Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Best & No Worst of NARS

If someone asked me to nominate my favourite brand of makeup, without hesitation I'd say NARS. There really isn't much I've tried from the brand that I've actively disliked or been disappointed by. It has such a strong presence and offering across its product spectrum that even if I were restricted to just one brand for life, I'd be more than content with NARS. Like a dutiful spouse that you rely on day-to-day but don't take the time to express your appreciation for enough, allow me now to spell out my love.

I've always found the main barrier to having an extensive NARS eyeshadow collection to be the cost. I'd rather buy an Urban Decay Naked palette for $60-$80 (sideeyeing online prices for Naked3) than a single eyeshadow (retailing for $45 here in Australia) or duo ($55, cray I know). Hence the only eyeshadows I've tried from the brand have been from the And God Created the Woman Eye Palette which I hunted down with possessed fervour last year. From my limited experience with NARS eyeshadows, their formulas tend to be on the dry, compacted side rather than soft and super pigmented like say, the LORAC Pro Palette. Still, they're solid in colour payoff and apply smoothly and evenly. Major brownie points for how beautifully curated the shades in And God Created the Woman are.

A sample of the Pro-Prime Smudge Proof Eyeshadow Base came with the eyeshadow palette, so I was curious to test out for myself the eye primer favoured by Lisa Eldridge and Ingrid of missglamorazzi. I don't really use primers for my eyeshadow anymore (mainly due to laziness), but this one seems like it would be extremely effective on oily lids. Since my lids are more on the opposite end of the spectrum, Pro-Prime isn't something I reach for very often. I also prefer to use a neutral, light cream eyeshadow for my base rather than a dedicated eye primer.

For years, I'd heard raves about Laguna, but wasn't sure if the hype was justified. After all, how good could a bronzer really be in comparison to the multitude of others out there? Turns out really, really good. Laguna is probably my favourite bronzer, and I have both Chanel Soleil Tan de Chanel and Benefit Hoola. I just can't pinpoint any aspect of it that I'm unhappy with, including the colour, texture, ease of application and effect it gives to the face.

I've not tried too many lip offerings from NARS, but the two Satin Lip Pencils I own (Yu and Biscayne Park) have impressed. While I'm not overly thrilled with the actual shades I picked out (I'm thinking it was potentially a mistake to have passed on Lodhi), the darn good formula makes it hard to complain. Ridiculously pigmented with just one swipe and melt-upon-contact with the lips, the only minor issues I have are that they can feel slightly drying after a while and sharpening is annoying.

NARS Sheer Glow is hands down, my favourite foundation. If your skin is misbehaving and drier than normal, it can sometimes highlight all your flaky areas, but on properly moisturised and exfoliated skin, simply nothing compares in terms of finish, coverage and lasting power/adherence to the skin. This is the only foundation I'm certain I will repurchase when I run out.

The Radiant Creamy Concealer is the newest addition to my NARS family, but I was an instant convert. This does everything you want a good concealer to do: erase blemishes, neutralise areas of redness and generally perfect the canvas of the skin to fake being blessed with good genes. It's a breeze to apply with fingers and the product sticks to the skin and doesn't transfer or fade away within a couple of hours.

Probably what NARS is best known for, and for good reason. I have reviewed each and every blush in my stash: Orgasm, Deep Throat, Sin, Douceur, Enchanted, Luster and Angelika. With the exception of the chunky glitter highlighter Enchanted which I could probably live without, I treasure my mini NARS blush collection. Sure, Sin is at times borderline unwearable for me and Angelika isn't the most flattering on my skin tone, but Orgasm is such a cult classic, Douceur is face sculpting gold, and Luster is a faultlessly concocted bronzer-and-blush-in-one that does it all with next to no effort.

What's next on my NARS wishlist? I feel like I need the Kalahari eyeshadow duo in my life because the left shade which is in the And God Created the Woman palette (despite its somewhat crumbly texture) is living, breathing perfection. I tried the Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Red Square a few months ago and became convinced it was my Revlon Strawberry Suede substitute. I have a feeling the NARS lipstick formula might be a tad drying for me, but Dolce Vita is such a classic, ultra wearable shade that there's not much room to go wrong. And I'm still all about that beautifully highlighted glow. NARS Albatross will graduate from being on my perennial wishlist to being in my actual makeup drawer. One day.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Skin Care Sale Stock Up

Is it a bit tragic to look forward to a twice-a-year skin care sale? Well then, tragic I am. Back in May when I purchased the Antipodes Anti-Ageing Minis set, I mentioned I was eagerly anticipating Priceline's next 40% off skin care sale, given they now stock brands like Bioderma, NUXE, La-Roche Posay, Avène, Trilogy and Antipodes (all they need to do is include Caudalie in the mix and I'm pretty much set). On Tuesday, July 29, that day finally arrived. I actually had no clue beforehand and a friend I was meeting for lunch told me about it in the morning. I literally made a dash to the nearest Priceline within an hour of hearing the news.

Though I made it to Priceline at about 11am, I was surprised to see all three items I'd jotted down on my list to be completely gone. I wanted to buy the Trilogy Rosapene Night Cream, Sukin Purifying Facial Masque and a backup of my NUXE Rêve de Miel Ultra-Nourishing Lip Balm, but everything was unavailable or sold out at the store I visited. I left empty-handed and a bit peeved.

I checked out another Priceline after work but it was exactly the same story. The sale was only for 2 days, so I contemplated making a trip to the city on Wednesday to survey other stores, but instead asked friends who were in the city to check for me. One managed to find NUXE Rêve de Miel, but had no luck with the other products. That night during the remaining few hours of the sale, I made one last visit to my local Priceline and the irrational side of my brain took over. It was thinking, "CHEAP! GOOD DISCOUNT! 40% OFF, THAT'S BASICALLY HALF PRICE, RIGHT?!" rather than "Was I planning on buying this in the first place?"

The Trilogy night cream I wanted still wasn't there, so I settled for the Balancing Face Lotion. I figured it's a generous size (100ml), making it good value for money and something that would last a long time, it's packaged conveniently and attractively in a heavyish dark frosted bottle with a pump, has quite a few overlapping ingredients with the night cream, and can be used day and night, year-round. I find it similar to Trilogy Vital Moisturising Cream but lighter, more fluid in consistency and less rich, and easier to spread over the face. It absorbs well and doesn't leave the skin feeling heavy or looking shiny. It has a pleasant, relatively subdued, sweet botanical scent that's not cloying or irritating. It's probably more suited to summer use but I've been trialling it the past week during winter here in Australia and I haven't felt it lacking in the hydration department.

I picked up another Antipodes Anti-Ageing Minis set because at $12, the Joyous Protein-Rich Night Replenish Serum (10ml) and Avocado Pear Nourishing Night Cream (15ml) were $6 a piece and I simply could not say no to that. Speaking of a price that can't be refused, I managed to nab one Grown Alchemist Regenerating Night Cream Neuro-Peptide & Violet Leaf Extract for $12. Yes, $12. Considering the cream is retailing on the Myer website currently for $84.95, I think I did well. It was already hugely slashed down to $20, but a further 40% off was entirely welcome. The consistency and colour remind me a bit of cake batter. It's one of those "natural" creams that take a while to be worked into the skin (Yes to Carrots Daily Facial Moisturiser with SPF 15 had the same issue). It leaves the skin slightly tacky to the touch but absorbs fairly well. I don't find it overwhelmingly hydrating and nourishing, nor have I noticed that my skin looks markedly better in the mornings, but we'll see with prolonged use.

Finally, an addition to my list of products for which I have a backup, namely NUXE Rêve de Miel. My existing pot is far from empty, but I use it every evening as an overnight lip treatment. Despite initially finding it odd and somewhat uncomfortable when applied, I've since embraced its thick, paste-like texture and weird exfoliating beads, especially when the result is dry, chapped, flaky lips are kept at bay.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

July Favourites

Another month has flown by in an entirely nondescript fashion. I haven't bought any new makeup in a while (thank goodness), though skin care is another story. Sometimes in the mornings when I'm getting ready, I'm almost grateful for all the quality purchases I made at the height of my makeup obsession, because I simply wouldn't spend the time or money now hunting down the same items. If I've learnt anything during almost three years of buying more makeup than I know what to do with, it's go for the real deal. Had I avoided countless inferior but cheaper "dupes" of the higher end stuff I really wanted, my present collection would be a lot more focused, of an overall higher standard, better loved and utilised, and I would've saved money in the long run.

Morrocanoil Hair Treatment
There's a reason why certain products have cult status. I am so glad that I bought this a couple of years ago based purely on hype and positive reviews, especially since it was generously discounted as well. I now can't imagine doing without it. For someone who is clueless and almost completely disinterested in hair and hair care, it's become an indispensable part of my routine. If you could call washing my hair every couple of nights in the shower with an el cheapo SLS-free shampoo, sloppily drying my locks with a towel, tying up my hair in a bun, sleeping, and running one pump of Morrocanoil through my semi-damp hair the morning after, a "routine". This stuff has essentially replaced both conditioner and a hair treatment/mask. It ensures my hair isn't completely ruined, splitting and dried out despite my neglect. Something about it rescues my hair with minimal effort and gives it texture, smoothness and life when it should have none.

Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentrè
I neglected this moisturiser for a while because I failed to see what the fuss was about. I had such sky high expectations that invariably I'd be disappointed with the reality of what it was: a basic, no frills, functional moisturiser, the only added allure being that it was French and a few famous people/makeup artists recommended it. After I got over the fact it wasn't some all-purpose miracle product, I began to appreciate it on a simpler level. Non-irritating and scentless, it's a good thirst quencher for dry skin in winter and nicely preps the face for foundation, providing a smoother, well hydrated canvas.

Omorovicza Queen of Hungary Mist
I keep going back to this post-cleanse hydrating toner after lengthy stretches of relying on my Avène Thermal Spring Water. Yes, it's pricey and the attractive packaging and fancy name play an undeniable role in my enjoyment of it, but it's also calming, refreshing and adds extra moisture and an instant plumping effect to my skin before I apply any serums and creams. I prefer to spritz three pumps into my hand then press the toner into my skin with my palms rather than misting it all over, as I find this reduces product wastage and ensures even distribution.

Dior Diorskin Poudre Shimmer in Amber Diamond
A classic example of a product I'm thankful to have acquired when I was more of a makeup junkie than I am now. I hunted it down after almost losing hope it'd ever be mine by buying it from Sephora via Tarazz during a $10 bulk shipping promotion which I shared with a friend. Forget theBalm Mary-Lou Manizer or Jemma Kidd Dewy Glow All Over Radiance Crème in Rose Gold, this is the only highlighter I've been reaching for lately. I apply it using my Real Techniques Setting Brush to the tops of my cheekbones, under my browbone and occasionally down the bridge of my nose to add more shape to my face and inject a touch of that highly prized ethereal glow.

NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer in Custard
My skin has been shit for months now, with the remnants of breakouts so numerous they could pass for freckles. This is the best concealer I've used in terms of coverage, lasting power and application. When I can't be bothered applying foundation to my whole face, dabbing this over my spots and redness does the trick. I don't need to fiddle around with brushes as it applies easily with fingers and chucking it in the makeup bag ensures I've packed the tools for on-the-spot correction.

Real Techniques Multi Task Brush
I don't watch makeup tutorials on YouTube with anywhere near as much regularity as I used to, but checking out a couple of Lauren Curtis's videos recently reminded me just how useful observing someone putting on their makeup can be. I noticed Lauren used the Real Techniques Multi Task Brush to apply her foundation over the highly favoured Real Techniques Buffing Brush, traditionally my #1 foundation brush of choice. Tanya Burr has also been giving her Bobbi Brown Face Blender Brush a lot of love, so I was persuaded to make the switch to a rounded, fluffier, softer brush. The result was a revelation. I think a bit of experimentation is required in terms of what foundation works best for what brush, but I've been loving NARS Sheer Glow with the Multi Task Brush. I find that I get less streaking and don't have work as hard blending the foundation into my skin for a seamless, natural-looking but airbrushed finish.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Backup Worthy

You know you really like a product when you've bought it again before the one you're currently using has even run out. Sure, we have those ever-repurchased staples (mine include Avène Thermal Spring Water, Klorane dry shampoo with oat milk, Sally Hansen Insta-Dri, Daiso Cotton Puffs, Cutex Nourishing Nail Polish Remover, and of course, Bioderma Créaline H₂O), but every now and then, a product you've newly discovered feels so valuable and indispensable, you can't help but want to stock up.

The easiest way to ensure a routine shower becomes a pampering experience is to get your hands on a simply irresistible shower gel. As soon as I featured philosophy Cinnamon Buns Shampoo, Shower Gel & Bubble Bath from the The Cookbook set in my April 2013 Favourites, I was already intent on restocking the full size bottle from StrawberryNET. And I wasn't even halfway done with my existing 120ml bottle. The creamy, sugary, slightly spicy, doughy goodness was like having dessert in the shower. On the other hand, LUSH Twilight Shower Gel is less food-like, but still intensely sweet, with a hefty dose of calming lavender. Unlike the philosophy, the relaxing, bedtime-priming scent stays close to your skin and lingers even after you've stepped out of the shower. Being limited edition, I rationed my first tiny 100g bottle for months, so naturally I pounced when I saw LUSH selling Twilight again last October.

Taking a couple of minutes to treat yourself to a good hand cream can be a simple but effective pick-me-up during a day at work staring endlessly at a computer screen. The distinctive, heady and bright scent of Crabtree & Evelyn Pomegranate, Argan & Grapeseed Hand Therapy lifts the spirits while providing relief to dry hands. Another fixture in my makeup bag are the Korres Lip Butters. Softening, hydrating, attractively packaged, not too intimidating in terms of colour payoff, as well as multipurpose (I've used Pomegranate many times as a cream blush), there's a reason why I've collected almost all the shades.

Occasionally, a deal will strike me as such good value that repurchasing not only seems prudent, but almost essential. When I calculated that the full size versions of the products contained in the Antipodes Anti-Ageing Minis set would have to be nearly half price to give me equivalent value, I rushed out to buy another box. (The threat of a 'limited edition' label probably played a role too.) Antipodes isn't the cheapest of brands, so on top of the satisfaction of scoring a good deal, I readily incorporated both the silky smooth, deeply hydrating Joyous Protein-Rich Night Replenish Serum and rich, thirst-quenching Avocado Pear Nourishing Night Cream into my evening skin care routine.

Daiso Detergent for Puff and Sponge was such a revelation the first time I used it, I had to secure myself a backup bottle ASAP. No more bending over the sink, scrubbing and scrubbing brushes using my open palm and baby shampoo. Make no mistake, this stuff is life-changing.

The final three repurchased items now seem questionable to me, given the likelihood I'd ever finish up the original product. More to the point, I've either cooled my enthusiasm, a once scarce product has now become widely available, or I've since found superior or equally excellent alternatives.

There was a time when the prospect of welcoming Revlon Whimsical into my nail polish collection seemed as elusive and dream-like as its name might suggest. The moment I stumbled across a bottle at Rite Aid while holidaying in New York City was one of quiet, triumphant joy mixed with disbelief. When Whimsical finally made its way to the shops here, I undid my regret at not buying another bottle when I had the chance in NYC. Despite needing to tediously paint about 4 coats for complete opacity, and wearing it more than any other polish I own, my current bottle shows no signs of being completely used up for quite some time. I may get to opening the backup in 2016.

Savvy by DB Luxury Liner in Shimmering Slate was one of my earliest eyeliner discoveries, and being super affordable at $3 on sale, I bought a bunch a couple of years back. Since then, I've moved on to the efficiency, precision and ease of use of felt tip eyeliners for my upper lash line. I also avoid black on my lower lash line where I'd normally use a pencil, preferring instead taupe or metallic browns.

Maybelline Color Tattoo in Bad to the Bronze still remains one of my most adored eyeshadows, but my existing pot has largely dried out, making the texture challenging to work with. While I have a backup right there, I'm hesitant to open the new one when the old one is only about 30% used up. Which really just makes me wonder under what circumstances I'd ever open the brand new one, given solid use over 2 years only diminished a third of the product, and I've put off 'fixing' my dried out cream eyeshadow for months. Time to utilise a backup for precisely its purpose, methinks.