Sunday, April 19, 2015

Boldly Priced

I love Real Techniques brushes and the Pixiwoo sisters, so when I heard about the "premium" Bold Metals Collection they were launching, I was intrigued to say the least. I first glimpsed these shiny, white-haired, pointy-ended brushes on Sam's Instagram four months ago and immediately made a mental note to check them out in person ASAP. Unfortunately, I read that Real Techniques have an exclusive distribution deal with Ulta in the US and Boots in the UK for the first six months they're released, with no plans to sell these brushes on iHerb any time soon (though they are available to purchase now on the Australian Real Techniques website). Like any good beauty addict, I shamelessly inconvenienced a friend who was vacationing in the US, asking them to purchase the Flat Contour Brush (301) for me. These brushes are not cheap, so I limited myself to just one. It was definitely going to be a face brush rather than an eye brush, so by an arbitrary process of elimination (certainly not on the basis of need, since I have too many brushes, period), I opted for the very specific contour brush.

Now, firstly, let's address the most pressing issue with these brushes: the price. The Flat Contour Brush retails for an incredible $65 in Australia. Given you can only purchase them online at the moment, if your order is under $100, you have to pay an additional $5.50 for shipping. I'm sorry, but if I'm paying $70.50 for a single brush, it better be a damn good brush. At that price range, it's competing with established high end brands like Bobbi Brown or NARS. We all know that Australian markup is ridiculous, but this brush ain't cheap in the US or UK either. It's £22 ($42) or $26 USD (about $37 post-tax).

The most jarring aspect of the pricing is comparing the Bold Metals Collection to the original line. Yes, the new brushes are meant to be "super luxe", but at the end of the day, both are made of synthetic bristles. I personally don't feel that much difference in softness between the Flat Contour Brush and any other brush from the original Real Techniques line once it touches my face, though it might not be the best brush to compare as it's very dense, rather than soft and fluffy. Sure, the design of the brushes offers something new, but even then, the elevated price doesn't seem entirely justified. The rose gold is pretty and the handle does feel heftier and properly weighted, but the material and craftsmanship don't scream to me "extremely high quality", especially with a few noticeable nicks and dents on the edges of the handle.

Put it this way. At $37, which is still the cheapest price I could pay for this brush (and I still had to get my friend to buy it online in the States and bring it back to Australia in her luggage), I could buy a Wayne Goss brush (e.g. Brush 14) from Beautylish that's been handcrafted in Japan by artisans using ultra-soft natural hair. Or I could just stick with something like the Expert Face Brush ($9 USD), rather than spending three times the amount for something not vastly superior in craftsmanship, materials or functionality.

Rose gold and contouring brushes ... I'm sensing a trend.

Top to bottom: Real Techniques Flat Contour Brush, Real Techniques Expert Face Brush, Real Techniques Contour Brush, Charlotte Tilbury Powder & Sculpt, Zoeva Face Shape

l-r: Zoeva Face Shape, Charlotte Tilbury Powder & Sculpt, Real Techniques Contour Brush, Real Techniques Expert Face Brush, Real Techniques Flat Contour Brush

Another thing dampening my enthusiasm is I simply did not need this brush in my life. I thought a dedicated contouring brush would be useful, particularly for cream products, but then I had a look at my collection and realised I HAVE BRUSHES FOR THAT ALREADY. And by brushes, I mean four brushes. Minimally.

Sure, the Charlotte Tilbury Powder & Sculpt is really only for powder products, but the rest are synthetic and good for both powder and creams. (Plus, how many cream contouring products do I even own? The answer is a modest two if bronzer is included: 1) Chanel Soleil Tan de Chanel and 2) Illamasqua Cream Pigment in Hollow, which is very questionable in terms of suitability for my skin tone and effectiveness.) Basically, any of these brushes could serve the purpose of the Flat Contour Brush. Some I would say are a lot better since the Flat Contour is limited by its blunt rectangular shape and short, dense bristles. It can't gently dust product on and softly blend it out the way the Charlotte Tilbury Powder & Sculpt can. The Flat Contour can really only pick up a small amount of product along the entire surface area of the brush, place it in a line down the face, and then blend it out once the product has been put down.

l-r: Real Techniques Expert Face Brush, Real Techniques Flat Contour Brush

In terms of brush shape, the Real Techniques Expert Face Brush is by far the most similar to the Flat Contour Brush. You definitely don't need both. If anything, I prefer the Expert Face Brush as it's more versatile (excellent for cream blush and liquid foundation), and fluffier and softer, meaning it diffuses product seamlessly with less effort. The Flat Contour Brush is narrower in shape so it allows a more precise placement, but since it's significantly firmer to the touch and the bristles are more tightly packed, it's harder to blend product out. It does pick up and use less product while not sacrificing pigmentation due to the density of bristles preventing excess product from being absorbed.

Overall, I like the Flat Contour Brush, but I'm not in love with it. I find it overpriced for what it is and I already have several brushes that are able to carry out its specific function, so I wouldn't say it's an entirely successful addition to my makeup brush collection. Still, it's nice to look at, does what it promises, and while I may have similar brushes, I can't say I have anything exactly like it.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Matte Crème (de la Crème)

Trends in makeup seem to arrive in a blaze, often only to exit just as swiftly, overtaken by the next "big thing". I don't know if time's up on matte liquid lipsticks (are we onto lip oils now?), but for a period, they seemed to be all the rage. I was tempted by the Anastasia Beverly Hills Liquid Lipsticks, hyped by many a beauty YouTuber, but $17.95 USD shipping (plus $20 USD for a single lipstick) was not happening. Especially not with the Australian dollar flopping — I'd be paying $50 to have one lipstick shipped to me. Enter Australis Velourlips Matte Lip Cream, a local "drugstore"/affordable alternative to satiate my matte liquid lipstick curiosity. At $9.95 a pop, and often on sale at Priceline, they're cheaper than the similar NYX Soft Matte Lip Creams which retail for $12.95 each at Target.

l-r: Pa-ree, Hon-o-loo-loo, Lun-dun

Bottom to top: Pa-ree, Hon-o-loo-loo, Lun-dun

l-r (top row, then bottom row): Pa-ree, Hon-o-loo-loo, Lun-dun

These Velourlips aren't a new release (I remember reading about them all the way back in November 2013), but they didn't grab me when they first launched. Perhaps they were ahead of their time, or took a while to gain traction. I was finally motivated to take a closer look after Australis released several new shades and Shaaanxo featured the Velourlips in her 2014 Drugstore Favourites, calling them "basically the same as Lime Crime". On a recent trip to Priceline, I was playing around with the vibrant purply-pink shade Lun-dun and became hooked. I then read on a random forum that the shade Pa-ree looked close to Lime Crime Velvetines in Cashmere, so naturally I had to get it. The bright-but-pastel peachy nude Hon-o-loo-loo was my next pick since I had to take advantage of Priceline's 40% off cosmetics sale.

What has most impressed me about these Matte Lip Creams are the colours. Just how flattering a shade of lipstick is when applied is surprisingly easy to overlook, especially when one has far too many lip products, but I genuinely like the way all three appear on my lips. In particular, Pa-ree has been a revelation, in that the colour (combined with the ultra matte finish) is entirely unique to my overstuffed collection. It was very hard for me to get an accurate lip swatch because it's toned down and paler than my natural lip colour, while not being overly nude. It's also fairly neutral in tone (not too cool, not too warm). The relative lack of contrast between my skin and lips, and the muted, slightly reddish beige proved a challenge to photograph. I guess I'm between NC20 and NC25, your typical sallow Asian complexion with possibly slight olive tones (but who really knows), and Pa-ree is probably the single most flattering nude I have encountered. I'm reminded of just how good it is every time I wear it. It's also apparently more or less identical to Anastasia Beverly Hills Liquid Lipstick in Pure Hollywood.

Apart from the colours, the formula of these is virtually faultless. They're a tad drying, yes, but I think that's the nature of the beast. You can't really have a transfer-proof, long-wearing, matte finish lip product without some kind of dryness happening. It's not to an intolerable level, so I don't mind. They're so pigmented that I usually only apply one layer to my bottom lip, then press my lips together to transfer the pigment to my top lip and blend. I then use my finger to dab and pat away any unevenness and diffuse any wonkiness or excess product around the outline of my lips. They set fairly quickly and then stay put, however they're not staining and are easily removed with some lip balm and a tissue.

The Velourlips are entirely matte and opaque in pigmentation, but the lips still retain a soft poutiness to them. Your lips don't look like they've been painted onto your face. The colour seems to be part of the lip itself, melding completely with the lip rather than looking like a layer of product is sitting on top. Once applied, they don't settle, split or separate into lip lines, not even when you smile. Australis nailed it.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Fancy Tickled

As I mentioned in my March Favourites, I've been all about OPI polishes lately, especially their impeccable cremes. While I put Panda-Monium Pink as my most loved polish last month, Tickle My France-y was a very close second. I didn't think much of the colour at first, dismissing it as a boring nude that probably wouldn't suit my skin tone. I've gone through so many variations of the neutral nail, but they've either been difficult to work with (bad formula, too sheer) or not flattering (too light, too dark, too red, too grey, too beige, too "blah"). But Tickle My France-y proved to be one of those rare polishes that I didn't think too much of initially, but immediately loved once I put on my nails.

This is exactly the colour that I hoped OPI Dulce De Leche would be on me. I find Dulce De Leche to be a bit too dark and brownish red on my nails, though it's extremely flattering on darker skin tones. Tickle My France-y however, gets the balance right. It's not too light or dark, not too warm or cool. While described as a "gray-brown", I don't detect that much grey on my nails, but rather a rosey-mauve bent.

Tickle My France-y was released as part of La Collection de France for autumn/fall 2008. I actually recall this collection when it first came out, as I was obsessing over the shade You Don’t Know Jacques! (a shade I coveted because of Rumi Neely of Fashion Toast). I additionally purchased Parlez Vous OPI?, also from the collection, but never paid much attention to Tickle My France-y. It now seems that it's become one of OPI's classic colours (at least to warrant inclusion in The Iconic Four minis set).

I have similar colours to Tickle My France-y that could be classified in the "gray-brown" family (like Butter London Yummy Mummy and Revlon Gray Suede), but the OPI is my clear favourite. It's not as taupe or beige, but rather, more pink and minky, which adds a feminine, polished appeal.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Lipstick Limit, Part 4

I was perfectly content with my purchase of the new Maybelline Color Drama Intense Velvet Lip Pencils ... until I started taking photographs for this post. After I discovered I had dupes for all 3 shades, I decided it was time to give up on lip products. I know, it's not the first time I've made such proclamations, actions speak louder than words, yadidada, but I swear I felt genuine self-disgust and exasperation when I made the discovery. It's not so much the waste of money or adding unnecessary products to my already overflowing stash, it's the sense of being unable to resist my compulsion towards acquiring lip products. I do have another review of my mini collection of Australis Velourlips Matte Lip Creams scheduled, but after that, I'm sincerely hoping to not blog about a lip product purchase for the foreseeable future.

Onto the actual lip crayons. In short, I would recommend them if you're on a budget and looking for something very comparable to the NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencils. I bought them for $6 each on sale (40% off), but the normal price of $9.95 is affordable. They each contain 2.49g of product, about the same as NARS (2.44g). They're very richly pigmented, but can be applied according to your desired pigmentation. I find they're much more "wearable" and fresh-looking when a small amount of product is dabbed on with the fingers, rather than drawing directly onto the lips with the crayon. They all look slightly frightening when I filled the lips in completely with the pencil. I find them neither drying nor hydrating (probably more on the slightly drying side). None of them seemed to leave any significant stain, in that I was able to wipe them completely off with some lip balm and a tissue without noticing my lips changing in colour.

Maybelline Intense Velvet Lip Pencil in In With Coral (420)

In With Coral is probably my favourite of the bunch. This one is hella neon when worn to full opacity. I definitely prefer it sheered out for a bright, but still transparent, pout. It's a typical "spring" shade that freshens up the complexion and adds a youthful pop of colour.

l-r: Maybelline In With Coral, Revlon Unapologetic, Maybelline Coral Crush, Maybelline Shocking Coral, Revlon Melonade

Revlon ColorBurst Matte Balm in Unapologetic is a near dupe. It's so similar that you really don't need both. Unapologetic is darker, brighter and more pigmented, whereas In With Coral is comparatively more pastel. Maybelline Color Sensational Lipcolor in Coral Crush is more red. Maybelline Color Sensational Vivids in Shocking Coral is more pastel pink. Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Melonade is more of a fiery orange, glossier and sheerer.

Maybelline Intense Velvet Lip Pencil in Fuchsia Desire (150)

Honestly, me and fuchsia. It's got to stop. This is still a pink lipstick, so I already failed my previous tentative ban on pink lipsticks. I keep thinking there will be something slightly different with the next fuchsia lipstick I buy to justify the purchase, but I keep being proven wrong. Fuchsia Desire has this slight pearl running through it (probably not captured in the photos) that I dislike intensely, but I guess it's subtle enough that it's not a major problem.

l-r: Maybelline Fuchsia Desire, NARS Yu, Revlon Smitten, Revlon Fuchsia

See what I mean by the same fuchsia lipstick over and over again? Only Revlon ColorBurst Lipstick in Fuchsia is slightly different to the rest, in that it's brighter and more pink. Revlon Just Bitten Kissable Balm Stain in Smitten is harder to build up in pigmentation and relatively patchy in comparison. It's darker, not as pink as Fuchsia Desire. NARS Satin Lip Pencil in Yu however, is the same bleeping colour. DUPE. If we're being super nitpicky, it has a glossier finish, is slightly sheerer, maybe infinitesimally lighter and more neon. It is definitely smoother to apply and unlike Fuchsia Desire, leaves a stain.

So this is Fuchsia Desire on my top lip only...

l-r: Maybelline Intense Velvet Lip Pencil in Fuchsia Desire, NARS Satin Lip Pencil in Yu

Just kidding. It's Fuchsia Desire on the left and Yu on the right. You can kind of tell one is more matte than the other (obvs, since Yu is a Satin Lip Pencil) and Fuchsia Desire is maybe fractionally darker/more opaque in pigmentation if we're scrutinising, but really, ain't no one looking that close. From a normal distance away, they are basically the same colour.

Which only means one thing. MASSIVE FAIL. (For me, given I have Yu already.) Otherwise, really good if you like the look of Yu but can't bring yourself to fork out the cash for it.

Maybelline Intense Velvet Lip Pencil in Berry Much (310)

Moving onto to the plummy brown Berry Much. I was tossing up between Berry Much and Pink So Chic, which I remember swatching and liking. Pink So Chic was surprisingly more of a deeper berry pink than its name suggested, so I wasn't sure which of the two I'd wear more. In the end, I had to go for Berry Much because of Lisa Eldridge. Plus, I rationalised I could always sheer out a darker colour, but a lighter shade wasn't going to get any deeper simply by applying more of it. Berry Much ended up a lot darker than anticipated. Seriously, I don't imagine I'd ever wear it with my lips coloured in completely with it. It's much better dabbed on with the fingers for an autumnal berry stain.

l-r: Maybelline Berry Much, Revlon Black Cherry, Revlon Red Velvet, Australis Foxtrot, Savvy by DB Bali

See how similar Berry Much is to Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Black Cherry? Granted, Black Cherry is still darker and blacker, but the two would be close if you didn't wear Black Cherry at its most opaque. For those that have Black Cherry, you know it's darrrrk, so that should give you a better idea of how surprisingly vampy Berry Much is. Revlon ColorBurst Lip Butter in Red Velvet is more brick red, sheerer and glossier. Australis Colour Inject Mineral Lipstick in Foxtrot is lighter, more mauve and brown. Savvy by DB Long Lasting Matte Lipstick in Bali is a similar darkness, but brighter, more red.

l-r (top row, then bottom row): In With Coral, Fuchsia Desire, Berry Much

In summation, In With Coral = Revlon ColorBurst Matte Balm in Unapologetic, Fuchsia Desire = NARS Satin Lip Pencil in Yu and Berry Much = (a sheerer) Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Black Cherry. And that is why I need to take a long break from lip products.
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