Now, it's safe to say I'm a sucker for Benefit's packaging. After all, the colourful, playful, retro shtick they have going on is so intrinsic to the brand's identity. It's not all about the exterior though — from my experience, their products generally do perform. Probably better than expected, given their advertising can seem a little gimmicky and prone to exaggeration, albeit in a tongue-in-cheek way (like the page in their Summer 2012 catalogue showing a 'before and after' comparison of a model wearing their Hello Flawless Oxygen Wow foundation, but deliberately badly lit with messy hair and pulling a face in the 'before' picture, and airbrushed and glamorous in the 'after').
My lashes are nothing spectacular but this mascara really left an impression the first time I used it. There's only so much mascara can do when you have short, straight lashes barely peeking through your monolids, but They're Real perseveres and even brings them to passable status. It's one of the most lengthening and volumnising mascaras I've encountered, while still being clump-free and defining. It also holds curl well and doesn't flake or smudge. I've been using the travel size that came with my full size mascara for an unsavoury length of time (tossing it any minute now, I promise), so at least I can say it's not one to dry out quickly. The bristles are quite stiff and spiky however, so it can feel slightly scratchy when you're using it, especially if you accidentally poke your eyelid.
I have so much duplication and excess when it comes to my makeup collection, with multiple versions of products that have only minute variations, so you know Hoola is special when it stands alone. It's basically the only matte bronzer I rely on to contour my face. Yes, I have my Stila Sun SPF 15 Bronzing Powder (too orange), my Bourjois Délice de Soleil (surface has sealed, too hard to pigment on a brush) and my Napoleon Perdis Ultimate Contour Palette (I forget it's even there), but Hoola is miles ahead of them all. Ultra smooth and blendable, no shimmer, not too light or dark, I use it with my Real Techniques Multi-Task Brush to bring some much needed definition and shading to my plump face. This isn't something I bother with regularly, but when I do, it's never let me down.
Creaseless Cream Eyeshadow/Liner in Busy Signal
There's already a whole ode I've penned to this cream shadow, but I just can't seem to shut up about it. Benefit recently repackaged their cream eyeshadows, and while they retained some of the older shades (like Birthday Suit and Skinny Jeans), Busy Signal didn't make the cut. I'm not sure whether this means it's now discontinued, because that would be ghastly. Busy Signal is a delightfully rich, chocolatey, gold-flecked bronze. My preference is to wear it on the lower lash line (the staying power is unrivaled), but you could easily apply a wash of this over the lid, layering it to your desired opacity, for a simple, fuss-free smoky eye. It seems very close to MAC Paint Pot in Eclair from the Baking Beauties collection.
Cha Cha Tint
I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Cha Cha Tint, but I had to include it because when done right, you'll want to profess your loyalty and forsake all others. I find it very difficult to blend evenly — this includes when I'm trying to get it on one cheek first, and then ensuring both cheeks are the same. It sets to an unbudgeable stain so quickly that it's already too late when you're still in the process of blending it. If you haven't blended the tint out the way you want in 1.5 seconds, game over. I love the versatility of this product (it's underrated as a lip colour), the colour (very fresh, youthful and summery, one of the very few corals that I don't hate because it's too red on me), the way it melds with the skin rather than sitting on top. If only the application wasn't so challenging to perfect.
One of my all-time favourite highlighters, probably second only to Jemma Kidd Dewy Glow All Over Radiance Crème. This is powerfully luminous but not gritty or packed with visible shimmer particles. It just gives this cool, pearly sheen that blends effortlessly into the skin (no Cha Cha Tint problems here). You can also wear this under foundation or mixed with your usual base, though I haven't tried that personally. I have a smaller size that came with my Go TropiCORAL Lip & Cheek Kit (4ml rather than the full size 13ml), but you really only need a very small amount each time, so thankfully there's no need to replenish my supply just yet.
l-r: Hoola, Busy Signal, Cha Cha Tint, High Beam