Thursday, February 27, 2014

Bring It On Home

So remember my flirtation with procuring Dose of Colors Love Potion but how I simply refused to spend $12.75 shipping on a $16 lipstick? During that time, I was casually browsing Myer and stumbled across the lipstick stand of Australian brand Chi Chi. Naturally, one of the purple shades caught my eye. I'd never heard much about Chi Chi lipsticks except from Tegan, and ordinarily I would be loath to spend $18.95 on a single lipstick, but I tried on the colour and couldn't pull myself away. It's probably the closest thing I'll find to Love Potion that's available locally, and thankfully, it's unlike any purple lipstick I already have.







l-r: Lime Crime Airborne Unicorn, Chi Chi Bring It On, Revlon Berry Haute

Chi Chi Bring It On is a matte, medium pinky violet/orchid shade. While it has a good level of pink to prevent it from being too "out there" and more difficult to pull off (like the much cooler, darker Lime Crime Airbourne Unicorn), on my lips, it's still distinctly purple which I like. Rather than being neon, it has a relatively muted quality and leans almost pinkish-berry, but at the same time there's hints of brightness coming through that stop the colour from appearing draining and dull.

The matte formulation is one of the best I've tried. It's smooth, feels very lightweight, doesn't cling to lip lines and the texture isn't chalky at all, and while it's not the most hydrating, it's still surprisingly comfortable and not overly drying for a matte finish. It's not crazily pigmented either, which I prefer as it lets you to build up the intensity as desired. One single, light coat, dabbed in with the fingers, still allows hints of your natural lip colour to peek through. The versatility of this lipstick is the many ways it can be worn depending on your mood and the occasion: from a fresh, casual, lived-in whisper of a stain, to a full-blown, party-ready, statement lip. This could very well be the purple of my dreams.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Top 5 Low-End Eyeshadow Singles

While higher end or luxury brands like Urban Decay and Burberry are known for producing buttery, highly pigmented eyeshadows, the lower end of the market, or 'drugstore' offerings can leave much to be desired. More affordable brands can often produce eyeshadow duds, with unspectacular colour payoff, a dry, hard, powdery or chalky texture, weak lasting power, and often unimaginative, generic shades that lack complexity and interest. Here are my top five mono/single budget-friendly neutral eyeshadows that I count among the best in their field for everyday, all-over lid options. I would've also included L'Oréal Infallible eyeshadows but to be honest, there's not one shade of the many I have that I'm completely in love with (though Bronzed Taupe and Tender Caramel are the closest contenders).




l-r: Maybelline Iced Fudge, Essence Party All Night, Rimmel Smokey Quartz, Revlon Polished Bronze, Max Factor Burnt Bark

Maybelline EyeStudio Mono in Iced Fudge (720)
For the longest time, I stubbornly insisted on calling this eyeshadow Iced Fudged because that's the way it's labelled on the packaging. I should accept that's clearly just a typo, since it seems this eyeshadow has experienced something of a resurgence in recent weeks with quite a few mentions on blogs and no one has ever called it Iced Fudged. Moving along, Iced Fudge is the most copper of the bunch, with a red base and frost finish. I even detect a tinge of plumminess coming through. It's very shimmery and nicely pigmented, though sometimes I wish the silver sparkle factor could be toned down just a notch.

Essence Metallic Effect Mono Eyeshadow in Party All Night (35)
Already reviewed in detail here, Party All Night is the cheapest pick, coming in at a mere $2.85. It's a more dirty yellow colour with a slight ashy bent and silver and gold shimmer. It's not as pigmented as Iced Fudge, and the shimmer is more subdued and not as distinctly frosty. Still, I think it's a sophisticated, relatively understated shade (at least for my skin tone) and well worth checking out given its unbeatable value.

Rimmel Glam'Eyes Mono Eyeshadow in Smokey Quartz (030)
I took a chance on Smokey Quartz having been curious about it for a long time but always putting off purchasing it given the obscene number of similar neutral shades I own, and the gamble paid off in spades. Featured in my November 2013 Favourites, Smokey Quartz is like a cross in colour between Iced Fudge and Party All Night, but a bit more traditionally bronze-leaning. Applied to the lids, it has an almost light taupe base with a warmer, somewhat peachy shimmer on top. Unexpectedly complex and beautiful. The texture is soft and easily to blend, one of those eyeshadows you can apply to your lids with your fingers.

Revlon Luxurious Color Satin Eyeshadow in Polished Bronze (010) 
Raved about all the way back in July 2012, Polished Bronze is probably my favourite of the lot, which is surprising given Revlon are very hit and miss with their eyeshadows and overall decidedly average. Polished Bronze is more warm brown and golden in tone than Party All Night. It isn't as frosty/shimmery compared with the other shades, with more of a low-key satin finish and buildable pigmentation. Texture is similar to Smokey Quartz, soft and blendable, only very slightly powdery (if we're nitpicking). The lasting power isn't anything outstanding, but it's a solid all-rounder and the colour is perfect for a failproof neutral wash over the lids.

Max Factor Earth Spirits Eyeshadow in Burnt Bark (107)
Admittedly, I was sucked into buying this eyeshadow after hearing it was a decent substitute for MAC Satin Taupe. It's a darker taupe shade, a purplish brown-grey threaded with silver. This one is a bit harder and drier in texture, but still fine to work with and decently pigmented. It's quite cool-toned and hazy, more suited for a daytime smoky eye or when you want a bit more definition.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Natural Aura

If there were four masks that I kept repeatedly seeing on blogs and YouTube, it would be Origins Drink Up Intensive Overnight Mask, REN Glycolactic Radiance Renewal Mask, Aesop Parsley Seed Facial Cleansing Masque and Antipodes Aura Manuka Honey Mask. Antipodes seem to have steadily captured my attention recent months, and 25% off the New Zealand skin care brand at David Jones last month was all the incentive I needed to add this popular hydrating mask to my skin care arsenal. I purchased it for just under $37 (regular price $49), lured by the promise of an "intensely moisturising, cleansing and antioxidising treatment" and exotic-sounding ingredients like the pohutukawa bloom and "traditional Māori remedy" Manuka honey.






Ingredients: Aqua (water), leptospermum scoparium mel (manuka honey), persea gratissima (avocado) oil, glycerin, cetearyl alcohol, stearic acid, glycerol stearate, gluconolactone, sodium benzoate, calcium gluconate, vitis vinifera (Vinanza Grape grapeseed) extract, daucus carota sativa (carrot) oil, metrosideros excelsa (pohutukawa) flower extract, tocopherol (Vitamin E), essential oil fragrances of vanilla & mandarin: coumarin*, d-limonene*, linalool*.
*Component of essential oil


Antipodes Aura Manuka Honey Mask

Antipodes suggest smoothing a thick layer of the mask over the face and neck twice a week, leaving it on for 15 minutes and washing it off with warm water. Like all masks I use, I never bother with the neck. I've also left it on for much longer than the recommended time (until almost all the product had absorbed into my skin), and I don't think it makes any real difference to how well it works.

The Aura Manuka Honey Mask is an off-white cream colour with a similar texture to a moderately thick moisturiser. It's easy to spread and feels instantly soothing and hydrating once applied. It has a noticeable cooling, minty sensation that feels gently refreshing and calming for about 10-15 minutes but subsequently subsides. The smell reminds me a bit of raw cake batter but a bit more medicinal, not as sugary. Despite its name, I don't detect much of a honey scent at all. It's certainly not sickly sweet. There's a vague sense of vanilla coming through, but nothing distinct. Overall the fragrance is subdued and generally pleasant.

Is this the "ultimate solution for spots and blemishes" as Antipodes claims? Nope. Not even close. I've used it a few times and I don't feel it significantly contributes to blemishes diminishing in appearance or disappearing faster. I much prefer my Sukin Purifying Facial Masque for that purpose, where I can see my skin afterwards appearing brighter, clearer, more balanced and less inflamed if I'm suffering from a reaction or break out. What the Antipodes does excel at is hydration. When this is washed off, my skin is left feeling soft, nicely cleansed and nourished, like a layer of moisture has already been locked in before I need to slap on any other products. There's no dryness or irritation that come with other masks, notably the REN Glycolactic Radiance Renewal Mask, where my skin is craving moisturiser once it's washed off. Overall, while the Aura Manuka Honey Mask is hardly groundbreaking or super effective at combating spots, it's a refined, high quality mask that's gentle and comfortable on the skin, and a pleasure to use.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Favourite Face Brushes

Last time I did a mass brush laundry day, the gorgeous Hollie of Eating Lipstick (a fantastic blog which I thoroughly recommend) asked whether I had a post about my favourite makeup brushes. While I have written individually about the Real Techniques, Ecotools and Sigma brushes I've purchased in the past, I haven't rounded up my most reached for and adored brushes in one post before. I've decided to limit my selections to face brushes only for now, since my eye brush collection, in line with my very amateur eyeshadow application/technique, needs some work. I purchased most of my Ecotools brushes from Priceline and Real Techniques brushes from S.A. Hair, Nail & Beauty Supplies in the Dymocks Building (we're talking way back when they were first released to the Australian market). If you're looking to buy online, iHerb stocks both brands and Ecotools can also be purchased from Luxola.


l-r: Real Techniques Buffing Brush, Ecotools by Alicia Silverstone Blush Brush, Real Techniques Multi Task Brush, Real Techniques Expert Face Brush, Models Prefer Mystique Blush Brush, Real Techniques Contour Brush, Ecotools Tapered Blush Brush

Real Techniques Buffing Brush
I've harped on about this brush endlessly, including in my 10 Products I Would Repurchase and Best of 2013 posts. There really isn't anything further to say. It's the best foundation brush I've used and I rely on it most days I wear makeup.

Ecotools by Alicia Silverstone Blush Brush
It's lamentable this brush from a limited edition Ecotools by Alicia Silverstone 5 Piece Brush Set can't be purchased alone and isn't being produced anymore. It's ultra soft and fluffy, with a beautiful shape just made for the cheeks, it picks up product well, blends it seamlessly, and there's zero shedding when washed. I've flirted with many blush brushes in the last couple of years that I thought I liked (namely the Real Techniques one), but simply put, this one's the best.

Real Techniques Multi Task Brush
This brush from the Real Techniques Travel Essentials Set is the closest to the Ecotools by Alicia Silverstone Blush Brush I've found. It's actually a great substitute, though the Ecotools has a more tapered shape and this Real Techniques one is a bit larger. Along with blush, I normally use the Multi Task Brush for bronzer in an attempt to contour the cheekbones. It's a good size for my plump face and the shape strikes an ideal balance between control and softly blended edges.


l-r: Ecotools by Alicia Silverstone Blush Brush, Ecotools Tapered Blush Brush

Real Techniques Expert Face Brush
Some would argue this is basically interchangeable with the Buffing Brush, possibly even the superior offering given its more rounded rectangle shape allows you to navigate the contours of the face better. I do appreciate how it performs as a Buffing Brush alternative, but my preferred use for the Expert Face Brush is to apply cream blush. It is the absolutely perfect shape for it, especially blending from the top of the cheekbones down. The thick, slightly firm bristles but relatively narrow shape diffuses product beautifully and doesn't turn your cheeks into a patchy, ruddy mess. It's excellent for cream bronzer/contouring as well.

Models Prefer Mystique Blush Brush
I was on the hunt for an angled blush brush from the likes of Sigma or MAC for quite a while, but managed to satiate my curiosity with this more affordable version from an Australian brand stocked at Priceline. Unlike all the other brushes featured here which are synthetic, this is the only one made with natural bristles. I like it for more pigmented blushes as the brush doesn't pick up too much product and it softens and tones down the colour when applied to the cheeks. Its primary function however, ever since I purchased NARS Laguna, has been in my attempts to contour my face. I'm not entirely convinced whether the angled shape really makes that much of a difference compared with something like the Real Techniques Multi Task Brush, but it seems to make the placement and blending just that little bit easier.

Real Techniques Contour Brush
One of the more versatile and underrated brushes in my collection. I mainly use it as my go-to highlighter brush (I much prefer it to the flatter and smaller Real Techniques Setting Brush for that purpose), but I imagine it'd work equally well for a broad range of uses, including contouring with both powder and cream products, more precise blush application, blending undereye concealer and spot powdering.

Ecotools Tapered Blush Brush
I initially bought this thinking it would be identical to the Ecotools by Alicia Silverstone Blush Brush, only to be sorely disappointed when I realised it was significantly flatter, more tapered, not as thick and fluffy, and larger in shape. I would have dismissed it as mostly a failed purchase, except I found it performs one function better than any other brushes in my collection: applying a light layer of Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder over my foundation. My other powder brushes are these dense, rounded domes (like the Real Techniques Powder Brush or Too Faced Powder Pouf) which would be too heavy-handed and pack on too much product, but the relative flatness and floppiness of the Ecotools Tapered Blush Brush works to its advantage in gently dusting all over a fine finishing powder for that final, skin-perfecting touch.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Primed for Success

Eye primers and nude cream bases play a vital role in helping powder eyeshadows appear more vibrant and last longer. An underwhelming eyeshadow can be rescued by a good primer and can transform a lacklustre shade into a better version of itself. Of course, an already impressively pigmented and long-wearing eyeshadow might not need any extra help. The preliminary step of applying a primer or base can also be effective insurance against oily lids and eyeshadow creasing, though those two issues aren't major problems for my dryish monolids. Here are the five I reach for most often.




l-r: Maybelline Color Tattoo in Barely Branded, Urban Decay Primer Potion, NARS Pro-Prime Smudge Proof Eyeshadow Base, LORAC Behind the Scenes Eye Primer, Becca Eye Tint in Vicuna

Maybelline 24Hr Color Tattoo Eyeshadow in Barely Branded (70)
This light, very shimmery beigey champagne needs to be applied with caution. I make sure to pick up a very small amount with my finger and spread a thin layer to slightly moisturised lids for more slip, as it's a little dry and hard in texture at first. It's quite pigmented so applying a touch too much may overpower the actual eyeshadow, though it's nowhere near as bad as the white, frosty Too Cool (05). I find the lasting power and vibrancy of the metallic Color Tattoos to be exceptional, so Barely Branded works well to prolong wear time and amp up the shimmer factor of lustrous shades.

Urban Decay Primer Potion Eyeshadow Base
This classic eyeshadow primer is a solid all-rounder. It's a light yellowish skin colour but applies mainly transparent on the lids. It has a bit of a thicker texture but is easy to spread with good slip. It doesn't do too much for me applied to my entire lid, but proves its worth when worn just under the eyes. I find it helps eyeliner on the lower lash line to stay on and minimise bottom lash mascara from smudging during the day.

NARS Pro-Prime Smudge Proof Eyeshadow Base
My opinion hasn't changed since I featured this in my August 2013 Favourites. NARS Pro-Prime would be an excellent choice for those with oily skin as it's unparalleled when it comes to making eyeshadow adhere to the lids. It's almost like it dries up the eyeshadow so it sticks to the skin and doesn't have a chance of smearing off. In a way, because it's so budge-resistant, it's harder to work with in terms of softly and evenly blending out the edges of eyeshadow or correcting eyeliner mishaps. Like the Urban Decay Primer Potion which it shares a very similar texture with (though Pro-Prime is a touch drier/thicker and not as smooth to apply), its strength is reserved for the lower lash line area.

LORAC Behind the Scenes Eye Primer
I received a 5.5g sample from my LORAC Pro Palette and was curious to see how it stacked up against eye primers from Urban Decay and NARS (included with the original Naked palette and And God Created the Woman Eye Palette respectively). I was initially surprised to find the LORAC to be much smoother, thinner and more emollient in consistency, making it infinitely easier to blend out. It's completely transparent and doesn't leave any kind of coating or texture on the skin, dissolving into nothingness on the lid. It ticks the boxes in terms of giving added depth and life to eyeshadows, but I don't think it's as strong in terms of preventing movement and encouraging eyeshadow adhesion as NARS or Urban Decay.

Becca Eye Tint in Vicuna
Every now and then I slap some Vicuna on as an eyeshadow base, primarily in an attempt to use up this unloved magazine freebie since it's basically undetectable on my lids as a cream eyeshadow. It's even thinner and smoother in consistency than the LORAC, so I have to use an absolute minuscule amount, spread thinly across the lid with my finger. It takes some time to fully set, which can be an advantage as it gives eyeshadow a slightly wet surface to stick to. Vicuna gives an extremely subtle peachy shimmer and sheen to any eyeshadow placed over it, like a low-key version of Maybelline Barely Branded. It's not meant to be a proper eyeshadow primer, so there aren't any miracles in terms of combating fading and increasing longevity. It's probably more convincing as an understated liquid highlighter for the top of the cheekbones.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Purple Pull

My latest lipstick fixation is Dose of Colors Love Potion, after seeing it featured in MakeupByAlli's January Favourites and a separate video by Marlena of Makeup Geek. It's $16 on the Dose of Colors website and while international shipping is available, the cheapest option is $12.75. Unwilling to pay a further 80% of the cost of the lipstick to ship it over to Australia (at least for now), I do what I always do when I'm hit with a sudden wishlist addition: examine my closest alternatives and try to make do. I picked out the existing purple-leaning lipsticks in my collection, steering clear of more vampy berry and wine shades that I was very much into last winter.






l-r: Revlon Gumdrop, Australis Lick the Icing, Lime Crime Airborne Unicorn, Revlon Berry Haute, Maybelline Hot Plum, Australis Limited Edition 1

From swatches I've seen online, Dose of Colors Love Potion seems to be a neon pastel violet. It's like a bright Barbie pink with a good dose of purple. MakeupByAlli said it resembled the colour of a "berry smoothie", which I thought was a neat description. I'm a fan of purple lipsticks in general and I can't stop buying pink lipsticks, but surprisingly, it doesn't look like I have anything exactly like Love Potion. Or even close to it.

Revlon ColorBurst Lip Butter in Gumdrop is a sheer muted lavender, almost greyish compared with the others, with silver sparkles. Australis Colour Inject Mineral Lipstick in Lick the Icing is a bright lilac pink. Lime Crime Airborne Unicorn is an opaque medium purple that's relatively blue-leaning and cool, not much pink/red to it. Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Berry Haute is a muted grape crossed with berry pink, slightly brownish. Maybelline ColorSensational Vivids Lipstick in Hot Plum is the odd one out here, being a bold hot pink with strong fuchsia tones. Australis Colour Inject Mineral Lipstick in Limited Edition 1 is a dramatic, somewhat vampy grape that leaves a reddish berry stain.

While I might not have a dupe of Love Potion among my purple lipsticks, one of the advantages of having a lipstick problem is the ability to come up with something close through mixing colours. To my eyes, Love Potion is like a combination of Australis Lick the Icing and Lime Crime Airborne Unicorn. I've tried layering the darker shade on top of the lighter one (dabbing on a touch of Face of Australia Sheer Gloss Lip Crayon in Cupcake for slightly more pink as Airborne Unicorn can be a bit overpowering) and the result has me satisfied I can live without Love Potion. More than anything, my pull towards purple lipsticks has been well and truly reignited. They're a bit unconventional and can be harder to wear than your usual pinks, reds or corals, but I find them bold, unique and a lot of fun, plus strikingly pretty when you find the right one.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Porcelain Doll Pink

Tarte Amazonian Clay 12-Hour Blushes are oft-raved about but somewhat difficult to acquire outside of the States, so when I spotted Dollface on a local blog sale, I couldn't resist the opportunity to add another Tarte blush to my stash. I already have the neutral Exposed and was eyeing more coral offerings like Tipsy or Blissful to potentially purchase next, but took a chance on the pink Dollface, swayed by good reviews I'd read on various blogs and MakeupAlley.







l-r: e.l.f. Pink Passion, NARS Angelika, Laura Mercier Rose Desire, Tarte Dollface

Tarte Dollface is a light-to-medium, slightly cool pink that imparts a rosy flush. There is a slight sheen to the finish but it applies and appears mainly matte. e.l.f. Studio Blush in Pink Passion is brighter, lighter and more blue-toned. NARS Blush in Angelika is more red with silver sparkles. Laura Mercier Second Skin Cheek Colour in Rose Desire (from the Lingerie Eye & Cheek Palette) is extremely similar, I would say a near dupe, maybe just a touch more fuchsia and fractionally lighter.

I wish I could be more excited about Dollface, but I find my enthusiasm significantly dampened by the fact I have three other blushes in my collection that are nearly identical (Pink Passion, once on the cheeks, gives pretty much the same effect as Dollface, despite looking sufficiently different in the swatch). More problematic is the fact I find pink blushes generally harder to wear for my skin tone than peaches and softer corals. I always feel that they demand an absolutely flawless base to look good, otherwise the colour can emphasise any redness in the face and appear a bit patchy and not perfectly blended. Unintentionally overdoing it can result in a ruddy look suggestive of skin in distress rather than a sweet, "doll-like" flush.

I'm also not convinced by the "12 hour" wear claims. Maybe I'm just using it too lightly, but I don't find Dollface to last significantly longer than the majority of blushes I own. After 4-5 hours it's faded and by the end of the day (around the 10 hour mark), I can't detect much left on my cheeks. The texture of Tarte blushes is on the dry, hard side as opposed to more powdery and soft like Illamasqua or theBalm, though the pigment of Dollface is looser and much easier to pick up on my brush than Exposed, the surface of which has seemingly sealed, though that might just be the one I have.

A definite plus to the two Tarte blushes I've tried is once applied, they impart a kind of lit-from-within radiance to the complexion, which is generated free of any shimmer or dewiness. The shades are mainly matte but they remain brightening rather than dull and flat. The blushes also meld very naturally with the skin, as if the colour is coming from underneath, as opposed to sitting on top.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Bright Like Juliet

I first heard about Antipodes Juliet Skin-Brightening Gel Cleanser from Michelle of Eat Paint Sniff Glue all the way back in October 2012, but only managed to pick one up during the post-Christmas sales a few weeks ago. Both Myer and David Jones were having 25% off full-priced Antipodes products, so I bought this cleanser for just under $25, which I thought was reasonable for a 200ml bottle. While Antipodes seems to get a decent level of attention on blogs, I haven't heard much about this cleanser except from Michelle and Cherie and wasn't sure whether my skin would like it or how it'd perform. I've generally enjoyed the Antipodes products I've tried so far, so I had high expectations.







Antipodes Juliet Skin-Brightening Gel Cleanser

After using it for a few weeks, I feel I've definitely had misconceptions about the product. Firstly, I expected little to no foam, but it actually produces a not insignificant amount of lather, especially with warm water and freshly washed hands. Secondly, I expected my skin to be left plump and balanced afterwards, with no signs of dryness or feeling stripped. Actually, I found it's no different to most regular foaming cleansers, in that if I don't moisturise within a few minutes of washing my face, I absolutely feel some degree of tightness and my skin craving hydration. Thirdly, I expected this to smell amazing, with the description on the bottle promising "a refreshing fragrance of green apple and cardamon", but after a while all I detect is the faint smell of soy sauce combined with a whiff of cough medicine. A little bit odd, not exactly pleasant, but subdued enough to not be an issue.

I've been using this basically every weekday in the mornings to wash my face, believing it to be a gentler and less harsh option than a normal foaming cleanser from say, Dove or Bioré, but at the same time more effective than simply splashing cold water onto my face. I like the ritual of properly cleansing my face in the mornings to get my day started, wake me up a little, take off any remnant creams, serums or oils that I've slapped on the night before and begin with a fresh, bare canvas for my moisturiser and makeup. Even with near daily use, it barely looks like I've used up any product, so I imagine the entire bottle lasting a long time.

Though it has a few ingredients that sound very appealing and skin-benefiting, like kiwi seed oil, Manuka honey and their trademarked "Vinanza Performance Plus" (which combines kiwifruit seed and grape seed extracts using a natural process that involves only water), I'm not wowed by how this leaves my skin feeling after I've used it. That is, after I pat my face dry with a washcloth and all the water has evaporated off my face a couple of minutes later, it starts feeling taut and craving moisturiser. Maybe my skin's just on the dry side right now and this is designed more for normal or oily/combination skin. I also don't feel it's done anything particularly noticeable in terms of skin-brightening. I'll continue to reach for this in the mornings instead of only washing my face with water or using a cream cleanser, but to me, it's more or less a slightly gentler version of a standard foaming cleanser from a cheaper brand, with some nicer-sounding ingredients and a unique scent.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

January Favourites

January was about dealing with bad skin, refocusing on a skin care routine centered around one star product, finding an incredibly effective solution to my makeup brush washing woes, revisiting a popular hair treatment after becoming more experimental with my shampoo, finally figuring out how to properly apply a blush I wanted to love, a somewhat underwhelming Australian Open, and lots and lots of Lush bath indulgence. Amid all that, I also managed to sneak in a short beach getaway with friends on the Australia Day long weekend, kicking off the year on a high note.

January 2014 Favourite Products

In the midst of my paranoia about whether my makeup brushes could be causing my skin problems, I started to apply my foundation with clean fingers instead. I picked Benefit Hello Flawless Oxygen Wow as my preferred base. I remember when I purchased this foundation at Bloomingdale's during my New York holiday in late 2012, the girl at the Benefit counter mentioned that she'd previously used MAC foundations that constantly broke her out, but once she made the switch to Hello Flawless Oxygen Wow, her skin has thanked her ever since. The silky, fluid formula is kind on slightly dry skin and feels extremely lightweight. It creates a natural, satin finish that subtly brightens and perfects the complexion, and holds up well in terms of oil control.

While I'd normally conceal any spots or areas of redness after with either Maybelline Fit Me Concealer in Sand or Rimmel Wake Me Up Concealer in Classic Beige (030) using a Real Techniques Base Shadow Brush, I decided to go back to an old favourite in Bourjois Healthy Balance Unifying Powder in 52 Vanille. I've been alternating between much pricier powders in the form of Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder in Dim Light and Chanel Les Beiges Healthy Glow Sheer Powder in N°20, but returning to the Bourjois was a revelation. This stuff is seriously good. A light dusting of this over the Benefit foundation, pressed, not blended on with my Too Faced Power Pouf Brush successfully pulled off the illusion of damn good skin, when the truth was anything but. It's very smooth and soft in texture without being powdery, mattifies without looking flat, and provides an extra, finishing boost of coverage.

I've already detailed the routine I stuck with which helped my skin to recover from a bad state, and I attribute Sukin Certified Organic Rose Hip Oil to most of its success. It's reached the point where I'm reluctant to switch things up and use another of my many face oils, lest the good work be undone. I'm super pleased with how this seems to work magically overnight to restore the skin, replenish its suppleness and give back much-needed hydration, and generally balance, nourish and protect the skin. I would say I previously had oily/combination skin, with my T-zone shining like a beacon in many a picture taken with flash, but consistent use of face oils over the past couple of years have definitely helped my skin regulate itself better.

I had the luxury of having the house to myself for a week in January, which meant being granted the space and time to indulge in some self-pampering and try some of the bath bombs from Lush gift sets I'd purchased during the post-Christmas sales. I snapped up some pictures on my Instagram (Fizzbanger and Lord of Misrule Bath Ballistics here, The Christmas Penguin Bubble Bar and Dragon's Egg Bath Ballistic here) of the explosions of colour, froth, confetti, glitter, oils and scents triggered by dunking these into water. Out of the four I tried, Lord of Misrule was my favourite. Dipping into the water felt so silky and moisturising, I enjoyed the green exterior revealing a wine-coloured centre, and the rich, calming, sensuous fragrance lingered in my bathroom the day after.

Speaking of Lush, I've been using their Shower Jellies, bars of Fun and even shower gels to wash my hair over a normal shampoo from the likes of Pantene or L'Oréal. It adds an element of novelty and play to the usually dull, tedious routine of hair washing, and I find it leaves my locks very clean (but not dry or brittle) and stretches out the time between washes as my roots don't become oily as quickly. My ends can become slightly dry however, so I've been regularly reaching for my Morrocanoil Hair Treatment to condition my ends, squirting one pump into my hands, rubbing them together, then working the product into semi-damp hair, concentrating on the lower half of my tresses. It helps hair to dry faster, and leaves it smoother, less frizzy and shinier.

If you're after a brush cleanser that takes the agony out of brush washing, look no further than Daiso Detergent for Puff and Sponge. Using the tip I learned from Michelle, I squeeze a bit of this out into a small measuring container filled about a third of the way with lukewarm water. Immerse the head of the brush into the container so it's touching the base and circulate it around. It takes about 10 seconds for a freshly washed brush to emerge from murky waters. Life changing. I washed 36 brushes in less time than I would have taken for about 10-15 employing my old method of Johnson's Baby Shampoo and my palm.

My last favourite for this month is theBalm FratBoy blush, which I was determined to make work after seeing it pop up repeatedly on some of my favourite blogs. Despite initially not loving the shade on me and finding it much too similar to Australis Paparazzi Perfect High Definition blush in Screen Siren for my liking, I persevered and it finally paid off. The best way I've found to apply this blush is to use a soft, fluffy brush like Real Techniques Multi-Task Brush or Ecotools Blush Brush (from the Alicia Silverstone 5 Piece Brush Set), lightly dab the brush into the pan, take off most of the colour on the underside of the wrist, then sweep from the centre of your cheek that aligns with your pupil, along the cheekbones, to the top part of your ear (an amazing tip from Lisa Gregory). The result is so much better than the ruddy mess that happened each time I was applying the blush straight from the pan and struggling with the placement. It peps up the face and imparts a very springtime-appropriate, warm peachy-pink flush with a touch of coral.
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