June 28, 2019

My Impromptu Trip to NYC! – A Photo Journal

Arriving with no particular plan in mind and completely unannounced, I had the fun opportunity to surprise my family with an impromptu trip to NYC last week!

The main hope for my quick visit was to spend as much time as possible with my grandma and aunt who were visiting the States from Korea and also my parents who live in Manhattan.

With only a handful of days in NYC, I was able to fit in quality family time, a couple touristy sites, and an hour or two sprinkled throughout the week to revisit old favorite spots near Lincoln Center. Although I'm a little sad I didn't have time to catch up with all of my good friends in Manhattan, I came back to Florida refreshed, inspired, and re-energized. 

Here's my week from the Big Apple!

First things first, a lunch date in K-town with Papa Bear. The best way to kick off a visit!




Back to my ol' stomping grounds @ the Juilliard Dance Studios


Met an adorable 8 week old puppy @this.is.golden.walter
and a bulldog on a skateboard



Incredible dressing rooms at Aritzia

To buy or not to buy... Warby Parker's "Lindley" frames



– FINI –

All images © 2019 Grace Song Photography

Honest Beauty's "Get It Together" Eyeshadow Palette – Review & Swatch

A couple months back, I was on the search to swap out my conventional eyeshadow palette by Tarte with an option without talc in its formula. When I discovered Honest Beauty's budget friendly eyeshadow palette "made without Parabens, Paraffins, Talc, Mineral Oil, Silicones, Petrolatum," with ten beautiful shade offerings, I couldn't wait to get my hands on one!

In case you're pressed for time, my 10 SECOND review is this:

Honest Beauty's "Get It Together" Eyeshadow Palette is a lovely palette with 10 useful and flexible shades in the warm brown and neutral purple tones along with a dramatic copper and smoky black for an upgraded evening look. The colors are flattering, the shades are long wearing, and for only $20 a pop, this is a wonderfully accessible and fairly priced eyeshadow option in the clean beauty world. But, as is true for most cosmetic products, this palette is not perfect... The formula is a little powdery and tends to have some fallout upon application and the colors can sometimes cling to the lids and cause patchiness. The good news is that the clumping issue can be avoided with some tricks and tips that I've shared throughout this review!

I've had Honest Beauty's "Get It Together" Eyeshadow Palette in my makeup rotation for about three months now. My first impression, if I remember correctly, was a fairly good one. Yes, the formula seemed a little dusty but the drug-store price at $20, the 10 shade color selection, and the non-toxicity of the ingredients allowed me to overlook the slight lack in its performance.

I recently brought this particular palette on a week long trip to NYC and had an opportunity to really get to know it well. I needed a palette that could be flexible in its usage – a brown shade for contouring, a highly pigmented black to use in lieu of a pencil eyeliner, a shimmery shade for highlighter, and a variety of neutral to dramatic shades to take me from daytime to evening looks. This palette, at first, seemed to check all the marks. I also liked the lightweight, sturdy and compact packaging for traveling and appreciated the bonus built in mirror.

Well... here are my thoughts on the palette, post-trip.

Let's get into the details:

CLUMPING – The clumping personality of this powder during application can, at times, be frustrating. Even when my lids are primed/prepped and even after I carefully tap off the excess powder and even brush some of the pigment off on the back of my hands, where I place the brush on my skin first is where a lot of the color ends up.

This results in some splotchiness of color that is less apparent with the three light-ish shades on the top row [Soft Bronze, Iced Cotton, Matte Plum] but noticeable with the four darker shades in the second row [Gilded Mauve, Sunlit Copper, Burnt Mocha, Chromed Petal]. With an experienced and strategic hand, putting the brush down on the lid exactly where you want it, this might be something that could be worked around. Also, mixing in a little bit of the beige shade on the bottom left corner with the darker shades made it easier to blend out some of the patchiness.

Unfortunately, contouring down my nose bridge with the matte brown shade "Burnt Mocha" was difficult because of this clumping issue.

FALLOUT – The dusty nature of the powder made a bit of a mess during transport [thankfully, I thought of this and placed the palette in a ziplock bag before traveling]. And the dustiness led to some fallout during application, sometimes leaving tiny specks of eyeshadow on my cheeks or glitter around my eyes. Personally, although I would hope that a pressed powder formulas would be a bit more smoother, and more velvety, I can usually find ways to work around the dustiness. One way is to add a little water to the eyeshadow brush before dipping into the palette. And if you're looking for a flawless application, I would recommend applying eyeshadow first before foundation so that you can clean up some of the fallout.


All in all, I like the curation of shades that are offered in the palette. The neutral and warm color story of this palette makes sense and seems inclusive of different ranges of skin tones. I love that it has a basic cream colored base shade and a good mix of flattering matte and shimmery shades to create a variety of looks. 

The pale luminous pink shade "Iced Cotton" works well to highlight the high points of my face, and "Chromed Petal" & "Magnetic Ink" comes in handy as an eyeliner.

Personally, since I have light-ish skin, I would have loved to see one or two more matte shades in a lighter color to be used either as a base or as a transition shade. 

Bottom photo[from left to right]: Soft Bronze, Iced Cotton, Matte Plum, Strobed Champagne, Gilded Mauve, Sunlit Copper, Brunt Mocha, Chromed Petal, Vanilla'd Velvet, Magnetic Ink


For only $20 for ten attractive and practical shades, Honest Beauty's "Get It Together" Eyeshadow Palette's is a steal in the current Clean Beauty Marketplace. Because of the formula's hard-to-blend tendencies and dark/rich pigmentation, I'd recommend this palette to more experienced make-up enthusiasts interested in broadening their non-toxic eyeshadow collection. But with that being said, once you get used to the personality of the powders, the colors are lovely, long lasting, and flexible enough for both a natural makeup look or a more dramatic, evening look.


In case you didn't know, Jessica Alba is the founder of Honest Beauty! Cool, right? I truly appreciate that Honest Beauty's lower price point makes Clean/Non-Toxic Beauty a possibility for a wider audience. This palette has definitely piqued my curiosity for the rest of Honest Beauty's cosmetic and skincare collection and I hope to experience and share more about their products in the near future!

Wishing you a BEAUTY-Full Day!


All images © 2019 Grace Song Photography


June 27, 2019

Beautycounter's Necessary Neutrals Eyeshadow Palette – Swatches & Review – Is it worth $89 and Is Talc Safe?

Perhaps you're here because the Beautycounter's Necessary Neutrals Eyeshadow Palette has been bookmarked on your wish-list for a while and you're wondering if you should go ahead and press the "checkout" button.

Some thoughts you're having might be...

  • Is spending $89 for an eyeshadow palette a wise purchase? 
  • Will the color range be right for me? 
  • Or – if you're a clean beauty enthusiast – is Talc in a powder product safe? 
  • And are there other clean/nontoxic eyeshadow options in my price range?

Well, welcome to Beauty Cleanse! You're in the right place! Hopefully my honest and in-depth testimonies as a clean beauty blogger and as a fellow consumer will help you to either purchase wholeheartedly or to pass with no future regrets on Beautycounter's Necessary Neutrals Eyeshadow Palette. Let's dive in!


If you're pressed for time and don't want to get into the nitty gritty, here's my quick 2 cents on this palette. I do have some reservations, but all in all, I like it – a lot. If you have the resources to spend $90 on eyeshadow, I'd say this is one of the best options in the clean marketplace as of now. [I say "one of the best" because I'm currently testing a drug-store level palette that works fairly well for only $20] If you're wanting a palette to create a natural/everyday eyeshadow look, this is it. The pretty color selections, the velvety performance, and the multi-functionality of this palette is definitely worth your consideration.

Personally, I've been searching in the Clean Beauty Marketplace for an all-encompassing eyeshadow palette for months now. For the last year and a half, my tried and true eyeshadow palette for daily wear has been Tarte's Tartelette Amazonian Clay Matte Eyeshadow Palette. My review from a year ago still holds true – I still LOVE the layout, color selection, and the flawless performance of the Tartelette Palette. I knew, when it came time to replace this palette, it would not be easy. The biggest reason for replacing the Tartelette palette was the presence of Talc in most all of Tarte's powder products and my hope was to find a cleaner eyeshadow option that would encompass all of the wonderful characteristics of the Tartelette palette.

Here's a list of attributes I appreciated in the Tartelette Palette [pictured above] and the features that I was hoping to maintain in a newly purchased replacement palette:

  • Tartelette's shade selections were all expertly organized in rows of warm/cool/neutral tones and from lightest to darkest – making for a very easy and logical eyeshadow application.
  • The palette included a cool toned brown shade [named "power player"] that was perfect for contouring and a deep & highly pigmented black [named "fashionista"] that worked incredibly well as eyeliner.
  • Because it was an all matte palette, the 2/3 of the colors could be used as a base shade and also as a transitional shade. And all of the colors were natural and subtle enough to use on a daily basis.
  • The powder glided onto the lids and layered well without clumping, and the pigmentation payoff was above average – you only needed to use a little bit of product for a pop of color.
  • There was little to no fallout upon application, no creasing on the lids, and long-lasting color performance for almost all-day-long coverage.

Beautycounter's Necessary Neutrals Eyeshadow Palette had been on my radar from the very beginning of my search. I can't say that I love how expensive most of Beautycounter's products are and I can't say that all of their cosmetic products have been a hit in my makeup drawer [for instance, I'm not a fan of their mascaras and eyebrow pencils], but I've had prior experience with Beautycounter's powder collection and have no complaints in terms of their performance. The only reason I hesitated to go forward with the purchase was the hefty price point [$$$] and the fact that Beautycounter's powder formulations also include Talc as a main ingredient. [more on Talc later...] In the end, after months of research, I circled back to where it all began and invested in the Necessary Neutrals Palette.

Here's my first hand experience and honest thoughts on the Necessary Neutrals Eyeshadow Palette, no strings attached.


Straight off the bat, let's talk about the elephant in the room – TALC.

Talc is a naturally occurring mineral that is used as an ingredient in many cosmetic powder products because, as one of the softest minerals out there, "it may be used to absorb moisture, to prevent caking, to make facial makeup opaque, or to improve the feel of a product." www.fda.gov

But a host of clean beauty brands pride themselves over the fact that their powder formulations are free of talc. What's going on here? What's wrong with talc?

According to cancer.com, "in its natural form, some talc contains asbestos, a substance known to cause cancers in and around the lungs when inhaled." And in case you missed it, "nearly 12,000 women have sued Johnson & Johnson, with most claiming the talc in its well-known product Johnson’s Baby Powder caused their ovarian cancer" and have been compensated $4.69 billion in damages. nytimes.com

Even the smallest amount of talc exposure, if contaminated by asbestos, is unsafe. Using talc is like playing with fire. And since the "F.D.A. does not test cosmetics for safety,... manufacturers and marketers are responsible for their safety." nytimes.com

So, when we purchase and use a product with talc, we are taking a HUGE leap of faith.

This is Beautycounter's response on their FAQ page [click on the photo for a full-screen view of the photo]

Do I still have some doubts about the talc in Beautycounter's products? Oh, YES. I think, in general, it is a wise consumer practice not to believe everything that you're told unless there's concrete proof. But at this point, I'm choosing to trust Beautycounter when they say that they are "testing on every batch of [their] talc using what [they] currently understand to be the most sensitive testing method and instrument."

Beautycounter's Necessary Neutrals Eyeshadow Palette List of Ingredients: Mica, Talc, Lauroyl Lysine, Boron Nitride, Cetearyl Dimethicone, Zinc Stearate, Silica, Magnesium Stearate, Methicone, Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter, Potassium Sorbate, Trimyristin, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Tocopheryl Acetate, Phenoxyethanol, Barium Sulfate, Triethoxycaprylylsilane, Tin Oxide.May Contain/Peut contenir (+/-): Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Iron Oxides (CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499), Ultramarines (CI 77007), Yellow 5 Lake (CI 19140), Red 40 Lake (CI 16035), Manganese Violet (CI 77742), Ferric Ferrocyanide (CI 77510)


$11 shy of $100 Yes, your eyes are not mistaken. This palette retails for $89, [please allow me to emphasize] eighty-nine dollars! In terms of pricing, even for the world of clean beauty cosmetics, which can be a bit more expensive than conventional cosmetics, this is one pricey product.

So why did I still buy the Necessary Neutrals Palette? Well, it did take some mulling over but here were my thoughts before pressing the "buy" button.

This palette expires in 2 years. I thought to myself, "if in fact this eyeshadow palette from Beautycounter fills all of my daily eye shadow/contour/eyeliner needs, I won't have to spend another dime on another eyeshadow products for the next 2 years." Since then, I've purchased a couple more palettes for reviewing purposes and I'd say, overall, the Beautycounter palette is still the best option in the all-encompassing category.

In terms of value, within this palette, you get a total of 18 shades. That's about $5 per color block. If you were to purchase individual eyeshadow products from a clean beauty brand like RMS Beauty, Alima Pure, or Han Skin Care Cosmetics, it would cost around $15 per shade.

Also, what helped in ultimately deciding on Beautycounter's Necessary Neutrals Eyeshadow Palette was my previous positive experience with Beautycounter's powder collection. I've had a chance to play around with the entire collection before its formal release and currently own the Classic Palette from Beautycounter. To be honest, if I knew in advance that Beautycounter would be launching their Necessary Neutrals Eyeshadow Palette four months after the release of their "All-Powder Collection," I might have considered holding off on spending $50 on their Classic Palette[...] but, all else being equal, I don't regret it that much. I still love the Classic Palette's warm color selections and wearing the shade "Penny" still makes me feel like a princess.


All of the colors are beautifully pigmented, with a good color payoff, and the powder formulation [perhaps thanks to the talc?] glides on smoothly without sticking to the skin and leaving clumps/streaks of color. The colors blend and layer well without getting too muddy and turning into a dirty brown when different shades are applied on top of one another. The pressed powder is not too dusty or too dense and there's almost no fallout.

I would recommend prepping the eyelids with a layer of concealer and translucent powder before going in with your light base shade for a smoother and longer lasting application.


In terms of layout and color organization, the warm undertones [toward the left] transition to more neutral & cooler undertones on the right. [click on the photo to read the color descriptions]

I have some praises and some reservations regarding Beautycounter's color selections.

Shade-wise, there are 7 matte shades [Flame, Clove, Suede, Smoke, Sable, Buff, Midnight] and 11 satin-y shades that range from lightly pearlescent to a dramatic frosty/iridescent finish.

Personally, I would have liked to see at least an even number of matte and shimmer shades. Matte eyeshadows, I find, are more useful because they can be used more frequently as a base and/or a transition shade. I do like a little glimmery reflection on the middle of the lid but, in general, an eye shadow look with too much of a satin-y finish can easily seem tacky.

Currently, "Buff" seems to be the only traditional base shade that works for my light skin. "Buff" seems to lean towards a cooler tone. As a gal with golden undertones, I wish they had included a beige base shade with a warm base. Currently, I mix "Buff" and "Suede" for a better match.

On a brighter note, I absolutely love a handful of the shades [Flame, Clove, Suede, Fog, Cava, Mist] as they are so unique and beautiful when applied on the eyelids. I honestly get excited every time I make an opportunity to use them.

I appreciate the multi-functionality of this palette. I've been applying the stark black, "Midnight" for eyeliner and eyebrows, "Smoke," a neutral grey-brown, as a contour shade, and "Slipper" as a highlighter.

Here is a swatching of the palette for your reference. FYI, I'm light skinned with yellow/golden undertones. I'm wearing Tint Skin No.2 underneath as foundation and have underexposed the photos a little bit so that the colors can be seen more easily.


The palette measures 7.5in wide, 5in long, 2/3in tall. It's about 2 times the size of my palms and feels big in my hand. Especially if the mirror is left in, it feels a little heavy too.

Instead of holding the palette in one hand while dipping the brush with the other, my palette permanently resides on my two-tiered marble server [pictured above]. With the bulkiness and heaviness, I wouldn't say that this is an ideal palette to travel with. I've shot a photo for your reference where you can see the size of the palette alongside a couple different tubes of lipsticks.


The palette is made of a stiff cardboard material and comes with a removable mirror. Due to its eco conscious and sustainable package design, the entire palette [the mirror removed] can be recycled. Although it's made of cardboard [and not in a sleek metal packaging like Kjaer Weis] the gold embossed Turkish-like design still gives the exterior a luxurious feel.

Beautycounter's Necessary Neutrals Palette also comes with a double ended eyeshadow brush made with "artistry-quality taklon fibers." The bristle tip seems slightly too dense to be used for smooth blending or for a feather light-weight application, but it works well in picking up the eyeshadow for adding pigment to the outer corner of the eyes.

If you're in need of eyeshadow brushes, I personally use a handful of EcoTools' Make-up Brush sets. They're budget and eco-friendly and they offer a variety of brushes for eyeshadow application. I have the Daily Defined Eye Kit [five eyeshadow brushes for only $8], Enhancing Eye Set [2 double sided eyeshdow brushes for $6] and the Start The Day Beautifully Kit [the blurring brush, defined crease brush and the angled liner].


All in all, even with my beauty budget painfully depleted, I don't regret this purchase, and I'm enjoying the versatility, functionality, and performance of these 18 shades. Beautycounter's Necessary Neutrals Eyeshadow Palette is really an all-encompassing palette that fits all of my daily makeup needs.

To show you these beautiful colors in action, I'm brewing up several different "looks" and can't wait to share those with you soon! Here's one that was inspired by pink spring blooms using some of the palette's cool purples and pinks!

Also, as promised, here are the other nontoxic powder eyeshadow options that were in serious consideration before I landed on Beautycounter's Necessary Neutrals Eyeshadow Palette. I've actually collected a couple of these other ones and am currently having fun experimenting with them. I'll be reviewing those in the next few weeks so check back soon!

Wishing you a BEAUTY-Full Day!


All images © 2019 Grace Song Photography

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