Monday, April 21, 2014

The Medicinal Approach

I've been increasingly hearing more about First Aid Beauty, mainly through Ingrid of missglamorazzi, so when I spotted the Forever Fab Kit on sale at David Jones, grabby hands ensued. (Thanks goes to Cherie for the heads up in the first place that F.A.B. was being discontinued and marked down to be cleared at DJs.) Containing a small tube of Ultra Repair Cream (56.7g), Detox Eye Roller (8.5ml) and Facial Radiance Pads (60 pads), the three-piece set seemed to be an ideal introduction to the brand. I was also hoping to find the Ultra Repair Instant Oatmeal Mask raved about by Fleur De Force but there weren't any left.

Ultra Repair Cream
I'm guessing this is one of the star products in the F.A.B. range, so I was excited to try it out and hopefully be impressed. At first I thought it was a face cream, but it's actually an all-purpose cream for dry skin which can be used for the body as well. Since I only have a small tube of this but litres of combined random body moisturisers I've yet to use, I've reserved the Ultra Repair Cream for my face only. To me, it's a fairly simple, straightforward, well-formulated cream. There doesn't seem to be a whole lot of bells and whistles or potential nasties with it, and it has a distinctly medicinal feel and scent. You need only a small amount for the face and once it's absorbed, it leaves the skin soft and moisturised without feeling greasy. I'd pick this for sensitive skin that might be suffering from breakouts or other irritations, or skin that's drier than normal, for example during the winter. It's free of mineral oil and relatively affordable compared with say, Trilogy, Jurlique or Antipodes (the 56.7g tube is $12 in the US), so I can see this being a repurchased staple for those with an uncomplicated approach to their skin care (men included).

Facial Radiance Pads
These are smallish, bumpy/textured circular pads soaked in solution. There's all the good stuff you'd expect in exfoliating pads, including lactic and glycolic acids, as well as cucumber, Indian gooseberry, lemon peel and licorice root. I've read that some people cut the pads in half to double the number of uses, since the pads do hold a lot of product in them. I have tried that, and while there's more than enough to do both the entire face and neck, I found moving a small semicircle around my face to be pretty awkward. At the same time, using one with so much product still left on it does seem somewhat wasteful. These have a slightly unpleasant chemical smell and they feel kind of harsh and drying on the skin, a complaint exacerbated by the textured surface of the pad which seems to be a form of exfoliation in itself. Perhaps that's just the exfoliation working effectively (Alpha-H Liquid Gold leaves a similar sensation), but I much prefer using something more gentle and hydrating like Pixi Glow Tonic.

Detox Eye Roller
Paula Begoun was not a fan, and while I take her opinion with a grain of salt, it did make me slightly wary of this product. She makes the point that it contains irritants such as witch hazel and menthol which can worsen eye-area problems rather than assist them. I'm not a huge believer in eye creams and treatments in general as I don't really comprehend the need for different or specialised products for that area compared with the rest of the face. This Detox Eye Roller is just something I use if I remember. I have accumulated quite a number of eye creams, balms and gels, and most are neglected purely due to laziness, forgetfulness and a sense of their redundancy. I do enjoy the cooling sensation from the menthol, but apparently that's my skin reacting to an irritant rather than any beneficial effect occurring. The instructions state to roll the metal tip from the inner to outer corners of the undereye area 2 to 3 times. From experience, that number is overkill and dispenses way too much product. Just once is enough for me.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Correcting Claims

Of course I wasn't planning on buying a new foundation, but Lisa Eldridge's terrible influence and Priceline's 40% off sale proved to be a persuasive combination. Along with the good reputation Bourjois enjoys when it comes to their base products, I figured $15 wasn't too steep a price to pay to hopefully be blown away. As usual, the hardest part was selecting the right shade. Annoyingly, there wasn't a tester for 32 Light Beige, so I settled for 33 Rose Beige after trying some on and not noticing any major issues.

Bourjois 123 Perfect CC Cream SPF 15 has a lightweight texture and is decently hydrating, though I'm not sure about the "24 hour hydration" claims. It reminds me of a slightly more fluid, sheerer version of Bourjois Healthy Mix Serum, but instead of the juicy apricot smell, the fragrance is cloying and powdery. It also isn't anywhere near as glowy, with more of a subdued, skin-like finish. I definitely feel it's less coverage than Healthy Mix Serum, though around the same wear time. With its sheerer coverage, runnier consistency, and thin, long nozzle, I also find it reminiscent of Garnier BB Cream Miracle Skin Perfector (Combination to Oily Skin). The Bourjois is easier to work into the skin than the Garnier, but it's not as dewy and illuminating.

Rose Beige is far from the perfect colour match for me which is a major downside. It's darker and more pinkish tan than my skin tone, which leans more yellow/beige. At the same time, I doubt the shade lighter would have matched me exactly either. This seems to be a recurrent issue I have with Bourjois foundations, since I also fall in between 52 Vanille and 53 Beige clair in Healthy Mix Serum. It's unfortunate that Bourjois can't be more subtle with their shade gradations, but I suppose the lack of variety and colour specificity is to be expected of more affordable brands. If I sheer it out, it's not so much an issue, but it's obvious when I focus on the difference between my face and noticeably paler, yellower neck.

Despite being touted as "anti-fatigue", "anti-redness" and "anti-dark spots" (with counteracting apricot, green and white pigments respectively), I didn't notice any colour correcting properties. For me, the coverage simply isn't there for it to camouflage any redness. I could still see all my patches of irritation and blemishes after applying one layer. As far as being brightening, both Healthy Mix Serum and the Garnier BB Cream give far more luminosity to the complexion. This CC Cream isn't exactly matte, but it's not distinctly radiance-boosting either.

On top of all that, my main issue is that it doesn't seem to set very well, especially when paired with a thicker moisturiser like my Antipodes Vanilla Pod Hydrating Day Cream. It's almost still wet after it's applied and I need to powder all over to mattify my skin. Even then, an hour later if I press a tissue over my face to minimise unwanted transfer and blot away any shine, a significant amount of foundation comes off on it — much more than what I'd consider normal. It's almost like the foundation hasn't absorbed or worked into the skin properly and is primarily just sitting on the surface, easily rubbed off.

For now, I'm still using it daily as it's a solid pick for an easygoing daytime base that looks quite natural, but it's certainly no love affair. It's probably most suited to those with already good skin slightly on the drier side. Otherwise, pass on this if you're looking for more coverage, a more budge-proof, transfer-resistant formulation and a glowy finish.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

A Brush with e.l.f.

With Kmart beginning to stock e.l.f., the affordable US cosmetics brand recently became widely available in Australia. While everything was predictably more expensive than in the States, the sad reality is the price point for the range remains inexpensive by local standards. I wasn't interested in any of the makeup (trying to honour my New Year's beauty resolution of buying less, despite early slip ups), but I wanted to give their brushes a go. I've always heard good feedback about their brush line, especially being so budget-friendly. The Essential line of brushes are $3 a piece here (compared with $1 in the States), while the brushes in the Studio line are $8 (compared with $3 in the States). Despite the triple markup, I purchased the Essential Eyeshadow Brush, Essential Blending Eye Brush and Studio Blush Brush to try.

l-r: e.l.f. Essential Eyeshadow Brush, e.l.f. Essential Blending Eye Brush, e.l.f. Studio Blush Brush

l-r: Sportsgirl dual-ended brush, Real Techniques Domed Shadow Brush, e.l.f. Eyeshadow Brush

l-r: Ecotools Smudge Brush, e.l.f. Blending Eye Brush, Ecotools Blending Brush

The two eyeshadow brushes I picked out seem to be the most popular and well-received of e.l.f.'s Essential range, so my expectations were fairly high despite how affordable they were. Before anything, I gave them a good wash with Daiso Detergent for Puff and Sponge and not a single hair shed which was a positive start. After they'd dried and I'd used them for the first time, I was pleased at how soft the bristles were without being floppy and hard to control.

The Essential Eyeshadow Brush seems designed for the basic job of packing on a single colour all over the eyelid. It picked up a good amount of shadow, especially with the lighter shade I used, without resulting in too much fallout. The only issue I had was the length of the bristles which I found a bit too short. Occasionally I'd feel the cold, hard ferrule on my lid rather than the actual brush hair.

The Essential Blending Eye Brush was excellent at concentrating a deeper colour on the outer-V of the eye and blending into the crease. It fits really snugly into the crease (or disappears into the skin fold, if you have monolids) and deposits colour accurately. The smaller, rounded shape allows for better control and placement compared with something much larger and fluffier, like the Ecotools Blending Brush from the Bamboo 5 Piece Brush Set. Together, the Eyeshadow Brush and the Blending Eye Brush make eyeshadow application a simple, approachable 2-step process that even eyeshadow novices can master.

l-r: Real Techniques Setting Brush, Real Techniques Contour Brush, e.l.f. Blush Brush, Ecotools Blush Brush

Out of the Studio line, I was tempted by the gigantic Kabuki Face Brush but in the end, I had to go with the Blush Brush. Mainly, I was intrigued by the shape of it, which is significantly smaller than what I'm accustomed to in a blush brush. It actually reminded me of the SUQQU "Kitten Paw" Cheek Brush beloved by Lisa Eldridge, though that could be more because both are all black than anything else. Notwithstanding other major quality/materials/craftsmanship/price differences, the SUQQU appears more fluffy and rounded, whereas this e.l.f. one is mainly flat.

Of course, I had to try the brush with e.l.f.'s own Studio Blushes. I whipped out my oft-neglected Pink Passion, a colour I've struggled with and been frequently intimidated by as it's so bright and pigmented. Using the Studio Blush Brush, with its flat edge and smaller shape, gave me far greater control as to placement and opacity. I could concentrate the colour exactly where I wanted it on the cheek and build up the pigmentation slowly with each layer. I think the Studio Blush Brush has the potential to make more accessible any strongly pigmented blush that more traditional blush brushes would overdo. I don't have anything similar in shape, so it's a welcome addition to my brush collection.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Shop My Stash #3

Whenever I reach a point of makeup saturation, I'm always encouraged to have a good rummage through my storage in an attempt to bring back to my attention products I've neglected or have long forgotten about. There's nothing quite like methodically working your way through the contents of each drawer (yes, including those decade-old eyeshadows, barely used palettes and that random blush from ALDI) to confront the reality of one's addiction and excesses. At the same time, I often rediscover items that deserve either a second chance, or the opportunity to shine and be loved once more. Here, I've pulled out seven things I hope to reignite my enthusiasm about and use more frequently in the coming weeks.

Benefit Ultra Plush Lip Gloss in Dallas
Out of the whole High Flyin' Glosses set, I remember Dallas surprised me the most. Named after the plummy-leaning blush, I didn't think the colour in the tube was anything inspiring. On the lips however, it's a different story. Firstly, there's no sparkle or shimmer, so it's more a tinted lip cream with a thin, glide-on consistency. The shade is a medium rosy nude with just the right mix of red and brown to remain flattering and sophisticated, rather than dated and mature-looking. The sheerness and the soft sheen that it leaves also make it super easy to throw on casually and reapply.

NYX Eye/Eyebrow Pencil in Dark Brown (903)
I originally bought this thinking it would be an excellent eyebrow pencil. And it very well could be, except I rarely ever fill in my brows. Hence this pencil is almost in a brand new condition despite purchasing it probably a couple of years ago. It seems like such a waste of a perfectly good product, so I've decided to give its other function a whirl and use it to define my lower lash line. It's a bit warmer than my usual brown/taupe picks and slightly red-toned on me, but it'll do the job just fine.

Bourjois Blush in Rose Coup de Foudre (16)
In retrospect, I probably could have stopped at 2-3 of these round pot blushes from Bourjois when I saw them on sale at Target, rather than madly grabbing 5. I find some of them to be virtually indistinguishable from each other when blended onto the cheek. Having said that, I remember getting home after hauling them, trying on each of the shades and feeling Rose Coup de Foudre was the definite standout. I loved the glow that it gave me and how I suddenly looked fresher, healthier, more radiant. Annoyingly, these blushes do seal and I have to comb the surface with a toothpick to release any pigment. I've effectively scratched off the top layer in anticipation of some proper wear very soon.

Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentré
This French moisturiser has such a cult reputation that I was compelled to fork out $28 for a 75ml tube from Scotty's Makeup at the Spa & Beauty Expo. I found myself preferring to use it as a primer rather than moisturiser, or layering it over other moisturisers in winter, but I ended up abandoning it after a while mostly due to concerns about its mineral oil content. After experimenting with more "natural" products and not being entirely convinced about their superiority, I'm now a lot less bothered by mineral oil in my skin care. I want to give this moisturiser another go, if only to finish the tube since it's fairly old. Plus, the allure of a product purportedly used by models, makeup artists and celebrities can't be denied.

Laura Mercier Mineral Powder SPF 15 in Real Sand
My sole glaring issue with this mineral powder is the shade. Too light for me. Which might not even be that big of an issue for a liquid foundation, but a powder one? That's tricky. I'm determined to make this work though, because it's too good of a product to rarely ever use. Perhaps a light dusting of this all over using a soft stippling brush (Ecotools by Alicia Silverstone Finishing Brush comes to mind) as a final perfecting powder.

Rimmel Match Perfection Cream Gel Foundation in Soft Beige (200)
I know this is a favourite of Emma's and I can see why. If your skin is cooperating, this provides good coverage, blends easily, feels lightweight and cooling on the skin, sets quickly and dries to an almost matte finish. My main problems with it are the colour match (Soft Beige is a touch too dark for me), the fiddly jar it's contained in (I have to scoop out the product each time with fingers which seems unsanitary, even if they've been freshly washed) and the mostly matte, drier finish which at times looks quite flat on the skin. I also had a particularly bad skin reaction after using this foundation not long after I first bought it which put me off using it again. I did recently give it another go and felt it was a solid performing base. It does have better coverage than most of my other everyday foundations which are sheerer, dewier and more liquid in consistency, so I might also try spot concealing with it using a small brush like the Real Techniques Accent Brush.

Benefit Creaseless Cream Shadow in Birthday Suit
Ahhh, Birthday Suit. I wanted to love you bad. But it just didn't work out the way I hoped. I'm not ready to give up entirely though. Maybe I can find a way to accept you for who you are and work with it. In a nutshell, Birthday Suit is a light chrome base with gold shimmer. Honestly, not the best on sallow, yellow-toned complexions, especially those with an olive tinge. While it might not be my dream eyeshadow, I think it works well for quick, casual and fuss-free makeup, like on weekend coffee dates with friends. Something similar in function to my beloved Essence Eye Soufflé in Pas des Copper, which I rarely wear on weekdays while I'm at the office, but I frequently reach for at all other times (weekends, days off, holidays) for the speediest one-wash look that adds sparkle and definition without ever going overboard.