Sunday, July 23, 2017

Glow, Glow and More Glow

I first was introduced to Charlotte Tilbury Instant Look in a Palette in Beauty Glow in Alix's Current Everyday Makeup Routine. Initially, I didn't think much of it, given it seemed like another beautiful but expensive makeup item that was beyond my buying capacity. But as I was lying in bed one night, I recalled how gorgeous it was and googled it out of curiosity. To my surprise, I discovered it for a not too outrageous price on NET-A-PORTER. For whatever reason, it was discounted by 20% and the pound to Australian dollar conversion (minus UK sales tax) ended up being more favourable than the local Australian price ($99) or the USD to AUD equivalent. Even with $10 AUD shipping, I paid all up under $65. Still pricey, but I want nice things okay.

What appealed to me was the fact it's a palette with both eye and cheek products. I only have one other palette that incorporates both eyeshadows and blushes, and that's the Laura Mercier Lingerie Eye & Cheek Palette, but even then that doesn't have a bronzer or highlighter. As the name "Instant Look in a Palette" suggests, everything you need is laid out in front of you, so your whole face can be done (base notwithstanding) in a matter of minutes. Charlotte herself demonstrates the palette in this video, though the model has a medium skin tone (and perfect face, lbr) so I didn't know exactly how the powders would look on a lighter complexion like mine. I just liked the idea of being able to travel with this one palette, especially for special occasions like to a wedding, which might call for a fully made up look.

This is the third iteration of the Instant Look in a Palette, with the first being Natural Beauty and the second Seductive Beauty. I was under the impression the past versions were limited edition and therefore would've sold out ages ago, but Cherie brought to my attention they're still available for purchase on the Australian Charlotte Tilbury website. There's plenty of information on the interwebs comparing all three versions, but briefly, Natural Beauty has more subtle, lighter eyeshadows and pink-toned blushes ("champagne, pink and neutral shades"), Seductive Beauty has more taupe/cool-toned eyeshadows, a warmer, darker contour and more pink-toned highlighter ("pale pink, taupe and chocolate brown shades") and Beauty Glow is more "rose-toned and bronze". I probably preferred the look of the cheek shades in Seductive Beauty, but the eye shades in Beauty Glow.

l-r: Eye Brighten, Eye Enhance, Eye Smoke

l-r: Face Highlight, Face Bronze

l-r: Filmstar Bronze & Glow Highlight, Beauty Glow Face Highlight, Beauty Glow Face Bronze, Filmstar Bronze & Glow Sculpt

l-r: Filmstar Bronze & Glow Highlight, Beauty Glow Face Highlight, Beauty Glow Face Bronze, Filmstar Bronze & Glow Sculpt

I was very curious to compare the Face Bronze and Face Highlight shades to the Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze and Glow palette. I wasn't able to get much information comparing the two prior to my purchase, except for one YouTube video where the reviewer remarked they looked the same. I wouldn't agree with that assessment. The highlight in the Filmstar Bronze & Glow is peachier and slightly darker, whereas the highlight in Beauty Glow is brighter, more champagne, cooler-toned, icier. The sculpt shade in Filmstar Bronze & Glow is darker, cooler, more of a contour powder, whereas the equivalent shade in Beauty Glow is warmer, lighter, more orange in tone — some people have compared it to Benefit Hoola Lite. I have read reviews that the quality of the face powders in the palettes aren't as good as standalone products like Filmstar Bronze & Glow, but I haven't noticed any major difference. Maybe the Beauty Glow highlighter is slightly chunkier and has a tendency to sit on top of the skin a tad more than the one in Filmstar Bronze & Glow, but by and large, they seem like the same formulation.

l-r: Cheek Pop, Cheek Swish

After using this palette for three weeks, I'm kind of on the fence about it. Yes, it is aesthetically beautiful, Italian-made, everything feels expensive and high quality (as it should!). Charlotte Tilbury knows how to sell her products, but at the same time, if they didn't deliver and perform, they wouldn't enjoy the popularity and good word of mouth they do.

My main issue with this palette is the shades. I thought I would love them, since rose gold and bronze is everything I love, but it's a different story when it comes to how they work on my face. First, I don't actually like the colour of the eyeshadows that much. The Eye Brighten is basically useless to me as I don't find any point in priming with a light shimmery powder eyeshadow (I use a dedicated cream eyeshadow for primer), and as an inner corner highlight, I could just use the Face Highlight. The Eye Enhance shade is meant to be the star of the show and a major selling point of the palette, but it doesn't excite me. I'm not talking the quality — the shadows are smooth, blendable, long-lasting and pigmented. I just mean the colour. It's honestly just not unique enough for me to really care. I have so many similar rose gold, coppery shades (e.g. Clinique Chubby Stick Eye Tint in Ample Amber, Benefit Creaseless Cream Shadow in My Two Cents, Holika Holika Jewel Light Marble Cushion Eyes in Orange Cappuccino), some of which are much more metallic and vibrant (e.g. Makeup Geek Grandstand, Colourpop Game Face, Urban Decay Chopper or Trick, Rimmel Eye Shadow Stick By Kate in Rose Gold). The Eye Enhance is actually on the lighter side for my skin tone. I prefer something darker but more neutral in colour as an easy, all-over lid wash, but this is distinctly orange-toned and gives more subtle shading and a glimmering effect. I then have to deepen the look with the matte chocolate brown Eye Smoke shade, but it's almost like that's not dark enough for what I want to achieve. I would have preferred something with more instant definition like Sable or Espresso from the LORAC Pro Palette, or Anastasia Beverly Hills Fudge.

Moving onto the cheek shades. Cheek Pop is your generic shimmery warm pink. The shimmer and pigment are intense, so I need a really soft, floppy brush like Wayne Goss Brush 14 or SUQQU Cheek Brush to apply it. Colour-wise, think NARS Orgasm or a multitude of shades in those little blush pots from Bourjois (if it begins with the word "rose", you're probably on the right track). If I thought Cheek Pop was pigmented, I hadn't seen anything until Cheek Swish. I genuinely do not understand the inclusion of this shade in the palette. It's so dark and brown and metallic. You would only need a minuscule amount and even then, it would have to be blended to death. I appreciate the thought of adding something that wasn't just another ho hum pink blush, but I would have preferred a less intimidating, more "wearable" peachy/nude shade (like Benefit Rockateur or Clinique Cheek Pop in Nude Pop). This is just too much effort to tackle on a daily basis, the fear of creating a muddy, shimmery mess constantly hovering over you. I used it as an eyeshadow and even then, it was uncomfortably dark. I love a daytime soft smoky eye, but this was overboard.

No one found it a little strange that the Cheek Swish shade was magnitudes darker than the Face Bronze shade? Those are going to be some really defined cheeks. While I prefer the Sculpt shade in Filmstar Bronze & Glow to the Face Bronze in Beauty Glow, I like that it's lighter and warmer so there is that point of difference, since there wouldn't be much excitement if they were identical shades. I use the Charlotte Tilbury Powder & Sculpt brush to apply it and it's a perfect pairing. The Face Highlight is probably one of my favourite things about the palette. It alone makes the entire look when everything is used together. Your face looks like it's basking in an ethereal glow, especially when some is placed down the bridge of the nose.

One final thing about the palette is that all the shades except Eye Smoke are shimmery, so you can imagine the overall look it's going to give you. I love to glow as much as the next person, but these aren't subtle in the shimmer stakes, nor are they liquid/cream textures that you might be able to blend more seamlessly into the skin. They're all powders and invariably have to sit on top of the skin, so even with careful blending, it's a lot to have shimmery eyeshadow and shimmery blush and shimmery contour and shimmery highlight. Naturally, your comfort level may vary. Of course you can try to tone things down by prepping and priming the skin well, adjusting the amount of product, maybe opting for a different matte blush or eyeshadows, and spritzing all over with a setting spray/face mist at the end.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

First Experience: Dermalogica

Dermalogica is a brand I've always been keen to explore, so when Facial Co. contacted me about reviewing some of their products, I jumped at the opportunity. I've always considered Dermalogica to enjoy the reputation of being a solid, dependable, almost clinical company that focuses on what goes into their products and how they perform, without the need for fancy packaging or marketing hype. Despite this positive impression, my total exposure to Dermalogica has been limited — mainly a few samples from the Age Smart range that were just so-so, and the memory of using my friend's minty, invigorating face wash after a high school sleepover. Now that I've added the Special Cleansing Gel, Daily Microfoliant and Skin Smoothing Cream to my skin care arsenal, I can form some more concrete opinions.

Special Cleansing Gel

A good cleanser is a rare specimen. I've gone through many, many cleansers and only one or two really stick out as anything I'd repurchase. The rest are largely interchangeable. Generally, I prefer non-foaming cleaners to foaming, but it's hard to steer clear of foaming cleansers given how common they are, and I'm no less picky when it comes to cream, gel or balm cleansers (forget cleansing milks ... bleurgh).

The Special Cleansing Gel is strictly a bare face/morning cleanser only, which makes it less versatile than a cleanser that's also effective at removing makeup (e.g. philosophy Purity Made Simple Facial Cleanser). Not that it purports to remove makeup — I just tried out of curiosity. It could possibly be used as a first cleanse before going in with an oil-based cleanser, but what's the point/who has the time.

I was wary of the inclusion of sodium laureth sulfate (the second ingredient) due to the bad rap it can get, but it's not a factor that deters me entirely. I get that some people might be a bit iffy using something mainly in their shampoo or hand wash on their face, especially on a daily basis.

The gel is clear and when mixed with water, is gently foaming rather than a total bubble bath, which I prefer. It has an inoffensive, subtle botanical scent. When washed off and the face patted dry with a towel, it leaves the skin feeling squeaky clean but not through harsh means. My skin feels slightly dry if I don't moisturise within a few minutes of cleansing, but it's nothing dramatic and pretty much the same story with any cleanser (the feeling post-cleanse is roughly on par with Oskia Renaissance Cleansing Gel, Clarins Gentle Foaming Cleanser and Fresh Soy Face Cleanser).

I still regard Radical Hydrating Cleanser as the best cleanser I've encountered (creamy texture, smells amazing, leaves skin feeling comfortable and balanced), however we are talking a large price difference — $0.53/ml for the Radical compared with $0.22/ml for the Dermalogica based on the 250ml bottle. However, I'd still be inclined to repurchase the Radical over the Dermalogica as I don't think it has any peer, whereas there are cheaper alternatives to the Special Cleansing Gel that will more or less do the same job (e.g. Derma E Hydrating Cleanser, which I've used every morning for a few months now).

Ingredients: Water/Aqua/Eau, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Disodium Lauroamphodiacetate, Sodium Trideceth Sulfate, Hexylene Glycol, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Extract, Melissa Officinalis Leaf Extract, Quillaja Saponaria Bark Extract, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, PPG-5-Ceteth-20, Citric Acid, Sodium Chloride, Phenoxyethanol, Methylparaben, Propylparaben.

Daily Microfoliant

The Daily Microfoliant, a water-activated, rice-based exfoliating powder, is probably Dermalogica's signature product. As far as I'm aware, it's quite unique — I don't really know of any similar products. The instructions state to pour half a teaspoon onto your hand, which I tried my best to eyeball. It honestly felt like I was tipping out salt and pepper onto my hand. The shape of the bottle and dispenser design are truly reminiscent of a seasoning shaker. There's no particular scent, at least not strong enough to leave any impression.

Applied to the face after cleansing, it's fairly gentle for a physical scrub (not coarse and abrasive like Lush Angels on Bare Skin), due to how small the exfoliating particles are. Unexpectedly, the powder foams up when wet palms are rubbed together. You can feel it working its magic, sloughing away dead cells and giving the skin a clean slate upon which to apply serums and moisturisers. It leaves the face feeling immaculately clean and unusually smooth.

You do need to follow with a moisturiser, otherwise the skin can feel a little taut and dry, and even start flaking in places like around the nose. With daily use, I can imagine how effective and transformative this would be for the skin, leading to improvements in texture, visible blackheads, uneven/dull skin tone and oiliness. However, the act of unscrewing the top cap and pouring out the powder into your hands is a bit fiddly, and remembering to exfoliate after cleansing is an extra step in my daily routine I wouldn't otherwise take, so I can also imagine not using it as regularly as I could. I'd be more inclined to use it in the shower to save time, but one has to be super careful to not get any water into the powder, otherwise it's good as gone.

The amount of product in a 75g bottle would last forever, so despite a hefty initial spend of $80, it would pay off in terms of cost per use, especially if you only reach for it a couple of times a week.

Ingredients: Microcrystalline Cellulose, Magnesium Oxide, Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, Sodium Lauroyl Glutamate, Colloidal Oatmeal, Disodium Lauryl Sulfosuccinate, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Starch, Allantoin, Papain, Salicylic Acid, Ginkgo Biloba Leaf Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, PCA, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Populus Tremuloides Bark Extract, Cyclodextrin, Lauryl Methacrylate/Glycol Dimethacrylate Crosspolymer, Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Oil, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Peel Oil, Citric Acid.

Skin Smoothing Cream

After cleansing and exfoliating, we have moisturiser in the form of the Skin Smoothing Cream. Described as a "medium-weight" moisturiser (I guess the sweet spot between a light moisturiser that may not be rich enough and a thicker moisturiser that might be too heavy), it contains lecithin, aloe gel, mallow, cucumber and arnica extracts. There's no SPF and it isn't specifically a day or night cream, so can be used whenever.

It has a moderately strong medicinal smell that I would say is uncommon in a skin care product, given how many are perfumed to make them more palatable and enjoyable to use. It doesn't bother me and may even be beneficial for the skin due to the exclusion of artificial fragrance.

The Skin Smoothing Cream is a unique formulation that has the feel of a balm but is a non-greasy, spreadable, cream consistency. It's not as runny or thin as a lotion, but it's also not oily like certain salves or thicker moisturisers (e.g. Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturising Lotion+, Antipodes Avocado Pear Nourishing Night Cream, Benefit Total Moisture Facial Cream). Probably the most similar moisturiser I've tried to it is Jurlique Arnica Cream.

It feels like I'm applying a moderately thick coat of locked-in moisture that is quickly and thoroughly absorbed into the skin, leaving it smoothed and softened. From the few times I've used it, it's very effective in restoring moisture to the skin and addressing dry patches/flakiness. It has a mattifying effect and dries down completely — almost like a smoothing primer, which works well as a base for makeup and is ideal for the dry/combination skin type the product is targeting.

Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Butylene Glycol, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Ethylhexyl Hydroxystearate, Stearic Acid, PEG-8, Lactamide MEA, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, Dimethicone, Cetearyl Alcohol, Silk Amino Acids, Polysorbate 60, Tocopheryl Acetate, Citrus Aurantium Amara (Bitter Orange) Flower Extract, Cananga Odorata Flower Oil, Camellia Oleifera Leaf Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Allantoin, Panthenol, Glycolipids, Sodium Hyaluronate, Palmitoyl Hydroxypropyltrimonium Amylopectin/Glycerin Crosspolymer, Lecithin, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Extract, Malva Sylvestris (Mallow) Flower/Leaf/Stem Extract, Hedera Helix (Ivy) Leaf/Stem Extract, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract, Sambucus Nigra Flower Extract, Arnica Montana Flower Extract, Parietaria Officinalis Extract, Retinyl Palmitate, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Polyquaternium-10, Cetyl Alcohol, PEG-100 Stearate, Glyceryl Stearate, Aminomethyl Propanol, Disodium EDTA, Carbomer, Sodium Benzoate, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Benzyl Benzoate, Benzyl Salicylate, Linalool.

Products were provided to me for review.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Colour Philosophy

While I've largely been sticking to the same products for my daily face these past few months, the not-yet-retired makeup enthusiast in me still isn't immune to the temptation of a cheap, novelty item. Enter Essence Glitter in the Air Velvet Lipstick in Life Is Too Short For Boring Lipstick (01), something that inexplicably called out to me on a recentish trip to Priceline. As its defiant (or defensive?) name might suggest, the colour's pretty out there.

Life Is Too Short For Boring Lipstick is a cool-toned, dark greyish purple. Under certain light, it looks more like a browny plum. In any event, it's the kind of colour that one might say evokes the effects of hypothermia or screams "goth". But I don't care. It's a shade that I don't have and one that I normally wouldn't go for, given cool-toned colours rarely look good on me. But I tried the tester on at the shop (yes, I'm one of those disgusting people) and I didn't hate it. In fact, I was sold.

l-r: Essence Life Is Too Short For Boring Lipstick, Revlon Black Cherry, Colourpop Mess Around, Colourpop Toolips

I compared it with the most similar colours in my lipstick collection, and as expected none were close enough to be considered a dupe. Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Black Cherry is distinctly more of a vampy, deep merlot, though the texture is comparable to the Essence (i.e. undeniably patchy but not impossible to work with). Black Cherry is also more of a satin finish than the more matte Life Is Too Short For Boring Lipstick. Both Colourpop shades are more brown-toned than purple, though Toolips is about the same darkness. However being liquid lipsticks, they arguably don't have the same versatility and ease of use as a conventional lipstick, though are smoother and more even in application.

Here, I've applied it fairly opaquely à la ~dramatic statement lip~, though I prefer wearing it as a light stain for a touch of something unusual and moody. I usually just dab some product with my finger onto my lips (often primed with some kind of balm underneath) and then press my lips together to blend. Even in minuscule amounts, it never fails to elicit comments ("Are you wearing lipstick?"). The texture is on the waxy, hard side and isn't as emollient or smooth as a traditional lipstick, possibly because darker matte colours have inherent formulation limitations. But it's an issue that can be overcome so long as a little more time and care is taken with the application.

Overall, I'm liking Essence for affordable, "trend" products that one can experiment and have some fun with. At such a low price point, I appreciate the small details (like how the lipstick is cut into an interesting diamond-faceted shape which I failed to photograph in its pristine state — but this blogger did), and I feel the baseline quality is good, despite room for improvement. Life may be too short for boring lipstick, but ultimately makeup is about personal preference and what gives you confidence and enjoyment.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Quick, Full Face Makeup

I don't know about you, but I'm fairly hopeless when it comes to fast makeup. Fast for me is 10-15 minutes (and let's face it, it's always more 15 minutes). Lately, I've been trying to simplify my routine so I can get away with less effort as I'm getting ready, all the while maintaining a full face approach, using few brushes as possible and placing a premium on products that will last the distance. Here's what I've been reaching for:

I start with a cleansed face and one pump of my current daytime moisturiser, Botani Boost Balancing Moisturiser. I purchased this moisturiser during Priceline's last 40% off skincare sale and have been liking it so far. Consistency-wise and in terms of application and how it dries on the skin, it reminds me of a more fluid, less tacky Trilogy Balancing Face Lotion. It's not as rich, instantly hydrating and soothing as La Roche-Posay Toleriane Riche, my favoured moisturiser for this time of year as the weather starts to cool down. However, the Botani has its advantages in that it is almost primer-like once absorbed into the skin, with a slight stickiness and no oiliness whatsoever which helps to prolong whatever foundation is placed on top of it.

Speaking of foundation, I've been squeezing a dollop of Bobbi Brown BB Cream in Fair into my hand, pressing my palms together and slapping the product onto my face. It's the quickest way to apply my base and does away with brushes entirely. When I first tried the Bobbi Brown BB cream in summer, I was disappointed with it as it sat on top of the skin and transferred/moved around crazily. But now that it's approaching winter and my skin is getting drier, plus with the primer-like Botani applied before, the BB cream just blends into and sticks to my face marvelously. In fact, I have to work relatively quickly to get it all on and blended evenly with my fingers before it starts to set. I'm most pleased with the product not balling up or getting blended away to nothingness even with fairly vigorous circular and smoothing hand actions, as has been my experience with similar products like Garnier Miracle Skin Cream. It gives a truly natural, soft focus and brightening finish, but is a light veil rather than anything heavier or more effective at hiding blemishes and perfecting skin tone. Occasionally, if I need a boost in coverage, I'll go over areas of redness or in need of highlighting (mainly T-zone and under the eyes) with my trusty NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer in Custard, still the best concealer I've tried.

For eyes, I've been also doing away with brushes and using just one product for eyeshadow, Maybelline Color Tattoo in Creamy Beige, supposedly a dupe for MAC Paint Pot in Groundwork which I've been meaning to buy for years. The midtone mushroom/taupe/putty shade provides just the right amount of definition, particularly for glasses wearers, without appearing too heavy or unnatural. The colour leans neutral enough that it doesn't drain the complexion like a lot of grey-leaning shades can. Next comes the hardest part which is doing my eyeliner with Dolly Wink Liquid Eyeliner, the results of which vary on a daily basis (not from the product itself which is brilliant, just from my unreliable hand). I'm back on an old fave, the tragically discontinued KIKO Eye Pencil in Glamorous, to define my lower lash line. The bright metallic copper complements deep brown eyes and contrasts well with the matte greige eyeshadow. I've been loyal to Essence I Love Extreme Crazy Volume Mascara, featured in my last makeup menu. I've already purchased a backup and can't picture myself using anything else. It's so affordable, very black, long lasting, lengthens, curls, adds volume, doesn't flake, serves margaritas and gives back massages.

l-r: Maybelline Creamy Beige, Clinique Nude Pop, KIKO Glamorous, Dolly Wink eyeliner

Finally, for cheeks, I've been rotating between NARS Madly, Benefit Rockateur, and Clinique Cheek Pop in Nude Pop, with the latter receiving the most love. Since the rest of the face is fairly minimal and dull, the warm peachy-beige Nude Pop perks the complexion right up and injects enough colour without being too red or orange. This is the only product I apply with a brush, being the angled, synthetic Morphe E4. It's natural, flattering, lasts longer than most blushes, and the spongy, bouncy Cheek Pop formula melds invisibly into the skin rather than sitting on top of it.
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