Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Lips and Tips

Priceline had their legendary 40% off cosmetics sale last Tuesday and Wednesday. And you bet I ventured out in the morning to my local store to swatch, pick things up, put them down again, search for reviews on my phone and contemplate any purchases as if they were important life decisions. Aimless indecision made me almost want to walk out of the store empty-handed, but I finally committed to buying more lipstick and nail polish, the two things I have in greatest abundance. Even though this was the third time they've held such a sale (see here and here for previous hauls), somehow the prospect of scoring any cosmetics item for almost half price couldn't go ignored.

I was meant to stick to a list I made beforehand, but I only had one item on it: a base coat. I never believed in base coats before, but the absence of one has made me feel uneasy about my whole nail painting ritual. I was planning on picking up an el cheapo one but couldn't find one from Essence. I've tried the Sally Hansen Diamond Shine Base & Top Coat and was contemplating buying it again, but decided to go for something different with Essie First Base.

Speaking of Essie, can we take a moment to talk about the prices of their polishes in Australia? (OPI also isn't exempt from this conversation.) The First Base Base Coat retails for $17.95 when it's $8.50 in the US. The normal polishes are $16.95 each. Yes, products are marked up ridiculously in Australia and none of this is news, but still. I'm not understanding how there could be any justification. Rimmel, Maybelline, Max Factor and CoverGirl price their polishes around $5-$10 while brands like Essence and Ulta3 have polishes under $3. It's just nail polish.

The upside to Priceline stocking Essie is that you can occasionally take advantage of marked down stock being subject to further discounts. I spotted some polishes from the Encrusted Treasures Holiday 2013 Collection that were already discounted to $8.47. With a further 40% off, they were a bargain at $5.08 each. After much deliberation, I chose Hors D'oeuvres and Peak of Chic. Hors D'oeuvres could very well be the blingiest nail polish I've ever laid eyes on, while Peak of Chic has made me want to give up on bar glitter from here on out. Still, I love a challenge and am determined to try and make it work.

I also picked up Rimmel Salon Pro nail polish in Hip Hop, because my friend was wearing these juicy, slightly orange-leaning red nails the other day and it looked so classic and modern and Christmassy and feminine that I immediately set out to buy something similar. I almost never wear red nail polish, but Hip Hop looks like the kind of red I could get into.

Finally, the lip products. I felt out of the loop when it came to "drugstore" lip releases, especially whatever newfangled glosses or gloss/stain/balm/lipstick hybrids were being released, so I set to take a closer look. I wanted to purchase a Bourjois Rouge Edition Velvet Lipstick but they didn't have the shade I was after, Pink Pong. I happened to come across a L'Oréal Colour Riche Extraordinaire stand and after swatching all the shades on display, decided Nude Vibrato (600) was the one for me. (I did briefly contemplate buying the lone Nude Ballet (601) left, said to be worn by none other than Kim K on her wedding day, but it was not a good look on me.) I was interested in buying a Maybelline Color Sensational Color Elixir simply because I'd seen them everywhere on blogs. It was next to impossible to pick one, but in the end I played it safe with Rose Redefined (090). The other shades seemed inappropriate for the office (not that I shy away from brights, I just prefer them to be strongly pigmented and ideally, matte) or way too pale.

l-r: L'Oréal Nude Vibrato (600), Maybelline Rose Redefined (090)

l-r: Maybelline Rose Redefined, L'Oréal Nude Vibrato

l-r: Revlon Elusive, Maybelline Rose Redefined, L'Oréal Nude Vibrato, MAC Patisserie

Maybelline Rose Redefined reminded me of Revlon ColorBurst Matte Balm in Elusive, and sure enough the two swatch similarly. Elusive is brighter in tone and obviously much more pigmented. I was trying to find the closest match I have to L'Oréal Nude Vibrato, but MAC Patisserie still has noticeable differences, mainly it's surprisingly sheerer, less peachy nude and more of a darker orange/redder in comparison. The L'Oréal can be very thick in terms of both texture and pigmentation, so I prefer to apply it to just my bottom lip then press my lips together to transfer it to my top lip and sheer it out. The Maybelline is a touch too glossy for my liking and the conservative rose colour doesn't excite me (no one to blame there but myself for that). It also seems to work better applied thinly with the fingers rather than layered with the applicator, which can cause unevenness on the lips. The texture however, is gloriously plush and cushiony, and almost redeems the ho-hum shade.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Mint Condition

I love Lush. I just flipped through their Christmas catalogue and my eyes lit up browsing all their brightly coloured, festively packaged gift sets. There's something about how constantly inventive and appealing to the senses their products are that satisfies my love of novelty and a lil' self-pampering. And unlike cosmetics which take forever to be used up, I don't struggle to get through body products and skin care. Emptying a product I enjoyed using throughout gives me immense satisfaction, and the best part is being able to repurchase or try something different without guilt (not that I don't have backups of shower gels and random soaps lying around that I haven't touched). The latest product I've tried from Lush is the Mask of Magnaminty, my first experience with one of their "fresh" masks.

Mask of Magnaminty is an exfoliating, deep cleansing clay-based mask. It looks like choc mint ice cream with its green colour and crushed up aduki beans, and smells a bit like it too. It's a gritty, thick paste with ground up red beans that feels more like you're putting raw food on your face than something synthesised in a lab. When you're applying it to the skin with your fingers, there's not a whole lot of stickiness going on and I'm slightly concerned about bits of the mask falling off my face.

It's gently minty upon application, though nothing overpowering, and the minty sensation reduces with time. I usually leave it on for 15-20 minutes, during which the mask will slightly harden but remain mostly wet, depending on how thickly you've slathered it on. It definitely doesn't harden and tighten, uncomfortably/hilariously immobilising facial movement, like other clay masks. It's quite easily washed off with warm water. I like to massage it in with my fingers while washing it off to get in some extra manual exfoliation. Due to its coarse, granulated texture, and the presence of peppermint oil, it may be too abrasive and irritating on sensitive skin.

After it's washed off, my skin is left feeling refreshed, purified and scrubbed. While I don't really detect any instant glowing effect and it doesn't banish spots immediately after use, it's a mask I reach for when I need a good, minty deep cleanse and to slough away any dry, flaky bits. I'm a big fan of the unusually chunky composition and how much it reminds me of something edible, and who doesn't love a face mask for some welcome "me time"?

Ingredients: Bentonite Gel, Kaolin, Honey (Mel), Talc, Ground Aduki Beans (Phaseolus), Glycerine, Evening Primrose Seeds (Oenothera biennis), Peppermint Oil (Mentha piperita), African Marigold Oil (Tagetes erecta), Fair Trade Vanilla Absolute (Vanilla Planifolia), Limonene, Fragrance, Methylparaben, Chlorophyllin

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Bounce and Dab

I've wanted to try a Beautyblender since pretty much the start of this blog, but only recently managed to actually order one. I'm content with my brush collection and my curiosity about elliptical-shaped sponges was temporarily satiated with the purchase of the Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge, so while I had always intended to eventually try the Beautyblender, there wasn't a pressing need. With a discount coupon in hand however, it was the perfect opportunity to finally try the iconic beauty tool.

Having used it a couple of times, a lot of my thoughts mirror those of the Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge. I think the two are fairly indistinguishable, except that the Beautyblender seems to be a bit more durable (but harder to clean) and I prefer the overall shape of the Beautyblender over the Miracle Complexion Sponge, which has the addition of a flat edge.

The most apparent thing about the Beautyblender is that it's a lot more work than a brush. Having to quickly stipple (bounce) the ball all over the face to evenly distribute, press and blend in foundation requires much more manual labour than anticipated. At some point, my arm started to tire. If only I were ambidextrous, then I would've switched hands to at least ensure an even workout.

I noticed that I use at least twice as much product, probably due to the sponge absorbing a lot of it. This doesn't overly concern me as I have a surplus of foundations, most of which I don't envisage finishing before they go off. But if you only have one or two treasured and expensive foundations that you want to stretch out for as long as possible, the amount of product that gets soaked up might be a concern.

The other major downside is that it's a pain to clean. I'm lazy at the expense of stricter hygiene standards, so it's not uncommon for me to only wash my foundation brushes once every 3-4 weeks despite near daily use. I can't really do that with the Beautyblender because I'm paranoid remnants of foundation will solidify and dry within the sponge itself, making eventual cleaning much more difficult. It's also the fact that I feel the sponge won't work properly the next time I use it if it's dirty, unlike a makeup brush. So far, I've tried cleaning it with regular soap and a face cleanser, and both weren't entirely effective in that foundation stains were left on the sponge. The Beautyblender also leaked pink dye as I squeezed it under the tap which I prepared myself for having read previous reviews.

Despite all that extra time and effort, the tradeoff is a more natural, seamless finish that can't exactly be replicated with a makeup brush. I'm convinced that something happens as water from the damp sponge evaporates from your face along with the foundation it's mixed with. The result is that foundation seems to have been thoroughly worked into skin in an undetectable fashion. It's akin to really spending time to buff and stipple foundation all over with a fluffy or flat-top kabuki-style brush, except that the sponge gives a more close contact, skin-like result. Although you use more product than with a brush, it gives sheerer coverage because everything is blended and patted away with the damp, spongy surface. Sheering out foundation with water from the sponge and applying thin layers also seems to make foundation more transfer-proof and less prone to getting oily, especially around the T-zone.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Flashing Rainbows

I haven't been genuinely excited about a nail polish for a while, but my newest discovery has been a revelation. Models Own Northern Lights was another impulse buy that was part of my Luxola order. I was looking for something relatively inexpensive that would qualify me for free shipping, and naturally gravitated toward nail polishes and the Models Own page. The only other Models Own nail polish I had was the exquisite Indian Ocean, so I was hoping to find something equally unique and visually arresting.

I don't have any purely holographic polishes despite a strong interest in them, though I have a few glitter polishes that partially contain holographic glitter. Northern Lights is a dusty, blush pink glitter polish in a clear base, where the individual glitter particles have a strong holographic effect. It's quite a dense glitter polish and two coats sufficed to provide opaque coverage. I first used two coats of Savvy by DB Nude to provide a neutral, tinted base, followed with three coats of Northern Lights, then sealed everything with my trusty Sally Hansen Insta-Dri Anti-Chip Top Coat. It's been six days and still not a chip in sight — a seriously impressive feat given glitter polishes are notorious for chipping quickly.

Northern Lights is absolutely dazzling in direct sunlight but still powerfully holographic under artificial or indirect light. Despite that, it doesn't seem gaudy or OTT, mainly due to the muted pink base and the small, uniform glitter particles. If it were made of chunky, differently sized glitter, and there was a stronger contrast between the holographic effect and the base colour, the whole character of the polish would change. Northern Lights manages to pull off a rare thing: elegance in a party varnish.