Products of 2013

Happy New Year!

I hope you all had a wonderful time bringing in 2014 and are pumped and ready for the new year. I've noticed that over 2013 there have been a few makeup products (maybe more than a few!) that have been faithful favourites all year long. Whether it be their impressive pigmentation, their amazing lasting power or their reliability, all of the products on this list have thoroughly impressed me.

The following beauty items have been on high rotation in my makeup bag and many of them are repurchases–and I can definitely see myself using them well into 2014 and beyond!

So without further ado, here are the makeup products that have earned their place as my top beauty essentials for 2013.

Best Face Forward

I never used to wear primer (except at night for special events), but after trying this amazing one that I got free from a deal TheBalm were running earlier this year, it has become a regular fixture in my beauty routine. It makes my skin feel super soft and smooth, fills in any pores or fine lines, and my foundation glides on when I use it. I've nearly finished this tube and I'm trying to get every last bit of it out–for $35, it's a bit exxy! But trust me, it's worth every cent.

Oh my goodness, the love I have for this foundation. For those of you who caught my best of 2012 beauty products post, you'll remember that the Match Perfection made it onto that list as well. It's just an amazing all rounder, it goes on smoothly, lets my skin breathe, is lightweight but still has great medium coverage and can be layered without streaking for a fuller coverage look. 

This foundation gets a bit of a hard time compared to the Colorstay, but this one is a winner for me! It's a heavier foundation with medium to full coverage, so it's great when my skin is chucking a bit of a hissy fit and looking a bit red in places. I normally use this at night time as well, as the foundation doesn't give my skin a white cast under a camera flash. 

It's Not That Complex-ion

Estee Lauder Trio - Silky Powder Blush in "11 Nude Rose", Soft Matte Bronzer in "Bronze Goddess" and Shimmer Powder in "01 Gold Pearl" (Trio no longer available)
This trio was actually bought by my mum a while back and after barely using it, she gave it to me. Thinking it was a more "mature" makeup product, I didn't use it for the longest time until I needed a bronzer without any shimmer in it (which is pretty difficult to find!) and fell in love with it. I swirl my brush in the blush and the bronzer to create my own shade, which works as both a blush and contour powder for my cheeks.

This highlighting cream is so subtle and lovely (no disco ball cheekbones!) and is really easy to apply. The smooth formula glides on, blends really well and looks really natural. Want the whole glowing skin thing? This is the best highlighter I've come across so far (bar Benefit's High Beam, but this is much cheaper!).

I bought this after hearing all the hype about it on YouTube, and trust me, it is worth the hype! When you first apply it, it will look ridiculously light against your skin, but it blends really well and is absolutely amazing at brightening up the under eye area.

I've repurchased this product at least four times now after buying it for the first time last year and I am yet to find a concealer that I like more. It covers redness and blemishes really well but doesn't feel heavy at all on the skin. I often take this in my bag when I go out for touch ups, but I rarely need to as the lasting power of this stuff is pretty impressive. 

Eyes On You

This is seriously an incredible dupe for the Benefit Brow Zings and it's just over $10! This handy little palette comes with a brow wax and powder, a little angled brush and mini tweezers. It's super easy to use, creates a natural brow look and stays all day (and longer!). After being a brow pencil sort of girl, this has literally changed my life one brow at a time! (Seriously, go get this, it's amazing).

As you can probably see from the picture, I've hit pan on all four of the little champagne gold shadow areas, and with good reason. It is my absolute favourite shade to highlight my inner corners with. I do use the other colours in the palette on occasion too, to create a daytime smokey eye, but that gorgeous gold shade is used almost everyday. 

When I couldn't be bothered with doing a full eyeshadow look but still wanted a little shine to my eyes, I would always reach for this gorgeous cream shadow. I'd literally just blend it over my eyelids and along my lower lash line with my ringer fingertip and everything would be peachy! Plus the actual colour itself is a stunning metallic bronze that looks amazing under the light. No fuss makeup? Yes please!

For those of you that follow my blog, I'm a massive fan of the winged eyeliner look (and by massive, I mean I wear it pretty much everyday!) and after all of the liners I've tried, this is so far my top pick. It does tend to smudge a tiny bit after a few hours of wear onto my lower lash line, but it's nothing a quick touch up can't fix.

Having the short, straight lashes that I do, this mascara does a pretty good job of making it look like, yes, I do have eyelashes. The small, tapered wand gets every little lash and I can easily coat the tops of my lashes without getting any mascara on my eyelid, which is a win for me!

Lip Sync

I've pretty much tried all of the flavours in the Baby Lips range (and used them all up to the end!) and this is the one that I'm currently using. I just keep it in my bag for easy access and it does a great job of keeping my lips soft and smooth. Plus it smells delicious and this particular one actually gives my lips a subtle red stain, which is an awesomely low maintenance look.

Rimmel London Colour Show Off Lipstick in "030 Tell No One" (Discontinued)
 I bought this when it was just about to be discontinued and I'm kind of disappointed that you can't get it anymore. It's a gorgeous soft orange colour and has a semi-matte/satin finish. It's really hard for me to find orange-toned lip colours that suit me, so here's hoping that this one lasts!

For the days when I want a pop of colour but don't want a classic red, this bright orange-red is an awesome alternative. It looks fab with winged liner and an all black and white outfit paired with gold accessories. Plus it's a matte colour, which looks super chic.

This is such a beautiful old school red, it's deeper than your standard fire engine red and a whole lot classier (though I still adore my fire engine reds!). It just has that Old Hollywood feel to it, you know? This baby glides on and has a gorgeous semi-matte finish. Plus it's pretty no fuss for a matte lippy, I can pretty much pop it on and not need to reapply for hours.

If you don't have this in your life already (um, what are you doing?) then you need to get one of these, quick sticks! This is the most amazing matte lip lacquer I have ever popped on my pout and the lasting power is ridiculously good. I don't need to praise this anymore, get one and see for yourself.

For me, this is that perfect "my lips but better" shade. It's a lovely mauve-y pink that goes on like a lipgloss but has the pigmentation of a lipstick. You do need a bit of patience to apply it though and you'll definitely need a mirror. But the doe-foot applicator does make the process super easy.

This is probably the prettiest pink lip colour I've ever used. It looks like a Barbie pink, but it's much more subtle on and creates a lovely, feminine and innocent-looking pink lip. Plus the stain lasts all day and you can apply it like a lip balm (no mirror or precision required!).

What products did you love using this year? Let me know in the comments below!
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