Category: Picon’s Hoard

The Search for Sunscreen

This post has been a long time coming! When I first started on this skincare journey, I struggled a lot with finding a good sunscreen that didn’t break me out. I grew up in a time when sunscreen was disgusting and not cosmetically elegant (See Labmuffin’s posts – she’s amazing). And getting older meant more sun-damage thanks to New Zealand’s harsh Sun. So! Enter my search!

I first started out hunting out sunscreens I had read about online when I was travelling overseas – even a couple of years ago the range in New Zealand was rather limited. I wanted something hardcore – like SPF 50 or PA+++++(as many pluses as possible!). Thankfully, we now get all the three I am reviewing here in my country.

A little bit of a caveat here: skin is a fickle beastie and so is anything you put on it. So please take my little review as a grain of salt.

All sunscreens have a cost/benefit trade-off.

First up is Anthelios XL by La Roche-Posay, second is Neutrogena Ultra Sheer fluid (found this in my local supermarket – New World), and last is Kiss Me Sunkiller Cool Perfect Strong (found in my local Japanese supermarket/store) (link given is not affiliated).

 tl;dr There are more cosmetically elegant sunscreen around – hunt around your local supermarket and pharmacy


The Gang: Anthelios XL, Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Fluid, and Sunkiller

La Roche-Posay Anthelios XL- ultra light

La Roche-Posay is one of those brands that is ‘science-y’ (yes I am writing that as a person with a PhD) – they have nice pictures of (actors posing) as dermatologists and their tag-line is ‘trusted by dermatologists. dedicated to sensitive skin’. I had heard nothing but good things about their sunscreen online so was excited to see it in New Zealand.


Cost? $$$

Rating? 50+ (UVB + UVA)

White cast? A little bit, not horrifically so and can be covered with foundation.

Cost/Benefit Tradeoff: It was first tacky but then dried down to a film that acted almost like a primer when I put my foundation on. You also have to shake it thoroughly.

Did it work for me? Sadly, my sensitive and dry skin reacted and within days I had redness and itchiness. I normally react to alcohol in sunscreens. It also, surprisingly, clogged my skin but that could be because I reacted to it.

Will it work for you? Probably! It was almost cosmetically elegant, although it was drying due to the alcohol (so might be good for oily skin) and a little perfumed. This is also a chemical sunscreen if you are after that sort of thing.

tl;dr Good if your skin handles alcohol and don’t mind a little bit of white-cast.

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer fluid

I don’t really feel like I need to introduce Neutrogena, its a well-known brand in supermarkets and some pharmacies. I like most of their products, especially their make up removal wipes. I am a little brand loyal to them, so decided to try out their sunscreen.


Cost? $

Rating? 50+

White cast? Oh dear yes and still made a difference after I put on foundation.

Cost/Benefit Tradeoff: Dries to a semi-matte finish and soaks up skin oil. This makes it rather drying and you will need a moisturizer underneath if you are not super oily. It also makes it a good primer for foundation (though I would rather use an actual primer).

Did it work for me? Again, I reacted after a couple of days and it was too drying for my dry and sensitive skin.

Will it work for you? Most likely – and its a cheaper version of the La Roche-Posay reviewed above. Again, avoid if you have super sensitive skin that is dry.

tl;dr A good average sunscreen you can find in the supermarket. Good if your skin can handle its drying effect.

Kiss Me Sunkiller Cool Perfect Strong

Nevermind the title sounds like the perfect man (NOTICE ME SENPAI!), this sunscreen was a winner for me. Let me tell you why!


Cost? $/$$ (it’s much cheaper online)

Rating? 50+ PA+++

White cast? A little bit but nothing after the dry-down.

Cost/Benefit Tradeoff: Dries to a semi-matte finish but…was not drying?! I couldn’t believe it. This is the cooling version for summer and since then I have used the normal Perfect Strong version too. Very light and non-greasy!

Did it work for me? Yes! Even acted as a type of primer and make my foundation look smoother. Even on days without foundation, it dried down to an almost skin finish and I didn’t feel like I was wearing anything. I was gob-smacked.

Will it work for you? Yes! But again, it is a bit drying so be sure to use a moisturizer if you have dry skin. This ‘cooling’ version has more alcohol than the other versions, so have a look for the normal Perfect Strong.

tl;dr Fantastic sunscreen! A winner for me. Non-irritating and dried down nicely to a semi-matte finish. Look for the normal Perfect Strong version if you want less alcohol and therefore less of a drying effect. 


So you can see, the Japanese sunscreen was a winner for me. What you don’t see is all the OTHER sunscreens I tried out as well, such as:

  • Biore UV Aqua Rich Water Essense SPF50+ PA+++
  • Neutrogena Sensitive Lotion SPF60
  • Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Dry Touch SPF 50
  • Nivea Sun Protect Plus UV Milky Essense SPF50+ PA++++
  • Nivea Light Feel Daily Face Veil SPF30
  • Mecca Cosmetica To Save Face Superscreen SPF50+ (I really wanted my skin to like this one!)

So it was a bit of an expensive exercise! I hope one day I will be able to find a sunscreen that doesn’t cost a lot of money and that I can find easily at the local supermarket – until then I am buying my Kiss Me Sunkiller Perfect Strong (*swoon*) from my local Japanese supermarket!

THE ORDINARY | affordable skincare – Part 2

Hello Lovelies,

Just like Sithru, things have been hectic! But it didn’t stop us spending money! Please pop over to Sithru’s post on The Ordinary skincare and what she thinks about them. She also has a handy explanation of who they are and their ethos.

We love skincare but it gets a bit difficult – especially when getting access to retinoids and its variations/derivations. I nearly bought Avene Ysthel+ Emulsion in desperation but baulked at its $60+ (NZD) price tag. I had been watching what beauty bloggers/posters had been saying about The Ordinary online for months and when a good friend of mine gifted me the Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2% (*phew*) I was hooked. Overall, I really like the brand and the products I have tried. You get so much ‘bang for your buck’ with their products and it has totally streamlined by skincare process (when I am not too lazy to do it…).

In this post I will share what I think of the Vit C suspension I mentioned before, the Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%, and the Retinol 1%.

Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%

Okay so we all know that Vitamin C does wonders for the skin, it brightens, helps with slight scarring from previous outbreaks, helps with stimulating collagen and isn’t photosensitizing like acids. Doesn’t it just sound amazing? Being in New Zealand, we have super harsh sunshine and I wanted something else other than slapping on inches of sunscreen and hoping any blemishes didn’t get worse.
I first started dabbling with Vit C by buying Vit C serums in little dropper bottles – but they weren’t stabilized and oxidised very quickly. It became a daily battle to guess when the serum had turned and was useless. They were costing me $25 NZD plus shipping to New Zealand. Then I moved onto Rotho Japan Merano CC Medicinal Stains Intensive Measures Essence  – yeah see, now that’s a long name! That was great but acted like a dry oil on the skin and was hard to find unless I ordered off Amazon (again around $25 NZD plus shipping). Then I discovered there were different types of Vit C and Ferulic Acid…it all got too expensive and dumped in the ‘too hard basket’ (yes I am lazy).

Enter my good friend, she gave me her The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2% because she said it had felt like her face was on fire when she used it and wondered if it would work better for me. That’s the one of the advantages of The Ordinary range, they are cheap enough that it doesn’t work it doesn’t hurt the wallet. I had read that some people found it too strong and other’s loved it. So, if you buy this, please patch-test! It is also gritty and smells weird – but the grittiness goes away when you rub it in and the smell – well I don’t wear it during the day so I got used to it quickly.

It’s also not like most other Vit C serums – I slap it on at night after cleansing my face. I know you can use Vit C to help with sun damage during the day, but I let my sunscreen do the heavy lifting with that. There are also other formulations with Vit C that The Ordinary has, so it is easy to pick and choose what works best.

So the verdict with using this serum? I love it. It didn’t feel like it was burning my face off! Yay! But as with most skincare – it’s “your mileage may vary”. It didn’t feel like it was burning because I think my skin is thicker than my friends (since I am desi and she has a delicate english rose complexion). It visibly reduced blemishes I got from using a new face-wash (yes my skin is that sensitive). To the point where Mr Picon was, “your face looks better, that stuff on your cheek is gone”. I started using retinoids (more on that later) and only now the serum tingles on my skin. When I get little breakouts from being stressed at work or eating badly (so all the time), I smother this all over my face at night and they are all nearly gone the next morning. I’ve been using this for more than three months now and it is definitely a staple. I was so impressed, I started adding their other products and plan on buying more.

tl;dr? Love it but expect it to be different from other serums you have tried

Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%

So why did I get an acid that sounds like a flower? Well for the first time, I thought I could have *gasp* have fun with my skincare! Because of The Ordinary’s price-point, I wanted to try products that had never met my cost-benefit analysis (*cough* *budget* cough*). I don’t have rosacea but I am wary of hyper-pigmentation so I thought I would give it a go.

Azelaic Acid is normally prescribed for rosacea sufferers since it is so good for reducing inflammation. It also apparently helps with keeping your pores unclogged (and so helps with preventing acne) and fading any hyper-pigmentation you already have. Apparently you can have side-effects like irritation, so patch-test first.

The Ordinary formula is smooth and not overly heavy. It doesn’t really smell of anything, unless you bring it right up to your nose – then it smells rather organic and like a plant (funny that). It spreads very nicely and covers a large amount of skin – you only need a little bit for your face. It leaves the skin soft to the touch and a little hydrated. When my skin is angry and irritated, I smear this all over my face at night (are you sensing a pattern here?) and the next morning, my face is a happy camper. I’ve been using it off and on for the last 3 months and it definitely helps with breakouts. I can’t see that it has reduced my hyper-pigmentation though – I might have to use it more religiously for that.

tl;dr? Strongly like – does it’s job and is nice to have. Reduced inflammation but haven’t seen it reduce any hyper-pigmentation.

Retinol 1% (Emulsion)

So I had tried to incorporate acids in my skincare routine for ages (and therefore a heavy duty sunscreen – that saga needs to be another post though). Let me put this here before I go further – if you use these, you need a heavy duty sunscreen. There is no point using these products and giving yourself more and possibly severe damage.

I have tried so many variations of AHAs, BHAs, and then wanted to move into retinoids/retinols. I didn’t want to go to an aesthetician because I was a poor PhD student and our budget just didn’t allow for that. I also used to smoke – yeah gross I know – and started to see the effects of smoking on my skin. So I decided to try the Retinol 1% – just to start off small and see if it worked. If it worked, I told myself I would then buy the Advanced Retinoid 2%.

So yeah, I am buying the 2% next. The Retinol 1% definitely worked on me! For years, I had been buying different over the counter products, dreaming about my face flaking off and revealing a beautiful me underneath…well it definitely flaked off (wasn’t beautiful though dammit) ! I am/was so happy! I applied it liberally at night and waited – two days later it started flaking. After, my skin felt tighter (not uncomfortably so) and a little bit more bouncy. You are supposed to use retinols/retinoids consistently for at least a couple of months before you see a difference. Consistently can vary for different people – I definitely could not use this every day or every other day – once a week is perfect for me. So again, patch-test and work out what is best for your skin. After being so happy with the flaking (I would clean off my flakes at night with a face cloth and warm water), I read that Advanced Retinoid 2% was gentler with flaking. I can imagine that those of you with more delicate skin than mine might find the Retinol 1% too harsh. The tagline on the packaging for the Advanced Retinoid 2% is also ‘A stable emulsion of next-generation forms of retinoid‘ – so yeah, I am totally trying that next.

tl;dr? Strongly like – lots of flaking and did its job wonderfully. Trying the Advanced Retinoid 2% next. (Wear sunscreen always).

So there you go – these products were totally worth it for me and I am excited to try more of their line! As long as you are aware of each products advantages and disadvantages, I feel like The Ordinary‘s skincare is perfect, for its price-point and range. As with Sithru, I am looking forward to blogging more about skincare and also fragrances in the coming months! A lot of my money has been given to Byredo and I’ve even expanded to some perfume oils here and there.

Nail polish 201: A brief history of indie & boutique nail polish


I have a massive nail polish hoard so my compulsive need to ‘collect them all’ abated after a few years. I had all the colors, finishes, glitter, holos I wanted. One thing that still keeps me interested are indie and boutique nail polishes (and the occasional Chanel release).


Yeah…look at that pile! See those bottles on the left right corner? Yup those were some of my first indies! Lilacquer Polish had an etsy and figured out how to do these amazing duo and multichrome toppers before it became mainstream. I loved them!

The next was Girly Bits ‘Shift Happens’ – her own rendition of Clarins 230 or ‘Unicorn Pee’. Apparently the pigment is super rare. The brand and e-tailer ILOVENP currently has a limited edition version which is out of stock called The Magician.

Some of the brands I loved have long since gone – like CultNails and Ozotics (who were rebranded into PicturePolish) – others are still going but don’t offer international shipping anymore like Rainbow Honey.

So the best thing to do? Use an e-tailer that stocks a bunch of indie and boutique brands. I love Femme Fatale cosmetics for this, I can still get my A-Englands! They are based in Australia but ship internationally thank goodness.


The bottle on the left is the current bottle for ILNP


This was a mani using ILNP’s Supernova – a multi-chrome flakie that leans blue and green and everything in between! This was with two coats and topcoat.

So what about New Zealand based nail polish makers? Well we have our very own  Nail Juice – so that’s a good place to start.

Nail polish 101: which base coat & top coat?

Hello! So before posting about my nail polish hoard, I thought I’d cover the basics: the basecoat and topcoat.

I’m a bit old school so I haven’t shifted over to UV gel or dip gel or any of the multitude array of more permanent solutions.

It was a frustrating (and expensive) process but I found a combo that works for my nails. If your nails are very bendy or flaky – dip gel might be best for you if you have a spare 45 mins and want them up to last 6 weeks.

So my combo is Revlon Colorstay Base Coat/ Gel-Smooth Base Coat and Essie Good to Go.

So…what’s the problem with this combo? Revlon a couple of years back discontinued their Color Stay Base Coat! They bought out a line of polishes called Gel Envy that had the basecoat already included in it instead.

But apparently a good replacement is Orly Bonder which you can get from Farmers NZ.

If you want to try something other than Essie, a good swap out is Sally Hansen Insta- Dri.

So choosing the best base coat/top coat (if you even want to use them) is based on a couple of things for me,

  • Does it work? I can get about a week without chipping with most polish brands/types with this combo.
  • Does it bubble? Not too much, but they all do when your fingers are too hot from the heat and humidity.
  • How shiny is it? Shiny! The base coat also acts as a nail ridge filler which helps.
  • How hard is it to apply? Well they can get gloopy – so I normally add a drop or two of some Orly Nail Lacquer thinner when that happens (which I also get at my local Farmers NZ).
  • Smell? They stink! But nail polish tends to have chemically smell anyway. It fades within an hour of application for me.
  • Brush? This made a difference for me in terms of frustration. I have a strong curve in my nails – they certainly don’t lie very flat!

The brush on the Revlon base coat is good for me because it covers a lot of surface area. It’s different from most because Revlon appeared to just have doubled up on a typical thin brush (?!). Weird but it works for me. Press harder and I get lots of coverage, flip it to the edge and I can get around the end of the nail without having to load my brush up.

The Essie Good to Go top coat has a thicker brush – a little thicker than the original ones thank goodness. It let’s me glide over the nail without having to do more strokes and run the risk of adding bubbles (never shake your nail polish – bubbles galore! If you have to, shake and leave for a 30 mins).

I’ve used a number of base coats and top coats over the years (like Seche Vite, OPI RapidDry, INM Out the Door) but because I’m in NZ, I found a combo that was easy for me to get a hold of. All three products are found in my local Farmers NZ (Albany in Auckland). Ranges can be regional so please check!

You can go without, but this combo helps me with staining and chipping. In the future I hope I can trial and post on the newer technologies in nail polish.

Hello, I’m Picon!

Hello, consider this my obligatory introductory post! Sithru kindly invited me to do the occasional guest post – so I guess you can expect to see some random thoughts on my ‘makeup hoard’.

Things to know about me:

  • I hoard pretty nail polish, fragrances, and eyeshadow
  • You might find I throw in some skincare stuff now and then
  • I will always link/tell you where I bought them
  • I am always non-affiliated
  • I am based in New Zealand and am of desi descent
    (around MAC: NW35 and 220 in the Maybelline Fit Me Foundation)

See you soon!